To many, “Bangkok" invokes images of dynamic, exciting, sensory-overloaded encounters. Steel and glass contrast ancient temples and the myriad street mazes are filled with culinary delights, sounds and colour. It is a place of high energy and high experience.
For me, The City of Angels forever challenges my spectrum of human experience: it can ignite your soul and, admittedly, occasionally disturb you. But, it would be wrong to mistake the city for a perpetual race track. Over the years I have meandered through curious corridors to discover hidden havens for quieter, slow-frequency moments to immerse in self reflection, people watching, or letting the world drift by. Traffic jams and hard-hitting partying aside, Bangkok is a soul-filled destination for questioning my perceptions, reviving my inspiration and igniting my passion for living and dreaming big. I also come to bring focused care to my body in tandem with my mind.
If you are seeking a surprisingly easy escape in search of your own restoration and revival - mixed with a dash of glamour and the amenities of a captivating city - then choose Bangkok. I’ll share a couple of easy spots for a chilled, short schedule. Although, if you stay at my chosen accommodation, you may actually have little reason to leave its immediate vicinity: the W Bangkok is an unexpected sanctuary proving that the ‘wow' factor and ‘wellbeing' go hand-in-hand
W Bangkok: where W is for Wellness as much as WOW
The W brand is known for its five star, contemporary-glam properties and the fun urban - or exotic - playground vibes that attract the trendiest of crowds. The W Bangkok is an exceptional urban escape in the collection, blending rich history with modern edge.
Everything you need is right here: first class service, where all the Talent - there are no “staff” here - make you feel like their primary focus (The “Whatever/Whenever” service is very literal), and amenities galore. My “Spectacular Room” was just that: a spacious open-plan affair with bright colours, modern design and traditional touches. Humungous sequin Muay Thai gloves are thrown in for in-room play fighting. A golden glass wall screens the free-standing tub for bubbly soaks, and a bathroom amply stocked with Bliss goodies. Modern tech is available for every convenience. My h-u-g-e cloud-like bed brought me the best nights of sleep I have had in months.
It has to be said from the outset that you cannot help but be taken by the beauty of the views: from the light rising over the Chao Praya River and dancing over the towering city facades to all that glitters as the night comes to life. This, in itself, is worthy soul food.
Food = Fuel
You are what you eat, and here you are given every opportunity to eat to feel your best. The fabulous and funky of BKK are clearly powering through their day by eating right from the get-go. As the W Bangkok says, “FUEL: The energy to look good, feel good, go longer, stay later.” Start your day at The Kitchen Table with a freshly blitzed pineapple and ginger juice (or any other combination you can fathom), and marvel at the array of healthy options: chia, flaxseed and beetroot drinks, probiotic yoghurts and bircher mueslis, and the freshest tropical fruit and vegetable mixes.
For lunch, saunter over to The House on Sathorn, a spectacular colonial mansion from 1889 listed under the Department of Fine Arts and meticulously preserved by the W Bangkok. Intricately decorated hallways and rooms envelope you in historic opulence and sophistication. It houses a stunning courtyard, an artisanal fine dining restaurant and a seriously stylish bar to carry you through till the early hours (even on the superbly delicious virgin cocktails that I sampled).
I was delighted to chat with Head Chef Fatih's ethos for his Asian-Fusion delights: the ingredients are of the highest purity and sourced from the Royal Project Foundation. This initiative was established by the late dearly beloved King Bhumibol to instill non-GMO, organic, and environmentally-conscious farming practices in Northern Thailand. Here, eating clean and light means absolutely indulging in delicious flavour: I loved the courtyard lunch with freshly made fruit lemonades and the fragrant Thom Kha Black Cod soup.
Move my body, feed my soul
Get your blood circulating without stress: The FIT gym is kitted out with all the gear you need for a body boost, and is suitably stocked with fresh fruit and lemon water for healthy snacking and rehydration. The WET deck presents its outdoor pool to practice your mermaid strokes and level-up your vitamin-D stores on one of their lounging cabanas. Hours can easily be whiled away here with a good book and a #FUELYOURBODY mocktail in hand. You wouldn’t imagine that you were in a metropolis, save for looking over the tree-lined walls to see the SkyTrain seamlessly drift over the cars down below. Each Tuesday evening sees Khun Mam, the resident yoga teacher, guiding guests through restorative and tension-relieving Sunset Yoga Sessions by the pool: it’s the perfect way to reset your mind at the end of the day.
Get AWAY without going anywhere
The AWAY Spa was a transformative escape from the outside world: a cocooning sanctuary for restorative, healing and detoxifying practices. Glowing corridors lead to steam and sauna rooms, a bedazzling hammam and jacuzzi, and private rooms. A slew of new “Muay Thai” inspired treatments have been introduced that are designed to detox and rejuvenate hard-working bodies and stressed-out minds. I opted for the Muay Thai Boxer massage in between a coffee-yoghurt scrub and charcoal mini facial…and maybe because I wanted the snazzy Muay Thai shorts that are complimentary with the treatment.
My mixologist and therapist was a skilled woman: intensive muscular manipulation was combined with sweeping fluid-drainage techniques for the ultimate detoxification combination. My stomach started gurgling - a good sign of fascial release in the body - even before we got to the actual tummy massage, where she performed deep twisting strokes to stimulate gut cleansing. The head-to-toe vigorous sweeping felt like all the toxic goop inside was being drawn out of my toes. I am hard to please when it comes to massage but by the end of my treatment, I felt born anew.
I need some Bangkok vibes
Being in the heart of town, you are not far from anything. The front-of-house team will hail you a cab, or you can hop onto the SkyTrain at Chong Nonsi just outside the hotel or meander local streets. Below are my suggestions for places to stir your mind, feed your body and soothe your soul: all are easily reachable from the hotel
A five-minute walk away lies one of my favourite Bangkok cafes, Rocket Coffee Bar. They serve up light Scandi-inspired food and arguably some of the best coffee in town; be that a fine flat white, or a delicate yet distinguished pour-over. Bring yourself, a good read or notebook, and let your mind wander.
Rocket Coffee Bar, 147 Soi Sathon 12 http://rocketcoffeebar.com/
Yaowarat Road, China Town for evening street food. Street food is plentiful in Bangkok, but Yaowarat is the historically famous vibrant avenue for sampling the best of Thai and Chinese flavours. Fresh and healthy delights are bountiful here, particularly the seafood stalls that serve up steamed fish in fragrant spicy broths (Pla Mnaow). Traditional Tom Yum soup is a wonder for clearing congestion and my favourite spicy papaya salad, Som Tam, is addictively more-ish. Take your pick of freshly-squeezed juices, from pomegranates and oranges, to watermelons and sublime Thai mangos. If you’re in need of a treat, try out nitrogen coconut ice creams served up in their shells. Soak up the lights and feel-good energy and leave feeling satiated but light.
Yaowarat Road, Chinatown
Wat Mahathat Buddhist Temple, Section 5. For deeper zen and reflection, make a trip to this beautiful Royal Buddhist Temple that also houses a meditation centre open to the public. Head to Section 5 to immerse in guided Vipassana meditations, held twice daily in English 13:00-16:00 and 18:00-20:00. Whilst these are indeed free, donations to support the work of the monks, its teachers, and those more in need, are always welcome from those who can.
Wat Mahathat, 3 Maha Rat Road, just north of the Grand Palace
Take a couple of stops to the National Stadium station and take an easy stroll around the spiralling walkways of the Bangkok Arts & Culture Centre (BACC). A full array of thought-provoking exhibitions are freely on display here. Local talent and international artists and designers cover art, music, literature and education. The centre often runs global culture film festivals without charge: a concerted effort to increase exposure for Thais and the growing international resident community. Lower floors house stalls from local designers as well as another favourite coffee spot, Gallery Drip Coffee. Here, coffee making is a patient and meticulous affair, perfect for post-perusal processing.
BACC and Gallery Drip Coffee, 939 Rama 1 Road
Back to the grind
The W Bangkok provides everything you could need to facilitate your own detox escape without skimping on the fun and style. It simultaneously embraces the magic of Bangkok's epic and equally intimate nature that will leave you glowing with inspiration and ready for whatever the world brings you next.
A huge thank you goes to the exceptional team at the W Bangkok, who made it such a personable and warm experience.
W Hotel Bangkok http://www.whotelbangkok.com
All photography credited to Thom Arnold Photography ©
An edit of this article featured in The Wellness Report: South East Asia's resource for living well in the modern world
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