I stayed in the brand-new Waldorf Astoria in Bangkok, and thought it was the perfect respite in a city known for chaos

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The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok makes an elegant and spacious addition to the local hotel scene.

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The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok makes an elegant and spacious addition to the local hotel scene.
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David Slotnick/Business Insider

The storied Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York has been an icon for nearly a century. One of a few standards for elegance, class, and luxury in urban hotels – the Plaza, the original Ritz, and a few other historic spots – the Waldorf was, until recently, one-of-a-kind.

In 2006, Hilton Hotels – at that time owner of that first Waldorf – launched a new global brand based around the New York original. (Hilton no longer owns the New York Waldorf Astoria. It was purchased by Chinese conglomerate Anbang in 2014, but Hilton still manages it and owns the brand.)

Today, Waldorf Astoria is a powerhouse brand of luxury hospitality comparable to brands like Four Seasons. With more than 30 properties open around the world – some newly acquired or rebranded legacy properties, and some new hotels – and more locations set to open in 2019, the past decade-plus has been transformative.

One of the flagship openings in 2018 was the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, a new and massive addition to a burgeoning luxury hotel market. In just the past few years, Bangkok has seen an explosion of its tourism market, with a record-breaking 38.3 million international visitors to Thailand in 2018.

Click here to make a reservation at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok ».

With 171 rooms and suites, five restaurants, and two breathtaking bars on the top floors, the Waldorf Astoria makes an elegant and spacious addition to the local hotel scene, offering an elegant oasis in a city that can otherwise be overwhelming in its crowded, traffic-jammed signature chaos.

My wife and I had the chance to stay in the Waldorf for three nights last month.

From the hotel’s food and service, to its architecture, amenities, and design, I was thoroughly impressed. While less expensive accommodations are available in Bangkok, I would likely opt to spend on the Waldorf again.

Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by the Waldorf.


The ground floor of the Waldorf serves as the hotel’s entrance, with the bell and concierge desks near the door, but it isn’t the lobby.

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The hotel sits in a 60-story tower in Bangkok’s central business district near the busy Ratchaprasong intersection, occupying floors six through 17, plus 55 through 57. Near shrines, luxury malls, and more traditional stall markets, the tower is steps from the BTS Skytrain, and easily accessible by taxi.


Rather than at the front desk, check-in takes place at comfortable seating areas throughout the lobby — the front desk staff brings everything you need to check in while you enjoy a welcoming cup of tea.

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When you arrive at the hotel, you’re escorted to the 16th floor, a spacious, airy lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows offering copious natural light and an unobstructed view of nearby Royal Bangkok Sports Club park.

High ceilings, neutral colors with orchid-inspired splashes of gentle colors, and natural light define the space, and introduce the palate used throughout the property. It isn’t necessarily eye-catching; instead, it feels calm, clean, and tranquil, a contrast to the hustle of the city surrounding it.

Subtle touches of Thai culture bring a pleasing effect to the space, never allowing it to feel like a fully Western hotel.


The hotel has 171 rooms and suites. We were on the 12th floor in a King Deluxe room, which is the standard baseline room type.

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Everything in the room, from the curtains to the toilet seat, could be controlled by touchscreen panels and tablets strategically placed throughout.


One distinct way in which the room excelled: The seating area, with a couch, coffee table, and small dining table, felt like an entirely separate space from the sleeping area, despite the fact that the back of the curved sofa was against the foot of the bed.

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While I always like to have a chair or desk in a hotel room, so many of them are positioned awkwardly in the room, stuffed into whatever corner or square of floor was empty – there’s nothing like a hotel armchair and ottoman right on top of the bed, angled so that a seated person can’t even try to watch the television.


Here’s the seating area from another angle.

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The bathroom was massive, in a narrow hallway that spanned the length of the room. It had double sinks, a soaking tub, and a rain shower.

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One of the hotel’s key features is a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok makes an elegant and spacious addition to the local hotel scene.

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David Slotnick/Business Insider

On the 17th floor of the 60-story tower, this “rooftop” pool is actually on a small roof projecting from the building.


The spa is located on the same floor as the entrance to the pool.

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We were able to get massage appointments for the same day – I didn’t take any photos of the public spa areas out of respect to other guests who were there, but it was a very relaxing experience, from the moment we signed in and enjoyed a cup of cold green tea.


The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok features seven bars and restaurants throughout.

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Hilton

The crown jewel is the Front Room. Helmed by Noma alum Fae Rungthiwa Chummongkhon, the 60-seat space features a unique fusion Nordic-Thai cuisine. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to try it for ourselves.


Next is Peacock Alley. A Thai take on the signature Waldorf Astoria lobby bar, Bangkok’s Peacock Alley offers light meals and snacks, cocktails, and coffee, tea, and pastries. We shared a few things, including the veggie bowl …

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… And a couple of incredibly tasty spiced Thai iced teas.

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Next, there’s The Brasserie. This French-inspired haunt is open all day, and doubles as the hotel’s breakfast spot.

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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love hotel breakfast buffets, and the Bangkok Waldorf definitely delivered. There was a wide range of options, from pastries, to traditional Western breakfast items, to various Asian delicacies from all around the continent. I’m pretty sure it’s my first time pairing yogurt and granola with taro root dumplings, but I’d certainly do it again.


Bull & Bear, the hotel’s steakhouse, boasts a live raw bar, a menu featuring grilled meats and seafood, and a variety of sides, wines, and cocktails.

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We had dinner here one night – a break after a long day exploring and eating street food in the city – and it was fantastic. It was Valentine’s Day weekend, and I noticed that a lot of the clientele were Thai couples celebrating the holiday together.


The hotel also has two bars. The Loft is on the second floor from the top, and offers a variety of wines, spirits, and cocktails, including some developed based on the original Waldorf Astoria bar book.

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The bar offers incredible panoramic views of Bangkok, and plentiful seating throughout the floor. To be sure you get the best seats by the windows, make a reservation or be ready to get there early.


And up one flight of stairs from the Loft Bar …

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… On the top floor, the Champagne Bar offers a stylish ambiance and more incredible views.

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Hilton Honors elite members who stay at the Waldorf can expect top-notch treatment.

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Something I saw at the Bangkok Waldorf that I don’t often see at hotels: The front desk handed me a card outlining most of the benefits I was entitled to as a Diamond elite member. (I hold Diamond status because I have the Hilton Aspire credit card, which comes with top-tier status as a perk).


Bangkok is a polarizing city, with some travelers falling in love with the frenetic movement, noise, and grit, while others flee, after the shortest possible layover, to Thailand’s island resorts or northern cities and villages.

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Despite being someone who usually feels at home in large cities, whether in South America, Europe, Asia, or home in New York, I found Bangkok draining. Definitely enjoyable – I’d love to go back – but tiring.

Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the Waldorf so much. The hotel’s cool tranquility contrasted so sharply from the street just outside its doors that it felt like a reprise, a place to recharge and relax before a night out, or a day exploring.

Rates start at around 8,500 Thai baht (about $270) per night, although deals are sometimes available.

Click here to make a reservation at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok.

Getting the most from your Hilton stay

If you stay at Hilton hotels – including the Waldorf Astoria – even just once or twice a year, you may want to open a Hilton credit card.

Hilton offers three different personal American Express credit cards – the “regular” Hilton Honors American Express Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

The Aspire comes with the most benefits, but also has the highest annual fee, so it’s best for those who are fairly loyal to Hilton. However, if you plan to apply for the card and stay for a few days in Bangkok, and maybe another weekend within the year, the card’s annual fee will pay for itself.

1. Hilton Honors American Express Card

Welcome offer: 75,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

The baseline Hilton Honors credit card is a stellar option for those who occasionally stay in Hiltons and have use for the welcome offer or benefits, but aren’t true brand loyalists or road warriors.

It offers complimentary Hilton Honors Silver elite status, which includes benefits like late check-out, free water bottles during stays, a free fifth night on reward nights, and more points earned during stays. When you spend $20,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll get upgraded to Gold status, which includes the same perks as silver, plus free breakfast and room upgrades.

The card earns 7x points per dollar spent on Hilton purchases, 5x points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets within the US, and 3x point on everything else.

Travel website The Points Guy subjectively values Hilton Honors points at 0.6¢ each – that makes the bonus worth $450.

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Honors Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

2. Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Welcome offer: 125,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Instead of Silver status, like the no-fee card, the Ascend offers complimentary Gold status. That comes with the same benefits as silver, plus two major additions: you’ll get free breakfast during your stay, and you’ll be eligible for a room upgrade, assuming there’s a free room available.

The Ascend earns 12x points on Hilton purchases, 6x points at restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets – all within the US – and 3x points on everything else.

Between the 125,000-point welcome bonus, and the fact that the Ascend card offers a free weekend night when you spend $15,000 on it within a calendar year, you’ve got the makings of a nice long hotel stay without having to pay a thing.

The card also comes with 10 free day passes to Priority Pass airport lounges, and offers a free weekend night when you spend $15,000 on it within a calendar year. The Ascend has a $95 annual fee, but chances are the benefits will offset that for you.

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Ascend Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

3. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Welcome offer: 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but it comes with so many perks, benefits, and rebates that it’s more than worth paying for Hilton loyalists.

First, it offers up to $250 in Hilton resort statement credits each card membership year, as well as a up to $250 in airline fee credits per calendar year. Right away, those two credits cover more than the annual fee.

And there’s more. The Aspire also offers a on-property credit up to $100 every time you book a stay of two nights or longer at a luxury-level Hilton property – including the Waldorf Bangkok. You just need to book through a specific website for cardholders.

The card also offers a free weekend night reward each year – regardless of how much you spend – and a second weekend night if you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. I recently used my first-ever free weekend night at the Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It also comes with complimentary top-tier Diamond status which, as you’d expect, entitles you to greater benefits than other levels of status.

The Aspire earns a tremendous 14x points per dollar spent with Hilton, 7x points on flights booked with the airline, car rentals, and at US restaurants, and 3x points on everything else.

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Aspire Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to make a reservation at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok.