A Relatively Honest Review of the Hilton Pattaya
Ah, the legendary Hilton. The grand old hotel chain’s name summons the days of steamer trunks, eyebrow-pencilled and powdered women dripping in furs and diamonds, with lively bellhops wearing organ grinder’s monkey hats. Its tradition is very New York, very Chicago, very “Hey, what gives?!” and “Why I oughta give you a knuckle sandwich!” There were fedoras, and everything, including the wooden phone booths, was in grainy black and white. It was where you stayed when you made the big score on the gems hidden inside the Maltese Falcon. Or if you were a Rockefeller.
But times have changed, and hotels have changed with them. Conrad Hilton may never have envisaged a Hilton in one of the world’s more bizarre and unlikely holiday destinations—that phenomenon known as Pattaya. This place was still a small fishing village when Conrad died in 1979 at an age befitting a Japanese politician. But there are now 540 Hilton-branded hotels throughout the world in 78 countries on every continent except Antarctica—so why not here? And thus it has been so since 2009.
Located atop the Central Festival Pattaya Beach shopping mall, the hotel towers over the ever-exploding city, its residents and visitors appearing like ants in a frenzy of seemingly random activity below.
The design is very modern, quite stunningly attractive—with a sea theme that includes decorative giant polished beach “rocks” made of fiberglass, among other striking visuals. It has won international hotel awards, apparently.
The hotel’s bars, restaurants, pool area, and rooms take clever advantage of the sea view over Pattaya Bay, which, since the local administration cleaned up the waters, is surprisingly pretty day or night, as is the somewhat architecturally confused city once the lights are on. You’d never guess at the holidaymaking goings-on 100 metres below you if you didn’t bring binoculars. And so any of the three restaurants and two bars are well worth a visit—even for non-guests—for the view and ambience alone.
The food is very good, too. Dining in the Horizon Restaurant, the braised lamb shank and lobster risotto that made up our main courses were very nice indeed. And though you wouldn’t call the dishes adventurous in a cutting-edge gourmand way (no molecular experiments here), it was top quality and unquestionably superior to some of Pattaya’s ground-level dining options, such as the now-empty Russian eateries where bowel sausage and cabbage are the most popular main course (though, on the bright side, at those places vodka is usually the soupe du jour).
The rooms are nicely appointed, with the requisite rain shower, standalone bathtub, big TV, and panoramic balcony doors. You could quite easily spend your days inside, in clean and air-conditioned comfort, soaking up the sea views.
The breakfast buffet, varied as it was, and of very good quality, was a tad homogenous, as they all seem to be these days. It is admittedly tricky catering to multiple nationalities and their insistent tastes (congee, cornflakes, eggs any style, over-sweetened juices, sushi rolls, etc.) But there was the usual pet peeve; the conveyor belt toaster never actually browns your bread, requiring some personal adjustments, the results of which appeared to disappoint those who followed me, painful dismay darkening their faces as their properly-toasted toast slid down the stainless chute. And the bacon is kept behind the counter, doled out on request, which tells you something about the average guest’s lack of restraint.
Is the Pattaya Hilton perfect? Of course not—no place is. But is it nice? Absolutely. So if you want to stay in pretty darn luxurious surroundings in the so-called heart of Pattaya—and perhaps even spend your entire holiday in blissful isolation, not descending into the belly of the beast, except maybe to shop in the climate-controlled mall downstairs—then the Hilton makes a fine choice.
By Cameron Cooper