HO­TELS: THE ROYAL CONNECTION

The lat­est of­fer­ing from Möven­pick Ho­tels & Re­sorts fol­lows in the foot­steps of the Thai Royal Fam­ily.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY JULIE MILLER

The lat­est of­fer­ing from Möven­pick Ho­tels & Re­sorts fol­lows in the foot­steps of the Thai Royal Fam­ily.

For nearly a cen­tury, the Thai Royal Fam­ily has cho­sen to hol­i­day in its own back­yard – specif­i­cally, at the sea­side re­sort of Hua Hin. And with good rea­son – idyl­li­cally lo­cated just three hours south of Bangkok on a calm bay fringed by pure white sand and co­conut palms, this former fish­ing vil­lage of­fers the ul­ti­mate beach es­cape: eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, vibrant and cul­tur­ally rich, yet far enough re­moved from tourist may­hem to re­tain an air of tran­quil­lity.

Hua Hin’s royal en­dorse­ment be­gan at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, when Prince Chakrabongse stum­bled upon the sleepy fish­ing vil­lage dur­ing a hunt­ing trip, later re­turn­ing to build the first beach villa on the daz­zling cres­cent of sand. In the 1920s, on the ad­vice of his physi­cian, King Rama VI built a sum­mer re­treat on the beach called ‘The Royal House of Love and Hope’; in his wake, the Thai no­bil­ity flocked south to es­cape the Bangkok heat, mak­ing Hua Hin the most fash­ion­able week­end des­ti­na­tion for the elite.

Thai­land’s beloved King Bhu­mi­bol, who sadly passed away last year, also adored Hua Hin, and for many years used a palace built in 1928, known as ‘Klaikang­won’ or ‘Far From Wor­ries’, as his main res­i­dence.

Un­til re­cently, however, Hua Hin was largely ig­nored by in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers who instead flocked to Phuket, Koh Sa­mui and Pat­taya for their beach hol­i­days. But fi­nally the royal se­cret is out, and Hua Hin is right­fully be­ing hailed as one of Thai­land’s most ap­peal­ing sea­side des­ti­na­tions.

It’s lit­tle sur­prise, then, that the up­scale Swiss hotel man­age­ment com­pany, Möven­pick Ho­tels & Re­sorts, has cho­sen Hua Hin as the lo­ca­tion of its new­est prop­erty in Thai­land. Lo­cated on a pri­vate strip of sand just 15 min­utes from the centre of town, the Möven­pick Asara Re­sort & Spa Hua Hin is seem­ingly plucked from a post­card, with ab­so­lute beach frontage com­plete with re­splen­dent day beds un­der palm trees, over­looked by an in­fin­ity pool and lush tropical gar­dens.

Fam­i­lies are a ma­jor fo­cus at this re­sort, with spa­cious res­i­dences con­sist­ing of 96 suites, pool vil­las and beach­front vil­las as well as a large ar­ray of leisure op­tions in­clud­ing a ded­i­cated kids’ club, a canopy-shaded swim­ming pool just for lit­tle guests and ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing cata­ma­ran trips into the Gulf of Thai­land, sea kayak­ing and daily ex­cur­sions to local sights such as tem­ples and mar­kets.

One of the most pop­u­lar day trips is to Khao Sam Roi Yot Na­tional Park, famed for the cathe­dral-like Phraya Nakhon Cave, where shafts of light pierce the lime­stone to re­veal a much-pho­tographed clas­si­cal Thai pavil­ion, built in 1890 to com­mem­o­rate a visit by King Rama V – yet an­other royal as­so­ci­a­tion with the region! Be pre­pared for quite a hike to get to this cave – it’s a 430-me­tre climb up un­even steps, which can be quite chal­leng­ing in the hu­mid­ity!

A much cooler ex­pe­ri­ence (lit­er­ally!) is a visit to Mri­ga­daya­van Palace, King Rama VI’s sum­mer palace built in 1923. A classic ex­am­ple of raised Thai ar­chi­tec­ture, the teak pavil­ions are linked by long cov­ered cor­ri­dors, designed to

catch the sea breeze as nat­u­ral air con­di­tion­ing. The palace is open daily, and gives a glimpse into the royal life­style that made Hua Hin what it is to­day.

The ad­di­tion of the Hua Hin re­sort brings Möven­pick’s Thai­land of­fer­ings to a total of six, with an­other three prop­er­ties slated to open in the near fu­ture. There are cur­rently two Möven­pick ho­tels on the south­ern is­land of Phuket: one at Bang­tao Beach in the ex­clu­sive La­guna com­pound, and the other just me­tres away from the lovely sands of Karon Beach.

For fam­i­lies, Möven­pick Karon Beach ticks all the boxes, with its Lit­tle Birds Kids’ Club fo­cus­ing on ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural of­fer­ings in­clud­ing eco-trails, bird­watch­ing, vis­its to an or­ganic gar­den, cook­ing classes and dance classes. By hon­ing in on these traditional Thai ex­pe­ri­ences, chil­dren – and their par­ents, who are in­vited to join the ac­tiv­i­ties

– learn to ap­pre­ci­ate the unique­ness of the des­ti­na­tion, cre­at­ing spe­cial mem­o­ries that will im­pact through­out their lives.

Fam­i­lies are also at the fore at the five-star Möven­pick Siam Hotel Na Jom­tien in Pat­taya, where chil­dren un­der the age of six eat for free and older chil­dren re­ceive half-price meals.

The younger guests are also given the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore hid­den tal­ents, with Ju­nior Artist, Chef, Golfer, Mu­si­cian and Rider pro­grams designed to in­spire and en­ter­tain with fun, hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties. For in­stance, Ju­nior Riders are given a one- or three-day in­tro­duc­tion to horse rid­ing in part­ner­ship with the Thai­land Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion, learn­ing how to groom a horse, ride and even ex­plore the ba­sics of the sport of polo – an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for a pony-mad child!

For vis­i­tors to the vibrant cap­i­tal city of Bangkok, two Möven­pick prop­er­ties offer lux­u­ri­ous fa­cil­i­ties for both business and leisure guests: Möven­pick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 and Möven­pick Res­i­dences Ekka­mai. The lat­ter con­sists of spa­cious self-con­tained ser­viced apart­ments fea­tur­ing all the com­forts of home; while the former is a five-star hotel with a rooftop pool, a 24-hour tuk-tuk shut­tle to the Sky­train (which will quickly whisk you to some of the best shop­ping in Asia) and ver­sa­tile con­fer­ence fa­cil­i­ties for 120 guests.

Of course, no visit to Bangkok is com­plete with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the local Thai tra­di­tion of din­ing on the streets – and just a few sois from the Sukhumvit 15 hotel is Soi 11, renowned as one of the most reli­able places to try street food. There are also count­less de­lec­ta­ble restau­rants in Bangkok, in­clud­ing the hotel’s own Lelawadee Res­tau­rant, which of­fers au­then­tic Thai flavours and the fresh­est of in­gre­di­ents in an at­mo­spheric in­door/out­door set­ting over­look­ing a wa­ter­fall and cen­tral gar­den.

And of course, nothing says Bangkok like a rooftop bar!

The Rain­for­est Rooftop Bar at Möven­pick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 of­fers panoramic views of the spec­tac­u­lar Bangkok sky­line with classic cock­tails and tapas-style snacks. Yet an­other classic Thai ex­pe­ri­ence fit for a king! •

Open­ing im­age: Beach­front view, Möven­pick Asara Re­sort & Spa Hua Hin. Above, from top: Beach­front pool view, Möven­pick Asara Re­sort & Spa Hua Hin; Three bed­room res­i­dences, Möven­pick Re­sort Bang­tao Beach Phuket.

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