Monday, March 18, 2013


On 22nd March 2013, NST RED published an article written by me entitled, Urban Retreat on "fifth heaven". However, this is my blog version with extra pictures and personal sharing. My blog version will always be different from the ones that appear in NST.  

During the recent Chinese New Year break, I decided to "escape" to Bangkok. Yes, it's Bangkok(BKK) yet again! However, little did I know that I was not the only one with that plan. In fact, more than half of Hong Kong(HK) people were thinking the very same thing as well. When I landed in BKK, I was greeted by a sea of HK people. I almost mistook BKK's Suvarnabhumi International Airport for the HK's Chek Lap Kok. It seemed that everyone gets away during CNY these days, not just me. 

Bangkok's Night View From My Room
In the past, Chinese New Year(CNY) was celebrated with real family reunions. Meaning - every family member will definitely make that long journey back to their respective hometowns or ancestral homes for CNY. 

In Malaysia, going home for any festive season is still very much a big event. Be it Chinese New Year (celebrated by the Chinese) or Hari Raya (celebrated by the Malays) or Deepavali (celebrated by the Indians). We have a Malaysian saying for going home during the festive seasons, we call it "Balik Kampung". Literal translation: "Going back to the village/hometown." It is not surprising to find that most of the roads and highways in Malaysia will be clogged with all sorts of vehicles on the eve of a festive event/date. The city of Kuala Lumpur tend to look rather "abandoned" during these times of the year.  Hence, it is likened to an exodus. 

Traditionally, all Chinese households will hold a grand dinner in their homes on the eve of CNY to mark the reunion of all family members. Dining together on the night before CNY was a big deal. However, these days convenience and lifestyle preferences may take precedence over tradition. Some family members may hold their reunion dinners much earlier than the actual date of Chinese New Year Eve. And some may hold their reunion dinners in restaurants rather than in their homes. In the case of my family, we usually hold our reunion dinners two weeks in advance, because it is a gathering of all uncles, aunties, cousins and etc. That is, a reunion of the entire clan. Hence, you can appreciate the magnitude of the matter. 

However, these days, with the long break over CNY, many people take the opportunity to travel and leave the country. This is also the case for my family and entire clan. Everyone is more keen to go on their own holidays, and not deal with all the hassle of holding an "Open House". An "Open House" is what many households traditionally do on the actual day of Chinese New Year. They literally "open" their houses to welcome all their families and friends for visits during CNY. Our families used to hold "Open Houses" in the past. However, it was a lot of work because we always had a lot of guests streaming in throughout the day. We would have to organize the caterers, set up the marquee, tables and chairs, entertain the guests, entertain the kids, and etc. So, in order to save everyone the hassle(namely ourselves), we chose to leave the country and have ourselves a mini holiday. This has become our very own CNY tradition since 2001. Every CNY we will go somewhere and chill as a family. Last year, it was Bali. This 2013 CNY trip, we decided to stay at the newly renovated rooms of the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok

The Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel sits in an enviable location, right in the middle of two BTS stations (Bangkok’s monorail system) and is within a short walk to shopping centres like New Central World and Siam Paragon - all of which are connected via a covered sky bridge. 

The Famed "Four-Faced" Buddha
Grand Hyatt Erawan is also known as the home of the famous “Four-Faced Buddha”. This particular Buddha statue, whose small temple is located right next to the hotel, is legendary for making wishes come true. Needless to say, on the first day of CNY (10 February 2013), hoards of people gravitated to the renowned temple of the “Four-Faced Buddha”. They come from far and wide. It is not surprising to find even Hong Kong celebrities gathering at the said place of worship, paying their respects and making prayers (or wishes). It is said that this particular Buddha has been consistent in “granting” people their heartfelt wishes. It is also said that when one’s wishes came true, one would have to return to the same shrine and make an offering to thank the Buddha. Offerings can be made through flowers, incense or a traditional Thai dance by the ladies at the temple. It is said that the offering of music and dance delights this particular Buddha very much. So, I shall keep you all posted if my wishes did come true before the year ends.

The architecture of Grand Hyatt Erawan echoes the golden days of Thailand. The white pillars stand imposingly against the backdrop of traditional Thai teak wood and silken touches. The hotel underwent a complete “remodelling programme” of its guestrooms that began in March 2012, with the first phase concluded in November 2012. The first 197 new guestrooms and suites have recently opened their doors to welcome guests from around the world. And these were the very rooms I wanted to check out.  These rooms are so new that a faint “scent” of its redecoration still lingered in the air - even the elevators had that similar “just refurbished” aroma. 

The New Grand Room
The newly renovated rooms and suites have been designed by the renowned American Interior Designer, Tony Chi of Tony Chi & Associates. Chi is known for his attention to detail and has a talent for orchestrating rich compositions of lacquer, aqueous glass mosaics and textured wood veneer. These influences are visible in the new guestrooms of the Grand Hyatt Erawan. For Chi believes in what he calls "invisible design", the notion that much like good service, a hospitality space should elicit a positive response without necessarily making you aware of why.

Hence, the new guestrooms complement the hotel’s positioning as a warm and welcoming Thai residence, with an inviting ambience that is unmistakably Thai coupled with intense splashes of colours and textures. The guestroom design is contemporary, but succeeds in incorporating classical touches with a beautiful focus on details such as quaint Thai jars and ceramics. 

The intent of the re-modelling work is to extend the cosy residential aesthetic developed for the spa cottages at “i.sawan” to all the guestroom floors. The rooms are at once luxurious and practical. Upon entering my room, I found the new look most welcoming. All the furniture, fixtures and fittings are new. They are well co-ordinated with the colours of vermillion and orange hues. The designs are classic contemporary with a focus on details such as quaint Thai jars and ceramics.

The bathrooms are also updated with new mosaic tiles and designs. I especially adore the red lacquer boxes which organize the bathroom amenities and quaint soap dish.

There is an intimate and diverse seating area next to a comfortable bed that includes an upholstered daybed-style settee. In that space, you will also find a pull-up armchair and an upholstered leather bench for multi-use such as a private living area, or for work, dining or socialising. This is just the new Grand Room category that I stayed in. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to sneak a peek at the higher category rooms. They were all fully occupied by guests from Hong Kong. 

Decorative Soap Dish

The Newly Renovated Bathroom

So, instead I ventured onto the fifth floor of the hotel, where the pool, garden and spa are located. You will discover another wonderful surprise here – the i.sawan Residential Spa & Club. Also designed by Mr Tony Chi, it is likened to the mythical definition of the “fifth level of heaven”. 

The i.sawan Residential Spa & Club offers guests an extraordinary urban garden retreat as well as an exquisite array of services, including pampering, fitness, cuisine, accommodation and relaxation. Yes, they are all housed on the fifth floor of Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok.

The Treatment Room 
It covers over 7,000 sq m (75,350 sq ft) high above the sights and sounds of the bustling city. And are you ready for this – there are six very unique spa cottages that become the hallmark of i.sawan Residential Spa & Club. And yes again, they are situated in the hotel garden on the fifth floor.

The Spa Cottages
The spa cottages are specifically designed to be your own private retreat in the heart of Bangkok. i.sawan Residential Spa & Club takes you to a higher “divine” level of comfort, with each spa cottage featuring a welcoming living room with a sizeable dining area, an inviting bedroom overlooking a private outdoor garden, a spacious bathroom that is equipped with a steam room, a treatment room and a private outdoor patio. Doesn’t it sound all so heavenly? This is just the cottage.

What you will receive daily when you stay in one of the spa cottages are daily spa breakfast and evening cocktails served in the cottage; a daily 60-minute in-cottage massage of your choice; and an Aromatherapy Steam and Milk Bath all arranged by the spa concierge team to ensure that you enjoy the most impeccable indulgent experiences of all.

The Bedroom of the Spa Cottage
What’s more - a customised music selection is made available in the spa cottage so that you can use music to make your day or night even more delightful. Naturally, during your spa retreat, you can always stay connected to the rest of the world - thanks to the complimentary broadband Internet access in the cottage.

Now you can understand why I have been missing in action for the past few weeks. 

I have been busy enjoying my own urban sanctuary in Bangkok, at the fifth level of heaven that is i.sawan Residential Spa & Club. Yes, I had huge separation issues when my stay came to an end - H.U.G.E. 

My Farewell Tea

Well, such is life. 

Nothing lasts forever, especially when it is so fabulously wonderful. 

As Tibetan Spiritual Guru, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche once said, “Enjoy everything, knowing it’s not permanent”.

Yes, I am doing my best to extend the part about “Enjoy everything", because I know ONLY TOO WELL that "it’s not permanent”However, I can try and make them last just a wee bit longer by continuing with all my favourite activities - that is enjoy good eats while I can, stay positive as much as possible, travel with my family at every opportunity, and write as much as my passions/inspirations would take me. 

Above all, I am learning to cherish every living moment with my loved ones because of all the transient moments in my life, these will be the very ones I'll miss the most. 

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