The Peninsula, Bangkok

Like our unique fingerprints, there is a perfect property for each of us in every corner of the globe. My recent stay at The Peninsula Bangkok, was a reminder of this maxim. I arrived late from Bhutan due to snowy weather, the Bangkok warmth was welcoming at 10 pm! And even more hospitable was the vibrant view from my twenty eighth floor corner suite – drop dead vistas of the city skyline and the twinkling lights from boats plying the Chao Phraya River. This is the side of the river for the best skyline views on the River of Kings.

Greeted by the massive stone Chinese guardian lions, iconic Peninsula entrance.

The Peninsula Hotels have been in the hospitality trade for over 150 years, formal and elegant you know what to expect in five-star service. Timeless glamour combined with sophisticated Thai charm provides the ultimate cultural experience. All the rooms enjoy stunning river and city views, an extraordinary panorama of high rise buildings, wooden boats and local piers. The Peninsula Bangkok has offered their riverside magic for 21 years, welcoming dignitaries and VIP clients with exceptional service. Greeted by the massive stone Chinese guardian lions adorning the entrance of the hotel, an auspicious icon at The Peninsula hotels.

The Peninsula Bangkok is an urban oasis on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the park like manicured jungle entrance sets the stage for your arrival. The distinctive wave shaped hotel design not only makes it an interesting architectural icon on the Bangkok skyline, but it allows all of the rooms to enjoy endless birds eye views of the river. Among the largest hotel rooms in Bangkok, some plush suites have panoramic balconies and outdoor Jacuzzis to enjoy the afternoon breezes. The Peninsula hotels employ an army of private labs building their own technology, assuring each property has pioneering technology.

The Thai Suite, The Peninsula Bangkok

Despite the size, with 370 luxury spacious rooms with river views and sensational bathrooms, there are only ten rooms and two suites per floor, the hotel assures calmness and serenity. The design of all rooms reflects an elegant Asian richness with all modern comforts and conveniences. All share distinctive Thai touches, accented by Asian art, traditional ceramics and teak floors and lush silk furnishings.

Among the finest Suites are: The Terrace Suite on the 37th floor, a masterpiece in Thai sophistication. A stunning landscaped terrace is the pièce de résistance, with polished teak decking, sun loungers, an intimate dining area and the ultimate indulgence, an outdoor whirlpool. The interior walls are clad in shimmering Thai silk with traditional black lacquer trimmings, and rooms within the Suite are decorated with Asian ceramics and antique furnishings. A private study is the perfect place to take care of business, and a separate dining room with private pantry can also double as a boardroom for meetings.

The Peninsula Suite is the pinnacle of refinement and luxury in Bangkok. Stunningly appointed throughout in a fabulous array of Thai silks, antiques, Oriental carpets, crystal chandeliers and teakwood floors, this is a multiple award-winning Suite. Guests arriving by helicopter are whisked via the exclusive Paribatra Helicopter Lounge to this completely private luxury apartment-styled residence in seconds. Situated on the 34th floor of the hotel, The Peninsula Suite has master and guest bedrooms, walk-in closets and a butler’s room. The dining room seats up to ten people and an expansive landscaped terrace allows guests the option to entertain under the stars. Bring your entourage with you, safety and serenity secured.

There are of course, many other rooms and suites for mere mortals, but why not start at the top?! I was extremely happy in my corner suite on the 28th floor, apparently another guest had reserved the Peninsula Suite with Heli landing pad!

The Peninsula’s numerous and varied restaurants and bars span the globe in terms of cuisine and even in a short stay at the hotel you can sample authentic Cantonese dishes and International dishes or more simply, Thai home style cooking, all served with The Peninsula’s impeccable service and accompanied by Bangkok’s stunning views. Mei Jiang is one of Bangkok’s most celebrated destinations for Cantonese food at its finest. A rare gem among exponents of the rich heritage and creative evolution of Cantonese cuisine. Executive Chinese Chef Ball Yau heads the kitchen at Mei Jiang where his utmost respect for tradition is tastefully fused with creativity to produce a menu with dishes that range from classic dim sum fare to innovative dishes such as roasted pigeon marin. Thiptara is a Thai feast for all the senses. Surrounded by majestic banyan trees and lush tropical gardens, this is a unique dining experience by the riverside. Each afternoon you could find me at The River Café, sipping champagne with a view, it’s a buffet, but the exceptional views right on the banks of the river are the perfect cocktail location.

Escaping the property one has several options: The Peninsula has a luxury fleet of chauffeur driven limousines but their own tuk-tuk is an equally fun and always faster method to zip about the city. The Peninsula Bangkok also utilizes their private boats to cross the river and can drop you off at specific shopping or sightseeing piers. The newest large IconSiam shopping Center is just steps away.

The opulent Peninsula Spa is a soothing breather from the bustling city scene, indulge in authentic Thai holistic massages and relaxation therapies. The hotel’s two tennis courts, state of the art gym and three-tiered pool overlooking the river complement the spa’s facilities, the Peninsula is a certified oasis.

One plus for golfers who must improve their skill in all destinations, the Peninsula Bangkok guests have access to the Thai Country Club which has extensive golf facilities. Guest depart by limousine from the hotel to the Thai Country Club and upon arrival, a challenging but fun 18 hole golf course awaits, while caddies serve as personal butlers, ensuring that refreshments and cold towels are on hand at all times. Upon completion of the 18 hole game, golfers can celebrate on the balcony of the club house with their favorite cocktail, before heading back to The Peninsula by helicopter, enjoying the spectacular views as the sun sets over the City of Angels.

Thai Country Club, Bangkok

The Peninsula Bangkok, the brand has been practicing opulent hospitality for over 150 years, we always trust the brand if we havent visited, but in this case, I’ve visited and loved my all to brief stay. Bangkok is a city to visit more than once.

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! 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