Super power turtles at Bangkok’s Banyan Tree

Club Suite bathroom at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok
Club Suite bathroom at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok

I was busy painting my toenails and Hubbie was earnestly flicking through millions of TV channels in the vain hope of something decent to watch, when the doorbell rang. We have a door bell? There followed several cowardly seconds of ‘you go’…’no, you go’, until we both went and timidly opened the door to our hotel room.

Good evening sir, madam, would you like turndown service this evening?

Turndown service, what the hell was that? Surely we were capable of pulling back the duvet at bedtime ourselves. The housekeeper patiently awaited our decision, his eager grin and pristine uniform making it difficult to refuse.

Erm, sure, why not, thank you.

I quickly cast my eye over the room, hoping we hadn’t left any offending underwear laying around and that he wouldn’t notice our dirty trainers causually discarded in a heap by the bathroom door. We pretended to busy ourselves in the lounge whilst straining to see what he was doing in the bedroom. There was a bit of shuffling, the lights dimmed moodily, and he re-emerged holding a small toy turtle in his out-stretched palms.

Would you like a turtle for your room sir, madam?

A what?? It was cute and green and utterly pointless, so of course we’d have it.

Ok, yes please, what is it for?

For the bathroom odours sir, it is filled with charcoal to absorb bad smells.

Clearly he had Hubbie’s card marked. Trying not to giggle we graciously accepted the turtle and wished him goodnight. A bit of a bizarre idea, what happened to chocolates on the pillows or a flower on the bed? Still, it was novel, and if it really did help neutralise bathroom stinks then it would be far more useful than a few petals which would be brown by morning.

Hubbie approved.

He likes practical things. He once bought me a tank of petrol instead of the bunch of flowers I’d been hinting at for weeks! [Disclaimer: he has since purchased me several bunches of flowers, weekends away, meals out…and yes, he did ask me to write this!]

Turn down service at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand
Turn down service at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand

When it came to checking out we weren’t sure if we were supposed to take the turtle. Since we’d kinda fallen in love with it, we soon felt the guilt of international smugglers as we sped away to the airport with him tucked safely away in our luggage. It wasn’t until we were on the plane that we relaxed, finally realising the hotel staff weren’t rushing after us to retrieve their absconded marine reptile.

He now sits on our toilet at home, and whilst his odour-eating properties are questionable, he always reminds us of the first time we discovered the delights of luxury travel.

One fateful day back in 2009 Hubbie and I had just completed a stint of backpacking around Thailand and Cambodia. Thanks to a generous bequest from his great auntie, we decided to end the trip in Bangkok with a spot of luxury at the Banyan Tree Bangkok. A style to which we were not yet accustomed.

We felt a bit out of place, turning up with rucksacks and sandals, so were a little puzzled to be welcomed with open arms, and instantly upgraded from a standard to a delxue room. Perhaps they’d mistaken us for someone else, or maybe just felt sorry for us, but as it turned out, this is typical of the service at Banyan Tree. They treat everyone with equal importance, and even with our unwashed hair and plastic bags full of dirty clothes we were still made to feel special.

The pool at Banyan Tree, Bangkok
The pool at Banyan Tree, Bangkok

Later that evening after working up an appetite in the gloriously appointed pool, we dined up on the roof terrace at their Vertigo Restaurant and Moon Bar. We were seated right next to the red lights that indicate the presence of a building to passing aircraft. Pretty cool! We were given a little stand for my handbag so it didn’t have to sit on the floor, and torches so we could read our menus. They’d clearly thought of everything.

Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand
Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand

We opted for the refined 7 course menu with each dish being paired with a new wine to try. I think we managed about 5 glasses before admitting defeat, although it did help with our 3rd course which turned out to be bone marrow, served in a bone and eaten with a wooden ice-cream stick. The other courses and palate cleansers were delicious, with the most memorable being the pumpkin starter.

Our dishes arrived with each waiter standing to our left and placing massive bowls before us. With a flourish the huge silver cover domes were removed to reveal….a tiny cube of orange pumpkin smaller than a dice. With a bow and a smile the waiters bid us enjoy our meals and departed. What the…?

Confused, we reminded ourselves this was fine dining, and perhaps the solitary cube was indeed the best pumpkin in the world. So we picked up our forks ready to dive in when another waiter appeared, this time carrying a tureen of steaming soup. He was grinning from ear to ear, no doubt we weren’t the first guests to be baffled by this culinary trick.

Turns out it was damn good soup!

Our soup! At Vertigo, Banyan Tree, Bangkok
Our soup! At Vertigo, Banyan Tree, Bangkok

It didn’t take long for us to decide that sumptuous suites, personal butlers and rooftop dining were the way forward. Since that day we’ve never looked back, and when we had a chance to re-visit last month we couldn’t say no. This time we’d booked a club room, because Hubbie has discovered over the years that free-flow drinks, a continuous supply of food and comfy sofas are the key to the perfect city hotel.

The comfy Club Lounge at Banyan Tree, Bangkok
The comfy Club Lounge at Banyan Tree, Bangkok

On arrival, already excited with barely concealed anticipation, we were escorted up to the club lounge for check-in and welcome drinks, and were told we’d been upgraded to a club suite. We tried to appear calmly appreciative whilst maintaining an air of ‘we do this all the time’ and practically skipped down the corridor to inspect our grand abode for the next few days.

Our Club Suite at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand
Our Club Suite at the Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand

Whilst the minibar wasn’t complimentary like in some other top end hotels, water was free, and the fruit platter came with a handy menu detailing what each fruit was, and how to eat it. A lovely touch.

The fruit menu in our CLub Suite, Banyan Tree, Bangkok
The fruit menu in our CLub Suite, Banyan Tree, Bangkok

We dined at Vertigo again (the other evenings we simply availed ourselves of the club lounge facilities) and this time were prepared for the soup. This year there was a square of fresh pasta in place of the pumpkin cube. Like old timers we sat back and awaited the soup, knowing looks on our faces. Yeah, we do this all the time!

The one question that remained throughout our stay was whether we would solve the mystery of the turtle from our first trip. Was it a gift or should we have left it? Alas, although each evening turn-down service came with a cool little gift, like incense, elephant keyrings made out of silk, and jasmine scent to help us sleep, there wasn’t a turtle to be seen. Yet on our very last night, just as we were giving up on our incredibly important quest, there came a knock at the door.

Good evening sir, madam, would you like turndown service this evening?

And there it was. Small, green and perfectly formed. A sister turtle to the one currently guarding our bathroom back home. It turns out it was indeed a gift, and whilst this one doesn’t seem to work any better than the last, we now have 2 toilet turtles to remind us of our travels whenever we have to answer the call of nature.

Banyan Tree turtle, Bangkok, Thailand
The Banyan Tree turtle
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  1. says: Claudia

    This place looks AMAZING. I am going to Thailand in 2016 and I will make sure to check it out. I will tell them you took the turtle. Tehe

    1. says: Heather Cole

      It seems I’ll be bringing a whole stock of them back when we next visit, I’ll put your name down 🙂

  2. says: The Educational Tourist

    I wonder how many bathroom turtles are spirited away? I have a kiddo that loves turtles and at his age, 9, bathroom humor would make that the best turtle ever! LOL!
    Thanks for sharing,

  3. says: Will Tang

    I never got to stay at the Banyan Tree when I was in Bangkok but did visit for the rooftop bar. I argue that this is THE BEST rooftop bar in the city. Spectacular views from up there!