For single women, there are a few things we dread doing alone, no matter how independent we are. I hate going to weddings solo, or go to the Emergency Room alone (Thankfully, I haven’t had to do that yet), or travel on a luxury trip alone. For some reason, it is acceptable for women to backpack alone or to travel solo for a business trip, but traveling solo on a luxury trip is frowned upon. To many, it is unthinkable. “How sad it would be to on a gorgeous hotel and have no one to share it with,” many would comment. But you see, I am a food and travel writer. I have been since 1998. And it means, traveling with or without a companion when I’m on assignment. I am used to traveling solo. And yes, it is not unusual for me to be the only single person in an entire resort. Once, in a resort in Cebu, I was the only single guest in Badian Island Resort. The rest of the guests were a dozen Korean couples all newly married. Each couple was in matching head to toe outfit with their new spouse from Sunglasses to Slippers. Each had His and Her versions of the outfit. Talk about standing out as a sore thumb. But I didn’t feel left out. In fact, I still had the best time.
So why fear a luxury trip alone? It was 2008. I had been a travel writer for a decade then. I was already a veteran of traveling solo, but this time I was on assignment to cover Dining at the Eastern & Oriental Railways from Bangkok to Singapore. I was entering new territory. Why do people frown upon going solo when it comes to luxury travel? Before I could ponder the question any further I was getting the royal treatment from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Upon landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, a chauffer clad in all white fetched me in an all white BMW. He handed me a cold towel and a bottle of water to refresh me. He asked if I wanted some music. Then the song, “Dream A Little Dream” played. The syrupy voice glazed my soul. Its words became the theme song of my most decadent, solo deluxe trip:
“Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you.
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
Dream a little dream of me….”
Then upon arriving at the hotel, I was whisked away to the Presidential Suite. A bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne sitting on an ice bucket was waiting for me at my enormous room. The suite was bigger than the entire condominium flat I shared in Singapore with my friend Amy. Here I am all by myself enjoying this decadence. I had to remind myself: “This is mine, all mine to enjoy.” But I had to first call my best friend in Singapore to describe in detail of my posh accommodations. I repeated again, how I wished he were with me.
My bed looked out into the gorgeous view of the Chao Phya River, a balcony to watch barges and boats pass by, and the idyllic azure blue infinity pool visible from the left window. And yes, I had my own butler to cater to my every whim. Before I could fully enjoy my palatial room, I had a spa treatment waiting for me across the river at The Oriental Spa and Ayurvedic Penthouse, often voted as “Best spa in the world.”
A quick boat ride across the river from the hotel, I was transported to a gentler way of life, with graceful Thai women bowing, taking my shoes, and unnecessary worries away. It is not just any massage. Ayurveda is the ancient art of complete well-being. This tradition stemming from Kerala, India promises to transport you to a realm of serenity, clarity, spiritual grounding and timelessness. The treatment began with answering a long questionnaire and a consultation with Neelam Khatri, the Yogic Lifestyle Trainer. After identifying my personal doshic constitution or imbalance, she then recommends an appropriate treatment. My dominantly fiery Pitta personality would benefit much from Kerleeya Abhayangam treatment, characterized by flowing soothing movements to loosen the toxins from the cells. The smooth flow of strokes lulled me into deep sleep, followed by swedanam (sweating of toxins), slathering an herbal vegetable paste unto my skin, and a snanam (bath). The treatment ends with the yogic trainer recommending a diet suited for my body, and a lifestyle change choosing when best to wake up, work, eat, and go to sleep to maximize energy.
When traveling solo, many just succumb into ordering room service and retreating in their room. But why would I deprive myself of Bangkok’s nightlife? A friend suggested heading to Three-Sixty,the rooftop bar at the Millennium Hilton for a 360-degree view of the city and an amazing African American woman singing Jazz Blues. The waitress was perplexed when I asked for a table for one. She then sat me at the bar. But a kind waiter seated me by the window to experience the magnificent views. As I sipped my mojito and became sentimental with the romantic songs of Denise, the jazz singer. Serendipity had it that I got to talking to the lady sitting behind my chair. She was the only other single woman in the bar. She was an American living in Bangkok who enjoyed listening to Denise’s vocal workings. We instantly connected and swapped stories of living abroad. Worried about getting back to my hotel and dealing with Thai cabdrivers clever antics, I took the hotel boatman’s kind offer to call for pick-up. It was a sweet gesture beyond the call of duty for the boat stopped operating at 11pm, and the Hilton was not in The Oriental’s boat route. At five minutes to midnight, my water carriage came to pick me up. I thanked the boatman profusely, and smiled knowing someone up there was lovingly looking after me.
The next day at breakfast, two perky waiters engage me in chitchat. Before I knew it they were serenading me with, “Dream A Little Dream.” Taking in a bit of Bangkok’s culture, I take walk to Jim Thompson’s home and immerse myself in his life, work, and artistry
With some time to spare before leaving on my luxury train adventure, I indulged in High Tea at the Author’s Lounge. Like a true lady, I sipped my tea, slathered clotted cream and strawberry jam over my scones. Dining solo, the manager pushed the experience further by turning me into her model snapping photos of me against the various corners of the hotel which dates back to 1876. Set amidst flowers, a green and white sofa and the memory of great authors like Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, and Graham Greene who have stayed in the Oriental, this writer and author felt very much at home.
My royal dream at The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok ended as the chauffer drove me to Hualampong Train Station to catch The Eastern & Oriental Express. I engaged him in conversation, as I always do. He bragged about having driven many celebrities including Roger Federrer and three queens. He pointed out that I was sitting exactly where the Queen of Denmark sat.
Many women are embarrassed to travel alone on holiday. But there is no shame in doing so. I would suggest this is the best time to even pamper yourself and book yourself in the best hotel you can afford. For this travel writer, my stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok was hosted as part of my Eastern & Oriental Express assignment. But a stay at the this hotel is definitely bucket list worthy. The experience left me not only feeling good about myself. Even without a man to spoil me, I felt very much like a lady. The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok has made me a convert. I no longer dread solo luxury travel as a women. I welcome it as a chance to pamper yourself and spoil the amazing woman that you are. Most importantly, it is a great way to enjoy your own company!
For women, go ahead book that luxury holiday alone to a place you’ve long wanted to visit. It will surely be an adventure. There is a woman within you waiting to be pampered and to reveal her self. She awaits.
Thanks for reading.
Feeding Restless Appetites