I recall visiting another resort in the Vaal a few years ago and thinking it was at the ends of the earth.

When I drove to Tsogo Sun’s Riverside Hotel a few weeks ago to check out their R50m refurbishment after the hotel reopened its doors to the public two months ago, I was surprised that it took me less than 40 minutes to get there.

It then dawned on me that the last time I visited the area I was driving all the way from Pretoria in the heat, with a skorokoro car that crawled and made the journey seem way too long.

Tsogo Sun’s Riverside Hotel has an unassuming exterior. Its open-plan parking lot gives it a feeling of an ordinary lodge and you enter the hotel without any expectations.

Once you enter the foyer and are greeted with the fresh stone, natural, avocado, grey and lime green interior, you leave the ordinary behind. What a gem this hotel has turned out to be since renovations started in April this year.

Its general manager, Yashvir Jithoo, enthusiastically met me after checking in and immediately upgraded me from a standard room to one of the hotel’s four suites.

On entering the spacious suite with its separate bedroom, en-suite toilet, bathroom, dining and kitchen area, it was clear that this was not going to be an ordinary hotel stay.

Although the standard room is plushy and has all the mod cons, the suite, which overlooks the Vaal River, elevates your stay into a five-star experience. In fact, the kitchen, dining and lounge area of the suite alone is much bigger than the standard room. It even has its own flat-screen TV and a separate guest toilet.

Before the huge king-sized bed could mesmerise me to stay indoors, I walked down to the reception area for a walkabout of the 169-bedroom property with Jithoo.

The hotel has been relaunched to focus on the corporate market and to appeal to conference-goers, Jithoo explained as I struggled to keep up with his quick, large strides.

He was excited to tell me about the various dinner options the hotel can offer.

“We can serve dinner on the island by the river bank on our big boma, do outdoor dinners on our lawns, or serve it on our pool deck or wine cellar. We have many options to provide guests a different experience every night during their stay,” Jithoo explained.

We walked on the river bank as we enjoyed the breeze cooling us down in the relentless heat.

A private company offers boat rides on the river. A sunset cruise laden with cocktails is always a good idea for any summer night, but unfortunately I was only visiting the hotel for one night and was looking forward to an early nap before dinner to enjoy the ambience of the suite.

Dinner time in the restaurant came sooner than I expected, just two hours later. I opted for the buffet spread and had rice, grilled chicken, mutton stew and vegetables.

Although the dessert station looked delectable with mini fruit salad bowls, granadilla pots, apple tart fingers, milk tarts and mini creme caramels, I was too full to try any.

The only bad part about my stay was having to wake up at 7am the following morning as I rushed back to work for the Sunday shift.

You would hate it too if you had to leave that little piece of paradise that is the suite at Riverside Hotel.

Mapula Nkosi was hosted by Tsogo Sun

Source: Sowetanlive.co.za