A Simple And Easy Guide To Renting A Service Apartment In Bangkok Thailand Hello From Sicily My First Day Of Classes A City Tour And A Pizza Tasting

What are the best areas of Bangkok to rent? What facilities and services can I expect from a Bangkok serviced apartment? What are the best and worst serviced apartments in Bangkok? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and much more in my simple and easy guide to renting a serviced apartment in Bangkok for both expats and travelers.

Bangkok is the Center of Southeast Asia

As the commercial center of Thailand and the hub of business and leisure travel within Southeast Asia, Bangkok has exceptional hotels of all kinds catering to the business elite and casual traveler.

Recently, a new kind of accommodation has gained favor with business executives on short stays in Bangkok–the luxury serviced apartment.

With increased commercial expansion over the past several years, serviced apartments are quickly becoming the favorite choice of living style for their affordable luxury.

What is a Serviced Apartment?

The serviced part of the equation usually refers to the daily or twice weekly cleaning of your room, the furniture, kitchen amenities and so on that normal apartments do not include. Some service apartments also function as hotels, and these are called Aparthotels.

What’s So Special About Bangkok Serviced Apartments?

Real estate and relocation agents believe Bangkok has the most number of sophisticated apartments the world has to offer. There are not just one or two luxurious apartments, but close to 50. This is because skilled labor is cheap in thailand, and the city itself is a major business hub for the southeast asia region.

Renting a serviced apartment in bangkok can be a daunting task for several reasons–the primary one being there are so many ‘fine print’ and extra costs involved when signing a weekly, monthly or yearly contract.

I have been living in Bangkok for a few years now, and have gone through several serviced apartments, learning on the way which ‘services’ are included and what to expect from your stay in Bangkok.

Bangkok’s City Plan

The Bangkok Jungle has several meanings, one of them being that the city was never built with a city plan or urban design in mind. The city is a sprawling landscape, a montage of residential and commercial buildings juxtaposing one another. It is home to 10 to 15 million people, depending on who is arriving from the rural country and abroad. The people as well, from poor to affluent, live side by side.

The city itself is lopsided; if you look down any major road in bangkok, you will see that both sides of the road arent balanced, building heights are different, and there is an overall lack of symmetry. This is what makes Bangkok unique and charming. And what makes it a jungle.

The Best Areas To Live In Bangkok

Bangkok contains inexpensive to exclusive apartments, but the best ones are found in the following regions of Bangkok:

* Sukhumvit, the main road or artery of Bangkok

* Asok, one of the most exclusive and expensive areas to live

* Thong Lo, the chic and fashionable street,

* Sathorn, the business district of Bangkok

* Silom, another business and red light district

* Ploenchit, business district

* Chit Lom, business district

The areas listed above are all within easy access to shopping, dining, entertainment, trains, skytrains, and expressways. If you choose to live in one of these areas, you will experience life in the center of Bangkok’s thriving business and shopping centres while indulging in an ultra private serviced apartment in Bangkok. I personally recommend Asok and Chit Lom, as they are the classiest areas of Bangkok, but if you are looking to be close to the night markets Silom is perfect, and Sukhumvit is always a colorful experience.

Facilities and Services of Typical Bangkok Serviced Apartments

These vary between the different types of apartments and condos, but a standard of excellence has been establlished from the increasing competition among serviced apartments. Facilities and services are upgraded regularly to keep up with rival residences. However, before investing in a serviced apartment, be sure to check if these services and facilities are available.

5 Services That Should Be Included Free of Charge:

* Room Cleaning

* Water/Utilities

* Internet Usage

* 24 Hour Security

* Room Service/Errand Boy

4 Facilities That Should Be Included

* Restaurant

* Gym

* Pool

* Convenience Store

The Loopholes: Length of Stay, Deposits and Electricity

If you are staying for a month or year, the serviced apartment may charge you for electricity. Make sure that you negotiate this price to 6.5 Baht/Unit. A lot of times the apartment owners will charge 8 Baht/Unit for more profit. They only pay 3 or 4 Baht/Unit.

Be careful when signing leases; most require a 2 month deposit, and if you move out before your contract is finished you forfeit this deposit.

Make sure the serviced apartment has a laundry service, either in house or out of house. Most serviced apartments have coin operated laundry rooms as well as pick up services. More deluxe suites will have washing machine in the room. Note that most places do not have dryers.

How much Should I Pay?

This is a difficult question to answer, but the more facilities a serviced apartment has, the more it will cost. If a serviced apartment has a pool, gym and also functions as a 24 hour hotel, then the monthly price will be above 30,000 Baht.

Location also has a large part to do with cost of a bangkok serviced apartment. If you are staying in an area not close to skytrain or subway access, your price will be much lower. Conversely, staying in the business districts of Silom or trendy spots like Ekkamai or Thonglor will raise your monthly rent.

Which Serviced Apartment Should I Choose?

The serviced apartment market in Bangkok is lead by three groups, The President Group, The Ascott Group, and Centre Point. Most of them offer first class accomodation and have a decent system of serving their customers. However, there are numerous independent serviced apartments to choose from.

The 2 Worst Serviced Apartments in Bangkok

* Ascott Bangkok Sathorn

There have been several articles written in trade journals about the decline in service at the once famous and most prestigious serviced apartment in Bangkok. Once known for attention to customer relations, their lack of it is now glaringly obvious to everyone who stays there. This place is an example of a chain serviced apartment becoming too much like a corporation with no human touch of service.

* Lebua

Rumor is their staff is very untrustworthy. Read the trade journals and ‘google’ the residence for reviews.

Top 2 Most Luxurious Bangkok Serviced Apartments

* Siri Sathorn Apartments

Siri Sathorn is a five-star luxury `boutique` property which epitomises private and elegant living in a residential setting. It is a concept of the perfect home which appeals to international traveller. This place caters to Japanese clientelle but of course is open to everyone.

* Fraser Place Urbana Langusan

They have an exclusive 45-metre driveway leading from the main road to the serviced residence for great privacy. They also have some of the best services and customer relations I have ever experienced, pampered is the only word that comes to mind

Best Value Bangkok Serviced Apartments

* Silom Convent Garden

Newly built in November 2006, this chic serviced apartment is located in the Silom-Sathorn area but has some of the cheapest rates for this business and night market district. For 36,000 Baht/$1000 a month you can have a 38 square meter, 1 bedroom, fully furnished luxurious apartment complete with full kitchen, washer machine, flat screen tv, and rain shower. The only drawback is the place doesn’t have a pool or gym, but thats the reason the price is so low and why its one of the best values in Bangkok.

If you are still undecided whether to have a stay in Bangkok on your next trip, it was just recently announced that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) plans to make Bangkok a “paradise” city. The article from the Bangkok Post states the BMA will establish a fund to address trash, pollution and traffic problems. Now is the time to take your next vacation or business trip to Bangkok, as life couldn’t get any better in the City of Angels!

Language study travel is not at all new to me. Two years ago I went to the University of Havana to study Spanish, and last year I studied Spanish at two different language schools in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I obviously love the Spanish language and the huge variety of Spanish-speaking destinations, but Italy is a gorgeous country in its own right – another perfect place for a language-study trip.

So my initial three and a half days of exploration in and around Taormina had come to an end, and now it was time to get serious: my first day of classes at the Babilonia Language School awaited me. I had never taken any Italian classes before, but in high school I had 6 years of Latin, 4 years of French and my knowledge of Spanish is quite advanced. So in theory I should do okay with Italian. In addition, I had bought an Italian grammar book in Toronto and was reading up on the intricacies of Italian grammar for a few weeks before I embarked on my trip to Sicily. Well prepared I was not, but given the commonalities among Latin languages, at least my verbal comprehension skills were good enough to get by in everyday situations.

I arrived at 8:45 am at the Babilonia Language School. Coffee was served, and a local restaurateur by the name of Ciro, who regularly provides catering services to the language school, was looking after the students with fine Italian coffee and a delicious chocolate cake home-made by his mom. Although the weather wasn’t perfect, the space on Babilonia’s rooftop terrace provided a gorgeous view of Mount Etna and the mountains surrounding Taormina . The rooftop terrace and community/computer room are a perfect place for the school’s social activities.

About 12 new students were about to start their language studies this Monday, and they came from various different places: England, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Finland, the United States and Canada. Alessandro Adorno, the founder and director of the Babilonia Language School, gave a brief presentation about the Italian study program and asked the new students to introduce themselves by throwing a small soft ball to the first student who would then pass it on to the next student after their own introduction and so forth. I was third to introduce myself, and followed suit after two advanced students whose linguistic level was considerably above mine. Almost all students had some prior knowledge of Italian with the exception of two students who had never had any exposure to the language.

Alessandro also informed us that there would be a written placement test followed by a brief evaluation of our verbal Italian skills following which we would be placed in the appropriate level. By 11:20 the placement tests were completed and I was informed that I would be put into the “Intermediate” group. This was rather surprising to me since I had never really studied Italian and there were two levels below this level: Beginner and Elementary. So after the break I joined five other students who had all studied Italian before. All of them had already spent a week at the Babilonia Language School, and some were there for three or four weeks already.

The class from 11:40 am to 1:30 pm was called “Communications” and different techniques are used to make the students communicate. Today we were going to do role plays: we had to select three scenarios from a possible 13 situations that all related to the topic “How to make and how to respond to a complaint”. The class was split up into groups of two and we each had to practice our three scenarios. My partner and I picked a scenario where a tourist complains about an excessively high bill to a waiter, a tourist complains to the car rental agency when the rental car company breaks down, and a traveller complains because the local tourism office continuously provides incorrect information about museum opening hours.

Well, when I heard the word “role play” I immediately started having heart palpitations because after our private 2-person practice round we would get to act out all these scenarios in front of the class! I am notoriously bad with role plays, particularly in a language that I don’t know in front of people whom I don’t know. I was admiring the students who went ahead of us who performed admirably well in Italian and were rather comfortable acting out their scenarios in front of the entire group. I am sure my performance was rather clumsy and awkward, but I got through it.

I was rather intimidated though, so after class I saw my teacher Simona to inquire whether “Intermediate” wasn’t a level too high for me (considering I had no formal Italian learning background). Both Simona and the head teacher Anita concurred that Elementary would be too basic for me so I accepted their opinion of my language skills and trusted them that I indeed belonged to the Intermediate group.

Although I found the role play rather stressful the first time around I concluded that it is a very effective way to get you talking, particularly about scenarios that one might encounter as a tourist in Italy. My first official Italian lesson was over, and I felt gratified that I could make myself understood, if sometimes with hands and feet, and that I managed to get my point across, albeit rather clumsily.

After the class we had a couple of hours for lunch and we regrouped at 3:30 pm to attend a presentation about the Babilonia Language School. Alessandro gave us an overview of the school and educated us about its teaching methodology. Babilonia’s philosophy believes that language learning is not just about rote learning of grammatical rules, but about expressing emotion, even about learning local gestures. Our daily lessons would consist of two parts: “Language Analyses” (which includes grammatical explanations and exercises), and “Communicative Tasks” which uses all sorts of techniques including games and role plays to induce students to talk. During the Language Analysis portions students are corrected by the teacher while during the Communications portions the teacher refrains from correcting the student in order to encourage them to express themselves as freely as possible. The main goal of Babilonia’s language courses is to teach communication, verbally and in writing.

As far as the schedule is concerned, private lessons are available from 8:30 to 9:25 am and from 2:30 until 5:25 pm. The Language Analysis class is taught from 9:30 until 11:20 am and the Communications Class is taught from 11:40 am until 1:30 pm. Alessandro also explained that there is a coffee break every day from 11:20 to 11:40 am during which students can order a lunch that will be provided by Ciro, a local caterer and restaurant owner of an establishment called “Bistro”. Lunch can be ordered using a preprinted order form and will then be conveniently ready by 1:30 pm and delivered to the student just after the class. This is certainly a convenient service, and I noticed that the prices were very reasonable, particularly in comparison with Taormina’s rather high restaurant prices.

Alessandro also explained that Babilonia offers a variety of excursions and social activities which include out-of-town bus trips to interesting locations, local walks and hikes as well as cultural and historical presentations to shed further light on Sicily’s culture and history. I had already had the pleasure to participate in two of Babilonia’s excursions last week: a hike to Castelmola and a driving tour to the historic city of Siracusa. At 4:30 pm we got another chance to see Babilonia’s activity program first hand since Peppe Celano, Babilonia’s social activities coordinator and one of the language teachers, met us in front of the school to take us on a walking tour of Taormina.

Taormina is one of Sicily’s main tourist destinations, and the principal draw in this town is the beautiful Greco-Roman Theatre which dates back to the third century B.C. and was almost completely rebuilt by the Romans in the second century AD. The theatre is built as a semi-circle into the side of a mountain with a perfect view of the Ionian Sea and (on a clear day) of Mount Etna. The ancient Greeks were renowned for choosing stunning settings for their theatres, and the natural surroundings of the theatre always played an important role in the selection of the location. The Greek Theatre in Taormina holds more than 5000 spectators and is still in use today for theatre productions as well as a major international concert venue that has welcomed stars like Elton John, Diana Krall, Michael Bubl

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