Bangkok

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

"I landed in 1980 in Bangkok, and I stopped to eat ten times between the airport and the hotel. It was all lemongrass and ginger and chilies." - Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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There is no better time to visit Bangkok than December and January. The sweltering heat found from March through to August is replaced with a more manageable and pleasant heat.

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If you’re in need of winter-sun and seek a city-break with world class food and accommodation, then I have just the place for you.

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One of Bangkok’s best hotels, the effortlessly stylish COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, is situated in the quieter Sathorn district of the city. 

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Located a stones throw away from the beautiful Lumpini Park, the 5 star resort is hidden away amongst skyscrapers and embassies and is found by travelling along a tree-lined path away from the busy roads.

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A sleek but understated contemporary style reception meets you. It 's clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the design of the hotel.

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The staff couldn’t be more pleasant and willing to assist. 

Super comfy and luxurious 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens adorn the super-king beds.

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The rooms are spacious and well-presented and contain some nice touches, such as Bose stereos and fresh orchid plants.

Our room, an Executive Suite, even had its own private meeting/dining room.

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Breakfast is served at Glow restaurant.

A big selling feature for the hotel is its huge outdoor swimming pool, the perfect place to escape the heat.

Attentive pool attendants keep a watchful eye to ensure you’re kept well-hydrated and even offer complimentary sunscreen lotion.

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We didn’t have time to use the spa facilities, but the 1-hour COMO Shambhala Massage is said to be highly recommended.

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The hotel has another ace up its sleeve: possibly the best Thai restaurant in the world.

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‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’

This single sentence sums up the esteem with which food is held in Thai culture and society. In Thailand, when family or friends meet, rather than ask ‘how are you?’, they will often ask ‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’. Translation: have you eaten (rice) yet?

If any of the party has yet to eat, sourcing a good meal becomes the immediate priority above all others.

Food in Thailand is a communal affair. Not only is it normal for the entire family to eat together, but they also often cook meals together and eat from the same shared dishes. It is how traditional methods of Thai cookery are inherited from generation to generation.

In our taxi on the way to the hotel the driver enquired if we were going to be eating at nahm. When we told him that we hoped to, but hadn't made a reservation he laughed and informed us that we had little chance - you have to book weeks and months in advance in order to secure a table.

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So it was almost with embarrassment that we asked the hotel reception if they could arrange a reservation for us that evening. And, to complicate matters further, we hoped to invite several family members to share the experience with us - a table for 6 would be required.

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok frequently features amongst lists of the top restaurants in Asia. Run by the Australian-born chef David Thompson, it was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star. One of the first restaurants in Thailand to receive the award.

Thompson and his team have gained worldwide notoriety for offering authentic Thai cuisine made using the highest quality ingredients, while earning a reputation for reviving once popular traditional Thai dishes.

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This was the highlight of the meal. Alike Fäviken's "i skalet ur elden", this signature dish was bursting with flavour and worth the trip alone.

Muslim curry of oxtail with fresh nutmeg, ginger and eggplants.

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Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing. Another stunning dish.

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Steamed coral trout with Bang Rak yellow beans and pickled garlic.

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Grilled galangal relish with pork and prawn stuffed bamboo and mustard greens.

One of our party commented: "I can pay this no higher compliment than to say this is exactly how my mum cooked this dish. Beautiful!"

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A delicious Lycheetini.

Kingfish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime.

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Preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep-fried prawns and vegetables.

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Owing to our late reservation we didn't get to spend as much time at nahm as we would have liked, and as a result weren't able to sample even more dishes.

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Each of the dishes we did sample were extremely well-balanced. It's apparent that the chefs have a clear understanding of the four fundamental taste areas; sweet, spicy, salty and sour.

We left extremely full, but with food this good you always want more!

COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

 

Photography by mahon.photo

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok

“Bangkok, though, is a rejuvenating tonic; the people seem to have found the magic elixir. Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.” - Bernard Kalb

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Like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong, Bangkok is one of the worlds great cities. It is a city which bustles with energy around the clock.

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To the uninitiated it offers an assault to the senses; a culture shock that few other cities can match.

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The wall of heat and humidity when you first leave the airport is unforgettable, so too the unrelenting thrum of tuk tuks and the ever-present smell of incense and Thai street food.

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It’s difficult to fully describe, but to get a sense of what it’s like, grab a bowl of your favourite Thai curry, light the joss-sticks and, while fully clothed, stand in your shower with the heat turned to the max with a friend or relative hammering pots and pans while shouting “TUK TUK!?” down your lughole every 20 seconds or so.

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For many years, despite being a ‘city person’, I found the experience to be just too much.

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I’d escape as soon as possible by grabbing a connecting flight to the greener, more mountainous, area of Chiang Mai, or the drier climates of the beaches in Ao Nang in the south.

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Until, on one trip, I had no choice but to stop in Bangkok. Heavily jet-lagged, a friend and I took a walk around Bangkok’s streets at 5am in the morning. 

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We found ourselves at the aromatic Pak Khlong Thalat flower market. Thailand’s largest wholesale flower market is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but is at its most frenetic from 3am to 5am. If you're a flower lover it's a must see.

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Having grabbed a tuk tuk, and with sun beginning to rise, we walked around the area surrounding the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the beautiful Wat Pho. 

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Hawkers were replaced by barefoot Buddhist monks in saffron robes on their morning alms round, a cool breeze present instead of searing heat.

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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” - Saint Ambrose

And it was during this trip that I learnt to do as the locals do. Don’t pound the streets. Walk slowly. Take your time; if you’re late or behind schedule, ‘mai pen rai’ (it doesn’t matter).

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You’re in foodie-heaven, eat deliciously cheap street food rather than western food at chains. Grab the skytrain rather than a taxi. Even more preferable, a boat along the Chao Phraya River.

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"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." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

From the Chao Phraya the Shangri-La Hotel stands regally. Unlike the strikingly modern skyscrapers it neighbours, the 5 star luxury hotel offers an elegance of design associated with a quickly vanishing era.

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It has the exotic majesty I associate with travel of the early jet setters; the type of place you would not be surprised to find Roger Moore’s James Bond milling about, cocktail in one hand, pretty woman in the other (thankfully there was no sign of Nick Nack, Scaramanga's dwarf manservant, during our visit.) 

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The rooms, while relatively compact, are beautiful. Thai silk walk coverings and curtains and golden chandeliers offer a hint of ostentation not present in more modern hotels.

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The hotel has two wings; the larger and slightly less expensive Shangri-La wing, and the Krungthep wing. The latter is my preference and recommendation. 

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Guests of the Krungthep wing have access to both swimming pools, and the breakfast buffet is a noticeably more relaxed affair.

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The rooms have private balconies with views of the Chao Phraya.

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The hotel neighbours the lively Bangrak Bazaar.

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Bangkok is home to nearly 10 million people. Watching the plethora of Bangkokians going about their daily business in the city can be endlessly fascinating.

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Street food sellers pushing their carts down busy roads, oblivious to the fast approaching road traffic careering around them.

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Tuk tuk drivers taking a nap at a busy intersection. The maze of electricity cables which overhang every street. 

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"But here, at Shangri-La, all was in deep calm." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

The hotel and its gardens on the bank of the river offer an oasis of calm from the frenetic goings on around it.

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CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, offers further levels of serenity and relaxation.

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Making prime use of its location, the hotel offers an international buffet and great views by night aboard the Horizon Cruise ship.

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And a complimentary river shuttle service is offered to the nearby open-air mall, Asiatique The Riverfront; a great place to grab a bite-to-eat and to spend a couple of hours.

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Other dining choices at the hotel include a Chocolate Boutique(!), and the excellent Shang Palace for authentic Cantonese cuisine.

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For Thai fare there is Salathip Restaurant where Thai classical dance is performed each night.

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"He liked the serene world that Shangri-La offered him..." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

Bangkok is a labyrinth of ever-increasing madness, but having a place like the Shangri-La to retreat to makes it a beautiful and enjoyable madness.

3 to 5 days spent in the city are often the highlight of trips to Thailand.

 

Rates start at GBP £147 per night. Click here to check availability.

 

Cocktail Saturdays' things to see and do during a 3 day visit:

Day 1: Visit Wat Arun at sunrise. Hop over on a short boat ride to the Grand Palace and have a massage at the wonderful Wat Pho. If you prefer an even more luxurious treatment, spend the afternoon at CHI Spa at The Shangri-La. Then watch the sun go down over a cocktail at Sky Bar rooftop at Lebua State Tower.

Day 2: Visit Pak Khlong Thalat early in the morning, then visit The Jim Thompson House. Spend the afternoon milling around Siam Paragon Mall and Gaysorn Mall. Take a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river.

Day 3: Join the locals for early morning yoga in the beautiful Lumpini Park. Take a boat trip along the Chao Phraya and Bangkok's numerous khlongs. Climb Wat Saket (Golden Mountain Temple), and reward yourself with dinner at Raan Jay Fai (327 Maha Chai Road) - Bangkok's most expensive, and Michelin Star winning, street food - try khai jeaw poo (crab omelet.)

 

Photos contained in this review are shot with the excellent Fujifilm X-T2. I have recently been testing various Fujifilm cameras; many thanks to Fujifilm UK for providing me with equipment to review.

 

Photography by mahon.photo