If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I used to live in Thailand. If you’re just new to APOE, you’ve probably wondered why I have so much content from Southeast Asia; this is because I left Canada when I was eighteen, fell in love with Bangkok and ended up spending six years there. I know it’s an unconventional way to spend one’s youth, but I’m a firm believer that travelling is one of the best things there is. The world has lots to teach us!
Our foreign homes were temporary for myself and many of my expat friends, so we always tried to make the most of whatever time we had. After five years I think my parents started to worry whether I would ever come home, but I always knew I would. With this sense of conclusiveness, I found myself motivated to constantly try new things and see new places. Each weekend was a destination and each weekday evening was something else utterly random. At the end of it all, I had seen many of Thailand’s seventy-six provinces (travelling to a new city each weekend, spinning fire poi, sponsored by a Whiskey company LOL), I could convince people that I spoke fluent Thai (although not quite) and had travelled to ten other countries across Asia. From the age of eighteen until I was twenty-four, I enjoyed a part of the world that was different to anything I had ever known. I thrived on this discomfort and found so much beauty in the fact that I never really understood what was going on around me. Maybe that’s weird, but I loved it.
With an adoration for adventure and spontaneous travel, CIBC reached out to ask if I’d be interested in learning about their CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite Card. Although they didn’t know it at the time, they had actually reached out to a great candidate because I was not happy with my current points card. I had been using the same card since I got a credit card and only once during those eight years did I actually manage to use my points to book the flight that I wanted. Whenever I tried to redeem points to travel, I was never able to get anything close to the dates and destination that I was looking for. So, I was pretty quickly sold when CIBC mentioned that points from their CIBC Aventura Card could be used to book any seats on any flights from any airline. This was a card that could provide me the freedom to collect points and use them as often and last minute as needed.
Through liberating users to travel now instead of later by providing real value through the ability to book anything, we can say bye bye to those cards limited “rewards flights” which are few and far between. Did I also mention that the CIBC Aventura has a personal concierge to help you book your trip every step of the way? Winning!
In celebration of our beautiful world and the wonders of travel, I’ve put together a bit of a throwback post to some Instagram highlights from Thailand. Scroll down to see some of my favourite places, hotels and memories. I hope this post inspires you to book a trip somewhere soon! (Simply signing up for the Aventura gets you enough points for a free shorthaul flight… just saying)
Looking to book a mini vacation? Click here to learn how you can receive 15,000 points with CIBC Aventura.
Fashion Week in Bangkok
Of course this tops the list. Fashion Weeks in Asia really are next level. They have the sponsorships and industry size to support bigger shows and international brands making it an experience unlike anything I’ve had at home. Dreams!
Bangkok Treehouse is located in an area of that city that translates to “The Green Lung” in English. The Chaopraya river is really bendy; at one point it curves back on itself and almost creates a big island in the middle of Bangkok. This “island” has been left undeveloped and filled with jungle as a means of offsetting some of the city’s pollution. It’s actually really cool! To top it off, almost no one knows it’s there and you won’t find it in the tour books (yet).
The Bangkok Treehouse is a small guesthouse (one of the few buildings on the island) where you can literally sleep in a tree. Whether it’s open air with a bug net, or in your very own treehouse, this is place is one of the coolest things in the city. Their eco-policies mean that they’re cleaning up the river too. The rest of the island is pure jungle which can be explored on small paths via bicycle. You won’t see anything but trees (and a few random art installations). The coolest part is that it’s only a five minute boat ride from the middle of the city!
The House on Sathorn in Bangkok
This building was left empty for the first several years I was in Bangkok, but I was always drawn to it for it’s beauty. The colonial mansion was built in 1889 for a Chinese businessman who developed the land surrounding Khlong Sathon. Surrounded entirely by high-rises, the courtyard boats the coolest juxtaposition of old and new. The peach is the original colour of the building too. I’m obsessed!
The complex was bought by W Hotel (located next door) and opened as a culinary destination featuring three restaurants and function spaces. The launch party was one of the best events I’ve been to! Since then, I’ve been obsessed with afternoon tea in the courtyard beneath the antique oil paper umbrellas. If you visit Bangkok, you must go here!
Bangkok’s Shopping Malls
Shopping malls in Bangkok are like nothing else I’ve seen. There are a two very large family owned companies who develop these properties throughout the city and they’re in serious competition with each other. Each year a new mega-mall goes up that has to out do all the others. The most recent one that opened before I left was called Emquartier. Their opening party lasted three months complete with laser shows shooting up into the sky nightly. My two personal favourite malls are Emquartier for the food court (those four spiralling floors you see below) and Central Embassy for the spaceship like architecture.
The Royal Bangkok Sports Club
Owned by the Thai Royal Family, the Royal Bangkok Sports Club is a huge establishment located right in the middle of the city making it by far the most valuable piece of property in Bangkok. The club consists of swimming pools, tennis courts, a full golf course, soccer fields, a horse racing track and various clubhouses. It’s a fitness sanctuary surrounded by the bustle of the city making it a really unique experience. You won’t find something like this elsewhere!
Bangkok’s Best Pools
There are endless epic pools in Bangkok, but my two favourites are that of the W Hotel and the Sofitel So. The W Hotel has the crazy wave structure seen below, but what really stole my heart were the sparkly purple pool tiles and underwater speakers. The pool with the best view is the Sofitel So. It’s location next to Lumpini Park really opens up the skyline allowing you to capture so much more of the city. Both pools throw the most epic parties, so definitely hit up their Facebook Pages to see what’s happening while you’re in the city.
I love exploring temples. Having said that, places like The Grand Palace in Bangkok are a bit too busy for me, so I actually prefer going to random smalls ones with less tourists. Ayutthaya is also a great spot for visiting temples leftover from the Kingdom of Siam. In Bangkok, my favourite way of enjoying The Grand Palace and famous Wat Arun is by sitting at the rooftop bar of Sala Ratanakosin as the sun goes down; Wat Arun lights up across the river as the gold of The Grand Palace sparkles behind you. It’s magical.
Nothing beats a Thai wedding (technically one of these was Cambodian). If you ever get the change to attend a wedding in a foreign country, I highly recommend you do so! So many great memories and new traditions to be learned.
Songkran: My Favourite Festival
I don’t even know how to explain Songkran and do it justice. It’s the Thai New Year which occurs in April and lasts about a week. It is literally a country-wide water fight. All businesses shut down and everyone (young and old) participates in the festivities. The police included. I’ve even seen the fire trucks with their hoses out. By day 4 you just really want to go out of the house and stay dry, but that’s definitely not going to happen. It is the most fun I’ve ever had and the most I’ve ever seen a community (in this case a whole country) come together to celebrate something.
Shasa Resort Koh Samui
Koh Samui is an extremely developed island, so finding somewhere peaceful can be tricky. The location of Shasa Resort is special in that there are large rocks on either side making it hard to develop, so you really feel like you’re all alone in the jungle. No one is able to pass on the beach out front, so it’s the perfect sanctuary for relaxation. It’s just a short drive into the hustle and bustle of the town if you want to!
The Anantara Chiangmai
From a design standpoint, this is my favourite place in Thailand. The hotel was built around a traditional old teak Thai house replete with many ghost stories from the locals (don’t tell the hotel I told you that). Surrounding the house, the hotel is the perfect kind of Asian minimal that is basically meditation in the form of a building. It’s funny because it’s a city hotel, but I manage to relax more here than anywhere else. I could sit by the pool forever. If there’s one hotel you visit in Thailand, it needs to be this.
My favourite getaway from Bangkok (this specific hotel, not the city), Pattaya is located just 1.5 hours drive from the city. I will be the first to admit that the city is a nightmare, but the Hilton is a little oasis in itself. Located on top of a shopping mall, once you get up to the actual hotel floors you are so removed from Pattaya that it’s like you’re not even there. I mean, check out those views. The best hotel for a weekend away from the city.
Khao Yai National Park
Thailand is famous for it’s beaches, but the longer I spent there the more I fell in love with the jungle. Khao Yai National Park is only a few hours drive from Bangkok making is an easy weekend getaway. Covering almost 2000 square kilometres, this jungle heaven is home to wildlife that is so far from anything I’m comfortable with. They found 18 wild tigers in their most recent count (that’s actually a lot for an endangered animal). There are also countless wild elephants which like to walk down the road because it’s easier that trudging through the jungle. They have been known to tip over cars. Anyways, driving around the park and stopping random places for picnics and animal sightseeing became one of my favourite Thailand pastimes. If you go, be sure to explore the “secret lookout” seen below. Email me and I’ll let you know how to get there!
The accommodation is also next level. Although you can’t really stay in the park unless it’s at the government campsite (I think they also have cabins), there are some unbelievably cool hotels that have been built right next to the park. You won’t see many westerners here, but it’s a Thai tourism hotspot because of it’s cooler temperates and nature. My favourites are the Muthi Maya Forest Pool Villas located right on the border of the park. You can sit in your private pool and be looking out at the National Park! It is way too cool. They have even had situations of wild elephants wandering around the grounds. I would go for morning runs and be legit afraid of tigers.
Fun fact: when you go down the back roads you will see small homes with CDs tied to their fences. This is because the large reflective circles scare off tigers who think they’re giant eyes. The jungle situation is real guys!
The Rayavadee Krabi
What I would consider one of the coolest beach destinations in Thailand, The Rayavadee isn’t on an island, but is accessible only by boat. It’s located on this unique point that’s shaped almost like a triangle resulting in three different beaches surrounding the hotel which was built in the middle. There really is nothing else like it! Although the beaches have gotten busier throughout the years, as the Phuket day trip boats have added it to their itineraries, the evenings are still quiet as ever. They also have The Grotto which is a cave restaurant AKA the coolest thing ever!
Twin Palms Phuket
I am obsessed with this hotel. Although Phuket is not high on my list of places to visit in Thailand, the Twin Palms is a bit of an exception. With the most reasonable priced pools villas in the area, it’s a pretty good “treat yourself” type place. Plus, the pools are on the rooftop of each unit making them super private, so skinny dipping is totally an option. Although the hotel isn’t located on the beach, it’s a mere two minute walk across the road to the beach where the hotel has developed a series of beach bars for your enjoyment. I love the fact that you can relax amidst the peace and quiet of the hotel and then walk to the beach and party at all the bars while still charging everything to your room.
Hua Hin is another great Bangkok getaway destination. I highly recommend staying at The Centara Hua Hin which is located in the historical Railway Hotel from the 1920s. They’ve kept much of the original decor and furnishings (all teak everything), so it’s a truly special experience. While in Hua Hin I also suggest visiting the Hua Hia Hills vineyard for a day of drinking wine with a wonderful view.
Many thanks to CIBC for partnering on this post. Although it was sponsored, all opinions are my own.