Through the Stay Inspired program, guests at The Conrad Bangkok can experience a five-hour Thonglor neighborhood crawl. // © 2017 Conrad Hotels & Resorts
“Go local” may sound cliche by now, but Conrad Hotels & Resorts’ Stay Inspired initiative offers guests — including business travelers with limited spare time — an incredible array of distinctive local experiences at each of its 28 properties.
First launched in 2015, Stay Inspired began as a concierge-driven initiative to provide guests with destination experiences refined with a local’s insider edge. Last spring, Peter Jon Lindberg, a former Conde Nast Traveler executive editor with almost 25 years of travel and journalism experience, was announced as its new director of inspiration. Since then, Lindberg has helped transform Stay Inspired into an extensive program of self-guided tours and hands-on experiences, offered in one-, three- and five-hour-long itineraries, each customized to the guest’s preferences by Conrad’s concierge staff.
These itineraries are themed around the arts, music, culture, sports, retail, nightlife/drinking, cuisine and culinary trends, romance and pampering.
Only have an hour free while doing business in Pune, India? Savor a must-try spicy street food breakfast of misal pav (sprouted bean curry) at one of the best spots. Have three hours to burn at the brand-new Conrad Bora Bora Nui? Partake in a Polynesian ancient ritual — and leave with a lifelong memory — by booking an appointment with the area’s best tattoo artist. Blessed with a whole free day in coastal Algarve, Portugal? Visit a bustling fish market, learn fisherman secrets and go foraging for oysters and razor clams at the Ria Formosa nature reserve.
Some Stay Inspired experiences are exclusive to Conrad, such as tandem skydiving over Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah; a massage from traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Edne Deng in Beijing; a private picnic on an isolated island off Koh Samui, Thailand; and the aforementioned Algarve shellfish foraging in Portugal.
Stay Inspired even affords those already familiar with a destination the opportunity to discover, explore and navigate neighborhoods and hidden gems off the tourist track.
In Bangkok, for example, guests can explore Thonglor, a vibrant, trendy haunt of upscale locals, hipsters and expats (many of them Japanese) that is bursting with amazing restaurants, bars, street eats, nightlife and, best of all, little tourist traffic. I experienced firsthand a five-hour Thonglor neighborhood crawl while visiting The Conrad Bangkok, which is just a short walk from Phloen Chit station on Bangkok’s efficient BTS (above-ground rail system). My Thonglor crawl entailed several self-guided stops. This was a great fit for me — I sometimes find guided tours to be constraining, especially when I want to dwell longer at one stop or be spontaneous if something unexpected catches my eye.
First, I grabbed a cold brew coffee with orange and tonic at Roots, one of many vendors and restaurants located within the beautifully designed, 1-year-old indoor/outdoor urban market development, The Commons. Next, I strolled down Thonglor’s main strip, Sukhumvit Soi 55, passing by more brand-new, slick urban restaurant and entertainment complexes (many just opened in 2016), until reaching Soul Food, where I had a dinner reservation.
U.S. expat and journalist Jarrett Wrisley opened Soul Food restaurant in 2010. Since then, it’s been nonstop busy thanks to its “slow food” approach, emphasis on organic ingredients and high-quality cocktails. Speaking of which, the final destination on my Stay Inspired itinerary was a speakeasy — one of the many speakeasy establishments in Thonglor. Since I had arrived in Bangkok just that morning, I had mentioned that I didn’t want to be out late or go clubbing; otherwise, a nightclub with DJ tunes would have been included on the itinerary.
Other Bangkok Stay Inspired offerings also proved tempting, including getting a bespoke suit made by reputable tailors, trying a cooking lesson at Thai celebrity chef Ian Kittichai’s Issaya Cooking Studio and exploring the best offerings at the somewhat dizzying Chatuchak Weekend Market.
I came away from the experience eager to try more Stay Inspired itineraries — they truly do bring a local’s advantage to the visit, even in the case of well-known and well-trodden attractions. Conveniently, travel agents and their clients can explore and pre-select each property’s Stay Inspired experiences in advance, which are constantly being added and updated online.