Sunday, June 11, 2006

Where We Stayed

When we first walked into our hotel, it was late, past 10 at night. We had taken an evening flight into Bangkok. From Don Muang Airport, it was a smooth drive via the tollway and expressway. A quick turn onto a slip road and through some building's carpark and driveway, and we had arrived at the Majestic Grande on Sukhumvit Soi 2.

a view of the hotel from Sukhumvit Soi 2

This was our first time at this recently opened hotel. Ratings for it on the usual travel forums and online booking websites were good and most reviews gave it the thumbs up. It was listed as a 5-star hotel by some sites and 4-star by others. Either way, most reviewers said it was better than they had expected. And it fitted our bill in several important ways:

  1. It was in a location we liked, just off the bustle-y end of Th. Sukhumvit yet in a quieter soi.
  2. It had a pool and a gym.
  3. Online photographs of the rooms showed uncarpeted floors. No carpet = no bad smell.
  4. It was a smallish hotel, with 251 rooms only. Smaller = better service is our hypothesis.
  5. Good rates (for a 4 to 5 star hotel), approx. SGD $140 per room night, were available via online hotel booking services. (Well, the rate would have been even better if we had been able to go ahead with our original booking. We had taken advantage of a special discount for "last-minute" bookings. This would have gotten us a suite-sized room for a mere SGD $20 more per room night. Unfortunately we had had to give up that booking because of work commitments.)
  6. We didn't think the hotel would be infested by too many of our, uh, compatriots, since it was neither right smack on the doorstep of the shopping district nor super cheap.
Now to find out if the hotel was as good as what it was touted to be.

the night we arrived, this lobby was full of sheiks

Check-in was fast and professional, and accompanied by welcome drinks. We proceeded upstairs to our room on the 22nd floor; our luggage would be sent up to us in due course.

a stab at posh

look, Ma, no carpet

On the minus side, the room did seem smaller than depicted in photos, although not so small that it was a problem. Also, the fixtures looked good but we could tell that some compromise had been made in terms of quality, perhaps as a cost-saving measure. Some things like the shoe rack looked a little flimsy. While the hotel was still new, it all looked good, but our hunch was time would take its toll.

On the plus side, the room was comfortable and felt sufficiently luxurious. In fact, whoever designed the rooms had made a real effort to match the big boys of the hotelling world, with a padded headboard behind the bed and little touches that just managed to stay on the right side of opulent.

a touch of class

And up on the 22nd floor, we had a spectacular view of the highway which was really pretty to look at in the dark. (A word of advice: ask for a room on a high floor or a room facing away from the highway when checking in. Our room was quiet but we imagine that rooms on a lower floor facing that highway may experience some noise.)

the view from our room - Bangkok's infamous traffic

room service

Overall, we felt the hotel had been a good choice. We were satisfied with the service. Requests to housekeeping and room service were speedily attended to. Service staff in general were warm and polite. The pool area was prettily landscaped and the in-house gym was better stocked than the Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur. As HM put it, at least it had real weight machines.

The feel of the hotel was one of quiet discretion, not least because the clientele seemed to be predominantly businessmen. There were tour groups and families, but their presence was only felt during breakfast.

lift lobby on our floor

The one niggling point was the wait for the lifts or elevators which we felt tended to be a tad too long at peak hours. Another symptom of the cost-saving syndrome perhaps, one more lift or elevator would not have hurt. Just two for 251 rooms seemed one too few.

All in all, we would describe Majestic Grande as a 4 1/2 star hotel, with the extra 1/2 star for effort.

one last look

P.S. If the management were to ask us for advice on competing with the 5-star hotels, we would suggest that they capitalise on the service aspect and push it to the next level. They should offer 6-star service, since they seem to have good service staff. As for the physical features, while understandably the number of lifts cannot be changed, they should invest on better quality fixtures so that the hotel will still look good as it ages.


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