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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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Christmas kisses in Singapore!

Singapore is my quick-break stop. The city with it’s glorious shopping,perfect order and love for tourists always makes me come back again and again and again! Singapore is the only place where an airline executive after checking in with an excess of 32 kgs ( because I just had to shop for an entire room and 20 light fittings) looked at my delighted but now very worried face and charged me an excess of 5 kgs because she ‘understood’ and loved my ‘love for Singapore and it’s incredible shopping!’

Singapore is glorious any time of the year because of its warm weather and it’s vibrant night life! It is also very special because it seems like the city is always celebrating something! From Chinese New Year to Christmas the city is always beautifully decked in lights!

Christmas in Singapore is wonderful….With Xmas trees and more sales than usual Singapore has one of the warmest whitest Christmas’ in Asia! Here are some incredible ideas for your next Singapore trip (if you haven’t done them already!). If you have, like me, maybe you want to do them all over again!

  1. Go to the zoo! Even if you’ve been to the zoo before! Go to the zoo and breakfast with the chimpanzee…the breakfast is strictly okay- the chimpanzee AWESOME!
  2. Go the zoo- YES AGAIN! Feed an elephant, pose with birds and even get kissed by a seal if your lucky!
  3. Go to Sentosa early in the morning and kiss a dolphin and get kissed as well! Yes! Too many kisses! Go on…you know you’d love to get kissed by one! Get kissed by a dolphin!
  4. Learn how to dive if you haven’t already and sign up to dive with the sharks! It’s amazing the silence and the calm you feel while diving and the incredible marine life at the aquarium takes you back to being a kid again. With wide eyes this experience takes your breath away- quite literally!
  5. Eat and spend the evening at Clark Quay. With new restaurants and new experiences always opening up, Clark Quay and Boat Quay are always fun places to spend the evening!
  6. Shop, shop and shop more on Orchard Road ! 22 shopping malls, 5 department stores…over 5000 brands to choose from this is every shopaholics Mecca… And trust me, even if you come to Singapore , not a shopper (like I was)– this city will show you colors and styles that you will want to buy! And so you should!
  7. Visit Universal Studios! Great fun and you get to be kid for a day …all day!
  8. Eat at Ku De Ta or get a drink at the Sky Bar!
  9. Buy a packet of Royce Chocolates…Trust me… there’s nothing in the world like Royce!
  10. Eat at TWG Tea at high Tea with the sandwiches and the muffins and pastries and definitely, definitely order a Jasmine tea!

My Hotel of Choice is the Marriott!I have stayed at the Four Seasons, the Hyatt and several others but with it’s convenient location at Tangs and it’s large Club rooms and incredible Club lounge with finger licking cocktail snacks and all day service… the Marriott allows me to shop, drop my bags and pick up a cuppa without missing a beat!

Price Factor-: Rooms are between $250- $350! If at the Marriott upgrade to a Club Level suite. The additional amount is definitely well worth it!

Best Times To Travel-: NOW! In fact the weather gets slightly cooler October through to January so expect pleasant evenings with a slight , perfect nip in the air!

Beijing bound!

It was that time of year again- the time when we hadn’t gone for a vacation in far too long to remember and we were each getting on each other’s nerves- that’s the time when we know we have to fly away not just to ee something new but to breathe some fresh air and press the restart button for the both of us! So that’s what we did! I remember going to the Doctor 3 days before leaving . She was furious about some blood test results and was yelling at me like I’d purposely tried to ruin my own health- when my gallant husband stepped in and said- “we’ve had enough. Whatever the problem is, it doesn’t seem to be life threatening so I am going to take my wife and leave. We need a break and trust me everything will look better when we’re back…including her!” I was so grateful for that calm-very- good-looking-head-on-his-shoulders approach to my Doctor and we decided to continue with our travel plans.

This was our first trip to China and we were starting in Beijing!

The Grand Hyatt in Beijing is spectacular and opulent! Right in the heart of the city- it is walking distance from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and that was why it was our only choice and what an amazing choice it was.Part of Oriental Plaza – one of China’s largest commercial complexes and with direct access to the adjacent shopping mall, our first evening was spent exploring the surrounding area despite the fact that we were exhausted! Wangfujing Street, located next to the hotel houses traditional silk shops, tea houses and some fun, cool department stores.

The road outside the hotel is really wide and a hotel employee once told us that this hotel was to serve as a runway if ever the need arose and China was suddenly in an emergency situation or was at war! Crazy, surreal and very prepared- that was also our first impressions of Beijing.

THINGS YOU MUST REMEMBER-: There is a Chinese name and an English name for everything including where you stay…so don’t think you can leave and just say ‘Hyatt’ to the cab driver- TAKE THE HOTEL CARD- it has another name and locals only know the hotel by it’s Chinese name!

The Forbidden City was a 10 minute walk from the hotel and was remarkable. Caught up in the history we didn’t even realise how quickly time flew by! The thrones, the chambers, the halls, the history- all so well preserved , each with a fascinating story as the Palace served as home to the ming Dynasty continuing right up to the Qing dynasty!

And then it was time for the flag lowering ceremony where the People’s Liberation Army of China march in the evening to Tianmen Square and lower the flag! What an incredible sight and how we rushed to keep up! Unreal, an ABSOLUTE MUST DO!

The Hyatt Pool beckoned and we went in to this indoor heated pool with ‘palm trees’ and an almost island type atmosphere and ended the cold Beijing evening with a delightful dip!

The next day we started with a car ride to the Great Wall.Depending on where you’d like to climb the Great Wall from it takes about 1.5- 3 hrs to get there. Once at the wall, we climbed up with moderate amount of effort (based on the location we’d chosen to walk from – the Great Wall can be reached from different locations and the level of climb varies from easy to hard) and enjoyed the rough path, the steep climbs (at times) and the stunning view. But after a couple of hours of walking and some remarkable photographs, we opted to go down the wall via toboggan which was unbelievable!

With a bit of shopping and some incredible chinese tea , we enjoyed a day more in Beijing and it was off to our next adventure!

Best Times To Travel-:  March through to September- else it does get a bit chilly!

Price Factor-:  $250- $500. STAY 5 STAR AND REMEMBER CARRY THE HOTEL CARD EVERYWHERE!

A Spa-cation in Pangkor Laut (Malaysia)

It was the ‘no reason except because I love my husband’ vacation! Aditya had been working around the clock and I felt he needed a break! 3 days of spa, pampering, massages and doing nothing I was sure he’d be back to his handsome, happy self in no time! So I knew he’d cheer up with a SPA-cation ( spa vacation!)

That’s why I chose Pangkor Laut Resort! I decided to kidnap my husband and take him to a resort I’d had my eye on for a long time! Off the coast of Malaysia,this  privately owned island located three miles off the West Coast of Malaysia along the Straits of Malacca and is entirely a luxury resort.

From Singapore you must take the budget airline Firefly (the only one which flies to Ipoh) then take a 90 minute luxury car ride to Lumut and then a 30 minute boat ride…! The island arranges for fabulous transport and your spa experience starts literally from the car itself with warm towels, reading materials, snacks and calming music…you are almost immediately transported!! I know that by the end of these transfers you must wonder whether it is actually with it! And it is! Nestled in the glorious lap of natural beauty Pangkor Laut resort is an unmissable experience!

Because Aditya really needed to relax and unwind, I signed us up for the spa package. The Spa bungalows were water bungalows located in the spa section. The bungalows perfectly balanced on stilts above the water provided privacy and incredible romance. The spa section was all about quiet luxury,  private pools and easy access to the spa and all it’s amenities! The spa package ensured that we’d have at least one massage every day lasting over 3 hours….now that may seem a lot to some but the spa package was uber fun (even for a non-spa person like me!). After you had a cup of aromatic green tea, the routine started!

First you had your feet scrubbed. then you wade thru chilly water and rushed through a running stream only to come out on the other side and be assaulted by incredible aromas of fresh spices. Then you bathed Japanese style sitting on stools and pouring mug fulls of water on yourself. Only then did you finally enter the massage area where each day you’d go thru a different massage technique used to calm stress, revitalize you or just to rid toxins from you!

Post the massage you’d have a quick wash and jump into the private pool…and you’re ready to take on the world or just sleep in the sun the way holidays were meant for!

Five restaurants and two bars serving everything from continental, to Malaysian, fresh fish and fabulous sushi- the choices are endless. The island is huge so you pretty much phone for a pick up when you want to travel! This is fun cos we’d end up walking to the shuttle stop post a massage and then taking a nice , romantic walk back to our rooms post a wonderful dinner!

There are lots of wild animals on the island and don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of monkeys fighting over the housekeeping cart or running away with a pack of biscuits left unattended!

I also booked us an exclusive private 5 course dinner at the Emerald Beach named because of the Emerald waters surrounding it! The dinner was calm, romantic and pretty darn amazing!

Running in the wind with your feet in the sea and your head in the clouds…sometimes that’s what vacations are meant to be… an incredible dream that you never wanna wake up from!

Get the Cappadocian High!

So when nothing in our lives was working out and when we were down but not yet out…we decided to take a break! A new show had been sucking the life out of us and for the first time …in ever were the both of us tired and low about theatre! When life brings you downs….sometimes you have to create your own highs! And that’s what we did!

Emptying our bank accounts with no idea how we were going to figure the show or the sponsorships out- we escaped….to Turkey!

Our first stop was Cappadocia… a land of Fairy chimneys and tales untold. Magical and surreal we were looking for this short escape from life and this seemed the perfect stop!

To get to Cappadocia , you must fly to Kayseri. A small airport in the middle of nowhere, we were glad we’d arrange transport to our hotel! Getting outside, the landscape looked nothing like what was promised to us. Barren , flat and boring it was like luck was just not on our side! Infact as we headed off in the car, driving through what looked like dessert we saw the most incredible sight- Mc Donalds! Well that was as un-Turkish as the rest of this miserable trip ! The car ride took about 1 hour and suddenly in the final 15 minutes or so, everything changed! Chimneys appeared from almost nowhere and the land looked like a fairytale come to life! Rock formations in crazy shapes and the car now seemed to be going up and down hill and there was suddenly too much to see and not enough time!The incredible cave dwellings still had people living in them , we were told, and I was really excited now to see where we’d be staying!

And before we knew it we were at our hotel – the exquisite Museum Hotel. Now we had specifically chosen a Luxury Cave Hotel to get the real Cappadocian experience and wow we were in for a treat! Our room was gigantic and our bathroom even larger. We had a small , oddly shaped cave window and every possible luxury you could imagine. Traveling all night and most of the day we were exhausted and we decided to head to the pool to relax. The pool, perfectly placed on the edge of a Cliff almost melted into the blue sky and one quick dip and we were refreshed and relaxed! Suddenly we heard the pitter patter of little feet on the stone and there were two glorious pups frolicking in the hotel. They are the owners dogs we were later told, though they often commanded a great deal more attention than the owners did!

Dinner was pre set and I was worried. This hotel in the middle of nowhere may not really be able to cater to my very difficult tastebuds and I was FAMISHED! I was wrong! The chef  was the winner of International food Awards and the food just melted in my mouth! The turkish cuisine was fabulous and I wished desperately that our 5 course meal would last forever! The meal ended with some fabulous Turkish apple tea and we called it a night!

Turkey is approximately 2.5 hours behind us so getting up the next morning at 5 am (equivalent of 7:30 am) worked out okay! I was even to have a quick wash to get ready for our champagne balloon ride above Cappadocia! Now in most cities I would warn against doing anything remotely touristy but in Cappadocia if you don’t do the balloon ride, you’ve really missed on quite an incredible experience! We watched as the balloons got fired up and then headed up, up and away above the glorious Cappadocian landscape- taking hundreds of pictures and photographing what looked like Google map images of earth! So high in the sky all our troubles were forgotten and as we bobbed in the balloon looking at the tens of other balloons that dotted the sky…life had never felt more colorful and I felt the incredible lightness of being!

Back on ground as we finally got our land legs back we went back to the hotel to have the most sumptuous breakfast ever! Local cheeses, fruits and every possible breakfast delight with some bubbly made the morning perfect! After that Aditya and I decided to do some exploring of our own so off we headed via ATV. Now anyone who knows me or knows my driving knows that an All Terrain vehicle is probably the safest thing for me to drive except when your driving over cliffs and driving down steep roads. I almost lost balance of the heavy vehicle more than once trying to keep up with our enthusiastic guide…. but luckily for me that despite a few near misses and one where the ATV had a wheel over the edge…I survived! This was the coolest way to explore Cappadocia and after dropping our guide back to the town aditya and I continued exploring the narrow lanes and numerous caves ourselves! Stopping every so often for an incredible photograph this is the ONLY way to see Cappadocia and is an absolute MUST DO!

In the afternoon we headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum and visited some ancient 10th, 11th and 12 th century churches. This was fascinating as you could still see the paint on the walls and scenes from the nativity, crucifixion and the Last Supper were painted in glorious detail. Then we marveled at some astonishing rock formations. My personal favourite was the camel because it looked so incredibly natural!

And After that we were off for a quick cup of rich turkish coffee and a fabulous photograph under the Evil Eye Tree!

Dinner was glorious as usual and before we knew it our 3 days in Cappadocia were over! Lighter, happier and calmer we were ready to take on the world. Sometimes all you need in life is a little Fairy dust from Fairy chimneys perhaps to make the whole world seem bright again!

Now that you know what i’m writing about and I am getting such amazing feedback – I’m going to now make this a weekly blog and update it with a new destination, new hotel, airline review on Wednesdays! So mid week get ready to travel…. even if it’s only via a blog and only for a few minutes! after all any adventure starts first with a little dreaming!

Also please vote on what you’d like me to write about next!

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