What is it? Recently reopened after a six-month refit, it is the oldest hotel in Phuket, Thailand. Back in 1929, when it was built, guests arrived at The On On (“Memory” is a 2012 addition) in the back of a rickshaw, transferred from the nearby ferry pier. The hotel offered the height of luxury for travellers, traders and tin-mine tycoons, although, admittedly, it was also the only game in town. Over the years, though, it became increasingly rundown, so much so that, in 2000, it was deemed the perfect stand-in for a shabby Khao San Road hostel in the film The Beach, starring a certain Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Beach was filmed in Phuket? In and around the island, yes – the eponymous stretch of sand that Richard (DiCaprio’s character) and his friends end up on is in Maya Bay, on Koh Phi Phi Leh, about an hour’s speedboat ride away. The scene filmed at the On On is the one where Richard meets crazed Scotsman Daffy (a terrifying Robert Carlyle) and is given a hand-drawn map of how to get to paradise.
So you could say “X” marks the spot? I guess so. Of course, following the refurbishment, which saw pretty much the entire interior gutted and rebuilt, you probably wouldn’t recognise the place. It’s been given a new lease of life with the addition of luxury suites, each with an ensuite bathroom, a television and a mini-bar. Some come with private terraces.
What, so no more dorm rooms? We didn’t say that. There are still a number of four and six-bed dorms at the front of the hotel. For female travellers only there is a 25 square metre four-bed room with en-suite bathroom. For the budget traveller, there’s a communal TV lounge and mini-library, a self-service dining area equipped with microwave, toaster and coffee machine, and an individual locker for every bunk.
Is there a restaurant? There will be. Due to open soon, the hotel’s restaurant, I am told, will serve a mix of Western and Thai classics (think sandwiches and salads, som tum and satay), and will be targeted at the general public as much as at hotel guests. Given the paucity of decent dining options in the area, it’ll probably do well.
What’s the bottom line? Very reasonable, especially when you consider the hotel’s location, in the heart of the up-and-coming Old Town area. Dorm bunks cost from HK$130 to HK$160 a night. Private lodgings, such as The Memory Deluxe, run from HK$740 up to HK$1,400, which will get you the best room in the house, The Memory Suite.
For more details, visit www.thememoryhotel.com.