Luxury Hotels

The gal tries a new fun-luxury brand at a Koh Samui hotel

You know where you are!

It is always fun to try a new brand and this was the gal’s introduction to AVANI+ (‘AVANI Plus’), which evolved out of Minor’s existing AVANI brand. The idea is that every AVANI+ offers something special.  Here, at AVANI+ Samui, on Samui island, it is the location, a purely natural part of an island that, elsewhere, is sometimes too full of tourists, other tourists.  Some think that Samui is being throttled as air fares from Bangkok are high (it is less expensive round-trip Bangkok to Siem Reap, for Angkor Wat, than round-trip Bangkok to Samui, whose open-sided airport, like Bangkok Airways which has the monopoly on this route, is owned by the Prasarttong-Osoth family). Others are happy that Samui is not being opened up to the masses that form today’s scourge of over-tourism.  Right now AVANI+ is bliss for its peace and quiet. Its six beach-set villas are especially nice.

One of my room’s walls

Look at the welcome on the wall of villa 506 – it even has a note from Manager Cindy Delhomel, who was actually on vacation during my visit. Like all 58 rooms, the colours are off-white and blue – it has been re-done by owner Minor’s inhouse team.  506 has the big advantage not only of opening directly on to the beach but it has a six-metre pool, perfect temperature, and a surrounding fence high enough for skinny dipping – and, like all the pool villas, it comes with a complimentary half-day in a Thai long-boat, ruea hang yao, plenty of time to reach Koh Madsum private island for a picnic lunch packed by AVANI+ Samui’sHanseatic chef Kian Wagner.506 is also directly next to the hotel’s outdoor bar-restaurant.  This is open day and evening long. I sat under its big canopy, looking left at the old VW camper-van, now static, that opens up to be the bar. I looked ahead and right to the sea, then at the menu, a big A3-sized board, printed landscape-style, wide rather than tall, and was tempted by its Gin&Tonic section, offering drinks made with Bombay Sapphire, Broker’s, Caorunn, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray: in fact I had a glass of NV Silent Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and it went beautifully with an absolutely delicious bowl of salt-and-pepper squid, with lime and aioli.

Lutz Mueller

As luck would have it I was there on a Sunday, the one evening when a saxophonist plays.  This encouraged two young ladies, I suspect on a staycation from Bangkok, to pose for selfies and dance for what seemed hours on end (thank you, whoever you were, for that great entertainment).  From my admittedly limjted experience of AVANI+, I would say this IS a brand which encourages you to be yourself.  In my case I swam, I used the bijou but good 24/7 gym, and I borrowed a bicycle to explore several miles around, going past little villages and empty areas dwarfed by sky-high palm trees.  I also had a great hour with Minor’s area GM, Lutz Mueller, who is based 45 minutes’ away at Anantara Samui.  When he first saw this AVANI+, he now admits, he knew it needed tender loving care.

Please come back soon

It was an anonymous detox hotel then, and it has since been through a holding stage, white-labelled by Minor while it evolved into AVANI+.  It is not for everybody, he agrees.  It IS for those who want to experience true Thailand, to be away from the crowd. This is the casual luxury that more and more travellers look for today.   And it has the service.   Honestly, the 62 employees were without exception willing to do anything, any time, but, unlike some other places, they never intruded (forget the word ‘butler’, thank goodness that is not applicable here).  I will always remember my farewell from this new-look casual luxury hotel.  Three young ladies whom I had never seen before appeared as my car drove away. Look at their smiles. AND LOOK AT MY ROOM…



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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single talks about Dubai’s icon luxury hotel

Burj Al Arab inside (outside is shown above)

After the very generous caviar tasting in the skies between Zürich and Dubai, accompanied by two or three of bottles of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, the Sybaritic Single decided it was the time for a few healthier days. However, he felt that a meager diet of green teas and juices was not enough and made his way to Jumeirah’s Burj Al Arab, the self-proclaimed world’s most luxurious hotel, for a proper spa add-on.

While the “seven-star” facility still looked exactly the same as it did when the hotel opened in 1999 (and therefore got terribly aged by now), it did develop a wonderful retro patina which barely any other hotel in Dubai could boast. It was only very few things that had changed. The splendid whirlpool got unsightly fenced due to some ridiculous safety regulations and there seemed to be even more bored-to-death lifeguards around the shallow infinity pool (0.9 metres), whose main job seemed to be pressing the button to restart the hydro-massage every few minutes. And, of course, using the spa relaxation area as a venue to serve corporate iftars (sunset meal breaking the fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan) was not the brightest idea since the Sybaritic Single had no other place to enjoy his own sparkling refreshment. Left with little choice, he decided to kill some time in the gym.
After an hour on the latest Technogym treadmill, his thighs were lancing with agony, breath coming in ragged gasps – and he was finally ready for that spa remedy he loved the hotel for. The excellent hands of the masseur made all the difference for the Sybaritic Single, who was pummelled and prodded, rolled and wrapped like a giant California roll.
In the end, he felt one kilo lighter and a few years younger – and that great feeling lasted for a few days after. The skillful and courteous therapists of this luxury hotel shine brighter than any of the gaudy Hermès toiletries and they are the main reason why the Sybaritic Single comes back to Burj Al Arab again and again before his next all-singing, all-dancing world tour.
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Luxury Hotels

The luxury Capitol Kempinski Singapore hotel was well worth the wait

Bespoke plates

Finally, after a couple of years’ delay caused by change of management company, the gal was able to experience Singapore’s historic-new luxury Capitol Kempinski Hotel (and no, arrival was NOT by the hilarious electric jeepney, above). The interior of the 157-room hotel, at the junction of Hill Street and Stamford Road, is exactly as the late Jaya Ibrahim, who put so much passion into it, had envisaged. There were stylish welcomes. Paper twists of nuts were a reminder of the Kacang Puteh roving seller who often stationed himself outside the Capitol Theatre.  Supplies included rum, and Mancino Rosso and pineapple juice, plus lemon juice, sugar can syrup, mint and ice, and instructions to make-your- cocktail, one or more.

Alvin Leung and Christian Gurtner

Before Kempinski came into the Capitol equation there was going to be a Peruvian restaurant here, designed by current Asia flavour of the month when it comes to restaurant design, AvroKO. Then Kempinski arrived, and the company persuaded Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Alvin Leung to do the food at what is now 15 Stamford. Now this engineer who also owns and runs restaurants does Chinese with a twist.  There is no way this can be a Chinese restaurant, he says he told Kempinski. No matter. It is you we want, came the reply.  So Alvin Leung started work.  First he had china specially designed by Monica Tsang (look closely and you can see charming little demons in the pattern – Alvin Leung, who is a laugh a minute as he talks and laughs simultaneously, and nonstop, calls himself ‘demon chef’).

Chicken rice, Leung-style

He produced tastings, in a rapid stream. There was his version of that all-time favourite, chicken rice; there was Hamachi with ponzu and white sesame, and US wagyu ribeye, and his favourite best-sellers, Hokkaido scallops with Sakura plum shiso and soy jelly, and Har Mi linguine with tiger prawns, and roast cod fish with Scottish razor clams, lemongrass and foie gras sauce.  I do not want to be better, he said, I want to be different and I don’t believe in trends. I was exhausted, but not he, although he had a wake-up call booked for 1.30 a.m. to head for the airport.  Christian Gurtner, who moved to Kempinski specifically to be GM of this unique hotel, had said earlier he had diverted from medicine as he found studying bodies boring, certainly has no time to fall asleep on the job in this luxury place – and if he does want variety, he can always walk a few metres to the complex’s Capitol Piazza, with dozens of shops and restaurants and the 900-seat Capitol Theatre, designed to copy the Roxy Theater in New York and opened 1930. NOW SEE STUNNING SUITE 316



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