I never thought of Thailand as a luxury destination until my first visit there last month. I am thrilled to say, I was wrong. I had always known that Thailand was a great place for young explorers and backpackers.  In fact, my own two daughters were there just last summer and bragged how they could easily live and enjoy themselves for less than twenty dollars a day.  I wondered however, if  Thailand could satisfy those with more discriminating tastes. I was curious if there were sufficient high-quality hotels, fine-dining restaurants, and other luxury-style experiences that my clients demand. So, I embarked on an adventure with ten other luxury travel advisors to find out.

It’s no surprise that any flight to Thailand from Toronto will be a long one.  For my 15-hour journey, I opted for Premium Economy class on Cathay Pacific. While I could have splurged on Business Class with its lie-flat seats, I was quite comfortable with ample legroom and the extra reclining seat pitch.  I’m not sure I would have survived in the regular Economy section. After a layover, I connected to my final flight.  It was a nonstop three-hour jaunt to the northern city of Chiang Mai.  The arrival was simple and uncomplicated as they have a rather small airport.  To my delight, I was met by a representative of EXO Travel, a Virtuoso accredited destination management company.

Five star hotels in Thailand

Four Seasons Shiang Mai

EXO expertly handled our group, assisting with customs and immigration while we collected our bags. In no time at all, I was able to visit the currency exchange, and purchase a local SIM card for my phone.  Then, we were whisked away by private transfer to our first hotel: the Four Seasons. Located just 30 minutes from the city centre, this fabulous resort did not disappoint. Four Seasons hotels are always ranked as some the best in the world.  This location is surrounded by lush green hills and the terraced rice fields of the mystical Mae Rim Valley.  In many ways, the hotel is a destination of its own and a perfect place to retreat from the stresses of a busy life. The Thai staff are extraordinarily gracious, with such attention to detail.  Take my advice: you simply must spend a few days here to experience this for yourself.  It is wonderfully magical.

Dean on bicycle in Shiang Mai For fun, I took a bike ride through the small towns nearby, had a fantastic Thai-style massage and learned about Thai cooking and cuisine.  Speaking of food; it was absolutely incredible at every restaurant I visited.  I simply don’t have the words to fully describe how delicious it was.  What a fantastic way to start my visit!

Life changing Thailand Experience

Dean with baby elephant in Shiang MaiI would have to say that my most memorable experience in Chiang Mai (and perhaps the most memorable in my life), was a day spent at a Thai elephant sanctuary.  I was up-close with these magnificent animals in ways I had never imagined.  I was allowed to feed, bathe, and even ride an elephant. I loved learning from a “Mahout” about his own life as well as his care and devotion for the gentle giants.  Truly, this is a life-changing experience appropriate for all ages.  This alone was reason enough to make the trip.  I would compare its impact on my life to the time I swam with the reef tip sharks in Bora Bora.  These are lifetime memories I will always cherish.

oysterFrom Chiang Mai, I took a short one-hour flight to Bangkok, which is currently the most visited city in World. It is a massive, overcrowded metropolis, and is in some ways the opposite of Chiang Mai.  Still, Bangkok has plenty to offer. After a long drive through heavy traffic, we reached our hotel.  I spent the first night at the 137 Pillars and the two following nights at the beautiful St. Regis.  Both are 5-star rated with all the luxury amenities you would expect.  They are also in very safe areas surrounded by shopping, night life, dazzling Buddhist temples and of course – amazing Thai food all around.

Thailand has many lovely Islands

hotel suite with infinity poolI spent my last three nights on the southern island of Koh Samui; another short one-hour flight away.  It reminded me of a small Caribbean island. We were again met by a helpful representative of EXO Travel who transferred us to the Conrad hotel a mere thirty minutes from the airport. The Conrad is a wonderful hotel with breathtaking views of the gulf of Thailand.  Each room is spacious and has its own plunge pool overlooking the bay.  The location is somewhat removed from everything, but it is perfect for a few days to escape. After leaving the Conrad, I checked into the Banyan Tree.  It is another lovely hotel with its own private beach.  I thought it was perfect for a getaway but it is also close to shopping and night life.  It was an enjoyable way to complete my adventure in Thailand.

Conclusion

Thailand has changed and expanded my perspective about luxury travel experiences.  This destination would be ideal for those celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary or any milestone in life.I do suggest a minimum stay of two weeks to allow plenty of time to see the region. I spent nine nights there, and felt as though I was a bit rushed.  In any case, I sincerely look forward to returning to this beautiful country soon and next time with my wife!

Start your trip to Thailand now!
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