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New wave of chic hotels adds glamour and fun to Bangkok's busy hospitality sector

By Roderick Eime
Posted Dec 31, 2012 in Travel
What constitutes a 'designer' hotel? Roderick Eime visits the latest crop of hotels in Bangkok vying for this label.
One doesn’t simply build a hotel these days, it seems, they must be ‘created’.
On my most recent visits to the capital of charming chaos, Bangkok, I’ve had the opportunity to stay in a series of staggering hotels, each seemingly outdoing the other for style, design and ‘lifestyle’ elements.
Despite a reasonable degree of experience covering the hospitality industry, I’ve had to go back to school, so to speak, to acquaint myself with the latest vernacular in hotel-speak. Specifically the terms ‘designer’ and ‘lifestyle’ which, on their own, are fairly self-explanatory, but when applied to the new wave of sexy, chic hotels springing up in the world’s grooviest locales, it helps to understand the motivating philosophy.
Cynics could be forgiven for shaking their heads and dismissing this trend as simply an exercise in marketing semantics. Just add a coat of lurid paint, a set of paisley drapes, an upside-down looking wall hanging and a Daliesque vase and - voilà – you have a designer hotel and a 50 per cent premium on your room rate. Not so apparently.
According to The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (who are known by the ironically amorphous acronym, BLLA), a property that "combines living elements and activities into functional design giving guests the opportunity to explore the experience they desire" can be deemed ‘lifestyle’. Then ‘designer’ hotels, it would appear, go beyond that and are "distinctive hotels with unique architecture, where the room design is as important as the mattress. Style along with environmental concern are important factors. Design hotels vary by the unique abilities of the people who create them. Artistic expression, functionality, and imagination combine to make the most successful design hotels, and keep guest not only comfortable during their stay, but in a constant state of awe with the hotel designer's creative vision".
Clearly setting a lofty benchmark that goes beyond mere flophouse, these hotels certainly add a new level of flair and excitement to what can be a drab and featureless experience in some bland buildings. As an added bonus, many rooms can be currently had for under $200, unheard of other Asian metropolises.
VIE Hotel (Accor’s MGallery Collection): Designed, naturally enough, through French architectural house, J+H Boiffils’, VIE actually exercises a little restraint, but still exudes cool in its core DNA. Accor’s M Gallery collection of memorable hotels is fronted by brand ambassador, Kristin Scott Thomas, the gorgeous Anglo-French actress who has more charm in her finger nail than most of us put together. She says the M Gallery hotels are “a collection of strong personalities and sharp, strong styling but still elegant, like invitations to discover the new and the unexpected.”
Pullman Bangkok Hotel G: Not that this is necessarily a universally ringing endorsement, but this hotel really appealed to me through a bit of rough-edged retro cool mixed with a sense of playfulness and urban charm. Pullman is another Accor brand with their eye on upscale business clients in major cities and is growing like crazy. Rebranded and restyled from its former persona as Sofitel Bangkok Silom, the newest Pullman in Bangkok is cheeky and fun with a super cool terrace restaurant. Scarlett, on the 37th floor, is just drop-dead, while 25 Degrees do ground-level burgers with extra pizazz.
Hansar: The 94-suite Hansar opened in early 2011 and almost instantly shot to the top of TripAdvisor’s hotley contested ranking. Singapore-based architects WOHA integrated eco-friendly features into Hansar’s design including open-air corridors, natural lighting, and frangipani trees that absorb car emissions outside.
Sofitel So Bangkok: An utterly outrageous hotel that pushes every boundary with super edgy design and décor. The executive lounge, Club Signature, is “a masterpiece of high fashion dedicated to the high life inspired by legendary couturier Mr Christian Lacroix”.

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