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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.

How does SQ’s Teochew menu look like in real life? (EDIT: More contributions added!)

Update: 13 Dec- thank you to everyone who has sent in photos so far! The teochew menu will still be running for a while, so if you’ve got photos of the economy class offerings or other items not covered yet (bak chor mee anyone) please send them on over to admin at milelion.com with your culinary criticism. Would love to post them

SQ recently announced that they were doing a special teochew menu across all cabins for the next 4 months. I remember they did a special Peranakan menu for SG50 so I was interested to see what they had lined up this time round.

As per the press release-

“Teochew cuisine is known for its emphasis on the freshness and natural flavours of the ingredients, and cooking methods often involve steaming, poaching, double boiling and slow braising to deliver a delicate yet refined dining experience,” said SIA in a statement announcing the launch of the dishes on Monday.

“Also, it’s a lot cheaper to serve rice porridge and yam paste in First Class than lobster”

I may have embellished that quote a bit, but hey, someone had to say it.

I kid, I kid. It’s always good to see airlines trying to innovate where food is concerned, and if you’re flying in Suites/Business there’s nothing to stop you from BTC-ing your usual lobster.

But as I was pawing through the glossy publicity photos I started wondering what the food looked like IRL. I mean, at the end of the day it’s still airline food. It’s cooked en masse, blast chilled and sits around for hours before being reheated.

That got me thinking- could we, among all of us try to snap photos of the dishes in real life and post them up here? It’d be interesting if nothing else.

So I need your help here readers- if you’re taking an SQ flight this month in whatever cabin class please snap a few photos and send them over! I will progressively add them below so we can see how they measure up to the publicity photos.

First Class/ Suites

Cold crab, pig trotter jelly

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Steamed pomfret and or nee (yam paste)

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Here’s the a menu from a recent Suites flight to Auckland.

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Loh Ark- traditional braised duck, egg and beancurd served with braised peanut, salted vegetable, asparagus with dried sole and steamed rice

To be honest, the Loh Ark looks suspiciously familiar to the version served in Economy Class (see below)

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There are still Teochew options available at breakfast!

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Teochew Beef Noodle Soup

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As some bonus material, Damien (one of our guestwriters) is currently in a state of drunken bliss in Suites en route to NZ. But before he passed out in a Krug fuelled oblivion he was kind enough to send me these snaps from The Private Room.

Here’s the Teochew menu on offer there

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And the fish maw soup. As per Damien- The fish maw soup is restaurant quality. Flavourful with scallops and crab flavored infused well and it’s thick

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And the kway chap. As per Damien- Kway chup is light version compared to hawker fare but decent

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And the desert- tau suan jelly

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Business Class

Here’s the menu of items being served currently (thanks Alvin)

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Regardless of what you order for your main, everyone gets this teochew appetizer of cold prawns with chicken jelly.

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As for the mains-

Teochew porridge served with braised duck and salted egg

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The IRL version comes to us courtesy of CS from a recent SIN-HKG flight.

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Comments- “Teochew porridge is watery but this one is terrible. It really tasted like they dumped a bowl of overnight cooked rice into a bowl of hot water. Then serve. Duck was tough, fermented tofu was ok. The chap chye was horrid. Luckily the chili was good. I think that was the only good thing abt it. I don’t like salted egg so I barely touched it.”

More of the same from Naserah. I got to be honest guys, I’m not feeling it.

Bak chor mee and fried png kueh

Still pending. Any takers?

Premium Economy/ Economy Class

I just flew to Perth and managed to sample the Teochew offerings on the flight out. They were serving the duck on this leg, described as

Braised duck on rice, served with egg, beancurd and preserved vegetables;

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Photo looks awesome, if a bit of a strange pairing. Orange juice with your braised duck? That said, the veggies look bright and colorful, the rice fluffy, the duck and egg posing nicely for the camera.

And here’s real life

Yeah. Kind of like seeing your girlfriend without makeup. Taste wise it wasn’t terrible, the duck was a bit dry even with the sauce but I challenge you to take naturally dry meat and do any better in the confines of an aircraft cabin.

The saving grace of the dish was the chili sauce that accompanied it. It reminded me of chicken rice chili actually. It packed a surprising punch (considering the international clientele the dish needs to be fed to) and I pretty much finished all of it.

Stir-fried pork with shacha sauce on rice, served with vegetables.

Anyone tried this one yet?

Remember, you can send all photos to admin@milelion.com.

Happy dining!

Hotel Review: Conrad Bangkok (Deluxe Suite)

Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.


So I recently stayed at Conrad Bangkok, booked during one of the Hilton 40% flash sales earlier in the year. The rate worked out to be about S$150 per night, which though pricier than many other places in the city, works out to be a pretty good deal for what you get.

The jury’s still out on which of the Hilton properties in Bangkok is the best to stay in, but the general consensus on the Conrad is that it offers a solid service soft product and a central location, though it’s a bit of a walk (about 10min) from the nearest BTS station, and is starting to show signs of age. I agree with this assessment, but still rather enjoyed my previous stay and was hoping I would be rewarded for my loyalty in this repeat visit. Boy, was I ever!

The hotel lobby was all decked out for the festive season, with a gigantic Christmas tree and a Christmas market-themed booth selling holiday snacks.

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Perhaps the decor had made an impact on the generosity of the hotel staff as well – I had originally been upgraded to a Executive King room (from my basic King room) and decided to try my luck by asking if any better room was available. The agent clicked around on her terminal for a bit and proceeded to inform me that they would usually only upgrade a Diamond member up to an Executive Suite, but since those were already full they’d decided to give me a taste of the Deluxe Suite instead.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was akin to hitting the hotel upgrade jackpot. To give an idea of how large the room is, I’ve highlighted (and labelled) it in the floor plan below:

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The Room

It started becoming clear to me that this wasn’t quite an ordinary room when, upon entering, I was greeted by a decorative piece immediately to the right of the corridor. To the left was a toilet. One without any shower or bath facilities…

So apparently the room came with its very own guest toilet.

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The living area was as large as many hotel rooms, sporting a sofa set, a dining table and a work desk.

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Welcome amenities comprised some fruits (dragonfruit and oranges), chocolates and some rice crackers.

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Interestingly enough, it also came with a PS3 which I fiddled with for a few minutes before figuring that I hadn’t come all the way to Bangkok to play console games.

(Well, not old pixelated console games, anyway – it was hooked up to the TV via old-school RGB cables.)

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The bedroom, yet another standard-hotel-sized room, offers a spacious non-claustrophobia-inducing area with a king bed, even more seating options, and yet another TV set. If you so desired, it’s probably possible to stick to this area for the bulk of your stay without really making use of the living area.

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As is common in many Conrad properties worldwide, Conrad Bangkok provides guests with a complimentary stuffed animal – an elephant, in this case. There are a number of colour variants, so you can have fun collecting them all if you like (or you can also try requesting for them).

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I found it rather interesting to see that other than the standard (for Western hotels) copy of the Bible, the bedside drawer was also stocked with a copy of Conrad Hilton’s Be My Guest. Didn’t really think to take a look, but Amazon reviews are actually pretty good!

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Moving on, you would pass a walk-in closet…

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…with remarkably thin-soled bedroom slippers. A little disappointing, those.

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Next up, the washing area, decked with dual sinks…

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…and finally, the bathroom.

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The bathtub is designed such that you can enjoy your bath with full access to a view of the outside world, should you so desire. That’s great on the top floor of a tall building, but I’m not sure how practical that is on lower levels – but hey, whatever floats your boat, yah?

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Yet another Conrad toy – a rubber bath elephant (kinda like a rubber duckie, only elephantine). Again, there’re a few colour variants – gotta catch them all, am I right?

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Being on the top (32nd) floor, the view is pretty impressive – although not being particularly familiar with Bangkok, it kinda became a blur of miscellaneous buildings after awhile…

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Looking down, you can see a balcony on the floor below. I’m guessing it belongs to one of the terrace suites?

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Breakfast

I opted to have breakfast at Café@2, the restaurant on the second level, rather than the executive lounge. I’d tried breakfast at the lounge the last time round, and (as is typical) the lounge offerings are more limited as compared to the restaurant, though you do get to eat in greater privacy.

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The spread’s pretty good, and the fare’s rather tasty, too. I was particularly impressed that they had a carving station (albeit for roast ham, which I’m not really a big fan of).

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Suffice to say, there’s enough food to be had so you won’t get sick of it all that quickly.

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Executive lounge

The Executive lounge on the 29th floor offered a large pleasant environment to relax and grab some free food.

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There’s evening cocktail with canapés…

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…where you can help yourself to hot food, snacks, cheese…

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…which make for a pretty good pre-dinner snack.

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There’s also afternoon tea…

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…with more snacks and desserts on offer.

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I actually preferred the view from the lounge over what I saw from my room – I guess it just faces a more interesting direction?

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I really enjoy the complimentary food offerings at Conrad Bangkok, but I’ve found that a common problem with nice hotel food is that it usually means there’s even nicer food outside the hotel – Bangkok fits this pattern pretty well. It’s possible to subsist on just breakfast, tea and evening canapés, but… why would you want to, really?

Afterthoughts

The Conrad website states the Deluxe Suite as occupying 1127 sq. ft., which is already larger than many residences back in Singapore, so for two nights it kinda felt like I was in a new home. It’s also the second-priciest room available (after the 2561 sq. ft. Presidential Suite), so I definitely lucked out with my 6-level upgrade.

This almost makes me want to go back to try my luck once more with the room upgrade lottery, though even if I don’t manage to score a suite, I’ll still be pretty satisfied with the food, lounge and level of service available at this property.