November 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

When asked what my favorite country in the world to visit is, I immediately think of Thailand, home of friendly people, phenomenal food, and incredible sites. I love visiting it so much that my husband and I are preparing to journey there in the near future during an upcoming Southeast Asian vacation. Making this my third trip to Thailand, I began to research new things to see during our initial couple of days in Bangkok.

The recent passing of Thailand’s long-serving monarch, King Bhumibol, certainly shed a sad light onto my planning, as the nation is now in a mourning period. I did find these recommendations for tourists from the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT); these guidelines mentioned Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace would be closed for funeral rites. From a past visit, I recall that both are stunning architectural sites–and this inspires November’s Travel POTM™. This photograph, of a Grand Palace guardian, was taken on a sunny May afternoon and remains my desktop image…reminding me of colorful, historical Thailand.

Back Camera

Crossing Phuket Off of My Bucket List

Our trip to Thailand begain with more than 24 hours of travel on Hainan Airlines (which we referred to as “Mystery Airline” prior to departure, but it was oh-so-fabulous). My friend Brandi and I arrived at the then brand new Renaissance Resort in on Mai Khao for a refreshing welcome drink with our third traveling companion, Linda. Let me tell you something about Linda: she was kind enough to use her Marriott points to treat us all to three days in paradise in Phuket, and she definitely completed the triumvirate of awesomeness.

We had so much fun lounging on the Mai Khao Beach, giggling though little inside trip jokes, trying new foods, and getting lovely Thai massages by the ocean (an hour of massage bliss for $10? Priceless!) We could have spent our entire time in Phuket at our hotel, yet we did spend one day journeying outside of our resort–shopping for handcrafted souvenirs, buying local artwork–I purchased two matching Thai angel paintings–and experiencing the amazing cuisine.

A highlight of our time on Phuket was our trek into the jungle…on an elephant! The giant beasts were very sturdy, as they hiked through foliage—rubber trees!—to show us a stunning view of the sea. After we disembarked, we got to feed our new friends bananas, and nothing is as surreal as having two elephant trunks in your personal space…I loved it!

After our elephant experience, we decided to head over to Phuket Town, where we walked through quaint shops and visited with the shopkeepers. We left after three wonderful days for Bangkok (more Thailand adventures here), yet I would highly recommend Phuket as a stop in any luxurious Thailand itinerary.

The Best Hotels in the World

Travel + Leisure recently debuted its annual list of the world’s best hotels, and I scoured the list of the top 100 to see if I had stayed at any of these top ranked properties. The travel Twitterverse was abuzz with all of this news, and it made me think of some of my favorite stays. From overlooking the tallest building in the world to my favorite New York City boutique hotel, I’ve had the opportunity to have stayed at some incredible places. Here are my top five hotels:

  • JW Marriott Phuket: right on the water, this incredible property is stunningly gorgeous, has an incredible staff, and is the perfect place to get away from it all.

    Beachside in Phuket

    Beachside in Phuket

  • The Palmer House: my absolute favorite place to stay in Chicago, this now Hilton property was rebuilt several times during its history. The lobby ceilings are absolutely exquisite!
  • The Address: one can see the tallest building in the world, as well as walk to the Mall of Dubai, from this elegant urban hotel.
  • On the Avenue: a darling boutique hotel in the heart of Manhattan (which is currently being transformed into a NYLO property), On the Ave is located on Broadway and West 77th. 
  • A three-way tie: as I’m hoping that one of the places that I’m going to stay during my upcoming vacation makes my top 5 list. In Athens, we will be within walking distance of the Acropolis at the King George. Kontokali Bay Resort and Spa will be our home away from home in the Ionian Island town of Corfu, and the Hilton Imperial will welcome us within the historic city walls of Dubrovnik.

What hotels did I–or the experienced team at T&L–miss? What hotels or resorts would make your list?

My Pet Tiger Lives in Thailand

It was like any other day in Thailand. After a long drive, we arrived at the temple to serve breakfast to the monks. While they were eating, we then bottle-fed the two-month-old tigers, before having playtime with the baby tigers. If this seems surreal, it was. After spending the days prior sunning in Phuket and at a business conference in Bangkok, we took about a four hour drive to the Tiger Temple and started an unbelievable day.

The volunteers at the temple started us off with the younger cubs, and by the afternoon–after walking, bathing, playing with, and strutting various ages of these amazing creatures–we were no longer phased by a few hundred pounds of potentially deadly felines. They were now our friends. Perhaps we should have been a little terrified, as we watched these older tigers launching across the water at each other as they “played,” but we were naively happy to spend an entire day with them.

My absolute favorite part was playing with the six-week-old baby tigers. Although they had huge paws, and one can imagine how big they will grow to be, these cubs looked exactly like large kittens. And they meowrrr-ed and sang just like their house cat relatives. One of the highlights of the entire trip to Thailand (which I certainly have a lot of blogging fodder to keep me busy for a while) was a day trip to the Tiger Temple.