Thursday, May 23, 2013

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO THAILAND, part 1, Where and Why

Product manager Neil Bedford has been to Thailand many times. After his recent two week tour he looks at how the country is bearing up against all the new competition in Southeast Asia and has some very happy findings for the luxury traveler…

Neil on a hotel inspection at Soneva Kiri

Once Thailand was the first choice for those travelling East. But in recent years The Maldives has attracted many of our regular Thailand clients. An improved flight network in Southeast Asia has also seen an increase in visitors to Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even the previously avoided Burma has become a magnet…

Nevertheless,Neil reports that the luxury traveler to Thailand will not be disappointed.

Still amazing...

The beaches are still golden, the seas still turquoise and the service still impeccable. What has changed is that the top hotels have upped their game and are offering better value and more unique experiences.

Such things as a private cooking/dining experience at Four Seasons Chiang Mai where for around US$120 per person you can join a team of 4 expert Thai chefs for the Four Seasons kitchen and help (with as much or as little hands on involvement as you wish) cook a sumptuous Thai feast.

Cooking course at Four Seasons Chiang Mai
With drinks, food, expert private tuition and dining in a gorgeous Lanna building (now the hotel’s signature cooking school) included in the price, this type of experience would be hard to better (and pricewise impossible to beat).

More about Four Seasons next blog
At Soneva Kiri on the island of Koh Kood they take the concept of uniqueness one step further - dining in a bamboo pod hoisted six metres into the jungle while an acrobatic waiter swings between the trees on a zip line ... deliver baskets of gourmet delights…
just one of many special offerings

Koh Kood

Situated close to the Thailand-Cambodia border in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Kood is actually the 4th largest of Thailand’s 1400+ islands but has a population of just 2000 and has kept itself largely hidden from the mainstream. Of the few properties on the island there is only one that has the Select Collection seal of approval, Soneva Kiri….

...rustic and luxurious - Soneva Kiri
As you will see from your flight (a custom-fitted 16 seater operated by Soneva Kiri), Koh Kood is almost entirely covered with thick ancient jungle; occasional coconut rubber tree plantations are the only real industry here. For those that get itchy feet even in luxury hotels there are several small mountains which aren’t too arduous to trek up and views are well worth the effort.

There are also waterfalls hidden in the jungle, with the three-tiered Klong Chao Waterfall particularly spectacular and a popular place to swim and cool off. Off the beaches on the island, there are some good ones but only one that is spectacular and this is of course the one that you will enjoy while staying at Soneva Kiri.

Adventure in paradise at Soneva Kiri - 
see also a coming blog

Need to know

Getting there - 1 hour flight from Bangkok for those staying at Soneva Kiri. Other travelers need to drive from Bangkok to the coast and then take a ferry.

Best time to travel - October to April sees very little rainfall and temperatures around 27 deg C. March and April are the hottest and most humid months.

Time to avoid - Koh Kood can experience severe weather in our summer months with the onset of the monsoon. Heaviest rainfall normally occurs Jun-Sep and we would not recommend travelling in these months.
Why go - One of Thailand’s best kept secrets. No ATMs, 7Eleven shops or busy bar filled streets…just one luxurious property in the most stunning natural surrounds.

Chiang Mai

The capital of northern Thailand is full of history and tradition. Founded more than seven centuries ago as the capital of the Lanna kingdom, Chiang Mai is home to some of the country’s most ornate structures and striking monuments. But it is not all about the architecture, the city also has some bite. The food here in Chiang Mai is considered to be the best in the country and there is no better way to discover it than a tour of the city’s street stalls and shophouses who sell incredible dishes that are delicious enough to lure Bangkokians 700 kilometers north for a meal.

Mandarin Oriental Chiang Mai - in the right spirit

Select Collection’s two featured properties are located a short car journey from the city but we would definitely recommend a half or full day trip into the city to experience the bustling atmosphere and sights.

Four Seasons Chiang Mai - luxury amidst nature

Need to know

Getting there - 1 hour flight from Bangkok, 2 hour flight from Phuket and Koh Samui. Direct flights to many other cities in Southeast Asia.

Best time to travel - Oct to Apr sees very little rainfall and temperatures around 23c in the day time, dropping to as low as 15c at night.

Time to avoid - Mar and Apr are the hottest and most humid months and can be quite oppressive if you are sightseeing. There is a significantly higher volume of rain in our summer months but generally this just means when the rain arrives it falls in heavier bursts.

Why go - Experience Bangkok in miniature – enjoy amazing food, ancient temples and markets (both western for shopping and local for the experience) but without the traffic. A very easy combination with a classic Bangkok and beach holiday.

Next week we look at individual hotels at the above destinations, and then Neil gives his overview on Bangkok and Phuket

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