Long Weekends

The arrival in Australia of low-cost airlines like Air Asia X has broadened our horizons when it comes to a weekend away, travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports.

It used to be that when we wanted a short break we looked at the Blue Mountains or maybe the South Coast. Now, with cheap flights available, it is feasible to spend two or three days somewhere more exotic. Here are four suggestions for a short break in a good hotel; from Melbourne to Na Jomtien.



Want to learn to cook Thai food, or keen on kick boxing? The Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort is a delightful oasis on the banks of the busy Chao Phraya River, a real resort in the city, with so many diversions you might want to spend your entire stay on site.

Bangkok is one of Asia’s most vibrant cities; a sprawling, bustling metropolis that’s always on the move. But the Thai capital can sometimes be just a little bit too full on, which is why it can be great to escape from the bedlam to somewhere that is cool and gracious. The pool here is a typical resort affair such that you could easily be in Phuket or Koh Samui.

From the hotel it’s just a 15-minute transfer by the resort’s quick and efficient river ferry to the Skytrain, which gets you downtown within minutes.

A myriad of dining options are available, from long-time favourite Trader Vic’s with its Pan-Asian cuisine to Japanese steakhouse Benihana (part eatery/part theatre); Tuscan cuisine at Brio, a world buffet at the Riverside Terrace and buffet breakfasts in The Market.

There is also an impressive range of bars from the clubby Elephant Bar to the Longtail Bar by the river; Loy Nam for poolside drinks and Numero Uno for morning coffees and pastries.

You will get to decide between fascinating attractions on and off-site. Manohra cruises depart from the hotel’s own jetty – including dinner cruises – and the on-site attractions range from the Anantara Spa (with an array of treatments) and Silver Spoons cooking school to the hotel’s Muay Thai kickboxing school.

The service is spectacularly good: seamless, multilingual and understated. There is a business centre with helpful staff, along with
a fitness centre and kids’ club.

The rooms (try to get one overlooking the river) are extremely well equipped and come with a nifty smart phone that includes free local calls and wi-fi and can be used throughout your stay. There is a brand new shopping centre that’s part of the Avani Riverside property next door.

Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort, 2571-3 Charoennakorn Road, Thonburi, Bangkok. +66 2 476 0022. www.anantara.com



I press the switch to open the blinds of room 1720 – and the view offers a real wow factor. Below me the Yarra River meanders its way through the city of Melbourne. So bright, so shiny, so sharp.

This is my first visit to the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf, in the centre of one of Melbourne’s newest business and leisure precincts but just a 10-minute stroll to Southern Cross Station and half that to the Crown Casino complex.

To be honest, I’d never heard of South Wharf, but it is just a short hop skip and jump along from Southbank, right next to the Melbourne Convention and Entertainment Centre and in a precinct that includes several riverside bars and cafes as well as a DFO South Wharf Shopping Precinct that will keep shopaholics busy for hours.

The Hilton is a business hotel first and foremost; obviously designed for conference delegates, but the 396 rooms are generously proportioned with city or bay views, and there is an on-site health and fitness club, as well as an executive club with a terrace, where you can enjoy scones and jam, or pre-dinner drinks and canapés.

My room does the job perfectly. There is space: you can reach all the power points and the bed is ultra-comfortable. The bathrooms have separate showers and baths and Peter Thomas Roth amenities.

Check-in is quick and painless – and the blackout blinds ensure you can sleep no matter what time of day it is. If you are heading for the airport, Tullamarine is just 25km away.

For those looking to eat or drink on-site there is the Caffé Cino coffee bar, or the all-day dining of Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen, while the attractive and bright lobby area is a great place to meet up with friends.

Rooms start from $235 per night, which seems more than reasonable for a well-located luxury hotel from which to explore Melbourne’s many delights.

Hilton Melbourne South Wharf, 2 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf 3006. (03) 9027 2000. www.melbournesouthwharf.hilton.com


Kuala Lumpur

There are certain things that are non-negotiable for a city hotel. It has to be within walking distance of they key destinations; to have friendly, helpful staff, a comfortable bed, a shower that works and fast, free wi-fi.

All the rest tends to fall into place if a hotel gets those basics right – and that is certainly the case at the excellent Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre Hotel and Residences, a property that was until recently part of the Japanese Prince chain.

Probably the most noticeable feature is the staff – almost uniformly bright and sparky. The main Kuala Lumpur attractions, including the Petronas Twin Towers, the shopping on Jalan Bukit Bintang and the gourmet cuisine of Jalan Alor (Food Street), are just a gentle stroll away, but the hotel is well placed, tucked away for those who don’t want to hear the roar of traffic 24 hours a day. There is also a monorail station at Raja Chulan, just six minutes walk from the hotel, putting the entire city within easy reach.

The hotel has two impressive restaurants – the Chinese Tai Ze Heen and Japanese Enju. There are all the five-star touches: the modern Sompoton Spa, a good-sized pool next door to the hotel in the Residences, a pleasant garden, and a good-sized gym.

I liked little touches like coffee machines and free water in the rooms – and an excellent old-style concierges’ desk with maps and useful information. The shower was a delight and the room’s toiletries were top class.

The serviced apartments are in the separate Residences building, along with a funky ‘Living Space’ that is an alternative for light breakfasts and small meetings

Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre Hotel and Residences, Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur. +603 2170 8888. www.pullmanhotels.com


Na Jomtien

The Thai resort town of Pattaya is party central with go-go bars and sleazy nightclubs but the area surrounding Pattaya has many world-class attractions and you are just 75 minutes from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

There are clean, sandy beaches to be found rather than the oil-slicked ones on the resort strip, world-class golf courses and impressive spa facilities.

Many visitors will probably want to visit Pattaya City at least once during their stay, maybe for shopping or a massage, but my tip is to stay at Na Jomtien Beach; a new resort strip that is just a 20-30-minute shuttle ride away.

I just spent three days at an outstanding new five-star property right on south Na Jomtien Beach; the Swiss-owned Movenpick Siam Hotel Pattaya. The Movenpick, open only three months, is a very fine property indeed, modern and efficient with terrific staff and great facilities.

Dining options, for instance, range from T55, a New York-style steak house; Twist, an all-day dining option with both Thai and western dishes; the La Costa Pool Bar (excellent for a cold beer and a chicken satay) and snacks in the Red Coral Lounge (think a global wine list and artisan gins). A tapas-style eatery is close to completion, and there is also an excellent executive lounge.

Wi-fi is fast and free throughout the high-rise property and Wave Spa is a lovely, and peaceful, spa facility. For a property that has only been open a short time things work remarkably smoothly and the buffet breakfast has to be in the top five I have seen in terms of both range and quality.

The pool overlooks the pristine beach and is delightful; there is a well-equipped fitness centre and rooms mostly have ocean views.

The Ocean Marina Yacht Club is just a stroll along the beach and the three golf courses at the Siam Country Club are just a short drive away, as are temples and theme parks. Younger guests will enjoy a free chocolate and desserts buffet served every day from 4-5pm, as well as the kids club and kayaks on the beach.

There are also shuttles four times daily from the resort to Pattaya City.

Movenpick Siam Hotel Pattaya, 55 Moo 2 Sukhumvit Road, Na Jomtien, Sattahip, Chonburi, Thailand. +66 33 078 888. www.movenpick.com