The Residence, Maldives
The Residence, on the island of Falhumaafushi in the Gaffu Alifa atoll south of the Maldivian capital Male, is fairly unique in that its villas are on stilts on the water. So, you are actually living right on the ocean. The pathways have lush greenery, to make it a little paradiso of tropical beauty. The hospitality at The Residence is faultless and sipping sundowners (yes, allowed at the resorts!) on the beach and watching the sun go down is the stuff of bucket lists.
Water-related activities reign supreme (but of course! What else?) for the activity/actively-inclined, there’s a plethora of water sports. Marine life within touching distance is awe-inspiring and truly unforgettable.
Sleeping in late is a luxury no doubt, but it’s worthwhile to wake up early morning to catch the sun rise and walk on the beach. The feeling of wet sand between your toes, the gentle breeze in your hair and the silence of the morning broken only by the constant swish of the waves is the nearest thing to meditation.
The Residence is a great place for a honeymoon or to take vows of love, and the Japanese and Koreans, particularly, have discovered just how romantic it is. You can pledge your undying love and happily-ever-after to your love of the moment in a ceremony put together by the staff at the property who will make it a memorable event: ‘Will you marry me’ or ‘I love you’ in rose petals on the beach or in rings of fire, a special dinner at the Falhumma for fine dining with silver service. That’s not to say it’s only for romance. It’s great to dress up for the evening anyway and enjoy good food when you can be as close to nature as possible.
Falhumaafushi, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Republic of Maldives;+960 6820088; firstname.lastname@example.org
Air fare: Business class return fare from Delhi to Male via Colombo on SriLankan Airlines is approx Rs 50,000 via Colombo (rates vary)
La Isla Bonita
Banyan Tree, Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is a state of mind that evokes indolent memories of a holiday well-spent. The ‘vacay’ vibe sweeps over travellers the moment their tiny aircraft comes to a halt on the seaside airfield – from the cute, open buggies that ferry passengers to the terminal building, to the airport itself that is the perfect anti-thesis to the antiseptic glass and steel format of modern-day airports – this one charms you with a tropical garden right at the entry to its thatched roof conical domed concourse, and verandahs flanked by lawns and whirring fans beside signboards leading to the massage rooms (This is Thailand, after all!).
Banyan Tree’s all-villa property on this resort island unveils itself to the itinerant slowly – first the steep drive up from the gates through tiny paths ringed by deciduous trees, into the lobby where you gasp – the open-on-all-sides reception gives sweeping views of the private bay, ringed by palm-fringed hills speckled all over by the resort’s inviting villas.
From then on, life’s a beach. Or a jungle safari, if that’s what you prefer (with a side order of sea on the back burner). The pricier villas give you mind blowing views of the sea, while the others are cocooned amid the tropical foliage, almost making you feel cut off from civilisation (but with your own in-villa pool, private deck, exhaustively stocked mini bar and room service a call away). And the sea, well, it’s yours for the taking, right from the private beach to the views you can soak up until you get tired (which is pretty unlikely) from the lobby, the library as well as the bar and The Edge, the dining area where breakfast is served. Two in-property visits strongly recommended – one to the Spa and the other to Banyan Tree’s signature Thai food restaurant, Saffron, the latter perched atop the highest point on the northern hillock, with a view that can make even poets at a loss for words.
99/9, Moo 4 Maret, Samui, Surat Thani, Thailand; banyantree.com/en/ap-thailand-koh-samui; Business class return fare from Delhi to Koh Samui via Bangkok is approx Rs 77,500 on Jet Airways and Bangkok Airways (rates vary)
K. SUNIL THOMAS
Aman’s only resort in Vietnam is tucked away on the southern coastline, a stark contrast from the unbridled energy on Hanoi and Saigon streets. First it’s the location, a private beach that overlooks the sheltered, azure waters of Vinh Hy Bay just off South China.
Amanoi is close to a quaint fishing village where you can watch local fisherman return with fresh catch at dusk. With just over 30 luxury villas – many with infinity pools that overlook the ocean, spread over a resort with a footprint of 100 acres that shares its borders with a marine reserve, you can truly get away from it all. The resort’s well-appointed spa is another world in itself with its own water body. It’s where you might want to head - in the unlikely event you wake up at sunrise, for special yoga sessions. You’re more likely to end up at the Beach Club for a late breakfast with that glass of bubbly.
Local Vietnamese cuisine is a recurring theme across all dining venues. If you crave for more, you can embark on a street food trail at Phan Rang city, an hour away from the resort. It’s not far from the Po Klong Garai Cham Towers, a 13th Century Hindu temple complex. Of course, you don’t really need to leave the resort for your spot of action. The crystal clear waters near the resort are ideal for snorkelling or a short sailing trip. But nothing quite beats catching the stars from the cliff-top pool after a blissful day in the sun or your villa.
Vinh Hy Village, Vinh Hai Commune, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam; www.amanoi.com; Business class return fare from Delhi to Ho Chi Minh is approx Rs 1.62 lakh on China Southern Airlines (rates vary)
Al Baleed, Salalah, Oman
The surprises almost never stop in Salalah on the South Dhofar coast, Oman’s worst kept secret and a tropical paradise that stands out among the Middle East’s desert terrain. Sandwiched between a white sand beach and a freshwater lagoon is one of the region’s newest resorts that truly breaks all Middle Eastern stereotypes.
This region is no stranger to luxury; centuries ago this was the epicentre of the region’s Frankincense trade. A product that was much sought after among the movers and shakers of the time. The resort shares a wall (a lagoon in this case) with the Al Baleed archaeological park, now a UNESCO world heritage site. The Frankincense museum within the park offers fascinating insights into the evolution of the Frankincense trade. The resort is a short drive from other historic coastal villages like Taqah – great for pictures, and Khor Rori, that was abandoned in the 7thcentury.
You will find local design elements across this resort that seamlessly blend with Anantara’s trademark architectural style. It’s the first resort in the region that offers luxury villas that are on the edge of the ocean. Towering palms, water bodies and manicured gardens combine to create a tranquil getaway. Many of the garden villas are replete with private pools. Local Middle-Eastern dishes are in the culinary mix but it’s Mekong, a fine dining restaurant that showcases Asian specialities, which is the pick of the resort’s culinary diversions.
Al Mansurah Street, Al Baleed Salalah www.salalah.anantara.com; Business class return fare from Delhi to Oman is approx Rs 41,500 on Jet Airways (rates vary)
Uma by Como Paro, Bhutan
Uma by COMO Paro, perched on the hill, looks like a rustic dzong, built in the traditional architectural style of Bhutan, with shingles held down by small stones, well-crafted cornices, and traditional carved and hand- painted windows. Though situated just ten minutes from the airport, the hotel seems isolated and remote. There are twenty rooms built around a central stone courtyard with an open fire, nine villas scattered in a pine grove, located in 38 acres of hillside site, with mountain, forest or valley views. Uma Paro has had a long list of celebrities staying and revelling in its luxury from Leonardo Di Caprio to the King of Norway.
The spacious 1,200sq.ft. villa has a kitchen, a lounge with a traditional Bukhari wood burning fireplace and daybed, a private massage room as well as a butler. The room has floral motifs on cream walls, handwoven rugs from Nepal and bedcovers in natural cottons. The humungous bathroom has a claw-foot tub, a shower cabin, heated towel racks and twin basins.
The circular dining room Bukhari serves traditional Bhutanese and Indian cuisine as well as international comfort food. The menu draws on seasonal, local ingredients such as buckwheat, red rice and fiddlehead ferns.
Uma Paro aims to give the guests a holistic experience with a sunlit yoga pavilion with large floor to ceiling glass windows, gym, steam rooms, a stone walled heated indoor pool as well as opportunities to learn archery, take treks, and do mountain biking. The Como Shambala Spa offers Asian-inspired treatments as well as the unique Bhutanese stone bath room where water in a wooden bath is warmed by heated river stones and infused with salts and camphor leaves.
Uma Paro offers a vast range of activities ranging from trekking the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery clinging precipitously to a cliff to hiking to the remote Kila La Gompa, a nunnery on a vertical cliff. What really stands out is the impeccable service and the warmth of the staff. The stay offers a beguiling mix of luxury, service, cultural immersion and culinary highs.
PO Box 222 Paro,Bhutan; email@example.com; Business class return fare from Delhi to Paro is approx Rs 40,580 on Drukair (rates vary)
Livin’ The Good Life
Mandarin Oriental, Singapore
The world over, Mandarin Orientals are all about opulence, and this one in the heart of Singapore’s Marina Bay, is no different. During our stay at this perfectly located property (the shopping at Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands, Changi International Airport, the central business district as well as the premium entertainment venues are all within easy reach), we thought that the personalised service and the gorgeous design made it feel more like a resort than a city hotel.
This may not be evident at first glance as the hotel looks pretty straightforward except for the unusual cascading fan-like architecture. But once you’re ensconced in your room or exploring the beautifully accoutred restaurants – Cantonese, Japanese, American steakhouse and Italian – and bars, or sampling the services from the spa menu, you’ll see how the pampering percolates through your pores.
All of the five-star luxury hotel’s 468 rooms and 59 suites that fan out elegantly (every MO has a fan motif running through its design DNA) have floor-to-ceiling windows looking on to either the harbour, the ocean, the city or a panorama that encompasses all three.
We marvelled at how our spectacular Bay Suite with quadruple-glazed windows gave us a sweeping view of the shimmer and neon outside yet kept the rich creams and deep pile interiors suitably hushed. Champagne breakfasts at the Oriental Club, serene swims in the resort-like rooftop pool and elaborate Japanese toilets at our ‘disposal’ only made us all the more grateful for the good life we live.
Marina Square,5 Raffles Ave, Singapore 039797;+65 6338 0066; Business class return fare from Delhi to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur is approx Rs 42,500 on Malindo Airlines (rates vary)