Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A new Thai urban resort that's cool, calm and connected; and very affordable

Veteran hotelier Wolfgang Grimm is one of the smartest cookies in the hospitality industry, so when he puts his heart and soul into a new property you can bet it will be something special. 

Grimm is the driving force behind the new Alisea Hotel in Aonang, a resort town in Krabi, Thailand. He describes the Art Deco-style building with Med and Moroccan touches as an "urban resort" - and it offers quite ridiculous value for money right now. 

Grimm, for those not familiar with the name, is a legendary figure in the hotel industry. He was for many years the general manager of the InterContinental Hotel in Sydney in the days when that property was perhaps the finest in the city (1989-1997). He later oversaw the Pier One Parkroyal and was vice-president of InterContinental Hotels Asia-Pacific. 

He established the The Hotel School InterContinental, which became part of Southern Cross University, led Tourism New South Wales and for several years ran his own vineyard and wine label, Domain Grimm, in the Hunter Valley, gaining applause for his unique semillon that was blended with a touch of Tumbarumba sauvignon blanc. 

Grimm's wife, Bo Lorchaiwet, still owns and operates the Oishii restaurant in the Tempus Two complex in the Hunter, but for the past two years the couple has been overseeing two properties in Thailand, the Aonang Cliff Resort in Aonang and the Crown Lanta Resort on Koh Lanta, helping to lift standards and occupancy rates. 

But Grimm's latest passion is the Alisea, his re-imagined version of the former Alis Hotel, a rundown property a couple of hundred metres back from the beach that he has completely re-imagined as a chic adults-only property that he expects will appeal to couples both young and old. 

The Alisea is still in its soft opening phase right now; hence a remarkable offer to readers of this blog: For bookings made before October 26, using the special code "tapas", double rooms will cost just BHT 1500 for bed and breakfast - that's around $53. Bookings have to be made at info@aliseaboutiquehotel.com.

Rates at this 3-star plus property will generally be around $105-120 Australian, so this is a generous saving. 

I stayed at the Alisea last week while final work was being completed but I loved the location, just around the corner from lively shops and bars, and the ultra-cool vibe. 

Grimm describes the hotel as "cool, calm and connected" - and, yes, there is free wi-fi throughout, as well as access to the hotel's own eco-friendly Anadamana Beach Club, a short complimentary shuttle ride away with its own longtail boats for sunset cruises and a Muay Thai gym for those looking to keep fit. 

The newly refurbed Alisea is a boutique property with 26 superior rooms, eight loft suites (each with their own chillout deck and open-air Japanese onsen-style baths) and one honeymoon suite.

All rooms have air-conditioning, new LED TVs with international channels (including the Australia Plus network), minibars, environmentally friendly in-room toiletries and very comfortable beds. 
There's a small but lovely infinity swimming pool that offers great sunset views, electric bikes for hire and delightfully helpful staff (as you'd expect with such an experienced hotelier at the helm). 

Grimm says he loves the chance to share the Thai culture with Australian and other visitors and has instituted a Eurasian breakfast buffet and a Thai afternoon tea featuring a range of local snacks and sweets (think khanom lookchub candy balls, steamed salapao buns and khanom tum cakes. 

There is also a very affordable Asian tapas bar (think Thai and Japanese snacks) and lounge with live night-time entertainment - the band performing last week was extremely good.

There will be no formal restaurant - Aonang offers plenty of dining options within a short stroll - but the Dahlia massage and herbal spa will open by the end of the month.

"I love the opportunities to showcase Thai culture to our Australian guests," says Grimm, hence the use of indigenous flowers and decorations throughout the hotel, which also has its own billiards room and a private cinema that will be used to host telecasts of major sporting events.

Lots of fun - and a real bargain right now. And down the road the wine list might even feature some Grimms Domain semillon and shiraz. 

Alisea Boutique Hotel, Aonang Beach, Krabi, Thailand. +66 75 638 000. www.aliseaboutiquehotel.com

AirAsia X, together with AirAsia, links 100 destinations across 23 countries including Krabi. www.airasia.com

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