Thailand Travel Guide
Hotel Openings / Hotel Opening Rates / Phuket Hotels / Beach Hotels / Accor Hotels / Novotels / Novotel Hotels / → All Tags
One can never have too many hotels on Phuket, and for Accor, nine just isn’t enough. Hence the arrival of Novotel Phuket Karon Beach, which opened three days ago on Karon Beach (not exactly an exclusive location, but good if you want the feel of a resort).
The fourth Novotel on Phuket, it’s newly built with 224 rooms, which look rather nice, if not groundbreakingly original. There are three restaurants, two bars, a fitness center and sauna, and an outdoor pool (this rendering on the Facebook page looks nice, though we’re a little suspicious there’s no photo on the website yet).
There’s even a “video games area” (shudder) and a kids club.
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Being in the middle of a brand refresh isn’t stopping Le Méridien Hotels from opening new properties, with next month the addition of Le Méridien Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok Golf Resort & Spa. While it’s too early for some of the new brand elements to pop up in the room design, the first images show an attractive, if relatively safe, contemporary look, golf course views, and a balcony with sunbed.
The tenth Starwood hotel and third Le Méridien in Bangkok, the hotel brings some much needed competition to the city’s airport hotel game, dominated by the Novotel BKK Airport at the moment. Being a 15-minute drive away, Le Méridien can’t quite beat the Novotel’s terminal location, but with fresh rooms and much more extensive facilities, it should shake things up nonetheless.
That’s because it’s a separate entity – done by Infinite Luxury, a Phuket-based, English-started design company. Kata Rocks will open November 28 on the southern end of Kata Beach, with a slightly different feel than Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks – it’s for grown ups, for starters. Think a bunch of those modernist houses from the Hollywood Hills transplanted onto the hillside (and beachside) of Phuket. In fact, there's more than a hint of Malibu to it, too.
The aim at Kata Rocks, rather than to get blasted and dance like Leo DiCaprio, is to indulge in “effortless and luxurious relaxation” – now that’s something we can get behind. Accommodation is in 34 individual Sky Villas rather than rooms – and they look fantastic, with bright white, modern interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea, TVs set into the ceiling and – get this – their own private pool.
Hotel Delays / Hotel Openings / Koh Samui Hotels / Thailand Hotels / Sheraton Hotels / Starwood Hotels / → All Tags
Sometimes there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. At least, so think Starwood, who are on track to open a Sheraton in Koh Samui. It will join their current roster: a W Retreat, a Le Méridien, and Vana Belle, part of the Luxury Collection.
The Sheraton will take over the current Imperial Samui Beach Resort, which had 141 rooms. It’s on the same beach as the Vana Belle, and only two hotels away.
Unfortunately, all good things come to those who wait. The Sheraton was down to open in December, but it’s not yet listed on the Starwood website, and (HT Flyertalk) it’s now showing up on Starwood’s forthcoming hotels list, and is down for March 2015. Although, since it’s not yet available to book, even that may be optimistic.
Hotel Hype / W Hotels / Phuket Hotels / Thailand Hotels / Starwood Hotels / New Hotels / Hotel News / → All Tags
This will be the third W Hotel in Thailand and fortunately, it does seem a bit different from the other W hotels out there, at least in terms of layout. The interior offerings are W all the way.
Here's how the property is described:
W Retreat Phuket will be located on Koh Yao Noi, one of the largest islands in the Phang Nga Bay archipelago between the eastern coast of Phuket and western coast of Krabi on the mainland. The W Retreat will provide an integrated lifestyle experience with 79 standalone villas, starting from 155 square meters in space. All villas will feature private outdoor areas and plunge pools as well as superlative views of the limestone cliffs that dot Phang Nga Bay.
W Retreat Phuket - Phang Nga Bay will also offer a lobby lounge, an all-day dining restaurant and a specialty restaurant and bar. It will feature 120 square metres of modern meeting and event space; FIT, a well-equipped workout facility and swimming pool; and a contemporary spa with six treatment rooms. The W Retreat will be accessible from both Phuket International Airport (HKT) and Krabi Airport (KBV), with a fleet of high speed sea vessels, a private jetty and helicopter landing pad for ease of guests transfers.
And don't forget about Whatever/Whenever service! We'll circle back with more news on this property...in 2017.
Riverside room in the Krungthep Wing
Like Los Angeles, Bangkok is a city that seems to go on forever, sprawling out over a total area of over 600 square miles. This means that there’s no shortage of hotels and no shortage of neighborhoods. But if you’re looking for the finest lodging in the city, it doesn’t get much better than the Shangri-La.
Although its location puts you well outside the city center and quite far from many of the attractions (such as the Grand Palace), cheap taxis, nearby river taxi and public transit stops allow guests to maintain their mobility while indulging in the five-star comfort of the Shangri-La. We don’t need to say much more in that sense – the Shangri-La’s reputation for luxury definitely precedes it – but given that the property in Bangkok has two separate wings with two separate entrances, you might be wondering which is the best room to book.
Killer View / Thailand Hotels / Krabi Hotels / Centara Grand Hotels / Centara Hotels and Resorts / → All Tags
The Thai beachtown of Krabi is located two hours east of Phuket, offering visitors a handful of national parks and barrier islands to explore in the Andaman Sea. The 192-room Centara Grand Krabi is the area's most luxurious property, and it's also the most secluded, tucked in at the base of a national park and surrounded by cliffs on both sides.
The resort is a combination of low-rise buildings and individual villas built up into the cliffs, and the real treat comes from the balconies of the rooms that sit up the highest: A breathtaking killer view that looks out over the resort to the ocean and rocky coastline. Looking the other direction at night, the sky lights up and the palm trees silhouette against the clouds.
It’s no secret Thailand’s tourism industry is suffering from the events of the past few months, with one of our last visits showing hotels noticeably quieter than we’re used to. One hotel seems to be doing fine though, thank you very much: the Novotel Bangkok Airport.
While we’ve appreciated its 24-hour flexi policy (meaning no matter the time you check in, you have your room for 24 hours), and have overlooked somewhat high rates for Bangkok in the past for both this and its convenience being next to Suvarnabhumi’s terminal, the hotel’s rates now really seem from a completely different city.
We recently paid around 7,000THB ($225) for a night in the hotel, booking well in advance, and saw rates creeping towards $250 and up later on – more than a room in town at hotels like the The Peninsula, the St. Regis, or Sofitel So.
Back in January, we got in a cab in front of our hotel and took it across town. A few minutes after arriving at our destination, we realized that our phone was no longer in our pocket and had fallen out in the cab. What ensued next was about an hour of panic and scrambling, calling the cab company and trying to get in contact with the driver. Because we didn't have the cab number, we were completely out of luck, never able to get in touch with the driver to see if the phone was still there in the back seat.
It was an experience that happens to the best of us when traveling, and it was obviously not something to blame on anyone else. But this week, a simple gesture by a hotel helped to make sure it didn't happen again. We bunked up at the Shangri-La in Bangkok, and every time we hopped in a cab, the bellman handed us a little card with all our cab's information on it. Luckily, we never had to use it, but we thought it was a really solid move, and one that would be a lifesaver if we forgot something in a cab. It would have certainly helped us back in January.
A lot has happened since we last wrote about the situation in Bangkok. Back in January, we looked at how hotels were impacted by the anti-government protests; fast forward five months and one regime change later and the headlines about whether it is safe or not to visit Thailand continue.
We just had a brief stop in the city last week and here’s what we found:
- Hotels continue to operate as normal, though it was much quieter than we’re used to – official figures aren’t available, but visitor numbers and occupancy are down.
- Life seems to continue as normal as well; if you hadn’t known about the events of the past few months, you probably wouldn’t notice anything at all in most places.
If that triathlon preparation is making you want to punch something, or you’ve done your swim-cycle-run madness and still have some energy left, perhaps a round of kick-boxing may appeal?
Rather than a sweaty back alley gym, Four Seasons Hotels brings a more pleasant option with the installation of a Muay Thai boxing ring – with sea views – in its resort on Koh Samui. It’s best not to let yourself be distracted by the views though, as the hotel can pair you up with a resident muay thai champ to train you in the “art of eight limbs”, using fists, feet, shins, knees, and elbows.
X2 Resorts is a design-conscious chain of luxury accommodations in Asia and Australia, ranging from villas, to intimate resorts, to extended stay rentals. This July, X2 will open the industrial-strength doors to its latest resort destination, X2 River Kwai (yes, that River Kwai), located in Kanchanaburi, about 90 minutes west of Bangkok.
The locality is forever memorialized in WWII history and on film. It is here that the Japanese set up base camp for POWS to build the Thai-Burma Railway and the "Bridge on the River Kwai." The 1957 film of the same name won seven Oscars, four BAFTAs, and three Golden Globes, and is an eternal classic. The recently released Railway Man tells quite another embracing story, also shot on location here as well as in the UK and Australia.