Hotels

Beach Trip or City Staycation? Discover the Best of Both Worlds in Thailand

Get caught up in Bangkok’s sprawling metropolis before unwinding on a white-sand Ko Samui beach.
IMAGE COURTESY OF AVANI HOTELS & RESORTS
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For years, Thailand has been a trendy destination for young backpackers keen to experience new landscapes, glorious weather, and delicious food at a very reasonable price. But you don’t need to be willing to rough it to enjoy the best the country has to offer; if you’re planning a rather more luxurious grand tour, Avani Hotels & Resorts’ Thai properties are a good place to start.


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Rising above the western bank of the Chao Phraya River, and less than an hour from Suvarnabhumi airport, Avani+ Riverside Bangkok occupies an elevated position overlooking the bustling Asian city. Arriving close to midnight, I tumble into the luxurious king-size bed and await the morning light, when the city’s magical expanse will be illuminated beneath me.


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The next morning, I look beyond the Chao Phraya towards the city’s Paphawarin Village and Wat Phraya Krai areas, and marvel at the sprawling landscape, which has skyscrapers and Buddhist temples lying side by side. I slip into my swimming costume and head to the hotel’s most popular Instagram spot, its infinity pool, where a quick dip proves a cooling start to the day. Now that I’m on level 26, the same scene appears even more spectacular.


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Looking only satisfies for so long—and soon enough, I want to get out in it. In a city based around a maze of canals, or klong, the best way to explore is by long-tail boat. Cruising through Klong Dao Kanong, we encounter traditional wooden homes, admire the Thai-Chinese architecture at Ratcha Orot and, at Wat Pak Num Pasi Chareon, feed the river’s gigantic fish for luck, as Thai custom dictates. At Klong Bang Luang, we browse the stalls at a floating market, where wicker bags and tropical plants are abundant, and stop for a local lunch of pad thai, before peering in on a traditional puppet show taking place in the Artist’s House, a crafts and design hub that sits right by the waterside. On our return journey, our knowledgeable Klong Guru points out the Grand Palace and the Temple of Dawn, Bangkok landmarks that look all the more majestic when gliding past on the water, as if by royal request.

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Always keen to try local produce, I am pleased to hear that it’s seafood night at Skyline. We indulge in a buffet feast of Thai red curry, prawns, mussels and shellfish-fried rice, and could go on eating if it weren’t for an invitation to a cocktail reception on the new rooftop area of the hotel’s bar, Seen, where we sip mojitos against a gloriously panoramic backdrop.


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If you ever tire of the intrigue of a city landscape, Thailand offers many more pockets of beauty. An hour’s flight away from Bangkok lies Ko Samui, the country’s second-largest island. The newly opened Avani+ Samui hotel sits on the island’s south-western perimeter (exactly the opposite side from the tourist hotspots) and is a quiet paradise, perfectly encased within a small bay.

Within moments of arriving in the bright reception area, we are cooled down with lemongrass cold towels and pineapple ice lollies. Then I am shown to my delightful room, an L-shaped villa looking out onto a small private pool. I jump straight in, its tantalizing blue too tempting to resist.


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Luxury comes in the form of little touches that appear in my room at just the right moment: a beach bag, a reusable water bottle, a wide-brimmed sun hat. Other accommodation options include a deluxe room with a balcony overlooking the whole resort, and beachfront villas with one or two rooms, making the bed-to-beach trip really just one step.


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After a light lunch of calamari and aioli from the room-service menu (or rather pool-service, since I dine with my feet submerged, stretched back on the wooden decking), I head to the spa, where an hour of intense relaxation awaits. Having opted for the signature massage, I fill out a consultation form, noting my current mood, my aims for the treatment and my favorite aromas. The personalized result is an invigorating treatment of medium pressure, which stretches out my back and leaves me feeling full of energy.


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On the beach, under a bamboo canopy illuminated with fairy lights, we dine on an impressive spread: salads of beetroot, feta, fig, and hazelnuts, before a splendor of barbecued prawns, sea bass with chili and chicken satay, all prepared by the in-house chef. As we conclude our banquet, we are treated to a performance of fire tricks, the entrancing flames leaving the white sand glistening under the moonlight.

With Avani’s private beach in such close proximity, it is tempting simply to stay at the hotel, lounging in the sun beside the picturesque pool or soaking up the atmosphere of Essence, the restaurant, where pancakes and fruit smoothies are available for breakfast, and a cool jazz trio make for a sophisticated atmosphere by night. If you do have the energy to venture further, though, there is plenty to explore: popular beach bars and night markets line the island’s north-east coast around Chaweng, and there are countless magnificent temples, including the twelve-meter tall Buddha at Wat Phra Yai. Between sightseeing excursions, seek sustenance at the Jungle Club, a quietly stylish hilltop restaurant and bar serving delicious Thai and European food with an unrivaled view across the Gulf of Thailand.

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One afternoon, during a boat trip around the smaller islands in the Samui Archipelago, we pause to snorkel in the wonderfully clear water, glimpsing tiny fish among the tangle of coral reefs beneath us, and then head on to Ko Taen for a walk through the dramatic mangrove forest on the island’s southwest coast. Stopping finally at Ko Mat Sum, where a lively beach bar serves up fresh pineapple juice, we wish to do little else but submerge ourselves in the clear water until our boatman calls and it’s time to head back around the next bay to Avani.

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On our final evening we dine at Essence, sipping gin cocktails from the bar, a revamped VW campervan. Zingy starters of watermelon and seaweed salad and crab cakes with mango and wasabi precede a tantalizing main course of sea bass, scallops, and sweet potato, and chicken with chili and tapenade. It’s the perfect end to a decadent stay – and not a backpacker in sight.


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Rooms start from £95 a night at Avani+ Riverside Bangkok and from £115 a night at Avani+ Samui. Both prices are exclusive of food, drink, spa treatments, and other activities.


*This article originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.co.uk

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Ellen Peirson-Hagger
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