This multi award-winning hotel (including USA Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Gold List for The World’s Best Places to Stay) is renowned for its flawless service, old world charm and attention to detail. Towering above the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, its W-shaped design makes the most of its views and location – catch one of its fleet of little boats across the river to the BTS skytrain station when you can tear yourself away from the three-tiered 88-metre pool, a private spa suite or a home-style Thai dinner under a banyan tree…
Mei Jiang, the award-winning Chinese restaurant serving Cantonese food, looked close to full with well-dressed Asians during our lunchtime arrival. You might also need to book in advance for the aforementioned Thai restaurant, Thiptara, which boasts a tropical garden setting next to the river. We enjoyed lunch – gorgeously light Vietnamese spring rolls followed by Caeser salad with half a lobster marinated with garlic and chives for him and a superb Garden Discovery salad for me plus a mango and sticky rice with coconut milk to share for dessert – on the terrace. By the time we’d finished, a jazz band had started playing while afternoon tea was being served in the lobby.
Breakfast is served on the River Cafe and Terrace – order from the open-air kitchen and take your time choosing from a buffet serving English, Continental and Asian delights.
We counted five telephones, including a hands-free above the bath (the volume from the built-in TV goes down automatically when you take a call and the phone digitally filters the sounds of running water and bathroom echo). The marble bathroom also had his ‘n’ hers sinks, a separate shower and separate (huge) toilet. The king bedside telephones are part of a keypad control system, which you can also use to control the temperature and lighting, open and close the curtains, call for a valet, control the audio-visual system, check the time at home (the front desk programmes that in), turn on the ‘do not disturb’ sign and see if you have a fax. There’s also a seating area, study area with a desk, computer lines and fax and a separate changing area – all of which come as standard.
Who Goes There?
A mix of monied Asians, Americans and Europeans, including expats living in Asia.
Out & About:
Take one of the hotel’s boats to catch the skytrain to Thailand’s largest market, Chatuchak Weekend Market to browse everything from worn vintage trainers to reptiles. You can also book a boat to take in the Grand Palace, built in 1782, and for 150 years the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court; Wat Pra Kaew which enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha); Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), constructed during the first half of the 19th century in the ancient Khmer style; and Wat Pho, the vast temple complex which is home to the gigantic reclining Buddha.
The Best Thing:
Service at the Pen is legendary. Did I mention the private helipad on the top floor? Our BMW 7 Series limousine-chauffeured airport transfer wasn’t a bad alternative. We were greeted with jasmine garlands, check-in took place in our room and carved fruit treats and jasmine tea were brought to us shortly afterwards. It certainly helped relieve our 12-hour flight fatigue.
The Worst Thing:
The bathroom Davi toiletries could come in bigger sizes or even be upgraded to ESPA (the spa’s choice of product line).