Mostly known for its island destinations, retail therapy and delicious street food, our northern neighbour, Thailand, is perfect for a getaway — be it for a weekend of rejuvenation or a leisurely trip. With tourism being one of the main contributors to the country’s economy, visitors are often spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation.
When faced with the conundrum of taking your pick from the various hotels and resorts, Minor International’s Avani Pattaya Resort & Spa as well as Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel — both owned by the Minor Hotel Group — make for compelling options in those respective cities.
Avani Pattaya Resort & Spa
Located along the eastern gulf coast of Thailand, Pattaya may be popularly known for the go-go bars on its Walking Street but recent years have also seen the rise of a myriad of hotels and resorts catering for a wide range of tourists.
Avani Pattaya Resort & Spa (Avani Pattaya), however, is not a new hotel. While it was only rebranded last year (it was previously known as Pattaya Marriott Resort and Spa), the property itself has remained with the brand for over three decades. Interestingly, it was also the Minor Hotel Group’s very first hotel founded back in 1978; it was then known as the Royal Gardens Resort. One could say that with the recent refurbishment and rebranding initiatives, the resort’s journey with the brand seems to have come full circle, marking the start of a new chapter for the resort.
Having never visited Pattaya before, I was eager to see what it had to offer. It took a 90-minute drive from Bangkok International Airport before I could experience it.
Avani Pattaya is situated in the city centre, a walking distance from the beach where tourists and pedlars fill the beachfronts. Yet, the resort offers pleasant repose from the bustling streets that surround it. The design and atmosphere of the resort are such that they create a sanctuary of sorts and a welcome change from the clamour and activity outside for guests who simply appreciate peace and quiet.
The predominantly wooden décor adds warmth to the environment, which is filled with greenery. Lounge by the pool area that is surrounded by trees. When you want to take a break from all the swimming, wade across the waters to the pool bar and enjoy your favourite drinks without having to leave the pool. If you do not fancy the idea of drinking in your bathing suit, head for the beautifully decorated Elephant Bar for an evening drink or aperitif. For ultimate relaxation, the spa offers exceptional massages. Depending on the outcome of a questionnaire and pre-consultation, the trained masseuse will suggest the form of therapy — Boost, Balance, Calm or Purify — that best suits your body’s needs and state of mind.
If you ever get tired of Thai food, Irish bar Dicey Reilly’s, located within the resort grounds, offers a wide selection of pub grub and other western dishes. If you crave something with an Asian flair, the mall next door — connected to the resort — is home to teppanyaki restaurant Benihana where the very entertaining chefs put on a show and serve up a Japanese feast. That said, if, like me, you don’t mind a healthy dose of decadent Thai cuisine throughout your holiday, you are bound to be spoilt for choice without having to step out of Avani Pattaya. I particularly enjoyed the food offered at the resort’s Sala Rim Nam that serves a delish selection of Thai dishes. Dine here at night to fully appreciate its ambience.
All in all, Avani Pattaya is equipped with almost everything you would need — from the comfortable rooms to fitness facilities and a plethora of culinary options — leaving one with little or no reason to leave the resort’s grounds, making it an ideal place for ample rest and rejuvenation.
Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel
The second leg of my stay in Thailand was at Avani Riverside Bangkok, the contemporary and sassy younger sister of Avani Pattaya. Approximately a year old at the time of my visit, this hotel sports a more modern design, catering to the hip and edgy as well as business clientele. Rising 26 storeys above the banks of Bangkok’s picturesque Chao Phraya River, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort — also owned by Minor Hotel Group — separates Avani Riverside Bangkok from the River of Kings.
True to its name, each room in this hotel enjoys a view of the magnificent river through an expansive glass window that also frames the skyline. Leave the curtains open through the night to fall asleep to the view of city lights and wake up to the rays of sunlight in your room as Bangkok comes alive. Another aspect of the room that I thoroughly enjoyed was the fluidity of space, thanks to the moving walls that separate the bathroom from the bedroom: Pull them close for privacy or fully open for a seamless floor plan.
The river — a source of livelihood and transport for the people — is the best way to explore Bangkok sans traffic. Free shuttle boats leave from the pier at designated times, making it convenient to hop on and off at your destination of choice, be it a leisurely stroll to take in the sights and sounds, a shopping spree in one of the many markets or to try out the array of street food.
In-house dining options cater for international palates and whenever possible, expound the concept of honest food. The concept combines elements of the locavore movement, sustainability and a farm-to-table approach. Similar to Avani Pattaya, Avani Riverside has its own hydroponic farm, sealing the brand’s commitment to responsible eating.
If you arrive at the hotel on a hot day, a dip in the infinity pool as you take in the view of the city is definitely in order. Due to its size, however, the pool area can get crowded, especially during peak season at the 248-room hotel. Sharing a space with the pool is a rooftop bar and restaurant, Attitude, described as Bangkok’s “newest place to be seen”.
Head here — whether you like lingering at the rooftop after a swim or lounging with a drink in hand for a nightcap — and give mixologist Alex Hersent’s creations a shot. Try the pretty, signature cocktail Moulin Rouge (made of Absolut Raspberri, passion fruit juice, a touch of grenadine and Prosecco) or the experimental Molecule of Love, a mellow blend of Chambord raspberry liqueur, Malibu and strawberry -flavoured caviar pearls to make it pop.
What to do in Bangkok:
1. Make a trip to Asiatique
Combining two most popular elements of a shopping haven, this mall-cum-night bazaar — once a bustling international trade port — houses over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants.
2. River cruise dining
Make reservations at a floating restaurant and dine while cruising along the Chao Phraya River.
3. Eat like a local
Take a walk outside the hotel and explore the many eateries that serve up generous portions of beef noodle soup and Thai coconut rice pudding khanom krok, among others.
What to do in Pattaya:
1. Hydroponic farm and cooking lessons
Avani Pattaya’s Kun Ying hydroponic farm provides fresh ingredients for its restaurants, and guests can take cooking lessons here. Tour the farm and pick some produce to prepare an earth-to-plate meal to enjoy amid the lush greenery.
2. Silverlake Vineyards
Take a tour of the vineyards and sample some local wine from Pattaya’s Silverlake Winery, which is not too far from the hydroponic farm.
3. Play a game of golf
Known for golfing holiday homes among tourists and golf vacation homes among locals, Pattaya boasts about 20 golf courses.
For more information on the hotels, check www.minorhotels.com.