5 Questions with … Hotelier Thomas Barguil

Hua Hin kitesurfer

Kiteboarding is among Anantara GM Thomas Barguil’s favorite things to do in Hua Hin.

What does the general manager of a luxury hotel in Hua Hin do when he or she gets a day off?

Well, if you’re Thomas Barguil, GM of the Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa, you gear up for the Gulf of Siam.

At least lately.

That’s because the French national has a new obsession: learning how to kite surf.

In the interview that follows, Barguil talks about who’s teaching him the ropes, what else he likes to do in Hua Hin, and more …

Q: First off, how long have you been in Thailand and, specifically, Hua Hin? 

A: I first came to Thailand in 2000 and have been here on and off for five years. My first job in this area was with Evason Hua Hin Resort & Spa, which is just south of here, in Pranburi. I took the job of food and beverage director in 2002, when that resort was just opening. Then, just this last September, I came back to Hua Hin, after being appointed GM of the Anantara here.

Q: What do you most like about Hua Hin?

A: Probably the fact that it has kept its provincial feel. The Hua Hin region has developed significantly since I first came here, but it’s still the charming little coastal town that I discovered 13 years ago. In addition to this, the region has a lot to offer — beautiful golf courses, a very nice vineyard, stunning national parks, historic summer palaces, fantastic beaches and amazing wind surfing and kite surfing, to name just a few things. But above all, the local population is very welcoming.

Q: What do you like to do on your day(s) off?

A: Mainly spend time with my family, and wind surf. Although now I’m learning to kite surf!

Q: Oh yeah? How is that going?

A: It’s frustrating at times. But fun. I’m learning through the folks at KBA, which has 12 kitesurfing schools across Asia. My instructor is a woman charming lady named P’ Miaw. She’s so passionate about the sport (and very patient with me), and that attitude rubs off. 

Q: In your opinion, what’s the one activity a visitor should NOT miss when in Hua Hin?

A: Tough question. I’ve always thought the markets are fantastic. But I think the answer would probably have to be a visit to Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. It’s just such a unique experience, especially here in Thailand. It’s off the beaten path a little bit, the wines are lovely, and the views from the terrace of the Sala Bistro are spectacular.

Jimmy Barnes Sings Banyan’s Praises


Jimmy Barnes at Banyan

Musician Jimmy Barnes with Banyan GC’s Stuart Daly (left) and Stacey Walton (right).

Banyan Golf Club has entertained its share of world-class golfers over the years, including Belgian bomber Nicholas Colsaerts and Asian Tour mainstay Simon Yates.

Now, Thailand’s premier golf facility can add a rock star to its list of high-profile guests.

Recently, legendary Australian musician Jimmy Barnes visited Banyan and not only played Hua Hin’s premier course, he presented management with a piece of memorabilia commemorating his Platinum-winning 2009 album, “The Rhythm and the Blues,” featuring covers of songs by the likes of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Bo Diddley.

Before hitting the links, Barnes quipped that he was giving “a No. 1 album to the No. 1 golf club.”

While the Scottish-born rocker came up short in his bid to break Yates’ stellar course record of 66 (how short, we don’t know; we didn’t ask!), he still holds the mark for highest number of hit albums of any Australian artist with a whopping nine. Fair dinkum!

Hua Hin Hotel Rallies Around Wellness

The Barai

THE BARAI Spa at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin is the focal point of THE BARAI Retreats program.

While the protests in Bangkok continue to dominate the headlines in Thailand, a resort in Hua Hin is offering the kind of program no one could object to.

It’s available at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, it’s called THE BARAI Retreats, and it’s perfect for anyone seeking a mind-body-and-spirit boost.

The program revolves around three wellbeing options:

* Thai Touches: Accommodation, spa treatments, cuisine and cultural activities, infused with Thai touches.

* Healthy Luxe: Healthy meals, exercise opportunities, spa pampering and luxury experiences, all rolled together.

* Couple’s Harmony: A romantic, customized escape, with wellness incorporated.

Each option can be tailored to accommodate three-, five- or seven-night stays in a Regency Club Suite, Barai Suite or Presidential Pool Villa. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the following activities designed specifically for THE BARAI Retreats:

* Private Yoga Class in THE BARAI’s Tranquility Court, led by a master of the art.

* Healing with Herbs Class, a seaside demonstration in how herbs and spices can help relieve stress and rejuvenate muscles.

* Healthy Thai Cooking Class, a hands-on exploration of Thailand’s most famous dishes.

* Thai Massage Lesson, which delves into both technique and traditions.

The three-day program starts from THB 42,000, excluding taxes and surcharges. For more information, contact Hyatt Regency Hua Hin at thebarai.hrhuahin@hyatt.com.

Hyatt Open Golf Tournament Hits the Mark Again

Hyatt Open winner

Category C winner Arlius Telaumbanau (third from right) was among 128 players to compete in the 4th Annual Hyatt Open in Hua Hin.

The fourth edition of the Hyatt Open is officially in the books.

One of Thailand’s most popular amateur golf events concluded July 21 at Banyan Golf Club with Johnny Walker, Graham Haslam and Arlius Telaumbanau winning their respective divisions.

Sponsored by Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, the Hyatt Open attracted 128 players and a team of Titleist professional club fitters, who were there to let golfers demo the brand’s newest equipment.

The two-day event also included a fantasy tournament, whereby Hyatt Open contestants drew a player competing at the Open Championship in Scotland, and an auction that raised THB 500,000 for a Bangkok-based children’s charity.

“The Hyatt Open just gets bigger every year,” said Stacey Walton, Banyan Golf Club’s general manager. “It’s been fun to watch it grow into one of Southeast Asia’s premier amateur golf tournaments.”

The 5th Annual Hyatt Open will take place next June.

Where Hua Hin Needs to Go to Grow

Power Lines

Putting power lines underground would help boost Hua Hin’s aesthetic appeal, writes Hyatt Regency GM Sammy Carolus. (Photo: kampungboycitygal)

A lot can happen in a decade. In the past 10 years, Saddam Hussein’s regime fell, Facebook launched and Michael Jackson died.

Since 2003, I’ve learned of such events in Hua Hin. That’s how long I’ve lived here now.

Change has occurred all around me, too. This isn’t the same town it was when I arrived.

Hua Hin has grown from a sleepy fishing village to an active, dynamic resort with an abundance of new housing developments, condo complexes, tourist attractions and boutique hotels.

In fact, 10 years ago, there wasn’t even a cinema or department store in Hua Hin. The only entertainment we had was golf during the day and the city center night market in the evening.

Now we’ve got a Cineplex, several supermarkets, the Cicada Weekend Market and The Barai spa.

Indeed, Hua Hin has come a long way in a decade. But there’s still some work to do. Only one carrier — Berjaya Air (Malaysia) — offers international service to Hua Hin, whose airport runway is the same length as Koh Samui’s.

That’s problematic for us hoteliers, because it prevents a lot of Asian travelers from visiting. If they’ve only got a weekend, they don’t want to spend a chunk of it getting to their destination.

I also think Hua Hin would benefit from an array of infrastructural and architectural improvements.

Put all the telephone wires and electricity cables underground. Renovate some of the downtown buildings and shops to look distinctly more Thai. Manage high-traffic intersections better on weekends and during peak season. And invest in metered taxis and shuttles to all the best tourist attractions.

That’s what I’d like to see.

But that’s about all I’d like to see. Because I still think Hua Hin possesses a kind of charm that few places do.

It’s still a safe, comfortable and affordable destination that’s ideal for families and couples. And that, in the end, is what makes me — and I’m sure many other long-time Hua Hin residents — love this city so much.

Hyatt Open Golf Tournament Tees Off in July

15th green at Banyan GC

The Hyatt Open returns to picturesque Banyan Golf Club in July.

If you’re an amateur golfer and like the idea of a little competition in a tropical setting, it’s time to get your game in order and set your sights on Hua Hin — the Hyatt Open is coming soon to Banyan Golf Club.

Organized by Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, the fourth annual, two-day tournament tees off Saturday, July 20, with more prizes up for grabs than ever before.

The most coveted get? The Hyatt Open Trophy, a large, silver receptacle reminiscent of the Claret Jug, which is awarded annually to the winner of professional golf’s third “major” of the season — The Open Championship.

“As the Hyatt Open is held the same weekend as The Open Championship, it only makes sense that the trophy be similar,” said Sammy Carolus, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin’s general manager.

In that spirit, tournament organizers plan to conduct a fantasy tournament associated with the final rounds of the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield golf course in Scotland.

Entry fees for the Hyatt Open start at THB 20,800 net for one player and THB 28,800 net for two players based on twin sharing.

Benefits include two nights in a Hyatt Guestroom at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, a welcome dinner, daily breakfast, two rounds of golf including cart and caddy, an awards luncheon and complimentary transfers between the hotel and golf course.

For reservations and further information, contact Hyatt Regency Hua Hin at +66 2254 6200 or email reservations.hrhuahin@hyatt.com.

Hyatt Regency Hires Munn to Head Kitchen

Chef Anthony Munn

Anthony Munn brings 33 years of culinary experience to Hua Hin.

Anthony Munn is the new executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin.

A 33-year veteran of the culinary industry, the New Zealand native began his career in 1980 at the Hermitage Hotel Mt. Cook in the Southern Alps.

He then moved to Australia and worked with many resorts and stand-alone restaurants all over the country, including Hyatt Regency Perth.

After starting out as that property’s chef de cuisine, the Australian national was promoted to executive sous chef, a position that required him to oversee the operation of three outlets and the banquets department.

At Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, Munn will helm four restaurants and bars and the hotel’s banqueting facilities, which can cater to 400 people including off-site events.

Munn’s mission is to take advantage of the fresh seafood and tropical produce Hua Hin is famous for.

“Having access to such ingredients enables us chefs to create authentic dishes,” Munn said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a team that is committed to delivering premium products. My goal is to further develop the quality of food at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin to ensure that we exceed guests’ expectations every time.”

Hotel Room Service: The Dish on a Crucial Amenity

Burger and Fries

Comfort foods, such as burgers and fries, are popular room service items.

It’s been a long day by the time you finally check into your Hua Hin hotel. It’s also late at night. You’re a bit disheveled and the last thing you want to do is traipse over to the restaurant and get something to eat. But you’re starving. What do you do?

What else? You dial up room service. And you don’t think twice about it. If you weren’t so tired, and hungry, you might ask yourself: What goes into the whole room service operation? What do people most tend to order? And how often are odd requests made?

That’s what we wondered on a recent afternoon, after a good night’s rest and nice full lunch. So we set out to find some answers. What we discovered is that most room-service menus contain popular items from the hotel’s various dining outlets as well as select comfort foods.

That said, Anantara Resort & Spa Hua Hin also offers a few dishes you won’t find in the resort’s restaurants, such as crushed pepper steak with potato gratin and grilled salmon fillet with vegetable paella and stir-friend morning glory.

It typically takes half an hour for an order to arrive, and if the guest doesn’t answer the doorbell — which happens about five times per month, Anantara’s general manager Naowarat Arunkong said — the order-taker will call the guest’s room and ask if everything is all right.

No surprises there. But did you know that the busiest time of day for room service orders tends to be around dinner time? That’s what Hyatt Regency Hua Hin Food & Beverage Director Benjamin Perera told us.

“We deliver a lot of fried noodles, Caesar salads, pizza and club sandwiches in the evenings,” he said.

Arunkong said that’s true at her hotel as well, but not as much on the weekends, when Bangkok residents come down to Hua Hin for a quick break from the city.

“Then we get a lot of requests for things like Yum Nuea Yang (grilled beef tenderloin salad with crunchy vegetables) and Phad Krapow (stir-fried minced chicken, beef or crispy pork with basil, garlic and chili),” she said.

As for the million-dollar question — How often do guests ask for items that aren’t on the menu? — their answers were the same: About 10 percent of the time.

“And sometimes those calls are interesting,” Arunkong said. “Our room service team recently got a request for a decaf iced skinny latte with white chocolate flakes. But we made it work!”

Hua Hin Luxury, at a Discount

Anantara Suite

HOW SUITE IT IS: Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa was designed to satisfy.

This blog post was going to be titled ’7 Things to Do in Hua Hin this March/April,’ but then Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa gave us reason to change course a little bit.

The beautiful seaside escape just a few minutes’ drive from downtown is offering guests up to 20 percent off on stays before Oct. 31, 2013 … if they make their reservation at least 15 days in advance on Anantara’s website.

Now’s a good time to take advantage, especially if you’re the active type.

In March, there’s an Antiques Exhibition scheduled at Baan Sillapin Artists Village, as well as a pair of wine events at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, including the annual Harvest Dinner on March 16.

The following month, you’ve got the World Boxing Championship, Songkran Water Festival, another food-and-wine weekend at Hua Hin Hills, and the Miss Hua Hin Contest.

Ay, caramba!

For more details about Anantara’s promotion, go to anantara.com/advancepurchase. We’ll see you soon!

Banyan Golf Club Honored in Brunei

Banyan GC team

The Banyan Golf Club crew poses with its 2012 Asian Golf Monthly awards.

Banyan Golf Club has added two more awards to its proverbial mantle.

At the 6th Annual Asia Pacific Golf Summit in Brunei last month, representatives of Hua Hin’s leading golf facility walked away with coveted certificates for best clubhouse in Asia-Pacific and second-best course in Thailand.

The awards were determined by readers of Asian Golf Monthly, one of the region’s premier golf publications.

Since opening in 2008, Banyan Golf Club has piled up the accolades, including ‘Best New Course in Asia-Pacific’ at the 2009 Asia Pacific Golf Summit. The bucolic venue was also recently named one of Rolex’s ‘Top 1000 Courses in the World.’

“I know I’m biased, but I firmly believe Banyan is a masterpiece,” said Stacey Walton, the golf club’s general manager. “It’s a course that’s always in impeccable shape, has an array of twists and turns and is a challenge for every level of golfer.”

After finishing runner-up for ‘Best Clubhouse’ in 2010, Banyan Golf Club broke all the way through in 2012.

“The iconic Thai-style architecture cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” said the clubhouse’s designer, Smith Obayawat, of Bangkok-based architecture firm OBA. “It’s a modern and contemporary building that has a boutique atmosphere created from a blend of teak, stone, water features and soft furnishings made out of traditional Thai silks and art.”

The 2012 Asia Pacific Golf Summit attracted some of the world’s most recognizable figures in golf, including Indian star Jeev Milka Singh and former Ryder Cup stalwart Colin Montgomerie, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michael G. Leemhuis, CEO of famed Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C., also attended the conference, as did Bruce Williams, former president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).