Sukothai Heritage Resort – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Flanked by organic rice fields, the Sukothai Heritage Resort in Sukothai, the erstwhile capital of the Kingdom of Siam, is a haven of solitude and serenity. A low-rise building that at first glance looks more like a fort, complete with a “moat” (canal) outside its perimeters, the resort is amid a rural setting that nonetheless offers all modern amenities to make life comfortable.
Walking along a red-tiled floor, you enter the hotel through a white arch over which looms the typical Thai high-vaulted ceiling of wooden beams. The lobby is narrow, functional and homely; just a couple of desks off to the left is where the check-in business is done. It may be a small room – but it gives out on to wide open spaces, central to which is a large water body with a fountain. This, you will find as you walk along to your room, is the theme of the resort – plenty of water bodies and Thai sala’s (open seating pavilions) where you can while away many a restful hour. The architecture of wide spaces and expanses of water, as also the interiors with the red, kiln-baked bricks and high ceilings, are modeled along the lines of the ancient Thai ruins of the heritage park.
The signature flower of the Sukothai Heritage Resort is the lotus; the hotel plans on creating various lotus ponds with as many species and colours of the flower as is possible. In lotus season, the resort also serves a dedicated food menu centred around the flower!
The 68-keys resort spread out in two wings that border the central lotus pond. Taking the route to either of the wings you wend your way through sala’s with traditional artefacts and a small library. Products from the organic farms around such as tea, rice and preserves are placed here on sale as well.
The rooms at Sukothai Heritage Resort are in four main categories: the Superior, Deluxe, Jacuzzi suites and the Royal (Presidential) suite. Superior rooms measure 30-sqm and come with king or twin beds, but only shower cubicles. The Deluxe rooms measure 45-sqm and have separate bath and rain shower areas, as well as day-beds in the room to accommodate a child or a third friend and therefore, are recommended for families. At 65-sqm, the Jacuzzi suites are extremely spacious, with a separate living area and a much larger, L-shaped balcony. The ground floor suites have a dining room and pantry area, whereas the second floor suites don’t have the above but come with a larger living room space and extra balcony area. All 68 rooms feature terraces or balconies and wooden flooring, and all are equipped with the standard hotel amenities of coffee/tea maker, electronic safe, LCD TV’s and DVD players. All room interiors are done up in differing shades of colour, from golds, browns and maroons to pale blues, greys, crimsons and purples.
The Royal Suite was created for Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn when she officially inaugurated the resort in 2008. Done up in shimmering purple and light grey with a lot of Thai embellishments, the suite is understated rather than opulent.
F&B options are limited to the 80-cover Lotus restaurant right in front of the central water body and opposite the Reception that offers a choice of Thai as well as international dishes. The Vanda Bar off the Reception is another cosy and comfortable sala, designed with plump cushions and low swing seats. The F&B service is prompt and courteous; the food could do with some improvement as also enlarging its repertoire.
Meeting facilities entail a convention hall above the restaurant. It can accommodate 200-pax, with a partition down the middle to split it into two smaller rooms. The outside pre-function area overlooks the central lotus pond. The two sala’s on either side of the pond can also be used as dining areas or for private get-togethers. There are computers meant for complimentary guest use and free wifi across the resort.
Recreational facilities include two swimming pools. A stage set in the lotus pond and facing the restaurant is where Thai dance performances are staged on Fri and Sat nights for the guests’ enjoyment. There is a small, serviceable spa on the premises.
Outside recreational activities at Sukothai Heritage Resort are a-plenty. The resort very sensibly provides complimentary bicycles for guests to retain their independence and freedom with as they cycle around the nearby areas; were it not for the heat and the dust (which you can avoid by being out early mornings and evenings) this is actually serendipitous, as there are dedicated cycle tracks and virtually no traffic besides. If it is a peaceful break you are looking for, away from the mundane, then this is the place to come to. The hotel is owned by Dr Prasert Prasartthongosot, the founder of Bangkok Airways; he also has three private museums in the area – one dedicated to ceramics – not all of which are open to the public, though. He also owns buffalo herds and you can catch the cattle grazing amiably at various times through the day. There are two or three small restaurants in the vicinity (which close at 5pm), organic rice fields to be toured, Wats (temples) and an open-air zoo for which no entrance ticket is required; you can cycle along undisturbed so long as you don’t disturb the zoo residents!
The Sukothai Heritage Resort is less than ten minutes away from Sukothai airport, about 30-kms from Sukothai town and roughly 40-kms from the Historical Park. The hotel can arrange for you to rent a car, or engage a taxi at THB 1,100 each way. The other option is to take the 8.30am shuttle bus from the airport to the park, at THB 300 per person, per way. The entrance fee to the park is THB 100 for foreigners. There is a weekly Sunday market but this is mainly for produce and meats, meant for the locals. An “ancient” market about 60-kms from the hotel is held on every first Saturday of the month, while every second and fourth Fridays and Saturdays there is a big market held outside Sri Satchanalai Park.
Sukothai is a quiet, laidback place, still held captive by the memories of its past. As such, things cannot be hurried along here; this applies in some small measure to the resort as well and it is best to have your reservations and arrival details confirmed in advance rather than call in panic and chance having your call go unanswered.
Sukothai has an airport as mentioned above (Bangkok Airways, twice daily flights.) It is a six-hour journey from Bangkok should you wish to travel by bus (Mochit Bus Terminal, THB 370 per person per way, including lunch.) Remember to get down at Sri Samroung and not at Sukothai town. If you choose this option, it may be wiser to have the hotel organise a pick-up for you at THB 300 as the motorcycle taxis and songtaews are few and far between, while taxis are practically invisible! You can also take the train from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong station, but it’s more complicated, as you have to get off at Phitsanulok and travel by bus from there for roughly an hour.
SUKOTHAI HERITAGE RESORT
TEL: + 66 5564 7564
FAX: + 66 5320 7575