How do we manage to create the best luxury trips for you? We have to give credit to the Tourism Boards and hotel partners who really help us discover the country and fine-tune plans for different target audiences. These are familiarisation trips that need so much planning as there is pressure on the organisers/tourism boards to showcase just enough, in the limited time that would help travel designers to plan itineraries for their discerning clients and trust us, it's not always a 100 per cent match. Once we’ve seen everything, we pick and choose what might be best for our Encompass travellers. But once in a while, you come across that perfect trip where you know you’ve hit gold – that too in a place that tends to be overrun by tourists (but still crazily popular). Yes, I’m talking about Thailand.
I just got back from a flawlessly organised Thailand FAM, courtesy of TAT India, Brandit, Soneva Kiri and Capella Bangkok – the most wonderful partners. The trip started with Sunit from TAT India making it super easy with his instructions for us on arrival. It took me less than 25 mins to reach the exit, with my visa, luggage and Sim card. Now that’s exactly what a traveller wants. This is the kind of instruction I would want to give Encompass travellers when they land. He cued me just to the right things and process.
Sounds unbelievable, but the infamous Bangkok traffic was particularly breezy. I have a feeling that these guys had a hand in it ☺... We’ll try and wing this for you too. We made it to Capella Bangkok, our first stop in less than an hour. Capella Bangkok positions itself as the new face of luxury in Thailand. It's sleek, chic, understated and elegant, providing next-level luxury for the new generations in travel. The arrival experience sets the tone. A glass of bubbly and a signature box of bonbons are presented at check-in, enabling guests to instantly melt into the effortlessly elegant vibe. Quick RTPCR done as per the hotel’s mandate, and we were then whisked up to our rooms. From the home-like Living Room lounge (hosting cultural workshops such as indigo tie-dye classes or their signature high tea experience) to the hotel’s three restaurants and 101 guest rooms and suites, every space has been designed to draw the outside in and frame panoramic river views through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Raising the bar for luxury accommodation in the city, the ‘Verandah’ rooms open to private terraces with raised plunge pools overlooking the river. The sophisticated design is all about neutral colours, crisp white linens, marble bathrooms and natural accents in wood and stone. There are iPads in every room for guests to order room service or connect with the staff. The prime real estate, however, is reserved for the hotel’s seven riverfront villas. The first of their kind in Bangkok, these private retreats come with plunge pools, separate dining and living rooms, and private gardens leading right up to the waterside.
My butler got me some Pad Thai and Mango sticky rice for lunch as I was comfortably quarantined in a room overlooking the gorgeous Chao Phraya River. I stuffed myself, enjoyed the room and dreamt of more delicious Thai food to come in the days. Our results were out in 6hours and we were free to loaf!
He told me about the Cin Cin hour, featuring a complimentary drink and canapes so I could my way to Stella Bar. I quickly picked my seat at the glam riverfront salon for a quick ròse. Stella is a pan-Asian cocktail bar and ’omakase patisserie’ celebrating heroic women of the East in made-to-order pastries and playful cocktails incorporating Asian spirits and herbs. Under a mirrored ceiling, a taxidermized white peacock takes centre stage, while another nook is decorated with throne-like chairs and hand-painted frescoes.
Later, we had a fabulous Thai spread at the riverside Thai restaurant Phra Nakhon. Taking over the contemporary, sun-washed conservatory and the tree-shaded riverside terrace of Capella Bangkok, Phra Nakhon serves authentic Thai cuisine for lunch and dinner. Dishes can be ordered à la carte, or in sharing-style Long Chim (during lunch) and Sam Rub (during dinner), set menus focused on Chef Kannika’s specialities.
Then there is Côte, Capella’s signature restaurant inspired by dining experiences on the French Riviera, with a concept and menus by celebrated Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco. The typography is inspired by modernist European design with a warm grey colour palette.
The next morning we made our way to the airport where we were met by private airport representatives of Soneva Kiri. We were then transferred to the resort's waiting custom-fitted eight-seater Cessnas for the 90-minute flight to Koh Mai Si, the resort's private airport island, followed by a five-minute speedboat journey to Soneva's shores. Greeted by the GM and a private butler (known on the island as a ‘Friday’) at the jetty, we were encouraged to embrace the ‘No news, no shoes’ policy as soon as we arrived. Located in a secluded bay on the northwest coast of unspoilt Koh Kood island, near Thailand’s border with Cambodia, Soneva Kiri looks like it came straight out of Robinson Crusoe.
Now that we arrived and adjusted our clocks an hour forward to ‘resort time’, we could enjoy a little bit more sunlight…and it was time to seriously slow down.
1. Soneva Kiri is consciously uber eco-friendly. It is designed so cleverly that all man-made structures blend seamlessly into the rugged natural surroundings, yet every modern luxury you could ever need or want is subtly installed and discreetly hidden behind or within bamboo walls or wooden panels. Basically, the rustic-chic jungle-meets-ocean setting is Soneva Kiri’s design motto.
2. Perfect location to turn off from the hectic digital daze, and recalibrate .. perhaps catch up on all those books that you have been waiting to read.
3. They have a great kids club, lip-smacking Thai food with multiple offbeat dining options, the unlimited ice cream (32 flavours, made in-house, no less) and chocolate that’s on offer, an outdoor cinema, a state-of-the-art observatory for star-gazing, and an exquisitely designed (and rightfully award-winning)spa.
4. The whole feel of the island is one of calm and respect – for the environment, and for each other. Staff have their own village, where there is a restaurant, gym, bar, and very comfortable accommodation. The staff are happy – and it shows.
5. Explore the surrounding jungle, picnic by the waterfalls, and enjoy water activities like water-skiing, sea kayaking, snorkelling and catamaran excursions. You’re also situated close to the Cambodian border and you could perhaps consider a day trip to Angkor Wat.
6. So are you ready to get disconnected from the real world? We promise, unlike Robinson Crusoe, you will be in the lap of luxury and still manage to be 100% carbon neutral!
Thailand beckons! What are you waiting for?