Minutes after landing in Bangkok the cloying humidity washes over me. Fortunately Thais have an uncanny ability to detect TEP (Tourists’ Excessive Perspiration) and my pre-booked taxi driver greets me with a cold wet-wipe and cranks up the AC to the point where I don’t feel quite so ridiculous wearing winter boots designed for a different hemisphere.
Rocking up in the Financial District, there’s not a single financier in sight. Instead I spy Hotel Muse, standing out among neighbouring high-rises because it’s draped in an intriguing warm light. I’m ushered through the inviting lobby, seated in a leather chair and promptly served an assortment of candy-coloured drinks. ‘Are they all for me?’ I exclaim. The concierge laughs sweetly and tells me that they are, as I notice how immaculately manicured she is and make a mental note to do something about my nails. Sipping on fragrant lychee juice and drinking in the luxurious furnishings, I feel like I’ve accidentally stepped on to the set of The Great Gatsby. I’m half expecting Leonardo DiCaprio to appear at any moment. It’s as if I’ve been transported to the Golden Age of decadence when guests can drink champagne to save water (a playful hotel promotion) and indulge in lavish feasts at one of the many dining venues within this old-worldly wonderland. With check-in complete, I glide up in the elevator to the 16th floor to explore my room – perhaps Leonardo is waiting for me there?
Much to Mr Smith’s relief – who is thousands of miles away – no Hollywood heartthrobs are to be found in my Dowadueng Corner Deluxe room, but fortunately the essentials for pure self-indulgence are. The sleek black marble bathroom captures my attention and I audibly gasp at the size of the gleaming claw-foot bath, although resist the temptation to hop straight in. I open a mahogany cabinet which to my surprise reveals the minibar, complete with proud little bottles of Belvedere vodka, Chivas Regal Scotch whisky and Beefeater gin. I swear I hear a voice saying, ‘Drink me!’
Suitably rebellious, given it’s well past midnight at home, I sashay out to the elevator and press the button marked ‘Speakeasy Rooftop Bar’. Getting in at night after a long-haul flight I should feel sleepy, but it just wouldn’t be right when I know things are only just kicking into gear on level 25. There’s a well-groomed medley of pretty young things in glittery dresses, international travellers who look like they might dabble in oil and businessmen with stiff drinks enjoying the magical view. The city skyline is alive with a carnival-like energy blending splashes of neon blue, embers of fiery orange and a bright purple haze that seduce the eye and beckon pleasure-seekers out to play. A towering billboard in the distance, emblazoned with the word Ideopolis, adds to the futuristic urban vibe.
My gin-spiked cocktail arrives along with a complimentary serving of edamame. I’m peckish so I order some tightly rolled tuna maki but am a dash disappointed that my first meal in Thailand is Japanese. It hits the spot though and as I feel myself slipping into a food coma, I retreat downstairs to my king-size bed and slowly sink into soft pillowy bliss.
Waking up I quickly pull back the crushed velvet drapes of my corner window to observe daily life below. There’s an incongruous mix of smooth corporate suits, shiny new Toyotas, buzzing tuk-tuks and ladies spruiking grilled meats. Imagining the wafting aroma of sweet, sticky pork skewers makes my tummy growl, so I venture to Su Tha Ros, the hotel’s Thai restaurant, where an international buffet breakfast awaits. I have always had issues with Western-style breakfasts in Asia; give me Vietnamese soup over bland Weetabix any day. So imagine my delight when slippery pad-see yew, fluffy fried rice and delicate chicken congee are some of the treats available to devour. I pile up my plate and greedily order two fried eggs from the cook-to-order chefs. I’m on holiday, after all, and besides I’ve booked a morning bike tour of Bangkok, so it may well be my last meal…
Whizzing around Bangkok’s backstreets on a bicycle isn’t for the faint of heart, especially on a day so hot even the locals are fanning themselves. Yet it’s a wonderful way to explore the city and I’m happy to be pedalling around gritty laneways knowing that I’m returning to an opulent oasis complete with ice-cold cocktails. Back at the Muse I slip into my bikini and recline in a shaded deckchair by the sparkling pool. A heavenly waiter from the Wet Bar produces a ginger and kaffir lime concoction along with the hotel’s signature club sandwich. For a moment I wonder if the sandwich is a bit dry, but then I take a sip of my summer-in-a-glass drink, plunge into the crystal-blue water and remember that just a day ago I was at home stoking my fireplace.
My date for the night is a Sydney friend who now resides in Bangkok, and we’ve planned to meet at Medici, Muse’s flagship restaurant which promises authentic Italian cuisine in a seductive space. Admittedly, I’m sceptical, but Ms Smith assures me that the Italian food in Bangkok is excellent. We descend a spiral staircase and immediately drool over the whole leg of cured pork that sits theatrically at the chef’s pass ready to be carved to order. We do as any good Roman would and promptly order a vast amount of antipasti, primo, secondi and dolce! Handmade ravioli stuffed with braised wild boar follows slivers of mouth-melting shaved prosciutto. Our meal is punctuated by short bursts of dramatic live opera that makes us simultaneously cringe and laugh, but results in an entertaining evening that I’m certain could not be experienced anywhere else in Asia. After a few mouthfuls of oozy chocolate pudding, it’s time for a nightcap and we head up to the rooftop bar, the jewel in the hotel’s crown.
Looking out over the dazzling lights with a French martini in hand and a belly full of Italian delights, you really could be anywhere in the world. A welcome change to the Asian boutique hotel scene, Muse embraces hedonism in a playful, tasteful way and has left me feeling inspired, albeit still rather sweaty.