Your first impression of Bangkok is usually one of wide-eyed awe as you whizz through the maze of traffic-mired city streets. But within the first hour of arriving, daze turns to wonder as the magic begins to unveil. Brightly decorated pagodas peek out behind time-worn buildings, aromatic spices waft from street stalls, and cheery locals greet you with ‘Sawadee Kha!’ – it’s not called the ‘land of smiles’ by chance.
Although Bangkok is laced with glittering high-rise hotels, we love the hideaway vibe at U Sathorn Bangkok; a little oasis tucked away from the whirr of the city. Don’t miss dinner at J’AIME by Jean-Michel Lorian, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, which has innovative French cuisine and a unique ‘upside down’ design; check out the translucent piano hanging invertedly from the ceiling.
New to our portfolio is the laid-back island of Koh Chang, and a stay among the jungle-covered peaks, sweeping bays and coral reefs is the perfect antidote to bustling Bangkok. Santhiya Tree Koh Chang Resort is a palatial-style resort fronting pretty Klong Prao beach, and the ambience here matches the distinctively Thai feel of this island. Slow the pace with complimentary paddle-boarding and snorkelling, or drift away with a massage in the ocean-view pavilion. For those looking for more to do, whip up a Thai feast during an authentic cooking class or take a trip to Bao Bang Floating Village for boat-fresh seafood.
Centuries of European and Asian influence have transformed Peninsula Malaysia into a melting pot of contrasting cultures. Chinese and Indian settlers have made their mark on the cuisine and eclectic neighbourhoods, whereas the British have left their stamp with grand architecture, cricket fields and high tea.
Commence your colonial-inspired itinerary in fascinating Kuala Lumpur. Start your stay on a high at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, where you can look out over dizzying city views from the Skybridge. Then get lost in the city quarters, sampling the hard-to-resist street food in Chinatown's hawker markets and shopping in Bukit Bintang’s mega malls. Visit historic Merdeka Square and the old railway station, where opposite you'll find one of our most popular hotels, The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. This 1930's landmark has bags of old-world charm and exceptional dining venues – afternoon tea in the orchid-filled conservatory is a true floral fantasy.
Following the British's footsteps, leave the city heat behind and head to the cool mountain air on our 3-day Cameron Highlands Experience. The Cameron Highlands Resort is set around rose gardens, strawberry farms and tea plantations, and highlights include a nature walk in a fairy-tale-like forest and a visit to a working tea factory.
We'll then whisk you by private car over to Penang for a restful stay at the Eastern & Oriental Penang, an excellent base from which to explore the UNESCO-listed city of Georgetown. Then get set for some well-deserved R&R, with time to recuperate on the silver-white beaches of Langkawi. At the Danna Langkawi, a colonial-Mediterranean inspired resort, you can wake to a bubbly breakfast, lounge by the three-tier infinity pool or go kayaking in the sheltered bay.
Over in Eastern Malaysia, the states of Sarawak and Sabah make up the region of Borneo, home to untamed rainforest, postcard-worthy beaches and some of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife.
Begin in Borneo’s gateway city, Kota Kinabalu, where you can shake off any jetlag at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa. Set in a spectacular nature reserve, this beach haven has six decadent restaurants and an other-worldly spa. Opt for a suite in the Ocean Wing, and you’ll be treated to exclusive extras plus an indulgent whirlpool tub on the balcony.
Next, turn up the wild factor and travel deep into the jungle for a three day Borneo Rainforest Experience. You’ll stay at the rustic (yet luxurious) Borneo Rainforest Lodge, where you can trek through treetops on a canopy walkway and go tubing down the Danum River. But of course, a stay here is all about the wildlife. The primary rainforest surrounding the lodge inhabits animals such as silver leaf monkeys, pygmy elephants and around 320 bird species. And as one would expect, there’s the chance to see orangutans – the Danum Valley is prime swinging ground for these endangered apes.
Following your exhilarating stay in the jungle, you’ll be ready to wind down on a sun-soaked castaway island. Gaya Island Resort may only be a short hop from the urban buzz of Kota Kinabalu, but this picturesque isle still has plenty of flora and fauna to discover. When you’re not sipping cocktails by the pool or tucking into beach barbecues, you can marvel at the marine life in the surrounding Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, or venture into the greenery to spot rare proboscis monkeys and fireflies twinkling in the trees.
Bangkok is indeed a chaotic and colourful place, so finding a calm city bolthole to rest your head at is a must. We recommend Oriental Residence Bangkok, an all-suite hotel in the heart of the shopping district with modern and spacious rooms. Families especially will appreciate the one and two-bedroom suites that come with a fully-equipped kitchen and a balcony with sweeping city views.
For your next adventure, swap city lights for starry jungle nights in the misty hills of Khao Sak National Park. Elephant Hills Jungle Lake Safari is an award-winning three-day experience where you’ll have the chance to get close to Thailand’s gentle giants. Alongside elephant encounters, you can go on river canoeing trips and nature walks to glimpse hornbills, gibbons and macaques. You’ll stay in luxury wilderness tents, including a gorgeous floating tent perched on a peaceful lake – a dreamy place for a spot of wild swimming.
Round off your Thailand tour relaxing by the ocean in laid-back Khao Lak. Kalima Resorts & Villas Khao Lak, a cool and edgy resort hidden away in mangrove forests, has a unique geometric design, hilltop infinity pool and ultra-swish pool villas. If you can bear to leave this rustic-chic sanctuary, there are two quiet beaches nearby and diving or snorkelling enthusiasts will be in their element here – the Similan Islands underwater wonderland is just a speedboat ride away.
Our Far East brochure is packed with inspiration for your next holiday, so order your copy by post or view online today. To chat with someone who knows South East Asia inside out, talk to one of our well-travelled Personal Travel Experts, who will use their knowledge and advice to plan your dream personalised escape.