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A Thailand trip of a lifetime with Amari

by Jessica Flood on 16 July 2012, 13:07PM A Thailand trip of a lifetime with Amari

This was my second visit to Thailand and I loved it this time even more than the first. That’s the thing about the affectionately known “land of smiles”, there’s always something else to discover, a new experience to try out, a new friendly face to greet you warmly.

The first thing you notice about Thailand is the heat; it hits you full in the face as you step out of the airport. With the UK summer currently on pause, I couldn’t have been more appreciative of this and as we touched down I was feeling relaxed and looking forward to the week ahead, despite the long flight. I had been helped on the way by EVA Air’s great entertainment system which kept me occupied on the overnight flight, as well as the Thai feast they served up for breakfast. 

Our first stop on our eventful itinerary was Krabi, meaning a short hour flight from Bangkok. Our base was Amari Vogue. We arrived under the cover of darkness (you really notice how quickly it gets dark here and by 7pm the world is completely black) so had to wait until morning to witness the hotel at its best. The anticipation made it even more worth the wait, the hotel is stunning, with a number of flowing blue pools on different levels complete with charming elephant statues spurting water, and steps running down from the hotel to the sandy white Tub Kaek beach. My room was beautifully decorated in traditional Thai style interior but the highlight had to be what was outside the window. When I first pulled back the curtains I was delighted to be greeted by a vast balcony overlooking the front pool areas, with a comfortable looking sofa area to lounge on.

We chose to take a day’s excursion of cave kayaking with local company Krabi Caveman. The hotel manager Michael even came to wave us off. I was picked to share kayak with our guide Mel, a lucky guess by him that my kayaking skills may not have been expert and I was glad of his strength after a couple of hours of paddling. We spent the day exploring caves and paddling through mangrove forests as well as spotting the cheeky monkeys in the trees.

After all that exertion we were well rewarded with a rejuvenating Thai massage at the hotel’s signature Breeze Spa. I picked “serene” and emerged feeling just that, without a care in the world and ready to continue my Thailand experience. 

The majority of Amari hotels offer cookery lessons for guests and Vogue was no exception, we spent an enjoyable afternoon learning to prepare traditional Thai food at Lotus restaurant under the watchful eye of executive chef Jakkrit Traibun including Som Tam (traditional green papaya salad) and Tom Kha Gai (coconut milk soup with chicken), and then were rewarded with the dishes at dinner. I’ll definitely be trying the recipes again at home, though not sure if they’ll taste quite the same …

On our last night we enjoyed fantastic Italian food at Bellini. I’d recommend the mushroom risotto; it was melt in your mouth. After our food we wandered along the shore to watch the dazzling ocean sunset across the beach, an iconic sight that I’ll always remember. The next morning it was time to say goodbye to beautiful Krabi, completely rejuvenated from our time beach side we were ready for some city exploration.
Having enjoyed Bangkok so much on my last visit I was anxious to get back to the city and experience the buzz. Arriving at our hotel Amari Watergate I was delighted to hear “welcome back to your home in Bangkok” – they’d remembered me from my last visit! The hotel does feel like a home away from home, unusual for busy Bangkok with its frantic pace, helped a long way by the rooms which are stylish while remaining homely and comforting, as well as the wonderfully friendly staff. My room was on the 24th floor and came complete with breathtaking city views.

After lunch in international diner Cascade it was time for what I suspect is the main highlight of Bangkok for most visitors, the world famous shopping experience. A quick taxi ride (about £1) later I was at one of Bangkok’s shopping havens, the MBK Centre. Stepping inside was like entering a new world with rows upon rows of locals all jostling to tempt you with their goods. I definitely honed my haggling skills and came away giddy with excitement at my new and good value purchases, including a beautiful bright orange leather purse. If I’d had a few more hours I think I’d have been coming away with a lot more and it was with regret I moved past the sunglasses, beautiful silk, silver jewellery, leather handbags and other traditional trinkets.

Stepping outside blinking in the natural light I was prepared for a normal taxi back to Watergate but instead found myself drawn to a beckoning Tuk Tuk driver to avoid the taxi queue. It turned out to be my best decision of the day (except perhaps for my earlier shopping purchases nestling in my shopping bag) and what followed was something I’ll never forget – a crazy and exhilarating ride, dodging taxis, Tuk Tuks and street food vendors whilst taking in the sights of this exciting city, a true, authentic Thai experience.
Food options at Watergate are endless and as you’d expect from Bangkok, delicious. We tested both the Thai delicacies in Thai on 4 (although the Durian fruit was an acquired taste …) and also exquisite Chinese food in Heichinrou where the arrival of a whole peking duck caused quite a stir!

The next day during a snapshot tour of Bangkok we visited the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew Temple. The Grand Palace was built in 1782 by King Rama I and both sights absolutely can’t be missed on a trip to the city. The word impressive can be overused but the palace really is, so much workmanship has gone into every panel of gold detailing and in every direction is a new photo opportunity, I was snapping away. Some parts of the palace are even made of smashed up tea cups painstakingly attached to panels.

Later we took a canal excursion of Bangkok’s waterways, which I’d definitely recommend to experience the city from another viewpoint away from the majority of tourists. We pulled up half way along the river to a pier where a local man was waiting next to a sign: “Feed the fish for good luck”. As he handed us the bread we couldn’t have imagined the huge amount of monk fish which were preparing to greet us, and we squealed in awe as they flipped around, splashing us.

Nearing the end of our trip, it was with heavy hearts we bid Amari farewell and headed for Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, around a 45 minute drive away. It was hard to board the plane knowing I was waving goodbye to the warmth, delicious cuisine, welcoming faces and stunning scenery, but I know I’ll be back to Thailand before long and Amari will be my first stop.

For more information visit www.amari.com/watergate or www.amari.com/vogue

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