Activities and Adventure

When the extra Songkran holiday was announced we knew this was our moment to grab one of the special half price promotional flights and return to my favourite Thailand Island of Koh Samui.

I was interested to see how Koh Samui is faring at this time without international visitors. My first top tip is be careful in your choice of Samui destination. Koh Samui is empty, it desperately needs visitors. There has never been a better time for those of us in Thailand to enjoy Samui. 

If you are after peace and tranquility, you will find your heaven, but most of us also need some restaurants, shops and facilities to be open. Otherwise it could be a rather dull and hungry existence!

The Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort was such a joy after a couple of extremely quiet nights at Chaweng Beach.

The Bophut beach location

We have always liked the hip and happening Bophut beach area of Samui with its Fisherman’s Village. It’s a good choice now with more open. Here we found shopping, massage shops, a few bars including the ever popular local Coco Tam’s Beach Bar and a choice of food options. In previous visits to Koh Samui we dined at the Anantara’s Full Moon restaurant, which we remembered as exquisite, fuelling our desire for a return to stay.

Anantara hotels

I have to confess to being a massive Anantara fan. Their hotels have never disappointed, including for our honeymoon in Chiang Rai! In the current situation in Thailand choosing well managed hotels who put the guest experience first, despite the tough operating climate, is important to me.

My husband doesn’t get much time off work. When we go away everything needs to work and be perfect. The Anantara Bophut delivered.

Our arrival

The Anantara has some great deals at present which include an airport pick up, but my next tip is to hire a car. We paid 800B per day and with our own wheels we travelled all over the island. The roads are good, we ever found a brand new road across the middle of the island, since our last visit. There is little traffic on the road. Driving in Samui is a pleasure!

The moment we drove up the grand Anantara driveway to find the three monkeys at reception, we felt at ease.

They bang a welcome drum on arrival and with a giggle and the sound reverberating through us, we were escorted into the rather grand and refreshingly cool, library to complete our check in details. 

Emanuel, the new General Manager even stopped by to add his welcome which we thought was a nice touch. 

There is no doubt at present that every hotel in Samui needs its guests. There has never been a better time to get the right royal treatment!

The resort

The charm of the Anantara hotels is their emphasis on stunning grounds. As we walk to our room through the lush tropical gardens past the massive lotus ponds, which become wonderfully illuminated at night, we spot garden cabanas for relaxing and the impressive infinity swimming pool area. 

The birds are singing in the trees and you immediately know you can relax here. Don’t we all need that in this most strange of years?

Our Royal Sea View suite 

Our room is beyond stunning, I skip around it checking everything out. We couldn’t be more beachfront if we tried. Having said that, I love the way this low rise resort is laid out. All rooms either get a beautiful garden view or a stunning beach view.

Whilst I’m admiring the bed with the kissing elephant towel art surrounded by frangipani flowers, Mr. Wren has found the wine fridge. Or as it’s only lunchtime, Nespresso coffee anyone?

It’s a massive room, with a great bathroom. A very, very deep bath faces his and her basins. We don’t have any of this at home and it always gives me a thrill!

Anantara spa

Still, no time to sit around and do nothing as we’re booked in for a couple’s massage.

My husband raises an eyebrow with a quizzical look. They call me the Spa Queen of Asia on account of my insatiable appetite for a good spa. Yet I never want my luxury pampering spoilt by having him in the room. That couple’s massage stuff is so for newlyweds in my book! Don’t you agree?

We needn’t have worried, it’s happy spa days indeed as we are informed that the Anantara Covid policy means that we will have separate rooms (secret fist pumps all round!)

The spa is tucked away in the gardens, behind the herb garden, like a secret oasis. Their reception is an open air sala floating on a lotus pond. Across a wooden bridge we enter a gentle garden with three oversized doorways, behind which are two separate private spa treatment suites. 

The atmosphere is calm, majestic with an air of reverence. We split up, him to the right, me to the left.

Floor to ceiling glass windows face onto a private bamboo screened garden with an outdoor shower. As I drift off into oblivion, I feel wrapped in the serenity of nature.

Signature massage

We have chosen the Anantara Spa’s signature massage which is a combination of oil and Thai massage. We thought this was a bit different. Usually we prefer a relaxing oil massage, but for both of us with long times spent working at desks, this treatment was the best of both worlds. The relaxation of oil with the stretch of a Thai massage is inspired.

We emerge out of our separate spa room doors like figures in a cuckoo clock. Both at the same time, with a sleepy grin on our faces.

Dining at Full Moon

We dine twice at Full Moon restaurant. Normally we’re more adventurous and head out of the hotel for dinner but the combination of great food, a wonderful setting, and a well priced 3 course dinner set menu lured us to return. 

With the romantic setting of this fine dining restaurant looking out across the swimming pool to Bophut Bay, why go anywhere else?

Especially when I found that the Anantara have their own Origin gin crafted in Chiang Mai! Well, as a G&T lady, ever since my Australian Gin Safari tour, I’m happy to drink Botanicals with the best of them. Of course we’re talking Fentimans tonic.

The first evening we really enjoyed the new signature dry aged beef which Executive Chef David proudly introduces to us. Their beef from across the globe is dry aged in-house for a minimum of 30 days to maximise flavour and tenderness. 

For a mostly vegetarian Wren this is a big call for me, but one gin down, and I know it is my husband’s dream dinner… So of course we share a huge prime rib eye steak from the US. 

That was the best steak I have ever tasted, which is not as high praise from me, as my carnivore hubby who declared it excellent!

The steak comes with quite a performance. Firstly there is a salt choice. Now normally it’s pass the salt or pepper isn’t it? Not here at Full Moon. There is a choice of five different salts and then a massive case of steak knives arrives. Decisions, decisions! 


I’m a bit fussy when it comes to breakfast, for me I insist on the full works and we often “eat for England” to take us through the whole way to dinner.

The Anantara has it all apart from I didn’t spot my favourite smoked salmon and avocado, this is a nod to nourish the half Aussie in me! I’m not complaining, there was so much choice! We loved our lazy breakfasts. The egg station and noodle bar are set up in the garden with the main buffet, bakery, cereals, juices, salads, fruit, etc. inside.

I suspect they have adapted slightly to an increase in Thai guests but I am happy with my big test; an egg white omelette, no fat and a pot of fresh lemongrass and ginger tea.

Yoga and fitness

The next morning I return to the spa where they have recently built an open air yoga sala. From my yoga mat I get to really appreciate the tranquility of the spa gardens, although don’t forget to spray on some of the thoughtfully provided insect repellent. 

A 30 minutes yoga class is one of the complimentary activities offered for residents. Other options during the week were Pilates and Thai boxing. You have the option of booking a 60 minutes yoga private session with the instructor.

I never saw the gym, as we preferred a daily walk on the beach (it’s soft sand so it’s quite a workout!) 

Happy hour

Each night at the pool bar a chosen cocktail was on offer for a 50% discount. The beach area was set up to replicate the famous local Coco Tam’s Beach Bar, with its laid back atmosphere and bean bags on the beach.

Take a next tip from me, they were queuing for over an hour to get into Coco Tam’s, just enjoy the sunset from the Anantara.

Fisherman’s Village

Of course no stay at the Anantara Bophut is complete without the short stroll down the beach to Fisherman’s Village. The village compromises of a mix of old Chinese shop houses mixed with the new and modern. It works to offer a charming mix with a Mediterranean feel.

Even in today’s quiet days there is enough open to attract the in crowd. 

Travel safe

The Anantara Bophut Covid policy gave us confidence. Staff wore masks as did most guest in the public areas away from the pool and the beach. Our temperatures were taken on arrival, before dining and at the spa. Gym usage was regulated.

Thank you!

We would like to thank the Anantara Bophut and Minor Hotels for a much needed and relaxing few days. It is thoroughly recommended. We will be back!

Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort  

Telephone :  02 365 9110 

Email : [email protected]

Website :

Little Wandering Wren stayed as a guest of Anantara Bophut Koh Samui. Her Thailand staycations can be found at and on Instagram and Twitter @littlewanderingwren

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A shopping event to meet 150 amazing creators, discover trendy fashion collections and accessories, sustainable home goods, natural cosmetics, healthy groceries, vegan delicatessen and much more.  In addition to our regular popular brands, a wild range of new products and services, and their designers, will be present. 
Since 2014, the Hope Fair has been offering alternatives to Bangkok shoppers with ethical, environmental, or social concerns. 
Expect to see organic, local, and fair-trade SMEs & entrepreneurs putting their heart into their business. Every product has a story, and every choice has an impact. 
Also, at each of our events, all the vendors donate to the kids of the slums of Bangkok through the Mercy Centre. With the donations made at the September 24th event, the Hope Fair community will support the renovation of the Landin Preschool and improve the daily comfort of the 116 children enrolled there.
To this day the Hope Fair Community has raised 785775 THB.
You are invited to bring your donation: unused shoes or clothes, household items, etc. 
The foundation will collect them onsite to redistribute them to the ones in need. 
Come join us for this event, be a responsible consumer, and have fun at our prestigious venue!
September 24th, 2020 – From 9am to 3pm. 
@ Avani Sukhumvit Hotel, 7th Floor
BTS On Nut, exit 3.
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“YES! I’m IN” screamed my enthusiastic reply to Amy and Juan’s question: Will you go sailing with us? Does a pirate like rum? Do fish swim in the sea? Sign me up, baby! Next stop: heaven on a catamaran. 

Over the last year, I had followed Amy and Juan’s exceptional sailing trips. They would invite a lucky group of friends to explore Thailand by sailboat. I’d seen pictures showcasing carefree grins as they lounged on deck while their boat cut across the waves. They walked windswept shores covered in Jurassic boulders and climbed palm trees on deserted beaches.  Once they traded street clothes for bikinis and board shorts, their days became balmy breezes and exotic locations. Take me there

If you have the heart for sailing, then the world becomes magic. Everyday life disappears the further you get from land. Once you board a boat, your perspective changes to nature, weather, teamwork, and adventure. 

Ten years ago, I joined my first sailing trip. I arrived at work on a Monday and impulsively booked a sailing trip in Greece. I’d already visited Greece twice, but sailing the Cyclades Islands changed my life. There was a certain skip in my walk after Greece. Now, I always find time for sailing whether it’s an afternoon aboard a historical schooner in San Francisco, a week on a luxury catamaran in the British Virgin Islands, or a sunset sail in Redondo Beach with a racing team. 

This time it was Thailand. Amy and Captain Juan planned our week-long sailing trip like clockwork. I received the itinerary, packing list, and details. The week before departure, Juan started sending us breath-taking photos of our destinations. Wow – what a way to build excitement! 

Our crew of eight people met in Phuket on a Saturday. Everyone was fun, outdoorsy, efficient, and laid-back. The perfect group. Amy booked a villa and organized rental cars, which were important for airport transfers, grocery shopping, logistical tasks, and transportation. 

On Sunday, we split the grocery shopping and marina check-in duties. Two rental cars were handy! Afterwards, we left the rental cars at the marina where the car service collected them. Easy breezy. Our boat was a 2016 Catamaran Nautitech-40 Open named Jetset which we rented through Sweet Dreamers Yacht Charters It had a kayak and motorized dingy for exploring. 

Life is different aboard a sailboat. Our mornings began at sunrise near a beautiful cove or island where we had moored overnight. Some people slept outdoors on deck. Others took the cabins. What a beautiful way to start the day! Captain Juan prepared for departure. Tom made coffee with his fancy coffee pot which we nicknamed Alicia (pronounced with an Italian accent!). Jak and Tabbi competed to make perfect pancakes. Jan kayaked while Natalie jumped overboard for a swim. Amy set the table while I scurried around taking pictures. After breakfast, we set off for new places – coves, caves, deserted beaches, hidden lagoons, and popular sites. We’d drop anchor offshore then pile into the dingy where we’d arrive like windswept bohemians. There is such a rakish beauty to traveling by sailboat. You feel alive. 

Sailing is about teamwork and group dynamics. Your crewmates create the trip just as much as the destinations. Everyone has a story to tell. These are our stories…

Juan Estrada // Spanish // Architect 

Cooking. Photography (IG: @juancarlosestradagomez). Gardening.

I grew-up by the seaside in Malaga, Spain. My father, a yacht captain, introduced me to sailing. I eventually got my skipper’s license. I love hosting friends and creating experiences, whether that happens at home or at sea. I’m lucky to spend several weeks each year on sailing trips. In Europe, it was mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, including Balearic Islands (Spain), Ionian Islands, Saronic Islands (Greece), and Dalmatian Islands (Croatia). 

Since moving to Thailand in 2017, Amy and I have organized three sailing trips around Koh Samui and Phuket. Unlike Spain in the summer, Thailand doesn’t have busy boat traffic. Thailand’s boat density per beach is low making it ideal for sailing. When you travel by boat, you can access secluded spots. Paradise becomes exclusively for you. 

For this trip, I based our route upon meteorological conditions, seasonal weather, and a progressive wow-factor. We started by visiting caves in Ao Phang Nga National Park, limestone formations in Krabi, snorkeling in Koh Phi Phi Islands, and more. I engaged the crew in daily destination decisions and added flexibility for group choices.

When planning a sailing trip, I recommend securing a crew first. Most people like the idea of a sailing trip, but few can commit. Next, contact several yacht charters for boat options and prices. If you don’t have a skipper’s license, then hire a bareboat with skipper. The skipper facilitates the boat and route so you can relax. Need someone to buy groceries and cook meals? Then hire a hostess. For our trip, we preferred to do everything ourselves, but it’s nice to have options.

Juan’s Tips 

1- Provisioning: Don’t over-buy groceries. Schedule both onshore dining and onboard meals. 

2- Avoid heavy luggage. Include a headlamp and nautical footwear. (i.e. anti-slip aqua shoes for rocky coastlines)

3- Respect the sea. Be conscious of obstacles in the boat and outside. For example, be aware of currents when you swim, rocks, sea urchins, jellyfish, and waves when approaching the beach in a dingy.

Amy Patcharaporn Anantasuk // Thai // Real Estate

Travel. Photography. Movies. 

This is my third sailing trip with Juan. I feel happy seeing people enjoy their first sailing experience, especially because most people are as excited as me! When planning the trips, Juan’s expertise is chartering and managing the boat. I handle everything else from securing flights, rental cars, villas, and crew members to planning groceries and meals. In addition to managing the group’s accounting and expenses, I’m also the boat’s DJ with my playlist.

Sailing is lots of fun, but it’s important to act responsibly. At the beginning of each trip, we brief everyone on proper protocol. This crew had solid sailing and outdoor experience which made it easy. We discuss topics such as conserving the boat’s limited water supply and acting safely. Sailing is not a joke. If you get injured, we are far from land. We also train the crew on launching and driving the dingy. It makes them feel integrated in daily tasks and gives them freedom to go ashore.

I love each trip especially because I’m building my sailing skills. I’m on a learning curve and I’m more aware of everything. I’ve learned sailing essentials such as driving the dingy and maneuvers like setting-up sails, pulling ropes, dropping anchor, and securing the boat to a mooring buoy. I plan to study for my skipper’s license soon. When I’m on a boat, my mind shuts off from the everyday world. I recharge in the open air. It’s a special time where I see my life from a different perspective. I feel free.

Amy’s Tips

1- Enjoy each moment to the fullest! Savor the freedom and fun because these trips fly by. 

2 – Choose a smart combination of crew members. Teamwork is essential. Make sure that personalities match otherwise, it could be explosive. 

3- Most charter boats have a Cruising Guide with reference maps, nautical warnings, destination tips, and onshore dining guide. They are a great resource. 

Jak Drinnan // British //Architect

Kitesurfing, Sculptural Art, Sailing

This was my second sailing trip with Captain Juan and Amy. I joined the previous trip to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao in June 2019. They were both incredible trips, however I felt more prepared for the experience this time around. We also had a bigger crew which brought a better dynamic. The boat was fantastic. Everything was provided. The hardest part was leaving at the end! 

I would encourage others to join a sailing trip because it’s a unique way to experience a destination. You have the ultimate freedom to come and go on your own time You can also avoid the crowds. Thailand is beautiful. There are pristine beaches and exceptional ocean landscapes where vertical limestone cliffs emerge from tropical blue sea. It is quite special waking-up in the morning surrounded by nature. We were usually alone in stunning national parks before the tour boats arrived.

My favorite place was Monkey Beach in Koh Phi Phi. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a perfect beach. Koh Racha Noi is located just south of Phuket. It had the best snorkeling I’ve experienced in Thailand. I plan to return for scuba diving later this year. 

Jak’s Tips:

1 – Pack your bag as normal, then remove 80% of your stuff because you won’t need any of it!

2 – Cover-up during peak daytime hours. It’s easy to burn, especially when the sun reflects off the ocean.

3 – Wear proper footwear. A few barefoot days working on the boat can absolutely ruin your feet!

Jak Drinnan // British //Architect

Kitesurfing, Sculptural Art, Sailing

This was my second sailing trip with Captain Juan and Amy. I joined the previous trip to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao in June 2019. They were both incredible trips, however I felt more prepared for the experience this time around. We also had a bigger crew which brought a better dynamic. The boat was fantastic. Everything was provided. The hardest part was leaving at the end! 

I would encourage others to join a sailing trip because it’s a unique way to experience a destination. You have the ultimate freedom to come and go on your own time You can also avoid the crowds. Thailand is beautiful. There are pristine beaches and exceptional ocean landscapes where vertical limestone cliffs emerge from tropical blue sea. It is quite special waking-up in the morning surrounded by nature. We were usually alone in stunning national parks before the tour boats arrived.

My favorite place was Monkey Beach in Koh Phi Phi. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a perfect beach. Koh Racha Noi is located just south of Phuket. It had the best snorkeling I’ve experienced in Thailand. I plan to return for scuba diving later this year. 

Jak’s Tips:

1 – Pack your bag as normal, then remove 80% of your stuff because you won’t need any of it!

2 – Cover-up during peak daytime hours. It’s easy to burn, especially when the sun reflects off the ocean.

3 – Wear proper footwear. A few barefoot days working on the boat can absolutely ruin your feet!

Andrew James // British // Property

Swimming. Chess. Sailing 

This is my second trip with Captain Juan and Amy. Last year, I joined their trip around Koh Samui. This trip had better landscape, easier sailing conditions, and calmer sea. On our previous trip, the sea was rougher with the occasional storm which added to the excitement. 

If you’re interested in entry-level sailing, then Thailand is the best in the region. It offers excellent routes, marinas, and charter sailing. I enjoy these trips because I can practice my sailing skills. I assisted with various maneuvers such as helping navigate through marinas, raising sails, mooring to buoys, and anchoring. Catamarans are fun cruiser boats. One perk was that Jetset had a water-maker meaning we didn’t need to re-fill our water tanks at marinas. That was great because the only floating pontoon along our route was at Koh Phi Phi which wasn’t convenient to reach.  

One of my favorite places was Koh Racha Noi where I snorkeled in the clearest water I’ve ever seen. Alternatively, my least favorite place was a creepy bat cave we explored by dingy and kayak. We tried to reach a hidden lagoon through a sea cave with a colony of bats perched above us.  It’s important to be open-minded when experiencing nature, but I was glad to leave that cave! I encourage others to go sailing. In addition to great times, any beach you’ve ever visited feels completely different when you arrive by boat. There is always something new to discover.

Tom’s Tips:

  1. Don’t get drunk the night before boarding a boat, otherwise you’ll surely get seasick. 
  2. The day-to-day jobs on the boat are great exercise, so don’t be afraid to jump in and help.
  3. Buy full-length UV-protective clothing. The sun is merciless. 

Natalie Chelliah // British // Architect & Interior Architect 

Fitness. Yoga. Baking.

Last summer I joined my first catamaran trip with Captain Juan and Amy. That trip was amazing because we explored off-the-beaten-track islands and even squeezed in a diving trip. However, this recent trip around Phang-Nga Bay and beyond blew me away. We had a bigger group, better boat, and more jaw-dropping scenery. I wanted to stay longer! I appreciated the variety of places and our fun, adventurous group. The beaches were paradise. Everywhere was quiet. We had many places to ourselves.

This trip was full of highlights. We explored islands by dingy, kayak, and snorkeling. Relaxing on the empty beaches was priceless. It was my first time to visit beautiful Krabi and Railay Beach. Next time, I’ll trek to Railay’s viewpoint. We also moored at Phi Phi Islands’ Monkey Beach – a secluded beach that is empty except for day-trippers. Once everyone left, the beach was ours. We didn’t see any monkeys, but it had the softest sand. We swam in crystal clear water with towering karst cliffs as our backdrop. I’ll never forget it.

If you join a sailing trip, remember to be flexible because things can change. For example, our catamaran’s power system was broken resulting in no air conditioning. The first night I couldn’t sleep because it was too hot below deck, but once we adjusted the fans and cabin’s natural air flow, it was fine. Despite the air-conditioning, this boat was an upgrade from our last catamaran. It was newer, more spacious, and had a better floorplan. It was very comfortable! Now, the only way is up, so I hope we get the best boat for our next trip!

Natalie’s Tips:

  1. 1. Pack light! You’ll wear less outfits than you think. Most of the time you wear a bikini and shorts. 
  2. Bring a couple card games for the evenings. We enjoyed Code Name.
  3. Bring a drone if you have one! Captain Juan captured many scenic moments with his drone.

Jan Hempel // German // Project Manager Timber Construction

Traveling. Hiking. Skiing. Sailing

Sailing in Thailand is wonderful because of the warm, sunny weather. You can stay outside all night. Even the rain is warm! There is diverse scenery with rocks for snorkeling, lonely beaches to relax, shady forests for a walk, and busy cities to go out.

Although this trip had almost no wind which limited our ability to use the sails, it had the most sightseeing, activities, and fun. I really enjoyed it! This trip also had the biggest and best crew I’ve joined so far. We had a good mixture of interesting, easy going, and funny people. I appreciated how nicely everyone fit together and got along.

I’ve been sailing for about ten years. In Germany, I co-own a vintage sailboat, a 1972 Hallberg Mistral 33 named Elouise. I’ve enjoyed regular sailing in the Baltic Sea, Netherlands, and Croatia. The mixture of planning, action, and calm moments is exciting. I love the silence and freedom. This was my first time onboard a catamaran, which are more spacious and steadier than monohull boats. Jetset was perfect for eight people. 

I loved the variety of places along our route. We explored sea caves with interesting rock formations and hidden lagoons. We visited Koh Phi Phi’s party beach where we drank buckets of gin and tonic. We even had James Bond Island to ourselves between tourist boats. Another fun moment was our catamaran day party. The weather was perfect. Jak made Cuba Libres and Mojitos. We hung out, listened to music, and laughed. Life was great. We were grateful for this experience.

Jan’ Tips:

1.) If you are new to sailing, start with short trips and slow wind. This helps you adjust to the movements in calmer conditions. 

2.) Be flexible with your crew because you are a team. You’ll share small spaces, cooking duties, bathrooms, and decision-making. 

3.) If your boat has a galley or indoor area, stay outside to avoid sea sickness. Look at the horizon to help your body adjust to the swaying.

Jetset’s Sailing Itinerary

Sunday – Phuket – Phang-Nga Bay. Explore caves and hongs.
Monday – Phang-Nga Bay: James Bond Island – Koh Roí – Koh Yao Noi -Koh Pak Bia
Tuesday – Hong Island – Railay Beach. Party in Ao Nang
Wednesday – Koh Pu – Bamboo Island. Party in Koh Phi Phi
Thursday – Koh Phi Phi – Phiphi Lae (Maya Bay)
Friday – Racha Noi – Racha Yai for snorkelling
Saturday – Koh Rang Yai Kai – Koh Naka
Sunday – Return to Phuket Heaven Marina

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I was invited at the weekend to come and see the Banyan Golf Club and their accompanying Residences and Village and where they are now renting out 17 private pool villas (pets allowed) and 69 lagoon-side pool access villas the 52 villas on a monthly basis for just 25,000B a month. With this enticing package, Banyan Hua Hin has adapted its business strategy to focus on offering Thai residents a fully integrated healthy and active lifestyle experience. Banyan Village has already been very popular with the Thai residents with over 60% of the inventory now rented.

We also saw the delightful Residences at the rear of the property where buyers can work with their architects to create purpose built luxury homes ranging from THB11.9 million and upwards.

I was checked in to the Village and shown to my two bedroom 120 square metres villa for the weekend. They are spacious two bedrooms, two bathroom units with a small fully fitted kitchen and a high ceiling lounge/dining room with direct access to a lagoon swimming pool at the rear. Fully equipped with the latest fixtures and state-of-the-art technology, including high-speed Wi-Fi, the villas are ideal for families who want to experience alfresco living, away from the crowds. All residents are assured of seclusion in a self-contained village with 24/7 security. A daily housekeeping service is also provided.

The villas are laid out in small clusters in separate cul de sacs so you are able to park your car right outside. The gardens are nicely tended and gardeners were working all weekend on the grounds. There is a central administration building at the front and there will, I understand, be a fine dining restaurant and all day dining there soon.

In the evening we were invited to see the sister golf club, one of the finest in Thailand. They had an event organised for their members a fine dining wine event with six courses, each course accompanied by a fine wine. 

The course is set in the picturesque rolling hills less than 15 minutes from the resort. It is well run by the Golf Club Manager and Director Stacey Walton who has been there for 12 years  since it was planned and opened. The staff are very professional and the main building or club house is set looking out over the most delightful vista. I was met by Stacey who took me to Mulligan’s a bar alongside the clubhouse looking over the last tee.

The award winning 18 hole championship course nestled between the mountains and the sea on Thailand’s glittering gulf coast boasts a spectacular par 72 course featuring undulating fairways, manicured greens and a variety of different tee boxes making it fun, enjoyable and challenging for golfers of all levels. It is no surprise therefore, that the course won the “Best Golf Club Experience in Asia Pacific” award in 2019 and was named on the Rolex “World’s Top 1000 Golf Courses” list in 2012. 

That evening we had a wonderful meal and the rapport and camaraderie amongst the group of members was a pleasure to watch whilst we were wined and dined with a definitive feast of first class food and wine. At the end of the evening I drifted off back to the resort to retire and slept like a log!

After breakfast the following morning I was treated to a massage at the onsite spa which was a pleasure. That afternoon after lunch at the Banyan Golf Club we were invited to join the academy, where they offer two hour and three day options to learn the sport or improve your technique led by John Wither the clubs resident professional. The “Play Golf in 3 Days” package includes expert coaching, video analysis and driving range sessions and more.

Next month in August and September Hua Hin has an annual golf festival where the Banyan and Black Mountain courses charge a discounted rate of just 1,950B per round and the other 9 courses in and around Hua Hin charge just 1,000B plus buggy, caddy, etc. This would be the ideal time to stay at the Village, far from the madding crowd in downtown Hua Hin, and enjoy some of the best golf courses in SE Asia. You will probably chill so much at the Village that you will stay on a couple more months!

While staying at Banyan Village, guests are given the Banyan Privilege Card which provides up to 50% discounts at top restaurants, attractions and activities in Hua Hin and can also take the opportunity to visit BeWell, a fully certified family health centre on site which provides a range of services from health checks to nutritional assessment and advice. 

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Back in 1824, according to historical lore, the agricultural areas around Phetchaburi were hit with a severe drought. Some farmers were forced to migrate South. They discovered a stretch of beach with dazzling white sands and rows of rocks along the shoreline. With fertile land and abundant fishing, they settled in a village called ‘Samoe Riang’ (or ‘Row of Rocks’). Later the area became known as ‘Laem Hin’ (or Stony Cape).

This small slice of paradise remained hidden to outsiders for many decades. In 1909, a British -Canadian railway engineer and the Chief of the Southern Railway Division, named Henry Gittens, was surveying a rail line to the South in the general Laem Hin area. He also found a white pristine beach while searching for a suitable railway station. Gittens reported his findings of this unknown beach paradise to his superior, H.R.H. Prince Purachatra, Commander of the Royal State Railways. Soon the word spread to the other royal and noble households. By the time Hua Hin railway station opened in 1911 the area was quickly becoming popular and attracted Thai visitors.

The first royal member to build a residence was H.R.H. Prince Nares. He named his resort home ‘Sansamran-Sukaves’. It was located on the Southside of Laem Hin village. He gave it the name Hua Hin to differentiate it from the village. Soon the name Hua Hin came to mean the entire beach resort district. Due to its many natural charms, Hua Hin slowly became a vacation destination for many royal members, including the Monarch himself, and other noble families. At the same time, small wooden houses were built, called Sukaves Bungalows. These residences received many royal guests. King Rama VI also quickly saw the area’s potential in wishing to develop Hua Hin into a major tourism destination.    

In 1917, the Royal State Railway Department procured a plot of land on the stony cape and built multiple wooden houses. By 1921, the rail connection between Bangkok and Malacca was completed. That meant there would be a demand for an adequate overnight stay facility in Hua Hin. To serve this clientele, the Railway Hotel was built. Then the luxury hotel, Hotel Hua Hin, was built in 1922. Also opened at the same time were tennis courts and Thailand’s first golf course, the Royal Hua Hin Golf Course. In 1924, King Rama VI’s summer palace was completed. Named ‘Marukhathayawan Palace’, it was located on a beach halfway between Cha-am and Hua Hin. The palace was built using golden teak and a gingerbread architectural style with Thai influences.  This palace is now open to visitors.

King Rama VII often visited Hua Hin and borrowed his uncle’s, H.R.H. Prince Nares, Sukaves residence. In 1928, he decided to build a resort residence for H.M. Queen Rambhaibhannee using his own private funds. The palace was called ‘Phra Ratchawang Klai Kangwon’. ‘Klai Kangwon’ means ‘Far from worries.’ The palace was constructed in a Mediterranean style with a Thai influence. Within the palace grounds are four royal mansions with names that rhyme: Piemsuk, Plukkasem, Erb Preme and Emme Predi. 

Hua Hin was the location of one of the most dramatic events in Thai history. While out at the Royal Golf Course on 24 June 1932, King Rama VII received a message that stated a bloodless coup had occurred which changed the absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. He replied the next day that he had granted his permission for constitutional authority to be transferred to the Thai people. It was a wise decision that avoided bloodshed.

After these dramatic political events, Hua Hin gradually progressed through the decades developing into a popular public resort for many Thais and was less focused on being a royal retreat. Although unaffected by the events of WWII, Hua Hin saw little tourism due to wartime transportation restrictions.

Starting in the early 1950s, Hua Hin gradually started to become an extremely popular resort it is today. During the reign of H.M. King Rama IX, King Bhumibhol and Queen Sirikit often visited Hua Hin. During H.M.’s vacation time, he spent many visits to remote villages and bringing care and comfort to those less fortunate. In fact, the first initiated Royal Project was a drought alleviation initiative in a small community South of Hua Hin. Subsequently, there were hundreds of similar projects improving the standard of living for Thailand’s citizens.

Hua Hin has always retained its charms and scenic attractions for visitors.

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Covid-19 has crushed the world and as we seem to be heading out the other side with countries opening borders and relaxing social distancing rules, the past few months have been an experience many would care to forget. As countries around the world moved to protect their own, I became a Corona refugee, as my friends have affectionately labelled me, unable to return home to Vietnam as I’ve quite literally been stranded in the UK. In these uncertain times when we were confined, almost by invisible chains that allowed exercise, essential shopping and travel for key workers, my one walk a day has turned into an adventure where exploring my local neighbourhood has revealed a hidden treasure trove of sights and sounds, architectural delights and newly discovered gems. I have been blessed to have found an amazing house just metres from the beach in Brighton on the English coast.

While here I have jumped at an opportunity to help out with a local Ambulance service and have used this opportunity to learn new skills and explore new horizons. A key takeaway from the turmoil is that you should manage the things you have control over and mitigate the damage from the things you don’t. As a key worker I am blessed to have been welcomed into the NHS family in the UK and now more than ever appreciate the dedication, commitment and loyalty the staff have in providing essential services to the community. The social interaction and new friendships have also provided a lifeline that has cushioned the effect of lock down.

I’ve taken to walking a different path each day. So often as we were once filling our days in between work and play we missed the beauty around us and failed to realise the wonders in our own backyards. Now, taking the time I’ve marvelled at the architecture a block away. Ornate doors of different styles and colours where homeowners take pride and care, grand mansions and Art Deco council blocks that blend to form historical patchworks and a kaleidoscope of colour and design. I’ve noticed the intricacies of each uniquely painted beach hut lined up along the shore, which open up to reveal the personality of their owners who will again flock to the seaside in the coming months. Whilst the timing of a pandemic is never the right time, spring has certainly made it more bearable as gardens are in bloom, daylight savings allows longer days and squirrels frolic in the trees. When the sun shines on the English coast its magical. In fact, when it rains and the seas are choppy, there’s still a quality that entices wanderers to brave the elements and walk along well constructed paths along the shore. 


On my one walk a day as we hear stories of company collapse and business uncertainty, small local entrepreneurs have endeavoured to keep the cash flowing, serving essential food items and some treats, sourced locally and have turned the economy cashless. If we take something else away, it’s that there are things we can do without and essentials are no longer essential. I’ve been living out of a suitcase that’s well packed with interchangeable clothes and easily maintained colour palettes and in all honesty I could probably live quite comfortably out of it forever. Neither my friends nor myself care that things have been worn more than a few times before. Priorities have changed and coming out of this on the other side, life for me will be simpler and less cluttered. Hopefully the world will wake up and see the clean seas and the blue skies and realise disposable is a thing of the past and conspicuous consumption is passé. New and old money could be spent wisely not frivolously. We’ll see…

There’s a new level of respect as walkers pass each other in the street and parents with small children say thank you as you walk out onto the street to allow social distancing. It’s become a habit where no one gives it a second thought. On steps heading down to the beach people wait while others pass before continuing their journeys. On the foreshore there’s plenty of room guided along paths hugging chalk cliffs and rock pools or you may prefer to crunch the pebbles that construct the beaches that are synonymous with the British seaside. I’d love to think society has rediscovered the art of courtesy and the importance of personal space. Again, we’ll see. As I turn the corner I come across a park, actually a manor house garden and a cathedral a block away, with another in the distance looming tall above the rooftops. Relics of history have allowed us to intertwine with the modern day capturing a history that dates back over hundreds of years.

Gradually the wheels are beginning to turn and wind up the economy and from an absolute standstill months ago shutters are coming off. On the corner a local bead shop has reopened. The line winds around the block people stand two metres apart patiently waiting for freshly baked croissants and pork and fennel sausage rolls. The new essentials or luxuries because we don’t have to cook them ourselves. In the park the squirrels gather at my feet as crumbs are snatched and nibbled. 

I love to travel. It’s a passion that both excites and delights however recent events have got me to thinking… What will the future of travel look like? While the joy of discovery will never fade, is it really necessary to travel hours to find the perfect restaurant or beach when the ones in your own town serve some of the best food and the beach at the end of the road is uncrowded. During this crisis, mostly out of necessity, people have become flexible, taking opportunities whenever they can and businesses have redesigned the working week. There are new ways of working and the nine to five, five days a week may be relegated to history. There is joy to be had swimming in the sea on a Tuesday and eating at a delicious seafood restaurant on a Wednesday while others clamour for reservations months in advance on a Saturday night. Fish and chips taste better on the English Coast, they really do. Soft serve ice cream with chocolate flakes sticking out of them are the ideal dessert. Just watch out for the seagulls the size of albatrosses. I still don’t know how one swooped down from behind me and snatched mine from my hands. I had only just started licking it, so I bought another and was more guarded this time. 

I have been to Brighton before, however now, initially driven out of a daily routine, I have peeled away the layers to reveal the intricacies of a local community where small boutiques, bakeries and craft brewers form the glue that binds the area together, and who by nature are tucked away behind small shop fronts or doorways, accessible to in the know locals or passers by who stumble upon them. Now more than ever it has become essential to support local enterprises in an effort to stem the erosion that may wash them away for ever as chains and supermarkets weather the storm with higher cash reserves and minimum wages. The coffee is always better in the cafe with two tables or with room only to stand at the counter and where the brownies are homemade and the sandwiches are freshly made. It’s a choice we need to make in order to protect diversity or risk turning every city into something akin to ‘Stepford Wives’. There is reward to be had by walking the streets and not recognising the names above doorways for both yourself and the community. 

As the memories fade and people begin to reappear in the streets, it would seem reaching for the bananas across your shoulder in the market is again acceptable. Or was it ever and did we just put up with it? I still find myself asking people to step back…

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BANGKOK: The wheels of Thailand’s tourism industry are slowly turning. Travel and tourism is starting to move again.
Weekends in Hua Hin hotels for instance are close to capacity (with some resorts experiencing 90% occupancy and some even higher). Being close to Bangkok; the weather, air quality and the fact that you can drive from the metropolis definitely help. But two out of seven days are not enough and our islands, away from Bangkok are suffering the most. Domestically they receive very few guests and are EXTREMELY reliant on international travellers.
International flights into Thailand are currently not allowed for tourists. The only flights in are carrying repatriated Thai nationals or those with jobs here and holding a work permit or are invited government guests. All have to enter 14 days of quarantine on arrival. 
We need international arrivals to support our tourism industry but they will not travel without flights and on arrival having to spend 2 weeks in quarantine. We cannot survive on domestic tourism alone. Last year Thailand welcomed 39.8 million guests. 
We are asking for your support. To all our industry friends and professionals we ask you to talk about what our industry decision makers, government and tourism agency/ association colleagues can do to help restart flights. We need to reopen our skies.
We are grateful for the Thai government’s leadership in controlling COVID-19. Thailand was recently ranked second in the Global COVID-19 Recovery Index after Australia, and is first in Asia in the same index.
Thailand is regarded as a leading light, a flagship of Asia tourism. Thailand’s tourism industry needs flights to recover and, in turn, protect valuable jobs. Opening up a dialogue to help make it more accessible for foreign visitors to travel to Thailand is vital. 
The industry requests the help from Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn and Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn. PM Prayut Chan-ocha announced that international travel is possible on a bilateral basis. No further details however have been released.
The Thai Government has done an excellent job in controlling the coronavirus pandemic with only 3,135 infections and just 58 deaths. They are to be congratulated. It is encouraging to note that Thailand has logged no new local Covid-19 infections for the past 21 days. As we move into the recovery phase we need to now restart international flights into and out of Thailand. 
Without air lift, recovery for some businesses will simply not happen. 1000 tourists, which is the maximum figure per day the government are suggesting, will in our opinion be too few to support the tourism industry. 
Thailand’s tourism industry, is a major employer, which directly and indirectly affects millions. For almost two decades, the industry has been providing employment for 1-in-10 of all workers here. 
The peripheral grey market that supports tourism has also been widely affected. The street vendors for instance and other low paid informal workers struggle daily.
It is important to all business owners to keep our valued employees and maintain trust with them. Please help support the tourism industry’s call to allow international tourists to once again revisit these shores. 
In your webinars and zoom meetings; in your social media interactions and discussions and industry meetings, please ensure that your opinion on restarting international flights and protecting tourism jobs are made known. 
Andrew J Wood
President Skål International Bangkok
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We start off on a good note – abundant joy. A rhythmic beat to our step and a song in the heart; we are en route to the airport to catch a Druk Air flight to Paro, in the land of mystical mountains, Bhutan. Splendour awaited us, we were told.

Our excitement is palpable and quickly transfers to each member. We are airborne.

As usual, I have done no homework and left it all to destiny. I so firmly subscribe to travelling to a place fresh, unstudied, and ready for the newness of it all. It works sometimes, and occasionally it doesn’t. Drukpa Kagyu (Mahayana) Buddhism is the state religion, I have known. As an ism, it has always drawn me, and my philosophies have meandered around karma, Sutras propagated by Lord Buddha, and the allure of timelessness has fascinated me. My noble thoughts are rudely broken as a child prods me hard. I turn and view the snow capped ranges. I stare at Divinity, my heart pounding. I automatically fish out my mobile. And yes, I manage a few blurred shots which are good enough to put a spring to my already overworked heart. They pass by all too soon, and I resettle I am a huge sharer – I like sharing it all. Bhutan beckoned.

Bhutan Budda in the Clouds

We land. We emerge from the airport – fresh enough to trek. At the airport we are greeted by Tashi Delek everywhere, hands folded, meaning – may your coming be auspicious to our country – welcome. Quaint! Thereafter greeting us is a burly Bhutanese driver come guide, even as he stands, hands folded, beside a plush car. He is Campchu, attired in his country’s costume to boot, it is the Gho, a knee-length robe some sort of a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. The pouch in front was used to carrying a dagger, and food bowls. Campchu is carrying his wallet and mobile in it now, and some betel nut, Doma, he enjoys chewing it he informs us. We don’t conceal our delight, and set off to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. His smiling mien, and an impressive array of Hindi words, the songs he plays on his car stereo – all wrap us up in a genteel manner. Within minutes of our drive, we are gasping at the clouds that chase. The air is fresh and unsullied. We hold our breath at every turn of a hill, witnessing the magical wispiness. There is absolute quiet within the interiors of our vehicle, a rare occurrence during a car ride en famille. 

Once in Thimphu, we are ushered into a simple hotel. The gateway is embellished, like most gates seem to be, we later observe. The ladies at the reception, yet again, are in traditional attire – the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju. This elegance we witness, we wish to own. 

Inside the hotel, we are made to walk up three flights of stairs, and they are steep. The frivolous play of clouds continues outside the glass windows. Far away an imposing Statue of Buddha, beckons. By dinnertime, we are impatient to sample Bhutanese fare. However the Indian food served in our hotel buffet is severely disappointing. 

By the end of our trip though, we are addicted to Bhutanese food – Ema Datshi (chillies and cheese) and many different varieties of the same, momos (very different from those sampled in India) and red rice, often buttered, with a pleasant nutty taste, unlike brown rice. Cheese is made from cow’s milk called datshi and is never eaten raw, and infuses the sauces with strong flavours. Zow shungo is a rice dish mixed with leftover vegetables, and a lot of stews are at our disposal. Chicken and pork are favourite meats. Shabalay juma (Bhutanese sausages marinated in spices), and noodles are some favoured snacks. The buttered tea is a great way to wash it all down. We savour their food, again and again, as our taste buds are tickled, teased and taken.

Bhutan stopping en route

The hillsides, I had observed during our first drive, host a series of fluttering white flags on tall poles, in lots of twenties, even fifties. They flutter wildly, with the winds, almost ceaselessly. Later Campchu explains their meaning – whenever someone dies, these flags are planted on the hillsides as a mark of respect for the dead, be it man, woman or child. I am humbled. I view them with much reverence. The hills are dotted with many such groupings of fluttering whites. 

Our first morning is a lineup of unhurried activities: we are driven to the National Library and Archives of Bhutan, with the Royal family – captured in photographs, relics, and reams of written wisdom in calligraphic beauty. You name it, we find it – the Bhutanese culture aesthetically presented in a building that is not very large, much like everything else in this neat country. The size of the museum belies the magnitude of all that it houses. Whatever we actually envision is perhaps a minuscule of what is represented, centuries of trial and error, decade upon decade of sentinels against predators – against the onslaught of mankind itself. The Bhutanese are custodians of what we witness as their happiness in present day. We walk around dazed, taken in, aware that the four of us are separated by our individual fascinations. Once we have scoured the three floors, we come away knowing that Bhutanese Royalty lives well, humbly and enjoys the generosity of the bounty of nature. The people sure know how to respect and preserve nature, as it was meant to be. We stand quietly and view the royal palace from a hilltop, admiring its ramparts.

In Thimphu all day, we grasp the meaning of Dzong, a word that resounds.  There are many Dzongs in every town of Bhutan and the word conjures up the image of a pagoda-like building meant for quietude and prayer. The word literally means “the palace of great happiness or bliss“. It means being fully immersed in the present, breathing in every moment and counting each as a blessing. As I look around me, I see a play of harmony, and warmth in their countenance. Clouds afloat, with the sun, as playmate, in a perpetual game of hide-n-seek. The Bhutanese skies seem to excel at this frolic. 

Our next stop at the National Folk Heritage Museum takes us back in time. We hear huntsmen, as we hear the plodding of horses carrying them; we witness women pounding the millet and jowar, just as we observe many wooden mortars and pestles of varying sizes, some massive. The museum itself is maintained for real feel – no embellishments, no fuss over giving it a fancy makeover for tourists. The narrow and dark staircases, with creaking boards, ensure that you are seized by the past. Garlands of garlic and red chillies adorn the entrance to the museum. We are walking through war zones as well, and see the crude weaponry then employed to slay the enemy. The tapestries are fine and the crafts, even finer. We see how looms were used to their maximum potential because there was in fact nothing else to clothe the tribes. Sheaths of handloom, designed aesthetically, are still loomed by the Bhutanese people. They proudly don their traditional attire handed down the ages, stunning and intricate as they are. 

To our delight, we are driven to the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan next. Daughter Ambika and I are completely taken up by the array of displayed looms. We could perhaps have just sat and meditated upon the weaves of silks and cotton threads, intertwined sophisticatedly. We have entered a world of impossible patterns, unique to Bhutan. Our minds plough through a labyrinth of motifs. The Bhutanese display at the museum of folk art shows off their creative brilliance.

Our appetites are whetted, and we are ready to go shopping. We want to adorn ourselves with that which was on display. But our chauffeur insists that we await the morrow. He tells us that the township of Paro, and not Punakha town, our next stop, is a far better city, attuned to shoppers.

Our drive to Punakha, on the following morning, takes us on a winding path up the mountains – frenzied delights – clouds as travel mates. They are all around us, as we ride the Bhutanese mountains, tasting of pleasures unknown. However, not the entire journey is smooth, since the rains have left their footprints in broken bits. It also continues to rain in fragments. We arrive at the highest point of our journey, and pause to take it in. It is suddenly wintry cold, as biting winds come at us.

We are at Dochula Pass, lined with stupas, in their monastic hierarchy, en route to Punakha town. This little halt gifts us a quaint café, offering cookies with its strong coffee, made in modern coffee grinders, while you are regaled by the lush greens, and resident cloud cover. Mesmerised as we walk up to the Stupas, and look across green heaven, we are dazed into a kind of trance. For a moment time is suspended between heaven and earth. You are still even as the chilly wind blows your hair about your face and threatens to knock the air out of your lungs. 

Oh, the magic of it! 

Me by Pole Bhutan

En route to the Punakha valley, during our gradual descent, we are encouraged to stop at the botanical gardens by our guide. The dense garden swallows us – we meander around, admiring the flora, getting deeper and deeper, sucked in by the magic of it all. It is luscious and very damp. We sing, and allow ourselves the time to resonate with the spirit of the place. The limitless greens are different from what we’ve known. Bewitched, we return to our onward journey. 

At Punakha, we find ourselves in a homely hotel with a vision of wondrous mountains facing us from every open window. It drizzles on. We spend a quiet evening on the benches that dot the hotel’s garden. Mystical strains of a flute-players magic keep up the magic. The air is drenched with more than the drizzle. We immerse ourselves in the experience.  

Punakha is a sweet little valley town where we visit Punakha Dzong. It is a truly handsome edifice. Again, we lose ourselves and each other in its entrails. Colours resound and lend to its being a photographer’s delight. The bridge that carries us to the Dzong is in itself a well-preserved Bhutanese ‘relic’. We are told that this Dzong, where their King was wed, had been restored in 1994. It was the administrative centre and seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955. We appreciate the information gathered, but prefer silence. The Dzong also houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, a piece of information that excites me. The knowledge that I am so close to so much wisdom, is terribly enthralling.

Later we watch rafters on the flowing river. The Dzong is located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley. The ambience permeates our pores. 

Later we feast on momos, fried tomatoes and dried, roasted beans in Bhutanese style. The night is restful. 

Next stop on our Bhutanese trail is the town of Paro, and the ride continues to be as exquisite as ever. We have driven there via Thimphu. Paro is where we had landed. Paro is where we will shop, and Paro is where we visit the Rinpung Dzong, a fortress-monastery overlooking the Paro valley. This monastery, built at first by Padma Sambhava at the beginning of the tenth century, conceals a long and hard history.

Paro is also where we make the tenuous climb to Paro Taktsang (also known as Tiger’s Nest) a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley.

Paro is the climax of our sojourn, and a heightened sense of adventure overcomes us. 

Misty Tiger’s Nest

Again, like Punakha, in this valley town, dotted with Dzongs and such like, our night halt is at a sweet little boutique hotel. The food is a superb blend of western, Indian and Bhutanese fare.  An early start is a visit to Paro’s National Museum, and as promised, we are dropped off to shop to our heart’s content. Like lost cattle, we roam the main shopping street, and feast our senses. We shop joyously, fingering all objects of Bhutanese origin, then imagining it adorning our home. We willingly empty our purses on Bhutanese fabric, artefacts such as brass teapots, a turtle in golden stone, wooden beads, prayer flags, metal prayer bowls with carved mantras, and embroidered bags. The most befitting memento is a Prayer Wheel in Jade, which is a true prize. 

We turn in early since we are told that there is an arduous climb up to the Tiger’s Nest very early the following morning.

There are many legends that surround this Himalayan monastery, and Clint, a traveller writes, “The temple complex was first built in 1692 around a cave but it dates back to the 8th century as a mediation site. This cave is where it is said Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. According to legend, Padmasambhava flew to the cave on the back of a Tiger.”

We are to begin the trek at 6am in the morning, armed with but our willpower and eager souls. Our guide tells us that it should not take us more than two hours to get up there, and less to climb down. What we find, leaves us speechless.

We start our climb rather merrily, with songs upon our lips. After an hour’s climb with great energy, we are breathless. Our guide is losing patience and wants us to speed up I suspect, such as he demonstrates. It is only halfway up, he reminds us. I am scared – will I make it up at all? By this time, we should have at least had a glimpse of the Nest. The children do not complain, but they aren’t skirting up either. The weather keeps up and doesn’t add to my anxiety. There is no path drawn, and it is rough. I watch people pass me by, some far older, and many on horseback. My pride doesn’t permit me to choose a ride. I power on, but with increasing difficulty. We finally arrive at a point whence a meandering staircase reveals itself, as does the monastery, the Tiger’s Nest, hanging off a Cliffside. It is the most unbelievable sight! It hits my gut, in a momentum that steals my breath away, even as I am forced to breathe harder. The exhaustion vanishes, and I stretch myself toward it, giving it my all. The green mountains behind it, in front of it, around it… they all add to the mystique on display. It is ethereal. Cemented to my spot as I behold the Nest. Heaven! I cannot for the life of me imagine how one would have built it, but that is all logic. This Monastery defies gravity. 

Bhutan Musuem 4 of us

There is a certain reverence that overcomes a person, when one achieves what one considers the impossible. The air is awash with gratitude. It is crowded, and yet one feels the triumph as one’s own. I am alone. The arduousness of the climb bespeaks the tenacity of the monks. What inspires one to abandon ‘normal’ life and undertake such a life of solitude and hardship, I wonder out aloud. We wish to spend the entire day up there, after all we had invested all of ourselves to get up here. The exhilaration of the experience lasts up until one has to take up the descent.

After just over one wonderstruck hour we venture to undertake the descent. 

We make it down with difficulty. It begins to rain, and the mud beneath our feet glistens unsteadily. We take over three hours to return to our car, where awaits us our sulky driver come guide. One look at my limp and my husband’s crackling knees and he is all empathy. 

We leave Bhutan with a plethora of experiences, peace and many unanswered questions. Yet when we arrive at our city dwelling, the questions go up in smoke, leaving a profound sense of harmony in its place. We sense Paro, Thimphu and Punakha embedded within us, and Tiger’s Nest, that has made its home within our collective soul.

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Amazonia:  Epic, wonder and unique

Amazonia  represents 60% of the national territory of Brazil and has dozens of places to practice adventures active tourism: tribal visits, wildlife abounds and camping  in the Amazon rainforest, canopy tours, boat trips, fishing, wilderness lodge, biking, hiking, whitewater rafting.   In addition to stunning landscapes, the greenest region on the planet has a lot to offer. 

The Legal Amazonia encompasses nine states in Brazil, among Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins and part of the State of Maranhão, totaling an area of more than 5 millions square kilometers. 

Still covers some 40% of the South American continent and includes parts of eight South American countries: Bolivia, Peru, Equador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guiana, Suriname and Guiana Francesa.

Amazonas is the largest state in Brazil. It has more than 1.5 million square kilometers and occupies more than 18% of the national territory. Its 62 municipalities have at the same time the highest lands in the country, such as the peak of Neblina (2,993 meters of altitude) and the peak of March 31 (2,972 meters of altitude) and the largest extension of lowlands, with less than 100 meters altitude, from Brazil. The population of the State is 4,1 millions  inhabitants, of which 2,18 millions inhabitants live in capital Manaus.

The Amazon is bathed by the Amazon hydrographic basin, which accounts for approximately 20% of the planet’s fresh water. The main rivers are Negro (which bathes the city of Manaus), Amazonas-Solimões, Madeira, Juruá, Purus, Içá, Uaupés and Japurá. In Brazil, a characteristically tropical country, the Amazon is dominated by the equatorial climate, predominant in the Amazon, with an average temperature of 26 ° Celsius. It is also the most preserved state in the country, with 98% of its original forest cover. Only its areas protected by federal and state laws, such as parks and forest reserves, occupy a territory equivalent to 20 times the size of Lebanon and twice that of Portugal. Allied to this green universe are rivers, lakes and streams, essential components to mark unforgettable contact with the wonderful Amazon nature

Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, is the main metropolis and the most popular tourist destination in northern of Brazil. Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest and on the banks of the beautiful Negro Rive. The city Manaus is surrounded by nature, the city is the gateway to several ecotourism tours in the region. 

Nature tourism, or ecotourism, is the main attraction of the Amazon tours. The visitor has the opportunity to know, learn and appreciate the importance of the rainforest and the inhabitants who live in it, who are the main responsible for its conservation. For its direct contact with nature, the Amazonas State is part of the itineraries offered by the agencies in the boat programs, overnight stays in jungle hotels and tours through the forest. Ecotourism can be practiced in Amazonas throughout the year, as the seasonality that occurs in the lowland forest, where communities live, offers two beautiful landscapes, allowing tourists to experience the forest in times of drought and flooding. In addition to hiking in the forest, canoeing on the water trails, observing the beauty of nature and those who live in it, the tourist still enjoys living with the forest man, knowing his modus vivendis and interacting in his daily life .

Amazonia is a place full of mysteries, magic and secrets. Only travellers willing to explore this space will have the privilege of knowing the spirit of adventure and courage. 

Tours around Manaus

Meeting of the Negro and Solimões rivers 

Exploring the region in depth through river cruises One of the most famous and popular is the boat tour that takes travelers to the see the meeting of Negro and Solimões rivers. The curious thing is that the waters , one muddy of Solimões and the other darker of Negro, go side by side for 6 kilometers without mixing. It is a natural phenomenon because of their different temperatures, densities and currents, these two rivers.

In addition to observing this incredible natural spectacle, it is also possible to see ¨amazon dolphins¨ named  botos   that frequently appear on the route. Some boats combine the meeting of rivers with visits to igapós with water lilies and some riverside communities.

Amazonas Opera House

In Manaus, enchants tourists with its rich architectural and cultural heritage, such as the imposing Amazonas Opera House. It is  the greatest symbol of the time when the city prospered with the Rubber Cycle. 

Main postcard of the city, Amazonas Opera House was opened in 1896 as proof of the prosperity and wealth of the Rubber Cycle in the region. In addition to its historical importance, its architectural value is unique. Along with the neoclassical elements, the building gained several other styles that characterize it as an eclectic composition, with materials and works of art brought from Europe. Its imposing dome has 36 thousand pieces of enamelled ceramic and the color is a tribute to the Brazilian flag. It is amazing.
With a capacity for 700 spectators, the theater holds frequent popular performances many free, and several music festivals throughout the year. The place is the home of the Dance Company, Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra of Amazonas.An intense cultural life, folk Festival stands out, the International Opera Festival and the International Adventure Film Festival. Amazonas culture has very special characteristics that are expressed in the joy of the people and the roots of regional folklore.

Adolpho Lisboa Fresh Market

The refurbished Adolpho Lisboa Fresh Market had the restoration of the building, which mixes several architectural styles, contemplated the renovation of some existing spaces and new areas and larger boxes. 

To experience the flavors of the Amazon and discover the typical products such as fruits, fish, seeds, teas and medicinal plants from the Amazon. There is a must for taste exotic foods and get some souveniers from Amazonia.


Ponta Negra Beach

The beach is located 13 kilometers from the center of Manaus.

For those who want to relax on a beach, the edge of Ponta Negra Beach offers leisure options and one of the best spots to watch the sunset on the Negro River. It is atractively romantic.  

Provincial Palace 

Inaugurated in 1875, the beautiful palace originally housed organs of public administration: the Provincial Assembly, Public Works Department, Public Library and the Lyceum – current Amazonense D. Pedro II School. Then, for more than 100 years, the building served as a police headquarters, until it was closed in 2014 for renovations and reopened two years later. Today, it is managed by the Amazonas Department of Culture and includes several museums: Numismatic Museum, Museum of Image and Sound of Amazonas, Pinacoteca of Amazonas State, Archeology Museum and the Tiradentes Museum. 

Rio Negro Palace 

Built in the late 19th century to be the official residence of Baron Waldemar Scholz, the Rio Negro Palace is another beautiful architectural example from the time of the rubber cycle. The building housed the state government headquarters until 1995 and today it functions as a cultural center. In addition to the facade, floors, objects and some examples of original furniture, the place has permanent and temporary exhibitions, a gallery of honor for former governors, guided or theatrical visits and other cultural activities. 

Anavilhanas National Park 

Through tours departing from Manaus, it is possible to know the beauties of the Anavilhanas National Park, which was created to preserve the river archipelago, the forest area, the existing ecosystems, in addition to practicing environmental education actions and sustainable tourism in the region. The park, which covers the capital of Amazonas and the municipality of Novo Airão, has 350,000 hectares of labyrinthine rivers and virgin forest. At a certain time of the year, between September and February, the level of the river goes down and the tourist can observe the beaches with white sands that form and explore the trails in the middle of the jungle. Boat and speedboat tours take 3 to 9 hours to reach the site.

In addition to this tour, another unmissable ecological activity is the visit to the Anavilhanas National Park, a river archipelago with beaches, islands, mangroves and trails in the middle of the jungle.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Manaus 

Located front of both Manaus Port and the Negro River around 1695, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Manaus was the first church to be built in the city. In 1850, the  Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conseption suffered a fire and had to be completely rebuilt. The current building, in Greek style, had much of its material brought from Europe, mainly from Portugal. The tiles came from Nova Rainha, current Parintins.

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The grand opening ceremony was conducted at the stunning iconic field 1 of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Pattaya. “FEI has set the highest standard for equestrian competition and we are proud to be given this opportunity to host the first FEI dedicated championships in Asia. It is a privilege to be asked to organise this joyous event on the same level as the Asian Games featuring all three Olympic disciplines of dressage, showjumping and eventing. This is an event we hope will be repeated on a regular basis to bring the equestrian communities of Asia closer together and provide opportunities for our riders to shine and excel,” said Dr Harald Link, president of the Thailand Equestrian Federation.

An accomplished polo player, Dr Link added, “FEI Championships Pattaya 2019 not only positions Thailand as a world-class equestrian destination and helps to elevate the standards of Thai equestrians to an international level, it also showcases our world-class event organisation and presents a great opportunity for riders to gain more experience, to prove themselves to the world and prepare for the 2020 Olympics.”

FEI Asian Championship Pattaya 2019

Teams from 13 nations in Asia competed in the tournament, which was held from December 1st – 8th at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya, a world-class competition venue and equestrian centre which upgraded its five main riding arenas and facilities such as a fully functioning horse hospital with attendant vets for the 9-day event. In addition, sponsor B. Grimm put up over US$1 million to fly in over 60 horses from Belgium especially for the event. To get the competitive juices flowing, drummers performed the traditional Thai drum battle at the opening ceremony. This was followed by a graceful national flag dance. The excitement continued as the athletes representing their nations rode in on dedicated BMW cars in a fantastic parade. The evening culminated with a gala dinner at which teams mingled and relaxed before the gruelling competition the following day. 

Hassan Hassan A J Al Naimi of Qatar rides Santa Cruz III during the Thailand Equestrian Federation President’s Cup CCI1* on December 9, 2017 in Pattaya, Thailand.

H.R.H. Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya lent her kind support by gracing the opening ceremony and leading the Thai team in the competition. The princess then competed in the dressage category and clinched the first gold medal in the competition, an auspicious moment for Thailand and the FEI Asian Championships. “More than anything, I’m honoured that I got to witness the graceful performance of H.R.H. Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya in the dressage discipline. For any rider, participating in this championship is considered very prestigious,” said Ingmar De Vos, president of FEI.

The tournament’s finale was the jumping event on the afternoon of December 8 with Japanese Olympic show jumper Taizo Sugitani eventually winning the top prize. “I am very pleased to win at this historic tournament for us Asians,” he said. “The FEI Asian Championships is a good opportunity for Asian athletes to develop and compete in the global arena. By participating in more events, riders get to hone the necessary skills that can propel them to win at major international events.”

“Now that the event has come to an end, I can heave a sigh of relief,” smiled Dr. Link. He also took the opportunity to thank his long-time supporter and co-founder of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Mrs. Nunthinee Tanner, who is also vice president of the Thailand Equestrian Federation. “I would like to thank Khun Nunthinee for her support throughout the years. We started with a small piece of land and one polo field. Now we have made history together. Also a heartfelt thanks to all our sponsors, who helped us achieve this wonderful goal.”

FEI Asian Championship Pattaya 2019
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