Discover the beauty of Thailand

Last September Editorial Director D. J. Carey embarked on a trip to Thailand, an exotic country beckoned with beautiful scenery, chic cities and gorgeous beaches and she was invited to the King’s Cup Elephant Polo match…

photographs courtesy of Anantara Hotels, resorts & Spas (King’s cup, hotel); ©MELANIE ACEVEDO FOR STOCKLANDMARTEL.COM (Dining room)

Last September I embarked on a trip to Thailand. Known only to me from The King and I, this exotic country beckoned with beautiful scenery, chic cities and gorgeous beaches. As if this wasn’t enough, I was invited to attend the King’s Cup Elephant Polo sponsored by Anantara Resort & Spa in Hua Hin.

Traveling from Bangkok to the resort, we stopped at a floating market, a favorite destination on weekends for Thai families. Picture the busiest city intersection, but instead of cars and trucks, imagine small open boats paddled by older women. Vendors and buyers float alongside each other, shopping for food, clothing and local crafts.

Arriving at the Anantara Resort & Spa was like walking into Shangri-La—traditional buildings with sumptuous gardens and views of the Gulf of Thailand. This became my base for the elephant polo matches that week. Not only did I watch the matches, I got to touch these wondrous creatures. Watching the young elephants play was a sight to behold: Given their massive size, it was not a fast game but it was still exciting. And it was for charity. But who knew that I would travel thousands of miles to meet a New York interior designer who was competing herself! Thailand, I learned, is filled with the unexpected. This was the perfect chance to catch up with Sara Story and chat about her experiences both on and off the field.

How did you get involved with the King’s Cup in Thailand?
My father was a competitor, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. Sara Story Design has competed in the King’s Cup for the past two years. Although last year we were ranked second to last, we finished in third place. So it was a big victory for us! This September will be our third visit.

How do you prepare for riding an elephant?  
My father has a wooden elephant in Texas that is the correct height so we can practice our swings. Hand-eye coordination is very important. Being on an elephant does take a little getting used to; it’s quite different from riding a horse! And the mahout, who “steers” the elephant, usually doesn’t speak English, so you use hand movements and body language to communicate. It works surprisingly well.

You were born in Japan and have travelled extensively in Asia. What influences of these cultures might we see in your design?
Everywhere I go I pick up on the design of that culture. Asia is definitely an influence in my work—from lacquer and rattan to fabrics and stunning colors. I found an incredible fabric designer from Laos, and I have incorporated her fabrics into my projects. In Bangkok, I love going to Jim Thompson’s house. The architecture, furniture and fabrics are very inspiring. I also love the design and lacquerwork at the China House next to the Oriental Hotel. These elements are so easy to mix into an American home. I like to use color as an accent to add a level of interest. For a smaller room, I love to incorporate a very saturated color for a dramatic feeling. In fact, I recently helped my sister renovate her house in Fairfield County. (

D.J.’s Top 3

1. My beautiful beachside room at the Anantara Resort & Spa in Hua Hin, where nature, luxury and Thai culture blend seamlessly. Step outside to gardens designed by landscape architect Bill Bensley. The colors and the mix of plants provide endless inspiration. Then head to the resort’s spa to restore and refresh with the beautifying exfoliant benefits of turmeric, before surrendering your entire body to a healing massage.

2. I had an unforgettable meal at Nahm in the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok. I am still dreaming about a coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with lime; minced prawns flavored with shallots, cherries and shrimp paste; grilled mussels served on a banana leaf with cucumber! Finish with traditional salty and sweet Thai desserts.

3. And from any street cart in Bangkok, try the iced coffee. It’s not to be missed.