Spa

Roam+Board :: Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

FSTentedCampGoldenTriangle

[trip style = luxe + glamping + adventure + spa + sun]

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Editor's Note: This R+B is the final part in a series on my trip style = luxury jaunt to Asia. Earlier not-to-miss posts include: flying Cathay Pacific's business class, exploring Hong Kong, checking into the Four Seasons Hong Kong, and a trip into Thailand's Lanna Kingdom {land of a million rice fields} at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai
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What
From the lookout at the highest point of the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Thailand, I could see Myanmar and Laos in the distance. As if this scene in my Thai playbook wasn't exception enough, I had just come from meeting a herd of rescued elephants I would trek with the next day. In a state of geographic and animal awe, I stood in silence surveying the landscapeclutching a flute of Champagne {it is the Four Seasons after all}—wishing I had the power to freeze time.  

In the world of glamping, the Four Seasons Tented Camp crosses at the high point of luxury and experiential travel. As the ONLY all-inclusive Four Seasons, no service is spared, not even a trip to the tree house spa, open on two sides to the bamboo jungle below. 

Starting with a splash, your stay begins by boat. My captain picked me up an hour from the city of Chiang Rai and swished me along the Ruak River to camp in one of Thailand’s famous long-tail boats. 

Seven minutes later, over fresh papaya-guava smoothies served in handmade bamboo tumblers, I was greeted with three clangs of a gong {to health, happiness and prosperity}, and guided to my 581-square-foot tent perched over northern Thailand's lush plains. 

Each of the fifteen Bill Bensley-designed tents sit discretely scattered over a half-mile, hidden between palms and bamboo clusters. Inside, dark hardwood floors, elephant-inspired bathtub fittings and an outdoor shower make you feel as though you're a 19th century explorer on assignment for your kingdom.

Though, it was the bed that really beckoned me to take up permanent residence; positioned with a view of the roaming elephants below who would occasionally remind me of their presence by lifting their trunks and trumpeting their position.

When the sky turned from orange to ink, the camp custom I treasured most came in liquid form: Pre-dinner cocktails in the thatched-roof Burma Bar {not surprisingly, overlooking Burma (Myanmar) in the distance}. Here, over lemongrass martinis, I met other adventure-prone guests. Instead of discussing the weather or current eventstypical topics when you meet a new friendwe shared our trekking tales and the best way to mount an elephant.

During the day, moments meander between learning how to ride elephants bareback, to practicing serenity-now by the oasis-like pool. Then came my spa appointmentpart of the all-inclusive packagea 10-minute walk deep into camp for escape and privacy reasons. 

Inside the wooden-platform bungalow blending into the verdant valley like a chameleon, I changed into my spa robe in the open as if I was a Jane of the Jungle. The setting in and of itself was enough of a spa treatment, yet I welcomed my mahout recovery treatment {the perfect remedy after a day of trekking} with its au naturel soundtrack of chirping birds and wind-blown palms. And again, felt the urge to freeze time. 

Trip Styler approved.     

Where
At the northern tip of Thailand where the country meets Myanmar and Loas, about an hour from the Chiang Rai Airport {CEI}, a 75-min flight from Bangkok.

When
Weather in the Golden Triangle ranges from warm to hot year round. In this part of the world there are three seasons: hot {Mar - Jun}, rainy {July - Oct} and "cool" {Nov - Feb}. The cool season is the most popular due its lack of rain and average of 25-degree Celsius temperatures.   

Who/Why
Venturing "off the beaten path" is your middle name, but you like to do so with a dash of adventure and a spoonful of style.  

Cost
Rates start around $2400/night (for two people) and include Chiang Rai airport pick-up and drop-off, all meals and drinks, an elephant trek with mahout training and a spa treatment. Kids above the age of 12 are welcome.

Trip Styler Tip: I know this property comes with an haute couture price tag, but rest assured, in the realm of luxury trip styling, this experience is WELL worth the save-to-splurge investment.

Photos

Taking a long-tail boat to camp

Taking a long-tail boat to camp

The first sight I see when docking

The first sight I see when docking

Entering camp

Entering camp

Welcome drinks served in hand-carved bamboo tumblers

Welcome drinks served in hand-carved bamboo tumblers

My tent

My tent

My tent's rope-secured veranda

My tent's rope-secured veranda

Meeting a two-week-old elephant

Meeting a two-week-old elephant

Learning elephant-riding commands. Note the amazing denim getup: Traditional crop pants, a short-sleeve button-up shirt and a waist sash. If you spot Crocs on my feet, you're not mistaken. Each guest is given a pair to use while trekking. This is one of the ONLY instances wearing crocs is remotely acceptable in my trip stylin' lookbook. 

Learning elephant-riding commands. Note the amazing denim getup: Traditional crop pants, a short-sleeve button-up shirt and a waist sash. If you spot Crocs on my feet, you're not mistaken. Each guest is given a pair to use while trekking. This is one of the ONLY instances wearing crocs is remotely acceptable in my trip stylin' lookbook. 

My elephant and mahout

My elephant and mahout

Trekking

Trekking

Nearing the end of the trek

Nearing the end of the trek

The pool 

The pool 

The spa

The spa

Burma Bar

Burma Bar

Nong Yao, the camp's gorgeous restaurant

Nong Yao, the camp's gorgeous restaurant

Roam+Board :: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

FourSeasonsChiangMai

[trip style = luxe + foodie + sun + spa]

Editor's Note: This R+B is part of a series on my luxury jaunt to Asia. Earlier posts include: flying Cathay Pacific's business class, exploring Hong Kong and checking into the Four Seasons Hong Kong. Look for a wrap-up in a few weeks, when I take you on an elephant trek in the Golden Triangle {where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet}. 

What
Staying in hotels as my passion project and my living means resorts are much more than a stay I've sought out, or an assignment I've been given; they are my second home, my source of inspiration and my global community {from the room attendants to the other guests}. And sometimes, I can't shake certain stays.

The Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is one of them. Sprawling 20 acres over botanical gardens and a working rice farm in Northern Thailand, the resort's tall curvy roofs, open-air living and stepping-stone pathways, designed in an ode to the area's Lanna Kingdom heritage, are only part of its je ne sais quoi. Looking back, the reason I can't {and will never} shake this stay, is the property's personality. In a word, it's got soul. 

Built around gently cascading rice terraces, 64 pavilions accompanied by a private outdoor living room {aka: sala} beg you to be. Three hours later, you realize you drifted away. While I'm normally a go-go-go gal, the surrounding quietness and beauty lulled me into a never-never land. Beyond the pavilions, a collection of 34 pool villas and private residences round out the wild and with-it accommodations. 

Aside from a sightseeing and shopping visit to the 700-year-old city—Chiang Mai is the cultural capital of Thailand—a trip to the Spa and a few sun sessions by the infinity pool, I spent most of my time consuming Northern Thailand's famous fare like kaow soi gai {the area's signature yellow curry noodles with chicken} in the hotel's four restaurants.

My culinary crescendo came on the last night in the hotel's Cooking School when under the tutelage of Chef and local restaurant owner Nuttaluck Roswan, I prepared green papaya salad and noodle-wrapped fried chicken in an exotic dining pavilion sporting exposed-beam ceilings, timber floors and a symphony of copper pots.  

You find the soul of a place through its food. Combine this with the Four Seasons' trip styled setting, it's no wonder I fell so hard. Trip Styler approved.     

Trip Styler Tip: Leave your Jimmy Choos at home; the cobblestone and teak pathways are better tailored to flat soles over spikes.

Where
In Chiang Mai, Thailand's Mae Rim Valley, 30 minutes from the Chiang Mai Airport {CNX} and 20 minutes from the city.

When
Chiang Mai's weather ranges from warm to hot year round. August and September accumulate the most rainfall, so while there's no bad time to visit, most stay between October and May.

Who/Why
Garden variety resorts aren't for you. You want something savvy with soul. A place to be pampered, yet go rice planting; to eat well, yet sharpen your kitchen skills in a cooking school.

Cost
Rates start around $487 a night and include use of mountain bikes, an area resort shuttle, a sauna and herbal steam room. Note: The Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai skews towards adults, though small ones are welcome and will gush about their own pint-sized resort experience due to the kids club with daily activities.

Photos

Adult pool

Adult pool

Main pool

Main pool

bigpoolFSChiangMai
Chic seating perched over main pool

Chic seating perched over main pool

The dining scene at Sala Mae Rim, one of four resort restaurants

The dining scene at Sala Mae Rim, one of four resort restaurants

Pad Thai {when in Rome}

Pad Thai {when in Rome}

Dessert: sweet coconut soup with taro pearls

Dessert: sweet coconut soup with taro pearls

The Cooking School

The Cooking School

Mixing my own green papaya salad in cooking class

Mixing my own green papaya salad in cooking class

Ask for it: Rice Field cocktail

Ask for it: Rice Field cocktail

A server offering Monsoon Valley, Thailand's only locally made, beautifully flavored sparkling wine

A server offering Monsoon Valley, Thailand's only locally made, beautifully flavored sparkling wine

My pavilion

My pavilion

My bathroom

My bathroom

My outdoor sala, attached to every pavilion

My outdoor sala, attached to every pavilion

Inside the sala

Inside the sala

Lobby lights

Lobby lights

Floating flower arrangements, a familiar sight in every corner of the 20-acre property

Floating flower arrangements, a familiar sight in every corner of the 20-acre property

Two workers--part of a staff of 50 full-time gardeners--tending to the rice fields

Two workers--part of a staff of 50 full-time gardeners--tending to the rice fields

The rice paddy parade, an end-of-day procession happening every night at 4.50pm

The rice paddy parade, an end-of-day procession happening every night at 4.50pm

More Roam+Board
Four Seasons Hong Kong
Korakia Pensione - Palm Springs 
La Gazelle d'Or – Morocco
Mandarin Oriental – Las Vegas
Hotel Lone – Croatia
Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay - Lanai

[photos by @tripstyler, except top photo and cooking school via Four Seasons Chiang Mai, taken as a guest of the hotel]

Weekend in Palm Springs

[trip style = sun + food + luxe + spa + active]

When I’m in need of a major dose of Vitamin D, I retreat into Palm Springs’ sunny embrace. Steeped in enough swagger and style to outlast the coolest cats in town—just about every big-name celeb has had a brush with Hollywood's first love, including the newest recruit, Leonardo Dicaprio—its effortless cool delivers from dawn till dusk. Here's where to lounge like an A-lister in the desert sun.

Trip Styler Tip: For full details, check out my styled suggestions in 48 hours in Palm Springs for the Expedia Viewfinder.

Day One

Breakfast

  • Norma's for alfresco dining fuelled by complimentary smoothie shooters
  • King's Highway order an iconic date shake with vanilla bean gelato in the former and upstyled Denny’s
  • Cheeky's for the bacon flight alone {and the owner’s fave: crispy buttermilk waffles doused in salted butter and syrup}

Mid-morn
Stroll along North Palm Canyon Drive into the Uptown Design District to browse furniture stores akin to midcentury museums, and while you're in the place that popularized poolside cocktail parties, play the part in a scene-stealing dress or striped seersucker suit from desert-based designer Trina Turk---a shop so legit, you're offered a chilled mimosa upon entering.

Noon
Check into Korakia Pensione, and if your room isn't prepped—check-in is technically in the later afternoon—cool off under the shade of an umbrella beside one of two saltwater pools at the Mediterranean-inspired retreat.

Mid-aft 
Replenish your sun-scorched electrolytes at the Lemonade Stand deep in the citrus grove at The Parker Palm Springs. Sit and sip a muddled lemon bev of your choosing at the chic white marble bar, or under the shade of a tangerine and yellow umbrella. And since you’re on vacation, head a few steps leeward to PSYC {Palm Springs Yacht Club}, a nautical-themed spa offering a co-ed dipping pool and boozy pre-treatment shots.

Drinks
Since you’re already at The Parker, saddle up to the six-seat Mini Bar for a tipple.

Dinner
Satisfy your stomach at Birba, an alfresco pizza and pasta place warmed by the wood-burning pizza oven and a bevy of outdoor fireplaces. Birba is my first dinner stop every single time I lollygag in Palm Springs.


Day Two

Breakfast
Korakia Pensione includes breakfast in one of the most gorgeous settings in the Coachella Valley: a spot next to a fountain under the shade of orange trees. Bite into a rotating menu of dishes like rustic potatoes paired with eggs and multigrain toast.

Mid-morn
Since Palm Springs and modernism mingle in the same circles---it's home to the country's largest concentration of the throwback structures and style---check out some of the homes that have helped to make the city famous. Look up Robert Imber at Palm Springs Modern Tours or stop by the Palm Springs Visitors Center for a $5 map of Modern Palm Springs. Both the DIY and hosted tours are excellent; choose one based on how much time you want to spend drooling over design.

Early-aft
The San Jacinto Mountains, visible from nearly every sun-scorched vantage point, beg to be conquered. Rev your heartbeat and score a killer view of the Coachella Valley hiking one of the many trails that start along the edge of town. Talk to your hotel concierge for a list of nearby trailheads.

Mid-aft
You're in Palm Springs, so spending time by your hotel pool is not only encouraged, but expected.

Dinner
Toast your last night of desert decadence at one of Palm Springs’ most iconic addresses, the ever-hip Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar. Named in a nod to the hotel’s original owner—a mob boss and member of the Purple Gang—the elegant eatery is perched next to the Colony Palms Hotel pool.

[photos by @tripstyler, except mini bar via Parker Palm]

Three Otherworldly Spas in Hawaii

[trip style = spa]

As a Hawaii lover and a spa-thusiast, indulging in treatments in the Aloha State is my version of fluttering near the heavenly realms. And let's be honest, in January, the mid-Pacific's natural eau de plumeria and tranquil temperatures are enough to make us book a ticket to the tropics---the spas are a bonus! Having soothed my skin on almost all of Hawaii’s islands, here’s a chorus of tried, tested and trip-styled spas to make you sing m-ahhh-halo!

Maui Fifty-thousand square feet of East-meets-West serenity is dedicated to rejuvenation and healing at Spa Grande, the state’s biggest and most highly-rated spa, in the Grand Wailea. Don’t just pop in for your treatment between poolside mai tais. Once you take a gander at the Termé Hydrotherapy Circuit mingling Swiss jet showers, a Roman whirlpool, Hawaiian sea salt soaking pools {pictured above} and a Japanese Furo bath, you’ll tell yourself “the sun can wait” while extolling the praises of your spa day. The Termé Hydrotherapy Circuit is included in most treatments, or can be booked solo for $65.

Lanai One of my Hawaii happy places is lounging at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay---featured as a TS Approved, Roam+Board stay in in 2013. The property---one of only three hotels on Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island---reaches over the tumbling landscape like a palm tree bowing toward the shore. Hidden from the hotel, a bevy of Oceanside Hale are closed for privacy on three sides with one open panel framing Lanai's most photographed landscape: Sweetheart Rock {pictured above}. Intent on luxuriating in Lanai, I complimented the hut's gorgeous view with a Makala Massage, which saw my masseuse performing a head-to-toe bamboo stick drumroll to awaken my muscles---strangely fabulous---as well as maneuvering my skin to mimic the ocean’s movement.

Trip Styler Tip: Find all the serenity-now details ofHawaii's Heavenly Spas in my Expedia Viewfinder article.

Hawaii, The Big Island One of my top treatments in 2013 was at The Fairmont Orchid's Spa Without Walls. Similar to my other spa-capades on Maui and Lanai, I booked a local treatment---always a best practice. For all 110 minutes of my Ali’i Experience, I felt like a Hawaiian princess being prepared for a suitor with the island’s most luxurious botanical essences and potions---fitting given Ali’i is the Hawaiian word for royalty. Sprawled in a cabana a mere five feet from the ocean, I was rubbed with fragrant Hawaiian herbs, massaged with sweeping lomilomi-style strokes and adorned with a crown of coconut oil. When the oil started trickling down my scalp, my state shifted from deep relaxation to divine gratitude. Heaven, indeed.

[photos by @tripstyler, except Spa Grande, courtesy Grand Wailea]

Roam+Board :: Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas

[trip style = luxury + spa + sun]

{Editor's Note :: I was first introduced to the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas a year ago when I did my spa marathon along the Strip. At the time, I was with a group of international journalists and we unanimously agreed the Mandarin's aesthetic and discreet decadence was so heavenly, we would each return. So, I did last week.}

What
At the risk of going all-in in my opening remarks; the Mandarin Oriental is my version of a Las Vegas jackpot. It's boutique, it's gorgeous, it's calm and it's non-gaming, summoning the traveler who visits Vegas for style over slots.

In a departure from all things glittery, the 392-room resortsmall for Vegas' usual brand of 4,000-6,000-room hotelssits quietly and confidently in a sea of sequins. Check-in doesn't follow the crowd either. Upon arrival, I'm met by a smartly suited gent in the uniform equivalent of tails, who escorts me to an elevator made for photo shoots. Clad in black marble, gold accents and a plush red velvet bench, I sit {because I can} and enjoy the short ride to the glass-encased Sky Lobby, perched high above Las Vegas Blvd on the 23rd floor.

Rooms are decorated in the same Five Diamond detail as the hotel. A touchscreen panel controls every moving part, a valet closet means a hotel attendant can drop anything off without disturbing you, there's a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror, and my personal favorite: The towels are thicker than a wooly blanket. Yet, nothing impressed me more than this rarity: Each room is accented with fresh flowers.

Outside, the 8th-floor sundeck continues the Far East tranquility theme. Unlike many a Vegas pool sporting a dawn-till-dusk scene, spa sounds woo loungers into sun-soaked relaxation, and two lengthy lap pools guilt me into swimming a few lengths before heading out on the town. Trip Styler approved.

Where
Las Vegas, Nevada, about 15 minutes from the McCarran International Airport {LAS} by car/taxi, or a four-hour drive from LA.

When
The sun shines on the Neon City year-round; rain is rare. Vegas is hottest in summer {40-45 degrees C} and coolest in winter {17-24 degrees C}, while spring and fall are most palatable for those accustomed to four-season climates.

Who/Why
You're a luxury travel enthusiast who craves a high roller slice of Vegasfamed restaurants, world-class shows, non-stop shoppingwithout the dice.

Cost
Rates start at $225/night in low season, plus a daily $28 resort fee {note: this fee is standard at most hotels dotting the Strip}. Rates include WiFi, complimentary coffee from 6-8am, a salon-grade hair straightener in the room, bottled water by the pool, gym access, yoga and Pilates classes, and a Mercedes-Benz S550 drop-off service within two miles of the hotel {airport drop-offs based on availability}.

Trip Styler Tip :: Don't miss the spa's Tian Quan Thermal Experience, an all-day escape combining personal experience showers, a vitality pool, heated lounges, an ice fountain, an aromatherapy steam room, and unlike any other spa in Vegas, a view overlooking the entire Strip. {$50 m - th / $60 f - sa / $80 for non-hotel guests}

Walking past the Sky Lobby's feature wall

Room

Room detail

Bathroom

Fresh flowers

The first welcome at the Mandarin Oriental Spa: Warm oshibori towels and peppermint tea

Spa's heated-from-within tepidarium chairs