Six Senses Paro
And so after a leisurely breakfast we were off to Paro. The two resorts are at approximately the same height but the Paro resort is minutes away from the airport; so it was definitely a good idea to come here.
On the way to the hotel we stopped at the National Museum. The museum looked has a round , winding structure. The grounds were large and has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. What was really interesting were the winding staircases that took us down to each floor.
The route was wonderful. Hanging bridges, colourful flags and numerous prayer wheels were at the side of the road as we traveled to this beautiful resort. The cold weather had already made us hungry and we enjoyed the wonderful and warm Bhutanese food as we arrived at the hotel.
Post lunch we went to the room. The room was spacious and large. Unfortunately the altitude was an issue for me now and I started having a little difficulty breathing. The guide was ever prepared and immediately brought out a small oxygen tank which helped me tons. The town of Paro is very quaint with a few shops selling marked up artefacts. It also is dotted with numerous coffee shops.
Six Senses across the world are known for their spas so sure enough in the evening I decided to get a massage. The spa is under ground and a short walk from the main building. The one hour treatment left me feeling relaxed and a lot better than my breathless afternoon.
After a delicious dinner in the room we slept, relaxed post the wonderful massage.
The next morning we left post breakfast to Tiger’s Nest. Now if you plan to trek up to Tiger’s Nest , Paro Taktsang, also known as the Taktsang Palphug Monastery and the Tiger’s Nest is a sacred Vajrayana Himalayan Buddhist site located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley it is advised to leave early if you wish to climb to the top. It is said that this climb can take 4 hours or more. At the half way mark there is a cafe and rest stops. A donkey can carry you up to the half way mark but post that you have to climb yourself.There are about 700 steps down and then 250 steps up at the end. But the steps are a very small part of the journey which consists of a trekking route. Returning, of course, there are about 250 steps down and then 700 steps up. The hike is approximately 6 km.
With me finding it hard to breathe, we didn’t do the trek. We took a few pictures and then drove back to Kyichu Lhakhang.
This was beautiful.The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo. We walked around the peaceful lawns and prayed and spun the prayer wheels before heading back home.
The evening was an exciting one. We had booked a special temple blessing and post that a wonderful dinner at the ruins of the hotel.
The blessing was glorious. We lit beautiful diyas and then sat in from on monks while they chanted and prayed. It was truly a sublime experience. Post the beautiful blessing we were taken to the ruins which had been lit up just for us. The chef had also made some Indian food in case we were craving that. The meal was in multiple courses but what made the night so special is that they had special local performances. Dances dressed in fabulous costumes and danced traditional celebratory dances for us. The costumes were wonderful. From their traditional Kira to dressing like a dragon; we were treated to a multitude of costumes. The performers danced and sang while food was served. The 2 bonfires and the beautiful lighting served a perfect backdrop to a truly special evening.
Evening done, we slept happy and woke up and checked out at a comfortable time since we were barely minutes from the airport.
Six Senses Thimpu
Six Senses Thimpu is a beautiful hotel. With rooms facing the Great Buddha Dordenma; to wake up in the morning looking at this exquisite sight is truly unbelievable. We arrived in Thimpu about 75- 90 minutes from the Paro Airport. Since our flight had been at an awfully difficult time; we chose to use the day to rest, spa and relax. The Six Senses across the world , are known for their phenomenal spas so it made sense to massage the exhaustion out of us. It also made sense to get used to the altitude. If you do have high blood pressure or do tend to get breathless; this may be something you speak to your doctor about so they can help make the trip a lot easier.
Six Senses curates itineraries for you and I was very happy with the 4 night 5 day itinerary that they had curated for us in Bhutan.
So the next morning we went to see the Great Buddha Dordenma. This is is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world, at 169 feet (52 m). It is important to note that in places of worship; it is important to dress conservatively and wear no cap/ hat. Also within the Buddha there can be no photographs taken.Walking around the Buddha you are able to marvel at the sight of the valleys below and the gorgeous peace radiating from this very holy space. Inside the Buddha you’ll see monks praying and some looking thru Facebook! You’ll also see many altars you can pray from. The space us filled with calm and light.
We then went to the Simply Bhutan Museum which shared with us how locals live, their style of dressing and even the foods that they eat. The museum is tiny but they have a pre arranged tour where you are moved from space to space ; hence it does take approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Post this we were taken to a beautiful park for a picnic lunch. After a quick stop to see the national animal the takin- which is a mixture between a yak, a horse and a bull; we then headed back to the hotel to rest for the evening.
The evening was wonderful. A dance program had been arranged for the lodge with wine and hors d’oeuvres and a series of dances were performed with the tales surrounding these dances. This was absolutely lovely. On a crisp spring evening ; covered in blankets and shawls dancing with locals and watching locals dance was definitely a highlight of our trip.
The next day post a leisurely breakfast it was off to Paro!
Cost-:$1100 per night+Service fee and Tourism fee which varies basis the country you come from
Best times to Travel-:March/ April and May when the weather is pleasant and it’s spring time.
Wild Coast Tented Lodge
Adjacent to the Yala National Park is the spectacular beachfront safari lodge- Wild Coast Tented Lodge. Part of Relaix and Chateau group and another member of Resplendent Ceylon. The lodge is exquisite , tasteful perfect rooms, a gorgeous lobby and a caring and thoughtful staff. Metres away from the Yala National Park, when you stay at the lodge; you can book game drives to see the animals at the park.
To get to the park , you can take a private flight to an airstrip from the airport.
The rooms are lovely. The Cocoon suite with a plunge pool was what we chose and the room was lovely. The room colours worked with the environment and the room was luxury and quirky both. The pool was just a plunge pool but with the warm weather outside was good for a quick dip!
We did an all inclusive trip which involved 3 Game drives and a nature walk with a ranger where we spotted paw marks , saw a variety of birds and even spotted a huge herd of elephants as they came to the watering hole for a drink of water. The Game drives were lots of fun. We saw plenty of elephants and lots of animals easily and the guide was knowledgeable. The guided walk also turned out very fun as walking through the jungle comes with it’s own challenges.
Food at the Lodge was wonderful and they tried to cater to our tastes as best as they could.
They also organised a special candle light dinner for us which had grilled and barbecue food and was delicious. They even organised a fun breakfast in the bush post a game drive!
Though the lodge is bordered by a beach and opens out to the sea; the sand is rocky and the sea rough; so it’s not recommended to swim in.
If you’re looking for a luxury safari lodge near Yala National Park, Wild Coast Tented Lodge is the perfect choice. With its stunning location, exquisite rooms, and attentive staff, this lodge is sure to make your stay unforgettable.
Cost-:US$ 4,712 for four nights on Fully Inclusive Basis- definitely worth it.
Best Times to Travel-:February to June during the dry season. With less water in the ponds, it’s easier to spot animals coming out to drink. The peak season for leopards is February and March. We missed the leopards and just saw a leopard tail as it was asleep on a tree… but maybe you’ll be luckier!
Druk Air- Royal Bhutan Airlines is one of the only flights allowed to land in the extremely difficult Paro Airport. These flights currently in India leave from Delhi and Kolkata but they plan to extend to Mumbai in the near future. This is Bhutan’s national carrier.
There are 2 classes – Business and Economy. The Business class has a sufficient amount of leg room. The seats however do not recline. The seats are comfortable but basic and on a 4 am flight; I really needed to sleep. The welcome drink is a mocktail or cocktail ( a signature recipe).
The crew is polite and unobtrusive. The food service is quick and silent and the coffee is strong!
I really wanted to sleep but I’m glad I was kept awake because the landing in Paro is spectacular. In fact the visibility was so bad we had to take a second round just to land. When you land on the strip bordered with the most gorgeous mountain ranges; you forget about the seats and the mush that masqueraded as food and you marvel at the pilot brave enough to land.
All in all Druk Air is an airline that has a wonderful crew. The airline passes muster. As a national carrier, it rates as above average.
Six Senses Con Dao
It was #ParentTrap again and this time we decided to try the beautiful Six Senses Con Dao. Getting to Vietnam from India does involve multiple flights but Vietnam Airlines has a lovely business class and in a few hours with a couple of change overs we were in Vietnam.
A good note is to organise the Visa from India itself. the additional amount that you pay in India to fast-track your immigration process is well worth it.
Entering in to Con Dao is almost like entering your own private paradise. We’d booked Ocean Front duplex Villas so the beach in front of our Villa was almost exclusively ours. The sea was gorgeous and warm and all the exhaustion from the trip just melted away.
Downstairs we had a fabulous bathtub overlooking the sea and upstairs was a lovely bedroom.
What I loved about Six Senses Con Dao, was that it was effortless for us to plan things to do together. There were so many activities they could plan with you , that spending time with our parents doing fun, interesting things was truly a blast!
So off we were to of a cookery class together- not realising that we were quite literally making our lunch and then eating it as well. There was the uproariously funny water aerobics we took part in and of course the exceptional Chef’s Table Dinner where they introduced us to their fabulous selection of wine.
But the piece d’ resistance was the sundowner and dinner they laid out for us on the last night on the beach- lighting it up with just candles.
The food in Vietnam is light and tasty and the chefs were wonderful working to try and capture all our tastes and likes.
Con Dao should definitely be on your list and you should only stay at Six Senses!
Cost-: $2500 /- approx for an Island Getaway which includes a daily buffet breakfast, round-trip airport transfers ,complimentary homemade ice-cream from 11:30 to 16:30 hrs, a bottle of champagne ,assorted macarons and chocolate dipped fruits, and a plate of savory amenity. ,complimentary minibar: daily replenished, local soft drinks & beers ,one Complimentary experience (once during the stay)
Best times to Travel-:From April to October, turtles nest on the beaches around the Islands.During February to July, the waters around Con Dao are at their clearest for diving, with visibility averaging around 70 to 100 feet. But I loved November to February where the weather is cool and comfortable.
Going to Soneva had been a huge huge wish of mine and so when on one trip we could stay a few extra days that’s where we decided we’d go!
At the Bangkok airport , there’s a separate small counter for Soneva Kiri. Here they check you in and you’re escorted to a lounge. On this particular morning, there was no-one at the counter and it was rather stressful but the next time we took the same trip; they had someone waiting, so I’ll count the first one as an anomaly.
You then board a flight which is about an hour long and you reach a small strip of land converted into an airstrip. From there it’s a boat and you reach the fabulous Soneva Kiri.
The first time Aditya and I went to Soneva Kiri I have to admit it was glorious. The barefoot luxury was at its best and our Ms. Friday (our butler) was incredible. The room is huge and spacious; outside of which there is a glorious pool.You can wander further down into a little beach or you can take your own buggy (with your names) and wander towards the spa, the restaurant or even to just get ice cream.
The first time we traveled to Soneva was in 2018 and the 2nd was in 2022. In 2018 , to go to their private beach you’d take a long tailed boat and in a few minutes you’d e at this most gorgeous strip of land! Now in 2022 , they’ve created a small beach like area on the island itself which you can drive to. Personally I preferred 2018- both the beach and the experience. On both our trips we chose the all inclusive package. This allowed us to enjoy each of the different experiences offered without worrying about the additional cost.
The View is one of their most beautiful spaces. It has fine dining and incredible views. Eating there at sunset is truly memorable.
Cinema Paradiso is also exceptional. to watch films across a strip of water on a large screen is wonderful especially if you love films like Aditya and I do.
We paid only extra for the Treepod dining. The Treepod dining is a wonderful little table on the top of a tree The view is gorgeous, but the service is slow as the staff is quite literally swinging down. This makes the meal longer than necessary and once you tire of the view ; well all you have left is to wait.
Our Ms. Friday was always less than a phone call away and was unobtrusive and yet always available. This was very different on our 2022 trip though. This time our butler was loud, spent time complaining about himself and was an absolute nuisance. In fact if we wanted to do anything, we tried and avoided him as much as possible. And likewise , he avoided picking up our calls as well.
The resort has not aged well in the 4 years and the staff like our Mr. Friday are not doing anything to make the experience memorable. In fact, he has ensured I will never go back again. The rooms is 2022 are still gorgeous, but in 2 of the rooms we tried this time the air conditioning wasn’t working at all. Despite the staff ‘fixing’ the air conditioning in our final room (we had moved 3 rooms thus far), it barely worked and it didn’t help that this was summer.
The one experience however that we truly loved was the trip to Chef Benz for Thai food. This is an exceptional experience. You are taken by long tailed boat to the restaurant and fed till your hearts content. The food is fresh and delicious and thought we had the same experience twice; it was still exceptional!
Would I go back?
No. The butler this time was awful. He wouldn’t pick up calls, was uninterested and rude and had his own drama happening. Service in a hotel of this calibre is paramount and the service had just dropped. You are only as good as your last visit. And so despite the incredible views and the perfect location, the service just was such a let down. A shame, especially since I’d brought my parents to Soneva to show off what I had seen and experienced- ‘a little slice of heaven.’ Sad, that it takes just a lax attitude to destroy even paradise.
Cost-:$1300 upwards for Bed and Breakfast. All inclusive is additional.
Best times to Travel-October to February when the weather is cool
For my One and Only
It was Aditya’s birthday and we decided to go to a place Aditya had never been to- Mauritius. Now, I had been to Mauritius once briefly and it was a difficult trip. My Dad (Achan) had suffered a heart attack and I was entrusted with the responsibility of bringing him back home. Needless to say the trip, though in a glorious location was a frightening trip. Achan is great now (touch wood) but that was my only memory of Mauritius.
It’s time to make some new memories, we decided so off we went to Maurius and decided to stay at the One and Only St Geran. Air Mauritius had us there in a few hours and the resort is 60 mins away by car or a 15 minute helicopter ride away.
We arrived and because it was early, we were immediately ushered to a sumptuous breakfast, which we ate in the winter sun; albeit a bit exhausted. The room was ready almost immediately. The room size was large and comfortable. We had a beautiful sitting area and a nice sit out as well. We had chosen the Beach front suite which was absolutely perfect and we could just walk out of our room on to the cotton like sandy beach and in a few steps we were in the water.
What was also lovely and something I hadn’t seen before was that the beach chairs were all numbered so there was no confusion or needing to hold your beach chair which you often see at other properties. Each beach chair had it’s own private perfect view.
One and Only was very different from a lot of the other resorts we’ve stayed at in that its had a very quiet vibe. Describing it best I’d say it was laid-back luxury. Even it almost full occupancy, you barely saw anyone and it was a quiet , peaceful haven.
Mauritius was a lovely break for Aditya. He rested, relaxed and sun tanned. The hotel’s restaurants were a fun experience – Tapasake had fresh sushi and beautiful views and Prime had the most perfect cuts of meat. But what Aditya really loved was the swimming with the dolphin experience that we went to outside our resort!
Now the last time I was here I stayed at a suite at the Westin Mauritius Turtle Bay Resort and Spa and there we barely went by boat a distance of 5 minutes or less and we saw ten’s of dolphins. Like waves we couldn’t even differentiate the waves from the dolphins, there were so many and it was incredible.
This time it was a bit different though. We went by car for about 1 hr and then went on a boat and went about 30/35 minutes into the ocean and just as we were about to give up the most gorgeous set of gigantic dolphins swam right next to us. What was even nicer is that Aditya was able to swim next to them. They were playful and enjoyed swimming around him.A lot faster than him, they had every intention of playing with him. Aditya had the time of his life and easily one of his most memorable birthday’s.
In the evening, we had a magnificent private dinner on the beach front and enjoyed the calm that encompassed us as the waves lapped the shore.
All in all One & Only was the perfect calm in the middle of a hugely busy year and was exactly what we needed.
Cost-:Approximately $1500- $2000 approximately per night for a suite inclusive of breakfast.
Best times to Travel-:October on – it’s summer and just a glorious , glorious season!🙂 Remember this is in the southern hemisphere so May on , it’s winter and though the weather in the days is warm, the water is cold and the nights are chilly.
The refurbishment of The Knickerbocker had just been done when we visited it. The location was envious-bang in the middle of Times Square and steps away from the theatre district! The driver that dropped us to the hotel had also heard about the refurbishment. The building is gorgeous and except for the facade we were told it had been almost a gut renovation.The Knickerbocker was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and designated a New York City landmark in 1988. Landmark status brings with it certain protections for the exterior of the structure, which made the restoration complicated.
The Knickerbocker Hotel’s primary frontages are on Broadway and 42nd Street. The hotel contains 330 rooms including 31 suites, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a roof bar. There are scattered remnants of the original interior design, including an entrance that formerly led from the New York City Subway’s Times Square station to the hotel’s basement.Exterior details -like the copper lion heads around the rooftop terrace have also been meticulously preserved.
The location couldn’t be better: right in between Central Park and Madison Square Garden—two of New York City’s most famous attractions—the Knickerbocker offers easy access to both areas without having to go through a lot of traffic or crowds when trying to get into either place.
The Knickerbocker is also within walking distance of many other popular attractions in the area, including Grand Central Station and Bryant Park. There are plenty of things to do in the area, so you’ll never be bored while staying at this hotel!
We were excited getting into the Knickerbocker having heard so much about it. However one must be honest, the location is incomparable and the terrace in the evenings gorgeous but the hotel is unfortunately not much to write home about.
The rooms are pokey , even if you take the larger ones, like we had. As you turn around in the room, you’re almost outside! The bright lights of Broadway are seen through your windows but the black out curtains ensure complete privacy from the bright lights and madness of the street. There is also no leak of noise so that’s really great!
The terrace in the evening is exquisite. You can enjoy the atmosphere of Times Square while not being pushed around or jostled for space.
The Knickerbocker is the perfect example of ‘Location, location, location.’ Unfortunately however this is its only selling point. I wish in the refurbishment they had spent a bit more time making larger rooms. People will pay for the location but they will also pay for space and this is one thing the Knickerbocker seriously lacks. The drama and design is all on the outside. Inside its sorely lacking.
Cost-:Approximately $500 upwards approximately per night but do look at the Junior suites(approx $1200) for larger rooms as the rooms are otherwise very, very small.
Best times to Travel-:April to October .There’s never a bad time to travel to New York!
The Ultimate Maldivian Trip
So this was my fourth trip to the Maldives and we finally got it right!
Kudadoo was a slice of heaven in the middle of what actually is heaven i.e. The Maldives. The flight to the Maldives lands on air strip no larger than a narrow highway. As the plane lands, you are drawn to the various blues of the ocean and since the water is so clear you even try to spot fish- whales/ dolphins in the crystal clear waters.
As you arrive, the Kudadoo staff usher you from the airport in to a smaller airport lounge where you can freshen up for a bit before they take you to the sea plane that you take to Kudadoo. The plane is small and noisy , so be aware and the ride takes approximately 45 minutes. You land on on the water and at Hurawalhi Island Resort and then it’s a 3 minute boat ride to Kudadoo. The trip is glorious. The arrival is out of a postcard.There are only 15 residences on this spectacular island and it is glorious!
The team had sent in a set of questions which we filled out. What would we like in our bar? What do we snack on? What type of pillows do we like?
The questionnaire was fun and we loved filling it out. But what we loved even more was the room.
The rooms are large with fabulous bedrooms, walk-in closets and a huge bathroom. But what is truly special is the outdoor deck and pool with the beautiful swing and lounging space overlooking your very own entrance to the sea.
Kudadoo was our best trip because it combined all that we wanted a vacay to have. It allowed us to do anything, anywhere and at any time. So if you wanted an 8 am massage, you could have that arranged. And so we did. Every activity, every meal, every drink and every spa service is included in your rate. So whether it’s Flyboarding, which we did- and failed miserably or night snorkelling, which was truly an experience or snorkelling with sea turtles or even a private dinner on the beach- anything your heart desired could be arranged and the team went out of their way to make sure that you felt like you were the only ones on this glorious , glorious island.
And so we water skied to an island no larger than a strip of sand where we had breakfast and we lunched at their spectacular underwater restaurant 5.8 (on it’s sister island Hurawalhi); and swam and feasted and rested to our hearts’ content.
This is what the Maldives should be all about. It should be about new experiences and coming back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
The fact that they have sister islands close by allow them to have the water activities hosted on the sister island. That allows Kudadoo to quite literally become a private residence for it’s guests.