We caught up with Andrea Loddo, the Director for SALT, who represents some of our Thailand hotels in the UK. He is a Thailand expert and regularly travels around the country.
You are in Phuket now — what are you up to?
I tend to visit the hotels I represent on a yearly basis and, with a new site opening in Khao Lak and a refurbishment just completed on Koh Phi Phi, I’m currently very busy travelling around the Andaman Sea discovering and rediscovering some precious gems. Each day is different and never boring and it’s always warm in Thailand. When I compare it with the temperatures back in the UK, I cannot but think myself lucky!
Tell us about the hotels that you currently represent. What are your favourite features about them?
In Phuket, I work with the Patong Merlin, a 4-star resort in the heart of Patong. People tend to think of the destination as noisy and crowded but once they step into this hotel, they’re surprised at how quiet and relaxing it actually is, with lush tropical gardens and four large pools. You’re only seconds away from the beach, as well as great restaurants, spas and shopping.
The sister properties to Patong Merlin are Khao Lak Merlin and Bangsak Merlin, both in the Phang Nga region north of Phuket. You can easily get here by car in less than an hour and, it being a national park, has been kept as authentic and unspoiled as possible. Both the properties have direct access to the beach but where the 4-star Khaolak Merlin is a great rainforest retreat ideal for couples who prefer a location closer to the local entertainment, Bangsak is a magnificent 5-star contemporary resort ideal for families on a stunning secluded white beach (we operate a free shuttle to town though so you're never too far from those souvenirs).
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort is a 4-star luxury hideaway on the famous Phi Phi Island — wooden bungalows on stilts with thatched roofs in a 70-acre plantation with a half-mile long beach... think Robinson Crusoe and you’re halfway there. It's just been refurbished to the highest standards — a true paradise.
You obviously love Thailand, what do you think it is that makes it such a special country?
The people — their smiles are unique and their gentle nature will make sure you always feel welcome. I also love the food, the lush landscape and the easy pace of life.
Do you have any tips for first timers in Thailand? What should they look out for when choosing where to go?
If you’ve never been to Asia, I think it can be quite a shock to the system. I took a year off over a decade ago and went to Australia via Bangkok — I wasn't prepared for the madness of it all. I only got to know everything better by coming back year after year for work… and it is now my favourite Asian city! I’d recommend everybody visit Bangkok at the end of the trip, as you’ll be ready for it. There’s lots to do — culture, food, shopping... it’s a place I love to bits.
First timers should head to Phuket or Koh Samui if they’re looking for great beaches and lots of entertainment. Samui is great for honeymooners, as their peak season is May to September, which is ideal for couples who get married in the UK summer.
For those looking for stunning landscapes and secluded beaches, who aren’t too bothered about top international chefs and shopping for the big brands, Khao Lak is a fabulous option thanks to the pristine beaches and laid back atmosphere… or for the Hollywood hunters, then Phi Phi is truly heavenly.
What is your favourite place in Thailand and an experience you would recommend?
Apart from the hotels and the destinations I work with, I do love the north of Thailand. Chiang Mai is such an interesting cultural hub, with funky coffee shops, chilled out bars and a very pleasant temperature year round. A bit of a hipsters paradise. I wasn't surprised to find out that it has the highest concentration of new digital marketing startups in the world — who wouldn't want to? You can do anything arty there, from learning to paint, massage and cook. Or you could just explore the surrounding mountains, paddy fields and meet local minority groups. It is absolutely enchanting.
There are many places I still haven't been to in the Land of Smiles though and I’ll be back soon to explore Koh Lipe, a hidden hideaway in the south Andaman Sea with bungalows on the beach and fresh seafood. It’s truly a place that rivals the Maldives.