Bangkok is one of the most popular destinations for Singaporean travelers on a short getaway. Families flock there for the great bargains in shopping, food and drink, full body massage and foot reflexology. Budget carriers fly there several times a day and there is an abundance of stylish and comfy accommodation which can be booked for amazingly low prices. On my last trip, however, I wasn't after the run-of-the-mill decent accommodation. I was on a mission to hunt down a hotel with an incredible roof-top infinity pool and access to Club Lounge facilities at the best possible price. And I hit the jackpot, not once, but twice!
The first hotel was the AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel. Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, the hotel is a quiet oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. A free river boat service shuttles guests between the hotel and Sathorn Pier, where connections to other parts of Bangkok can be easily obtained. The hotel's roof-top infinity pool is open from 0600 to 2000 hrs each day, and soaking in the pool at sunrise or sundown is an amazing experience. You get to enjoy the spectacular view of the Chao Phraya River and the sprawling metropolis with its skyscrapers beyond.
At the time when I made the booking, AVANI Riverside was holding a special flash sale in their website. The same offer was not in other booking engines like Expedia, Agoda, etc., so it pays to check out the hotel's own website to make comparisons before proceeding with any booking. For S$181.59 per night per room (or S$90.80 per person on a twin-share basis), we had a river view room with buffet breakfast included, THB500 room credit (about S$22), a pair of AVANI Club Lounge passes, and one afternoon high tea set which served 2. The freebies (i.e. room credit, club lounge passes and afternoon tea set) could only be used once per stay; meaning whether you book 1 night or more, you would only be entitled to use the package once. This suited us fine as we had intended to stay only one night, choosing to move closer to the city centre after the first night. With a one-night stay, we were able to extract the most value out of the promotional package.
Owing to a flight delay, we arrived at the hotel after the high tea had already ended for the day. The friendly receptionist checking us in arranged for us to enjoy our tea the next day after check-out. We deposited our luggage in our rooms and made a beeline for the pool. We made it to the Club Lounge for evening canapes and drinks before the social hour ended at 1930 hrs. Free flow beer, wine, spirits and cocktails were available, and the cocktails were especially delicious.
After the social hour, we boarded the hotel's river boat for a 20-min ride to Sathorn Pier. From there, we transferred to yet another free boat service (10-min ride) to Bangkok's largest mall, IconSiam, to watch the free ICONIC Multimedia Water Features show which comes on at 1830, 2000 and 2100 hrs daily at the River Park. Sadly, when we arrived at IconSiam, there was a sign which said the show had been cancelled due to maintenance.
We then proceeded to Sook Siam, the mall's food court with a floating market theme. A canal was constructed in the food court, and stalls selling a myriad of Thai street food surrounded it. It was a tourist attraction, and the prices for the food and drinks matched that. There were also very few seats available for a food court that big. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience, and we had fun sampling different Thai delicacies like pad thai, mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream in an air-conditioned setting.
All the major international brands like LV, Dior, Gucci, Porsche, BMW, Apple, etc. were represented at IconSiam. It was clearly an upmarket shopping complex and you wouldn't find the average Thai shopping there. The mall was massive and we really didn't see that many people window-shopping or buying anything. It was uncannily quiet. On the top floor of the mall, there was a water feature which looked similar to the famed waterfall at Jewel in Singapore and an outdoor deck where you could enjoy a panoramic view of the Chao Phraya River. Restaurants and bars operate on that deck, and the staff kindly allowed us through to see the view.
After exploring IconSiam, we returned to our hotel by boat. We could have taken a free 10-min boat ride from Sathorn Pier to Asiatique, the riverfront night market which is open from 1600 to 0000 hrs, but we were all too fatigued from the day's binge-eating to walk around more.
The spread at the buffet breakfast the next morning was comprehensive, with something for every tastebud. The hotel had no issues with us leaving our bags in storage with them after check out, and continuing to use their river boat service. No checks of hotel keycards etc. were ever made by the hotel's boatmen. Taking the boat in the day was particularly enjoyable too. We bypassed Bangkok's infamous traffic jams, saw the sights along the river, and the boatmen even handed out refreshing cold towels perfumed with lemongrass to help us cool down in the sweltering heat. We cannot praise the exceptional service of AVANI Riverside enough.
The afternoon high tea set was artistically presented. Clearly, a lot of attention to detail had been put in by the chefs to create the delectable morsels. We utilised our THB500 room credit at tea by ordering various dishes from the a la carte menu. My parents, in-laws and my sister's family all joined us on this trip. There were 13 of us altogether. With a bunch of room credits to use up, we managed to sample many of the items in the menu.
We had struck gold when we netted the deal at AVANI Riverside. At S$90.80 per person, we had a luxurious stay at a 5-star hotel, scrumptious buffet breakfast, classy afternoon tea set, free sampling of various dishes from the a la carte menu, evening canapes, all-you-can-drink alcohol at the social hour, unlimited river boat rides, and probably the best roof-top infinity pool in the whole of Bangkok! Unbeatable value, considering the copious amount of food and alcoholic beverages we consumed!
Stuffed to the brim at tea, we moved into our next hotel, Amara Bangkok Hotel. This hotel is in the thick of the action, being just a stone's throw from Bangkok's original red light district, Patpong, and the Patpong Night Market. I had been attracted to it because it too had a roof-top infinity pool, club lounge facilities and, in lieu of a river boat, a complimentary tuk tuk service to the nearest subway station. Unfortunately, we never did manage to catch the tuk tuk. Each time we requested for it, we were told the driver had not come to work.
Although we were still extremely full from tea at AVANI Riverside, we couldn't resist checking out the buffet spread at the Amara's club lounge when we arrived and heaping our plates with food once more. Amara is a Singaporean chain and they featured Singaporean delicacies like Hainanese steamed chicken, in addition to Thai fare, at the buffet. Free flow drinks were also available, but their cocktails were definitely watered down. You're better off sticking to their tapped beer or wine. We stayed at the hotel for 3 nights, and each evening between 1730 to 1930 hrs, all 13 of us would gather at the club lounge for munchies, drinks and evening banter. It was such a great place to wind down after a hard day of sightseeing or shopping.
The hotel's pool was on the 26th floor, with a sweeping view of the city's skyscrapers. It paled in comparison to the one at AVANI Riverside, but it was still an excellent pool with stupendous views. We had booked Club Rooms, and they came with good-sized bath-tubs in each room. Aside from having fun in the pool, the kids also had a ball of a time soaking in the tubs and having their bubble baths. If you had swim wear or other clothing which needed washing, the Club Rooms came along with complimentary laundry facilities too.
Buffet breakfast in the mornings was very satisfying with rotating menus, so we were never bored with the selections. As with the club lounge, the breakfast restaurant also served Singaporean favourites in the morning.
Our stay at Amara Bangkok cost S$180.50 per Club Room per night (or S$90.25 per person on a twin-share basis). Similar to what we had paid at AVANI Riverside. However, at Amara Bangkok, access to the club lounge was available on a daily basis, unlike the one-time access we were allowed at AVANI Riverside. There was also a greater selection of food at Amara's club lounge. I was glad we had the opportunity to experience AVANI Riverside's unique location, as well as Amara's convenience to the heart of Bangkok.
We were absolutely spoilt rotten in Bangkok. We binged for 5 days straight, were pampered with full body massages and foot rubs, relaxed in the most amazing pools, and even had our clothes washed and pressed. None of us missed home one bit, and dragged our feet to the airport. After all, we had flown to Bangkok on Singapore Airlines' Business Class and were returning to Singapore on a budget carrrier! More on that in another post!