Highlights of Virtuoso Week

A record 3900 consultants and suppliers from all over the world attended Virtuoso Week in Las Vegas. 312,000, 4 minute appointments were accomplished, bring the travel world together for their annual meeting.
Always fun and absorbing, one departs with complete brain overload.
For me, it brings new and wonderful resorts, tour companies, travel ideas, and reinforces ones I already know about.
Some of the new properties I discovered were Upper House (a spectacular hotel in Hong Kong), the fabulous new hotel Siam from Bangkok, Ballyfin, a stunning new manor house hotel in Ireland. A very pleasant surprise was hearing about a hotel thy has been right under my nose, the St.Regis Washington DC. Right across from the White House, it is a gorgeous property.
Starwood hotels have unveiled some new properties and reopened some new renovations like the Gritti Palace in Venice, St. Regis Bahia Resort in Puerto Rico, St.Regis Bal Harbor.
I always return home completely invigorated and ready to share my new destination ideas and activities. The energy and passion during Virtuoso Week is highly contagious.

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… 

Burmese Monasteries and their revered Monks

Monasteries and Monks have a tremendous influence in the predominately Buddhist country of Burma.   We were privileged to visit the Mahagandahyon Monastery in Mandalay- one of the most important and holy monasteries in Burma.   It houses 1000 monks from age 12- 90. 
Every Burmese man must become a monk for at least one week; there are 500,000 monks in Burma. Highly revered, they take their vows seriously and spend most of their time studying and living Buddhism. Buddhist Monks only eat twice a day at around 8AM and again at 11AM and that is the last meal of the day for them

Traveling through Burma

We have landed in the Inle Lake area of Burma. It is like traveling back to a very simple time. We see farmers plowing their fields with cows, horse and buggies used for transport. Inle lake is in the center eastern part of the country. A very fertile area, Inle lake is a shallow lake that is the agricultural heart of Burma. Hundred of floating islands of tomatoes and other vegetables. We flew to Heho, and then took a bus and boat to our hotel, the Inle Princess. Beautiful and very peaceful. Right out of George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”.
Today we are taking the longboats to a tribal market.

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