Wednesday, April 29, 2009

S.M. Grande Apartments Bangkok

For the last two years I have kept a rental apartment in Bangkok due to the amount of time my business requires me to be in that great city. Unfortunately I made a very poor judgement in selecting the S.M. Grande Apartments on Soi 4 (Soi "See") in the Klong Toey district.

Based on my limited experience I've concluded that selecting an apartment can be as challenging as hiring the right person for a job. As much as one may try to objectively evaluate an apartment, there are always some things you will learn only after abiding in the place for a while. Sadly, any one of the things that I have learned about S.M. Grande Apartments would have caused me to walk away had I known them in the first place. The inertia that one has to overcome just to move a few possessions into another place is greater than I would have guessed. I always felt too busy. However, I have recently overcome that inertia and am busily finding an alternative. It occurred to me that I might be doing someone a favor if I listed out my observations of S.M. Grande's shortcomings.

My largest concern has been the fact that the front desk at S.M. Grande is not manned by professional property management people and at evenings and nighttime is not manned at all. English as a second language is not a priority among them and communication is particularly difficult. However, even a person who speaks and understands English only little can be a big help in an emergency. Sadly, the S.M. Grande closes their front desk at seven each evening and it doesn't re-open the desk until the following morning at 9 am (or at least that is the policy). A lot can happen in 14 hours, including one the several power outages I have experienced since I began to use the apartment. I am here approximately 25% of the time so that having been through seven power outages in two years is far too many. I might add that I mention only those outages that effect this building and are not systemic.

A major second concern is that I have yet to experience a full day of uninterrupted internet access. That this has been a continuous problem for the duration of my stay here suggests the lack of management resolve to fix problems as they arise. Interestingly, their solution is to give you the number of the contracted technical support person, whom you may be able to reach, and then again, may not be able to reach. The extent of the support for the internet access (both wireless and cable are available) is a reboot of the local server by desk personnel. In the evening, with no attendant on duty, you are simply going to have to do without. Forget late night catching up on emails or scheduling skype conference calls to the states when this happens.

No surprise, because it is virtually impossible to speak to the management here. They are either "in a meeting" or "out of the office" 100% of the time. The only course for problem resolution is one of the young desk clerks that speaks English poorly as I alluded to earlier. While these folks seem to want to help, they are often lacking any authority to effect a resolution.

This is a location that shows especially well. The apartment building is fitted with an attractive pool area, a well equipped fitness center, as well as steam and sauna. Oddly I find them seldom used and have enjoyed the perk. The apartments themselves were refurbished two years ago and also show well. However, be advised that the walls are paper thin and the corridors and elevator lobby have zero sound suppression considered in their design. The design of the doors and their locking mechanism requires that one must close the door firmly. This always sets off a loud reverberating bang through the hallways that can be easily heard throughout the floor. At 2 am when holiday makers are returning, it will wake you up, guaranteed. Also be advised that the apartment policy allows kids.

For these reasons, and a plethora of much smaller issues, I would give the S.M. Grande a pass whether I was renting by the month or by the day. Oh, did I mention that? While S.M. Grande is intended as a residence, management rents unoccupied apartments by the night to holiday revelers. This can be problematic due to the noise problem I mentioned earlier.

Bangkok is a wonderful city with excellent shopping, superb hotels, and exquisite restaurants. Living here and working here, however, presents challenges to the most experienced ex pats. A good home base, free from the above concerns, would go a long way towards making life here far more pleasant. Good hunting.

4 comments:

Frank said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I was one of first 4 flats to be occupied after opening. I agree with many of the complaints, but despite all that I have not found better value for money, when considering the perks. Any suggestions...?

"Simplifried" said...

Not long after I poted my original comments I realized that the ww slowdown had affected my business to the negative enough so that an apartment in BKK was no longer economically desirable even though I still hated checking in and out of hotels (and worrying about reservations etc.) So I stayed on at SMG for a while and used available time to search for an aleternative. I agree with your assessment that the rental rates and visible perks (without any consideration for the complaints I listed in my original note) was hard to beat. Eventually I gave up and now stay in the Grande Sukhumvit Hotel around the corner on Soi 6(in fact I am there now). The rate is 3700 Baht per night inclusive of laundry and internet access (which is good). I am here about 15% of the time so I will likely average a little less than what I paid at SMG for a studio (33K baht per month inclusive of utilities/internet interuptus). If I were to see a need to be here 25% or more of my time (which may already have started brewing in this year of recovery) I would check out a place on Soi 8 a friend, another SMG escapee, told me about. My wife has joined me for a long weekend here so we planned to walk over there today anyway. Your comment & question is timely. I'll post again and share what I found out on Soi 8 (I cant even think of the name of the place for now but will update fully this evening or tomorrow morning.)
Cheers

"Simplifried" said...

An alternative to the SM Grande could be the Siri 8 apartments on soi 8. Approximately same costs though better managed facility. The apts are each privately held but jointly managed by a single company.
About 120 yeards down from Sukumvit on the left side. Good luck.