As far as freeze-frame moments go, Thailand doesn’t hold back.
Like with many overachievers, the story of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok involves a lot of firsts.
“It’s not the normal concept of Thailand,” Philip Paxman says as we drive through jungle toward Kanlaya’s Eyrie, the far northern getaway he opened with partner Kanlaya (Gail) Opothisit in the autumn of 2013. Remote, stylish, and sited on a steep mountainside near the Burmese border, it redefines what it means to escape it all—and have paradise waiting for you.
Chef David Thompson has been dubbed the best Thai chef in the world, which is not a bad accolade for the Aussie, a non-Thai cooking in a culture that reveres what it eats. As he explains, “In England, they care for literature, homes, gardens, and dogs. In Germany, it’s music. In Thailand, it’s their stomach and their soul.”
Most visitors to Wat Pho, Bangkok’s largest and oldest temple (built in 1688), come to see the enormous reclining Buddha. Those in the know then make their way to the back of the vast 20-acre temple grounds to get a true traditional Thai massage, for which Wat Pho is also famous.
The year I lived in Thailand can basically be divided into time before boiled chicken (BBC) and time after (ABC). The transition occurred early one afternoon a few months after I arrived.
Step out of a warm, muggy night into an air-conditioned little bungalow on a quiet side street. Inside is a holding area with a waist-high partition and behind it, a curved bench along the wall. Five young Thai women, wearing numbers for easy ordering, lean forward and smile.