Photo by SOUTHERNTraveler / Shutterstock
With luxury travel options available worldwide, it is sometimes hard to know where to point your wings next. The next time Asian destinations are on your radar, consider visiting Bangkok, Thailand—a city that pulsates with energy, offers fascinating opportunities for cultural exploration and features some of the most exciting culinary developments around the globe.
Lauded as the world’s first vertical dining destination, lebua’s establishments consistently get the small luxurious touches right.
DINING AT NEW HEIGHTS
One Bangkok landmark that should figure prominently on your itinerary is the riverside Dome at lebua, a cluster of high-end restaurants and bars atop the five-star lebua at State Tower hotel, which offers unmatched views of the cityscape and the picturesque Chao Praya river flowing below.
Lauded as the world’s first vertical dining destination, lebua’s establishments consistently get the small luxurious touches right. Numerous recent accolades include a listing in USA Today’s global “Top 10 Most Cutting–Edge Restaurants” for Breeze, serving pan-Asian cuisine; designation as the “World’s Most Instagrammable Rooftop Bar” for Al Fresco–A Chivas Bar; and two Michelin stars for the Japanese-inspired European restaurant Mezzaluna.
lebua’s proud newest addition is interactive French restaurant Chef’s Table, headed by triple Michelin star-decorated Chef de Cuisine Vincent Thierry, who deftly crafts an exquisite seven-course meal with his team that features creations such as foie gras accented with citrus fruits and fondant carrot sauce—and a king crab tiramisu mounded with Tandoori fruits and mascarpone cream you simply can’t forget.
The kitchen features an elegant Molteni stove and is located right in the center of the restaurant, allowing guests to watch the action as they dine. It also boasts the world’s first “virtual air curtain,” which ingeniously keeps smells from seeping beyond its edges. This cutting-edge innovation is the brainchild of lebua’s visionary CEO Deepak Ohri, who led the company from modest beginnings to its now award-winning presence on the global dining map.
COCKTAILS IN THE CLOUDS
lebua offers an exhilarating array of wine and spirits—and how many times can you say that you’ve enjoyed them 800 feet above ground? Adjacent to award-winning open-air Mediterranean restaurant Sirocco on the 64th floor is the Sky Bar, where action pulsates nonstop. Continue your cocktail adventures a few stories down on floor 52 at lebua No. 3—the world’s tallest gin, caviar and vodka bar—where you’ll have quite the story for the folks back home with the Mai Thai. Subtitled “literally a small volcano in a glass,” its moniker is no exaggeration, as a gurgling, bubbling shot of liquid nitrogen is poured right into the glass.
Those preferring a more subdued vibe should head to the recently-unveiled Pink Bar on the 61st floor, adjacent to the Chef’s Table, which exudes romance and sophistication in every detail: live jazz accompaniment, plush rose-toned sofa chairs, and artsy pink table centerpieces, for starters. Sip a fruit-accented cocktail or a glass of 2002 Rare Millésime—the house champagne—while gazing at unparalleled sunset views over the city.
While lebua is an ideal Bangkok hotel to indulge in exceptional global cuisine, add a more authentically Thai experience to your itinerary by including a stay at Ariyasom Villa. Located east of the Chao Praya river, this attractive boutique hotel is tucked into a corner of the city that is so quiet and picturesque, you will forget you are in the center of one of Asia’s most vibrant, high-energy capitals.
Villa rooms are accented with antique teakwood furniture and atmospheric Thai silks, while its grounds feature lush tropical foliage framing a tranquil azure blue swimming pool overlooked by a traditional Thai-style sala (open-air pavilion). We recommend the intensely healing Thai massage from a masseuse with the villa’s onsite Som Sen spa, which also has jacuzzi and steam rooms, as well as private rooms for oil massage.
The hotel itself, built during the 1940s, is steeped in history and reflects a mélange of traditional Thai building styles with Western accents. The original owner’s granddaughter, Khun Pariya Sheanakul, is a Harvard-educated landscape architect who designed the present-day grounds, and now manages Ariyasom together with her British husband. She took us on an early-morning tour while proudly explaining the villa’s cultural and spiritual influences, which include a lovely statue of the Hindu god Ganesh bedecked with offerings of fruit and flowers, and a Buddhist meditation hall that holds regular workshops.
Explaining that her beautiful pinkish-purple dress followed the principles of Thai astrology, which assigns a different color to each day of the week, Khun Pariya then guided us to our breakfast table, where we enjoyed a bowl of spicy noodles, a sumptuous Thai omelette, tropical fruits including mango and papaya, and delightfully strong coffee.
Our dinner that night on Ariyasom’s terrace was also unforgettable, featuring such delectable Thai vegetarian fare as an incredibly crunchy and flavorful medley of spicy salads (yum som o, with pomelo, tamarind, cashew and roasted coconut, and som tam, with green papaya and peanuts); deep-fried soft-shell crab with black pepper sauce; and a deliciously fragrant quadruple-layered rice pyramid with steamed jasmine, butterfly pea flower, brown, and organic black that was quite unlike anything we’d ever before seen or tasted.
THE LOCAL SCENE
The Ariyasom Villa lobby sells copies of the legendary Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok, which is a frequently-updated, artistically hand-drawn booklet packed full of travel trips. Staff are also happy to point you toward Bangkok spots of interest—both hot spots on the local tourist circuit, as well as more hidden areas of the city.
While the Skytrain is a modern and convenient way to get around town, don’t leave Bangkok without experiencing the complex waterway transportation system, including commuter taxis and express tourist boats, that follow the Chao Praya river’s snake-like path. A khlong (canal) tour weaving through Bangkok’s many small waterways is also a lovely way to see glimpses of local life—consider choosing one that utilizes traditional teakwood boats, and that includes stops at one or more well-known wats (Buddhist, Hindu or Taoist temples).
Additional Bangkok spots not to miss are the Jim Thompson House Museum, which features fascinating architecture and textiles; and Lhong 1919, a small historical plaza with stylish shops, restaurants, art galleries and murals that pays homage to the city’s Chinese community.
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