SIAM SEREN­ITY

Five ways to find a piece of quiet in bustling Bangkok

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION THAILAND - KARA MUR­PHY

Hec­tic, over­whelm­ing, noisy and con­gested are a few words to de­scribe Bangkok, Thai­land’s bustling cap­i­tal city of more than eight mil­lion peo­ple. Amid the colour­ful, in­tox­i­cat­ing chaos, though, are havens of tran­quil beauty. If you need a mo­ment to catch your breath, head to the fol­low­ing five spots.

LOSE YOUR JET LAG AT AN EL­E­GANT SPA

Housed in a clas­sic Thai-style, four­storey, golden teak­wood build­ing, along­side the Chao Phraya River, is the his­toric Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tel’s award-win­ning Ori­en­tal Spa. Ar­rive in style by step­ping aboard one of the ho­tel’s pri­vate teak­wood shut­tle boats which de­part from the ho­tel (across the river) as well as the near­est BTS Sky­train sta­tion, Saphan Taksin. Af­ter the brief trans­fer, wan­der a few steps past Sala Rim Naam, the ho­tel’s Thai restau­rant, to­wards a serene lo­tus pond, then as­cend to the spa.

Af­ter cool­ing down with a chilled cup of roselle (hibis­cus) tea, fol­low your ther­a­pist to one of 15 treat­ment rooms. Treat­ments are per­formed on a tra­di­tional floor mat­tress, and sig­na­ture ther­a­pies com­bine ori­en­tal merid­ian mas­sage with cus­tomblended es­sen­tial oils. The 90-minute Ori­en­tal sig­na­ture treat­ment in­cor­po­rates laven­der, ylang ylang and patchouli oils with Thai and Euro­pean mas­sage styles. It in­cludes acupunc­ture move­ments and stretch­ing, and a warm com­press of le­mon­grass, turmeric, and plai on the spine and shoul­ders. Then linger in the re­lax­ation room with an­other cup of roselle tea be­fore float­ing out­side to face the world again. MANDARINORIENTAL.COM/BANGKOK

FOL­LOW YOUR GAS­TRO­NOMIC BLISS

In the heart of Bangkok’s pre­mier shop­ping and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict, the five-star Siam Kempin­ski Ho­tel Bangkok is a peace­ful oa­sis edg­ing a sea of shop­ping malls. The flower dis­plays in the lobby are grand, the in­te­rior gar­dens and free-form swim­ming pool ex­ude a re­sort vibe, the 21 ground-floor rooms are Bangkok’s only pool ac­cess rooms, and other room types in­clude re­lax­ation-in­duc­ing fea­tures such as a com­pli­men­tary mini­bar.

How­ever, the ho­tel’s most com­pelling as­pect is ar­guably its sig­na­ture restau­rant, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, which was re­cently awarded a Miche­lin star in the in­au­gu­ral Bangkok Miche­lin Guide. The restau­rant, which opened in 2010, fea­tures Thai-in­spired cui­sine with a con­tem­po­rary twist. A pa­rade of Thai “street food” pro­vides cre­ative fore­play to the eight-course “Jour­ney” din­ner menu: for ex­am­ple, spicy cashew nuts with an ed­i­ble wrap­per; a take on chicken sa­tay, where a frozen peanut con­coc­tion is served on chicken skin; egg cus­tard with miso soup; and tuna tartare perched upon a vased lo­tus flower.

Other dishes (avail­able a la carte or as set menus at lunch and din­ner) in­clude Maine lob­ster salad with ed­i­ble flow­ers, lon­gans, litchi foam, and frozen red curry, and a lofty serv­ing of mango with sticky rice, topped with cot­ton candy and re­duced to low-ly­ing deca­dence when doused with co­conut milk at the ta­ble.

Sra Bua (which means lo­tus pond) is the con­cept of chef Hen­rik YdeAn­der­sen, whose Kiin Kiin restau­rant in Copen­hagen has been awarded one Miche­lin star since 2008; YdeAn­der­sen reg­u­larly re­views and up­dates Sra Bua’s menus while Thai head chef Chayawee Sutchar­itchan im­ple­ments them. KEMPIN­SKI.COM/EN/BANGKOK/SIAM-HO­TEL

TAKE TEA AMONG THE FLOW­ERS

As you visit Bangkok’s wats, spas, res­tau­rants and other at­trac­tions, you’re cer­tain to ob­serve flo­ral art, which in­volves sewing, weav­ing, pin­ning, ty­ing and fold­ing flow­ers, petals, and leaves. To learn more about this im­por­tant el­e­ment of Thai life, make your way to the res­i­den­tial area of Dusit, where the Mu­seum of Flo­ral Cul­ture – the only such mu­seum in the world – is housed in a 100-year-old teak man­sion sur­rounded by a Thai-meets-Zen gar­den. The brain­child of in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Thai flo­ral artist and mu­seum di­rec­tor Sakul In­takul, the mu­seum fea­tures ex­hibits on flo­ral cul­tures across Asia. Af­ter your tour, re­lax on the ve­randa with a pot of tea (try the Love Pekoe Rose, blended with In­dian pink rose petals) and a beau­ti­ful as­sort­ment of Thai, In­dian and Chi­nese sweets. Or book for a week­end even­ing, when the mu­seum’s restau­rant, Mid­night Moon, serves a flower-in­spired sev­en­course set menu.

FLORALMUSEUM.COM

EX­PE­RI­ENCE THAI AR­CHI­TEC­TURE AND ASIAN ART

A 1km am­ble west of Siam Kempin­ski Ho­tel is the Thai home of Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur Jim Thomp­son, who con­trib­uted sub­stan­tially to the Thai silk in­dus­try’s re­vival, growth and world­wide recog­ni­tion. Thomp­son spent more than 20 years in Thai­land be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing in Malaysia in 1967. The home, com­pleted in 1959, con­sists of six tra­di­tional Thai-style teak houses, which were dis­man­tled and brought here. Join a 35-minute guided tour, paus­ing to marvel at a 7th or 8th-cen­tury Bud­dha torso statue and other Asian art.

The site, tucked down a laneway be­side Klong Maha Nag, is typ­i­cally busy with tourists; how­ever, its airy ar­chi­tec­ture and trop­i­cal gar­dens pro­vide a welcome respite from the city.

JIMTHOMPSONHOUSE.COM

PLAY IN THE PARK

In the early morn­ing, 57.5ha Lumpini Park is alive with hun­dreds of lo­cals, who walk or jog its shady paths, en­gage in tai chi and aer­o­bics ses­sions, and buy break­fast from ven­dors out­side its western gate. Start your day with a morn­ing run or walk around its 2.5km loop path; you can still see Bangkok’s sky­scrapers from most an­gles, but birds and mon­i­tor lizards (which hang out near the ponds) are vis­i­ble, too.

THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF THAI AIR­WAYS, THE TOURISM AU­THOR­ITY OF THAI­LAND, SIAM KEMPIN­SKI HO­TEL BANGKOK, THE PATHUMWAN PRINCESS HO­TEL, AND THE ORI­EN­TAL SPA

PIC­TURES: SUP­PLIED, ISTOCK

ORI­EN­TAL SPA In­dulge at the Ori­en­tal Spa, Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tel; Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin restau­rant serves Thai with a twist; and lovely Lumpini Park.

MODERN DIN­ING

LUMPINI PARK

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