Anantara - a world all to its own

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I have previously described the Anantara Resort (formerly known as the Royal Garden Village) as an incomparable adventure, and this description still holds true. Actually borrowing from Hemingway, itís more of a moveable feast, because even though it is situated in a great location, it could be picked up and moved away as a portable Xanadu. Built like a Thai village, it is set on 14 acres of tropical gardens with its own white sandy private beach, just five km north of Hua Hin.

Bensley, Bensley, Bensley. If you are familiar with the work of the famous landscape designer Peter Bensley you will notice his influence as soon as you set foot on the property. Landscaping is truly what sets apart any property that owner Bill Heinecke is associated with, and itís never more apparent than in this wonderful refuge. And its all Bensley's doing - his distinctive style is omnipresent.


Describing Anantara, Bensley says, "We have tried to create layers and layers of interest in the gardens. We are constantly searching for interesting plants, lights and sculpture to add to the collections. We have planted the garden to be biologically interesting by making five distinct sub-gardens; the white garden, the heliconia garden, the red garden, the palm garden (which boasts some sixty plus species) and the yellow garden.Ē

And the lobby? "The inspiration for the lobby design was drawn from the many colors of monks robes. We used old Burmese furniture and wood to create the oversized couches. Our artists spent many hours adding the layers of red saffron and orange paints to give the furniture the kiss of decades."

Heinecke and his wife Katherine deserve credit for demanding such high standards in their properties and for hiring firms like Abacus and Bensley Design and architects like Chulatat Kittibutra and Mathar ďLekĒ Bunnag to design the resortís Village and Lagoon areas respectively. They donít just throw up a resort and hope to make some quick cash. They spend a lot of time and effort making sure that Thai people can be proud of the site and that it presents a good and respectful image of Thailand.        

The pool in the Village area is four-leaf clover in form and a wonderful place to hang around and relax. There's also a poolside bar, the Loy Nam, where you can grab your favorite drink, juice or tonic.

Or you can lounge around the Sala Siam and it will seem as if you are in a grand sala at the turn of the last century, with its elaborate teak ceiling and crossbeams, ornate bamboo furniture and large overhead fans. The Sala provides nightly entertainment and is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of the resort, providing a wide range of exotic cocktails with names like the Royal Passion, the Phuket Blue, the Sabai Sabai, the Siamese Connection, the Secret of Sala Siam, the Kamoey and of course the Hua Hin all served with traditional Thai warmth and hospitality.

Other fine F & B outlets include: the Issara Cafe, which serves up international fare (a buffet breakfast and a la carte lunches and dinners); the beachside Sai Thong, which offers alfresco dining, light snacks & pizza throughout the day and has a daily BBQ at 6pm and; and the Baan Thalia serves your favorite Italian dishes.

The Rim Nam is the resort's Thai restaurant. From the lemon-grass facecloths to the terrific service, it offers a superb dining experience. Overlooking the pool and fabulous gardens, it is strategically situated to give you the impression you are in an open-air boat just cruising on by.

Thereís also the Lagoon Pool Bar set in the Lagoon Terraces, which is a shaded bar offering spa cuisine and light snacks along with a full range of freshly squeezed juices and beverages.       

Anantara is made up of twelve clusters of unique Thai villas and lagoon rooms, which combine to create a village atmosphere set in lush gardens.

The resort plays two different roles. Although it is a fabulous spot to celebrate a honeymoon or have a romantic holiday, it is also a great place to have a family vacation, and many of the guests tend to be very family oriented. So how can it accommodate both without having the two infringe on each otherís turf? The families tend to stay in the Village area, and those looking for romantic bliss, or a private retreat, seek out the Lagoon Terrace.    

But even parents can get a break from the kids to lounge around the pool, get some rest or pamper themselves in the resortís Mandara Spa. Anantara has so many things for the kids to do such as mountain biking, beach soccer, walking and frolicking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, sailing, tennis, ping pong and wind surfing Ė all of which can be supervised by Anantara staff. Thereís also batik and doll painting and a whole slew of other activities, so, itís really tough for the kids to get bored.   

And if the adults get a bit restless themselves, thereís a state of the art fitness center on site and eight premier golf courses are located nearby as well as a number of beautiful temples, national parks and palaces.

The resortís 197 rooms are divided into two areas. 157 are located in the main Village area (the family area) with 74 deluxe garden rooms, 37 garden terrace rooms, 21 seaview rooms, and two suites. The remaining 38 Lagoon rooms, made up of 19 superior and 19 deluxe rooms, are located in the Lagoon Terrace.

 

The suites in the Lagoon Terrace, with their high ceilings, exquisite interior design and fine teak finishings are so conducive to coziness that you feel relaxed as soon as you cross the threshold. And the extended balconies overlooking the lotus-covered lagoons are an absolute wonderful spot to have a romantic candlelight dinner. And talk about indulging: soak in a large square marble tub, while your watch your favorite TV show or listen to your favorite CD. You just canít help but feel relaxed and restful here and thatís what makes it so tough to leave.

If you are familiar with the Regent Chiang Mai resort, you will immediately notice the similarity in design and style, both being the work of Lek Bunnag and Peter Bensley. They have tried to reflect a mood of timeless relaxation in a rustic village setting and have done just that.    

62% of the resortís guests are European, 25% are Thai, with the remaining 13% primarily coming from other Asian countries. Anantara obviously has an effect on its guests, as many are return customers who have been known to stay for weeks at a time. One German couple has even flown in twenty-eight times to stay at the resort over the last ten years.

In an earlier visit I remembering meeting one Finnish couple whom had just spent two-and-a-half years trying to adopt a Thai child. The adoption had just become official and they were celebrating by staying for a week at the Anantara (then the Royal Garden Village).

Nowadays, the resort is attracting more and more Thai guests because of its design: lots of open-air with many low-rise Thai-style buildings, which are close to the beach, and with plenty of great food outlets.

As mentioned, Anantara has an outlet for the wondrous Mandara Spa, located in the Lagoon Terrace. Talk about rubbing your troubles away - specially trained masseuses will soothe and revitalize those aching muscles and joints while you listen to the soothing sounds of traditional Thai music.

The spa has three luxurious treatment rooms (with three more on the way) each opening onto a private tropical garden with terrazzo plunge pool and outdoor shower. There is also a male and female steam room with adjoining shower facilities.

The Body of Mandara offers a body scrub, stress-free neck and shoulder massages plus foot and leg care while the Face of Mandara includes deep cleaning facials, anti-stress facials and Thai herbal facials and Mandara offers pedicures and manicures as well. You can also have a luxurious massage on the beach from independent masseurs while you listen to the lapping of the waves.

In many ways, the resort is like a museum or even a tribute to the Angkor civilization as there are little carvings everywhere reminiscent of that great kingdom. Bensley is a master at the added little things, whether it be his stone figurines of an elderly man and woman marking the rest rooms, a vase of lotus flowers in the washrooms themselves, the antique birdhouses on the property or a sandstone fish spouting water poolside. It's almost as if you are in a resort set deep in the jungle, but a happy and peaceful one at
that.

In the lobby there is a Jim Thompson shop with all your silk favorites: handkerchiefs, shirts, ties, scarves, handbags, purses and sarongs and next door to it there is a small library with Internet access.

Getting to Anantara couldnít be easier these days as Bangkok Airways now flies to Hua Hin four times a week (Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun) for a very reasonable fee of THB950 one way. The flight leaves Bangkok at 8:40 am, arriving at 9:15 am (the return flight leaves Hua Hin at 19:20 pm and gets into Bangkok at 20:00 pm). And the resort is only five minutes away from the airport. But as long as traffic isnít bad you can also reach Anantara in 3 to 3/12 hours by car or by bus from Bangkok.

There is also a shuttle bus linking the Anantara to the Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa, and it can also drop you off in Hua Hin if you want. The Marriott, located on the other side of town, going towards Prachuap Khiri Khan, is another fine hotel, with many fine eateries and itís also a former Royal Garden property.

Exotic interiors, natural tropical gardens, a unique blend of Thai architectural heritage, a great beachfront and swimming area Ė itís all here. And if you come at the right time of year, you will even get a chance to see the Kingís Cup Elephant Polo Tourney, where all the proceeds going to the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.

Anantara is truly something out of one of those wondrous TAT or Thai Airways ads that cause so many people to want to travel to this country. So do yourself a favor, visit the resort for an otherworldly experience.

KINGíS CUP ELEPHANT POLO TOURNAMENT AT ANANTARA RESORT & SPA, HUA HIN Ė THAILAND - (press release)

Contact Info:
Tel: (66-32) 520-250 
Fax: (66-32) 520-259

E-mail: info@anantara.com

Website: www.royal-garden.com, www.anantara.com


FINIS

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