Bang! Lightning bolts across the sky. Monsoon season in Bangkok! Alive and bustling, taxis, tuk-tuks and torrents of rain.
Where to seek shelter from the downpour? Mercifully, I have a room booked at the Centara Grand at CentralWorld, slap bang in the heart of the shopping district. This 55-story beast of a building towers magnificently over the seething melee below, offering rooms for the most discerning tourist, traveller or businessman.
The expansive lobby offers a first glimpse at the sheer scale of the place, with the ceiling many metres high, fountains running down the walls and massive modern artworks hung about.
The views from the room are stunning, befitting of lofty refuge in an Asian mega-city. The space feels like an orb floating silently above the boundless metropolis. One could gaze from the window for hours, entranced by the theatre of life below. The dramatic view is only enhanced as darkness falls, and from your quiet seat in the gods, the lights of the city begin to twinkle, as do the stars above, which from this height are seemingly within touching distance.
Near enough to the stars to touch? This hotel gives you the chance to explore this possibility. I took the lift to the top floor to check out the famed CRU Champagne Bar at Red Sky Bar, which is perched profoundly atop this towering Bangkok skyscraper. Where Angels Play is the tagline for this classy establishment and I can vouch that if angels ever meet up for a drink, this is certainly one of the easiest spots to reach from the heavens. Glass walls surround this suspended bar area, along with a completely open-air roof, separating you from an 820-foot vertical drop. Phew!
I take a seat in one of the plush sofas that are scattered around, which allow you to lie back and look up, rather than stand up and look down. The stars wink back as I am served one of the signature drinks, a glass of G.H Mumm No1 Pink Champagne, which at this height is as welcome as it is necessary. Really, it’s a wonder to look around, from your exclusive perch in the velvet night sky to the twinkling lights below. The bar exerts a certain private, elite vibe that exudes celebrity. Even if I can’t touch them from here, right now I undoubtedly feel at one with the stars.
The Centara Grand is smartly appointed for exploring the city at large. At around ฿150 (£3.50) for a taxi pretty much anywhere you’d want to go, it feels awfully cheap and easy to get around. Although, that is assuming your taxi driver takes you to your preferred destination and not a tourist trap of a gem salesman or tailor who’ll use tiresome (but nevertheless impressive) sales tactics to get you to buy their wares! Luckily this time I wasn’t duped, but just a word of warning for those first-timers in the city.
The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is a famous attraction and I’d highly recommend paying this golden, relaxed, 46-metre-long fella a visit. Referred to cheerfully by one local as Big Sleepy, the Buddha is meant to be on his tranquil way to the last stage of Nirvana and is a monument that Bangkok is rightfully proud of - a must-see for all tourists.
Back at the hotel, I drop in at the pool. Like the Sky Bar, it soars above the city in one of the upper floors. The gym too, offers great city vistas for early risers. Astonishingly, two outdoor tennis courts are to be found on the same floor as the outdoor pool. Why swim, work out and play tennis on the ground when you can do so in the air? The pool provided a perfect vantage point to watch another distant storm electrify the city skyline, astride a dark red sunset, shot with black clouds.
Wooed by the dramatic, tropical thunderstorms, I was loathe to move from my deckchair - however it seemed given the altitude of the building, I could continue to watch the lightshow from Uno Mas, the tapas restaurant a few floors up.
As a foreigner in Thailand, the main urge would be to taste the exotic, and stick only to Thai food! After all, as cuisines go, it is some of the finest in the world. Well, if you venture off the Thai cuisine for one night, make it here at Uno Mas, the Spanish restaurant at Centara Grand at CentralWorld. Having eaten my fair share of tapas in my time, this ranks very highly.
The ‘tapas tour’ is modern and sophisticated, offering to ‘take you on a journey back to the old country’. The trademark Centara Grand 360-degree views are out in force, with the lightning grazing the night sky. Inside, the venue is moodily lit, with a live flamenco player bringing the romantic energy and ambiance to boiling point. Everything you could want from a tapas joint is on the menu, from croquetas de jamon and chorizo to Ajo Blanco and octopus. In short, all of the dishes I tried were ingenious and exquisite. It was quite disarming, in the midst of this Spanish deliciousness and ambience, to glance outside to see the sign boards and telecoms towers pulse and flash at you, more like a scene from Bladerunner than a visit to the old country. The contrast of this was entirely pleasurable. I would urge any discerning foodie to check this place out as a destination in itself.
The Centara Grand at CentralWorld is a calm sanctuary offering a touch of decadence in a chaotic, sprawling city. Somehow it manages to pull off the feeling of self-indulgence without being too elitist, and truly offers something for everyone. With incredible panoramic views from all aspects of the hotel, this is one way to spend an evening in Bangkok - seeing the sights from incredible heights, with a wealth of activity on offer.
Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld is in the very heart of Bangkok’s shopping and business district, with easy access by road and via the BTS Skytrain.
This five-star hotel, the flagship of Centara Hotels & Resorts, is therefore ideal for those shopping, sightseeing, or on business.
Find out more on the official website.