I’ve come to believe that a travel blog about Thailand needs to be gritty and realistic….somehow earthy and in touch with the average person. Fair enough. But then I got to thinking and realised that to show this place through all eyes I needed to indulge in what I’ll term “Hi-So Lifestyle”. Hi-So is a term used by various people around here to indicate the upper echelons of Thai society. The Chelsea-set, or the Hamptons-brigade, if you will. So why not explore that a little bit and write about an exclusive Spa hotel that is frequented by those at the upper end of the pay grade. After all, it is merely another view of what Thailand has to offer.
With that in mind, the Diplomat decided we’d celebrate our wedding anniversary by traveling back up to the River Kwai to Dheva Mantra Resort and Spa. Located about a kilometer from the bridge (have a look at my other blogs on the area) this Spa nestles with several others on the western side of the river, an area of mainly farmland, away from the bustle of Kanchanaburi town on the eastern bank.
I admit that I do love to drive in Thailand. It’s a right hand drive like the UK, and the road users are pretty good, though there’s some spectacular errancy at times so you need your wits about you. It’s a bit like cruising Highway 401 from Kingston to Toronto which is also prone to traffic that believes meandering around lanes is perfectly acceptable. Then again, you get to see some pretty cool stuff as you bomb along in the right hand lane. For some as-yet-unfathomable reason Thailand loves to have random plastic creatures around. Some of the buildings are certainly eye-catching ; you can imagine the architectural conversations after a house is built:
<architect> Frowning. “There’s something missing. It needs….needs…needs a…”
<new owner> “A what?”
<architect> “A twenty foot plastic duck on the roof!”
<new owner> Relieved. “Of course it does! I knew I’d paid you 20 million Baht for a reason!”
The result is you drive along and stare incredulously at times. The elephants I get, even the rows of glittering stainless steel fences. But, as you go along Highway 338 to see a full scale Tyrannosaurus Rex outside a broken 7-11 gazing forlornly at a Dipolodocus makes you question your sanity. Then, once you leave Highway 4 and get onto the 323 into Kanchanaburi, you get to witness the art of the central reservation. Some are well done, manicured greenery, polished golden posts, but then there’s the stretch for three miles or so which has plastic animals every 100metres. Deer, penguins, elephants, giraffes, goats. You name it, it’s as though the local plastic animal maker secured a lucrative contract with the local council and got to work. By the time we got to the plastic duck squatting regally on top of a four-story building it seemed pretty much the norm (unfortunately, I missed taking a photo. Next time).
Take a look at some of the things you can see en-route:
I particularly love the claim of being “a city of nice people”. Honest, refreshing and probably accurate.
Anyway…the spa. Geographically, you are right next to the Bridge over the River Kwai, cocooned in lush tropical forests, nestled against the northern tip of the Tenasserim Hills. Kanchanaburi province has many attractions to sample; all of them oriented around the waterways through the mountain region. Places such as the Erawan Falls, or the Sai Yok Noi Falls, or the Death Railway (see previous blog) are compelling destinations. Cycle tours through here are frequent. It’s a region of stunning vistas. We arrived at the Spa to find an outgoing corporate party from Thai Airlines. You know if you go to a place that the powerful Thai corporates frequent that you’ve hit the jackpot. It’s got to be good. With this in mind we got the Presidential Suite at a ludicrous rate per night (for Thailand) to indulge ourselves to the fullest. Then we realised we were in the resort with six other guests. I am not joking. Six! The staff outnumbered us by about twenty-to-one. I was overcome with a strange compulsion to find them and suggest a game of hide-and-seek. You can see from the opening picture the size of the grounds. Two of the three restaurants were closed because it was impractical to run them, but their full menus were available at the atrium lounge bar. As such I was able to stroll around and take a lot of photos of the place without dodging guests. The silence was blissful and Isla became everyone’s favourite person for 24hrs.
As for the Presidential suite – well it was massive. I have never seen a bath so large, never been inside a cavernous room which houses just a toilet, nor seen a separate hotel room with just a writing desk. It was almost as though the place was too big for the furnishings; but hey, when you can sleep in a four poster, open the floor to ceiling shutters and gaze out at a brilliant sunset over the River Kwai with not a sound or sight of humanity around you then you’ve got to take the time to appreciate it is one of those moments in life. You know the ones I mean…where you take a deep breath and snapshot the fact that life is incredibly good, you’ve got your health and your family. It is necessary not to lose sight of such important moments when they come along.
After the pampered indulgence of the Presidential Suite, it got better. It’s not often you get to indulge in a five-star pool all by yourselves. The hotel boasts a superb spa; you can get every type of massage here, all the usual body wraps and facials. Of course, prices are higher than the places in Bangkok, but you’d expect that with the luxury around you. Is it as good as say, Champney’s, Hertfordshire? No. But if you want to be in a place with a few people, utter solitude at night with a sky chock full of stars you can actually see, great food, superbly friendly service, perfect weather, and a spa and pool designed for unwinding…then this is a place hidden away from the usual places everyone knows about that is well worth coming to. It’s also a great base to start checking out the attractions of the province. I can see why Thais come here rather than to the farang destinations of Pattaya and the scattered islands of the South. It’s an introvert’s paradise.
As ever, here are the photos and this is their website – http://www.dhevamantra.com/. If you want to indulge in some Hi-So Thai luxury then come here. Failing that, check out one of these indulgent places – http://www.thailandbestspas.com/web/home.php
Oh, and a final snippet of information of no connection whatsoever to this blog. I’ve come to understand that Thailand has associated colours with days of the week so I’m off to find a yellow T…
- Monday is yellow for the Moon
- Tuesday is pink for Mars
- Wednesday is green for Mercury
- Thursday is orange for Jupiter
- Friday is blue for Venus
- Saturday is violet for Saturn
- Sunday is red for the Sun
Is this what diplomacy is all about?