TRAVEL BLOG

paradises

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam
By Kelly Tang

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OLD QUARTER, HANOI, VIETNAM
Weaving through the crowded streets on my cyclo through the Old Quarter of Hanoi, I’m surprised to see such an eclectic variety of quaint older style buildings in this French influenced area. The streets are buzzing with activity and hundreds of colourful little shops selling everything you can imagine gives this place a very special energy.

I’ve never seen so much traffic before, with so many scooters dominating and filling the narrow cobblestone streets, its organized chaos. There seems to be no rhyme or reason in this madness but it just seems to work and keeps on flowing regardless.

On the footpaths local women wearing traditional conical hats and balancing food on their shoulders using a carrying pole tactfully avoid other locals who have set up their stalls for the day. The streets are filled with women young and old, some cooking meals outside their homes, others selling fresh raw meat and seafood, baguettes, fresh tropical fruits, flowers and even stalls selling cigarettes.
Everything is for sale here in the ‘old quarter’ and a bargain can always be found.
It doesn’t take long and within an hour I’m in love with this city.

CYCLOS

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Cyclo tour of the Old Quarter

As much as I want to discover the Old Quarter by foot, I recommend hiring a cyclo as you can feel the buzz and energy of the place and also get to cover a lot more ground on 3 wheels! Sitting on the back of this cyclo that is peddled by an old leathery man with the heart of an Olympic cyclist I discover a street that only sells shoes. We turn a corner and the next street only sells toys, then another street full of watches, turn a corner again and it becomes a children’s wonderland full of toys. Besides the streets selling nuts and berries, my favourite was the street selling lanterns and colourful decorations that gave the whole area a vibrant and happy feel.

SHOPPING & FOOD

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Street vendors Old Quarter

After the cyclo tour I’m ready to do some walking. There is so much to see and do. At every corner there are cafes and restaurants and every new street reveals another exciting shopping adventure. I discover a city full of galleries, arts and craft and jewelry stores, clothing stores and quaint music shops selling all types of instruments including quality guitars for under $50AUS.

DONG XUAN MARKET

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Colourful Hanoi

The Dong Xuan day markets have everything for sale, from Vietnams famous souvenir products, sweets, clothes, accessories and every type of food to a variety of live animals including seafood, chickens and frogs. This section is not for everybody due to the fact some animals are prepared live in front of you. Not for the squeamish. Don’t be surprised though to see a family of dad, mum, children and grandma come riding through the markets on a scooter. And I do mean the same scooter. Yep, only in Vietnam.

HOAN KIEM LAKE

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Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi’s most famous lake is Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s beautiful and peaceful, and as I discover is the epicenter for locals in the mornings for walking, exercise, dance, rest and play. The lake is an historical and spiritual site and is also one of the most popular areas for newlywed couples to have their wedding photos taken.

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Wedding photos at Hoan Kiem Lake

MAUSOLEUM
Next stop is Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. To see this great and famous man in state is quite emotional as the love and respect the Vietnamese have for their former legendry leader is still incredibly strong. The line up to see him goes for hundreds of meters. Unfortunately, once a year Ho Chi Minh’s body is taken back to Russia for maintenance, so check before you go to visit ‘Uncle Ho’ as he is affectionately known to ensure he is not away from his resting place.

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Traditional crusty baguettes for sale on the street of the Old Quarter

WAR MUSEUM
A visit to the war museum perhaps puts into perspective how much suffering the Vietnamese have endured. As sad as it is to see some of the most horrific and appalling images from the Vietnam war, it’s inspirational to think what a courageous country Vietnam is and that throughout its history it has fought off many invading countries and has conquered them all. As you walk the streets, the old man you see may have contributed to Vietnam’s famous fighting spirit.

PHO SOUP

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Pho Soup street restaurant

After many miles of walking, my nose leads me to a street food cart with the delicious smell of the local favorite ‘Pho soup’ wafting through the air. I am determined to sample this popular dish containing rice noodles, chicken or beef, vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices. The place we choose is packed with people eating and seated on little plastic chairs and tables on the footpath. A rule of thumb for me when I eat from a street vendor anywhere in is that it has to be very busy so that fresh food is constantly being turned over.

COOKING SCHOOL
After experiencing the local food, I am inspired to book in for a cooking class at the Hoa Sua Cooking School. This school is famous in Vietnam as each year it recruits 500 young people aged between 16 and 25, who live under difficult circumstances. Orphans, street children, children of war invalids, children of poor families, ethnic minorities and hearing impaired children are all given the chance to enhance their lives by learning the art of cooking, in the hope they can forge a career in hospitality and turn their lives around.
There are only 8 people in our class and the chef has a menu and food products ready for us to prepare our meals. The menu consists of green papaya with dried beef salad, rice noodles with grilled pork and lastly but most importantly we have the dessert, which is black sticky rice with syrup. It is a wonderful culinary experience that I highly recommend.

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Hanoi Opera House

TRADITIONAL BATH HOUSE
After a day of eating and walking I go to my first traditional Vietnamese bath house called the ‘Huong Sen Massage’ that is highly rated by locals in Hanoi. Cost of the massage /spa/ steam combination that includes: herbal tea, herbal bath, spa and massage and finished off with rice porridge with fish is only $200,000 VND which is the equivalent of just over $10AUD. We were there for nearly two hours!
The 90-minute massage incorporates the use of hot pads and thick hot towels to warm and relax the body and involves the use of herbs (combination of mugwort and the corriandon sativum flower). Combined with the hot pads and heated towels, it is a truly remarkable massage.
The centre has segregated areas for men and women.
What an inspirational country Vietnam is. The people are so genuine, warm and friendly and hopefully soon I will be back to continue my adventure here once again.

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Spiritual Hoan Kiem Lake

OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN HANOI:
The Water Puppet Theater
Temple of Literature & Ancient National University
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi night market
Hoa Lo Prison
Ho Chi Minh’s Residence (near the mausoleum)
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi
One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi
The Perfume Pagoda

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TIPS
* Ensure you negotiate your fee before going on a cyclo ride. Your guide, hotel concierge or tour desk will advise you on approx cost. If you don’t you will get ripped off.
* If you intend hiring a bike/scooter or motor vehicle ensure you have a current international drivers license or travel medical insurance as you will not be covered if an accident occurs.
* Watch, observe and ask how locals cross these extremely busy roads. It’s unlike anywhere else on the planet and can be dangerous.

GETTING THERE:
Vietnam Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City and then on to Hanoi ten times a week.
www.vietnamairlines.com.vn

STAYING THERE:
Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake
Go to… www.paradisesonline.com

COOKING SCHOOL:
The Hoa Sua School, 28A Ha Hoi, Hoan Kiem Hanoi, Vietnam
(04) 3942 4448
www.hoasuaschool.com

Words and photos by Kelly Tang

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Travel Light this Season

Part of traveling is packing. I’m always packing and unpacking and being in the fashion industry I like to pack outfits, not just pieces, which means that I have serious luggage!

While packing for a recent overseas trip I was dreaming up a dress that would be so versatile that I could replace skirts, tops, dresses and scarfs with this one piece. Imagine how light my suitcase would be, maybe I could fly with carry-on only and skip that wait at the luggage belt.

Armed with scissors, some fabric and my imagination, I cut and made the very first Jetset Dress. This dress became my perfect solution, one piece of clothing, that, with a few accessories, can be worn in a multitude of ways. It has revolutionised the way I pack, and now there is no need to drag heavy suitcases along with me.

After bringing the prototype to my team, we re-engineered the dress to create the very first samples of the Jetset dress with control fabric to slim and shape your body while wearing this product. These days I just don’t go anywhere without my Jetset Dress, it’s small enough to fit in your handbag and it has basically become my travel fashion emergency kit, just slip it on for a quick change.

You can view my Jetset Campaign video and product images here –  http://www.jetsetdress.com.

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paradises

A Dream Come True

To all my regular readers and guests of www.paradisesonline.com here is my latest  gorgeous Autumn 2014 Collection.

Inspired from ‘Le Jardin Japonais’.  The collection includes a monochrome black & white palette, & highlights of berry red & cobalt blue. Fitted shift dresses, classic feminine  shapes in oriental-inspired prints.

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paradises

Koh Tao Island, Thailand

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Colourful Jansom Beach

KOH TAO ISLAND, THAILAND
By Kelly Tang

Mix equal parts Caribbean and Hawaii, add a dash of the Maldives, a sprinkle of the Greek Islands and then slowly mix in equal parts of Jamaican sun and spirit. Slowly shake, serve chilled and enjoy this exotic South East Asian cocktail called ‘Koh Tao’.

Only two hours on a comfortable ferry ride from Koh Samui and we arrive in one of Thailand’s most beautiful and serene islands. No global financial crisis here. The ferry was full to capacity and upon disembarking it was a like a crowd of screaming traders at the stock exchange. Manic resort representatives and taxi touts all competing for business waving signs with names of hotels looking for their human cargo amongst a sea of faces.

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Snorkelling haven

Very quickly the mob dissipates and Koh Tao returns to its very chilled and relaxed self again.

Koh Tao is 21sq kms in size and has a huge variety of accommodation ranging from backpackers to the very best five star resorts. The island is sprinkled with beaches, bars, cafes, restaurants, travel agents, dive shops and stores.

The atmosphere here in Koh Tao is relaxed, unpretentious and has a really cool vibe that makes you want to spend an eternity lying on the beach and letting go of any stress and tension.

When it comes to dining the island has something for everyone’s culinary palates including cafes for budget meals and snacks in town to some wonderful romantic restaurants on the waters edge that can be easily accessed by a very user-friendly and charming walking path.

One tiny food outlet in town stood out for me and had me coming back on a daily basis. The portable pancake kiosk! My favourite combo was Nutella and shredded coconut drizzled with condensed milk.

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The best pancakes in Koh Tao

This Month’s featured resort:

Set in the secluded western hillside corner of the island, the rustic Charm Churee resort is incredibly private with views that go on forever.

Accommodation is spread out from villas on the beach and rocks to others leading all the way up to the highest villa that we had the pleasure of staying in.

Exercise comes courtesy with this room, as the walk to the beach, restaurant and resort’s facilities is a steep stroll down and then a testing climb back up. All worth it once you reach the top as you have worked off your meal and then get to admire the spectacular 180-degree view of the sparkling sea.

Our villa didn’t have a television, which nearly caused a panic attack but I needn’t have worried as we had breath taking water views from almost every room including the toilet and shower.

There is a variety of accommodation available at Charm Churee ranging from standard rooms to 3-bedroom villas with a pool overhanging the ocean. Charm Churee is not a resort for budget accommodation and luxury charges apply in the high season. Stay for any length of time and you will understand that it is money well spent.

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Villas on the rocks

What made Charm Churee a standout for me were the private beaches. The most popular beach on the resort is Jansom beach and it cannot get any more secluded, private and beautiful. Set in a small protected bay it has a wide variety of tropical fish and corals and is ideal for snorkeling and diving.

There’s a bar serving delicious food and cocktails on the beach and along with a spa/massage facility (which is set up just above the water’s edge) makes you never want to leave.

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The beautiful private Jansom Beach

Many hours were spent on this beach and in no particular my activities included: swimming, drinking coconut shakes, reading, snorkeling, napping and eating. Bliss.

The resort’s dive school is also located on Jansom Beach and is staffed by experienced divers and the dive shop has available the latest equipment and boats. Jansom beach is the ideal location to do your dive course.

There are three other private resort beach including the secluded Sainson Beach, which is accessible via a fifteen-minute coastal bushwalk round the bay.

Each private beautiful beach has its own personality but Jansom was my pick. From the first moment I set eyes on the colourful beach furniture and faded white cheesecloth umbrellas, I was hooked.

The restaurant is one of the many highlights at Charm Churee as it’s set right over the water and you can hear and sometimes feel the sea lapping underneath you. It’s like sitting on the bow of a ship. The food here is traditional Thai fare and is excellent.

Charm Churee is a truly unique experience. I absolutely loved the place and will definitely be back to be charmed once again.

TIPS:

If you hire a scooter or any vehicle, ensure you possess an international drivers license (travel insurance for accidents are not covered if you don’t).

Koh Tao is renowned for it’s diving and snorkeling

ACCOMMODATION:

www.paradisesonline.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

Jetset Travel Rosebay

www.jetsetrosebay.com

LM paradises

Modern Antiquity

Summer Sun & Summer Fun!

To date my summer has been a whirlwind, flying between Sydney, Los Angeles and Istanbul, I think I’ve racked up more than my fair share of miles! But going from Warm to Hot to then Cold weather is always tricky when it comes to packing especially for those beachside locations where you want to stay stylish, warm and comfortable in what you are wearing.

My summer 2014 Collection entitled “Modern Antiquity” provides you with everything you need to enjoy a fabulous summer, from beach to bar, emanating poolside chic, I have you covered!

Here are some of my summer tips this season!

1. Don’t use summer as an excuse to overexpose. Sometimes the sexiest looks can be created by revealing a little LESS. Yes, less! Leave more to the imagination and wear a one piece, or a kaftan over your swimsuit. This is more glamorous and adds a hint of mystery, both intriguing assets!

2. Wear Whites in Summer. Summer days call for a lighter, effortless look. If white clothing isn’t your thing, accessorise with a white cuff or handbag and match it back with a white pair of espadrilles to complete the look.

3. Maximize your Maxi. Maxi Dresses in Summer are great for day wear and can translate into chic evening wear with the addition of strappy stilettos. They also camouflage any figure flaws and tend to highlight your assets, an absolute wardrobe must-have!

4. Beat Hot & Humid. Are you nervous to wear some of your favourite clothing because of the sweat-factor? Choose linen pants and a flowy top to eliminate any sweat issues, also try a loose fitting kaftan or sundress to avoid those unsightly armpit marks!

5. Ditch your typical bra/underwear for summer and try a crochet one piece under your clothing for that boho chic look. Allow it to peek out and be seen!

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An integral part of my life

Music and travel is such an integral part of my life and it gives me great pleasure to impart my vast knowledge to all paradisesonline.com readers.

Every city leaves a stamp upon our consciousness. Some engage with their architecture, some dazzle with the depth of their hospitality, some compel with their commerce. We come home with a head and a heart full of what they have to offer.

Though fine hotels, grand views, good air and delectable dishes top most traveller’s checklists, seductive sounds may well leave the most indelible imprint of all. Music defines a city’s character and evokes its history. It reveals its tone, exposes its soul; indeed it is a city’s heartbeat.

I tend to wander the world with ears ever alert to irresistible musical grooves and here I present a Bakers’ Dozen of cities worthy of cruising through, with all antennae twitching. The music generated in these burgs ranges through rock, reggae, folk, blues, jazz, township jive, cubop, powerhouse percussion, moody electronica, throat singing, orchestral, sweet soul, salsa, dance, Britbeat, Pacific grooves, metal and Icelandic adventurism.

MEMPHIS

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Yes, Memphis is much more than Elvis but his name, likeness and astonishing global impact pervades all in the only big city in the Mississippi Delta. By all means join the queues to peek inside Graceland and Sun Studios and even drop by Humes High where he was schooled and Poplar Records where he shopped, but when you’re on Elvis Presley Blvd (Highway 51) make your way to the spectacular new Stax Museum of American Soul Music complex on McLemore Avenue. Beale Street is really jumping these days, with jams aplenty in B.B. King’s Blues Club, the Unnamed Joint, Rum Boogie Cafe and King’s Palace Cafe. Don’t leave town without munching at the Arcade soul food restaurant on South Main where Jim Jarmusch shot Mystery Train.

AUCKLAND

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It was enough to entice Neil Finn back home after Crowded House breathed their last. The city at the core of a South Pacific groove, the heart of a hybrid music environment that reaches out and embraces island neighbors, Auckland has, over the past decade, nurtured a thriving creative community. Live music of myriad shade is staged in venues ranging from the Aotea Centre, The Edge and Auckland Town Hall through to The Temple, Dog’s Bollix, Java Jive and the Fu Bar. The intertwining of Maori musical identity with western rock strains has long created a fine funk that has given Kiwi recordings their own unique standing. Now, studios are busy, stages are full and opportunities seem open-ended.

For any questions, information or requests, please email me at glen@glenabaker.com

Dreaming of the Amalfi Coast

Dear paradisesonline.com regulars and guests here is my Amalfi Coast summer collection that could easily have been called my Asian and Pacific Islands resort holiday summer collection.

This collection is designed for looking chic and cool while holidaying in paradise.

Hot summers in dreamy day dress, with cotton voiles and printed shorts. Coastal nights that demand colourful frocks and detailed cardigans to be adorned.

Now picture Audrey Hepburn or a young Joan Collins, slightly vintage but still chic with a beguiling street-smart style.

You must be Dreaming of the Amalfi Coast or am I dreaming of paradisesonline.com

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paradises

Silavadee Resort & Spa Koh Samui, Thailand

SILAVADEE RESORT & SPA

Koh Samui, Thailand

By Kelly Tang

Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, the island of Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s premier holiday destinations. The island has a population of about 40,000 and is defined by four main beach regions and tourist communities spread across 228.7sq kms. These four regions make up the tourist hub. They are Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach.

The majority of resort spas and hotels are situated in these four regions ranging from budget backpacker accommodation to the very best 5 star resorts.

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Early morning fishing boat, Gulf of Thailand

Silavadee Resort & Spa

On arrival I instantly knew that I was going to love everything about this place. I inhaled the fresh smell of lemongrass wafting throughout the open-air lobby whilst sipping on delicious ice-cold tea. After a quick check-in, I was given a tour around this beautiful and exclusive property on a golf buggy. Earthy colours and wood are emphasized through out the resort complimenting and blending with the environment.

Silavadee Resort & Spa was designed as natural and as eco friendly as possible. Mature trees that were on the property were maintained and the resort was built around them.

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Resort’s private beach

The resort is situated in the Lamai Beach area and is more subdued and relaxed compared to some of the other Koh Samui Resort beach regions.

Having travelled extensively throughout Asia, Silavadee Resort and Spa rates as one of the best resorts I have had the pleasure of staying in. The hospitality awards the resort has achieved is testament to this.

Silavadee is perfectly situated for isolation, serenity and privacy but if the madness of bars, restaurants and shopping is what you would like to do the beauty is that Chaweng Beach is only a short ten-minute drive away.

First impressions are lasting, you instantly fall in love with the tranquility of the Silavadee Resort & Spa.

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Infinity pool reflections

Highlights of Silavadee Resort & Spa

Incredibly peaceful and serene

Infinity Pool: Overlooking the Gulf of Siam

Private beach, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking

Inviting outside bars

Great views from the restaurant

Delicious and fresh breakfast buffet

All rooms are outstanding

Excellent therapeutic and wellness spa

Variety of accommodation to suit varying budgets

Chaweng beach is near for a huge variety of restaurants and great shopping

Perfect location for a wedding

Wonderful accommodating staff who are warm, welcoming and available.

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Beautiful restaurant views

EXPLORING KOH SAMUI

*Island safari full day or half tours and all other attractions can be organized from resort staff

*Silavadee Resort & Spa has complimentary transport available throughout the day if you want to visit other parts of the island including the very popular and busy Chewang beach.

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Stunning colours of Thailand from the resort’s infintiy pool

Tips

 Bring a good book and spend as much time at the resort’s infinity pool.

Always remember that if driving in a foreign country, ensure you have an international drivers license.

ACCOMMODATION

www.paradisesonline.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

 Jetset Travel Rosebay

(02) 9371 8611

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

cook islands rarotonga te manava luxury villa and spa spa pavilion

BANGKOK EVENTS AND FESTIVALS 2013

BANGKOK HAPPENINGS

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Chao Phraya River

September

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

When: 22 Sept 2010, 12 Sept 2011, 30 Sept 2012
Mooncake promotions herald this Chinese festival, during which Chinatown fills with stalls.

International Festival of Music & Dance

When: Sept & Oct

Where: Thailand Cultural Centre
 Tel & website: www.bangkokfestivals.com

Bangkok’s biggest annual arts festival stages top or second tier opera, dance, ballet, jazz and classical music.

Bangkok International Film Festival

When: late Sept, 
Website: www.bangkokfilm.org

Run by TAT at various downtown multiplexes, this 10-day feast of film spans countries and tastes, with a major regional contingent. It’s date keeps changing from year to year.

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Bangkok cityscape

October

International Festival of Music & Dance

World Gourmet Festival

When: early Oct,
 Where: Four Seasons Hotel
For ten days, leading foreign chefs prepare feasts, classes and wine tastings.

Bangkok Design Festival

When: early Oct,
 Tel & website: www.bangkokdesignfestival.com 

Citywide exhibitions, events, talks and sales, focusing on TCDC and BACC.

Elle Fashion Week

When: Mid Oct

Navaratree Hindu Festival

When: 8 Oct 2010, 28 Sept 2011, 16 Oct 2012, 
Where: Maha Uma Devi

A Ganesha procession and Hindu rites precede the dramatic Uma procession, passing dozens of petal-carpeted shrines around Silom and Sathorn, with fevered rites, blessings, mediums and self-mortification. To fit in, you should wear white.

Vegetarian Festival

When: Oct
, Yellow pennants indicate food stalls and restaurants going veggie for this ten-day Chinese purge of meat and heating foods by white-clad devotees. Chinatown explodes with activity and Chinese opera around shrines, notably in Charoen Krung Soi 20.

Ork Phansa

When: 23 Oct 2010, 12 Oct 2011, 30 Oct 2012
. The rainy season officially ends, and with it the three-month Buddhist Lent, with wat rituals such as the shaving of monks’ scalps and brows. It’s followed by the Kathin month of robe giving and temple fairs.

King Chulalongkorn Day

When: 23 Oct
, Where: Royal Plaza,
Thousands gather to worship at his equestrian statue.

World Film Festival of Bangkok

When: Oct or Nov, 
Website: www.worldfilmbkk.com 

Run by the Nation newspaper, this major cinefest focuses on auteurship, Asian films and themes.

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Bangkok sunset

Bangkok Pride Festival

When: Oct or Nov
, This week of cabarets, parties and events around Silom has faded quite badly, so ‘Pink in the Park’ at Lumphini Park pool and the closing parade may not happen in the future.

November

Beer Gardens

When: Nov-Jan, 
Lager-laced al fresco fun with food stalls and live bands at plazas, bar strips and malls like Central World.

Golden Mount Temple Fair

When: Nov, 
Bangkok’s best loved fair rings Wat Saket for ten days around Loy Krathong. Other fairs during this period are less crowded.

Loy Krathong

When: 26 Nov 2010, 10 Nov 2011, 28 Nov 2012

Thai’s crowd waterways to cleanse sins by offering the water spirit a delicate, candlelit Krathong float made from banana tree trunk, leaf, incense and flowers. This is a magical night, with many temple fairs.

Fat Festival

When: 1st weekend in Nov,
Tel: 0 2641 5234

Run by Fat Radio, this effervescent indie gathering attracts youth tribes with dozens of bands, art installations and countless stalls of homemade books, art, music and fashion.

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Rooftop dining at Siam@Siam Design Hotel & Spa

Bangkok Theatre Festival

When: Nov
, A charming mixture of modern and traditional performance at Santichaiprakarn Park and city venues. It’s partly free and fairly accessible to non-Thais.

Ploenchit Fair

When: late Sat in Nov
Where: Shrewsbury International School
Huge expat charity event with funfair, bars and shows run by the British embassy since the 1950s.

Bangkok Marathon

When: late Sun in Nov 
Tel & website: National Jogging Association (0 2628 8361, www.bkkmarathon.com

Full, half and mini-marathons are run through the old town.

December

Beer Gardens

When: (see Nov)

Trooping the Colours

When: 2 Dec
, Where: Royal Plaza
The Thai armed forces march past royalty arrayed in plumed dress uniforms of brilliant hues.

King’s Birthday

When: 5 Dec, 
The Thai people’s deep reverence for King Bhumibol is on display on what’s also Father’s Day (and a national holiday). The King addresses the crowds at Royal Plaza in the morning. Thousands light candles after dark in Sanam Lung, where fireworks, and traditional music and dance carry, on until late. There are decorations strewn along Thanon Ratchadamnoen and throughout the city.

Constitution Day

When: 10 Dec
Rites at Democracy Monument.

Miss AC/DC Pageant

When: early Dec 
Tel & website: www.missacdc.com

Spoof drag queens ‘represent’ some 70 countries in ‘national costumes’, gowns, talents, beauty and philosophising.

Concert in the Park

When: Dec to Feb, 
Tel & website: www.bangkoksymphony.org 

Free late-afternoon Sunday picnic concerts in parks by Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, with light folk, pop and classical tunes. Picnicking listeners can forage at various stalls.

Indy Festival

When: mid Dec
, Where: Santichaiprakarn Park
 Tel & website: www.thaiwriternetwork.com 

This open-air ‘free space’ enables ‘indy’ youth to present their publications, music, artistry and short films.

New Year’s Eve

When: 31 Dec
Say ‘Sawatdee phi mai’ at parties citywide, the Central World countdown or while watching the fireworks at Sanam Luang and riverside hotels. There are late bar hours and, a real help, the BTS/MRT run all night.

Photos by Kelly Tang

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SIAM@SIAM Design Hotel & Spa

SIAM@SIAM

Design Hotel & Spa Bangkok
By Kelly Tang

Bangkok for the past four years has been voted the hottest (hip and happening) exciting city to visit on the planet by Travel & Leisure Magazine. With so many beautiful and historical cities in the world this is an extraordinary achievement. So deciding on a hotel and choosing where to stay can be a huge headache.

On a recent trip to Bangkok, I had the pleasure of staying at Siam@Siam Design Hotel & Spa and so glad I did.

Funky, uber smooth and cool are adjectives that best describe this hotel. Perfectly positioned opposite Bangkok’s National Sports Stadium and moments away from Bangkok’s great rail (Skytrain) system and a short walking distance to most of Bangkok’s premier shopping precincts. These include the deluxe shopping experience of Siam Paragon, Siam Square, CentralWorld, Gaysorn and the massive MBK centre.

Artwork, sculptures, colours and décor ensures this hotel offers so much more than the standard fare that most other hotels exude.

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Lobby sculpture

 

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Elevator art

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF SIAM@SIAM:

The hotel has a great rooftop with 360 degrees views of the city. You will spend many hours sitting high above Bangkok’s glittering skyline on the rooftop sipping cocktails or enjoying some of the roof restaurants excellent offerings.

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Rooftop dining

Siam@Siam has 4 restaurants and 4 bars including a mezzanine wine lounge and cigar bar. The hotel’s live music adds to the funk ‘n’ soul that this hotel projects.

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Lobby bar

The business community is not forgotten of course, as three floors are solely devoted to business. Talking of business, hotel business that is, I have to commend management and all their staff with their professionalism. They were exemplary, friendly, always smiling and nothing was ever any trouble.

After your inevitable Bangkok tourist and shopping to do list is slowly worked through, book a spa treatment at Siam@Siam’s ‘Spa Ten Centre’ and experience a truly indulgent time. I can recommend the 60-minute full body oil massage. It was pure bliss.

A variety of accommodation (203 individual rooms) all uniquely crafted along interior artistic themes are available to suit most budgets and rooms are delightfully decorated.

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Artistic themed rooms

The infinity pool and relaxation area is an oasis in one of the world’s busiest cities. Spend some time here to unwind and guaranteed you will feel stress levels slowly dissipate. The hotel also has a fully equipped gym and fitness centre with personal trainer on standby and after a workout visit their juice bar to get refueled.

Spa and Fitness Centre
Spa and Fitness Centre

 

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Pool relaxation area

 

If your time in Bangkok coincides with any major sporting event at the National Stadium, get in the pool early for a ringside seat as it overlooks the arena.

infinity pool overlooking national stadium
Infinity pool overlooking national stadium

So take the stress out of deciding where to stay and book a room at Siam@Siam Design Hotel & Spa. You will not be disappointed.

SOME MAIN BANGKOK ATTRACTIONS

The Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew: Built in 1782, and for 150 years the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court, the Grand Palace continues to enthrall visitors with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail.

Floating markets: The pioneer of all floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience into the life of traditional market vendors. Early morning is best time to visit as market is liveliest.

Kao San Road: Travellers (it’s a backpackers paradise) from every corner of the world congregate here. Travel agencies, clubs/bars, eclectic market stalls and restaurants all call Kao San home.

Wat Pho: Gigantic reclining Buddha and traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho harbours a fascinating collection of murals. The vast temple complex contains a landscaped garden with stone sculptures and stupas adorned with glazed porcelain.

Wat Arun: One of the oldest and best-known tourist attractions in Bangkok. The temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Best views of Wat Arun are in the evening with the sun setting behind it.

Chinatown: Chinatown is a colourful, exotic and pleasingly chaotic area, packed with market stalls and probably the highest concentration of gold shops in the city.

Weekend markets: Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must-visit place for tourists. The market is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. Is the largest outdoors market in the southern hemisphere.

See staff at the tour desk on the lobby level next to concierge for any tour information.

TIPS

You’re in Asia where heat and humidity is prevalent so pack accordingly.

If hiring a taxi ensure the driver uses his meter.

Pack lightly and shop hard.

If you plan on hiring any kind of vehicle (car or bike) ensure you have an international drivers license. Cost is under $50 AUD and can be acquired from the NRMA. (Australia only)

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rosebay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Words and photography by Kelly Tang

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