The Incredible Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort!

The Incredible Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort!

When Charlie Chandra and Peter Bloomfield announced me as the winner of the Paradises Maldives competition last year I could hardly believe that it was my name written on the screen in front of me! But I REALLY could not prepare myself for just how incredibly lucky I was to be to be able to visit the Maldives for the first time in my life and stay at the incredible Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort!

We flew from Australia to Malé (the capital city and most populous island in the Maldives) with Singapore Airlines. At Malé’s Velana International Airport, we were met by Outrigger Konotta staff who took care of everything while we waited in the guest lounge, and after an hour long domestic flight and 25 minute speedboat, we’d arrived in paradise.

First impressions: “Wow”! We were speechless. Words cannot describe just how magnificent the island is, but hopefully these photos will give you some idea of the true beauty of this incredible place!

Days on Konotta started with beach yoga, sunrise fishing (where one morning we caught two spectacular red grouper fish which were later cooked to our liking and served for dinner), or our favourite activity – walking the few footsteps from our villa across the cool white sand to welcome the huge tangerine sun rising over the Indian Ocean. Absolutely breathtaking! What a treat it was to be so close to the action, yet feel completely ‘away from it all’ at the same time. It certainly doesn’t take long to convert to ‘island time’ on Konotta and have the delightful pleasure of switching off, forgetting what time it is, what day it is, and abandoning your whole busy life back home.

A short walk to breakfast and we’re greeted by Chandana, our cheery, hardworking breakfast host with a wide smile and sparkling eyes who offered us fresh pastries, tropical fruits, freshly-squeezed juices (or perhaps a cheeky champagne or Bloody Mary), yoghurts, cheeses and cold meats from the buffet, followed by an a la carte breakfast served at Blue Salt overlooking the emerald lagoon. Every morning, he placed a plate of smoked salmon, dill and capers alongside my hot meal (he’d heard it’s my favourite accompaniment) along with a generous serving of smoked mango which we couldn’t get enough of!

Sunshine hours were filled with as much or as little as you feel like. Sit in your own cabana lounge by the pool and enjoy a signature Konotta ginger iced tea (which we quickly become addicted to!), or spend some time in the complimentary hydro spa, take a dip in your own private plunge pool, enjoy a peaceful paddle board or kayak around the island, or collect shells on the beach – all whilst marvelling at the great beauty of this magical island. We took a JetSki with a guide from Best Dives Konotta (the resort’s activities operator) to visit the biggest pod of dolphins I’ve ever seen in my life – hundreds of spinner dolphins swimming right up and alongside the JetSki, jumping meters into the air with acrobatic prowess. An unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience I know we’ll cherish forever. We also boarded a traditional dhoni boat to spend a morning on a remote uninhabited island for the ultimate castaway experience. Our very own slice of paradise. There’s so many activities to choose from – paragliding, sunset cruising, learning to dive – the list is endless.

But it was in the impossibly clear sea which glowed iridescent turquoise straight in front of our villa, and the pristine reefs that surrounded the island, and the relaxed island lifestyle that I found the very reason everyone dreams of visiting the Maldives one day. The surrounding Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll is home to what is considered some of the best hard coral fields in the world and it was unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere in all my travels. For me, the greatest pleasures came in being able to slip off the edge of the jetty and swim with reef sharks, clown fish and rays on a whim. To take a leisurely snorkel around the island and find yourself swimming alongside a graceful sea turtle. To witness the most colourful corals and diverse marine life I could possibly ever imagine. To see for myself all the beautiful shades of blue and green and to feel the warm Maldivian sunshine on my back. To have the feeling that I’ve stepped into a postcard – and realising that in fact that postcard had not been photo edited – that the scenery really is almost too perfect to believe. To have time to just be happy. On a remote island. In the middle of the spellbinding Indian Ocean.

Arriving back at the villa – which, by the way, was exquisite (and expansive) – there’s the choice to sit back in the spacious lounge area and enjoy the complimentary cheese and wine platter, or take a bubble bath in the luxurious bathroom, or (my personal favourite) climb the stairs to the top deck, hidden amongst the thick foliage of several coconut palms, and lay comatose on a sun lounger before spending some time in our own rooftop spa pool. Total barefoot luxury.

And every afternoon we wandered around the island just before sunset, gin and tonic and camera in hand, capturing moments that we’ll cherish forever and feeling like we had the entire island to ourselves. Despite it being Christmas time and all the rooms being full, the island felt far from crowded and we could always find a quiet spot with no one else in sight.

Dinners are served under a sky full of stars, and the food is utterly sublime. Being so close to India and Sri Lanka, the cuisine certainly has been influenced by regional flavours – the fresh seafood combined with spicy coconut curries are a delight for the senses. The perfect end to another perfect day.

After dinner, there’s a chance to mingle with the other guests and staff on the sand and enjoy a complimentary wine tasting. It was so lovely to spend time listening to fellow Aussie Amanda (the resort’s Spa Manager) talk about her extensive travels around the world, and chat to Executive Chef Chris about the flailing English cricket side, and get to know Guillaume – the attentive Resort Manger who generously went out of his way to ensure that we had the most wonderful time and that our every need was catered for. And of course, Kim, our host for the duration of the stay. Throughout our entire Konotta experience, we were very well taken care of in the gentle hands and beaming smile of Kim. It doesn’t take long to realise this island is a very special place made extra special by the people living and working there. They all had an uncanny ability to make us feel right at home, and in the same breath feel like royalty.

It’s the small details and personal touches that sets Konotta apart – the complimentary sweet treats delivered to our door every afternoon, the offer to borrow a pair of sunglasses when mine went missing, the spontaneous invitation for a quick night cap with the staff in the evening – it just goes to show how much they value their guests. Considerate is the best word to describe it. It was so refreshing to encounter people who actually listened to us and took a genuine interest in us as people, and we would now consider them friends. There’s no doubt we have experienced the Outrigger Resorts spirit of warmth, generosity and kindness.

It goes without saying that we had a truly unforgettable stay. There are few places in the world we have visited that are as impressive as Outrigger Konotta and we feel extremely grateful and lucky to have had the pleasure of experiencing all the facets of this wonderful place. A visit to the Maldives really is one of the most amazing and unique life experiences that everyone should add to their bucket list, and I can’t thank Charlie Chandra, Peter Bloomfield and the entire Paradises community enough for making my Maldives dream a reality!

3 Things To See and Do from Nagarkot

Approximately 25km to the East of Kathmandu, in Bhaktapur District, you can capture Nepal at it’s essence. Nestled in the hills and crevices of the Kathmandu Valley, beyond the famous heritage site of Bhaktapur itself, a beautiful selection of villages, temples and nature await.

I spent 8 days in this gorgeous nook of the world in November 2016. I found the climate in Nepal to be comfortable this time of the year. Daytimes were warm (in the mid 20’s) and nights were cold- a result of the altitude. Telkot was my base point- a tiny village in the hills, 10km below Nagarkot. Nagarkot is renown for it’s spectacular views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu Valley. I made my way here via a local bus from Kathmandu via Bhaktapur- an adventure in itself! Weaving through the dusty backroads with the locals, you feel you could be on the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, (Nepal, after all, isn’t known for having quality roads.) Having caught the bus too far, I was lucky to capture the view from Nagarkot when stopping by the luxurious KavyaEpikurean Resort for Nepalese tea and directions. A week here in the hills enabled an oasis of serenity, with a selection of must-see sites within reachable distance. Here are my top 3 excursions:

Changu Village

Changu is located on a high hilltop surrounded by forest, a panorama of the Himalayas completing it’s landscape. You can walk here from Telkot (the next nearest village), passing by the huts and farms of the locals along the way. The beauty is in the contrast between snowy mountainsand a landscape below that in not unalike desert villages I’d expect to see in Africa.

walking with friends to Changu Village, seen in the distance
Cows and Goats

The village of Changu houses the ancient Hindu temple of Changu Narayan, one of the oldest in Nepal. This temple miraculously survived the 2015 earthquakes while the village around it near- shattered. The locals are gentle, many of them selling quality, inexpensive home-made goods on the lane leading up to the temple. They have been working together to rebuild their village, and it’s fulfilling to be able to support them. Should you wish to stay longer, homestay with a local family is also an option. (Regrettably, I wasn’t able to do so due to my schedule.) With a 3 hour return walk- if you’re coming from Telkot- the combination of stunning views, history and shopping make for a lovely day.

Changu Temple

Sankhu Village and Bajroyogini Temple

Stand in the right place and you’ll see the vast village of Sankhu sprawled in the valley below Telkot/ Nagarkot. Surrounded by crop fields, and with a river that weaves its way around the outskirts, Sankhu provides a classic example of Nepalese daily life. Take a walk down the hill from Telkot to capture the valley in it’s entirety (the nearest buses go to Telkot, or to Sankhu itself if you’re coming from the direction of Kathmandu.) Greet the locals as you pass through- you’ll find they are as interested in learning about your culture as you are about theirs.

The view of Sankhu as seen from the direction of Telkot and Nagarkot Heights

Across the valley and halfway up the opposing hill lies Bajrayogini Temple, celebrating a Hindu Goddess by the same name. Getting there requires a walk up over 1000 steps through the jungle (a challenge- I won’t deny it) though the view is worth it. The main temple is 3 stories high and beautifully constructed. Monkeys, goats and cows can be seen along the way. Go there on the right day and you’ll be able to sit and listen as Nepalese play music and sing in celebration of their God. As you return through Sankhu, stop for some lunch at a local restaurant- after all that walking, you’ll need it

The steps to Bajrayogini
The temple itself

Sunrise at Nagarkot Heights

At 2,195 meters, Nagarkot Heights offers panoramic views of the Himalayas (including Everest) and Kathmandu Valley, making it one of the most scenic places in the District. Coming here at sunrise is probably the best way to see it. This will require an early start- but do ensure you get up there in time to source a prime location for the spectacle. To watch this everyday occurrence in such grand surroundings is truly powerful. The Himalayas sure have a way of capturing your full and undivided attention. If possible, take some masala tea up there with you. Not only will it keep you warm until the sun rears it’s head, but it will add to the experience of capturing Nepal’s finest.

Sunrise at Nagarkot Heights.

Why I Fell in Love With Hoi An, Vietnam

Visiting the graceful historic port of Hoi An felt like taking a glimpse into an older version of Vietnam.

The peaceful Old Town is filled with ancient tea houses, Chinese temples and perfectly preserved merchant houses. Unlike the huge sprawling metropolises of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An is small enough to navigate on foot. It is much quieter and more laid back – without the snarling swarms of motorbikes at every intersection.

I fell in love with the elegance of this old fashioned town as I explored its narrow alleyways and peaceful streets. There are many things to love about Hoi An – here are the aspects of the city that enchanted me:

The Food

Food in Vietnam was superb and dining in Hoi An, on the atmospheric streets surrounded by colourful lanterns, was a delight. There are several fantastic restaurants there serving up the fresh, fragrant and flavourful Vietnamese dishes such as spring rolls, Pho, Banh Mi and Bun Bo Hue.

Whether you are looking for a cheap authentic local lunch from a street cart or a night of fine dining in a luxurious restaurant, you’ll find a great selection in Hoi An. If you like seafood you can head out to the beach at An Bang. There are also plenty of food tours and cooking classes to enjoy.

The People

Another reason to love Hoi An is the people. In this quiet town the pace of life is a lot more laid back, so you have more time to stroll down the street, smile at people and strike up a conversation.

Linger in a cafe or chat to the local street vendors – the people you meet and talk to will be one of the most memorable parts of your visit. We had a great time talking to our guide who took us on a boat tour down the river, he had a warm and welcoming smile that I will never forget.

The Architecture

You will get a sense of history as soon as you arrive in Hoi An. The town mostly consists of beautiful timber-frame buildings, brightly painted pagodas, ancient temples and 200 year old shophouses. The town itself is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the many ancient temples, bridges and other buildings.

There are many heritage buildings that have been lovingly restored and can be visited for a fee.The streets are blocked off to motorbikes and cars during the day, so it’s easy to wander around and explore the colourful buildings without worrying about getting run over! When you are visiting historic sites and temples in the Old Town, make sure that you dress respectfully and cover your shoulders and legs.

The Affordable Custom Made Clothing

One of the amazing things about Hoi An is that for a very affordable price you can get beautiful one of a kind custom tailored clothing made for you at one of the many tailor shops. No matter what you want, whether it is a pair of pajamas, a suit or an elegant evening gown, you can have it made for you at a fraction of what you would pay at home.

My boyfriend Lee had a suit custom tailored while we were there and I got a lovely dress. I would love to go back again and have lots of different clothing made. Many of the tailors are so talented that you can simply show them a photo of a piece of clothing you like in a catalogue and they will be able to recreate it.

The Beautiful Colours

Bright red silk lanterns, emerald green rice paddies, banana yellow houses with cyan doors- Hoi An is a photographer’s dream. The brightly painted walls and curved roofs are a result of hundreds of years of history.

It is a feast for the eyes, with splashes of colour on every surface and a lively energy in the streets. If you truly want to be overwhelmed by colour and texture, visit the Central Market in Hoi An where vendors gather to sell live chickens, fresh tropical fruit and handwoven crafts.

These are just a few of the reasons why I loved Hoi An. When you make your own trip there, you are likely to find things about this charming place that will make you fall in love with it as well.

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Chiang Mai Royale

Within the old city of Chiang Mai, lies Rachamankha, a 25 room and suite property that very well compasses the rich history of Chiang Mai. The distinctive architecture is strongly inspired by the eleventh centuries B.C, which makes Rachamankha, exudes old world charm and character.

Getting to the hotel from the airport is very easy. Just head out to the taxi stand and there’s a booth where all the drivers congregates and someone will be there to help you get a taxi. Don’t worry about touting, prices are fixed prior you get on a cab.

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Check in was a breeze. We stayed in a Courtyard Superior which was on the second level of the property. Room is furnished with strong emphasis on wood and simplicity. The high ceiling was a plus that made the room look spacious.

Around the property, there are places where you can simply sit and enjoy a book or even a cup of tea while you take in the serenity of the surroundings. Didn’t bring a book for your trip? Just hop over to the library where it houses over 2,000 books ranging from history, art to architecture. The library was such a tranquil place that I even spent a few house in there, slipping my coffee while tapping away on my laptop.

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You can either dine in the restaurant proper or al fresco at the patio. Should the weather permit, choose the latter. The patio is set within an intimate area of concrete walls and perfectly manicured potted topiary. Ideal for a romantic dinner after an evening stroll, exploring the little nooks of the property. The restaurant serves traditional dishes that celebrates the cultures of the Lanna, Burmese and Shan cuisines.

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There are many points of attractions that you can visit whilst in Chiang Mai. Just round the corner, there are four notable temples within walking distance. Looking for something more historical? Head over to the tour counter, located right in front of the restaurant and seek for some recommendations.

Transportations are aplenty within the old and new city of Chiang Mai. I love taking the red tuk tuks as it’s fast and definitely low priced. A trip into the new city starts from just 10 BAHT.

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Rachamankha is definitely a place to consider if you are in the mood for historical Northern Thai culture or just seeking a residential living rather than a hotel stay.

indonesia karma resorts

Hotels with the best pool in Bali

The cold season is slowly breezing in but there are still places that provides almost 365 days of pure summer heat.  Here are 3 of the best swimming pools we have seen in Bali that guarantees a splashing good time!

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With a pool that’s perched on a cliff top of an elevated limestone peninsula, you know the view would be exceptional. Karma Kandara is an award-winning luxury resort that comprises of 54 private pool villas. Not only do you get your own private pool, you also get access to their main pool (pictured above). Rates start from USD 1140 per night.

 

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Nestled within 14 hectares of tropical manicured garden, InterContinental Bali Resort offers premium accommodations in three unique levels of accommodation: Resort Classic, Singaraja and Club InterContinental. With its six swimming pools, you are never short of choices. Opt for a night in their Club Room and get access to the Club Intercontinental Pool where complimentary light refreshments are served all day.  Rates start from USD 320 per night.

 

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From its spectacular saline water turquoise Lagoon to its Main Pool with two Jacuzzis, St Regis Bali Resort offers multiple options for refreshing dips. Don’t miss out on getting a few treatments done at the Aqua-Vitale Pool at Remède Spa where sheer pleasure is delivered at its best. Rates start from USD 616 per night.

 

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Ametis Villa – Simply precious, simply wonderful

Located in the quiet town of Canngu, Ametis Villa houses just 13 villas. Each villa consists of the bedroom with a separate living area, a swimming pool and a well-equipped kitchen.

Colours adorning the property are of a neutral colour. Much reminding me of the times I’ve spent in South Africa. Shades of green and brown are seen throughout the property with wooden fixtures that emphasis on the Balinese culture.

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Each villa is assigned with your own personal butler. They are there to cater to every of your whim and fancy. From restaurant reservations to assisting of special arrangement and even chauffeuring you to and fro to Seminyak. Having a butler to spoil us was definitely a well-deserved treat!

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A selection of nuts and cookies are replenished every day and there’s even an afternoon tea you can enjoy either at the comfort of your villa or at the foyer of the hotel. Afternoon tea is a simple selection of coffee or tea and bite size snacks.

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Serving authentic, home-style Indonesia dishes is Eternal Restaurant. I must say that it serves one of the better Indonesian food that I’ve tasted. Chef gets his ingredients every day at the local market so you can expect nothing but freshness.

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You can also choose to organize a private cooking class in the midst of your own villa.

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Charm your partner with a private candlelight dinner by the beach. Food is prepared and cooked a la minute.  The management will go all out to ensure that you have the perfect experience dining by the beach. I was actually the first guest for their new set-up.

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We had such a wonderful time. We came home feeling much relaxed, rejuvenated, spoiled and penning down the next trip back to Ametis on our calendar!

Ametis Villa

Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu – Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Phone. +62 361 844 5567 | +62 828 9719 1888

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ametisvillabali
Website: http://www.ametisvilla.com/

paradises

Silavadee Resort & Spa Koh Samui, Thailand

SILAVADEE RESORT & SPA

Koh Samui, Thailand

By Kelly Tang

Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, the island of Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s premier holiday destinations. The island has a population of about 40,000 and is defined by four main beach regions and tourist communities spread across 228.7sq kms. These four regions make up the tourist hub. They are Chaweng Beach, Lamai Beach, Bophut Beach and Maenam Beach.

The majority of resort spas and hotels are situated in these four regions ranging from budget backpacker accommodation to the very best 5 star resorts.

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Early morning fishing boat, Gulf of Thailand

Silavadee Resort & Spa

On arrival I instantly knew that I was going to love everything about this place. I inhaled the fresh smell of lemongrass wafting throughout the open-air lobby whilst sipping on delicious ice-cold tea. After a quick check-in, I was given a tour around this beautiful and exclusive property on a golf buggy. Earthy colours and wood are emphasized through out the resort complimenting and blending with the environment.

Silavadee Resort & Spa was designed as natural and as eco friendly as possible. Mature trees that were on the property were maintained and the resort was built around them.

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Resort’s private beach

The resort is situated in the Lamai Beach area and is more subdued and relaxed compared to some of the other Koh Samui Resort beach regions.

Having travelled extensively throughout Asia, Silavadee Resort and Spa rates as one of the best resorts I have had the pleasure of staying in. The hospitality awards the resort has achieved is testament to this.

Silavadee is perfectly situated for isolation, serenity and privacy but if the madness of bars, restaurants and shopping is what you would like to do the beauty is that Chaweng Beach is only a short ten-minute drive away.

First impressions are lasting, you instantly fall in love with the tranquility of the Silavadee Resort & Spa.

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Infinity pool reflections

Highlights of Silavadee Resort & Spa

Incredibly peaceful and serene

Infinity Pool: Overlooking the Gulf of Siam

Private beach, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking

Inviting outside bars

Great views from the restaurant

Delicious and fresh breakfast buffet

All rooms are outstanding

Excellent therapeutic and wellness spa

Variety of accommodation to suit varying budgets

Chaweng beach is near for a huge variety of restaurants and great shopping

Perfect location for a wedding

Wonderful accommodating staff who are warm, welcoming and available.

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Beautiful restaurant views

EXPLORING KOH SAMUI

*Island safari full day or half tours and all other attractions can be organized from resort staff

*Silavadee Resort & Spa has complimentary transport available throughout the day if you want to visit other parts of the island including the very popular and busy Chewang beach.

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Stunning colours of Thailand from the resort’s infintiy pool

Tips

 Bring a good book and spend as much time at the resort’s infinity pool.

Always remember that if driving in a foreign country, ensure you have an international drivers license.

ACCOMMODATION

www.paradisesonline.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

 Jetset Travel Rosebay

(02) 9371 8611

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[email protected] Design Hotel & Spa

[email protected]

Design Hotel & Spa Bangkok
By Kelly Tang

Bangkok for the past four years has been voted the hottest (hip and happening) exciting city to visit on the planet by Travel & Leisure Magazine. With so many beautiful and historical cities in the world this is an extraordinary achievement. So deciding on a hotel and choosing where to stay can be a huge headache.

On a recent trip to Bangkok, I had the pleasure of staying at [email protected] Design Hotel & Spa and so glad I did.

Funky, uber smooth and cool are adjectives that best describe this hotel. Perfectly positioned opposite Bangkok’s National Sports Stadium and moments away from Bangkok’s great rail (Skytrain) system and a short walking distance to most of Bangkok’s premier shopping precincts. These include the deluxe shopping experience of Siam Paragon, Siam Square, CentralWorld, Gaysorn and the massive MBK centre.

Artwork, sculptures, colours and décor ensures this hotel offers so much more than the standard fare that most other hotels exude.

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Lobby sculpture

 

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Elevator art

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF [email protected]:

The hotel has a great rooftop with 360 degrees views of the city. You will spend many hours sitting high above Bangkok’s glittering skyline on the rooftop sipping cocktails or enjoying some of the roof restaurants excellent offerings.

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Rooftop dining

[email protected] has 4 restaurants and 4 bars including a mezzanine wine lounge and cigar bar. The hotel’s live music adds to the funk ‘n’ soul that this hotel projects.

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Lobby bar

The business community is not forgotten of course, as three floors are solely devoted to business. Talking of business, hotel business that is, I have to commend management and all their staff with their professionalism. They were exemplary, friendly, always smiling and nothing was ever any trouble.

After your inevitable Bangkok tourist and shopping to do list is slowly worked through, book a spa treatment at [email protected]’s ‘Spa Ten Centre’ and experience a truly indulgent time. I can recommend the 60-minute full body oil massage. It was pure bliss.

A variety of accommodation (203 individual rooms) all uniquely crafted along interior artistic themes are available to suit most budgets and rooms are delightfully decorated.

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Artistic themed rooms

The infinity pool and relaxation area is an oasis in one of the world’s busiest cities. Spend some time here to unwind and guaranteed you will feel stress levels slowly dissipate. The hotel also has a fully equipped gym and fitness centre with personal trainer on standby and after a workout visit their juice bar to get refueled.

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Spa and Fitness Centre

 

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Pool relaxation area

 

If your time in Bangkok coincides with any major sporting event at the National Stadium, get in the pool early for a ringside seat as it overlooks the arena.

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Infinity pool overlooking national stadium

So take the stress out of deciding where to stay and book a room at [email protected] Design Hotel & Spa. You will not be disappointed.

SOME MAIN BANGKOK ATTRACTIONS

The Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew: Built in 1782, and for 150 years the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court, the Grand Palace continues to enthrall visitors with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail.

Floating markets: The pioneer of all floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience into the life of traditional market vendors. Early morning is best time to visit as market is liveliest.

Kao San Road: Travellers (it’s a backpackers paradise) from every corner of the world congregate here. Travel agencies, clubs/bars, eclectic market stalls and restaurants all call Kao San home.

Wat Pho: Gigantic reclining Buddha and traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho harbours a fascinating collection of murals. The vast temple complex contains a landscaped garden with stone sculptures and stupas adorned with glazed porcelain.

Wat Arun: One of the oldest and best-known tourist attractions in Bangkok. The temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Best views of Wat Arun are in the evening with the sun setting behind it.

Chinatown: Chinatown is a colourful, exotic and pleasingly chaotic area, packed with market stalls and probably the highest concentration of gold shops in the city.

Weekend markets: Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must-visit place for tourists. The market is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. Is the largest outdoors market in the southern hemisphere.

See staff at the tour desk on the lobby level next to concierge for any tour information.

TIPS

You’re in Asia where heat and humidity is prevalent so pack accordingly.

If hiring a taxi ensure the driver uses his meter.

Pack lightly and shop hard.

If you plan on hiring any kind of vehicle (car or bike) ensure you have an international drivers license. Cost is under $50 AUD and can be acquired from the NRMA. (Australia only)

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rosebay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Words and photography by Kelly Tang

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The Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket

I have been to Phuket numerous of times and frankly I’ve never stayed on any of its outlying islands. This time round, I had the opportunity to visit one of the Starwood Group’s properties, The Naka Ialand.

Located just off the eastern coast of Phuket, The Naka Island is perfectly poised along the southern portion of Naka Yai Island. To get there, simply arrange for a speedboat pick up from the Ao Po Grand Marina.

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Once you arrive at the pier, you are immediately picked up by the resort’s buggy and transferred to your villa for check-in. I love in-room check-in. No queues, no crowds, just you and the resort’s staff. The route to the villa was serene and was well greeted by passing staff. We checked into the Tropical Pool Villa and lucky for us, our villa was one of the villas that had the sea view.

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Each of the Tropical Pool Villas comes with your own private pool & sala, an open-air bathroom and if you’re not afraid of mosquitoes, an outdoor soaking tub. Coming from Singapore, I hate mosquitoes; therefore I didn’t take the risk of getting them biting me by willingly soaking myself bare-naked in the outdoor tub. But it’s definitely a romantic sight at night, when the housekeeping comes in to turn down the villa.

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After resting our feet for a while, we headed to the Z Bar to catch our first island sunset and pre-dinner drinks. Z Bar specializes in custom cocktails and offers enticing Asian style tapas and a stunning view of the surrounding island vistas.

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We then headed off to dinner at My Grill. My Grill focuses on fresh seafood and premier steaks, all deliciously prepared with a southern Thai twist. The restaurant only opens for dinner and offers the view of the infinite seascape.

Naka Island’s Chef de Cuisine does a mean grilled steak. We started off with a portion of salad and ordered the restaurant’s two specialties. It’s steak and codfish. Both items were cooked to perfection. The steak simply melts in your mouth and the fish was fresh and sweet. Dinner was perfect and we simply couldn’t wait to try more of his dishes.

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Twinpalms Phuket

Twinpalms Phuket has always been a favourite place to stay when I’m in Phuket. Located on the west coast of Phuket, it is a sleek and stylish abode that fits the lifestyle of a high-flyer.

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The lobby was spacious and check-in was a breeze. It’s good to know that the property has lagoon pool rooms that connects to the main pool. Nothing beats waking up in the morning and heading out to swim via your own private patio.

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The room itself was spacious and it came with a good size bathroom. Definitely a plus that the resort provides 2 sinks for their guests.

Twinpalms Phuket is one of the few hotels in Phuket that has their own beach club. As what I’ve heard, it’s one of the best. Catch Beach Club is open daily and hosts regular parties and beach BBQs.

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I’ve attended their beach BBQ and let me tell you that it has one of the best selection that I’ve seen in Phuket. There was an array of seafood, ranging from oysters, lobsters, crabs, prawns, all freshly caught from the Andaman sea. A good selection of grilled meats was available as well and even their dessert line was enticing. I ended my Friday night filling very stuffed and guilty but yet satisfied with the quality of food that I’ve ingested for the night. It’s a good way to end off the week and a good start to my holiday.

I’ve spent the Saturday relaxing by the main pool, tried a couple of the resort’s signature cocktails and worked on my tan. It was a good time to relax and take work off my mind. My brain just doesn’t stop working.

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Booked myself a spa session just before dinner and it definitely helped smoothed out the knots that I had.

Twinpalms Phuket is also known for their Sunday brunch. It starts from 12 noon to 3pm at their restaurant, Oriental Spoon where you can expect the freshest selection of seafood, oysters, salmons, lobsters, artisan cheeses and a variety of sweets including their famous creme brûlée. It is a popular choice among tourists so you definitely have to make your reservations for the brunch.

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Remember to bring along a hearty appetite when you visit Twinpalms Phuket.. Don’t say I didn’t warn you..