Bangkok, Northern Thailand & Mekong River 

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 26 / April 2017

Greetings!

It had been a long time since I spent any time in Bangkok so Helen and I recently stayed there for a few days to revisit some of the wonderful sights to be found in that big, busy city.  You may well ask – “why would I want to go to Bangkok, never mind Thailand?  I did that years ago with a backpack!”  Well I was pleasantly surprised at what I found on our trip which took us from Bangkok, up to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the golden triangle, then into Laos and down the Mekong river to the evergreen gem that is Luang Prabang.  Please click here to see our recent trip, Thailand, Mekong River & Laos.

Laterally yours,

Ariysom Villas

Bangkok is chockablock with sky high hotel blocks and, as you would expect, every multinational chain in the world is represented there.  How refreshing therefore to find yourself in the relaxing, small scale Ariyasom Villa, surrounded by greenery and with boats chugging away on the adjoining khlong.  Ariyasom is still owned by the same family which built the 1940s villa around which this delightful and buzzy little hotel is built.  Sitting by the pool with a Singha beer or two was an excellent way to work off the jet lag, especially when followed with some tasty Thai food from the “Na Aroon” Restaurant.  This place just oozes old world comfort and charm.

The Siam

A bracing trip down the Chao Praya river took us to the fabulous hotel The Siam.  Described as an urban luxury resort, this glorious 37 room hotel has huge, warehouse-style suites and even some very comfortable pool villas overlooking the river.  The Siam was designed by renowned architect/designer Bill Bensley and houses a fascinating collection of antiques belonging to the Thai owner. There’s a choice of bars including one on The Siam’s own private jetty where you can enjoy a reviving cocktail whilst watching the sun go down over Bangkok.   The Chon Thai restaurant is set in and around two old Thai wooden stilt houses and the food is some of the best Thai I’ve ever tasted!   They even have an amazing spa – the whole Siam experience was a “wow” for me!

137 Pillars

At the heart of 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, this beautiful old house (resting on, yes, 137 pillars) was once the Northern Headquarters of the Borneo Trading Company, built 125 years ago.  This elegant structure holds Jack Bain’s Bar offering ‘Old World’ classic and contemporary cocktails, a piano lounge and two lovely restaurants.  The pool is extraordinary with a sky high plant-covered wall on one side.  Beyond the hotel, Chiang Mai has numerous elaborate Buddhist temples in the Old City area, which still retains some ancient walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious centre.  Take a rickshaw tour around the city’s vibrant markets, or enjoy a beer by the Ping river.

Click here to view the website

Pa Sak Tong

Set in the heart of Northern Thailand a short hop from Chiang Rai, Pa Sak Tong is a secluded luxury estate set amongst acres of sprawling gardens, waterlily ponds and rice paddies.  You can enjoy uninterrupted views for miles as well as some truly intriguing walks – here you can find pure privacy and the feeling that everything is right with the world.  There is a stunning spa located in the cool, forested gardens and you are looked after like royalty by your own private chef and butler!  Hiking, cycling and cooking classes are just some of the activities on offer at this heavenly and very special retreat.

Four Seasons Tented Camp

Located in the historic Golden Triangle area in Northern Thailand bordering Burma and Laos, Four Seasons Tented Camp is set in luxuriant natural surroundings, a perfect escape from which to try some new adventures – engage with rescued elephants in their home habitat, explore spectacular mountain trails and bamboo jungles, or take a boat down the Mekong.  This will definitely bring out the 19th-century explorer’s spirit in you!     Enjoy a sundowner at the Burma Bar, decorated with trekking and navigation equipment, maps, books, and tribal antiques before retiring to your vast and comfy “tent” for a hot tub before lights out!

Pakbeng Sanctuary Lodge

Crossing the border to Laos, we boarded a boat to take us down the Mekong to the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang.  A midway overnight stop found us at Pakbeng, a lively little town with plenty of small bars and restaurants.  The Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge sits at the edge of the town right on the banks of the Mekong with wonderful views down the river.  Although mainly a halfway house en route to Luang Prabang, the Lodge is also an ideal starting point for walks into the forest to see some remote villages, or, across the river, the Mekong Elephant Camp which is dedicated to the protection of elephants.

Luang Say Residence

Luang Prabang is quite simply one of the loveliest places in South East Asia.  Its UNESCO status has protected it from the unsympathetic development seen so often elsewhere and it retains every bit of the charm I remember from my last visit quite some years ago.  The Luang Say Residence looks like a gem from the Belle Epoque but surprisingly it was built just a few years ago.  It is beautifully designed in every way and we loved sitting on our balcony and looking out over the well-tended gardens with big, fluffy bunnies hopping amongst the bamboos (no I hadn’t had too much to drink!)  There are so many highlights in Luang Prabang; it is well known for its temples and monasteries where every morning hundreds of monks walk through the streets collecting alms.   Don’t miss the exceptional Royal Palace built in 1904 in a blend of Lao traditional and French style, also the local market where you will see all sorts for sale, even buckets of moles!

Click here to view the website

Up Periscope: Fundu Lagoon

I first visited Fundu Lagoon on Pemba Island, near Zanzibar, just after it opened more than 10 years ago. At the time I wasn’t sure it was the right for Laterallife travellers so earlier this year I went to see the new and updated Fundu Lagoon. With its stunning views of the Indian Ocean, curved infinity hillside pool, jetty bar, beachside dining, new tented safari-style bungalow beach suites with plunge pools, more spacious hillside accommodation and swish boats Fundu Lagoon is undoubtedly a perfect place to kick back after a mainland Tanzanian safari. Zanzibar’s beach resorts have become rather numerous.  Pemba Island has only 3 resorts worth speaking about and Fundu Lagoon gets the prize! Combining Fundu with a few days at the Serena Inn in Stone Town, Zanzibar, as I did, is the perfect short winter break especially if you are keen on Scuba, snorkelling and fishing.  It would be great to visit most of the year, save for April-June.

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