EXCELLENCE ON THE CHAO PHRAYA
"It was perfectly true. He just rather liked being at Shangri-La. Its atmosphere soothed while its mystery stimulated and the total sensation was agreeable." - Lost Horizon.
Bangkok's Shangri-La Hotel doesn't get the publicity that its loftier neighbor upstream the Oriental does, but the truth is that the Shangri-La is every bit as impressive.
When you live in a big city you tend to take for granted many of the gems that a large metropolis like this has to offer. This is indeed the case with the Shangri-La, which consistently is ranked as one of the top ten hotels in the world.
In 1971, a deluxe hotel was founded in the thriving city of Singapore. In choosing the name Shangri-La there was a desire to set a standard, to create an identity that would eventually produce a group of hotels unique in the world.
As the group expanded to thirty-nine hotels in ten Asian lands (China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore Taiwan and Thailand) it has sought to retain all the ideals of its mythical namesake. Serenity, harmony and natural beauty are all characteristics of the Shangri-La group.
The 25 storey Shangri-La Bangkok with its 676 rooms was opened in March of 1986. This was followed in August of 1991 with the opening of a smaller more exclusive second tower, the 176 room Krungthep Wing.
Nancy Maroney, the hotel's Director of Marketing, says "The Shangri-La Bangkok is a perfect fix of the philosophy of Asian hospitality and natural graciousness of the Thais." She hopes that the Shangri-La will be the dominant hotel company in Asia by next year.
The Shangri-La is part of the "River of Kings" alliance which also includes the Oriental, the Sheraton Orchid, the Montien Riverside, the Marriott Royal Garden Riverside, and the Peninsula.
For big conferences, these hotels combine forces to make sure that enough rooms are available for all the delegates in attendance.
The Shangri-La's Grand Ballroom holds 2,000 people with a further nine function rooms in the Shangri-La Wing and an additional eight in the Krungthep Wing (named after the ASEAN countries). All function rooms offer the latest lighting accessories and audio-visual equipment including simultaneous interpretation equipment. The hotel also has a Business Center which handles secretarial, translation and courier services, and which includes a private boardroom for meetings and interviews.
Lovely Rashana Pimolsindh is the Shangri-La's Director of Communications and she says her hotel is special because, "People who stay here don't feel they are in the heart of Bangkok. With the river nearby and our exquisite gardens, it is as if you are staying in a resort hotel within the city."
How true - two tropical swimming pools and large sunbathing areas hi-lite an area lined with palm trees, bougainvillea orchids, and bird of paradise flowers that stretches for almost a quarter mile on the Chao Phraya River giving the Shangri-La the longest river frontage of any inner-city hotel.
The hotel provides a virtual cornucopia of fine dining: the Salathip offers authentic royal Thais cuisine in charming teak pavilions next to the river; the Shang Palace, is a Chinese restaurant where chefs from Hong Kong prepare authentic regional dishes; Angelini is a dramatic three-storey Italian restaurant which boasts an open kitchen and pizza ovens; Edogin is a Japanese restaurant which offers everything from sushi and sashimi to sukiyaki and shabu shabu (teppanyaki counters and boxes are favorites.); and the Maenam Terrace which serves up Tandoori dishes, Chinese wok cooking, Mongolian delights, Thai treats, Japanese delicacies, BBQ to order, fresh seafoods, grilled meats, western favorites, a salad bar and dessert buffet.
"Authentic Royal Thai cuisine at Sala Thai"
And if the stress of your hectic business schedule proves too much for you and you want to let off a little steam, the Shangri-La has an excellent Health Club which includes state-of-the-art exercise equipment (weight machines, treadmills, exercise bikes, stairclimbers), regular evening aerobic classes, a sauna, steamroom, jacuzzi, oil massage and Thai traditional massage. Roof top tennis and squash courts with floodlights for evening games are also available.
Looking down on the teeming Chao Phraya River from the Shangri-La Bangkok's Horizon Club balcony you can image you are one of the Chakri Kings being whisked downriver to the adulation of your minions. The Horizon Club is ideally suited to traveling business executives or VIPs who require extra services and attention.
More perks the Shangri-La provides are: free airport limousine transfers to and from the airport, whenever you so desire; free laundry and dry cleaning; complimentary breakfast; free local telephone calls and faxes; international calls and faxes at cost; and a 6PM late check-out.
Another plus about staying at the Shangri-La Bangkok is its location. On a good day, using the new expressway, you can actually be at the airport in twenty minutes. This is amazing when you consider a few years ago it could have taken you up to two hours.
There is also a convenient Skytrain stop located right at the bottom of Sathorn Road. So you can now zip through town on a clean and reliable mass transit program.
And of course there's the river - the best way to see Bangkok. Many convenient tours and cruises can be booked from the hotel, including the Shangri-La's beautiful yacht Horizon which can accommodate 160 persons. And don't forget the hotel's helipad for those of you who have lots of money and value your time (see Tiger Woods). It only takes eight minutes to get to Don Muang airport.
The Shangri-La Bangkok takes customer satisfaction very seriously. All of its nearly 1,000 employees, from senior management to junior kitchen staff, are required to spend two days every year learning how to care for and delight clients. From body language to handling problems, the hotel's staff are trained to be proactive. "We have to do more than satisfy our clients - we also have to delight and dazzle them," says hotel General Manager Bernard Haechler.
This hotel looks beautiful from the outside, but appearances aren't deceiving in this case - it truly offers luxurious service that leaves you feeling like a somebody.
Tel: (662) 236-7777
Fax: (662) 236-8579
Ed note: There is also a Shangri-La property in Vancouver Canada - the Pacific Palisades Hotel.
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