Indagare members Mike and Bailey Kirwan recently returned from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the islands of Ko Pha Ngan and Koh Samui. Here are their impressions from the trip.
In Bangkok, we stayed at the Riva Surya (www.snhcollection.com), which was one of two non-Indagare hotels we choose for our trip. The property was utilitarian – not in a bad way, but rather in that it lacked some of the amenities (high-end bath products, personalized service, a spa) that the rest of our hotels offered. Still, it was clean with nice public spaces, river views, a pool and a great breakfast buffet. Riva Surya was perfect for us during the short period of time (48 hours) we spent in Bangkok because of its proximity to three of the major sites we wanted to check off our list: the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Its location on the water also allowed us to tour the canals in a fishtail boat, which was a great way to see the city (complete with Chang beers we purchased from an elderly Thai woman). The one major downside of the property’s location is its distance from downtown (where we choose to go to dinner both nights), and, if we visited Bangkok again, we might choose to stay at a more central hotel like the Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La or Peninsula.
We stayed at 137 Pillars House, which was our favorite hotel of the entire trip. Even in the most basic room category (the Rajah Brooke Suite), we had a sizable porch, a massive bathroom, an outdoor shower and a personal butler. The setting is incredibly serene with rooms wrapping around a green central space. We spent our first afternoon lounging on comfortable beanbag-style chairs on the lawn and sipping Singha beers until the sun finally set behind the gigantic banyan tree at the center of the property. Its pool is equally gorgeous and backed by a wall of hanging ivy that reflects off the water. During our stay, we ate two lunches and two dinners at the hotel, choosing the authentic Thai flavors of the Dining Room over the more Western fare of the other restaurant, Palette. We were very happy with the food there, though much of it was quite spicy! The concierge, too, was incredibly friendly and helpful with everything from transportation to reservations and activity recommendations.
After spending a week between the two cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we decamped for the beaches on the Gulf of Thailand. For a beach lover, the Anantara Rasananda (phangan-rasananda.anantara.com) is perfect. The hotel's pools and restaurant open to a crescent moon–shaped strip of sand that is shared with only a few other small hotels in the area. Lounge chairs are abundant, al fresco dining is available for all meals, and the staff on the beach is very attentive. Though the rooms are quite spacious (each is equipped with a plunge pool, indoor and outdoor showers and a large living space), the décor felt quite dated and the dark wood accents often made the warmth and brightness of the island surroundings less apparent. While the beach was lovely and we had great weather during our days there, we would probably cut this island from our trip and extend our stay on Koh Samui if we did it again.
We loved Six Senses Samui – what a way to end the trip. We were whisked from the Anantara dock and up a hill to emerge at an overlook with views of the Gulf of Thailand. Our personal butler showed us to our upgraded room (thanks Indagare!) with ocean views, a private plunge pools, and wall-to-wall windows showcasing the incredible greenery of the island. Though the weather was somewhat uncooperative in the mornings, we spent every hour from lunchtime onward by the stunning infinity pool. The sunsets alone made the stay worth it as we sipped drinks while watching the sky change from blue to pink to fiery orange. The property also has an excellent spa with treatment rooms overlooking the ocean. We splurged to extend the complimentary treatments (again, thanks Indagare!) and were not disappointed. It was truly an exceptional way to end our trip and we returned to New York fully relaxed and quite tan.
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