I always love it when I know even before I step into the lobby of a hotel that my stay is going to be a special occasion.
By the time our limousine drives through acres of verdantly manicured gardens and up to an entrance that’s engulfed by blooming orchids, The Peninsula Bangkok has worked its magic.
Even though I’m terminally jet lagged from 30 hours of flight connections to get here from Canada before a cruise, I’m suddenly feeling energized. Thai hospitality is legendary but this arrival surpasses any I’ve had before.
Two doormen and a valet whisk my bags off to my suite and I’m escorted by a house boy dressed in a gleaming white uniform and a pill box hat to the desk. There, a gracious young woman presents me with an intricate gift of fragrant flowers.
“Please, give this to my wife,” who was seated in the lobby, I suggest.
“Flowers are for men too. She gets one as well,” the desk clerk explains. The intricate complimentary garlands of flowers known as a phuang malai, are like bracelets, woven of delicate stands of tiny pure-white malik and jasmine flowers.
After signing in, we’re escorted to our suite, where the bags have already arrived and another remarkable show begins. Aside from its vast rooms, the Peninsula’s hotels are famous for their remarkable arrays of electronic gadgetry and the housekeeper runs through a tutorial:
There are control modules on every wall to adjust illumination and mood lighting, close and open draperies, call a valet or turn on high definition televisions in the living area, bedroom and even the bath. The TVs are so techie they even swivel by remote control.
Welcoming amenities include a fruit bowl stacked high with an array of colorful tropical fruits that are so exotic, there’s a guidebook included to help you figure what you’re eating and how to gracefully eat it. Now’s your chance to find out what a custard apple, a duku or a dragon’s eye looks like and tastes like and what to do with those hairy-looking rambutans.
And so to bed, and a quiet night’s sleep thanks to the hotel’s sound-proofing and location on the quiet side of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. We awaken in the morning to a panoramic view including a fascinating procession of boats, barges and ferries on the river. There are lots of those unique needle-nosed speedboats called long-tails. They use V-8 car engines to turn eggbeater-like propellers that churn the water into a rooster-tail of spray.
Complimentary breakfast is served in one of the hotel’s three riverside restaurants in the midst of lush foliage. The vast buffet of eastern and western dishes is stunning in its magnitude, and a feature is specialty baked goods straight from the oven.
Then it’s time to explore. The Peninsula maintains its serenity by being on the residential side of the river. We’re in a quiet garden setting, that’s a marked contrast to the high-rise density and bustle of the city across the river.
There’s no problem getting into the action. The Peninsula runs a fleet of launches decorated as though they were regal barges that are ready on demand to take you across the river to a dedicated dock that’s only a few minutes’ walk from the city’s best shopping areas.
Two blocks away is the entrance to Bangkok’s modern elevated train system that will take you most of the city’s attractions for a fare of about $1.
Home again, in time to have drinks and dinner at a table at the Peninsula’s riverside Thiptara restaurant, whose carved teak pavilion was brought here from Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya.
A full moon was rising over the skyline of the city as I had one of the house specialties: a Thai curry in a pastry shell as I enjoyed the torch-lit scene.
There was that magic again. It’s a shame I had to pack up and leave the next morning. But the gentle smiles of the staff made it clear I was welcome to return any time.
The Peninsula Bangkok is at 333 Charoennakem Road, phone: 66-2 861-2888. Special rates are offered from about $370 U.S.