Brian W Fisher

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The Bel-Aire of Bangkok

Take off the 'e' and you get Bel-Air a suburb of Los Angeles, California (named by its Portuguese founder, 'City of Angels'). Eight thousand two hundred and sixty three miles away is another 'City of Angels' -  Bangkok (called such by its Thai population) and almost hidden away in the frenetic mix of urban infrastructure and daily life, is another 'Bel-Aire' but this little gem is a hotel called the Bel-Aire Princess.

It nestles in soi 5 (a side street) in one of the important districts of Bangkok, Thanon (road) Sukhumvit, where some of the best shopping is located and above which, runs the air-conditioned Skytrain, the fastest and easiest way to many of the important areas of the city. With the abundance of hotels in and around Sukhumvit, making a good choice without guidance can be like strolling along the Essex shoreline looking down at the masses of oyster shells, washed up on the tide and guessing which if any - contains a pearl.

I did my homework, made a reservation and after a 40 minute taxi ride from the sparkling new airport (costing a mere £8), I alighted, watched as my luggage was swept through the hotel's all-glass frontage to be greeted with smiles and efficiency. Having sipped a 'welcome drink' and chatted with the new manager, Giljsbert Roodenburg (call me Bert, he invited) I was escorted to my room.

That was my first surprise. Space, space and more space. Very, very different to the many 4 star hotel rooms I've stayed in around the world. Expertly designed, beautifully decorated and not lacking a single modern facility. Although the hotel boasts 160 rooms, that fact never once became apparent. Staff addressed me by name, I felt 'at home'. The constant impression given was that I (and everyone else) were 'honoured guests'. How refreshing.

Naturally, the hotel has all the features expected (and some not). The third floor outdoor swimming pool lures, especially after a day of sightseeing, the aptly named 'Liquid Lounge'  perfectly sited in the marble-clad foyer, is rarely without a customer. For those who lust after a strenuous workout (not me I might add) a well equipped gym caters.

Breakfast buffets (Oriental, full English or Continental) were included in my reservation and could not be faulted. Lunch and dinner offered enough tasty choices to suit any palate. Room service, laundry and housekeeping could not be faulted, all were accompanied with beaming smiles. When the time came to check-out, it was with mixed feelings. Enjoyment, comfort and satisfaction, were only part of those. The lasting impression is far more subjective that likened to saying 'goodbye' to a dear friend.

When I visit Bangkok again, will I stay at the Bel-Aire Princess you bet I will!

On a final (and more mercenary note) I am still smiling over the fact that the final cost of my stay was less than I would have paid at a 2 star and well-worn UK city establishment.

Brian W Fisher
Independent Travel Writer
 
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