THE thought of a getaway in Thailand is tempting. I can imagine myself relaxing in a posh hotel room, perhaps pampering myself with a massage and maybe indulging in a delicious all-you-can-eat Thai buffet!

But with no budget and time, can I still make it happen? Of course!

Onyx Hospitality Group, one of Thailand's leading hotel management companies, recently launched Amari Johor Baru - the group's first foray into the Malaysian market.

Eager to check it out, I book a 3D/2N stay in the city to experience the Thai affair with my husband and drive there in a Honda Civic 1.5TC-P.


SMOOTH HIGHWAY DRIVE

We kick off our trip to the south from Kuala Lumpur just after sunset to avoid the Friday traffic. Lucky for us, the traffic is smooth and the North South Highway heading to Johor Baru is not congested.

The Honda Civic 1.5TC-P is powerful and engineered for a smooth run.

Acceleration is gentle and gear shift is smooth. It can accelerate up to 200kmh. The Auto Brake Hold system allows you to let go of the brake paddle during short stops and you don't worry that the car will move. It's an awesome feature. The car also has an electric parking brake system which is really convenient.

It also has a multi-angle rearview camera.

For a long distance drive, just activate the cruise control feature which is easy to use.

The car has 519L cargo space and a large cabin space. It seats a family of four (comfortably) or five.

It has auto headlights so you do not have to worry if you forget to turn them on.

The best thing is that it's fuel-saving for a sedan - you have more money to enjoy on your holiday.


GETTING INTO THE MOOD

While some of the hotel facilities and room categories are still not ready for guests, the Breeze Spa is open.

Since we arrived at midnight last night, and are exhausted by the long drive, a pampering at the Breeze Spa sounds like a good idea.

Lucky for us, we manage to get a slot in the afternoon.

The Breeze Spa is on the sixth floor, the same level as the lobby and restaurants.

I am expecting a typical Thai spa but to my surprise, the Breeze Spa has a fresh, vibrant feel. Entering the zen space, a white and pastel green interior greets us.

The spa features three chic single rooms, one double room with Jacuzzi, a dedicated manicure and pedicure area and a retail boutique.

A sweet woman welcomes me in with a glass of Anchan drink — a purplish blue juice comprising butterfly pea flower, a typical drink in Thailand. The Thais have it with a zest of lemon, which gives it a refreshing taste.

Arriving 15 minutes earlier gives me a chance to take my time browsing the spa menu, which is available at all Breeze Spas (Onyx brand) worldwide.

There are a number of treatments such as Mango Sticky Rice Body Scrub, which actually sounds delicious, and Signature Muay Thai Massage, if you like intense therapy. I choose one of the Signature therapies - the Mood Massage - to get into the Thai mood.

There are five selections of Mood Massage - Dreamy, Serene, Rejuvenated, Invigorated and Energised. My therapist suggests the Serene Mood Massage.

This oh-so-soothing massage utilises a long stroke palm pressure technique that stretches the muscles, works out all the knots and kinks, and leaves you feeling like you don't have a care in the world.

I really love the aroma of the Serene oil used for the treatment. It has the infused scents of Bergamot, sandalwood and palmarosa - very light, delicate and refreshing.

The one-hour mood massage is heavenly. The therapist definitely knows her stuff. After it ends, she applies a Pick-Me-Up lotion, a cooling mint and lemon lotion.


WEEKEND BUFFET GOURMET

Of course, besides the spa, I am looking forward for the food - especially Thai cuisine!

Located at level six, just near the lobby isAmaya Food Gallery, an all-day dining outlet that takes inspiration from the muchloved street food of Asia.

It serves delectable breakfast, followed by all-day delights and lunch prepared at the live cooking stations. In the evening, the restaurant transforms into an energetic Asian food market-style diner, celebrating a variety of cuisines and cultural influences throughout Southeast Asia.

The restaurant is surprisingly spacious with a seating capacity of 246 people. It features a variety of well-loved Chinese, Indian, Malay and Thai dishes as well as international cuisines.

The setting is modern and fresh, incorporating Asian influences and resonating colours, rhythm and textures.

As a nod to the Thai origins of Amari, the decor is rich in Thai inspiration as seen on the intricately refined carved wooden shutters depicting the iconic elephant.

My husband and I have a great breakfast buffet here but I recommend the Weekend Buffet Dinner, which runs every Friday, Saturday and public holiday from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.

It's just RM98 nett per person including free flow of soft drinks. Children aged between 6 and 12 years old and those aged 60 and above dine at half-price.

The choices are extensive.Do look out for the rich and spicy tom kha gai soup, som tam, roasted marinated lamb leg, and dessert including the chocolate fountain and matcha cake.

Order the Special Thai iced tea, with Thai tea ice-cream on top! I even order the delicious Thai tea ice-cream as it's irresistible!

Amaya Food Gallery has daily food promotions, so do look out for them at its website.


AFTERNOON TEA

The Amaya Cafe offers afternoon tea at RM68 nett. It starts from 8am to 6pm - you can have afternoon tea all day!

For the Asian Set, choose either sweet and savoury Asian favourites or exquisite English set which consists of scones and pastries. My husband and I opt for both.

You'll be served local delicacies. I enjoy the dim sum, kuih and sago gula Melaka.

As for the English Set, expect sandwiches, cakes, pastries and scones. You will also be served luxury TWG tea selections.


THAI ELEMENT

Spa, check! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, check! Now, let's explore the Deluxe Room. It is super spacious for a deluxe stay. But don't expect impressive scenery as the hotel is in the city so it's surrounded by high-rise buildings.

But our room has the pool view, so it was not bad at all.

The room is complete with all the standard in-room features and amenities including complimentary WiFi, interactive TV, USB connection and international power panels and a minibar with coffee/tea-making facilities.

The interior of the room is simple, but I love the purple colours from the abstract bed panel which has the Thai influence. If you look closely, you can see the elephant abstract. Amazing!

I also love the fact that our room has a plush king bed. It's so comfy that we fall asleep almost immediately.


FAST FACT

AMARI JOHOR BAHRU

No.82C, Jalan Trus, Johor Baru, Johor, Malaysia

TEL 07 266 8888

FAX 07 266 8899

WEBSITE www.amari.com/johorbahru

STAY

The hotel offers 242 guest rooms and suites - Superior King and Twin, Deluxe King and Twin, Grand Deluxe King and Twin, Executive Club Room King and Twin, Junior Suite, One Bedroom Suite and Deluxe Pool Access King and Twin. For now, only a few room categories are ready for booking. Check the website for updates.

EAT

There are three F&B outlet which include the Amaya Food Gallery with excellent buffet choices, Amaya Cafe which is a casual setting for light snacks and refreshing beverages as well as the soon-to- open Dip Bar by the pool.

DO

Simply enjoy the Thai ambiencein the hotel - try out the good Thai, as well as International and local cuisine at the F&B outlets or go for Thai therapy at the Breeze Spa.

GO

The hotel is located in the city centre, surrounded by the hip cafes and famous local restaurants.

HIGHS

The location!

LOWS

There's a parking fee of RM10 (flat rate) for guests. There's ample parking.

RATES

Price starts at RM255


RIDE THE REVOLUTION WITH HONDA CIVIC

THE Honda Civic 1.5TC-P with Modulo package is a very sporty sedan. It's powerful, easy to handle and very comfortable for a long drive. 

ENGINE: Four Cylinders, 16 Valve, DOHC VTEC TURBO

FUEL SUPPLY SYSTEM: Electronic Fuel Injection

MAXIMUM TORQUE NM[KG-M]@RPM: 220(22.4)/1700-5500

MAXIMUM POWER [PS(KW)@RPM]: 173(127)/5500

MAXIMUM SPEED (kmh): 200

EXTRA SPECIFICATION: 

- Smart entry and remote engine start

- CVT & leather gear boot

- Multi angle rearview camera 

- Smart phone connectivity

- Large Cabin Space

- 519L Cargo Space

- Vehicle Stability Assist

- Auto Break Hold

-Walk Away Auto Lock

- Hill Start Assist

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