Another Incredible Virtuoso Travel Week

4000 talented travel consultants, suppliers and press converge in Las Vegas one week each year to connect, learn and enhance their clients’ travel experience. The energy and passion for this travel connection is immense. Classes are offered by the top travel experts in the business- highlighted by Helen Nodland, and the always delightful Ann Scully. An active network called VAST offers an all day exposition to better learn about the latest and greatest offerings in the active travel industry.
We meet hotel General Managers, heads of hotel marketing, destination management companies, tour operators, safari operators, airline representatives, destination wedding suppliers, and sales directors from all over the world – 396 meetings over a four day period. We meet before the general meetings, at specialized luncheons, cocktail parties and dinners, in addition to the 396 presentations. By the time the week is over, I can say I am thoroughly ensconced in travel information. I came home energized, inspired, armed with the best information and fabulous new connections to enable me to make my clients dreams come true.

Highlights from Pure: Tiger Blue -cruising the Indonesian Islands


Image courtesy of Tiger Blue

Highlights of PURE: Tiger Blue Luxury Cruising in Indonesia

Image

Organic Pumpkin Soup-yummmmm…

Recipe- Sebastiaan Seegers’ popular Organic Pumpkin soup

From Six Senses Yao Noi: guests regularly comment on a dish they won’t let him take off the menu – Organic Pumpkin soup – the most frequent feedback asking “what do you put in it to get it to taste like that?!” – his answer……..”nothing – just pumpkin, but FRESH pumpkin, just picked”.
The difference is freshness….

Here follows Chef Sebastiaan Seegers pumpkin soup recipe
Pumpkins 1kg, peeled, seeded, cut in 1” cubes
Butter 70 g
Fresh thyme 1 g
Salt 8 g
Pink peppercorns 3 g
Gently sweat on moderate heat all the above ingredients until completely soft, covered with a lid (do not colour) This will take approximately 45 minutes – stir occasionally to ensure it does not burn.
Vegetable stock 1200 mls
Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes
Blend will in liquidizer until completely smooth
Pass through a fine chinois
Check seasoning, add freshly ground black pepper, adjust consistency if necessary with more vegetable stock.

Six Senses Yao Noi’s fabulous chef Sebastiaan Seegers’ Bio

Sebastiaan Seegers – European organic cuisine specialist – The Dining Room, Six Senses Koh Yao Noi
Six Senses Koh Yao Noi’s Dutch born Chef de Cuisine Sebastiaan Seegers showcases his unique signature “European Organic cuisine” at the open air over water Dining Room of the hotel. Surrounded by organic vegetable, fruit and herb gardens within view of the restaurants’ generously sized tables, Chef Sebastiaan has no shortage of fresh produce with which to work. Pumpkins (see recipe to follow), passionfruit, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, watercress, asparagus and okra are all close at hand and are picked daily, featuring on his menus as they become available.
Sebastiaan has built up a close relationship with the traditional local fisherman of this beautiful island and his menus change daily depending on what they bring him.
Hailing originally from Holland, Sebastiaan has an impressive pedigree, having worked with the top echelon of the emerging famous chefs of the Netherlands. From the beginning of his career in 1994 untl 2010 he has worked solely in Michelin starred restaurants, rising to the position of Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Savelberg in Voorburg (ranked in the top 30 restaurants of the Netherlands)
The opportunity to spread his wings and travel arose in 2010 when he joined the famed Le Gray hotel in Beiruit as Chef de Cuisine of the Indigo restaurant, where he remained until joining Six Senses Koh Yao Noi. An engaging and passionate chef, Sebastiaan is frequently seen in the Dining Room taking orders and customizing dishes for guests – another signature of Six Senses and Sebastiaans style.

Thai Chef’s Table- Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Thai Chef’s table opening at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, BANGKOK LAUNCHES BANGKOK’S FIRST EVER THAI CHEF’S TABLE AT SALA RIM NAAM
February 2012 – Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has launched an exclusive “Chef’s Table” at its’ iconic restaurant, Sala Rim Naam. The first time ever by a Thai restaurant in Bangkok, our 25 year hotel veteran Thai Executive Chef Vichit Mukura, also of the popular national TV program “Best Thai Chef”, will provide culinary connoisseurs or simply ‘food lovers’, a rare opportunity to experience first-hand the “inner” workings of one of the most dynamic gourmet kitchens in the world whilst indulging in first-class cuisine.
The Chef’s Table, set in the heart of the kitchen, allows diners a behind-the-scenes VIP pass to interact with award-winning Chef Vichit and watch the ‘Master’ in action as he prepares a bespoke, exclusive Thai menu based on the handpicked selection of the day’s freshest local and imported ingredients. “I personally select only the freshest produce for the enjoyment of guests. Quality is paramount and brings out the true flavours of Thai cuisine at their best,” said Chef Vichit.
Upon arrival, guests will be welcomed into the iconic, Grand Palace inspired decorative restaurant by Chef Vichit to enjoy a welcome cocktail and being personally escorted for a private tour of the kitchen before being seated at the Chef’s Table.
Throughout this unforgettable evening, Chef Vichit and his team of expert chefs will constantly interact with diners and present the assorted ingredients for guests to select and then gain their input into the planning of the evening’s custom crafted, personalised menu. Guests will enjoy informal master class style sessions throughout the duration of dinner, and watch and learn as Chef Vichit plates up deliciously prepared and authentic Thai fare right in front of diners.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok executive Thai Chef Vichit Mukura

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Executive Thai Chef- Vichit Mukura

Vichit Mukura
Executive Thai Chef, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Born in the seaside resort city of Pattaya in the province of Chonburi, Chef Vichit Mukura developed a passion for cooking at an early age.

His career in the culinary industry spans over two decades during which he has worked in various hotels around Thailand (plus a brief stint in Japan) working his way from a cook to Chef status.  Today, as Executive Thai Chef of The Oriental, Bangkok, he is in charge of the complete process from kitchen operations to menu selection of the hotel’s two Thai food restaurants, Sala Rim Nam (Thai lunch buffet and set Thai dinner) and Rim Nam Terrace (à la carte Thai dinner).  Moreover, Chef Vichit is an instructor at The Oriental Hotel Apprenticeship Programme (OHAP), as well as overseeing the Oriental Professional Thai Chef Programme (OPTC).  During his time at The Oriental, Bangkok, Chef Vichit has cooked for Royalty, Heads of State and celebrities.
 
In addition to his responsibilities as Executive Thai Chef of The Oriental, Bangkok, Chef Vichit is also a widely-respected authority on Thai cuisine and writes regularly for several food as well as lifestyle magazines (Thai food column).  Furthermore, he has appeared as a Guest Chef on many TV cooking programmes, both local as well as international.  Chef Vichit’s family owns and operates a very successful restaurant in Pattaya.

An interesting side note, the Mandarin Oriental is launching a new Chef’s Table. I will post the announcement and information in my next entry. 

Pomelo Salad

Recipes from the Mandarin Oriental- Pomelo Salad

YAAM SOM O GUB GOONG GAI
Herbed pomelo salad with prawns and chicken

Ingredients for dressing
50 g prawn, minced
25 g chicken, minced
200 g thick coconut milk
8 g chili paste oil
3 g chili paste
5 g salt
10 g lime juice
14 g white sugar
8 g coconut sugar

Method
In a sauce pan, heat 50 grams of the coconut milk over a medium heat then add the prawns and the chicken to stir-fry until cooked. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to the boil then mix in the chili paste and the chili paste oil. Season with the salt, white sugar, palm sugar and the lime juice to taste.

Ingredients for pomelo salad
300 g pomelo segment, flaked
200 g dressing (from above)
40 g chicken breast, boiled and shredded
70 g prawns, boiled
8 g shallots, deep-fried
4 g garlic, deep-fried
16 g peanuts, deep-fried
2 g coconut meat, shredded and roasted

Method
place the pomelo in a bowl; add in the prawns and chicken breast. Mix in the dressing and toss well. Then add in the shallots, garlic and peanuts. Toss lightly. Sprinkle with coconut meat and garnish with coriander leaves and shredded big red chilies.

Recipes from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok- my favorite dishes

I am incredibly privileged to have received recipes for my favorite dishes from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Sticky rice with Mangos and Pomelo Salad. Here is the recipe for sticky Rice with Mangos from Executive Thai chef Vichit Mukura – Oriental Baan Rim Naan. His bio follows.

The Oriental Baan Rim Naam
KHOW NIEW MAMUANG
Coconut sticky rice with mango
 
 
Ingredients for coconut mixture (part 1)
1.5​cups​thick coconut milk
170​grams​white sugar
8 ​grams​salt
1 ​leaf​pandanus leaf
 
Method
– mix thick coconut milk, white sugar, salt and pandanus leaf together in a sauce pan and heat them over medium heat until boiling. Strain them and set aside
 
Ingredients for sticky rice (part 2)
2​cups​raw sticky rice (Khiew Ngoo)
 
Method
– rinse raw sticky rice until the water is transparent and soak them for 5 hrs. at least or over night , then rinse well again and strain them
– on the stainless tray with cheese cloth, put the rinsed sticky rice on and wrap them with the same cheese cloth and bring to steam for ½ hr. until cooked
 
How to do the coconut sticky rice
– pour the coconut mixture (from part 1) in cooked sticky rice (still hot
​from part 2), then stir them until well mixed, cover them tightly ​about 15 mins
– remove the cover and stir them again, then cover about 15 more mins to be well blended
– served the coconut sticky rice with ripe mango

Sticky Rice with Mango

Fabulous new hotel in Bangkok – The Siam

The Siam, a spectacular luxury hotel that has just opened in Bangkok in June, lives up to all it’s abundant  hype.  A Bill Bensley design, it is a feast for the eyes. Owned by a prominent family in Bangkok, I heard Mr. Bensley was given carte blanche to do whatever he felt was appropriate. I have to say it is one of his best efforts. 
Mr. Bensley incorporated four of Jim Thompson’s houses with contemporary elements ( Jim Thompson – fascinating American character that single  handedly started the Thai Silk industry after World War 2 and disappeared in the 60’s after walking into the Malaysian jungle- http://www.jimthompson.com. A whole subject unto himself.) 
 One of the owners is a prolific antique collector; a popular actor and singer, his collection is seen everywhere.  As a former antique dealer, I was blown away with his enthusiastic , eclectic collection. The hotel even has a screening room.  On either side of the screen is a collage of old movie tickets on a pair of panels.  One of the restaurants, with highly regarded Thai cuisine, utilizes one of the  antique Thai houses. Food was excellent and the setting was delightful. Located on the Chao Praya, in the elegant Dusit neighborhood one is in a more peaceful part of the city.  The hotel is planning to take clients sightseeing by boat- the Grand Temple is nearby. Another interesting aspect of activities offered at the Siam is kickboxing. The hotel has a ring and lessons for guests in their ample, enormous gym.  As a  guest, one can take lessons, and if you stay long enough , you will become a proficient kick boxer!  Hmmm… 

Walkway Siam Bangkok

Screening room, Siam Bangkok

Note the “film” border on the floor and the collage of old theatre tickets on the sides of the screen.

Traditional side of the Siam Bangkok

Personal Plunge pool, Siam Hotel Bangkok

Enormous bathroom in the Siam Hotel Bangkok

The Siam! Brand new luxurious hotel in Bangkok. Wow!!!

Walking to the Spa- Yao Noi

Beach overlooking Phang Nga Bay- Yao Noi

Fruit and cold cuts portion of the breakfast buffet- Yao Noi

Part of the breakfast buffet- a gazillion jelly choices, all homemade! Yao Noi

View of Phang Nga Bay from the Hilltop Bar- Six Senses Yao Noi

Mesmerizing!!!!

Ocean View Villa with pool- Six Senses Yao Noi , Phang Nga Bay

Six Senses Yao Noi – all natural experience

From the moment you step onto the soft wooden polished floors, without your shoes, you feel a difference in this resort. Tucked into the jungle on Phang Nga Bay – above Phuket and across from Krabi- the resort’s vibration is serenity. One hears water flowing, smells the flowers, feels the breezes, and sees lush green all around. It is a small resort, only 50 Villas, but unless you are in one of their restaurants, pools or public places, you feel comfortably private. Hilltop, at the top of the property, is the main pool and lunch cafe. Drop dead views from there.
The main focus of Six Senses is a holistic way of life for the traveler. Organic beautifully prepared meals, spa services that are beyond excellent all work together to give the traveler a sense of serenity. Yao Noi seems to convey the idea of making their guests healthy and more conscious of their surroundings at every turn. They have organic gardens placed all over the resort, three gorgeous restaurants, and 3 bars. A nice touch is the espresso machine in the room. Among the special details is a homemade ice cream bar that is open all day. Ice cream and cookies are free to all guests. 30 selections- we had passion fruit.
Activities include movies, under the stars on the beach after dinner, yoga classes, cooking classes, meditation classes,rubber tree demonstration, Thai massage lessons, mango tours, sailing lessons, kayaking, windsurfing, island tours- on and on.
The breakfast bar is one the most extensive I have seen. It rivals the Oriental in Bangkok. They have an American buffet, a Chinese buffet, a whole room of yogurt and fruit choices and another room for pastries and jellies. Of course all jams and jellies are made on property.
We had the distinct pleasure of dining with the resort manager, Fernando Arroyo, and I see why this resort is running so well. We also had the pleasure of meeting the head chef, Anthony Reynolds and his brilliant co chef Sebastiaan Seegers. Five star chefs anywhere! The passion they display is a pleasure to encounter. Our biggest regret is not having time to do one of their cooking classes. They are fun as well as brilliant.
The most obvious asset of Yao Noi is the staff. Their enthusiasm is seen and heard everywhere. From the gardeners, the restaurant and bar staff, to our butler, Alice. Their greetings and efforts to please make the experience an unforgettable pleasure.
A very special destination, Yao Noi.

Sunrise view from our villa – Six Senses Yao Noi, Phang Nga Bay Thailand

Six SensesYai Noi- the view is the icing on the cake.

With a passionate commitment to supporting and protecting the environment, SS Yao Noi has been built as an all natural resort with a very light ecological footprint. They expect to be zero emmssion by 2012. A holistic resort that aims to change your outlook about your health and the environment. They even grow their own mushrooms! All food – except the goat cheese-comes from no farther than 10 miles from the resort, and spanking fresh. They are striving to make your life healthier as well as making you more aware of your environment. World famous for their Spa, treatments are certainly as good as I have experienced anywhere.

Six Senses Yao Noi is situated on a small island in Phang Nga Bay, an area famed for its natural beauty, especially its limestone island mountains in the sea which provide idyllic views from the resort.  Built in an eco-friendly manner on and around almost 24 acres of natural tropical vegetation the resort exemplifies the Six Senses philosophy of Redefining Experiences from arrival to departure.  Oversized daybeds, soft organic cotton linen, architectural tree-house and rustic timber furnishings, endless culinary options and all day butler service is your invitation to the Six Senses Slow Life* – at this pace, you may never want to leave. This paragraph is courtesy of thei website, but I could not have said it better.

Six Senses Yao Noi- it’s about the view!!

Islands near Krabi Thailand

Cruising the islands near Krabi Thailand

Entering a secret lagoon- Krabi Thailand

Khun Annie

Best Butler I have ever encountered – taking notes on our daily needs. Number 1!

Recipe from the Thai restaurant Ritz Phulay Bay – Krabi Thailand

The best Chicken Soup in Coconut milk I have ever tasted.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay

A little slice of heaven, I think this is one of the most beautiful hotels and settings I have ever experienced.  It was filmed in the movie Hangover 2 as the destination for the “wedding”.  Service is far beyond anything I have encountered, and Asian service is legendary!
Our butler is Kun Annie( Kun is a reference of respect), and I would REALLY  like to take her home. She sees after our every wish, from laundry to boat tours of the islands, arranging transfers to our next destination, trips into the village,  and as insignificant as how to to how to operate the TV.  She appears at  our poolside sala with pen in hand to take notes for our latest wishes. Oh my gosh. 
The resort has three restaurants, a Thai, an International, and a Seafood restaurant. 
We dinedin the Thai restaurant last night, and the Chicken soup in Coconut milk was the best I have ever tasted. Tonight will be the Seafood restaurant.  
One other observation: the music at the pool is outstanding sort of Buddha Bar- Cafe Costes compilations. Recipes are coming from Phulay Bay’s French chef and I will post them soon.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay – Krabi Thailand

Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay- Krabi Thailand

Stunning resort! Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay – Krabi Thailand

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok – like coming home

It’s the little things: being welcomed with jasmine bracelets
Orchids all over the room 
The elevator attendant that punches your floor without being told.
Being called by name by everyone. 
Ice, our maitre’d at breakfast,  who always has a plate of mangosteens and fresh sliced  mangos at my place.
Eating breakfast on the river- watching the ever vibrant boat traffic.
600 count sheets
Local fruit placed in our room everyday.
The hall butler who runs to unlock our door before I can fumble for my key
The white chocolate elephant with candies and personally signed welcome notes.
The pool beverages constantly being refilled without being asked
Smiles on every employee 
The night note on our pillow with an orchid
Bright lights in the bathroom 
Unlimited refreshing bath salts 

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Pool

Welcome note

One of 8 buffet tables at the Mandarin Oriental breakfast

I am fondly looking forward to my return to SE Asia.

I have started to plan my semiannual return to Bangkok, another visit to magical Myanmar, and site inspections in Krabi and Phuket Thailand.  Myanmar is a really hot travel destination and I want to do a run on the fabulous Road to Mandalay- the Orient Express cruise on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar. I also want to check the iconic Strand Hotel  and Governor’s Residence in Yangon. I am so happy to see Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake again. The people of Myanmar are so dear, and so happy to have guests again visiting their country. I am including some pictures from my last visit. Visas are necessary for Myanmar so I have sent off my visa application. One has to apply 3 months out. Weather will be hot and humid- yay!