Bangkok can divide opinion. As much as I love the city, Iâ€™m well aware that not everybody shares the same enthusiasm for the Thai capital. The city can be overwhelming and too frenetic, especially for first-time visitors. Choosing where to stay in Bangkok can have a big impact on your enjoyment of the city. And even for regular visitors to Bangkok, sometimes staying in a different area to where you normally do can open up your eyes to more of what the City of Angels has to offer. On my visit to Bangkok earlier this month I stayed at Somerset Park Suanplu which proved to be an excellent base to explore the vibrant local neighbourhood and beyond.
Soaking up the local atmosphere in Suan Plu
Suan Plu (also written as Suanplu or Suan Phlu) in Sathorn district is one of those old neighbourhoods in Bangkok that provide a genuine local feel, but are still within easy reach of the cityâ€™s major tourist attractions. South Sathorn Road is a busy cosmopolitan area with plenty of high-rise offices, but walking along Suan Plu you enter a quieter residential area with its own distinct character. Tree-lined sois extend off Suan Plu Road and are home to some delightful old buildings including M R Kukritâ€™s Heritage Home on Soi Phra Phinit. With the thriving local market at Talad Suan Plu, an eclectic choice of eateries, classy bars and some great street food all around, staying in Suan Plu proved to be a wonderful choice.
The name ‘Suan Plu’ is derived from the betel plantations that existed here during the reign of King Rama V. Betel nuts and leaves from the areca palm have traditionally been used in parts of Asia as a stimulant. Although the chewing of betel nuts is less common in Thailand today, the habit still retains its popularity amongst the older generation in some rural areas, especially in the north-east of the country.
Rooms at Somerset Park Suanplu
Somerset Park Suanplu isnâ€™t a typical hotel. Being a serviced residence means guests can enjoy the advantages of a hotel combined with the benefits of home living. Rooms at Somerset Park Suanplu are spacious and well-equipped making them perfect for an extended stay. The rooms are more akin to an apartment with washing and cooking facilities included in each room. In total, there are 235 rooms at Somerset Park Suanplu ranging from 1-bedroom to 3-bedroom units making the hotel suitable for families as well as couples or single travellers. My recent stay was in an extra-spacious 1-bedroom residence with a separate living area.
- walk-in closet
- complimentary wi-fi (excellent during my stay)
- fully equipped kitchen with cooker and hob
- extractor fan
- electric kettle
- glassware, crockery, cutlery and utensils
- washing machine
- cable TV
- CD/DVD player
- iron and ironing board
Facilities and services
Although Somerset Park Suanplu is a serviced residence, all of the facilities you would expect to see at a high-standard hotel are there including a swimming pool, gym and complimentary wi-fi. There are also a few extra facilities such as a childrenâ€™s playroom, a spa, tennis court and library that made for a pleasant surprise and shows how much thought has gone into looking after guests of all ages.
From check-in to check-out, the staff were courteous and professional and the personal recommendations from them for where to eat in the area proved to be fantastic. A special mention too for the housekeeping team who were always bubbly and friendly when I saw them. Rightly or wrongly, I always take this as a good sign because itâ€™s not the easiest of jobs and if they are enthusiastic itâ€™s usually a sign of a well-run hotel.
Food and drink
My stay included a buffet breakfast with a good selection of dishes including Thai favourites such as jok (rice porridge) and Western standards such as bacon, sausages and eggs in addition to omelettes, pastries, fruit, coffee and juices. A satisfying breakfast set me up for the day, but with so many great choices of local restaurants and street food all around Suan Plu and Sathorn, I have to admit that was the only time I ate at the hotel.
Food lovers staying at Somerset Park Suanplu are spoilt for choice. For street food try any of the vendors along Suan Plu Road or at the market, Talad Suan Plu. A short walk across the bridge over Sathorn Road brings you to Convent Road which is another great location for street food. For more upmarket Thai food check out Baan Khanitha on the corner of Suanplu Road and South Sathorn Road. Despite this abundance of food choices there was one particular location that stood out. Suan Plu Soi 8 had been recommended by staff at Somerset Park and was a delightful discovery. The small lane is lined with a fabulous range of quality restaurants. Whether you are looking for traditional or contemporary Thai food, French cuisine or Italian, Suan Plu Soi 8 has got you covered with stand-out venues including Le Isaan, Uncle John and Nando Kitchen.
For upscale cocktails or laid-back beers, there is a surprisingly good range of bars along Suan Plu Road with Smalls and Junker Bar also having the benefit of live music on certain evenings. And for one of the most relaxed rooftop bars in Bangkok, Cloud 47 is a short distance away with the more exclusive Vertigo and Moon Bar also close at hand.
Location and transport
Somerset Park Suanplu is located on Suan Plu Road, just off South Sathorn Road, Bangkok.
The two nearest MRT metro stations are Lumphini and Silom (approximately 15-minute walk). Nearest BTS skytrain stations are Chong Nonsi (approximately 10-minute walk) and Sala Daeng (approximately 12-minute walk).
Somerset Park Suanplu provides a complimentary mini-van transfer service to BTS Chong Nonsi and Sathorn Road. The hotel also offers a frequent tuk-tuk service to Silom shopping complex to connect with BTS Sala Daeng.
The front desk can arrange a taxi for you, but if youâ€™re comfortable enough finding your way around Bangkok youâ€™ll find it easy enough to flag a taxi-meter down outside. The hotel can also arrange airport transfers and a tour desk counter in the lobby area provides more options for sightseeing in Bangkok. If youâ€™re used to Bangkok and donâ€™t mind using motorbike taxis, they are available at the entrance to Suan Plu Road with fares to BTS/MRT stations 20/30 Baht.
Explore the Suan Plu neighbourhood
Itâ€™s just a short walk from Somerset Park along Soi Phra Phinit to the delightful M R Kukrit’s Heritage Home. On the opposite side of Sathorn Road take a look at Christ Church and walk along Convent Road for street food treats. Somerset Park provides their own excellent in-house Heavenly Spa experience, but for a massage with a difference, Perception Blind Massage is easy to reach from the hotel and worth a visit.
If youâ€™re familiar with Bangkok already, Somerset Park Suanplu is an excellent option. Staying here you are away from the hustle of popular locations like Sukhumvit Road, but still close enough to BTS and MRT stations to make getting around a breeze. The comfort and facilities provided by the serviced residences make Somerset Park suitable for an extended stay, but they also provide great value for a short break. And even if you haven’t visited Bangkok before, the location combined with facilities at the hotel offer a gentle and relaxing introduction to the city.
Somerset Park Suanplu isnâ€™t somewhere I would normally have looked at because I usually prefer smaller hotels when I stay in Bangkok. But it opened my eyes to what is available and despite the large number of rooms the service was excellent. I loved the location in a non-touristy area of Bangkok, but still within easy reach of the metro and skytrain. This made it easy to reach many of the main tourist attractions in the city. Highly recommended and Iâ€™d happily stay here again with my family.
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I was guest of The Ascott Limited for my 3-night stay at Somerset Park Suanplu. The Ascott Limited operate hotels and serviced residences in a number of cities in Asia including Bangkok and Pattaya. As always, views expressed here are my own.