Piet Smedy
Conde Nast House & Garden

For the purposes of coherence, I have divided this trip overview into the main regions that we visited lest I get completely carried away (spoiler alert: I do. Sorry). Let me preface this by saying that I have never been to Thailand and that, though it was certainly never off the list, it was never one of the big ones for me, personally. I’ve always considered myself more of a museums/food culture/history type of visitor rather than clubs, etc. Because, you know, that’s Thailand. Simply put: I could have been more off the mark.

They say you should never trust a restaurant that can do it all: pizza, sushi, steak, curry – and as I came to discover over the time spent with Lesley, Su and the group – sometimes you can do it all, and this time, even better than the rest.

Bangkok – The Beginning, The End, And Everything In Between

Ignorance is in all likelihood going to be a common thread in my review of the trip – and quite frankly I’m happy for it – I had simply no idea what I was in for. At one point in the trip I remember saying to Lesley, ‘Bangkok is a city that exists outside of time, it’s at once somewhere in the future and at the same time, without question, in the past.’ Perhaps the most alarming is that such a dichotomy exists so easily as one, perhaps even as a counterbalance to each other.

With Lesley and Su, our guide (and all-translating, almost-all-knowing time manager) from Local Alike, it didn’t take long for me to realise

Jim Thompson House

how much more the city had in store – not just in store, but in store for me. Case in point: the visit to Jim Thompson’s house. As the editor of a decor magazine this was nothing short of a pilgrimage. To think a brand we feature monthly in House & Garden has roots in Thailand – and I had no idea – well that’s simply embarrassing. But, and as always, our hosts, from Lesley to Su to the individuals at every touch point, it was a beautiful education.

To be quite frank: the food was off the charts. In terms of flavour and volume. One thing that I really, really, appreciated from this experience was – again – the balance of the rarefied and regular, of Michelin star duck and French wine to breaking bread – or in this case blue squid – and Singha beers with a local community (the latter was not in Bangkok, but the fact remains). What a trip; from the gilded temples to the graffiti – this is a city alive. (Although after the Squid Ovaries in Boiling Ink it was touch-and-go for me).

A comment – not in passing but specifically kept separate for emphasis
– our accommodation in the city (and overall) was mind blowing. Special mention to the pool at 137 Pillars – actually, special mention to everything at 137 Pillars. As my grandmother would say, ‘Now that’s something to write home about’.

Ayutthaya – Temples & Tan-Lines

When it comes to humidity Thailand certainly plays to win. Now that we’ve covered that I can move on.

So, remember how I said Thailand didn’t make it onto my bucket list because there wasn’t enough in terms of ‘culture’… once again, I find myself happily embarrassed by my ignorance. I’m telling you, this country is the gift that keeps on giving. Personally, I really appreciated this aspect of the trip – the history, the incredible culture… as a professional writer you’re not meant to say things like ‘I have no words’ but quite frankly that’s it.

And what better remedy than THANN Wellness, where I tried (and failed) at yoga, tried (and succeeded) and cooked Thai, and actually managed to find a quiet time in a very busy trip.

Koh Samet – Or ‘That Time I Wished To Got Left Behind’

Balance, or perhaps juxtaposition, is something I keep coming back to and, in the best possible way, that theme emerges again as we sped to Koh Samet after an incredible visit to the local Prasae fishing community in Rayong. The island, Paradee where we were staying, everything – an almost surreal experience in terms of the sheer beauty of the landscape and the kindness of the people.

In Conclusion

Reading this trip overview you’d never think it took place during an unprecedented time of global turmoil: a spreading pandemic and an ever-closing list of quarantine restrictions. But it did. And, as I write this from my day 12 of self-isolation: it was worth every second. Under Lesley’s rational, compassionate and sober leadership, not for a second of this trip did I doubt our safety and security. This is something that, I honestly believe, was a near superhuman achievement given the who, what and where for which we never could have planned. To Lesley, Su, the teams at TAT and Local Alike, thank you not only for an unforgettable experience but for really looking after us. Kop-Khun-maag (did I get that right?)