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The Vivanta by Taj Malabar

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Set amidst luscious palms with a magnificent view of Cochin harbour is the glorious Vivanta by Taj Malabar. The heritage wing awaited us and in true Kerala fashion – without any fuss – we were shown to our room. Soon enough all the senior hotel members arrived- all to say hello to my father, a frequent visitor and suddenly after my Dad made the introductions- Aditya and I were also welcomed , in true Taj fashion , as family!

The rooms are modern, spacious and comfortable. The Heritage rooms with their gorgeous view of the bay and the balcony’s are easily the best rooms in the hotel! We quickly freshened up and headed to Pepper, the all day restaurant for lunch! The buffet was wonderful. I am not a fan of buffets, but this buffet had not only a wide selection but the taste of the different cuisines was also authentic- a refreshing change from buffets which often either have a limited selection , or only focus on one type of cuisine.

What I loved about this hotel was also their tea service which happened every evening where tea, cakes and some snacks were offered to all their guests on the lawn while you could watch the sun set in the bay. This is complimentary and from tasty, strong south Indian coffee, to coconut water, green tea and even the cappuccino – they give you your choice of beverage and always have some tasty snacks. after a long day of sightseeing this was always a high point in the evening!

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And then ofcourse there is the Jiva Spa. With it’s traditional Ayurvedic massages and services- this Jiva Spa looked after the wellness of the guest completely. A session was not just limited to an hour. The session consisted of a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor, treatments, massages and a follow up. It is not surprising therefore that people from across the world come here for 10 and 15 days for weight loss and wellness Ayurvedic programs at the Jiva Spa.

With an eternity pool that almost dissolves in to the bay and in the midst of the swaying palm trees and silence of nature- it’s easy to get lost in the magnificence of Kerala, the beautiful serenity, the meditative calm and the glorious beauty of God’s own country.

It was good to be home.

Best Time To Travel-: Winter… else Kerala does get very hot during the summer… December , Jan and Feb are ideal unless of course you are like my husband and love watching the glorious Kerala monsoon in June and July where the trees come alive…. (but you can do little else!)

Cost-:$200 onwards. But remember HERITAGE ROOMS- and you MUST TRY THE JIVA SPA!

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Breathing Underwater – the Maldives

It was an anniversary and yet another excuse to take off! The husband loves the sea and the surf and I love him so it was off to Maldives (my second trip) …his first!

The most amazing thing about Maldives is the landing. Surrounded by water on both sides , the runway is this narrow strip of land surrounded by an ocean of the mostbrilliant blue you will ever see! Despite the fact that the flight took off at an unearthly hour and I was almost running on no sleep for 2 days..when you see that beautiful blue…everything seems to look a whole lot brighter to you!

For this trip we were staying at the Taj Coral Reef. The General Manager of the Taj Exotica in Goa had moved there and was a friend and in in true Taj fashion promised us a fabulously romantic anniversary and we’d always had a wonderful time at the Exotica…so we  thought …why not! That’s the thing with the Taj…employees are never just merely employees! They become friends and confidantes. They know your family. They remember their tastes. They remember birthdays and anniversaries. For a true taste of home even when you’re far away…there’s always the fabulous Taj and so there we went!

The Taj Coral Reef is just one among tens of superb luxury resorts in the Maldives and the next time I return, I will probably shift between the islands. I’d love to do the Banyan Tree, Six Senses , One and Only and for a taste of home try the Taj Exotica Maldives!

This was our quick break and one island would be more than sufficient , I was sure to give my husband the beach break that he needed and me the Anniversary celebrations that I loved!

We arrived at Male airport and within minutes we were whisked away by Luxury speedboat to the the Taj Coral reef! The speedboat takes approximately 45 minutes and on the way there we were both exhausted. We lay down on the sun bed and my next memory is arriving at the Island!

I had always wanted to stay in a water bungalow…one that is above water and so that is what we chose! My dream had always been to sit out at night and gaze in to the expanse of the ocean or venture out bravely for a moonlit swim or wake up and roll over into the ocean! I must confess I DID THEM ALL!

The bungalow was exquisite and the ladder from our room taking us into the lagoon which lead into the ocean was a wonderful idea and one that excited me the minute I reached!

Traveling most of the night, we quickly ordered some food at the beautiful and very comfortable Reef Bar and went back to our room to sleep!

After our first dip in the ocean and a quick cup of coffee in the evening we headed to the beach where much to our amazement Stingrays are hand fed by staff and guests everyevening as the sun sets at about 6 p.m.! Wearing plastic gloves, I nervously joined Aditya as he  fed the great beats with ease! I approached my first stingray who eagerly gobbled the food off the palm of my hand and even allowed me to pat it on the head as if thanking me for my efforts before it swam away! There were tens of them, all hungry, all greedy, all eager and this was an absolute treat! This was a once in a life time experience and I will always treasure it!

Dinner was at Open-The Grill with a fabulous Japanese chef showing off his incredible knife skills while we treated to the best Teppenyaki grill specialities- meats and vegetables alike! A wonderful evening with the GM and his family almost became a wonderful morning as we talked, caught up and just relaxed!

The Anniversary was special. The morning started with a knock on the door and a champagne breakfast in bed! The entire outside of our bungalow had been decorated with flowers and balloons and it seemed like everywhere we went on the island, they wished us on our special day! A fabulous start gave both of us the energy to once again ‘Take the Plunge’ and so we did! From the pier we jumped off into the ocean! Running on the pier and taking a leap into the clear blue water felt fabulous, freeing and incredible!

The thing with Maldives is fish are everywhere! When we jumped off the pier we often displaced entire schools of tiny fish on their way to feeding or shocked a big fish who was just swimming around! In the Maldives and at Coral Reef you are surrounded by the most beautiful fish- of varied colours and sizes and you can see them through the water which almost serves as a sheet of glass! You don’t need to snorkel to see the incredible marine life…it’s right there in front of you!

We are both avid snorkelers and divers and so by mid afternoon we headed to a nearby shipwreck to see more marine life and more coral! The coral in Maldives is every imaginable colour. The pinks are so pink. The yellows are cheerful and the blues and greens are subtle and melt in to the aquamarine waters! The ship wreck was fabulous,fantastic and fun but completely exhausting! For sunset we had a wonderful surprise. We were dropped on a sand patch/ small island that only reveals it self during low tide and so for a few hours in  a day you can sit in this small strip of land surrounded by water on all sides and just ‘BE.’

And at night it was a private moonlit dinner at a table set at the edge of the pier where during dessert we were able to spot a reef shark on it’s nightly hunt! Exhilarating, exciting and yet gloriously calm- that for me will always be Maldives!

Price Factor-: Maldives is expensive with Luxury Hotel rates looking to be between 500-800 dollars a night. Worth it? YES DEFINITELY especially if you’d like to explore the water… A kingdom more beautiful than earth by far , more colorful and infinitely quieter 😉

Best times to travel-: It is traditionally warm throughout the year.  But it may rain a bit between May and October….! The best time to travel, I believe however…is whenever you’d like to go!

P.s.-: Do FOLLOW my Blog (On the top left of you screen) and get the latest updates, blog posts and news from me! 😉

The Wonders of Kangaroo Island aka My Best Vacay ever (thus far)

Writing about memorable anniversaries would be incomplete without writing about my Anniversary last year where we did a spectacular tour of Australia. Most notable among the places we visited was Kangaroo Island native name Karta or Island of the Dead! Not a particularly exciting name, I really wasn’t initially looking forward to this particular leg of our trip! The hotel we were staying in was called Southern Ocean Lodge , another cause for serious concern. In India you NEVER stay in a Lodge….I mean it’s not even a hotel or a Guest House. A lodge here is a surefire recipe for YECH! I put up a fight but was too bogged down with work to really work on getting my way….A good thing I didn’t….This turned out to be my most memorable vacation ever and my favourite place in the world thus far!

To get to Kingscote, the only airport on Kangaroo Island you need to take a flight from Adelaide. The flight is barely 30 minutes and though you have a seat belt sign and an announcement saying you may move/ switch on electrical equipment when the sign goes off- it never really does go off and barely have you reached a cruising altitude you are on your way down.

The airport is small and basic and we were greeted by a car from the Lodge. The drive to the Lodge takes about 45 minutes but it often takes longer as you see Kangaroos crossing, wallabies in the middle of the road and ever so often and eagle swooping down and sitting poised in the centre of the road. This was where I first fell in love with the island. The island is straight out of a novel. With narrow roads ,shaded by beautiful, think, green foliage your car moves slowly towards an unknown destination. You see very few cars, several animals and have just a driver to keep you company as he explains the history behind the island. The drive reminded me of all the Agatha Christie novels I had read and suddenly I was more than intrigued to see our final destination!

The Southern Ocean Lodge is TRULY SPECTACULAR. Almost like a diamond placed on the edge of a cliff, when you walk in you are suddenly struck by the quiet fabulousness of the Hotel. It is beauty at its most natural best! The lobby has fabulous ceiling to floor windows which overlook the sea and the entire hotel is perfectly placed at the edge of a cliff. All of only 21 luxe suites the Lodge looks after each guest like they are family and our check in was warm and comfortable. It was like I was coming home!

And what a home! The rooms are spacious and large. Each room overlooks the sea and has the same huge bay windows as the lobby. When you book at Southern Ocean Lodge, you book ALL INCLUSIVE Luxury stays and the tasty treats included in our room were a delicious welcome!

All Inclusive has always been another thing that worried me. What if the tastes were different? What if the chef wasn’t good? How do you know you like the food? And are you paying too much extra for meals you may not even have!? These questions were unnecessary. The food at SOL is made from the finest local produce and from fresh salads to fresh cheeses and the tastiest of sea food; every imaginable choice was given to us! The chef at the Lodge is remarkable and every meal was a gastronomical delight! Also the special snacks that were in our room daily including the fabulous chocolates and brownies, ensured I’d never be able to look at food the same way again!

SOL organises itineraries for each guest and these are remarkably comprehensive and great fun to do! Right at the start of our stay we were given a personal itinerary and every day was packed with nature walks, trips and more Exclusive experiences! The trip to Seal Bay was easily my favourite. Being an animal lover, or even if you are not–watching seals in their natural habitat with their big brown eyes and floppy feet was the best way to spend a morning! Watching a baby cry to find his mother and then watching 4 mothers rush over was funny, delightful and so so touching!

The other must do trip is the Wonders of Kangaroo Island trip. A 4 hour trip , you get to see the Remarkable rocks, more seals and even spot some fabulous koalas in their natural habitat! A photographer’s dream, this is an exceptional tour! I’m not one for 4 hour tours but here I made the exception and I’m so delighted I did!

The Kangaroos and Canapés is another wonderful way to spend the evening. Watching tens of wild kangaroos graze, stare and even box each other while we drank champagne and ate some fabulous food was a perfect end to a day at SOL!

The evenings have cocktails at the fire place and it was fun to meet with fellow guests, discuss sightings and tours and just generally bond! With such few guests and staff who address you by name every time it’s like joining a new family or just extending yours!

The suite we booked didn’t have a TV and the phone connections were terrible, at best! But cut off from the rest of the world, I have never felt so at peace and oddly enough so connected! I talked. I listened. I saw. I experience. I touched. I felt. I came alive!

My greatest trip ever!

 

Best Times To Travel-: October thru to March when the weather is a lil less chilly… tho honestly I would return ANY DAY, EVERY DAY IF I COULD!

Costs-: EXPENSIVE! $ 3000+ for 3 nights with all the experiences thrown in…! Kangaroos, wallabies, canapies… and a once in a lifetime vacation…!Worth it! YES!

The Anniversary

I am very much the romantic and love celebrating every milestone in my romantic life BUT MOST OF ALL I love that Anniversary’s are the PERFECT excuse to hop out of town and take a much needed mini lux vacay!

This year was our sixth anniversary and if there’s anything I’ve learnt in our 15 years of friendship/ 10 years of being together/ 6 years of marriage is that my husband is a beach boy! He’s happiest tanning and lounging and happy husband=lots more gifts for me!

So off we headed to a small Exclusive Private Resort off the coast of Phuket to Naka Island a wonderful property recently taken over from Six Senses by the Starwood Luxury Collection.

The trip to the Island started off rather iffy though. The car (a BMW 7 series… my husband loves to pamper me in style!) that we had booked did not turn up at the airport and we had to travel in a lovely (yet NOT the car chosen for us and smaller!) Mercedes. We later learned that the cars are outsourced by the Resort to a Private company. In fact there are several cases of incorrect cars at passenger pick ups and sometimes no cars at all. This CANNOT be an excuse for a Luxury Property and after an awful 2 am flight and over 8 hrs of traveling I made my annoyance apparent! The pier is approximately 10 minutes away by car. Once there the Outsourced company driver had no idea what to do with us and we had to fend for ourselves by picking up a much needed latte at the very well stocked cafe by the pier while the husband had a black coffee which woke him up so much- he picked up the phone and fired the Resort for their complete disorganization! An angry wife he has come to realise equals a difficult few days! Within a few minutes a boat pulled up and several people from Naka Island came to greet us. Their disorganization we later realised is because of the fact that the new management has recently taken over and everything is still in it’s teething stage!

A tough start…. but all would be forgiven soon!

The boat ride takes barely 5 minutes to the Island…so if you want some great snaps , you’d better start clicking immediately.

The island’s approach is magnificent and seconds after stepping on the island we were whisked away to the Gong on the mainland where they promise that  ‘any wish you make will come true!’ We both hit the gong with all our remaining strength and I wished and wished with all my heart!

Check in happens in your rooms. And my what rooms they are! The rooms are gigantic with a lovely cottage like feel. 1/3 of the room is indoors and the rest is outdoors including a beautiful outdoor jacuzzi and a fabulous rain shower! The husband had booked us the highest room category (save for the 6 person Presidential suite) which had private beach access and  your very own sunbathing sala among other amenities! The room pool was incredible but nothing can beat the Hotel’s main pool!

The hotel’s main pool is a 3 layer infinity pool. Tanning on your own beach chair in the middle of a pool of water is fabulous especially since you can walk barely a foot away and then jump into a pool to cool off after a great tan! The beach chairs are in Pool 1 which leads on to Pool 2 which leads on to Pool 3 so even if you have the Pool in your room you end up rushing to use the Big main pool just because it is so unique and much larger!

The Luxury Romance package was well worth the spend. With lazy breakfast in beds and quick swims in the sea ; we only left our rooms by the afternoon to tan some more in the main pool area!

The Resort has lots of activities. We signed up for Muay Thai- a thai boxing class and TBB- a leg work out and both were well instructed, well trained and kept us very busy and me very happy! The island is huge with the Resort occupying part of the Island and a local village occupying the rest. To get around from your sala you have bicycles and this very soon became one of the nicest, but fittest vacations we’d ever done! Between the swimming, the activities and the cycling….we were always ravenous! That was great though because the food ranging from burgers and fish and chips to Thai cuisine to sushi was across the board spectacular. Tasty, well portioned and beautifully seasoned…this trip was a Foodie’s delight!

From the in room dining, to the bar , to the main restaurants…we were always surpassed, always delighted!

To pamper ourselves on the anniversary we also tried the spa. The spa with its many treatments on offer was wonderful. Large- it was like walking into a hidden garden Nestled in between the resort but shaded by trees, it was like you walked up a forgotten path and were magically transported into an Enchanted garden. The treatments were very good but if a spa is supposed to make you forget about your daily worries and tensions and relax…well then this one did just that–I forgot for a few hours that I even lived on Earth….I was transported to a private, beautiful heaven- in short…I loved it!

The vacation finished too soon and despite I was going back via Bangkok to shop…I found myself wishing I could stay a bit longer on this personal paradise!

The trip back was perfect! The boat was wonderful, the car was just right….and I’m already planning a vacay back soon with the family ! My husband got this anniversary JUST RIGHT!

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