Thailand varies in its context depending on the viewpoint of the perceiver or, at times, the property. Journeying into the heat for the texture of the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, Anantara Resorts, whose Golden Triangle property ranks among some of the best around, highlighted their Hua Hin property where the event was held as well as two key hotels in Bangkok: Riverside and Sathorn.
Arriving in the darkness of night, the Anatara Riverside lurks on the shores of the river, its breath occurring wavingly. The brightness of the morning shows its reprieve as The Market incurs one of the most wonderful traditions of Southeast Asia that sometimes gets lost in America: breakfast.
The interrations of soups specifically make this undeniable, specially an aspect of congee and chicken with a bare amount of soy and sugar. Chiles are readily available but as many as Thai chefs will specify, certain dishes are made for spice and some are not.
Taking a tour through the back canals of Bangkok, the inversion of drinking from coconuts as kids jump from bridges shows the degree of playfulness still prevalent in the city. The floods of last year still leave their marks that can be seen along the banks and the influx of a newly seen large lizard (not unlike the neighboring komodo — although this one has no venom and only eats fish) shows that nature takes it own back.
Reciting into the night, the Manohra dinner cruise (offered as a package from the Riverside aboard a rice barge) highlights the brightness of the river energy. Offered within a multi-course meal, the appetizer plate mixing wonton, satays and spring rolls waxed fantastic while the soft shell soup reveled in its chunky demeanor.
Heading two hours east to the coast, the Anantara Hua Hin welcomes all with its beachfront serenity as the tides move back and forth. The arriving area ushers in with a sense of old school wonder while the rooms paint themselves chill in a very rustic demeanor.
The intensiveness of the pitch itself at a nearby military base served as the focal point for the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament. Different teams battled back and forth with distinction blending competitiveness with a sense of the greater. As shown by the elephant fruit buffet which occurred twice during the four-day event, it is literally about these majestic animals and raising awareness of their survival and well being while also having a bit of fun.
The charity dinner at the center of the 4-day festivities was held black-tie style underneath a tent on the Anantara Hua Hin property and raised money to help care for the animals with a distinctive differential of bids on items ranging from paintings and getaways in the Maldives and Bali to one-of-kind watches valued at over $40,000.
The food itself also belayed itself with a texture of the grand. While the jumbo prawns and vestiges of curry made their way in balance with the smoothness of Ketel One shots, it was the full lobsters flown in from Maine at full texture that truly highlighted the night.
Returning post-Tournament, the Anantara Sathorn in Central Bangkok functions contemporary in comparison to Hua Hin’s more spread-out estate mechanism. As the thunderstorms of the afternoon blaze through the steel jungle of downtown, the spacious suite at the hotel boasts a full kitchen, sunken tub and an inviting bed balanced by wonderful balconies that encompass the beauty of the city.
Sathorn’s signature restaurant 100 Degrees East angles to international cuisine but the inclusion of its requisite Thai dishes resounds the necessity of its calling, Beginning with the necessary springs rolls, the tradition of Tom Kah Gai mixing galangal, lemograss and coconut milk with chicken dumplings truly hit the spot.
Pizza also figures into the process with a stone-visioned oven set into the kitchen allowing for a new approach in the Thai Minced Chicken which included red onion, mint and pomodora sauce. However the Teao Wan Phad Hoi Shell mixing local and visually interesting scallops with green beans and oyster sauce ravished with an experience of true originality.
In experiencing the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament through the vision of Anantara Resorts encompassing their three properties of Hua Hin as well as Riverside and Sathorn in Bangkok, the possibilities of Thailand continue to wax both prevalent and intensive.
FLASHBACK: Sirk TV On The Scene Interview: Sergio [Resident Shaman] – Temescal Ceremony [Real Resorts Cancun]
Finding the balance within a resort requires elements of relaxation, fun and a sense of adventure. Options are required and different persuasions offer different responses. With both of Real Resorts properties in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera and the other in Cancun, the perspectives allow for fun but also different approaches to the moderation of the same subject. Many resorts in the area offer options but the ideal is ease of use to what suits an individual’s needs.
The Royal Playa del Carmen, situated in the heart of the main village, works well in essence because of its central location. While many of the other resorts are outside of town, hidden away from civilization off the highway, Royal Playa gives the consumer the option of an all-inclusive in the heart of town just off 5th Avenue which sports a host of differential bars, cigar makers and fun angles of mayhem.
The one angle of the Cancun and Playa Resorts proper, which ultimately to many is seen from both a couples and singles perspective, is the “adults only” moniker which, by way of certain elements, doesn’t denote debauchery or a certain perspective but mainly a more viable social structure for interaction. The age range specifically of Royal hovers between 23 and 45 normally which constitutes that there is always a bikini body or companion willing to go the party distance.
The main element that always dominates an all-inclusive, whether apparent or not, is the liquor contingent and brand recognition. At both resorts, especially within Playa, the use of top shelf names cycled even as the night grew late at Taqueria’s Cigar Bar whose outside arena overlooks the grounds. An aptly named signature drink called The Terminator mixing Bacardi, Sauza and Smirnoff with Peach Schnapps played smooth without bringing “Hangover” analogies to mind while a recommended Spanish drink mixing espresso with Grand Mariner finished with dexterity.
The rooms at both resorts offer handily placed jacuzzi tubs and overlooking balconies. Unlike competitor resorts like The Palace, Royal’s actual layout plan works on more of an angled structure which gives the rooms the feeling of more space. With the all-inclusive plan, the replenished inside mini-bar offers anytime possibilities. Room service, even in the wee hours at 3am, always arrives within 30 minutes making necessary planning pinpoint.
The pool bars, nicknamed Trade Winds at both resorts, offer sheltered pool corners as the different water areas are criss-crossed by bridges that allow for both quiet talk and boisterious interludes. While Miami Vices (the Mexican version of Hawaii’s Lava Flow) and margaritas are resolute favorites, the new addition of the Dirty Monkey mixing Kalhua, Baileys and Vodka into an almost White Russian frap offers a sweetness that seemed to be enjoyed extensively by both males and females alike.
Restaurants by comparison at all-inclusives, are always of specific possibilities. Real offers a cross-section of different cuisines from Japanese and French to Mediterrean and Mexican. One specific highlight to the cuisines possible at angles of the VIP level is the Chef’s Table which offers more experimental possibilities that optimize molecular gastronomy which, for food-conscious connoisseurs, remains resolute to the experience while others are happy with the a’la carte persuasion which is also readily available throughout the resort.
Within The Royal Playa, El Mediterraneo constitutes a new wing of the resort with a cross-shaped pool that leads in infinity to the ocean. Constructed less than a year ago, its suites interconnect with a curved view that sometimes constitutes multiples entrances.
The restaurant, usually packed, offers an outside bar with most of the patrons dressed upscale casual/cool resting at a median age of 28. The head chef of the restaurant, only 23, trained in Italy but mature in tastes, approaches his artistry with an almost fusion conception. The pre-dinner drink highlights cognac and citrus optimizing an acid entrance. The first wine, again against preconceptions, motivates with an ice pairing giving the palate a sweet pop but one that is not lingering in an unexceptional way. The bread itself alone sang beautiful using local baking methods to be so delicious that repeated servings were requested table-wide.
Leading in tandem was a foie gras, which did its best not to overwhelm the taste, that lead in an unassuming way into a vegetable terrine served in congruence with ratatouille, again an odd combination but ultimately pitch perfect. The slight par-off occurred with a pumpkin cream soup which, while a bold choice, didn’t structure within the mindset of the gastronomy.
The main course was a lesson in visual taste construction using an altered perspective involving connotations of certain food. It created cylinders of culinary structure, each constituting a different methodology. The grilled tuna fish cradled as a pedestal topped by white truffle oil held ground as a tall, pillared potato offered symmetry while the lamb tender ventured not overwrought but simmered in a tint of mint sauce. The course waxed exceptional created with a taste that while paradoxical ultimately worked because of its future thinking.
Marie Marie, another outlay of the Chef’s Table, functions with an extensively different visual representation at both the Playa and Cancun properties. While less experimental than Mediterraneo, it offers some different creations that allow for an altered conception of Mexican cuisine.
Intrinsically beginning the ideal was a cynlindrical shrimp tower built on a bed of guacamole which requires the infusion of layers to make its overall taste function. However, different connotations of scallops in a polscano sauce with the slightest perforation of green chile along with the traditional but resolutely filling aztec soup using tortillas and cream always marks as a special favorite.
However at Royal Playa, the inclusion of snails sauteed in spinach with a guajillo sauce simply tickled the tongue with a molten flavor that both tantalized and surprised leading into a crowd pleasing trio of venison, veal and beef raptured in a variance of sauce ranging from a tart cranberry to Jamiacan spicy.
Dessert at the Royal Cancun undeniably deserves a specific mention with creativity taking the essence of a visceral nature with an unnamed concoction built almost within a “flower pot” conception with organic edible flowers and layered with chocolate crumbs, mousse and a dark chocolate base reconceiving the reality of how to see food.
Each property also offers an ideal of late night. Playa, with its relation to del Carmen, has the ultimate advantage in some ways while Cancun, its beaches lush, is a little more commercial at times in its identity.
Walking through the streets of Playa, the wondrousness of the Coco Bongo Club comes into. With locations both in Playa and Cancun, its blend of performance art with movie homages and impressionism along with the idea of a concert club experience is a model all its own. Impossible to pull off in the US simply because of a slew of circumstances, it is perfect for this part of the Peninsula. The show is not about poise. It is about showmanship. Whether air machines blowing up women’s dresses, top bar dancing when one would not think, a massive LCD screen from which a cast of dozens recreates hits of everyone from Queen and Guns N’ Roses to Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lee Lewis, the cross-section, especially for a mainly 20s crowd, is paradoxical at best but exceptionally realized.
With an admission of only $50 US which includes unlimited alcohol, including shots (certain premiums are excluded), a start time of 11pm leading all the way to 3:30am with the actual show portion raging non-stop for 3 hours during that structure blasting everything from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga exudes a blustering pace effective of those reminiscent of a “Moulin Rouge” experience.
A Cirque connotation also makes itself into possibility with flipping wire work paying homage to everything from Spiderman to Pirates to The Matrix with a genuine love for the material and a crowd, half wasted, enjoying every minute of it. The religious implication of the area also gets an ironic twist with a Christlike figure spinning into view with red silken cloths while a torrent of acrobats swirl around him. Capping off the festivities with the parallel not lost, a swing descends from 50 feet up lowering a diamond-encrusted female Satine from “Moulin Rouge” who dances up to your faithful narrator singing “Diamonds Are Girl’s Best Friend” with 500 other partiers watching the spotlight in silence with a visceral intensity not unseen before the “Marmalade” music slams back in on the upper LCD full throttle. Coco Bongo understands the balance and works it.
While difficult to top the insinuations of Congo, Royal Cancun (as well as Playa) offers nightly shows that create a sense of the artistic but also with a tinge of titulation. In the main atrium of the Cancun one evening, a local dance troup using a choreography optimizing inclementations of the elements of fire, water, earth and air spins with an ideal of both cool and sultry while the acrobatics gives a sense that the resort understands the necessity of more than the norm.
Another interesting permutation of Real lies within their Spa Azul. While the massage facilities and jacuzzi pools are on par with consistent elements of competitors including masseuses not afraid to use adequate pressure and a cold dip pool to freeze the rest of them, the inclusion of a holistic spa persuasion in the form of Sergio, who acts at times as a shaman with the Mayan Texmescal ceremony, really amps up the perception using an approach that is spiritual but with an inference of the psychological and the herbal. For a younger contingent bent on bridging the two worlds, the packages offered here display a true uniqueness.
Building on these ideals, two other outlays of tourism, more spirtual and humanistic, also inlay the Real Resort’s approach to their Mexico.
First from a historical perspective, Tulum, the Mayan holy site that occupies land along the cliffs outside Playa, shows and connotates the mythology and sacrificial stories that continue to enrapture many around the globe with the impending conclusion of the Mayan calendar in 2012.
The ruins highlighted by pictographs and staircases ascend to the Gods as massive iguanas cross the property in droves. The live coral reef leads from the beaches as the perpindicular artchitecture offers insight into its protection as a stronghold made even more essential from the explanation of strategy and ritual by the infinitely intrinsic guides.
Another option being offered to guests in the next couple months, being highlighted by both Real and Best Day Travel(their sister company), is the aspect of “volun-tourism” which, for the more humanitarian-minded, is a way to balance a sense of responsibility as well as humanism outreach. These day trips would include transportation to “City Of Joy“, an exceptional facility located on the outskirts of Cancun that helps the less fortunate of the Mexico including young children, the elderly and the terminal. The elderly have stories to tell that are exceptional. One lady of 90 years old was up and walking with a tendency to dance after moves from the club the night before were demonstrated. The children in the school, elementary based. are all very well-adjusted and happy for visitors to show attention, help with needed repairs and give donations post-script if the emotion dictates. Highlighted by the GM and staff of Real, this outreach shows a concern for the community without a disconnect that can sometimes happen in these programs.
Real Resorts, with its locations both in Playa and Cancun, offers a plethora of different approaches to all-inclusive travel which going beyond the normal resort experience offers spiritual, party and visions of a better life.