Tuesday, December 30, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO KAMALAYA

Back at enchanting Kamalaya on Koh Samui. This time we tried a Relax and Renew spa package. There was just one problem. When the week came to an end it was very, very hard to leave...



Arriving at the hotel lobby where Buddha reclines over a lily pond, we were handed our private itinerary of “activities” – 11 hours of spa treatments spread out over a week, involving little more than lying in total pleasure enjoying massages to hands, feet, head, back and body…and a timetable of free group activities including yoga and aqua aerobics.

Next we enjoyed a late lunch under the palms, a stone's throw from the beach. A healthy lunch of course...but with gourmet touches. Already, amidst voluptuous gardens and running water, we could see: Kamalaya is a special kind of paradise. 

Healthy food may sound somewhat formidable – harking back to days when mummy said: "Eat your food it's good for you, If you don't – you won't get any dessert..."

But here the menu is thick like a book and full of delights – labelled so you can (if you want to) detox or indulge. The food is full of colour, form and taste. Even the desserts are good for you...and mouth watering, enjoyed in one of the restaurants, on the beach or in the villa. Of course you can also have a glass of wine with your meal, though it is not included in the packages.

Everywhere there are reminders that the wisdom of Kamalaya has come largely from the East, and is full of tolerance that nurtures the joy of living...


Buddha bringing a mood of peace to the lobby

Indian goddesses presiding over the free form pool by the lily pond

Some pleasures are good for you

Kamalaya, though a destination spa, is nothing like a clinic. It is more like a cosmopolitan village in stunning tropical scenery, warm and friendly, designed to give you back your joy in living with sublime food and blissful spa treatments. .

No one forces you to do anything at Kamalaya. It is up to you. You can lie on a sunbed on the beach with a healthy (or less healthy) drink, do yoga in the sunrise, meditate in the sunset, get fit with a personal trainer or keep busy with other activities from morning to night.

Coconut water on the rocks 

A shrine in the wellness area

Making a choice

Many guests choose to do a package of treatments. On arrival you are entitled to a bio-impedance analysis, to gauge the proportion of fat, versus muscle and bone, and an indication of cellular vitality. After this you meet a naturopath to discuss what programme of treatments would suit you best or how to adjust your pre-booked package.

With a choice of over 70 treatments grouped into packages, it can be very hard to choose. But no need to worry about putting all your eggs in one basket. Doing a relaxing package for example you can engage in a gentler detox as all foods suitable for detox are labelled on the buffet or a la carte menu.

The important thing to know is that the packages include full board. You can eat healthy, amazingly delicious food choosing freely from both the buffet and a la carte menus.

To show what amazing value you get at Kamalaya: at Select Collection you can book a 7 night stay at Kamalaya including accommodation, transfer, a Relax & Renew package of treatments (some 11 hours in total), and all inclusive food and drink (alcohol and imported drinks extra charge) from 3540 EUR from Finland/2880 GBP from the UK/31900 SEK from Sweden/31000 NOK from Norway including international flight from Helsinki/London/Stockholm/Oslo and a wellness voucher for EUR 150. Based on 2 sharing.


A week of top value luxury with so many dimensions, from body to soul.

Room service - delicious, on our villa veranda overlooking the pool and beach - all included in our package. A sure way to beat stress...

Sunset down at the beach - a favourite place and time for private meditation

Since it was founded in 2005, dedicated detox packages have been the number one favourite at Kamalaya. Now the Stress & Burnout programme has passed detox in popularity due to the increasing stresses and strains felt by young business people and professionals. Under repeated stress both body and mind suffer. Symptoms such as inflammation, aches and pains, sleep disorders, depression and drastic loss of energy can all be signs of Adrenal Burnout. Kamalaya comes to the rescue with delicious detoxifying food, low in inflammatory properties, and calming treatments for the nervous system.

The lightest Burnout package Relax & Renew is designed as a super-relaxing holiday and includes several treatments a day, mostly massages of different kinds. The next step up is called Asian Bliss and includes also personal meditation, and a choice of reiki (hands on healing) or Chinese medicine (acupuncture etc.). The most intense Burnout package, the 14 days Balance and Revitalize Comprehensive, includes also personal mentoring, Ayurvedic massage and the amazing Shirodhara therapy – an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that involves dropping warm oils onto the head and body. All packages include relaxing massages.

Other popular packages include Ideal weight and Optimal fitness. See our previous Kamalaya blog about Ulrika's successful weight loss programme.

Flowers and smiling faces all year round...


Sensuality and warmth

Kamalaya is a gift to the senses, starting with the vistas and the smell of flowers and incense. We had a spacious sea-view villa with white corner sofa and big terrace. Our outdoor bathroom was drenched in the perfume of tropical flowers as a tree leant over the curved brick wall.

There are also some delightful waterfront villas with own pools. High up and popular with young people are the seaview suites and the well sized and lowest priced hillside rooms.

Our villa number 44


 Opening soon are some luxury suites with phenomenal views, up near the new gym and the yoga pavilion.


Views from the yoga platform - near the new suites

The resort is built in tropical gardens under very tall palm trees, with a tumbling freshwater stream through it all. It’s a steep slope and at every point you can see the glitter of the sea stretching over to the silhouette of offshore islands.

The stream runs down to goldfish ponds beside a freeform pool among magical sculptures.

The stream joins the pool after running down the steep slope through tropical gardens

The restaurants all have sensational views.  So do the treatment rooms – 40 of them. Drenched in pleasurable sensation after a massage, you open your eyes, and are stunned over again by the brilliance of the vistas.

Now you can wander out to a lookout place to sink into a sofa for a ginger or lemon grass tea in a tiny earthenware pot and wonder at the magic of life. If you had forgotten joy existed, now you will remember.

Meeting people

If you want, you can meet people, or stay in total privacy, dining in your accommodation or sitting alone at tables with a view. 

If you choose to sit at the community tables, as we sometimes did, you will likely meet artists, singers, business people and academics, researchers, housewives, therapists, and mothers on their annual visit while the husband looks after the kids. You see couples, men together, women together, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. (Children are allowed but keep a very low profile). 

The service is memorable. Looking over my shoulder during a meal one of the waitresses asked me: “Are you looking for your colleague? She is up at the heated pool in the Wellness area.”

How did she know all that? It felt like a genuine part of caring.

Nature is supreme - even the  swimming pool looks natural

Losing weight is a pleasure

Food is central to Kamalaya’s charms. Losing weight here is a pleasure. And if you are actually instructed to gain weight (as we were) – life is a fest.

At Kamalaya you learn that healthy food can be far more delicious than unhealthy food. Eaten with pleasure and no worry over the consequences, totally fresh, full of choice, taste and colour.

So many people in the modern world suffer vague unpleasant symptoms – not just caused by stress but by fried food, white starch and sugar – like aching muscles, creeping sensations, flatulence, restless nights. Our millions of years of human evolution did not prepare us for refined food, and our bodies don’t tend to cope.

After a plane journey you may feel even worse so it  can take a few days to feel really good and rested. But you will notice results.

The choice of food is vast – the menus go on and on – everything from Thai and international vegetarian to organic meat and fish.  Labels guide you to a detox diet - without sugar, dairy and wheat – if you want to go that route.

You can take or leave detox - the buffets are all labelled like this corner of the breakfast feast

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices in dozens of health giving combinations can be ordered almost all day long, each long glass adorned with orchids or pieces of pineapple.




We enjoyed many memorable dishes from those three heavy “books” the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Among our favourites were:

  • Lobster and mango salad with coconut and wasabi dressing;
  • Roasted pumpkin and sunflower seed dumplings with balsamic vinegar and ruccola;
  • Chilled avocado soup with galanajulienne;
  • Vietnamese spring rolls with steamed rice wrapping around poached prawns with vegetables and chili sauce.
  • Quinoa sushi with tamarind sauce;
Quinoa sushi among many detox options - with the nutty crunchy taste of sesame

Though if  I have to choose one it would be the...

  • Baked black cod with avocado, cucumber and watermelon mustard sauce. 
Cries of delight were also heard from those enjoying...

  •  Australian lamb filled with Zucchini and fig caponata.

Desserts were astounding, and good for you.
  • How about raw chocolate and avocado cake? 
  • Or chocolate mousse without dairy or sugar?
Those were just a few examples.

Like a dream come true

After a punishing health diet, one girl here was like a soul reborn. She had felt in a prison, unable to dine out as so little was available in Sweden and had entirely lost her appetite. Suddenly the world of joy and plenty has come to her – without breaking her regime.

As Linda from press & public relations explained: "Kamalaya is sometimes criticized by purists, for allowing meat (although grass fed and organic) AND desserts. But we know that too many prohibitions can be counter productive. Too many rules, can result in an all-or-nothing attitude that encourages eating disorders, like food binges or anxiety and appetite loss."

So some indulgence is allowed, even invited...yes, pleasure can be good for you.


Thank you, thank you, thank you…


I was in the Wellness area’s change rooms, where women come and go from their treatments, wrapped in sarongs.

Hearing talk about an astounding meditation session with Smitha, a young woman burst out: “Smitha…isn’t she amazing. She can see into your soul!”

She explained what lead her to Kamalaya and Smitha - her business. “I have had so much stress with my company growing fast and five of my best consultants going on maternity leave. I needed a holiday. I thought of going to a dedicated detox resort to lose weight, luckily I didn't. I registered for detox at Kamalaya but at my wellness consultation they pointed out I was in far too fragile state for heavy detox – I had adrenal burnout.

“So I am doing a stress and burnout programme to help me run my business – including time with a mentor, Smitha.”

She added with delightfully British irony: “I thought that she would help me write a business plan – instead she got me to find emotional obstacles from my childhood. She is amazing.”

Several people had found Kamalaya by accident (or divine luck). They asked their travel agents for a holiday resort where they could swim and have good food and maybe some yoga. They found so much more…

A song writer from Sydney, who merely came for a holiday by the sea said: “When I got here I was given a wellness consultation so I enrolled for Relax & Renew (5 night package) spread over 10 days. I go running up the mountain on my own trail (5 km) – use the gym and do relaxing treatments. Evenings I go to my room (a seaview suite) to write songs.”

In particular he found the Indian Head massage utterly amazing. Then he went on to try meditation with Smitha. With the addition of yoga and mocktails (instead of cocktails) he ended up very inspired and ready to keep up a healthy lifestyle on return to Sydney.

Several guests we met had chosen to do a la carte treatments for a spiritual path of healing and self discovery.

I found one of these guests next to me at the lookout point. She was staring at the view but suddenly could not keep it to herself.

“I want to cry it is so beautiful,” she said, adding she would have her last swim and then return to Australia today. Some 10 minutes later I was in one of the lunch dining salas as she ran past to the beach. She stopped by one of the mentors, and was beaming, radiating with bliss and joy.
“I just have to say thank you,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”

Ganesh, beside a waterfall as the stream leaps down the slope


At any one time Kamalaya boasts 60 to 80% repeaters!  Most resorts in November on Koh Samui were running at 50% - it is the rainy season on the island – but Kamalaya was at 80% occupancy.

Everyone I spoke to wants to come back – everyone felt Kamalaya was their own special place. As we do…

A Spirit House in the gardens, reminding of the spiritual side of Kamalaya
View from our villa

Getting to feel good

One of the open treatment rooms with views to die for

Perhaps you won't feel good straight away. You can feel jittery waking in the morning with the old stress habits of what shall I DO now, unable to sit still. But it soon passes.

The great thing is you start your day facing mountains of papaya and bitter sweet pomelo, wheat grass shots to stimulate your immune system…and if you wish it, cappuccino, omelettes, pancakes….or raw salads, quinoa bread and many other choices. 

Meanwhile you have a sense of purpose with your programme of treatments. You feel pampered and taken care of, and begin to feel life's true potential. 

Starting early in the morning before breakfast you can keep even more active by including the complementary programme of activities.

Start the day perhaps with yoga way up on the yoga pavilion with far views over the sea. Follow with pranayama breathing or yoga and meditation. In the afternoon you could perhaps join a tea ceremony, pilates session, tai chi, aqua aerobics at the pool, or a power walk.


Yoga - image from Kamalaya

There is a changing programme of visiting practitioners, world leaders in their field. These are not included in the packages, but they do offer appetizers as part of the complementary activities.

In all this you meet wonderful people BUT more important you meet yourself…the part you will take onward with you home again. The part you need to treasure…

Leaving Kamalaya is a sad moment. It’s not easy to go back to the world from this paradise of nourishment for body and soul.

But for days afterwards we felt a warm glow,  enriched by the experiences of peace and harmony, the moments of self knowledge, and the dream of returning one day to Kamalaya.

Next time though  – we will stay two weeks!

How to get to Kamalaya

40 mins by car from Samui International Airport. We came from Vana Belle via a wonderful new terracotta  Buddhist temple called The Rock and the Snake and enjoyed the knowledge of Destination Asia.

In a nutshell

A destination spa with a lovely tropical setting and warm and tolerant attitude, You can join in complementary activities like yoga and tai chi, just lie on the beach with a book, or engage yourself in a package of wellness activities addressing stress & burnout, weight loss or gain, fitness or yoga synergy. Packages include fullboard and a la carte meals. The food is outstanding. 

Images: (c)  Aleah L Stanbridge Photography & Select Collection . The last 2 images are press photos from Kamalaya.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NEW YORK FOR ART LOVERS & THE CARLYLE

Our guest blogger Sonja Catani looks at a lovely hotel well placed for a busy art weekend in New York. Then from The Carlyle she takes us on an art spree in the Big Apple...

New York over a long weekend is very popular and a great way to get a lot of city-buzz in a short time. I’ve found that putting a theme to a weekend trip makes it easier to plan and get the most out of three-four days.  Popular themes are hotel-hopping, shopping-hopping, NY marathon-weekend or food-weekend. 

This time we chose art weekend.** 

We left Stockholm on the morning plane and arrived by lunchtime in New York and went directly to our favorite New York hotel: The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel.

Nothing beats The Carlyle in my opinion, its understated luxury, great service, perfect location, and of course the fabulous rooms. These are the most important features in a hotel for me, but I also value The Carlyle for the spa and the amazing breakfast – funnily enough since I’m not a breakfast person at all, but when staying in a hotel I always wake up hungry and end up eating massive breakfast meals.

Corner suite at The Carlyle on the 17th floor of the Carlyle tower


A greeting from Select Collection in my room


In the middle of it all - Our view from the Carlyle


More about The Carlyle here.

Here we enjoyed a wonderful spa treatment, were well placed for our art lovers weekend in NewYork, and for dining in the neighbourhood. We didn't miss the New York MUST - a jazz experience at the famous Bemelmans in The Carlyle. More below...


Art or play?

Art a few blocks away

Just a few blocks away from The Carlyle, on the corner of Madison and 75th Street we enjoyed the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Whitney (http://whitney.org). However, when you read this, both the incredible exhibition that covered four stories of the museum, and the Whitney are closed and have moved! The Whitney will reopen in May 2015 between the Highline and Hudson river down in Meatpacking district in a building designed by Renzo Piano. I’m sure it will be fabulous. But Upper East Side lovers don’t have to fear, The Metropolitan Museum of Art's contemporary collection (http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/museum-departments/curatorial-departments/modern-and-contemporary-art) will move in to the bulky but cool 60’s building that housed the Whitney for decades.

Jeff Koons, Jeff Koons, Jeff Koons and me

Walking distance from The Carlyle are also lots of other museums and galleries. My favorites are the Guggenheim museum (http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york), the Neue Gallery (http://www.neuegalerie.org) and the Frick Collection (http://www.frick.org). Visiting all three in one day gives you a perspective from classic art (Frick), to modern (Neue) and contemporary art (Guggenheim). Current exhibitions are listed on their web sites.

Art by subway

Then take the subway down town from just two streets down from The Carlyle on Lexington, and head to the Gallery district where the best galleries are all clustered under the Highline between 10th and 11th avenue and on 19th to 25th street. It’s a perfect afternoon excursion. The galleries off course feature new artists all the time, but if you’re not into surprises, check out the detailed shows on http://chelseagallerymap.com

Jet-lagged evening

 Round up the afternoon with a stroll on the Highline, and then head for an early casual dinner at Eataly / http://www.eataly.com/nyc), next to Flatiron building. It’s perfect for that first slightly jet-lagged evening and you feel that you are in busy New York, without having to part-take too much in the activities. Download the Uber-app before you go to New York, to avoid all possible taxi problems, because by early evening you’re just longing for that huge comfortable bed in the tower of The Carlyle.

Eately

Lunch and dinner

The next day we arranged to meet young Swedish artist Anders Krisár and his lovely wife Jeanette for lunch at Balthazar (http://balthazarny.com) on 80 Spring Street. Balthazar is always fun for people spotting, but make sure to ask the great concierge in The Carlyle to book a table, as many other people also like Balthazar and hence its extremely popular every day of the week, all hours.

Anders and Jeanette Krisår next to a model for the new brass work


Anders and Jeanette Krisár (http://anderskrisar.com) moved to New York not too long ago and rented a whole house in China town just on the border to Soho. They sublet each of the floors to different Swedish artists. First floor you will meet Cajsa von Seipel (http://www.cajsavonzeipel.com) most famous for her giant sculptures of mutated teenagers. Second floor is Matthias van Arkel (http://matthiasvanarkel.com) who’s exhibiting soon at Margaret Thatcher’s gallery in Chelsea Gallery district. Charlotte Gyllenhammar (http://charlottegyllenhammar.com/index1.asp), who’s left New York and is back in Sweden, still keeps a room in the “Swedish art building” and the of course you have Anders’ own studio. To Swedes I say try and contact the artists and go and meet them, it’s a great way to promote Swedish contemporary art in New York. We should all be very proud of them.

Dining around The Carlyle

Back on Upper East Side in the evening, we had drinks with some friends who live on 5th avenue. Once again I can’t stress the importance of a hotel’s location, the neighborhood of The Carlyle is lovely and there are great small bistros and restaurants to choose from if you want a good meal with local Upper East Siders.

We rounded up the evening with a drink in the Bemelmans art deco style bar in the hotel. The bar is famous for it’s unique drawings on the walls, deciphering the daily lives of New Yorker’s, a heritage from child book author Ludwig Bemelmans himself. Every night there’s a jazz band  and it’s a total must-must to visit the Bemelmans. Another must is Cafe Carlyle where Woody Allen plays the clarinet with a New Orleans jazz band on Mondays..

Jazz at Bemelmans at The Carlyle

On our last morning I visited he beautiful spa on the third floor of The Carlyle. I’d booked the jet-lag facial treatment with the Spa’s signature Intraceuticals oxygen treatment. It’s advertised as an all-natural alternative to surgical procedures. I say, go for it! Wish it would be available in Sweden as well.


The MoMa

Looking like a new person and fresh from sleep and a great breakfast, we went for a final art experience – The MoMa. Both my husband and I love the MoMa and this time we got to see the Matisse Paper Cuttings exhibition. If you don’t have time to catch it in New York, try to see it when it comes to Europe next time. For MoMa, ask the concierge at The Carlyle to book tickets in advance for specific time entry – otherwise you might have accept tickets for whichever time they have an opening next, might be hours away.
.

The MoMa
After three fantastic days we headed onwards on to our next adventure, a road trip to Rhode Island and Newport. The adventure started after Bronx bridge when we immediately got lost…. And it wasn’t my fault. But that’s whole another story!

My suggestions

  1. If you want to do an art-weekend the easy way, you choose to go in when it’s time for Frieze Art Fair (in 2015 it will be on the 14th to 17th at Randall island)
  2. Subscribe to former General Counsel Olle Wästberg’s news letter about New York – great restaurant tips and up to date info on political and cultural news. http://www.wastberg.se/villhanyhetsbrev.php
  3. Follow Instagram and Twitter accounts to get in the mood before the trip.

  • The Carlyle Hotel @thecarlylehotel
  • Humans of New York @humansofny
  •  New York Times @nytimesphoto
  • New York Academy of Art @nyacademyofart
  • MoMA The Museum of Modern Art @themuseumofmodernart
  • Best Food New York @BestFoodNY, 
and of course
  • Select Collection @selectcollection


About Sonja Catani
First of all, I love to travel and people in my network want to read my stories. Select Collection are kind enough to publish them and they are free to use my travelling ambassador stories as a marketing tool. You can follow my travels at Instagram and twitter user @weekendshoppers hash-tag #weekendhoppers or #selectcollection.


** Regarding our choice of art weekend: Seriously, we would never choose the marathon-weekend… The furthest my husband and I have ever run is to the local gallery opening or last minute spa treatment.




Not ready to run...
Secret entrance to the Swedish Artists' Building in between market stalls in China Town

Sunday, December 14, 2014

HOTEL CHECK THAILAND, Vana Belle

Koh Samui. Coconut island. We start our return visit with a stay at Vana Belle, new to the classy Select Collection portfolio in 2014 

Vana Belle is an immaculate, rather new Starwood property where you can enjoy your own private pool and a real beach holiday with pleasant bathing in warm turquoise sea. The beach is called Chaweng Noi – not to be confused with Chaweng beach proper.

Chaweng Noi is not a private beach (beaches cannot be declared private in Thailand) but it is quiet and clean, cut off from the longer and more popular Chaweng beaches by a headland. It is undeniably one of the hotel’s greatest assets. Chaweng Noi has a long stretch of sand, and is great for bathing.



Down at beach level the hotel has a restaurant, bar and swimming pool, and this is where you cannot resist spending your time, even though you have your private pool. Along the fringe of the beach the hotel has immaculate sunbed service – offered the moment the attendant sees your Vana Belle beach basket. 

The hotel's beach restaurant  facing the quiet beach with sunbeds, parasols and good beach service

The air temperature at the end of October was over 30 degrees, so a lot of swimming was called for …. And very pleasant indeed though you don’t cool down much as the water is up at 28 degrees C.

Adding colour and authenticity the occasional hawker passes by – non intrusively offering cotton dresses and sarongs. And a couple of massage platforms can be found some 100 m up the beach, apparently run independently by Thai women at Thai prices (starting from 300 baht per hour).

We dined at the hotel beach restaurant for nice food at quite reasonable prices by Swedish standards. But particularly memorable was the Vana Belle breakfast.


Breakfast starts with a fresh tropical zest

As in all luxury resorts we stayed at on this visit to Thailand, the buffet started with delectable papaya, golden and juicy ripe, crimson watermelon slices, bitter sweet pomelo. Then of course frothy cappuccino with croissants and that sort of temptation laid out on the buffet. 

You can also enjoy Asian dinner-type food at breakfast, or eggs and bacon, and other typically European a la carte breakfast items along with the buffet. Finally the contemporary touch – smoothies. We recommend a magical concoction of tasty fluffiness – the soya, vanilla and litchi smoothie. It was so nice that every morning we awoke thinking of the next breakfast and the next delectable smoothie.

We carried it out of the air-conditioned breakfast room onto the terrace to sit in the warm shade, closer to the intense aquamarine sea view.

Views are one of the great charms of Vana Belle, as the hotel is stepped down a steep slope amid greenery, facing beach and sea.

The lobby is splendidly open with pillars and arches, and a glass house perched next to lovely ponds with lilies, elephant sculptures and the blue sea beyond. It all gives a sense of place. This is Thailand as you want it to be – gracious and graceful, open and relaxing.


The lobby with its Thai details

...and view

Rooms with a view - and a pool

The first two nights we had a deluxe pool suite. Our infinity edge pool was on a terrace with an open front – and a view over greenery to the sea.

Comfortable. Sleek, contemporary, well designed. Everything you need in that deluxe pool suite’s 86 square metres. Your dressing room and suitcases happily hidden away, and the rest of the suite delightfully open plan with the long double vanities and the cream marble bath given a view out over the two queensize beds.

From bed a lovely view of the sunrise over the sea.

But then we moved to an Ocean View Pool Suite, and there was something more than contemporary charm. There was Wow!

A combination of a bigger pool, with sunbeds embedded in the water, along with a wider and more open view, a bathtub on the terrace where we just had to bath in the darkness, listening to the sea. The bathroom moreover had a dressing table where you could blow dry your hair by the mirror – sitting, and there were his and hers cupboards with places for his and hers suitcases. While his and hers vanities looked out at the sea. 

A pool with a sea view

A bed with a sea view

A bath with a sea view . Sunken sunbeds with a view...
It was all so delightful that when I awoke at 5am, instead of floating off back to sleep in the very comfortable five star bed I made myself some (complimentary) tea and took it out to the coffee table embedded in the pool beside the sunbeds. Early morning tea is an enjoyable ritual. But now it was truly magnificent. Sitting over the glittering water as the sun rose, viewing a big tropical tree with big rubbery leaves, a glimpse of the creamy sandy beach, and then the sea…

After that – to wonderful breakfast.

Another highly desirable accommodation is the Tropical Pool Villa with access to the sandy beach, and a spacious 211 sqm. Altogether there are 80 pool suites and villas.

Facilities


Spa, gym, two restaurnats, Lobby Lounge.

Things to do


Well if you need some summer clothes to deal with the heat of Thailand. The endless shops of Chaweng are only a 400 baht taxi ride away.

The Chaweng shopping centre is a little basic when it comes to the design of its concrete structures, but does house some designer shops a stone’s throw away from the market and all its noise and cut price wares.

The long one way shopping street feels more authentic, even if a little noisy at times with moving adverts as vans drive down with music loud and voices announcing about a disco or other delights.

Plenty of restaurants and bars here, offering traditional dishes from as little as 80 baht. Stalls offering crepes with bananas and cinnamon offer another delicious absurdly low priced snack.

I discovered an excellent hairdresser (adjacent to McDonalds) who offered a lie flat chair for the hair wash. Not surprising in the country of massage, she also gives your head a massage while washing. She could speak English, used nice products, and was an expert in shaping with a blow dry.

Meanwhile you could be shopping for attractive long dresses that can be worn night and day – from a mere 500 baht. Or Israelii designer clothes with plenty of attitude.

Getting home to the hotel is not a problem as taxis glide down the shopping street all evening. Prepped by the hotel to say 400 baht we found no opposition from the taxi drivers, rather an enthusiastic yes. Obviously many people haggle with them for lower.

For the active: The Lad Koh Viewpoint, a 3-minute drive from Vana Belle, offers breathtaking sunrise and panoramic views. Hin Lad Waterfall is reached by 2-km jungle path from the main road to the waterfall. You can also book boat cruises out to nice snorkeling reefs, elephant trekking, temple tours. The 12m tall golden statue Big Buddha is the most famous of the sights.


How to get to Vana Belle

15 minutes by car from Samui International Airport. Our flight with Bangkok Air came from Bangkok, where we landed with Thai.


Who to stay

People who want a beach holiday in an immaculate suite with pool, away from the hub, yet within reach of shopping and local dining. There are many steps up and down. Though it seems you can reach everything by buggy, including the beach restaurant, it does seem better suited to those who enjoy exercise.

Panpuri amenities

In a nutshell


New, serene and smoothly contemporary Starwood hotel with friendly staff, and a lovely public beach where you really feel like spending time on sunbeds, at the pool, the bar or the beachside restaurant.


PS. The beach massage parlour.

We did try them and we did find language barriers in directing the massage. I also found my masseur who doubled up as manicurist needed glasses – never did I have such a shaky manicure. But overall with those low prices it was a fun experience.

Some 100 metres down the beach from Vana Belle, the coconut roofted massage parlour offers a rustic and picturesque setting
Images: Aleah Stanbridge Photography and Select Collection. First beach image by Vana Belle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

HOTEL CHECK CYPRUS, Anassa

Lars Ohlsén returns to one of Select Collection’s European favourites, built like a Cypriot village around a classical marble palace. In Mediterranean gardens along a lovely beach – a destination in itself.

Like a palace - marble and crystal, with classical patterns and contemporary flair.

Anassa is the perfect place to retreat. The resort is an excellent size (166 rooms and suites) and layout. Villas and suites are spread out and everything is within easy reach, just a short walk through the lush gardens; and it is never too crowded. You can walk or be driven by golf carts around the resort if you prefer.

The resort is immaculate. There is almost no sign of wear and tear here. All is kept in top condition by a big staff of workers.

A Byzantine dome adds exotic ambience and distinction. 

Accommodations


Suites to die for - the Aphrodite Suite


On a walk around the resort I was shown some of the outstanding accommodations including the glamourous Aphrodite and Adonis suites for couples and honeymooners, each offering a terrace with big outdoor Jacuzzi and stunning views over the bay. The rooms in the main building are very private, some with plunge pools.


Living room for Aphrodite


My garden suite is part of a Villa with four apartments situated near the pool area with perfect view over the sea and the whole resort, main building and the villas. The Garden Suite is a lovely room category and it has a nice roomy balcony.


Garden suite with ocean view

The room interiors are very easy on the eye;  marble floors and beige walls apart from some bamboo furniture, which will be replaced during the winter closure November to March. My only remark is the  32 inch TVs reception and variety of entertainment and a slow Wi-Fi need updates.

Anassa has a mix of guests - some families with kids and older couples. They are here for relaxation, the sea, beautiful views and of course the food and the service. There are a lot of facilities and entertainment programs for kids of different ages, but in low season there are only a few families, all with well behaved kids.

The main building contains lobby, three restaurants, a bar and meeting rooms. Spa is on the ground floor nearby.




Nearby

This secluded spot lies on the edge of the Akamas peninsula offering beaches, fishing villages, turtle sanctuary and the Baths of Aphrodite where the goddess is said to have bathed. That is alright, but I see no reason to leave this resort. Everything at Anassa is so perfect you don’t want to miss a minute here.

Restaurants

Amphora where you have the breakfast buffet has a stunning outside view. Also Lunch and Dinner buffets here are of very high standard, I especially appreciated the sea food buffet – great variety and super fresh.

Helios is fine dining with international menu and a nice garden for outdoor dining under the olive trees.


Pile of seafood delicacies from Pelagos

Basiliko, romantic stylish dining in a crypt, but it is light and very beautiful in white colours. Food here is Asian-Mediterranean fusion. Top quality of food and perfect, very attentive service. Loved their Miso black cod and Saganaki prawns.


Basiliko Prawn Saganaki

Desserts from Basiliko

Pelagos, near the main pool serves lunch with lighter meals as burgers, pasta and a fantastic seafood platter. Same top quality, but the fine sea food was too wet from the melting bed of ice it was served on. Pool bar nearby below has the same menu as served on the beach.

Since I was on full board I had the great opportunity to try as many of the restaurants as possible during my short stay. And I did! I only missed Helios because I joined the BBQ on the beach that special night. I do not regret this; it was a unique and very romantic experience. A lovely setting right on the sand, very close to the water with waves coming in almost under your table. Candlelit all the way down to the beach and the large grill where chefs prepared delicious seafood and meat to guests who, apart from the lovely setting, could enjoy a troubadour playing acoustic guitar. On other nights there is a traditional village feast with decorations and dancing in Anassa’s own little village square.


Beach BBQ - desserts

Beach

In a beautiful bay lies a very clean lovely beach so secluded that it is almost private to Anassa’s guests. The water is very clear and the beach has large grained volcanic sand (very hard to jog or exercise on).

On the beach service is provided by Anassa -  sunbeds, towels, drinks, lighter meals served at your sunbed.



Meal on the beach

Thalassa Spa

Large renowned top spa that is very beautiful with large open areas with a lot of sunlight coming in. Wide variety of treatments and consultations, large indoor pool, and a special jet stream massage pool. Treatments is 100 € for 60 min.

There are daily yoga and pilates classes. There is a small gym, tennis courts and even one squash court. I joined Pilates classes and had one combination treatment salt scrubbing/massage. The experience was very good in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.


How to get to Anassa

185 km and 2 hrs from Larnaca by car, 45 km and 40 mins from Pafos/Paphos.


In a nutshell

This hotel is in a remote place but it is well worth the trip – to experience this stunning resort and what happens on it. Excellent service and immaculate buildings in a lovely location. A week or a long weekend at Anassa is a perfect vacation. The hotel is a worthy destination itself.


The stylish entrance



View from our room - heated pool by the Kids Club
Water features, arches and impressive architecture


Built like a village
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