The day we first spoke to Philippe Brown, founder of London-based Brown + Hudson, about creating an itinerary for our quick three-day stopover in Bangkok, he had just returned from Afghanistan, one of the many countries in the Middle East, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia his company covers. Before setting out on his own, Brown worked with outfitters like Canada’s Butterfield & Robinson, creating logistically complex biking and walking trips that have made him uniquely skilled at crafting meticulously detailed itineraries and delivering them personally. Though most would not retain Brown + Hudson for just a three-day jaunt (it specializes in longer, bigger excursions), we found its ability to deliver a truly bespoke experience enlightening and culturally insightful in a city that has become clichéd with The Hangover Part II scenarios. “We don’t restrict ourselves to the standard menu of touristic things to do,” says Brown. “We dig like truffle pigs and present an itinerary that meets each individual’s needs, wishes, desires, expectations.”
Our own discovery of Bangkok had us avoiding the checklisted Wat Pho temple, filled with people jockeying for a photo in front of the reclining Buddha, and heading instead to Wat Rajabophit Sathit Maha Simaram, a royal temple restored by Thailand’s fifth king and where the seventh king is buried. Here we sat with two monks who explained why they chose to wear the orange robes and then led us into the Ordination Hall, not open to the public, to see where ordinary people are inducted. We received a by-appointment-only tour with the curator of one of Bangkok’s most important private art collections and visited with locals living in the slums of Klong Toey who have established a philanthropic initiative called Helping Hands. Over those three days, Brown + Hudson proved exemplary in staying flexible and seamlessly fulfilling last-minute, out-of-the-ordinary requests. Prices based on itinerary and customization; 44-203/358-0110; brownandhudson.com.