Monday 1 March 2010


I've always hankered after going to the Lost City in South Africa. But now I feel the need is not so urgent because I've just discovered the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort in Pattaya, this country's 'first themed beach resort' where Thailand meets Timbuktu.

Think massive stone elephants, soaring safari lodge-like roof structures seemingly held up by large tusks, skybridges linking hotel rooms, flaming torches, and a Lazy River meandering through a tropical jungle of palm trees. All right on Wong Amat Beach, Pattaya, just a couple of hours from Bangkok. Gee, you could've fooled me: this feels like a whole other world.

This cross-continental contemporary theme is carried through into the breezy rooms as well. Alas, no vines for a little 'Me Tarzan-You Jane' scenario.

A special moment was in watching the sunset from the Vistas deck (nice long cranberry/vodka cocktail in hand, of course) and, as the fiery orb sank into the sea, a dozen torches erupted into flame accompanied by a strident classical tune. Magic! Bravo! They really made sunset the event it should be.

Russians seem to make up about 75% of the clientele judging by a/ the accents b/ the sheer amount of long-legged blondes called Anushka parading around the place with barely-there bikinis and aforementioned accents and c/ Adrian Brown, the hotel's Aussie manager, told me so. Also a healthy amount of Thai families weekending from Bangkok, and the odd Thai superstar (the weekend I stayed, tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan and his wife, a former Miss Universe. Yes, I politely signed autographs for them.)

Daytime decisions revolve around the Lazy River, a bunch of slides (some of them fun for 47-year-olds as much as 7-year-olds!), a choice of sea sports at the 230-metre wide beachfront, or wallowing in the infinity pool. Tempting too was the absolute state-of-the-art fitness centre -- rarely have I seen so much of the latest and best gear in any gym in the world as here. However, in a fiercely contested debate which raged for nano-seconds inside my head, that didn't get a run in favour of another lazy lap of the river.

Having built up such a king-sized hunger on the Lazy River, I replenished my lost calories -- and then some! -- at two of their restaurants. The first was Oasis, where Friday and Saturday nights offer a seafood buffet. Talking about a feeding frenzy! I single-handedly depleted the North Sea's entire 2010 seasonal harvest of salmon and tuna. My Omega 3 levels are currently outperforming the Dow Jones index. Then the oyster cart came round again. Aw shucks, yes I'll have another dozen of those. My cholesterol level is now outperforming the Southeast Asian (exluding Japan) market index.

Speaking of which, the following night we dined at Ginger & Lime, which offers the cuisines from Thailand, China, Japan, and Vietnam. Executive chef Andrew Brown (who overseas a team of 135 chefs and stewards at the hotel) pointed out all the good stuff. Ooooh, teppanyaki'd salmon. Barbecued king prawns. It was all good. Mmmmmm. The resulting protein coma was apparently only tenuously connected to the New Zealand sauvignon blanc promotion.

And, of course, there's only one medically acknowledged way to recover from a protein coma the next day. That's right -- more languid laps of the Lazy River, repeated as necessary. Africa can wait. Jing jing!

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