Motti Verses

A taste of Thailand – closer than you think

Almost 25 years ago stones were carried from the desert and sand was dredged from the floor of the Persian Gulf ,creating an archipelago that resembles a stylized palm tree for exclusive housing and posh hotels. The Palm Jumeirah Dubai. Whether you see it from a plane, when skydiving, or while researching a trip online, this man-made form of an island is  extraordinary. Certainly an engineering marvel.

I was curious to discover why travelers from Europe and North America constantly flock to the glamorous five-star resorts, on-trend restaurants and chic beach clubs it offers. Isn’t Dubai city, with its endless attractions enough?

I packed my trolley and picked my favorite aisle seat on a 3 hour Israir airlines flight to Dubai International airport. Another 45 minutes drive in a local taxi with a vivacious driver from Uganda and I found myself at the far edge of the illustrious archipelago. I chose the Anantara Palm Dubai  as the hotel to reveal the answer to my questions. The cool breeze coming from the Persian Gulf was refreshingly surprising. Iran was never closer.

The entrance to the resort – what you find inside is a total surprise (Photo by Motti Verses)
My Maldives style accomodation, the only over-water villas in Dubai (Photo by Motti Verses)
3 wonderful lagoons with temperature controlled water (Photo by Motti Verses)

While entering the resort lobby I found myself surrounded by a magnificent display of flowers. The smell of the lemon grass in the air evoked familiar scenes of great unforgettable vacations in the islands of Thailand. The environment was certainly Thai and the hospitable welcoming team members looked Asian. After a quick check- in, my fellow journalist and myself found ourselves riding a buggy to tour the resort. Our final destination was an over-water Maldives style villa. Its roof was majestic gabled and hipped. To the Thais, the hipped roof design usually signifies the house of royalty. The interior was no less impressive and imperial. The saloon bedroom was specious and the bathroom made me feel like the crown prince. I walked on the partly glass floor where the sea water is seen on my way to the spacious terrace, overlooking the sea. Additional similar villas were seen on  the far end of the resort. It was a true carbon copy of the Thailand I experienced.

Walking around the meticulous and pleasant resort feels like you are in a typical posh hospitality lodging in Phuket, Koh Samui or Krabi. Regardless of being on artificial land, the entire complex is green with impressive tropical vegetation. “We offer here a very unique experience. We call it a taste of Thailand in Dubai”, says James Hewitson, Cluster General Manager for Anantara hotels in Dubai islands. ”It’s a resort hotel within a city. The design is unmatched throughout the UAE. We  have the only over-water villas in Dubai. We have 15 beach pool villas and we have 3 wonderful lagoons with temperature controlled water that you can access throughout the year”, he says.

With James Hewitson Cluster, General Manager for Anantara hotels in Dubai islands – “We offer a taste of Thailand” (Photo by Motti Verses)
The saloon bedroom was specious and the bathroom made me feel like the crown prince (Photo by Motti Verses)
The Anantara Palm Dubai resort at night – Closer to Thailand than ever (Photo by Motti Verses)

Dubai city is also famous for its exceptional high-standard public beaches that are free for everyone along the Jumeirah coastline, like Kite Beach, La Mer, or Al Mamzar. I asked Hewitson why travelers should choose his hotel and not live in the city and enjoy both worlds – the unmatched city life and its beaches?  He replies with a smile: “The Palm is an island surrounded by the open sea. In a country like the UAE it is extremely significant. Whether it’s 45 degrees in summer, or a very cool 28 degrees in winter, it will always be 3 degrees cooler here. In addition the surroundings are relaxing, characterized by low rise buildings. While in city beaches the highway noise is constant, here it is completely quiet. A recipe for a rewarding vacation. Enjoying the lagoons and the beach is unmatched. One of our biggest markets is the foreigners that work in Dubai. For them coming here allows them to feel detached from the city. Walking through the main lobby with informal clothing is an advantage. They consider it as an important factor. Those expatriates prefer hotels in this archipelago, an evidence for a market need. A little piece of Thailand close by is a wonderful opportunity”.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is a hotel brand founded in Thailand in 2001. No wonder the Thai concept is so dominant here. An assurance emblem that guarantees authenticity. 750 employees from 55 countries are making guests feel at home. Most of them are from Asia with the majority from Thailand. I found the best evidence for the Thailand spirit in the traditional spa. The classical treatment I experienced was pure quality. Relaxing and therapeutic. It was an hour of indulgence. True  journeys of hydrotherapy and Turkish hammam rituals are highly recommended there. We definitely detoxed and boosted our energy levels in this unforgettable intravenous place.

I found the best evidence for the Thailand spirit in the traditional spa (Photo by Motti Verses)
The Mekong Asian restaurant restaurant, welcome to an exotic feast for the senses (Photo by Motti Verses)
The Mekong restaurant – a journey through the flavors of Thailand, China and Vietnam (Photo by Motti Verses)
Bushman’s Australian restaurant – my first ever kangaroo hearty portion(Photo by Motti Verses)
The over-water villas at night – a stunning look (Photo by Motti Verses)

The culinary highlight was the Mekong Asian restaurant with contemporary eclectic decor that sets the stage for an exotic feast for the senses. The variety of delicious Thai cuisine is impressive and of the highest quality. It was an unforgettable journey through the flavors and spices of Thailand, China and Vietnam. With the authentic live music of an entertainer using the Khaen Thai Lao instrument, a bamboo mouth organ, I felt like I was in a high end restaurant in Bangkok.

The resort offers additional outlets with surprising gastronomy. Don’t miss the Bushman’s Australian restaurant that provides premium Aussie beverages with meat cuts and kangaroo hearty portions. As Australia is a key market for resorts in the islands of Thailand, an outlet of that nature completes the authenticity of the Thai experience.

The Anantara Palm Dubai resort is not in Thailand. Nothing can compete with the original that offers a unique culture, fascinating history, beaches, the tantalizing flavors of its world-famous street food, or jaw-dropping landscapes. However the distance from Tel Aviv to Thailand’s Phuket island is almost 10,000 kilometers and 10-12 hours by plane. It is only 2600 kilometers to the Anantara Thai resort on Palm Jumeirah Dubai. A flight of less than 3 hours can take you to a relaxing short break there. Combine it with additional 2 nights in downtown Dubai for shopping, museums and attractions and you will experience a perfect vacation, especially in winter and spring. An option that you should seriously consider. Israelis do love Thailand.

With more than 600 upscale hotels, 60 of them located in Palm Jumeriah, Dubai welcomed more tourists than ever before in 2023. More than 17 million international overnight visitors arrived to the emirate over the course of the year, according to the latest data published by the Department of Economy. Dubai is definitely doing something very right.

About the Author
The author is a hotel expert, traveler, writer, videographer and the former Head of Public Relations of Hilton Hotels and Resorts in Israel
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