Asia

Westin Maldives
A whole new sea of tranquillity in the Maldives
The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve. There is a new wave of wellbeing on the tropical archipelago oasis of the Maldives with the opening of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort and its brand new combination of 70 amazing overwater and island villas and suites. The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve and takes inspiration from the ‘shape of the water’, the marine life of the Atoll and the elements of water, sun and wind. It has been designed to maximise environmental sustainability whilst providing a supremely luxurious and tranquil Maldivian escape. [caption id="attachment_44983" align="alignnone" width="600"] Over water bungalow, yes please![/caption] Need to know Location: Being nestled on this beautiful coral island in the Biosphere Reserve gives guests of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort uninterrupted ocean and pristine turquoise lagoon views. From the atoll’s most desirable locale, guests are in close proximity to landmarks such as the Hanifaru Bay, known for the largest gathering of manta rays globally. This is a whole new level of tranquillity. [caption id="attachment_44984" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nothing like being able to see the ocean through the lounge room floor![/caption] Eat The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort presents three unique dining experiences. The Pearl is the resort’s specialty restaurant famed for exquisite Japanese cuisine with exceptional ocean views. The all-day dining experience at Island Kitchen stays true to the Westin brand’s Eat Well credo through a balanced menu combining Chinese, Indian and Maldivian fare. At Hawker, guests can sample authentic Asian street food with a live kitchen in a casual bustling atmosphere. Adjacent to the Library and overlooking the azure blue Indian Ocean, Sunset Bar is a relaxed lounge serving tapas and wonderfully imagined cocktails. [caption id="attachment_44985" align="alignnone" width="600"] Stay in complete luxury with paradise at your doorstep[/caption] To learn more call +960 660 4444 or visit westin.com/maldivesmiriandhoo
Bali grass
The ultimate five-day Lombok itinerary
What to do and where to explore on Bali’s neighbouring island Bali has long been a much-loved holiday destination for Australians – it’s practically a rite of passage. And while record numbers of Aussies are still basking in Bali’s warm waters, an increasing amount of visitors are now travelling to Bali’s less-visited sister, the stunning island of Lombok. Like the rest of Bali, Lombok offers lush landscapes, tasty culinary dishes, unique cultural experiences and its fair share of adventure, but this beautiful island also boasts almost-deserted beaches, epic surfing breaks and hidden waterfalls as well. It goes without saying that to really explore Lombok you need two to three weeks, but if you’ve only got the best part of one week, here’s one of the best ways to spend it: Day 1 Once you fly into Lombok from Bali, head to the beautiful coastal area of Mandalika Beach, just 30 minutes to the south. Once a hidden mecca for surfers, now this pristine coastal paradise that is only six minutes from popular Kuta Beach (not to be confused with Bali’s Kuta Beach) is home to watersports of all kinds, modern hotels and hip cafes serving up local treats. It’s the perfect place to start your holiday (cocktail in hand). After checking into your hotel, take the afternoon to hike to the top of nearby Merese Hill above Batu Payung beach to see an impressive panorama of Lombok as well as a beautiful sunset. The walk itself will take roughly about an hour from Mandalika or you can hop on a moped and then it’s just a quick 15- to 20-minute walk from the car park to the top. [caption id="attachment_44790" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll never want to leave after seeing these jaw-dropping sunsets[/caption] Day 2 Today is beach day! Mandalika Beach is perfectly located near some of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches, so hiring a moped or catching a taxi to each one makes for a stunning day by the sea. If you love surfing and fishing, head to Gerupuk Beach or if you’re after peace and quiet, try relaxing at Serenting Beach. For lunch, make your way to beautiful Tanjung Aan Beach for freshly made Nasi Goreng and a swim on a near-deserted beach, before heading back to Mandalika Beach for dinner. Day 3 Say goodbye to Lombok’s south coast and travel a couple of hours up to Lombok’s main tourist area of Senggigi. On the way, take a short detour to the spectacular Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu waterfalls, centred around swimming holes below. The 20-metre-high waterfalls cascade through rugged rocky outcrops covered in moss creating a cool retreat from Lombok’s beaches. When you’ve cooled down with a swim, head to your hotel in Senggigi, around 90 minutes’ drive away. Situated on wide open beaches and backed by jungle-covered mountains, Senggigi is a great place to enjoy a day of shopping, before watching the sunset over the water as you eat dinner and head out to a bar. [caption id="attachment_44791" align="alignnone" width="600"] So many activities to keep even the most adventurous traveller occupied[/caption] Day 4 After an early breakfast and a swim, take a local day trip north to the famous Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. Known for incredibly rich tropical marine biodiversity, the three islands of the Gilis each have a no-car policy and white sandy postcard-worthy beaches. For scuba divers, dive in and explore the sunken ship at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach on Gili Trawangan. Or you could meet the local turtles and even swim with them. Or you could just snorkel right off the beach (why not?). You’ll find that the pace of life on the Gili Islands is slow… and that’s just how the locals like it. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing day in the sun. Overnight in Senggigi. Day 5 Get up bright and early to hop on a half-day trip cycling through some of Lombok’s beautiful terraced rice fields – most of which date back to the time of Balinese colonisation. As you explore the beautiful rice fields on two wheels, you’ll visit small villages along the way and learn about local customs and culture. You might even try homemade local delicacies. Spend the afternoon back in Senggigi relaxing on the beach, before watching the sunset and listening to late-night live music in the local bars: an ideal way to end your holiday. [caption id="attachment_44789" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience a few nights staying in a beach hut[/caption] Where to stay: Lombok has a range of accommodation including five-star resorts and hotels as well as affordable surf huts and beach hostels to choose from. How to get there: There are regular daily flights between Australia and Denpasar, Indonesia, and there are daily flights between Denpasar and Lombok International Airport (LOP). Local airlines that fly to Lombok from Bali include Garuda, Lion Air, SilkAir and Trans Nusa.   Planning a holiday to Indonesia? For further info on Lombok and the surrounding areas, check out www.indonesia.travel
The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
Hotel Review: The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
If you're looking for an abode to call your own during your stay in Thailand, it can seem a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully Danielle Norton has done the "hard" work for us, reviewing a 'calm' hotel that doesn't accept guests under 10 years of age. Where The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand. One hour’s drive north of Phuket Airport. What to expect You can find us by the pool in a cabana at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.From the moment we are collected from the airport by Sarojin staff, until the day we leave, we are treated like treasured guests. The driver pulls over, one minute into our hour-long drive, to offer us a chilled towel and a refreshment from the esky on the front seat. We connect to the car’s wi-fi and he offers us an iPad to use on the journey.   This introduction is indicative of our entire stay at the Sarojin. As the original Lady Sarojin used to say, “excellence and nothing less”. The service at this resort is next-level and we love that every time we sit down, either poolside, in the foyer or waiting for a driver at the front of the property, an icy glass of water appears.   The Sarojin property is a paragon of meditative tropical resort gardens that encourage relaxation and deep contemplation. At night, hundreds of flickering lights glow in the ponds, bobbing like boats on a river, their reflections doubling their efforts. By day, the infinity pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by floating pavilions, glistens invitingly.   The communal spaces of the resort are designed with peace and privacy in mind. In the Pandanus Room library there are a wide range of reading materials; from novels to daily newspapers from around the world. Specific titles can be arranged on request.   A hotel that offers an ‘imagineer’ to create your special experiences is one for which I had high expectations. Staff can organise any type of romantic gesture you can come up with. Dinner on a candlelit beach is one thing but a ‘message in a bottle’ scenario for a special proposal during a couple’s beach stroll, or an engagement ring in a teapot while enjoying afternoon tea underneath a private waterfall, is quite another. The romance of this resort makes it an idyllic setting for honeymooners and loved-up couples. Fabulous food Dine out on the good stuff at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The Ficus restaurant hosts an all-day à la carte breakfast on the central resort lake, in the shade of the ancient tree after which it is named. Hundreds of water lilies float on the water’s surface and the sun shimmers; when the complimentary sparkling wine is served with our morning croissants, it feels like the most beautiful place on Earth.   The Edge restaurant and the Beach Bar look out onto a magnificent white sand beach. The degustation menu is a delicious parade of fragrant curries and delicate flavours: a brilliant way to try every dish on the menu in small portions.   Coupled with the golden light of the early evening and a cocktail, it’s the perfect end to a day in paradise. The restaurant seems casual but the service is exquisite, and the views over the Andaman Sea are spectacular, particularly the light show created by the setting sun. The accommodation The impressive accommodation inside The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.Our room has a garden view and a luxurious outdoor ‘sala’ under which we can bask on the day bed, reading or zoning out to our hearts’ content. Inside, the king-size bed with its mountain of pillows is sumptuous, hence the availability of the aforementioned all-day breakfast.   The rooms open onto an opulent, airy bathroom, lined with smooth pebbles to give the illusion of the outdoors in the wet area where there is a choice of showerheads and a huge oval bath, big enough for two. The spacious bathroom is almost as big as the 95 square metre room. If, like me, you prefer more privacy you can request curtain dividers between bedroom and bathroom.   The resort has 28 garden residences, 14 pool residences and eight jacuzzi pool suites and six one-bedroom spa suites which are like apartments with a generous lounge area leading out to the jacuzzi on the private balcony. These alternate with pool rooms, enabling a two bedroom configuration for families or larger groups via connecting doors. We loved The incredible spa bath inside the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The moment we set foot on the boardwalk leading from the resort’s main path to the Pathways Spa, tranquil notes of music waft around us and we breathe in deeply. Staff are eager to help us exchange our shoes for soft white spa slippers and usher us to a daybed where we sink into the soft cushions and contemplate life, looking at the leafy palm fronds in the gardens and listening to the trickling of water in the adjacent pond. A cleansing ginger tea is delivered along with a cold towel. Spa therapist, Nang, offers us four choices of oils. I opt for the romantic blend, a mixture of geranium, lavender and patchouli, keeping in tune with the theme of this honeymooner’s paradise. Nang calls it the ‘lucky oil’ and I feel very lucky indeed as I succumb to her skilled massage techniques.   The treatment room is designed to feel like the surrounding ecosystem; the floors are timber and one side of the pavilion is open to the garden. It’s soothing and rejuvenating and reminds me of the ‘forest bathing’ trend. Birds chirrup in the encircling jungle garden and the sound of waves lapping against the shore lulls me into a state of complete relaxation and surrender to the moment.   The spa menu options are plentiful. We choose the oriental-style massage – a combination of Swedish relaxation and Thai stretching techniques. Afterwards, a state of calm has infiltrated my entire being. Things to note Some of the scenery at the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The nearby Similan Islands has some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the world. Sadly, when we visited they were still closed (May–October) for regeneration of the coral. Check on the state of these closures before booking.   The resort restricts children under 10. Because it is a place of peace and calm, kids must be old enough to respect this and maintain it.   A garden view room including breakfast costs from $670 per night for two people.   For more information and to book, visit Sarojin, Khao Lak.
Explore Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches
Don’t forget to pack your swimmers! Here we reveal the best beaches in Vietnam. Nha Trang Known as the Vietnamese Riviera, Nha Trang - a busy beach area in the Khanh Hoa province - is renowned for its six-mile stretch of white-sand beach, clear waters and popular party boat cruises.   As well as being home to Vietnam's first certified dive centre (Rainbow Divers) and subsequently many soft coral reefs and caves to explore underwater, beach bums can also try wakeboarding, kite surfing and banana boat rides.   Meanwhile for the land lubbers among us, there are plenty of resorts and bars near City Beach that make a mean beachside cocktail.   But if you’d rather forgo the buzzing crowds here, travel 34 kilometres north to Doc Let Beach. It’s just as blindingly beautiful as Nha Trang, but without the hordes of other travellers who know they’re onto a good thing. Phu Quoc Island Located in the Gulf of Thailand off Vietnam’s south-west coast, Phu Quoc is actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, being just 18 kilometres from Kampot province.   Famed for allegedly having the whitest sand in the country and some of the best sunsets around, it is undoubtedly one of Vietnam’s most picturesque islands. [caption id="attachment_46293" align="alignleft" width="600"] Sunbeds under tropical palms on beautiful Bai Sao beach on Phu Quoc island[/caption] There’s many idyllic beaches here to get your sun-and-sea fix, each with its own character. Some of the best here include Long Beach, Ong Lan Beach and Bai Sao.   With an uprising of mid-range to budget beach resorts now sprinkling the island, it’s on its way to becoming a total beach resort destination. Con Dao Islands Look up ‘idyllic’ in the dictionary and you’ll likely find this place. Largely protected from tourism due to its remote location, about 230 kilometres south of Ho Chi Minh City, the Con Dao archipelago hides some of the most peaceful and untouched beaches in Vietnam.   Made up of 16 mountainous islands and islets – the largest being Con Son – you can expect to find a selection of uber-private, absolute beachfront resorts here to lap up a Vietnam beach holiday in unadulterated luxury.   Among our favourite beaches though is Dat Doc Beach, where guests at Six Senses Con Dao can access a private stretch all to themselves. How’s that for a seriously five-star stay? Mui Ne  Just 220 kilometres east of Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne is a charming fishing village cum tourist favourite.   Characterised by its rolling sand dunes, serene water, swaying palm trees and warm beach-going weather for most the year, many claim this to be Vietnam’s number one beach.   Ideal territory for windsurfing and kite surfing, it’s also not a bad setting for a seaside massage.   Once you get bored of the beach scene (if that’s even possible), there’s a growing string of restaurants, boutique shops and resorts nearby. Ho Coc A quaint seaside village roughly 125 kilometres southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Coc boasts one long sweeping stretch of fine sandy beach.   Featuring pristine waters and the occasional boulder plonked along its peaceful shoreline, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities here.   To make the most of the serene surrounds, come during the week and beat the weekend crowds who daytrip here from larger centres.   It’s also worthy checking out the nearby hot springs and rainforest.

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