Monday, December 27, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO BALI, part 2, Aman Resorts



BALINESE ENCHANTMENT FOR AMAN LOVERS

Bali is good news for “Amanoholics”. Here Aman Resorts creates its own Balinese flavour in three different settings, offering beach, tropical adventure, and access to the rich culture of the island. Amanusa overlooking a white beach close to Nusa Dua, Amandari among jade green hills and artist colonies, and Amankila on a verdant hilltop with backdrop of ocean and active volcano, close to villages where ancient ways continue…

We made an enchanted journey between resorts, and thoroughly recommend experiencing more than one, all luxurious and culturally in tune. Here is a quick run-down.

Amankila


It is impossible not to be blown away by Amankila! Located in East Bali, an area steeped in local tradition, near the village of Mangiss. It’s perched on a cliff, with a striking three level main pool with expansive ocean views.

Yes, there are a lot of steps and raised walkways around the resort connecting accommodations and amenities, which might be a consideration for some. But it’s absolutely worth the exercise to walk around this exquisite property with its 34 free-standing suites.

Beautifully appointed with thatched alang alang roofs, Garden and Ocean suites do not have pools but are still highly recommended. If a pool is a necessity, Pool suites, Kilasari suite, Indrakila suite and Amankila suite all have private pools. Pool suites can connect with garden suites.

Spa and beauty treatments are available in your suite or at the Massage Pavilion. We recommend a massage outdoors at the Coconut Grove, with the beach and beach club just beyond. It is quiet a walk down from the accommodation, and the hotel car can transport you back.

Dining is superb – from breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea to dinner – all excellent with wide choice of Eastern and Western cuisine.

Many activities can be arranged – trekking, mountain biking, tennis, cookery classes, elephant riding, horse riding, white water rafting – if you can tear yourself away from Amankila.

Special mention must go to the great staff at Amankila. They all seem genuinely happy to be there, from Management to housekeeping. Service is absolutely faultless.

So all in all Amankila is one of our top favourite resorts on Bali, without question!





HOW TO GET TO AMANKILA
60 minutes by car from Bali International Airport


Amanusa


Serene, private and luxurious in an understated way. Close enough to the chic shops and restaurants of Nusa Dua, but far enough away from the more ordinary hotels for it to feel really special.

Only 5 minutes transfer takes you to a pristine beach with private beach club, private bales and casual restaurant. The sand is whiter than white! This beach can be booked exclusively for dinner, highly recommended, so our advice is to think ahead and prebook.

All 35 thatched suites feature romantic four posters, sunken baths and spacious outdoor living festooned with tropical flowers. Linked with the public areas by elevated walkways.

An array of treatments including Balinese massage can be arranged in villa. Golf, tennis, snorkelling, scuba, diving kayaking, fishing all possible at this wonderful property.

HOW TO GET TO AMANUSA
30 minutes by car from Bali International Airport

Amandari


The drive off the main road to Amandari in the village of Kedewatan. makes you wonder what to expect – the road, not owned by the hotel, is a bit basic. But when you reach the property, you know you have arrived somewhere special!

Local school children perform a traditional dance daily and were there waiting to greet us. Understated yet perfect, the architecture owes much to Balinese Hindu spiritual traditions. Absolute serenity…

Villas are very spacious and create an immediate feeling of relaxation and privacy, with the echoing sounds of the jungle strangely comforting.

Coconut wood and teak are used throughout the Village, Valley and Pool Suite categories – some overlook Ayung River Gorge and paddy fields. All comprise a lush garden courtyard and living area with outdoor sunken bath (walled for privacy but open air).

Single-storey or duplex suites: the duplexes have a four-poster bed on a mezzanine level while the single-storey suites offer a king-size bed; the single-storey suites were our favourite, but for families you need a duplex. Altogether there are 33 thatched suites.

Pool Suites feature private plunge pools of an excellent size. You would hardly need to venture to the main pool. Except perhaps to hear the the gamelan players performing from the music pavilion behind the pool – for extra peace of mind.

A staffed 3 bedroom villa lies at the far end of the resort. The hotel car can transport guests to/from the main amenities as the pathway is not ideal.

The Spa at the hotel is excellent. So is the dining, but it is also tempting to try the many casual and fine dining options in and around Ubud.

There is much to do from the hotel – trekking, cycling and rafting, and the shops, galleries, studios of Ubud with jewellery, art and crafts are close at hand. There is a complimentary hotel shuttle during the day making sorties into Ubud easy. The surroundings of Ubud feature small villages that for centuries have been devoted to wood carving, pottery, silver jewellery, silk batiks and endless crafts.

Amandari Pool Suite




HOW TO GET AMANDARI
90 minutes by car from Bali International Airport



Amandari


Amandari

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Bali, part 1, Four Seasons Resorts





ART, TEMPLES, RAINFOREST & BEACHES
Bali is the perfect destination for more than a beach experience. With rice terraces and volcanos, the island is seductively tropical, enhanced by its ancient and fascinating culture. Bali’s peaceful inhabitants are almost all Hindus of a special Balinese variety. Spirituality runs seamlessly into everyday life – and temples and shrines create magic everywhere. So does art…

The highly cultivated people are masters of dance and Balinese theatre, painting, batik, silverwork, woodwork and stone work to the degree that the island is like a gigantic art gallery – and crafts and inspired Balinese fashion are for sale everywhere. So a holiday in Bali can also be an extraordinary shopping experience.

After a week on Bali visiting our hand-picked hotels, we suggest you stay at more than one of our very special hotels to enhance the overall Bali experience. And to savour Balinese style and superb luxury in different settings.


FOUR SEASONS SAYAN



For those interested in culture and the lush beauty of the hills, Ubud is a must. Up here is a very special atmosphere with the music of the sacred Ayung river, the exuberant green of jungle and rice terraces, and the tinkle of temple bells on festive days. It is also the scene of many tropical adventure activities, and features several art galleries

Arriving to Four Seasons Sayan is dramatic, almost extraterrestrial! You cross a long bridge leading to a lily pond that rests on top of the main building housing the front desk(s), bar, restaurant and suites (lead-in category).

The situation on the sacred River Ayung, amongst the rice fields, is really atmospheric, creating a real sense of calm. On Bali they say that the rice fields give off a gas that makes you serene and happy.

The villa accommodations, each with its own plunge pool, are dotted around the hillside and river (buggy transport around the resort). Decor is traditional, featuring custom made furnishings from Bali and Java and specially selected art. There are 60 accommodations in total, many suitable options for families (and of course the usual Four Seasons amenities for children – baby sitting, special activities etc.).

The two-level main pool follows the serpentine shape of the river below, and is a great place to relax in between experiencing the local culture of Ubud and the surrounding villages and the array of outdoor activities (on site walking trails, cycling, white water rafting).

There are dining options at Ayung Terrace and it’s wine cellar (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner), in-villa dining and the Riverside Café (until 6pm).

A complimentary shuttle operates to Ubud from morning until early even (outside if these times, a resort car can transport guests for an additional charge).

All the comforts, facilities and services one expects from Four Seasons. This is a great choice for families and couples alike.

HOW TO GET THERE
90 minutes by car from Bali International Airport.


FOUR SEASONS JIMBARAN

A very warm Balinese welcome meets you at Four Seasons Jimbaran. The front desk/concierge captures the spirit in an open air Balinese pavilion, and from there you are taken by buggy to your villa.

The villas are traditional décor, with enclosed bedroom and bathroom, outdoor living room with ceiling fan, fridge, dining table, small plunge pool and sun beds on your terrace. The outdoor living area is very pleasant to relax in even if the rains arrive! Butler service for in-villa dining and breakfast is perfectly executed. Many attractions can be visited from the property.






Deluxe one bedroom villa ocean view villa, Four Seasons Jimbaran

PJ’s bar / restaurant on the beach is a great place to unwind. A DJ plays mellow music each evening, fantastic for enjoying cocktails. The more casual Taman Wantilan restaurant, although normally Italian cuisine, has nightly themes. We experienced the Balinese buffet and night market (typical island goods – batik, jewellery on sale).

Approximately 5 minutes buggy ride from the main resort are the Private Residence rentals (2, 3 or 4 bedroom options). These exclusive properties are very spacious offering total privacy. Large gardens / pool. Julia Roberts and family stayed here during filming of the recent movie Eat, Pray, Love! Absolutely recommended for clients looking for a villa, but with the benefits of the hotel amenities close by and exceptional service.

The spa was closed during our visit, but treatments can be taken in villa whilst this is ongoing.

The resort lies on a long curved beach. The water can be rough at high tide, but it is a very pleasant place to walk, offering some small restaurants serving seafood. Or you can lie by the pool, which appears to be right on that beautiful beach thanks to its infinity edge.

We liked the property very much - typical Four Seasons luxury but paying homage to Bali and its uniqueness.

HOW TO GET THERE
Four Seasons Jimbaran is located approx 25 minutes from Bali International Airport. You can actually see some aircraft from the accommodations, but noise was not an issue during our stay.


VIP ARRIVAL
Select-style arrival on Bali is luxury from the first moment, as we have the very best of partners on the ground. We were met at Passport control and assisted with luggage and Tourist Visa. In the main arrival hall, Driver and Butler were waiting. Hot towels and cold water awaited us in a luxury vehicle, to refresh after a long flight. En-route, the Butler provided an introduction to the island, and briefed us on our special schedule. Also a detailed information pack is presented with very useful tips and guidelines for Bali (not just standard, but really valid insider info!).

The same Butler and Driver are normally assigned for duration, if you are taking day trips - highly recommended. Afternoon luxury tented High Teas overlooking rice fields, private beach days on remote islands, ancient temples and tea with a prince in his palace are just some of the many possibilities!

The Butler anticipates all your needs, and makes suggestions for places he feels will suit you. We can warmly recommend our butler I Nyoman Senada who was a perfect host and really informative.

Art everywhere. Our butler introduced us to sights like Kerta Gosa Royal Courts of Justice.



Art everywhere. Image below from Kerta Gosa Royal Courts of Justice



CLIMATE
The climate is tropical, and temperature does not vary much staying around 28 – 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year. The rainy seasons November - April can bring thunder storms and increased humidity often reaching 95% but days can still be sunny and pleasant. The dry season brings cool breezes at night, and allows for sunny less humid days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 8, JW Marriott Phuket



MAURITIUS IN THAILAND…

Our Mauritius-style Thai resort! JW Marriott Phuket is warmly hospitable to children, reminding us of the legendary Mauritian hospitality extended to little people. But adults too may never ever want to leave the premises.

JW Marriott Phuket offers everything you need for your tropical holiday. Apart from a good beach, three pools and plenty of watersports, you have a choice of restaurants, boutiques, cafés, playrooms and hangouts for small kids and teenagers. One of the cafes is open 24 hours – just like city life, should you miss it. There is a gym and a marvelous spa. You can take tennis lessons with a high ranking professional and enjoy water sports. It is also a popular place to host conferences and meetings.

On top of that it has an attractive Thai ambience, with classic Thai décor, rich green foliage, palm trees.

But if you really want to leave the premises, JW Marriott also offers a wide range of excursions.
All rooms are spacious and elegant, currently being modernized to offer all the modern techniques possible and TV with flat screens.







Saturday, December 18, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 7, Le Meridien Khao Lak



GOOD VALUE LUXURY ON PARADISE BEACH


On one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, with 13 km of broad white sands and palm trees, we checked out Le Meridien Khao Lak Beach & Spa Resort. This is one of our tips for good value luxury, and a favourite with families. The resort offers spacious rooms, suites and villas, some with private pools and own gardens. And there is plenty of life and fun here, with a choice of 7 restaurants and bars, health and beauty spa, tennis, watersports – along with and Thai boxing, rainforest tours and biking.

While great for children with its kid’s club, kid’s menus, and delightful kid’s pool with slides, it’s also fine if you don’t want to be disturbed by children. That is because there is always somewhere quiet to go on this huge property including an adult pool area and your spacious room (40 sqm), suite (80-160 sqm) or villa (80-660 sqm) with private outdoor living. They try to accommodate the families with young kids in a family wing.




The biggest delight for the kids is also beloved by adults. It’s the hotel’s baby elephant. We fell totally in love with this elephantine baby when it coiled its trunk around our arms – and kissed us.





HOW TO GET THERE
1 hour by car from Phuket International Airport.





Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 6, Sarojin




FANTASY AND ROMANCE

Stretching through lush gardens to one of the best beaches in Thailand, the Sarojin is an adult’s only resort with spacious suites. It is a sanctuary for complete privacy, undisturbed romance and – yes – adventure.

Your fantasy is the only thing that can limit your experiences at the Sarojin. Together with your very own “imagineer”, you can conjure up delicious surprises for your beloved (and yourself), from meals in magical settings to expeditions into the jungle. You might even arrange your wedding on elephant back.





Lying in one of Thailand’s most exciting natural settings, the Sarojin makes full use of the nature reserve on Khao Lak to give you adventure with a real tropical flavour. We took a boat ride on “Little Amazon”, an enchanting waterway among the mangroves. We were met by the surprise of a table in the rainforest, set with gourmet snacks and champagne glasses soon to be bubbling with golden liquid.




Next morning our breakfast was also a surprise. Director of Sales Paul Counihan lead us mysteriously along the white sands of the fabulous Khao Lak beach for about 10 minutes, till we arrived at a table set under a beautiful tree hung with flowers. Or you can have a meal by the waterfall or under the ficus tree. At the Sarojin they are proud of being magic-makers and creating astounding personal experiences for couples. So of course they also have "ordinary" things like watersports.




Meals were amazing – not just for the surroundings but for freshness and flavour. One restaurant lies right on the beach. The other, called the Wine Cellar, not only has a wide array of wines but is also the scene for breakfast. In between these restaurants you find a gorgeous 25 meter infinity pool with Jacuzzi and 3 shaded pool pavilions. No worry about kids running past.

Privacy is the keynote. Designed in a contemporary Asian style, there are 56 Guest Residences in seven double storey buildings within the expansive tropical gardens. We had our own garden and sala for relaxation, enfolded within the cozy privacy of a wall. The décor is contemporary, clean and stylish – not a thing out of place. Perfection is what it is all about.





Perfection and fantasy.





Here is the lantern we lit as we made a wish and sent it floating high into the sky. Till it became as small as a wishing star...






HOW TO GET THERE
1 hour’s comfortable transfer in one of the Sarojin’s luxury cars from Phuket International Airport.

POST SCRIPT
The hotel welcomes children aged 12 and above.





Wishes coming true - and tropical adventure...



Monday, December 13, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 5, Six Senses Sanctuary Phuket





SPA LUXURY AND SHAPING A BETTER FUTURE

Another world, far from everyday life. As we stepped into Six Senses Sanctuary Phuket, we were enveloped in a rare atmosphere of peace and calm. Everyone is barefoot or in slippers, and dressed in off-white Thai fishermen’s gowns, wrapped in serenity.

This is the only resort on Naka Yai island, set among coconut groves and white beaches, 5 minutes by speedboat from the bustle of Phuket marina. It’s hard to believe that the magic of a Destination Spa can work so fast. But it does, since everyone here shares a quest for well-being…

First thing is the ritual. Just off the pier you are asked to strike a gong and make a wish. You will do this again when you leave, hopefully a richer person in spirit and in health.




Welcome message sets the tone of natural perfection


As you enter the resort you are met by a doctor. He discusses your medical history and state of mind, and finds out what you want to achieve at the Destination Spa. Depending on what you require, you may have a medical examination. Sleeping and eating disorder, overweight and stress are all common problems treated at the Destination Spa. Other goals are fitness or getting in balance. There are several Spa therapists and they offer everything from Six Senses signature massages and beauty treatments to Reiki, crystal therapy, hypnotherapy, nutrition, life transformation and other healing treatments.

But wellness through sport and activity is looked after too. The resort also offers free activities such as kayaking, yoga, Hobi-cat, windsurfing, mountain biking, two gyms...





Jungle Gym

The Jungle Gym is truly eco, in Six Senses style. And it harks back to childhood fun and careless playfulness. The “weights” for lifting are stones of different shapes and sizes. An obstacle course of tree trunks and branches gets you hopping and skipping and using energy without even realizing it. There are various paths strewn with different size pebbles to work on pressure points (natural reflexology) as you meditate or gaze around at the beauty.




Natural reflexology

Meanwhile you have your own little kingdom – your villa or suite villa. All 61 units are spacious (from 450 sqm) with private pools. As in all Six Senses properties they are stylish and eco friendly. In the bedroom you have aircon – otherwise you luxuriate outside and enjoy sun or stars and balmy breezes on your terrace, by your own pool, in privacy. It is only the location that varies; hillside, beach front or beach view.



There are three restaurants close to the beach. One is called “dining at the point”, a very pleasant and private spot on the Island. The food is designed to order but there is also a normal menu with three choices of starter, main course and dessert. The food consists of organic vegetable and fresh fish and is both tasty and healthy. (Rumour has it they will introduce a little meat soon for relentless carnivores.)




Fabulous organic gardens



Of course, some of us are meant to be losing weight and they are not going to forget that when it comes to mealtimes. Some are even gaining weight. An interesting dining finesse is that you have your choice – dining in solitary silence, or sitting at the speaker’s table and being sociable.

There is also a relaxing public pool area around the organically shaped lap pool, a library and a tea room.


Sanctuary pool



Your private transport



Beyond the resort the island beckons with lush jungle, fishing village and coconut plantation. And when tired of exploring on your bike you can constructively do a cooking lesson, so that you will not fall back on bad old eating habits through lack of knowledge on how to cook both delicious and healthy meals.

At the bottom line, this is not just a place to feel better, it is a place to enjoy getting to feel better, surrounded by nature, serenity and warm and friendly staff. The service and expertise at Six Senses Sanctuary Phuket is the final touch that makes top luxury…
With their help you have a good chance of staying on top of the world too…



Your own pool and your own kingdom



NOTE: Naka Yai Island is located off the north-east east shore of Phuket with views over Phang Nga Bay, 25 minutes by car and speedboat from Phuket International Airport.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Phuket, part 4, Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi




OUR PARADISE ON YAO NOI

As far as you can get from mass tourism, but only 40 minutes by speedboat from Phuket. After a spectacular boat ride, pampered with snacks and surrounded by astounding seascapes, we arrived at our very own jungle hideaway.

On a lush green island ringed by warm sea, Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi offers luxury, style and intimacy, as close to nature as you want to be. The 56 rustic thatched villas with private infinity pools demonstrate true Six Senses eco sensibility. Our bedroom has air-conditioning but changes a few degrees in tune with the night temperatures. Meanwhile we never lose sight of nature.

At night the shades are drawn to leave a wide open view in the middle of the huge windows. So as we open our eyes, we see the magical morning in shades of blue and gold over sea and sculpted islands – without even leaving the bed.



Views first made famous by 007


Our private pool deck is built on a slope, so here we also have sensational views of Phang Nga Bay, dotted with limestone pillars, as seen in the James Bond film “Man with the Golden Gun”. Perfect setting for check mate – a chessboard on the terrace in your private open pavilion. And plenty of outdoor space to lounge or dine.




Some villas are built right by the sea, while others are hidden in the rainforest. All are lavishly luxurious in eco style and deliciously private, from 154 sqm (80 sqm internal, 56 sqm external with an 18 sqm swimming pool).

And in no way is it drab eco. Along with all the fringy thatch, sun-kissed wood and earthen tones, Yao Noi has splashes of colour in the décor, sizzling oranges and reds that bring fire into the earth element. The bar is delightfully colourful and cozy, and the restaurant is also alive with brilliant fiery tones. Here we ate delicious meals, and lobster to remember. There is also a second restaurant in high season and a wine cellar.





The holistic spa is another Six Senses phenomenon. The manager showed us round and gave us a taste of various herbs growing in abundance – talking of their uses in food or for medicinal purposes. A massage left us totally reborn. Sheltered in the jungle is a yoga and meditation area with a view of the sea. Other activities on offer include gym, watersports, diving, sailing to nearby limestone islands and rock climbing.

On the first day this 9.6-hectare (24-acre) jungle resort may seem huge and it can be hard to orientate – but making use of a little eco-friendly golf cart or bicycle you will quickly get to know it – and “make it yours”. For those who like getting out, the island is mostly jungle and rubber plantation but does have a friendly village you can visit.

After one day we felt as if we had been there a week. In the words of our private butler:
“Look at this place. Isn’t it amazing? I am so lucky I work here…”

Staff and management at Six Senses Hideaway Yao Noi are very friendly and interested in who you are. The whole place has a warm, relaxed, rustic and yet classy feel! Green chic at its best…





Wonderful staff





Perfect details

HOW TO GET THERE
Transfer from Phuket International Airport to the harbour takes approx 20 minutes. A speedboat will be waiting to take you to the Island of Yao Noi, and 40 minutes later you will arrive in paradise! You can also take a helicopter from the airport (approx 15 min).






Treat with eco perfection


Tropical flowers - exotic and natural feel





Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Marrakech, Part 4, Tips



MARRAKECH TIPS

After our visit to the fabulous rose-tinted city, we have some tips on what to do in Marrakech – and what not to.


The square

The ultimate scene is Place Jamaa-el-Fna in the Medina. It’s a spontaneous performance of arts like juggling, drumming and snake charming, it’s a meeting place of women in glorious caftans, head scarves or niqab (face veils). It’s a place for people-watching or just a place to hang.


Marrakech snake charmer



Happy coin hunter, and family arriving into the square by horse and carriage

The Square is rather deserted in the daytime but even so you will find hopeful acrobats and snake charmers there. The Square gets going around 5pm when suddenly there are people everywhere. By 8pm it is in full swing. It's hypnotic, and you may never want to leave.




Square tip




If you don’t know how to cross a Marrakech road at rush hour, arrive by horse and cart right into the square, or get your transfer to drop you on the square side of the big thoroughfares.

If you are feeling laid back, get an early seat in one of the big cafés overlooking the Square: Café Argana, Café Glacier or Café de France. Sunset behind the Katoubia mosque is part of the view, and a spontaneous performance of sound and light, drumming and dancing, with colourful women gliding by arm in arm.



Front seats for people-watching at Cafe Glacier (above).



Sunset behind Katoubia mosque
The souks

The majority of these astounding Aladdin's caves are clustered in the centre of the old city (Medina) north of the Square. There are two main souk routes north from the Square, one from Café Argana up rue Mouassine and the other opposite Café de France up rue Semarine. It is supposed to take half an hour to walk to the northern dense area of souks (if you don’t talk, look, and buy). In the magical labyrinth or tangle of alleys, the maps will or won’t lead you to souks for mats, wool, leather, silk, lanterns, ironwork, jewellery, basketry, Moroccan slippers, traditional Moroccan wear, musical instruments and more.



More contemporary...


New Town (Nouveau ville). Apart from fashion shops like Zara, in the New Town you can find a Western contemporary slant on exclusive traditional wear. A high society favourite is Akbar Delights (which also has an older outlet in the Medina). The New Town is where the well-heeled live/shop these days in Marrakech.

Industrial zone. Modern slant to Moroccan wares in the factory outlet area Quartier Industriel at Sidi Ghanem. Place to shop for those buying in bulk or for custom made goods and fashion.

Souks. Contemporary Western slant on Moroccan traditional caftans at little shops on the edge of the Medina: Kulchi and Beldi. Kifkif is another name on everyone’s lips (jewellery).
The Kasbah



Veiled women shopping in the exotic Kasbah
A walled area adjoining the Medina with a maze of narrow streets, souks for the locals, and plenty of exotic atmosphere as veiled women shop in the crowded alleys for vegetables, spices, meat, Berber teapots and cloth.


Other sights

Bahia Palace – an extravagance of Moroccan and Moorish handiwork from tiles and mosaics to carved wood and plaster.

El Badii Palace in the Kasbah – impressive ruin, with rows of storks nesting on the battlements.

The art museum by the Ben Yusuf Mosque (north of souks in central Medina).

Majorelle Gardens: desert cactii and tropical groves of wild banana palms and bamboo – plus the memorial of Yves Saint Laurent (these were once his gardens). There is also a tea house and museum of Islamic Art (currently under renovation).

Atlas mountains and Berber villages – a long daytour. Place where all the wonderful Berber carpets for sale are woven and embroidered in the homes.


Getting your home-ware home again

You will see so many desirable things for your home that are far too heavy to put in your luggage. Mustapha Blaoui is an “Aladdin’s cave” of treasures – and what is more they will arrange shipping. 142-4 Rue Bab Doukkala.


Money

1. There are three ATMs in the airport but expect queues if they are working at all.

2. It's useful to arrive with euros. If you don’t want to wait for those ATM & Bureau de Change queues at the airport, at checkin the hotel may change some of your euros to dirhams to tide you over but will not like to give you cash from a card.

3. Try as soon as possible to get a handful of coins and small dirham notes for tipping and small purchases, as small shops often do not have change for large notes.

4. Note that few shops accept cards.

5. You cannot change dirhams back again to foreign currency except at official exchange places by producing a currency exchange note.


Souk behaviour

Get a souk map from the hotel concierge and ask them to make rings and arrows.

For those who don’t like bargaining find out which have fixed prices (if high, probably not higher than the starting prices of those souks who expect to bargain). E.g. Ensemble Artisanal (Ave Mohamed V) has the best in crafts at fixed price.

For normal souks, who like to bargain, start at half or one third of the price. Then go slowly upwards.

Walk as if you know where you are going. Ask directions only from shopholders.

Moroccan people are on the whole very nice warm people and won’t harm you, but will get hurt when you don’t want to follow them to their suggested souk.

Consider taking a tour from the hotel. Your guide too may get a little cut from the shops, but will not take you somewhere trashy or dishonest.


Walking

Take time off just to walk with no ambition but to see and drink in the atmosphere.

Hold on to your handbag and don’t walk sideways without warning.

Unless dropped right in the Square you may be virtually forced to jay-walk over busy roads that have no traffic lights.

Crossing a road involves a lot of judgment and even more faith. Traffic on roads radiating from the centre of Marrakech and encircling the Medina is a mix of horse-drawn carts, donkey carts and motor driven traffic, with plenty of bikes and motorbikes with and without lights. They will not stop if you don’t step out so you could wait at the only pedestrian crossing forever. You have to step out with determination, and then walk steadily so they can work out how to miss you ….



For our luxurious hotel experiences see our earlier posts in the Select Collection travel blog on Amanjena,La Sultana and Dar JL.