Take a man with pride in his country, unrivaled knowledge of Bangkok and a desire to help people and what do you get? Trai Pradisjusin, our chief concierge. He is the best in the business, because about the only thing he may like more than answering guests’ questions is digging into Sukhumvit’s Thai food scene. The following interview touches on that topic and more.
Q: What’s the best way to really get to know Bangkok in a short period of time?
Trai: If it’s your first trip, I recommend going to the Grand Palace, which is a very popular tourist spot but is greatly respected by the Thai people. It was the residence of kings for a long time and is right on the Chao Phraya river. Inside, visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is a sacred statue that has been in Thailand for more than 200 years. After you do that, take a long-tail boat ride to observe daily Thai life on the river. You can start from the pier in front of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which is near the Grand Palace. Then at night, go to Asiatique, a new market that is very beautiful and open until midnight.
Q: What do you think sets Sukhumvit apart from other areas of Bangkok?
Trai: About a 10-minute walk from the hotel, you’ll find an old Thai style house called Baan Kham Thing. It’s 150 years old and serves as a museum now. You walk in and you feel as if you’ve been transported to the past.
Everything is still in place, all the decor is from another century. It gives you a great feel for what Thai life was like 100 years ago. It’s magnificent.
And then, just a few stops down on the Skytrain from the hotel, on the right side of the National Stadium station, there’s another museum called Jim Thompson House.
Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur who is still very famous in Thailand for his contributions. He passed away mysteriously in Malaysia in the late 1960s. But his Thai-style, Oriental-teek house remains. You can wander around by yourself, by I suggest getting a guide who can explain all the various features to you.
Q: I’m here for two days and it’s raining. Why does God hate me? Also, any recommendations that don’t involve hunkering down in my room?
Trai: Ha! Well, there are lots of department stores around, such as Terminal 21, Siam Paragon, which has an aquarium for kids. So it’s great for the whole family. There’s also Siam Center and Siam Discovery, which are connected. There’s a wax museum on the sixth floor, a nice cinema and a good Thai food court.
Q: If you had time to visit just one shopping center in Bangkok, which one would it be, and why?
Trai: Any of the ones I just mentioned. But if you’re looking for authentic Thai products, I’d go to MBK. It’s in the same area. You can find Thai goods — you know, handicrafts, t-shirts, furniture, etc. — at very good prices.
Q: What’s the strangest request/question you’ve received from a guest?
Trai: Tough question. The most frequently asked questions I get pertain to how to get around — by taxi, by train, by foot, etc.
Q: What’s something interesting about Sukhumvit that you wouldn’t find in a guidebook? Anything about the history of this area that few people know about (but you do)?
Trai: The street food. I particularly like Suda on Sukhumvit Road, Soi 14. Soi means side street. There’s no air conditioning at Suda, but they’ve got fans and the food is outstanding. It’s a very local restaurant. I also have a few favorites at Sukhumvit 38 and Sukhumvit 55. In the Times Square Building, there’s a place in the basement called Tham Nan Thai. You won’t find much about it on the Internet, but as with Suda, it’s got excellent Thai food.
Q: You know a lot about the food in this area.
Trai: I try a lot of restaurants so that I know what to recommend to guests. And I try all different kinds, not just ones that serve Thai food.
Q: What do you like most about being a concierge?
Trai: Being of service to my country, in a way. It gives me the opportunity to enhance the reputation of Thailand. If I’m able to recommend nice things to people, then they will go home happy and tell their friends to come visit as well. And it’s nice to be able to help. If someone’s got a problem, or a question, and I’ve got a solution, or an answer, then that’s very satisfying to me.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a concierge?
Trai: When I was a bellhop about 12 years ago, I discovered I had a passion for providing helpful information to people. I became a concierge at the former Sofitel Bangkok Silom, which is now the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G, and the rest is history.