- an urban Garden in the heart of Bangkok
The Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok located directly at the famous river Chao Praya owns a special place in my heart. When I was 14, I visited Bangkok for the first time and this was also my first Asian mega-city I had traveled to. The Shangri-La was my very first luxury hotel stay and thinking back to this trip, strong memories of a fragrant lobby, smooth silk cushions and walls of orchids come to my mind, memories I am very fond of. Now, over fifteen years later, I have returned to this iconic hotel for another visit to the incredible city of Bangkok.
When I arrived, the familiar scent “Essence of Shangri-La” and so many elements of my memories came back to life in front of my eyes and it felt like coming home. The Shangri-La definitely belongs to the most spectacular places to stay the Thai capital, and considering the large density of luxury hotels, this really means something. First of all, the location of the Shangri-La Bangkok is hard to beat. Overlooking one of the most interesting river areas, the window and balcony views its hotel rooms and suites have to offer are just marvelous. I stayed in the Shangri-La for a week and sometimes caught myself simply sitting by the window and marveling at the busy river with its long tail boats, ferries and dining yachts. I never got bored watching!
About the Hotel
The Shangri-la is made up of two buildings that form a complex of the “Krungthep Wing” and the Shangri-La Wing. The hotel opened originally in 1986 with only the Shangri-La Wing. The Krungthep Wing was then added later in 1991 and can be described as the premium wing of the hotel with Chi Spa, a separate garden with an adult-only pool, an impressive additional lobby and a large number of meeting venues. The Rooms at Krungthep wing also offer balconies with their rooms and Guests from the Shangri-La wing can still access the Krungthep Wing and also access the Skytrain Station and ferry pier Saphan Taksin which are located at the very footstep of the lobby entrance. With the popular boat pier just few steps away, it’s easy to hop on a river ferry and explore the nearby Grand Palace and Wat Pho, two of Bangkok’s most popular cultural treasures. Alternatively, hire a long tail boat from the hotel (600 baht per hour with driver) to explore the area of the Chao Phraya River in more privacy and comfort. During a longtail tour you will stay inside the boat and the crew will drop you again at the hotel. Also one of Bangkok’s best night market is found right here at Asiatique Night Market. You can easily spot the giant ferris wheel from your hotel room window.
The 802-room Shangri-La Bangkok hotel has so much to showcase! The massive luxury property offers six restaurants, two fabulous pools, and its own river cruise liner, which goes up and down the Chao Praya and past some of Bangkok’s impressive sights such as the Wat Arun or the Grand Palace, but also the glittering skyline of the city. In addition, wellness-lovers like myself will be pampered heavenly at the Chi Spa. During my stay, I have collected 8 Experiences not to miss at Shangri-La Bangkok:
1.Experience top-notch Thai Hospitality
When you arrive at the Shangri-La Bangkok, every second is enjoyable. The Concierges of the hotel welcome everybody with personal greetings in their tropical uniform dressed with hats, boots and safari suits and bright smile. The ladies receiving guests in the lobby are dressed in stunning uniforms made of raw Thai Silk, and everyone stepping foot into the Shangri-la Bangkok will not only feel well-taken care of but also be greeted by the “Essence of Shangri-La” , the hotel chain’s signature scent. The staff’s uniform and genuine elegance make them look like time travelers from Bangkok’s grand golden times. Throughout the hotel, every employee you meet seem to do their chores so lightly with grace and full of warmth. Serving, cleaning, small talk, every guest interaction is impeccable and they constantly deliver at the highest level. I am sure you every guest, like myself, will be taken care of wonderfully.
2. Breakfast Goals by the River at NEXT2 Café
This restaurant serves breakfast and lunch and offers both comfortable indoor and breezy outdoor seating. For the early birds, having breakfast here can be a totally different experience depending on the time you go. Early mornings around 8-9am and during the week it’s so peaceful there and you can eat your way through several live cooking stations with Sushi, Ramen, Indian paratha, Curries, Soups, Egg Stations, Pastries, Waffles and even Ice-Creams! The buffet was so sumptuous, I stayed there for 6 nights and wasn’t able to try everything. During the weekend, the buffet and sitting area can get a bit busy and a short wait to be seated is not unusual. Nonetheless I was impressed with the quality of food and constant replenishments on the buffet, so even during extremely busy times the staff manages to maintain the hotel’s high standards. One more thing that really made an impression on me was the following: I had felt quite bad and caught a cold on my flight to Bangkok. The team from both the breakfast buffet service as well as housekeeping took note without me mentioning anything and provided me with chamomile tea and honey throughout my stay wherever I went. Now that’s attention to detail. The outdoor seating arrangements are lovely to lounge in throughout the day.
3. Bask in the Sun at the urban Jungle Pool
One of the first things upon arrival, apart from the stunning skyline, you will spot is the beautifully designed river front main pool nestled in the lush tropical gardens of Shangri-La Bangkok. I am sure, just like me, you will want to go straight down for a refreshing dip. So off I went, all the way down to explore the pool area. As soon as I stepped outside this little piece of urban jungle, the busy noise of the city was completely tuned-out. Tranquility spreads all around with exotic palm trees, ancient banyan trees as old as the land itself and, of course, stunning orchids wherever you look. This is where you can press the escape button and unwind from your exciting Bangkok explorations. After a short walk around, I settled on a luxurious day bed, already prepared with fluffy towels. I ordered a coconut and my favorite fried brie cheese snackers (!) and went for a swim. The pool offers various depths, relaxing platforms right beneath the surface and massage jet streams. The pool staff would check in with every guest once in a while and offer refreshments such as fruit skewers or cold towels. There's even two Pools, one for the main Shangri-La Wing with access for families and the more secluded Krungthep Wing Pool.
4. Connect with the House Spirits of Shangri-La
Right behind the Orchid Gardens, in the cool shade of an ancient Banyan Tree lies the hotel’s spirit house. This type of offering shrine can be found everywhere in Thailand and surrounding countries such as Laos and Myanmar. They are often built underneath sacred trees or at temples and Wats. Spirit houses are intended to provide a home for spirits living all around that could cause problems for the people if not appeased. The shrines often include images or carved statues of people and animals. All around Thailand, it is a tradition deeply rooted into the local culture to leave offerings such as food and drinks at the spirit house. Flowers, rice, bananas, coconuts, and sweet deserts are offerings commonly found here. The idea is that friendly spirits will visit and help themselves to the tasty treats. Their presence is believed to serve as a protection again more misbehaved spirits and keep the house or hotel protected and peaceful. It is believed that the sweeter the treats, the sweeter the spirits they attract. I offered a sesame ball (my own favorite sweet in Asia) to the spirits and placed it inside the tiny house. Wherever I travel, connecting with indigenous cultures and customs are an important aspect of experiencing the country to me, it was not only beautiful to look at but also a nice experience.
5. Taste fragrant flavors of Thai cuisine at Salathip by the River
At Shangri-La Bangkok, you’ll find a distinctively Thai-themed building hidden in the gardens, the fine dining restaurant Salathip which is entirely made of wood. During my first visit years ago, my family and I celebrated Loi Krathong, the Thai festival of lights there, it was a magical night with Thai dancers, candles everywhere and golden decorations all over. To my surprise on this visit, the restaurant even during normal operation was fabulously magical. We had a glorious meal, with several starters and main courses to try it all. It is a little pricey compared to dining outside but absolutely worth the splurge for a special evening. Not only is the service impeccable and food delicious, but there is also a tasteful dancing show telling tales of old Krungthep (now known as Bangkok) to accompany your meal. A dish I can absolutely recommend is called “Mieang Pia Tub Tim“. It’s a fried grouper fish, which comes with a large selection of topping for self wrapping. Take a kale leaf and fill it with typically Thai items such as peanut, chopped ginger, Garlic, lime, chilies etc and form small wraps. They are delicious, I promise. Salathip is a Must, come here in the evening to experience traditional cuisine that will leave a lasting impression.
6. Unwind and Detox at Chi Spa
Thai massages are fantastic, I don’t have you tell you that. The world-famous techniques are practiced all aroud the globe. At Shangri-La’s Chi Spa traditional massages and spa experiences are definitely taken to the next level. Every treatment suite offers large, spacious interior design with dimmed soft lights and clean wood designs. As I was battling with some sickness and had lung pains, I went for a daily private steam bath with herbal campher infusions. I felt so much better immediately and the Chi Team took such great care of me. Also the massage treatments are wonderful and mani-pedi service is provided in a separate beauty lounge with garden view. Chi Spa has won several international Spa Awards, this comes at no surprise to me, it was fantastic. The entire Spa spreads out over two floors and a zen-like feeling of bliss and calmness can be felt from the second you enter.
7. Dance at the glamorous Golden Birdcage Afternoon Tea
Hear me out here if you think afternoon-tea is antiquated. The Shangri-La Bangkok Afternoon tea is famous in the entire city! Inside the hotel’s lobby is a grand foyer space which overlooks the entire garden and pool but even the Chao Praya River. Here, you can also find “Chocolate Boutique” with artisan chocolates created by the hotel’s pastry chef. Once a week on Sundays, this space is completely transformed with a wooden dance floor to welcome dancers and afternoon tea enthusiast from all over Bangkok. A live string quartet invites to dance and couples dressed in fine gowns and tailored suits whirl about the parquet. Delicious homemade sweet and savory treats crafted by the hotel’s executive pastry chef include scones, cakes and tea sandwiches which are served in a notorious golden birdcage. A feast for the stomach and the eyes! Even if you don’t plan to dance, simply enjoying a cup of tea and some nibbles while watching the Thai upper class outperform each other in standard dance is an entertaining experience not to be missed. A signature birdcage costs about THB 1,198++ (approx. 40 USD), and is served as an Afternoon tea set for two.
8. Have the best Peking Duck at Shang Palace
I have to admit this one, I love Peking Duck. Wherever I go and find it on the menu I have to order it, no matter what. If you have never tried a traditional Peking Duck dish, here’s what to expect: A whole duck is prepared for a menu with several courses. The duck is inflated and the skin, once all crispy is cut off in thin, wonderful slices and served as a starter along with airy pancakes, sweet and tangy Hoisin Sauce, slices of spring onions, carrots and cucumber. It’s the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat if prepared the right way. After the pancake course, there will be several other main courses that vary from place to place but it will usually be stir-fry dishes served with rice. The Peking duck at Shangri-La’s Shang Palace is prepared meticulously and is served without a preorder (yay!) I have had many Peking ducks all over Asia, but this one right here in Bangkok is my absolute favorite. This Cantonese Restaurant serves a large variety of authentic and traditional dishes, anything I had here so far was always delicious and fantastic. . If you have a sweet tooth, try the sesame balls, fried rice flour balls filled with sweet lotus nut paste, my favorite dessert. Service is on point and highly efficient, absolutely enjoyable with great value for money. The restaurant prices are a little high compared to average Bangkok Dinner prices, however you have to consider they only cook with premium ingredients and are located inside a luxury 5 Star Hotel. We paid about 40-45$ per Person for a sumptuous Cantonese feast and were in foodie heaven.
Stay at Shangri-La Bangkok
I stayed in a Shangri-La Wing Deluxe River View Room and loved it. The contemporary design esthetics blend in naturally with traditional Thai design elements such as gilded details or artisan wooden carvings. The sofa is placed perfectly by the window so you can enjoy the river views at any time of the day. The sunset time was especially wonderful as the evening sun directly hits the building – golden hour indeed! The night’s sleep was heavenly and housekeeping did a wonderful job recreating the bedding’s fluffiness every day. The white marble bathroom has a walk-in shower and an oversize bathtub; I have to admit that I took more than one bubble bath in there. All amenities such as robes, slippers and toiletries felt luxurious and adequate. I ordered room service twice, the arrangement and rollaway table were neatly prepared, all cutlery carefully polished and food was served steaming and fresh. Chapeau, Shangri-La. I’ll be back for sure.