King Power Mahanakhon a Soaring Bangkok Experience
Going to Bangkok for a weekend for me usually involves a drink on one rooftop bar or another; the views are just so spectacular…and that breeze.
So imagine how thrilled I was when I found myself on the rooftop that looks down upon all other rooftops?
I must have missed out on all the news and PR when King Power Mahanakhon opened late last year, because when they invited Citylife down to Bangkok for a media trip, I was so busy I didn’t have time to Google where I was going and honestly had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even know that it was the tallest building in Thailand, which actually turned out to have made the discovery and entire experience so much more fun (than yours will be, I hear you read my implication…I do get the irony!)
Yes, the building is most impressive with its dramatic Tetris effect and standing at its base looking skyward gives an almost instant crick in the neck as one gaze scans all 310 metres, seeking the tip lurking in the clouds.
Tickets are about a thousand baht a pop, which I did initially wince at, until I found myself spending nearly half a day there without being in the slightest bit bored or cynical.
Obviously slickly designed and with all sorts of ways to extract more money from the visitor, this is a sophisticated tourism attraction which aims to unabashedly charge for what it knows is value for experience.
You start off in the lobby where you can get some terra firma thrills with the Mahanakhon SkyRides, a ParadropVR which had my stomach plummet about a dozen times as I uselessly steered my paraglider into one Bangkok building after another, finally coming to the realisation at the end of the experience that I should never even think about flying a plane. Ever.
You then get herded to a lift, with all sorts of stimulating visuals, such as a mini Bangkok in 3D descending like stalactites from the ceiling of the corridor, before being ushered into the lift – lined with animated video-screens which keeps one entertained for the speedy 50 seconds ride up to the 74th floor.
This 360 degree observation hall which wraps around the entire floor feels like a sophisticated art exhibition, Bangkok, the art show featured. You can sit in beanbags and simply stare at the metropolis below, which doesn’t seem to end in any direction, sprawling out like an urban kudzu towards the horizon. There are all sorts of toys to play with such as the interactive screens where you can learn the history of locations you are gazing at, and my favourite, an app you can download for free which allows you to point your phone at any direction and information about that building, or that park, or that river or district will pop up for you to read in multiple languages. There are binoculars which you can use to look down onto rooftops, we were far too high up to look into windows, and a whimsical post box – the highest in Thailand, and functioning, it proudly announces!
It is all quite overwhelming, and taking up the entire floor, the viewing halls are spacious and calm, with artists sketching vistas and people simply sitting and staring, for what could be hours. There is almost a hushed reverence to the experience, hence the art gallery reference.
Reluctantly I decided to leave and walked up the remaining floors to the top, the 78th floor, which offered a whole new vibe. It was almost a fiesta of celebration of our communal situation. The sun was setting over the horizon, the mesmerising Chao Phraya River gleaming golden as it threaded its way through the labyrinth of the city, there was a lady, big hair blowing with the breeze, singing some bluesy tunes, her hips swaying with her band, lounge-style sofas filled with selfie-taking tourists were dotted about, people were leaning over the glassed-edge of the building pointing to various sights and waiters were busy toing and froing from the bar serving drinks. A set of steps, decked out in comfy cushions and obliging side tables for drinks, allowed us to sit, sip, and gaze at Bangkok as she became shrouded in twilight, electric lights slowly flickering on, changing the landscape below into something even more magical. The more nutty media members braved the SkyWalk, but I’ve done it in Dubai and Shanghai and have no intention of risking my weight on any more glass – however thick.
Next time I go to Bangkok I plan on spending the entire evening here, as it – and its bar – stays open until midnight, and I can’t think of a better place to take in the city.
We were then invited down to the Mahanakhon Bangkok Skybar on the 76th and 77th floor, an exotic and rather nostalgically decorated restaurant all decked out in suede and wood, glass and gleaming brass. There were sophisticated and elegant leather seats for groups, romantic candle lit tables for tete a tetting, a sexy small lounge balcony for late night drinks and a charming conservatory area with lush tropical ferns for a more lively setting.
The food here was serious, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the views, which is a tall ask considering the views. Chef Joshua Cameron, previously of Eleven Madison Park in New York, brought flair and innovation to some more traditional dishes and we enjoyed a spicy grilled duck salad (yes, a Northern larb) which was served with rice chips and high quality duck meat, a delicious duo of Normandy oysters with my favourite swimming in a unique pickled mulberry sauce, and a very dramatic looking stuffed whole free range chicken with black garlic, which was delivered and promptly revealed in a cloud of aromatic smoke by the chef himself.
Sadly the Orient Express Mahanakhon Bangkok Hotel wasn’t opened yet, the world’s first Orient Express Hotel which will span 18 floors of the building, so we had to say a fond farewell as we headed back to our hotel, the Pullman King Power Bangkok, which, to be fair, was far from shabby.
I did have to giggle at how we were made to walk the last few floors after being spilled out of the lift through their duty free area, but frankly was rather charmed by many of the items selected to feature. Aside from the usual duty free stuff there were rather cool Mahanakhon-branded items which I can see getting snapped up by many visitors.
Being on a media trip, I will have to come clean that we didn’t spend a penny, but personally, I can confidently say that it would have been money well paid had I done so. The entire experience was excellent, seamless, professional and a sheer pleasure.
Next time you are in Bangkok and looking for a new experience, check it out: www.kingpowermahanakhon.co.th.