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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.



Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: Baht

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.

Transportation:

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.

Information:

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.


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Where to Stay

Ma Du Zi
9/1Ratchadapisek Rd.
Klongtoey
66 (0) 2615-6400
www.maduzihotel.com

Ma Du Zi Hotel
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.

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Ave.
66 (0) 2659-9000
www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok

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.

The Metropolitan
27 South Sathorn Rd.
66 (0) 2625-3333
www.comohotels.com

The Metropolitan
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.

The Peninsula Bangkok
333 Charoennakorn Rd.
66 (0) 2861-2888
www.peninsula.com
 

Deluxe Suite at The Peninsula Bangkok
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.

The Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel
13/3 South Sathorn Rd.
66 (0) 344-8888
www.sukhothai.com

The Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel
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.

Where to Dine

D'Sens
The Dusit Thani, Bangkok
946 Rama IV Rd.
66 (0) 200-9000
www.dusit.com

French
 $$$$$

D'Sens
From the brothers Pourcel (Jacques and Laurent), the team behind Maison 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.

Giusto
16 Soi 23
Sukhumvit Rd.
66 (0) 2258-4321
www.giustobangkok.com

Italian
$$$$$

Giusto

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.



Lemongrass Restaurant
5/1 Sukhumvit Rd.
66 (0) 258-8637

Thai
 $$$$$

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.

Le Normandie
The Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Ave.
66 (0) 2659-9000
www.mandarinoriental.com

French
 $$$$$

Le Normandie
Not 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, of La Grand Véfour in Paris.

Ruen Mallika
189 Soi Sukhumvit 22
66 (0) 663-3211
www.mallika.co.th

Royal Thai
 $$$$$

Ruen Mallika
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.

Sala Rim Naam
The Oriental, Bangkok
48 Oriental Ave.
66 (0) 437-6211
www.mandarinoriental.com

Royal Thai
 $$$$$

Sala Rim Naam
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.

Sirocco
The Dome at State Tower
1055 Silom Rd.
66 (0) 624-9555
www.lebua.com

Mediterranean
 $$$$$

Sirocco at The Dome at State Tower
At 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 cigars.

Off the Clock

Ayutthaya

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.

Chatuchak Market
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

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.

The Jim Thompson House
Rama 1 Rd., 6 Soi Kasemsan 2
66 (0) 2216-7368
www.jimthompsonhouse.org

The Jim Thompson House

The 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.

Met Bar
The Metropolitan
27 South Sathorn Rd.
66 (0) 2625-3333
www.bangkok.com/metropolitan

Met Bar

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)

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(Updated: 07/02/13 CT)

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