Papaya Playa Project
Coqui Coqui Coba
Turtles at Akumal Beach
Papaya Playa Project
Papaya Playa Project
Coqui Coqui Coba
Turtles at Akumal Beach
The site of Indigo Pearl was a tin mine in the 1930’s and in tribute to his ancestry, Wichit Na-Ranong, owner and Managing Director of Indigo Pearl, used tin mining as a unique and personal source of inspiration in the creation of the resort. In collaboration with Bill Bensely’s Design Studios the Indigo Pearl in Phuket is a striking, poetic reminder – of raw beauty in a rich, bygone era.
The unique style of the resort could be described as ‘industrial chic’ with steel floors and columns, steel furniture, french 1940’s factory lamps and leather “cone of silence” love seats used extensively throughout the resort. Unique characteristics of the Indigo Pearl such as the top hung garage door like dividers in the rooms, the steel columns and floors, and the extensive collection of sculpture throughout the resort were produced by the Australian artist, John Underwood and his atelier
The Atlantic Byron Bay
13 Marvell St, Byron Bay
NSW, 2481 Australia
We stayed in a 4 bedroom serviced apartment called Subioku, located in the heart of Hirafu village. A 10 minute walk from the ski slopes, ski hire was easily organised through Rhythm Sport, conveniently located opposite. In the evenings, we had the option to cook dinner or try one of the many fantastic restaurants in Hirafu. We especially enjoyed a casual dinner at Abu-Cha-2 which can be found on the ground floor of the same building as Subioku. Other dining options included Ezo Seafoods, Hanayoshi and the Hilton Niseko Village Hotel (the free shuttle from Hirafu to Niseko takes only 20 minutes).
The entrance and dining room of our apartment
The longe room adjacent to the dining room with floor to ceiling windows of Hirafu village.
One of the four bedrooms in our apartment.
Out and about in Hirafu village.
One of the local casual dining options in Hirafu, a few minutes walk away from the apartment.
We stayed at the Castelo Monastero, in Tuscany about 20 minutes drive from Siena or 1 hour and 20 minutes from Florence which made it ideal as a base for day trips to Siena, Florence and Pisa. Dining options included Contrada, a gourmet dining experience and La Cantina a more relaxed dining experience in the medieval wine cellars of Castel Monastero, with both restaurants’ menus designed by Gordon Ramsay.
When we visited Cambodia, we stayed at the Hotel de la Paix, one of Siem Reap’s classic hotels. Since our visit, the hotel has been renovated and is now called the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. The central courtyard swimming pool and water garden, is still the focal point of the hotel and we were fortunate to stay in a room that had a private entrance and stairway into the pool.
We found the easiest way to get to Angkor Wat and the other temples was to arrange for a local tuk tuk driver to take us there. We made arrangements directly with our tuk tuk driver who spoke a little English to transport us around for our entire stay. It was a lot easier to get around all the different temples, knowing our driver would be waiting for us each morning at the entrance of the hotel.
Sailing is great fun but when you can combine natural beauty, a tropical climate, a barrier reef, azure waters and a group of islands that are the Whitsundays, the experience becomes quite unique. The Whitsundays Islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef, a Unesco World Heritage site in Northern Queensland, Australia. It has one of the most diverse coral ecosystem making it one of the most beautiful scenery above and below the water.
We rented a boat for a week in Airlie Beach, stocked up the boat with food and set off. You need sailing experience if you want to go on your own with your group, otherwise you can hire a skipper for the trip. Exploring the Whitsundays national park lives you a lot of options such as like mooring in clear blue waters for lunch, snorkelling, swimming, island hopping, soak up the views from Hill Inlet and picnicking on Whitehaven beach, one of the most untouched, beautiful white sand beach in the world. You can also hire kayaks, stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), snorkelling and fishing equipment to board onto your yacht. We sailed around Hayman island, a hotel resort, Hook island, Whitsunday island, Hazelwood island, Lindeman island and Hamilton island.
As far as natural beauty goes, the Iguazu falls are certainly up there – the sheer size, sounds and its surroundings make it a very mesmerising place. The Iguazu Falls are part of the Iguazu national park, a UNESCO World heritage listed site, located in the Misiones region, in the Northeastern part of Argentina bordering with the Panana region in Brazil. The falls are up to 80 metres tall and span nearly 3 kilometres – the magnitude, size and power of the cascades can only be truly appreciated in person. The lush subtropical rainforest surroundings are host to varied wildlife birds, caymans and monkeys and several thousand plant species.
We went on a speed boat tour and the sprays of water and roaring sounds were unbelievable. There are great hikes as well around the national park. The falls are one of the largest and certainly one of the most amazing waterfalls in the world.
The Lot valley is a beautiful part of France South West in the Midi-Pyrennées region, the Lot takes its name from the snaking river crossing the département (region). The Lot river is bordered by very steep cliffs, plateaux, vineyards, medieval villages, castles and churches. The Lot region is famous for its gastronomy: the foie gras, duck magrets, Cahors wine, cheeses which can be bought in the village markets.
Cruising the canals and rivers of France on a péniche (houseboat) is a wonderful way of discovering France’s rich and diverse countryside. Every year, growing up, my family would hire a péniche in Spring and we would stroll through a canal or a river for a week in different regions of France. France has an amazing network of canals and rivers that are now being almost exclusively geared towards tourism.
As a child, I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the barges compared to our little péniche, we would cross ways or sharing a lock with commercial barges rushing to get their dry goods delivered and speeding through the locks while we were leisurely cruising. I used to love going through the locks opening and closing the gates, filling or emptying the lock to go up or down depending if you were going downstream or upstream (‘avalant’ or ‘montant’ are the French technical terms).
We started off in Luzech to pick up our Péniche and traveled to Larganol, cruising through Cahors and Saint Cirq Lapopie. Life on the péniche is very simple, you basically eat, sleep and cruise on the Péniche. We loaded all our gear on board: food, barbecue as well as our bikes onto the Péniche, so we could go shopping in the nearby village or sometimes ride along the canal towpath. Near the Ganil ecluse (lock) the canal towpath (Chemin de Halage) was carved out of the cliff back in 1845 to let horses go and pull barges. One section of the limestone cliff has been sculpted by Daniel Monnier. You can also swim in the river, near Saint Cirq Lapopie on hot days.
While cruising, you alternate going through towns, small villages, remote areas and going through locks after locks, 31 in total. We moored somewhere different every night on the bank of the canal and cooked the food we bought that morning at the markets. Make sure to check the jour de marché for each town or village, in Cahors the marché is on on Wednesday and Saturdays.
Near Cahors, you can stop by and moor your peniche at the vineyard for wine degustation and buy some ‘Cahors’ wine which marries perfectly with the duck confit that is available everywhere in the region also known as the ‘duck country’.
Legend has it that the young prince Maharana Jagat Singh II indulged in moonlight picnics with the ladies of the Zenana on the lake island palace of Jag Mandir until his father found out. With that option closed to him, he built his own palace on a different island in Lake Pichola. Begun in 1743 and inaugurated in 1746, the new palace was named Jag Niwas. What may have begun as a prince’s rebellious gesture was turned into one of the most romantic hotels in the world by Maharana Bhagwat Singhji in 1963. The palace’s decadent reputation was cemented when the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed on the premises.
Our stay at the Lake Palace was incredible. From the time we arrived by car, after a 5 hour drive from Jaipur we were treated with the most wonderful hospitality by the staff of the Lake Palace. We waited under beautiful archways for the boatman who would take us across the lake where we were greeted with a shower of rose petals as we entered the lobby of the hotel. After check-in, we were then accompanied to our room walking by the lotus pond made famous by the James Bond film, Octopussy. It truly is even more spectacular in real life.
There are 4 restaurants at the Lake Palace. We took a buffet breakfast in Jharokha with views of the lake and City Palace and tried Bhairo situated on the rooftop of the Lake Palace we watched the sunset while enjoying the beautiful contemporary cuisine. The Amrit Sagar restaurant is a more casual dining experience which offers high tea and Neel Kamal offered elegant traditional indian cuisine from the region.
The Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan is the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur and now a luxury Taj Palace Hotel, located 5 miles (8.0 km) outside of the walls of the city of Jaipur on Bhawani Singh Road. Built in 1835 on a modest scale for the queen’s favourite handmaiden Kesar Badaran, and later refurbished as a royal guesthouse and hunting lodge, the mansion was renamed Rambagh, after the then reigning Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II. Rambagh remained the home of Jaipur’s Royalty until 1957, when it was first converted into an upscale hotel and is now managed by the Taj Resorts and Palaces group. For more information visit the hotel’s website.
We had an incredible time at the Rambagh Palace. The staff were very accommodating and great with our kids. The food was wonderful and we were spoilt for choice – in the morning we took a buffet breakfast in the Rajput Room a more casual all day dining experience, in the evenings we either enjoyed drinks at The Polo Bar or on The Verandah while we watched the evenings dance and music performances or had our palms read and we even tried Steam – a restored steam engine complete with a Victorian style station on site – you can either have a drink on the platform or have dinner inside the train! The kids can also have a play in the actual driver’s compartment.
The kids also loved chasing (or being chased) by the beautiful peacocks on the manicured lawns of the Rambagh Palace as well as swimming in both the indoor and outdoor pools. Each day, there was a new beautiful petal flower arrangements by the pools and around the paths leading towards the spa.
A room with a majestic view on the Taj Mahal is what makes the Oberoi Amar Villas very special, it is one of the closest hotels and the views are its expansive grounds are ideal for pre-dinner walks and shows. The hotel is quite new and inspired by Moorish and Mughal architecture with a stunning entrance with arches, sandstones columns and 64 fountains. The swimming pool is huge and simply stunning, it was a perfect resting place after a long day of sightseeing at the Taj Mahal.
We visited Marrakech during Ramadan in the month of July where the temperature rose to in excess of 40 degrees celsius. On those days we escaped to The Beldi Country Club, located about 20 minutes away by car outside of Marrakech for lunch and a swim.
The Beldi Country Club sits on 14 hectares and over a thousand rose bushes have been planted on the property which used to be an olive grove – the smell upon arrival was incredible. The Beldi Country Club includes a hotel with 28 suites, a spa and 2 restaurants – “El Badia” located outside for a more casual dining experience during the day and “le Palmier Fou” situated within the hotel for a more formal a la carte dining experience in the evening. During the day there is a mini souk where you can watch artisans at work as well as purchase carpets, tapestries, embroidery, pottery and glass.
We didn’t stay at The Beldi Country Club but made a reservation for lunch at the restaurant El Badia which is located right next to the 35m long swimming pool surrounded by olives trees. There are also 2 swimming pools dedicated to children. The restaurant offers Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine with a French influence and the food was so good that we visited twice during the week that we spent in Morocco!
We asked our hotel to make a reservation and most taxis knew where it was located. Usually we were able to negotiate 40-50Dhs to get there from Gueliz but found that The Beldi hotel reception can also arrange transport back to your hotel or riad for 50 Dhs in an air conditioned private car (for the same price as an unconditioned taxi).
The Beldi Country Club address is Km 6, Route de Barrage, “Cherifia” Marrakech Morocco. For more information and pricing visit the Beldi Country Club website.
Note: As we visited during Ramadan, the Beldi was very quiet and we were easily able to make a lunch reservation on the same day. The souk however was closed as well as the hotel shop. Both restaurants, the hotel and spa however remained open. I was advised, that apart from Ramadan to make a reservation as it is very popular with the expat crowd.