Farewell to the Dusit Thani


BANGKOK, 4 July 2017: Whatever the PR spin, there is a sense of sadness knowing the iconic Dusit Thani Bangkok, will be torn down to make way for a new flagship hotel for its owning company Dusit International.

Just over 48 years after it opened to the public in February 1970, the hotel will close 16 April 2018 to allow demolition teams to move in.

I remember the opening party that attracted Bangkok socialites, business leader and the media. I worked at the Bangkok Post at the time, just a block away from the brand new hotel on Rama IV road. At the opening party I was introduced to the general manager who represented the US chain Westin, the only foreign chain ever to manage the hotel. They didn’t stay long enough to make a real impression.

Dusit Thani had its ups and downs, the most remarkable one being an extended strike by hotel workers that forced the property to close for six months.  The strike’s ring leaders were accused of poisoning the baby elephant that welcomed guests to the property.

Over the years it played host to hundreds of important conferences and was the venue for events that highlighted the vast changes that were taking place in the travel industry. It was in the Dusit Thani’s famous library that the founders of Air Siam announced they were closing the airline, a forerunner of today’s low-cost airlines. But those were the days of Freddie Laker and Thailand’s Virachai Vannakul. There was no room for mavericks in the highly controlled environment of Asia’s aviation skies.

I felt disappointed when the demolition hammers smacked holes in the iconic roof of the Siam Inter-Continental. It was a symbol of a hotel reflecting Siamese architecture, one of the few landmarks that made you realise that you were far away from home in an oriental city of charm and exquisite art.  They knocked it down without a second thought, all in the name of progress. The Erawan Hotel went the same way replaced by a soulless Hyatt Erawan that is neither here, nor there, as far architectural beauty is concerned.

The Dusit Hotel will follow in less than a year’s time and while we will all admit that it wasn’t the most beautiful building to grace Thailand’s capital it was an icon of a remarkable period of growth and political change. It was never far from the mad mix of political intrigue and was always a preferred venue for lavish parties. It was even alleged that it catered snacks for a few coup leaders in its colourful history.  Commanding superb views of Bangkok’s Lumpini Park and overlooking a busy crossroads, it was always a preferred address for business visitors.

All that is left now is an invite to wander through its lobby to attend a round of special events to farewell the grand old dame of hotels.

The demolition trucks will be move in almost as soon as the grand piano tinkles out its last tune in the lobby bar. It will take the Dusit International until 2022 to open a replacement.

I have seen the Dusit Thani in its best years, drank a glass of ale with some of its friendly general managers who believed in spending time in the lobby to welcome guests. I doubt if the traditions that made the Dusit Thani so famous will survive. By 2022 we might even have robotic butlers to welcome us in the lobby.

One highlight of the farewell parties will be Wedding Memories promotion. All couples who have held a wedding reception at the hotel since it first opened in 1970 are invited to enjoy a complimentary three-course set lunch or dinner at the hotel. I assume that offer is for couples who are still together .

Founded by Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui and opened on 27 February 1970, Dusit Thani Bangkok was once the city’s tallest hotel.

The new Dusit Thani Bangkok will form part of a new mixed-use development to be built in partnership with Central Pattana PLC, the people who give us fast food outlets, mega shopping malls and have a stake in Centara Hotels and Resorts.

In preparation for construction of the new hotel, the development will start on land adjacent to Dusit Thani Bangkok, next to Rama IV road, which currently houses derelict buildings. The entire mix-use project will open in 2024.