Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’S Ambassador Suite offers two bedrooms, butler service, private elevator access, and floor-to-ceiling windows with garden and river views.
Travelers headed to Southeast Asia in the coming months can take note of some tips offered by advisors of Tzell Travel Group and Protravel International. From suggestions about the best places to visit to top advice for booking a great stay, they have plenty to share.
Sandie Wiesenthal of Protravel International in Beverly Hills has extensive knowledge of booking high-end travel to Southeast Asia and says her clients are looking for the perfect mix of luxury and authenticity.
“I have found that clients definitely want to combine the traditional aspects of this region with more contemporary accommodations,” says Wiesenthal. “That said, the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok is always a favorite, but some clients look to Thailand for a newer, yet very authentic, Southeast Asian experience.”
Pictured: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, has 324 rooms and 44 suites. Shown above is the Mandarin Room.
Wiesenthal also adds that the routing of travel is mostly centered on Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, as her clients tend to “do a ‘triangle,’ which always includes Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.
“In this destination, the Amansara is top on the list of accommodations. At some point in the trip, clients want a beach resort, so The Nam Hai in Vietnam, Song Saa in Cambodia, Six Senses Con Dao [and/or] Trisara or Amanpuri in Phuket are always discussed,” says Wiesenthal. “The beauty of traveling to this part of the world is the amazing standard of service and the open and generous nature of the people. You can send anyone to a luxury hotel, but if they are not treated with respect and warmth when they get there, it does not really matter.”
Wiesenthal also adds that, in the last few years, she has seen an increase in travel to Bhutan and Myanmar, indicating that clients “really do want to have the ‘true’ Asian experience and, possibly, in the case of Myanmar, be less concerned about luxury accommodations.”
Nancy Omlid, a leisure travel specialist with Tzell Travel Group in New York, recommends Abercrombie and Kent to travelers seeking both luxury and unique experiences during a trip to Asia. She also says Gerald Hatherly, the China specialist and director, sales, is beyond comparison when it comes to his knowledge of the continent.
“The iconic hotels in the region that I love booking for my clients are Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula in Bangkok and Six Senses Con Dao [a private island] in Vietnam. Each property reflects the traditions of the country and their service is second to none,” she says.
According to Omlid, experiences not to be missed include the food stalls and floating market in Bangkok, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and Halong Bay in Vietnam.
For travelers focused on a truly luxurious experience, Robert Goldstein and Joshua Greenberg, both luxury travel advisors for Protravel International in New York, recommend a stay in a suite at Mandarin Oriental, The Peninsula or The Siam.
“The Oriental and Peninsula are large luxury properties, with the Oriental still being considered as the ‘Grand Dame’ of Bangkok,” they say.
The two hotels are across the river from one another and are located in the historic Dusit District, which reflects Bangkok’s architectural and cultural period set between 1853 and 1910.
Greenberg and Goldstein say visitors looking to enjoy excellent service in the city of Chiang Mai should book a stay at either the Four Seasons or The Dhara Dhevi. “The latter is located very close to Chiang Mai, while the Four Seasons is further out [approximately 30 minutes], set in the countryside with its own rice fields. Both are winners,” they note.
The two also suggest that “in Chiang Rai, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle provides unique luxury tented accommodations and a wide range of unforgettable activities. Spending time there, surrounded by Northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, together known as the historic Golden Triangle, offers the traveler the most memorable experience.”
The duo believes that the Amansara is a must-visit in Southeast Asia, noting that it is the number-one luxury property in Siem Reap, and one of the two “star” hotels in Cambodia along with Phnom Penh’s Raffles Hotel Le Royal.
Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi
“In Vietnam, our high-end travelers have enjoyed stays at Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, as well as the Park Hyatt or The Reverie in Saigon,” the two luxury travel advisors add.
Sofitel Legend Metropole is a French colonial-style hotel in the heart of Hanoi.
They also suggest some culinary hotspots for travelers headed to Southeast Asia. “For an unforgettable and authentic fine-dining experience in Cambodia, there is the Dining Room at the Park Hyatt and the Amansara. Both restaurants offer a variety of traditional and authentic meals in a sophisticated atmosphere,” they say.
For travelers to Bangkok, they recommend a stop at the Mandarin Oriental’s Le Normandie, which is known for its French cuisine.
“Over the past year, we have relied on Pacific Experience as our number-one tour operator, while also using Remote Lands, Wanna Tours and Trails of Indochina when booking travel to Southeast Asia. No matter how particular or difficult a client’s request may seem, these tour operators will be able to exceed their expectations,” Greenberg and Goldstein say.
Vikram Seshadri, a luxury travel advisor with Protravel International in Beverly Hills, recommends Indonesia as a top destination for travelers visiting Asia.
“I’m very familiar with Southeast Asia, having grown up in Indonesia and, therefore, also fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, the language of the region,” says Seshadri, who notes that the Muslim-majority nation is highly tolerant, “respects people of all faiths, [and is] therefore a great country to visit for people of all religious backgrounds and all nations. It’s also a relatively safe country to travel around.”
Travelers looking for a unique getaway in Indonesia should also check out Bali.
According to Seshadri, the destination “hasn’t changed and, in fact, many new luxury hotels have been built recently, with more in the pipeline. A brand new international airport terminal in Denpasar has made travel to and from Bali easy.”
Seshadri notes that other gateways in Indonesia are also becoming prominent, with remote regions such as Lombok, Borneo and Nihiwatu on Sumba now attracting international tourists.
He adds that last year, Indonesia instituted a visa waiver program for more than 30 countries, including the U.S., to make travel to the country easier.