Did you know that Thailand and its world renowned capital city, Bangkok, welcomes more visitors than any city in the world? If one were to tell you that Bangkok has it all…as my British friends might say, “They would be spot on!”
It has everything from adventurous tuk tuk rides through the city streets, exploring the floating markets by longtail boat along Chao Phraya River and its mysterious canals to historic landmarks, temples, shrines, infamous nightclubs, exotic red light districts, fashionable boutiques, wholesale shopping, local and international cuisine!
Did I forget to mention GOLF? Of course I did!! Most deserved of a line of its own as not only Bangkok but Thailand itself has some of the best and most welcoming courses that Asia has to offer!
For international visitors your most likely entry point to Thailand is Bangkok and it is highly recommended that you embrace this “City of Angels.”
In the first of four articles on our recent visit to Thailand we will cover off different regions of Thailand but within easy reach of Bangkok. Most international visitors will come to Thailand for a minimum of 10 days and visit up to three centers – we are going to lay that out for you and no additional domestic flights required.
If it is your first time in Bangkok find a place to call home on Sukhumvit Road in the heart of the city. Pretty much anything that you will want for when not playing golf is within walking distance.
Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit was our place to call home and oddly enough we made our 1st Hole in One when we found the not one, not two but three level rooftop bar – Spectrum!
In working with Tourism Thailand, and its #1 inbound Golf Tour Operator, Golfasian, it is no doubt that we were at this Hyatt as they were recently recognized by IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) as the “Best Hotel Experience for Thailand.”
When you think of rooftop bars you generally think of cocktails, our three experiences in the heart of Bangkok provided so much more. The three level Spectrum Lounge & Bar overlooking the city had what you might call a party level, spiral staircase and all to take you way up. The upbeat cocktail level, where bartender and avid golfer Khun Golf introduced us to his aptly named “Hole In One” which we all had and was a most interesting to start our evening. The lowest of the rooftop levels with its more relaxing piano bar is a unique atmosphere to sample some of the finest cuisine (have the steak) by internationally renowned Chef Frederik.
Belgium meets Bangkok at the Belga Rooftop Bar and Brasserie 32 floors up at the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit. We thoroughly enjoyed Bangkok’s first Belgian restaurant. At the helm is Chef Nico a contemporary Belgian brasserie serving famous dishes such as Moules Frites and Liege Waffle, as well as an extensive range of draft and bottled Belgian beers, fine wine and cocktails.
In keeping with the theme of international cuisine we landed on the comfortable sofas high atop the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queens Park, its Gin & Tonic inspired ABar Rooftop, with Bangkok’s largest selection of gin! Of course for me it was a dry gin martini on the rocks before moving over to the Goji Kitchen & Bar featuring live cooking stations in a buffet style format. Might be the best buffet I have ever feasted on!
When it comes to the golf in Bangkok, there are over 60 courses to choose from with the who’s who of golf designers having left their mark! They include: Pete Dye, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Robert Trent Jones to name a few.
I have played a few courses in and around Bangkok and would highly recommend Alpine Golf & Sports Club, Lotus Valley Golf Club, Suwan Golf & Country Club and of course the Thai Country Club one of the best in Thailand having hosted PGA Tour events with winners such as Tiger and Vijay!
There are a couple of things that you will never forget about your Thai golf experience, one is that the courses are impeccably maintained and the other is the female caddy experience! It is here that you learn why Thailand is forever referred to as the Land of Smiles!
As soon as you as you pull up to the bag drop you are greeted by a number of the caddies dressed from head to toe in their caddie regalia. All caddies speak some level of English, some play golf and some don’t. You can be comfortable in the fact that they do know the golf course well and can read the greens better than you will likely be able to!
Once on the course you will soon realize that the only thing that you need to do is play golf. Your caddy will do just about everything else, fix divots, rake bunkers, and keep an eye on your ball! This simple pleasure, smiles and all will not cost you an arm and leg as in many other parts of the world.
Suggested caddie tip is about $15 – $20 but for the life of me I can’t think of one time that I did not give a caddy at least twice as much as what was recommended. So… don’t cheap out on your caddy!
On this trip we played two excellent courses around Bangkok. First up Royal Gems Golf City appropriately dubbed Dream Arena created by the master of replica golf courses Ron Garl. Step on to the first tee and you are transported onto some of the best golf holes in the world.
From TPC Sawgrass to Bethpage Black and the Road Hole at St Andrews to a back nine that includes Amen Corner, for that matter the entire back nine replicates Augusta National. The course has only been open for a couple of years, it is in great shape and will only get better with age!
Nikanti Golf Club: the very first hole gives you an indication of the style and quality of golf that you are in for. A tough par five with an intimidating yet exciting shot into the green no matter where you are. The only one of its kind in Thailand with three sets of 6 holes and an equal number of par 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. A five star experience from start to finish and I would highly recommend that you take advantage of the exceptional dining experience as it is included in your green fee!
Nikanti is about 90 minutes outside of Bangkok, an ideal stop of you might be heading to Hua Hin or Kanchanaburi (think Bridge over the River Kwai). Another great track nearby is Suwan Golf & Country Club.
While in Bangkok make sure you have some non-golf days. Explore the city streets by tuk tuk and the rivers, canals and floating markets by longtail boat. Embrace the history of the Buddha within the glitz and glamor of the Grand Palace – there is a reason why 23,000 people per day visit! A lunch or dinner of prawns is a must and of course if you have never had a Thai massage you don’t know what you are missing.
Getting to Thailand
More than likely you will be making a connection from wherever you are traveling from to Bangkok. Easily done though with one connection.
Golfasian, a specialist golf tour operator based in Thailand, organized our trip and knows the destination inside and out – see www.golfasian.com
If you are looking at making arrangements through a local golf tour operator, consider reaching out to one of the members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) that promote and sell golf packages in Thailand such as:
<b>Videos from Claudio’s Trips:</b>