10 AUG 2017: A woman’s work is never done – but somebody’s got to do it, and while you’re at it you might as well have some fun, especially in the month of August. That’s when one royal kingdom has devoted a month-long celebration of women.

And so I found myself in Thailand, shovel in hand, digging a hole for one lonely coconut whose mission it will be to grow to maturity and bear fruit. On an island once covered in coconut groves I briefly helped seed a swath of land owned by a local 82-year-old woman who can’t tend the farm anymore. Call it sisterhood.

Not only was I in Thailand on the day of the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 65th birthday, proclaiming my coconut love (yes, I admit I have a weakness for coconuts) in a community initiative to restore coconut groves on Koh Samui, but I was on my own personal quest to seek out first-hand experiences ideal for women jet setters.

Last week I explored one of Asia’s most female-friendly destinations focusing on activities such as health and wellness, shopping, soft adventure, cooking classes and supporting local communities and women’s organizations in Thailand.

Dubbed “Women’s Journey: Inspiration for Life”, the trip’s theme corresponds to the month of August as a “month for women travellers in Thailand,” as one Thailand insider put it. August also happens to be the month of the Queen’s birthday. On August 12 the Southeast Asian nation celebrates the national holiday of Mother’s Day to coincide with the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Mother of all Thai people, who celebrates her 85th birthday.

“We wanted to create an exciting initiative to encourage the growth of global and domestic female travellers in Thailand,” says host Achiraya Buddhani, marketing executive with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) discussing the programme’s second year designed for female travellers.

Now for a look at Thailand’s unforgettable getaways for the female set:

Studio Naenna 

There are busy bees buzzing by me but I don’t let them alarm me. It’s not every day my hands are in cauldrons of goopy indigo either.

By Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai, indigo tie-dye queen Patricia Cheesman, alongside daughter Lamorna, are busy offering instructions in my indigo tie-dye making class. Patricia a tie-dye maverick with 40 years under her belt that includes authoring countless books and reviving over 100 traditional designs smirks then whispers, “Meet the Goddess of Indigo,” an affectionate nickname she uses describing her ageless indigo dye as our hands dip deep into the bubbling blue vat.

The Studio specializes in fair trade practices using natural products and offers hands-on tie-dye making workshops (advanced reservations are needed). Set amongst an exotic tropical foliage backdrop some of the plants are used to create the natural dyes. On any given day visitors can experience first-hand weaving techniques in this women’s group known as “Weavers for the Environment.” Patricia alongside her head weaver train and offer satisfying life sustaining work and skills to young women in their own villages which promotes self-esteem and is an alternative to migrating to the city to find work.

WFE members weave in their homes in provinces across Thailand, and the Studio is the only outlet for their magnificent creations.

Elephant Mahout Experience at Patara Elephant Farm

White elephants are sacred royal animals in Thailand. In some north eastern areas of Thailand villagers even include Asian elephants in their family unit as pets.

So, when the idea of participating in an elephant trainer programme by Patara Elephant Farm was made I was apprehensive as to whether these animals be well treated.

Located 45 minutes south from the northwestern city of Chiang Mia near the Hang Dong valley there I was channeling a Mahout spirit (that’s Thai for caretaker) in a knee-deep stream scrubbing an elephant under the spell of a hot Thailand sun.

Since 2001 the Patara Elephant Farm cares for Asian elephants, a species that is smaller than their larger African cousins. The farm combines conservation through its breeding programme along with education and limited tourism. Visitors receive instructions on elephant behaviour and feeding, then learn about elephant care from dirt removal to elephant bathing and brushing which culminates in an optional elephant trek if desired. A traditional Thai picnic lunch by a streamside thatched hut is also included.

The magical experience was not only memorable but one of the finest highlights on my Thailand girls getaway trip. For any ‘girl’ out there who enjoys nature and loves animals, this programme is sure to please. www.pataraelephantfarm.com

Pampering

A girl’s gotta have spa treatments while in Thailand and there are plenty to choose from. The country is synonymous with the spa and has a virtual lock on the market. Find truly affordable luxury and one of the few destinations where 1-hour massages can start as low as $8.

Thailand also has its own specialty: the yoga-moving, ligament pulling, elbow needling Thai Massage. Now that might not sound like a pretty picture but the results I assure you have their own rewards. You feel nimble as if you can touch your toes.

For me, there was a secret obsession to find a daily Thai massage fix as I trekked off-the-beaten path in sometimes not the most delightful places but the searching never took long. Within 5-minutes a massage spa to your liking is bound to pop up.

Another time, after a morning of bling bazaar shopping in Bangkok, the Elemis Spa at the St. Regis Bangkok had just the antidote: a full Thai massage. The spa is Southeast Asia’s first Elemis facility. Guests enjoy herbal-infused teas, dried fruit and nut nibblies including a hot and cold plunge pool in an interior of cool neutral tones. I liked the salon amenities especially the styling hair mousse which I later managed to purchase at a downtown Watsons store.

Ever imagine indulging in a chocolate body wrap? One day that was my go-to spa fix after an elephant encounter. At the Anantara Chiang Mia, my spa experience starts with a healthy herbal drink and a relaxing foot bath in preparation for a Lanna Ritual which ended in a decadent chocolate body wrap. It was the perfect bookend to the outdoor elephant spa earlier in the day.

Covert Dining

A girl sometimes wants to fade into the background, maybe disappear behind the rafters. At the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, the Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar has the ultimate private dining room.

Simply push a library wall like in the movies and voila, a secret room appears. The restored venue resides in the old British Consulate which was once considered a hotbed of spy-dom. The restaurant carries an old spy theme throughout the décor and the F+B staff who are known as field agents and top secret chefs. I like the bookshelves of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and wall displays of ballpoint pens and vintage passports.

Sleep-overs

A girl’s getaway should include a butler. That’s an affirmative at the St. Regis Bangkok. The luxury property spoils its guests by providing butler service. Among the perks: two daily garment pressings, morning coffee or tea service - no request is too small.

One afternoon at the Elemis Spa, this writer forgot her swimwear in her luxury suite. Problem solved. In one simple phone call, Zoey my afternoon butler (I had two butlers, both women) appeared within 15 minutes holding not one but both of my finest bathing suits.

At the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort the new 27-room boutique residence hotel addition is known as the Serviced Suites and comes with big family appeal. The new build located across from the luxury resort launched last October and offers spacious suites in 1, 2 and 3-bedroom categories. These new suites include a balcony, a bathroom with rain shower and bathtub, living room, dining area, a kitchen, washer and dryer, writing desk, 2 flat screen LCD TVs, ample closet space, and Wi-Fi.

A 5-minute walk to the bustling Night Bazaar how could you go wrong with a place that offers a signature spa, contemporary dining, and a bar with a fun 1921 spin?

Shopping

There are no shortage of shopping opportunities in Thailand.

To boot, diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but pearls are high up there too. In Bangkok after sightseeing various neighbourhoods like in hopping Bang Rak we stumbled upon the Sahil Beads Co., a family-run jewelry box of precious and semi-precious stones and pearls. Earrings made to order in 5 minutes and necklaces strung to your preference under 20 minutes. It’s fast fashion at its best.

Retail therapy has its promises in other parts of Thailand too. In the beach towns of Koh Samui, head to the crammed roadside shops in Lamai Beach or the mall-concept Central Festival in Chaweng Beach.


Flower Power

You can’t escape the floral extravaganza in Thailand. From garlands to phuang malaise the largely Buddhist country embraces all forms of fleeting florals. One of the nicest haunts is the Museum of Floral Culture in Bangkok. The morning of my visit I bumped into the Baron of Blossoms or the Wizard of Flowers a.k.a Sakul Intakul who led me into his floral parade, which now has me rethinking orchids, and the use of bouquets.

“Flowers are life,” he whimsically gestured fluttering his trademark purple fan before him.

Agreed.

Sunset Drinks

Definitely hit the rooftop bars while in Bangkok. Suspended in the sky on the 63rd floor of The Dome at lebua, the Sky Bar which is considered one of the world’s highest open air bars is one of the hotly sought after spots for people who like to say they have arrived. Picture the bold and beautiful types. The panorama is superb.

Gala

On any given evening a night out in Bangkok can truly become memorable. Mine was. After a block-buster day exploring the capital’s shops, restos, and mingling with floral designer extraordinaire Sakul – I thought my last day in Bangkok was a rap. Luckily earlier in the morning after examining my sloppy suitcase I decided to request my butler’s packing service because I suspected time would be a precious commodity on my last day.

By early evening, after a quick return to the hotel and a clothes change, it was off to an evening event that turned into a night of nights.

With the welcome mat rolled out, we filed into a Women’s Journey Thailand gala event bedecked with a floral bearing sign. Teeming with beauty pageant queens, dignitaries, and an A-List of celebrities that included Thailand’s Paris Hilton, Naphaporn “Lek” Bodiratnangkura, whose family once owned the Hilton in Bangkok.

The socialite turned entrepreneur graciously led a private tour of her new endeavour, the restoration of her great grandfather’s private residence (he was a wealthy industrialist) which recently was transformed into a museum event venue called, the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home.

Swarmed by camera-toting media and international paparazzi there I stood beside Lek amid the black-tied crowd once again swept away by a brilliant night out in Bangkok.

Hands down, it was the ultimate woman’s journey to Thailand.

For more details on Women’s Journey Thailand see http://womensjourney.tourismthailand.org

For more Thailand travel info see https://na.tourismthailand.org/

 

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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