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

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Chiang Mai bicycle tours



by Adam Corney

I rode 27.7kms today on a half day bike tour out of Chiang Mai city and into the surrounding towns and suburbs.

It’s amazing how much my view of Chiang Mai is coloured by the experiences we as travellers are forced into, whether we want to be or not.

For example, Chiang Mai has its tourist side – the markets, the bars, the restaurants, the tours and treks. All of this occupies our time while we’re in a location, and satisfies our needs – but it doesn’t really open up the city for exploration. When a well-worn path is in front of you, it’s difficult to avoid walking down it.

I took the fervent advice of a friend at Intrepid Travel in Bangkok to take the half-day bicycle tour, and I’m very glad he pushed me into it.
I’m not a cyclist. The last time I rode a bike I was in Melbourne, and it was one of those trendy fixed-gear bikes that all the hipsters love. So I’m not exactly your role model bike rider.

Rit was my guide on the half day bike tour, which was delivered by Click and Travel. He made the trip fun, relaxed, and most of all comfortable – riding at a pace I could handle, and knowing exactly where to go and how to get there.

**
Rit
Rit came fom a family that couldn’t pay for secondary education, so he voluntarily chose to be a monk and receive his education through temple. He lived and studied as a monk for 7 years.
When the time came to leave the monkhood and return to society, he found it incredilby difficult. As a monk, the only skills you’re taught are how to pray and meditate, so you have no translatable skills. He’s studying now for his tour guide certificate and has been a bicycle guide with the company for two years.
**

What really struck me about the bike tour (aside from my incredibly sore butt afterward) was how different Thai life was once you leave the tourist side. It’s a crime to call their life simple. These people’s lives are not simple – they’re as complicated with relationships, dreams, and desires as ours are. We’re all human beings.

The word I’m looking for is solitude. Compared to the hustle and bustle of tuktuks, taxis, songthaews, and utes, this almost felt like a quiet paradise. It’s exactly the same as our own suburbs – they’re the places you live, not the places you work.

We visited Rit’s home temple; a former Leper colony with a rich history about a US missionary doctor in the early 20th century; and Wiang Kum Kam, an original settlement that predates Chiang Mai.

But the point of the ride wasn’t the destinations – it was the ride itself, and being exposed to the other side of life.

I really appreciated the chance to see what life was like outside of Chiang Mai city – it’s not often you get the chance to escape the well-worn path, even if only for a little while.

Plus it helped me burn off some calories that I knew I was going to be gaining the next day, when I went to do my Thai Cooking Class…

Ultimate Guide to Phuket


by Gary Walsh

There is a yin and yang to Phuket, Thailand’s most popular beach destination. On the west coast, the endless string of gorgeous white sand beaches is swept by rhythmic waves rolling in from the Andaman Sea. In the east, the beaches are miserly, barely worthy of the name, and sometimes pushed into the sea by mangrove forests until the tide goes out and the sand flats extend to the horizon. It makes for gentle swimming and glorious sunrises. In between is a landscape of mountains, rivers and lush tropical forests, as well as a surprising Sino-Portuguese heritage that reaches its zenith at delightful Phuket Town. Phuket offers a beach holiday that is much more than an excuse to laze on the sand, surf or swim. There is architectural beauty and cultural diversity rare in this part of the world, with experiences as varied as the simple pleasures of mesmerising sunsets and the eye-popping realities of Patong’s naughty-and-nice nightlife. And Phuket is a jumping off point for the dazzling karst limestone regions of Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi, where you’ll discover the imprint of James Bond and Leonardo Di Caprio.

Ultimate Guide to Koh Samui

InterContinental Koh Samui

OVERVIEW

Koh Samui has grown up. No longer the backpacker backwater of the turquoise Gulf of Thailand, she’s now a sophisticated destination for a more discerning traveller. The jet set has truly arrived, and Samui spoils for choice when it comes to upscale beds, beers and buffets.

There is still the opportunity, however, to party your nights away like it’s your gap year. Also still apparent is the laidback charm of the Thai people and culture. This world-renowned character, coupled with the celebrated Asian knack for hospitality, makes Koh Samui the island of choice for a good chunk of Thailand’s annual 30 million visitors.

It takes just over an hour by plane to exchange the Bangkok bustle for island life, or the more adventurous can take a 3-hour ferry from the mainland port of Surat Thani. Either way, once you arrive it’s all about the beach.

Samui is blessed with miles of coastline, and while it’s not the unspoilt secret sandy paradise of your dreams, such places are a day-trip away. What Samui has instead is a slick tourist infrastructure to ensure that you’re well fed and watered at whatever price point you desire - from Michelin-worthy feasts to street food surprises.

Whether you make the most of the island’s tourist facilities, use it as a base for a spot of island-hopping or simply laze on the beach all day, Koh Samui is an increasingly hip tropical destination.

Monday, 7 January 2019

137 Pillars Promotion - enjoy a free night

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137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok
59/1 Soi Sukhumvit 39 Klong Nua Wattana Bangkok 10110
E: stay@137pillarsbangkok.com | W: www.137pillarsbangkok.com | T: +66 (0)2 079 7000