Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

The Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok

Thailand

Award-winning cuisine, a holistic spa and Bangkok's chicest bar

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The Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok
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The Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok

Location

Central Bangkok, near Patong Night Market

Travel Information

Bangkok International Airport - 40 mins

Top Tips

Practice tai chi at Lumpini Park, the tranquil green heart of the city

5-Star X-Factors

Thai delicacies at the in-house, award-winning Nahm restaurant

The blissful Metropolitan

Arriving in Bangkok you could be forgiven for thinking you had landed in the wrong country. Where is the magical 'eastern flavour', the temples and ornate shrines, the simple life with market stalls laden with exotic fruit and oriental spice?

Well, it's there, so do not despair. The sprawling, haphazard, seemingly random metropolis, with a densely polluted air, hides the beguiling 'khwaam pen Thai' (Thai-ness) beneath its western commercial front. Do not respond to a knee jerk reaction to retreat to a paradisiacal island. Wait and scratch beneath the surface; you may return home with more than you bargained for, from a spiritual point of view at least.

We stayed at the staggeringly soothing, timeless zen zone: The Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok. It is truly a balm for sore minds. It heals the effects of a pitiless plane journey with its outstanding COMO Shambala Urban Escape, and the staff who float about this spacious, cool and lofty hotel are gracious, peaceful, warm and deeply attentive.

It is what you want in Bangkok. You don't want to stay in a ritzy, glitzy, skyscraping, Atlantic-inspired 'could-be-anywhere-hotel'. Christina Ong's creation has the edge here: she offers the overheated client the opportunity to undress, both stress and attire, in a sleek, eastern and refreshingly Thai way. It is also surprisingly good value.

Hitting the town

With so little time and so much to do we sat down with Joe, the amazing front desk manager, and sorted out a hectic but exciting itinerary. We wanted, in no specific order, to drink cocktails, visit temples and the Grand Palace, go on a river boat, go crazy in markets, eat indigenously and just generally feel the spirit of Thailand that the drive from the airport successfully disguised.

I travelled with our two eldest, noticeably occidental, children. Two young women with a thirst for fake Chloe! Needless to say, it was well and truly quenched by the time we left.

We were advised by Joe to try Anna's Café, a garden eatery on a street not too far away. We ordered a selection of spicy, Thai salady-fishy plates, and ventured into totally unchartered territory, trying dishes called 'morning glories' and various exotic soup permutations. Cocktails for two and jugs of water. Excellent. The entire meal was under 20 euros.

After lunch we headed for the bustling Chao Phraya River, the aorta of Bangkok. The city is reportedly sinking at a rate of two inches every year, but there's too much sànùk (a Thai sense of fun) going on for that to get anyone down.

We reclined in a long-tail boat, sightseeing through Thonburi's canals. It was exhilarating: the breeze was a welcome relief and the sights straight out of a movie. They filmed Bond scenes and some of Tomb Raider along these canals. Rickety wooden homes on stilts, strewn with colourful washing drying amongst pots of orchids and frangipani, are juxtaposed with temples and colonial style mansions.

Iguanas watch from walls while children splash and fish in the wavy brown water. Palm trees and shanty huts with boat spotters, some blaring out music and many supporting Liverpool, shout enthusiastically while dogs lie sleepily at their feet. When our driver turned off the engine we froze temporarily but then realised he was obliging a water trader who sold us some nasty fans from her mobile store, a canoe. This is a must, a real eye-opener and transports you to the village life of Bangkok, often unseen from the frenetic streets.

After dark

We all suffer from a touch of vertigo, but a cocktail at the tallest bar in the east was something we couldn't resist. The Moon Bar at the top of the Banyan Tree, next door to the Metropolitan, was an astonishing aberration. Nocturnal Bangkok is lit up like New York; on this night the moon was full and it seemed churlish not to order 'Sex On The Moon'. Increscently addictive.

The atmosphere is a little like Nikki Beach in St Tropez: really cool Buddha Bar music and exotic guests. Waxing lyrically we returned to the Metropolitan for a Thai fest a spread of fiery and delicate delights, from small lobster-size prawns to spicy squid and omelette salad, in the notorious Met Bar.

In this throbbing celebrity-magnate bar, the heart beats in time to the DJ's groovy house music and it was a perfect way to end an exhilarating day. Sleep came on like a thick blanket and we all passed out in heavenly bedding in our stylish and pleasingly contemporary room.

Rise and shine

The superb hotel breakfast is unsurpassed, while lunch or dinner at Nahm is compulsory. Spearheaded by Australian chef David Thompson, this gourmet delight is the place to sample healthy Asian-inspired dishes that make the most of delicious, locally-sourced ingredients. Nahm has received numerous accolades and is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Thailand, if not the whole of Asia. 

After an incredible lunch, we were whisked off to the Grand Palace to see the Emerald Buddha, if nothing else. We chose to have a chauffeured hotel limo to stave off the enemy (time) and assist with our choices. Our driver left an indelible print on my psyche, enlightening and piercingly in tune with the 'metaphysical'.

The palace is vast, quite overbearing and closes at 3.30pm! The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, although encrusted in jewels, is a humbling experience. We were fortunate to see monks meditating in the temple; they have an increate aura quite unlike any other religious order. The Emerald Buddha is both a sacred structure and the apotheosis of the spirit of the entire Thai people.

On the advice of our driver, we visited China Town, a crazy, buzzing, spicy district that has flourished since Bangkok miraculously evolved during a tumultuous period following the Burmese invasion in 1776. We moved on to an amulet market discovering the more diverse side of Thailand's spirituality. Monks drift alongside 'professional' women and shops house family-run herbal medicine and traditional massage shops.

We bought some incredible silk presents from Jim Thompson's house, now a museum, bequeathed by this extraordinarily talented, self-made, American entrepreneur whose creative style and flair won him the accolade of 'Legendary American of Thailand'. The old enemy, time, was creeping up on us, and with the worst traffic in the world, we had to be guided by our new best friend.

Seedy or sacred? He, of course, suggested the latter so I asked for both. This was fulfilled by a visit to the Temple of the Golden Buddha followed by hawking traders in a crazy market. We rushed back for my much needed facial and body massage in the holistic haven, COMO Shambhala. Ten out of ten. I went in for a facial and got an entire body massage while my facial 'algae glue' solidified.

One more night

Refreshed and revivified, we headed off for our night of excess and gluttony on the banks of the Chao Phrya at the glitzy Oriental Residence, Bangkok. It was a feast fit for kings and the atmosphere at night, alongside the bustling river with barges sparkling in colourful lights and a jazz band, is fabulous. The cocktails were rather good too.

Well satiated and lobster loaded, we headed for Patpong, a seedy market district, both red and pink, for some Thai boxing, last minute shopping and a final farewell to Thailand's relentless energy. It was here that scenes from both the Deer Hunter and Miss Saigon were filmed.

The hotel staff, now familiar friends, were sincerely interested in our colourful anecdotes. Before we knew it, our wake-up-cappuccinos were by our beds. Incredible service. I really loved it here and the girls have yet to beat the hotel for 'coolness', though I dare say the elder will pine for the tranquil Metropolitan during her own travels. You could see the YWCA in the far distance from our very five-star bedroom windows.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer