Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jetsetter: Booming Bangkok

Viia Beaumanis says Bangkok is just wild.
shown: The Amanpuri resort, Pansea Beach, Phuket, Thailand;

Axis of the Buddhist nation’s spiritual ideals, carnal pleasures and chaotic commercialism, the Thai capital of Bangkok is a breathtaking jumble of old and new. Here, in one of the modern world’s largest metropolises, a proliferation of luxury malls has seen an influx of major-label flagship stores, as local editions of style magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar hit newsstands, and fashion absorbs 30 per cent of the city’s retail space. But it’s not all about shopping in Bangkok. While its name has been translated by some as the “village of wild plums,” Viia Beaumanis, investigating its chic nightclubs, mad markets, cheap but first-rate surgery clinics, stylish restaurants, model bars, luxe hotels, louche sex district, golden temples and breezy pansexuality, says Bangkok is just wild.
Metro LuxeNestled in the embassy district, with staff draped in Yohji Yamamoto, the 171-room Metropolitan Hotel (from $225) is the city’s most fashion-y hotel, its in-house restaurant, Cy’an, among Bangkok’s most lauded, and its Met Bar a stylish city watering hole.
Brand NewClustered around a lush courtyard, the five spacious spa cottages of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok (from $245) add private spa rooms to living, bed and bath, and include rain/steam showers, outsized tubs, iPods, gratis mini-bars and private terraces.
Straight to BedA space-age module equipped with international DJs, Bed Supper Club, a Wallpaper*-approved space, serves up chic cuisine and cocktails to international hipsters.
Fish HookPhilanthropic, fashion-friendly Koi, with outposts in New York and L.A., feeds models for free several nights a week. Because, you know, they’re starving.
Luxe LaneModish addresses line Soi Thonglor; start with H1. A beehive of decor, book, art and clothing boutiques, it also houses the stylish, fashion designer–owned restaurant To Die For. An H2 is in the works.
Fabric LandJim Thompson’s Bangkok home, now a museum, was a social enclave that welcomed friends like W. Somerset Maugham. Today, the gorgeous textiles of his famed Thai Silk Company are available at several shops—and two factory outlets—in his adopted hometown.
Mall CrawlMany of traffic-jammed, mall-centric Bangkok’s shopping centres are linked by SkyTrain and SkyWalk. Gaysorn, with its Louis Vuitton and Prada flagships, is restricted to international brands, including locals such as Thakoon Panichgul, whose designs are carried stateside at Jeffreys and Barneys and have appeared in Vogue. At Erawan Bangkok, you’ll find Etro, Rick Owens, Marni and chic Asian labels in Club 21.
High TimesDon’t miss the vertiginous ultraglam of Sirocco, a glass-walled rooftop bar and restaurant perched on the sexy 63th floor of the State Tower.
Beauty SpotBook a double suite with a shower, steam room and bath at the elegant Devarana Spa. Request an energizing Thai massage, then have yourself exfoliated with rose petals.
Plastic FantasticBooming medical tourism sees Bangkok’s top surgery clinics catering to foreigners at state-of-the-art facilities for a third of what they’d pay at home. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) lists BNH, its sister hospital Samitivej and Bumrungrad International as reputable; the last was spotlighted on 60 Minutes and The Today Show in the past two years. Factoring in the cost of airfare? Thai Airways offers medi-holiday packages. If wrapping a browlift into your stay sounds a bit adventurous, these facilities also offer dental—with laser whitening priced at $250 as opposed to $1,500, and veneers from $450 per tooth instead of $1,000 to $1,800.
Gold StandardBangkok’s splendid Grand Palace, a walled-in compound of gilded royal structures, includes the Chapel Royal of the Emerald Buddha, the holiest site in Thailand. Note: One cab driver told us it was closed for a “special ceremony.” It wasn’t. A common scam; cabbies will try to divert you to other temples—ones that pay them a commission.
Cine EastChic House cinema on Royal City Avenue screens art and indie films not seen elsewhere in Thailand.
Bar CodeFollowing a 2001 government measure to improve Thailand’s image, Bangkok’s bars, once open round the clock, now close at 1 a.m. Moreover, police raid bars, confiscate ID and round everyone up for compulsory urine tests. To which we say, how about getting the teenage girls offstage in the skeezy sex district and leaving the happy party people alone?
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