As a professional golfer, the owner of Curvature Wines and an investor in Double Cross Vodka, Cristie Kerr constantly travels all over the globe. Kerr will share her journeys, wine expertise and more with Forbes Travel Guide in a new monthly column. This is her first installment.
This week, I start my 18th season on the LPGA Tour. The first events will be in two of my favorite places on earth, Thailand and Singapore. Unlike most trips overseas, where traveling can be a hassle, I like this one because getting there is part of the fun. I love flying Singapore Airlines, as it sets the service benchmark in the industry for transpacific flights. I mostly fly business class, and with the new Boeing plane layout and full flat-bed pods, I have all the amenities needed to zone out. I appreciate the diversity on the menu as well. Eastern and Western food is always available, and the preparation and presentation are first rate. The wine list and drink selection are among the best I have seen. But the top reason to fly Singapore is the on-board staff. When I am ready to sleep, the attendants make the most comfy bed with seat pads, real pillows and duvets. A 15-hour flight with Singapore Airlines can be more enjoyable than a five-hour journey on other carriers. But even with the amazing in-flight experiences, there’s nothing quite like the memories you’ll make after you touch down in Southeast Asia.
Here are some of my highlights from both unforgettable destinations:
Thailand is one of my top spots because of the architecture, services and food. Where else can you get a skillful, one-hour foot massage (a golfer’s dream) for 300 baht (about US$10)? The people in Thailand are some of the most welcoming, polite and spiritual in the world. They consider it an honor to serve visitors. The cuisine in Thailand is my absolute favorite. It’s colorful, exotic and flavorful.
Friends of mine like beer with Thai food because of the spice, but a smarter choice is a white wine that has a slightly lower alcohol content yet is still sweet. I like to pair rieslings with most Thai dishes, as the fruit flavors stand up to curries, pad Thais and unique ingredients like coconut. If you’re considering the pairing at home or on your travels, don’t let the term “sweet” put you off; most rieslings (kabinett or auslese) are not as sweet as dessert wines. Another good choice is viognier, the star grape from France’s Condrieu region. (Conundrum and Pride Mountain Vineyards are spearheading the use of this grape in the United States.)
Where to Stay: Dusit Thani Pattaya, Pattaya
Birdies: Dusit Thani has several pool areas to help cool you off in Thailand’s heat. I like the swim-up Lagoon bar and adult pool areas. The view of the ocean while sitting in a crystal-clear pool underneath palm trees and sipping on a drink is special.
I had the best massage experience at the hotel’s Devarana Spa. At the reception area, you are greeted with a welcoming Thai smile and a cup of tea. Then you sit in a comfortable pod and are presented with a list of services. Try the Thai massage — it seems aggressive compared to Western-based treatments, but it is incredible and very effective for athletes.
Where to Eat: Mantra Restaurant and Bar, Pattaya Beach
Birdies: You’ll find full Indian, Western, seafood and sushi kitchens in one restaurant. The hard part is deciding what to order. I love the fresh naan bread and the chicken masala from the in-house tandoori oven. The spicy tom yum kung soup is a regional specialty with shrimp and lemongrass. I always have satay in Southeast Asia — it is always better there. Another good pick is the fresh local seafood, like the flower crab that’s wok-fried with garlic and ginger.
I could live in this city. It is so well managed, safe, clean and cosmopolitan. I love shopping and art hunting, and the people are sophisticated, charming and polite. Perusing The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is a must. Follow it up with poolside drinks on the 57th-floor roof deck of Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Marina Bay Sands and maybe a nightcap at Long Bar at Four-Star Raffles Singapore (order the Singapore sling — the cocktail was invented here).
Where to Stay: Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
Birdies: While I like my wood-fired steak at One-Ninety restaurant, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore has exceptional room service. I spend a lot of time eating out, so I dine in when I can. What I love about Four Seasons is there isn’t a big drop-off in the quality of the room service. I like to relax and order a nice bottle of wine with my husband and sample several dishes from the menu. We can eat at a leisurely pace and be comfortable.
Where to Eat: Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar
Birdies: Try the Neapolitan baked eggplant appetizer and the pounded, breaded veal chop with rocket salad for your entrée. Complete dinner with a glass of Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis. I had the pleasure of meeting the Gaja family in Tuscany, and I love its wines. Promis is a blend of merlot, syrah and sangiovese, with great jammy fruit but good structure throughout. The price point is also more approachable than many super Tuscans. It pairs perfectly with this meal.
Photo Courtesy of Cristie Kerr