Thailand is celebrated as the country of sunshine and smiles – and, of course, fabulous food – and there is no better way to explore its cultural riches than a twin-centre break combining the excitement of Bangkok with an enchanting island hideaway
Words: Sandy Cadiz-Smith
Thailand is, they say, all about warmth. If so, this is a perfect start. We are greeted by smiling faces and ambrosial orchids as we step into the cool calm of the stylish foyer. Taking in the sweeping view down to the river and marvelling at the exotic flowers, we freshen up with cool, scented towels (as we soon discover, towels appear magically every time we feel even mildly overheated). Welcome to the world of The Peninsula, Bangkok where you are instantly wrapped in the arms of happiness and joyous hospitality.
The Peninsula rises majestically above the banks of the River of Kings – it is the perfect luxury base to explore bustling Bangkok. Our palatial room with vertigo-inducing balcony overlooks the sparkle of the city below us. A large living area, dressing room and sumptuous bathroom complete the picture of luxury. Downstairs, the longest hotel pool in Bangkok beckons with its 88-metres of sparkling water on three tiers, astounding river views and outstanding cabana service.
“Rising majestically above the banks of the River of Kings, The Peninsula is the perfect luxury base to explore bustling Bangkok – it even has its own river boat”
We are never without refreshment poolside. Next door at the spa we indulge in the Essential Mind Treatment combining massage, healing oils and vibrational sound therapy. Nestled in our deluxe private suite, complete with sauna and petal-filled jacuzzi, we have checked in to heaven.
It’s the same elevated experience with food. Every mouthful we sample tastes sublime. Mornings start with a sumptuous breakfast on the shaded terrace of The River Cafe, which also offers all-day dining with authentic Thai dishes and international favourites. It’s all alfresco too at Thiptara, where we feast on the best Thai cuisine in seductive lamplight beneath a 120-year-old banyan tree. But, in a paradise for gourmets, the culinary highlight of this stage of our trip turns out to be an incredible Eight Elements dinner at Mei Jiang Cantonese restaurant. As the name hints, eight delectable courses with each made up of eight ingredients – a theatrical meal of dreams.
We mainly use the river to explore the city and The Peninsula has its own boat (naturally!). We hop on to visit the newly opened ICONSIAM for great designer shopping and to explore Bangkok’s fascinating Old Quarter and canals. And one evening we head out for a sunset cruise to the Temple of Dawn, taking in the sights of the city while sipping champagne and sampling the daintiest of canapés. Because that’s just part of The Peninsula life – we could get very used to it.
Our journey has not ended and It’s just a short flight from the bustle of Bangkok to the delights of island life on Phuket. Our beach hideaway – The Sarojin – is set on 11 stunning kilometres of white sand beach lapped by azure waters. Here there are 56 luxury residences dotted in idyllic seclusion across ten acres of lush tropical gardens. It feels like the ultimate haven for R&R.
“Sarojin days are all about lazy beachfront hours and more great food, plus deliciously inventive cocktails that are best drunk under the trees with our feet in the sand”
Home here is a fabulous jacuzzi pool suite with an enormous sun terrace complete with the kind of jacuzzi where I could happily spend all day. The plush four-poster bed takes centre stage in the lovely bedroom – made up each night with lavish bed art, Thai style, involving the most exotic flowers and artfully styled fluffy towels. Next door a daybed, desk and fully stocked fridge are at our disposal in the living area, with the added pleasure of a large outdoor shower for post-pool refresh or morning hedonism. There is nothing quite like showering in nature to a chorus of tropical birds.
Our Sarojin days are all about lazy beachfront hours, swims and beach meanders, as well as indulgent poolside dreaming. And there’s more great food – starting with the all-day à la carte breakfast at Ficus. We also love hanging out at the Edge beachside restaurant, sampling Thai and South-East Asian food and deliciously inventive cocktails that are best drunk under the trees with our feet in the sand. We check in for the Herbal Aroma massage at Pathway Spa and even try our hand at cooking local specialities.
The hotel is surrounded by five national parks, so plenty of opportunities for adventure. One day we take a pleat boat ride through the 135-km Takuapa river system – known as the ‘Little Amazon’ – and plant our own mangrove. We explore a local food market, always something of a fascination for me. We also make a special journey to the fishing village of Baan Nam Kem with its moving Tsunami Monument.
At night The Sarojin twinkles with lanterns and fairy lights. We indulge one night at the incredible Chef’s Table dinner at Ficus – a fabulous fusion of Thai and European flavours. One of our most magical evenings of the whole glorious trip is heading out to the Sai Rung Waterfall in the jungle where what seem like a million candles have been lit for us and dinner is served at the base of the falls. Every mouthful of every meal is a special occasion at The Sarojin. In fact, our whole journey through Thailand leaves us feeling like the most privileged VIPs enjoying the genuine warmth and hospitality of this fabled land of sunshine and smiles.
* Luxury journey specialist Azure Collection offers a seven-night trip to Thailand, with three nights at The Peninsula Bangkok and four nights at The Sarojin, Phuket. From £1,765 pp on a b&b basis, including international and domestic flights, transfers and accommodation; azurecollection.com
* For more brilliant travel ideas for Thailand, visit fanclubthailand.co.uk
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