There was a time not that long ago when The Sukhothai felt like an oasis far removed from the bustle of Bangkok. But the city has grown exponentially and nonstop for decades. The entire neighborhood is now filled with residential towers, hotels and incessant traffic. Pulling off Sathon Road onto the driveway of the The Sukhothai still provides a welcome relief that instantly soothes the nerves. And that first sight of the hotel’s signature Thai restaurant, Celadon, still creates an indelible first impression.
I have fond memories of strolling through the colonnade-style lobby here, which always felt like a sanctuary of elegance, exclusivity and zen. So I was incredibly saddened on my latest visit (in December; yes I’m late posting this) to see the addition of tacky video monitors placed throughout the lobby, flashing day and night with advertisements and promotional campaigns. Ugh. It makes The Sukhothai feel like a budget business hotel, completely void of either elegance or zen. It’s a terribly unfortunate development because, at its heart, this is still a very nice hotel.
Having visited the hotel several times over the years, this was my first time back since the opening of the new Club Wing, which includes the new swimming pool and a rather spectacular gym. I tried to book one of the Club Wing’s balcony suites, but they were sold out, so I secured a deluxe suite in the Main Wing instead. The Club Wing and Main Wing are almost like two completely different hotels. The Club, modern. The Main, old-fashioned and traditionally Thai. It’s that traditional aesthetic that I fell in love with so many years ago, and the deluxe suite was as beautiful as I remembered.
Long before Bangkok became one of the world’s best fine-dining cities, there was Celadon at The Sukhothai. And while it is a much different restaurant today than when I first visited nearly 20 years ago, one thing hasn’t changed: The Thai cuisine coming from this kitchen is as delicious as ever. Very few fine-dining restaurants today capture that vintage royal glamor of old Bangkok quite like Celadon. And that’s saying a lot. On this trip, we dined at a dozen truly extraordinary Thai restaurants, many with Michelin stars. I was worried that Celadon wouldn’t measure up, either to my memories of past visits or to the city’s current standards. That worry quickly dissolved when we arrived here for dinner. The service, the food, the ambience were all as superb as ever. We dined on exquisite crab dumplings, phenomenal miang kham (betel leaf snacks) and tom yum with river prawns. This was one of our favorite meals in a week of dining that was filled with memorable restaurants.
Service elsewhere throughout the hotel, though, isn’t what it used to be. I walked past dirty room-service trays sitting in hallways for two days. There was literally no staff at the pool to offer drinks or fresh towels or any sort of service or pampering, nor to clear any of the dirty glasses or soiled towels that covered many of the lounge chairs and tables. Maids entered our suite despite us having the do-not-disturb sign on. Fair warning.
Bottom Line: The Sukhothai sadly no longer ranks among the finest hotels in Bangkok. However, the rooms are nice, and if you’re here to eat and not planning to spend a great deal of time in the hotel, this place has become, comparatively, an incredible bargain.
Rates from about $250; 13/3 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok, Thailand; +66 (0) 2344 8888; sukhothai.com/bangkok