The One With Brilliantly Bangkok – Of Sofitel So, The Erawans, Mango Tree & Tarntawan

Right from the moment we arrived at Sofitel So Bangkok, I knew we were in for a world of difference.

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From the deferential bellboys who separately attended to our luggages and check-in details, to the seemingly flirtatious invitation to their ninth floor reception lobby for a drink “to get to know us better”, everything was done with impeccable taste and refined tact. I was grinning from ear to ear all over them – an invitation to “free food and enough drink to fell an elephant” at their bar MIXO, a resting table from the moment we arrive with a sprawling view of the Lumpini Park… I feel like a hyped-up yet sleepy traveler (I woke up at four a.m. that morning) overdose on happy pills.

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But it was the room that convinced us that this is the hotel that will magically make everything – and I do mean everything – better. We walked into our selected earth-themed “So Cosy” room which is in fact a corner suite blessed with a jaw-dropping skyline of Bangkok. From the 21st floor, we gaped out of our floor to ceiling window as Bangkok twinkled in the heat of summer.

It was all we could do not to drop everything, don our trunks and sprint off into the pool.

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But first thing first, we needed to check out the goods. And what goods there were. The restroom area alone is the size of my Happy Valley apartment, complete with a giant bath tub, his-and-her vanity mirrors and basins, a shower room that I swear could do a car wash equally well, and a toilet. The sights of two rows of fluffly white towels in six different sixes got me into a slight hysteria. I love white, fluffy towels.

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The king-sized bed… what can I say. When faced with such a gorgeous skyline set against a set of deep-blue wall with earthly motives, and a slew of in-room service options via the huge TV – including music of various genres playing at the room surround system – I could only sink into my mounds of “pillow systems” and sighed at my good fortune. I knew I got a good deal when I booked the hotel two months ago, but I didn’t realise how lucky I would get.

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We were reminded that everything at the mini-bar is free, including some really delicious Thai snacks and various beverages, but alas, no alcoholic beverages. So in the spirit of kicking of our holiday on a great note, a cosmopolitan (but of course) and a glass of their sparkling finest were swiftly delivered to the room.

Never mind their sky-high price tag, have you seen my room?

After spending what seemed like hours at the room, we finally tore ourselves out of bed and hit the street. The famous boot-to-boot Bangkok traffic was in their full splendour so in our slight tipsiness we opted to walk our way to the nearest BTS station, Sala Daeng. A ten-minute walk, they said. Oh right, we purred.

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Walking along Sathorn Road reminded me why I took taxi everywhere in Bangkok. The heat was stifling (though that goodness it wasn’t as humid as Hong Kong), the traffic spew dust onto my face and I was variously tempted by the street snacks of all kinds. Had I given into to my temptations to try everything (trust me, I am that kind of free-spirited traveller), I would have been forced to buy a new pair of (bigger) shorts even before I reach Silom.

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We made a pit stop at a decidedly local restaurant named “North East” for a spot of simple lunch. Trying to spot what the locals were eating was useless – everything looked equally delicious – so we decided to “play it safe” and ordered a portion of phad thai and North East’s version of raw shrimp, which came with some cooked green beans and a plate of our favourite raw greens served on a bed of ice, including my lovely sweet basils (I learned the name that day).

After that quick lunch, we meandered along the street for a good half an hour before finally reaching BTS Sala Daeng (ten minutes, my foot). Braving the lunch time crowd at the BTS we found ourselves at Erawan Shrine some ten minutes later.

I have been to the shrine – an outdoor worship ground to the four-faced Brahma – a couple of times over the recent years when I visited Bangkok. I always had the vague memory of making some wishes. For those not in the know, if you made some wishes at the four-faced Buddha, you come back to pay you respect and express your thanks when your wishes come true.

But since I had no idea what wish I made, I had no idea whether they came true. However since I was in Bangkok, I made it a priority to go back and pay my respect… even if I don’t exactly know how. I mean, how do you go round praying to the Brahma (clockwise?), which face first (the entrance?), and what to do with the garland of flowers and joss sticks? In slight desperation I followed the crowd and did what I had to do. I trust that since my intention has been pure, I couldn’t be doing myself any harm.

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We then retired to the famous Erawan Tearoom, an elegant restaurant operated by the Grand Hyatt hotel. At the best of time people would have to call a day in advance to make reservation, but we must have been blessed with traveler’s luck – we walked right again and got a nice table near the window.

Banana fritters with vanilla ice cream.

We thought of sampling the afternoon tea (at THB 320 per person and fifteeen dishes, it was a definite steal), but the thought of dinner made us came to our senses. So we ordered the fritter banana with vanilla ice-cream (THB 200) and kao niew tuadam (sweet rice dessert, THB 130). I thought the black rice was really decent, but otherwise the selection wasn’t overwhelming. I was told dinner can be a much better fare, and for the level of service and impeccable ambiance alone I reckon it deserves a return trip. Perhaps the next trip.

And then we trawled the shops around Erawan. I don’t know about you, but shopping is never a relaxing experience for me. I shop like a man – armed with a target and a price range, I zoom in, make the kill, swiftly pay for my purchase and make a hurried exit, usually in ten minutes flat. So the idea of swanning from one shop to another couture shop one like Alexandar Wang, Stella McCartney and Lanvin left me positively in cold sweat.

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But what a surprise…. it does seem like, with age, I seem to have took a liking to high fashion. I lingered, almost longingly, at the exquisite creations by Issey Miyake for men. I fingered the gorgeous chainmail-ed pair of shoes by Paco Rabanne, and I almost burnt a certain amount of money on a Balenciaga pouch that looked heavenly yet far too impractical for everyday use.

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Slightly dispirited by my own inability to splurge on those temptations, I went to Central World and bought this rather gorgeous white embroidered top from GETZ instead.

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Some intimate shopping later, we were knackered to the max and returned to the hotel for a quick refresh before heading down to the hotel’s MIXO Bar for some mixing-and-mingling. To be honest, after all the hype of high society this place can attract, I was rather looking forward to brushing shoulders with some of the Thai elites (not that I would know who is whom; I am just saying), but as we settled down with our (free house) wine and some food, with one glance we knew the score. It was duller-than-dull, no one was under fifty, and in a slight, princess-y huff we left for dinner.

Dinner was an unplanned affair at Mango Tree. This was my favorite Bangkok restaurant, and I will try to visit every time I am in town. Situated in a refurbished old colonial building right in the smack of Surawong, Mango Tree was a classy affair with great Thai food, intricate culture performances and a vibrant crowd.

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Alas, how things have changed. My deepfried catfish salad was drier than drier, and we waited so long for our Thai green curry (decent) and the soft tofu sit fried vegetables (also decent), I almost expired with boredom. And of course I had to order my favorite miang-kam, but even that has lost its magical touch.

I might not be back again.

After such a disappointing result over our dinner selection, we walked out into the streets, where various night vices were springing into life. Already some of the early birds were stringing for a baht or hundred, but we walked on until we saw a promising looking massage parlour (read: adequately lighted, therapists in uniform, not dodgy).

At Tarntawan Massage, we were in for a treat. We opted for a foot session, and it came complete with a relaxing foot scrub and a heavenly back and shoulder massage as well. Granted we were worn out as hell after such a long day, we were delighted with our masseurs and tipped what we thought were a fair amount. Judging from their lack of delight, I reckon the “fair amount” wasn’t that fair to them, but these professionals see it fit to see us to the door with a deep bow. Impressed, I was.

I might be back again.

See more of my Brilliantly Bangkok posts:

Staying In & Hotel

Sofitel So Bangkok
2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500
+66 2 624 0000

Eating Out & Restaurants

North East Restaurant
Rama 4, Bangkok 10120
+66 2 633 8947

Erawan Tearoom
Erawan Bangkok, 2nd floor
494 Rajdamri Road, Bangkok 10330
+66 254 1234 ext 3171

Mango Tree
37 Soi Tantawan, Surawongse Road
Bangkok 10500
+66 2236 2820

Exploring Around & Attractions

Tarntawan Massage
117/1-2 Suriwongse Road

Erawan Shrine & Erawan Shopping Mall

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