Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Stay Cool, Stay Aloft

If ever there was a hotel for its time and place, it’s the new Aloft Bangkok. Officially opened in February, this stylish and affordable ‘baby W’ has already made a dent in Bangkok’s overcrowded hotel market, immediately finding a niche amongst cool, budget conscious travellers.

A major part of the appeal is its location – smack in the heart of Sukhumvit 11, a major entertainment hub oozing with restaurants, cafes and night clubs, including the very popular Bed Supperclub right across the road. It’s also an easy walk (or free tuk-tuk shuttle) to Nana BTS Skytrain, as well as a short stroll to Bangkok’s newest shopping mall, Terminal 21.

The Aloft brand has been ‘infused with the DNA of W Hotels’, its Starwood sister brand – think fresh contemporary design, the latest technology and bold use of colour. It’s even adopted W’s use of street jargon to label its public spaces: re:mix lounge, w xyz bar, re:fuel (its lobby café), re:charge (fitness centre) and splash, its pool. For all intents and purposes, it could be a W hotel … just pared back a little. It reminds me a little of Chiang Mai’s D2, and its obviously targeting the same market – young at heart, trendy and fashion-conscious, but not necessarily super wealthy.

Like D2, Aloft’s guest rooms are smallish, but functional; there’s a comfy platform bed, a corner office with free wi-fi access (a big plus!) and a plug n’play connectivity station (for recharging electronics), and a combined bathroom/dressing area with a walk-in shower. A coffee maker is a nice touch, and the Bliss Spa products (also a feature in W hotels) go down well.

Taking the hi-tech angle a step further, Aloft Bangkok is also the first hotel in Asia to trial Fingi touch-pad control for all room amenities such as the guestroom doors, lights and in-room temperature. I didn’t actually get to stay in one of the 50 Urban rooms using this system, but I was given a run-through by the hotel PR staff, and it goes something like this: on check in, you are given a mobile phone which is programmed to control everything in your room – door entry, lights, air conditioning and entertainment. This phone is yours to use for the duration of your stay – you can use it for local calls, plus it has full internet connectivity, both on and off the property. 

Other techy touches throughout the hotel include complimentary Facebook and Youtube on the fitness centre treadmills (in case you get bored during your workout) and a wine list presented on an iPad. These wines, incidentally, are sold at a wholesale cost, making it arguably the cheapest restaurant wine list in Bangkok. Mind you, I think both the restaurant and bar need all the selling points they can get – located off ground level, it will be hard to attract punters off the street, particularly when things are buzzing just outside the door.

Speaking of, Aloft guests are also given free entry into Bed Supperclub and Q Bar, just around the corner – yet another lure for Bangkok’s beautiful people.

All in all, it’s a pretty cool statement – and an awesome location to boot. But the real surprise is Aloft Bangkok’s price. Visit in the next few weeks and you’ll be blown away, with its opening rates starting at just 2,111++ baht a room (A$64), with an extra 450 baht (A$13) per night for the Fingi touch phone. After April 1, the rates will rise, but rooms will still come in under $100, which is amazing value for a really fun, perfectly located and extremely comfortable four-star city hotel experience.

                                          (The w xyz bar at Aloft)


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