“Min ga la ba” and hello from Ellie and Sacha in the temple-strewn plains of Bagan! From the elegant southern city of Yangon, the second stop on our Burma reccy has taken us to central Burma – a breathtakingly beautiful landscape which is literally littered with thousands of ancient temples. Alas, it is time for us to leave (next stop: Mandalay), but these have been the Top 10 highlights of our stay in Bagan:
Greeting from Yangon! Ampersand sales consultant, Ellie, and marketing manager, Sacha, are here on a 2 week reccy and have kicked off in style at the Governor’s Residence – Ampersand’s favourite hotel in Yangon. In amongst several hotel inspections, today we visited serene Kandawgyi Lake, the gigantic Reclining Buddha (Chaukhtatgyi Paya) and the shimmering Shwedagon Pagoda, which was so beautiful it seemed as if it had been dipped in liquid gold as the sun set on our first day in Burma.
Next stop: Bagan – one of the richest archaeological sites in the world, with some 5,000 monuments scattered across 26 square miles along the Irrawaddy riverbanks. To be continued…
As the much admired Indian independence hero Nehru once said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”. At Ampersand we couldn’t agree more and share India’s first Prime Minister’s voracious attitude towards travel. There are countless wonders to be discovered in the world, all one needs to do is to seek them out for yourself. And what better way to do so than in the height of luxury. Therefore we have compiled our own personal list of what we believe to be some of the most unmissable sights and experiences throughout the Asian continent. So, in no particular order – including a combination of man-made and natural marvels – these are Ampersand’s Seven Wonders of the Asian World.
The building of The Great Wall of China began in some sections as early as 7th century BC. It was largely maintained by the Ming Dynasty in order to prevent attacks from the surrounding nomadic tribes and was most famously penetrated by Genghis Khan and his formidable army. Still today, its remains represent as much of a psychological reminder of China’s strength, as a physical one. Easily accessible from Beijing, you can either visit the popular Jinshanling section of the wall or embark upon an unforgettable trek following the ancient Silk Road and tea trails. On his most recent trip to China, Ampersand MD, James Jayasundera, was astounded at the incredible standard of hotels, even in rural areas. We have several China itineraries that include a visit to the Great Wall for you to find some inspiration for your next trip.
Located just off the island of New Guinea’s West Papua province, the Raja Ampat islands, otherwise known as the “Four Kings”, enjoy some of the most spectacular marine-biodiversity in the world. Whilst the coral reefs surrounding them may not be the largest in the world, scientists agree that these waters contain the most species-rich and bio-diverse in the ocean. Whether you are a first time snorkeller or seasoned diver you will be astounded by the incredible array of corals, fishes and other sea life there is to discover. Indonesia is also home to some of the most luxurious hotels in Asia, as well as several magnificent private charter boats, for the height of tailor-made luxury travel. We have several Indonesia itineraries that do or can include the Raja Ampat islands – many of our favourite resorts and boats are located or pass through there so we are sure you will find plenty of inspiration for your next trip to Indonesia!
Maybe not as well known as some of the other inclusions on our list and certainly not as frequently visited, the Potala Palace is a stark contrast to otherwise infinitely expansive landscape of Tibet. Situated at an altitude of 12,000 feet high it is the highest monastery on the planet. Built almost five centuries ago as the chief residence of the Dalai Lama, the Potala Palace is a living relic to the Buddhist religion. Still in use today, visitors will hear the same sounds of the monks chanting and smells of incense burning that have been filling its corridors for centuries. Whilst the accommodation in Tibet is basic, its endless, unspoiled, rugged vistas are a spectacle worth visiting. Tibet combines very well with Nepal.
We could not forgive ourselves, nor would any of our clients, if we did not include the Taj Mahal in our list of The Seven Wonders of the Asian World. Another member of the official modern wonders of the world, the Taj epitomises ‘seeing is believing’. All of our travel consultants have been there, most countless times, such is the draw of this incredible example of Mughal architecture. The story behind the building is almost as dramatic as the structure itself. The English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold describes it as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones”. Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a physical portrayal of everlasting love. We recommend sunrise as the best time to visit the Taj, to avoid the crowds and see the pink and golden hues of dawn reflected of its glowing, alabaster surface. Almost all of our North Indian itineraries visit the Taj Mahal so we are sure you will find something to wet your appetite. With Diwali and the Pushkar Camel Fair right round the corner (both in November), there has seldom been a better time to visit India.
Inle Lake may not be the largest in Burma, but we think it is the most beautiful. As James Jayasundera, Ampersand’s MD, vividly describes upon his most recent visit:
Slicing through the water on Burma’s Inle Lake on a long-tail boat: The water, mountain and sky seemed to merge with one another and the colours were washed out into shades of blue and grey. It was cool – almost cold – and it felt surreal. Here, whole villages live on the water and crops are grown on small strips of floating islands. Rarely has reality felt more dreamlike.
There are a huge range of memorable activities on Inle Lake, from boat rides in a traditional long boat with their unique method of rowing with one foot, to a trip to the local markets to pick up some souvenirs from your trip; or one can simply sit back and watch the local villagers continue their daily life. Burma has opened up hugely in the last few years, becoming a much more accessible place for tourists. We cannot recommend it highly enough as a travel destination. The fact that a visit to Inle Lake could also mean a stay Ampersand favourite Inle Princess Resort makes this trip even more appealing! Several of our Burmese itineraries include Inle Lake.
Europe has the Alps; Asia has the Himalayas. Whilst the latter is not quite as popular a ski destination it is undisputedly more epic. Home to the planet’s highest peaks, including the formidable Mount Everest, the Himalayas has witnessed many a man try and fail to cross its mountain ranges. Nowadays, travel throughout the Himalayas is much more accessible, however, the higher you go, the less accommodating it becomes. Spanning Bhutan, India, Nepal, China and Pakistan the Himalayan mountain range crosses several destinations that we specialise in. There are some excellent spas and retreats located here for those looking for the ultimate escapist break. A perusal through some of the itineraries may well lead to the beginning of your Himalayan trip of a lifetime.
The second wonder of the Asian world to be located in Burma, The Shwedagon Pagoda, truly is testament to how culturally rich Burma is as a destination. Located in Yangon, to the west of the Kandawgyi Lake, it reaches almost 100 meters in height and is covered in glimmering gold leaf – an imposing and impressive sight and one that dominates the city’s skyline. It houses several relics sacred to Buddhist religion including eight strands of Gautama Buddha’s hair and a piece of Kassapa’s robe. We recommend that you visit the Shwedagon Pagoda in the afternoon to witness the setting sun being reflected of the pagoda’s golden domes. Unlike the Taj Mahal, we feel that on this occasion the presence of crowds heightens the experience, making the atmosphere electric and the event more tangible. A trip to Burma could mean ticking off two of Ampersand’s 7 Wonders of the Asian World!
For more information on these destinations or for more inspiration please get in touch with one of our travel specialists on +44 (0)20 7819 9770, email email@example.com or browse our website http://www.ampersandtravel.com.
**Four nights for the price of two at the Song Saa Private Island Resort
Song Saa Private Island Resort is the perfect island summer getaway for any family – and this summer it is even more accessible. Between July and September they are offering two complimentary nights stay when you book two nights.
Set on two interconnecting islands, Song Saa is a haven of tranquillity with plenty of room for children to explore and adults to relax. With something for everyone you and your children will never run out of things to do. From private village tours by buffalo cart and hiking through the jungle, to sea kayaking and snorkelling on the island’s own private reef, there is a seemingly endless list of activities to tire even the liveliest of adventurers out. Another benefit of Song Saa is that it is all-inclusive and its contemporary Khmer fusion cuisine is a major draw, so there are certainly no unappealing hotel buffets here.
Over the last five years it has undergone extensive rejuvenation of its flora, fauna and coral. 2013 saw the launch of the Song Saa Foundation which not only protects and conserves the island’s environment but provides education and health care to the local people. Song Saa sets itself apart from the rest with its strong philanthropic emphasis towards the island and its inhabitants. Find out more about the Song Saa Foundation here.
With its eco-friendly approach to tourism Song Saa is an ideal place to discover a new side to Cambodia and it would make an excellent addition to any itinerary. For more inspiration take a look at our “Laid-back Luxury” itinerary which, if staying between July and September, will include the four night discounted stay at Song Saa. To experience Song Saa for yourself, please get in touch with one of our consultants who can tailor-make your holiday to Cambodia. This experience works wonderfully when combined with a trip to Siem Reap first to explore the temples of Angkor Wat and a night or two in Phnom Penh before your beach holiday at Song Saa.
For more information on these hotels or for more Cambodian inspiration please get in touch with one of our travel specialists on +44 (0)20 7819 9770, email firstname.lastname@example.org or browse our website http://www.ampersandtravel.com.
Ampersand’s top sales consultant, Mark Wright, has recently spent two and a half weeks revisiting Indonesia, hopping across the islands of Java, Bali, Sumba, Komodo, Rinca and Flores. His enthusiasm for Indonesia has rubbed off on everyone in the office so we thought we’d sit him down to share his insights and divulge his top tips.
My ideal Indonesian honeymoon…
Even though I travelled alone this time (sob, poor me!), Indonesia struck me as the perfect destination for a romantic trip. Click on the video below to find out why and discover what my dream honeymoon itinerary would entail.
Rediscover Bali – the most famous of Indonesia’s 17 thousand islands…
Bali is a huge island and Seminyak and Legian are located in quite a small and highly populated corner of it. Although lovely, it’s a shame that many people only experience these areas or they get put off visiting Bali, thinking that’s all there is. Unlike 10 years ago, there are now fantastic properties all around the island. Some of our favourites include Alila Villas Soori further up the west coast, Amankila and Alila Manggis on the east coast, Puri Ganesha in the north, Surya Shanti inland in the east and Alila Villas Uluwatu on the southern peninsula. I would love to help change people’s perception of Bali and reveal its hidden gems.
Beyond Bali – other “don’t miss” destinations…
I am also eager to show people what else there is beyond Bali’s shores – after all, Indonesia is the country, not Bali! Flowing from west to east, your first port of call would be the island of Java, home to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. Don’t be scared of Jakarta – it’s not the most fascinating city but for 1 or 2 nights it’s a great place to relax after a long flight. Still on Java, continue on to the city of Yogyakarta, which has bustling markets and a fantastic colonial hotel called the Phoenix, and then on to Borobudur, which is the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Flanked by brooding volcanoes, Borobudur has a suitably majestic hotel, Amanjiwo, which is beyond impressive. You can spend 3 or 4 days around here and then do the core of your trip elsewhere for the beach paradise experience that everyone associates with Indonesia, be it Bali, Lombok, Sumba, Komodo, Sulawesi or Raja Ampat. A travel trend that has taken off here in recent years is luxury sailing and Indonesia has some fabulous traditional phinisi sail boats. For Ampersand’s top sailing experiences, read my blog about Komodo Island and the best sail boats in Indonesia.
Hotels – golden oldies vs new openings…
In a place like Bali there are always lots of new hotels opening. While it’s exciting and important to make new discoveries, just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s the best. The Edge, for example, is very new, set in a stunning location and offers everything you could want from a luxury villa, but its elder neighbour, Alila Villas Uluwatu, operates more seamlessly and has had more time to integrate with its surroundings. The best example of a property growing into its surrounding environment is COMO Shambhala. It is set across a giant estate and while other hotel chains would have increased the room capacity, COMO have kept it at a mere 36 rooms. They have allowed the estate’s fauna to grow naturally, which allows guests to take long walks down to the river valley in complete peace. By not maximising capacity and ruining the nature they have kept the estate feel and exclusivity.
* Top tip: Do not rule out a hotel as too expensive just because you know it is the most luxurious option… you may be able to afford it if you choose the right room category! COMO Shambhala’s Garden Room for example is very reasonably priced and you still have all the benefits of the estate and its facilities, including 3 swimming pools, a natural rock climbing wall, world class yoga and pilates classes, and one of the best restaurants on the island, Glow.
* Best all rounder: Puri Ganesha. This boutique hotel is run by Diana von Cranach and her Indonesian husband Gusti, who, along with their three Dalmatian dogs, bring life and soul in abundance to your holiday. Diana designs menus for top restaurants and hotels in Asia and Europe, and is a cookery book author and a leading authority on raw food. Her creations are not just healthy, but visually delightful and divinely delicious. On this trip she prepared a tasting menu for me in their beachside dining cabana consisting of seared kingfish with braised lentils, cucumber, pomegranate and mint salad, and salmon carpaccio with avocado, seaweed, radish & ginger, tamarind and orange dressing. I…was…in…heaven! A few of Gusti’s renowned cocktails topped off a fabulous evening. With just 4 villas, it is perfect if you’re looking for exclusivity and hands-on service. Diana and Gusti are integral to the community and love to help; a memorable moment for me was watching Gusti teach local kids English after school. The energy that he brought to the class and to the kids was touching and engaging. Guests staying here really get a sense of where they are, which is quite unusual for such a luxurious property. Not only do you get the best linens and beds, a private pool, world-class food, loads of private space and your own private villa, but the community comes to you in the most unobtrusive way. It blends unbelievably well.
* Best cookery course: Surya Shanti Villa, Bali. The al fresco kitchen is within the upper garden of Surya Shanti offering 360 degree panoramic views of Mount Agung, paddy fields and the ocean beyond. If that doesn’t inspire you, the fresh local produce and the enthusiastic chef will. You could not think of spending a better 3 hours in Bali.
* Best seafood: Nihiwatu Lodge, Sumba Island. Guests can go fishing and, more often than not, you’re eating seafood that other guests have caught themselves, which builds up the community spirit amongst the guests. You bond over food, talking to the guests across the table who may have caught your dinner that day, and to the chef who will come over for a chat. From start to finish you know exactly where your meal has come from.
* Best Indonesian food: Alila Ubud, Bali. I tried the tasting menu here with my older brother and it was just amazing. It had everything from famous suckling Balinese pork, to the six different ice creams at the end, all homemade by the chef with the element of the flavour in the presentation. It was just beautiful food overlooking a beautiful valley.
There were so many more wonderful experiences – from surfing the private Nihiwatu break to exploring the Prambanan temples outside of Yogyakarta – but we will let you discover the rest for yourselves! To see a selection of photos from my trip, please click here. If you are keen to visit Indonesia call me on +44 (0) 20 7289 6100 or email email@example.com; I would be happy to share more tips and design a tailor-made journey for you.
Ampersand’s South East Asia specialist, Mark Wright, has recently returned from a two and a half week research trip to Indonesia. Here he recommends his favourite sail boats for visiting the Komodo Islands and the untouched eastern islands beyond…
One of my favourite moments from my trip was spotting the Komodo dragon. Upon arriving at Komodo Island, within no time you can see Komodo dragons lounging in the sun. There were only four of us there at the time and we managed to spot a Komodo dragon going in for a kill of a little injured deer. When you see nature in action like that it is not something you can intrude on; you can only spectate and be in awe of it. Before coming, I had an image in my head that the dragons would be caged or that it would be a bit like a circus but apart from the ranger’s headquarters it is completely natural. There are actually four islands which the dragon inhabit, two of which you can visit – Komodo Island and Rinca Island. I was extremely impressed with how everything ran on both islands.
* Top tip: Make sure you go there at the right time! It’s a very small island with a small jetty and occasionally giant cruise ships arrive, along with about 800 people who literally flood the island. We know when these ships cruise here and can advise when to go to avoid them. If they are not there, it’s going to be a maximum of maybe 30 or 40 people on the island with people walking with different guides in different areas, so you don’t bump into each other.
There are three ways to see the Komodo Islands:
1. Day boat trips: I stayed at Labuan Bajo, a town on the island of Flores, and took the day boat trip to Komodo Island. It was a really relaxing two hour boat journey but the downside is the hotels on Labuan Bajo are not of a very high quality. It is a nice enough town with good food, but it is more of a backpackers spot and the hotels are 4 star at best. The beaches are not lounging beaches; you are literally there as a launch pad to get to the Komodo dragon.
2. Small liveaboard boats: Sleep on a small vessel for 1 or 2 nights – something like the Ikan Terbang, which is one of the boats I inspected. It has a cosy sailor’s feel, with everyone sleeping down below deck in a space without wall partitions. It is ideal for families – a couple with two young kids, or just for a couple who could hire the whole boat out. This is affordable and you’d have the entire ship as well as the privacy of the downstairs quarters all to yourselves. Enjoy fresh seafood barbecue dinners and giant buffet lunches, and whilst you’re cruising to and from the Komodo Island you can relax on the top of the boat. Instead of returning to a below par hotel you can sleep out on the deck under the stars in the middle of the ocean. You can go scuba diving but these smaller boats are ideal for snorkelling. There are untouched islands and islets scattered everywhere and you can ask the captain to find a little secluded beach with a hidden cove to have a romantic picnic on the beach. Simply pick an island that’s uninhabited – small enough to probably walk around in 3 hours – and camp there for the day and go snorkelling off the shore. The ideal Robinson Crusoe experience!
3. Bigger luxury vessels: The more luxurious option is to sail on one of the bigger ships like Tiger Blue, Silolona, Si Datu Bua (Silolona’s slightly smaller sister ship), or the Alila Purnama, which has just recently launched. There are other options but those four are the vessels we would recommend. These boats are more expensive but you really do get what you’re paying for. They are ideal for a big group of friends, whether it’s 4 couples or two big families, and everything is included. For divers it’s a dream: if you want to do six dives in a day it doesn’t cost any more than doing two dives – some people might do five dives in a day and two night dives. These vessels do not just sail around the Komodo Islands but also further east to Raja Ampat and further north to Sulawesi. The great thing about these boats is you get to explore places that you just simply cannot do via land, experiencing unique cultures – even gaining special access to visit remote tribes in Papua New Guinea – whilst enjoying the height of luxury.
My personal favourite would have to be Silolona. It is everything that these old Indonesian phinisi boats should be – the perfect balance between luxury and traditional aspects to the crafting, furnishings and service. Though I didn’t actually see the Alila Purnama in person, from what I hear it is also an extremely high level of luxury, while Tiger Blue is more aimed at the rustic-luxe family traveller; both are great for their target audience but for me the Silolona encompasses everything. When I visited for lunch I was only on board for an hour and they hadn’t had a guest for three days, but they put on a whole show for me: all 17 members of staff were hanging like pirates off the rigging waving at me from afar and once on board they put on a ceremony chanting to the goddess of Silolona. Already in the short time I was there I felt like I was part of their family. It is extremely expensive, but if you can afford it, a journey on Silolona would be truly amazing.
Please give me a call to start planning your own tailor-made journey to Indonesia on +44(0)20 7289 6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Exciting news… Ampersand Travel are recruiting a new sales consultant. Knowledge of the Indian Subcontinent or South East Asia is preferred. If you are interested in the position please email email@example.com with your CV, or please help us spread the word if you know someone perfect for this role.
Click below for more info on the Ampersand story.
What is the perfect Valentine’s gift? In these increasingly frenetic times, quality moments together rank high on the list. For those of you who remember your honeymoon as the best holiday of your life, treat this like your second honeymoon. Simply choose whether you want it to be utterly romantic or deliciously sexy and we will plan a flawless itinerary. To help seduce you, we have picked our favourite 14 Valentine’s Day retreats:
- Cliff-side drama………
- Garden of Eden………
- Above the clouds………
- Fit for the Gods………
- Live it up in Sin City………
- Hide away on the rocks ………
- Urban Belgravia chic………
For more details on these properties or to start planning your tailor-made romantic escape please call +44 (0)20 7289 6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ampersand Travel team’s top travel recommendations for the year ahead….
Secluded deep within Bhutan’s Punakha Valley lies the stunning new 11-room Uma Punakha. Launched in September 2012, this is the sister property of Uma Paro, renowned for its COMO Shambhala massages, yoga and wellness facilities. The unveiling of Uma Punakha is significant because it opens up a new part of the Dragon Kingdom to those who love to combine luxury with adventure and culture. Split your trip between both Uma properties (5 or 7 nights) – and for the extremely adventurous, you can incorporate a stay at the Bumdra Monastery Camp, COMO’s own wilderness campsite high in the Himalayas and accessed only via remote mountain paths. Experienced guides will direct you through the Valleys of Punakha, Thimphu and Paro with activities including day walks, visits to the Dochu Lu, the Punakha Dzong, Taktsang ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery, the National Museum and a wild hike to Kila Nunnery between the valleys of Haa and Paro.
Vivanta by Taj Madikeri Coorg is a new opening located in the misty jungle-shrouded mountains of Karnataka, a beautiful state in south India. If you want to detox from city life and completely switch off, this isolated hillside 4,000 feet above sea level is the perfect setting to do so. The property has 62 rooms and villas spread over 180 acres of rainforest with over 300 species of plants and abundant wildlife. Treat yourself at the Jiva Grande Spa which is hidden under a rainforest canopy or unwind listening to the sounds of the jungle at the Buddha Garden and vast outdoor pool. The design and location of this unique new property make it as invigorating as it is relaxing.
2013 is the year to visit Burma – the land that tourism forgot, but is now swiftly falling for. Stay one step ahead of the madding crowd with Ampersand’s recommendations of where to go and what to do in Burma, including:
- Ballooning over Bagan… Enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon trip over the temples of Bagan with extraordinary views over hundreds of ancient ruins and pagodas which peek out from this remote jungle.
- Sun-worshipping on the idyllic palm-fringed beaches of Ngapali… With one of the longest coastlines in Asia, Burma is a treasure trove of beautiful, unexplored beaches, many of which offer good diving and snorkelling. It works wonderfully as a stand alone beach break – certainly more adventurous than Thailand and with fewer tourists – and just a short plane hop from Yangon. Ngapali is one of the most spectacular sweeps of beach, a 3km stretch of palm-backed sand and the location of Sandoway Resort, one of Ampersand’s favourite hotels in Asia.
- The botanical gardens of Pyin Oo Lwin… These colourful gardens are beautifully maintained and a popular spot for honeymooners and families.
- Slicing through the water on Inle Lake on a long-tail boat… Nearly 200 miles south-east of Mandalay lies Inle Lake – a place of heart-stopping beauty where no electricity flows.
- Venture off-the-beaten track to a luxury oasis in Putao… Designed by Aman architect, Jean Michel Gathy, Malikha Lodge is sleek and sexy despite its incredibly far-flung northern location. This is Burma’s greenest, most remote state, home to Lisu and Rawang tribes. You go for forests, trekking, cycling, wildlife, waterfalls, rafting and kayaking – it’s all possible from the lodge. Be aware: Putao is hard to get to and this is reflected in the cost.
- Sailing on the Sea Gypsy… Departing from the homeport of Kaw Thaung, live like a genuine sea gypsy for a week aboard a rustic yet comfortable boat – with nothing to do but sail, dive and swim like a true Moken.
If you are a lover of golf and fine views, there’s nowhere better to stay than the Victoria Golf and Country Resort in Kandy – voted the best golf course in the sub-continent. Sleep in a chalet overlooking the 17th Tee, just steps away from the golfing green with stunning views over the Knuckles Mountain Range. Once you have had your golf fix, head into those wickedly named Knuckles! These thick forested mountains are perfect for those who love to hike, mountain bike or explore local villages and discover waterfalls. The flora and fauna is very impressive and there are many species of mammals found amongst these forests including elephants, giant squirrels and leopards. Rangala House is a charming and homely place with some of the most rewarding views in Sri Lanka overlooking the mountains as well as tea plantations. The drive to Knuckles Range forest conservation is only a 45 minute journey away so whether you want to sit back and marvel at the beauty around you by the pool, or actively explore the range, Rangala House is the place to be.
Our South East Asia specialist Mark recently stayed at Surya Shanti and said it was by far the most special place he experienced in Bali – his new secret discovery which he is eager to share with clients! It offers the archetypal Balinese idyll that everyone is looking for on the island but simply can’t find – and at an affordable price. One hour from Ubud if you want to go shopping but close to a very cute little village, Surya Shanti is otherwise completely surrounded by rice terraces, zero traffic, Mt Agung volcano views from every angle and dramatic valley views leading down to the sea. The property has just 11 villas (4 of which have panoramic views of everything from your bed), 2 swimming pools, a spa, a terraced restaurant and a dining balé in the garden. The gardens are the perfect blend of manicured and wild, and the natural colours of the flowers and plants are utterly kaleidoscopic It is hard to imagine that a place like this still exists on this overcrowded island. Many hotels in Bali go for the wellness angle or full blown luxury, but what Surya Shanti offers is the spiritual essence of Bali – as clichéd as that may sound!
A sailing voyage is the best way to experience the mythical Komodo Islands and the remote Raja Ampat islands. As for which vessel to choose, we think Tiger Blue is the most glamorous yet affordable schooner which sails these seas – a 34-metre phinisi with billowing red sails, sexy teak fittings and 10 en-suite cabins that can sleep 10 people. If you prefer, you can sleep on deck to enjoy the balmy breezy and star filled night skies. There are 9 staff including talented Indonesian chefs (otak-otak or a fresh sashimi snack, perhaps?) and a Dutch dive master who can guide you through the magnificent underwater landscape. Raja Ampat has the richest marine life of anywhere on the planet.
Sumba, a surfer’s paradise just an hour’s flight from Bali, is home to some of the most untouched beaches and traditional villages in Indonesia, as well as the best surfing conditions. The only hotel on the island, the hideaway resort of Nihiwatu Lodge is set amongst 438 acres of tropical forest, rice terraces and grasslands wrapped around the stunning two and half km long Nihiwatu beach. This world-class beach is protected on both ends by cliffs and headlands ensuring total exclusivity. Tucked amongst the trees these luxury bungalows villas all have balcony vistas stretching the full length of the beach, the sea and the headlands beyond. For those who can afford it, we suggest splashing out on their new residences, “Nihiwatu 2.0”, which launched at the end of 2012. These offer more seclusion, better ocean views, a butler service, access to a private pool (shared between the Nihiwatu 2.0 residences) and a higher level of luxury and hardware than the other cottages. Fear not, though… whichever category of villa you choose, they are all stunning.
Song Saa Private Island is the brainchild of an ex-marketing exec Rory and interior designer Melita, an Australian couple who love luxury hotels as much as they love the environment. They have done a truly magnificent job of taking eco-luxe to the next level. If you are used to staying in the best luxury hotels like Amans, Six Senses or COMO Hotels, you will not be disappointed at Song Saa. After identifying the most idyllic undiscovered location – 2 small islands in Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago – they have transformed it into a rustic palace decorated with unique and often re-used salvaged items combined with the slickest white lounging sofas and killer beds. The food is Michelin worthy (and it’s all included in the price) and the natural environment and local island culture is safeguarded Rory and Melita, who work hard to protect both. Be warned: this resort is so special and staff are so welcoming that guests have been known to cry on departure!
Please email email@example.com or call +44(0)20 7289 6100 to speak to one of our consultants about any of these trips. They will advise you on your options, plan a bespoke itinerary for you and take care of all the booking details. Happy travels in 2013!
Our brand new Laid-back Luxury tour of Laos and Cambodia combines this region’s most alluring highlights: a stay in the enchanting former royal capital of Luang Prabang, an exploration of the Temples of Angkor and down-time on the strikingly beautiful archipelago off the Cambodian coast. Start the journey in the spiritual town of Luang Prabang. The old town feels like a village and its charming streets lined with colonial houses, restaurants and delightful boutiques are a pleasure to stroll around. From watching long lines of saffron robed monks emerging from the morning mist to collect their alms, to exploring the abundant temples and relaxing with a cup of strong Lao coffee outside one of the many colonial buildings, Luang Prabang cannot fail but charm even the most world weary traveller.
Next, fly to Cambodia to explore the lost city of Angkor; approximately 900 temples made up the most astounding archaeological site in Asia. Indochina is full of French colonial charm and natural beauty, but this complex of gnarled 12thCentury temples is its cultural pièce-de-resistance. Rediscovered a century ago when elephant-back explorers stumbled across them, these ruins are all in various states of disrepair. They are best explored by foot or bike at sunrise, by private tuk tuk or by hot air balloon for astonishing aerial views.
To unwind in style, instead of flocking to Thailand for your beach break, escape to what we think is Asia’s most romantic and up-and-coming spot. Song Saa Private Island Resort is a sustainable sanctuary of uncompromising luxury and unique design which draws its inspiration from the Cambodian fishing villages of the Koh Rong Archipelago. Set on two small interconnected islands in the warm sapphire waters off the coast of Sihanoukville, it has undergone 5 years of restoration and rejuvenation of its flora, fauna and coral. The resort is all-inclusive and its contemporary Khmer fusion cuisine is a major draw. Accommodation consists of 27 stunning jungle, sea-view and overwater villas. Read Song Saa’s background story here.
Day 1 – In Transit
Fly with Thai Airways to Luang Prabang via Bangkok.
Day 11 – In Transit
Transfer to Phnom Penh for your international flight home via Bangkok.
This tour is purely a suggested itinerary. It can be booked as is or alternatively used as a starting point for creating your own perfect bespoke holiday to Cambodia and Laos. Please call +44 207 289 6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your trip.