Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bangkok’s Marriott Empire Place ~ Buyer Be Aware. . .

Note, we said, ‘be aware’ not ‘beware’ of Marriott’s property, The Empire Place, in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. It is one of the company’s 58 vacation club (timeshare) properties. But it is certainly not like any timeshare we’ve experienced before. . .

Based in Bangkok

With a span of decades between our last trip to Bangkok and boarding our cruise ship there this spring (Oceania Nautica: Our Middle East Magic Carpet Ride) we gave ourselves extra time to explore this capital city of Thailand.  We traded a week that we own at Marriott’s KoOlina in Hawaii for a stay at their Empire Place.

These trades are a benefit of timeshare ownership. By trading within the brand, you know what you are getting. Well, not quite in this case, as we were to learn. . .

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Morning traffic Bangkok Thailand
Bangkok is an enormous metropolitan city with a registered population of nearly 7 million people; nearly 15 – 20 million if you include the unregistered immigrants. Even with the size considerations, our first clue that this’ wasn’t your run-of-the-mill timeshare resort’ came when our determined – but somewhat frustrated – taxi driver couldn’t find it.

After a long drive from the airport in early morning commute-hour traffic he pulled into an office complex. There he conferred with a security guard to sent us packing through the neighborhood, a mix of low-rise homes and towering skyscrapers.

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Our neighborhood - a mix of old and new
 
Finally we all breathed a sigh of relief when some two hours (yet, only $25 taxi fare) after leaving the airport he pulled up to a towering edifice called, The Empire Place. However. . .there was nothing in the signage indicating it was a Marriott Vacation Club:

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Marriott's Empire Place - Bangkok, Thailand
Now, we had researched and knew in advance of our arrival that this particular ‘resort’ is part of a full ownership condominium building. Still, I am not sure we’d fully grasped what that meant. 
We entered a vast – very clean and empty – lobby. There was no reception desk, with its usual line of guests; instead we were directed to a small office to the side of the lobby where the three staff members conferred, flipped through a notebook, and confirmed we were scheduled to stay there.

One of them showed us to our ‘home away from home’. We were to use a security key to access the elevators and our room key to make the elevator work.  In our condo, there were face cloths and a large pitcher of Bale fruit juice (looks and tastes like sweetened ice tea) chilling in the refrigerator – both adding to a refreshing welcome.

For those of you who’ve shied away from timeshares because they are too ‘cookie cutter and all look alike’ – this place is for you. Because it was a real-life condominium, the kind people live in 24/7 and quite a nice one at that – it wasn’t the traditional ‘timeshare’ layout.  We had two-bedrooms, two-baths, large living and dining room, kitchen and a laundry room. Daily maid service was provided at no extra cost (unlike our experiences at other Marriott Vacation Club properties).

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Timeshare condo - The Empire Place - Bangkok, Thailand
Our deck off the living room provided city views and from the window in the dining room we overlooked the facility’s swimming pool and tennis courts, (which sat somewhat to the back and over the pool). At 90+ degrees and 90+ humidity – very little use was being made of either the pool or courts in the daytime. There were no snack bars or pool music and only a limited number of lounge chairs. None of the normal resort-angst about saving pool lounges - we counted only 12 the day we strolled through the pool area.

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Views from our condo
Settling in to City Life

“The nearest grocery store?” we asked after unpacking the bags. Well, there really wasn’t one anywhere nearby, the staff told us. A small 7-11 convenience store a block away sold beverages and snacks but nothing like staples.

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Food cart near The Empire Place- Bangkok, Thailand
Food vendors and their carts lined our street – which made walking more of a ‘turn-sideways and push-your-way-through’ experience in the morning hours when workers were lined up buying food en route to work. We were definitely in a working neighborhood and timed our travel for the non-pedestrian-rush-hour.

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View from the Sky Train's screened windows - 'The Scout' on the train
We quickly learned how to use the city’s impressive elevated Sky Train which was an inexpensive, practical way of getting around and made for some great sightseeing. We also searched out grocery stores and ate several meals ‘at home’ which always helps the travel budget. Our favorite was a place called, Gourmet Market, in the basement of the sprawling Siam Paragon shopping center, as it had groceries, take out and, of course, a wine bar where you could sip and nibble.

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Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon Shopping Center
This Marriott provides guests an opportunity to experience a real neighborhood; a feel of what it would be like to live there.  But for those who are seeking a ‘resort’ experience, be aware:

* There is no Marriott Marketplace on site.
*There are no bars, restaurants on site. Four blocks away, the Anantara, condo-hotel’s rooftop bar is open to the public. A great place to watch sunset and both drinks and food are served there, so children were welcome.
* The nearest Sky Train/Metro station, Chong Nonsri, is two long blocks from The Empire Place. You’ll need to climb a flight of stairs to access the station. Starbucks and numerous other coffee shops are found on the station’s street level.  Taxis can be summoned by building staff and they are inexpensive.
* The office provided us a printed map, but not the ‘usual’ tip sheets or resource guides for finding local grocery stores and other amenities. We scouted them out on our own.

* Take note Marriott timeshares owners:  this property does not participate in the Marriott rewards program;  you will not earn points nor night credits towards your Elite Membership. (That isn’t explained on any of the Marriott web pages about this place. It is found on the Marriott Rewards page where, rules,  item 11, lists all the Marriott properties that don’t participate in the rewards program.)

Off to the Chao Phraya
The accommodation was clean and comfortable - its major drawback, in our opinion, was its location some distance from that amazing Chao Phraya River that bisects the city. I’ll show you what I mean about amazing next time, when we move on to The Peninsula Hotel, on the riverside.

Thanks for joining us again today. If you are new to the blog, “Welcome! Hope you’ll be a regular here.” We are grateful to you all for the time you spend with us. 

Want more travel articles? Check out the bloggers participating in these linkups:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

22 comments:

  1. Sounds like this "Marriott" experience wasn't what you expected although it had some nice aspects. It would have been nice if the description had been more transparent.

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    1. It had both plus and minus marks from us but the Marriott standard of decor and cleanliness was certainly there. I think the Marriott page does imply more resort living than reality living. Thanks for stopping by~

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  2. As frequent timeshare exchangers ourselves, we know all too well about the differences that can occur with property disclosures. Some are a little overly positive. I'm surprised by this, though, as it has been my impression that Marriott runs a tight, consistent ship (by comparison with our other timeshares). Still, if you're seeking a way to use your week in the region, this will appeal.

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    1. Marriott quality was there but it was certainly not a traditional Marriott property. The company owns some 50 or so units in the building we were told and rents them out -- not sure if I was a full-time owner, I'd like that coming and going of tourists either.

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  3. I know absolutely nothing about timeshares so I can't visit with you on this...but, I CAN say thanks so much for coming by my place today and leaving a sweet comment.
    xoxo

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    1. Hey BJ, I loved that stop at your Paris cafe today - always love stopping by your place! xxxx

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  4. It sounds like you had a good combination in the end. A stay in a real Bangkok neighborhood at the Marriott, and then a stay closer to the action. We're hoping to make our first trip to Bangkok this fall.

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    1. It was a good combination as both had their positives. Make use of that Sky Train when you get to Bangkok! Thanks for the visit Shelley!

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  5. We have never had the timeshare experience and it sounds like this one was quite the adventure. It's good that your post is available to others who may travel to the same Marriott and expect something different.
    Thanks for linking to Mosiac Monday Jackie.

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    1. It did feel somewhat like playing house - this is how we would live if we lived here - so it was fun. I like the money we save at timeshares by eating in at least once or twice a day. Love the linkup Judith!

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  6. I know nothing really about timeshares though to be honest, would be relatively cynical. Reading real life stories like yours however may make me open my mind ..a little

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    1. We love the timeshare life Paula! This one was a taste of reality which was interesting but those looking for resort life might be disappointed in it. Our trade fee was $149 so you can't beat that for a week's stay in Bangkok! Thanks for the visit, Paula.

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  7. Bangkok is on on our list of "must sees" but I have to admit to being very intimidated by the sheer size of the city and masses of people! Your post however, has me wishing we'd invested in a timeshare because the pros of the Marriott Empire Place seem to far outweigh the cons!

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    1. Anita, you will love Bangkok when you get there. It has grown into an enormous sprawling city. I have to admit we weren't as 'taken' with it as we expected to be and I can't quite put my finger on why but we don't feel we need to rush back. Now Myanmar, India, Jordan and Egypt were another story -- those we can hardly wait to get back to!!

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  8. Great experience of travelling across the city. Wonderful images.

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    1. It was great fun to travel across the city on the Sky Train, Rajesh - I'd recommend it! Thanks for the visit~ Jackie

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  9. Total envy as I read your posts.

    Steve has had some health issues that make extended traveling an ordeal for him, but we have a road trip planned for August. We are hoping things go well on that so we can expand our horizons once again. I actually looked into house swapping in Paris.

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    1. Oh, if I lived in that storybook cottage by the sea that you've created, I probably never travel again. I'll keep my fingers crossed that your road trip goes without a hitch and that Steve continues to improve. A house swap in Paris. . .how fun would that be??!!

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  10. Oh no. I was leaving a rather long comment and I hit a button that made it all disappear. So I'll keep it short! This is great info for Marriott timeshare owners visiting Bangkok and an interesting read for me, too. I've actually shied away from timeshare ownership primarily because of a couple of awful experiences of being lured into tours and the very annoying hard sell tactics. I realize that doesn't reflect on Marriott and knowing that you seem to do well with your timeshare situation has caused me to give it some thought.

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    1. We do love our timeshare life, Cathy. But I hear you on those 'presentations' that seem to back you into a corner without chance of escape. This trade fee was $149 so it really made a week's stay in Bangkok almost like free.

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  11. Excellent post on Bangkok’s Marriott Empire Place. Anyone thinking of this property within their timeshare opportunities will certainly appreciate your thorough and honest report.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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