In Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel ‘You Only Live Twice’ James Bond stayed at the Tokyo Okura and it is currently undertaking major refurbishment work ready for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
I started by meeting Ms Vipasiri Napawongdee (Director of Marketing Communications) at the reception on the 24th floor in the vast double height lobby. When I visited Tokyo I stayed at the Park Hyatt hotel, because ‘Lost in Translation’ was filmed there, and went for a ‘tea ceremony’ at the iconic Imperial Hotel. There was none of the bowing I expected at the Bangkok Okura Prestige but Vipasiri was a fun, relaxed and friendly guide. She explained that the hotel is built on some of the most expensive real estate in Bangkok and the design of the Park Ventures Ecoplex building it is part of has won US ‘green’/ecology accreditation (with triple-glazed tinted windows to insulate against noise and heat etc). The hotel had direct access to the Bangkok Skytrain.
She gave me a teddy bear as soon as we met. With her help, and in honour of the family that own the hotel group, he was named ‘Mr Okura’. She showed me the ‘Up & Above’ all day dining restaurant, with outside terrace, lobby bar and the ‘Yamazato’, a haute cuisine (‘Kaiseki Ryori’) Japanese restaurant with staff in elegant kimonos.
Then she took me up to the 25th floor to see ‘Elements’ restaurant with a carbon lined wall (intend to absorb the food smells) and another outside terrace. This restaurant serves European food with a Japanese twist. The saltwater infinity pool is on that floor too and is another dark Thai pool. Vipasiri explained saltwater was better for your skin than chlorine, I added that it made your damp swimwear smell worse.
We then viewed two suites (one Deluxe & one Prestige), both with stunning views of the dynamic Bangkok skyline, with her explaining the various Japanese touches (eg huge baths, origami left on the beds, Japanese nightwear, Japanese tea sets etc). 40% of their guests are Japanese and almost all guests are visiting Bangkok on business. A full Japanese breakfast is offered, when breakfast is included, and they have chefs from the Okura in Tokyo.
Before leaving me Vipasiri explained the Ginkgo leaf pattern on the bedsheets. She said three of which make up the Okura logo, symbolising best accommodation, best cuisine and best service.
Then it was time for my facial. The Okura Spa is small and understated uber luxury would describe its facilities. I was welcomed with a chilled herbal drink made from Blue Butterfly Pea flowers and a cold towel.
The treatment itself used Swiss Valmont products and involved finger flutters I have not experienced before. I had selected the 60 minute ‘Energizing Ritual’ facial that was meant to ”ease fatigue” and leave my skin feeling “rested, like a good night’s sleep”. I loved everything done to my face but the arm and chest massage, while the masks were working, applied too much pressure for me at times.
After the treatment I was given a hot soothing Chamomile tea sweetened with honey. I felt sublimely relaxed.
Lunch in Yamazato
After the spa treatment I did not want to leave the hotel and the lunch deals in ‘Yamazato’ were too good to pass by. I was given a window seat, with stunning views over downtown Bangkok, in a light and airy restaurant full of French diners. The, entirely female, staff spoke good English and were very friendly.
When I lived in Qatar I adored the Four Seasons Doha’s Unagi sushi and so could not resist the grilled eel on rice. It was a much larger rice bowl than I expected with mushrooms etc and the flavour of the grilled eel was exactly what I hoped for.
Lunch include miso soup, seaweed salad, a dressed salad etc and was followed by fresh fruit. It was more food than I needed at lunchtime and I drunk excellent Black Earl Grey tea with it all.
5 out of 5 ‘teddies’ - everything you would expect from the best of Japanese hotels (eg attention to detail, a rich service culture, refined taste, tradition, divine food etc) but combined with friendly and relaxed staff. Another 5 star hotel in Bangkok that more people should consider picking as their leisure hotel.