I just got back from a week-long conference in Thailand. I’m not going to lie… I was a wreck before I went. I’ve never been to Asia and it was never really on my list. Plus, I was doing it by myself… plus the 13 hour flight from Chicago to Seoul was the longest I’ve ever been on a plane.
Turns out that the flight was a piece of cake - by the time you eat, read a book, watch some movies and take a nap it’s time to touch down.
I flew business class on Korean Air. The seats along each side are staggered so they are pretty private. If you sit in the middle then you can be next to your companion, but there’s a window if you get tired of talking to them. Just press the button and they leave you alone.
The service level was beyond – they hover over you all the time and get you anything you need. The food was good… I decided to be Korean and order a Korean dish, which led them to ask “do you know what you’re doing?” It was odd - some meat thingamajig that was cold… well, what I didn’t know was that they’d bring the steamed rice about 15 minutes later, so it ended up being alright.
Anyway, I arrived at Seoul airport, which was amazing! Very easy to get through - I was on the other side in a matter of minutes. After a three hour layover I boarded my flight to Phuket. Upon arrival I was met by Destination Asia, who got me through security, airport control, got my luggage and took me to the hotel. I always encourage my clients to do a meet-and-greet like this – it costs extra money but it takes the stress out of it all.
The trip began with a conference at the Dream Beach Club in Phuket. The people running it come from luxury resorts, and all of our meetings included activities. For example, at one meeting we made Papaya Salad, and at another we did Thai boxing on the beach. I didn’t knock anyone out, but I stayed on my feet so I really didn’t lose either. It was amazing to try all these things that I never thought I’d do. Well, I never thought I’d go to Thailand… or Asia for that matter, or go on such a long flight.
Thailand is so amazing. You get so immersed in the customs and the culture. The group that attended this conference with me was from all over the world - there were only 3 Americans, and the rest were from China, Japan, England, etc. But everyone got along well and it ended up being a great conference.
A few days later, we took a yacht cruise around the bay – it was a lot of fun! From there we took our flight from Phuket to Bangkok. We were taken straight to a villa for an amazing dinner. We were right on the river, sitting in a glassed-in terrace. We saw all the boats going by and all the lights of Bangkok. It was really neat!
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental – a lovely hotel right on the river. We were apprehensive when we heard that we had to be transferred to the Mandarin via barge… Well, it ended up being a really fancy barge. They loaded our luggage and off we went.
The service level at the Mandarin was beyond compare. One thing that was funny to me was that my butler mentioned that after 6pm, they don’t allow sandals. Isn’t that funny? He backed down a little and said they could be really nice sandals… like Jimmy Choos. A lot of ladies wore nice flats, and very few wore heels. They had actually told me in the dress code not to bring heels (which really put a damper on my wardrobe).
We toured Bangkok and saw all the Buddhas – the reclining Buddha is huge! We went into a temple where I had to remove my shoes and wear a shawl. We rode on tuk-tuks and went through the flower and food markets right on the river.
We went to the Royal Palace and saw an exhibition featuring royal jewelry and gold. It was crazy to see how many hundreds of purses the queen had! I was wearing pants and a top, and the tour guide had to buy me a sarong to wear as I guess women were expected to be in dresses.
The next step was to board our plane to go to Soneva Kiri, our private island resort on Koh Kood. To get there, we went back out to the Bangkok airport where we were checked-in like normal, and then were whisked through security and down to the gate where they put us on a van to take us to our flight. It was a small, eight-passenger plane… the stairs came down and we climbed up into it.
It was about a 35 minute flight. It was so pretty, and no turbulence. We landed directly on the island, and the runway was about the size of our office – no room for error!
We landed, climbed off and were met by Soneva Kiri golf carts… that took us to the speed boats. It was a five minute trip across the bay to get to our resort.
There were some girls who met us who had signs that said “No Shoes, No News.” We took off our shoes off and put them in a bag, and they were later brought to our room. I’m not sure about the “No News” part… they had Wi-Fi at the resort, but they didn’t have any news channels on the TV. We had a welcome drink, not champagne or anything you’d expect, but instead a ginger drink. I personally didn’t care for it, but they are really big on ginger there for all of its health benefits.
My accommodations were in a four bedroom villa that was shared among three people. You literally cannot see from building to building through the jungle. It’s at least a four minute golf cart ride from where your villa is to where you go to have your meals and everything.
It was odd because when I wanted to go take a shower, I’d have to leave my room and go down a hallway to get to either the enclosed or the outdoor shower – I had both options. It was like a wealthy person’s camp. I did take one shower outside, just to say I’d done it. There was an outdoor bathtub too, but I couldn’t bring myself to use it.
The food was very good and healthy - lots of vegetables, curry (totally different from Indian curry), etc. There were lots of animals on the island. Someone said there were a lot of bats, but I didn’t see them. I did see cats though, and one morning a cat came into my villa and started rubbing on me. It took me by surprise and I screamed! I really just don’t like cats though.
We were going to have dinner one night at this outdoor restaurant called “The View” – simply named for its incredible view, but that night it poured down rain. Instead, we ate at “The Wine Cellar,” still very good. I think I had sea bass? I ate so many delicious things that it’s hard to keep track! All the food on this island is grown fresh, and it’s all so good!
The next day was mostly leisure, but a few of us were booked for a meal in the trees. We had to walk way up high until we reached a launching pad with a giant basket on top. In the basket was a table and chairs. We climbed in and were hoisted way up into the trees above the sea. It was amazing! There was a continental breakfast sitting on the table. We had cold meats, fruits, breads, sushi, and things like that.
Our “waiter” asked if we wanted anything to drink, and we asked for tea and coffee. He said “Okay, I’ll go get it!” He put his little bag on his shoulder and zip-lined away! About 15 minutes later (it’s not real quick service), he came zip-lining back and served us our drinks. We finished our drinks and went back down.
Later, we headed to the beach. It was okay, but kind of overcast. I could imagine how it would look when it wasn’t the rainy season, beautiful white sand and clear, blue water.
They have a spa at the resort run by Six Senses. I’m not a spa person, but since they booked me for a treatment I went ahead and checked it out. I went with the holistic massage, and they had me check off what was wrong with me from a list before they began. I checked that I was stressed, needed energy, stuff like that, and then I had my 60 minute massage in the jungle. It was a little strange… she kept ringing a bell over my head. It felt like I was in church.
I would recommend this resort, but only for the right clients. It’s definitely luxury, but more like “adventure luxury.” There’s an element of “roughing it,” but it is still a high-level experience.
Overall, I thought Thailand was amazing. If I were to recommend it to a client, I’d say to tie it in with some other countries. When we were on that island, we were a one hour flight from Cambodia. Or, if they just want to do Thailand, I’d say do Bangkok, Phuket, Angkor Wat, Chiang Mai, maybe a private island if they don’t have much time.
If you'd like to hear more about Dianna's trip to Thailand, email her or give her a call at (314) 439-5700 x 108.