James Songkiat Namthaisong
The Four Seasons, Bangkok
by Lawrence Ferber
Thailand's nickname, "Land of Smiles," makes perfect sense when you meet such good-natured, amiable, hospitality professionals like Four Seasons, Bangkok www.fourseasons.com/bangkok) concierge Namthaisong, who typically goes by his Western nickname, James.
The five-star, 354-room property recently underwent a sparkling, contemporary renovation. Now, it boasts numerous restaurants and lounges including acclaimed Italian venue Biscotti, a full-service state-of-the-art spa, and a prime location just minutes by foot from the biggest and best shopping centers, Lumpini Park and Erawan Shrine.
James is a four-year employee who previously worked at Bangkok's famed see-and-be-seen institution BED Supper Club and, for a six-month stint, with Disney's Cruise Line in Florida. He also holds a tour guide license, earned from Silpakorn University.
"I chose to work at Four Seasons, Bangkok because Four Seasons is a reputable chain and provides excellent benefits to employees," he shares. "Anti-gay discrimination never happens in our chain—all staff are employed for their attitude and ability, so gays can work openly and happily here, and once they themselves are happy, they can make guests happy, too. My favorite parts of my job are to fulfill people's happiness, and be an ambassador of my country to the world—and, of course, I know the Bangkok gay scene quite well."
Where are the coolest places in Bangkok to go for cocktails?
Distil Bar (The Dome at lebua, 1055 Silom Rd. Tel: +66-2-624-9555. www.lebua.com), located on the 64th floor of the lebua Hotel. A cocktail I highly recommend is "Cool as a Cucumber," made of gin, vodka, and cucumber juice with a cucumber pearl, served in a martini glass. Downtown's modern and chic Hyde & Seek (65/1 Athenee Residence, Soi Ruamrudee. Tel: +66-2-168-5152. www.hydeandseek.com) was voted best bar in Bangkok by BK Magazine. The signature cocktail they're proudest to present is the "St. Tropez Smash," made with two ounces of premium vodka, vanilla syrup, watermelon juice, passionfruit, and fresh lime juice. This light red cocktail is garnished with fresh mint leaves and a piece of passionfruit.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
One of the most famous new restaurants
in town, which just opened last September, is Sra Bua (991/9 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan. Tel: +66-2-162-9000. www.kempinskibangkok.com) at the Siam Kempinski Hotel. Renowned chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, whose Kiin Kiin restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, was awarded a Michelin star, re-conceives and deconstructs traditional Thai dishes and flavors in an innovative, modern style within a gorgeously designed, romantic space. Sirocco (1055 Silom Rd. Tel: +66-2-624-9555. www.lebua.com) is an outdoor Mediterranean restaurant on the lebua at State Tower's 63rd floor. The most romantic scene is from table number two for its panoramic city view, and the food's great.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch?
I'm very confident to say it's the Sunday brunch at Four Seasons Hotel (155 Rajadamri Road. Tel: +66-2-126-8866. www.fourseasons.com/bangkok).
We present all kinds of the best food, some imported and some local. We have the best fresh lobster station, and it's served both indoors in Madison and Spice Market restaurants and outdoors at the Aqua lounge. Moreover, it is inclusive of unlimited alcoholic drinks.
What are the hottest shows in Bangkok, and how do I get tickets?
There are a few places that are famous for "ladyboy" shows in Thailand, such as Tiffany and Alcaza in Pattaya. In Bangkok, I have to say Calypso Cabaret (Asia Hotel,
296 Phayathai Rd. Tel: +66-2-653-3960-2. www.calypsocabaret.com) is the best. They're really professional and well trained, and it's the greatest, most entertaining show in town. There are two shows per day, at 8:15 P.M. and 9:45 P.M. Tickets are 1,200 baht, about USD$40, per person. To make sure that you will get seats, have your concierge make a reservation in advance or book the tickets online.
Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
We recommend East Meets West Travel (Tel: +66-2-251-5230. www.eastmeetswesttravel.com). They provide quality and friendly services at a reasonable price. All of their tour guides are very experienced and licensed by Tourism Authority of Thailand, and a few gay tour guides work for this company.
Where can you go to get the best views of the city?
Go up to have a drink at Sky Bar (1055 Silom Rd. Tel: +66-2-624-9555. www.lebua.com), the open-air bar at lebua State Tower. It's the best place to see panoramic views of both the city and river sides of Bangkok. And the outdoor Moon Bar (21/100 South Sathon Road. Tel: +66-2-679-1200. www.banyantree.com) at Banyan Tree Hotel is located on the rooftop, connected with the al fresco Vertigo restaurant.
Where are the best places to work out?
For gay people, we go to Babylon Sauna (34 Soi Nandha, South Sathon Road, Soi 1. Tel: +66-2-679-7984. www.babylonbangkok.com), where they have great equipment—it's quite modern, with everything a general gym might have, plus a steamroom and sauna and nice-sized outdoor swimming pool. We can relax by the pool having some cocktails, chatting with others, and enjoying our community.