I’ve always maintained that hotels are a lot more than just a place to sleep at night and take a shower. They can make or break a trip; their staffs hold in their hands the success or failure of our travel experience. That’s why I’m always mindful when selecting a hotel and perform copious amounts of research to make sure they’re right for us. On a recent trip to Bangkok though, I began to realize that some hotels even go beyond impacting the travel experience, they can help define it. From my experience, no hotel does a better job at creating memorable travel experiences than the InterContinental.
Our first experience staying at an InterContinental property was last year in Melbourne and frankly, it was love at first sight. So when we planned our return trip to Bangkok, a highlights tour of a sort, I knew I wanted to work with them. They loved the idea of showing not only how luxurious the hotel is, but how they truly offer a unique product so we decided to partner on the adventure. As always, these are my own thoughts and I’m never afraid to share them.
When I say that the InterContinental is an experience curator, I mean that they serve much more than just a place to sleep and that their service goes well beyond the standard of making restaurant reservations and hailing a cab. The process of creating these experiences begins in the planning stage with their iPad app.
I first highlighted the app when it was released and it still remains the best in the hotel industry. I’m not sure why, but no other brand has taken the time to realize that when people travel, they do so to visit new places first and not new hotels. InterContinental gets this and always puts the destination first. Take a look at the app and you’ll see what I mean. Through a well-done video led by each hotel’s concierge, the potential visitor learns about the sights, shops and restaurants in the new city. It’s really much more than a hotel app, it’s a travel-planning app; it inspires and excites. That key mission of the company reverberates throughout every stage of the stay and is perhaps best profiled by their legendary concierge staff.
I discussed this last year after staying with InterContinental in Melbourne, but frankly no other hotel brand can touch them in this category. No matter the request, I never ever felt as if I was imposing or that I was a bother. That honestly can’t be said at other luxury hotels that I’ve frequented. It may seem like a small thing, but that attitude in turn encourages me to ask other questions and after I’ve exhausted my interrogations, the result is a satisfied customer who will enjoy the travel adventure much more. In the InterContinental Bangkok, they have devoted an entire lounge area to the concierge staff located in the main lobby. Rather than just a stuffy desk, the area is relaxing with chairs and sofas and even iPads to help guests learn more about the local area.
Their commitment to providing great customer care and information about the local area is obvious, but it’s what they do to ensure that the hotel stay itself is an experience that is truly amazing.
Style and Comfort
Stepping into the lobby of any hotel should be a great experience. It is, after all, the first handshake – the first impression we have of the property. The InterContinental Bangkok definitely lives up to this, but the lobby is so much more than a pretty space. Through well-placed resources such as the concierge lounge and comfortable bars and restaurants, the large lobby area is an inviting place where you want to spend time. More and more hotels are realizing the importance of a well-executed public space, but InterContinental has already mastered it.
The most important part of any hotel experience though is the room, which we found to be light and airy. We were in a corner suite so in addition to the main bedroom and bath we also had a lounge area in which to relax. It was a great feature and helped us divide our work responsibilities from our relaxation time.
Throughout our stay, we truly considered the hotel to be a part of our travel experience. That may seem like an odd statement, but it’s a fairly rare occurrence if you stop to think about it. For the extreme budget traveler, their accommodations definitely don’t aid in their explorations and in some cases may even hinder them. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve noticed that some luxury hotels seem to exist in a bubble from which it can be difficult to escape. But at the InterContinental, I was fully in tune with the city and really felt like I gained a little more understanding while there. A big part of that feeling came from the InterContinental’s incredible location.
Location is key when selecting any hotel and I noticed in Bangkok that some of the luxury hotels are in somewhat out of the way locales. The InterContinental Bangkok though is in the heart of the city, across the street from a Sky Train station and within easy walking distance to shops and restaurants. Instead of being removed and existing in a resort bubble, I felt like I was part of the active city; a participant instead of a voyeur. It may seem like a little thing, but that’s hugely important when I travel. Sure, I want a nice hotel, but the hotel isn’t my destination, the destination is. I want to experience the city while still able to retreat to my comfortable room easily and without hassle.
Best of the Rest
Like most other hotels, the InterContinental has restaurants, a spa, gym, club lounge and a rooftop pool. All of that is pretty normal. What’s not normal though and what makes the hotel an experience curator is how well intertwined with daily life these services are. My partner celebrated his birthday while in Bangkok and he wanted a nice steak dinner. I did some research before leaving home and found out that one of the best in town was located at the InterContinental. The culinary experience was amazing and didn’t just feature a variety of meats, but we could choice the meat supplier as well. The restaurants and cafes at the InterContinental aren’t your average, token affair, they’re world class establishments in their own right. I noticed this throughout our stay with a continuous stream of local residents celebrating weddings, anniversaries and romantic nights out at the hotel.
Overall, our stay at the InterContinental Bangkok wasn’t just a nice experience, it became inseparable from our overall enjoyment of the city. Candid advice from staff, assistance with travel problems and a general feeling of acceptance and welcome all combined to make the trip phenomenal. I didn’t feel like an interloper (just a LandLoper) and I didn’t feel out of place. Stuffy rooms and overly formal staff were nowhere to be seen, instead just smiles and handshakes. It’s a quality that isn’t easily taught and instead has to be a part of the corporate culture. Since I’ve experienced this more than once, I can only assume this warm elegance is part of the InterContinental DNA; a trait that truly makes it stand out as one of the best hotels in the world.