Caroline Garland, PA to the Editor-in-Chief, lives the high-life beachside at the Renaissance in Pattaya and explores the market places of Bangkok
Why go: Thailand has been on the to-do list since my early twenties but for one reason or another didn’t happen until now. As soon as we arrived at the airport, we were met by the most helpful girl in the world: everything was possible, even my request for a noodle stop before getting in the car was totally fine! Her friendly welcome set the trip up, we jumped in the car and were whisked away from city madness in Bangkok to beach life in Pattaya.
When: The best time to go is November to March with temperatures sitting around 25 to 32 degrees, it’s hot but not overwhelming. My preconception was that the moment you arrive, it’s instant hair frizz and shiny faces but none of that was true. Maybe we were lucky with the weather, but there was no need to find the nearest Brazilian blow dry bar: just enjoy the beautiful weather and reeeelax.
You really must: Thailand is famous for its idyllic islands so if staying on the mainland you can go an excursion to a private island for the day. Our hotel was by the sea and the yacht club was just a few minutes drive along the coast. Our hosts took us out for a day of snorkelling, diving off the back of the boat into the glittering blue sea, on-deck sun bathing and a Thai lunch prepared on the boat by our lovely crew: it was every bit as divine as it sounds. Just ask the hotel navigator and they’ll set everything up for you – it’s the best local advice you can get, they can help you charter a boat, book a local restaurant, arrange any kind of day trip. The service is unique to Renaissance and a great source of knowledge if you’re first time in the area.
At the other end of the spectrum there was no way I could ignore the call of the go-go bars on Walking Street, Pattaya City. It’s about a half an hour drive from the hotel and definitely not for everyone. There are a lot of older European men and young Asian girls and boys but more regular tourists than anything else. I wanted to see for myself if felt intimidating and exploitative. It was crazy busy with people hanging from cars and scooters, flyers for bars and clubs flapping in your face every few meters. It was colourful and crazy, hostesses dancing on bars next to a boxing ring, fight in full swing. The echoes of recent history are clear, previous days of military posted soldiers, services being provided and now more of a tourist attraction in the same way you might go to the red light district in Amsterdam. If I’m honest I didn’t really know what to make of it, it’s people-watching paradise and on the surface innocent fun, but I’m sure if you dig a little deeper there could be a darker side (but that’s the same in pretty much every city.)
Dine at: There’s nothing better than eating by the ocean, sitting on a terrace with your favourite people. Rimpa Lapin sits on the top of a cliff, the main dining room perched at the top with multiple levels leading down to the sea. We sat half way down, listening to the waves crashing below and watching the sun setting on the horizon. The candles flicker on the tables and tropical plants sway in the breeze: it’s without a doubt an impressive location. The menu has all the dishes you would expect – I had to try the Rimpa shrimp main course, which gives you the option of ordering for milder palate, or going more local and enjoying the chilli heat. It was pretty (damn) hot, but the fragrant spices and herbs brought it all together, with side orders of salad, pineapple rice with nuts and coconut (served in half a pineapple, slices of papaya) cocktails and iced water making it the exact dinner you daydream about on grey rainy days. It’s nothing fancy but the best experiences are more about ambience and that’s exactly why this place is so popular
For a more chilled, feet-digging-in-the-sand kind of evening, The Glasshouse on Na Jomtien beach has huge welcoming sofas feet away from the sea. Sitting under candle lit trees, listening to gentle beats from the sound system, you can’t help but feel super chilled. We didn’t have dinner here as had already eaten but the cocktails were mixed with precision. I always like to test a place by seeing how they mix a mojito – not very adventurous I know but it’s a basic and good indicator – the mojito here was the fresh zingy crushed ice run delight you hope for and bought our evening to a dreamy end.
Stay at: The Renaissance Pattaya (for more information and reservations, contact +66 38 259 099) which dazzles you from the moment you arrive at the palatial sea view reception. Looking across the tropical gardens and the endless pool and into the ocean fills you with pure happiness. Our cases were loaded onto the golf buggy and there was the shortest drive to the room, (which, by the way, was a far cry my one-bedroom South London flat!)
A little explore of the room revealed a ‘This is the life’ unexpected treat behind the patio curtains – I had my own mini pool! Not only that, I could swim from my room into the main infinity pool!
In the morning, after pots of bircher, fresh fruit, all kinds of smoothies and juices, we had a yoga class on the terrace with the lovely Cartoon. It was a gentle class to stretch us out, we’re all about relaxing before hitting the water park
The hotel’s culinary offerings are fantastic – the 609 Kitchen is an all day dining restaurant serves a selection of Asian and international dishes made to order, The Deli satisfies all caffeine cravings with delicious pastries and sandwiches available throughout the day, The R-Bar in the lobby serves drinks and light bites and the fine dining restaurant Pebbles Bar and Grill set just above the ocean is where you can enjoy mouthwatering fine cuts and seafood served alongside handcrafted beverages, created by an expert mixologist.
We need to talk about the Cartoon Network Amazone water park – it’s honestly not somewhere I would of even dreamt of going! When I was a 12 or 13 year old thrill seeker, this was my kind of danger, but OMG did we have fun as adults! One of the guys from the park gave us a tour and joined me in a rubber dingy to ride the Humungaslide . It looks like nothing but by the last few meters the speed is so fast you feel like you’re going to shoot off the edge. The park is just a 15 minute drive from the hotel and worth a visit just to see all the colourful anime style slides.
The last day of a holiday means make the most of every second, we most definitely did that, shunning one last day on a Pattaya beach for a full-on run around Bangkok.
We only had a few hours so decided to hit the malls. Silom Complex is one of the many mega malls with high street shops on its multi levels. A stop at silk connoisseurs Jim Thompson with traditional and more contemporary patterned scarfs, shirts, purses, ticked the gift box. After an intense speed shop we were out into the sunshine stopping at a small shrine to light a candle, burn incense and read a prayer. There were two choices – love or money – so that means there was only one real choice: LOVE!
Then we moved on to MBK, which is more like an indoor market than a mall. Everything is super cheap, they have whatever you need, from bohemian beads to electronic gadgets. After a quick bite to eat it was time to jump back in the car and head to the airport. Bangkok is a fast- paced metropolis, of which I didn’t see enough.
Book now : We flew with Emirates and we started our trip by booking into the lounge (open 4am-10pm) at Gatwick South Terminal, at £32 per head you escape the crowds and can order from the complimentary menu and bar. No queues, avoid the airport pub and instead enjoy a 5 star hotel lobby style environment, a glass of Prosecco and a club sandwich was brunch sorted before heading to the gate.