Tag Archives: thailand hotels

Buddhas & Bustle in Bangkok

Sarah Ivens, Founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine in the US, is back again to share her Bangkok secrets!

Enticing, exciting, alarming and alluring. There are a thousand more words to describe your first thoughts when you step out into the hustle bustle of Thailand’s capital, but those were the four to hit me. I loved it immediately – but it’s also a shock to the system. I warn you: after 24 hours in the city, your eyeballs will literally hurt from everything you’ve seen.

Racing through the city on a tuk-tuk is the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to get around and feel part of the street. As you dart in and out of the traffic (it’s the worst I’ve seen anywhere in the world, worse than Athens on a bad day!), exotic smells hit your nostrils and the colors of spices and fish and fruits come into view.

There will be stall after stall of sellers, trying to trap you with promises of a good meal at a good price. Then you’ll whizz past ancient temples as expert salesman wave gleaming jewel tones of fabric in your path, promising to make you the best suit in your wardrobe by 4pm that afternoon.  And  as soon as you step from your tuk-tuk out into the heat, there’s a gaggle of petite, pretty girls, pulling you towards their parlor for the massage of your life – like no other you’ve ever had.

This is all startling and stunning but sometimes, when the shocks come too hard and too quick, you need a sanctuary to escape to. Thankfully the Shangri-La became my very own, well, Shangri-La. Perfectly positioned on the edge of the river Chao Phraya, the hotel’s location not only offers a cooling breeze but a great travelling–without-moving edge. If you get too exhausted getting out into the melee, you can let the madness come to you. Watching the life of the river from the calm of your lounger, cocktail in hand, cold towel and fruit being offered at regular intervals, is bliss. And surely has to be the most charming and luxurious way to witness the people and their comings and goings without having to fasten your seatbelt. If your stomach feels as sensitive as your soul, hideaway in Angelina’s, the hotels Italian brasserie, voted best Italian restaurant in Bangkok 10 years in a row– and serving a very refreshing high tea at the peak of the midday sun.

There are three things you MUST see when you’re in Bangkok, and they all within 15 minutes of the hotel:

1.       Shopping for items you didn’t even know you wanted at the legendary weekend market, Chatuchak. Everything is reasonably well made and reasonably priced, so even if you’re venturing to Thailand in February, stock up on Christmas presents for people back home.

2.       Gawking in wonder at the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is another don’t miss thing on any sensible Siam traveler’s agenda. Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok, dating back to the 16th century, and its famous lazy Buddha is 46m long and 15m high. It’s breathtaking. Imitating the Buddha as he rested before reaching his final nirvana, his eyes and feet are decorated with mother of pearl while the rest of him is covered in gold leaf. He glows! He inspires! He transfixes! Allow for a full morning there as you’ll feel blessed just soaking in the atmosphere (yes, there are a few monks on hand to make it authentic).

3.       Clapping for traditional Thai dancers as they weave their way towards you in elaborate gold costumes and magnificent head pieces (seriously, each head piece is unique, ornate and resembles a temple). Sway to the customary music as they perform a dance that their ancestors have been doing for centuries. Watch their finger tips for the most subtle of movements – they draw attention to the beautiful arching of their hands with finger decorations quite unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. We saw a great show at Salathip, the Shangri-La’s Thai restaurant – where by the way I had the most delicious mushroom and lemongrass soup of my life. Ever. I can still taste it now.

So for tastes, sights, smells and of course the odd crazy person on a tuk-tuk that you will never forget, Bangkok is the place. And the Shangri-La is the place to keep you sane once you’re amongst it all. A winning combination of shocking and soothing.



Phulay Bay, Thailand

Sarah Ivens, Founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine in the US, continues to share her tips from Krabi, Thailand and beyond!

The Perfect Cocktail

The natural beauty of Southern Thailand and the luxurious setting of the world’s first Ritz Carlton Reserve at Phulay Bay is an intoxicating blend that will leave you heady with relaxation. The 200 islands of the Andaman Sea float like giant ice cubes in the blue curacao waters, garnished with palm trees and coconut shells. With only 54 villas, the resort is small enough to make you feel pampered while vibey enough to let you know you’ve come to the best place in the country. It’s exclusive but homely, an addictive gulp of the good life.

After  we get comfortable in our breath-taking bedroom (with the largest beds in Asia – two kingside beds put together then made dreamy with  gigantic, custom-made linens), I meet the general manager, who worringly, considering she’s in charge of the just- opened flagship hotel, has tears in her eyes and looks rather shaken. ‘A guest just came up to me and grabbed me,’ she recounts in her charming Argenitinian accent, ‘and he looked me in the eyes and said “Stop the time! Stop the time! This is what life is about, this is the perfect place.” ‘ Her eyes well up again, happy with the fact she and her 97% Thai staff are doing their jobs so well. What’s strange is that my eyes well up too. I’d only been there for a few hours yet already know how that emotive, German tourist feels. I want the clock to stop as well.

Each villa comes with its own outside water feature – be it a rain shower or an infinity pool overlooking the sea. We had a totally private swimming pool, perfect for skinny dipping our burnt bits, and an outdoor, oversized bath, just made for relaxing under the stars. Indeed, they supply lanterns, candles, incense and locally-grown floral oils to enhance the experience. The villas also come with their own butlers. This sounded a bit pompous to start with but we soon fell into the trap of needing Tanya, our personal helper. She not only organized the basics performed by any good concierge desk at a top hotel like booking restaurants and filling our room with flowers and sweets each night, but she organized a beachside yoga lesson (for me), a trip to an elephant sanctuary (for him indoors) and would inform us of the best times to go to the bar for sunset each evening. Before long, we were scared to rejoin the real world without the help of Tanya.

Thai food is considered one of the greatest cuisines in the world and the chefs at Phulay Bay are doing everything they can to further this reputation. If you like the classics – pad Thai, green curry, tom yam guang – you’ll eat yourself silly each day. Wash it down with a glad of locally made house wine, surprisingly good considering we didn’t even know Thailand produced wine until we got there. Breakfast is set in the shade of the jumgle-like main lawn. Jams made from the fruits of the gardens and honey, served still dripping from the comb, moisten the freshly made breads and pastries. If you need something sturdier before a caving or diving trip, the seafood stir fry and eggs benedict fill you up for hours.  We stayed for two nights and it wasn’t enough.  You can get used to every need and desire being anticipated and uncomplicated – a refreshing, mouthwatering swig of how good life can be… Thailand never tasted so good.

TOP TIP! If you need to water down the price of this expensive elixir, for the room rate alone will drink your dollars, do what my husband and I did: rough it for a few nights in Phuket or Phi Phi, or in the nearby town of Krabi, in a hostel first.

These can be easily booked on arrival and you can get a decent room with a private bathroom and A/C for around $20 per night. These cheaper nights will allow you to get over your jet lag and into the swing of Thai life on a budget, before you make it to Phulay Bay for the spoiling you have always deserved. Don’t do this trip in reverse though. It will make you seriously depressed.

For more info or reservations, call toll free in the US, 1-800-241-333 or visit the company website at www.ritzcarlton.com

Design Hotels – Christmas Travel Deal

We think there’s nothing quite like a hotel that can make you feel like you’ve stepped into a cleaner, better, sexier world; a world with great lighting where your wrinkles disappear and attractive majordomos cater to your otherworldly whims.

Whether that means an extraterrestrial haven created by Renzo Piano or Delphine Buhro and Michael Dreher’s Frankfurt den, the 25Hours Hotel (seen here). With that in mind, we’re always keen on sniffing out what the Design Hotels™ group is doing.

Design Hotels™, a group of chic design-oriented hotels from across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, offer just about everything for the design aficionado, the swanky lover of all things cutting-edge, hip, and sleek when it comes to modern hospitality design. So, for those longing for some style and festivity this holiday season, they’ve decided to fill our special Jaunt Magazine readers in on a little christmas travel deal not to be missed.

Check this out, but you better act fast!

This year, Design Hotels™ will be releasing its first annual gift guide to give away fantastic prizes worth up to €2,000/$2,991 each!

From December 1 to the 24th, visitors to Design Hotel’s website (www.designhotels.com) will not only receive a special holiday recommendation – from a themed weekend break to a Thai island-hopping adventure – but they can register to win free nights, designer bags, complimentary meals, and more.

A sneak preview of some of the prizes include:

A three-night stay in a pool villa at X2 KuiBuri, a seaside resort in Thailand, including a round-trip transfer to and from Bangkok airport

A two-night stay including breakfast in a suite at The Hotel – Lucerne, designed by French star architect Jean Nouvel

A €100/$200 voucher to spend on food and beverage at Sanctum Soho, London’s coolest Rock’n’ Roll hotel

Limited edition Raf Simons for Eastpak bags.

To join in the festive fun, participants only need to register their name and email address on http://www.designhotels.com/happyholidays and each morning from December 1-24th, 2009, a new calendar window will be opened to reveal an insider tip and prize.

Guests can then register within 24 hours to be eligible to win the gift shown. The winner will be chosen at random the following day and notified by email.

For the prize draw on December 1st, users can register from November 23rd onwards.

In addition, the Rock’n’Roll-inspired London-based Sanctum Soho is running it another brilliant (as those charming Brits would say) Christmas package. Fans and visitors of the Sanctum Soho include the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Joss Stone, Prince Harry, Natalie Imbruglia, and yes… your favorite tit trawler, Katie Price.

The Xmas at Sanctum Soho package includes:

A 3-night stay (Dec. 24, 25 and 26) with complimentary breakfast
Christmas Eve Dinner
Christmas Day Lunch
Boxing Day Brunch (“Boxing Day” is the day after Christmas)

Rates start at $815 per person, based on double occupancy.

For reservations: www.designhotel.com/sanctumsoho

Top Spas in the Far East

Right now, Jaunt Magazine’s staff is overworked and under pampered which is exactly why we’ve picked three special spas in the Far East with only one thing is mind… massage, massage, and more massage. We could use a few, you too?

Bali - Ubud Hanging Gardens

Ayung Spa at Ubud Hanging Gardens

Bali, Indonesia

Perched along the steep rice terraces of Ubud lays the Ubud Hanging Gardens hotel, where the spa takes its name from the winding Ayung River below. Here, you can indulge in the 60-minute Coconut & Rice Scrub. Since ancient times, the coconut has been by Balinese women to heal and beautify skin complexion, so this traditional recipe is made out of grated coconut and coconut milk to smooth the skin and rice powder to gently exfoliate. Followed with an energizing herbal bath.

Treatment price: $81

Hotel accommodations from $337 per room per night.


Laos Luxury Hotels Spa

The Spa at La Résidence Phou Vao

Luang Prabang, Laos

At Luang Prabang’s first luxury spa, cozy pavilions are decorated with an inviting mix of ethnic craftsmanship and modern comfort. In such an exotic elegant setting, the pampered can enjoy the Sip Sen traditional Lao massage, originally cultivated in monasteries of Laos and handed down through generations of Buddhist monks. Now you know if the monks developed it, it’s gotta be good. Chimay, anyone? The philosophy of this massage is based on freeing life force which runs throughout energy lines called “sen” to achieve total wellness. This very respectful way of applying pressure with thumbs and palms was once exclusively applied to Royal families to help the body to relax, detoxify, balance, heal and energize, giving a new sense of wholesome well-being. Since you’re such a royal pain in the ass most of the time, it’s perfect for you!

Treatment price: $35 for 60 minutes / $50 for 90 minutes.

Hotel accommodations from $232 per room per night.


Ko Samui - Thailand Spa

Napasai Spa

Koh Samui, Thailand

Royal Thai massage, or Nuat Pen Boran, has been practiced as part of Thai medicine to heal Royal family members of the Kingdom of Siam for over 2,500 years. The massage is given very slowly to facilitate the tendency toward mindfulness, so that any resistance or discomfort resulting from a particular position can be detected thus minimizing the risk of injury. During the massage, the therapist uses hands, thumbs and fingers to apply pressure on sen energy points. The therapist will also gently pull, twist and manipulate the body in a way that is compared to “passive yoga.” All these movements aim to create a smooth energy flow within the body, which is believed to help loosen joints, stretch muscles and tone internal organs. That’s right… your kidneys will look hot!  The after-effect? Deep relaxation and drool, of course.

Treatment price: $47 for 60 minutes / $57 for 90 minutes.

Hotel accommodations from $263* per room per night.