ADVOCATING AUTHENTICITY

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Published on March 06, 2019 with No Comments

When blending authenticity and localisation becomes a winning strategy.

Words & Images ANIS RAMLI

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It used to be raw and in-your-face. Sleazy, but seductive. The place for an introduction to Thailand. But a recent gentrification has left little of the old Nana, one among many splintered neighbourhoods of Sukhumvit. The neon lit bars are cleaner; some have been replaced by hipster cafes. The Muslim Arab quarter remains, harking back to the days when Nana was an international marketplace. Many of the good-value budget beds have gone. So too are the sidewalk vendors that set up stall nightly selling everything from tacky Thai souvenirs to local snacks and fruits.

These days, rising from the paved walkway, a new character emerges – and a host of big hotel names. It is against this backdrop that Hyatt Regency debuted its fourth Hyatt branded property in Bangkok. And in an era that continues to dispense with the “big box hotel” image of the past, this new Hyatt Regency certainly has a headstart in the cool department.

It begins with the gasp-inducing story of how the original seven-storey building acquired by the property was literally cut to create a concave exterior. The effect gave the building striking “feminine curves” and an emboldened geometry that seem to fit with the gentrified Nana. Dramatic architecture aside, this is just the beginning of many other surprises for those expecting more of the same Hyatt experience.

Inside, the living-room inspired lobby continues the trend of turning space to multi-function. Broken up into three different zones, it features a minimalist design check-in counter, two seating areas and a bar/café. Irresistible curved back chairs spot colourful throw cushions amid low-lying tables and wooden cabinets. Bangkok’s leading interior design firm, PIA, further evoke the warmth of a local Thai home through curating artefacts, books and art pieces that further delivered a taste of Thai culture. Wooden panels with traditional Thai detailing pay homage to the Thai people’s skilled artistry in carving and basketry. Great wifi and plenty of outlets further turn this area into a terrific place to network and socialise. Plus, an open, co-working space extends just beyond the lobby; its teak table carved out of a single block of wood a striking feature.

With this being Hyatt, rooms are tasteful and polished, with a bathtub in every room category. And, chasing after technology and sustainable strategies, the hotel also brings an edgier, 21st century vibe to the rooms. Automation is integrated to deliver a superior guest experience with presence-detection sensors that make key card slots unnecessary. Power shuts down when the room is unoccupied, but sets the lights and air condition back to guests’ original setting once they return to the room. An extensive pillow menu, including buckwheat, corrective and anti-snore, ensures everyone gets a good slumber.

The desire to maintain Nana’s footprint and the local legacy was clearly evident at the Market Café, the hotel’s restaurant. Enhancing the dining experience, and themselves conversation starters, are handmade local items decorating the shelves. With tiffin carriers, traditional coconut graters styled as wooden rabbits, copper pots and vases, the team at PIA further accentuated the interiors with warm wood and furniture to give the restaurant a residential feel. Yet, it will be Frederik Farina’s, Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage, team of culinary artists that will keep visitors and locals coming back in droves.

With a buy-in from General Manager Sammy Carolus who champions authenticity and homegrown talents, the hotel sourced not only restaurant chefs, but talents from popular food stalls. While the hotel provides training on hygiene, the street vendor cooks brought their A-game to the scene, transporting diners right into the heart of Thailand’s culinary culture. So forget about watered down versions of crab curries and river prawn tom yums. There is no scaling back on the spiciness, which is wonderful for guests to experience and celebrate Thailand’s own storied culinary legacy. The roasted eggplant salad (yum makeua yao), for example, was simple in its presentation but pops with little bursts of flavour: spicy, sour, salty and sweet. The squid with salted egg (pla meuk phad kai kem) was a pleasant surprise. Expecting a Chinese-inspired dish, this came with copius amount of squid swimming in a delicious salted egg gravy made thick with condensed milk whose subtle sweetness rounded up the flavour. The restaurant caters to all dietary requirements to ensure no guests miss out on this dining experience.

In embedding authenticity into the DNA of Hyatt Regency Bangkok, plans are underway to pay homage to the beautiful, historic Nana with a soon-to-open public gallery. It traces the area’s namesake, Haji Ahmad Ibrahim Nana, and his family who spawned a real estate empire and was instrumental in the development of the area. In future, guests can also look forward to an urban farmers market that brings together urban farmers to sell their produce in front of the hotel. Guests’ purchase from the market can be brought to the hotel kitchen for the team to cook.

Hyatt Regency Bangkok certainly has gone to great lengths to personalise and individualise the corporate brand by injecting warmth and authenticity at every opportunity. As downtown Sukhumvit gets denser, this hotel manages to bring back not just personal space, but a humble abode atmosphere anchored by the re-imagination of what today’s hotel should be.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Bangkok 6x weekly. Discover things to do in Bangkok in www.muhibah.com.bn

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