Thailand: A fun day in Phang Nga Bay!

I’ve come to find out that I really, really enjoy spending time on a boat. Island hopping around Phang Nga Bay was the highlight of my most recent trip to Thailand. We spent a couple of our days island hopping in the area, but one day in particular certainly stood out for me. It’s a day that I could relive over and over again. Yes, it was that close to perfect.


The beautiful, traditional, long-tail boat waited for us at a nearby port. We hopped onboard and we were off to explore the unique beaches in the bay. Chaya the resort manager explained that she was taking us to a place that the Thai people called “the room.” She didn’t give much away and I’m so glad that she didn’t, because it was such a fabulous surprise once we were there. Before we reached it, we passed by these beautiful limestone stalactite formations, coming out of the cliffside. The boat slowed and we idled into a cave, above us were the great, big pieces of stone. It was quiet, everyone stared up at these masses of rock.


The boat sped on. Soon we saw a narrow opening between two walls of cliffs and the boat turned in that direction. All of us got to our feet, anxious to see this room we’ve been hearing about.


I’m pretty sure the first thing that came out of my mouth was “WHAT?!!” We sailed into the room, where walls of cliffs fully surrounded this stunning pool of water. What really surprised me was how shallow the water was inside this area. We took the kayaks off of the boat and the others jumped off to have a walk around. My travel buddy (mom) and I paddled around the rim of the room, noticing that the water was only waist deep everywhere that we went, never deeper. Both of us were surprised we had this area all to ourselves. This kind of day trip is certainly kid friendly. I know my niece and nephew would just go crazy exploring these “secret” coves, in the bath-like, calm waters. Thailand is a destination that the whole family would enjoy. Perfect for multi generation trips if you ask me!

Nu from ANI (left) showing off a star fish and my mom sitting in the bay.

Nu from ANI (left) showing off a star fish and my mom sitting in the bay.

After taking the photo of the starfish, I looked up and couldn’t believe how beautiful of a shot the entryway to the room was (below). With those tiny islands dotting the background of the scene, the tranquil water and not another boat in sight, I swore I’d remember this day for the rest of my life.


We stopped in front of another beach, only one other boat was anchored there, two people snorkeling in the crystal blue, clear water. I had just mentioned to my mom that I was anxious to see some marine life and wondered what type of fish they had in this region. My mom had the ladder over the side of the boat as soon as we stopped and she was back in the water. Little did she know she wasn’t alone- all sorts of different schools of fish swam around her. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The water was so clear, I was watching fish swim in around the boat, from all different directions.

Our next stop was for lunch. Which was another pleasant surprise. We were back on the boat, headed to another island. We saw three boats anchored on another beach, but not a soul was at the one we were pulling up to. The ANI team said they packed a picnic, but as we had come to find out day after day, they don’t do anything simple. A picnic to you and I may mean a cheese plate, some snacks and don’t forget the wine! Of course the ANI team also didn’t forget for our little rendezvous. Ice cold rose was pulled from a cooler, as well as go-vino plastic wine glasses. I think I high fived myself when I saw this. (I do that some times…)


Lunch wasn’t a picnic in my opinion. Though I’m sure chef Yao from the villa would argue that it’s very casual and simple. Tae, Nu, Narin, Berb and the team quickly set up these adorable wooden tables and mats for us to sit on in the sand. Place settings, all of the the glorious food, individual sauces were set out, our wine glasses filled and we were happily saying cheers to one another in the shade of the tree, looking out at the bay.

Why does swimming and being in the water make you feel so hungry? We ate until our bathing suits began to talk back and then rolled into the water to float in the cool water. I am far from being the cool, stylish girl, but I sure wish for this trip I had found myself a great beach hat. Something I could have taken into the water with me. Next time!

Our last stop for the day was the monkey island. Which the staff had told me about and I basically insisted that we stop the boat there. I didn’t know there would be THAT many monkeys. Some off the ANI team tossed a bit of fruit into the water and the monkeys were already jumping into the water when they saw our boat pulling closer to shore. They were swimming out to the boat!! I was shocked. I had never seen a monkey do this, not that I hang out with monkeys all the time, but this was just crazy to see in person. The little buggers weren’t just out for a swim, some of them made their way onto the boat, which was even more of a shock. Their sweet noises when they were eating just cracked me up. I could have watched them forever.


We made it back to the ANI Villa and were greeted by warm smiles. It was one of the best days, my mom and I had been smiling and laughing all day. I’m sure both of us will cherish these moments for a very long time. A huge thanks to the ANI team for showing us your beautiful island and all of the ones surrounding you in the gorgeous bay. This is a very special part of the world, I look forward to sharing it with other travelers!

Phuket: Anantara Layan Resort

This mother daughter trip was off to a rough start, but we knew the flight was going to be a long one and well worth the wait. Yes indeedy, it certainly was. We arrived to the Anantara Layan Resort just after 1am, the staff greeted us with smiles as we melted out of the back of the cab and into the lobby. Welcome drinks and phuang malai were placed in front of us, as well as carefully wrapped cool, wet hand towels. Phuang malai are flower garlands that Thai people see as a symbol of luck and respect, they are beautiful fresh flowers (that smell incredible!) and you’ll want to keep this in your room during your stay. Check in was a breeze and before you know it, we were walking into our Pool Villa, which we would be staying in for the next three nights. My mom couldn’t resist and hopped in our plunge pool almost immediately after we got into our room. I swear the bellman had only been gone about a minute.


I am a sucker for a hotel that has scenic landscaping, especially gorgeous native plants to the area. I grew up with a dad and mom that flipped houses all of my life and my dad puts his heart into the landscaping (it shows!). I love being surrounded by greenery, so I really admire when a hotel can show off by keeping well groomed walkways and garden areas.


Something else that us Ebner gals can both agree on…excellent breakfast- and not one that we have to make hah! We love to be wowed by breakfast buffets, which may sound silly until you experience one that you wish you had more room in your stomach for. We start our mornings slow, when we can and if we can’t, we will definitely wake up a little bit earlier so we can read emails while sipping a freshly made cappuccino. The breakfast presentation at the Anantara was definitely our style! So don’t mind me while I share a slide of photos below:

Okay back to the other fabulous features of the hotel, because I really don’t have anything bad to say about this property. I loved the layout. The restaurants facing the serene bay it sits on and the spa is a short stroll up a small walkway, which actually gets you an even better long distance view of the bay!


The spa area had a pool that was in a great spot with some of the water just under the shade of these big trees. Which if you’re like me and ghostly white, you'll appreciate the shade while still being in the water. We had this little corner of the property all to ourselves. Eventually the activity guides came up and were setting up a yoga, stand up paddle board class, which we made our exit before they talked us into joining.


Believe me when I say this is not like other beaches on the island of Phuket. It’s quite a special spot and I could see why other people that we met while staying there, were staying for a full week!


Although we took a half day to explore the main town, a temple and the big buddha, we spent most of our time either in this pool (above) or lounging on the beach. We ordered fresh coconuts which they chop open right after you order it, stick a straw in and hand to you. HECK YES! It’s nothing like coconut water that we get here in the states, give fresh coconut a chance when you can. It’s full of juice and you can scrape the coconut out and eat that as a snack afterwards.


At one point we went over and grabbed a kayak to paddle around for a bit, which they have free for guests to use when they want. They also have stand up paddle boards and canoes, which we saw a cute father and son moment happening one morning. The guys working at the mojito bar on the beach were such sweethearts. They checked in on us and kept our water glasses full of cold water. Occasionally bringing us cold towels to cool down with and at one point brought us a menu when we inquired about lunch.


Each morning we filled up on breakfast, snacked a bit during the day and then enjoyed two really great dinners on property. Our first night we had Thai, on the upstairs level of the restaurants, which is where they also serve breakfast. They offered us a fun starter- something I really enjoyed while traveling in Bangkok earlier this year, it’s called miang kham. Lucky me, they also had one of my favorite Thai dishes on the menu- khao soi. I can’t even think of it without my mouth watering! My mom ordered a steak salad that was also delicious.

My mom and I both loved our stay at the Anantara Layan Resort and agreed that we are ready for any excuse to come back to stay there! Thank you to the staff for your kindness and making us feel welcome and well taken care of during our stay. It was the perfect start to our vacation in Thailand and I look forward to sending travelers their way.

Bangkok: Sukhothai Hotel

I was headed north, toward Bangkok, in a private transfer that was driving me away from the conference I had just participated in. Exhausted from the three days of meetings I just had, the sight of traffic, the big buildings and overall chaos that I was experiencing was bringing a new level of tired on. I was a bit worried that Bangkok may be a bit overwhelming for me from the looks of it. It was all in my head until we reached the security gate of the Sukhothai Hotel. We drove in, down the long driveway and happily left the crazy behind. I felt a sense of calm wash over me. This oasis of a hotel, is RIGHT in the mix of things, but you’d never know!

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I was checked in at the Club Lounge Tower of the hotel. They took me up the elevator, sat me at their desk, handed me a wonderful welcome drink and cold towel, I was already relaxed. Shortly after, when I made it up to my room, I knew right away that I had made the right choice to stay here for my first couple of nights in Bangkok.

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When people say that they want a boutique hotel for their vacation, I have to ask more questions. Sometimes they really mean smaller, sometimes they mean a place with more character and feel for the destination. The Sukhothai isn’t a small property by any means, it’s quite large, but it’s SO serene, beautiful and personal. I was blown away by the service and each staff member that I encountered during my stay. They have a fabulous spa (that I experienced!), an absolutely gigantic and well equipped gym (that I didn’t partake in, but did look at), a gorgeous pool and outdoor area for those sun worshipers like me! I could just imagine spending half of the day out, exploring neighborhoods in Bangkok and coming back to this paradise to unwind for the rest of the afternoon; jump in the pool, float my stress away, enjoy a massage and then have dinner on property. Now that is a great day on vacation!

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I usually encourage people to go out and have dinner somewhere off property as much as they can since this can be an experience in itself when traveling. Though I travel often enough to know that having dinner at your hotel and only being a short walk to your room…can be a luxury in itself. So the dining options at a hotel are something that I carefully take note of while visiting a property. I enjoyed a stellar meal at their Thai restaurant Celadon, which in fact has been voted ‘Best Restaurant in Bangkok’ by Travel & Leisure.


I saw many hotels in Bangkok and this checked off all of my personal boxes for hotels that I love and I would without a doubt, highly recommend this property to my clients. When I send someone there, I know that the Sukhothai team will take good care of all travelers that walk through their doors.