In today’s print and online edition of DNA After Hours. Article is titled, “Epically Epicurean“. So far, what I consider to be my top five luxury experiences. What I wrote and sent for the piece is included with each of the photographs representing the destination.
Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andamans
More from Andamans here : Andaman Islands
Fancy a swim in the ocean with an elephant for company? Radhanagar beach is the place to be. Right here in India, on Havelock Island. I’ve stayed at the Barefoot Resort a couple of times and will never forget the caramel custard, the walks on the beach and the thick forest that suddenly interrupts the pristine white beach sand. The luxurious part was the non-availability of any mobile phone signal whatsoever. I imagine things might have changed now. I’ve heard there’s now a Taj Hotel on the same beach! Radhanagar is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia. Most tourists to the Andaman Islands tend to stick to the capital, Port Blair and its adjoining islands. Havelock is still not very crowded and gives you a lot of privacy. Hire a local boat and go fishing, or watch the sunset from the middle of the ocean. You can also hire a two-wheeler and drive to the other end of the island, to the foothills where the elephants are taken care of. On one of the beaches, there’s a world-class scuba diving school, where you can stay and learn or even go just for your first diving experience. Or of course there’s the option of occupying a hammock and relaxing the whole day, while you’re supplied with liquids to keep you hydrated. Don’t miss the beach at night – the night sky is spectacular.
Suryagarh, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
More from Rajasthan here : #EyesForRajasthan
Close your eyes and imagine being in the middle of nowhere, in a desert, atop a dune, at night. With traditional Rajasthani music playing in the background, jungli-maas being grilled and a champagne bottle being popped. All this, exclusively for you and your family. Not another soul to be seen for miles – except the resort’s support staff of course. Suryagarh was probably the most luxurious experience I could have ever imagined smack in the middle of a desert. Especially the dinner on the dunes. We were driven out of Jaisalmer, sometimes in pitch black darkness, only the vehicle’s headlights showing the way forward, stars and the Moon for company. ( No light pollution is a bonus for any photography enthusiast interested in night-sky photography. ) And they brought quilts for when the night got chilly – apart from all the extra wine bottles. As much as a resort can feel like a home away from home, Suryagarh’s staff do their utmost to make it feel like home. The best service I have experienced in the hospitality business in India. Comfort is luxury. I would be remiss to not include the fabulous villas and the courtyard. The bathroom window looks out onto the desert as you relax in a stone bathtub. Go to the roof of the villa at sunrise and you can see the hotel rising out of the desert as the glowing Sun is reflected off it. It was quite the vision. Swimming pool and spa complete the resort experience. The courtyard is a special place, especially at 7 a.m. Peacocks, Golden Retrievers, Pigeons, and even a donkey named Romeo! With sparrows descending at your table – if you’ll have them – and some more Rajasthani music twanging and reverberating off the walls. Serenity in the middle of the desert. The resort caters to food palettes of travelers from across the globe, but it would be a tragedy to miss the Rajasthani fare – don’t mind the Ghee!
La Mirande Hotel, Avignon, France
More from France here : #EyesForFrance
Southern France is quite something else – in terms of the landscape, as well as the people and the food. There’s a town called Avignon, which is well-known for The Palace of the Popes ( Palais Des Papes ). I got to spend a night at La Mirande hotel, which shares a cobbled street with the walls of the Palace of the Popes. The breakfast will forever be vividly recalled. It was like you’d imagine a real life Alice in Wonderland breakfast setup. All the food on the table was locally produced and procured : fresh oilve oil, milk, cheese and eggs. A desk in the vintage room had bowls of locally grown plums. They even produce their own beautiful and delicate ceramics – unlike anything else I’ve seen. The hotel is a 5-star property, renovated from what was originally an 18th Century nobelman’s townhouse, with origins believed to be from the 14th Century! Vintage details like doorknobs and wallpaper have been preserved and make it one of the most quaintly French places I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. It is a very romantic little hotel and the views from the balcony of your room can be breathtaking. The food of course is exquisite – they even have a 19th century wood oven that is still very much in use. If there’s a book you’ve been wanting to finish writing or if you’ve been looking for a very private romantic experience with someone you love, I recommend La Mirande!
Baan Mai Khao, Mai Khao, Phuket, Thailand
More from Thailand here : #EyesForThailand
This was the only time I shed tears while being driven from the holiday spot to the airport, on my way back home after the vacation. I did not want to leave! I’m a beach baby – sunshine and soft sand, with the sound of waves and fresh coconuts – one of my definitions of luxury. We stayed at a ground floor apartment at the Ban Mai Khao condominiums. You step out of the room and the swimming pool begins. You swim till the end of the pool and the beach begins! Spectacular sunsets. Mai Khao is the more luxurious part of Phuket, Thailand and no touristy throngs to bother your peace. You can settle for freshly cooked street food or the Turtle Village market for fine-dining. Sunshine for DAYS – by the time I got back from the vacation, my skin was a nice golden toasty brown. We had spent our days at the beach of course, but we’d also spent it walking and bicycling around the lush green mangrove forest and lake right outside the condo. There are multiple golf courses a cab ride away, if you’re a golfer.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York
More from my 30 days in New York can be found here : #EyesForNewYork
If you’ve been brought up in India, you know the feeling of constantly being stared at. It’s so pervasive that one tends to forget it exists. Till one spends a month in New York. Can you imagine the luxury of not being looked at, no matter what you look like? Go to New York! I spent a whole month there, moving to a new location each week. From the most luxurious Airbnb apartment at a high-rise in Lower East Side – with some spectacular views of the New York skyline ( on the same street as Katz Deli – you HAVE to try the Pastrami sandwich there – go early, there’s a queue and don’t lose the token ) to another apartment in the Financial District at Wall Street and then Brooklyn. It is the only city in the world I’ve been to ( so far ), where you can truly be yourself and do whatever you like, with no judgement. The feeling of being left alone was viscerally liberating. And then there’s New York’s public parks. When the Sun’s out, you can sunbathe all day, every day. The well-connected subway lines will take you from your doorstep to wherever else you want to go. Bryant Park, Washington State Park, Central Park and on and on. Lots of walking, which for me was a luxury I cannot afford living in NCR in India.
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