I’ve occasionally mentioned a hotel or two in posts on this blog before, but reviews of places to stay haven’t been a regular feature. One hotel, Glow Trinity – which is now Glow Zinc – got a full post. And a Turtle Ass Award to boot. But most mentions have been in passing, a bit of info that fed into a story I was telling. The hunt for a decent hotel in the Big Mango though, is a never-ending task. Not that it is difficult to find a decent place at a decent price, rather there just always seems to be a chance that you could do better.
I’ve just finished a few stays, again, at the Centre Point Silom in Bangkok and am, again, totally impressed with the property and its operation. In my opinion it is the nicest true-value place to rest your head in town. After I first discovered it, Centre Point became my go-to hotel in Bangkok. Then I started checking other properties out again. I don’t know why. I don’t really think you can do any better. I may eventually try one of the other Centre Point properties as I’ve heard they are all equally good hotels (they are all technically, serviced apartments). But I like the Centre Point Silom’s location the best.
On my last trip I was in and out of Bangkok constantly, staying just a few nights before heading off elsewhere again. In Bangkok I stayed at Centre Point each time I hit town. So I got to experience several different rooms. I’m not sure how many different floor plans they have for their ‘studio suites’ but I just stayed in five of them. Amenities within the rooms were all the same, size and layout changed with each. And they all had something to recommend them.
The smallest room was on the top floor; even then, it was still roomy. The incredible view made up for the tad bit of missing space. And for some reason it had a lounge chair where as the larger rooms did not. What all of the rooms have in common is that they are spotlessly clean, bright, airy, upscale, and a comfortable place to hang out.
One man’s ‘good’ hotel is another man’s dive. So I’m going to be quite detailed in this post, and hopefully give you a good idea of what to expect should you decide to give Centre Point Silom a try.
1. LOCATION. Yup, in all real estate matters it boils down to location, location, location. I know a lot of guys like to stay as close to Patpong as possible to be within walking distance of the bars. My opinion is: why walk when you can take a cab? Taxis are cheap in Bangkok. Moving out of that area means better value in accommodation.
Centre Point Silom is a 42 to 68 baht cab ride away from Patpong. It’s also 67 steps away from the Saphan Taksin BTS station; a 25 baht ride to Saladang if your heart is set on taking a stroll. (And yes, I counted the steps one night. ‘Short stroll,’ ‘5 minute walk,’ ‘a block away,’ on hotel review sites can mean anything from right next door to a 20 minute hike. I thought I’d be exact. Now if you make that trip and have shorter legs than I do: do not come back and bitch at me!)
I use the BTS much more often than I head over to Patpong. Being that close to a station is sweet. For you real old – or lazy – folk, the Saphan Taksin station has an escalator for both entering and exiting the station. It’s also the skytrain’s terminal station for the riverboats, which are a cheap transpo option; a cruise up the Chao Phraya River is a treat for first time visitors. Taxis and tuk tuks are always plentiful in front of Robinson if those are your choice of transpo instead.
The hotel sits behind and is connected to a Robinson Department Store. In the basement of the complex is a Tops supermarket. There is a McDonalds there as well as a KFC, Mister Donut, Coffee World, and Pizza Corner. Both Tops and Robinson also have food courts. Directly across the street is a 7/11; there’s another one at the end of the block by the BTS station. Running alongside the complex, they have a night market (with yet another food court) and alongside that small soi are several cheap restaurants.
There’s a nicer restaurant in the hotel too. And on the other side of the hotel is an even smaller soi with a dozen or so food cart type dining places. Late at night a few more pop up across the street. There’s another smattering of food carts at the foot of the BTS station. If they’d put in a gay gogo bar, I’d never have to leave that block.
2. AMENITIES. The hotel has a business center replete with computers, fax machines, and a copy machine. There is a small gym, a small spa, a new place to get your hair cut, a large restaurant, a beautiful swimming pool and sauna (towels provided pool-side), a lending library with books and movies, a large garage .. . what else do you need?
The rooms all have safe deposit boxes, plenty of closet space, a flat panel TV, dvd player, stereo with an iPod docking station, free wireless internet access (and it’s fast), an alarm clock, a large wall clock – god, I love being able to wake up and see a clock in the morning without having to find my glasses first – a small dining table with chairs, a kitchenette with stove top, oven, micro-wave oven, full-size refrigerator with a freezer and ice-cube trays, and a toaster (plus all necessary plates and utensils). And a washer/dryer too (which they supply soap for). They provide two pair of slippers, too small for my feet, but do not have bath robes, which in Thailand are always too small for me anyway.
The bathrooms all have separate shower enclosures and bath tubs. The size of both tend to vary, but even the smallest shower enclosure is big enough to fit two people happily. And I’m always happy to shower with a buddy. The bath rooms are well-lit with plenty of mirrors, come with a hair blower; and the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are in quart size containers which are refilled daily. There are also hand soaps, tooth brushes, and cotton swabs.
In the shower, you do not have to wait for hot water and whatever temperature you select, it stays like that – no cycling between an icy blast and a scalding drench. The water pressure is good and the shower head is adjustable with a height high enough to still hit a 6’ person on top of the head.
Two free bottles of water, which should always be standard in Thailand but aren’t, come with the room too (and are replenished daily even if you have not used them). Oh, and there is free coffee, tea, and fruit in the lobby 24/7.
3. THE ROOM: Uh, kinda just did that, but I’ll add that they are spacious, well-lit, and clean, done mostly in off whites and earth tones. The large bed (with duvet instead of sheets) is a bit hard for my taste, but then I like a bed that you sink into a few feet. Linens are all of high quality and there are plenty of pillows (but if you want more, they’ll bring them to you). Two of the pillows are soft, two are hard.
Each room has an unusable balcony, probably the hotel’s only failing. You can walk out onto the balcony, but there are no chairs (nor any room for them) and it is largely taken up by the unit’s air conditioning. Which works wonderfully. Nice views over the Chao Phraya River on one side of the hotel and city views on the other; Lebua State Tower lights up nicely and is a block down the street, dominating the nighttime view on that side of the hotel. Access to the rooms is by cardkey so none of that turning your key in at the desk as you leave each day.
There is a good sized work area with a comfortable chair in each room with a set of built-in shelving next to it for storage. Extra lighting for the desk has been provided, and they have a set of plugs that do the adapting for you so you don’t need to carry an adapter for each piece of electronic equipment you bring with you.
There’s also a three panel full sized mirror in the room so you can check out how good you look before heading out, or how good you look doing your bar boy d jour when staying in.
4. BREAKFAST: I don’t eat breakfast at home. I insist on it when travelling. Yup, I know, but that’s me. Centre Point Silom puts on a fantastic free breakfast buffet. And they swipe your room key for admission rather than you having to remember to grab a coupon each morning when your brain cells are busy trying to remember how to make your legs do that walking thing.
At the breakfast they have a full salad bar and a fruit bar, an egg cooking station where they also make pancakes and french toast (with maple syrup, none of that honey crap so many places in Thailand put out), coffee, tea, and five different juices, a bread section with several different types of bread for toasting as well as croissants, a cereal bar with several different selections, and a dessert bar with various pastries and cakes.
There are twelve different hot dishes offered daily (plus rice) that cover both Asian and Western tastes. Yes, they do have those crappy little hot dogs that pass for sausage in Thailand, and bacon. But everything else is truly first class. There’s always a beef, chicken, pork, and a fish dish (sometimes more than just one) as well as a few vegetarian style main course dishes. And they are all the type of dish that you’d order as a main course at a restaurant. Best yet, other than the rice, bacon, and those sausage thingies, the menu changes daily.
Being a buffet you can eat as much as you want and the staff is extremely attentive. The minute you’ve finished a plate there is someone there to remove it. And to offer you a new plate if you want to go back for more. The breakfast is open from 6am to 10am, though I’ve snuck in as late as 10:30 with no problem. If you are headed out earlier than 6am, if you tell the front desk the night before they’ll pack a boxed breakfast for you and have it ready as you walk out the door the next morning.
THE STAFF: Fine, shoot me but I believe servants should be seen and not heard. But Centre Point’s staff is so damn friendly you can’t help but get to know them. That every one of them is efficient in their job just adds to the joy in staying at the place. And there are a ton of employees busy at work. There’s a guy who opens you taxi door when you pull up and another waiting to open the (automatic) doors by the time you get up the stairs.
When you check in, the bell hop takes a service elevator up to your room, bringing up your luggage within ten minutes. There’s also a guy at the elevators to push the up or down button for you at the lobby level. Just in case you accidently pushed the button yourself, there is a hand sanitizing station there to rid yourself of the germs. Or, because it senses when your hands are under the spout, to play with non-stop until the elevator arrives (my friend Noom is easily amused).
Housekeeping responds promptly to any request and if you turn on the ‘make up room’ light when you head down for breakfast, your room will be cleaned before you get back. If you pass the housekeeping staff in the hall, they always stop what they are doing, smile, wai, and greet you. And they actually seem to mean it when they say, “Good Morning!”
There’s also an entrance to the lobby and elevators from inside Robinson. It’s a great shortcut into the hotel from the street. There’s a guy there too and he’ll have the doors opened for you before you get to them. Then, as soon as you are through the door, he rushes over to punch the elevator button for you. Okay, so this one is a bit too much. I usually race the guy to the elevator buttons, just for the laugh. One of the guys who works that post knows my trick and isn’t above throwing a body block to slow me down. Seriously. That’s part of why I enjoy the staff at Centre Point Silom though, they’re personable. I occasionally bring a few beers back for the front door guys late at night and more than once have been invited up to the roof for a late-night party. We did a New Year’s Eve up on the roof one year – great view of all the firework displays going off in town, without the crowd.
Centre Point does not charge a joiner fee (I always book a room for two anyway) and has always been nothing but gracious to any guy I’ve brought back to my room, treating him as they would any other guest. These days that guest is usually my friend Noom; if I show up without him, someone on the staff will always ask how he is. Noom (and I shudder) likes fake milk in his coffee in the morning. The restaurant only has real cream. But they dug some of the fake stuff out for him on our first few stays years ago and even now when we hit the buffet in the morning, some member of the staff will automatically bring over a few packets of that crap for him. Impressive. (Uh, the staff, not Noom’s taste.)
PRICE: You can book directly with the hotel and they have a loyalty program. But Agoda always has a much better deal. It’s best to book as far in advance as possible; the price is lower the further out you reserve your room. Over the last three years I’ve paid as little as $65 (including taxes, etc.) and as high as $100 – that was during the holiday season and for a late booking. The norm seems to hover around $70-$75. That includes breakfast. I’ve never seen Agoda offer a room at Centre Point Silom without breakfast as they do for other hotels.
Official check-in time is 2 or 3 pm; I’ve checked in as early as 11:00 am with no problem. And they extend your checkout to 1:30 without charge too.
Overall, the hotel is on the ritzy side, lots of marble and gold leaf everywhere, but not stuffy in the least bit. The only complaint I’ve ever heard about the place is that when you check in, even with prepaid accommodations, they require a deposit. By credit card or cash. How much depends on how long you stay. The cheapest is 1,000 baht. The highest, for a full week’s stay is 4,000 baht. If your deposit is by card, they actually place a hold on the card, but when you check out it’s immediately cancelled. That’s never been a problem for me, but you should be aware of the policy.
Also, if you are catching a taxi back to the hotel, it doesn’t seem to be well known. And the ‘Silom’ part of the hotel’s name is confusing (since it is not on Silom). You can grab a card form the hotel, there is a map of the hotel’s location on the back. But then Thais can not read maps. If your driver looks confused, best to tell him Robinson Bang Rak, they almost always know where that is. Last resort is use the Shangri-la as your destination, which is kinda sorta next door. You can direct the driver the extra half a block once you get in the neighborhood.
And finally, because I really have gushed too much already, when you are ready to leave and are headed for the airport, they call a taxi in off the street for you. And tell the driver he has to use the meter. Nice to not have that hassle ruin the last few minutes of your trip.