Hospitality – DoubleTree by Hilton style – starts with the humble cookie, and at DoubleTree by Hilton Ploenchit in Bangkok, that tradition lives strong. This delicious little morsel made from flour, eggs, and butter flecked with bits of deep and delectable dark chocolate, has long been associated with DoubleTree hotels because of all that it stands for – welcoming warmth and sweet comfort. So it comes as no surprise that one of the first things we were presented with by the friendly hospitality team upon arrival at the spanking new hotel, was a warm, monster-sized chocolate chip cookie!
The sweet scent of vanilla and chocolate wafting from the cookie evoked memories of home and hearth and I immediately felt the urge to take a bite, even though I was full when I arrived at the hotel. The cookie tasted sweet and crumbly; the chocolate in it, gooey and delicious – it was all that a chocolate chip cookie should be. As I picked up the crumbs that had dropped on the table, I was told by Jean Philippe de Haes, the General Manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Ploenchit, that the chocolate chip cookie had also inspired an exciting initiative – the DoubleTree Ploenchit Cookie Trail: a selection of customised tours that would give guests amazing insights into the city and its culture. “The idea behind the DoubleTree Cookie Trail is for guests at the hotel to experience certain destinations within the city that only a local will know and be able to share,” explains Jean Philippe.
The gargantuan task of crafting these destinations rests on the slim shoulders of Thai influencer Karn Chatikavanij, also known as Jam. Born in Thailand and educated in the United Kingdom, Karn (or Jam) understands what it’s like being a tourist but is also well versed with insider haunts and the various hidden gems in her home country. “We wanted the ‘trail’ to be a mix of popular tourist destinations and lesser-known ‘finds’, so the programme will have some must-visit destinations favoured by tourists, as well as less tourist-y yet equally enjoyable off-the-beaten-path destinations,” Jean Philippe elaborates.
As we experienced the ‘trail’, we came to understand the brilliance of roping in Karn to create these special tour itineraries exclusively for DoubleTree by Hilton Ploenchit. These programmes provide something for everyone, yet are interesting and stylishly cool. It’s also customisable – whether you’re on your honeymoon, on a family holiday, travelling solo or having fun with friends, arrangements can be made and destinations matched to your preferences. While I have been to Bangkok several times, there were guests in our group who were in the city for the first time. The beauty of this experience organised by DoubleTree by Hilton Ploenchit is that we could all find things to discover and marvel at. Read on and follow the cookie trail to see what we saw and experienced, or watch the video here…
Stop 1: The Blooming Gallery
The Blooming Gallery is a tea cafè and bar known for its rustic decor and exciting and experiential menu. This stylish local haunt should be visited more by tourists (but isn’t). The poetically-named F&B offerings on the menu such as A Wood Lane and The Blooming Garden were created to inspire the imagination and tickle one’s whimsy. We ordered the signature Matcha Lattè that actually ‘blooms’ thanks to the ingenious use of a marshmallow flower (watch it happen in our video above) as well as the Blooming Garden dessert (THB320) which looks, really, like art on a plate. Prices can be a little steep for Malaysians but well, it’s art, and it’s difficult to place a price tag on that. However, at around THB120 to THB160 per cup, the drinks are more affordable. You can visit The Blooming Gallery in Bangkok at Siam Square and Thonglor.
Stop 2: The Commons
This community centre brings together a selection of the hippest eateries, stalls and indie shops. Besides numerous F&B outlets, there’s a hair salon, gift shop, and nail boutique. Based on the concept of bringing together a community, The Commons is divided into The Market where you’ll get a cornucopia of unique stalls, The Village, where you’ll find services and amenities such as the aforementioned hair salon and gift shop, as well as a plant nursery, nail boutique, and more F&B outlets. The Play Yard is the space with an open concept that allows in lots of light and will bring you closer to nature. The Top Yard as the name suggests is right at the top of this conceptual community space where talks for enrichment and learning are sometimes organised.
Stop 3: La Zensa Spa
Described in its website as ‘the most chic (sic) spa massage in Bangkok’ the newly opened La Zensa spa with its sumptuous souk-style guest area certainly didn’t disappoint. Having walked for more than an hour by then, I was more than ready for a foot massage and quickly settled into the cavernous depths of the adjustable leather armchairs after a quick change and footbath. As I’d had a long day of travel and exploration, I couldn’t wait to close my eyes for some much-needed rest. However, for those looking for something to do while they get their feet massaged, they’ll be pleased to know that the foot massage rooms are equipped with a movie theatre-sized screen and a good selection of movies to watch. At 600 baht for a 60-minute foot massage, prices are fair by Malaysian standards although a little on the high side by Thai standards. However, service is top-notch and you’re also paying for the swanky surroundings. After the rejuvenating massage, I headed back to the guest area for tea and light refreshment which were beautifully presented in stylish glassware.
Stop 4: Baan PhadThai
Here’s a tip: if you aren’t in favour of crowds, come early. When we got to Baan PhadThai (translated: the House of Pad Thai) around 8pm, the place was packed from wall to wall mostly with locals. If you’re a frequent visitor to Bangkok, you would have tried Phad Thai, but you likely wouldn’t have tried it Baan Phad Thai style! I had the Pad Thai Poo (320 baht) which is fried Thai rice noodles with egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, shrimp and blue crab meat. I must say, the presentation of the noodles, complete with crab shell is impressive and the helping is generous. If you’re extremely hungry, do order the appetisers – the restaurant serves a mean and tasty version of Miang Kam (Leaf Wrapped Salad). As Pad Thai is a fiercely nationalistic dish, the restaurant’s decor was created to match with traditional wooden windows, flooring, and furniture. In contrast, the walls were painted a bright blue which added to the cheery and traditional atmosphere.
Stop 5: The Red Cross Fair at Lumphini Park
We were fortunate to be able to witness this annual 10-day affair with participation from over 200 organisations, on our visit. When we got there it was close to 9pm and the festivities were at their height. With rides, games stalls, exhibitions and stalls galore selling food, clothes, and jewellery, as well as a performing Superman, there were lots to see and do here. As far and wide as I could see, people were everywhere – seated on the grass, eating, shopping and enjoying the rides. I was positively wilting under the heat and humidity but that didn’t seem to faze the locals. If you’re keen to witness this event, you’ll be pleased to know it’ll likely be coming back next year.
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