Review: Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok
Kimpton is rebranding itself as a luxury, locally minded lifestyle hotel, and their first property in Southeast Asia is an open house in the urban jungle. By Jeninne Lee-St. John
Jan 18, 2021
MOST OF US GO TO THE GYM TO GET SEXY. Few of us go to the gym – especially not a hotel gym – because it’s sexy. But try telling that to Patrick Both, general manager of the Kimpton Maa-Lai, who has seductively filled a void in the market I didn’t even realize existed until I saw the hot-rod red workout playground he personally designed in his new hotel in the center of Bangkok. It’s a kaleidescopic collection of exercise tires, battle ropes, blocks and balance balls sprinkled among the top-of-the-line equipment, where the windows spill energizing natural light and the walls look built for climbing (but aren’t, alas).
Considering the gym is Patrick’s baby, I thought I should road-test it with him, in a personal training session together one morning. I made him sleep in an hour later than usual to meet me at the lazy-bones-late time of 7 a.m. Khun Zea, the hotel’s resident professional female bodybuilder (what, yours doesn’t have one?) had a circuit plotted out that was so thorough it had the unlikely effect of making both of us – opposites in body sizes and regular exercise regimens – growl at her.
But I loved all the toys, and could totally see how this is a gym built to entice local membership, not just impress hotel guests. In all areas, the Kimpton, which opened in October as the brand’s new flagship and first in Southeast Asia, takes its positioning in the heart of the Bangkok to a deeper level, by cultivating relationships with Thai artists and artisans – such as the collective Artslonga, the sculptor Dong Pongsatat and Rosniyom design house, among others – to fill the building with a local current that feels as modern as the stunning, surprisingly comfortable furniture, all of which I Goldilocks tested and concluded I’d happily transplant directly from my Junior suite to my home. Er, if you’re missing a wingback chair, Patrick, it wasn’t me. Swear.
In fact, I left it by the window in the southwestern corner of my bedroom on purpose for the next occupant to curl up and admire the view downwards of the blingtastic titanium-lip pool of the Sindhorn Kempinski hotel next door. (Both are part of the new Sindhorn complex that includes an F&B promenade with hot tapas spot Vaso and cocktails-and-jazz den Crimson Room.) Now’s actually a good time to wax admiring about all the views from my Junior suite, since they also took in the treetops of Lumphini Park and the skyscrapers beyond, and my sitting room faced over the verdant expanse of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, in which, one evening of my stay I could squint and actually make out a rugby match a friend of mine was playing in. (His team won, by the way.) With a chunk of the U.S. Embassy in between, this vista is unlikely to be erased.
It’s practically the same sweeping perspective you get in Maa-Lai Lounge, a vast series of spaces with contemporary furniture on the 30th floor that is great for a party but equally appealing for working from “home.” The whole hotel, in truth, is built for ease of use, to call your own. With its open vibe, comfort food all day, and hangover-cure-dominated drinks menu, Craft, on the ground floor, has become central Bangkok’s living room, especially as it opens out onto grassy patios on two sides.
From avo toast and spanish omelettes to chicken philly cheesesteaks and lobster taquitos, Craft is where you want to chill with your laptop petting your pup, or, maybe someone else’s pup, or even cat (once you see a pair in matching translucent rollerball suitcases, you wonder how people ever transported Fluffy and Tiger any other way). The pet-friendliness of this hotel goes beyond and above, literally: on up to two different guest floors, one of which is dedicated to doggos and the other to friends of the feline persuasion.
Next to Craft is Ms. Jigger, a modern-Italian restaurant taking inspiration from a globetrotting, heart-breaking, smooth, sophisticated and elusive beauty. Or so the actor who performed a theater-of-the-absurd-and-in-the-round one-man-show on opening night told us. Whatever; I was busy chowing on the best truffle white pizza in Bangkok and the herb-crusted lamb chops served to me by the GM himself. (Patrick of all trades, he is.) What really displays girl power in this eatery is the all-female bartending team, led by Lorianne Spach. Get the Venice for One off her refreshing spritz menu.
While we’re on the subject of drinks, let’s talk about how the Kimpton managed to open the hottest new bar in Bangkok during a pandemic. From late afternoon til after midnight, it’s tough to get a table at the loft-like, partly open-air, tropico-pop rooftop Bar.Yard. You could chalk it up to the accessible vibe, the Instagrammable setting or the conveniently central location that therefore offers unique skyline views. But, between us, it’s just as likely the alcohol-bomb original drinks that come coded on the cocktail menu by potency. Two glasses of the four-barrel (meaning, highest-level ABV), pina colada-on-steroids Painkiller will tame a 100-kilogram man. I’ve seen it.
The sunny, all-day dining floor, Stock.Room, is set up like a bustling foodhall and bakes pastries your office staff will beg you to go back and procure more of. I suggest taking your breakfast there in your vibrant, breezy, kimono-esque bathrobe, designed in a partnership between Bangkok fashion house Tube Gallery and Siem Reap-based Belgian painter Christian Develter. Or pad down to the very relaxing amaranth spa by HARNN and swap it out for one of their bubblegum pink, indigo and silver asymmetrical robes conceived by Tube and handmade in northern Thailand. The Biologique Recherche anti-pollution facial is just the ticket for city-living.
Perhaps you prefer a more interactive style of relaxation? Next to the crimson gym, the yoga/meditation room is clad in more subtle violet hues, all the better to match my favorite Lululemons. One afternoon, my teacher, Lek, whispered me through a hypnotic breathing exercise, then submitted me to a slow-going but hard-hitting core and balance session, and finally climbed all over me to stretch out my joints, plastering me in a pretzel to the purple mat. It left me counterintuitively energized and ready to take on the town that night, all of which oh-so-happily was right at my doorstep.
kimptonmaalaibangkok.com; doubles from Bt6,000. The special Kimpton Moments staycation package available for stays February 1 through April 30, 2021: bookings for Sunday through Thursday nights receive early check-in and late checkout and Bt1,000 food-and-beverage credit, while bookings Friday and Saturday nights include 40-hour flexi check-in, room upgrade, breakfast both mornings if you check-in before 9 a.m., and Bt500 food-and-beverage credit; priced from Bt5,500 per room per night.
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