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A perfect way to plan a trip to Thailand — the country where Mike White plans to film season three of The White Lotus — is to combine beachy adventures (such as Jason Statham and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley once had at the Amanpuri resort on Phuket) with a journey to the mountainous north and a stint in the epicurean capital of Bangkok.
“One of the absolute highlights of my tour around the globe with Peacock’s travel docuseries Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss were some epic adventures in Thailand, the jewel of Southeast Asia,” Rainn Wilson tells THR. “This peaceful culture made up of so many united tribes has at its center the concept of sanuk, a spiritual/cultural concept of finding a loving, fun-filled pleasure in whatever you are doing.”
For sand and surf there are countless possibilities in a country with seemingly infinite coast, not to mention many islands. Cher and the Loneliest Elephant director Jonathan Finnigan of Lucky Devil Films tells THR that his favorite part of Thailand is Krabi — home to James Bond Island, which appeared in The Man With the Golden Gun — where he’s sailed to otherwise unreachable islands including Ko Racha Yai and “the little sandbar island Ko Maiton.”
Recently opened places to stay on the mainland are cheerful modernist beach resort The Standard Hua Hin (from $145 a night) and months-old Andaz Pattaya Jomtien Beach (from $351 a night), which has 204 rooms and villas plus a 70-year-old heritage house–turned–beachside seafood grill for ocean-to-table dinners.
On a private beach on Ko Samui, Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa (from $200 a night) has drawn Oliver Stone and Elle Macpherson with its digital detoxes and Eastern-meets-Western healing philosophies.
Kimpton Kitalay Samui (from $280 a night) bowed in 2022 with oceanfront pool villas for VIPs to hide away.
And on the popular island of Phuket — where Chrissy Teigen has raved about unplugging and relaxing at a villa — 2022 brought Banyan Tree Veya Phuket (from $500 a night), a flagship well-being resort for bespoke “embodiment therapies,” conscious grounding classes, and plant-forward cuisine.
Ben Feldman, one of the stars of Netflix’s new film A Tourist’s Guide to Love, once stayed at the “bougie as hell” Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle (from $2,795 a night) where “the elephants are all rescues and had past lives, like, in a Japanese Coke commercial or the circus.” The bucket list luxury-camping property where Feldman fed baby elephants bananas at breakfast offers an enveloping off-the-grid exploit in its two-bedroom Explorer’s Lodge with an infinity pool overlooking the jungle. “I’d go back in a second but I need to win the lottery,” says Feldman.
Also in a sparkling green zone, beside a UNESCO World Heritage–protected national park, the Bill Bensley–designed InterContinental Khao Yai Resort (from $203 a night) opened in 2022 with some suites built inside actual heritage train cars. The railway-themed resort has multiple lakes and offerings that immerse guests in nature and Thai history.
Three hours southwest, ”Bangkok comes alive at night under the neon and the smoke coming up from the street vendors,” says Finnigan, who’s filmed a lot in the capital and says it has the most proactive and hard-working crews in Asia. “It’s got a real energy and character all of its own.”
With its thriving creative scene, Bangkok — where Charlie Hunnam filmed much of Apple TV+’s Shantaram — has felt especially buzzy of late.
Earlier this year, Soho House’s first Southeast Asian outpost bowed in the pulsing Sukhumvit neighborhood with design that draws inspiration from Thai crafts and an art collection comprising many local names. Along with popular restaurants and the exquisite BKK Social Club, Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River (from $640 a night) partners with MOCA BANGKOK for its ART Space gallery showing rotating exhibitions featuring often up-and-coming Thai artists. Currently on display: vivid paintings by Bensley that benefit nonprofit organizations.
At the serene and sanctuary-like Capella Bangkok (from $650 a night), room and suite balconies offer impressive Chao Phraya River views and the glamorous Bar Stella hosts live music after dark. The 6,400-square-foot Presidential Villa (from $10,200 a night) by the river offers ultimate privacy with its own separate entrance. Guests can also experience Buddhist monk–led meditations and try blind menus at Michelin-starred Côte by Mauro Colagreco, where the chef surprises diners with exclusive, tailored creations based on seasonal ingredients.
Opened in 2022, The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon (from $367 a night) — with rainbow-hued Memphis Group–esque interiors — is a hub for memorable meals at its eight outlets, including Mexican spot Ojo, plus vibrant gifts and tchotchkes at The Shop.
The Peninsula Bangkok’s (from $450 a night) Mei Jiang Cantonese restaurant has just reopened with a plant-based menu and Thai tea pairings, one element of a mindful, healthy focus celebrated with kombucha-making sessions, Thai boxing, and a May 26-28 wellness festival.
At the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok (from $240 a night), heads of state, actors, musicians and C-suite execs have slumbered in the 3,444-square-foot Celebrity Suite (from $2,800), which has custom Christian Develter for Tube Gallery robes, a bath bomb menu, jacuzzi and super king bed.
And in the coming year, there are a slew of upcoming openings including Aman Nai Lert Bangkok set in a verdant park; Tonino Lamborghini in Phuket; InterContinental Bangkok’s post-reno reopening; and the brand-new InterContinental Bangkok Sukhumvit. InterContinental Chiang Mai Mae Ping (from $235 a night), in the former Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, is set for a summer debut with a focus on the 13th century Lanna era.
“I learned a great deal about happiness from the radiant people of Thailand. Plus elephants,” adds Wilson, who spent time in Chiang Mai. “When in Northern Thailand you must try the regional dish that is rarely served in the States but garners the most reverence from the Lanna people of the area. Khoa soi is heaven in a bowl.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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