- 20 Aug 2013 9:00 AM
Shopaholics will be happy that Jungceylon’s unique shopping and entertainment haven is also only a few minutes walk from the Expat Hotel. The 200+ stores in this shopping complex sell everything imaginable, at decent prices. This mega mall is also good for high-end food and entertainment. There are many well known restaurant names plus a five-room SF Cinema and a big bowling alley - perfect to retreat from the heat, and for the rare rainy days.
The hotel itself has a great U-shaped layout, with all rooms conveniently arranged around a quiet courtyard garden, and near to a large swimming pool. Many rooms have a pool view, and are spacious spread out over two floors, the ground floor rooms prove handy for effortless access, on the other hand the ‘Super Deluxe Air-Conditioned Rooms with Poolside Balcony’ are recommended for those who like a view. While it’s not a new hotel, every room has all the basic facilities needed, including a safety-box. There’s A/C in every room, along with free wireless internet access - which is also available in the hotel’s communal areas.
The pool is a focal point for guests to meet, chat, drink and share stories – often about the night before, and where’s worth going next. Many Australians frequent the hotel and the its’ bar, however a multitude of other nationalities stay there, and they’re all usually very sociable types - and an excellent source of local info. Whatever they're not up-to-date about you can bet Martyn Gathergood knows, he’s the expat manager with a wealth of local contacts. Martyn keeps a close eye on the hotel bar and restaurant, ensuring that Western style quality standards are kept high.
The restaurant serves up excellent international and local dishes at reasonable cost, the bar has regular happy hours and even outside those times it offers decent prices for both international and local drinks. A weekly pool competition, BBQ and other activities encourage guests to socialise together, and also with local ladies should they desire – however it’s not a ‘girlie bar’. The restaurant stays open until 11pm, and the Expat Sports Bar closes at 2am daily - having adjusted to Phuket time, that’s just about the perfect hour to move on to explore the range of nightlife available until the sun comes up.
The breakfasts are good but are not included in the affordable room rate, however that extra fee is quite reasonable, and this policy keeps in mind that some guest often don’t wake up in time for breakfast after partying the night before. Those recovering or in general need of some pampering can rest assured at the on-site spa which provides a range of fairly priced professional massages (none of which come with a happy ending as it’s a very decent establishment ;) The front desk team really know what they’re doing, unlike at many other modestly priced full-service hotels. At the Expat they’re ready to advise guests about places to go, to help book trips and warn about the places to avoid so visitors don’t get ‘scammed’. Also worth mentioning is that 24 hour security ensures safety.
The check-in and check-out process is straight forward, the welcome is warm and departure feels like saying goodbye to old friends. Actually it’s very apparent that a high percentage of guests are return visitors, some even call it a ‘home from home’. Service comes with a genuine smile here, the staff are more than helpful and accommodating, they’re cheerful and clearly like their work. This makes all the difference, staff seem to be treated as extended family of the owners, and this creates a special atmosphere.
Paul James is the owner of this family run hotel, he’s a long-term Phuket resident and is well respected in the local business community. He the first ‘consular correspondent’ in Phuket for the British Embassy in 1994, a role he held until 2001. Paul is also held in high esteem by the local expat community for organising many events, for example he was the Grand Master of Phuket’s Hash House Harriers in the 90’s and was responsible for bringing 2300 ‘hashers’ to the island. Prior to settling in Thailand he gained vast expat experience. Paul was born in London and graduating from LSE, then he went on to work in France, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq.
Pictured: Paul James and wife Gim.
In 1986 he opened the Expat Bar in Phuket, and the place proved so success and he soon went on to build the Expat Hotel. At that time Paul met his naturally hospitable Thai wife, they have two sons. Paul recently turned 64 and by now has been overseeing the daily operations of the property for well over 20 years. To celebrate he offered a few insights about his expat life in Thailand via the quick Q&A session below.
1. What surprised you most about Thailand when you first arrived?
The lack of interference with your personal freedom.
2. Friends are in Phuket for a few days - what must they absolutely see and do?
See Ao Phangna (boat trip). Visit beaches around the island. Eat seafood/Thai food.
3. What's your favourite Thai food?
Gang Jeut (Vegetable soup with vermicelli noodles)
4. What is never missing from your fridge at home?
5.What is your favourite Thai word?
6. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
7. Where did you spend your last vacation?
As a vacation destination, the Expat Hotel might best suit single men or lads on a tour, but it also caters to couples wanting to have fun around downtown Phuket. Families do stay too using the hotel as a convenient base to explore the surrounding area. Overall, the Expat Hotel is ideal for anyone seeking easy access to the Andaman Sea at Patong Beach and/or the full-on entertainment that Soi Bangla has to offer, every night!