Thursday, 7 March 2019

My 'Jackie O' Moment

by Kerrin Trenorden

I'm at dinner with a group of amazing ladies from Melbourne, at one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in, the SALA Hotel Phuket. I overhear one of them speaking about something they referred to as ‘Their Jackie O Moment’.

She was explaining to other members of our group, how during her afternoon free, she was laying on her sunbed in her private pool villa under the massive sunhat that was supplied in the room, she had to stop and appreciate that this was as close as she was going to get to a life like Jackie O – her Jackie O moment.



This comment made me stop and think about all the ‘pinch me experiences’ I have had on trips to Thailand. Experiences that I would not be able to have or really afford in other countries I have travelled to. It also made me realise that this feeling is my favourite thing about this country – the realisation that anyone can indulge in a moment of luxury for a fraction of the price at home or other destinations.

With Australia’s strong dollar and the amazing deals on offer to travellers, Thailand gives us the ability to stay in a top level room at a beautiful hotel in a better area for your family/honeymoon/boys or girls weekend away. You can also enjoy $3.00 cocktails, a $30.00 seafood buffet dinner after your hour-long $10.00 massage – and this is before I even mention the shopping!

Thailand’s ability to allow travellers to experience what I am referring to as ‘affordable luxury’ is why I believe that everyone should visit Thailand once in their life. I strongly believe that everyone deserves the chance to have their own Jackie O moment………



Backtracking a bit – what has been my Jackie O moment you ask? I have been lucky enough to have many! Most of them in Thailand and all quite different but that is a story for another time!

Below had to be in the top 5 however with thanks to SALA Phuket!
For those wanting their own Jackie O moment, it's time to contact your local travel agent or visit www.thaiairways.com.au

Chiang Dao: Elephants, ferns and crispy grasshoppers





Just an hour north of Chiang Mai is the community of Chiang Dao, a gateway to trekking in the mountains and a hub for elephant camps. Chiang Dao is where the rice field meet the jungle and home to a weekly market full of ethnic charm. Villagers from miles around head for Chiang Dao every Tuesday to shop for essentials and trade their home grown harvests.

The market stretches for a kilometre through the main street. Most vendors are selling fabrics or fried food, like deep fried bananas or spicy fish cakes (todd man pla). My favourite patch is a shady corner where charming old ladies sell rare forest foods from deeper in the hills. Tree ferns and wild greens are easy to find, but keep a close eye out for wasp larvae, river crabs, edible orchids and crunchy fried grasshoppers.





In the cooler months, the roads leading into Chiang Dao are thick with roadside stalls selling Khao Lam, sticky rice stuffed into bamboo sections. Red beans and mushrooms with wild herbs are used to add flavour to the rice, and the bamboo pieces are roasted over hot coals so the contents inside steam themselves to completion.



Most tourists to Chiang Dao get as far as the elephant camps and then head home to Chiang Mai, but some head deeper into the hills and spend a few nights in bamboo guesthouses. It's much cooler after dark than down in Chiang Mai, and you need to rug up a little. Mist often fills the valleys in the first light, until the sun comes out to brighten the jungle.

As a guest of some hill tribes or a day visit from Chiang Mai the charms of Chiang Dao are worth your time. You'll need a break from the temples and fancy night market eats of Chiang Mai anyway.

Like these images? You can join a photo tour with Ewen Bell and take your own.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bangkok Shopping: Siam Paragon Shopping Centre


Words: Thea Easterby
To be honest, I am not much of a shopper. Taking that into consideration, I have to confess that the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre simply blew me away.

I enter the centre via the Siam Skytrain platform which has me walking through a metal detector to get in.

As I wander around I can’t help noticing how quiet the store is, some of the stores are not even open. Don’t head to the shops early. Many stores don’t open till ten or later and stay open late into the evening.

This shopping centre oozes luxury, so if you are looking for designer labels, this is the place to be. There are shops for Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace as well as many more designers (including quite a few I have never heard of).

If you are feeling cashed up, you could always head to the auto gallery on the 2nd floor. You could buy a BMW, Lamborghini or Porsche Spider. While a couple of men stare longingly through the shop front windows at their objects of desire, all I can wonder is how they drove the cars in there in the first place?

Siam Paragon Shopping Centre (bangkok.com)

This complex is not all luxury shopping, there is also a fantastic range of stores for moderate budgets.

Don’t leave this shopping centre without visiting the Food Hall on the lower level. Besides the fact that you will be hungry and thirsty after all that shopping, this hall has to be seen to be believed. As I step off the escalator there is food of every type, in every direction as far as the eye can see. This area is part traditional food hall, part small restaurant quality stalls, a gourmet food market, fast food outlets and traditional restaurants. The hardest part about this place is making a decision on what to buy and eat.

By the way, did I mention Siam Ocean World with a four million litre water aquarium in the basement of this shopping complex?


Bangkok Bookstores

Kinokuniya Bookstore

The one thing I do love shopping for is books. Being a writer, I love a good read. Bookstores are where I go to relax; my oasis of calm. The moment I walk into a bookstore, I instantly feel comfortable and at ease.

The great thing about shopping for books overseas is that you always come across ones that you have never seen before. There is always a new discovery. For obvious reasons, I always check out the Writers Reference section to see what their collection of books on writing is like.

Kinokuniya Bookstore is situated on the 3rd floor of the Siam Paragon Centre. This bookstore has a large selection of English books. Other nationalities with a great selection are Chinese, Japanese and naturally Thai. Some of the books are covered in plastic, so you can’t flip and read through all of your options. There is also an extensive art and design section, a decent selection of cookbooks and a wide selection of comics and graphic novels. For music fans, check out their selection of sheet music.

Another bookstore option is B2S, a massive two-level store in the CentralWorld complex. It sells books, stationary and music. There is an extensive collection of books in English in this store, though by picking up a couple of books I notice the prices for a new hardcover non-fiction are slightly higher than Kinokuniya.

If you prefer your books second hand, head over to the Dasa Book Café on Sukhumvit between Soi 26 and 28. This quaint store has three levels of books, a small café and low prices. There is a great assortment of fiction books to choose from as well as some unusual and collectable books. The March special had fiction books on sale out front of the store for 9 baht each, so check as these specials change each month. They have novels in a range of different nationalities including French, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German and Russian. They exchange and sell books for cash.

You are bound to find some rare gems in this store. Grab a coffee, a cookie and pull up one of the chairs at the front window and get stuck into your new purchase.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Phuket: perfect beachfront hotel and spa on Kata Noi Bay


by Kerrin Trenorden

Phuket is often celebrated for its busting nightlife, amazing shopping and markets and of course the sunshine, however once you leave the major tourist areas, you can discover the ultimate destination for relaxation or a family getaway.

Having been to Phuket previously, I was looking for somewhere to relax, have a massage, read a good book and sit and enjoy the amazing beaches; so it was recommended that I look at the Katathani Phuket Beach Resort in Kata Noi.

Kata Noi (meaning 'Little Kata'), is located approximately 25min by Tuk Tuk from the Patong Beach area past (Big) Kata Beach. To me, it will be forever known as 'my little stretch of paradise'.

The pristine white sandy beach spans the entire length of the Resort which stretches for over 850 metres and provides crystal-clear warm waters for swimmers to float away the day. The Resort also backs right onto the beach so guests can conveniently enjoy one of SIX pools whilst watching the sun go down. A cocktail at this time is highly recommended.

With a range of rooms and suites to suit all budgets, 4 children’s pools, 3 Jacuzzis, 2 bubbly water springs, a mini water slide, 6 restaurants, nightly activities and massages available around the pool and a kids club, the Katathani really is a one-stop holiday destination for all kinds of holidaymakers.

If you're looking for the hustle and bustle typical of Patong Beach, the hotel is within walking distance of Kata Beach (although the hill can be a bit steep after a long day) or a 2 minute walk to other local restaurants, convenience stores, tailors and massage places just outside the lobby area.

For anyone wanting to experience all the wonders of Thailand in a quiet location, whether for a quiet relax or some family-time, I recommend you take a look at this Resort.

For more information, visit http://www.katathani.com/  or ask your travel agent.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Thailand yoga on Koh Samui - finding the 'one'


by Bianca Lucas

I’ve been flirting for years.

I start to get involved then I back off.

I reach a certain level in the relationship and I get scared. Too much work I tell myself. I’m still looking for the right ‘one’.
Well, I found it.

In the beautiful, laid back island of Koh Samui.

The ‘one’ I’m referring to is Ashtanga Yoga.



An energetic flowing sequence of postures that has a focus on synchronising the breath to movement, with the aim being to create a calm, focused mind whilst increasing strength, stamina and flexibility. Just the tonic I needed.

After a bad breakup that left me, well, rather broken, I decided the best course of action was to remove myself physically and mentally from the scene of the crime to a place that would allow me to rest, regroup, get some balance and ultimately some strength back (physically and mentally).

I found my place of respite at the wonderful ‘Yoga Thailand‘, situated on Laem Sor beach, a 45 minute drive south of Koh Samui airport. The yoga (and spa) retreat has an emphasis on eco-friendliness and is set on a picture perfect, coconut palm fringed beach.

The rooms were spacious, light and airy. White washed walls gave one the sense of calmness and relaxation with the fragrance from the frangipanis wafting in from outside my bedroom window.

The bathrooms were clean and modern with lots of natural lighting.

All-in-all I would describe the accommodation as ‘eco-chic’ and rather lovely.

My days consisted of rising early (6.30am), having a herbal tea then going for a contemplative walk along the beach before coming back to meditate in the ‘shala’ on the waterfront.

This was then followed by a 1&1/2 hour Ashtanga Mysore yoga class in the beautiful ‘yoga shala’ that overlooks the meditation garden and salt water swimming pool.

Taking influence from yogi’s from India and Thai Buddhist masters, the shala wasn’t air-conditioned so at times one found oneself very warm - and very sweaty. Moments when the sea breeze wafted in were little moments of heaven.

So was the food. Brunch went for 2 hours following the morning class (I would have 1st breakfast then come back for 2nd and sometimes 3rd breakfast!!) in the open air beach/pool-front restaurant.

Afternoons were spent reading in the beachside lounge, lazing on comfy cushions and alternating between the pool and beach to cool off, snorkelling and trips to nearby islands.

Late afternoons consisted of a gentle, restorative hour yoga class followed by conversation with newly made friends over a nutritious and delicious (chocolate chip cookies were beyond amazing) 3 hour dinner.

I had found the yoga goddess within and I left feeling calm, balanced, happier, a little wiser and definitely stronger. And committed.

It might not have been the ‘one’ I was looking for (or lost) but it is the one I don’t think I could ever live without now.

Lazing and laughs on Koh Samui

by Roger Hanson

A good laugh always accompanies a good holiday and the more laughs better the holiday seems.
It is a simple formula because laughter means being relaxed and enjoying the moment, and that’s what we found at Koh Samui. A place that met all the criteria we had set for a holiday as a couple with friends.

After working a year of hard 7-day rosters with swing shifts, we were tired and eager for a break. Sitting on a mid-winter’s day as the cold rain pelted down outside the Flight Centre’s office in North Hobart, in Australia’s most southern capital, we thought long and hard where to go for our holiday. We visualised a country rich in culture, fine food, cocktails and cold beer by the pool or beach and the mandatory daily massage or two massages if we could sneak the extra in.

Thailand fitted that bill, and we had flown Thai Airways before and enjoyed the experience, so flights booked, but where to stay, we had heard good reports Koh Samui was a good place to relax and to get a taste of Thailand. We took a punt on the Amari Palm Reef Resort, Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui , and it ticked all the right boxes.

Travelling with another couple, who originally came from El Salvador, but now living in Tasmania, we spent 3 nights in Bangkok at the sensational Sofitel Sukhumvit, a true 5-star hotel, with its attentive staff. We enjoyed the buzz of Bangkok, with fabulous assortment of entertainment, food and cultural sights. The longer our holiday went, with good company , more the laughs bubbled to the surface as relaxation set in.

Sofitel Sukhumvit Bangkok

Thai Airways flight to Koh Samui where not only were the bags unpacked but the stresses of everyday life melted away at the Amari Palm Reef amongst a gorgeous setting of beach, pools and the gentle pace of a seaside resort.

The Amari Palm Reef has wonderful mix of guests, from newly-wed couples to families. The pleasant vibe amongst guests and staff is testament to general manager Martin Kunzmann and his executive assistant manager Julian Paech’s approach.

The resort is set out as a traditional Thai village, with a pool the centrepiece surrounded by swaying palms of the main accommodation area. Another pool, near the beach, is close to the casual dining and bar. It is an ideal environment to relax, yet close enough to shops and night-time entertainment further down the beach.

Amari Resort Koh Samui

The food was exquisite, because of that I took time out to find out Torsak Pong-ampai is the executive chef in charge of 28 staff creating consistently good food.

It was our first time to Koh Samui, and I am sure there will be a next time.


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Well Hotel Bangkok - It’s your lifestyle



Thailand-based hotel management company, Well Hotels & Resorts, opened the first of its four properties in Bangkok in late 2015 with a focus on lifestyle and wellness. Located in the heart of Bangkok on Sukhumvit 20, just a short walk to shopping at either EmQuarter or Terminal 21 and BTS Asok and MRT Sukhumvit.

With just 235 4-star rooms and suites across five categories contained in two low-rise buildings, Well Hotel is almost boutique by Bangkok standards. We liked the bright and airy public spaces which are something of a sanctuary from the cut-and-thrust of this lively neighbourhood surrounded by high-rises, cafes, convenience stores and the ubiquitous massage salons.

Executive suite (supplied)

Well-equipped (pun intended) with business and event space, Eat Well Café & Restaurant, The Bar & Grill, Pool Bar, 24-hour in-room dining, Well Spa, fitness centre and swimming pool. To further reinforce the wellness theme, both Executive Rooms and Executive Suites are fitted with private exercise bikes and a Well Fit Box with yoga and stretching kit including mat, block, massage ball, exercise ball and resistance band and - yes - an electronic scale.

Well Hotel certainly has a youthful and ‘hip’ persona, but that shouldn’t deter guests from all walks of life. Perhaps just gauge your own ability before launching into an energetic routine.

www.wellhotelbangkok.com

Amara Bangkok - an extra sparkle in 4-star



Bangkok’s new wave of 4-Star hotels shame many properties of the same rating in other cities around the world. Bright, modern architecture and design, great locations as well as services and amenities more in keeping with the upper echelon bring a little bit of luxury within reach of regular business and leisure travellers.

Amara Bangkok is not a name that immediately springs to mind when scouring the internet for decent accommodation in Bangkok. The brand grew up in Singapore and has roots back to the 1930s when founder, Teo Teck Huat, started his family construction business. Today Amara Hotels & Resorts also own this property in Bangkok, opened in 2015 and another in Shanghai, opened in 2018.

Amara Cabana Room (supplied)

The swank 250-room hotel is located in the vibrant neighbourhood of Surawong, parallel to Silom and Sathorn Roads and just a short walk to Patpong Night Markets. Rooms come in Deluxe, Executive, Club and Cabana and Suite, plus there’s a rooftop infinity pool and bar on the 26th floor, a Grand Ballroom and two function rooms, a 24-hour Sky Gym, and Amara’s own 24-hour mini bar boutique in the lobby.

We liked the compact rooftop Club Lounge as well as the basement eatery, Element, that offered a surprising variety of Southeast Asian cuisine in a space that did not feel at all underground. Importantly, service standards were excellent and our few queries handled promptly and politely.

Bangkok.amarahotels.com