Interview with Madeleine Virag, Away by TTI Travel Advisor
What was the purpose of your trip?
This was a FAM trip (short for Familiarisation) – an in-depth visit to a destination, organised for travel advisors. It’s our way to see the most we can as thoroughly as possible.
I had travelled to Thailand about 17 years ago but only saw Northern Thailand and Bangkok then. I wanted to go back and revisit these exciting areas but also to explore the famous beaches, islands and some remote nature reserves in Central Thailand.
Tell us about your itinerary.
We started with 3 days in Bangkok, getting to know the city and its range of fabulous hotels. When I last saw Bangkok 17 years ago, it was a busy, dirty city to arrive in and get out of as soon possible. Now, it’s a bustling modern metropolis with great shopping, beautiful malls and spas, and the city where 5-star luxury hotels are most affordable.
Following Bangkok, we went to Central Thailand for a couple days (elephants, canoeing, beautiful nature).
Then, it was on to Phuket for beaches, pools, diving, and the “Best View in the World.”
The last few days were spent in Chang Mai for a taste of the countryside and rural Thai culture.
Most memorable moment?
In central Thailand we went to Khao Lak National Park where we visited the Elephant Hills and Rainforest Camp. Rainforest Camp is on a remote lake deep in the jungle. No WiFi, no TV, no distractions. One morning we kayaked to bays surrounded by the forest and watched in awe as the monkeys played in front of us. It was all so calm and majestic – an experience I will never forget.
In Phuket we had dinner at the Sri Panwa Hotel at the very Southern tip of Phuket and we had a pre-dinner cocktail on their rooftop terrace. This bar was mentioned along the Worlds Most Spectacular Rooftop Bars by Luxury Accommodation in 2014 and I think we were very lucky to arrive just before sunset AND as a storm was moving in. The terrace had colourful big pillows surrounding low tables and a 360º view of the Andaman Sea one side and the Phang Nga Bay the other. As the sun was setting and storm clouds rolled in, the colours changed by the second. I have never seen the sky as spectacular and dramatic. We had to finally run for cover as the rain came down in buckets and continued well into the night.
In Chang Mai we stayed at The Four Seasons Hotel – a lovely relaxing retreat about 20 minutes outside town. One morning we participated in a pretty comprehensive cooking course. It was very well organized, fun and since food is such an important part of visiting Thailand we truly enjoyed learning about some of their best known dishes (we also enjoyed the fruits of our hard work with a delicious glass of well-deserved wine!).
What surprised you most about the destination?
This isn’t a surprise, per se, but something important to note – I would stress how kind people were everywhere and the level of service we got came from the heart. It’s a very easy destination for honeymooners, adventure lovers, retirees, divers, animal lovers and all.