Just before summer officially hit in Australia last year, we headed over to Bangkok and Hong Kong as guests of Thai Airways on their new A380 for a mini break. With its close proximity to Australia and year-round summer temperatures, South East Asia and its fringing countries are some of our favourite destinations. With bikini hot weather, super friendly locals and deliciously exotic cuisine, Bangkok and Hong Kong had our prerequisites covered.
When you’re staying in a major city in 40-degree tropical heat, you’re going to want quality accommodation. The little beach shack that cost you $8 a night on the islands isn’t going to cut it in the big smoke. With no moonlight ocean dips to cool you off when the air-conditioning breaks, you need digs with a pimping rooftop pool, fluffy white robes and world-class restaurants. Luckily Thai Airways shared our philosophy and hooked us up with some of the sweetest digs in town.
Whenever I travel to Asia, I try to fly in or out of Bangkok – purely for the shopping and for the Chatuchak Weekend Markets. This trip I was lucky – with Hong Kong in the middle, I got to do Bangkok on both sides!
There’s a reason why tourists flock to Thailand’s biggest city – it’s a shopping paradise with a little something for everyone. Mega-malls dominate the city centre, markets are open until midnight and boutiques showcasing local designer talent can be found off the beaten track. But amongst the consumerism is a rich culture of tradition and gratitude. We were thrilled to be in Bangkok to experience Loy Krathong – a festival where people gather around lakes and rivers to pay their respect to the goddess of water by releasing krathongs (lotus-shaped rafts decorated with candles, incense and flowers) into the water.
We also popped into The Grand Palace to see the beautiful architecture and immaculate gardens, and visited the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Where we stayed:
As a travel writer, the mark of a great hotel is somewhere you’d pay to come back to. For us, the Sofitel Sukhumvit Bangkok is that kind of hotel. Our slick room had sweeping city views, a double-headed shower, Hermes toiletries, soft cotton robes with matching slippers, a Bose docking station, flat screen TV and a giant bed.
We spent our nights sipping on cocktails and dining at the hotel’s amazing new restaurant and bar L’Appart – a French restaurant under the direction of Chef Jeremy Tourret that’s been conceived as a contemporary representation of a luxurious 19th century Parisian apartment complete with an open kitchen and champagne bar.
On our last morning, we checked-out at 5am for an early flight to Hong Kong and arrived in the lobby to a lovely surprise – a deliciously prepared breakfast box for us to munch on our way to the airport.
We flew back into Bangkok to celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival and boy did the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers put on a show. The luxurious hotel is located on the Chao Phraya River and offers one of the best vantage points in the city for the festivities. We were grateful to fit in a nap aboard the spacious and quiet A380, because the celebrations were in full swing.
Upon check-in we were given a beautiful floral bracelet and told to head down to the waterfront for dinner. What greeted us was by far, the best buffet I have ever experienced. Freshly cooked seafood, roasted duck, icy cold coconuts, and a dessert bar complete with a chocolate fountain were just some of the buffet options on offer. And when we could no longer eat anymore, we sent our krathongs down the river and watched the fireworks light up the river.
This trip marked our very first visit to Hong Kong and we weren’t disappointed. With just two days in the city, we skipped the shopping for sightseeing and headed to Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. We jumped on the Ngong Ping 360 (a 5.7 kilometer cable car line) and took in panoramic views over North Lantau and the South China Sea in a glass-bottom cable car.
Tian Tan Buddha (also known as the Big Buddha) is a 34-meter high bronze Buddha that inside, holds a relic of Gautama Buddha. We stood at its base and took in the extraordinary statue while watching the clouds roll in over the mountains as the incense drifted up from the monastery below.
The residents of Hong Kong sure do love their mountain top attractions. Because in our short visit we found ourselves on another one – this time heading up The Peak on a tram for the best view in town. We were staying in Kowloon and caught the ferry over to Hong Kong Island before making our way up to the top of The Peak. The journey is just as cool as the destination with the tram incline so steep at one point it was pretty much vertical. The panoramic views over Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong were the perfect end to our visit to Hong Kong.
Where we stayed:
Located in Kowloon, the Shangri-La is smack bang in the middle of the shopping and entertainment district of Tsim Sha Tsui East. We spent most of our time sightseeing, but when we wanted to make the most of the cheap electronics and pimp out our camera, the shops were walking distance or a short trip on the metro away.
We had one of the best meals of all time at the hotel’s two-star Michelin restaurant Shang Palace. In a private dining room under a beautiful globe-like chandelier, we feasted on Chef Mok Kit Keung’s impressive menu. Crisp roasted whole suckling pig and deep-fried herbs-marinated crispy pigeon were among some of the courses, as were century eggs (preserved eggs) that we tried for the first time. As our first restaurant meal in Hong Kong, it set one seriously high bar.
How we got there:
We flew to Bangkok and Hong Kong as guests of Thai Airways aboard one of their new A380s. We fit in four flights in the two-story airbus between Sydney, Bangkok and Hong Kong, and flew a mix of Economy Class and Royal Silk (business) Class, both upstairs and downstairs.
Economy Class felt roomier and much more quiet than usual. There was a great selection of movies on offer and plenty of storage for our carry-on luggage. Our flights boarded and emptied quickly no matter where we were sitting, and the crew were super prompt at refilling our drinks and bringing us snacks.
Royal Silk (business) Class was everything I thought it would be and more. A glass of champagne on arrival and a selection of Australian fashion magazines helped us settle in while we chose our meals from the delicious menu. There were plenty of storage compartments for my laptop, iPhone, headphones, toiletries and handbag, and not once did I feel short of space. The seats reclined to a full 180-degree flat bed, and with a massage feature and proper mini quilt, I was out like a light.
Thai Airways A380s now fly between Asia and Europe. If you’ve been inspired to visit Bangkok and Hong Kong, visit Thai Airways.