Everything Jeremy or I had ever heard about Bangkok discouraged either of us from wanting to spend very long here. We did our best to avoid the city but, when purchasing our flights from Chiang Rai to Denpasar, it turned out we’d need to overnight, which was quite the fortuitous layover: Bangkok quickly became one of the highlights of our trip.
If you’re going to do a layover, you might as well do it right, with a stay at the famed Siam hotel. The same designer, Bill Bensley, who brought the Four Seasons Tented Camp to life is also behind the Siam – the two properties could not be more day and night apart in terms of overall style, yet they are equally jaw-dropping. The Siam is meant to feel like a livable museum, but it goes so much further. It’s hard to capture in words just what makes the Siam special, but Jeremy and I both walked away as the world’s biggest Bensley fans, vowing to stay in every one of his hotels (and saddened that Capella Ubud had not yet opened in Bali). If we could design the perfect hotel, we agreed, it would look like the Siam: effortless white-washed walls with pops of black trim, the perfect amount of natural light and green space throughout the common areas, absolutely stunning courtyard villas. Once we stepped foot inside our villa, we decided we would not leave unless absolutely necessary.
Since we had a tour that evening, it was absolutely necessary to leave, but we did get a full five hours of swimming in the private plunge pool and napping on the chaise lounge, plus a room service lunch, finished off with mango and sticky rice. The tour we’d be taking was a five-stop Midnight Food Tour of Bangkok by Tuk-tuk. Our pimped out tuk-tuk, with bright purple lighting, pulled up to the front of the Siam, blaring Ed Sheeran. It was going to be a fun night.
The tour took us around the bustling streets of Bangkok, which are brought to life after the sun sets. We alternated dining stops, first at a local eatery for traditional appetizers, with sightseeing stops, like a trip through the flower market where we sampled a few street food vendors and learned the proper way to fold a lotus flower. Our favorite dining experience? We were quickly whooshed through (what appeared to be) a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and out to the back to get a firsthand glimpse of the kitchen. Located in a narrow alleyway, the street kitchen was a feast for the senses: smells of fresh noodles only eclipsed by the sporadic heat that came from the woks as we passed several chefs preparing dishes. This particular restaurant is even Michelin rated and those noodles were the perfect steaming hot, creamy comfort food.
We ended the evening with nightcaps on a rooftop bar overlooking the nearby Wat Arun. And just like that, all it took was an epic hotel and some of the best dining on the trip to escalate Bangkok to the top of our memories, the perfect way to cap off our time in Thailand.
Bright and early the next morning, we hopped on the four hour flight to Bali. I loved everything about Thailand, especially the people. There’s a lightheartedness that permeates the culture, even in the most serious of circumstances: as we went through the security checkpoint to exit the country, the poker-faced security guard stamped my passport and let me through. When Jeremy approached the desk, she stopped him and pointed back at me. “Make babies,” she instructed as she handed back his passport with a wink.
In one of my all-time favorite books, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, he focuses on Thailand as one of the cultures that is happiest thanks to its lack of focusing on happiness. The argument here is that, when we set our minds too much to the concept of happiness, we overlook what is necessary to just be.
He comments on the Thai people’s mindset of mai pen lai, which means “never mind.” This is not in the “oh, never mind” way we might say it with an exasperated sigh in America. Instead, it’s the shrug of “it is what it is, don’t overthink it.”
I didn’t buy any souvenirs in Thailand, except for a pair of really cool shorts that Jeremy haggled to save 67 cents on, since we’re currently moving my apartment and I feel like I have way too many items already, but the idea of mai pen lai is a good enough souvenir for me.