Peace of Mind

Minimal boutique hotel Zensala Chiang Mai (168 Pa Tan Rd., Muang, Chiang Mai, 053-225-888,, sat on the bank of the Ping River, is welcoming Songkran revelers to Chiang Mai with a special package available only between Apr 12-16. During this time, a two-night stay will set you back B7,200-11,700 net, including breakfast, a Thai set dinner, flying lanterns, a shuttle service to town and free Wi-Fi internet. We particularly love the pool access room (B8,800 net under this package) as Chiang Mai is amazingly hot in April, meaning you can jump into the water and cool off at any time.


Recovery Retreat

If you miss the gCircuit gay party in Bangkok, or need some time to recover, the event organizers have partnered with W Retreat Koh Samui Resort & Spa (Maenam Beach, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 077-915-999, [email protected], to put together an “After Party Escape” package. From April 8-21, get a 163-sq-meter Jungle Oasis pool villa with breakfast for two at B11,699 net per night (normally B21,500/night). Guests staying three consecutive nights also receive roundtrip airport transfers, while all guests who book this deal get access to an exclusive Recovery Party (Apr 16) featuring DJ Gio Vanhoutte.


New Year Deals

Planning a last minute Songkran holiday? Centara Hotels and Resorts, Thailand’s largest hotel group, is offering deals at its properties in Bangkok, Krabi and Phuket for stays during April 10-16. Participating hotels include Centara Anda Dhevi Krabi (from B3,080), Centara Grand West Sands Phuket (from B5,564), and, if you feel like a staycation, the new Centara Watergate Pavilion Bangkok (from B3,520). Two consecutive nights are required and the deal includes daily breakfast, a laundry service (limited pieces), waterproof bags for belongings and two water pistols. Check the entire list of properties and make reservations at


Island Retreat

For this summer break, Conrad Koh Samui ( is slashing its bed and breakfast rates by 30% for stays until the end of the year. This “Dream Resorts 2013” sees rates starting from B16,240 for a 96-sq-meter ocean view pool villa and B59,640 for a 318-sq-meter Conrad royal ocean view pool villa. Cheaper than usual doesn’t mean cheap, but the sea views are pretty stunning. Bookings must be made before May 14.


Leave a Comment

Is redeeming your air miles for free hotel nights a good deal?

Royal Orchid Plus

THAI Airways


To get a free room
12,000 miles/night, 22,000/two nights, and 32,000/three nights for domestic destinations and three-star hotels elsewhere; from 14,000 miles/night for five-star hotels in Thailand and three to five star hotels in other countries.

Hotel partners
Aloft, Dusit, dusitD2, Dusit Princess, Royal Princess, Centara Grand, Centara, Mercure, Novotel, Imperial, Fourpoints, Sheraton, Anantara, Le Meridien, Westin, Pullman, W, Langham, Eaton, Shangri-La, Traders, Sofitel.

More than 30 cities across the globe. See website for details.

To earn miles
Actual miles. For example: Tokyo is 2,879 miles and Paris 5,853 miles, one-way. Business and first class passengers earn an additional 10-50% on miles along the same routes.

Nuch has 32,000 miles. She can choose to redeem them for either: (1) a three-night stay in the Ibis Shinjuku (or Centara hotels in Phuket) or (2) two roundtrip tickets to Thai destinations (15,000 miles each).

A room at Ibis Shinjuku is around B3,000 while a roundtrip ticket to Phuket costs around B5,000. So they are pretty comparable and it’s not a bad deal, but we’d rather redeem our miles for flights anyway. One good thing is THAI partners with many more hotels than other Thai airlines.


Bangkok Airways


To get a free room
From 150 points for domestic destinations, from B450 for other countries.

Hotel partners
Centara, Centara Boutique Collection, Away, Imperial, Marriott, JW Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Renaissance, Langham.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai, Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Krabi, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sot, Petchabun, Phuket, Rayong, Koh Samui, Trang, Trat, Udon Thani, Hong Kong, Beijing, Boston, LA, London, Melbourne, Shanghai

To earn pointss
5-10 points for domestic flights and 10-25 for international flights on economy class. Business and first class earn 5-20 more points per route.

Nong has 300 FlyerBonus points. she can choose to redeem them for either: (1) a roundtrip ticket to Luang Prabang or (2) two nights at Central Duangtawan Chiang Mai.

A roundtrip ticket to Luang Prabang is usually around B8,000 while a rack rate for a night at Centara is B4,500. But as Centara usually have room promotions meaning you nearly never spend full prices, it’s better to redeem your points for flights. Unfortunately, Bangkok Airways doesn’t partner with hotels at their popular destinations like Luang Prabang and Maldives.

BIG Point


To get a free room
250 BIG points.

Hotel partners
Tune hotels, present in 13 global cities but offering barebones amenities.

Bangkok, Pattaya, Hat Yai, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru, Jakarta, Bali, Cebu, Manila, London, Edinburgh

To earn points
One point for every B20 spent on AirAsia flights, AirAsia Megastore (, Tune hotels, AirAsia Redtix ( and AirAsia Go (

Nana has 10,000 BIG points. She can choose to redeem them for either: (1) a two-night stay at Tune Kuala Lumpur (4,511 points x 2) or one-way ticket to Kuala Lumpur (8,716 points [promotion]).

An air ticket to Kuala Lumpur is normally B1,800-2,000 while a room at Tune starts from around B500. So we’d rather use our points for flights and sleep elsewhere with better facilities, unless there are BIG point promotions that let us redeem a room at 0-5 points.


Leave a Comment

Planning a Songkran getaway to Singapore? Here are some things to check out away from Jalan Besar.

Lego Marvels

This is a must-see. Due to its overwhelming popularity, The Art of the Brick exhibition at the ArtScience Museum (S$14 [B333]. Marina Bay Sands, has been extended until May 26 (it was scheduled to close on Apr 14). The story behind the exhibition is that Nathan Sawaya, a New York-based attorney, created a blog displaying art pieces made from his favorite childhood toy, Lego. After the blog became popular, he decided to quit his day job and become a full-time artist creating mind-blowing works from Lego bricks. This exhibition is his largest ever, featuring all of his previous works, including the famed human figures and a life-size dinosaur.

Surreal Forrest

Gardens by the Bay (S$28 [B665]. has been firmly in the spotlight since its opening last June. This man-made tropical forest, housed in two conservatories, is Singapore’s priciest government-funded mega project this decade, costing more than B24 billion. Three main highlights are the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest (reminiscent of Avatar) and Super Trees (tree-like structures acting as solar power sources). While we still prefer our real forest in Khaoyai and real flowers in Angkhang, this place is worth a visit to see how the Singaporeans combine ecology and technology to make use of their limited resources. All electricity here is generated from burning fallen leaves and branches, together with solar cells and an advanced hydro-cooling system—there’s no reliance on fossil fuels.

Under the Sea

The newest addition to kids-favorite Resort World Sentosa is the S.E.A. Aquarium (S$29 [B689]., the world’s largest aquarium to date, containing more than 800 forms of marine life. Highlights include the world’s largest fish tank, some 36 meters wide and 8 meters tall, a tunnel displaying 200 sharks, and a room showing more kinds of jellyfish than you would probably care to imagine.

Caffeine Coolness

Singapore’s coffee scene has really picked up in recent years in terms of both the quality and diversity of beans. Most of the island’s hot coffee shops are situated in Tiong Bahru, an old government housing area which is now an uber-hip district. Places like 40 Hands (#01-12, 78 Yong Siak St., +65-6225-8545), Tiong Bahru Bakery (#1-70, 56 Eng Hoon St., +65-6220-3430) The Orange Thimble (#01-68, Blk. 56, Eng Hoon St., +65-9750-3989) and Drips (#01-68, Blk. 56, Eng Hoon St., +65-9750-3989) are the top places to order an espresso and be seen on weekends.


Leave a Comment

As things get hotter, BK rounds up the best cooling lotions featuring lavender extract.

1. Banyan Tree Aloe & Lavender Body Lotion, B750/250ml

They say: A nourishing body lotion featuring aloe vera and lavender oil that is aimed at improving dull and dry skin.
We say: We’ve never seen a pairing of aloe vera and lavender before. But the result isn’t bad at all. While the lavender scent helps relax the nerves, the smell of aloe vera is refreshing and well suited to the current hot and humid weather. What we don’t like is its texture, which is a bit too light and runny to stay in place and you need be really careful when pouring it from the container.

2. Erb Lavender Lush,  B1,090/230ml << Lavender Loaded

They say: Contains lavender that helps soothe the skin, centella to boost collagen production and honey to restore the skin’s moisture.
We say: This lotion has the strongest lavender smell of the six, as it contains both lavender water and essential oil. The smell reminds us of the classic English powdery lavender fragrance our grandma uses. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the smell is so strong you couldn’t use it with any other fragrance, and it lasts for more than six hours. So perhaps it’s best applied before bedtime as lavender is said to provide a better sleep. 

3. Harnn Cymbopogon Body Soufflé,  B1,150/220ml

They say: Light but concentrated, this cream combines extracts of water lily stamen and hibiscus fruit, as well as lavender and lemongrass oils, to keep the skin moisturized, smooth and fresh, and increase skin elasticity. It also features natural antiseptic and anti-inflammation properties of natural essential oils.
We say: Cymbopogon is meant to be Harnn’s first line for both men and women (compared to previous lines which were sweeter and targeted ladies). The lotion is light but concentrated, as advertised, but features a strong lemongrass scent so that the smell of lavender is barely distinguishable at first. Leave it for five to ten minutes and it smells a lot more pleasurable with a perfect combination of lemongrass and lavender notes. The best thing? This East-meets-West aroma makes you feel like you are in a high-end hotel spa. 

4. Gla Skin Source Nourishing, B385/250ml << BK PICK!

They say: Among their three formulas, this is the one best suited to dry skin thanks to ingredients like rice milk, shea butter and botanical oils.
We say: Before we could only find Gla products at BIG+BIH fairs and when we hopped into Lemon Farms convenience stores at petrol stations. Now that they have a counter at Siam Center, though, making it a whole lot easier to buy. The lotion has a rich texture but is easily absorbed into the skin. After application you smell like a blend of lavender and lemon peel; a scent that is not too light nor too strong and very reminiscent of an Asian-themed spa. Once this note disappears, after a few hours, along with the moisture, you know it’s time to re-apply. This is our top pick, not just on price but also quality and aroma.

5. L’Occitane Lavande Body Lotion,  B1,355/250ml

They say: Originally from France’s Provence, one of the world’s most famous producers of lavender, L’Occitane is Lavande Body Lotion is among the esteemed brand’s most popular products. It contains lavender essential oil from Haute-Provence and organic shea butter, helping hydrate the skin and leaving you pleasantly scented.
We say: This is the most expensive lotion in the test, and given the brand, we expected a lot. The texture is light and smooth so it easily soaks into the skin. It gives a pleasant lavender smell at first, then the shea butter reveals itself a few minutes later. There’s also a slight citrus scent, but we don’t know where it comes from. Anyway, even though the texture is light, it surprisingly hydrates the skin for long periods. 

6. Panpuri Solitude Soothing Body, Balm B1,050/220ml

They say: This high-end body lotion combines aloe vera, chamomile, lemongrass and Tahiti butter to help heal and hydrate the skin. As it contains a lot of acidic extracts, it’s not recommended for use before direct exposure to the sun.
We say: Packaged in a tall bottle, the lotion is light but rich in texture, meaning it instantly hydrates your skin. It features a strong smell of citrus, thanks to extracts of lemongrass, lemon and grapefruit oils, so you hardly notice the scents of lavender or chamomile—perfect for fans of acidic scents.

Banyan Tree Gallery. Banyan Tree Bangkok, South Sathorn Rd., 02-679-1200.
Erb. Try 5/F, Central Chidlom, 02-793-7777.  
Gla. The Selected, 3/F, Siam Center, 02-658-1000.  
Harnn. 1/F and 3/F, CentralWorld, 02-613-1429/30.  
L’Occitane. Try 1/F, Central Chidlom, 02-793-7777.  
Panpuri. L/F, Gayson, 02-656-1199.


Leave a Comment