Banyan Tree Bangkok - Spa Suite
We stayed a night in the Banyan Tree Bangkok's spa suite in order to contrast to the Grand Hyatt Erawan's Spa Cottage. The suite advertised benefits including a 90 minute spa treatment, in-suite afternoon tea, an 'intimate moments' bath and club lounge access. In trying to organise these benefits ahead of arrival (we arrived at 16:30 and departed at 08:00 so booking in advance was essential), we encountered a few problems. The 90 minute spa session is in fact 60 minutes massage and 30 minutes relaxation time (paying to relax in a room you have already paid for) and the spa afternoon tea is no longer served in suite. After some negotiation, we were offered a 90 minute massage as we had originally believed to be included and afternoon tea in the lobby, although we declined this as we arrived 30 minutes before cocktail hour in the club.
On arrival at the hotel, we were impressed by the warm welcome and offering of fragrant flower garlands. The grace of the Thai people never ceases to amaze us, even though we had come from Tokyo, the capital of polite. We were shown to the club lounge for check-in, which surprisingly took over half an hour. This was due to the number of people checking us in, who didn't know answers to questions and had to phone to find them out. It was frustrating to arrive in Bangkok, having booked an expensive room and be kept waiting so long before being able to access it. However, on arrival in the room, we were delighted by the open feeling and facilities.
The Club Lounge and Dining
Our expectation was that the club lounge would be on a par with the Grand Hyatt Erawan. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. The food offerings were cold (even immediately after being brought out), unexciting and there was not much choice. There was also only 1 choice of still white wine, along with a poor sparkling choice. There was little fresh fruit (in Bangkok for heaven's sake) or vegetables, no salad... in fact nothing that tasted fresh. The lounge itself was large, but felt a little downmarket with smallish tables set with 4 chairs arranged in a regular pattern a little like some airport lounges. However, the scent as you enter is a lovely touch.
Unfortunately, we had to check-out too early to try breakfast. We did go to inspect it on our way out and the choice was extensive and seemingly good quality. Instead we ordered room service breakfast - we were allowed to order anything from the menu at no extra charge. We chose orange juice, fresh fruit and dim sum. The dim sum was delivered hot and there was a great choice of steamed (shu mai, har gao) and buns (char siu, pandan and custard).
Although we did not have time to try any of the restaurants, the hotel offers a wide range of dining outlets, from Chinese at Bai Yun, Thai at Saffron, Japanese at Taihei or international favourites at Romsai. For those with a head for heights, Vertigo and Moon Bar offer outdoor rooftop dining on the 61st floor (weather permitting), or for something a bit different, why not dine on the hotel's boat Apsara? Please note that if you visit during rainy season, even when rain has stopped, you will not be allowed even onto the roof until the bar has been set-up again. We were disappointed by this as one of the reasons for visiting the hotel was to see the bar and the view, so be warned.
On the basis of our inspection, The Banyan Tree Bangkok is a reasonable hotel in a great city. The spa suite could be a special room but is too normal. Ok, so there's a couple's treatment room in the suite (really just a second bedroom with treatment tables), which is nice. But where is the feature bath (there was plenty of space in the bathroom for one twice the size) or the steam room? Although cheaper than the spa cottages at the Grand Hyatt Erawan, the suite didn't feel special or connected to the spa, whereas those at the Hyatt are set around the (large) swimming pool and provide a treatment room, steam room, scrub table and feature bath. The club lounge at the Hyatt is also vastly superior with a wide range of Thai salads and Western delicacies. Service at the Banyan Tree was friendly and we were pleasantly surprised by the follow-up to our comments made to the club lounge manager about the food offering (this was mentioned by duty manager on checkout and in an email sent later the same day apologising for the problems we faced). However, the miscommunication before arrival, the length of time to check-in and the slight lack of polish detracted from this feeling like a luxury experience. There is so much affordable 5* inventory in Bangkok, we would not recommend staying at the Banyan Tree at present.