Journey into Thailand: Four Seasons helps map out the ultimate itinerary
Tuesday 23, November 2010
With four locations to stay in and a wealth of local know-how to draw from, travellers design their own unique trips through this magical land.
From the clear azure waters lapping the powder beach on Koh Samui to the jungles of the Golden Triangle in the far north; through the urban din of Bangkok and amid the quiet calm of the rice paddies of Chiang Mai; inside sacred temples, atop elephants and drifting down ancient rivers; the sights, sounds and tastes of Thailand beckon.
Whether a seasoned traveller looking for unusual adventures, a gourmet wanting to taste and learn to cook something new, a city dweller getting back in touch with the wild, a super-shopper on the hunt for deals, a family seeking time together or a couple wanting to reconnect, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Thailand open the doors to experiences and memories of a lifetime.
Arrival: the Journey Begins in Bangkok
Even in a cosmopolitan city of nine million people, there are personal moments to be found. Just around the corner from Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok is the Erawan Shrine, open to anyone regardless of religion, where visitors can get their first glimpse of the spirituality that informs much of Thai culture. Going deeper into the city, one might hire a longtail boat, whose driver will navigate the Chao Phraya River past stilted houses amid swaying palms, awe-inspiring temples, including the glittering Wat Pho – home to the magnificent gold-plated reclining Buddha - and hundreds of other boats moving people and goods through the city.
After a Thai massage at the Hotel’s Spa, the restored and reawakened traveller might start to think about what to bring home. At the Chatuchak market – with more than 6000 stalls, one of the largest in the world – savvy shoppers will find everything from Thai silks and hill tribe artefacts to designer bags, glass, linens and clothing created by the country’s emerging designers.
Ultimate indulgence: Stay in the newly unveiled Explorer Suite by Jim Thompson at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. Named for the American businessman who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967, the residence-like suite is decorated in the style he championed, now almost synonymous with modern Thailand’s colourful, tradition-inspired design aesthetic.
And plan to be there on a Sunday, when the Hotel stages a lavish brunch that features rolling tandoori ovens, mountains of fresh seafood, steaks grilled to order, spicy Thai salads made on the spot, chefs in waders serving fish roe from a station in the courtyard pond, mounds of oysters, and more drawn from the menus of all eight of the Hotel’s restaurants and lounges.
Transition: from City to Country, Old Ways to New
Thailand’s second largest city and its cultural capital, 700 kilometres to the north, is Chiang Mai. Once a centre of the opium trade, it’s an area transformed by the country’s Royal Project Foundation, which since 1969 has facilitated new sources of income for the Thai people, including agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. At Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, in the heart of the village of Mae Rim, this new economic approach is thriving amid working rice paddies. Here, the traveller will meet Tong, an albino water buffalo who tends the fields that produce rice for local temples and charities. Travellers could visit the Supha Bee Farm, which supplies the Resort’s honey, or they might buy Thai silks at the Lan Sai Village shops, where Thai-made clothing, jewellery and housewares are sold.
This is also where culture-hungry travellers learn how to cook real Thai food at the Resort’s Cooking School, or practice yoga as the sun rises over the mountains. For some, just looking at the surrounding mountains while sipping a watermelon and basil martini and rocking together in a swing on the terrace of Ratree Bar and Lounge is enough – but for those who want to get out there, the Resort can arrange a motorbike for trekking up into the Doi Suthep mountains, for views back across the Ping River valley and city of Chiang Mai.
The best breakfast you’ll ever share: A private table can be set in the rice barn as the mist rises with the sun, spread with fresh fruits and local specialties, accompanied by live traditional Thai music.
They Never Forget: Into the Fabled Golden Triangle
Some of the best trip souvenirs are the friendships made with locals and other travellers met along the way. In Thailand, those new relationships also include getting to know the elephants at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, located at the crossroads of three countries.
The brand’s only all-inclusive resort is also its smallest, at an intimate 15 tented accommodations. So special that the readers of Condé Nast Traveler have voted it the #1 hotel in the world three years running, “camping” Four Seasons-style is a truly unique experience. With just a handful of fellow adventurers and four elephants – Phuang Phet, Thong Kam, Yuki and Bounh Ma - to introduce guests to a different perspective on life, it’s a place few have experienced, but all remember.
Here, guests immerse themselves in mahout training – learning to help care for elephants that have been rescued from city streets, feeding them bananas from the breakfast tray, riding them through the jungle, and getting to know these gentle giants. At the end of the day – perhaps after a massage to ease sore thighs in the full-service open-air Spa, where treatments are accompanied by birdsong from the forest – new friends gather for drinks as the sun sets over the Mekong River, sharing stories of their travels.
Interested in a trip legacy that goes beyond an album full of images? Consider adopting an elephant through the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which arranges rescue of elephants from city streets and gives them new lives in the north, where they are safe and cared for.
Just a Little Longer Before We Go: Chilling on the Beach
Scoring a room with a view isn’t always possible, unless of course every room has a full sea view, and its own private plunge pool to boot. At Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, 60 villas spill down the hillside to a perfect beach, offering panoramic views of water and sky from every corner of the property. Here, just about anything is possible.
Want to savour the last days of quiet bliss before heading back home? Chill on the beach with a paperback in one hand and a cocktail in the other – or let the Spa’s skilled therapists work their magic on body and soul. Not content to sit still? Visit the nearby fisherman’s village of Bo Phut, or jump on the Resort’s cruiser for a tour through the Angthong National Marine Park, and discover hidden bays and secret beaches on the surrounding islands (remember the utopian lagoon in Alex Garland’s The Beach? It’s real, and it’s about a half hour away by boat). Think that fitness is a fun part of any vacation? Take the K2 challenge and run from the beach up to the Resort’s lobby – the current time to beat is 3 minutes and 45 seconds, set by a guest in 2009. Or, if that’s just a bit too active, then try a beach game of petanque, sort of like the French boules, only with coconuts.
What you won’t forget: the colours of Koh Samui. Clear blues of the sky and sea from aqua to indigo, the bright greens of coconut palms and bamboo, and the neon white of the beach, all anchored by the rich tones of teak and rattan of the Resort’s floors and furnishings.
Make It Happen
Planning one’s own journey into Thailand is as easy as making a reservation at a Four Seasons Hotel or Resort. With the help of experienced and imaginative concierge teams, plus hundreds of hotel and resort staff ready to share their culture and country with visitors, every traveller can create their own bespoke itinerary through the Land of Smiles.
To help inspire the ultimate trip, the Tour of Thailand package combines two or more Four Seasons properties for a minimum four-night trip, with a USD 300.00 gift card included, and the Kingdom of Lanna package invites guests to experience both Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle for a minimum of six nights, with all airport and property transfers included.
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