Beyond the breathtaking landscapes of stoic, stepped rice terraces, broad-leafed jungle rooftops, and pillars of rock that defiantly rise from cerulean blue bays; beyond the narrow, bustling city streets pulsing with motorbikes and pungent with the scent of pad thai and spiced mango curry; beyond the meditative quiet that sighs from every corner of the countryside, the hidden and not-so-hidden stretches of beach, and the resplendent, gleaming temples, Thailand is a Pandora’s box of chic hotels, trendy cafes, and unexpected luxuries.
If promises of abundant smiles and tropical fruit (never mind walking in the footsteps of Leonardo DiCaprio circa The Beach) are not reasons enough to hop on a Thailand-bound plane tomorrow, then allow me to woo you with our insider’s destination guide, aka 10 reasons you absolutely must visit Thailand—right now! Absolute’s roots are in Thailand, and we are proud of the extensive firsthand knowledge that years of experience in the East has garnered. From swanky hotels to locales’ favorite hangouts, here are some of our top Thailand picks right now:
1. Iniala Hotel
Staying at the Iniala Hotel is an experience in living and breathing modern art. Built on a stretch of private beach and modeled as a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Thai structure, the hotel has been exquisitely designed with each room reflecting the work of a different international artist. Foodies will be excited by the gastronomical offerings created by head chef, Sandro, and the degustation menu prepared by Eneko Axta, the resident Three Michelin Star chef from Bilbao, Spain. For the month of August 2014, Iniala will be donating 100% of the proceeds from room revenue to charitable causes. For those seeking meaningful adventures, this is an ideal opportunity to participate in travel that gives back.
2. Point Yamu by COMO
If you have been pining over iconic images of long-tail boats, secret bays awash in vivid shades of blue and green, and horizons dotted with islands, then Point Yamu by COMO is sure to be the cure to your wanderlust. Occupying the very tip of Cape Yamu in Phuket, Point Yamu by COMO gazes out over the Adaman Sea and the dramatic limestone karsts that splinter the calm turquoise waters of Phang Nga Bay. The hotel’s sleek architecture and décor is the ultimate compliment to the organic beauty of the surrounding area. Whether you choose to spend your days enjoying outdoor island life or exploring the city of Phuket, you will savor unwinding at Point Yamu by COMO.
3. 137 Pillars Hotel
Once the home of Loius Leonowens, the son of famed schoolteacher Anna (of Anna and the King), 137 Pillars Hotel allows guests to intimately experience a slice of history at this renovated property originally constructed in 1889. Wander the property’s gardens, moving from one daybed to the next, then on to the pool where you are cooled by the living plant wall that shields the water. When an adventurous spirit strikes, venture out into the heart of Chiang Mai’s Wat District, known for its artsy vibes, where you will be swept-up in the energy of the Night Bazaar.
4. print bar
There are two things you need to know about print bar: (1) the “p” of print is never capitalized, and (2) patrons are invited to tag the graffiti clad bathroom walls with abandon. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a haughty establishment. Rather, print bar is the newest laid-back nightspot to appear on Thonglor, Bangkok’s main drag for trendy bars popular amongst locals and in-the-know expats. Herby signature cocktails, a giant neon face for wall art, and a convertible glass wall that retracts for an open-air feel is a winning combination.
5. Yunomori Onsen & Spa
If you are a hot springs junkie (or just a traveler who enjoys the art of relaxation) then a trip to Thailand’s first Japanese style hot spring spa should be on your bucket list. Built around a central zen garden, the interior of the spa is designed to balance the elements of wood, water, and stone to mimic the ambience of a forest. The mineral water used in the hot spring soaking pools comes directly from the natural hot springs found in Thailand’s Ranong province. A range of massages, scrubs, and reflexology treatments are also on offer.
6. Paste Bangkok
Also found in the trendy Thonglor section of Bangkok, the menu at Paste Bangkok is filled with traditional Thai recipes with a twist. Innovative presentations, flavor compositions, and unexpected ingredients create a Thai dining experience unlike any you have experienced before. To drink, try the house smoked bourbon whiskey with cloves, elderflower liquor, apple juice and chili. To eat–take your pick!–but we particularly recommend the jasmine and cinnamon smoked wild sea bass filet with black vinegar, mint and crushed peanut. And for vegetarians the delightfully simple wok fried tender pencil asparagus will change the way you think about asparagus forever.
7. The Sarojin
A sumptuous onyx infinity pool, lotus ponds, and pure white sand beaches that trim the Andaman Sea draw visitors to the luxurious Sarojin hotel. Imagine a day staked-out at one of the pool’s pavilions, wandering the 10 acres of lush tropical garden, or diving the Andaman’s hidden reefs.
The silk manufacturing workshop of Almeta is a true find for connoisseurs of fashion and homegoods. In addition to their standard collection of fine silk wares, Almeta also manufactures a la carte silk goods made to order. There is no minimum yardage required, so those in search of their perfect, one-of-a-kind silk handkerchief should take note.
9. Kathmandu Photo Gallery
Found near Bangkok’s Sri Mariamma Temple, this unsuspecting pre-war shop front houses an outstanding collection of contemporary images curated by owner and Thai photographer, Manit Sriwanichpoom. The antique green walls of the lower level play host to rows of Sriwanichpoom’s own work whereas the second level is dedicated to rotating exhibits of works by established or emerging photographers.
10. The Eastern & Oriental Express
There is no better way to survey the rolling hills, open fields, and jungle of Thailand, than whilst sipping cocktails in the E&O teak paneled observatory car or lingering over brunch in your sleeping-cabin-come-plush-lounge-by-day. Journeys on this elegant coach take you from Bangkok to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Laung Prabang in Laos or to the ancient kingdom of Lanna or on a comprehensive introduction to five of Thailand’s most extraordinary cities: Chiang Mai, Lampang, Bangkok, Phanom Rung, and Prasat Sikhoraphum.
Ready to plan your next adventure to Thailand? Contact Absolute Travel’s team of luxury travel specialists and begin your journey.