Sometimes what could have been old has evolved to marvellously today, with historical substance. That is true of a much-loved and well-tended Birkin bag or Audemars Piguet watch. The same, says the gal, is true for luxury hotels. Take, as an example, the last century (well, 1991-vintage) Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, at the heart of this extraordinary city. It wraps itself around the historic Erawan shrine, at the junction of Rajdamri Road and Phloen Chit Road. You know you are in a fun but timeless place as soon as you enter the imposing two-floor lobby: a dear little statue, promoting business lunches, greets you with a smile.
In past days this 380-room hotel had basement restaurants and first (upper) floor meetings. Now meetings are below-ground, in a fabulous university-type environment. From the lobby, take 27 carpeted statement steps up to the first floor, to the Tony Chi-designed Tables, the hub of wine as well as food. This is simple concentration of flavourful eatin’n’drinkin’. Sit at white linen-covered tables, surrounded by wood, floor and ceiling, and some walls, highlighted by inner-lit glass wire cabinets. They do tableside service here, making Caesar salads in enormous china bowls.
I am glad I had a good workout on an arc trainer in the 24/7 Technogym as the Nebraska USDA prime is 350 grams (it, like a best-sellling organic Iberico pork chop with Calvados apple, comes with a Laguiole knife). The just-baked bread loaf comes with a whole roasted garlic. The Griotte-Chambertin GC 2006 Joseph Drouhin is delicious – it was chosen by GM Gordon Fuller and his wife Stephanie, good Aussies who instead of choosing a Grange have gone for French, tonight. At the next table, a group of six Thai fashionistas are all iPhoning, and Whatsapp-ing, images of their shared seafood platter, piled high on a mountain of ice.
Just as this luxury hotel is centre of town, so the 17th floor Club Lounge is hub of the hotel. From 6.30 am on, its lovely crew – not even as old as the hotel – show just how warm Thai hospitality is. At the same time the comfort of being at home is evident. Help yourself to papaya and yoghurt from one of the glass-fronted refrigerators. Make your own coffee if you want, from a big WMF machine, and of course there are paper cups to go. And, of course, there are orchids on your table. This is Thailand.