Turkish fusion: A bit of Asia in Antalya

If you do go, you might want to try a chocolate massage.

By MATT ZALEN, ANTALYA, TURKEY
July 26, 2008 22:02
Turkish fusion: A bit of Asia in Antalya

turkey siam antalya 248.88. (photo credit: Matt Zalen)

My first trip to Antalya was one year ago. Like many in Israel, my wife and I were drawn to a low-cost, all-inclusive package which promised a three-day club resort experience on an exotic Mediterranean beach. While the description of multiple pools, free in-house restaurants, and other standard resort features - such as a basketball court and ping-pong table - were appealing, the vacation seemed especially attractive for its ability to offer a complete break from Israeli society without the inconvenience of excessive travel; the Turkish island being only an hour flight from Tel Aviv. The best I can say for that trip was that it lived up to two of its promises: Everything was indeed included, and we felt completely detached from all things Israeli. The problem was that even though we could eat to our heart's content, we chose not to because the food was horrible; and as for being detached, it was only refreshing until we realized we couldn't communicate with anybody - both because none of the staff spoke English or Hebrew and because they mostly avoided interacting with their guests. In short, it was not our best vacation. Which is why I was more than a little hesitant at the prospect of spending another three nights in Antalya, this time as a guest at the Siam Elegance Hotel & Spa. Yes, the brochure offered a compelling picture of the newly-opened resort, but my suspicion that I was in for a surprise only grew when I realized that half of the pictures in the pamphlet were computer-generated images and not actual photographs. These were the conditions that set my mood as I traveled the 40 kilometers from Antalya Airport to the Siam, and these were the preconceptions that the hotel needed to overcome. And so it should be seen as no small feat when I say that I loved my stay there, and that I would jump at the chance to go back. By architectural standards, the hotel is not overly luxurious. One large building separated into two wings houses 325 rooms, all decorated in what is billed as "Thailand" style. "Thailand" seems to be a loose term, however, considering that the exterior of the massive complex is the only aspect which remotely resembles the country. The interior is a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Turkish décor, and the pool area, the bars, the beach, and the amphitheater definitely did not come from Thailand. But aesthetic inaccuracies aside, the interior of the Siam is plenty comfortable. Spacious, air-conditioned lobbies provide guests with a comfortable escape from the midday heat. Bars situated throughout the first and second floors add to the relaxing atmosphere with free 24-hour food and drink service. For those who wish to remain connected, wireless Internet is available, and the management assured me that a computer room was in the works. Sleeping arrangements were also more than acceptable. While one could either splurge on a suite or save money with a standard room, the best choice economically seemed to be the "Family" rooms. Perfect for a family of four, these duplexes have a lower level with two beds for the kids, and an upper level with a king-size bed for the parents. Both floors have their own television and air-conditioning units, but access to the bathroom and the porch are only from the lower level. By far, the main internal attraction at the Siam is the spa. Although it is one of the few features of the hotel that is excluded from the all-inclusive price, it is well worth the extra cost. A number of sauna options are available for free, but unless you're interested in perspiring even more than you will in 35 degree (Celsius) weather, I recommend going straight to the massages. There you will find a vast selection, ranging from the familiar "anti-stress" massage, to the not-so-familiar (but potentially tasty) "chocolate" massage. Prices start at 30 euros for a half-an-hour, and can go as high as 350 euros for a collection of massages which span seven hours. I took the "anti-stress" massage and fell asleep half-way through - and it was wonderful. Once outside, guests encounter a beautiful pool which snakes through a giant seating area perforated by grass, wooden bridges, palm trees, bars, and restaurants. Access to the private beach and the many thatched umbrellas and cushioned chairs waiting on the sand is at the far end of the pool area. Clearly, the hotel aims to cater to families with children, and in that regard they succeed. A water park with three slides, a basketball court, and a ping-pong table are set to be joined by a bowling alley, billiards, and an arcade in the coming weeks. Together with the pool, these features offer plenty of distractions while the parents relax. As far as the food is concerned, there's no chance that you'll starve. While the meals are not kosher, the fine array of salads, appetizers, main courses, and desserts provide more than enough options for those with dietary restrictions. The dining room is large and suitable for small children, but can be bypassed should you prefer a more intimate dining experience. Three outdoor restaurants overlooking the sea offer a romantic setting with a specialized selection of ethnic cuisine, at no extra cost. One of the most aggravating aspects of my first trip to Antalya, as I mentioned earlier, was our inability to communicate with the staff, and the staff's lack of desire to communicate back. While the language barrier is no less a problem at the Siam, the customer service they provide more than makes up for it. At no point did I have an empty glass or a dirty plate for more than five minutes. Although most of the staff only understands about 10 words in English (and less in Hebrew), their willingness to patiently converse using a crude version of sign-language meant that no issue went unresolved. To say that the hotel is perfect would be a great exaggeration. Unfinished rooms, electrical problems, and plumbing issues all point to the fact that the resort is only two weeks old. In addition, the surrounding village is sparse and unattractive, and offers very little in the way of supplemental entertainment beyond the hotel walls. But for a reasonably priced weekend package which includes your flight, transportation to and from the airport, all the food and drink you can stomach, and great service, the Siam is definitely worth a visit. The Kavei Chufsha travel agency offers the flight and three nights for $889 per person in a double room in August, and $1,215 for four nights. The writer was a guest of the Kavei Chufsha travel agency and the Siam Elegance Hotel & Spa. For information on package deals to the Siam Elegance Hotel & Spa, you can contact the travel agency at 03-6211011, or by email at main@kavei.co.il


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