Thailand Travel Guide
Budget-brand Tune Hotels has been aiming to spread like wildfire from its origins in Kuala Lumpur, bringing core values of 5-star beds, power showers, and cleanliness for wallet-friendly prices to 100 hotels around the world by next year. We’ve checked it out in London, and have our eye on their plans in the United States, but what is Tune like outside a major capital? Does it still deliver for a non-city stay?
We tested just that by staying the night at Tune in Patong, Phuket – one of the more recent additions to the brand. On the western coast of the island, Patong is one of the major tourist centers of Phuket (more on that later) and the Tune is about ten minutes’ walk from the main beach. A taxi from Phuket airport takes about 45 minutes.
Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok
You will have likely seen the recent news coverage of ongoing unrest and anti-government protests in Bangkok, including the state of emergency declared last week. The Thai capital is one of the coolest cities in Asia, and a crazy good destination for awesome hotels at great prices, so it's always been on our list of places we recommend going to.
But what about now? How does the current situation impact Bangkok hotels and how are they dealing with it? We reached out to a few to see what’s what.
First of all, both Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Muang Airport (DMK) are open as normal, and the government has opened Tourist’s Friend Centers at both and key places in town to offer support to travelers.
The airport rail link, BTS Skytrain and MTR public transport are up and running; they will also be less impacted by traffic and potential road closures. All major tourist attractions (the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Temple of Dawn) are also open.
Thailand may be famous for its gorgeous silk (among many other things), but a key figure that is credited with saving the silk industry from extinction is actually from the good ol’ USA: Jim Thompson, an American businessman with a rather interesting life story, complete with a still unsolved disappearance in 1967.
His Bangkok home is an enduring tourist attraction, and you’ll find references to his life and eponymous company around the city. One such place is the Four Seasons Bangkok, where – aside from beautiful silk murals anyone can admire in the lobby – there is the swanky Jim Thompson Explorer Suite, spreading over 2,000 square feet with head-on views of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club across the street.
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We really hate to be the ones to have to tell you this, but it’s mid-August. This means that summer is, sadly, drawing to a close and soon our pool days will be in short supply.
Not, however, in Phuket, and the good news is that Paresa Resort is opening up what they think will be the hottest beach club on the island.
ZAZADA will open in September, which will give you enough time to wean yourself off of your local pool habit and go dip your toes into ZAZADA's infinity pool at one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, Surin Beach.
Designed locally, the beach club will not only have its full-service infinity pool and beach space, but a dance floor, DJ booth and room for a band. You can literally show up in the morning, have a fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie at the juice bar, hang by the pool until it’s time to move on to other liquid refreshments from the full bar or wine room, bake on the beach, and then have dinner at ZAZADA’s restaurant – with a menu put together by Ryan Arboleda of Paresa’s Talung Thai and Diavolo restaurants. Have a shower and change into your dancing duds (or not--bathing suits are, after all, allowed) and then dance the night away.
ZAZADA is open to the public so you can mingle with the locals too, but Paresa guests have priority access with free admittance and transportation from the resort (less than 10 minutes away).
When ZAZADA opens, the Hot Deal Rate (advance purchase) at Paresa Resort is 8992 THB ($288) and includes breaky and free WiFi.
[Rendering: Paresa Resort & Spa]
The sun-soaked beaches of Phuket attract millions of tourists per year looking to blow off a little steam or search for the perfect Pad Thai. By the end of the year, the luxury digs of a Hyatt Regency will be welcoming guests in the heart of Thai paradise.
Situated on the west coast of the Thai island, Hyatt Regency will have 202 guest rooms as well as feature restaurants for local and international grub, a tropical pool for sipping fruity drinks and soaking up the rays, and lush spa for some mid-paradise rejuvenation. The hotel will be the third Hyatt for the area, joining the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok (whose spa suites we recently lusted over) and Hyatt Regency Hua Hin.
Situated in the area known as Millionaire's Mile, where the majority of Phuket's private villas are located, the Hyatt Regency Phuket will also have enough space to host the ultimate in destination weddings with banquet space and plenty of room for the wedding guests.
But if you are too busy exploring everything the island has to offer, the best time to chill at the resort will be the end of the day, where you can catch a stunning sunset over the Adaman Sea.
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Bangkok has many fantastic hotels, both historic and brand-spanking new, that are reasonably affordable by many other cities’ standards. We’ve told you Hyatt is showing the city some love the next few years, with a Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Hyatt Place all popping up to give the existing Grand Hyatt Erawan some company.
All that hotel newness nearby (the Park Hyatt is literally around the corner) means the Erawan has been getting busy redoing its 380 rooms and suites to keep up. The second phase of the revamp will be done later this year (more on that in a second), but make your way up to the 5th floor i.sawan spa, wander outside past the pool and you will find something unexpected: a small garden courtyard with a cluster of resort-like spa cottages in the middle of the frenetic city.
Pullman Hotels , fresh off some big new openings in London and Brisbane, has now opened the Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach Hotel on the west coast of Thailand, featuring 277 bedrooms, seven suites, spa, and a tropical location in the hills overlooking the Andaman Sea.
As you can see from the photos, some of the rooms are villa style and overlook cascading pools as well as the ocean. It looks beautiful, and this is definitely the type of resort where you will go to do nothing. Naithon Beach is known for its pretty face, but not for its nightlife, entertainment or shopping. The area has just five independent restaurants (Up Beach Club might be your best bet) and a mini-mart is the only local store (seriously). While most are probably not locally run, you could find other dining options at nearby hotels if you want to eat outside of the Pullman, which houses two restaurants and a deli.
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It seems not a week goes by at the moment without us writing about hotels changing management companies, whether more or less amicably due to ‘different strategic visions’ for the property or openly hostile, with middle-of-the-night takeovers and changing of the locks. Earlier this week, we talked about Ritz-Carlton losing Rose Hall in Jamaica (having previously reported on both Ireland and Palm Beach). Today it’s Mandarin Oriental, which will cease management of its Dhara Dhevi resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the end of August.
From the official statement:
“…the Owner and Mandarin Oriental have different aspirations for its management and long-term development. As such, we have mutually agreed that Dhara Dhevi Hotel Company Limited will resume the management of the property with effect from close of business on 31st August 2013. The hotel will be named The Dhara Dhevi hotel.”
We’ve shown that you get whisked around Amanpuri in open-air comfort, but what is it like to spend the night here, the original Aman Resort on the western coast of Phuket? This is a case of letting the pictures doing most of the talking, but there are definitely a few things that stood for us.
You’ll find Amanpuri on Pansea Beach, a thirty-minute drive from Phuket airport, which in turn is just under two hours flight from Bangkok, the Thai capital. Architecturally, this has to be one of the most impressive resorts we’ve stayed at recently. Forty individual pavilions are scattered across a hillside, tumbling down to the Andaman Sea. The driveway swoops down to the open air lobby, just beyond is a long midnight-blue tiled swimming pool, and wide steps take you down to the white powdery beach. The timelessness of it all (Amanpuri was constructed in 1988), is really refreshing in an age where we see lots of hotel design that wears out within a matter of years.
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Whenever we eat at a Thai restaurant, we tend to stick to our staples of pad see ew, green curry with chicken, or the occasional mango sticky rice. Sometimes, we notice the names of various spices listed on the menu—lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal—but since we're neither chefs nor from Thailand, we just shrug our shoulders and continue reading.
But if the day ever comes where we decide we want to know more about Thailand's rich array of indigenous spices, we now know where to go.
Ritz-Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay, one of the brand's most exclusive properties, has just introduced their (and the world's) first-ever spice concierge.
The Amari Buriram United football club will open a 60-room football-themed (soccer) hotel in Thailand later this year, aimed at increasing sports and leisure-related travel.
The rooms will overlook a mini-soccer field and a pool, and although details are a bit vague at the moment, it seems the bathrooms will be designed after a "player's changing room." Hopefully the sweat-soaked sock smell is not included! To further replicate the team-style amenities and way of life, the in-house restaurant will feature bench-style seating.
While we admit that parts of the concept sound hit or miss (aka the locker room bathrooms), this property seems poised to attract both casual and fanatic fans on a game weekend. Which makes us wonder: Are you surprised this concept hasn't caught on in the States yet? Couldn't you totally see Yankee Stadium with a 100-room hotel attached? Not just a Howard Johnson or a Holiday Inn close by -- we're talking an official Yankees Hotel. Or a Dallas Cowboys or Boston Red Sox establishment around the corner from the stadium?
Check out that balcony. Would a soak in that tub not immediately make you feel so much better about your day? Such is your option at the spa at the Regent Phuket Cape Panwa, specifically in one of the signature couple’s treatment rooms. Being the first new Regent hotel to open in a number of years, we swung by recently when we were in the area to check out how the renaissance of the group (now continued with a second opening in Bali) is coming along.
We arrived in the midst of a pretty impressive (and seasonal) thunderstorm, with sheets of rain cascading down like nobody’s business – when it rains in Thailand, it RAINS. Luckily those thunderstorms also tend to clear out in no time, chased away by the strength of the sun. Set in the far less developed south eastern part of Phuket, the hotel consists of 105 rooms – a combination of Pavilions, Suites, and Pool Villas – scattered on a hillside tumbling down to the Andaman Sea.