Jan 29, 2021
OUR NORMALLY JETSETTING WRITERS may be bound in by borders these days, but they’ve amassed enough intel on their home countries to last a lifetime. We asked five T+L contributors in five countries to tell us about the places they’ve been psyched to visit or would like to finally return without the rest of us pesky international tourists getting in the way. Basically, we asked them to think of domestic travel as the silver lining of pandemic prohibitions. (Just don’t tell them we’ll be booking immediately once we can use our passports again.)
Here’s our staycation bucket list for Thailand.
Why listen to Veronica?
Veronica is the Digital Media Manager at Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, as well as a Thai-speaker with a penchant for uncovering local cool. Having been an exchange student in Nakhon Pathom in high school and spending a year in Khon Kaen in university before moving to Bangkok six years ago, she’s got a pretty good lay of the land by now. Trust her with this list because she spends an embarrassingly large amount of time plotting where to eat, drink and visit next. Follow Veronica on Instagram: @veronicainveen
Veronica’s 6 picks in Thailand:
If you’re the type of person who feels if you’ve seen one Thai temple you’ve seen them all, allow Nakhon Pathom’s Phra Pathom Chedi to prove you wrong. The bell-shaped stupa, about an hour outside of Bangkok, is one of the tallest Buddhist monuments in the world and one of the oldest in the country with its original structure dating to the 6th century. I might be biased because it was the first place I visited when I moved to the city as an exchange student when I was 15, but it’s pretty spectacular.
While the chedi itself is indeed a sight to see, I’m actually here to recommend you visit the night market on the temple grounds. By 5 p.m, a few dozen food stalls come to life selling your Thai market standards — steaming boat noodles, crispy roti — and the best of Nakhon Pathom’s specialties: the khao moo daeng (a local variant of char siew with rice) is worth the whole trip, with a queue that’s withstood Covid. You’ll also want to grab a few orders of khao lam, sticky rice stuffed into cylinders of hollow bamboo with goodies like sweet red beans and coconut cream, for the ride home.
I’d been trying to visit Samuay & Sons for years. With international borders closed and island trips becoming somewhat routine, a few months ago I was finally able to gather a group and head north to sleepy Udon Thani for a weekend of eating.
The restaurant is owned and run by Weerawat “Num” Triyasenawat, a bubbly Udon Thani native who cut his teeth at multi-award-winning Commonwealth in San Francisco before stints at Nahm and Bo.Lan. Num has the skill of a three-Michelin-star chef, the knowledge of an Ivy-educated food anthropologist, and is a total pleasure to listen to talk about how all his ingredients are from local producers or foraged from around Issan. I’m still dreaming about hed ba na fon, Num’s taco-like dish with different types of local mushrooms in a bed of red curry and mushroom paste. His eight-course menu was one of the best meals I had in 2020.
This is the year I will finally visit Khao Sok — mark my words! When I first saw images of the national park, on peninsular Thailand between Koh Samui and Khao Lak, I was sure I was looking at the real-life version of Avatar’s Pandora. My plan is to stay in a floating bungalow on karst-dotted Cheow Lan Lake and spend my days chasing waterfalls, hiking, kayaking and enjoying the fact that there isn’t a car or telephone pole in sight.
I’m going to make a bold claim: the Four Seasons Bangkok’s new watering hole BKK Social Club is the most gorgeous bar I’ve ever been to — and no, that’s not the negronis speaking. Extra-tall ceilings, deep-green banquettes… I challenge you not to gawk at all the gilt. It’s all perfect, right down to the floor staff’s jewel-toned dresses I’d like to own myself. Libations by superstar bartender Philip Bischoff definitely don’t hurt either. Get them now before open borders translate to no open tables.
Tucked away in Bangkok’s Old Town, this insanely charming Airbnb is my ideal home and the first place I’m going to recommend my next visitor here stay. Right on the Chao Phraya, this unassuming two-story house has been transformed inside into what a Manhattan loft would look like if it were proudly Thai. Rattan furniture on concrete flooring, a sexy outdoor rain shower, leather couches that match the mahogany ceilings — all of which glimmers in the light of the river’s reflection.
Raya Heritage is like a deep exhale in the form of a hotel. The light and airy 33-room boutique hotel sits on a grassy bank of Chiang Mai’s Ping River. It’s only 30 minutes outside the city but feels a lifetime away from any sort of bustle. From the breezy, pared-down outdoor lobby to the all-white rooms with plushy cloud-like beds, the whole property has an ethereal vibe. Yet, it’s all still unmistakably Thai with rattan furniture, indigo linens, locally made ceramics and mulberry-paper screens.
Check out the Instagram Story I made for T+L during my stay here.
See our other Hometown Hit Lists from T+L insiders across the region: