Every traveler has her arrival story—that first moment she steps foot in a new and unfamiliar place. The Anantara Riverside is my Thai arrival story.
The first memory I have of Thailand is opening my eyes and stepping out onto the glass riverside balcony overlooking the misty Chao Phraya River.
Because it was still very early morning, the air was muggy and damp—exactly what I’d imagined how this tropical peninsula might greet me. The river, hazy and humid, was just beginning to populate with colorful river taxis, speedboats, fishermen, and canoes. Standing there, taking a deep breath, I took notice of that moment—the moment the people of a place begin to wake up, to dot their landscape with such objects as boats, fishing poles, and canoe paddles. Because we so often arrive to places that are far away to us by night, mornings in new places instill a sense of hope in me—a sense that no matter where we are, there will always be a morning.
The Anantara Riverside is a 5-star resort and spa belonging to the Anantara group, a series of resort hotels located in Abu Dhabi, China, Indonesia, Maldives, Vietnam, and Thailand. The majority of its resorts are located in the latter, scattered across the skinny country from the rivers of Bangkok to the gulf shores of Ko Samui. The Anantara Riverside, set on 11 acres along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, is a beautiful mélange of over 400 rooms and suites, a collection of gourmet restaurants and bars (there are 10, in fact, ranging from Thai to Italian to American), a deli, a chocolate bakery, a poolside bar, a fantastically large and lush swimming area, a range of daily cultural classes and activities, a nightly open-air shopping market and boutique center, a nightly dinner cruise, and a lively landscape of palm trees, tall grasses, and purple orchid plants. It is also just far enough from Bangkok to inspire a sense of tranquility, which is a wonderful respite in a city as full of traffic, smells, sounds, and people as is the capital of Thailand.
During our short stay here, we weren’t able to spend much time in the rooms (I mean, Bangkok awaited us!), but I can tell you that when I woke up that first morning and looked around me, I was absolutely in love with what I saw. My room, which was a deluxe premier riverfront room, was furnished in colors of amber, quartz, and copper. My first thought was that the room was literally a tapestry of different Thai silks shimmering in the glow of the lamps flanking each side of the bed. Next to the oversized chair and the mahogany writing desk, there was the copper-colored silk curtain separated by two floor-to-ceiling backlit mirrored panels expressing something in Thai; this led out to the private riverfront balcony. The fully-lined marble bathroom was just as stunning, with a separate glass rain shower, bathtub, and toilet area. Across from the king-size bed was a flat-screen television, a dish of Thai fruits with a little card explaining what each one was, a stocked mini-bar, and an ipod docking station. Impressive, indeed.
The restaurants, just like the rooms, represent carefully Thai-inspired details while also experimenting with adventurous and interesting flavors. Our first night, we were invited to take the Manohra dinner cruise—the boats, it’s worth adding, are actually restored wooden rice barges—down the Chao Phraya River, and we dined on shrimp, pork, and seafood dishes—all seasoned with lemongrass, chili pepper, ginger, and other herbs and spices. The next morning, we visited the breakfast buffet, which was actually so large that I didn’t even get to all of the tables. The buffet is arranged by stations, many of which are run as presented buffets with servers placing the food on individual plates as requested, and I appreciated the little tags in English describing what each option was. For breakfast, I ate a Nutella crepe, fresh mangoes, Malaysian-style noodles, spiced potatoes, and a cappuccino. Everything, I admit, was exquisite (so much so that I actually went back for a second crepe).
While we didn’t have enough time to have a treatment at the spa, we did stop in long enough to take a treatment list and have a small tour of the facility. Therefore, while my opinion is somewhat limited here, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit here—not only are the prices something a freelance writer like me could warmly welcome (to give you an idea, a 90 minute Royal Thai Massage currently run about 3000 baht, or about $98), but the facility is also warm, comforting, and restful. Though we just passed through one of the Thai massage rooms, spa and sauna rooms, and Western massage rooms, when we walked back out into the hot, muggy night, crickets chirping all around us, I realized I didn’t feel so jetlagged anymore. (Note: If you are jetlagged, though, the spa does offer a 90 minute Jet Lag Massage for 3,500 baht, although, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what this particular massage entails). In all seriousness, though, if the jet lag massage is anything else like the rest of the superb service, amenities, and beauty of the Anantara, it will certainly be worth the 90 minutes of investment.
Article and photographs by Kristin Mock.
A special thanks to Thai Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand for graciously hosting me on this trip.