Which of Bangkok's many secrets are you looking to unlock? Is it the traditional (the temples, the markets, the canals) or the cosmopolitan (the nightclubs, the shopping malls, the restaurants)?
If the answer to all of them is yes, then try using 'The Key': an ultra-modern, mini boutique offering hip homely comforts alongside a downtown, travel-friendly location. Tucked away discreetly down a quiet sub-soi (street) on Sukhumvit Soi 19, it's a low on frills place that both locks you away from, and unlocks, the city. When inside you're free of city din and, when out, you're free to explore the city unimpeded.
That's mainly because here you're not chained to the roads. It takes only a few short steps - past the bustling modernism of convenience stores, department stores, bars, spas and restaurants - to reach Bangkok's Skytrain or underground, namely BTS Asok and MRT Sukhumvit stations.
These air-conditioned refuges whiz above and below the city's notorious traffic, liberating you from the need to use taxis, motorbikes and tuk-tuks or breathe their noxious fumes. Save time and money, minimise stress, sweat less! The Key naturally appeals to businessmen and urbane travellers, but this ability means it should also satisfy intrepid visitors who want to explore the Bangkok beyond impersonal glass and steel skyscrapers, especially those sites within reach of BTS and MRT routes. Another big attraction is free wireless Internet throughout the property.
The six-storey corner building contains a mere 34 sleekly styled rooms. The Key's very cool and contemporary lobby - with its cream shiny surfaces, plump settee and plasma screen TV - provides a hint as to just how sleekly-styled they are. Head up in the lift, past corridors lined with vibrant 'The Key' theme modern art, and you discover three types: Gold (32 square metres), Platinum (40 square metres) and Master (60 square metres, one is 72 square metres).
They're not the first thing you encounter upstairs at The Key, they're the only thing (conspicuous by their absence is a pool, a gym and, until January 2008 at least, an in-house restaurant or bar). However this disappointment is, as long as you can live without such frills, made up for by the joy of crisp, streamlined living spaces that strike a perfect balance between hotel design theory (minimalism and functionalism seem to reign here) and practice (they're charismatic and comfortable).
For starters, each is thoughtfully laid out and looks great. While aesthetically homogenous, it's clear the designers have been far more considered than many in their use of textures and materials. Cream walls and light wood flooring and furnishings define the decorative palette; while splashes of dark marble and teak (tables, lampshades etc), chic beige sofas and exotic cushions paint in the detail.
Large windows, wind-down shutters and creative lighting design (recessed spot-lights and lamps) makes it easy to bring out the best in them. Most importantly, they are livable and feel great - more like fashionable long-stay homes than dull, functional boxes designed merely for the comfort of strangers (in fact five of the 39 rooms are exactly that, on long term lease).
The compact Gold Rooms (essentially studios) offer great value but may feel a tad too compact for all but the most intimate or tidy couple. They do, however, sport identical facilities to the roomy Platinum and Master rooms, only some things are downsized. All have double beds with velveteen cotton duvets, super comfy arm chair or settees, cupboards, 29" flat screen TVs, DVD player, in-room safe, dining table and a mini-kitchenette (large fridge freezer, microwave, kettle, crockery and cutlery). Bathrooms are spacious, featuring a bathtub with shower and ever-so chic matt and gloss grey tiling against black marble. Currently served in-room (until the opening of the restaurant in January 2008), the breakfast is simple but not Spartan: fresh fruit, cereal, toast with fried egg.
Views are not a strong point. However, sitting on your plush sofa while surfing the Internet, or popping around the corner in minutes to pick up a designer shirt, or knocking up a snack, is. Somewhat ironically for a place called The Key, there is no key - instead guests receive a plastic card that slips in your wallet alongside your business cards and credit card. So, a place that's hi-tech as well as high comfort (but not high cost) - The Key has unlocked many of the secrets to a hotel's success.