Unassuming, masculine and clubby, Ma Du Zi Hotel in Bangkok is a sublime mix of Chinese, Moorish and modern design and a suitably sexy place to sip cocktails in flattering low light. Part luxurious private home, part gentlemen’s club, its obsession with the finer aspects of life will appeal to gourmet travellers, city slickers and chic-retreat addicts alike.
Check-out 2pm, subject to availability (check-in and check-out is available from 6am to 8pm if arranged with the hotel in advance). Check-in, noon.
Double rooms from £71.79 (THB2,789), including tax at 17.7 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (THB500 for extra guests).
If a piece of art or an antique catches your eye in the hotel, feel free to ask if you can buy it ('borrowing' bathrobes and ashtrays is so last year!).
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, book/DVD library, gym, lounge. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD players, Bose sound system with MP3/ipod port, fax/printer, minibar (with free soft drinks), espresso machine, locally made Panpuri toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The fifth-floor Maduzi Suites have their own cosy reception area and a collection of Chinese art worthy of any gallery. If you’re seeking daylight, each of the six Corner Suites has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that let the sunshine flood in.
Relaxed sports gear for morning Tai Chi in Benjakiti Park; racy threads for bar-flitting after dark.
Part exclusive private home, part gentlemen’s club, this hotel is stylish, seductive and sophisticated. Ma Du Zi means ‘come and see’, but unless you’re a guest, it’s impossible to enter without prior arrangement.
Welcome, but this is more of an adult playground. A baby cot (free) can be added and there's a children’s menu. A single bed can be added to Maduzi Deluxe rooms, Maduzi Corner Suites and the Maduzi Suite for THB2,000 a night (THB1,500 for under-fives).
Hide away at one of the corner tables to maximise your mystique.
You may be in the tropics, but Ma Du Zi cuts an upscale dash, so keep it city chic.
The elegant Ma Du Zi Restaurant by Yuya, helmed by Japanese chef Yuya Okuda, has been wowing local diners with its original mix of French cuisine and oriental ingenuity. With dishes such as bouillabaisse with fresh seafood and miso and the locally loved foie gras terrine, the idea is to entertain and enchant, not just fill you up. It’s not so posh you can’t enjoy a simple burger, but the beef (Wagyu, naturally) is all the more tasty when served in a thick-cut slab with a zingy yuzu and pepper sauce. The truly dedicated can also tuck in to the chef's seasonal seven-course Omakase dinner. The window screens, with filigree patterns inspired by Granada’s ornate Alhambra palace, cast slinky shadows throughout.
You can’t miss the glorious white round bar; you’ll come across it as soon as you enter the hotel. Perch on a high red leather stool nursing a whisky sour, or retreat to the lobby’s Tea Room, where dark slate walls, tactile rugs and gorgeous butter-soft suede sofas envelop you in relaxed sophistication. There’s a well-honed list of wine and cocktails, including the signature Ma Du Zi Martini for Bond-style assignations, and the cherry on top of your flamboyant cocktail is that guests choose when to have happy hour. Coffee and tea also run on tap here throughout the day.
Dinner is served from 6.30pm–10.30pm; the bar stays open from 11am–2am, and is most packed around 8pm on Fridays.
9/1 (At the corner of Sukhumit Soi 16) Ratchadaphisek Road, Klongtoey,
Ma Du Zi is located at the corner of Ratchadaphisek Road and Soi Sukhumvit 16, opposite Banjakiti Park, in buzzy bar-packed Sukhumvit (the new part of the city), east of the central tourist sites.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (www.bangkokairportonline.com) is 30 kilometres east of Bangkok, handling domestic and international flights including Thai Airways.
It’s a five-minute walk to Asoke BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (metro) stations, which connect with the rest of the city. Given Bangkok's notorious traffic, the elevated Skytrain (www.bts.co.th; English-language version available) is often the quickest route from A to B. Hualamphong main train station is six kilometres away, serving Chiang Mai, Phuket and Surat Thani (near Koh Samui), and other locations to the north, east and south.
Driving in Bangkok is only for the seriously adventurous as it can be a white-knuckle ride. Ask the hotel to hire you a chauffeur or call you a metered taxi; or just grab a tuk-tuk on the street if you're heading somewhere close by.
The hotel is handy for Sirikit Convention Centre if you're mixing business with pleasure. The nearest helipad is 10-minutes drive away at the UBCII Building if you prefer to chopper your way around.
Worth getting out of bed for
Stretch out with a private lesson at the Ashtanga Yoga studio next door to the hotel (28/1 Sukhumvit Soi 16; +66 (0) 83 449 8002; www.ashtangayogabangkok.com). If retail therapy is more your bag, Emporium (Phrom Phong; www.emporiumthailand.com) is a one-stop shopping destination for international labels, top Thai designers such as Greyhound and Soda, and the third outlet of It’s Happened to be a Closet. This fabulous, den-like boutique is stuffed with girly fashion, jewellery, shoes and bags and even has its own nail spa and café. The centre’s posh food court and supermarket are also well-worth a visit.
For authentic spicy Thai food in a pretty garden setting, try Balee Laos (186-8 Sukhumvit Soi 16; +66 (0) 2663 1051). Bo.Lan is an elegant mod-Thai restaurant owned by a Thai-Australian couple who trained with chef David Thompson at his Michelin-starred London restaurant, Nahm. Find it at 42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong, Sukhumvit Soi 26 (+ 66 (0) 2260 2962-3; www.bolan.co.th).
Kuppa is a relaxed Aussie-Thai eatery and Bangkok’s top brunch spot (39 Sukhumvit Soi 16; +66 (0) 2663 0450).
If you’re after stunning city views and killer cocktails, as well as the longest dining table you’ll find in Bangkok, head to The Long Table. There’s even a pool on the terrace should you feel like a dip (25th Floor, 48 Column Building, Sukhumvit Soi 16; +66 (0) 2302 2557-9; www.longtablebangkok.com).
As Mr Smith flicks through a manga-style comic that explains how to use the amenities in the room, I absentmindedly wonder out loud: ‘Nuttaporn or Pimp?’ Mr Smith looks perplexed, but that could be because he still hasn’t worked out why the whirlpool bath, big enough to hold all of the passengers on Noah’s ark, is filled up not by a tap but by a gushing rain shower above it. ‘My Thai name,’ I persist. ‘Should it be Nuttaporn or Pimp?’ Admittedly we’d tittered when encountering a few Porns and Pimps on an earlier shopping trip, but they were all lovely lasses who didn’t seem to find their names amusing in the slightest.
It transpires that the suffix ‘porn’ is a popular one in the Land of Smiles – there’s Amporn, Pasaporn and Jatuporn, but none has as good a ring to it as Nuttaporn. With guidebooks advising you to learn the language and embrace the culture, I feel almost obligated to adopt a local name.
Since we arrived at Ma Du Zi, I’ve been trying to immerse myself in all things Bangkok. In fact, I’m still feeling the irascible effects of some lip-smacking som tam (spicy papaya salad) and use this as an excuse to glug down an icy Singha beer from the minibar. Earlier we’d scaled 25 floors (with the help of an elevator) to Long Table at Column, just around the corner from the hotel. There we’d taken in the crimson sun slinking down and the stunning skyline firing up, while taking advantage of the happy hour. I’d also used this as an opportunity to order the friskily fresh som tam, which I can never get enough of when I’m in town. Cockily, I’d insisted on having it pet mak mak (very spicy). I got my comeuppance when I nearly went into anaphylactic shock and had to exit with a spluttering walk of shame, tears streaming.
By now Mr Smith is up to his eyebrows in fragrant bubbles, courtesy of the infinity soak bath and organic Panpuri bath oils and salts with jasmine flower extract. Any hotel in the region worth its grain of salt (and intent on keeping some local flavour) accessorises its bathrooms with Panpuri. It’s a brand so virtuous I’d be surprised if Gwyneth Paltrow – she of the macrobiotic diet and holistic lifestyle – didn’t have the supplier’s number on speed dial. The only animal-based ingredients you’ll find on the labels are honey and beeswax. Several shops stock it, but the main branch, complete with its own Panpuri Spa, is located in the Gaysorn shopping centre, only a few minutes away by Skytrain.
Allowing him to wallow in peace, I finish off the Singha and hang my shopping in the teak walk-in wardrobe. There’s no having to elbow each other out of the way with ample room for both of you and all of your acquisitions. Trust? Commitment? Communication?
No, the secret to a long and happy marriage is a walk-in wardrobe. Preferably, one each. As Mr Smith’s luscious bath turns him into a shiny pink prawn cocktail, I also feel a glow, albeit a post-purchase one, as I survey my impulse buys with no regrets. I’m not even going to let Mr Smith put me off my playsuit from Mob.F, which he maintains looks like a super-sized babygro.
Aimed at forward-thinking fashion followers (oxymoron intended), the recently launched Mob.F in the Siam Center brings together 42 fashion labels, sporting both established and up-and-coming Thai talents. Thanks to the store’s White Café, Mr Smith was able to sip on a zesty cocktail and decorate his own cupcake while I browsed.
Inspired by some of Ma Du Zi’s decor – the spun caramel-coloured meringue-meets-nest lamp, the shaggy cow-print bathroom stool and a wastepaper basket that appears to be strapped into a corset with criss-crossed red stitching – we then head to the Shop @ TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) in the Emporium mall. Originating as a space to showcase international designers, the focus has shifted to promoting young Thai creators, with tongue-in-cheek crockery, digital-print cushions, wire chairs and horse-shaped lamps all up for grabs.
Because he’s not flushed enough, Mr Smith leaves the misted-up wet room to make himself a pick-me-up, following the comic’s instructions diligently to ensure his Illy espresso is fashioned to barista standards. Earlier Mr Smith had been a bit prickly when I’d reminded him that I had some work to cram in, but as he settles into a leather swivel chair, flicks on the widescreen TV and puts his feet up on the perfectly placed stool, he’s as happy as a clam at high water – especially since the picture is complemented by Bose surround sound. Luckily for me, our Studio 53 suite, number two on floor Z, has a separate lounge-cum-study overlooking a pretty garden. The austerity of the fax and printer are counter-balanced by a soothing green sofa, just in case work gets on top of you. My head conjures lusty daydreams about replicating a similar working environment at home, but this is not conducive to meeting deadlines. Neither is flicking through the books crammed full of vivid photographs from across the region – another nod towards creating an indigenous ambience in the rooms.
With the sun setting, the bar is beckoning. When Mr Smith and I first arrived, we knew instantly this was the place for us. Ma Du Zi doesn’t have a lobby, as such; it’s been replaced by a convivial round bar with scarlet stools. Harnessing the hotel’s family-run feel, here you can enjoy a drink with fellow guests, before moving into the impressive Ma Du Zi Restaurant by Yuya, where stiff white tablecloths and sleek seats are enlivened by leather bookcases and marble filigreed windows. Yuya, the new chef at this French eatery, is actually Japanese, but his tortes and confits are strictly continental.
‘Leekpie!’ Mr Smith suddenly exclaims. It’s my turn to look bewildered. His plate, boasting a blushing pink Wagyu steak and an ornate asparagus parcel (I’d opted for the delicate red snapper from the set menu), shows no evidence of either a leek or a pie. ‘Your Thai name,’ he concludes. I’m so engrossed in my food that I rashly agree. Leekpie it is then.