One look at Prakaikaew Na-Ranong (better known as Khun Moo), and one will immediately grasp that she’s a Thai woman exuding femininity and class — with a quiet air of confidence about her. In fact, there’s nothing ordinary about the co-owner and managing director of Phuket boutique hotel The Slate, formerly Indigo Pearl.
She started her career in hospitality at the prestigious Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, where she studied management before working at high-profile spots such as the Intercontinental Paris and the Four Seasons Bangkok. She then brought her experience with her to the family business. In fact, if there’s anyone who could transform Phuket into a stylish destination for the sophisticated traveller, it would be Khun Moo.
After all, she is the heir to Thailand’s tin-mining pioneers. Her father, Wichit Na-Ranong, is a renowned hotelier who has been credited for opening up the Thai coastal city to the world. When she’s not discovering new restaurants in Bangkok, where she is based, the self-confessed foodie is often travelling the world.
We recently caught up with the modern jetsetter, who told us about her travel essentials, the many languages she speaks, how she stays fit while on the road, and her favourite city in the world. Hint: It is a medieval city home to two world-famous football clubs.
I’m often travelling for work and sometimes, I extend it so I can wander about the different cities on my own. But I make sure I go on holiday twice a year.
I believe the best way to really get to know a destination is exploring by foot. I usually like to go into a city or neighbourhood and get lost in it. I don’t need a tour guide for this. Some of the most interesting things can be found in tiny alleys, that you could have easily missed if you’re too busy going from one point to the next. I much prefer it that way.
I’m always in Europe because many of my friends live there. I love Spain and my favourite city is Madrid. I discovered the city in 2008 and I absolutely fell in love. I’ve been there every year since. In fact, I go there a minimum of three times a year.
I’m definitely a foodie. And in Madrid, it’s almost guaranteed that every restaurant you go to is excellent. This is because Spanish people love eating. It’s part of their culture, after all. So every restaurant has to be good. If it’s not good, nobody comes.
I also love how warm and hospitable Spanish people are. It feels like home to me.
When I travel, I like finding inspiration through art — and Madrid has some of the best museums. My favourite is the Thyssen museum, located right in the heart of the city. It is a contemporary museum occupying a Neo-Classical mansion from 1806. It boasts good temporary and permanent exhibitions and I always check what it’s showcasing when I’m in Madrid.
The city is also known for its Toro fights (bullfighting). It’s so overwhelming and it’s quite an experience. But that’s the thing, you have these medieval fights and just next to it, you’ll find amazing tapas bars, tequila bars, and museums. Everything is within walking distance.
Chueca is a lively district known for being the city’s gay area. It used to be a rundown area but has been revitalised and is now a colourful neighbourhood with the best boutiques, interesting bars and good restaurants at every corner.
One time, I walked into a beautiful cactus shop located just next to a tequila bar my friends and I were in. It had everything from small to big plants. Little things like these, you can’t find them in the guidebooks.
I do. When I first visited Madrid in 2008, nobody spoke English — so it was really difficult. But I fell in love with the city and said, “That’s it.” I got a private tutor when I was back in Bangkok and started to study the language. Now I have an app that I travel with so I can practise all the time. It’s called Duolingo.
I speak French fluently, as well as Thai and English. I also have a notion of Italian, which I can’t speak but I understand.
I mainly use a lot of apps for restaurants. One of my favourites is called The Fork. You discover some of the best restaurants in Europe through this app, and you can make reservations directly.
Another one is Cool Cousin, which allows me to connect with locals who share my interests. Through the app, you get personalised suggestions — which I feel is the best way to see the city through the eyes of a like-minded local.
I like to work out so I need a pair of Adidas sneakers, as well as all my gym gear. I do a lot of TRX and weight training so my shoes have to be very good quality. In fact, I take into consideration the gym when I choose my hotels.
I like donning the athleisure look when I travel. There are no particular brands. In fact, I don’t care much about famous brands. Small boutique brands are best for mixing and matching things. When I see something I like, I buy it.
I also usually bring a very nice sophisticated evening outfit with me for nights out or going to restaurants. High heels are definitely a must. And of course, my iPad to work and watch movies. I work on my iPad when I travel, I don’t take my computer. Everything, such as replying emails, can be done through iPad or smartphones. It’s convenient.
It’s actually the thing I use to beat my jet lag. When I arrive, I will work out at a 24-hour gym, have a few glasses of champagne, and then sleep to beat my jet lag.