Tag Archives: aloft

Aloft Bangkok Review: Starwood’s cheapest Bangkok option

Bangkok is one of the cheapest markets for hotels that I know of. You can easily find 4 or 5 Star properties below $150 a night, which is extremely good value any way you look at it. Service standards tend to be very high, rooms tend to be new or refurbished and I can say I’ve never had an issue finding a good hotel deal in this city.

There is absolutely no shortage of Starwood properties in Bangkok

The problem, however, is that ever since Starwood’s 2016 category adjustments, Bangkok has become a difficult market to redeem Starwood points. Why is that? Because the value you get is almost always going to be lower than 2 US cents per point, the minimum value you should be accepting.

Before the last set of category changes, you could get the Four Points for 3,000 points (now 7,000) and the Westin/ Le Meridien Bangkok for 7,000 points each (now 10,000).

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Starwood Redemption Rates (First row: Weekday, Second row: Weekend)

However, there is still one bright spark on the Starwood roster in Bangkok, and that’s the Aloft. At 3,000 points per night (4,000 during weekday), it remains one of the better deals to be had.

Location wise, the Aloft is about a 8 minute walk from the Nana BTS station. Nana is, shall we say, a “lively” neighbourhood, and there’ll be no shortage of bars, nightclubs and massage places offering services of the joyful conclusion variety.

I think it’s a perfectly suitable place for young folks, but if you’re bringing the kids or your parents you might want to give this a bit more thought. As a bonus, you’re only 3 stops away from Siam (Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Center, Siam Square One) and one stop from Asok (Terminal 21…yes, we Singaporeans have a very limited range when we go to Bangkok. My Thai friend once complained to me that Singaporeans don’t do anything other than Roast and Siam Paragon/MBK when they come)

After landing at BKK and claiming my luggage, I called for an Uber. In the past I would have taken the Airport Rail Link to town but ever since they stopped the Express service (15 mins to Makassan) I’ve been indifferent between taxi/train because you don’t really save that much time taking the City Service (30 mins) + Taxi to your final destination. Plus, Uber drivers seem to have difficulty finding the pick up point at Makassan and I’ve had way too many dishonest taxi drivers with rigged meters hanging out around the station.

My Uber from BKK to the Aloft cost THB 325 (S$13), and with some moderate traffic took about 40 minutes. In case you’re worried about coordinating pick up with a driver who probably doesn’t speak the best of English, don’t worry because Uber will let you specify which pillar you want to be picked up on Level 2 (arrivals). The process was entirely painless. FYI, the Airport Rail Link will cost THB 35 to get from BKK to Makassan.

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The Aloft is about 500m deep into Soi 11. There is a free tuk tuk service that takes you to Nana BTS (or Asok, if you so wish) but wait times can be long especially during rush hour traffic.

The lobby has high ceilings and the Christmas decorations were still up (I visited the day after Christmas)

Check-in was quick. The front desk staff asked me if I wanted 250 points or breakfast as my welcome gift (I opted for the breakfast), and told me I’d been “upgraded” to a high floor room.

This property doesn’t really do upgrades, and they’ve got a big sign at the front desk emphasizing that Aloft properties are exempt from the Starwood Platinum upgrade policy. I can’t decide if the sign is too passive aggressive or a good way of anticipating questions.

There was a priority Starwood elite member check in area, but I never saw it manned.

I’ve stayed in plenty of Alofts before, so by now I knew what to expect. The Aloft is basically a cheaper version of the W, trying to maintain the same young and with it vibe while charging rates closer to the US$100 mark (W’s price upwards of US$200 in my experience). So you can expect loud nightclub music (fortunately my room was fairly well insulated because I’m a light sleeper), a lobby with “fun” stuff in it and constant reminders at every turn that the brand is hip and young.

Like this, on the back of the lift doors. Hey everyone, we are young and hip because we use the emoji (what happened to the good old days of calling them emoticons) for our room service menu lol! rotflol! #hashtag instantgram!

I swear, my generation is going to be remembered as the one that finally killed the written language in favour of poorly drawn hieroglyphics. I mean, I’m not asking people to write in iambic pentameter, but if you’re the sort who use emoji on a regular basis we will probably not get along 🙂

Where was I?

My room was on the 31st floor (32 floors in total).

It seems from this omni-review thread on Flyertalk (and other comments on the hotel’s Tripadvisor page) that the property has a serious problem with mildew in some rooms. Fortunately, my room wasn’t one of them, and didn’t really smell of anything.

Technically, the Aloft Bangkok only has 2 types of rooms- standard and suite. Not so technically, the standard rooms are further subdivided into Chic, Urban and Breezy. My understanding is that the internal hierarchy is chic–>urban–>breezy. Chic rooms are on the lowest floors and will have a splendid side-street view. Urban rooms are on the midfloors and Breezy rooms are at the top. So technically I did get an upgrade, he said, if only to reassure his desperate status anxiety (There’s an interesting discussion on this FT thread (see post 619) about why there’s a need to make these small distinctions among otherwise very similar room types. If you ask me it sounds like someone’s playing with award inventory)

My Breezy room was ~30-33 sqm, with a keycard already inserted into the power switch and the A/C at full blast when I entered.

My room was a King room. The bed was as good as any bed I ever had in a Westin, or any other hotel for that matter.

The room is sizable enough to fit an L-shaped couch in the corner. It felt dirty.

There is, fortunately, a full sized work desk. Ben over at OMAAT has a pet peeve of hotels removing desks in the name of catering to millennials (the same millennials who would rather use emoji to order room service), and I tend to agree with him here. I don’t care what generation you’re born in, a desk is a useful piece of equipment to have in any hotel room.

There was an overpriced minibar with 2 individually wrapped prophylactics. How overpriced? Said prophylactics cost $7 each. I have limited (ok, zero) experience in this area, but I’ll hazard a guess that $7 is northwards of reasonable. But I guess when you gotta go…

Fortunately, there is an abundance of mini marts around the Aloft where you can stock up on snacks and water for cheap.

Free coffee and tea in the room come standard. Ice requires a trip down to the lobby. One of the nice things that happened during the stay was when my friends and I wanted to chill a bottle of champagne. We were discussing the best way of jury rigging an ice bucket (take the trash can to the lobby? fill the bathtub with ice (and remove someone’s kidney later)? When I went down with my puny ice bucket, the lady at the bar gave me a full sized ice bucket piled high with ice.

The bathroom is sizeable and has 2 bottles of complimentary water. In practice, there’s really no problem calling down and getting additional bottles for free.

The last time I was here, the hotel had mini bottles of Bliss body lotion and Bliss soapy bars. They’ve since replaced those with generic Aloft branded toiletries, which was a disappointment

Fortunately, Bliss body wash and shampoo is still available is still available in the shower, albeit in dorm-like (I’m sorry, eco friendly) pump dispensers.

The throne room.

By the bedside there is a gentle reminder of how doomed we all are.

Breakfast is served at Crave Restaurant. The quality of breakfast was disappointing compared to that which you can find at many Asia Starwood properties

There was juice, milk and water stations (the juice isn’t fresh)

A limited choice of cereals

A salad bar (really, who eats salad at breakfast?)

A selection of cut fruit

Stale pastries

The hot food selection had a mixture of Thai and Western options

And thankfully there was a made-to-order egg station

Plus a noodle bar

Here’s my plates over two days. I was saving room for Roast, as you can see.

I explored the lobby after breakfast. There was a mini-mart of sorts within the hotel (with prices to match). I can’t imagine who would be willing to pay these prices, given that you could walk 30m outside to a 7-11 selling the same thing at half price, but hey, tourists.

The lobby is meant to be the social hub of the property, so you’ll find a foosball table, a pool table, a PS4 and a Pac Man arcade case here too.

If you feel in the mood for swimming, there’s a pool. It was somewhat full when I visited.

On the same floor as the pool you’ll find a gym. I am glad that Bangkok properties aren’t following the (ridiculous) trend that hotels elsewhere have started of charging for gym access.

So long as the Aloft stays at 3,000/4,000 points per night it’ll definitely remain a go-to place for me. The location is a bit dodgy but it’s central enough for Bangkok, the breakfast isn’t great but Bangkok has such an amazing abundance of cafes it seems a waste to eat breakfast in the hotel, and if you get rooms on the higher floors the usual Bangkok noise shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t expect much in the way of Platinum recognition/elite benefits and you’ll be fine.

The future of hotels is here and it comes with 2,500 bonus points

In November 2014 SPG launched its Keyless program, which enables guests to bypass the front desk and head directly to their room, and replaces those easily demagnetized keycards with your smartphone. It’s a great idea in theory, although reports online are a bit mixed as to its usefulness (see below)

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Because there’s an ongoing promotion to get 2,500 bonus Starwood points when you use SPG Keyless and pay with an AMEX card (valid until 29 Feb 16), I managed to work in 1 night at the Aloft Abu Dhabi on my current business trip.

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Apart from an alarming report about bedbugs that came up a few days before check in, I was quite looking forward to my stay. I’d been to this property before and I find that they have pretty good platinum recognition. I’ve always gotten a suite upgrade, free breakfast along with the 250 starpoints and a couple of drinks vouchers for each day of stay.

SPG Keyless sends you an alert 24 hours before your check in time on the SPG app.

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Once you accept it, you’re prompted to verify your details

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And select your arrival time & payment method (remember you need to pay with an AMEX if you want the bonus points)

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And if you’re an elite member you can select your welcome giftkeyless

And then a confirmation

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So I waited for the alert.

And waited.

And waited.

I made it to the hotel and still I hadn’t got any details about my room. In the end I had to go to the front desk and ask them.

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It turned out that they had to do document verification, as required by law, which means that even if you use SPG Keyless you still have to go to the front desk to check in. I understand the legal requirement, but that kind of defeated the purpose.

While waiting I walked around the lobby. The decor is standard Aloft, and I think it says somewhere in the brand manual that you need to have one or two “fun” items in the lobby to remind people how hip you are. Aloft Abu Dhabi chose to go with a pool table

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I told the staff I wanted to use Keyless. Fortunately they seemed to be well trained on such requests (they even had a mockup of a door handle stored behind the counter to let you test your key out) and got me going seamlessly. The screen on my SPG app changed to this

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Keyless worked flawlessly for me, and I had a bit of a silly smile on my face as I held up my phone to the door and heard the unlock sound. Who needs hoverboards and flying cars when you can unlock your door with your phone?

You do need to have Bluetooth on for it to work though, but given that Bluetooth is so low-energy these days there’s really no harm keeping it on all the time.

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I was upgraded to an Aloft suite, which is somewhat larger than the standard room. Most of the added space goes into that nook in teh corner with the sofa and minibar area

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The minibar had 2 complimentary bottles of water (2 more in the loo) as well as coffee and tea

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Big writing desk with a view of the ADNOC centre. I like that this desk came with all the usual power outlets and ports. Apparently removing desks from hotel rooms has become a trend, because Millennials. But hopefully that won’t catch on, because who the hell wants a room without a desk?

Aloft is marketed as a “vision of W Hotels” and you can see the resemblance in some ways. I think of Aloft as sort of a “budget W”, and while some people find the brand as a whole trying too hard to be cool, I like that they’ve taken on some of the W touches like Bliss branded toiletries

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I stayed at the Aloft Bangkok in early Jan and they were using some generic no-brand toiletries, so it’s good to know that some of the Alofts are still sticking to the standard stuff.

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What I really appreciate about the room is that instead of whimpy curtains that flop around and never seem to fully close, this Aloft had blinds that descend all the way to the bottom. This is all the more important in a place like Abu Dhabi where the morning sun can be fierce.

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There was a pool on the 5th floor. I braved a few laps the next morning but it was 20 degrees and very windy, so I gave up after a few laps.

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Didn’t get photos of the breakfast, but it was fairly standard fare.

Aloft Abu Dhabi used to be a category 2 property but somewhere along the line became category 3. That’s a pity, because at 3,000/4,000 points a night it’s a steal. 7,000 points is a bit harder to justify, given how far it is away from all the action in Abu Dhabi (I think that’s the first time anyone has ever used the words “action” and “Abu Dhabi” together)

But job done, 2,500 bonus starpoints secured and 1 more night towards the 50. My concern is that so far this year I only have 25 nights planned. I’ll need to hope for another big push to get my requalification done. To put things in perspective, in 2015 I requalified in Feb, thanks to a bunch of colleagues who didn’t care about points (fools!) and let me book their rooms for them (SPG lets you earn credit for up to 3 rooms per stay) for a monthlong stay.

If you want to take advantage of the 2,500 point promotion, the closest property to Singapore with SPG Keyless is…. the W Sentosa. But do make it a point to check against this list before you decide on your next hotel- you might be able to get a little more out of your stay.