Since moving to Bangkok, Thailand eight years ago, I’ve always heard how wonderful the Atlanta Hotel was. Known as a quiet oasis away from the bustle of Thailand’s capital city, the Atlanta Hotel was a ‘must stay’ for anyone who wanted somewhere unique, historically interesting and welcoming.
I first visited the Atlanta Hotel eight years ago, to pick up a friend who’d just arrived in Bangkok and it was lovely. Fast forward to 2010 and the Atlanta Hotel I arrived at last month was somewhere I’d probably never set foot again.
The friend I was meeting to help move to another hotel, in fact, was so desperate to get out she left so fast she almost forgot to pay her bill.
The Atlanta Hotel’s Origins – The Atlanta Hotel first opened as an actual hotel in the 1950s when it was converted from a pharmaceutical company. Run by a lovely German man, Dr. Max Henn, the Atlanta began to offer clean, comfortable rooms at an inexpensive price. It had the city’s largest swimming pool, at the time, and was known for its friendly staff and first-class facilities.
Oh how times have changed.
The Atlanta Hotel in 2002 – On my first visit to the Atlanta Hotel, I was delighted by its old-world charm. A little run down and quite old-fashioned, it still gave off an air of respectability, and with my active imagination I could just about see back into the past, to the western gentlemen and ladies coming down to dinner dressed in their finery.
The friend I met there said she’d thoroughly enjoyed her stay. The staff was lovely, the room quiet and comfortable and the location close enough to the main Bangkok downtown area, but it still managed to be calm and relaxing. She got a great night’s sleep too.
The Atlanta Hotel in 2010 – The first thing that assaults your senses about the Atlanta Hotel in 2010 is its website. In blaring letters it screams “SEX TOURISTS NOT WELCOME” at the top of its page, then goes on to tell you what you absolutely cannot do if you stay there.
Zero Tolerance of Trouble Makers.
Pop Music or Violent or Pornographic Movies Banned.
Run on Conservative Principles.
Untouched by Pop Culture and Post-Modern Primitivism.
Miscreants are reported to the police without advance warning, without hesitation and without apology.
Once you get to the hotel, if you want to re-read some of these warnings, don’t worry, they’re on signs posted all over the hotel. The best one being “Complaints will not be TOLERATED”.
Now, even though I don’t participate in any of the things the owners of the hotel obviously abhor, does this sound like a remotely welcoming hotel to you? I think not.
To add insult to injury though, the room my friend stayed in wasn’t clean, it’s rundown and musty and, the worst thing of all, it smells of cat pee.
Now I’d read the ‘cat pee’ comments on several review websites before my friend had insisted on staying there, but when I walked into its reception area I couldn’t quite believe what my nose was telling me. I think I held my breath until I walked out of the front door again, it was that bad.
Then, when you add onto all this awfulness the appallingly rude staff (unheard of in Thailand), I could immediately see why my friend looked like she’d sprouted wings as she rushed out of the door, dragging her suitcase, out into the street, stopped and gave a huge sigh as she said “Thank God. Take me anywhere but there”.
The Atlanta Hotel is also known as a place where Thais are not welcome, and where all Thai women are treated like prostitutes. Imagine that. In their own country.
On the day I went to pick up my friend, a Thai friend went with me. Upon arrival at the Atlanta, she insisted on waiting in a cafe down the street as she said she didn’t feel like being treated like a hooker today. She’s from one of the wealthiest families in Bangkok.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend any of my friends or relatives set foot in the Atlanta, a once lovely hotel that something really dreadful happened to.
The Atlanta Hotel is cheap. There’s a good reason for it.