Don’t feel misled by the weather forecast if you touch down beneath a thick blanket of fog – this is Bangkok. Teeming with people, choked with traffic, brimming with energy and growing relentlessly, Thailand’s chaotic capital feels a long, long way from the languid islands of the Andaman coast.
It’s a place of extremes; golden spires next to soaring skyscrapers, a diverse new dining scene not at odds with the salt and sweat of the fiery street food. A marketplace will sell you anything from handicrafts to puppies to pungent fruit to DVDs with returns policies that may well affect your statutory rights. 820 feet up at Sky Bar (lebua at State Tower), cocktails are served somewhere above the earth’s atmosphere; down in the sleazy basement bars of Patpong, a cold Chang comes with an eyeful too.
Imagine, then, the effect on the frazzled senses that the Metropolitan by COMO has. With its clean-lined minimalism, it’s the kind of hotel that could easily lose bookings to the more overtly ‘Eastern’ alternatives like its neighbour, the Banyan Tree, and the Mandarin Oriental; but this one is pitched at a sophisticated clientele in search of something else.
Located on an embassy lined road in the smart South Sathorn business district, the manned entrance (not obvious at first as it stands a good distance from the main road) makes a winning first impression and is proof that simple doesn’t equal soulless. The lobby is stunning – vast, light-filled, not an orchid out of place – all cool white and dark Makha wood. Even the staff wear Commes des Garcons.
It feels instantly sanitising, and the complimentary pot of jasmine tea is just the tonic. There are worse places to while away time than in the lobby lounge but it gets better in the rooms and suites, which typically feature a large bed dressed in Egyptian cotton and an L-shaped teak bench made comfortable with Thai silk cushions. A yoga mat is rolled and ready – I entertain the idea of a dawn session, despite only having a vague idea how the downward dog goes – and the stone bathroom is the hoped-for temple of Zen. You don’t need to climb many room-category rungs to get a deep tub and a walk-in shower wide enough for the Reclining Buddha. And to my delight, the COMO Shambala toiletries are scented with a genuinely heavenly mix of geranium, peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus – a taster of what to expect in the spa.
Much like its chic sister hotel in London, the Metropolitan has more strings to its bow than just stylish interiors. COMO Shambala Urban Escape is a high-end retreat offering holistic therapies and is adjoined to glow – the breakfast room and spa restaurant – where healthy, organic and ultra-fresh food complements the revitalising treatments.
The stars, however, are the exclusive Met Bar – as sultry as the Park Lane original but with Tom Yumtinis and urbane Thai DJs – and nahm, recently voted among The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (#13) and number one in Asia. Considering its international standing, the prices are a pleasant surprise, and (this was my experience anyway) you don’t need to book months ahead to get a table if you don’t mind a late sitting. Having such celebrated cuisine just across the lobby is a rare enough privilege, but one of the most appealing facets of this landmark dining room is that it leads out to the lantern-lit poolside, so even if you’re not big into food it feels like a special place to be. And yes – the dishes incredible – not shying away from intense white heat at the spiciest end of the menu and flavoured so uniquely that even staples like green curry take on a contemporary edge.
Waking up at the Metropolitan, it’s silent. Outside, it’s a new day, a new battle with the tuk-tuks and the scooters and the ferries tearing around the Chao Phraya. And yet, it’s a whole lot more fun to get your hands dirty when you’ve got a soothing sanctuary like this to return to, so it’s game on. If this is the face of modern Bangkok, then there are seriously good things to come.
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