Thai it Up in Style

Sidestepping the hurdy-gurdy of business travel in Bangkok, SM King finds that luxury becomes necessity in no time flat. The government sponsored Thailand Elite program spoils the author for life.

PRADHU SPA'S GILDED DOME FOYER

ABOVE: PARAGON DEPARTMENT STORE.

Unique in the world, the Thailand Elite program offers members privileges one imagines might be de rigueur only for dignitaries and celebrities. When my bags arrived, a vehicle appeared with them, ready to ferry our Australian press party to the Sofitel Silom in downtown Bangkok. This property is one of the 45 top-shelf hotels throughout the Kingdom that greets Thailand Elite members with VIP check-in and upgrades. The list of places to rest your Elite head includes the very best, from The Oriental in Bangkok to the Banyan Tree in Phuket, with more sparkling properties being added, and those where the dust has settled being deleted, all the time. Thailand Elite members are afforded a stellar range of privileges. For a few days we were ferried from golf course to spa to private club to hospital for a crash course in high-end Bangkok. We watched power point presentations and promotional videos with one single transparent and sincere collective thought: “I want me some of this.” And for a few days, we had it. We were manipulated into a state of bliss at Anne Semonin Spa at the Sofitel Silom and

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ometimes, you see that look on the face of another being. With profound respect, they meet your eyes and wordlessly say, “My entire existence has been but an overture to this moment.”

colossal Suvarnabhumi airport. Past the jet-lagged hordes we beeped. Through the immigrationbaggage claim-customs slog we beeped. Past the trudger who had flung his seatback into my lap during dinner service, we beeped. I was transported as if by beeping magic carpet ride to the Thailand Elite lounge. I enjoyed a surreal moment and a drink while waiting for my baggage to endure the unpleasant business of customs. We The Elite had been partially pre-approved for entry before the plane had even touched down. Thailand Elite refer to it as “expedited immigration and passport control processing”. I call it the best thing to happen to civil aviation since the Boeing 707.

pummelled into complete journalistic compliance at the Thai Privilege Spa at Central World. Each property offers a selection of treatments in serene surrounds. The Thai Privilege Spa’s 90minute signature treatment is a unique blend of Thai and aromatherapy massage, using sublime Sarahn oils. Thailand Elite members enjoy a free spa treatment for every day they are in Thailand, at any one of more than 65 top spa partners throughout the country. If members feel there’s something more they require, they’ll find Thailand Elite is backed up by a 24-hour-a-day English speaking member contact centre. I tried in vain to conjure a pressing need. I was just too damn relaxed.

If you’re lucky, you might see it a half dozen

times in your life. If you’re a member of Thailand Elite, you’ll see it all over Bangkok. My flight from Melbourne was greeted at the gate by such a gaze. My EPA, or Elite Personal Assistant, was the first hint that this program would prove unusually addictive. Sitting in a beeping electric cart, I was escorted through the arrivals process at the new and

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FROM LEFT: PRADHU SPA'S ELEGANT CORRIDOR, SARAHN OILS AT THAI PRIVILEGE SPA, THE LAKEWOOD CLUB HOUSE.

An individual Thailand Elite membership can be yours for 1,000,000 Baht (approx. AU$35,000) for life. There are additional opportunities, and costs, for family member add-ons, and corporate memberships. For these kinds of club dues you might expect hand fed grapes, fans hovering overhead and the constant feeling that someone is there to look out for and after you. Thailand Elite does do everything but wipe your nose and mop your brow. And it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that if you actually cracked a sweat from being pampered, they just might do that. “Hands Free Shopping”, with one point of payment for all purchases, is yet another service, and one designed to take the perspiration out of luxury shopping. The service is available at a number of department stores, including the jawdropping consumer paradise that is Paragon. The vast downstairs food hall is the best I’ve ever been to, and the most delicious I’ve ever sampled. To really crack a sweat members enjoy complimentary green fees for a game of golf every day at more than 30 top courses throughout Thailand. Some of the world’s best courses are in Thailand with a bevy of challenging traps and more water than the entire Australian continent. Lakewood Country Club is a 27-hole oasis of calm and genteel heritage just a stone’s throw from central Bangkok. The palatial clubhouse is surrounded by lush plants and precisely manicured green. It’s an inviting place to be even if you aren’t playing golf - the Thai cuisine served in the club rooms overlooking the course is top notch. The Nick Faldo designed Summit Windmill, another course close to town, is known in golfing circles as super-tough but rewarding. The clubhouse is one of the most opulent in the city, and has swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and Thai massage facilities.

Housed in a skyscraper downtown is the Pacific City Club. This private club with panoramic views of the city is a muted haven of the leather and wood variety. It is located on Sukhumvit Road in central Bangkok and offers Thailand Elite members full access to its facilities, including yet another great spa. In addition to the subdued lounge and library are the first-rate Sai Si Palace restaurant and a wine cellar with over 1,000 wines from around the world. More than just a sanctuary, access to the

Pacific City Club represents one of the great values in the Thailand Elite scheme. It’s a place to go, to meet with clients and discuss business in relaxed and comfortable surrounds. Thailand Elite membership promises access to important and influential figures in the world of business and government in Thailand. It’s a country-wide program that opens doors, offers the introductions required to coax the wheels of business, and at the same time bestows the comforts of a second home. Home it could be, with expedited visa renewal without members having to leave the country ensuring long months of stress free residency, if so desired. There are also “driver’s licence fast track” and “work permit fast track” perks thrown in for good measure. Thailand Elite has members pretty nicely covered on the ground in Thailand, with complimentary personal accident insurance and comprehensive annual check-ups in ultra-modern hospitals. Samitvej Hospital’s two locations specialise in expatriate health care, with 38% of their patients being from overseas. They’ve won a prestigious UNICEF award for being a Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital, and seem to have more speciality clinics than there are body parts. Samitvej’s Sukhumvit Road location is like a superclean hotel with medical stuff discreetly attached. While I currently have no pressing high-end business needs in the Bangkok CBD, or anywhere in Thailand for that matter, I’m considering inventing some. Just to take advantage of this inimitable, and highly addictive, scheme. Now, would someone peel me a damn grape? www.thailandelite.com.au Ph: (07) 5530 8129

TEE OFF AT SUMMIT WINDMILL.

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