Bangkok Post reviews
New Charisma on the River
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: December 20, 2011 at 9:36 am
It's taken over a generation but the hotel that these days goes by the name of Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside is finally living up to its location
How many times have I set out for the river at the approach of midnight on New Year's Eve to catch the fireworks only to be driven back without getting anywhere near? In the end, the choice of jostling with the crowds or stumping up at a hotel leaves me with no alternative but to beat the retreat.
But now there's another window of opportunity at a new/old hotel that Goldilocks would approve of; not too cheap and not too expensive either.
Moreover, it's owned by a family with an interesting history and a convivial patriarch with a son at neighbouring Shrewsbury International School and an engagingly open outlook on both life and the business of making the most of owning a large plot of land boasting a quarter of a kilometre of prime riverfront.
This particular story of Thai-Chinese entrepreneur making good began back in the 50s with a humble hotel at July 22nd Memorial Roundabout near Hua Lumpong Train Station, and in the 60s with the development on leased land of a hotel that is now the Royal Princess Larn Luang. When the chance to buy the plot on which Royal Princess Larn Luang sat came up, the entrepreneur declined because he'd already decided to buy the land Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside now commands and felt over-extended enough already, or so his son Dr Pichai Tangsin MD, the current hotel's managing director recalls.
However, being naturally averse to getting too far in debt, the hotel Dr Pichai's father developed on the plot was more " Deluxe tourist class" than a five-star showpiece to rival its near neighbours a couple of clicks upstream and these days also on the opposite bank.
That was good news for budget travellers because where else could they enjoy the same view as visiting rock stars and dictators' wives? But it was not the sort of business that Pichai, a medical doctor with a Master's from Heideberg would necessarily throw up his high-flying medical career for.
With the passing on of his father, still very much honoured in a gallery of sepia photographs on the landing outside the hotel's executive office, momentum gathered towards a major upgrade of the property to more accurately reflect its potential as an upscale tourist redoubt.
Now a few years on, the transformation is in its final stages with only a few peripheral parts pending overhaul.
The branding requirements of the renowned Ramada Worldwide hotel chain have been used as a guideline both in terms of hardware and software.
"Three rooms were knocked into two, two rooms into one, with a minimum size of 34 sq m, and closed a floor out to create a new spa and business centre," explains Dr. Pichai over lunch in the hotel's impressive riverside buffet and a la carte dining unit that appears to float majestically on the water itself. As a result, originally 727 rooms was cut to 525.
More apparent changes to the casual visitor are a large, sexy deep blue pool, a slinky, chilled-out lobby, the restaurants and the four, that's right four, ballrooms. Though the pool itself doesn't abut the river, as do two of the four restaurants, it connects to a sweeping raised sundeck lined with shaded loungers from which, thanks to the tremendous width of the river at this point, you can drink in breathtakingly panoramic views from upstream to downstream.
Needless to say this is prime New Year's Eve fireworks viewing territory and Dr. Pichai promises that the hotel will be throwing quite a party, if not quite as lavish, he says, as originally intended, in deference to the struggles many people are having, whether directly or through friends and relatives, with the flood fallout.
Welcome the Dragon
The party theme is Welcome the Dragon. And as Dr Pichai points out; "The dragon is ruler of the other animals, so it's a very special year."
"What's more, a characteristic of people born in dragon years is their generosity and so we are entering the spirit with generosity on our part too," he adds.
"Everyone who was born in a Dragon Year is entitled to buy two adult tickets for their friends and families and receives a free ticket from us. We are thrilled to count how many dragons will be welcoming their year here with us."
The Gala Dinner includes live jazz, DJs and not only this hotel's fireworks but "fireworks in a row" from 6-7 other hotels putting on a show around the same time. Dancing will continue until 2.00 am, with overnight guests warned in advance. And it doesn't seem to be putting them off with over half the rooms already booked, mostly by foreign visitors.
The feasting promises to be exceptionally sumptuous with one of the longest buffet lines in Bangkok packed with multinational cuisines, ranging from glorious seafood to Cantonese dishes from the hotel's renowned Ah Yat Abalone Forum restaurant. The presentation will also be heavily themed with a myriad of dragon motifs in mesmeric gold and silver.
With an eye to the Indian market, including weddings, the hotel has its own in-house chef from Varanasi and it is also enjoying an internship by a Bhutanese chef who will also present some unique dishes on the evening. Plus consummate Thai, Japanese, Italian and Korean cuisine, great soups and salads, noodle and barbecue stations and decadent desserts, including homemade ice creams.
Some highlights? How about Roasted Australian Prime Rib; Beijing Duck Cantonese Style; Yaki Soba with Seafood; Roasted Pumpkin with Lobster soup; Lavender honey glazed Duck with Almond, Lobster Florentine, and; Thai Stir Soft shell Crab with curry chilli paste. Plus seafood and meat on skewers, sausages, pickles and decadent desserts from Linzer Cake to Cheese Cake with Rhum Fruits.
And all for Bt3,900++ excluding beverages but including the party. Bt 1,950++ children 5-12.
After 10.30 pm. join countdown tapas with a glass of Prosecco at only Bt1,000++
Delectable tapas items range from Melted brie cheese with honey to Ham croquets and Proscuito di parma.
Also offered are special overnight packages for Thais and expats only because "why drive home when you've a bed to go to right here; then wake up late and have breakfast in bed and check out when you're ready."
Other special offers include 25% discount for Menam Paradise members.
Joining the club earns a generous package of vouchers that includes two nights' accommodation and can be redeemed on New Year's Eve for members who will join this Magnificent Count Down Party.
Xmas Eve celebrations at Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside also promise to be quite special.
The buffet at The Terrace@72 will have a special Christmas theme, including roast turkey and Christmas pudding and gala seafood. Priced at Bt1,200++ adults, Bt600++ children 5-12 with the option of "free flow wine" at an additional Bt499++.
Carol singers will intermittently perform the season's special songs.
Timing is from 6pm to 10pm.
The Christmas Day Buffet Brunch is pretty much more of the same, priced at Bt900++ for adults and Bt450++ for children.
Alternatively the hotel's Eurasian Grill always offers a quiet and romantic ambience in which to enjoy fine continental cuisine. On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can also enjoy a 5-course set menus at Bt1,500++, inclusive of "free flow of wine", ending with Christmas pudding and petit fours.
Meanwhile, the hotel's makeover plans are set to continue. Looking to make more of the property's MICE potential, the current convention hall, an intriguing conversion of an old go down will be replaced by a state-of-the-art new facility. Plus some more cosmetic changes elsewhere.
No need to wait any longer, however, Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Bangkok is already an enticing proposition aimed just right at all the in-betweenies.