Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where to Bunk in Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and the largest city, with a population of almost 12 million people. It is a city filled with cultural and historic landmarks, upscale shopping malls, traditional markets and exotic nightlife. While in the city a visit to the Grand Palace is a must. You can see the sacred Emerald Buddha (much smaller than I expected) and the famous Reclining Buddha (huge, at 150 feet long!).

There are so many luxury hotels to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to decide on where to stay.
We visited many of them during our short stay in Bangkok and here is a rundown of our favorites.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Traditionalists call this grand dame The Oriental. Steeped in history, this hotel celebrated its 135th anniversary last year. The guests of the 193 room property are serviced by 1300 staff members, and that is what stands out about the Oriental: service, service, service. They have three buildings, and we like to recommend the River Wing. The entry level Superior rooms are quite spacious and have lovely marble baths, but my favorite has to be the Mandarin room. These rooms are corner junior suites, allowing for a terrace with both city and river views. They have a shuttle boat which will take you across the Chao Phraya river to their award-winning spa and fitness center. The famous Le Normandie restaurant is located in the Garden Wing of the Mandarin Oriental. It has long been considered the finest French restaurant in Asia. As befitting its formal atmosphere, reservations and dinner jackets (for gentlemen) are required.

The Peninsula Bangkok

Guests can arrive at the Peninsula, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, by either car, boat or helicopter. The 12-minute helicopter ride from the airport makes for a nice transfer if it's in the budget. All rooms and suites have river views and modern decor. The design is more contemporary than the Mandarin Oriental across the river. Service is a hallmark at the Peninsula and the rooms are fitted with bedside controls for lighting and curtains. Several restaurants, nice fitness center, beautiful spa and an outdoor garden pool area round out the offerings here at the Peninsula.

St. Regis Bangkok
The St. Regis is situated in the business district with many shops and restaurants nearby. It is a newer hotel to the Bangkok scene and it provides a welcome oasis in the big city. All of the beautifully decorated rooms and suites have the added amenity of the St. Regis Butler service. My tea was delivered promptly by my personal butler. I don't usually drink tea or coffee in the morning, but I had to test out the service! If there is such a thing as towels being too plush, this hotel had them. Huge, thick cotton bath towels and the most comfortable beds and bedding made for a great stay. There is a well-equipped fitness center with nice city views, outdoor rooftop pool, and requisite spa. The restaurant Viu serves a beautiful buffet breakfast and is open for lunch and dinner. There are several other dining options and the lobby bar is a great place to meet, relax and have a drink.

The Siam
Coming soon! The Siam is a boutique luxury retreat scheduled to open in June 2012. It will provide a resort atmosphere within the city situated along the banks of the Chao Phraya river, in the historic Dusit area. The 39 rooms and suites are individually furnished with turn of the century oriental antiques and artwork. There are also Villas with private pools and courtyards. Stay tuned because The Siam is one to watch!

 Book your next stay in Bangkok with us and receive VIP amenities such as complimentary breakfast, room upgrades and spa or food and beverage credits!

Contact Bee Kalt Travel at:
email: travel@beekalt.com
Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/beekalt 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chiang Rai, Thailand

The drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand is filled with opportunities to experience Thai culture. Our four hour drive was leisurely so we were able to stop and see things along the way. We visited an elephant training center and some hill tribe villages. Many of these are refugee hilltribes that fled the political turmoil of neighboring Myanmar. They make their living by farming, weaving and selling handicrafts and trinkets.

We stopped at an overlook at the Golden Triangle, the area where three countries: Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers.   If the border is open, you can take a day trip over the bridge to the town of Tachilek in Myanmar. Here you will see the market filled with a huge variety of stalls selling everything from fruits and vegetables to "designer" jeans and purses. You can also observe the local village life, and visit a golden pagoda reminiscent of the famous pagodas you would see in Bagan. It's easy to cross the border, you just need your passport and 500 baht for a tourist visa.

Elephant polo, visits to temples, gardens and the unique Hall of Opium museum round out the activities available in and around Chiang Rai.

Our top choices of where to stay in the Chiang Rai/Golden Triangle area:

The Four Seasons Tented Camp is a unique resort made for the adventure-seeker who also has a requirement of luxury comforts. With only 15 tents, this is a very intimate lodge with each tent built into the hillside. The tents are exquisite and remind me of the luxury lodging I've seen in Southern Africa. They are beautifully furnished with leather furniture, hardwood floors, king beds and free-standing copper bathtubs. Some units have huge whirlpool tubs on the platform deck just outside the bedroom area. They are all set in the bamboo forest with fantastic views.
The experience starts as you are dropped off at the arrival area with a dock. You climb into a small, long-tailed boat and are ferried to the property on a scenic 10 minute ride. There is a lovely open-air restaurant where you take your meals, along with a bar at the opposite end of the resort used for pre-dinner and late evening cocktails. The spa is comprised of two massage pavilions, perched precariously off the side of the mountain. The rooms are beautiful with decks open to unobstructed views of the nature surrounding you.
A word of caution: you must be in fairly good physical condition and be able to navigate the many stairs involved in getting around this resort.

The Anantara resort is another great choice in the Golden Triangle. Set amongst jungle foliage, the rooms are housed in three-story buildings with lovely views of the valley below. In the morning I could hear the sound of elephants trumpeting as they took their morning baths! Amenities include a beautiful pool area, fitness room, and a full-service spa offering a huge variety of treatments.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Meridien Chiang Rai Resort. This hotel is located within the city of Chiang Rai along the banks of the Kok river. The rooms are very modern and comfortable. There are several dining venues to choose from - we enjoyed Favola, with its rustic Italian cuisine. The breakfast buffet is terrific with a huge variety of offerings. The resort pool is lovely and is a perfect place to relax after a long day of sightseeing.

Book any of these fine resorts with Bee Kalt Travel and receive complimentary amenities during your stay. Please contact us for more information or to book your next stay in Thailand!

Bee Kalt Travel
Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
Email: travel@beekalt.com
Website: http://www.beekalt.com/
Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/beekalt