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Tag-Archive for "Starwood Preferred Guest"

Westin Chosun Seoul: Expensive but great location and very nice room Aug 06

P1000650My wife and I stayed at the Westin Chosun in Seoul, Korea in July 2012 in connection with a vacation in Korea and decided to stay at this hotel as we wanted to splurge on the hotel stay while in Seoul and the hotel was also in a great location compared to many of the attractions in Seoul. I travel a bit for work and pleasure and I have stayed at various 4 and 5 star hotels around the world just to give you an idea about the background for this review. I have been a bit spoiled by staying at some very nice hotels in Asia and due to this I do have high expectations when I stay at nice hotel chains like Westin. We booked the hotel on the Starwood Preferred Guest site (SPG) and it was a special summer “promotions” and it was 300.000 Won (300 USD) for club level (meaning free breakfast and cocktail hour at night) and free internet.

IMG_2796To get to the hotel we took a train from the Incheon airport and it arrived at Seoul station after about 45 minutes and it was only like 4000 Korean Won (about 4 USD) and from there it was only about 5 minutes to the hotel and it was only about 3000 Won (about 3 USD). We got room 1904 and check in was pretty fast as we had booked the room on the SPG site. The room is very nice when entering – as usual the room was in light colors with a wooden floor to start with and then a carpet. There was a wardrobe to start with that contained robes, slippers, a safe, ironing board and iron.

IMG_2797The main piece in the room was the king size bed and as often in Asia, it was huge! On the right side of the bed there was a control panel to adjust lighting in the room, air con etc. The air-con was very quiet which is excellent! The bed was quite comfortable but I don’t really like the layer of sheets options – there are also a number of pillows to choose from if you are picky when it comes to that. There was also a small sofa with a small table (that could also be used as a stool) and a desk with a chair. The plugs were a mixture of Korean and European sockets so I could actually plug in my Norwegian plugs in some sockets.

IMG_2800The flat screen TV was a bit on the small side if you ask me but it had the common English channels and a number of Korean channels. Westin have integrated a bit of stuff into the TV system (wake up calls, messages etc) and it makes it a bit slow. The fridge had some great options when it comes to drinks – I think it is the first time I have seen that a hotel offers both a half bottle of Champagne (Veuve Clicquot)and a half a bottle of Cognac! There was also a Nespresso machine for making your own espresso Smile

IMG_2808The bathroom was pretty small and it was tiled in rather ugly tiles – but it was at least functional. The bathtub also featured a shower option with a glass panel to avoid splashing all over the floor and it did actually work out as intended. There were a few amenities on club level (shampoo, lotion, toothbrush, comb, shower cap etc) but in general I’m not a big fan of the products they use. Normally I don’t mention the sink itself but this time I have to as it was quite modern with the glass bench around it – it was not very practical as the soap holder would slide off the sink and end up on the floor. I normally don’t mention the toilet either but this time the toilet was high tech compared to what I’m used to. In some areas in Asia they have toilet seats that contain warm water for cleaning yourself and even a drier to dry up your private parts. But the best feature is probably the seat warming function! But the ventilation in the bathroom is not very good but luckily there is heating in the bathroom mirror to avoid that it steams up.

P1000496We had breakfast both upstairs in the lounge (on the 20th floor) and on Aria on the lower lobby level. As usual it is quieter upstairs and the view is great but the selection of food is not as extensive as in the main breakfast restaurant. I e.g. seemed to stir up quite a fuzz when I asked to get an omelet made. The hotel was not very good when it comes to healthy cereal option but you have a selection of bread, fruit, bacon/egg/sausages and there are a couple of coffee machines if you need your fix in the morning. In the main breakfast area they had stations focusing on bread, hot food, egg station etc so you have a more extensive selection. From 6 to 8 pm there were evening cocktails severed in the lounge so we could enjoy a drink while watching the sun set over Seoul – they have wine, whiskey, vodka, brandy etc. They also had some food but don’t eat too much – remember to taste the Korean cuisine while you are in Seoul ;-)

On the third level there is a swimming pool and one floor down you will find a large gym with lots of treadmills, stationary bikes and all the stuff that you expect to find in a good gym. And with large windows you also get a bit of a view while working out.

The location of the hotel is very good at least when looking at the main attractions of Seoul. You don’t have to walk far to get to the City Hall metro station and you can easily walk to many of the main attractions. There are a number of restaurants, bars etc nearby but Seoul is a huge city so you can find that all over the place.

P1000649But everything is not perfect with the hotel of course. First of all: the lifts are extremely slow and maybe it is not enough with 4 lifts when you have 20 floors. When we were there they were doing maintenance with one lift and hence there were only 3 lift operational and they seem to work on two different systems! I’m also surprised by the reservation system. We decided to stay a few days extra and they said they it was not possible to get the same rate as before. I can understand this but I think the right phrase is “we don’t want to give you the same rate”. When we started talking to the reservation desk they said that they could offer us a rate of 360.000 Won but instead of king size bed we would get twin bed. But when we checked online it was possible to get a king size bed…so we showed this to the reservation desk and they were like “Ok, then it is possible”. We then decided to extend and they booked it but then after 5 minutes they were like “Oh…you are two people in the room? The rate will then be 360.000 + 50.000 for an extra person”…this is after we had talked to them for quite a while when booking the room. When we checked online we could still get it for 360.000 for two people so I showed this to the reservation team and asked them if I really had to book it online in front of their eyes compared to just getting them to do it and the answer was “Yes”….this is too weird if you ask me.

Being a 5 star hotel the services are expensive. We had a breakfast at the lower lobby floor one day at the Vecchia e Nuovo when we woke up late and two sandwiches and two coffee was like 70.000 Won (about 70 USD) and it was not worth it at all.

IMG_2809The Westin Chosun is a very good hotel – the room was large enough, there are amenities and services and on club level you can enjoy breakfast and evening cocktails on the 20th floor with a view. But Westin has a tendency to annoy me a bit – no free internet in general, not really offering any perks when you have a gold card on SPG (like when I stayed at Westin in Madrid earlier this year) and this time there was the incident of having to book a room online in front of the staff in the hotel to get a lower rate. So I’m still going to stick to Traders/Shangri-La if I have a chance!

But all in all…if you are willing to cough up the money then Westin Chosun does offer a nice room in a very central location in Seoul !

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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Westin Calgary–good hotel location if you are working downtown Jul 03

IMG_7636I stayed in Westin Calgary in connection with a work trip there in June 2012. I chose this hotel as the location was very good and it was possible to walk to where I was going to work within minutes. I travel a bit for work and pleasure and I have stayed at various 4 and 5 star hotels around the world just to give you an idea about the background for this review. I do admit that I have been a bit spoiled by staying at some very nice hotels in Asia and due to this I do have high expectations when I stay at nice hotel chains like Westin. I booked the hotel through t a travel agency in Norway.

IMG_7638The taxi from the airport to the hotel was about 35 Canadian dollar (about 35 USD these days) and on a Sunday afternoon it only took 15 minutes. Check in was fast and I got room 551 – to my surprise the internet was included in my business room rate which is great. I was also offered more Starwood points if I could do without room service during my stay and I think this is a great idea. The internet worked pretty good and when logged in I did not have to log in again every time I got back to the hotel – excellent! I was also able to log in with several devices which is also great.

IMG_7674The room I got was located on the 5th floor and from the hall there was a view out on a huge construction area. I think they are putting up a large building here so it might create some noise for the next few years. The rooms at Westin are refurbished recently but I have to admit that my first thought when I walked in was that it was a bit outdated. The carpet was dark brown while the curtains where dark greenish in color. Due to this the whole room seemed a bit on the dark side. The lighting in the room was not very modern either as there were no master control for the lighting – IMG_7640each of the lamps had to be switched on individually. The walls in the room were covered in a mustard colored wall paper and there where dark furniture. The flat screen TV was mounted on the wall and it was possible to pull it out to face it towards the chair in the room and that is a great feature. Under the TV was a rather big dark furniture of drawers and a cupboard. It was totally empty so I guess it at least provides space if you unpack your entire suitcase. In many other hotels this normally contains the mini bar and the amenities that you need in connection with that.

IMG_7642The mini fridge was located by the entrance in the room and it was totally empty which seems a bit weird but maybe that figured that they don’t sell anything anyway as prices are normally too high compared to prices on street level. But at least there were two wine glasses and two regular glasses and a bucket for ice (there was an ice machine on the floor). There was also a coffee maker but there is a Starbucks in the lobby so there are also other options for coffee. The wardrobe included quite a few hangers, two robes, iron and ironing board and a small safe – but no slippers. The desk had a pop up plug stand but it did not have international sockets – but luckily I could borrow a plug adapter from the reception.

There were two queen sized beds in the room and the bed was quite comfortable. But I’m not sure I understand the lack of a proper bed linen around the duvet – instead the duvet is just placed between two sheets – not a very good system for the guests in my opinion.

IMG_7646The bathroom was partially tiled and included a bathtub with a shower option. The shower curtain was on a curved bar so at least it didn’t stick to me while I was showering. But it did splash a bit on the floor anyway as it was hard to control the water pressure in the shower. I was very disappointed by the amenities as there was only shampoo, conditioner and a bar of soap – but then again I’m not a big fan of the Westin products. I did get a few more amenities after a couple of days at the hotel e.g. mouth wash. There was a bit of noise in the room – the aircon was not very quiet kind even when running it on low. The traffic on the outside also created a bit of noise but luckily there is not that much traffic at night so it was not a huge problem. I was also in a room close to the elevators and that is never a good idea as you get quite a bit of noise when the lifts go up and down.

IMG_7670The location of the hotel is good for work as it is located close to many of the main office buildings in downtown Calgary. There is also direct access to Calgary +15 from Westin which is great – the +15 is the skybridge system that connects many of the building together in the downtown area. Note that the downtown area is pretty dead after like 6 pm as most shops and food courts close about this time so just finding a 7Eleven around the hotel was tricky. Breakfast at the hotel is served at Essence restaurant and it had a pretty decent selection of food. I enjoyed the cereal on offer but they also had an egg station and a selection of bacon, sausages etc. The pool and gym is located at the 20th floor but the gym was smaller than I had expected. But if you want to go jogging you can easily walk over to Prince’s Island to go jogging there.

The Westin Calgary had a great location for me as I was basically working next door. But I was not that crazy about the room itself. There was quite a bit of noise from the lifts next to the room and the room was a bit on the dark side and not very cozy. But thanks for providing me with free wifi and complimentary drinking water. I don’t have experience with other hotels in Calgary so it is hard to compare how Westin is to other hotels – so if I go there again I might try a different hotel.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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Starwood Preferred Guest vs. Golden circle Apr 25

Over the last few years I have travel a bit for work and pleasure and due to this I have spent a few nights at hotels. Once you start to stay a lot at hotels it can be useful to stick to an alliance of hotels to achieve some benefits like you do on airline alliances. I have ended up staying at Starwood Preferred Guest hotels (Sheraton, Le Meridien, Westin, St. Regis, Aloft etc) and Golden Circle hotels (Traders and Shangri-La).

IMG_1858Just recently I went to Madrid and I ended up staying at Westin as the location was good and I was hoping that my SPG gold card would give me some benefits. To save some time I booked the hotel and flights as a package deal on a travel website and when I checked into the hotel in Madrid I was a bit annoyed that I did not get any benefits from my card as I had booked the room through a third party. Normally it is possible to get free wifi due to the gold card but this was not the case due to this – and it cost like 16€ per day if I wanted to pay for it. I think it is totally over the top to charge 16€ per day for wifi but I guess they assume that if you can afford the room, you can afford to pay extra to get access to the net. I did twitter about this and the response I got was that they offer free wifi in the lobby. Yes, they do offer a bad 256K wifi connection in the lobby but who wants to sit around in the lobby when skyping, surfing the net etc? And I can’t understand this policy of not giving me benefits when booking through a third party – with so many travel websites out there it is perfectly normal these days to use a third party to book plane tickets, rental cars and hotels. So I do hope that Westin and the other SPG hotels soon realizes that having access to the net should be for free as everyone will have some use for it these days. With 16€ per day it was cheaper for me to buy a local sim card and surf using 3G!

The other thing that annoyed me about Westin in Madrid was breakfast. When we checked in the guy in the reception said that they had a special breakfast promotion and it was 22€. I said I would think about it. Next morning we decided to have breakfast at the hotel and I went to the reception to ask about this promotion and it turned out that it was 22€ per person for breakfast and it was not possible to just have breakfast one day. If I wanted the promotion I had to go for breakfast the entire stay. I should of course said that I just wanted a regular breakfast rate for that day as there were breakfast places just around the corner – I normally just have some cereal for breakfast so paying 22€ per day for that was a huge mistake.

IMG_1999A week after I went to Madrid, I was on the road again and this time I went to New Delhi in India. I had the option of Shangri-La or Le Meridien that was just across the road and I think the price was about the same. As I have a Jade membership on Golden Circle (equal to a gold card on SPG I guess) I get certain benefits. I get a room for two for the price of one and breakfast is on the house. In addition to this Traders and Shangri-La hotels also provides free internet at the hotels! So what should I choose? A hotel that charges me for internet, breakfast and gives me no benefits if I book through a third party? Or a hotel that welcomes me with free breakfast for me and my wife, gives me free internet access and actually awards me with a welcome present due to my Jade card? I did ask the same rhetorical question to SPG on Twitter Winking smile Maybe this is just ranting and raving about nothing – I guess for some I must appear as a spoiled brat complaining about these things. Maybe I should just be happy that I get to stay at nice hotels. But the fact is that I do feel more appreciated at Shangri-La and Traders due to my Jade card compared to the SPG gold card. So which alliance is the best? And what should you choose? I guess it depends a lot on where you travel and your budget. Due to the recent events I will be staying more at Shangri-La and Traders at least!

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Nice hotel with a great location–but expensive breakfast and wifi Apr 11

IMG_1858We decided to go to Madrid during Easter of 2012 and to stay at the Westin as it looked like a good location and I hoped to get some advantages as I have a SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) card. After some price comparison, we booked plane tickets and hotel in one go using and we had to pay 16.000 NOK (2700 USD) for the flights and 6 nights at the hotel. We arrived at the hotel at about midnight – the hotel is located between the Prado museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum so very well positioned. IMG_1495The taxi ride in from the airport only takes no more than 20 minutes and costs about 23€ – additional costs for airport, day of the week and time apply. The Westin is an elegant historic hotel built in 1912 and the sign still says Palace hotel outside. Check in was fast and we got room 630 on the top floor (6th floor). The problem with old hotels is that they are not necessarily equipped to handle modern expectations – like there are stairs leading up to the reception, steps leading up to the lifts – not that practical when you are dragging along a big suitcase. Although there are staff on hand to help carry luggage to your room.

IMG_1487The room was pretty inviting when walking in. There are light tiles on the floor and a huge mirror on the entrance wall. From the small entrance the room opened up and here there is beige/light carpet and light yellow/cream colored walls. The view was not that great as we had windows facing into the courtyard – looking down on the large glass dome on top of the dining room. IMG_1479If you stay here during Easter, try and get a street view room so you can catch the Holy Week procession on Good Friday. The room was equipped with dark furniture – a desk and chair, a cabinet for the 32” flat screen TV and mini bar (where a coke cost something like 7€), a small table and a bigger chair and a bed. The queen sized bed was firm but quite comfortable. Along one of the walls there were three doors which revealed the wardrobe with enough hanging and drawer space, an iron and ironing board and a mini safe (which included space for a laptop and a plug to charge it while storing it). The TV had quite a variety of channels but the menu system seemed to make it a lot slower to start, change channels etc.

IMG_1480We had some problems with the air-con when we were there. April in Madrid was quite cold in the evenings. When we had the air-con on it got too cold in the room (there is no display for choosing the temperature) and when turning it off the room got a bit stuffy. The rooms are not very well sound insulated either – we could easily hear people talking when walking past our door. The bathroom was impressive– quite large with a combination of wall IMG_1484paper and tiles and with two sinks in marble finish. There was a bathtub with a shower option which worked out pretty good. I normally don’t like shower curtains but this had a curved pole which prevented the shower curtain from sticking to me when taking a shower. There were also two shower heads with good water pressure and hot water. There were standard amenities like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouth wash but no shower cap (which baffled my wife). There was a small separate room (separated from the rest of the bathroom with a frosted glass door) with a toilet and bide – separate toilets are quite a good solution in my opinion. We had some issues with the telephone and it took 4 different calls to reception to finally get a technician to fix it – he ended up replacing the phone.

As I mentioned earlier, the location of the hotel is very good. It is located right next door from both the Museo Nacional del Prado and El Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza and it was only a bit more than 500 meters to walk to Puerta del Sol and just over 1 km to Plaza Mayor.

IMG_1790Let us talk about some of the stuff that I was not that happy with. When I booked the hotel I was hoping to get some perks with my SPG gold card but that was not the case. When checking in I knew that breakfast was not included so the receptionist said that they had a promotion for breakfast for 22€ and I said that I would think about it. My wife and I talked about this and next morning we decided to use this “promotion” but it turned out that it was 22€ per person and we could not only do it for one day – IMG_1491we had to do it for the entire stay. Charging 22€ for a breakfast is  totally over the top, in my opinion – I normally just have some cereal and fruit in the morning and I think it is annoying that you still have to pay for the entire buffet. That said – the breakfast is great here. You have an excellent selection of cereal, fruit mixes, good quality juice, eggs made the way you like, healthy options – and even some local specialties like churros. My recommendation is: go around the corner to buy your breakfast at VIPS or Starbucks. The breakfast area is also mentioned in guidebooks and we saw a number of tourists stopping by to admire the dome.

There was no coffee/tea option in the room but there was a note saying that you could get this by calling room service – and they would only charge 4.50€ as a delivery charge! In other words: it is cheaper to walk around the corner and get your coffee from Starbucks.

IMG_1493Another thing that annoyed me about the hotel was the internet situation. Having access to the internet is getting more and more important as it is a great tool for planning a stay in a new city, booking restaurants, looking at maps etc. More and more hotels are offering this for free (e.g. Traders and Shangri-La chain that I also stay at) but this is not the case for Westin. They wanted 16€ per day for access to the net which is totally insane in my opinion. I think it is one of the perks you can choose when you have a SPG gold card but I think the rules states that as I booked it through a third party, they didn’t offer this to us. IMG_1483SPG also argues that they have free wifi in the hotel lobby but this is a 256K internet connections and who wants to sit around the lobby whenever you want to check something online? I have stayed at Westin hotels in Asia too and it has been the same there – even when staying on business levels the internet is not included. I usually end up buying a local SIM card to get online (you will need your passport to get one in Madrid). I hope that SPG hotels soon realize to move with the times and introduce free internet. I don’t want to seem petty and complain a lot – but the internet and breakfast issues actually annoyed me quite a bit. I guess they figure if you can afford the hotel you can also afford to pay a lot for these services?

IMG_1489It might sound like I’m very negative to the hotel based on what I have written above but all in all the Westin hotel is a great traditional hotel with reverend façade, ballroom etc. The location of the hotel is great as you can walk to the most important museums in minutes and you can also easily walk to the most important squares of Madrid. The room was pretty well laid out and it is a nice mix between the traditional and the modern hotel. I have given feedback to Starwood about my annoyances – it is great of them to respond to Tweets. If you are going to Madrid and need a 5 star hotel with a good location you should look into staying at the Westin.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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Aloft Bangkok–new hotel with a young&trendy atmosphere Feb 27

IMG_7024I stayed at Aloft in Bangkok located on Sukhumvit Soi 11 for 3 nights in February 2012 and I chose the hotel as it was brand new (opened in December 2011), the price was quite reasonable and I wanted to stick to a Starwood Preferred Guest hotel (I have a Gold card so it gives a few benefits). I have been to Bangkok a number of times and I have stayed at hotels such as Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin Sukhumvit, Lebua, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, Shangri-La, St. Regis and Plaza Athenee just to give you an idea of my reference point when I write this review about Aloft. I booked the hotel online on the SPG site and I went for an offer “stay 3 night – pay for 2” and the cost was 7000 Baht plus the mandatory 17-18 % hotel tax (so a grand total of 270 USD including taxes for the three nights). You can get single nights down to 2100 Baht if I’m not mistaken and that is about  80 USD including the taxes!

IMG_7025I arrived in Bangkok at night and took a taxi into the hotel (remember to use the meter even if they suggest a fixed price of 450 Baht). I’m familiar with the Sukhumvit Soi 11 area so this was not a surprise to me – I actually had to guide the taxi driver as he was not familiar with the hotel location at all. Driving up to the hotel lobby it was easy to see that this was a young and trendy hotel rather than a 5 star hotel like Sheraton or Le Meridien. When I got to the reception the music was blasting from speakers, TV’s were displaying sports and music videos etc. The check in was fast and I got a different room than I had booked (I got Urban and not Chic) but I’m not sure that it makes a big difference. As I have a SPG gold card I also got late checkout (4 PM) and I got a voucher for three drinks in the lobby bar.

IMG_1306I got room 1103 on the 11th floor and with 4 lifts it was not a problem getting fast to the room. As it is a new hotel it offers modern technology like swiping the card in the lift to be able to get to your floor and the door to the room was also opened by just placing the hotel key card next the lock. The hallway to my room was quite dim and very warm but my room was a nice surprise. The room was a bit on the small side and it was a bit hard to place my over-sized Samsonite suitcase but it still looked like a nice room.  As I walked into my room I had the bathroom to my immediate right while the room was straight forward. IMG_1304The floor was covered by a colorful carpet while the walls were in light colors. The room was dominated by the king size bed, a corner sofa and the desk with the large flat screen TV on it and a small mini bar. The bed was huge and it was actually quite comfortable. The TV had a number of channels like you would expect in a modern hotel – but more importantly: the wifi at the hotel was free and seemed to work pretty good. The mini bar had a small selection of drinks and a beer was about 120 Baht (about 4 USD) but why buy it at the hotel when you can get it on a street bar for 2 USD? ;-) The small table next to the bed included a Philips alarm clock where I could dock and charge my iPhone – brilliant in other words. But there were also lots of sockets around in the room to charge the laptop, iPad, camera etc. The view from the room was not bad – I had a city view and I was looking down on the bar The Nest.

IMG_1302The bathroom was very nice and with a pretty creative setup. The first part of the room contained on one side the wardrobe (with an ironing board and iron), small safe, a coffee machine and water boiler (maybe a bit weird to have this in the bathroom) and on the other wall there was a sink with just a couple of amenities. With a mirror sliding door it was possible to divide the room in two rooms and the inner part of the room contained the toilet and the shower – nice setup if you are sharing the room with someone but want to have some privacy when e.g. taking a shower. The shower was huge (I guess there is space for a bigger shower when there is no bathtub) but there was not a lot of the amenities that you find in the 5 star hotels. Instead of having small bottles with various products there were just two dispensers on the shower wall…one with shampoo and one with shower gel. The water in the shower took a bit of time to heat up but in the end it was possible to get a pretty hot shower if that is want you want. The floor was in dark tiles which looked stylish but with the uneven surface it might be a bit tricky to clean?

IMG_1303I did not have breakfast in my room rate but I did have breakfast at Crave one day. It is located on the 8th floor and it seems like it is a restaurant at night (with a nice selection of wine on display) and a breakfast place in the morning.  It is split in two section so you can actually sit outside or inside in air-con. The breakfast selection was quite good with the option of getting your eggs made the way you want, they had bread, cereal, fruit etc. It was not as lavish as the breakfast buffet that you see on the 5 star hotel s but more than good in enough for most people I would imagine. If you don’t want to pay the 550 Baht for breakfast at Crave you also have the option of getting something in the lobby. IMG_7029In the lobby there is a small self serve place that has drinks, fruit, cereal and there was also staff there to make a sandwich – a great option if you are not a big eater in the morning.
On the 10th floor you can find the pool and the gym. The gym had the stuff that I need for a workout – a couple of treadmills, and they were brand new and everything was control on a touch screen – not sure if that is the best option. The pool was described on the Aloft webpage as being 80 meters long which is of course wrong. The pool area is rather small but at least you have the option of cooling down in a pool and get a view at the same time. I think the tower itself puts the pool in the shade in the afternoon.

The location of the hotel
IMG_7026I’m not quite sure what to say about the location of the hotel. It is located deep in Soi 11 but you can easily walk to Sukhumvit road and the second you turn the corner you are at Nana skytrain station so it is easy to get around from there. Soi 11 is a lively street with lots of restaurants, bars, massage parlors etc. There are some well known places here: Bed and Supper Club is right across the street from the hotel and you can find Q Bar and The Nest around the corner. Some of these places do contain a number of working girls so don’t be shocked when you see a number of western guys with Thai girls coming into the hotel.

IMG_1307So what about things that were not that great? Well, I came back to my room at about 3-4 pm after work and my room was not cleaned – a bit strange as this is normally done in the morning when people are out of the room.  My wifi worked pretty well but I tried to plug in the cable to get an even better internet line but the cable didn’t see to work at all. When I handed in the laundry bag one day I did not get a new bag – I guess this is just start up problems and they will figure it out when they get a bit more experience.

This is a brand new hotel located in one lively part of Bangkok. The hotel has a young and trendy atmosphere so I’m not sure it will be the right hotel for everyone. The good thing about the hotel is free wifi, it is new, the room was quite good in layout, there was a bit of complimentary water in the room for drinking and the location is not bad at all. But if you are looking for a quiet hotel for relaxation you might want to look somewhere else.

Gard – trip reports and picture

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A suite at St. Regis in Bangkok Aug 29

I stayed at St. Regis in Bangkok earlier this year and it was a great stay as the hotel is brand new and it is a quality hotel with an amazing view. Here is my review from the visit earlier this year: . I went back there recently and I got upgraded to a suite this time and I got a HUGE room with an amazing bathroom. Below is a video that I took that shows the room – if every hotel room could be like this Winking smile

Gard – trip reports and pictures

St. Regis Bangkok: new luxury hotel with quality in all the details Jun 25

IMG_6023I have been to Bangkok a few times and I have stayed at hotels like Plaza Athenee, Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin, Lebua, Centara CentralWorld, Le Meridien etc just to give some sort of idea of my experience with hotels in Bangkok before reading this review. I normally try to stick to Starwood hotels these days as I have a Starwood gold card and that can of course bring some benefits. This time I choose to stay at St. Regis as they had a special opening offer as the hotel opened recently and because the location seemed pretty good. As usual I booked the hotel online of Starwood Preferred Guest and the rate was 7300 Bath excluding taxes. This offer also included breakfast for two or dinner for two, complimentary internet and a 1000 Baht voucher for Elmis spa.

IMG_6007Getting the airport taxi staff to understand where we were planning on going was not easy. First of all it is a new hotel in Bangkok and Thai’s normally struggle with some of the sounds in the St. Regis name. But we explained that it was on Ratchadamri road and next to another hotel. At the hotel we were welcomed and a woman took us to the reception on a higher level. Check in was not done in the regular way standing at a desk – instead it was done by sitting down in comfortable chairs while getting everything sorted out. Check in went fast and I was taken to my room 2005. The room was very impressive at first glance – IMG_6006the floor being with white tiles to start with and the rest in darker wood. To start with there were the usual wardrobes with lots of hangers, a small safe, robes etc. There was room enough for my large Samsonite suitcase to be placed between the wardrobes and I appreciate that. There was a large Samsung TV and in the furniture underneath it there was a fridge that even included a half size bottle of champagne – you don’t see that every day in hotel fridges.
IMG_6008The bed was huge and quite comfortable but the pillows were a bit too big and hard for my liking. There was also a desk with two chairs and a two seat sofa with a small table. And then there was a beautiful view of “The Royal Bangkok Sports Club” from windows stretching from floor to ceiling. The bathroom was set up it a genius way – there were sliding doors between the bedroom and the bathroom and hence it was possible to make it into a full room with 4 walls. The bathroom was tiled with light tiles, included huge mirrors, a modern style bathtub, two sinks and a large shower with a huge rainforest shower head. There were also very good amenities and the shower soap even included some scrubbing grains. There were also tooth brush, shaving kit, mouth wash etc. The towels were huge and soft. The toilet was in a small separate room in the bathroom and I think that it a good idea.

IMG_6012The breakfast was included in my room rate – I normally don’t eat that much breakfast but it is always interesting to take a look at the selection. Some of the Bangkok hotels have an enormous selection of food at the breakfast buffet. At St. Regis it seemed to be toned down a bit and hence it was not as impressive as other buffets. But the hotel did have all the stuff that you normally need – bread, selection of cereal, various fruits, various cold cuts of Italian ham and sausages, a selection of eggs in various ways made according to your order. I did not try the restaurants at the hotel but they have a hotel bar with the same great view over the sports club. There was even a sword on the bar and it seems like they use this every night when opening the champagne bottles.
The pool area was not huge but it actually looked like there was quite a lot of sun during the day in the pool area. In addition to this it seems like they also have a nice spa and exercise room at the same floor.

IMG_6011Location of the hotel is very good – as you have the skytrain station right outside the door it is easy to get around. But you can also walk if you can stand the Bangkok heat. It is only about 700 meters to CentralWorld or a bit longer to the start of Silom road.
But there is no such thing as a perfect hotel and here are some of the things that can be improved or things that didn’t work out quite as I expected at the hotel.
The internet was complimentary in my room rate but normally this is something that costs like 500 Baht per day. In these modern days I would like to see the internet for free at hotels. The internet also stopped the second I checked out of the hotel!
I also had free pressing of 4 items in my room rate and I got in touch with the butler service to get it picked up. But when I came back to the hotel at night the shirts had not been picked up and were never picked up at all.

The shower was great but the problem was that it was leaking out on the bathroom floor – I hope this is fixed soon as it is annoying with water splashing around on the floor.
When I booked the room online I got e-mails from both the reservation desk and the butler service asking me the same questions. This shouldn’t be necessary.

IMG_6005Despite of the few problems that I have mentioned above, I have to admit that this is one of the best hotels that I have stayed at in Bangkok and even around the world. The reception was great and the staff seems to be highly focused on giving the customers an exclusive experience. The room itself was beautiful and there seemed to be quality in all the details ranging from furniture, leather casings for everything to the great amenities. When I checked out I mentioned some of my “problems” as a feedback to the hotel and this was picked up by the assistant manager. She gave me her card and took the time to listen to my feedback and I appreciate that. I would not hesitate to stay at the hotel again if the price is right. It is a true luxury hotel! You can find more info on the hotel homepage.





Our room at Le Meridien in Bangkok Dec 01

We just had the pleasure of staying at Le Meridien in Bangkok. When we arrived we were upgraded to a suite and got a great room.

Le_meridien_bangkok_entranceI booked the hotel online on the Starwood Preferred Guest site and we chose this hotel as we wanted to try out a new hotel in Bangkok – from before we have tried hotels like Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin Sukhumvit, Lebua, Plaza Athenee etc. The rate I got was 4590 THB (about 150 USD) including taxes but without breakfast. Le Meridien is located on Surawong road in the Silom area so getting to the hotel took a bit of time with a taxi in the Friday afternoon traffic of Bangkok – but we decided to use taxi as it is not very practically to drag around big suitcases on the airport express train and skytrain/subway. The taxi was about 500 Baht including the toll stations on the express way.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedWhen checking in we were informed that the room we had booked (corner room) was not available and instead we had been upgraded to a corner suite – not the worst message one can get when checking in at a hotel ;-) We got our keys, vouchers for a free drink at Bamboo Chic and our suitcases were sent to our room. We got room 1124 and it was quite a room to say the least. When we walked in we were met by some sort of book shelf but behind this was a living room with two sofas with a table, a large flat screen TV, a work desk and even an espresso machine – we had the option of espresso, regular coffee (in a press mug) and there were even takeaway cups – how cool is that?.

Le_meridien_bangkok_living_roomThe room was tastefully decorated with books about Thailand in the bookshelf and with pieces of art scattered around in the room. The room was tiled with black tiles on the floor to start with but the rest of the room was with a yellowish carpet. The work desk had a large phone with a display that greeted us welcome – not that we used it much. From the living room there was a large window facing to Rama IV road leading to Hua Lamphong train station. The room also included a small fridge with various cold drinks and there were also proper glasses if you wanted to enjoy any of the drinks.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_TVFrom the living room there was a sliding door leading into the large bed room. In here there was a large bed of course which turned out to be very comfortable with one large duvet and 4 pillows. There was also a TV for the bedroom and in this room we also found the mini safe. There was also a chair by the windows with the same view as for the living room. The windows had electrical day and night blinds. A new sliding door took us into the bath room and it Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_bath_roomwas also possible to slide away most of the wall that was separating the bed room and the bath room. In the bath room there were black tiles on the floor and walls and we also had a bath tub, two sinks, lots of amenities ranging from shower caps, mouth wash, dental kit etc etc. A glass door led into the large shower with two separate shower parts…each part had a regular shower and a rain forest shower head option. The shower was all done in black tiles so it was a bit on the dark side – I would have loved to see lighter tiles here. The toilet was separated from the rest of the bath room with a door made with frosted glass – an excellent solution.

Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfastSome of the walls turned out to be not just walls in the bath room – some turned out to be the wardrobe with nice fluffy bathrobes and soft slippers and the other contained an iron. One even turned out to be a sliding door which opened up into the living room.
The breakfast was served at Last recipe on the 2 floor and as it was not included we had to pay. The full buffet was 650 Baht (22 USD) so there was no point in just going for continental breakfast as that was 550 Baht. Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfast2The breakfast selection was excellent as you would expect from a 5 star hotel – a good selection of bread, cereal, fruit etc. But there was also stations with staff that could make omelets, carve up meat, scoop up some frozen yogurt for you and there were also various selection of hot food. In some of the reviews on TripAdvisor the breakfast buffet has been described as the best in town so naturally we had high expectations but after having stayed at other nice 5 star hotels (like Sheraton on Sukhumvit and Plaza Athenee) I don’t think this was any better than what the others have to offer. Nikki was missing hard boiled eggs, she was not that impressed with the watermelon but she was impressed with the option of fresh waffles and that it was possible to get some funky smoothie blends. And it was nice twist with the Illy press filter coffee that was served at our table. We also stopped by Bamboo chic briefly to have an aperitif before going out one evening and it looked like a nice place.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedroom_chairThe location of the hotel is not bad – located on Surawong road it is about a 10 minute walk from Sala Daeng BTS station and you can also walk a couple of more minutes to Silom subway station. But note that the most direct route leads you straight through Patpong – maybe one of the most famous red light districts in the world and certainly the most know red light area in Bangkok. Today there is also a night bazaar and if you walk in the middle of this and keep your eyes focused on this you might be able to avoid seeing all the neon lights. But trust me…you will get asked if you want to see ping pong shows or if you want to buy various movies.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bath_roomConclusion: well, it is hard to really give an accurate conclusion as we were upgraded to a corner suite and that turned out to be just an amazing room. I really think the layout of this room is one of the best layouts that I have seen in a hotel room and I loved the larger double shower. Special treats like a coffee machine, lots and lots of complimentary water etc made this into a very comfortable stay. But I can also mention a couple of things that I don’t like – I would have liked to see free internet in the room. We were actually informed when we called the first day that it was included but when it didn’t work the second day we got the opposite message. There was free internet in the lobby but it required a user name and password from the concierge and he seemed to only activate it upon request. Another thing that turned out to be a challenge was the air con – there was a separate air con in the living room and the bed room but we could never really figure it out and it was always freezing in the living room. But these are just details of course – all in all this was one of the best hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in. I have also uploaded a video showing the room by the way.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Here is also a video that I took of the room…enjoy Winking smile

Review of Westin Grand in Berlin Apr 05

We arrived in Berlin in the afternoon and the Tegel airport is only located about 15-20 minutes from the city center and the taxi ride was 20€. There is also a bus option that can take you to some of the larger train stations in Berlin.
I booked the room at the Westin on the Starwood Preferred Guest site and the rooms started at 99€ which is not bad for a 5 star hotel in a large European city – only a few years ago I had to pay about 90€ for a 2 star hotel in Paris. As we were a bit late at booking the room went up to 111€ including taxes but without breakfast.
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Check in at the hotel was fast and we got room 454. The lobby of the hotel is dominated by a huge and lavish staircase leading to the first floor where the breakfast is served and where they have conference rooms and you also have an open atrium up to the various floors. Our room was a standard size room but it seemed to be newly refurbished. The floor was covered in a brownish carpet while the walls were painted in a light color. Instead of a king size bed we had gotten two single beds standing next to each other but we knew about this in advance. Westin (and Sheraton) keeps advertising about their heavenly bed and some of them are great. The beds at the Westin in Berlin were not that great in our opinion. First of all they were quite soft, the pillows were very thin and there seemed to be something in the mattress cover that made us sweat a lot at night.
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There were lots of lights in the room which I think is great and the windows faced Friedrichstrasse and the Bugatti showroom. We did hear a bit of the traffic noise but it was not a huge problem at night. Apart from that we had one big chair in the room with a small table, a desk with a chair and a 32” flat screen TV. The TV had lots and lots of channels in German (and note that even English speaking movies are dubbed into German) so the only thing that was in English was channels like BBC News, CNN etc. But then again – you are not in Berlin to watch TV.

There was also a small fridge with items for sale – a Coke was 4.5 €, a Heineken 6 € and a small red wine was 10 € just to give you an idea of the prices. There were space for both our suitcases which was excellent as some hotel rooms seems to be designed for just one suitcase even if there is a king size bed meant for two people. The wardrobe contained quite a few hangers and there was a small safe – there was even a power outlet in the safe which means that you can charge your cell phone when it is locked up.

The bathroom was tiled with white and black tiles and contained a shower in the bathtub. There was a glass wall that prevented water from splashing everywhere when taking a shower and this combined with a shower curtain worked pretty good. It was fun to see that the standard amenities (like shampoo, shower gel etc) is the same that you get at the Westin in e.g. Bangkok.
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The location of the hotel is great – located on the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden you are basically in the middle of town and you can easily walk over to museum island or Brandenburger Tor. Right outside the door you will find the U-bahn station Französische Straße and you can also walk to the larger Friedrichstraße station to catch both U-bahn and S-bahn. There are lots of high-end shops in the area (we are talking Bugatti, Ferrari, Hugo Boss, Wempe watch store) together with department stores (like Galeries Lafayette Berlin) and lots of restaurants. One tip if you don’t have breakfast included at the hotel is to grab a bit at Einstein Coffee near the hotel.

Let’s talk about some of the issues that were not that great with the hotel. First of all – no free internet! I’m not sure how others plan their trip these days but we are very much online planners and we make a Google map before we travel and we normally need to get online to check details. The internet was 7.5 € for 1 hour at the hotel – I would rather recommend that you go to Einstein coffee nearby to get free Wi-Fi and enjoy some coffee for the 7.5 € instead.
The breakfast at the hotel was 29 € per person for the buffet which is way too expensive. Yes, you can order a la carte at the hotel but still. I’m sure it is a wonderful breakfast but for a person that normally just eats a small sandwich or some muesli it is not necessary to go for breakfast at the hotel – but luckily there are many small coffee shops and bakeries nearby.

I have already mentioned that we were not that impressed with the beds. I also found it a bit strange that we only got one bathrobe and one pair of slippers when they knew that we would be two people staying in the room. It was not a big issue and I assume that we could have asked for another. We also had to request an iron and ironing board – the iron was good but the board needs to be replaced soon.

One afternoon when we came back to the hotel we found a used cleaning cloth left by housekeeping on the desk – I have stayed at quite a few hotels but I don’t think I have seen that before.

But all in all – the Westin Grand Berlin this is a very nice hotel with a great location and compared to other major European capitals you seem to get the hotel at an affordable rate.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend friends or family to stay there. You can read more about the hotel on
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Plaza Athenee Bangkok Nov 23

Here is a short video showing our room at the hotel Plaza Athenee in Bangkok and also a short scene from the Club lounge.