We are having medium-rare filet mignon and dressy cocktails on the 77th floor of the Centara Grand Hotel in Downtown Bangkok when I realize this might be the most perfect place in the world for our aloha dinner. Tomorrow morning, I realize with a mixed sense of sadness, anticipation, and familiar crave for future travels, we’ll be boarding Thai Airways back to the United States and life will resume as it normally does—which for me entails a combination of writing, teaching, cooking, exercising, studying, and, for the time being, wedding planning. The life that is about as far away as it gets from this magnificent skyline, this delicious mango-infused vodka martini, these conversations with my new friends about what we’ve learned, what we’ll write about when we get home, what we’ve loved and will miss the most.
So why is this the perfect place for our farewell dinner?
As we talk, I realize that the deep glow surrounding Bangkok feels a little like a perfect complement to our first morning in Bangkok, a morning that was wet with humidity, hazy in the unique way that only tropical places are. That morning, I had stepped out onto the balcony of the Anantara Riverside hotel (see that story here) in my pajamas and breathed in the heartbeat of a country I have dreamt about visiting since I first learned about golden buddhas, chili peppers, mangoes, and white sand beaches. From that balcony overlooking the Chao Phraya River, I watched the colorful boats set up their lines for fishing, the river taxis warm up their engines, the cars begin to populate the bridge across from me. This evening, in a purple chiffon dress and high heels, I am literally sitting in downtown Bangkok witnessing another spectacular view—one that impresses me more, perhaps, than any other skyline I’ve ever seen. From the river to the city—our Thailand adventure has come full circle.
The Centara Grand Hotel, which positions itself as a business-oriented hotel in downtown Bangkok (perfect for conventions, business trips, etc.), certainly is convenient and centrally-located. I can see why they’ve targeted their business to this particular traveler. And yet—though we only spent two nights here, I’d like to expand the definition of their clientele and include myself in this mix. While I’ve never been a business traveler (unless you count independent travel with a journal in my hand), I am so glad we stayed here. Not only did I get to spend my last night in Thailand atop one of the city’s most magnificent rooftop bars, but the hotel is so perfectly located to areas like the Central Plaza shopping center and cinema complex, a range of excellent beer gardens with live music, shopping havens like Wat Trimit and China Town, the Asiatique night market, and Pat Pong’s combination Red Light District and night bazaar, that there’s nowhere in town a short tuk-tuk, taxi or MRT ride can’t take you. (In fact, after dinner, that’s exactly what we did—we hailed a taxi and headed to Bangkok’s famous—and in some ways, infamous—Pat Pong district. (That experience, of course, is another story altogether).
Since this is a hotel review, after all, it would be remiss of me to omit a breakdown on the rooms. My room, which was on the 34th floor and would typically cost about $100 USD/night, was furnished with a king-sized bed and some exceptionally soft oversized pillows, a round bathtub with a rain-style showerhead and bath products from the downstairs spa, and enormous sliding closets. Next to the bed was a mahogany chair and desk with an Ethernet cable to connect to the hotel’s free wi-fi (you can also connect wirelessly if you wish). While I didn’t have an outdoor balcony, the wall adjacent to the city was literally a floor-to-ceiling window covered by red velvet curtains—with a spectacular view of the entire city. (Can you tell I’m a “view person?”)
For practical purposes, whether you are just arriving in Thailand or getting ready to say goodbye, this newly renovated, 5-star hotel is also extremely close to the airport. Located less than 30 minutes from Suvarnabhumi International, our journey back home wasn’t nearly as stressful a beginning as it could have been had we been stuck in Bangkok’s infamous traffic jams trying to get to the airport on time. We hopped on the highway and were there, somewhat bittersweetly, in about half an hour. However, I had a sneaking suspicion then (as I have a nagging suspicion now) that it wouldn’t be the last time I’d be riding that highway near the airport.
Until next time, Thailand!
Article and photographs by Kristin Winet.