A guide to the best paradise placebos.
By The Masala Team
Despite Thailand’s wealth of picturesque vacation spots, sometimes plain old som tam and sunshine just don’t cut it. With international travel proving to be a tricky proposition at present, the allure of exotic lands with different sights, smells, and styles is especially difﬁcult to satisfy. With that in mind, the Masala team have pooled together this list of places specially designed to placate those globetrotting pangs.
There’s nothing quite like viewing sumptuous Moorish architecture as it’s bathed in the afternoon sun, the hues of orange and red painting the horseshoe arches and stucco walls a sanguine shade. While Morocco is the go-to destination to embrace olde worlde magical moments like these, Thailand has two of its very own arabesque alternatives: Marrakesh Hua Hin Resort & Spa (www.marrakeshresortandspa.com) and Villa Maroc in Pranburi (www.villamarocresort.com). Combined with an authentic tagine from Marrakesh Hua Hin’s Al Hamra Restaurant or Villa Maroc’s Casablanca Restaurant, these enchanting hotels are the closest thing to an evening in Fes you’re likely to ﬁnd in Southeast Asia.
Who hasn’t been enticed by the siren call of Shanghai glamour? From its distinctive skyline to its unique culinary offerings, the largest sea port in the world is a must-see on every cosmopolitan jet-setter’s list. Heed the call a bit closer to home with Shanghai Mansion Bangkok (www.shanghaimansion.com) in Yaowarat, the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown, which will – well – shanghai you to 1930s Shanghai with its vintage Chinese décor, characteristic lacquered furniture, and colourful silk brocades. Make a wish at the whimsical Lucky Fish Pond, channel James Bond at their classic jazz lounge, and sample authentic Chinese fare at Red Rose Restaurant, which employs ancient techniques that will truly whisk you away to the ‘Pearl of the Orient.’
World-renowned wines, instantly-recognisable landmarks, a rich and studied history – there are few places that can immerse you in a Mediterranean idyll quite like Tuscany. If you’re looking for your time ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ but in the tropics, look no further than La Toscana Resort (www.latoscana-resort.com) in Suanphung, Ratchaburi or Toscana Valley (www.toscanavalley.com) in Khao Yai. At the former, you can bask in a picturesque idea of Tuscany’s landscape while in a villa of handmade brick and classic European charms, and even be served Italian favourites atop your rooftop. The latter, within the UNESCO World Heritage site in Khao Yai, includes a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as well as an exclusive golf course and country club so you can experience the high life at the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
To many, South Africa is often synonymous with scenery, surﬁng and safaris, with the latter bringing scores of intrepid adventurers in search of close encounters of the wild kind. The River Flows Camp (www.theriverﬂowscamp.com) in Chiang Mai aims to capture that thrill without you having to leave the country. Offering white water rafting, ziplining, hiking, and ATV driving, you can fully embrace your spirit of exploration while staying in luxury accommodation, replete with Jacuzzi tubs and ‘authentic’ touches like thatch rooftops and treetop platforms. If you’re looking for wildlife, book any of the elephant-watching activities or an ox-cart ride for your own, Thai-style safari.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam: Panvaree Resort and Panvaree The Greenery
Washing away your troubles with a dip at Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay is the epitome of sensory satisfaction. Taking in the tranquil beauty of nature while being gently carried downstream by calm waters is a uniquely Southeast Asian pleasure. Luckily, you can recreate the Ha Long Bay experience at Panvaree Resort Khao Sok (www.panvaree.com), at Cheow Lan Lake, and Panvaree The Greenery (www.thegreenerypanvaree.com), at Khaosok International Park, two water-side resorts that aim to give guests an authentic Vietnam-style river ﬂoating experience. Panvaree The Greenery, in particular, features lavish, ﬂoating accommodation for guests, while Panvaree Resort is the perfect place to catch boat rides to visit local landmarks and areas of natural beauty.