Amangani Luxury Hotel and Resort

Found at the top of a small hill by the foot of the Teton Mountains is Amangani. When I first heard about it, I didn’t understand that it was an American-inspired hotel save for the location that it’s in. But just a quick search on Google and I found it to be one of the most American hotels I’ve ever seen. This immediately made me want to book a suite there. And I did.

Location

Amangani is located at the crest of the East Gros Ventre Butte and is at least 7000 feet above sea level. If you’ve heard about the Jackson Hole Mountian Resort, then Amangani is just a 20-minute drive from there. Thanks to its location, you can already expect wilderness everywhere. When it’s spring and fall, you will be able to see all sorts of animals around the area. Luckily I was able to book a room here during the time when wildlife was abundant.

Interior Design

When I was approaching the hotel, I was greeted by a wide driveway. Upon entering, I was welcomed by a very warm room. Even if it’s not winter, it gave me the impression that it was cold outside. The walls were lined with rocks and the banisters and furniture were wooden. Even the reception was designed with varnished wood.

My suite didn’t fall short as well. I booked the Spring Gulch Suite which was spacious enough to accommodate four people but I had the room all to myself. Although the suite has the same color palette as all the interior of the hotel, it had a modern air with it. I guess it’s because it had a modern fireplace by the windows. My room was overlooking the Snake River so it was perfect that it had a lot of windows.

Amenities

In terms of amenities, Amangani has all the basics – dining areas, a fitness center, and a spa. I particularly didn’t do much inside the hotel because they were offering a lot of outdoor activities. I myself felt excited to go out and try the hot air balloon and visit the stables. The stables were just a short walk from the hotel which was very convenient. They also have a huge infinity pool overlooking the mountain. I recommend dipping there during the morning so you can watch how serene everything is.

Service

After enjoying the stables and the hot air balloon on my second day, I booked a massage in my room. I ordered the healing therapy which focused on removing the tension in my body. The masseuse was very professional and I can say the massage made me feel calm and stress-free. In fact, every staff at the hotel was very professional and all of them gave me a warm welcome especially when I first arrived at Amangani. It’s obvious that they are used to giving world-class service.

Overall, my stay at Amangani is one of the best. The design of the whole place definitely complemented the location and I would definitely visit for another time. I have yet to experience Amangani when it’s winter.

Sea Five Boutique Hotel

Beyond being a few steps away from the beach, one of the most important things for me when looking for a hotel in Camps Bay is finding one that is peaceful and relaxing. I live in a big city, which is why being in the middle of so much action during my holiday is really not what I wanted. I found this and much more during my stay at the Sea Five Boutique Hotel.

In fact, it feels much less than a hotel and much more like a huge beach house. While it is only about 300 meters away from the beach and a few blocks away from the sunset strip, you cannot find a better location.

Location

Thanks to being close to the beach, you can expect wonderful views of the sea. If you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, you cannot be any closer to the water. Plus, you cannot imagine how beautiful the sunsets are from your balcony or from the beach.

The Sea Five Boutique Hotel is located at Camps Bay, which is not just the most accessible beach in the area, but  is also where everyone goes for a night out. But because it is several blocks away from the bay, it is much quieter compared to the other hotels around.

Interior Design

This hotel does not have huge signage but its beautiful architecture, which is more ostentatious than others in the area, is not easy to miss. The design has both South Africa and Mediterranean influences, with the building looking like a huge beach house. Its size is just big enough to give guests ample space to enjoy their holiday, but not too big that people feel lost.

The rooms have been designed by top South African interior designers, with the color palette a neutral mix of sand, blue, and brown. The end result is luxury while not compromising on comfort.

Amenities

The whole boutique hotel has 7 rooms for you to choose from, and I splurged on the one with the view of the sea. The rooms are all beautiful and with all the comforts you can expect from a luxurious hotel, plus extras like Nespresso station and underfloor heating in the bathroom.

The hotel also has open amenities, the favorite of mine being the lounge-bar area where you can chat with fellow guests. It also leads to the deck and the swimming pool. There are lounge chairs where you can work on your tan or go for a dip.

Service

The Sea Five Boutique Hotel is small enough to be able to offer its guests a very personalized service, with guests being able to request for nightly turn-down service. Breakfast is on offer and when guests are hungry, the staff is eager to prepare them a snack anytime.

From the very first time I saw the hotel, I knew that it would be a unique experience. The prices are quite reasonable for a luxurious beach house, especially during low season. Not only is the hotel beautiful and complete with the amenities that will make your stay comfortable, but the location is fantastic.

It is perfect for couples without kids or those looking for a weekend break (kids under 8 are not allowed). After a couple of nights with these views and the attentive service, you can truly destress and have the beach holiday you have been craving for.

The Peninsula Shanghai

I went to Shanghai in the summer for a business trip. I booked a 4-day, 3-night stay at the Peninsula Shanghai simply because it was right in front of The Bund where historically designed buildings lined up the street. It was also the first hotel to be built in the area after a few decades.

The Architecture

My first impression of The Peninsula’s facade was that it was bland. Its walls were a brown-gray color and its windows took a shade of green because of the curtains. It looked serious to me save for the green awnings near the entrance. However, it looked very big. It towered among trees and the nearby buildings and I could say that its architecture was meant to be at The Bund.

It also had its own driveway that doubled as a courtyard. Right in front of the hotel’s entrance were small fountains that gave life to the hotel.

The Interiors

When I entered the lobby, I found myself in a high-ceilinged room where a restaurant was right in the middle. There were barely any walls. Instead, there were giant columns made of marble. Since I went there for the summer, the marble was a welcoming sight.

If I could describe The Peninsula in one word, it would be “Paris”. Although I was in Shanghai, The Peninsula brought me to a time when Paris was full of architecture like this. There were cream and beige colored walls, carpets, and marble posts. This theme was consistent everywhere, but what made it unique to The Peninsula Shanghai was that it retained features of Shanghai – there were ivory and celadon green ornaments everywhere.

The Amenities

Since I was taking a business trip, I did not roam around the hotel as much as I wanted. However, I made sure that I used their swimming pool every morning. The Peninsula’s pool is located at the third floor and it opens at 6 AM. It was convenient for me because it gave me enough time to relax without having a lot of people splashing around.

The pool is a vast marbled room. It’s indoors and it made me feel like I was in Beverly Hills. The ceiling had glass on it and you can see the sun’s rays pass through it. This room was my favorite among the other amenities because the water was heated to the right temperature, there was a fireplace at the end of the room and a terrace where you can eat a healthy meal overlooking the British Consulate.

The Staff

Last but definitely the best of my experience was the staff. Upon arrival at the airport, The Peninsula already had a ride for me going to the hotel. When I arrived, they had people carry my luggage straight to the room without stopping at the reception. It was a great relief for me because, with the people in the restaurant, I wouldn’t want to hear the chatter of the whole room when I arrived.

The staff was warm and welcoming and they made my whole stay feel very hassle-free. Since it was my first time in Shanghai, they helped me navigate through the city, emphasizing how beautiful The Bund is which was a few steps from the hotel.

Ballyfin Demesne

Ballyfin Demesne has a rich history although the mansion that I stayed in is nothing like the mansion that was here years ago. This 600-acre estate was owned by a few prominent Irish families and it was first converted to a school until it was again transformed into a country house hotel.

On my trip to Ireland, I stayed at the Ballyfin Demesne simply because I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a mansion. It’s been considered as Ireland’s most lavish Regency mansion and it’s also a five-star hotel. Complete with Irish customs, design, and scenery, Ballyfin Demesne invites people to their estate of 600 acres.

Location

Ballyfin Demesne is at the heart of Ireland and right at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. As a traveler, I am often used to hotels near shores but rarely do I come across a hotel very close to a mountain. I don’t know the safety precautions for that, but I am sure that the hotel has the best location for a peaceful stay.

My intention when I visited Ireland was to have some peace and quiet away from the work I was doing. Ballyfin Demesne offered exactly that because it only had twenty rooms in the hotel. There wasn’t any crowd when I went there and even if I saw a few families, the place was so big it didn’t feel like it was crowded at all.

Interior Design

When it comes to design, nothing is like Ballyfin Demesne. I immediately fell in love with the interiors because it barely reminded you that you were in a hotel. Instead, I felt more like a big celebrity or politician living in a mansion.

The Entrance hall as they call it has mosaic tiles that you wouldn’t think could match the orange of the walls. But the wooden furniture, the deer’s head, and the cream-colored lamps made everything come together perfectly. Moreover, all the other reception rooms each had a character of their own – the Rotunda being the most state-like.

But apart from the actual design, there is one more part of the mansion that I think is underrated. These are the paintings hung on the walls. They were all made by famous Irish painters that portrayed landscapes of Ireland.

Amenities

Ballyfin Demesne has at least six reception rooms, some are facing the lake, the mountain, etc. It also has its own library which I personally enjoyed. It had its own fireplace and at least a thousand books on walls and cases.

Unlike other luxury hotels, Ballyfin Demesne focused on having amenities that will make you feel like you’re at home. Instead of having state-of-the-art fitness centers, business rooms, and recreation rooms, the hotel gives you gardens, walks, and sitting rooms.

My stay at the Ballyfin Demesne was a memorable one. It really does feel like a vacation because it didn’t feel modern at all. The whole place was reconstructed to resemble how the old mansion looked like and I can say they did a great job. The management of the hotel did not bother you and this was a break from all the socializing and the bustling of the people. Staying at the Ballyfin Demesne is definitely the perfect vacation for a retreat to country life.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

When I was invited to an event at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, I was surprised that it had a hotel in the same building. Usually hotels have buildings of their own or they occupied space on their own so they can house the amenities, rooms, suites, and many more. To my surprise, this particular hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo, only occupied the top floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower.

Location

Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower is located at 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. It is only a few minutes’ walk to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (you can actually view it from the hotel) as well as the Tokyo Station.

To be exact, Mandarin Oriental occupies the top 9 floors of this building, specifically from the 30th to 38th floors. My room was located on the 32nd floor and this fact alone scared me because of my fear of heights. Don’t get me wrong, the view was nice and the location was strategic. I was able to go around to shop during my free time and I got to the Imperial Palace gardens on foot in no time.

Interior Design

In spite of my fear of heights, the interior of the hotel made up for the fact that it was occupying 9 floors in a building the establishment did not have all to themselves. It was all glass and lights that I felt every bit as luxurious in every corner of the hotel.

The lobby is a high-ceilinged room with posts on the sides. All the windows are made of glass and it took advantage of the sun. The light that it cast on the furniture and floors illuminated the room and it was the most beautiful sight.

I had the same lighting effect in my room. You can easily spot the Japanese-inspired design because of the technology and the minimalism that went with it. At the same time, the color scheme was composed of white, orange, and brown hues that blended with each other perfectly to make the room feel oriental.

Amenities

For a hotel that only has 9 floors, it also has 9 restaurants. A few of those restaurants like the Tapas Molecular Bar and Sense have been awarded Michelin Stars. Mandarin Oriental also has an indoor spa which was commended for being one of the 25 best spas in the world.

I took the time to try out the spa for myself. Everyone who makes a spa appointment was offered a foot ritual which was a symbol to wash away all the bonds to the material world. There was also a menu of Western and Asian spas. After my appointment, I found myself wanting for more so I went and visited their Sanctuary Chapel.

Staff

For a very Asian hotel, I did not have any trouble communicating with the staff. They were very accommodating especially to a foreigner like me who did not know much about Japan. I think they noticed that I did not know how to go around and so they helped me understand the directions from maps. They were also very open to all the questions I asked which was more than I could ever want from a hotel staff.

Overall, I would say that the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo is a great hotel. I had a great time and my fear of heights was easily allayed because of the warm and cozy feel of the place.

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

I was planning a leisure trip to Italy when I first encountered Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo on one of the trip review sites. At first, I thought it would be one of the hotels that would scare me since it looked old and located just across the Greek Theatre. Fortunately, I took a chance and booked myself for a 4-day stay there. It was single-handedly one of the best hotels I’ve ever been to.

Location

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is nestled at the heart of Sicily. It is situated perfectly between views of the Greek Theatre, Mount Etna, and the Sicilian Coast. Without stepping outside the hotel, you would already feel as if you’re in those three places. Although it’s a 45-minute drive from Catania Airport, it’s a good enough price to pay for what awaits you in the hotel.

Interior Design

Stepping inside the hotel, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I thought it would look like any other Sicilian-inspired hotel since it is just fitting to have the same design in that area. However, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is more than just Sicilian architecture. The moment you step out of your car, you will be greeted by a bougainvillea walk. Flowers are weaving around a trellis as you make your way to the doors. Even if the hotel is at least a hundred years old, you would think that it was just there for a few years. There were polished yards everywhere (not to mention trees lining the pool). The interior was well-maintained with mixes of beige, light pink, and blue windows all around. If you ask me, it’s one of the best subtle color palettes you’ll see in a hotel.

Amenities

Now let’s talk about amenities. At a glance, the hotel has around 70 rooms and suites combined. Of course, it has its own pool which I love because there was something uniquely Sicilian in its design. Just beside it is a restaurant that offers an American buffet breakfast, but there are days where it also serves Mediterranean cuisine. There’s also a wellness center for people who want to exercise and meditate. You can even ask for a private massage to your room.

Staff

Since the hotel is so huge, what made it easier for me to get around was the hospitable staff. Most of them are locals and it was a great experience knowing that they personally make me feel welcome in their town. They were very helpful in directing me to the different amenities of the hotel, too. And even when I asked for a ride going to the beach, they easily reserved a slot in the shuttle for me.

Overall, a stay at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is something I would repeat over and over again. Unlike other hotels that stand out from their surroundings, this hotel fits perfectly with its interiors and design similar and yet very captivating. Just by walking around their halls made me feel that I was whisked away to a different time and place.

bela-kula-hotel

Bela Kuka Hotel

On my first trip to Macedonia, I was given the choice to head to Skopje or Bitola instead. Knowing that Bitola is the famed ancient Ottoman City of the Consuls and besides the fact that I’ve never been there before, I knew I had to skip the northern city and head south. Thankfully, a guide directed me to the Bela Kuka Hotel where I was instantly drawn by the warmth and cordiality of the people running the establishment. It’s not much, but it’s definitely where the heart is.

I later found out that there are plenty of hotels with more luxurious amenities, grander designs, and more robust services on offer in this part of the country. However, I was deeply intrigued by the throngs of travelers lining up to book a room at Bela Kuka. It’s the friendliness and genuine hospitality of the staff that’s something that no other accommodation can ever replicate. It captures the very essence of a hotel being a home away from home.

Deciding to dig even further, locals say that the Bela Kuka has consistently been rated by travelers as the best place to be in this side of Macedonia, not because of the accommodation and the various services that the hotel provides but rather because of the warm greetings, genuine smiles, and general helpfulness of every single member of the staff.

It is a place where you’d have someone readily showing you the ins and outs of the city, arranging transportation when needed, and all that stuff that all hotel staff are trained to do. However, I did get the sense that Bela Kuka staff don’t just do it because it’s expected of them; they do it because they love seeing their guests happy and content. Now that is really something unexpected.

Bela Kuka Hotel is situated right in the center of the city, just several minutes’ walk towards the Main Square where I got to see the city come to life. The ever-busy Shirok Sokak Street with its many shops and cafes serving piping hot drinks is just right outside the doors of Bela Kuka.

The suite I stayed in is very homey complete with a private bath and shower that I thought I would never find in this part of the world. There’s a mini bar, although I find it quite unnecessary as I’d rather have more time chatting with the staff who are so knowledgeable about the history of the hotel and the city. On hindsight, I think I can ditch my traveler’s guide and just spend 30 minutes or so with these real-life talking historians and story-tellers. They’d definitely bring me up to speed with all that’s happening in the city.

With its central location, a very friendly atmosphere, and hotel accommodation that are quite commendable by themselves, it’s the perfect den for lovers everywhere. Too bad I was traveling alone.

I could have always gone to a classier, chicer hotel and be treated like any other guest. But I’m sure glad I stayed at the Bela Kuka Hotel where I got to become part of a big family, even for a short while.