Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at Centralworld

4 Dec 2009 by Mark Caswell
BACKGROUND Centara Hotels and Resorts is a leading Thai hotel chain with two properties in Bangkok – the five-star Centara Grand at Centralworld, which opened in December 2008, and the Sofitel Centara Grand. Also part of the Centara group, and attached to the former property, is the Bangkok Convention Centre (BCC) – with more than 10,000 sqm of event space, it is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country. FIRST IMPRESSIONS The Centara Grand and convention centre are part of the 55-floor Centralworld shopping and entertainment complex, with the hotel occupying a smooth-cornered skyscraper with an easy-to-spot giant neon swish illuminating it at night. Step inside the ground-floor entrance and lifts will take you to the 23rd floor, which is where the main reception area is for the hotel. (You can also access the convention centre from here.) It’s a dazzling welcome – the expansive glass windows overlook the city, and the vast ceilings and polished marble floors exude high living.The lifts can be a bit confusing as the first set go only as high as level 26, so you have to walk to another bank of lifts to reach the rooms and restaurants on the higher floors. One of these, Red Sky, is at the top and has an outdoor roof terrace with spectacular views of the city at night. WHERE IS IT? On the corner of Ratchadamri and Rama 1 roads in downtown Bangkok, less than 2km from the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International airport is about 30 minutes’ drive away. Guests can access the hotel from the entrance at the front or through the shopping centre behind. ROOM FACILITIES All rooms have city views through floor-to-ceiling windows, 24-hour room service, separate baths and showers and at least 32 sqm of space. They feature contemporary décor in a range of colour schemes, including combinations of beige, cream, burgundy, grey, earth, rose, gold and ivory depending on the category. Standard amenities include air conditioning, wired internet access for 700 baht (£12.50), satellite TV and pay-per-view movies, a minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities and a safe. I was staying in a World Club Executive room on the 45th floor that looked down on the outdoor swimming pool and rooftop tennis courts on the 26th floor. The firm king-size bed was neatly made up with thick, white cotton sheets, and was positioned below a window that separated the bedroom from the bathroom. One small quirk I found annoying was that there didn’t seem to be a master switch for the lights by the bed, so I had to keep getting up to flick the switches by the door. Guests staying in this category of room and above get free wired internet access and two pieces of laundry per day included in the rate, as well as all the benefits of the Club lounge. As with anywhere in Bangkok, you shouldn’t consume water from the tap, but the hotel provides plenty of free bottles of drinking water. My room also came with a DVD player, a flatscreen TV and a decent-sized workdesk, although it looked rather scratched and the ergonomic chair didn’t adjust in height. There was no iron or ironing board, which I found a little frustrating – I called down for one and it took 30 minutes to arrive. The limestone bathroom was spacious, clean and well equipped, with scales, white robes, a hairdryer, and lots of amenities including the usual shampoo, soap and shower gel but also a shaving kit, mouthwash, bath foam and salts, and toothbrush and paste. One side had mirrored walls, and beneath the window facing the bedroom was a deep bath. There was also a circular walk-in rainshower cubicle – the three on/off, temperature and pressure dials were confusing as they were unmarked and didn’t respond immediately when you turned them. World Club Executive guests and higher are checked in and out at a small reception on the 51st floor, which also houses two private meeting rooms (free for up to six hours per Executive Club guest per stay), and the World Executive Club lounge. It’s open 24 hours and serves breakfast, a buffet lunch, afternoon tea, all-day coffee, snacks and refreshments, plus evening cocktails (waiter service) and hot and cold canapés from 5.30pm-7pm. As well as offering panoramic city vistas, the smart venue has a range of luxurious seating areas, and three computers for guest use behind check-in on the Club floor. HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 505 rooms, including 36 suites, and nine World Executive Club floors. The nine room categories comprise 75 Superior World, 255 Deluxe World, 30 Premium World, 27 World Club Executive, 68 World Club Deluxe, 14 World Club Premium, 30 Executive suites, five World Executive suites and one Presidential. ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The city views, the free laundry and internet (although it was a shame there was no wifi) and the well-equipped bathroom. Having access to the World Executive Club lounge was also a real plus. RESTAURANTS AND BARS There are nine eateries in the hotel, ranging from the ground-floor Zing bakery, shop and café, to the top-floor restaurant 55, for gourmet dining. A lavish buffet and à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the World, which is located on level 24 and open 24 hours. I had a memorable dinner at the trendy 55th-floor Red Sky (dinner served 6.30pm-11.30pm), which has an alfresco roof terrace overlooking the city – a must if you can get a table. The only problem with booking a table out here, even at the tail end of the rainy season, is that dry weather is not guaranteed – no sooner had I ordered my aperitif than it started to bucket down with rain. However, the waiting staff did a good job of moving the diners inside swiftly, and my table by the window offered views almost as good as those outside. While the service was friendly, if somewhat lacking in cohesion (there were two or three staff taking it in turns to take orders and bring food/drink, and the sommelier seemed a little uncertain about which wine to recommend), the international menu was of a high standard. Highlights included the USDA prime dry-aged New York strip with vegetable fricassée and duck fat potato fries (2,155 baht/£39) – my dining companion thought it so good that it would bring tears to your eyes. There was also a very good vegetarian menu, which was more modestly priced (about £12 a main). BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILTIES The extensive conference facilities across the Centara Grand and the Bangkok Convention Centre are on levels 22 and 23, and comprise the World ballroom, which can accommodate 1,200 people for a cocktail reception, and the Main Hall, which can host up to 7,000 delegates. There are also 15 Lotus Suites, some of which have natural daylight, as well as a boardroom for 19 delegates and a business centre open 7am-10pm daily. LEISURE FACILTIES All the leisure and fitness facilities are on the 26th floor. The high-end spa has 14 tranquil treatment rooms (try the excellent Thai massage – a good ratio of pleasure to pain), as well as an outdoor terrace with hot tubs set against a stunning city backdrop. Opposite the lifts is a state-of-the-art gym (open 6am-12pm) with running machines facing the window. To the left, guests can access a second rooftop area, this time with a bar, an outdoor pool (open 6am-10pm) and two tennis courts (equipment can be rented on site) – again, all had great views. VERDICT A top-rate luxury hotel and conference centre with extensive business facilities ideal for large corporate events. Red Sky restaurant is well worth trying, and the World Executive Club rooms offer a good range of benefits. Be aware that prices can be high for Thailand. PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in January started from 4,680 baht (£85) for a Superior World room. CONTACT Centara Grand at Centralworld, 999/99 Rama 1 Road, Patumwan; tel +66 2100 1234;

Jenny Southan

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