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Posts from the ‘Honeymoons’ Category

A Private Island Paradise for World Earth Day

Cempedak Island 1

What’s the story?
Cempedak (pronounced Chemp-e-dak) is a new private island resort in the Indonesian archipelago, five years in the making. This just opened venture is from the same team behind nearby Nikoi Island, another Robinson Crusoe-esque set up.

How does it differ from Nikoi Island then?
It’s a few notches up on the design and cuisine front. What they can’t better is the service which is legendarily good on Nikoi – it’s as equally smiley and attentive on Cempedak. The main difference is that Nikoi is geared more towards families with young children whereas Cempedak is for adults only.

You’ve got my attention, how do I get there?
Catch a ferry from Singapore to Bintan (an hour’s crossing) where you’ll be picked up by private car and driven across the island (another hour) then it’s a 30 minute speedboat ride to Cempedak. Trust us, it’s worth it. Or you could arrive direct by yacht.

Cempedak Villa 4

What does the resort look like?
As your chosen vessel approaches the tiny, verdant island, a series of striking structures hone into view. These thatched roofed, curved bamboo buildings make up the villas and public areas of the resort.

So it’s designed to look like a pretty tropical paradise?
Well yes but Cempedak is not just a pretty face, the owners are committed to eco-friendly practices. Bamboo is sustainable and the open sided, high ceilinged designs cut down the need for air con. The resort has been built by local workers using locally sourced materials and employs only Indonesian staff. Added to that, the owners have set up The Island Foundation to help improve the income, health and education of surrounding communities.

Cempedak villa

Tell me more about the guest rooms
They’re all villas and they come in two types: beach fronted or set back and elevated with a view of the sea. Both have airy, open sitting areas, terraces and a plunge pool large enough to get a couple of strokes in. A spiral staircase leads up to a bedroom complete with sitting area to further soak in the view and en suite bathroom with semi open shower.

Cempedak Villa 2

What about the food?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all held in the main restaurant (though in-villa or on a nearby deserted island are also options) but with a choice of terraces and some hideaway nooks, you can move around for each meal and feel like you’re having a new dining experience every time. All meals are set menus and alternate between Indonesian and western cuisine, using local produce including seafood, fish, vegetables and fruit, and all of a high standard.

Is there a bar?
There are three: one part of the restaurant and one next to the pool plus the gloriously designed Dodo Bar perched on top of a huge rock and with a multi storey thatched roof. There’s a story behind its curious name. Ask the bartender to tell you when he’s fixing your drink from the impressive array of boutique spirits.

Walkway to Dodo Bar

What is there to do?
For active sorts there’s a whole heap of activities on offer including watersports, tennis and croquet. Or you could just loll about by the swimming pool, the beach bar within easy reach. And if you’re even too lazy to do that (mea culpa) you could loaf about on your own terrace next to your own plunge pool. After all, the in room magazine is The Idler.

Cempedak Main Swimming Pool 3

Is there a spa?
Spa treatment rooms are planned for later in the year but for now massages are available in the none too shabby environs of your villa.

Anything else I should know?
This is very much bare foot luxury. There’s no room key or air con, you’ll need to bring your own hairdryer and the walkways do not invite high heels. If you like your luxe resorts hermetically sealed and Disney sanitised this probably isn’t the place for you. If however you like the feel of a sea breeze and being lulled to sleep by the sound of lapping waves, you’ll love it.

I’m sold, what’s the damage?
From SG$450 per night (plus taxes) for a Sea View villa; SG$95 per person per day for full board. For more visit http://www.cempedak.com

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Best and Worst Hotels of the Year

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Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

The Good

Good is an understatement: exceptional would be more apt when describing the best hotel Chopstix checked into this year: the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India.

There are some hotels that have such a stellar reputation that staying at them can be a disappointment. Not so the Lake Palace which actually exceeded  our expectations.

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Is this the Best Hotel in the World?

Taj umaid palace exterior on horizon

Is the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, on a hill overlooking Jodhpur in Rajasthan, northern India, really the Best Hotel in the World as declared by Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2016? Having stayed earlier this year, Chopstix can confirm it’s definitely up there. Here’s why:

1.The sheer scale and grandeur – Yes it’s a palace and it’s staggeringly vast (our first sight of the place was from the plane coming into Jodhpur airport, it’s so big and majestic you can’t miss it). The sight of it is overwhelming when you draw up outside and that feeling never really leaves you throughout your stay.

2.The Royal Welcome – we don’t want to spoil the surprise but it really is special.

3.The Maharaja lives here – Maharaja Gaj Sing and his family still occupy one of the wings. In fact his Highness doesn’t want you to think of it as a hotel but a home.

4.The lobby – you’ll be lead here for a welcoming drink of bubbly when you arrive and take a moment to sit down and marvel at this marble wonder with domed ceiling. International designers flock here for inspiration – Rolex modelled a watch face on the design.

Taj umaid palace lobby fisheye view

5.The elevator – just off the lobby, manned by a uniformed butler and including a cushioned banquette.

6.The indoor pool -subterranean, circular, art deco and flanked by steamer chairs. Need we say more.

7.The outdoor pool – with a view of the impressive Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.

Taj Umaid swimming pool with Fort

8.The gardens – vast and ornamental. And home to several strutting peacocks.

Umaid Bhawan Palace/Jodhpur/India

9.The restaurants – choose between the outdoor terrace of Pillars with a stunning view of the gardens and Fort, both flood lit at night or lavish Risala (which also has a pretty terrace). Or don’t – you can opt for either menu (European or Indian) at both restaurants.

Taj Umaid Pillars restaurant

10.The service – attentive without being obtrusive. And the only hotel we’ve stayed at where we were asked what they could improve – the answer is nothing.

http://www.taj.tajhotels.com

 

 

 

The Only Way to See the Taj Mahal

Oberoi view from balcony

If like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge you’re planning a visit to the Taj Mahal, there’s only one way to do it in style and that’s by staying at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra.

Not only does this glamorous, film set of a resort have a bird’s eye view of the iconic monument from most of its rooms and terraces, it’s also the only hotel in Agra to have private access via golf buggy right up to the gates.

http://www.oberoihotels.com

Finding Bliss in Bali

Alila Villas Soori, Bali

Alila Villas Soori, Bali

[UPDATE: The resort is now named Soori Bali and is no longer part of the Alila group.]

We’ve been sitting on this one for a while. In truth, we really didn’t want to tell you about it. When we visit somewhere so special, we don’t always want the secret to be out. But then again it would be a shame if you never heard about Alila Villa Soori on Bali.

Tucked away on the quiet west coast of the island, an hour’s (luxury) car ride from the airport, if you’re seeking the packed beaches and bars of Bali, this is not for you. If however you’re looking for peace, pampering, great food and a gorgeous spa this is the spot.

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