Bangkok / 2nd - 5th September 2016
Day 1 (in chronological order)
Day 2 (in chronological order)
Conclusion: Reflections on trip to Bangkok
Al Meroz Hotel Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)
Al Meroz Hotel, the ‘leading halal hotel’ of Bangkok was the main reason why I decided to go to Bangkok. Their marketing slogan was interesting enough to make me fly to Bangkok and stay at the hotel.
To be honest, before I arrived, I had low expectations of the hotel, but their clean, well-lit and posh rooms blew me away. I also didn’t expect the hotel to have top-notch facilities too. And don’t get me started on how amazing the food in one of its restaurants was. The buffet lunch was one of the best I have had for a long time.
On my SQ970 flight, I was given a ‘Premium Lane’ voucher by Singapore Airlines that allows me to ‘fast-track’ through Suvarnabhumi Airport’s immigration. It wasn’t useful because there were no long lines at the immigration counters that morning. I should have kept it for future use or simply give it away back home.
BKK is one of the few airports around the world that accepts such vouchers.
BKK is one of the many airports around the world that has a Muslim Prayer Room.
So, without any issues, I cleared immigration easily at around 9am. After buying a local SIM card for 399 baht, I walked towards the Airport Rail Link (ARL) but halfway decided to sit down just outside the station to mull over what would I do now at 9am in the morning.
Usually, hotels will allow you to check in only after 3pm, a couple of hours earlier if you are lucky. But definitely not at 9am!
At the sitting area, as I mulled about what I would do, it became apparent that I was the only male sitting there. I was surrounded by female immigration officials, Korean and Middle Eastern stewardesses and two Caucasian female solo travelers. It was lovely to listen all of them talking among themselves around me, the discordant sounds of their accents, their symphonious female voices.
But it didn’t take me long (at 9:15am) to get bored of ‘people watching/listening’. I decided to take the risk of making my way to the hotel directly hoping my room will be ready upon my arrival. And I knew that I would only take 30 minutes to get there, at around 10am.
So why did I take the risk to check-in into Al Meroz Hotel at 10am in the morning? I assumed that since Al Meroz is a new hotel that seems to be targeting only the Muslim market (which is only a small subset of Bangkok-bound tourists) and it is also a hotel which is located far away from the city centre (which might be unpopular with most Muslim tourists) … therefore the hotel’s occupancy rate will be low … and there must be a lot of available rooms for me to check into early in the morning.
My logic seemed flawless but it was still a very risky move bearing in mind that I would arrive at the hotel at about 10am. And if I can’t check in, I would have to go somewhere else to occupy my time. And at that moment, I was clueless on what to do around the Ramkhamhaeng area.
The hotel is just a train-ride away from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
And a 5 minutes walk from the Ramkhamhaeng (ARL) station.
The journey to Al Meroz wasn’t too complicated from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Just hop into the Airport Rail Link train and alight at Ramkhakeng station. Then walk 450 metres northeast.
It was just happenstance that I was in the same area in 2012 when I watched the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup Finals at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium. Then, I stayed at Regent Ramkhamhaeng 22 hotel, Muslim operated hotel, located about 1 km away from Al Meroz Hotel.
Yes, there was a ‘halal’ hotel 4 years ago in Bangkok before Al Meroz around the same area. Regent Ramkhamhaeng 22 wasn’t the ‘leading halal hotel in Bangkok’ but it was good enough for me in 2012. It had a halal restaurant as an adjunct to the hotel.
This is the location of Regent Ramkhamhaeng 22. I had dinner at their restaurant that afternoon.
This is how the hotel looks like on the outside. Photoshopping hairs of cables out of this image is beyond my ability. So I apologise.
Entrance of the hotel. Looks “Dubai-ish” I must say.
I think I arrived at the hotel at around 10:15am. I was being greeted by two doormen who seemed rather quizzical about my presence at the hotel so early in the morning. I didn’t care much about it and I walked straight to the reception. Two ladies in hijab asked me how they can help me. I said I wanted to check-in and if it’s possible.
After a few clicks on the computer, they said yes. And so I was right. Indeed there must be a lot of empty rooms here. Mildly surprised and curious, I asked them why they checked me in early. It was an unusual practice I said. They replied to me, “special case, special case. one time only”.
I have to say that the process of checking in was slower than the other hotels I have been to. Not sure why. Maybe I booked the hotel the night before and they didn’t have my booking records. Maybe they were new to the job? All possible reasons. After about 15 minutes waiting at the reception, I was told I could make way to my room.
While waiting, I snapped a picture of a Halal certificate.
There was another one in Thai language on the left.
The hallway to my room. Nice carpet flooring.
To be honest, I had low expectations of this hotel but upon first sight of the room, I was blown away. The room looked like any other room in any other 4, 5 stars hotels out there. Flawless, clean, well-lit, posh, and it has good vibes.
Overview of the room.
Loved the color of the cushions. The bed was not too bad.
Clearly the highlight of the room. A prayer mat and prayer times on display.
TV and a small working area.
Dark brown furniture.
Bathroom. Everything looked pristine.
Bathtub and shower area.
And the room folder. If you are interested, the pages are found below.
And so, after taking pictures of the room, I went exploring the other parts of the hotel.
I went to the swimming pool located at top of the building. The walkway to the swimming pool was stunning. Man, just look at those tiles! Very South Spanish/Moroccan, I bet they wanted to achieve that Middle Eastern look.
The open space on the rooftop beside the pool, the ‘Bustan’, serves as an event space. It appears like it makes a great and functional outdoor space for small weddings (if it doesn’t rain of course).
There are two sofas at the lift area on my room level.
Nice view on the left.
The only sheltered area at this outdoor space.
They call this space the “Bustan.”
Look at the floor and wall tiles. Beautiful ain’t it?
A flight of stairs up to the swimming pool area.
Swimming pool area with some lounging chairs.
Not an infinity pool but the view is great nonetheless.
Then I went to the lower floors where I found a few meeting rooms, a gym and a massive ballroom.
As I walked, I couldn’t stop marvelling at everywhere I went. The whole place was beautiful.
I love how they marbelized the whole place to make it look high-class-y and expensive. Reminds me of JW Marriott hotels? Ritz Carlton? Kempinski? Ah yes, very Kempenski-ish.
This is their ballroom. At that time, they were getting the place ready for an event.
Chairs lined up orderly.
Gym wasn’t too bad either. One of the better ones I had been to.
Aerobic machines and a weight bench.
Treadmills and a multi gym machine.
A complete set of dumbbells.
One of their three restaurants, the Barakat restaurant.
The Papyrus restaurant. Closed when I was there.
Empty but the kitchen sounded raucous and busy.
The Diwan restaurant, the only restaurant that appeared ‘opened for business’ at that time.
After ‘checking out’ the hotel, I decided to have a buffet lunch at their Diwan Restaurant. After the not-so-palatable SQ’s Nasi Lemak, I had really hoped the food here was great. Sigh. And it was.
I tasted almost everything there and everything tasted great. And it only cost me 500 baht, about S$20. Unfortunately, I had only 30 minutes to eat.
You can read about my lunch experience at the Diwan Restaurant here.
I got this in-room dining menu in my room. You can have halal food delivered to your room.
Must say the prices are not cheap, but similar to what other hotels charge.
I wanted something to munch on that evening and I found a great offer. I could get a slice of cake at 50% off.
So I had these for supper. A slice of cake and blackcurrent juice.
I must admit that I was unfair when I said earlier that the occupancy of the hotel is low because this hotel is targeting only Muslims. I apologize.
I have enough proof (see the photos below) to say that the Al Meroz hotel does not only attract Muslims. They also attract a lot of Chinese tourists and hordes of fans. No, not those kinds of fans that hum and whir as they push out air to you, but human fans that flood places they expect their idols to visit.
A group of Chinese tourists just after checking in. Must be part of a tour group.
There they are again, eager to get to their rooms.
As I was checking out, I saw hordes of fans outside the hotel. I doubt I was the reason why they were all there.
Just as I was ready to leave, they opened the doors. Perfect timing.
And they came in with me standing right in front of them. No mad screams for me though. =(
Fortunately, I managed to get out of the hotel physically unscathed. But as I walked out, looking at the crowds of fans around me, a realization slapped me hard in the head. It became obvious to me that this hotel doesn’t only attract Muslims.
I am not a fan of niche hotels that market to small demographics of consumers. The hotel business is an expensive business and if hotels choose to appeal to only a certain subset of consumers, they would be missing out on other subsets who could be the more lucrative ones.
I mean why can’t Al Meroz hotel market themselves a ‘Muslim-friendly hotel’ instead of a ‘leading halal hotel’? Technically, I feel that’s a better business decision?
But the management must have their reasons to market this hotel as the ‘leading halal hotel in Bangkok.’ Also clearly, my assumption that this hotel only attracts Muslims was very wrong. It appeared to me that not many people were bothered whether this is a Muslim hotel or not.