With its steamy hedonism and bargain price tags, Bangkok has long been a traveller’s paradise. But it’s also one of Asia’s most important business hubs so you’re just as likely to see crowds in shirts and suits as shorts and singlets. This is certainly the case in the bustling central districts of Sukhumvit, Ploenchit, Silom and Sathorn, where myriad big-name firms, both Thai and multinational, are based alongside a slew of embassies, hotels and malls.
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You may wonder how anything gets done in this sprawling tropical city that’s perennially clogged with traffic. Taxis, while cheap and plentiful, can take ages to crawl anywhere – even outside the 8am to 9am and 5pm to 6pm peak periods – so savvy types get from A to B on the elevated BTS Skytrain, which soars above the chock-a-block streets, or the Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) that delves underground.
Despite the congestion – accentuated by armies of spluttering tuktuks – the Thai capital is often best enjoyed outside its cocoons of air-conditioned comfort, whether it’s post-work drinks on a lofty rooftop bar, an invigorating jog in a tree-shaded park or an amble down an atmospheric soi (side street) sprinkled with gilded Buddhas, incense-drenched temples and aromatic food stalls.
The Okura Prestige
There are times at The Okura Prestige when you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Tokyo (reverent staff in kimonos will bow at you and Japanese-style bidets grace the marble bathrooms). But there’s a distinct Thai feel to this luxury Japanese chain. Take the hotel’s 25th-floor cantilevered infinity pool. Eminently Instagrammable, it wouldn’t look out of place at a Koh Samui beach resort – instead of sea vistas, though, bathers are treated to dramatic panoramas of Bangkok’s ever-evolving skyline. If this is up your street, you’ll be glad to know that all 240 swanky rooms and suites have city views through their triple-glazed windows.
Business facilities: There are four meeting and event venues, including a chandelier-strewn ballroom.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: The hotel has three excellent restaurants, including Yamazato – for Japanese haute cuisine – and Elements, which specialises in creative molecular gastronomy.
Fitness and wellbeing: Organic teas, oils and balms feature in treatments at the in-house spa (open 10am to 10pm). All cardio machines in the 24-hour fitness centre have TV screens and music hubs.
Run route: Turn left and jog down Witthayu Road. It’s a busy street but the pavements are very well-maintained and sporadically tree-shaded. It’s about 1.5 kilometres to Lumphini Park, which has a 2.5-kilometre paved running loop.
57 Wireless Road, Lumphini
The hubbub of 21st-century Bangkok seems a world away in the city’s most luxe hotel, which dates back to 1876 and counts Joseph Conrad, Princess Diana and David Beckham among its previous guests. Bellboys in old-school uniforms usher you into a delectable lobby infused with soothing piano tunes, lush plants and antique furniture, including chandeliers designed like temple bells. Traditional Thai elements, such as teak and silk, and modern touches (think LCD TVs and Nespresso machines) flavour the 368 rooms and suites. Plump for a water view as the hotel overlooks the Chao Phraya River, a spectacle of longtails, barges and ferries.
Business facilities: A business centre offers secretarial and translation services, meeting rooms and a ballroom.
Wi-fi: Free if you’ve reserved your room via the hotel website.
Food and wine: Thai cuisine, French fare and English-style afternoon tea are among the 11 dining and bar options. The Bamboo Bar is Bangkok’s best live-jazz haunt.
Fitness and wellbeing: In an annexe across the river – accessible by a boat – there’s a spa (9am-10pm) and health centre (6am-10pm) with gym, pools, tennis courts and a range of classes.
Run route: The streets near the hotel are too congested. Use the health centre’s treadmills or outdoor jogging track. Or take a free shuttle boat to Saphan Taksin BTS station. Three stops away is Sala Daeng station, next to Lumphini Park.
48 Oriental Avenue, Bang Rak
Three minutes on foot from Chong Nonsi BTS station, W Bangkok is arguably the city’s coolest place to stay and not just because of the icy blast of air-conditioning that hits you as you walk through the sliding doors. Attention-grabbing installations, such as a giant collage of tuktuk lights, and liberal splashings of gold and purple permeate this five-star affair, where 403 rooms and suites are kitted out with abstract art, mod cons and playful accessories. On every bed, for example, you’ll find giant boxing gloves (a nod to local sport Muay Thai) and tablets to control lighting, temperature and alarms.
Business facilities: The business centre is open 24 hours and there are 12 meeting and event venues.
Wi-fi: Free in public areas. Charges apply in rooms, from 300 Thai baht (about $12) per day.
Food and wine: Choose from seven restaurants and bars, including The House on Sathorn, which serves creative fare in the former Russian embassy beside the hotel, and DJ and cocktail hotspot WooBar.
Fitness and wellbeing: As well as a rooftop pool and 24-hour gym, the hotel’s Away spa comes with a hammam.
Run route: Unless you want to inhale exhaust fumes, don’t run near the hotel. Sala Daeng – and Lumphini Park – is just one stop away on the BTS. When in Bangkok…
106 North Sathorn Road, Silom
So Sofitel Bangkok
So Sofitel is a seductive choice for travellers with one eye on business and the other on pleasure. It’s a stone’s throw from Lumphini MTR station so, in less than 15 minutes, you can be exploring the neon-splashed streets of Chinatown or talking shop in a Sukhumvit lounge bar. The hotel is well worth spending some time in, however. The brainchild of French fashion legend Christian Lacroix and a crack team of Thai designers, it’s a delicious-looking bolthole, its eclectic public spaces and 238 rooms and suites themed on the five elements of oriental philosophy (water, earth, wood, metal and fire). Book an earth-inspired room, for instance, and you’ll sleep among cave-style paintings etched with mythical Thai creatures.
Business facilities: All rooms have Apple Mac minis; suites come with iPads, too. The 24-hour Solution Centre has two iMacs, scanner and printer, plus there are several event and meeting spaces.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: The hotel’s six bars and restaurants are all overseen by Adelaide-born executive chef Paul Smart. If you dine at just one, though, make it Park Society, a chic alfresco spot on the 29th floor.
Fitness and wellbeing: Massage treatments and rejuvenating hot tubs can be enjoyed at the hotel’s SoSpa facility. There’s also a 32-metre infinity pool and 24-hour fitness centre, plus complimentary use of hotel bicycles.
Run route: Conveniently, the hotel fronts Lumphini Park. Join its 2.5-kilometre loop, weaving past Chinese temples, lizard-speckled lawns and a boating lake.
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