Five ways to find a piece of quiet in bustling Bangkok
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.
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.
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
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.