Posts from the “Candy” Category

Monachyle Mhor Hotel: A little slice of Scottish heaven

 

Review :

Chances are that when you rock up at an unassuming boutique hotel on the edge of a Scottish loch far from civilization and there’s a helicopter sat on the lawn, you’ve probably found somewhere worth the journey.

Loch Voil is just an hour away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports in the less visited part of the Trossachs National Park. It’s a stunning landscape of glens, babbling rivers and forests, and is steeped in the history of Rob Roy McGregor, made famous by Daniel Dafoe and Sir Walter Scott, who lived, fought and died here.

Far down a single track road, which is barely marked on the map, the Monachyle Mohr estate has been owned by the Lewis family since 1983. It’s a real family run business that has been built up with hard graft over the intervening years to bring it to where it is today – a lovely boutique hotel, a working farm producing quality meat and veg, an award winning restaurant, and owner of a host of other business in the area including Mohr Bread (a bakery), Mohr Fish (a fishmongers and restaurant), and Mohr Tea (a tearoom).

 

Monochyle Mohr

On our visit, we stayed in one of the feature rooms in the old granary on the ground floor across the courtyard from the main, rather startlingly pink house. It was a spacious and warm, wooden-floored bedroom with a homely gas fire, a steam-room, and a very comfortable bed. It didn’t have much of a view, but that was hardly a deal breaker as it was the only bedroom available when we booked just the day before.

When we arrived, lunch had already finished but we were offered door-step sandwiches and huge mugs of tea in the cosy lounge in the main house instead. Just what we needed after a long, wet drive from Grantown-on-Spey way up north in The Highlands.

What we had really come for though was the promise of a great evening meal, as it was the award winning restaurant that attracted us in the first place when it had appeared in Mr H’s internet search for “best Scottish restaurant”. The subsequent discoveries that the hotel itself was rather wonderful and the location so stunning were purely bonuses.

Using local game, the farm’s own grass-fed, dry-aged angus beef and lamb, and vegetables grown in the garden, Tom Lewis prepares wonderful food from the ingredients available on the estate, and from the best fish and seafood Scotland has to offer.

 

Mhor CourtyardI can understand why people fly in from the city by seaplane or helicopter for lunch to enjoy the likes of Perthshire spring lamb, mustard celeriac remoulade, chantenay carrots with juniper jus, or crispy hen’s egg, new season’s white and green asparagus, with lemon sorrel – we certainly weren’t disappointed with what we were fed.

As ours was a bit of a whirlwind tour around Scotland we only had one night to stay in the Mohr, so we left wanting more. You could spend days wandering the countryside, fishing the loch or birdwatching, and the estate manager Alan will take you on safari to tell you the history of Rob Roy and to spot the local wildlife – well worth the money for a morning of exploring.

Sent on our way at noon the next day we were given a hearty packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit, local cheese with homemade oatcakes, and even a butter knife each from the restaurant. As we drove away and came to the end of the loch we spied a for-sale sign on a piece of land, so promptly took down the details for further investigation. One way or another we’ll definitely be back to Loch Voil and The Mohr to experience this little slice of Scottish heaven again.

Price: Rooms start from US$312 per night.

Location: Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, FK19 8PQ. Tel: 01877 384622.

Website: http://mhor.net

Satri House – Worth paying for the best room.

Satri House

Review:

There are now many choices of where to stay when visiting Luang Prabang, that little Cotswold-style gem of a town in central Laos.

On our last trip we decided to stay on the edge of town in Satri House as Mr H had his heart set on staying in one particular room he had seen online. Built in the early 1900s for the Laos royal family, it consists of a mishmash of separate buildings and salas; old and new. Thankfully, the new wing has been very sympathetically styled and blends in well with the old.

We stayed in the upstairs suite in the original wing of the hotel.  There are only three bedrooms in the house (pictured above), as well as a couple of beautiful public lounges. Suite 442 where we were, occupies one half of the upstairs and was worth the money.

I’m sure the other rooms are also very nice (the hotel was refurbed and expanded over a couple of years ending in 2009), but it felt good to be in the authentic wing of the hotel.

AnteroomRoom: Everything you want in an Indochine colonial villa of old; Silk, hardwoods, art and furniture. AC helps, and the bathroom was large, new, airy and stylish, (just remember to close the shutters as people can see you at the mirror.)

The “lounge” wasn’t really a lounge, more an anteroom to the bedroom, but it was a comfortable and bright place to read and plan our next meal or shopping foray.

Service: I don’t know why, but service staff were almost exclusively male. Everyone was very friendly, and we were shown varying degrees of competence and initiative, but you had to pick your man if you wanted to be sure they understood more complex requests.

This is Laos, and they are only just getting to grips with the level of service that well-heeled tourists expect. Being friendly is a good start, but don’t expect Mandarin Oriental levels of excellence for a good while yet.

Facilities: Large pool for the size of hotel; big enough to swim lengths and a great way to cool off in the stifling heat of a Laotian afternoon. There’s a small bar, and a nice restaurant that whilst isn’t offering anything out of the ordinary in terms of lunch or dinner, did put on a really good breakfast.

There’s also a spa, although I didn’t get a chance to partake, and you can take bikes out rent-free to explore the surroundings.

The grounds are beautifully kept and the hotel is very nicely styled. Lots of nicknacks that you think would look great in your own home. The hotel does in fact claim that many of the furnishings are available in their shop in town, but it was a huge disappointment; with low quality products in a dusty old shop.

Ambience: There is a bit of a hush about the hotel, sometimes it feels like a bit of a museum, but it is a very pleasant place to chill out, with lots of different nooks to sit and enjoy the surroundings. You don’t feel too bad spending hours lounging around in your room either when you have a suite like 442. It feels more like a house than a hotel up there.

Price: The rate card starts at US$180++  for a standard room, and rises to US$400++ for suite 442.

Location: Satri House is on the eastern edge of town away from the centre. You’ll need a taxi back from a night out, and we made good use of the bicycles to get in and out of town during the day, (you can always load them into the back of the “Song Tao” style taxis, if you decide you can’t make it back to the hotel in the heat!), if you want to have the town and it’s splendours right on your doorstep, this is not the hotel for you.

One word of warning though. We stayed in Sari House during Laos New Year (beginning of April) and the local fair was in full, exuberant cacophony well into the early hours and is located less than 200m away.  It was great fun to go to and see, and we weren’t much bothered by the techno and concerts that blared from midday until the wee hours, but I imagine that it would ruin some people’s holiday. Some guests did indeed check-out and move to different hotels. This happens every year, so forewarned is forearmed.

Summary: I would definitely recommend staying in the original Satri House, we had a good time, and Mr H was very happy with his room.

Next time we go to LP we will stay somewhere different simply because there are now so many interesting little hotels to try out, that it would be daft to stay in the same one twice.

Necessity meant that we had to visit Laos at the beginning of April, but I wouldn’t really recommend visiting at this time. On the positive side, the town was almost empty of tourists, but on the negative side, it’s stubble burning season. The air is full of smoke, your clothes will stink, and you will never see a clear blue sky. For anyone with respiratory problems, it would be a nightmare.

The Eugenia, Bangkok. Still a little gem.

Update:

The Eugenia is now off the Candy list. It’s now tipped into being a little too scuffed.

Review:

I’ve tried out a number of hotels in Bangkok over the past few years since I first stayed in the Eugenia back in 2006 (review here).  Getting around Bangkok is still a bit of a nightmare, so you have to mitigate this by planning where you stay very sensibly in relation to what you want to go and do.

I made the mistake of staying near the palace during one visit and spent more time stuck in traffic jams than I did sleeping, eating, shopping and getting massages combined.

For me, the Eugenia is still number one on my list for the following reasons:

  • It’s pretty quick to get to and from the airport.
  • I love the styling.
  • It’s got a pool.
  • It’s tiny – just 12 bedrooms, which is my kind of boutique hotel.
  • I love the breakfast in your bedroom at no extra cost.
  • It’s a 10 minute walk or 3 minute hotel tuk-tuk ride to the Sky Train.
  • It’s close to Siam by Sky Train which is where I like to shop.
  • It’s within a 5 minute walk of some awesome home-furnishing shops like Incredible and Almeta Silk.
  • My favourite foot massage joint in Bangkok is within a 5 minute walk – Mulberry Spa.
  • It’s close to a lot of good restaurants, bars and clubs.
  • It’s on the right side of town to get down to Silom and some of my other favourite restaurants and bars by taxi if I don’t want to get the sky-train.

So for convenience and style it ticks lots of boxes, and makes up for what it lacks in facilities and flawless service by being tiny and friendly.

Rooms:

I’ve stayed in both the 1st floor Eugenia rooms which are at the front of the hotel and open onto a terrace, and the Sawadee rooms on the 2nd floor which are at the back. What you lose in terrace you gain in peace and quiet, and I was very happy staying in the Sawadee rooms this time round.

The Eugenia is all about colonial shabby chic, so floorboards creak, air-con is quite noisy, and there’s no lift, but that just adds to the feeling that you’re staying in someone’s house rather than a hotel, and that’s just fine with me.

When I first stayed here the rooms had the most fantastic heavy linen sheets, but now they have gone back to cotton (albeit very high quality), I was unaccountably disappointed by this.

Beds are very comfortable though, huge deep mattresses and lovely duvets.

All the drinks in the minibar are free which is a nice touch, and as they don’t really have a breakfast room, they bring it to you in your room as a matter of course, which is perfect. We also got a good wifi connection in the room which was useful.

Bathrooms:

I love The Eugenia’s monotone floor tiles.  The showers are hot and strong, and the copper bathtubs a lovely treat.

The only quibble is that although their organic, homemade bath products all smell fantastic, they aren’t that great at doing the job of lathering up, and tend to leave me feeling a bit gunky. Must try harder on that front.

Service:

Don’t expect perfect English here. The staff are all very helpful and are as attentive as they need to be, without being overbearing. I tend to try and find one staff member who I can go to for everything rather than having to explain things a couple of times to different people who don’t understand. This trip it was Ong-Art Rungsamai, the reservation manager. He was efficient and used his initiative to help us find and book what we needed in the city.

eugenia_swimming_pool

Facilities:

There is a good if tiny restaurant downstairs: the D.B Bradley room, which I’ll review separately, and the Zheng He Lounge for reading and drinks, both beautifully decorated, and very chilled.

The swimming pool at the back of the hotel is big enough to exercise in and is mostly shaded during the day, and there is a little sala bar beside the pool which is a lovely spot to hang out and have a pre-dinner drink.

Where: All the contact details are at the bottom of this post here, which has more photos and blather too.

Price:

Costs have risen since we first stayed (although that was very soon after it had opened), but not by much. We paid US$230 a night this time round for a smaller Sawadee room rather than US$166 for the larger Eugenia room back in 2006, but I still think it’s great value for what you get.

Hotel Lancaster, Paris – sublime.

Review:

This post is part of the same Parisian story that saw my partner and I leaving Hotel Costes rather earlier than expected after a run in with some particulary obnoxious staff.

Having either been bumped from our room, or just downright lied to by that hotel, our lifestyle manager, who was distraught that we’d been screwed about, got us booked into a suite at the truly 5* Hotel Lancaster just off the Champs Elyseés instead.

As soon as we entered the serene lobby and the receptionist smiled winningly at us, I fell in love with Hotel Lancaster.

lobby_lancaster_paris

When I stepped into Suite 75, I knew I was home. It was the most perfect, elegant Belle Epoque apartment for a romantic stay in Paris. It was everything Hotel Costes wanted to be, but would never, ever achieve.

It’s full of carefully chosen antiques and artwork, has all the modern facilities you could want, from iPod docks to wifi, and is the ultimate in quiet sophistication.

The bedroom of suite 75 opened up onto a lovely long balcony overlooking Paris and the Zen garden below.

lancaster_75_bedroom_parisWe had a lounge where we would be served an enormous breakfast every day, and was so cosy and sumptuous in the middle of winter I hardly wanted to leave it.

salon_lancaster_paris_75And the suite had one of my all time favourite bathrooms.  Just look at that art-deco dressing table. Absolutely gorgeous, and so much light. I was also introduced to a wonderful range of Greek beauty products - Korres – their citrus body milk is my particular favourite.

bathroom_75_lancaster_paris

outside_lancaster-parisThe service at Hotel Lancaster is as good as it gets. They are on the Mandarin Oriental level of excellence in my books. The concierge introduced us to a really good modern Sichuan restaurant, and helped us find out about particular shops etc. The housekeeping and room service staff were efficient, friendly and discreet – what more do you need?

The hotel has lots of facilities and a 2* Michelin restaurant, but we really didn’t take advantage of all that because we were so cosy and wrapped up in our suite. Having spent weeks on the move traveling around Europe, being able just to lounge around in this gorgeous set of rooms and having Paris outside the windows was blissful. I have to admit I got rather too used to it.

Location: 7 rue de Berri, Champs Elyseés, 75008, Paris. Tel: +33 1 40 76 40 76. Pretty close to the George V Metro, close to the Place d’Etoile end of the Champs Elyseés.

Boys – if you ever want to take a loved one to Paris, I promise you that if you book into either the Dietrich, 75 or 76 suites at the Lancaster they will be yours forever. It is captivating, exhilarating, elegant and utterly sophisticated – and some of that is bound to rub off on you…

Villa Amistà, Verona – Byblos owner has created a ludicrously good hotel.

Review:
I’m going to resist the temptation to post lots of photos of this hotel, and would recommend that you don’t look at the website too deeply (or at all) before you book, leave it as a surprise…
To have somewhere like the Villa Amistà sprung on you after a particularly long and harrowing journey, is disconcerting to say the least. Our concierge service had booked us in earlier that same day after we could only find one rather depressing hotel on Lake Garda that was open in February, and had suggested that Verona was our best bet.
We were told the hotel was in a refurbed villa, and housed a large collection of modern art. What she should have said was, “I’m booking you into this hotel – it’s completely bonkers, but trust me, you’ll love it.”
It’s as if a madman had got control of the Hadron Collider and decided to see what happens when he placed a 15th century Italian villa complete with contents, a bunch of paints and a hiccuping Murano glass blower inside and thrown the switch. The result is startling.
I must admit that when I first walked in, drained and jaded from the schlep from Milan via Garda (many times via Garda in fact, but let us not revisit dark times), I did think “Holy Crap, what the f**k has our lifestyle manager done to us? This place is preposterous.”
To say that it houses a collection of art is an understatement, it is in it’s entirety one carefully constructed installation piece. It’s vibrant, irreverent and whimsical, but there is also a strong vein of elegance running throughout. Dino Facchini owner of Byblos houses a big chunk of his personal art collection here, and he uses the villa to showcase all the pieces of his Byblos Casa operation, so you can walk out with an armchair if it takes your fancy.
Rooms: We stayed on the lobby level of the villa which is the only level that has balconies. These are the best rooms, and they were bloody gigantic. I understand that the standard rooms are rather snug, so would suggest spending the money to bypass these. The bathrooms are some of the best I’ve experienced. All white, with proper lighting so that girls can actually apply their makeup properly (wish other hotels would cotton on to this).
Public areas: The public areas of the hotel are fascinating, every nook and cranny has some weird or wonderful piece of furniture or art. Most of the 15th century style ceilings are intricately painted, there are gorgeous salons to lounge about in, beautiful gardens, a lovely pool and a spa.
Restaurant/Bar: There is a great bar and a wonderful restaurant.  I have no idea why the Restaurant Atelier doesn’t have even one Michelin star. It was miles better than the 2* Il Desco we went to in Verona one night, and the sommelier was fantastic. He introduced us to Ripasso which sees the unpressed grape skins that go into making the wonderful Amarones, added to the already blended and fermented Valpollicella wine to finish it off. This process adds body and character to the simple Valpollicella – and the results are hugely successful. I always buy them now as it’s cheaper and lighter than Amarone.
Service: Really wonderful. During the black hours of being lost in the northern Italian industrial hinterland, they actually sent a car to look for us (how Italian is that? Incredibly chivalrous, but completely illogical). They have shuttle-buses to take you in and out of Verona whenever you need, and they provide faultless hospitality.
Price: I remember we paid around €300 for one of the best rooms in the house in February, and they seem to do lots of specials and promotions at different times of year, including around opera season. Fantastic that it is open year-round.
Location: via Cedrare, 78, 37020 Corrubbio di Negarine (Verona) – Italy. Tel +39 045 6855555, reservation@byblosarthotel.com. Corrubbio is just under 10km from the centre of old Verona.
We loved the hotel. It was completely bonkers, and service and food were truly excellent. Just make sure that you have a map and good directions as it’s a bitch to find. Fortunately there were lots of prostitutes on the outskirts of Verona who we could ask for directions !@?$*
Before we ended up in Verona we had decided that we wanted to stop off at the lakes on our way to Venice, but nothing was open at this time of year. I’m so pleased we went there, as the old town is beautiful, the restaurants are world-class and it’s slap bang in the middle of a wine producing region. I’d definitely go back.

Review:

I’m going to resist the temptation to post lots of photos of this hotel, and would recommend that you don’t look at the website too deeply (or at all) before you book, leave it as a surprise…

villa_amista_caustic_candyTo have somewhere like the Villa Amistà sprung on you after a particularly long and harrowing journey, is disconcerting to say the least. Our concierge service had booked us in earlier that same day after we could only find one rather depressing hotel on Lake Garda that was open in February, and had suggested that Verona was our best bet.

We were told the hotel was in a refurbed villa, and housed a large collection of modern art. What she should have said was, “I’m booking you into this hotel – it’s completely bonkers, but trust me, you’ll love it.”

It’s as if a madman had got control of the Hadron Collider and decided to see what happens when he placed a 15th century Italian villa complete with contents, a bunch of paints and a hiccuping Murano glass blower inside and thrown the switch. The result is startling.

I must admit that when I first walked in, drained and jaded from the schlep from Milan via Garda (many times via Garda in fact, but let us not dwell on the dark moments of our lives), I did think “Holy Crap, what the f**k has our lifestyle manager done to us? This place is preposterous.”

To say that it houses a collection of art is an understatement, it is in it’s entirety, one carefully constructed installation piece. It’s vibrant, irreverent and whimsical, but there is also a strong vein of elegance running throughout. Dino Facchini, the owner of Byblos, houses a big chunk of his personal art collection here, and he uses the villa to showcase all the pieces of his Byblos Casa operation, so you can walk out with an armchair if it takes your fancy.

villa_amista_caustic—candy1Rooms: We stayed on the lobby level of the villa which is the only floor that has balconies. These are the best rooms, and they were bloody gigantic. I understand that the standard rooms are rather snug, so would suggest spending the money to bypass these. The bathrooms are some of the best I’ve experienced. All white, with proper lighting so that girls can actually apply their makeup easily, (wish other hotels would cotton on to this).

Public areas: The public areas of the hotel are fascinating, every nook and cranny has some weird or wonderful piece of furniture or art. Most of the 15th century style ceilings are intricately painted, there are gorgeous salons to lounge about in, beautiful gardens, a lovely pool and a spa.

Restaurant/Bar: There is a great bar and a wonderful restaurant.  I have no idea why the Restaurant Atelier doesn’t have even one Michelin star. It was obviously better than the 2* Il Desco we went to in Verona one night, and the sommelier was fantastic. He introduced us to Ripasso which sees the unpressed grape skins that go into making the wonderful Amarones, added to the already blended and fermented Valpollicella wine to finish it off. This process adds body and character to the simple Valpollicella – and the results are hugely successful. I regularly buy Ripasso now as it’s cheaper and lighter than Amarone.

Service: Really wonderful. During the black hours of being lost in the northern Italian industrial hinterland, they actually sent a car to look for us (how Italian is that? Incredibly chivalrous, but completely illogical). They have shuttle-buses to take you in and out of Verona whenever you need, and they provide faultless hospitality.

Price: I remember we paid around €300 for one of the best rooms in the house in February, and they seem to do lots of specials and promotions at different times of year, including around opera season. Fantastic that it is open year-round.

Location: Via Cedrare, 78, 37020 Corrubbio di Negarine (Verona) – Italy. Tel +39 045 6855555, reservation@byblosarthotel.com. Corrubbio is just under 10km from the centre of old Verona.

We loved the hotel. It was completely bonkers, and the service and food were truly excellent. Just make sure that you have a map and good directions as it’s a bitch to find. Fortunately there were lots of prostitutes on the outskirts of Verona who we could ask for directions !@?$*

Before we ended up in Verona we had decided that we wanted to stop off at the lakes on our way to Venice, but nothing was open at this time of year. I’m so pleased we went to Verona instead, as the old town is beautiful, the restaurants are world-class and it’s slap bang in the middle of a wine producing region – i.e. ticks all my holiday boxes really!

Ca Maria Adele – perfect, bijou hotel in Venice.

Review:

With all this recent brouhaha from debating the banning of day-trippers from Venice, I thought it time to put together some posts on that rather wonderful city.

ca_maria-adele_caustic_candy

I have to admit that I am a lucky so-and-so to have stayed in such amazing places over the years, and for me, one of the most memorable was Ca Maria Adele in Venezia. There is nothing like staying in the city, roaming the streets at night when all the day-trippers have left. Magic.

My first time in Venice, we took a Riva directly to the hotel. We’d stashed the car at the railway station after an horrendous drive through the industrial wasteland between Verona and Venice, and I was seriously doubting whether Venice was going to live up to it’s promise. But when we got in that taxi and made our way through the foggy, almost deserted canals I was utterly blown away. Venice, in winter, in the fog is an astonishing place, and to pull up outside this little palazzo with it’s front door flanked by huge hurricane lamps, with no other life around and just the hulking presence of the basilica – thrills me just thinking about it again.

Ca Maria Adele is perfectly positioned (opposite the basillica of Santa Maria della Salute), right at the far tip of Dorsoduro, which is arguably the prettiest and most non-touristy part of the city.

It is perfectly proportioned, having only 12 rooms.

It is perfectly sumptious – 5* luxury, with an incredible mix of materials, fixtures and fittings, from original 16th century oak beams, to Murano chandeliers, to african wood nicknacks and even furry walls…

And your hosts are perfectly delightful too. Very helpful, very accommodating.

I challenge anyone to try and find a more romantic bolt-hole in Venice.

caustic_candy__ca_maria_adele2

Rooms: 12. 2 suites. We stayed in suite 339 which has a little roof terrace, and is all gold brocade and exposed oak beams. If you don’t need the outdoor space then there are some gorgeous themed rooms with huge Murano chandeliers, red velvet walls etc definitely worth a look on the website.

Dining: There is a beautiful breakfast room on the 1st floor with windows that open out onto the church and canal, as well as a Moroccan inspired terrace round the back, where you can sit and sup. There is no lunch or dinner served at the hotel. The breakfast room, terrace and lounge are for tea and cocktails (and breakfast…).

Service: Impeccable service. It can take them a little while to get to you as there are lots of twisty-twiny stairs to climb to get to certain rooms. The concierge was very good and the GM Nicola Campa is often at reception and he is just the bees knees when it comes to hospitality.

Facilities: This isn’t a place crammed with facilities, it’s a tiny palazzo.  It’s more like going to stay in someone’s incredibly beautiful home. No swimming pools, no gyms etc.  It’s just utterly private and gorgeous.

Access: If you have mobility problems then this hotel isn’t for you as there are no lifts, and you can only get there by boat.

Price: Now, I have only ever been to Venice in winter, and frankly would never go at any other time. We stayed in a suite for about €400 per night  in Feb over Carnival. This was a lot cheaper than high season, and an utter bargain as far as we were concerned.  Our concierge service at Coutts World found this hotel and sorted the price, and is probably still one of their most impressive finds/deals for us.

Location: Dorsoduro 111, 30123 Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 520 3078. email: info@camariaadele.it

If you are looking for somewhere awesome to stay and love small, high-end hotels, then this is an absolute must. It’s tucked away in a lovely, quiet part of Venice but within spitting distance of many of the major attractions.

Also if like us, you have to have outside space wherever you stay, then room 339 is one of the most romantic you will find with the little roof terrace tucked amongst the eaves (you don’t get a big view, but it’s just secret and hidden). My other personal favourite roof terraces at the moment are Hotel Gallery Arts in Florence, and the Lancaster in Paris but that’s for later…

The Nam Hai – Still the best place on China Beach by far

Review:

It’s difficult not to enjoy staying in a pool villa at the Nam Hai - they really are pretty pukka, but these days you do have to be as rich as Creosus to stay (when we first went during the soft opening it only cost us HK$2,400 for a two bed pool villa per night which was a ridiculous bargain).

Located on China Beach, near Hoi An and Danang, The Nam Hai opened in 2007 and is a collection of villas and hotel accommodation. It was developed by GMH who own such lovely resorts/hotels as the Chedis in Oman/Chiang Mai/Bali etc and the awesome looking Nizuc which is about to be built in Mexico.
Nam Hai Caustic Candy Danang 1

Service starts with being picked up at the airport or train station in Danang by a driver, which is always a nice touch. Each villa comes with a butler, who brings you whatever you want for breakfast, and then cocktails, fruit and snacks at lunchtime and sundown. You get an open bar, buggies to take you to the hotel and spa, a great stereo system you can plug your iPod into, a library of DVDs and the option to use hotel room service if you just can’t be bothered to move for lunch or dinner.

The added bonus of your own salt water swimming pool and garden really is very civilised – so when the tides are strong (which they are at certain times of year), you just can’t be bothered to go down to the beach, or you have an aversion to sand, you can gaze at the sea whilst keeping cool in your pool.

Nam Hai Danang Caustic Candy 2

The restaurants at the Nam Hai are very good, and there are lots of different options about where you can sit and sup – inside/outside/by the pool/in a sala.

They also have a very good spa with individual salas that open onto a lovely lily pond, so you can patter about butt naked but private to the rest of the world. I spent a whole afternoon having a range of massages, scrubs and facials that were blissful.

One word of caution though – this is not a small-child friendly venue.  As you can see the gardens and swimming pools have no barriers, the interiors of the rooms are all sharp corners and sunken baths, and you cross to the bedroom salas across little bridges with 6ft drops either side.

There are masses of things to do around Danang and Hoi An (take a look here) – watersports, ancient ruins, the UNESCO protected old town of Hoi An, even Danang itself is a great town to rumamge around with good restaurants and hilarious techno clubs.

Price: The Nam Hai is pricey – it’s the most luxurious place to stay in the whole of Vietnam, and direct rates start around HK$11,000 a night for a 2 bed pool villa like in the photos (hotel villas are around HK$5000 a night), but if you have a concierge company as good as mine through Coutt’s (or through Vertu for that matter) then you’re likely get a decent discount or upgrade.

I think it’s a great place to stay. Really tip top, very private, utterly relaxing with fantastic facilities, food and service.

Location: Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, Tel: (84-510) 3 940 000

Resotel – Super chilled hideaway on the River Kwai

Review:

The Resotel is hidden away on the River Kwai about 40min past Kanchanaburi.  I love this part of Thailand, so jungly and quiet.

So jungly you can barely see the bungalows

The hotel is a mish-mash of little bungalows in the jungle with a great swimming pool, restaurant, spa, lovely gardens and a river deck you can hang out on and while away the time reading a book.

resotel river kwai caustic candy deck

The usual (and fun) way to get to it is by boat which you pick up 1km down the river where there is a car park. You can drive round the long way though fording the river further up, but unless you have mobility problems then I wouldn’t bother.

We aren’t talking 5* here, but it’s clean and charming and a lot better than the other hotels I’ve stayed at in the area including the Royal River Kwai and the Oriental Kwai (both were fine, just didn’t have a patch on the Resotel, and their locations aren’t as good). There are around 90 bungalows in total, but as they are spread out through the gardens you don’t realise there are so many.  There is also a cultural centre with meeting facilities and a mini-mart, but these are at the back of the plot behind the main building, so you don’t need to even see them unless you go looking for them.

Now, I don’t know what they do to the food here, but it is just delicious. It’s very typical Thai food, all the old favourites, nothing fancy, but it’s executed perfectly. I love it.

They have fantastic masseuses and a sala for the purpose up in the eaves of the main building which is open to the river (Go for the Herbal Massage, which mixes traditional Thai massage with the use of a big ball of herbs to gently knead your body, it is unbeatable).  The main building is a huge teak edifice which is open to the elements – it’s lovely to sit in the evenings on the terraces and listen to all the wildlife.

The concierge is very helpful and they will organise trips for you, and private cars to take you to and from Bangkok if you want.

This hotel is part of a group that has some other interesting looking accommodation in the area, including staying on river rafts with no electricity, and staying in posh tents near Hell Fire Pass.  I’m intending on trying both of these next time I’m up.

Price: Varies by season and who you book through, but it’s about US$100 a night for a double bungalow, or US$130 for the best bungalow which has a river view and a jacuzzi. Do book ahead as it’s a popular place, especially now the Russians have found it.

Note for the feeble pansies:  You are in the jungle so you will get big spiders, plenty of mozzies, geckos of all sizes, snakes and the odd monitor lizard. If you’re scared of wildlife, just suck it up and get on with it.  This is a great place to stay.

The Eugenia, Bangkok – lovely boutique hotel

Review:

I first stayed in The Eugenia when it had just opened, and it really was a lovely experience. It’s a refurbed colonial era house, oooooozes charm and character, and is very chilled and sophisticated. We love this kind of “colonial safari lodge” style décor, animal skins on the floor, stuffed wildlife on antique tables, old cameras converted into lamps, natural linen and leather furniture (and great cocktails).

The Eugenia, Bangkok

Here is the skinny:

If you are arriving late at night at BKK airport, resist the temptation to be met by their vintage Jaguar S-Type.  The back seat is just big enough for 2 with hand and man bags.  If you travel light as we do then our cabin-sized luggage just about fitted in the boot.  The car is oooold, so it is slooooooow, and it struggles getting up hills, so when all you want to do is get to your hotel and then hit the town, it’s quite frustrating to be dribbling along in a car with rubbish suspension, (I’m sure under other circumstances it’s really romantic…).

Rooms: We usually stay in one of the two rooms that open on to the little terrace on the 1st floor – think they are the Sawadee or Eugienia Suites. Eugenia is a good deal bigger than the other.  The bed linen is some of my favourite in the world.  It’s really heavy french linen, and the mattresses are some of the deepest you will come across.  The toiletries are homemade with lovely essential oils – lemongrass, citronella etc, just yummy.

Service: In-room breakfast.  Yes, yes, yes!  A hotel that’s got it right.  I hate having to go down for my breakfast, so always end up spending a fortune on room service – I like to have a cup of tea and eat my yoghurt in my bathrobe.  The Eugenia will bring you breakfast whenever you want it, so civilised. Very helpful staff, good concierge skills, English skills very greatly between staff so sometimes need to find the right person.

Facilities: lovely bar – The Zheng He Lounge, stunning (decor at least) restaurant D.B Bradley Dining Room – I was meant to eat there for my birthday last year, but was staying in a different hotel in a stupid part of town, where it would take me 2hours to get to the Eugenia – grrrrr), decent sized pool, garage full of cars that will take you about.

Location: 267, Soi Sukhumvit 31, North Klongtan, Bangkok. Tel: +662 259 9011.  The hotel is a 5-10min walk to the Skytrain (Asoke) or metro (Petchaburi), but the hotel has it’s own tuk-tuk so they will happily buzz you down there if it’s too hot or rainy. Close to Soi Nana, lots of good shops and little eateries, pretty quiet little road even though the hotel is right on it.

Price: we think good value for the surroundings, service and facilities – we usually pay around HK$1300 through our concierge (Coutts Worldcard).

Peninsula Bangkok – Surprisingly Convenient

Review:

As the credit crunch was starting to bite me in the butt we booked a 72 hour package to BKK rather than book flights and hotel separately as usual. I was a little apprehensive as for non-business travel I don’t like large hotels.  Have to say that the package was very good value for money, and the Peninsula turned out to be a really good choice.

Rooms: Could do with an update, especially lacking in techno gadgets. Large, comfortable, clean but a bit tired round the edges and very early 90s pastels. Each room looks out across the River Praya and the views really are cool.

Bangkok Skyline from the Pen

Bangkok Skyline from the Pen

Service:  Very good service, and the concierge was top notch.  Pointed us to a couple of really good restaurants, booked cinema tickets for us, organised a boatman to take us on a trip round the klongs and then up to Suan Thip for lunch.

Price: Part of a package, and was good value.

Facilities:  Nice gardens and pool, 5* so gym, business centres etc. I did get my legs waxed in the beauty salon and it was fine but massively expensive.  Think I paid HK$600!

Restaurants/Bars: No interest in eating inside the hotel. Did go to the whiskey bar for a night cap one evening, pretty decent jazz singer, cosy etc.

Location:  On first glance I though the location was going to be a nightmare. So far as I was concerned it was the wrong side of the river and too far south from all the locations I usually go to: Siam Square, Sukhumvit etc. In fact it was great.  The Pen has a little boat that takes you over to the Skytrain on the opposite bank, and then the Skytrain takes you to within 10mins of most places you would ever want to go.  Unless it’s late at night, it really isn’t worth getting a taxi in BKK, so your accomm does need to be very close to the Skytrains or underground to get about (or be wildly irresponsible and take motorbike taxis).

All in all, for a large hotel with little charm, it had top notch service, great views and convenient transport links.