Departure Bangkok and Bhutan

Plotting my Bangkok expeditions – A country, steeped in legends and myths, a storied history of olden kingdoms and national icons. If you haven’t visited, the Bangkok buzz is unlike any other city in the world. Unrelenting traffic can be avoided by utilizing the long tail boats on the quiet Chao Phraya River and around the klongs (canals). The distinctive boats are sometimes compared to the ‘gondolas’ of the south.  The name Bangkok, is according to one interpretation, derived from a name that dates to the time before the city was built – the village or district (bang) of wild plums (makok). The Thai call their capital Krung Thep. Bangkok became the capital of Siam (as Thailand was previously known) in 1782, when General Chao Phraya Chakkri, the founder of the ruling Chakkri dynasty, assumed the throne as Rama I and moved the court from the west to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River

An arrival to BKK can be combined with the captivating countries of Southeast Asia: Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam and Bhutan. In my case, pre-12-day excursion to all of the Aman properties in the kingdom of Bhutan. Aman Resorts has five lodges throughout the country, situated in unsurpassed locations in Bhutan and can offer Journeys of any duration with emphasis on 8, 10 and 12 days. Amankora, as the lodges are named are luxurious lodge resorts amidst glacial valleys, forests. A comfortable circuit for an Amanjunkie! Devoid of crowds and the trappings of tourism, the kingdom of Bhutan is unlike anywhere else on earth. Traipsing between these five lodges will provide the best insights into Bhutanese life and traditions. Become a scholar of the Buddhist kingdom at the resorts, amid Bhutan’s natural splendor and rich ancient heritage.

Your Travel Lesson is to understand how and why the Bhutanese prefer Happiness over Wealth.

Follow along on my upcoming Bangkok Journeys. Early morning arrival at The Siam, the best of the best!  http://www.thesiamhotel.com/ Many of our clients have enjoyed this urban sanctuary. A stunning luxury hotel replete with exquisite art and antiques and set amidst 3 acres of lush gardens on the Chao Phraya River, adjoining Bangkok’s must-see historical and cultural attractions. The River winds its way from the northern edge of Bangkok to the city’s southern port, where it flows to the gulf of Thailand. The banks of the river host the city’s best hotels, prime riverfront real estate.

Ease into the bustling vibrant city after enjoying a decadent treatment at the Opium Spa and tasty lunch, ready to explore this pulsating city.  One advantage of staying at The Siam is a pier and a private hotel boat and long tail boats at your doorstep! Besides unique suites, The Siam has several cottages on property. Hand crafted furnishings envelope you in these specialized Villas. Move beyond the cliché for a truly unique Bangkok experience in Connie’s Cottage, a century-old traditional Thai teak house (with a storied history) that has been transformed into a luxurious Pool Villa. An oasis within a Sanctuary. Floating in your private pool, fringed with greenery, the only thing missing from this hidden oasis is a camel. Step up from the courtyard onto a sheltered terrace and relax overlooking The Siam’s infinity pool and the tranquil Chao Phraya River beyond.

Prepared for an early afternoon introduction to the city: walkers on, camera ready. A stroll through Pak Khlong Talat Market, one of Bangkok’s largest, liveliest and loveliest markets. A veritable maze of wholesale and retail vendors selling flowers, vegetables, fruits, and casual lunch food, Pak Klong is truly a delight for the senses, the market is open 24 hours a day – a delightful introduction to the city.

Moving onward to discover the sophisticated flavors of Bangkok’s 200-year old community in vibrant Chinatown, rich with Thai-Chinese tradition and delicious food. There is also a dazzling array of shops and stands selling gold, computer parts, antiques, textiles, stationery-almost anything can be found here, right alongside a stunning variety of hot food and produce. I’m excited about enjoying a private food tour through Bangkok’s lively Chinatown, otherwise known as Yaowarat, one of the world’s most renowned street food destinations and the local favorite dining district.

Night falls, the time lag may creep in and I will mosey back to The Siam for a nightcap at Chon Thai Restaurant.

My first full day of touring will begin at the stunning Grand Palace, the residence of the noteworthy Emerald Buddha. Next, I’ll head over to Wat Pho for a glimpse of a giant reclining Buddha. Get on a boat and cross to the quaint Kudajeen neighborhood, a community of mixed religions and cultures. Take a late afternoon stroll around Lhong 1919, a riverside street of reclaimed Sino-Thai historical warehouses and an ancient temple, now housing boutiques and restaurants. Time permitting, I may enjoy a Muay Thai (traditional boxing) demonstration at one of Bangkok’s foremost gyms

Wake up to breakfast at Café Cha within the hotel. Off to explore again, easing into the morning on a leisurely private canal tour, this is why Bangkok was once referred to as the Venice of the East. Long tail boat travel provides a sense of tranquility drifting past enchanting wooden homes on stilts, floating kitchens, Buddhist temples, and small family businesses.

We will stop to see the traditional art of puppetry, an art form vanishing from Thailand’s cultural scene, I feel lucky to catch a glimpse of this historic theatre. Thai puppetry, known as hun lakhon lek, is an ancient art form similar to Japanese buruku puppetry. Each puppet is usually under 3 feet long and is controlled by three people with a rope and pulley system, which help make the puppet appear gracefully moving across the stage. The shows are usually accompanied by music and a narrator who shares a story derived from the Thai version of the Hindu Ramayana.

Stop to visit the impressive Wat Arun, a poetic name meaning the Temple of Dawn. At the end of the klong tour, view the gilded royal barges, ornate ships exemplifying Thai art and craftsmanship.

Also visiting the famed Jim Thompson House, we can organize a private tour here – a garden enclosed compound on the bank of the Saen Saeb Canal, it might go unnoticed had it not been for the legacy that the mysterious missing American, Jim Thompson left behind.  His discharge from the US Army and his architecture background led him to Bangkok where he became a renowned collector of South Eastern art, assembling a massive collection while reviving the languishing Thai silk industry. He spent 30 years introducing Thai silk, The Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company to the top fashion houses and catwalks in Paris London, New York and Milan. At the pinnacle of his success, with plans to build a new home based on traditional wood Thai houses, showcasing his incongruous collections of antiques, he mysteriously vanished into the Malaysian jungle on a hike in the 1960’s – leaving a historic legacy. Fortunate for travelers, his home has survived and is treated as a museum.

Next, it’s off to explore some of Bangkok’s more local markets. Including Klong Toey Fresh Market and Klongsan Market. These are less visited by tourists and have a very local feel.

If you are an Anthony Bourdain fan, you have probably seen him indulge in decadent delicacies, including goat brains at Gaggan – Asia’s number one restaurant, look for my photo Journey online of the 25 courses! I will explore Bangkok pre-Bhutan and again for a few days after my trek through the wonderland that is Bhutan.

Exploring Bhutan over 12 days at Amankora resorts, the breathtaking arrival with views of the Himalayan peaks as you land into Paro is one of the most spectacular in the world. The name Amankora is derived from aman, the Sanskrit word for peace, and kora, meaning circular pilgrimage in Dzongkha.

Devoid of crowds and the trappings of tourism, Bhutan is unlike anywhere on Earth – and Amankora offers unprecedented access to its breathtaking beauty. Bhutan is still only slowly opening up to tourism, yet Amankora has been on the ground here for 15 years, cultivating a caring passionate team whose experience is unrivalled in the Buddhist Kingdom. Guided excursions through the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Phobjikha and Bumthang offer the chance to experience a remote kingdom, with vast forests, dramatic inclines and 7,000-meter peaks.

Amankora, Bhutan - Punakha Dzong

Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the North, India and Tibet. The independence of Bhutan has endured for centuries and it has never been colonized in its history. Situated on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, the Bhutanese state developed a distinct national identity based on Buddhism. The country’s landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 meters.

The government is a parliamentary democracy; the head of state is the King of Bhutan, known as the “Dragon King”.

Bhutan is also notable for pioneering the concept of gross national happiness.Image result for aman bhutan

 

 

Travel Tribe Up Next!

On my horizon and should be on yours for next year! As I prepare to depart to bustling Bangkok, sightseeing and staying in several five-star hotels, and then onward to an amazing 12-day Aman Resort jaunt in Bhutan, I want to remind you to begin planning for next year!

New Zealand

New Zealand – a few new lodges, exclusive activities always exceptional golf, yachting, chills and thrills with a plethora of activities for couples or families. The perfect itinerary begins with three nights at the fabulous villa ‘The Boathouse’ at The Landing Residences, located in a beautiful private property in the northern Bay of Islands region. The Landing collection of residences are exquisitely built and The Boathouse sits in a prime waterfront position in the bay. It has two bedrooms but one bathroom so it is perfect for a couple. The following day we have included a private cruise on The Landing’s own boat Iti Rangi to explore the region from the water. A day at leisure allows guests to explore the property with its numerous hiking trails, mountain bikes, tennis court, water sports and kiwi on property to spot in the evenings.

Japan

Japan oh, so very popular …plan now for spring, early summer or fall.
Obscure island locations include amazing art, biking and hiking. Add vibrant cities for cultural experiences, fine dining, museums…the list is long and wildly interesting.

Four Seasons Maldives

Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa

Maldives – There aren’t enough superlatives to fully and accurately describe the staggering natural beauty of the Maldives. From the air, nothing prepared me for the extraordinary glimpse of the turquoise seas, the oval halo of atolls and islands, in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, crystal clear seas in a thousand shades of indigo, accented by white sugar sandy beaches…it was breathtaking!  Two stunning Four Seasons two resorts on different islands, adore both – must stay! OR Four Seasons Private Island for extended family or a gathering of friends.

Amanzoe, Greece

Athens Greece

Greece – Tourists are flocking to Athens and the sunny beaches, a major uptick in streams of travelers. The Four Seasons promises spring opening so there are several must stay options in Athens and outside the city on the beach. My recent visit to Greece was overwhelmingly positive, so much so, that I hope to return in spring for a second visit. Aman junkies will be deliriously happy in the land of myths and legends, at Amanzoe, amid the rocky rolling Argolid hillsides of the Peloponnese. According to ancient Greek mythology the Peloponnese is where the gods walked the earth. The elegant breathtaking resort, like the Acropolis, is situated on a hilltop surrounded by olive groves, underplanted rows of fragrant lavender, and spectacular views of the deep blue Aegean Sea. Oh, did I mention the soundtrack of the cicada summer symphony?

Chable Resort Merida Mexico

Chable Resort Merida Mexico

Mexico – we love the Spanish Colonial City of Merida, stay at the newish Chablé Resort, which is situated amid sleepy authentic villages and the bustling historic colonial city of Mérida. One of my favorite GM’s, Rocco Bova, has taken the helm at Chablé, if anyone inspires magic, it is Rocco! Each white limestone Casita is privately situated off a short path, with a slightly deep plunge pool, comfy dining terrace, outdoor rain shower and acres of glass to view the untamed jungle. I never closed my massive shutters or drapes, preferring to peer out of my glass box to the swaying green trees filled with jabbering jungle birds! Woodpeckers, Chic Bul, Northern Cardinals, cooing Doves, and of course, the social fly catcher chatter all day while hummingbirds dart and dance. Chablé is located in a cultural area brimming with Mayan Ruins. We have access to sophisticated knowledgeable local guides for day trips to Uxmal, Chichen Itza, The Puuc Route Ruins, among other important sites; additionally, visits to private cenotes and biosphere reserves, as well as some of the region’s best museums, art galleries and thriving colorful markets. Just 25 minutes from the Merida International Airport.

Mongolia

Mongolia on your Travel List? We can offer cultural experiences ranging from 3-4 or 7 days traversing some of Mongolia’s most remote and beautiful terrain. From the capital of Ulaanbaatar to the arid Gobi Desert to the fertile fields of Khan Khentii, you’ll not only be immersed in nature, but in Mongolian culture. Much of rural Mongolia is undeveloped and the people here lead nomadic lifestyles, raising horses and other livestock, and living in ger camps. On this journey, you’ll have the chance to stay in a selection of different ger camps for a truly authentic Mongolian experience.

Mongolia

Camelback, your style? Imagine traditional camel passage through Zorgol Hairhan Mountains.  Trace the 12-mile-long sand dune that makes up the North Gobi today, on the back of a camel. If camelback is not your preferred mode of transportation, you may also choose to trek or drive the same route. Here, you may spot wolves, who have made a home in the area. Get up close and personal with Mongolian culture on our tour of the Gobi Steppe, a treeless grassland inhabited by Mongolian nomads. Here, you’ll experience their traditional lifestyle, from the equestrian nature of their transportation, to their nomadic ger tents. Plod across a 12-mile-long sand dune on the back of a majestic camel. Make friends with local families, who will help you out along the way and allow you a window into their incredible culture.

Travel Tribe – Where is your Next Journey?
There are numerous posts on these locations at gwenbooks.com, just search!