Bangkok, Thailand Business Travel Guide
Despite nasty pollution and notorious traffic jams, Bangkok is one of Asia's most popular business destinations. Home to The Stock Exchange of Thailand, with more than 400 listed companies, its industries include technology, electronics, garments, gems and project management. The country's financial institutions are headquartered here; there's a powerful publishing, advertising and marketing presence; and tourism is among the largest income generators. Considering the now legendary 1997 financial crisis, tragic 2004 tsunami and innovative but highly disruptive take on political protest, Thailand's endurance is impressive. It helps that the government encourages investment and usually puts its money where its mouth is. When business visitors aren't converging in air-conditioned offices, they're taking full advantage of after hours pursuits, which range from world-class dining and non-stop bar hopping, to massage (the legit kind), meditation and golf at one of the dozens of courses around the capital.
to Know Before You Go
Despite fluctuations of up to 15 percent to either side, the baht (B) holds reasonably steady at about 35 baht to the U.S. dollar. One baht is divided into 100 satang, which come in aluminum bronze coin denominations of 25 and 50 and which you'll rarely see outside a 7-Eleven store. More common are the nickel 1B, 2B, 5B and 10B. Bank notes are available in denominations of 20B, 50B, 100B, 500B and 1,000B.
Opened in 2006, Suvarnabhumi International Airport (AKA Bangkok International Airport) is a glass and steel behemoth 18 miles east of the city center. An expressway links the airport with the center and a cab will take between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on where your hotel is and whether it's rush hour. The Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link is due to open in August 2009 and will link the airport with the City Air Terminal in fifteen high-speed minutes. As in Hong Kong, you'll be able to check in at the CAT several hours before departure. The CAT also links to the SkyTrain proper via a short westward extension.
We don't recommend renting a car since traffic is hairy and metered taxis are inexpensive, especially when compared with the price of car rental. Taxis are available just outside the arrivals terminal at the airport.
Once in the city, the SkyTrain is the way to go, allowing travelers to zip between meetings and make good time between hotel and dinner appointments. There is also a limited underground Metro service. As for romantic local options, river boats are an easy way to go between the SkyTrain and some large hotels and the historic Ko Ratanakosin quarter, and longtail boats are great for touring. Tuk tuks, however, are no faster than taxis, offer no view but the traffic and aren't very good for your lungs. Motorcycle taxis are recommended only if you're running late, during rush hour and when your whole deal depends on you getting there ASAP.
Thailand has two English language newspapers, the Bangkok Post with its broad coverage of local and international news, business, sports and culture, and The Nation, which focuses primarily on local business and politics.
Ma Du Zi means "come and see," and this über-luxurious, very private and centrally located boutique hotel (entry is by reservation only) features 41 very large rooms. They combine a bright, contemporary design with facilities tailor-made for business: large desks with fax/copier/printer, Wi-Fi Internet and an espresso machine. The fitness zone is small but adequate, and La Truffe is one of the best French restaurants in Bangkok. Ma Du Zi is not inexpensive, but everything from airport pickup to minibar is included.
If there were such a thing as hotel envy, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok would surely be the original cause of it. For more than 100 years, this has been the place to stay for visiting monarchs, dignitaries and celebs. But this hotel doesn't rest on its laurels, as a $75 million refurbishment proves. Beyond the hype, it serves business travelers on generous expense accounts well. Striking Thai design sets the tone in the rooms, whose standard amenities range from multiple phones to private butlers. Fortune 500-worthy amenities include banquet and boardrooms, excellent restaurants, a sports center and cultural programs.
For many years, luxury hotels in Bangkok were associated with long-standing tradition, the kind of places where author Somerset Maugham might have hung out. While we can certainly appreciate the Old Guard, we like the new kids on the block, too. Our favorite: The Metropolitan. Although it doesn't have an abundance of conference space, it's perfect for hosting a savvy product launch, press event or intimate business bash. Expect the guests to be stylish, the business talk to be high-tech and the amenities, including a Como Shambhala spa, to be top-notch.
Fans of The Peninsula Hong Kong will love the group's Bangkok outpost. This wave-shaped riverfront hotel offers water views from every room. Done in rich, calming colors, refined accommodations are well equipped for traveling executives, with high-speed Internet access, hands-free phones, dual voltage sockets and fax machines. Enhancing the corporate-friendly vibe is Sakuntala Ballroom (seating up to 400) and a full business center. Numerous dining venues mean you can choose from Thai, Cantonese, Pacific Rim and more for client dinners. To offset time spent in meetings, head to the tennis courts or three-tiered swimming pool.
This contemporary, Thai-style hotel resides in the business/embassy district and offers plenty for the executive crowd. You'll find a 24-hour business center with complete reference library, ballroom for up to 300 with eye-catching timber and granite floor, and private office space with Internet access. Throw in yoga, Tai Chi and an infinity pool, and there's plenty here for work and play. Surrounded by a lotus pond, The Celadon restaurant is a superb venue for making a good impression over sophisticated Thai cuisine. Better yet, once your clients leave, you can simply stroll back to your room.
The Dusit Thani, Bangkok
946 Rama IV Rd.
66 (0) 200-9000
the brothers Pourcel (Jacques and Laurent), the team behind
Blanche in Paris and Le Jardin des Sens in Montpelier,
the 22nd-floor D'Sens gives you the opportunity to make
a good impression. The innovative menu (think balsamic
watermelon appetizer and roasted pigeon filet) showcases
contemporary French cuisine. Set menus are available for
lunch and dinner, and the wine list is notable. And if
you're not in the mood for the flavors of France, The
Dusit Thani, Bangkok also offers venues serving Royal
Thai, American Steakhouse, Italian, Cantonese, Japanese
and Vietnamese cuisine.
Way back when visitors were given to calling Bangkok the "Venice of the East" for all its canals. These days "Rome of the East" might be more appropriate. Bangkok boasts more than 300 Italian restaurants and of those Giusto is the one where most deals are struck. Located near the office towers along Sukhumvit Road, it's a power lunch venue of choice because of the cuisine, which is refreshingly unadventurous, the attentive but restrained service, the spare but sophisticated décor and the after-meal pleasures of the Glass Wine Bar, with hundreds of Italian, European and New World wines.
5/1 Sukhumvit Rd.
66 (0) 258-8637
This antique-filled converted manor resides conveniently in the city center. Former bedrooms serve as private dining rooms, and tables are so close together in the garden that eavesdropping is unavoidable. That said, we like this charming spot for its reliable modern Thai cuisine and its casual atmosphere. Expats and locals have been bringing out-of-town visitors here for years. We recommend it as a good place to introduce clients and colleagues to classic Thai flavors.
only is this one of two French restaurants on our list,
it's one of two of our top pick venues from The Oriental,
Bangkok. We can't help ourselves. The hotel has some of
the finest dining in the city. With its jacket and tie
dress code, foie gras and Brittany lobster, and guest
list that includes the Thai royal family, Le Normandie
in the historic Author's Wing is a place for serious wheeling
and dealing. The menu, which includes a prix fixe option,
features original recipes from consultant Guy Martin,
Grand Véfour in Paris.
Good Thai standards can be found on most street corners in Bangkok. But those seeking the unusual need to make an effort. We recommend Ruen Mallika for its introduction to classic royal Thai flavors, taken from palace culinary traditions. This is a wonderful spot to network while enjoying a classic dining experience. The 19th-century teak building sets an atmospheric mood, which is enhanced by staff dressed in period style. Among the menu selections are familiar dishes such as Tom Yum soup and unusual specialties like deep-fried flowers.
Our second recommendation for the distinctive experience of royal Thai cuisine is an old favorite, Sala Rim Naam. Not only do diners enjoy classical Thai dance performances and excellent dishes, such as deep-fried honeyed chicken in pandanus leaf, they also experience a boat trip across the Chao Phraya River from The Oriental, Bangkok to the beautiful Thai pavilion that houses the restaurant. The buffet lunch and a selection of set dinner menus make this an excellent choice for expense account meals.
ground level, Bangkok is crowed and overwhelming. Sixty-three
floors up, it's a paradise of open space and tranquility.
At the top of one of the city's tallest skyscrapers, The
Dome boasts lofty ambitions, beginning with the rooftop
Sirocco. This open-air restaurant dazzles with its uninterrupted
views. A jazz band and fine Mediterranean cuisine add
to the allure. The Dome is also home to Mezzaluna, serving
Italian cuisine; The State Room, for corporate functions;
and Distil, featuring a smoking lounge, oyster bar and
comprehensive selection of single-malt Scotch and Cuban
About fifty miles north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is a popular
day trip. The journey is pleasant, along the Chao Phraya
River, and the site itself is impressive. Ayutthaya
was the second Thai royal capital, established in the
14th century and destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th
century. Today, relics of three palaces and hundreds
of temples have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage
Site. Those who don't have time to visit Angkor Wat
will appreciate the ancient city's Cambodian influences.
SkyTrain, Mo Chit Stop
It's no secret that Bangkok provides a fix for shopaholics.
Those seeking the ultimate high should take the SkyTrain
to the weekend Chatuchak Market. With about 15,000 stalls,
it's like a massive, 35-square-acre mall. Every type
of product is represented here, from those you might
want (knock-off clothing, electronics and designer home
décor) to those you should probably bypass (live
animals and garden plants). Simply being there is as
much a part of the experience as acquiring souvenirs;
loads of tourists and locals mingle, wandering the very
hot lanes and eating from street stalls, watching the
world pass by.
Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
Na Phra Lan Rd.
66 (0) 2222-6889
We hate to state the obvious, but if you're in Bangkok, you have to visit the Grand Palace. We don't care that travelers flock here. If you arrive early in the morning when the palace opens, you can have it—for a little while—to yourself. This centuries old complex no longer houses the royal family, but it is still used for coronations, weddings and state events. Make sure to visit the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew, and if you have time during your flight, read Anna and the King of Siam. Anna of the title served as a governess here, and the book gives you an idea of life during royal times.
Jim Thompson House
Rama 1 Rd., 6 Soi Kasemsan 2
66 (0) 2216-7368
Jim Thompson House is one of our favorite havens in
the city. Once the private home of silk merchant and
OSS officer Jim Thompson, who mysteriously disappeared
in the Malaysian highlands in 1967, it is a lovely amalgam
of authentic old Thai homes. Thompson is credited with
single-handedly reviving the Thai silk industry. He
was also a collector, and the house is filled with valuable
antiques and artifacts. After the tour, slip away to
the café, where you can sit for a while in the
quiet and enjoy a refreshing green papaya salad and
glass of iced tea.
27 South Sathorn Rd.
66 (0) 2625-3333
When it comes to nightlife, Bangkok's top hotels house some of the best venues. The sister of London's trendy Met Bar, the guest and members only bar of the same name at The Metropolitan Bangkok is where scenesters sip martinis, nibble on Thai fare and radiate international chic. Other good options: Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar, in the Banyan Tree Bangkok, is a 61st-story, open-air retreat. If you're in the mood for someplace low key, try the legendary Bamboo Bar at The Oriental, a favorite for its jazz vocalists.
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(Banner buddha image courtesy of www.bangkoktourist.com;
temple image courtesy of www.tourismthailand.org
and interior image courtesy of www.jimthompsonhouse.com; Grand Palace image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand)