Udon Thani’s Indispensible Hotel The Centara Hotel & Convention Centre By Jeff Petry
As I walked into the Centara to chat with the staff about their newly reopened hotel, I noticed a change in the place. It wasn’t just the recent renovations that caught my eye – the whole atmosphere seemed different: like someone showing off an expensive facelift they’d just received. In fact, this was pretty much the situation here.
Centara Hotel Lobby
Before I’d taken three steps inside, Khun Thananya, the amiable Public Relations Director, and Khun Phantipa, the lovely Catering Manager, asked if I was from Udon Map, and escorted me to a comfortable sofa. After recovering from my initial shock at their state of readiness, I was handed a print-out detailing all aspects of the new Centara, from its rooms to its restaurants to its meeting facilities and its spa, fitness center, and pool. I was thinking to myself, “We’re not in Udon anymore;” or rather, “Welcome to the new Udon Thani. And the new Centara.”
The Centara is Udon Thani’s largest hotel and main convention center, and is joined at the hip to Central Complex, itself now undergoing complete reconstruction. When completed around April, these two behemoths will have indisputably staked out their territory as the beating heart of Udon Thani. Most everyone in the area will come to see what is now available in Udon, and virtually every VIP, from the Prime Minister to the Royal Family, will have slept in the Centara and enjoyed her charms by the end of 2012.
Centara’s Public Relations Manager Mrs. Thananya Chowurai (left) & Catering Manager Ms. Phantipa Chiemwichitra (right)
A quick note on the name: Mr. Suthikiati Chirathivat, Chairman of the Executive Board of Central Plaza Hotel (Public) Co., Ltd. (CENTEL) said that after much discussion several years ago, they finally settled on “Centara” to be their new hotel brand. He stated that “although ‘Central’ is more famous here in Thailand, especially in the retail business, for the hotel’s international customer base, it doesn’t really reflect ‘Thai-ness’” and the depth and quality of their product and service.
However, “Centara” does sound more Thai, more exotic, but still links the association with the group – “Cen” from Central, which has a reputation spanning 60 years, and “Tara,” coming from the Thai language meaning “Water”. Worth noting is that Centel’s Fast Food Division includes KFC, Mister Donut, Baskin Robbins, Auntie Anne’s, and Pepper Lunch. Obviously, we’re looking at one of Thailand’s major players here.
The hotel looks deceptively small from the outside, given the virtual world that lies within: a place one could easily live for ages without ever having to venture outside its walls. There are 259 newly renovated rooms and suites in the hotel, each offering a minimum of 32 square meters of space. There are also 21 Suites, ranging from 42 to 128 square meters in size, with a separate living room and a bedroom equipped with a king-size bed.
Centara Hotel Twin Room
All rooms come with the latest mod-cons, as you would expect of a hotel of this caliber in the 21st Century. The details can all be found on their corporate website (see link below), but to give you an idea of (Internet) prices, we’re talking roughly 1900 Baht for a Superior Room and 2300 Baht for a Deluxe Room, which many tourists will find very reasonable indeed, given the Centara’s facilities, service, quality, and location.
There is a business center for those needing the latest equipment for their work, as well as secretarial services on offer. The wide array of restaurants ensures you won’t tire of the regular cuisine in the main restaurant, which would actually take you a long while to work through on its own. And master chef Peter Lai, a very young 59-year-old Hong Kong Chinese, always seems to be around, guaranteeing the quality and diversity of scores of scrumptious dishes. There are breakfast and lunch buffets every day, and dinner buffets on Friday and Saturday nights.
After indulging in Mr. Lai’s offerings, you may want to work some of it off at the fully equipped Fitness Centre, including weight & Yoga Studio, or pamper yourself in the Jacuzzi, Sauna, or Steam Room, take a dip in the Swimming Pool, or ease your muscles with a traditional treatment at SPA Cenvaree, “the place to get body, mind, and soul back into shape.”
Restaurants include the Ban Chiang, for Thai & International cuisine; Luk Fatt, for Chinese food; Deli Corner, a bakery shop & café; the Lobby Lounge for snacks, drinks & light refreshments; the Pool Bar featuring light dishes and drinks; Karaoke @Tune for those who enjoy this type diversion, complete with 7 private rooms; and finally, a la carte in-room dining, available 24 hours a day. With all these choices, you’re not likely to go hungry at the Centara.
Then, there’s the second half of the name: “The Convention Centre,” the first choice for many planners, both professional and personal, for meetings, conferences, conventions, presentations, product launches, incentive groups, weddings, and private celebrations of all kinds.
At 2,900 square meters, the Udon Thani Convention Centre will hold up to 3,000 guests for a reception and 5,000 people for a concert. The 11-meter ceiling makes this a versatile space, and indoor sports can even be staged here.
The Tung Sri Muang Grand Ballroom has a capacity for 600 guests, and a total area of 700 square meters. For smaller events, the room divides into two equal sections as Grand Ballroom 1 – 2, each with a capacity of 300 persons.
There are five additional meeting rooms, each measuring 100 square meters with a capacity of up to 80 guests per room, making them ideal for breakout meetings or for seminars or receptions. For a slightly larger event, the Ban Phue Banquet Room will hold 100 guests within its 135 square meters, while the 300 square meters Na Yung has a capacity for 200 guests.
The hotel also operates a separate Halal Kitchen to ensure appropriate catering for guests who follow a Halal diet.
Should you wish to stage a full-blown, “hi-so” wedding ceremony, you need look no further than the Centara for this as well. They can provide all you need for the big event, starting from the arrangements of traditional lustral water ceremony to the reception, and much more.
As I sat in the restaurant sampling dish after dish, for purposes of this article of course, I was expertly handed off between the PR Director, the Catering Manager, the Chef – who had just served a huge group upstairs – and I was now enjoying the lively company of Food & Beverage Director Mr. Vichit Chatthong.
He was telling me about the host of extras available for wedding receptions, including decorative ice sculptures, flower arches and stands, traditional garlands and corsages for the wedding party, guest books, multi-tiered cakes, and so on. Plus, a special rate for an overnight stay with complimentary meal voucher at the resort.
I was surprised to learn that he also organized and arranged events outside the hotel, for those wanting to have a wedding or ceremony at a place of their choosing – at home, or perhaps in an idyllic natural setting.
We also discussed the different charities and programs he has been involved with over the years with the Central Group, including training ethnic Karen students in Mae Sot to work in their hotels, and much more. In fact, many of these hospitality industry professionals with whom I had the pleasure of speaking have worked with each other on and off for twenty to thirty years in different Central properties throughout Thailand.
Finally, pet-lovers will be pleased to learn that they can bring their precious animals to the Centara as well, given a few reasonable rules, which can be found on their website, but include the following: Your pet must be clean and shampooed prior to arrival; only one dog per booking is permitted to stay with you and can weigh no more than 20 kilograms and must be trained to obey your commands; and, as the owner, you will be responsible for cleaning up any “accidents” that occur within the hotel grounds. A fully refundable cash deposit of 2,000 Baht is payable upon check-in.
I was tempted to sample some of the “Exclusively for Him at SPA Cenvaree” treatments on offer before leaving, but decided to postpone this to another time. The Swedish Massage was particularly enticing, a full body massage designed to stimulate blood circulation and break up lactic acid build-up in the muscles. Also on offer was the Jurlique Men’s Vitality Facial: a deep-cleansing and purifying facial designed specifically for men’s skin.
Those interested should visit www.spacenvaree.com, where you can review the various programs and treatments, shop online for spa products and chat with a spa concierge about your upcoming visit and personal treatment needs.
I thought I’d met most everyone at the hotel by the time I left; however, the very friendly GM, Mr. Chaiphun Thongsuthum (Jok) met me in the lobby on my way out, inviting me and all my friends to come experience the new, improved Centara. Based on my brief encounter, I can highly recommend it, and believe that most visitors will be pleasantly surprised by all the Centara now has to offer.
Much more info can be found on the Centara Udon Thani website at www.centarahotelsresorts.com/cud/
You can also contact the friendly, well-trained staff using the info below:
Centara Hotel & Convention Centre Udon Thani
Tel.: +66 (0) 4234 3555