Four Seasons Resort – Malaysia

Overlooking a mile-long expanse of the beautiful Tanjung Rhu beach, the Four Seasons Resort, Langkawi is fringed by silvery sands, lush rainforests, mountain landscapes and emerald waters. 91 villas and pavilions are scattered throughout the Resort’s exquisitely landscaped gardens, built in the style of anative village. Seamlessly blending Asian, Indian and Arabic influences to create a uniquely Malaysian milieu, each pavilion offers timber floors, soaring ceilings, open-air verandas and views of either the Andaman Sea or the tropical gardens. Separated from the far northwest coast of peninsula Malaysia by the Straits of Malacca, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands, an idyllic hideaway, embraced by Nature’s wonders and all framed within a breathtaking backdrop of dramatic mountain landscapes, ancient rainforests, jade-hued lakes, powdery beaches, mysterious mangroves, rice fields of patchwork green and spectacular jewel-toned sunsets. water is to healing as love is to your heart Water is a great necessity – without it nothing can live. At Four Seasons Langkawi water is all around you – whether you feel like going for a sail, kayak, wind or kite surf on the Andaman sea, for a swim in one of the resort’s two irresistible pools, or simply sit and reflect on the journey that brought you to this magical land in one of the numerous reflective ponds that dot the property. My favourite water feature was the oversized outdoor Jacuzzi, which was bubbling away every single evening under the starry sky while I watched the full moon rise.

The Mangroves are a unique habitat, rich in peculiar forms of wildlife. Much of Langkawi is covered in mangrove forests, which expose their tangled root formations at low tide. With their efficient filter systems, mangroves are the only trees that flourish in salt water. Many species of fish, including barracuda, grouper, snapper and bass, lay eggs here. The twisted roots afford protection for the fry and crab eggs provide ample food. Explore the waterways by kayak or small boat, but be careful not to get lost! Heidi, our naturalist and guide, described the Mangroves as “a rather lunatic forest” and gave us few words of advice, “if it moves, let it go.” An extraordinary sight to witness, especially at the break of dawn, is the magnificent flight of soaring kites and eagles above these weird and watery woods.

love at first touch
Breathing in the fresh, clean air while practicing asanas and meditation clears the mind, reinvigorates the spirit and helps develop a profound sense of inner peace. Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, with its impressive yoga facilities, is the perfect venue for this, whilst the spa, truly a haven of calm and serenity, enables guests to take their rejuvenation to the next level. I recommend the Urut Melaya massage, delivered with long rhythmic strokes and gentle (ish) kneading accompanied by a range of delectable oils. The spa offers a team of highly skilled therapists, one of whom was recently indicted into the Massage Hall of Fame as one of the top 10 masseurs/healers in the world. He comes froma long line of natural healers and I counted my lucky stars that I was able to experience his hands-on healing. I left the spa feeling the way I imagined a new-born baby must feel – full of life, pure, without a care in the world. I floated down to the beach feeling remarkably lighter. It was love at first touch.

feeding both body and soul
One of the best things about staying at such a luxurious place is of course the fabulous food, and here at the Four Seasons there is truly a mood, a menu and a vista to suit everyone. First up is Serai, which means “lemongrass” in Malay, serving vibrant, innovative Euro-Asian cuisine at its indoor dining room and adjacent patio. Serai is also the venue for the property’s sumptuous daily breakfast buffet, which only the foolish would miss. Next is Ikan Ikan, meaning “fish”, which focuses on fresh seafood inspirations from the Andaman Sea. The décor is based on that of the limas (the traditional Malaysian residence), and the restaurant offers wonderful views of the ocean. Drop into Kafe Kelapa for a cocktail from their sunken bar and a tasty bite fromthe kitchen. The café has a thatched roof, a coconut chandelier and is within earshot of the ocean. Finally, there’s Rhu Bar where the elaborate tapestry of rich colours and textures accentuates the tangible Moorish ambience. Surrounded by intricately carved screens, Turkish water pipes, Indian Moghul hanging swings, glowing candles and fire lamps, guests can lounge the night away on wicker sofas piled high with brightly coloured cushions. Finally, guests looking for a more one-on-one, romantic affair might try one the Tangier tents right on the beach. Elegant white-tablecloth dining with the sand between your toes, it doesn’t get much better than this.

six stars
Linking the pavilions, the spa, the beach,, restaurants, gym, pools, and gardens together is the incredible Ha Ha wall. Weaving throughout the property, the wall took six whole years to build, each and every little river stone placed by the hands of hundreds of Malay workers. It’s a stunning piece of art. Meanwhile, fire pots surround the pools and ponds – romantic, fire-lit walks around the property at night are without a doubt where the perfect evening ends. The Four Seasons Resport Langkawi gets six gold stars from me, one each for its service, staff, serenity, style, seclusion and surroundings. Now I just need to figure out when I can go back…

Jalan Tanjung Rhu, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia  Tel 604 950 8888
http://www.fourseasons.com

Review by AK

Le Meridien Beach Resort, Thailand

"One of the loveliest things about Le Méridien is the air of peace and tranquility that pervades the entire resort.


A 5am start is never a welcome occurrence in my household. Regardless of my unconfined excitement at the prospect of a 5-day break in Thailand to attend the wedding of some very good friends, when the alarm clock does its job I immediately feel the nausea rising in my throat – a palpable sense of reluctance towards leave my cosy nest, regardless of the treasures awaiting me just a short plane ride away. A somewhat unimpressive breakfast at Chep Lap Lok airport – actually the breakfast was fine, I just don’t think humans are designed to eat at that time of day – did little to improve my fatigued, slightly affronted demeanour, which demanded answers as to why we had ever decided to get so early a flight in the first place. My questions were deftly rebuffed by my ever-patient man, whose facial expression suggested I get a grip on myself, pronto, if I wanted to avoid his wrath – fair play really. Three hours of sleep on a half-empty plane later and of course I was a different person, skipping giddily down the umbilical into Phuket airport and gliding into the back seat of the air-conditioned limousine waiting to whisk us off to our destination. This, as I pointed out to my man, is what it’s all about when doing a long weekend – convenience and luxury. No hanging about in the sweltering heat for a bus full of chickens – just a seamless hour-and-a-quarter zoom to Khao Lak whilst sipping chilled mineral water and feeling rather smug. On stepping into the spacious, airy lobby it was instantly clear why our friends had chosen Le Méridien as the venue for their celebration. We were greeted by immaculately turned out, smiling staff who escorted us to a relaxed seating area and gave us some very welcome, cool, lavender compresses for our weary brows and a refreshing, iced fruit drink. Before us lay the property’s beautifully landscaped, lush, tropical grounds, an enormous pool, and the inviting turquoise waters of the Andaman sea beyond.

We had arrived in paradise. The agenda for our trip, besides the wedding of course, was pretty simple – a) lie in sun b) swim in sea c) float in pool d) eat nice food e) drink nice wine f ) get good sleep g) frolic, decadently in luxuriously appointed accommodation. By the end of our first day we had already achieved all of the above, and in grand style. Our Lagoon Villa was simply beautiful, the décor throughout contemporary Thai – plenty of wood and stone, and a natural to neutral colour palette of olive greens, golds, taupes and beiges. A huge wooden bed took centre stage and my goodness, what a bed! After our first night of heavenly slumber, it was clear that this must jump straight to the top two of my “best beds ever slept in” register, (yes, I do have a register and the other bed, by the way, was at Babington House, Somerset, England). The villa boasted a sumptuous mini bar – not ‘mini’ at all, in fact, wi-fi, a plasma screen television and DVD player (very nice but who would watch television when staying somewhere like this?). The roomy wardrobes were complete with white waffle robes and matching slippers, white satin padded coat hangers for her (or his) delicates – a very nice touch – and a stylish wicker beach bag in which to carry your gubbins around the resort. Double doors opened from the sleeping area into the bathroom. A secluded outdoor rainfall shower was simply divine, particularly as it was in addition to the already luxurious indoor shower and separate plunge Jacuzzi, all of which were surrounded by piles of freshly laundered, plump white towels, wicker laundry baskets and aromatherapy toiletries. Plus the bathroom had two basins, one for him and one for her.


There’s many a couple who attribute the success of their relationship to having a basin to call their own. I’d never particularly subscribed to this school of thought, surmising that the couple that brushes (teeth) together, stays together. But, as I scattered my lotions and potions around my basin whilst my boyfriend scattered his stubble shavings and unfathomable quantities of water round his own, I began to see what they were driving at. Doors opened out from the villa onto our own little lagoon-front patio complete with cushion-covered, wooden loungers – a great place for an early evening cocktail, we thought, had it not been for the extremely protective daddy swan patrolling up and down day and night, taking care of his wife and baby signet. Several guests were terrorized by this beautiful yet ferocious beast but we just thought it was cute that he was doing such a good job of being a Dad. Dining is a highlight here. Options include the Bangsak Grill – great for lunch (we loved the parma ham and feta sandwich on toasted pesto focaccia with shoe string fries, complimented by a couple of glasses of crisp, Australian sauvignon blanc); the Baan Thai – home of the finest shrimp cakes we’ve ever tasted and an exceptionally good Thai green curry; Café Lilawadee – the place to be for a fantastic breakfast buffet each morning (the best croissants I’ve tasted outside of Paris) and the beachfront Bamboo Bar, a great venue for grabbing a lunchtime Singha or a few cheeky sun-downers before your evening shower.

Décor, tableware, menus and service throughout were first-class. Water-babies need look no further – the property has two pools, both of which are vast. The Main Pool – the largest one I’ve ever seen at a resort – is well landscaped and the perfect place for bobbing along on a lilo or just gently splashing around. The second, Spa Pool, is for adults only and ideal for a few pre-breakfast l Should you be feeling particularly energetic (some of our party were; I had a date with my i-pod and a stack of trashy mags), a daily programme of events is provided including water polo, kayaking, diving instruction, tennis, volleyball, sailing and tonnes more besides. For those not wishing to participate, rest easy – most activities take place well away from the main lounging areas so you won’t be disturbed… Indeed those looking for nothing but some well-earned rest and relaxation couldn’t choose a better place – adjacent to the second pool and just round the corner from the Bahn Thai lies Le Spa. A range of treatments to pamper both body and mind are administered in private spa villas, surrounded by the lush tropical gardens. Signature treatments include the Crushed Guava Seed Scrub, Lotus Blossom Milk Wrap and 90 minute ‘Nuad’ Thai Pan Boran massage, which involves stretching, yoga techniques and deep pressure along the body’s meridians. The only place I wanted to be after this treatment was back in that fabulous bed for a crafty mid-afternoon snooze. One of the loveliest things about Le Méridien is the air of peace and tranquility that pervades the entire resort; loungers are so plentiful there is never any need for the 7am dash, staff are relaxed and friendly and bars take last orders at 10.30pm, ensuring no disruption for those wishing to hit the hay early before another day on cloud nine. The tables in the Bangsak Grill have coasters which read “I eat well, and I drink well and I sleep well – but that’s all”, a quote from the playwright Thomas Norton. Indeed Le Méridien succeeds in ensuring each guest enjoys the very best of these, life’s simplest pleasures.

" Before us lay the property’s beautifully
landscaped, lush, tropical grounds,
an enormous pool, and the inviting
turquoise waters of the Andaman sea
beyond. We had arrived in paradise."

4th Floor, Muang Mai Building, 9/17 Moo 6, Thepkasattri Road, T. Rasda, A. Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand Tel 66 76 236-55
www.lemeridien.com

Review by Ellie Oreidy

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Connaught road is the newest refurbish hotel within the central area of Hong Kong. Millions have been invested into re-decorating this an iconic hotel into an even bigger attraction. Now with an enclosed balcony, the average room size is bigger and modernized.

I have always enjoyed my stay with the Mandarin Oriental hotels. It is always a welcoming experiencing like no others. One of the Mandarin's attribute is that it sells itself on impeccable service but not over the top kind. Wonderful staffs are always at hand to assist you. Meticulously decorated, the hotel always looks and smells good.

We stayed at the gorgeous Oriental Suite. Seriously hi-tech, sublimely kool and easy to managed. I am certain some of you at various stages have stayed in hotels and when it’s bedtime, you are at a lost to know which switches are which? Well, none of that here, even my kids could figure it out.

The showers are just awesome. The bathroom is incredibly spacious with an enormous “looks can be deceiving” very deep bathtub. Great for chilling with your bubbly champagne.
 

The hotel has a fantastic sauna room and one of the best compact steam room in town for you to unwind and relax.

Breakfast at the clipper lounge is amazing. It has a great variety of food and is extremely fresh . The seafood congee is a must!

Unfortunately that is all the details I can provide in a 24hr stay at this irresistable hotel untill my next check in date.

Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel 852 2820 4202

Please visit: http://www.mandarinoriental.com

Review by AK
20 December 2009

Cavalieri, Rome

“When in Rome…”

With the 13th FINA World Championships making a splash in Rome this summer, the most famous hotel in Rome took the opportunity to revamp itself for its 50th Anniversary by announcing its corporation into the Waldorf Astoria brand- making it the first European hotel of the hotel chain. Chic-modern is mixed in with art, history and extravagance after the thorough refurbishments. Andy Warhol pieces and Karl Lagerfeld designed furniture are displayed along with massive and impressive works by Giambattista Tiepolo and Nicolo’ Bambini, in suites and all over the hotel. Scattered around the hotel are also one-off furniture pieces that once belonged to royalty or dignitaries, all adding to the hotel’s ever-growing art collection donated by the patrons. It’s 3 Michelin Star Chef Wolfgang Puck has also reignited the restaurants name by recently serving the Obamas, and having been praised by Michelle for his famous Carbonara. It never felt so luxurious experiencing what the Roman’s do best.


Rome Cavalieri, The Waldorf Astoria Collection, Via Alberto Cadlolo 101, 00136 Rome, ItalyTel 39 06 3509 1
For more history in the making go to:
www.romecavalieri.com

Review by Rebecca Gabbai