If it wasn't for the fact that the Bangkok Marriott Resort &Spa is tucked away cosily on the banks of the Chao Phraya River instead of an idyllic beach, you'd guess that you're somewhere on an island in the Andaman Ocean. Other than that it has all the ingredients of a luxury beach resort.
Waving palm trees and lush, tropical vegetation in an eleven-acre garden oasis. Low-rise colonial-style buildings. A fabulous spa. Fine cuisine. Poolside frolics and bikini-cladded beauties.
An activities calendar to please young and old... Yet, the vibrant energy and metropolitan buzz of the Thai capital is no more than a leisurely 15-minute boat ride away.
The beautifully designed poolside area with the swim-or-walk-up-to Loy Nam Pool Bar fittingly takes centre-stage, with the main building and two wings arranged in a U-shape around it. As a result all 413 rooms, including 94 suites, have great views from open balconies onto the poolside area and gardens, as well as river glimpses to the open side of the 'U'.
But, if it's magical river views you're after, the suites will not disappoint. Balconies have been cleverly designed to face the river at an angle, so that you can also feast your eyes on the resort grounds and garden.
All rooms and suites were upgraded during 2005, and are luxuriously decorated and furnished with a subtle Thai flavour; muted tones, polished hardwood floors, a Thai motif bed runner with matching drapes, and Thai-inspired sculptures and paintings - the latter taken from ancient scripture books. The bathrooms were designed to be clean, crisp and bright to create a feeling of spaciousness.
Beige stone walls harmonize with beige floors in-laid with dark brown stone squares. Suites have separate shower stalls, double vanity sinks and deep bath tubs. Guests staying in the Junior or Executive suites are entitled to a variety of Club Lounge benefits too.
A major highlight is undoubtedly the inspiring, landscaped garden; offering a wonderful early-morning or late-afternoon exploration. The work of landscape designer Bill Bensley and the hotel's dedicated gardening team, the garden features a vast selection of indigenous flora, a great selection of herbs, and several walking paths with romantic, secluded moments. And elephants.
Nobody can tell me exactly how many, but I counted at least a hundred. Big ones and small ones; made from ceramic, stone, wood-carved, porcelain and brass. They're everywhere, and the result of Bill's passion for elephants. Talking of which, the choice of restaurants and bars will delight the most nose-in-the-air connoisseur. At the Riverside Terrace you can feast on an international and Thai buffet prepared by distinguished chefs in a 'show kitchen', accompanied by a glass of fine wine and a cultural performance.
Then there's Trader Vic's with its exotic cuisine, a renowned Japanese 'Teppanyaki' steakhouse called Benihana, fine Chinese cuisine at The Rice Mill, The Market offering international breakfast and lunch buffets, a coffee and pastry shop called Numero Uno, and the Longtail Bar next to the river.
And finally, since no visit to Bangkok will be complete without a trip on the historic Chao Praya River, the beautifully restored Manohra rice barges are available for sunset cocktails, dinner cruises and private charters.
For further indulgence, a full range of Thai-style massage and beauty treatments are offered at Mandara Spa,where guests are pampered in the splendour of lavish spa suites that come complete with private plunge pools and steam facilities. Specialties include herbal back treatment, salt radiance and Javanese Lulur.
Cooking enthusiasts have a choice to either learn the art of spa cuisine at the newly-launched Mandara Academy of Spa Cuisine - a first in Bangkok - or a more traditional take on Thai delicacies with a cooking class and Manohra river cruise combined, yet another Marriott initiative.
If it all sounds like fun and games, you're absolutely right. But don't forget the impressive 1,500 square meters of meeting and function room space that are available after recent renovations.
The two lobbies (groups are checked in separately) have had a make-over too, and a stunning waterfall now cascades down from the upper lobby to the lily pond of the lower lobby. All of which makes for an enhanced 'arrival experience'.