20th March 2019

A great hotel can make a city

Can a great hotel provide a good enough reason to love a city? Can it be enough to compel us to visit in the first place or to return time and time again? We certainly think so, as hotels greatly influence our travel decisions and we believe this is of equal importance to our clients.

Where to stay plays a big role in where to go, especially when it comes to leisure travel. When we encounter superlative style, design and facilities, and our every need is taken care of in a way that exceeds our expectations, we are truly happy.

You always know how much you have loved somewhere by how ready you are to leave, yet it’s the initial impression that is most telling. The design, the style and that element of surprise, followed quickly by how you are welcomed and the way the staff take care of you. Are they immediately attending to your every need and request in an unobtrusive way? Are they relieving you of your bags and getting you to your room or suite without fuss and formality or form filling?

Are you happy and impressed by the size, space layout and appointment of the accommodation, where an emphasis should be on the quality of bathrooms, an attractive aspect and good natural light?

We then look for efficient housekeeping, laundry and room service; an attentive and experienced concierge; cars at your service; a beautiful pool; a luxurious spa for massage, a well-equipped gym, wi-fi that works…

It then comes down to the personality of a hotel, its management and how the staff have been trained. The speed of check-in, preferably executed in your suite. No unnecessary formalities or requests to show you around – especially when you may have just stepped off a ten-hour flight and all you want to do is relax and unwind.

And the little things: the details that matter yet are so often overlooked. Only a keen eye and an experienced traveller will immediately notice them. For example, how quickly your luggage arrives. The suite should feel fresh, temperature-cooled and as pristine as if nobody had ever been there before you. Perhaps a bottle of quality Champagne on ice with a large bowl of seasonal fresh fruit, bottles of still and sparkling water left as a welcome amenity. Fresh flowers should be everywhere, bathroom unguents generously sized and in abundance.

We can tell a lot about a hotel by the brands of water stocked and the marque of its house Champagne. Also the speed at which clothes pressing is turned around and the way laundry is presented and returned. We look for the pressure of the shower; the quality of lighting (especially bathroom lighting) and ease of on/off switching; the amount of closet storage and abundance of hangers.

We strongly dislike the presence of televisions advertising the hotel and its facilities and we are equally against those initial disturbances when staff fuss too much. Getting the right balance comes down to the art of a great hotelier. It’s what separates the star properties – those which, over the years, have earned a well-deserved place in the Nota Bene ‘little black book’.

What we love most is to be given time and space to unwind and savour everything at our own pace and not to be overly troubled by staff who should be there in the background anticipating our requirements without being intrusive.

We object to being chased to sign restaurant or bar bills; we hate being advised of the hours of breakfast or other meal times. Time and space are our luxuries. We don’t like constant phone calls to our room, or chambermaids prematurely executing the night turndown service, drawing blinds and curtains, as if we were there to suit their schedule and not ours. We expect ‘do not disturb’ signs to be respected for both the door and the phone.

Well-run hotels replace fruit and flowers regularly; know their guests schedules and have cars waiting; get whatever you need from the pharmacy or other stores at short notice; will readily change bedding from duvets to sheets and blankets as you require; anticipate quickly all your likes and dislikes and execute them promptly and consistently.

What about ambience and the romantic or emotional side of the equation? Art, lighting, music and fragrance are all important contributors to atmosphere. They set the scene, creating the feeling you are somewhere special. It should not be a home from home. Your home is your home: a great hotel is another experience.

When we think of cities we love it is generally for their energy, diversity, culture, shopping and dining. But it is also about that great hotel. Invariably that is what can make or break a stay. We have our firm favourites across the world, notably in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Lima, Rio, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Marrakech and Tel Aviv, to name but a few. But what about Bangkok?

The city of Bangkok is frenetic, steamy, humid and crowded. It has its palaces, temples, museums, colourful night markets and several excellent restaurants. It also has its seedy side and traffic is a nightmare.

Away from the main city centre hub, in the northern sector close to the royal palaces on the banks of the mighty Chao Phraya River, an impressive privately owned boutique hotel is our firm favourite. Unique in style and personality it delivers exceedingly well in service and appointment and for us has become a determining factor in returning to Bangkok. We were there twice during the past two months and it delivered on virtually every count on both occasions.

A triumph in architectural, interior and landscape design, with a gorgeous riverside lap pool, a beautifully appointed spa and a private boat service, it has all of the elements of a perfect urban resort. Of the sumptuously appointed guest accommodations our favourites have private courtyard patios and rooftop terraces that overlook the river. They come with their own butler.

Think of a visit to Bangkok working well with the culturally rich northern region of Thailand as well as with Indochina and Bhutan.

Consider staying in one of our favourite accommodations at the city’s top boutique hotel, as part of a Nota Bene-curated Asia trip.

We have just returned from the region, experiencing some of the latest hotel openings as well as re-evaluating old favourites. We met with cultural, experiential and historical experts, tested local guides, evaluated restaurants and shortlisted the unmissable things to do and see.

For a carefully curated trip doing Asia in style, while enjoying the world’s most fabulous travels, contact us.