One of the delights in booking a trip to Thailand is choosing a hotel. Bangkok is home to some of the most luxurious properties in the world, and almost all are reasonable priced, especially in the off-season. I've stayed at several luxe hotels in the middle of the city but I'm always drawn to the river, even if it's just for a meal or quick boat ride on the Chao Phraya. For this visit, I knew I'd be in town for almost two weeks, so my decision was a no-brainer. I booked the Peninsula.
The Pen is located across the river from the city center in a waterside oasis—truly the best nest in town if you don’t mind being spoiled by service, restaurants, spa and pool, river barge shuttle boat and a jewelry store where you can openly drool... This isn’t a hotel, it’s a destination unto itself. The buffet breakfast is jaw dropping in terms of selection, staging and opportunity, and for a romantic dinner, the riverside Thiptara is an excellent choice.
They got it right when this restaurant was named; in Thai, Thiptara it means 'heaven on earth'. Home style Thai dishes are served in open air Thai salas set in lush gardens overlooking the banks of the river. It's romantic, casual, reasonably priced, and possibly the best dining experience in Bangkok.
The hotel rooms all have river views as do the restaurants and public areas.There are a handful of shops—including JimThompson—and many programs that you can participate in as part of The Peninsula Academy. The hotel's barge is waiting dockside to take you across the river to the BTS skytrain.
The ESPA at the Peninsula Bangkok is world famous and I would trust them to walk on my back or roll me under an elephant—I know it would be great. With so many choices (uh, no elephant rolling), I opted for an anti-jetlag massage upon arrival followed by an excellent body scrub, moisturizing rub and foot treatment another day, and a foot reflexology later in the week after a day of shopping.
The rooms are surprisingly well priced. In fact, you can usually book a deluxe room for less than $250 per night, with better deals during the summer. Check the website www.peninsula.com for promotions. Note - I just booked a return visit for mid-December, high season, and found a better deal on booking.com. It pays to click around.
Previously, I've visited the Bangkok flower market with the hotel's head florist, learned how to carve fruit (failed miserably on this one), and sampled a dozen Thai teas while learning the health benefits of each. One memorable evening was spent on one of the Pen's posh river boats, cruising along the Chao Phraya at sunset while enjoying cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
This time, I chose a class called "Footprint from the Past." With a guide, I explored neighborhoods around the river dating back two centuries. Highlights included a private tour of the Kudee Chin Chinese shrine and Santa Cruz Church, the Buddhist temple Wat Kalayanamit and the Bangluang Mosque.