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Millennium Hilton Bangkok

As soon as you set foot in the outsized atrium lobby with its 12-storey high ceiling and spectacular lighting features, you are struck by the hotel's ultra-modern minimalist elegance that offers a striking visual experience. The decor is chic, snazzy and cutting edge. The imposing 32-storey building - on the Chonburi banks of the Chao Phraya River - has been a familiar landmark in the city for several years now.

The Millennium Hilton has set a new benchmark with the high importance placed on global design trends. A third of the interior budget was spent on lighting only, calling on the expertise of celebrated New York lighting designer Tony Chi. The modernism decor has a strong regional flavour too, and a vague dash of Zen. These exceptional design features are not where the detail stops though...

The hotel's prime location in the heart of Bangkok's original temple precinct, covering a 50-metre wide river frontage, also means box-office views of the city and river from every window. For convenience, a check-in facility has been introduced at the Hilton's private reception in the easily-accessible River City complex, aptly named Hilton Crossings.

From here guests can take a short riverboat trip to the hotel; a trip that sets a charming mood for a stay next to this historical river that even today remains the life-blood of the city. A hospitality boat also offers transportation to and from Saphan Taksin Pier, a short walk from the same-named BTS station, from where the city's shopping and business districts - as well as many famous sights and attractions - are a breeze to reach.

Guest rooms (totaling 543) are fresh and contemporary, with accents of Thai culture reflected in golden lacquer, silk cladding and wooden panels. The open-plan bathrooms of Deluxe Plus River View rooms, Executive River View rooms and all suites are particularly fabulous with their sliding panel concept, and well worth an upgrade to.

Rooms are furthermore perfectly fitted out and equipped to meet every need of the modern-day, discerning traveler - from hi-speed Internet access to the 'magic' button on the telephone. The 'magic' phone feature - a Hilton innovation - brings all the hotel's add-on services to you at the press of a single button. Magic indeed.

To one side of the lobby stands a two-storey spa that resembles a contemporary Thai 'sala' (house), centred round a huge, centuries-old Banyan Tree. The spa provides an urban retreat from the bustle outside. And then there's the poolside area, dubbed 'The Beach', with its 20-metre infinity pool that seemingly drips over the edge of the building, real sea sand feature and beach chairs immersed in shallow, azure water. The fourth floor is also where the Health Club is located with its cardio-vascular facilities, saunas and aerobics room.

More treats await. Three Sixty is a fitting name for this top-floor bar-cum-lounge where live jazz music is a nightly feature. It's also the only indoor venue in Bangkok that offers unobstructed 360 degree vistas in a room that somewhat resembles a flying saucer. Night-time views are a spectacle to behold, with panoramic vistas that go on forever.

Dining and entertainment options abound; from Flow, an all-day culinary experience with live cooking stations, a contemporary Chinese restaurant called Yuan, to the award-winning London bar and club concept called Zeta, the signature steakhouse Prime, and The Lantern, an alfresco tea room flanking the riverside.

A highlight worth mentioning is the tea-pouring ceremony at Yuan, a 1920's Shanghai tradition, for which a tea specialist was flown in from China to train staff to master the art of pouring tea from a long-spouted teapot - the only one in Bangkok. And an art it is.

With conference and banqueting facilities to match - the entire 30th floor is dedicated to the trade-marked Hilton Meetings concept and the largest ballroom has a capacity for 900 delegates The Millennium Hilton has arrived with a bang. The final impressive feature, and by no means the least important, boils down to service standards.

No matter how much thought is put into design aesthetics and contemporary sensibilities, and no matter how many specialists are deployed to bring innovative features to a new hotel, it would all fall horribly flat if it isn't backed up by world-class service.

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