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Hotel Review: The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
If you're looking for an abode to call your own during your stay in Thailand, it can seem a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully Danielle Norton has done the "hard" work for us, reviewing a 'calm' hotel that doesn't accept guests under 10 years of age. Where The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand. One hour’s drive north of Phuket Airport. What to expect You can find us by the pool in a cabana at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.From the moment we are collected from the airport by Sarojin staff, until the day we leave, we are treated like treasured guests. The driver pulls over, one minute into our hour-long drive, to offer us a chilled towel and a refreshment from the esky on the front seat. We connect to the car’s wi-fi and he offers us an iPad to use on the journey. This introduction is indicative of our entire stay at the Sarojin. As the original Lady Sarojin used to say, “excellence and nothing less”. The service at this resort is next-level and we love that every time we sit down, either poolside, in the foyer or waiting for a driver at the front of the property, an icy glass of water appears. The Sarojin property is a paragon of meditative tropical resort gardens that encourage relaxation and deep contemplation. At night, hundreds of flickering lights glow in the ponds, bobbing like boats on a river, their reflections doubling their efforts. By day, the infinity pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by floating pavilions, glistens invitingly. The communal spaces of the resort are designed with peace and privacy in mind. In the Pandanus Room library there are a wide range of reading materials; from novels to daily newspapers from around the world. Specific titles can be arranged on request. A hotel that offers an ‘imagineer’ to create your special experiences is one for which I had high expectations. Staff can organise any type of romantic gesture you can come up with. Dinner on a candlelit beach is one thing but a ‘message in a bottle’ scenario for a special proposal during a couple’s beach stroll, or an engagement ring in a teapot while enjoying afternoon tea underneath a private waterfall, is quite another. The romance of this resort makes it an idyllic setting for honeymooners and loved-up couples. Fabulous food Dine out on the good stuff at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The Ficus restaurant hosts an all-day à la carte breakfast on the central resort lake, in the shade of the ancient tree after which it is named. Hundreds of water lilies float on the water’s surface and the sun shimmers; when the complimentary sparkling wine is served with our morning croissants, it feels like the most beautiful place on Earth. The Edge restaurant and the Beach Bar look out onto a magnificent white sand beach. The degustation menu is a delicious parade of fragrant curries and delicate flavours: a brilliant way to try every dish on the menu in small portions. Coupled with the golden light of the early evening and a cocktail, it’s the perfect end to a day in paradise. The restaurant seems casual but the service is exquisite, and the views over the Andaman Sea are spectacular, particularly the light show created by the setting sun. The accommodation The impressive accommodation inside The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.Our room has a garden view and a luxurious outdoor ‘sala’ under which we can bask on the day bed, reading or zoning out to our hearts’ content. Inside, the king-size bed with its mountain of pillows is sumptuous, hence the availability of the aforementioned all-day breakfast. The rooms open onto an opulent, airy bathroom, lined with smooth pebbles to give the illusion of the outdoors in the wet area where there is a choice of showerheads and a huge oval bath, big enough for two. The spacious bathroom is almost as big as the 95 square metre room. If, like me, you prefer more privacy you can request curtain dividers between bedroom and bathroom. The resort has 28 garden residences, 14 pool residences and eight jacuzzi pool suites and six one-bedroom spa suites which are like apartments with a generous lounge area leading out to the jacuzzi on the private balcony. These alternate with pool rooms, enabling a two bedroom configuration for families or larger groups via connecting doors. We loved The incredible spa bath inside the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The moment we set foot on the boardwalk leading from the resort’s main path to the Pathways Spa, tranquil notes of music waft around us and we breathe in deeply. Staff are eager to help us exchange our shoes for soft white spa slippers and usher us to a daybed where we sink into the soft cushions and contemplate life, looking at the leafy palm fronds in the gardens and listening to the trickling of water in the adjacent pond. A cleansing ginger tea is delivered along with a cold towel. Spa therapist, Nang, offers us four choices of oils. I opt for the romantic blend, a mixture of geranium, lavender and patchouli, keeping in tune with the theme of this honeymooner’s paradise. Nang calls it the ‘lucky oil’ and I feel very lucky indeed as I succumb to her skilled massage techniques. The treatment room is designed to feel like the surrounding ecosystem; the floors are timber and one side of the pavilion is open to the garden. It’s soothing and rejuvenating and reminds me of the ‘forest bathing’ trend. Birds chirrup in the encircling jungle garden and the sound of waves lapping against the shore lulls me into a state of complete relaxation and surrender to the moment. The spa menu options are plentiful. We choose the oriental-style massage – a combination of Swedish relaxation and Thai stretching techniques. Afterwards, a state of calm has infiltrated my entire being. Things to note Some of the scenery at the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The nearby Similan Islands has some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the world. Sadly, when we visited they were still closed (May–October) for regeneration of the coral. Check on the state of these closures before booking. The resort restricts children under 10. Because it is a place of peace and calm, kids must be old enough to respect this and maintain it. A garden view room including breakfast costs from $670 per night for two people. For more information and to book, visit Sarojin, Khao Lak.
How to explore the Thailand tourists haven’t seen yet
Phuket, tick. Koh Samui, tick. Bangkok, tick.
How to choose an ethical (no-riding) elephant encounter in Thailand
Ethical encounters with endangered Asian elephants – where you observe and possibly interact with them but refrain from riding – can be a highlight of visiting Thailand. Just make sure to do your research when choosing an elephant encounter. Twenty-two minutes: that’s how long it takes to fall in love with an Asian elephant. Within that time, I’m privy to several of 53-year-old Moddaeng’s behaviours. I watch as she lolls in a pond with two of her pachyderm mates, submerging and rubbing her body against its muddy banks with joyful abandon. I walk alongside her as she ambles steadily towards the bathing area, awestruck to be in the presence of such a mighty, gentle, beautiful creature. I have a turn hosing mud and dust off her wrinkled skin, and am giddy with wonder when she politely requests a drink, curving the end of her trunk skywards beside the hose and allowing me to fill it to capacity. And, finally, I gaze into one of her kind eyes and, filled with affection, lightly kiss her trunk as she patiently allows me into her personal space for a photo. An interactive elephant experience Moddaeng is one of 14 elephants – all female – here at Elephant Hills’ elephant park, an eight-hectare space nestled beneath dramatic, jungle-clad, limestone mountains in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park, about three hours north of Phuket. Elephant Hills operates two luxury jungle camps – a floating camp set on a man-made lake, and the Elephant Camp, about a 10-minute drive from the elephant park. [caption id="attachment_39167" align="alignleft" width="1500"] A few of the 14 female elephants at Elephant Hills (photo: Kara Murphy).[/caption] A 90-minute elephant experience, included in the tariff, is a highlight of staying at the latter: in addition to observing and helping bathe the elephants, guests feed them one of their daily meals, including pineapple, sugarcane, grass, and bananas. (If you’re at all unsure about whether elephants visibly smile, just watch while they’re eating.) No more elephant riding: improving animal welfare practices One activity you won’t find here is elephant riding, although this wasn’t always the case. “[In 2010], we decided we wanted to offer a more natural experience for our elephants and a more responsible tour for [visitors],” explains Jonathan Chell, Elephant Hills’ general manager. “We [also] wanted to prove that [visitors could] appreciate these amazing animals [without riding them].” The ecstatic faces surrounding me are evidence of that. No fellow visitor appears to be yearning for a position atop these elephants, a place that doesn’t allow you to see their sweet expressions or witness the tenderness in their eyes. Instead, this more down-to-earth encounter has each of us soaring on the inside, grateful to have the chance to be so close to these lovable creatures. Since introducing the non-riding experience, Elephant Hills has won multiple awards for ethics in animal welfare and sustainable tourism and has worked to improve its practices. The mahouts are trained Karen Hilltribes men, says Chell. “We work with them because of their calm nature and gentle ways around the elephants.” During daylight hours, the ladies socialise and interact with one another in the free roaming pens, he explains. At sunset, their mahouts use food to lure them to chain-free (since early 2017) individual pens, where the elephants can continue touching and interacting with one another. Being mindful when choosing an elephant encounter Around the start of the 20th century, Thailand was home to approximately 100,000 Asian elephants; however, due to deforestation/habitat loss and other factors, only an estimated 1000–3000 exist in the wild in Thailand today, and another 2000–3000 in captivity. Many of the latter were once used in the logging industry but when logging was banned in 1989, elephant owners needed a way to earn an income and care for their animals. As such, some began using elephants for tourist activities. (Sadly, some are still poached from the wild for use in the tourism industry.) [caption id="attachment_39168" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Elephant Hills’ Elephant Camp covers more than 8 hectares and offers space for the elephants to roam freely (photo: Kara Murphy).[/caption] When visiting Thailand and other Asian countries, you can show your love for this endangered species by doing your research prior to travelling. If you’re seeking an elephant experience, choose one that genuinely focuses on elephant welfare, species conservation, and meaningful interactions and/or observation rather than rides, shows and tricks. Select a place where the elephants haven’t been poached from the wild, where they’re free to roam and interact with one another and they aren’t chained or abused. Volunteer and elephant sponsorship opportunities are available in some locations (for example, Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai), and, at Elephant Hills, you can make donations that benefit elephant hospitals and wild elephant conservation projects. And, of course, never, ever buy ivory products. More ethical travel... Why we need to stop orphanage tourism The dog-sledding dilemma: should I or shouldn’t I? Why you should pay more for an African safari
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Nine quintessentially Bangkok things to do
The Thai capital’s full of famous markets, delicious street food, emerging art scene and grand palaces, but here are the best things to do while in Bangkok. The Charoen Krung Road experience Eschew the big sights and tourist spots of the centre for a day and see this intriguing art-infused district just to the south, off Charoen Krung Road. 1. The Jam Factory Start your day at the Jam Factory, a warehouse collective of businesses. You’ll find Candide Books & Cafe, a chic homewares store, and The Never Ending Summer, which serves classic Thai in a minimalist space; think about returning for dinner. Catch a boat from Klong San Pier across the river. Address: 41/1-5 Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khwaeng Khlong San, Khet Khlong San, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10600, Thailand 2. Speedy Grandma Gallery New galleries are popping up all over this area. One of these is Speedy Grandma, which – located in an unassuming back alley – gives a voice to young, often subversive local artists. There are around 10 exhibitions a year featuring everything from photography to sculpture. Address: 672/52 Charoen Krung Rd, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 3. Bangkokian Museum Walk down Charoen Krung Road but take a detour up Charoen Krung 43 Alley to this free little museum (and moment of calm). Built in 1937, it is the preserved home of the middle-class Suravadee family, a picture of life during the Second World War. Address: 273 Saphan Yao Alley, Khwaeng Si Phraya, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 4. Number 1 Gallery Speedy Grandma artists could graduate to host an exhibition here. Its 300 square metres of gallery space showcases up-and-coming Thai and international artists. There’s also a bar and cafe attached. Check out Number 1 Gallery for what’s on. Address: 19 Soi Silom 21, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 5. Blue Elephant Cooking School & Restaurant Bangkok is your chance to sample delicious food. Learn how to make it yourself by taking an afternoon cooking class, Ancient Thai Cuisine Cooking, at this restaurant housed in a period mansion, hosted by chef Nooror Somany. Address: 233 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Yan Nawa, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand 6. Sky Bar By night, Bangkok is a neon-drenched, cyberpunk spectacle that’s best viewed from on high. Sky Bar is the place to enjoy a cocktail while gazing out at the metropolis and its ramshackle skyline; one of the best open roof high-rise bars in the city. Address: 1055 Si Lom, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand [caption id="attachment_38344" align="alignnone" width="413"] The must see spotsaround Bangkok (illustration: Mike Rossi).[/caption] The 3 Bangkok must-do's There are three things you should not miss on your first time to Thailand's capital. 7. The Grand Palace The hundred or so buildings that constitute the Grand Palace are a breathtaking introduction to Thailand’s ornate beauty and an absolute day-one must when visiting the capital. A collection of palaces, courts, pavilions and temples, it’s an opulent display of marble, gold leaf-clad mythical figures and elegant chofas piercing the sky from the ends of multicoloured-tiled roofs. The blending of classical European and Thai architecture works surprisingly well; stately without ever seeming gaudy. Positioned on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, construction began in 1782 and it was the seat of the Thai Royal family until 1925. It’s still used for official ceremonies today; the royal relics of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej were enshrined here last October. The centrepiece of the complex is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew, which dates back to the founding of the Grand Palace. This royal chapel is a masterpiece of classical Thai architecture, housing a Buddha carved from a single hunk of jade. Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand [caption id="attachment_38343" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Head to Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market for delicious ingredients and other surprises.[/caption] 8. Chao Phraya River: like an Asian Venice You can’t claim to have seen Bangkok until you’ve seen it by boat from its tangle of waterways, or khlongs. Most of them branch off the western banks of the Chao Phraya River, and can narrow to just six metres, a parameter that has governed the design of the slender, riverboats in the city. Take a tour by riverboat to see life on the canals – the rickety old clusters of houses overhanging the water, children backflipping off jetties into the murky depths below patches of water lilies, and of course, the famous floating markets. 9. Pick a fight (Muay Thai) Even if you turn your nose up at the thought of combat sports and would never dream of attending a live fight, you’ll be sorely missing out if you don’t watch a bout of traditional Muay Thai kickboxing – the national sport. Head to Rajadamnern stadium to catch a few rounds, accompanied by traditional music, ritual and prayer, the roar of the crowd and frenzied gambling as every kick lands. It’s like a game of two-up but instead of a coin toss you’re watching practitioners of an 18th-century martial art. Address: 1 Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd, Pom Prap, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
Shopping tips for designer fakes in Bangkok’s MBK mall
For more than 30 years, this Bangkok mall has been known as a temple of shopping for designer fakes. We go shopping for shoes, bags, make-up and more, and see just what this counterfeit haven has to offer. Shopping in Bangkok Shopping in Bangkok is a limitless activity. From the glamorous, maze-like malls that congregate around Siam Station to the sprawling 15,000-stall Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest in Asia, there is nothing you can't buy in this city. But it's the MBK Center that attracts the most spendthrift travellers; a mall where you can’t tell the difference between your Guccis and your Goccis – the shopping haven known as the temple of fakes. [caption id="attachment_37093" align="alignnone" width="1500"] MBK shopping centre in Bangkok houses just about everything you could think of.[/caption] The MBK Center I was here for a few reasons: my visiting brother-in-law was desperate for a pair of Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy sneakers (desperate in an I’ll-only-pay-next-to-nothing-and-I-don’t-care-if-they’re-not-real kind of way), my partner was in the market for a new bluetooth speaker and I was keen to investigate the fake make-up I’d heard you could score from MBK at bargain prices. Opened in 1985 and once the largest mall in Asia, today, the recently renovated eight-level mall draws more than 150,000 shoppers a day for its plentiful supply of souvenirs, cheap clothes and high-end knock-offs. What to expect On the fashion floors – ground to third floor – shoes, bags and gold jewellery are the top sellers; convoys of tourists armed with empty suitcases roll from shop to shop, ready to pack their bags to their limits. Here, the Yeezys are at every shoe store (2600 baht, about AUD$104, not cheap enough for my thrifty bro), as are a rainbow of fake Nike, Stan Smith and Converse sneakers. But next door, at the bag store, I’m a little perplexed. The labels I’d read that the counterfeits in MBK are high-quality, but there were no big brands on show, just random labels I’d never heard of before. Searching through the likes of Coco London (curiously made in Bangkok) and Swiss Gear backpacks, the best brand I could find on the shelf was a black Michael Kors backpack, which the vendor dramatically proved was real leather by lighting a flame right on the fabric, and leaving no marks. As I walked around trying to find any more coveted labels, I noticed a European woman talking to a vendor in a shop with, again, only no-name brands. “Show me your Prada,” she asked the saleswoman, who unlocked a padlocked cupboard at the back of her store and pulled out what looked like a real-deal baby blue Prada Saffiano replica. The woman inspected it, and, seemingly pleased, paid the vendor 4,600 baht, about AUD$180 for a normally AUD$2,500 bag. [caption id="attachment_37094" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Take your pick of a variety of products.[/caption] Finding quality fakes It seems the decent fakes are harder to find these days, and you have to dig around to find the good stuff. Local online magazine BK magazine reported recently that Thai police seem to have a more frequent presence here, on the prowl every day checking shops and vendors. With the risk of four years jail time and fines of up to 400,000 baht (AUD$16,000) for selling inauthentic products, vendors have had to find less obvious ways to tout their counterfeit goods. But despite the high-ends becoming rarer, MBK is still a mecca for cheap, faux products. The beauty counters on level two, are stocked with lookalike MAC, Urban Decay and Nars eyeshadows, concealers and powders. I picked up one of Kylie Jenner’s famous lip kits, supposedly meant to give you a pillowy pout like hers. I asked the vendor if it was real, she smiled and shook her head. For 100 baht (AUD$4) for a lip gloss and liner worth 14 times that price, I was cool with that. I’d read beauty blogger warnings about grotesque allergic reactions to these fake glosses, but this guinea pig can report there were no elephant woman results; no plump Kylie lips either, unfortunately. More than designer handbags Sick of buying into the Kardashian-West-Jenner empire, my partner drags us up to the fourth floor, the electronics floor. Here, lights flash, music blares, and refurbished phones, laptops, and all sorts of cables, cases and electronic thingamajigs are on offer. My partner, the gadget nerd, was in heaven. Me? Not so much. It’s here that the annoying hawker stereotypes come out. “Brother, take a look” and “hello madam, hello miss” stream like a non-stop chorus as we shuffle from stall to stall testing JBL portable bluetooth speakers, something my partner seemed to think we needed. After we found the one that looked the best (which, to me, looked like all the others), the vendor wanted 2000 baht, but it was an easy bargain down to 1500 baht (AUD$60 for a normally $229 speaker). More than 30 years since its opening, the MBK still provides a dizzying array of things to buy. Despite the higher-quality goods going more underground — if you want something, you’ll most likely find it here. So far our speaker has been working fine and projecting clearly. How long will it last? I’ll get back to you on that. How to Shop Like a Pro at MBK Know before you go: What you see might not be all you can get. Bring a picture of what you’re after, and don’t be afraid to ask vendors if they know where to find it. The shop owners I encountered at MBK are friendly and honest, and will let you know what’s real and what’s fake, as well as the quality of the product. Bargain hard and buy in bulk: Never settle on the first price. Some of the trendier items like the Yeezy shoes have a set price and vendors will refuse to go lower, but they’ll often be likely to knock a few baht off if you buy in bulk. Stock up on souvenirs for family and friends here, the more you buy, the bigger the discount. Talk like a native: If you speak a few words of Thai and wai (a Thai greeting where you press your palms together and bow slightly) to your vendor, they’ll instantly warm to you. This is the land of smiles, remember, and being congenial and respectful can go a long way. Sawadee (hello), paeng pai (too expensive) and khop khun (thank you), with ka (female) or krub (male) at the end of the word, are good phrases to remember. Address: 444 Phayathai Rd, Khwaeng Wang Mai, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand MORE... Personal shopping in the Temple of Fakes
Seven sensational same-sex honeymoon destinations
The people have spoken and they have said, yes, Australia wants marriage equality. About time, right? OK, so gay marriage is not yet fait accompli yet – it’s up to us to ensure that our elected members follow the will of the people to pass the law. But it got us thinking; with the tide of LGBTI nuptials set to be unleashed, so will there be a demand for drool-worthy honeymoons to boot. Here’s our pick of amazing LGBTI-friendly destinations worthy of your upcoming special day, writes Steve Madgwick. 1. Thailand: Bangkok and beyond Long before the same-sex marriage juggernaut’s journey around the free-thinking countries of the world, Thailand was quietly and consistently stocking up on its gay-friendly credentials, thanks in part to Thai Buddhism’s tolerant nature. Naturally, many gravitate towards one of southern Thailand’s Ko paradises: Samui, Pha Ngan et al or the lesser-travelled west coast islands, but ensure you schedule in some Bangkok time; it’s LGBTI scene is mercurial. To get yourself primed for the celebration, check out: Bangkok’s best rooftop bars. Alternatively: The Philippines has one of the highest acceptance rates of homosexuality in Asia and a tonne of honeymoon delights to match. Check out: Secret travel gems of Philippines. 2. Balearic Islands, Spain: The other side of Ibiza Surprisingly, Spain is on par with The Netherlands for its liberal attitude towards same-sex relationships (legalised in 2005), offering plenty of long-established and sunny LGBTI hotspots to spend your first weeks together in bliss. Forty kilometres south-west of Barcelona, Sitges is one of the most buoyant and long-lasting gay scenes in all of Europe, with plenty of breezy beachside bars and clubs to ease you into matrimony. Across the Balearic Sea, Ibiza has been an open-minded sanctuary since at least the ’90s. It needn’t be a 24-hour party though; book into a chic stay like ‘designer farmhouse’ Granja Ibiza, reasonably isolated yet close enough if you feel like dipping into the action. Time to go to Spain? Check out: Retreat from party central to Ibiza’s designer farmhouse 3. Iceland: The Nordic alternative As a same-sex marriage honeymoon destination, Iceland is a heady mix of tolerance (it was the first country with an openly gay head of government) and adventure. With filmic waterfalls and dramatic volcanoes that will grace your digital photo frame for decades to come, Iceland’s supernova popularity seems like it will never fade. Capital Reykjavik is energetic, progressive, inclusive and just plain fun, so long as you pack your stamina. There’s plenty of queer celebrations to align your honeymoon with, such as Gay Pride (August) and Bears on Ice (September). Time to go Inside Iceland? Check out: Inside Ieland Add a stop-over: Super-hip Copenhagen sports Europe's oldest openly gay bar, Centralhjørnet (1950s), plus a micro-world of LGBTI-friendly boutique stays and businesses. Check out: Uber cool Copenhagen 4. Mykonos: King of the Greek Islands Statistically, Greece isn’t quite up with other progressive European powerhouses for accommodating LGBTI travel, but there are spectacular acceptations, many of which, thankfully, lie in the Greek Islands. The star is Mykonos, a hub for gay men in particular since the mid-70s, which now boasts a slew of specialist gay stays such as The Elysium Hotel. The Greek Island trimmings are irresistible for any new couple, from archetypal whitewashed cottages to the romance-stoking clear waters of the Aegean, and you can easily avoid the island’s party scene by booking into the pared-back chic of stays like the San Giorgio Hotel. Time to go to Greece? Check out: Mediterranean paradise: San Giorgio Hotel. 5. New Zealand: Land of the Long Pink Cloud The Land of the Long White Cloud has been a popular destination for LGBTI Australians since the country trumped us by changing gay marriage laws way back in 2013. N-Zed certainly got a huge head-start: there are already plenty of gay-friendly homestays on both islands plus destinations events, such as Gay Ski Week in stunning Queenstown. It’s not just proximity and economy that makes Kiwiland a bounty for honeymooners, with refined, world-class high-end accommodation options such as Huka Lodge, perfect for your once-in-a-lifetime festivity. Time to go to New Zealand? Check out: Huka Lodge: A Royal Retreat Alternatively: If it’s lush green landscapes with progressive cities that have their own pride parades you’re after, you could just as easily consider Canada and same-sex marriage newcomer Ireland. 6. Paris: a city for all lovers Paris is unquestionably the universal city of love, which was enshrined into French law back in 2013. Classic Paris attractions need little introduction, but the city boasts an incredibly vigorous LGBTI community, which you’ll find out if you spend an evening wandering the inner arrondissements. For a classic romantic night out with a view, head to 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant and then follow your noses through the vibrant culture of Le Marais. Add a stopover: It’s hard to find a more pulsating gay scene (dating back to the 1920s) than Berlin’s with a world of subcultures to explore. Head to Kreuzberg, Prenzlauerberg and Schoneberg if you’re looking to celebrate your nuptials all night long. Check out 5 of Berlin’s best. 7. Outside Trump’s America: Island’s in the stream Judging by recent political momentum, the Land of the Free is not so free anymore, but don’t write off the whole of the USA as your honeymoon destination option just because of a bad egg or two. Of course, there’s the obvious first-stops; San Francisco and New York, both the scene of many an LGBTI civil rights victory, and all that goes with that. But push on further to the ’50s flair of Palm Springs (160 kilometres from Los Angeles), which opens its arms wider than most North American cities with plenty of single sex stays (some clothing optional) for freedom and sunseekers. There are plenty of other surprise pockets elsewhere, too, such as Providence (Rhode Island), which takes off over summer during the Rhode Island PrideFest (June). Happy honeymooning!
Review: Centara Grand Resort and Villas, Hua Hin
Susan Murphy lives it up at the grand dame of Hua Hin, a beautiful hotel from a bygone era.
Where to find Bangkok’s best street eats
After worldwide tears, local confusion and an official denial, it seems Bangkok’s street food is safe (for now). We explore some of the top neighbourhoods to get an authentic supper on the street. In Bangkok, you’re never far from a good meal – the city’s street food is stuff of legends. After being voted the world’s number one street food city in a report by CNN in March 2017, the world had a collectively confused sigh when, just weeks later, it was announced the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) would ban street food throughout the city. Thankfully, the international outcry forced an official statement – the BMA claimed a misquote, stating they’ll instead focus on regulating cleanliness of more crowded areas. While some streets have already lost their dining best (RIP Sukhumvit Soi 38, Thong Lor and Phra Khanong), we’ve selected a few of the essential districts still standing for a damn good supper on the streets. [caption id="attachment_33656" align="alignnone" width="1500"] A dessert stall in Chinatown (photo: Leigh Griffiths).[/caption] Bang Rak Thanks to its proximity to the busy Chao Phraya river, the transport hub of Bang Rak is a lively place to eat from morning to midnight. Despite being prime location for many five-star hotels along the river, the area is also home to some of the oldest street food stalwarts. Charoenkrung Road is the place to start – try Prachak (1415 Charoenkrung Road), a century-old spot serving Chinese-style roasted duck, or Tip Hoy Tod Phu Khao Fai (3 Soi Charoenkrung 50), famous for cooking crispy fried oyster omelettes for more than four decades. Try this: The best jok (rice porridge) in the city is said to come from Jok Prince. A bowl comes with pork meatballs (and optional offal), ginger slivers and a raw egg. (1391 Charoenkrung Road) Old City (Rattanakosin) While backpackers beeline to the infamous Khao San Road, and food bloggers tout Jae Fai’s curiously expensive seafood noodles (500 baht or $20 AUD per bowl) as a must, the more hidden delights of Bangkok’s old city can offer a bit more of an authentic (and inexpensive) Thai food experience. Opened in 1899, Nang Loeng market is now less of a fresh market and more an indoor food court, with stalls offering everything from braised beef and roast duck to ancient desserts and naem, Isaan-style fermented pork sausages. Try this: Huge cauldrons of seasonal curries mark the entrance to Khao Gaeng Ruttana. If available, try gaeng sai bua pla too, mackerel coconut curry with lotus stems. (Inside Nang Loeng market, Soi Nakhon Sawan 6) Ratchawat Some of the city’s best street food often congregates next to local office buildings, and Nakhon Chaisi Road in Ratchawat is no different. During the day, office workers stream out of the official Excise Department to order bowls of lard na (gravy noodles), crispy pork and fishcakes from vendors outside. Fruit stalls and seafood vendors hawk their goods at the Ratchawat fresh market, while the streets continue to offer dinner and dessert deep into the night. Try this: The khanom krok, crispy grilled coconut cakes, from Kanom Krok Kao Wang are so sought after that even the royal family are said to buy here. (Opposite Ratchawat Market, Nakhon Chaisi Road; 5pm-11pm) [caption id="attachment_33657" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Bua loy nam khing (black sesame filled sticky rice balls in ginger tea) (photo: Leigh Griffiths).[/caption] Ratchathewi If you’re in Siam for a day of mall-to-mall shopping, skip a soulless food court meal and take the skytrain one stop north to Ratchathewi station. Diverging off the main drag, Soi Phetchaburi 5 is a lively street filled with an almost endless chain of stalls hawking fruit, curries and skewers. Parallel is Soi Phetchaburi 7, home of the Darul Aman mosque, a haven for Halal food and a busy spot for after-prayer dinners. Try this: The spicy and aromatic beef martabak (crispy roti pancake) outside Makan restaurant is served with pickled cucumbers and a spicy sauce. (301/13 Soi Phetchaburi 7) Yaowarat You can’t visit Bangkok without an eating trip to Chinatown. By day, the laneways offer a marketplace for fashion, jewellery, Chinese medicines and more, but by sunset, food is the main focus, with stalls squeezing together along Yaowarat Road. Despite being a major tourist attraction, the food here is still relatively cheap and definitely authentic. Bird’s nest soup, durian and roasted chestnuts are available everywhere, but seafood is a major drawcard, with places like family-owned T&K Seafood sporting long queues nightly (corner of Yaowarat Road and Phadung Dao Street). Try this: For dessert, look for a pot of bua loy nam khing, black sesame-filled sticky rice dumplings served in a warm and spicy ginger tea. (Jae Aun Bua Loy Nam Khing, 411-413 Yaowarat Road) Follow Eloise Basuki on Twitter and Instagram for more!
Food secrets in Bangkok with Marion Grasby
Chef and TV star, Marion Grasby spills the beans on where to eat, drink and play in Bangkok
Dizzy highs: Bangkok’s five best rooftop bars
Sipping a cocktail in a rooftop bar suspended high in the open-air is surreal and magical. These five Bangkok bars, perched at dizzying heights above the city, will spice up your night life. 1. Sky Bar, Lebua Height factor: 63rd floor Considered one of the highest rooftop bars in the world, Sky Bar has spectacular views of the Bangkok skyline. In summer, grab a Poptail; a cocktail and popsical creation that'll cool you down in no time. Address: 1055 Si Lom, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 2. Vertigo & Moon Bar, Banyan Tree [caption id="attachment_28922" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Spectacular view of Bangkok from Vertigo & Moon Bar, Banyan Tree.[/caption] Height factor: 61st floor Vertigo & Moon Bar is an al fresco grill and bar located on the 61st floor of the Bayan Tree Hotel & Resort. Order a Vertigo Sunset; a Malibu, cranberry, pineapple and lime creation, it's perfect for sipping on while contemplating the city-lights. Address: S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand 3. Above Eleven, Fraser Suites [caption id="attachment_28921" align="alignnone" width="667"] Watch a sunset from the rooftop bar Above Eleven of the Fraser Suites. Bangkok, Thailand.[/caption] Height factor: 33rd floor Inspired by Peruvian and Japanese Cuisine, the food at Above Eleven is served tapas style, this makes it perfect for sharing with friends. Adding to the fun factor is the maze at the entrance, walk through this to get to panoramic views of Bangkok. Address: 33rd Floor, Fraser Suites Sukhumvit Sukhumvit Road, Soi 11 Bangkok 10110, Thailand 4. Park Society, So Sofitel [caption id="attachment_28924" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Rooftop views fom Park Society, So Sofitel, Bangkok.[/caption] Height factor: 29th floor For an glitzy dining experience with fantastic views, head to Park Society. The food offering here is top-notch modern Western Cuisine. Looking for a touch of romance? grab a cocktail and head to the terrace to watch the sunset. Address: 2 N Sathon Rd, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 5. The Speakeasy, Hotel Muse [caption id="attachment_28925" align="alignnone" width="667"] Located on the 25th floor of Hotel Muse in Bangkok, this bar offers numerous chill out areas.[/caption] Height factor: 25th floor Not quite as high as the other offerings, but this cool rooftop bar covers two floors with numerous areas to chill out in. Channel a bit of vintage-glamour and order a martini to enjoy while listening to some smooth tunes. Address: 55 Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
6 of Bangkok’s best markets just for you
Frenetic Bangkok can be overwhelming for shoppers, but here's a handy guide to help you find the best markets for you 1. Chatuchak Market The Chatuchak Market is open Saturdays and Sundays, 6am to 6pm. With over 15,000 booths selling everything from Thai art to antiques to fruit and veg, plants, ceramics and fresh meat, you could get lost in this expansive market – luckily you can pick up a map from one of the guards. Spend a day here shopping for gifts and sampling the food stalls as you go. Address: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Lat Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand 2. New Rot Fai Market A buzzy night bazaar selling antiques, kitsch trinkets and street food. The New Rot Fai Market in Ratchada (not to be confused with the original Rod Fai Market Srinakarin Train Market, which is larger but harder to get to) is open Thursday to Sunday from 6 pm to midnight and is conveniently located near the Cultural Centre MRT Underground Station. Find something you like? Remember there is not set price for anything at the markets, so be ready to bargain with the stallholder. Address: Ratchadaphisek Rd, Khwaeng Din Daeng, Khet Din Daeng, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand 3. Pak Khlong Talat Bangkok's bright flower market is open 24 hours. Even if you’re not in the, er, market for flowers, it’s a fun sight to see. Orchids and roses are a mainstay but you'll also find aisle upon aisle of flowers in every shape, size and colour. If you're serious about walking away with a specific bunch of flowers you'll want to arrive early at 3 am when the boats and trucks arrive with their haul of flowers from the provinces surrounding Bangkok. If you just want to take in the atmosphere, then arrive from 8 pm. Address: Chakkraphet Rd, Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand 4. Patpong Night Market The Patpong Night Market is open daily from 6 pm to midnight. Bathed in electric light, this bustling night market is popular with tourists wanting to wander one of the more edgy corners of Bangkok; lined on either side as it is with Go-Go bars, their neon signs competing for attention. If the mood takes you, barter for fake designer goods, tourist T-shirts and souvenirs. Address: 1 Khwaeng Suriya Wong, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand 5. Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market Around 23 kilometres south of the city, this small floating market is only accessible by taxi with most visitors being Thai locals. It’s a great place for an authentic slice of local life, with fresh food and traditional snacks on offer. Address: Tambon Bang Nam Phueng, Amphoe Phra Pradaeng, Chang Wat Samut Prakan 10130, Thailand 6. For vintage finds: Siam Gypsy Junction Siam Gypsy Junction is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5 pm to 1 am. The markets have made a name for themselves as a vintage night market that has a sideline in excellent street food. It’s positioned right alongside the State Railway’s main track out of the city and trains regularly roar past. Old records and magazines, bikes, sneakers, suitcases and curiosities are laid out on the street in front of the vendors’ vintage cars and camper vans. Address: 965/8 Bangkok-Nonthaburi Rd., Wong Sawang, Bang Sue, Bangkok 10800, Thailand
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