Le Normandie, another two-star, celebrated for Chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier’s sublime contemporary French cuisine is in the stately Mandarin Oriental. This grande dame on the Chao Phraya River also houses the acclaimed Oriental Spa. A superb massage followed by a dinner of melt in your mouth delights at the esteemed eatery, made for an unforgettable evening. www.mandarinoriental.com
Next up: Michelin recommended Chon Thai restaurant, in the Siam Hotel located in the historic and palace district. Chef Damri Muksombat serves up exceptional classic Thai cuisine such as tastiest pomelo salad and delectable pork ribs seasoned with longan honey and lime in this riverside gem.
The Siam, a distinct heritage style luxe boutique hotel features glamorous suites with stunning artifacts including ancient wooden Buddhas plus original artwork, handsome dark wooden furniture and plush fabrics. Spectacular antiques throughout, marble corridors, Opium Spa, Muay Thai boxing studio, movie theatre and the resort’s own riverboat create an enchanting oasis. www.thesiamhotel.com
Nimitr Fine Dining Restaurant located in 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts is another standout. Chef Nanang Prasetya Aditama wows guests with his cutting edge oriental gastronomy in dishes like luscious Cantonese duck infused with lychee foam and seabass with Hokkaido scallops.
This 5 star sister property to stylish 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai, a member of small luxury hotels, located in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit fashionable shopping and commercial district that opened April 2017, is ideal for business and leisure travelers. In addition to full service Nitra Spa, opulent suites and residences done in posh modern décor with state of the art amenities feature marble bathrooms with circular tubs, spacious balconies and rooftop infinity pool offering breathtaking views of Bangkok’s skyline. www.137pillarshotels.com
I topped off my visit with a private long tail boat ride and guide on Bangkok’s picturesque waterways. Gliding through canals past wooden houses on stilts, countless temples and small fishing boats we docked at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Here I marveled at the magnificent buddhas, beautiful murals and colorful spires.
To Organize: Cazenove+loyd’s team of consummate professionals are experts in arranging customized luxury travel in Thailand and beyond. They provide top itineraries with excellent guides, gastronomic picks, private boat excursions, transfers and VIP greeting/expediting at the airport. www.cazloyd.com/en
After Bangkok, I took advantage of Turkish Airlines’ stopover in Istanbul option, as many travelers do, before going home. I headed to the former home of the Ottoman Sultans, the imperial 5 star Ciragan Palace Kempinski, right on the Bosphorus. It’s the epitome of grandeur with lavish palace suites and exquisite rooms showcasing elegant antiques, plush furnishings, grand bathrooms, gorgeous marble and exquisite crystal chandeliers. A stylish pool, sumptuous hammam (Turkish Bath) and superb Ottoman and Turkish cuisine at Tugra Restaurant ensure that guests receive the royal treatment. www.kempinski.com
Istanbul offers a magical combination of mystical ancient city and chic modern metropolis. After visiting the legendary Hagia Sofia with its massive dome & striking Byzantine design, iconic Blue Mosque and 550 year old tented Grand Bazaar, I explored the trendy neighborhoods of Galata with its winding streets filled with cafes and cool shops, as well as fashionable Nisantasi dotted with voguish boutiques. Then a private yacht cruise on the Bosphorus with vistas of castles, palaces, Ottoman villas and waterside residences of Istanbul’s elite. All this was arranged by Sea Song, top travel experts specializing in Turkey. They do everything from creating amazing bespoke experiences, providing savvy guides to a host of VIP services including transfers, airport greeting and expediting. www.seasong.com
How To Go: Turkish Airlines to Bangkok with a stopover in Istanbul. The carrier offers direct service from major US cities to Istanbul with a wide ranging international network. Connections are easy in Istanbul where their newly renovated business class lounge was voted World’s Best Business Class Lounge in 2017. For travelers connecting through Istanbul with a transfer time of seven or more hours, Turkish Airlines offers a private, guided cruise on the Bosphorus that includes a meal of Ottoman cuisine at the historic Çiragan Palace Kempinski Hotel. Or you can break up your trip, like I did and visit Istanbul with a free 2 night stay in a 5-star hotel with Business Class or 1 night in a 4-star with Economy.
On board, guests enjoy seamless service and a friendly, professional crew. Business Class features spacious seats that turn into life flat beds, free WIFI and superb amenities including a private, chauffeured limo pick up to and from the airport, within 35 miles. A ‘Flying Chef’ in the kitchen of every business cabin on overseas flights executes fine dining in the sky. My gourmet meal started with a selection of tasty mezes - hot and cold appetizers, followed by delicious lamb. For flights longer than 8 hours, Business Class passengers can enjoy their meal by candlelight.