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Hot Towel, Cold Towel: Phuket/Bangkok CX(F), Amanpuri, Mandarin Oriental

Hot Towel, Cold Towel: Phuket/Bangkok CX(F), Amanpuri, Mandarin Oriental

Old Jul 13, 16, 8:02 am
  #1  
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Hot Towel, Cold Towel: Phuket/Bangkok CX(F), Amanpuri, Mandarin Oriental

The company I work for shuts down for the entire week of July 4 (I work at LinkedIn), and with the kids in summer camp, it was a perfect opportunity to get away.

Last year for the week of July 4, the wife and I went to China. This year, we mulled between France, Australia, and Vietnam, but finally settled on our first trip to Thailand. I normally enjoy sightseeing, but on this trip we decided to take more of a relaxation theme (as you'll soon see).

As an executive summary, here's an overview of the entire trip:

Cathay Pacific First Class
JFK > HKG > HKT (HKG-HKT leg was Dragonair Business Class)
4 days/4 nights in Phuket at Amanpuri

Bangkok Airways Economy
HKT > BKK
5 days/4 nights in Bangkok at Mandarin Oriental
Cathay Pacific Business Class
BKK > HKG > JFK

I've entitled our trip "Hot Towel, Cold Towel" because it seemed to be a recurring theme: hot towels in the sky, and almost everywhere in hot Thailand, we were offered (and welcomed) soothing cold towels.



I'll follow up with one post on Phuket (Amanpuri), and one more on Bangkok (Mandarin Oriental).
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Old Jul 13, 16, 9:58 am
  #2  
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Part I: Phuket - Amanpuri

Our flight departed at 1:30AM early Sunday morning (well, late Saturday night in human speak). We arrived at Terminal 7 at the CX First Class counter. It was pretty busy even for that time -- we found out that due to nasty thunderstorms earlier in the day, many flights were cancelled or delayed. We were good to go though.

We headed up to the BA First Class lounge.



Honestly, I was duly unimpressed with the First Class lounge, which was dark, had low ceilings, old dirty furniture, etc. The Gallery lounge next door is MUCH better on all counts of food and comfort. The staff was nice though

We were off to our flight -- and settled into our first class suites for the 15hr flight to HKG. It was late enough, and as soon as we changed into our comfy PJs, we were sleeping above the clouds.

Service on Cathay, as has always been our experience, was exceptional. We love how they set up a table for two, allowing the wife and I to eat our meals together in the sky.

We approached Hong Kong to a beautiful sunrise.



We had about a 2 hour layover in HKG, and relaxed in the always awesome Cathay lounge (The Wing).





Then it was off to Phuket -- Dragonair business class was "ok" -- although the A/C on the plane was not working that well and my wife's seat didn't recline. But we landed in Phuket before we knew it.

A man holding an Amanpuri sign was waiting just outside arrivals, and we were whisked away in our very comfy BMW 7-series, where we were offered our first of many cold towels. They were orange-scented and wonderful. The ride to Amanpuri took about 40 minutes.

Arriving at Amanpuri, we were greeted by the GM and a few others. I received a warm handshake, and my wife received a lovely bracelet made of flowers. We were taken on a short tour of the immediate facilities and given some yummy and refreshing iced tea. Then, we were taken to our pavilion.

We booked a partial ocean view pavilion -- ours was #404. Each pavilion has a "sala" where you can sit (or choose to eat if you want meals sent to your room). ALL aspects of the pavilion -- the view, the decor, the comfort, the setting -- were stunning beyond words. I took photos, but to be honest, photos can't do this place justice.





After doing our check-in in the room, we headed down to the beach to enjoy the afternoon. The beach is gorgeous here. Again, photos don't do it justice.





The staff at Amanpuri is crazy good. At the beach, they came over and adjusted our umbrella so that my wife got the shade she wanted. They did this every hour or so as the sun moved across the sky. We never even had to ask... it was like they were reading our minds. They constantly refreshed our ice water, served fresh fruit, and raked the sand. The beach here is just sublime.



At 4:30 each day, Amanpuri serves complimentary tea and snacks, so we headed over there to check it out. We ended up going every day -- you almost plan your day around it -- and it's a great way to meet other guests, find out where they are from, etc.

Late in the day, the light was awesome and I snagged this incredible photo, my back to the ocean, looking out over the main pool to the main front-desk building.



When we returned to our pavilion, we found a pot of gorgeous fresh orchids placed in the center of our room.



Here are some more pictures of the beach.
I built a small sand castle...



Walked along the surf and the rocks...



And took a photo from within the Andaman Sea, looking back at Amanpuri...



The fruit was awesome...



And we ate in the most pristine of locations, including this lovely setting overlooking the water...



Sampled the local beer (meh)...



And listened to lovely live music as we ate dinner each night...



Each day, we went to the gym, which has a view that is just stupid awesome. Again, almost impossible to capture in a photo. There is a free class offered each day and the facilities are fantastic.





I apologize for not having more photos, but in truth, a stay at Amanpuri is better experienced phone-free. In fact, for the 4 days we were there, I never once carried my wallet or anything around. Only rarely did I carry my phone. It was awesome disconnecting from the world and sharing a wonderful experience with the wife.

This was our first stay at an Aman resort -- it lived up to the hype.

We knew that July was the rainy season in Phuket, but decided to go anyway. We had 2.5 sunny days and 1.5 rainy days. Although to be honest, the rainy days had this sleepy romantic feel to them. Walking around with umbrellas, listening to the rain. The staff treated us like royalty, they were awesome in every way.

If there is any downside, it's that Amanpuri (which by the way, we found out was the first Aman resort) is 100 acres built into the coast, which is very steep. There are steps everywhere and if the gym itself wasn't a workout, walking the grounds is like being on a constant stairmaster. The resort does have a small fleet of "buggies" or cars that can escort you around, but even with that, they can't reach all the areas.

We never left the grounds -- we spent all our time at our pavilion, our sala, the beach, the pool, the gym, and the spa. We expressed interest in taking a cruise on the AMAN I yacht, but they required a minimum of 4 persons and we seemed to be the only guests that expressed interest that week.

Friday morning we climbed back into our BMW and the staff gathered to wave goodbye as we began our journey back to the airport for the next leg of our trip, which I'll continue in the next post...
mordy2000 is offline  
Old Jul 13, 16, 10:37 am
  #3  
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Awesome look into Amanpuri!! Thanks for sharing ^
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Old Jul 13, 16, 10:58 am
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Part II: Bangkok - Mandarin Oriental

Upon arriving at the Phuket airport, an Amanpuri staff member took us directly to check in at the counter, helped us check in, and wished us safe travels. I found pretty cheap flights online ($70) on Bangkok Airways. There was even a meal served on the quick uneventful 1hr flight to Bangkok.

Upon arriving at BKK, we met our Mandarin Oriental rep at arrivals and once again was welcomed into our comfy BMW 7-series for the 40 min trip to the hotel. We were offered cold towels (of course), and the car also had Wi-Fi which was nice.

BTW, traveling abroad these days isn't what it once was. On our entire trip, we had Wi-Fi just about anywhere. With WiFi calling, Whatsapp, or anything else for that matter, we were pretty much always connected without issue. I used a total of 30MB of roaming data for our entire 10-day trip.

But I digress...

We arrive at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and are personally greeted by what seems like an army of staff. You'd think they were waiting for the king to arrive. Turns out they treat everyone this way -- this place was already going to be awesome.

The lobby was gorgeous...



Lovely flowers EVERYWHERE...



and in the evening, they have live music.



We were taken straight up to our room for check-in. After walking us through the room, they asked if we might be interested in seeing another room, which we did. I had originally booked a Mandarin room, but they showed us a State room overlooking the river. It was a STUNNING room. We were able to bargain with them and for a small extra amount, we went with the State room.







The views from our room were stunning. Floor to ceiling windows, a balcony, a wardrobe -- just really fantastic.





You could see the Peninsula hotel across the river.





A look down from our balcony, overlooking the River Terrace restaurant of the hotel...



At night, we headed down to the Bamboo Bar at the hotel. I absolutely LOVED this place, and we went virtually every night for a few drinks. Just the right ambiance, awesome live jazz music. Just really perfect.









One night, we went to Asiatique -- it's an outdoor night market. The hotel had a boat to get there and back.



The hotel "shuttle" boat was actually pretty convenient -- there's one every 5 minutes going across the river (the spa and a restaurant are on the other side), and they also go to the nearby BTS (Skytrain) station as well.





We took the BTS Skytrain to the Chatuchak Weekend Market on Sunday morning to check it out.



It was REALLY hot and walking around the Chatuchak market wasn't the most cheerful experience (although it is something you HAVE to see) -- so we hopped back on the Skytrain and went to the MBK center which is indoors and air conditioned. We did some shopping and headed back to the hotel.

That night we headed out to check out Khao San Road, and it was interesting to see folks getting feet massages out in the street.





Back to the hotel -- we enjoyed breakfast at the waterside...



And spending the afternoon at the pool, which is like an oasis in middle of the bustling city.







We had heard that the Oriental Spa is rated one of the best in all of Asia -- if not the world -- so we HAD to check it out. Indeed, the spa and the treatments there were amazing (not even in the same league as Amanpuri I'm sorry to say). We also took a yoga class and used the Health Centre there. Really fantastic.









Sadly, after 8 amazing blissful days in Thailand, it was time to head home. The staff at Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok was second to none -- I'd rate it as the best hotel the wife and I have EVER stayed at. Everyone knew our name, anticipated our every need, offered assistance -- it was just awesome. We really felt like royalty there.





We flew Cathay Pacific Business Class from BKK... had a short layover in HKG and checked out another Cathay lounge, The Cabin...



And then, just like that, we were on our flight home from HKG to JFK.
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Old Jul 13, 16, 1:01 pm
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Was it very hot? I read one should go in the winter.

Did you swim in the ocean?

The hotel looks somewhat empty.

Did you use miles?
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Old Jul 13, 16, 2:28 pm
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Hoping that I can ask this can be asked without stirring up controversy: why spend the money on Amanpuri and MO but not on the HKT-BKK flight in business class??
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Old Jul 13, 16, 3:09 pm
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It was pretty hot and humid -- but not crazy uncomfortable (it was MUCH hotter on our trip to Beijing last year). Mostly high 80s to low 90s F. Yes, most say to go in winter, but this time of year worked out well for us -- and being it's off-peak, we got good rates. Amanpuri was pretty empty (but from what I read elsewhere, Aman resorts always feel very quiet anyway).

I did swim in the ocean -- it was very warm and awesome. Although the current was pretty strong. This reminds me that I was struck at the time at how "touristy" Phuket is... even though Amanpuri is in the Surin beach area, there was plastic and related trash washing up on the shore. Nothing like what washes up at Coney Island in Brooklyn, but enough that I noticed it...

We used AA miles for all of the Cathay flights. Also a sad reminder of how things used to be... last year, CX in F cost us 67k miles each way. This year, a whopping 110k miles each way...

@TOMFORD -- Bangkok Airways didn't offer business class. Besides, it's a 1hr flight
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Old Jul 13, 16, 4:22 pm
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Touche... that makes sense.
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Old Jul 13, 16, 7:29 pm
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Alaska still require 70,000 one way on Cathay vs. 110,000 on AA.

It seems to be not so easy to get F seats on CX though.
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Old Jul 13, 16, 7:58 pm
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Great pics and thanks for taking the time to write the report. What was your strategy for getting 2 F seats on CX? Did you book one early and add the other closer in?
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Old Jul 13, 16, 10:34 pm
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Originally Posted by Bretteee View Post
It seems to be not so easy to get F seats on CX though.
In my experience you should plan on booking right when the booking window opens. That's how I got CX F from LAX-HKG for a flight in May of this year, thankfully pre-AA devaluation. Keep in mind CX 777 cabins only have 6 first class seats, so they seem to only open 1 seat per flight at the beginning, maybe more close to flight departure.
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Old Jul 14, 16, 4:27 am
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Smile

THanks for sharing your TR, it was amazing, and what beautiful pic, was very envious, what an amazing place they both were.
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Old Jul 14, 16, 7:43 am
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My strategy (if you want to call it that) was as follows:

- Book Business Class seats first -- plenty to choose from there, and we were happy in Business anyway... if we got F, great, if not, no biggie.

- About 2 weeks prior to departure, I started called American asking if F was available. CX is known for releasing more seats closer to departure date. There was 1 seat available, but not two. The wife and I decided we would fly together, so we kept calling back. About 6 days prior to departure, another seat opened up and we got F.

- We didn't get 2 F seats on our return trip (only 1 was available), so we kept our J tix.
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Old Jul 14, 16, 1:28 pm
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Thanks for the review. Glad to hear you guys have a good time at Amanpuri and enjoyed it... there have been reports that it's slipping but looks like it's maintaining a high level of service....

Originally Posted by mordy2000 View Post
We had heard that the Oriental Spa is rated one of the best in all of Asia -- if not the world -- so we HAD to check it out. Indeed, the spa and the treatments there were amazing (not even in the same league as Amanpuri I'm sorry to say). We also took a yoga class and used the Health Centre there. Really fantastic.
Little hard to understand here; are you saying that the treatments at Amanpuri were better?

thanks
FDW
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Old Jul 14, 16, 1:29 pm
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Thanks for the tip on F. I only fly Y so I am not an expert. But I have enough miles now for F.

Yes I noticed that C looks available. I had no idea they only have 6 F seats.
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