Member Postcards

Postcard from Thailand

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 (, 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.

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Gaggan: Incredibly ambitious and creative Indian food. Each of the 22 dishes we tried was beautifully composed, and the chefs used many interesting molecular gastronomy techniques to present classic Indian flavors (cardamom, clove, curry powder, turmeric, yogurt, mango) in unexpected ways. A sweet and savory marshmallow dusted in curry powder was followed by a dehydrated mango cone wrapped around fois gras mousse, for example. Our favorite two dishes were a stellar tandoori lamb and chicken tikka masala served in a tiffin box. (68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road;
  • Jay Fai: The sight of the chef in ski goggles working a wok over a live fire was unlike anything we've seen back at home. We feasted on perfectly charred pad see ew and Singha beers for just 500 baht (approximately $14 US). (327 Maha Chai Rd, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon)
  • Nahm: Completely blew us away – it was the best meal of our entire trip. Every dish was impeccably tuned to hit the five notes of Thai cooking (sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter) in varying ratios. The amuse-bouche of crispy marinated pork on grilled pineapple had our attention from the start and the kitchen never lost it through a procession of 12 more dishes. The scallop canapé, green mango salad with sour leaves, coconut and oxtail soup, wagyu beef red curry and stir-fried prawns were all standouts.
Favorite Activities:

Chiang Mai

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.

Favorite Restaurants:

  • The Dining Room: As mentioned previously, the menu here is focused on authentic Thai flavors, with an emphasis on curries and Northern Thai dishes. The food can be very spicy, so ask before if you're sensitive to heat. (137 Pillars House;
  • Khao Soi Lam Duan: A short tuk tuk ride away from 137 Pillars, this is where locals go to eat one of the signature dishes of Northern Thailand, Khao Soi. The traditional soup is made with coconut milk, yellow curry, soft rice noodles, braised meat (we opted for chicken) and crispy Chinese noodles on top. Open for lunch only. (352/22 Charoen Rat Road; 053-243519)
  • Kitchen Hush: By the end of our first week in Thailand, we were craving something other than Thai food, so we walked around the corner from 137 Pillars for Japanese food. The service is slow (only three people run the kitchen and front of house), but the food showcased incredible variety (the menu looks like a phone book) and everything we tried was great.

Koh Phangan

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 ( 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.

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Bistro at the Beach at Anantara Rasananda: We really only ate at the hotel's restaurant during our time here, as we found better luck with the Thai dishes than with the Western ones (
  • Again and Again: We heard good things about this local restaurant in a nearby village, but did not get to try it (Moo 5 Nai Pan Noi Beach).
Favorite Activities:
  • Massages on Tong Nai Pan Noi beach: There are two open-air pavilions offering hour-long massages for only 300 baht (approximately $9). The setting may not be as luxurious as a spa, but the massages were excellent nonetheless, and we took full advantage of the opportunity to have them every day for the price of a large Starbucks coffee back at home.

Koh Samui

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.

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Dining on the Hill at Six Senses Samui: We ate most of our meals at this more casual restaurant on the property, and the Western and Thai food was very good all around.
  • Dining on the Rocks: Eat earlier than you normally would to catch the sunset from the Six Senses' high-end restaurant. The setting is gorgeous, but the wind whips up when the sun goes down.
Favorite Activities:
  • Spa treatments: As mentioned, the Six Senses has an incredible spa with breathtaking views and skilled therapists. Ang Thong Marine Park: We unfortunately had this trip canceled on consecutive mornings due to rough seas, but we would have loved to boat out to this unspoiled archipelago for a day of snorkeling, hiking, and sun.

Published onApril 26, 2016

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