HOW TO EXPERIENCE THAILAND WITH ACCOR HOTELS
Written by our travel advisor, Aaron Spriggs
I was lucky enough to join Thai Airways and Consolidated Travel on a quick trip to Bangkok and Phuket, where we checked out a range of hotel offerings from Accor Hotels.
I checked in for my 2 pm flight from Brisbane to Bangkok nice and early. Being treated to Business Class meant we had access to a nearly empty Air New Zealand lounge, in the recently renovated Brisbane International Terminal. With an excellent range of complementary food and drink offerings, it was a great way to relax before the flight.
We settled into our comfy seats on the Boeing 777, enjoyed a few glasses of Verve before take-off, then as we relaxed, we looked through the menu, which had a great selection of meals to choose from. It was a very comfortable flight; the highlight was the 4-course meal served just after departure, with one of the nicest Thai Red Duck Curries I have ever tasted. A second meal was served two hours before we landed; we were well fed and hydrated ready for the quick stop in Bangkok before our connecting flight to Phuket.
We cleared customs in Bangkok, and our baggage conveniently went straight through to Phuket for us. Phuket Airport has recently opened a new terminal and passengers with luggage connecting from an International flight need to walk to the International Terminal to collect their luggage, it was a bit of a hike, but worked out for the best, as we were able to then walk straight to our transfer and avoid the queues at the domestic terminal.
We checked in about 2 am at our accommodation, Mövenpick Myth Hotel Patong. I jumped into the most comfortable and enormous bed I have ever slept in. The hotel only opened in mid-February, so I could have been the first person to stay in the room – I even had to peel a dust sticker off the bedside USB port that had never been used. The room was big and airy with a great rain shower, a deep bathtub and a view of the fabulous sparkling pool, complete with a waterfall feature, swim-up bar (with beer on tap) and private cabanas. The hotel is only a 5-minute walk to the quieter northern end of Patong Beach, a 15-minute walk to Bangla Rd and Jungceylon Shopping Centre and the new Central Patong Shopping Mall.
The next day, after a pleasant pool view buffet breakfast, with made to order omelettes and decent coffee, we had a look through the various room types. All rooms have large twin king beds, perfect for couples or the solo traveller who likes to spread out. Most rooms also have a sofa bed that can be used for an extra guest. All rooms have a view of the pool, and pool access rooms are also available. We had a quick look through the function rooms that can comfortably seat 80-guests banquet style, with modern projectors and sound systems available for conferences and the large breakout room can be divided into smaller rooms if needed.
The day spa had a number of treatment rooms and was located just above the main foyer. It has a coffee bar, refreshments and a separate spa lounge and check-in area for executive guests. Overall the hotel was fantastic, and I hope to visit again soon for longer than a few hours of sleep and breakfast.
Next, we headed to Grand Mercure Phuket Patong for a quick inspection. The hotel is located about a 5-minute walk to the beach and around 15 minutes to Bangla Rd. It has 314 rooms set around a massive pool with a variety of restaurants and bars. The hotel has a number of one and two bedroom private pool villas for those who want privacy in a great location and is famous for its day spa and great value. The hotel has a grand ballroom that seats 160 banquet style and a great poolside restaurant and bar. It was only early, but the crowd in the pool was undoubtedly in holiday mode!
Next up we headed to the southern end of Patong to check out the Novotel Phuket Resort. The resort is set above the hustle and bustle of the streets, with great ocean views and of Patong, we could also see there were a couple of cruise ships at anchor.
The Novotel has 217 rooms, most with views of Patong or the headland and ocean. This is an excellent hotel for families with connecting rooms and bedrooms decorated for kids and a kids club. All rooms have an open-air balcony with several having direct pool access to one of the four pools. These pool access rooms can be booked for groups, providing a private lap pool with great views over Patong. The resort has tennis courts, a poolside bar and daily activities ranging from Pilates to Thai boxing and cooking classes. It’s a great family hotel with great views and a very relaxed atmosphere.
Our last hotel for the day was the Swissotel Resort & Spa in downtown Patong. Close to Bangla Rd and only 2 minutes to the beach, this is a great location for travellers looking to be out and about in the party town. We checked in and enjoyed a great lunch with our hosts and had a look around the property.
There is a great rooftop terrace with a bar, pool and views to the ocean. The resort has various theme nights with a buffet BBQ and fresh seafood available. The resort has 383 rooms with lovely comfy beds, a large bathroom and interconnecting rooms for families. There are several options to grab a refreshing drink including, the DBar in the lobby, the rooftop terrace, the swim up pool bar and an Irish pub called the Drunken Leprechaun.
After a dip in the pool and quick change of clothes, we headed north to Kamala Beach and the fabulous Andara Resort and Villas. The resort is split in two by the beach road. One side is home to the resort’s villas. These villas range in size from three to seven bedrooms and can cater for up to 14 guests in the largest villa. Each villa has a private pool, full kitchen and views over the beach and ocean.
We looked through the stunning 7-bedroom villa, which has been host to the rich and famous. The entry wing contains a vast living/dining room with an enormous TV, full kitchen, bathroom and direct access to the poolside terrace and gazebo, which overlooks the Andaman Sea. Across the open-air passageway is a huge master suite with a massive private bathroom. Upstairs are two wings with two more spacious bedrooms with ensuites and then down a level, below the pool, are another two huge bedrooms with ensuites and views to the water.
These villas are designed for comfort and can play host to intimate weddings or relaxing days by the pool. The 7-bedroom villa comes with two wait staff, a chef and includes breakfast daily. You can also chat with your chef to arrange other meals, cooking classes or food market visits. Guests of the villas also have access to the central part of the resort that has a stunning pool and the amazing Silk Restaurant, along with the stunning day spa and conference areas.
We were treated to dinner at the Silk Restaurant. After enjoying a couple of their signature cocktails, we sat down to dinner with the Sales Managers who then loaded us with wine while we enjoyed an amazing array of food. We sampled local favourites such as wok-fried Phuket lobster, whole fish baked in banana leaves, truffled veal cutlets and a range of Thai and Italian dishes. The service was spot on, and the dark wood and candlelight set the scene for a fabulous experience before we returned to the Swisshotel for the night.
An early buffet breakfast kick-started our day; then we had a quick flight to Bangkok, where afterwards we checked into the Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square. This 4-star hotel is located in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district with sky train access just metres from the hotel lobby. The hotel is currently undertaking a refurbishment within the foyer and restaurants. Most of the rooms have been revamped already, with the conference facilities, pool area and remaining rooms to be complete by the end of the year.
The rooms are a decent size with comfy beds and compact bathrooms, perfect for business travellers or the budget conscious wanting a great location. The buffet breakfast options are fantastic, especially the Asian style soup station and the piles of fresh fruit on offer. The pool area is looking a little tired, but having the biggest hotel pool in downtown Bangkok, it is a very welcome sight. And with beers at the poolside bar, being half the price as the lobby bar, it is a top spot to escape the heat!
Next, we headed to inspect the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit. Upmarket hotels and shopping surround the hotel. The rooms are similar in style to all Sofitel’s with modern, luxurious fixtures, great marble bathrooms and their signature King Size Beds and pillow menus. The Sofitel has a fantastic pool with adjoining day spa and poolside cocktail bar. The executive lounge on the upper floors has a private check-in for Club Level guests with evening cocktails and food available, along with meeting rooms and stunning views across the city.
On the top levels of the Sofitel is the newly opened Belga Rooftop Bar & Brasserie serving a range of cocktails and Belgium beers. Belga has over 40 beers available with nine beers available on tap, including Duval, which is only available from a handful of taps around the world.
We were treated to a range of Belgian dishes included mussels cooked in beer, beef tartare, croquettes and waffles, along with an amazing meal of baked endive, ham and Gruyere cheese. Dessert seemed a struggle, but waffles with cream and melted chocolate are always welcome. We headed back to the hotel for the night to prepare for our tour the next morning.
Our guide and driver picked us up from the foyer bang on time and took us through the streets of Bangkok to The Grand Palace. He showed us through the various temples and explained the stories behind the artworks and statues before ushering us in to see the Jade Buddha. The last time I was here, was four years ago, the temple housing the Buddha was a peaceful, serene place of worship that you could take a quiet moment and really absorb the beauty and tranquillity of the place. My how things have changed, sadly, today with thousands of Chinese tourists walking through, they pay no respect at all to the temple or their fellow travellers. I was hit with an umbrella as a hint to move out of the way, just so the Chinese group could squeeze through. Well, I took great pleasure in lobbying that rolled up umbrella into the middle of the lawn, laughing as the group dissolved into chaos with no rolled-up umbrella to follow! My tip here: To enjoy the serenity and this place of worship, arrive early or late to avoid crowds and plan to visit outside of any Chinese holiday period.
After the crowds and chaos of the palace, our guide took us a few minutes down the road to a Thai Massage School. Being someone who doesn’t like being massaged, I thought of grabbing a beer and sitting out front and waiting for the group, but my masseuse insisted that he would be gentle. I’m not sure how “gentle” he was, the next hour was spent in agony being prodded, twisted and stretched more than I’ve done in my life, but I walked out feeling a million baht and gout that had been niggling my heel the whole trip was gone. I’m glad I took part, and I encourage everyone to give it a go – even just once!
We then headed to the Royal Thai Navy Clubhouse for lunch. Our guide apologised for not being able to drop us right at the door, but security was elevated, as the Rear Admiral of the Thai Navy was there enjoying lunch at the same time, so if the place is good enough for the big boss, then it was certainly good enough for us. Within two minutes of sitting down, there was a bottle of ice-cold Singha in front of each of us. Another two minutes later and the table was loaded with enough food to sink a battleship. We powered through Tom Yum soup, steamed chicken, roast duck, piles of prawns, rice, and noodles, and then packed the leftovers up for our driver.
Our driver took us back to the hotel, most of the group headed out for some shopping, but I lounged by the pool with a few ice-cold beers. That night we headed out for our final group dinner. We started with cocktails at the Red Sky Bar on top of the Centara Grand Hotel. The rooftop bar has amazing views of the city with sky-high prices to match. We watched a fiery Bangkok sunset before heading off to our secret dinner location.
I’ve been coming to Bangkok for years and have sent hundreds of clients there, but I had never heard of our dining destination – Cabbages and Condoms. Cabbages and Condoms have been a Bangkok institution for over 30 years. It was founded as a non-for-profit group by Mechi Viravaidya (former Member of Senate of Thailand), as part of the Population and Community Development Association (PCDA) that promoted family planning, with taxi drivers also encouraged to hand out condoms. The restaurant has raised millions of dollars over the years and runs a chain of family planning centres across Thailand.
We sat in the cool, outdoor dining area surrounded by condom paraphernalia, condom lampshades and even a Santa Claus and Rudolph made of condoms! We had a great Thai meal and enjoyed the Thai music and dancing show and were each given a condom instead of an after-dinner mint. This is a fun place to visit and supports a very worthy cause. The PCDA has also started a campaign to increase Thai kids ability to swim with the aim of reducing the remarkably high child drowning rate.
Our last day in Bangkok was free time – I met up with an old housemate for lunch, had a wander through the amazing Siam Paragon Shopping Centre where you can get everything from your groceries to a Tiffany necklace or a Maserati car. Afterwards, I headed back to the hotel to relax by the pool.
We were lucky enough to get business class on the way home, but my seat was broken and didn’t recline and my seat back entertainment was on the blink, but the cabin crew kept me happy with a full glass of Verve and a great breakfast before landing back in Brisbane.
I’d like to thank Matt from Thai Airways and Steve from Consolidated Travel and the other agents on the trip for a great experience and a special thanks to the Sales Managers at each of the hotels we visited for their hospitality.
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