Postcard from…..Shanghai!

When it comes to mega-cities there is not much that can top Shanghai!

25 million inhabitants. 180,000 expats. The world’s second tallest skyscraper, the 623m / 2,073 ft, 128-story Shanghai Tower with the world’s highest observation deck. Global financial centre. The world’s busiest container port. A fascinating mix of East and West. Tradition and modernity. One of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. The list goes on and on.

No wonder that Shanghai features an impressive collection of luxury hotels, actually the most vibrant luxury hotel scene of any city worldwide.

The city’s top hotels include the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong with the lobby on the 52nd floor and one of the world’s highest outdoor bars on level 58, the Peninsula located directly on the Bund as well as new arrivals such as Bellagio, Capella and Amanyangyun.

The new Middle House hotel, Bulgari and others are already in the starting block.

My recommendation would be the Ritz-Carlton in Pudong for views and wow rooms and the Capella for immersing into a begone era in the French Concession district with its tree-shaded avenues and abundance of cafes.

Best times to visit are spring and autumn with temperatures hovering between pleasant 18 and 25 degrees C.

Safe travels!



Postcard from…..Phnom Penh!

When thinking of visiting Cambodia, what comes to mind first is Siem Reap with its ancients sites of Angkor Wat.

Phnom Penh is the proud and bustling capital of Cambodia, a country that borders on Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. In addition it got a 443 km / 275 miles coastline with the Gulf of Thailand.

Phnom Penh’s main attraction is the Mekong river. The Bale Phnom Penh, a just opened contemporary boutique luxury hotel, takes full advantage of this majestic river.

The Raffles has been Phnom Penh’s Grande Dame since 1929. Its Elephant Bar is one of the world’s most famous watering holes.

Shortly, the Rosewood Phnom Penh will make its debut. The contrast couldn’t be bigger: The new hotel will be towering above the city with trendy design and a 37-floor overhanging bar.

So, why not combine Siem Reap and Phnom Penh?

Postcard from…..Bali!

On a recent trip to Bali we found a paradise with horrendous traffic, a stunning degree of environmental pollution and a seemingly never ending string of (cookie-cutter) hotel construction.

The about 30 hotels that we inspected and/or stayed at during this trip were generally good but contained some of the typical structural flaws. Alarming was the high degree of service deficits. Although I have to say that this is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to Bali!

TRUE 5 STARS has adjusted its selection of the best hotels in Bali accordingly. There are currently 21 beautiful properties listed with another two (Capella, Six Senses) joining in the first quarter of 2018. Our hotels feature between 20 and 156 guest rooms, so no cookie-cutter! Only two hotels have more than 100 guest rooms.

Make no mistake, Bali is still a paradise in locations away from mass tourism. In the Ubud area for example there are secluded hotels tucked away in the rainforest which still evoke the real Bali feel.

Beaches are not always good and clean. While we did like Jimbaran beach and parts of Nusa Dua beach we were not impressed with Seminyak beach.

Alternatively, the very south of Bali offers some stunning cliff locations including some of Bali’s most luxurious hotels. If you want to avoid the masses this is (still) a good option.

Great travels for 2018!


Postcard from…..Koh Samui!

We just came back from a 4-day visit to Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island which is located in the Gulf of Thailand.

We inspected some 15 upscale and luxury hotels and since we do not compromise on quality, here’s what’s left:

Koh Samui’s top luxury resort is the Four Seasons, who had thought this?? Due to its very corporate cookie-cutter structure the new Ritz-Carlton will not rival this status.

Our highlight was a stay at the Six Senses Samui. Six Senses stands for laid-back barefoot eco luxury. 100 points, mission accomplished. Among lots of other things we liked that fact that Six Senses had phased out plastic water bottles and provides reusable glass bottles instead. Thumbs up.

The Conrad and the Banyan Tree were just as expected. Not much to argue about this kind of all pool villa resort.

Outside of TRUE 5 STARS we very much liked the existing as well as the soon to be opened SALA property. As Six Senses, SALA manages to offer a truly differentiating approach along with a great vibe.

Thank you Koh Samui, we shall be back!


Postcard from…..Singapore!

When you think of Singapore, what comes to mind first?


I just spent three days there and can 100% confirm that notion. Singapore is super clean just like my home country Germany was when I was a kid…well sadly not anymore…

In recent years, Singapore has become – in addition of being one of the premier financial hubs in Asia – a sophisticated entertainment venue.

It already starts when arriving at Changi’s posh Terminal 4 which really blew me away. Sleek, clean, comfy, efficient, uncrowded, friendly staff – soooo impressive and so different!!! Have I mentioned that it took me 15 minutes – you won’t believe this – from touchdown to leaving the airport including immigration and baggage collection?? Not to mention that there is never really a traffic jam in Singapore…the communte to the city is only 20 minutes.

What else?

Singapore is lush and green, beautiful landscaping and greenery everywhere. Driving is very disciplined and cars actually stop for pedestrians. And yes, Singapore is expensive. And very humid all year round.

Luxury hotels?

Surprisingly there are not too many hotels that fall into the absolute luxury category and there is no real wow hotel…really? Well, the iconic and legendary Raffles Singapore (Singapore Sling!!) is just undergoing a thorough top to bottom restoration with the grand reopening planned for the second half of 2018.

The bottom line!

With a population of just about 5.6 million and everything being so clean and organised, Singapore is not your typical Asian city. Despite all the glitzy stuff Singapore has managed to retain some of its colonial old world charm.

Happy travels!


Postcard from…..Bangkok!

Hello from steamy Bangkok, proud capital of Thailand,

did you know that last year Bangkok counted more international visitors (who stayed at least for a night) than any other city in the world??? 21.47 million to be exact, leaving reputable contenders such as London, Paris, Dubai, New York behind.

So what is it that attracts people in droves to Bangkok? Let me try to elaborate and I guess I am kind of qualified since I have been living here for almost a year now, at first very central in Sathorn before I later moved to the fringes of this megacity.

Here are my top 10 reasons:

Bangkok is affordable!

Absolutely. Compare it to other top cities in Asia such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul….you got the message.

Bangkok is great value for money!

Bangkok offers anything including some of the best hotels and restaurants on the planet and yet you don’t need to be deep-pocketed to enjoy life to the fullest here.

Bangkok is yummy!

Bangkok is the world’s street food capital and at the same token it got some top gourmet temples such as Gaggan which was voted the 7th best restaurant in the world.

Bangkok is the world’s rooftop capital!

Afraid of heights? Stay on the ground then. There is, however, a lot to be missed given 25 and counting cool rooftop bars from level 12 to 63 boasting the most spectacular views from very different angels!

Bangkok got weather!

Well, honestly, the sun shines here every day and when it rains it feels great. The bottom line is, the weather here is super reliable, hot and muggy. Too hot for me sometimes….and no, there is no winter here.

Bangkok loves animals!

You did not bring your pet to Bangkok? Well, no need, we got plenty! Cats and dogs live in the streets and are very friendly and really lovely. The get fed by many caring Thais so they are part of the community. Bravo!

Bangkok got some not so shabby places to stay!

You might have guessed it already, I am a hotel aficionado so Bangkok is a great place to be. Apart from the famous Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok which as The Oriental was awarded the world’s best hotel countless times, there is lots of other great places to stay and if this wasn’t enough there is a huge pipeline of new openings loomimg on the horizon.

Bangkok got culture!

Honestly, I am not a huge temple and museum person but I do know Bangkok got lots! Temples are home to friendly monks and provide shelter to homeless animals. Temples are open to anyone. Very peaceful.

Bangkok is well located!

Bangkok has an excellent strategic location within Asia and really lends itself as base from where to start and end your journey within Thailand or around Asia.

Bangkok got Thai people, mostly!

The Thais are super friendly and peaceful, always there to help despite very limited knowledge of English (my Thai is worse…) and if nothing helps they are masters of improvisation.

Bangkok…..the bottom line!

Bangkok is great to visit and to live!



For more info check here:

Postcard from…..Kuala Lumpur!

Hello from Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia,

well, Kuala Lumpur…many people just call it KL…is really changing and catching up with other prominent Asian cities in terms of construction of residential properties and hotels.

Compared to Bangkok or Jakarta, KL is only a small village with less than 2 million inhabitants in the city area resulting in a lot less traffic and lots of green open spaces which make KL quite a wakable and convenient city.

As of today there are only four true luxury hotels, the recently opened St. Regis, the Grand Hyatt as well as the just remodeled Ritz-Carlton and of course the Grande Dame, the Mandarion Oriental which is undergoing a phased room refurbishment. According to the Canadian GM, the renovation will be completed in May/June of 2018.

While the St. Regis scores high with clearly the most elegant guest rooms, the Mandarion Oriental has without a doubt the perfect location adjacent to the world-famous Petronas Twin Towers plus it got a hard to find great vibe. In addition, the hotel got one of the best executive lounges worldwide with awesome views of the Twin Towers and the park.

However, competition is already  looming around the corner….Four Seasons, W, Jumeirah, Kempinski and Fairmont are all in various development stages.

Btw, did you know that KL was the 7th most visited city in the world with 12.02 million international overnight visitors in 2016?

Thank you KL for treating me well!

I shall be back!



Postcard from…..Jakarta!

[gmap place=”Jakarta, Indonesia” /]

Hello there,

I am on a 4-day visit to much underrated Jakarta and have inspected 16 luxury hotels.

The clear winners with wow factor are the Four Seasons and the Raffles which I guess is not totally surprising.

The title for coolest new room product goes to the Keraton at the Plaza.

In case you are more old school you might want to consider two beautiful colonial style mansion hotels, the Dharmawangsa and the Hermitage.

Afraid of heights? Then avoid the new Westin hotel with breathtaking views from levels 50-69.

Within the coming two years there will be new luxury openings including Alila, Langham, Waldorf Astoria, Park Hyatt, Regent and St. Regis. Uff. Hopefully by then the massive amount of construction will be over and the new metro operational.

Thank you Jakarta,

I will be back!



Bangkok, Capital of Thailand

Photo credit: Harshil.Shah via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

[gmap place=”Bangkok, Thailand” /]

Top Hotels in Bangkok

Why you need to visit!

1. (Street) food

2. Fine dining

3. Night markets

4. Floating markets

5. Temples

6. Rooftop bars

7. Club scene

8. Shopping (malls) galore

9. Hotels with wow factor

10. Excellent value for money

11. Friendly, helpful people

General Information

Founding Year – 1782

Founding Father – King Rama I

Lat/Long – 13.724 / 100.352

Elevation – 1.5 m / 4.9 ft

Style – Lifestyle, Tradition

Setting – Flat, Chao Phraya River 

Distances – Gulf of Thailand 25 km / 16 miles south

Districts – 50

Population – City 8,280,925 (2010)

                         Metro 14,565,547 (2010)

Area – City 1,568.7 km2 / 605.7 sq mi

             Metro 7,761.6 km2 / 2,996.8 sq mi

Time Zone – UTC+7

Official Website


Climate – General: Tropical Savanna Climate. Three seasons: hot, rainy, cool. Rainy season from mid-May to October.

Temperatures – Average low of 22.0 °C (71.6 °F) in December to an average high of 35.4 °C (95.7 °F) in April

Sunshine Hours – Average daily sunshine hours from 5 (July-September) to 9 (January, March, December)

Rain – Average rainy days from 1 (December, January) to 21 (September); average monthly precipitation from 6.3 mm / 0.248 inches (December) to 334.3 mm / 13.161 inches (September)

Humidity 74% (January) to 85% (September, October)


Public Transport – BTS Skytrain, MRT (underground), Airport Rail Link

Airports – Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi, opened in 2006, 30 km / 18 mi east of the city centre, Don Mueang International (low-cost carriers), 24 km / 15 mi north of the city centre

Main Parks – Lumphini Park 57.6 hectares / 142 acres, Suanluang Rama IX 80 hectares / 200 acres

River – Chao Phraya

Fine Dining

Gaggan, chef Gaggan Anand, modern refined Indian cuisine

Le Du, chef Ton, young creative thai Cuisine

Mezzaluna – chef Ryuki Kawasaki, moderne Japanese/French cuisine

Sra Bua, chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, Thai-inspired cuisine with a modern twist

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, chef Olivier Limousin, modern French cuisine

J’Aime, chef Jean-Michel Lorain, fine Burgundy cuisine

Vogue Lounge, chef Vincent Thierry, international cuisine

Savelberg Thailand, chef Henk Savelberg, modern French cuisine

Sühring, twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring, modern German cuisine

Eat Me, chef Tim Butler, modern international cuisine

Bo Lan, chefs Bo (Duangporn Songvisava) and Dylan Jones, Thai fine dining


Visitors per Year – 21.47 (2016) international overnight visitors – the world’s most visited city in 2016

Top 10 Sights – Grand Palace, Wat Pho Temple, Wat Arun Temple, Wat Lat Phrao Temple, boat trips on Chao Phraya River and Thonburi’s canals, rooftop bars, street food, night markets, floating markets

Rooftop Bars – 20 rooftop bars between the 5th and 83rd floor, e.g. Vertigo (Banyan Tree Hotel), Sirocco (Lebua Hotel)

Highest Buildings – MahaNakhon, (314 m, 77 floors, 2016), Baiyoke Tower II (304 m, 85 floors, 1997)

Main Shopping Venues – Siam Paragon mall, Khao San Road (backpackers)

Main Museums – Bangkok National Museum, Royal Barge National Museum, National Gallery, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Major Sport Venues – Rajamangala National Stadium (50,000), National Stadium (20,000)

Major Annual Events – Songkran (13-15 April), Loi Krathong (November), King’s and Queen’s birthday (5 December, 12 August), Royal Ploughing Ceremony (May), Red Cross Fair (early April)

Crime – Moderate crime rate.