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Thailand: escape for winter sun and shopping in the 'Land of Smiles'

08 MARCH 2013

Rita Ora played with the elephants, Sarah Harding found peace in the temples and Lady Gaga hit the nightspots. As these stars discovered, whatever you're looking for in a winter escape, Thailand has something for everyone...

With its heady mix of ultra-modern luxury, ancient culture, breathtaking beaches and unrivalled shopping opportunities, it's easy to see why Thailand is still one of the stars' top holiday hot spots. But while some A-list hang-outs require an A-list bank balance, living the high life in Thailand is surprisingly low cost, with hotel groups like Amari offering excellent service, comfort and elegance for as little as £60 a night.

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A week is just time enough to take in a two-centre Bangkok and beach break, which will give you a taste of Thailand’s incredible diversity. Stay longer and you'll really begin to ease into the rhythm of the country and understand why some people who visit never leave.

First stop: Bangkok. Time to shop
The Amari Watergate hotel, with its chic rooms, hip restaurants, roof-top pool and Breeze Spa is a serene oasis of calm in one of Bangkok's most vibrant shopping districts, Pratunam. Step outside from the cool lobby and you're immediately immersed in the sights, sounds and sizzle of the city. Take a stroll to the bargain-hunters' paradise of Pratunam Market and Platinum Mall, or jump in a tuk-tuk to the designer outlets at the newly revamped Siam Center, opened in January this year by Gossip Girl stars, Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick.

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For serious shop-a-holics, Chatuchak Market offers over 8,000 market stalls, selling everything from traditional carvings to sumptuous silk cushions and on-trend T-shirts, with delicious food and DJ-bars to fuel your shopping spree. Or take a boat along the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok's new riverfront destination, Asiatique, where you can explore over 1,500 beautiful boutiques and follow in the footsteps of Lady Gaga with a visit to the Calypso Cabaret – a glittering show starring some of Bangkok's most glamorous 'girls'!

Once you've had your shopping fix, it's time for some culture. Don't leave Bangkok without a visit to The Grand Palace, a majestic, dazzling complex in the heart of the city, which houses the precious Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Sprinkle your head with holy water from lotus flowers before entering the temple's cool inner sanctum and you'll feel your stress start to slip away...


Next stop: Hua Hin. Time to relax
You've shopped 'til you dropped and soothed your soul in the temples. Now you deserve some hard-earned beach time. Just two-and-a-half hours south of Bangkok lies your gateway to tranquility: the resort of Hua Hin, where the King of Thailand has a palace. No royal invitation this time? Then check in to the more moderately priced palatial Amari Hua Hin, where you'll still be treated like a queen.

Set in exotic gardens overlooking the five-mile long beach, this stylish, contemporary hotel is the perfect place to relax pool-side at the Aqua Bar with a cocktail and Thai street food, or sea-side with sundowners and barbecues at the Shorline Beach Club. The Amari philosophy is all about sharing experiences, but there's one place where it's definitely all about you: the Breeze Spa, where all that matters is how dreamy you feel at the end of your Mango Sticky Rice Body Scrub and Signature Mood Massage. No wonder Thailand's known as the 'Land of Smiles'...

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Fact box:

Room prices at Amari Watergate Bangkok and Amari Hua Hin start from £60 per night, dependent on season and availability. To book, visit amari.com  

Eat, Go, Shop, Play and Drink - Discover Destination Amari for the top picks of what to see and do in your chosen destination: destination.amari.com Amari’s Signature Mood Massages at Breeze Spa start from 1,400 Thai Baht (approximately £28). breeze-spa.com  

EVA Air flies non-stop daily from London Heathrow to Bangkok and codeshare flights with Bangkok Airways to Koh Samui, Phuket and Chiang Mai, offering passengers a choice of three classes of cabin service: Premium Laurel Class (business class), award-winning Elite Class (premium economy) and Economy Class. Personal seat-back, state-of-the-art touch screen audio/video on demand entertainment systems are installed in all three cabin classes. Fares start from £610, including taxes for economy class. To book, visit evaair.com or contact your local travel agent.

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