Monday, November 29, 2010

Hotel Stories - II

Since I had a couple days before I would venture into Isaan area for a short trip to the countryside, I decided to use some time to scout for my next hotel in Bangkok, for when I'd return.  I knew I'd be staying in Bangkok for about 6-7 days, and had planned to book as many shoots as possible during that time.  So I wanted a good space.

I  checked my favorit online booking site, and found a few candidate hotels.  One was "Jasmine Suites", which I'd stayed at many times.  I gave that some consideration, but the rooms I'd had there in the past were highly variable.  Some would be amazing for a shoot, others would be lame (not enough window space).  Also, the pool wasn't the ideal space if I wanted to do any pool shots.  One new hotel showed up on my search, and looked promising.  I decided to go pay a personal visit to check it out.

This turned out to be a fortuitous choice.  The hotel was small - something like 50 rooms.  But every room was a large suite or one bedroom apartment type accomodation.  It was quite new, and I think some of the floors had not yet been occupied.  When I entered the lobby, I noticed immediately that this was a high fashion, very stylistically appointed place.  The assistant manager greeted me with enthusiasm, and happily showed me the three different room types.  The first one was the smallest (and least expensive), and already I was impressed.  The mid-size room was bigger and nicer, but it faced the north side of the building, so I was a little less enthused about it.  When I saw the largest room, I was amazed.  It was south facing, many windows, and had numerous spaces where one could set up and stage a shoot.  Already the wheels were turning in my mind about whether or not I could afford this big spread.

I ended up negotiating with the senior manager, and thought we'd arrived at a tempting figure for renting out the biggest room for the week.  I told them I would get back to them the next day, as I planned to check another place.  In the end, I settled for the mid-sized room, as the big luxury place was almost double the price of the mid-size, and I realized I was just getting a bit too greedy (funny how we fall into temptation, and ratchet things up so easily...).  I was a little disappointed that I had to "settle", but I was in store for a nice suprise when I returned from Udon Thani.

I spent about four days in the Udon Thani area, which is another story in itself.  My trip back to Bangkok was on the overnight train, luckily being fortunate enough to land a berth in first class.  I slept really well, and arrived in the capital city fairly early in the morning. Combined MRT and taxi rides got me to the hotel doorstep at around 9:00 AM, and I was greeted with a warm smile from the assistant manager.  "Kun Eric!", he exclaimed, remembering me from my scouting visit.  It was a pleasant bit of news that my room was ready, and he escorted me to my room right away.  As we approached the room, and noting it was at the end of the hall, my anticipation was rewarded that, indeed, I had been given a corner room.  Wow!  Wonderful light.  Four large windows, two facing north, and two facing west.  I won't expect to get that lucky again in any hotel, though as it turned out, very few of my shots were actually during daylight hours.

This hotel was one of the best storied of my Bangkok photoshoot story.  Since it was a hotel with few rooms (only about 50) and all of them larger, higher class lodgings, the place was extraordinarily homey and quiet.  After a couple of model visits, I had explained to the staff (who quickly became familiar with me) that I was a photographer doing photoshoots.  So all week long they would greet me and joke with me about my pursuit, even as they saw me carrying an armload of women's clothes to my room, or a bouquet of flowers.  One day, as I was readying for a shoot, the housecleaning ladies saw me ironing some lingerie.  They were all joking with me, suggesting that I should photograph them, as they performed mock poses.  It was really quite enjoyable, and it warmed my heart when one of those gals brought me a spray bottle to help with my ironing.

One of the really special aspects of this hotel was the lack of tall buildings in the immediate surroundings.  This allowed quite a large amount of daylight to enter my room, and also meant that the rooftop swimming pool was mostly surrounded by open sky and distant skyline.  I took quite a few shots poolside, and even used the adjacent fitness center for a few shots.  What made this even more approachable as a setting was the lack of other hotel patrons present.  Sure, there were a few times where there was someone in or near the pool, but that was a marked exception.

I even got a chance to do some nighttime poolside and pool deck shots.  This was a first for me, as I had not used my lighting in an outdoor setting.  I was a bit limited, since I could only find two electrical outlets, only had one monolight, and simply didn't have enough extension cord to reach the places I would have liked to set up.  But simply having the chance to set up outside, in the evening, alongside the pool presented me with a great chance to learn more.

I had a great stay, and really felt welcome and well treated by the hotel staff.  I'd love to stay there again sometime, but most likely I will chose another hotel next time, since I like to have a variety of settings.  Hmm,... maybe a dingy, roach infested room in the skid row area...?

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