Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Atlanta Hotel, Bangkok - #3 (The Guests).

Some of you may wonder why I am writing so much about – “just a hotel”. That is because it is NOT just a hotel. I am quite sure it is the most written about hotel in South East Asia. All you have to do is to just google “The Atlanta Hotel, Bangkok” and you will easily find hundreds of write-ups on this small hotel with only 59 rooms. Go ahead and read some of the reviews. I am not writing a review of this hotel of which there are already so many and better written than what I could manage. I’m giving a personal account of my stay there and things that caught my eyes so in case you want to give the hotel a try, you’ll know more or less what to expect. It is more to document my stay. Unfortunately, due to the very limited time I spent there; the photography was done in a bit of a rush usually in-between waiting for my guests to arrive and left much to be desired. I wished it could be better especially those taken at night.

I had stayed in many hotels before; from no stars to five stars, from resort to luxury hotels. But in none of them had there been ever a stranger and fellow guest who walked up to me and said “this is just great, isn’t it?” This man (I didn’t even get his name) from Belgium walked up to me and said exactly that. In the picture, he is surfing the internet which is available for free at the end of the corridor opposite the library. The guests in this hotel are not your usual mix of tourists and businessmen.

Yes, there is a library in this hotel and you can borrow them to read. Have you ever seen a hotel in Asia with such a collection?

There are books everywhere and there is even a place for book exchange. You can take any book from this section if you will drop one in exchange.

These are just examples of the many articles written by well-known newspaper, travel magazines and even books on this hotel.

Many books have been written about this hotel. In fact, it was in one of this that I learned about it and resolved to make a trip there to experience it myself. I read about it in the book with the yellow cover in the picture above - “Best Travel Writing 2006”.

This hotel is very popular with writers especially and many wanted to leave their mark behind. They either wrote about the hotel, or autographed books they have written or just scribbled something to be left behind. Some of these are displayed in the showcase

You wonder how many writers have sat here and wrote something. If I had the time, I would have done the same to see if just by sitting there where past writers sat, whether I will get the inspiration to write something good.

There was even a movie made in this hotel. It was “Black Magic” and the theme was quite similar to many B grade Asian horror stories about a beautiful Thai girl who got raped and used black magic to get her revenge. Thailand is famous for its powerful black magic. You can find all sort of strange things about this hotel.

So who are the people who frequented this hotel? There are people on a budget who took advantage of the low rates that the hotel charged as it was not run on a profit motive. While, there are cheaper hotels; there is not one that can offer the same value for money in its location, reputation, safety, and overall quality.

But the more interesting guests are those who could easily afford to stay elsewhere including 5 stars hotel but choose to stay here because of its character. These are the guests that appreciated The Atlanta for what it is. A uniqueness and slice of history that is priceless. As mentioned, they may be writers, models, movie stars, directors, artists, anyone who appreciates timeless beauty (with its imperfection). Some of the guests stayed there for months on end.

I and my friend are anomalies. We were in Thailand for business. Most of the guests were not. I chose to forgo a night stay in Conrad Hilton for a night here. My Thai friends who knew all the best hotels in Bangkok were shocked. They have never heard of the Atlanta or understand why I wanted to stay there. It is sad that this heritage was largely forgotten by the locals. It is the foreigners who valued it as a discovery. Except for a pretty Japanese woman who seemed to be traveling alone, we were the only Asian in the hotel.

I wished I was on a holiday so I could make friends with some of my fellow guests like this pretty lady pouring over the interesting menu that includes a meal called “weeping tiger”.

I liked the thought of staying there one day where I had all the time in the world. So I know I will be back.

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