The launch of Centara Grand Phratamnak Pattaya raises the question of a potential upcoming luxury market in the beach town.
by Anita Zaror
I love living in a bustling city like Bangkok, but I always enjoy getting away anywhere where I can find silence and I can see water: be it my condo’s swimming pool, a golf course with a lake, or the beach. I heard through the grapevine that Centara Hotels and Resorts had recently opened a new hotel in a quiet neighborhood in Pattaya. Quietude in Pattaya? Didn’t think so, but off to Pattaya I went to see it.
Centara Grand Phratamnak Pattaya is located in the beach town’s so-called “Beverly Hills,” an exclusive residential district of Phratamnak Hill. Far from the city’s noise yet only a few steps from the beach, the hotel is well connected to Jomtien Beach, downtown Pattaya, Bali Hai Pier, and the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH). A complimentary shuttle service is also offered to and from CentralFestival Pattaya Beach, said to be Asia’s largest beachfront shopping complex.
I was there during the hotel’s soft opening, so I attended a cocktail reception at the lobby, followed by dinner next to the aquarium with sharks, at the Oceana, which features seafood, Thai, and international cuisine. It was then on to drinks at Pearl, in the rooftop pool area. After a fun party with lounge music, and when I couldn’t stand on my heels anymore, I went back to my suite and sat for a bit on the terrace. Wow, that place really was quiet. My room overlooked a verdant garden, and it had a 90-degree view of the sea. Whether in the morning, at sunset, or at night, spending time there felt like being in my own apartment, but in a place where nobody knew me.
At the party, I overheard a few guests saying that this hotel had “brought the Centara Grand standard to a whole new level.” They were probably referring to its luxurious furniture from Fendi Casa, and the amenities that ranged from the calf leather boxes in each of the 165 guestrooms and suites that contain the LED flat-screen TV’s remote control to the Nespresso capsules for the coffee machine in the minibar. Or maybe they were referring to the Harnn amenities in the bathroom, the Jim Thompson pillowcases, or the nightly turndown service where, besides leaving a flower and chocolates on my bed, staff pampered me with fancy hors d’oeuvres and mini desserts.
But there are two things that make this hotel really special, besides its very high-end details hiding in every corner. The first, which is noticeable as soon as you step in, is its concept. Subtly inspired by the marine world, the décor makes you feel that if you stand in the middle of the lobby and look up, you’re at the bottom of the sea and jellyfish—which are actually chandeliers—are swimming right above your head. Waves on the carpets that lead from the rooms to the elevators, tasteful seashell decorations on the walls, and two large aquariums with exotic marine species at the lobby are also part of this marine motif, which reaches its apex on the rooftop. Walking by the pool and looking down through the skylight windows on the floor, again that feeling of depth emerges, this time as if looking at the bottom of the sea—the lobby—from the surface. And the icing on the cake: three aquariums with jellyfish inside Ruffino Restaurant & Lounge that are impressive to look at during the day, and truly astonishing as they shine in blue light at night.
Ruffino is a well-known Italian wine producer from Tuscany, and Centara Grand Phratamnak Pattaya brought the brand to Thailand in the form of its signature restaurant, which offers Italian coastal cuisine from the hands of Venetian executive chef, Luca Pulese. And this is the second highlight of this hotel: its food. Be it buffet breakfast at Oceana, a mid-afternoon macchiato and macaroons at Espresso—the bakery and café located in the lobby—or dinner at Ruffino, with its small portions of homemade pasta cooked al dente and paired, of course, with Ruffino wine, again quality prevails and service shines like a star. The customer’s experience overall is an extremely positive one.
But how can this luxurious hotel be successful in Pattaya in the long term? I had a word with its general manager, Dominique Ronge, and he assured me that “in the past, Pattaya was known for its mid-scale and budget tourism, but areas like Phratamnak, which have a more private, luxurious, and quiet character to it, as well as others like Jomtien, definitely have potential for developing into a luxury market … we had a turnaround in Pattaya five or six years ago, since we built the CentralFestival, extended the beach road, and enlarged the beach walk, so it’s becoming much more accessible for families, couples, and more luxurious hotels. In the past, it has not been properly exploited, but in the future, the luxury market in Pattaya has high potential.”
Although the hotel’s beach house and spa will not be launched until 2014, the hotel itself is now fully operational, and we recommend it for those who’d like to have a more select experience of Pattaya, as well as for executive meetings and conventions of up to 80 people.