Travel desk: Thai resorts, cycling the Van Gogh way and Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

News, deals and holiday inspiration

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00

Five Thai resorts
Supersoakers, water balloons and all manner of spray bottles are the weapons of choice for Songkran, the world’s biggest water fight and a date in Thailand’s festival calendar. It takes place between April 13th and 15th and everyone gets involved. Here are five resorts where you can take shelter from the soaking, in luxury:

Anantara Resort & Spa, Golden Triangle
Overlooking the Mekong and right on the border with Burma and Laos, this is a stunning resort with one of the world’s most beautiful infinity pool.
Chiang Saeng;; rooms from €300

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
A resort designed in the style of a palace, with sumptuous villas equipped with pianos and private saunas dotted about a 60-acre estate filled with gardens and rice paddies.
Chiang Mai;; rooms from €350

Six Senses Samui
An eco-friendly spa tucked away at the tip of a headland on the northeastern corner of Koh Samui, this is luxury at its most serene: private villas with sunken poolside pavilions, an organically built mud-spa with beehive-shaped treatment rooms and a private beach.
Bo Phut;; villas from €280

The Sarojin
A beautiful resort about an hour north of Phuket spread over 10 acres, right on a fabulous beach. Strategically separated pool villas and suites give guests a sense of splendid tropical isolation.
Khao Lak;; rooms from €150 in low season

Pimalai Resort & Spa, Ko Lanta
At the southern tip of Koh Lanta Yoi and part of a national park, a boutique resort built into the hillside with all the trimmings: beautifully designed villas, a great spa and an infinity pool. Direct speedboat connection to the mainland in dry season.
Kan Tiang Beach;; rooms from €226

Fancy being a hotel reviewer?
Hotel comparison site is inviting readers to become hotel testers, and is offering up to €80 for the gig. To counter the scourge of fake reviews that beset user-generated online sites, Trivago is introducing a mystery guest programme across 40 hotels in 10 cities in Ireland and the UK whereby testers sign up by checking into a hotel at the quoted rate and then filling in an extensive questionnaire (400 questions that can take 45 minutes). They will then receive between €30 and €80 directly into their accounts. The programme is already operating in 20 cities across Europe and has so far generated 20,000 reviews. To join up, see

Taking the piste
An English ski holiday company, MountainBase, has risked the wrath of the law by advertising a deal offering to pay parents’ fines levied by local authorities for taking their children skiing during the school term, when a ski break can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than during term breaks. Irish ski operators are reluctant to follow suit. Neal Collins of Topflight and, which between them have 45 per cent of the Irish ski market, says: “It’s a nice PR stunt. Families take their children on holidays during school term all the time, but doing something similar would be an irresponsible stance for us.”

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