Looking for your place in the sun? Look no further.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
If there’s a silver lining about having to put international travel plans on hold this year, it’s that it’s allowed me to rediscover paradise in our own backyard. While I’ve always viewed Hua Hin with a blasé ‘been there, done that’ eye, I’m glad that this time I traded in my jaded attitude for this gem only a couple of hours’ drive away from Bangkok.
The only resort in the city that exclusively boasts suites and pool villas, Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa Hua Hin has 44 of the former and 52 of the latter; a luxury getaway wrapped in verdure. Arriving at the lobby, I was immediately greeted by accommodating staff, suitably masked and with a warm, social distance-appropriate wai. However, despite this reminder of the times we live in, I could feel both my worries and the sounds of the city fade away the moment I stepped foot inside. Transported to a glut of traditional Thai charms, replete with ceiling fans, lanterns, and wooden rafters, touches remind you that you’re in no ordinary homestead, from the outsized, ornamental lighting; woven canopy loveseats; and silk pillows in powder blue and ecru.
Outside the lobby, you’re completely ensconced in nature, with winding pathways flanked by high walls and wooden doors that lead into the pool villas; bastions of privacy as I couldn’t hear a peep beyond them. Lush greenery guides your way, with easy-to-read signs to guide the more directionally challenged – like me – among us. If you’re intimidated by the trails, don’t worry, the resort is intimate in size, so you’ll pick up directions in no time, or you could just call a buggy for your daily joyride up and down the lavish vegetation.
During my exploration of the resort, I came across a wooden pier traversing a lily-overlaid koi pond; two sizeable, crystal-clear pools, one of which had a Jacuzzi-style section and several infinity points for the perfect Instagram-worthy shot; and an oceanfront view with a variety of seating so you can pick how you’d like to enjoy the sea breeze. The latter even had a fire pit – sans fire – for large groups of vacationers. Alternatively, for the lone wolves like me, an immense swing directly faces the ocean, on which I may have spent far too long reliving my halcyon childhood.
My home during my stay was the Junior Suite Pool View room, which was a generous suite done up in soothing shades of white, gold, and blue. A spacious balcony overlooked the Emerald Pool, but to my surprise, my favourite part of the room was the magnificent bathroom – or should I say, bathrooms. Framed by sliding gold doors with traditional Thai motifs, the sprawling space had a separate shower, dressing room, powder room, bathtub in pride of place and – the most intriguing feature – an outdoor rain shower. No need to be skittish, however, as the high walls and cloistered design ensure that you can enjoy singing in the rain in peace. This distinct bathroom design can be found in all the rooms and suites, which include the Terrace Suite Lagoon View room, similar in design but with a capacious terrace and a view of the lily lagoon; the Private Pool Villa, which features a personal garden and plunge pool directly connected to the bedroom for the perfect morning pick-me-up; and the 2 Bedrooms Private Pool Villa, ideal for vacationing families.
DRINKING AND DINING
My favourite part of any holiday, I was eager to sample the culinary options that the resort had to offer, and they did not disappoint. Kampu, their all-day dining restaurant, is named after the century-old rain tree whose branches sweep into a dappled green canopy above the diners. There you can enjoy a prolific continental breakfast or a menu of Thai and international favourites. My suggestion? Stick to the western options as you’ll want to save your Thai cuisine cravings for Baan Dum, their renowned oceanfront seafood restaurant. An inside source informed me that the succulent Pork cordon bleu, stuffed with cooked ham and gruyere cheese, is a personal favourite of the hotel’s General Manager himself.
I recommend you treat yourself with Kampu’s 300g Black tiger prawns, with your choice of sauce – go for the Lemon garlic butter for that extra punch. For a truly decadent time, have your meals in one of the restaurant’s private salas so you can enjoy the fruits of the sea with the Gulf of Thailand in front of you.
Kampu also serves a lavish three-tier afternoon tea set on request, ranging from mini-sandwiches, to Mövenpick’s signature macaroons, to quintessential British scones, which, believe me, is hard to find in this country. You can have your cake and eat it too as the spread can be served in your room, by the poolside, or by the beach for some cake by the ocean. If that dessert cornucopia is not enough, stay long enough for the resort’s signature Chocolate hour from 3pm-4pm daily, a sweet reminder of the brand’s Swiss roots.
Don’t forget to head on down to Baan Dum restaurant, which is Instagrammable, serves delicious local fare, and has unerringly hospitable staff; the culinary trifecta as far as I’m concerned. For the vegetarians, their Phad pak boong fai daeng (stir fried morning glory) is exactly as it should be, while their Gaeng pu bai chaplu (coconut curry with crab meat) had precisely the kick one would look for when savouring Thai dishes.
Still not satisfied? I was intrigued to learn that the resort can also provide a personal chef for barbecues in your villa or by the pool deck.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
If you ate as much as I did during my stay, you’ll want at least a passing knowledge of the gym, which has top-rate equipment, and floor-to-ceiling windows so you can gaze out into nature while burning the calories from that last decadent cake.
Featured in the name of the resort itself, the Asara Spa is a cut above, so definitely take time out of your day for this sybaritic indulgence. An even more private haven in the midst of the resort’s secluded surroundings, each massage room is a suite in its own right, with pathways over a soothing water feature that spans the whole spa. I would highly recommend the aromatherapy oil massage, which is sure to knead your troubles away.
Although the resort is more suited for intimate gatherings, there are plenty of options for those who want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, or even company retreats. The second floor of Kampu can hold up to 60 people cocktail-style, for a party with stunning views of the setting sun – or rising sun, depending on the party. The Grand Asara Ballroom, meanwhile, is pillarless, has access to natural daylight, and can open its doors to transform the space into a setting like few others.
THE INSIDE STORY
I sat down with Sven Walter, the General Manager of Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa Hua Hin, to ask about the resort’s unique features, and their specific appeal to Thai-Indian families:
“Hua Hin is the summer residence of the royal family and as such, is renowned as a place where you can unwind not far from Bangkok, and that has a little bit of everything. Here at Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa, we only have suites and villas, which is hard to find elsewhere. However, our garden is what really sets the tone for us – when you walk through it, you’re transported to a state of relaxation that is unmatched.
“Because the resort is so exclusive, many couples of any age come to visit. We also have spacious rooms so families can easily fit in, which I think is what appeals to Indian families, a segment that’s continually growing for us. We’re also very flexible when it comes to small celebrations, from small banqueting venues, to the oceanfront lawn at Baan Dum, to in-villa barbecues for larger family celebrations.”
When asked about how the resort has coped with the recent COVID-19 crisis, he assures me that, “Health and safety is a priority for the Accor Group, and there’s a protocol that we’ve all had to adapt. We’ve briefed all our staff, we have enhanced hygiene measures, and through it all, we ensure that guests will have peace of mind so that they can enjoy their holiday without worrying about their safety.”
Whisking your significant other here for your next romantic getaway, a gift they won’t soon forget. For the singletons among us, bring your crew and share one of the two-bedroom villas, the next best thing to a villa in Ibiza while the borders are all but closed.
If you’re staying for the weekend, don’t miss the live band at Baan Dum every Friday and Saturday night, which features a talented duo who treated us with renditions of some of my favourite tunes; a beautiful denouement to any evening.
Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa Hua Hin
53 Hua Hin 5 Alley, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand 77110
Tel: 032 520 777