The Recently-Opened Waldorf Astoria Bangkok Is Fit For A King

The tall curvy building, center, is home to the new Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
The tall curvy building, center, is home to the new Waldorf Astoria Bangkok

To a San Franciscan, Bangkok can be overwhelming. Bangkok’s population is nine times larger than San Francisco’s population. The square footage is 13 times bigger. The annual weather temperature is 91°F—that’s 28 degrees warmer than the average temperature in SF. The high-rises stretch for miles. The insane traffic is 24-hours per day. The crowded streets are filled with intense aromas from every type of food cart. When you step out of the Suvarnabhumi Airport and into Bangkok for the first time, it’s a sensory overload. That’s why it’s crucial to stay at a hotel that’s an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle—a hotel like the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Bangkok.

The lobby
The lobby

Located in the busy downtown shopping district, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is steps away from the Gaysorn Village Mall, Royal Bangkok Sports Club, and Erawan Shrine. Walk into the lobby, and the outside world instantly melts away. The first thing you’ll notice is the cool air conditioning and calming spa-like aroma. Next, you’ll see the soaring ceilings, elegant decor, and massive bronze screens—despite the openness, the space is intimate, inviting, and residential. A concierge will escort you through the lobby, which is merely a sitting room, to the elevators. You’ll ride up to the 14th floor upper lobby where you’ll sit at a desk and check into the resort. The service is impeccable and discrete. The staff is welcoming and unpretentious.

A guest room
A guest room

As you’re whisked from the lobby to one of the 171 guest rooms, it’s hard not to be in awe of the Waldorf’s stunning design. Hong Kong-based architect and interior designer, Andre Fu, was in charge of the project. It was his challenge to translate the heritage of the Waldorf brand to modern Bangkok. The 60-story building is not your standard structure. It’s an organically-shaped futuristic building—inspired by a magnolia flower—that curves and flows. It’s the opposite of the formal, symmetrical, and square high-rise that is home to the original Waldorf in New York.  “We have this contemporary building that is interesting. It was one element that we wanted to respond to and relate to. How do we translate Waldorf’s legacy to the context of Bangkok now?” Fu says of his thought process behind the hotel’s design. Haute Living met the designer on the eve of the hotel’s opening. “The design is the juxtaposition of three things that are completely different. There is the organic architecture of the building, the Waldorf legacy of the art deco motif, and then, the third thing is a tribute to Thai culture. How can we combine all these things and make it relevant to today?”

A bathroom
A bathroom

By presenting familiar materials in new ways, Fu succeeded in creating a cohesive design concept. For example, marble, which Fu describes as a “very solid and masculine material” is carved into smooth round shapes creating a soothing sense of movement. Traditional Thai screens are made with wood, but Fu’s screens are made out of bronze. “Typically the screens are flat, but we’ve carved it and curled it,” he says. “It embraces the guests as they come into the hotel and it also echoes that sense of movement akin to the architecture and akin to the silhouette of a Thai dancer.”

Most of the rooms have excellent views
Most of the rooms have excellent views

With a neutral color palette accented with deep blues and greens, the rooms boast floor to ceiling windows with views of the city. There’s a comforting sense of relaxed luxury. Smooth wood, plush bedding, and Asian textiles are featured throughout. The smart bathrooms—complete with state-of-the-art self-flushing Toto toilets and multi-function showers—are fun to use and add a sense of whimsy to the guest experience. Bedside tablets control everything in the room, from opening and closing the curtains to adjusting the temperature and lighting to contacting the concierge. It’s up-to-the-minute five-star luxury at its finest.

Peacock Alley
Peacock Alley

Fu and his team, AFSO, designed three of the Waldorf’s six dining and drinking experiences. On the same floor as the upper lobby is Peacock Alley and The Brasserie. Peacock Alley is an all-day bar with a variety of seating—couches, low tables, and a massive marble bar—where afternoon tea and light meals are served. The U-shaped space has wrap around views of Bangkok and a stunning bronze clock inspired by the one at the Waldorf New York’s Peacock Alley.

The Brasserie
The Brasserie

The Brasserie is open daily from breakfast through dinner. In the morning, it has a beautiful breakfast buffet where hotel guests can order eggs Benedict or omelets a la carte, devour flaky croissants fresh from the oven, and indulge in dumplings, mushroom soup, or crab congee. Like Peacock Alley, the restaurant wraps around the building and is connected by theatrical marble archways. For lunch and dinner, The Brasserie is a destination for French cuisine (onion soup gratinee, baked camembert, and steak frites) and Thai favorites (red curry with grilled river prawns, green papaya salad, and stir-fried flat noodles).

Front Room
Front Room

On the ground floor is Front Room a gorgeous dinner-only Nordic-Thai restaurant helmed by chef Fae Rungthiwa Chummongkhon. For the design, Fu was inspired by Thailand’s annual festival of lights.  “About 200 glass lanterns are floating in the ceiling, so that’s a tribute to the lantern festival,” he says. “There is a magical quality in the dining room, especially at night when the light comes down and they glow. There is this halo of floating lanterns. It’s a mesmerizing visual experience.”

Bull & Bear
Bull & Bear

Another dazzling visual experience? The Waldorf Astoria’s crown jewel—the 55th through 57th floor, three different dining concepts from renowned design firm Avroko. Accessible from an elevator that is on the ground floor of the building, each of the stories offers something unique. The first is Bull & Bear on the 55th level. “Bull & Bear is a study in tensions, and a collision of East meets West, good and evil, high markets low markets,” William Harris, the Avroko partner who oversaw the Waldorf projects, told Haute Living. “We were looking at ways to link that to art, to craft, because there’s nothing more authentic than handmaid custom crafted, loved things.” Luxe details, moody colors, and sumptuous textures make the space feel decadent. Surf and turf, including 55-day aged porterhouse steak, are on the menu.

The Loft
The Loft

To get to the 56th and 57th levels—where The Loft and The Champagne Bar are located—guests must walk up an incredible golden staircase. The Loft is a craft cocktail bar designed to feel like an artist’s studio. The Champagne Bar is an opulent lounge with eye-catching curiosities and incredible views. “You’ll see a lot of jewelry forms, etching, and carvings in the East and West hybrid that manifest themselves in one real exclamation point,” Harris explains. To get inside The Champagne Bar, one has to push a secret, oversized button. “We wanted a sense of myth and its symbolic power,” Harris says. “Pushing the button, being escorted by the staff, because you’re instructed to do it, or else you’re not going to get in—it is a moment of surprise and delight. People need to be taken off guard to have a memorable experience.”

All images courtesy of Waldorf Astoria. 

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