BACKGROUND The towering 28-floor Royal Orchid opened in 1983, and when I visited it was undergoing extensive renovations. The work started in 2007, and floors have been revamped one by one, starting from the top. As well as the interior, the exterior of the hotel was being redone, so now and again I spotted men ascending and descending on cables outside my window. The work is due to be complete in early 2010.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS The interiors of the softly lit, ground-floor entrance hall are a combination of marble, gold and dark wood, with the reception desks to the left and the lobby lounge to the right. The décor in the public areas has an Asian flavour, and still looks quite eighties, whereas the revamped bedrooms have a far fresher and more contemporary look to them.
Staff are professional and quick to help. As I was an executive guest, I was checked in at the Towers lounge on floor 27, where I was given a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice while my details were processed. The venue features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the river, a small business centre with four PCs (ask for an access code for use of free internet), breakfast, afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails. (Alcohol seemed only available at set times from the manned bar.)
WHERE IS IT? The property is positioned on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is accessed via a small side road, where taxis and tuk tuks wait for fares, and smartly dressed hotel porters stand ready to assist. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International airport is a 30-minute drive away.
The hotel is right next to the Si Phraya public pier, which is served regularly by ferries and express boats that take you up and down the river. It’s a great way to get around as traffic on the roads can be very congested. A free shuttle boat connects to the nearby Sky Train (BTS) station, where you can catch trains to MBK Centre, Siam Paragon and Chatuchak weekend market.
ROOM FACILITIES All rooms feature the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, on which I slept very well during my stay. Other standard amenities included wired internet access (642 baht/£11.50 for 24 hours), Philips flatscreen TVs with movies on demand, free bottled drinking water (even the locals don’t drink tap water), air conditioning, a minibar, walk-in wardrobe, and an iron and ironing board. Higher category rooms (Deluxe Premium upwards) also provide guests with tea and coffee-making facilities, bathrobes, a separate bath and walk-in rainshower, and DVD players.
My Executive Tower corner suite was very generous in size, measuring around 70 sqm, with a separate living room and work area, bedroom, bathroom and toilet with an interconnecting door to the entrance hall so visitors don’t have to go through the bedroom to access it. Décor was neutral, employing a palette of soft brown, grey, green and cream, along with dark wood furniture, the odd Thai ornament and orchid plant. However, the living room felt quite sparse, despite being furnished with a sofa, coffee table (adorned with fruit platter) and a workdesk (with international sockets).
The marble bathroom was quite small, which was a shame given how big the rest of the suite was, but was well stocked with toiletries and emergency essentials such as a shave kit and mouthwash. In addition, there were twin white sinks, digital scales (which didn’t work) a bath and a walk-in shower – although the rainshower head didn’t function and the other handheld fitting hummed loudly went the water was turned on.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 745 rooms all with views of the river. Executive rooms are on floors 25 to 28. There are seven types of room – Deluxe, Deluxe Premium, Towers Executive, Junior suite, Executive suite, Towers Junior suite and Towers Executive suite.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The sweeping views of the river through the floor-to-ceiling windows in both the bedroom and living room, the very comfortable Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed and Tower benefits such as access to the Towers lounge.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS As well as the Lobby Lounge on the ground floor (open 8am-1am), there are three restaurants. Etc… On the River is a relaxed venue that serves plentiful buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners, along with an à la carte menu and live cooking stations. The quality of food is very good, and dishes reflect Thai, Italian, Indian and European fare – if you are opting for the buffet (lunch is Bht 740/£14), make sure you are hungry enough to get your money’s worth.
The other two eateries are located on the first floor – the recently remodelled Giorgio’s serves modern Italian cuisine in the evening, while opposite, Thara Thong (open for lunch and dinner), is an authentic Thai restaurant decked out in carved wood walls and polished floors. Diners take their shoes off and sit at sunken tables, or outside on the river-facing terrace. I ate here one evening and had a very enjoyable meal – the atmosphere is relaxed and the menu reasonably priced. My only criticism would be that it was too brightly lit. However, the food was delicious – I had spring rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce (Bht 300/£5.50), followed by Thai red curry with vegetables (Bht 280/£5.20).
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILTIES The Royal Orchid has more than 4,000 sqm of events space across the first and second floors, including a 1,080 sqm ballroom, which is divisible into three. There are also five newly refurbished meeting rooms and seven riverside function rooms. All venues have free wifi, as do the public areas. Also on the first floor is the Link@Sheraton work area, which provides guests with access to three PCs with free internet access (just put name and room number in), and the business centre, which also has workstations, PCs, international magazines, plasma TVs and games.
LEISURE FACILTIES On the ground floor is a 24-hour fitness centre, and outside, adjacent to the river, is a lagoon-like swimming pool surrounded by palm trees and sun loungers. A second outdoor pool on the Riverside Terrace was under construction when I was staying, but it is now complete. The hotel also has a tennis court, a jogging track, and the Mandara spa, which offers an array of treatments from a Thai herbal facial to Balinese massage.
VERDICT A good high-end business hotel in a great riverside location. Extensive internal and external renovations have given the property a new lease of life.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in January started from Bht 5,650 (£104) for a Deluxe River View room.
CONTACT Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel and Towers, 2 Charoen Krung Road, Soi 30 (Captain Bush Lane), Siphya, Bangrak, Bangkok; tel +66 2266 0123; starwoodhotels.com