One of the secrets to a memorable Thailand vacation is choosing
a Bangkok hotel that offers a central location, exceptional
service, safety and convenience. While that is a large order for
most hotels, these traits are the cornerstones of business for the
recently renovated Westin Grande Sukhumvit, whose reign in downtown
Bangkok officially began in February 2003, with final remodeling
completed this year.
Located half a block from the BTS skytrain, and towering above
the surrounding Sukhumvit shopping and market districts, I found
the Westin to be ideally suited for both business and leisure
“We are thrilled to bring the Westin name back to this city,”
said Keith Hardie, general manager. “The newly renovated Westin
Grande Sukhumvit will herald a distinct level of luxury to this
market and we look forward to offering our guests the luxurious and
upscale comforts associated with the Westin brand.”
“Much of our business comes from guests who live in Japan and
neighboring countries and fly here for the weekend to do their
shopping or business,” said Paul Van Meerendonk, director of sales
and marketing. “We have a fast-growing, international leisure and
business market visiting, which requires that we offer the latest
in technology and service.”
The $9-million-dollar renovation began with the acquisition of the
Grand Pacific Hotel. Over two years, each floor was gutted, with
new architecture and design upgrades implemented for all 364
guestrooms, 30 suites and a Presidential Suite.
The Grande Sukhumvit has successfully transcended the Westin’s
standard of excellence by embracing the warm and friendly,
feel-good element of Thai hospitality. Perhaps the hotel’s secret
is based in the Westin’s extensive employee training and
recognition program, or the hand-selection of Thai employees who
not only speak functional English, but also interact with the
guests with genuine enjoyment and interest.
The Westin’s ground-floor entrance serves as a transient waiting
and screening area. The short elevator ride to the main lobby on
the 7th floor is direct and fast. I questioned having a main lobby
so high, but noticed the advantage within minutes: Casual
conversations were easy, without the noise, heat and fumes of
Bangkok street traffic pouring in.
The Westin offers several types of deluxe rooms and executive
suites. Request a west-facing room to take in the fabulous sunsets
each evening. All rooms are decorated in delightful Thai-influenced
designs. Cabinets offered ample drawer and hanger space.
Business guests receive complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea
and evening cocktails in a private lounge. I enjoyed the ergonomic
desk chair, air conditioning, outlet adapters and in-room safe.
Each executive floor has its own butler, and the few problems or
requests I had were addressed immediately.
The separate bath and shower stall are ultra-modern, with orchid
blossoms placed on towels each morning and evening. All that is
required for a bath is within reach, from plush bath robes, exotic
fragranced soaps and shampoos and hair dryer. Chrome bath fixtures
were immaculately cleaned and polished each day.
The air conditioning responded quickly to adjustments and was
quick to take off the afternoon heat. A 25-inch flat-screen TV with
CD/ DVD player was a plus, allowing me to play a DVD presentation
to business guests I invited to the room.
The workstation desk in each room is placed near the large
window to allow for available light, and offered a great view of
the Bangkok skyline. Internet cable connection instructions were
easily labeled and posted.
The Med is Westin’s all-day restaurant that features a wonderful
and sumptuous buffet selection of MediterAsian dishes. Big eaters
will enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, or budget nibblers can order
a la carte. The fruit and juice bars offer local delicacies, as
well as pastries and tropical delights.
The Workout is the in-house health club that includes an outdoor
swimming pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, juice bar and health
food cafe. The exercise rooms have the latest in LifeFitness
equipment, and if you need assistance, just ask. The buff-looking
trainers obviously practice what they preach.
With a great central location and overflowing Thai hospitality
and top-notch service, The Westin Grande Sukhumvit is a hotel
you’ll never have to apologize to clients for except maybe for
Hits: Centrally located to major attractions, sky
train, nightlife and shopping. My baggage to Bangkok was diverted
to London and I awaited their arrival for three days. At least
twice a day, hotel staff would advise me of my lost baggage by
slipping a note under my door or phoning to update me. The front
desk and staff spoke good English, and I enjoyed conversations with
waitresses and waiters who exhibited excellent conversational
English. When I asked about a specific brand of coffee that was
served in The Med, the waitress soon presented me with a
handwritten note that had the name and telephone number of the
distributor in case I wanted to purchase some to take back to the
U.S. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Misses: Encountered a problem upon checkout
over an automated charge for Internet usage and an incorrect charge
to my room from the bar, but both were quickly resolved.
Plugging In: Wireless capability in the lounge
and The Med, and cable-modem connection in each room. Laptops are
available for rent for a daily fee, or leave the laptop at home and
use the Internet Cafe located across the street. The Business
Center is equipped with all telecommunication needs for the single
businessman to corporate functions and conventions.
Be Aware: Be sure to specify a non-smoking room
for your smoke-free clients as the smoking rooms are often
overpowering from the heavy use of European and Asian tobacco
Clientele: Capable of handling elite business
clientele or tourists who want convenience, luxury and safety in
the heart of downtown Bangkok. Don’t expect to find bare-footed
trekkers or backpackers here. The hotel gatekeepers keep a watchful
eye out for “questionable” traffic.
Rates: On average, deluxe rooms run $129-$180
and $160-$210 for executive rooms. These prices include breakfast
and a variety of other amenities worth investigating.
Commission: 10 percent
Westin Grande Sukhumvit
|WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Grinch Test|
Being the eternal skeptic of travel perfectitude, I became a
grinch in the land of smiles. I live in Alaska because I like the
cold. It was 98 degrees outside The Westin front lobby. I thought
about disliking the people who smiled because they seemed to enjoy
the heat. And I had 10 days to put the hotel staff through the
client-from-hell tests. I never made it.
I asked the doorman as well as the maid detailed questions about
destinations, often acting confused and second guessing them. This
hard interaction caused them to become even more friendly and eager
to please. Their response was charming as they eagerly opened
doors, operated elevators, seated me in my favorite view table in
the restaurant and kept my room meticulous, trying to alleviate my
discomfort. I even had two fruit plates delivered to my room in one
They embraced responsibility for my discomfort, and incessantly
kept trying to improve my condition. While waiting for a taxi, I
observed them interacting with three rude and obnoxious
businessmen, and was disappointed. I thought they were offering me
above average treatment because of my discomfort. As I observed,
the employees treat everyone with the same gracious smile and
service, even when confronted by truly rude guests. I smiled,
knowing they had passed the test.
Of course, the staff couldn’t quite figure out how I was able to
adapt so quickly to the heat but were nevertheless delighted and
greeted me by name for the duration of my stay. C.B.
|WEB EXCLUSIVE: TRAVELER'S TIPS|
While in Bangkok, I like to indulge in the local fruits, snacks
and stock up on a few toiletry articles I prefer over American
brands. And less than 50 yards from the Westin is Robinson
Department Store, with a full-size grocery, food court, liquor
store and bakery at the basement level, and all at Thai prices.
The lobby entrance is 30 yards from Sukhumvit Road. Have hotel
staff catch you a cab. The street vendors along Sukhumvit attract
tourists of all types. Do your shopping early, return to the hotel
to drop off your goods, and continue shopping.