In Review

Koh Samui to Bangkok: from seaside serenity to bustling metropolis

Between island hopping, exploring ornate temples and eating mouthwatering food, it’s easy to see why Thailand has become a staple holiday destination for tourists looking for something a little different. In just a week-long trip, traveling from the island paradise of Koh Samui to the busy, sprawling Bangkok, you are able to cover the full range of experiences the country has to offer.

First stop on our trip is Tongsai Bay in Koh Samui, a family-owned eco-paradise spread across 28 acres of lush greenery. Nestled among swaying palm trees, the resort beautifully blends luxury with Thai authenticity and an unparalleled commitment to sustainability.

There are 83 suites, cottages and villas across the sprawling resort, but each feels private and secluded. Every suite and villa is unique in terms of layout, in part because the owners adapted each new build to its natural surroundings.

The Tongsai Pool Villas are truly little slices of paradise. A huge balcony boasts a private pool, bathtub, dining table and kitchenette, with seaviews. A word of advice - a bubble bath here is pure bliss, especially when it is set to the soundtrack of crashing ocean waves just feet away.

One of the main appeals of Tongsai Bay is its overarching eco-conscious ethos. Their commitment to sustainability extends far beyond just eliminating plastic bottles and using lemongrass as straws. The resort has a dedicated environmental manager who oversees its green policies, and the hotel boasts a 2-acre organic garden.

Tongsai Bay is not just an exercise in environmentalism though. It is also a truly luxurious experience. The hotel has two pools, access to a private beach, and offers activities including kayaking, snorkelling, and paddle boarding. The Prana Spa, tucked away amongst the banyan trees, also offers a range of heavenly treatments, including oil and Thai massages.

Guests can also take part in cooking classes with the perpetually smiling Chef Toub. We made four divine savoury dishes — prawn spring rolls, Thai green curry, fish soup and pad Thai.

Eating great food is, of course, an essential part of any trip to Thailand. The two on-site restaurants, Po-Lad and Chef Chom, serve wonderful traditional Thai cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients. On our last night, we are treated to cocktails at the beach bar, followed by a candlelit dinner on the beach.

Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Samui Elephant Haven, the only animal attraction on the island promoted by  Tongsai Bay. Thailand is infamous for its elephant tourism, but all of the elephants at the sanctuary have been rescued from captivity and abuse.

Under the supervision of the wonderful elephant carers we were able to interact with the majestic creatures, feed them bananas, and watch them bathe and play, while learning about their backstories and individual personalities.

A stay at The Tongsai Bay in a Tongsai Pool Villa starts from £447.00 per room per night based on two people sharing including daily breakfast. For reservations please contact Tel +66 2 229 4200 reservation@tongsaibay.co.th

Bangkok

After leaving the sanctuary of Koh Samui, we catapulted from the serenity of island life to the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Bangkok bursts with life and culture, offering vibrant markets, golden temples and luxury hotels and dining.

The streets teem with activity, but from the moment you turn into the driveway for The Sukhothai hotel, the chaos of the city falls away, and you are whisked away into an oasis of calm. The hotel is set across six acres in central Bangkok, and includes several dining options, as well as the largest pool in any Bangkok hotel.

The recently opened Club Lounge wing is a picture of sleek modernity; wrapped in black granite, mirrors, and dark wood. The wing is also the only hotel in Bangkok that stocks Botega Venetta products, from the fluffy robes to the bath products.

2018 Sven Ellsworth

If we thought Koh Samui was extravagant in terms of eating and drinking, Bangkok reached new heights. The Celadon is the hotel’s Thai restaurant, and for dinner we indulged in the nine course tasting meal. Each course was an event, arriving in puffs of smoke or foam and bursting with unique and delicious flavours.

The following night we sampled Italian food at the other hotel restaurant, La Scala. A highlight was the mozzarella starter, encased in a tomato jelly which gives it the appearance of being a real tomato.

The Salon is also worth a visit. We spent one particularly extravagant afternoon chocolate tasting, under the guidance of Chef Laurent. He mans the hot chocolate stand, where you can select a combination of any flavour of chocolate imaginable— from 100% bitter cocoa to white, hazelnut or raspberry.

Of course Bangkok is more than just luxury hotels and dining, and one of the best things to do in the city is explore its many historical sites. My visit happened to coincide with the start of the nine-day long Vegetarian Festival, Tesagan Gin Je, which has its roots in Taoist tradition and expresses devotion to the Nine Emperor Gods.

The streets around Chinatown are a flurry of food, colour and song, and many of the temples I visited were busy with monks leading prayers and worshippers lighting candles and incense.

Bangkok easily has some of the most beautiful and grand temples I’ve ever seen. The Grand Palace is a must see— a complex of buildings which previously was home to the royal family, and is now used for ceremonial events.

Other highlights are Wat Pho, home to the 46m long gold Reclining Budda, and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), which you get to by taking a boat across the Chao Phraya River. The elaborate porcelain architecture is a sight to behold at sunset.

A visit to Thailand would be incomplete without stopping by some of the colourful markets. We explored the Chatuchak weekend market and Patpong night market, which are filled with everything from fake designer goods to porcelain tea sets, jewellery and hand-made ornaments.

On our final night in Thailand we dined at Chakrabongse Villas, an exclusive restaurant set on a private property. The restaurant is located on the riverbed, offering gorgeous views of the skyline at sunset. It is notoriously hard to get a reservation — only four tables are available to book per night, and these get snatched up months in advance. The food is as glorious as the location.

It is always hard to say goodbye to Thailand. Until next time, I will yearn for the sandy shores, the bustling cityscape and the warmth.

A Superior Room at The Sukhothai starts from £120.00 per room per night. For reservations, please contact: Telephone +66 0 2344 8888 or reservations@sukhothai.com For further information regarding Thailand, please contact www.fanclubthailand.co.uk

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