The second episode of our new Travel Diary series sees us once more setting a course for the Far East. Mary Gleeson and her husband Jim were the lucky winners of our 2014 Thailand Competition, and chose this January to enjoy their all-expenses-paid 10-day trip to the Land Of Smiles. There was one small catch though – they had to tell us all about it! Read their personal account below and, when your jealousy reaches tipping point, look for a luxury Thailand holiday of your own here.
1. So this was your first time in Thailand. What were your preconceptions of it as a holiday destination before arriving?
It was my first time but my husband Jim lived there for a few years in the late 90’s. I had that classic image of Thailand in my mind of the long tail boat, granite pillar and blue sea. I was also looking forward to good food and some exploration.
2. And now? How would describe Thailand to someone yet to visit?
Thailand is a wonderful country that you can’t possibly see in a two-week holiday. For me, our trip was a taster for future trips. Despite it sometimes being busy, there was a lovely sense of calm about the whole place. Bangkok was as crazy as I imagined, but not as stressful. I had no preconceptions of Hua Hin but liked its ‘small city by the sea’ feel and particularly liked the pier restaurants. I also liked the fact you could reach it easily by road from Bangkok in just a couple of hours.
3. What are your usual holiday destinations of choice – how does a Thailand trip differ?
We’ve travelled a lot, most recently to Egypt and Spain (we’ve also lived in both countries). We’ve also spent time in the Caribbean, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve visited the East for a number of years so very much enjoyed a change in culture and pace.
4. You visited Bangkok and Hua Hin. Can you tell us a bit about each, and how they compare?
In Bangkok I really liked using the river as a means of getting around. The shuttle from the hotel connected us to the network of river buses and taxis. I’m always much happier on water than on land! It was a great way to see the city. In Bangkok we had first-night drinks at Vertigo / Moon bar at the Banyan Tree. Highly recommended for getting a perspective of the city and a great spot for a G&T! We also spent time visiting the Khlongs, Grand Palace and Wat Arun. All must-sees.
Our Hua Hin highlight was a trip to the Hua Hin Hills vineyard, about 40 minutes out of town. It was a good chance to see some countryside and enjoy lunch with the most incredible view. We also took afternoon tea at the Centara Grand Hotel which was once the Emperor’s Palace.
5. You stayed at Anantara resorts. Please tell us about your experience with them – I’m told you particularly enjoyed cocktail hour, and wanted to smuggle the beds home!
Both Anantara Bangkok Riverside and Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa were exceptional. We felt very relaxed at both hotels and the service was discreet allowing guests to be comfortable and at ease. Breakfast buffets at both were packed with choice and of excellent quality; you really could eat your way around the world and have something different everyday should you choose. The rooms were spacious and the beds large with beautiful linen and so, so comfortable. Happy Hour at various bars around the hotels were a good way to start the evening with a very nice cocktail.
6. Did you find your itinerary to be convenient? Transfers and other arrangements went smoothly?
Everything went to plan. Our transfers were always on time and efficient. It was only 2 hours 15 minutes from Bangkok to Anantara Hua Hin and we arrived before lunchtime. Flights with Emirates were great with just the right time in Dubai (2 hours).
7. Favourite thing about your trip overall?
We had excellent weather; January was a great choice for us with days filled with sunshine and temperatures around 30c. We enjoyed exploring, using the riverboats, long tails and tuk tuks to explore, and of course, the food.
8. Thai cuisine is world famous and must be even more delicious at the source. What and where was your most delicious Thai meal?
We had good food and great views at the pier restaurants in Hua Hin but my favourite Pad Thai was for lunch one day on the beach at the Anantara Hua Hin. We found the hotel food options to be very good and great value for a 5 star hotel.
9. Name one thing that would make you visit Thailand again.
Affordable flights. We really don’t need persuading to visit again, we only scratched the surface and have a LOT more to see. Top of the list would be Chiang Mai and some of the quieter islands, and diving in the Similan Islands.
10. Describe Thailand in three words.
Colourful. Vibrant. Intriguing.
11. How would you describe the idea of ‘Thainess’? What do you think makes Thai people and culture so unique and special?
Their smiles are contagious and their welcome always warm. Their ability to balance entire families onto one scooter is seriously impressive! There is a real sense of family and calm in their nature.