Livin' la Vida Lebua
During my recent Southeast Asian adventure, November 22 was a day of contrasts. My traveling companion and I awoke in Siem Reap, Cambodia, prepared for a long day of international overland travel to Bangkok, Thailand. We had chosen this route because airfares on Bangkok Airways – which owns a monopoly on the quick one-hour flight – were cost-prohibitive.
Ten tiring hours later, encompassing two taxi rides, a walk across the Cambodian/Thai border, a long bus journey and short jaunt in a tuk-tuk, we arrived at Lebua at State Tower. At check-in we were greeted by a personal concierge – the cheerful Nadine from Germany – and shown to our expansive two-room Riverview Suite on the 54th floor. Coincidentally it was Thanksgiving back in the States, and rarely have I been more thankful to see both a shower and a bed…
However, with Lebua being one of Bangkok’s most luxurious high-rise hotels and a best-seller on Luxury Link, this wasn’t just any shower and bed! Nadine familiarized us with all the amenities in our suite, from the multiple places to work or relax in the living room, to the stove, refrigerator and complimentary bottled water in our kitchenette, to the sweeping views of southern Bangkok from our private balcony. While there was a sprawling, vibrant metropolis to explore, that first night I wanted little more than to take a dip in the hotel’s huge pool, prune myself in the hot and dry saunas, and call it a day.
Thoroughly refreshed, the next morning we ventured down to the poolside Café Mozu, where our Luxury Link-included buffet breakfast was served. I had already stuffed myself with offerings from the pastry, omelete and Chinese dim-sum stations – declaring it one of the best buffets outside of Las Vegas – before realizing there was an entire SECOND serving area inside! There, multiple hot dishes, sushi, salad and cold cuts cater to the hotel’s international clientele (as well as expanding waistlines). Thankfully Lebua at State Tower has a large gym with all the latest fitness equipment, free to use for guests!
Our two full days in Bangkok were a whirlwind of culture, commerce and of course spicy Thai cuisine. We toured Wat Pho - home of the reclining Buddha - and ventured to the almost-overwhelming Chatuchak Weekend Market, where anything and everything is available from over 15,000 vendors. I encourage you to pick up one of the free maps, which color-codes the market into its different sections such as clothing, artwork and one ominously-titled “Creatures”. Yes, you can buy both pets and meat at Chatuchak…
An indulgent (and thankfully air-conditioned) experience in this steamy city was watching the new James Bond movie Skyfall at Siam Paragon, a high-end shopping mall. Before the trip I had read about Bangkok’s over-the-top cineplexes, and this one lived up to the hype. Our theater had no more than 20 reclining chairs – which I would compare a business-class airplane seat – and included in the ticket price were blankets and pillows, popcorn and soda and even a 15-minute massage after the movie!
One piece of advice I can impart to first-time Bangkok visitors: take the BTS SkyTrain whenever possible. Living in Los Angeles, I know traffic, but have never seen anything like Bangkok’s; a two-mile taxi ride took over 45 minutes! The Skytrain network is clean, efficient and gets you to the cities most-visited areas like the aforementioned Chatuchak Market and the expat mecca of Sukhumvit. There's a station a 10-minute walk from Lebua at State Tower, which lies in the business district of Silom and adjacent to Bangkok’s thriving Chinatown community.
Despite falling in love with the buzzing, in-your-face energy of the Thai capital, one of the highlights was knowing I had the calm oasis of Lebua to return to each day. We spent one evening at the hotel’s 65th-story rooftop Skybar, made famous by its role in the climactic scene of The Hangover Part II. I’m a pretty humble, down-to-earth guy, but there was a certain rush felt when emerging from the elevator to hob-nob with a veritable United Nations of patrons, with Bangkok’s sea of lights below me in every direction. In keeping with its dedication to exceptional guest experiences – which I found commonplace throughout Southeast Asia – we’d return to the room each night to find the comforters turned-down with chocolate, and our Lebua-embroidered slippers bedside.
Remember my slightly-harrowing journey to Bangkok? Well, I couldn’t have had a more opposite experience on the way out of town. Included in any Luxury Link vacation experience is a private car transfer service from Lebua to one of Bangkok’s two airports – Suvarnabhumi (for international flights) or Don Muang (domestic). We were headed to the Andaman Sea islands in Krabi province, and on a blissfully traffic-free Sunday morning were whisked to Don Muang by an enthusiastic driver and met at the airport by another Lebua rep, who grabbed our bags and walked us through check-in all the way to security! The standard-issue car is a leather-appointed Toyota Camry, but guests can upgrade to several other vehicles – including a limousine – if they desire.
On that drive to the airport, I gazed at skyscrapers, temples and billboards in an unfamiliar language, reflecting on my time in Bangkok. Most of my memories centered on the incredible views, amenities and service at Lebua at State Tower, a hotel that clearly understands its role as one of the premiere properties in a truly global city. Ten days in Thailand merely whet my appetite to explore more of The Land of Smiles, and with all roads leading through Bangkok, I expect to find myself staying at Lebua once again!