In a city of contrasts, meet a property that draws inspiration from the bustle of the streets and the serenity of Lumpini Park. From this point on, So Bangkok tells the story of the five elements....
By: Karishma Suri & Akshay Suri
Posted on: August 29, 2013
They say everything is made up of five elements in the form of earth, water, fire, space and air. We believe that and have been living in conjunction with these elements for eons of years. A small abode on this earth, however, aims to encapsulate these elements to bring a whip of excitement and wonder to everyone that I have discussed my recent visit to Thailand with. If bringing elements to life was possible, then the So Bangkok property in Thailand has come as close as it gets. With a strong focus on design sensibilities that set this property apart from its contemporaries, the property gets an A+ for its unique concept. From top to bottom, dressed to impress, style matters as much to them as to us ; style and luxury conscious beings.
Played up with dark seductive lighting, mostly in common areas, this property is situated close to the business district (with J.P Morgan offices and the likes highlighting the area, but other properties like Banyan Tree, Sukho Thai and Conrad also present) and the Lumpini Park (which is a beautiful landscape to be against!). Sofitel So Bangkok, therefore, benefits from a privileged location right in the centre of town. But but, slow down your horses, because the building is all brown and may get difficult to locate especially at night, and nestles between trees and buildings. But once found, this property is always remembered,and that I can vouch for.
The 30-storey, 238-room Sofitel So Bangkok is the city’s first truly urban design hotel. In what is a bold statement of art and design created through a one-of-a-kind collaboration between an award-winning Thai architect and five leading local designers, the property draws inspiration from the five elements of Chinese philosophy – water, earth, wood, metal and fire. While the first four elements define the décor of the guestrooms, fire is the theme of the public areas and restaurants. Got your interest now, have we?
Row your boat to the room
Once inside the quite modern looking property, the first thing to meet my eye was smiling faces behind a small welcome desk and a concierge. But don't be fooled, the actual check in happens on the 9th floor (yes, gets a tiny but confusing so please take notes). After check-in, revel in the moat of pools and water features (with floating fish) around the lift shaft. Let the child in you loose as you chase the projected fish on the floor! No time to rest your feet, you got to go all around and catch another main elevator that will guide you up to the rooms and the Club Signature Lounge on the 25th floor, where all the VIP check-ins happen. Trust me, you would want to be there. The lounge is a fashionable and luxurious, yet homely, with staff that is hospitable and quick! The place to be for travellers who expect personalised and impeccable service in the exclusive atmosphere of a privilege club, my check-in was done in a matter of minutes as I swished down the special cocktail, which changes colours right in front of your eyes and is a treat to your taste buds as well as your eyes(Don’t be shy to ask for another one). In addition to all day refreshments and non-alcoholic beverages, guests can also enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails at this venue at set hours. One person you need to add to your speed dial list while in the city is Paul, the city guru who will guide you with what’s a must do in the city. After a quick tête-à-tête about the city, I could barely conceal my excitement as I was allotted the water room on the 28th floor. And don’t worry, as the rooms are assigned only after consulting you for your preferences! Once you check in, you are shown the images of all the elements so that you can make your choice. Imagine being stuck in an element you hate, sigh!
Based on the 'tree of life', the popular hotel emblem done by Monsieur Christian Lacroix and found almost all around the property (don’t miss the one at the entrance that is sparkled clean every single morning!), the rooms draw inspiration from elements in and around Lumpini Park. Turns out, my water element room, brainchild of Pongthep Sagulku, is characterised by originality, a special feature being a bathtub with a direct view of Bangkok!
If possible, ask to take a quick look at the other rooms, simply to be impressed. The earth room, created by Vitoon Kunalungkarn, is in homage to Mother Nature, with walls hung with primitive Thai paintings. Based on Thai caves, it is blue in colour and very vibrant. Don’t miss the animals on the walls or even the curved archways and walls that mimic caves in northeastern Thailand. The wood element room, designed by Nithi Sthapitanonda, is a serene and tranquil refuge from the stress and bustle of the city, while effective lighting techniques highlight the room numbers as shadows on the walls! Based on a typical Thai home, don’t miss the wood staircase on this floor. The metal room, signed by Somchai Jongsaeng, opens the gateway to a zen world, having a pure simple style in shades of white and metal. Don’t let the dark corridors intimidate you as they prepare for the bright white rooms! The room numbers are lit up and stand out amongst the sultry darkness.
Coming back to my room, I found it impossible to draw the curtains over the French windows that gave a glimpse of the Lumpini Park and the city skyline. Little design flourishes add personalization while clean white walls add to the space factor in the room with a chance to “feel your element” or "So Companions” as they call it. In my case, that meant two fishes placed side by side in glass containers. As soon as the barrier between them was lifted, it was amusing to note how conscious the fish became of each other’s presence! (I always put the barrier back after a few moments in fear that the fish would pounce upon each other).
Besides this, the huge study desk comes with a fully equipped stationery box for any official work that you may need to get done. A few negatives that I wish get rectified soon - the room tends to get quite dark at night and the light switches are quite difficult to locate! But, everything has a reason and purpose to it. The marble walls add a dark and mysterious tone that will dim your room so you can concentrate on absorbing the striking view of the city! Fashionistas will miss the full length mirror in the room. There are precious few plug sockets, and those that can be found are either in use, or hopelessly positioned. The lights require needless amounts of tinkering and the useful hotel information is accessed via endless clicking on the TV remote, rather than a quick flick through a booklet.
But making up for this, an important innovation that makes Sofitel So Bangkok really stand out in the market, is state-of-the-art technical amenities which allow guests to connect with the outside world at any time. All guestrooms are fitted with an Apple Mac mini connected to a large LED TV screen with a wireless keyboard and trackpad to offer media solutions and guest services. The bathrooms feature a big, deep onyx tub next to the window making for a perfectly picturesque soak, and a giant walk-in shower with both rain and normal heads. The little his and hers amenities bags are filled with so many goodies that everything I ever needed was refilled into that little box each day. Uniting technology with a spirit of innovation, Sofitel So Bangkok is a place where cultures, fashions, tastes and individuals converge.
The shore, the sun and the sea shells
With a smart and unique design hotel such as this, there’s hardly anything which won’t excite you. Getting around the property can be a small challenge but you will get used to it and love the walk. I enjoyed walking over to the other side and watching the DJ spin up some excellent mixes on the 9th floor MIXO lounge which spruced up my steps! The property isn’t too close to a BTS station, so the team recommends using the taxi to connect to the hot spots of the city. My experience? Avoid the taxi as much as you can in a city like Bangkok because the traffic there is worse than Mumbai, and the drivers aren’t obliged to go by the meter, so ensure that you chat up your man along the ride. I have also waited as long as half an hour for a taxi, so plan your schedule a little ahead keeping in mind the bumper to bumper situations in the city.
If possible, try and make it back to the property by sunset to witness the mesmerising candle ritual that is so true to all Sofitel properties around the world. If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of their choreographed dance that accompanies this beautiful ritual.
Mornings are a quick affair at this property as they highly value the hands of the clock! Breakfast is laid out and picked up quite promptly, so ensure you are able to catch a bite or two at the Red Oven. Of the various hotel bars and restaurants, the Red Oven, which is planned around a handsome and imposing red oven, is a perfect illustration of the element fire, offering traditional cuisines in full view of the diners.
Besides time being a disadvantage for a lazy traveller like me, I found the vegetarian options to be quite limited during my stay. But quite reminiscent of a street market, chefs stationed at nine different corners arranged around the layout offer popular selections from all over the world - a haven for foodies. On the whole, the breakfast is a usual continental fare with the juice bar filling most of my appetite. I was allowed to go wild experimenting with a variety of fruits and vegetables - and freshness is guaranteed! They say that the red Molteni oven represents passion for culinary arts and is an important component of the fire element in the property.
Another innovative feature of this hotel are spa suites that combine intimacy and wellbeing. The hotel features two floors of wellness experiences for your pleasure and comfort. An infinity pool on the 10th floor is a must see and captures a fabulous view of Lumpini Park. This floor also houses So FIT equipped with the latest equipment for fitness that guarantees a recharging experience to workout fanatics. Guests (very much like me) can also chill out at the So SPA, which resembles a mythological forest, entirely devoted to wellbeing, on the 11th floor of the property. Inviting discovery and exploration, it offers treatments inspired from proven traditions.
The food for mermaids and the likes
As a celebration of joie de vivre, Sofitel So Bangkok presents a selection of cutting-edge bars and restaurants. Apart from Red Oven, the hotel has Park Society, a magical dining venue with stunning city views, along with the exclusive rooftop private cabanas of HI-SO, and Chocolab which offers simply the finest chocolate in town.
Catching my undivided attention, Park Society Restaurant & Bar is a magical place on the hotel rooftop with stunning views of Bangkok. Let me paint a picture for your eyes. Fine dine food against dim lighting, with your loved one and immersed in the city's landscape. Wow! Taking full advantage of its 29th floor location, Park Society capitalizes on its panoramic view of Lumpini Park and the city. The interior design is contemporary, chic and understated, and so complements rather than competes with the view.
Immediately inside the entrance is the Chef’s Table and, to the left, an open kitchen, while beyond is a light, airy main dining area with widely spaced tables. My eyes took a few moments to adapt to the dim lighting, but what met my eyes was reminiscent of a grand ballroom setting. I was quite pleased with the market-style menu that allows meals to be individually designed according to my taste, and of course, with the freshest ingredients available on the day. Being a vegetarian, I was impressed with the ability to tailor my meal exactly the way I liked it! The food is prepared in the open kitchen adjacent to the Chef's Table, with the chefs in action in full view of the guests. Gastronomic creations vie for attention, competing only with the glittering Bangkok nightscape to steal the limelight at this rooftop restaurant, with a talented culinary team led by awarding-winning executive chef Paul Smart.
The food manages to please all senses, most important being the visual. Molecular gastronomy plays a great part in what is plated up before you. The truffle mash potatoes will absolutely fill you with its rich, creamy texture and perfect burst of truffle flavour on the tongue, but I'd recommend saving your appetite for more 'wow' creations that are to come your way. Something as simple as cherry tomatoes coupled with balsamic drizzle will make you appreciate their uniqueness and creativity. More than happy to accommodate to me being a vegetarian, the spaghetti in tomato cream sauce was a wee bit bland for my palate, but the truffle risotto (again, made to a special request) was brilliantly seasoned and cooked to perfection. Non-vegetarians will love the John Dory, and there's no saying how much you will appreciate the accompaniments of asparagus, capsicum pepper sauce and mussel foam!
I'd recommend soaking in the city's skyline at their outdoor seating while enjoying their brilliant cocktail creations over candle light. The P.S I Love You (a take on the cosmopolitan with Ketel One, Cointreau, Cranberry juice, Orange zest) is an immediate hit with women from all over the world as I could see. Another sure shot one to love was the Dragon Caipiroska with Ketel One Vodka, Dragon fruit, Lime and Sugar and you will be sure to go with one more of this, just so you don't miss it when you are back home! Once inside, I had the lychee and rose petal martini, which was highly recommended by the manager, and was a perfect appertif with Ketel OneVodka!
A step above, if privacy and exclusivity is what you seek, visit the Hi-So, Moonlit Cabanas - a rooftop venue with three intimate cabanas, each accommodating 6-15 guests. All offer personalized butler service and are designed for a private celebration with friends or a romantic evening in an exclusive atmosphere. Again, the décor is minimalistic against the panoramic backdrop of the city. Another novel feature of the hotel is Chocolab, my personal favourite being a chocoholic. It is a veritable chocolate deli and boutique serving delicious handmade French chocolates in an attractive setting where guests are welcome to sample gourmet confections. Situated on the lower lobby, expert chocolatiers at the laboratory cum factory melt and mould cacao creations using premium French chocolate!
Keep aside an evening for MIXO on the 9th floor which is a perfect haven toyou’re your hair down and have a few delectable drinks. I was impressed by the ambience that was so relaxed, yet upscale. Their molecular cocktails are unique and tempting. Their signature Pink Peppercorn spiced bellini is a sheer surprise to the taste buds! I would encourage interacting with the mixologist to create your own concoction and enjoy!
Being the vibrant capital of exotic Thailand, the city manages to combine modern dynamism with touches of classics, and of course, a perfect example is this magnificent property I loved so much. Aiming to create a contemporary hotel with every possible modern comfort fused with innovativeness, the result is a hotel that fascinates and guarantees a return in the near future. Created by Sofitel Luxury Hotels, Sofitel So personifies its designer boutique hotels vision and distinguishes itself as a themed accommodation created around those intriguing five elements. A word of caution to the traveller, there are two Sofitel properties in Bangkok, so ensure that you have the right address, and don’t land up at the Sukhomvit destination! Besides this, blending design and pleasure, style and soul, this address aims to express the essence of the destination that is so purely authentic and magnificent!
Coordinates: 2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Ph: +66 2 624 0000