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New Years @ the Vivanta by Taj President

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So I’d always wanted to do a relaxed New Years Eve! Check in to a nice hotel, have a wonderful dinner, party and instead of worrying how to get home and having to hire a river to get you back safely…just take the elevator up and collapse on a plush, well made bed in a room that’s just the right temperature!

So that’s what we did! This last new years eve Aditya and I checked in to the Vivanta by Taj President with my pet cocker spaniel Cookie. Now this is important- because very few hotels in India are pet friendly and it’s absolutely vital for the both of us to not leave Cookie home alone on the loudest night of the year. So bags packed we headed off to the hotel. I must confess we were way more excited about this new year than poor lil Cookie.

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We were checked in immediately and taken to our suite and Cookie , now slowly catching the excitement bug, smiled happily, found a new bed and then went to sleep…. A warm cup of coffee later, I was off to a relaxed tub bath and then had the time to do my hair and make up perfectly before our friends descended on us! We were all partying at Wink, the bar at the hotel and a table had been reserved for the group. As they reached, I headed downstairs, my feet in stilettos thanking me for the very short journey…:)

Wink was wonderful and the sushi perfect as usual and it got me to to thinking that the Vivanta by Taj President has some of the finest eateries in Mumbai. The Thai Pavillion is sublime. The Trattoria serves the most tasty pizzas and pastas and to get good food on New Years eve a long with some very interesting specially created cocktails was quite the treat!

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I did keep checking on my lil Cookie though and tho the hotel has a pet-friendly policy, the staff are still getting used to pets… They are not sure how to react or what to do… but I guess the fact that hotels are learning to treat our furry babies like family is a huge step in the right direction!

The evening was fun, raucous, loud and exhausting but  have to say that on January 1, when all the rest of my friends looked miserable at the trudge across town back home…I was still beaming…After all I was just a quick elevator ride away from my bed, my puppy and sleep!

MUST TRY-: Thai Pavillion for authentic, tasty , light Thai food AND Trattoria for thin crust pizzas with incredible toppings!

COST-: $200- $1400 (all inclusive with spa treatments included) per night…! For New Years, spending the night over at the hotel as opposed to driving home tired, with tons of drunken revelers on the street- the greatest idea ever!

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Koh samuing!

 

As you know (if you’ve read any of these blogs or any of my personal blogs at my website…BIRTHDAYS ARE A BIG DEAL!

I seem to be planning from one birthday to the next and over the years , the planning has become more focussed towards experiences and travels as opposed to gifts and cake- a much more expensive albeit satisfying change!

So last year, the husband decided to surprise me. I am almost impossible to surprise especially over birthdays because my birthday antenna quickly notices any whispering, hush-hush planning or slight change in schedules but Aditya had convinced me that we were going to have a quiet, family birthday and later there’d be a surprise. Now I have to say I think my antenna was slightly less active because he had mentioned key words like ‘birthday’ and ‘surprise’ so I knew there was something planned and I expected it later…by then I was sure I’d know what it was!

Imagine my surprise when 2 days before my birthday I was told at lunch that we’d have to hurry back to pack. We were leaving tonight to THAILAND and to Koh Samui!To get Koh samui we took a flight to Bangkok and then connected to the island. I have to say , now after flying Thai Airways on multiple occasions- whereas the flights to an from India (Business Class) are rather old and quite uncomfortable; the short flight to Koh samui had fully reclinable seats, fabulous movie options and delicious food. I have now stopped flying Thai (unless ofcourse I’m visiting an island!)!

So in less then 24 hours of my knowing about the surprise, bright and early the following morning I was in Koh Samui. We were staying at the W Retreat, part of the Starwood Group of Hotels and a Category 6 on the SPG Scale! This is one of the highest categories of SPG Hotels and it was supposed to be indulgent luxury. Young, fun and decadent, this hotel was the perfect choice for this quick getaway.

The hotel was a 10 minute drive from the small airport and we entered the hotel excitedly. Though most hotels have wonderful web pages with photographs photoshopped to perfection- nothing can beat this magnificent lobby with it’s gorgeous water body claiming pride of place welcoming you to serenity, luxury and calm! With such a wonderful welcome , I couldn’t wait to see the rooms. Our suite was huge(yes I love my pampering) with a magnificent bathroom, jacuzzi tub et all!We also had a beautiful pool attached which was much, much larger than the usual plunge pools. All this and a private sit out , actually sleep out and we had our own private entrance to the beach!

The rooms were perfect and after an overnight flight, we collapsed on to our day beds for a quick power nap so we’d be ready to bring in the birthday with a renewed energy!

The W is fabulous. Once we woke up and made ourselves a nespresso cappucino (my favourite! and in our room!), we wandered for a walk. The staff then pointed us to the just refilled snack freezer which apparently all W hotels have. They’d just filled in some chocolate ice cream and told us it was fabulous! This is how we discovered the W treat freezer. With cokes and ice creams, there are treat freezers , every few rooms for guests to snack on free of charge any time, all the time- another fun W tradition!

And it was time to enjoy some quick Tapas and drinks at sip and take a quick, much needed plunge in the sea!

A short break later, we dressed up for birthday eve and headed to the W lounge where you are ensconced in tables in between the beautiful lobby pool that we saw earlier. Hidden away in between water and the night, this perfect setting was the most beautiful way to bring in my birthday. Cocktails done we headed to the Kitchen Table for some food. The W only has two dining options but 3 bars…so the focus is more on light eats and tapas and some very heady cocktails!

Exhausted we headed back to the room where a cake was waiting to be cut…. Singing and champagne later we settled in for a very restful night after all the heady travel excitement!

The next day we woke up refreshed and charged.We were only here for the birthday and so we decided to enjoy the calm and luxury of the hotel! I would have loved to have visited the Big Buddha but with such a short trip, we decided to spend our time snorkeling,  If you do visit the Big Buddha, you must also go to Wat Plai Laem another active temple surrounded by a lake which is apparently teeming with fish. If you make a donation, you get a bag of food to feed the fish!

Dress conservatively if you wish to visit a temple to not offend tradition and religious customs!

Else step out of your hotel and there are bars and pubs every step of the way… for a night of partying and revelry- nothing beats an island!

For us however it was spa-ing, pampering and a feast of contemporary Japanese at the elegant Namu. With a private dining hall just for us and a specially created menu by the chef and my husband we had a warm , relaxed evening- the perfect start to an incredibly fulfilling year!

Price Factor-: Rooms are between $200- $300! But choose well…remember to get beach front hotels and my sincere recommendation is to try the W!

Best Times To Travel-: March to August. Then remember to take your diving gear along. Koh samui has some incredible diving sites….if you’re not a diver….maybe Koh Samui is a good place to learn! 🙂

 

 

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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