On a warm, balmy night in Bangkok near the end of 2011, the city was under siege from the relentless floodwaters that were descending on the city from the highlands. The world’s media was focusing on the negatives and the tourists were listening and staying at home. Thomas Jones decided to buck the trend and visited the Sukothai Hotel in a show of support.
Judging from the headlines Bangkok was off limits! Apparently the international airport was under water, African black mambas had escaped, disease was rife and farm-fresh crocodiles were roaming the streets eating cats, dogs and threatening infants. All great headlines, but apart from a very small number of crocs in the waters, none of it was true. While the outlying areas of the city were underwater and suffering badly, the centre of Bangkok and the airport were business as usual and the only signs of panic were the thousands of sandbags piled high in the entrance ways of many of the city’s high rises.
My visit to the city had brought me to the Sukothai Hotel, the grand dame of Bangkok hotels and fortunately located well above the waterline. They weren’t taking any chances though, and as fortune would have it, my timing couldn’t have been more perfect, even ironic, for it was the night of the loi krathong celebrations, a night that falls on the full moon of the 12th lunar month in honour of the water spirits that inhabit the rivers and waterways of the Kingdom.
Soon after I arrived I was invited down to the lobby to take part in a ceremony and release a floating (loi) raft (krathong) onto the hotel reflecting pool and make a silent appeal to the gods to calm their ire. Now, more than ever, they were in dire need of some appeasement and all over Thailand, candle-powered lanterns were filling the sky and floating offerings made out of banana leaves and small parcels of food, flowers, candles and incense were being released onto the water along with sincere and hopeful wishes and prayers.
If the gods hadn’t listened and the floods hadn’t subsided, The Sukothai would have been a great place to be holed up. You can tell that the hotel has been around for a while by the very fact that although it stands only a few stories tall all its neighbours are towering skyscrapers that never had the luxury of owning so much land to spread out upon and build something spectacular to match the hotel’s grandeur.
“If the gods hadn’t listened and the floods hadn’t subsided, The Sukothai would have been a great place to hole up. ”
Opened in 1991, it takes its name from the capital of Thailand’s ancient Sukhothai Kingdom whose beautiful architecture and style and commercial success were known throughout Southeast Asia as a virtual Babylon of the East. The palaces of Sukhothai maintained an incomparable design and distinct style with symmetrical colonnades, reflection pools, open-air arcades,combined with the best natural materials – bronze, teakwood and marble – together with fine fabrics and mirrors. Today’s modern day namesake lives up to the promise of the traditions, design, decor and royal living that the name suggests with 210 rooms, three restaurants and a spa on six glorious acres of land filled with serenity, water ponds and lush mature gardens.
Later that night, after an evening out in the city with friends watching fireworks and floating lanterns fill the sky from the rooftop of one of Bangkok’s towering sky bars, we found ourselves down on the river’s edge releasing some more loi krathong offerings into the swift flowing waters of the swollen Chao Praya River. Here we could see the power behind the devastation that had enveloped the country. Taking the utmost care not to fall in we released our tithes into the water and made our silent prayers. Seeing the awesome natural power of the water up close, this time it felt real, as if these gods were certainly in need of some appeasing. For us to continue to enjoy the luxury and rich traditions of places like The Sukothai Hotel well into the future, it was the least we could do.
The Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel
13/3 S Sathorn Rd,
+66 2344 8888