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 beach adventures (as Jason Statham and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley once had at the Amanpuri resort on Phuket) with a trip to the mountainous north and a stay in the epicurean capital of Bangkok.
“One of the absolute highlights of my world tour with Peacock’s travel docuseries Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss were some epic adventures in Thailand, the jewel of South East Asia,” says Rainn Wilson THR. “This peaceful culture made up of so many tribes united has at its center the concept of sanuka spiritual/cultural concept of finding a loving, fun pleasure in whatever you do.”
For sand and surf, there are countless options in a country with a seemingly endless coast, not to mention many islands. Cher and the loneliest elephant says director Jonathan Finnigan of Lucky Devil Films THR that his favorite part of Thailand is Krabi – home of James Bond Island, which appeared in The man with the golden gun – where he has sailed to otherwise unreachable islands, including Ko Racha Yai and ‘the little sandbar island of Ko Maiton’.
Recently opened places to stay on the mainland are cheerful modernist seaside resorts The Standard Hua Hin (from $145 per night) and months old Andaz Pattaya Jomtien Beach (from $351 per night), with 204 rooms and villas plus a 70-year-old heritage home converted into a beachfront fish grill for ocean-to-table dinners.
On a private beach on Ko Samui, Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa (from $200 per night) has attracted Oliver Stone and Elle Macpherson with their digital detoxes and Eastern meets with Western healing philosophies.
Kimpton Kitalay Samui (from $280 per night) bow in 2022 with oceanfront pool villas for VIPs to hide out in.
And on the popular island of Phuket – where Chrissy Teigen is so excited about unplugging and relaxing in a Banyan Tree Phuket villa – 2022 brought Banyan Tree Veya Phuket (starting at $500 per night), a flagship wellness resort for bespoke “embodiment therapies,” mindful grounding classes, and plant-based cuisine.
Ben Feldman, one of the stars of Netflix’s new movie A tourist guide to loveonce stayed in the “spark plug as hell” Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle (from $2,795 per night) where “the elephants are all rescues and had past lives, like in a Japanese coke commercial or the circus.” The bucket-list luxury campground, where Feldman fed baby elephants bananas for breakfast, offers an enveloping off-the-grid exploitation in its two-bedroom Explorer’s Lodge with an infinity pool overlooking the jungle. “I’d go back in a heartbeat, but I have to win the lottery,” says Feldman.
Also in a sparkling green zone, next to a UNESCO protected national park designed by Bill Bensley InterContinental Khao Yai Resort (from $203 per night) opening in 2022 with some suites built in actual historic 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 smoke rising from the street vendors,” says Finnigan, who has filmed extensively in the capital and says he has the most proactive and hard-working crews in Asia . “It has its own energy and character.”
With its thriving creative scene, Bangkok, where Charlie Hunnam filmed many of Apple TV+’s Shantaram — has been feeling particularly bubbly lately.
Earlier this year, Soho House’s first Southeast Asian outpost bent in the bustling Sukhumvit district with a design inspired by Thai handicrafts and an art collection with many local names. Along with popular restaurants and exquisite BKK Social Club, Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River (from $640 per night) has teamed up with MOCA BANGKOK for its ART Space gallery with rotating exhibitions featuring frequently emerging Thai artists. Currently on display: Bensley’s vibrant paintings that benefit nonprofits.
To the serene and sanctuary-like Chapel Bangkok (from $650 per night), room and suite balconies offer commanding views of the Chao Phraya River, and the glamorous Bar Stella offers live music after dark. The 6,400-square-foot (starting at $10,200 per night) riverfront Presidential Villa offers the ultimate in privacy with its own separate entrance. Guests can also experience meditations led by a Buddhist monk and try blind menus at Michelin star Cote by Mauro Colagrecowhere the chef surprises guests with exclusive custom creations based on seasonal ingredients.
Opened in 2022, The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon (from $367 per 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 BangkokCantonese restaurant Mei Jiang just reopened with a plant-based menu and Thai tea pairings, part of a mindful, healthy focus celebrated with kombucha sessions, Thai boxing and a May 26-28 wellness festival .
At the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok (from $240 per night), heads of state, actors, musicians and C-suite execs have snoozed in the 3,444-square-foot Celebrity Suite (from $2,800), which features custom Christian Develter for Tube Gallery robes, a bath bomb menu, Jacuzzi bath and super king-size bed.
And in the coming year there are a slew of upcoming openings, including Aman Nai Lert Bangkok in a green 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 per night), in the former Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, is poised for a summer debut with a focus on the 13th-century Lanna era.
“I learned a lot about happiness from the shining people of Thailand. Plus elephants,” adds Wilson, who spent time in Chiang Mai. “If you are in Northern Thailand must try the regional dish that is rarely served in the United States, but enjoys the most reverence from the area’s Lanna people. Hi soi is heaven in a bowl.”
A version of this story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter magazine on April 26. Click here to subscribe.