Blog post

Stunning Sri Lanka

The last year has been a tough year for the world over, with so much sadness and loss and for people who have not been able to see their loved ones.

In Dubai we are fortunate to live in a country that was proactive from the start and one of the first countries to offer the Covid 19 vaccine. I am lucky to be fully vaccinated now which offers that extra layer of protection and reassurance. However on a personal note my business, being in travel has sadly struggled as the travel industry took a massive hit, but the good news is that since August 2020 bookings started to come in when air corridors opened and more people felt comfortable to travel, especially to destinations such as Maldives and Seychelles.

 

Many people are in desperate need of a little escapism so when my partners at Resplendent Ceylon asked me to arrange a ladies trip to Sri Lanka I jumped at the opportunity. I have visited Sri Lanka 5 times before as a couple and with my family and I have a deep respect and admiration for the Sri Lankan people who have over the years shown such resiliency and strength and I for one will always support the country especially as tourism is a significant part of the country’s economy.

It always surprises me why Sri Lanka is under rated as a holiday destination, but I do hope reading this article will encourage many of my readers to visit this magical place, with its diverse experiences from tropical beaches, jungle safari and vast green mountain regions that one can enjoy while staying in luxury properties.

 

Resplendent Ceylon comprises of three unique properties and is a member of luxury hospitality brand Relais & Chateaux and I'm happy to say that I have experienced all three of their Sri Lankan hotels each so diverse in their location yet their unique signature style and service binds them together and stands out.

 

 

Wild Coast Tented Lodge rests on a secluded beach on the edge of Yala National Park offering a raw safari experience while staying in luxury cocoons that blend in with the coastal environment.

 

Cape Weligama sits on a cliff edge 40 meters above the Indian Ocean with large villas set in private clusters set in beautifully manicured gardens.

 

Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort, perched at an altitude of 1250 meters in Sri Lanka’s panoramic Ceylon tea region.

 

You can find my review of Wild Coast Tented lodge here:

http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2019/07/29/luxury-tented-safari-lodge-in-sri-lanka/

 

 

For this ladies trip we visited Cape Weligama and Ceylon Tea Trails for a week's worth of total relaxation and grounding.

 

Arriving in Sri Lanka during a pandemic could make you feel seriously anxious but let me reassure you that the Sri Lankan government have done such an amazing job protecting its people resulting in a death toll of only approx. 400 to date with most of the capital Colombo already vaccinated. In Feb 2021 Sri Lanka finally opened its borders to international guests.

All tourists have to apply for a visit visa (website below) and you must include a hotel reservation number from a Grade 1 government listed resort within the application. A negative PCR test is required 96 hours before entering the country and during a 7 days stay you will requested to take 2 PCR tests on the property and in 14 days you will require to have three.

 

Walking through the airport was rather quiet but one thing that was visible was that all staff where wearing PCP clothing and all suit cases were sanitized.

Our first resort was Cape Weligama which was a three hour drive, however the quicker option is taking the sea plane to any of the three Resplendent properties but sadly they were not operating during our stay due to lack of tourists.

 

Arriving at Cape Weligama brought back memories of when I was there with my family in 2019. The perfectly manicured grounds welcome you the moment you walk towards your room. 39 villas are set in small clusters within 12 stunning manicured grounds all with their own swimming pool. For one bedrooms the villas are extremely generous in size with huge bathrooms including free standing oval shaped baths. The suites come with a living room which can be made into additional beds for families.  You will notice throughout all Resplendent properties the bathrooms are beautiful providing baths that are uniquely positioned in order to provide you with stunning views.

 

The adults only crescent shaped infinity pool is what dreams are literally made off.  The views go on for miles where the blue pool water meets the ocean which meets the sky. To get to the beach 40 meters below you have to walk through the trees and down the side of the cliff where you will find a couple of hidden look out spots which offer beautiful views and little pieces of serenity.

Wherever in the property that you decide to take the weight of your feet to relax, the resort offers so many great viewing spots, remember if you visit the spa their viewing deck is awesome!

 

On our first evening the hotel had laid out a cliff top dining experience as the sun was setting, sitting with a glass in my hand, the cool air breeze, the sky changing in colour and views that went on for miles, simply reminded me just how the little things in life can be the most magical to which we have to be grateful for.

 

 

The next morning we woke early to go whale watching on a private yacht that was arranged by the hotel which had been government approved. This was a new experience for me which I was excited for, however it just wasn’t our day as a few hours at sea and not one whale had graced us with his presence. And believe me my head was close to the water more than I cared to have liked – catch my drift!!!

 

That night we ate in the main restaurant enjoying a wonderful spread of Sri Lankan cuisine.  Even though there is a menu on hand, nothing is too much to ask for – in fact the chief chef loved requests and was more than happy to show off his wonderful culinary skills. Being a member of Relais & Chateaux, food is a huge part of the hospitality experience and I find that Sri Lankan food is so clean and fresh, not leaving you bloated and uncomfortable.

 

The next day we were heading to Ceylon Tea Trails which is a 5 hour drive or again this is where you can enjoy the sea plane. I would highly recommend booking this, not just to cut down the transit time but to see Sri Lanka from a birds eye view.

 

To break up the journey we visited Udawalawe Elephant Transfer Home located within Udawalawe National park. The Elephant Transit Home is associated with the Born Free Foundation. This is home to over 100 orphaned or sick elephants who are fed and cared for until they are strong enough to be returned to the wild. The centre allows you to visit at the feeding times of 06:00, 09:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00. From behind a barrier you can watch the elephants ambling along behind a keeper, where they will be fed milk through plastic hoses. It was so sweet watching the babies run as fast as they can while trumpeting to get their milk.  The first three baby elephants that came running out reminded me of my three kids at home running to be first in the kitchen – it was so sweet to watch. (And No I still wasn’t missing them!)

 

The remainder of the journey up to Ceylon Tea region is through narrow roads winding up the mountain, with views that just kept getting better and better. On one side you could spot the hard working female tea pickers plucking away in the tea plantations which are contoured along the slopes. The ladies are wearing brightly coloured sacks on their backs in order to store the ‘two leaves and a bud” which are later taken to the factories to be dried. (I will explain the meaning of two leaves and a bud in a minute!)

 

We finally see the sign for ‘Tientsin Bungalow’  which was going to be our home over the next 5 days. We drive up the narrow path and as we eagerly jump out the car we are instantly entered into an English country garden. It’s so beautiful and reminded me of the UK countryside with the most stunning colonial bungalow in the middle of the lawn. The sun was starting to set and within minutes the sky had changed to a beautiful pink and purple colour. Before arriving I thought I knew what to expect but I can honestly say it wasn’t what was right in front of me – what I was seeing was no less than utter, exuisite natural beauty.

 

We are welcomed by a team of staff (again all wearing pcp clothing) standing on the terrace next to a table which was laid out with late afternoon tea and drinks. We are invited to explore our home, which was exclusively ours with 6 bedrooms, and shared large living room, dining room and a snooker table room.

 

With jazz music softly playing in the living room and drinks on ice you automatically felt at home, but where was I exactly, this wasn’t what I had pictured, yet from the moment I walked into the property, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.

The interior is designed with a colonial charm with each bedroom having a four poster bed, a fire place with logs ready to light and two grand chairs in front of it. The Resplendent signature style was so prevalent in the bathrooms with the free standing sleigh baths perfectly positioned next to glass doors or large windows which would open up into your own private garden showcasing the tea plantations and mountain region beautifully.

 

Back outside within the grounds is a large swimming pool and Jacuzzi, tennis courts and even a private garden for croquet.

 

Your days at Ceylon Tea Trails are simply designed for relaxation, socializing and dining. The Chief Chef takes great pride in providing a culinary experience as he will make anything your heart desires with three courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Booking at the Ceylon Tea Trails is an all inclusive experience which includes alcoholic drinks, afternoon teas etc. Even though I didn’t seem to stop eating I never felt bloated or uncomfortable which I put down to the food being so clean, organic and fresh.

Dining can be set up anywhere within the grounds so we enjoyed a picnic in the garden, breakfast at the pool and dinner on the terrace.

 

Ceylon Tea Trails comprises of 5 bungalows which are spread out across the valley:

Castleragh Bungalow – Built in the 1925 at an altitude of 1,120 meters- 5 bedrooms

 

Dunkeld Bungalow – Built in 1925 at an altitude of 1,230 meters – 5 bedrooms

 

Norwood Bungalow – Built in 1950 at an altitude of 1270 meters – 6 bedrooms

 

Summerville Bungalow- Built in 1923 at an altitude of 1118 meters – 5 bedrooms

 

Tientsin Bungalow - Built in 1988 at an altitude of 1320 meters – 6 bedrooms

 

You can enjoy mountain biking, kayaking and wonderful hikes and trails which you can start from any of the properties' front doors. 

 

We enjoyed an early morning hike in the tea plantations with our guide who explained more about the tea pickers and collecting “two leaves and a bud”.

Sri Lanka is one of only a few countries where tea is still plucked by hand, from bushes planted along the contours of the slopes. A highly skilled workforce, predominantly women, moves along rows of bushes, stripping two leaves and a bud from each plant and often covering over 10k a day. The leaves are immediately carried to the nearby factories where they are dried, processed and packed into crates ready for transportation.

 

Due to the current restrictions we couldn’t visit the tea factory so Bernard who I believe has 53 years experience in tea gave us a tea demonstration at the bungalow.

Dilamh Tea is sold all over the world and was founded in 1988 by Mr Merrill J Fernando which he named the brand after his two sons, with one of the sons, Malik Fernando owning the Resplendent Brand – so tea really does run through the family's veins.

 

We wanted to visit Dunkeld Bungalow as the view was very different over looking the reservoir with an infinity pool. It was great to see another option of bungalow even though they all differ in size and the grounds/views all have the same feel and signature Resplendent touch.

 

This is a property I would highly recommend to families or a group of friends. It’s a place where you can take life at your own pace, enjoy each others company, be at one with nature adding as much activities as you like and even more so with the current pandemic, it’s the perfect venue to social distance offering total privacy.

 

I would like to thank the entire team at Resplendent for their wonderful hospitality and excellent service. Until next time!!

 

Watch the video of our stay: https://youtu.be/Te0guZInGng

 

Sri Lankan Airlines currently flies twice a week – Saturdays and Tuesdays from Dubai Terminal 3

To apply for your visa visit click here: https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US

 

You must include in the visa application a reservation number provided by your hotel booking

A negative PCR test required 96 hours before travel


For the respective protocols, You can also visit 

https://www.srilanka.travel/helloagain/

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD Map

Personalized Pin Board Maps

Newly Launched!

 

At Unique Family Travels, we are strong believers in the visual aspect of travel, where your sense of touch, smell and sight are enhanced by the places you visit. We wanted to recreate that travel magic and have it present in your every day life.

We have created a personalized world map which the entire family can enjoy, allowing you a visual aspect to your memories, an educational point of view for the children and also enlightening the traveller within for destinations in the future.

 

Whether you’re an avid traveller or a curious soul, these maps are the perfect way to ignite the travel bug and start planning where to visit around the world. It’s also a fun way to keep track of who’s winning the ‘most traveled’ gold medal!

 

Available in sizes A1 or A0 these personalized uniquely designed maps are framed and set against a board so you can use the coloured pins that come with it to pin yours and your families’ travels:

 

•Where You’ve Travelled too

•Where You’ve Travelled as a family

•Where to Next!

•Bucketlist Adventures!

 

You can find out more by visiting our Instagram page @uniquefamilymaps

Order it, give it a prominent place on the walls of your home and let the family travel discussions begin!...

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAAAAAAAA

Huvafen Fushi

This stunning boutique luxury resort is located in the North Atoll of Maldives. With 44 villas in total, an underwater spa and offers a culinary dining experience and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. www.huvafenfushi.com

 

CLOUDS LEAD

Clouds Uganda

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge nestles in the heart of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes. The lodge accommodates guests in eight stone cottages.

 

lead

The Amalinda Safari

The Amalinda Safari Collection consists of four luxury and intimate safari camps and lodges set in the remote wilderness areas of Hwange National Park and the Matopos National Park. https://www.amalindacollection.com/

Kenya

Ol Donyo Lodge

Ol Donyo Lodge is tucked away in the shadow of the Chyulu Hills, one of Kenya’s most prized safari destinations facing Mount Kilimanjaro. Each suite comes with a plunge pool. www.relaischateaux.com

 

LEAD

Travel Bucket List 2020

Who doesn’t love a Travel Bucket list? I do that’s for sure.

 

Does your family have a case of wanderlust? Are you constantly adding new experiences and destinations to your already long bucket list? Below I have listed my family's bucket list just incase you need a little inspiration.

 

 

1. Drive the BIG SUR in a convertible with the roof down!. Start in San Fran to get the best out of the road trip and the endless views.

 

2. Take the train through the Canadian Rockies and be blown away by the breathtaking nature

 

3. Visit the Galapagos Islands and experience the vast wildlife and meet a Komodo Dragon!

 

4. Help out as a volunteer in a wildlife sanctuary in Africa combining compassion with your travel experiences

 

5. Travel around Brazil, visiting Rio (my son is called Rio) see the Iguazu Falls and go through the Amazon Rain forest.

 

6. Swim in the Great Barrier Reef with the best Go Pro to capture all the spellbinding marine life

 

7.  Take a husky dog sleigh ride in Lapland and get the children to meet the real Father Christmas!

 

8. Learn to properly snowboard in Chamonix or Courchevel

 

9. Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey, easily one of the world's most Instragrammable locations

 

10. Island hop around Hawaii and snorkel with giant turtles (this has been at the top of the kids wish list for years since we swam with turtles in Barbados)

 

11. Take a cruise through Europe on the new Celebrity Cruise Apex or Edge

 

12. Swim in the natural waterfall pools in Siquijor Island, Philippines

 

13. Stay in North Island, Seychelles which literally feels like paradise

 

14. Sail around Croatia visiting caves and hidden bays

 

15. Visit Cancun, Mexico to ride the most epic zip-line canopy tour

 

16. Stay at Four Seasons Bora Bora which takes sustainable luxury to a level very rarely achieved

 

17. Swim with humpback whales in Tonga

 

18. Sleep on the Belmond Orient Express while it winds its way through Peru to Machu Picchu

 

19. Indefinitely live on the island of Soneva Fushi

 

20. Take the kids to meet the gorillas in Rwanda – but this one will have to wait until they are 18!

 

21, Go back to the Golden Triangle so as the kids can walk with the rehabilitated elephants at the Anantara Golden Triangle

 

22, Experience a Safari in Botswana as we have visited other game reserves within Africa

 

23, Cycling through the dramatic mountain landscapes in the South Tyrolean Alps, The Dolomites or through Napa Valley.

 

24, Hang out with Richard Branson on Necker Island – always a glass in hand and great conversation

 

25, Enjoy the Four Seasons Private Jet experience  - long shot but dream big right!!

 

26, A spiritual experience with the kids and without the kids I want to try mushrooms in a controlled environment like on the Netflix show Goop….. Im not crazy, dont knock it until youve tried it! Any one wanna join me??

        

If any of these experiences have trigged a little curiosity then do let me know as Unique Family Travels curates unique holidays working with luxury properties throughout the world!

 

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Magashi Lead

Visit Rwanda

Rwanda Safari and Gorilla Trekking.

 

Magashi Londge and Bisate Lodge 

 

Day 1

 

You meet at Kigali International Airport and visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial before you travel to the Akagera National park via helicopter or road.

Magashi Camp is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking scenic Lake Rwanyakazinga.

Accommodation at Magasho is in six spacious and airy tented guest rooms offering uninterrupted views over Lake Rwanyakazinga, while the main area comprises a luxurious lounge, dining and bar area, wine cellar and pool, as well as an expansive viewing deck with convivial fire pit. The architecture and interiors pay homage to traditional Rwandan culture.

Day 2 and 3

 

Guests are able to view a range of wildlife on expertly guided game drives, walks and boating trips, including buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe, spotted hyena, zebra, topi, roan, eland and more. Akagera also boasts almost 500 species of birds including the spectacular shoebill with its implausibly massive bill and the near endemic red faced barbet.

 

Day 4

 

Return to Kigali via helicopter or road transfer for your onward journey to Volcanoes National Park. The area around Bisate welcomes you with dramatic views of the peaks of the volcanoes Bisoke, Karisimbi and Mikeno rearing up through the Afro-alpine forests of nearby Volcanoes National Park. Six en suite rooms maximize comfort, warmth and views while retaining environmental principles and reflecting the culture of surrounding rural Rwanda.  

 

 

Day 5 & 6

 

Gorilla trekking takes place from Volcanoes National Park headquarters where guests are allocated one of the 12 habituated gorilla groups to visit for an hour. After a briefing by park rangers, the time of the trek varies depending on which gorilla group is being visited – from 45 minutes to a few hours. Trekking is at a high altitude but is well worth it in order to spend time in the company of a mountain gorilla. Exploring the area includes community visits, birding, golden monkey tracking and helping reforest the area, as well as visits to Iby’wacu cultural village, the Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Burera and Diane Fossey’s grave.

 

Day 7

 

Optional visit a kids school and other charitable visits.

Depart back to Kigali International Airport.

 

For more information please contact us directly:

uniquefamilytravels@gmail.com

Dani

 Family Friendly Relax

Sonara Lead

Luxury Desert Camp

Having lived in Dubai for the past 25 years I have been to my fair share of desert camps  but nothing prepared me or impressed me quiet like the newly opened Sonara Camp.

 

Sonara Camp is an exclusive dining experience in the desert approx. 35 mins from Dubai, located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Arriving guests at the Conservation Reserve gate can either leave their cars in the car park and choose to arrive at the Sonara Camp via a Land Cruiser dune drive, which takes 10 minutes, or a 20-minute camel ride (AED 100 per person)

 

When we arrived at the camp we were greeted at the lounge area with a welcome drink and I immediately noticed the subtle differences: size of the camp being so spread out with a very chic  & modern design with a large round wooden bar in the middle of the set up; chilled background music created a very elegant vibe - think of a Nammos style play list in the beautiful desert setting; the laid back lounge style seating to bamboo pods and hammock areas all offered the perfect view to watch the sunset.

 

Activities such as archery, camel rides, sand boarding, football and falconry are on offer during daylight. Once the sun sets guests can enjoy an astronomy talk, fire performances and a cinema experience.

 

The sand boards are set out on top of the dune sliding down the dune into the dining area. You can either climb the dune back to the top or enjoy the simply way – by taking the wooden lantern lit staircase. With so much to do the children didn’t stop for a second. They totally loved sand boarding and even though they had never tried it before, they had no fear and just went for it.

 

The staff were ever so friendly and extremely attentive, helping the kids with the sand boards and the archery while a very well informed and eloquent gentleman educated us about the falcons with a small show on how the falcon eats its food.

 

If you’re like me and quite particular about a good loo, well Sonara have taken care of that. There are many washrooms available, from the outside they look like beach huts and once inside these large cubicles included a beautiful washbasin, mirrors and even a bench – it’s the little things that go along way.

 

At the bottom of the sand dune or the wooden steps is the dining area; this is where the magic happens once the sun goes down. All the tables are laid out around the large triangle fire setting with an open air kitchen, a bar and a cinema room on the boundary.

 

As this is a luxury dining experience, even the table settings are beautifully set for dinner. During dinner there’s a fire show and once you have finished your meal you can retire to the laid back seating area around a fire to roast marshmallows.

 

Sonara offers a stunning well thought out East meets West fusion and French cuisine menu which is carefully and passionately created by French Chef Franck Sanna who can be seen busily preparing everything in the open air kitchen. Chef Sanna has intelligently designed an innovative sharing concept for meat lovers, vegans and people with allergies.

 

This was our menu:

 

Appetizers

Handpick organic crudités

Creamy guacamole with tortilla chips (vegan and gluten free)

 

Starters

Beef tacos marinated in dak bulgogi (gluten free)

Corn fed chicken sharwarma in a cone (dairy free)

Fusion style fattoush – nicoise salad

 

Fish

Wild caught hammour on the grill with citrus virgo dressing (diary free)

Shrimp & leek ravioli with coconut bisque sauce (diary free)

 

Meat

Grass fed Angus beef oyster blade steak served with arugala chimichurri and black pepper corn sauce

Lamb chops marinated with kaffir, sweet spices and mint

 

Vegetables

Nara’s home made roasted organic potatoes

Mediterranean ratatouille

 

Desserts

Sonara lemon & mint pie (diary free)

Cocoa ganache served with avocado emulsion & cumin chocolate tuile

Chiboust cream with strawberry ginger juice in an apple puff

 

Kids enjoyed wagyu burgers, pizza, corn on the cob and for dessert they had nutella pizza and marshmallows roasted on the fire.

 

Just like any fine dining experience, Chef Sanna came to chat to his guests about the menu and our feedback. We were all in agreement that this was one of the nicest meals we have had in a while. It just shows how amazing Chef Sanna is that he can create and serve such a wonderful fine dining experience in the middle of the desert. The food was a true highlight of the night and foodies everywhere should venture down to Sonara just for the gastronomical delights if nothing else.

 

We had initially arrived at 4pm and it was now 9pm so the children were getting tried, not surprising after all the running up and down the dunes.. We had requested a car to take us back to the gate which was on hand waiting for us otherwise you can stay and enjoy drinks and shisha until the camp closes at 10.30pm.

 

If you think the price tag for this experience is steep, that’s because you haven’t witnessed the experience for yourself. I can guarantee that the entire set up, service, quality of food was second to none. Plus the camp is eco-friendly and sustainable with a core belief in sourcing ethical products and materials while using solar energy and having a zero waste policy. With all this im I’m very happy to give Sonara Camp the Unique Family Travels stamp of approval .

 

Also if you want to experience an over night stay  Nara’s private camp has 10 tents (2 styles) all providing the highest level in comfort while respecting the environment. We haven’t tried this yet but it sounds like my idea of glamping!

 

 

Price Per Person:

Adults AED 860

Children (5 – 12 years) AED 380

Toddlers (below 5 years) Complimentary

 

Getting to Dubai Desert Conservation Gate from Downtown Dubai drive east on the E66 Dubai Al Ain Road.

 

Watch our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liGEfObTkXs

 

For more information visit www.nara.ae

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Lead

Unique Girls Tour Thailand

 

I have just returned from our first Unique Girls Getaway to Thailand, after 4 months in the making alongside my partners Thai Tourism Board @Halathailand, involved us visiting hotels in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai and experiencing activities that showcased Thai hospitality and culture. An important aspect of this trip was to showcase unique destinations within Thailand that offer wonderful experiences and an authentic look at Thailand which does not involve the ‘conventional’ image of Thailand as simply being about shopping, beaches and partying. In fact, like most countries, Thailand has many layers of culture, adventure, hospitality, dining etc. and on this trip we were fortunate enough to peel back some of these layers.

 

I am so grateful to have experienced this trip with 10 other ladies - all from the Middle East who all offered something beautiful to the group. 6 Emirati ladies who are all successful entrepreneurs having business in F&B, fashion, engineering’s, an artist, a fabulous food & travel photographer, a beautiful, up-and coming Egyptian actress, my fantastic colleague Taya from Thai Tourism Board and Pinky our wonderful guide who without her we would have been late for everything and the ladies constant craving for Mango sticky rice would not have been satisfied  – between us we all experienced love, laughter and adventure and not to mention forging new friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

For me personally when I travel half the fun of experiencing a new destination is the property in which you decide to stay.

For this itinerary the hotels were chosen on the fact that they all offered something unique and special which appeals to the Unique Family Travels audience and clients and each hotel went above and beyond my expectations.

 

DAY 1 Bangkok

So let me take you back to the start of our trip as we flew from Dubai to Bangkok staying at the wonderful Rosewood Bangkok. Approx. 40 mins drive from the airport and located in the business and shopping district on one of Bangkok’s busiest corners with access to the sky train. Even Central Shopping Mall is just 1 stop off the Skytrain from the Rosewood. The BTS Skytrain runs through all important downtown districts and major transport hubs in Bangkok and so is a fast and efficient way to move across the city.

 

With a striking architectural design, Rosewood is a 30-storey hotel, having been opened for  only 5 months its a dramatic addition to Bangkok’s skyline. The building is formed from two connected structures, which is supposed to symbolize wai – the Thai gesture of hands pressed together in greeting.

 

The entrance is hidden behind a discreet wall on the main road. Upon entering you take the lift to the lobby, which then opens up into a very swanky, modern and elegant reception with soft tones/colors and textures - added to this are interesting attention to detail items such as books, art and accessories.

The look and feel carries on throughout the property yet still provides a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle on the doorstep.

There are 159 rooms including 34 suites and studios. We all stayed in the Deluxe Rooms with floor to celling windows in the bedroom and bathrooms providing panoramic views of the city. The décor embraces both Thai heritage and contemporary culture. A wonderful soak in the bath which was positioned right in front of the window provided perfect views of the busy city. I loved all the little touches in the room from the ice coffee and evenings chocolates to having the brand new dyson hairdryer (which was great by the way!) surround sound system, electric sheers and curtains and a bed that felt like I was sleeping on a cloud.  Also some hotel rooms you can never work out which light switch is for what – well Rosewood made that easy with mood lighting and master switches all labeled.

 

Guests have four dining options to choose from including a brasserie, a signature Chinese restaurant, an upscale organic café G&O (Green & Organic) that offers farm to table cuisine which is situated next to the swimming pool. The pool which is mostly indoors showcases a view of the city with the noise drowned out by a large waterfall. Lennon’s is a stylish bar perched on the top floor - inspired by an old recording studio, providing a vintage yet classy feel and home to 6000 vinyl records.

Children are welcome at the Rosewood but the hotel has more of a grown up vibe, so I am not sure if I would check in with my kids being so young.

 

We spent two nights at the Rosewood and I’m excited to experience more of their properties, which are located across Asia, America, Europe and the Middle East.

 

After checking into the hotel our first activity was to enjoy a relaxing spa at Divana Nurture Spa, which was about 15 minutes from the hotel. We all had our own room and therapist who gave all the ladies a 90-minute Thai massage, which was well needed after our flight. The service was excellent and even though this is a very popular spa in the city, it felt very relaxed and comfortable.

 

I’m not a foodie but I do love new experiences and I will always aim to visit a Michelin Star restaurant. A few years ago I had heard of Jay Fai the only Michelin Starred street food restaurant in the world. If you have Netflix you must watch the documentary “Street Food” as they interview Jay Fai herself and she explains in detail her personal journey, which I found to be very humbling.

 

Jay Fai found fame from receiving a Michelin star two years in a row. You can always find her in the restaurant cooking as every dish is prepared by her while wearing her signature look - black apron, beanie hat, red lipstick and ski goggles to protect her eyes from long hours in front of intense heat.

Jay Fai started her roadside eatery in the 1980’s and made a name for herself by buying very high quality seafood and transforming the ingredients into soulful dishes.

Her specialty dishes are:

Crab omelet, drunken noodles, tom yum soup and crabbed yellow curry.

Daily there is a queue of approx. a four hour wait to enjoy her cooking but as we had booked in advance due to knowing her daughter who is the only fluent English speaking member of the team and manages the floor.

Even though I don’t eat seafood, I wasn’t going to leave this place without trying everything. Watching this chef maestro at work preparing her dishes while her staff move around her like clockwork is not only mesmerizing to watch but I truly had so much respect and admiration for Jay Fai

 

I had the noodles which were great and tasted like they had been cooked on a bbq (not surprising with the flames that came out of her pan (watch my video) they actually didn’t taste like the giant crab which was sitting on them. The Tom Yum soup was super spicy but not greasy, You know sometimes when you have soup and it can taste oily or leave a film in your mouth, this tasted clean and gave an explosion of flavors. In fact all the ladies truly loved the food saying it was fresh, clean and the taste was mind blowing. We were all lucky to have had our picture taken with Jay Fai and this fast became one of the highlights of the trip.

 

Dishes are approx. 600 Thai Bhat which is approx. AED 70- $20 – which is nothing for the great food and experience.

 

DAY 2 Bangkok

You can’t come to Bangkok and not experience the floating market. Its not only a place great for instagramable pictures but you can eat traditional local dishes from the many boats floating up and down the canals. Damnoen Floating Market is the busiest in Bangkok and a 2-hour drive from the city, so you have to go early.

 

Unfortunately we were all under rain ponchos covering from the rain our experience was a little different but enjoyable at the same time. The floating market is a maze of narrow canals. Female farmers wearing blue shirts and the local Thai straw hat use sampans (small wooden boats) to sell their produce fresh from their farm. Along the side were shopkeepers selling souvenirs.

 

The rain continued to come down really heavy so we cut the market short and headed to Rose Garden at Suan Sampran for lunch. We actually really enjoyed the traditional Thai buffet lunch and then the sun came out and we could experience the outdoor facilities including Patom Organic Farm and Village, which sold many handicrafts and organic produce. We also joined a workshop to make our own body scrub and oil using natural products. It was something different to try while enjoying the beautiful grounds.

 

Day 3 Chiang Rai 

An early start, as we headed back to the airport for our one-hour flight north to Chiang Rai. The ladies kind of knew where they were going but not fully aware of the experience that they were about to witness. Once we landed we had about an hours drive to the Golden Triangle.

 

North-East of Chiang Rai close to Chiang Saen lies the infamous Golden Triangle, once the center of opium production and trade in South East Asia. Those days are long gone. Now the area is peaceful and tranquil dotted with hill tribe villages, ancient temples and markets.

The Golden Triangle locally known as Sop Ruak is where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet separated by the Mekong river. The border between Thailand and Myanmar is marked by the Ruak River, which flows into the Mekong at Sop Ruak.

We arrived at the Anantara Golden Triangle where we were met by all the staff who escorted us into the lobby, served drinks and gave all the ladies a welcome shoulder massage. From the check in area the views were spectacular you could see the blue of the swimming pool and the amazing dense jungle with Laos mountains in the background. With a closer look we all spotted what we had come for – the elephants as they roamed around freely.

Anantara Golden Triangle is a rustic property in the jungle with views of the Mekong River, Myanmar and Loas mountain ranges with n elephant sanctuary/camp on its doorstep. This is a property I had longed to visit and to have the amazing opportunity to walk with elephants.

 

The rooms were a great size all open plan with a large in door window which separated the bathroom from the bedroom. Touches of elephants completed the room and every room had a good size balcony with my view over looking the award winning swimming pool and jungle. I love the feeling of walking into a beautiful property that’s not only enchanting but offers a true escapism and this was exactly what I was experiencing. The energy was peaceful and relaxing; we were literally in the middle of nowhere with not a care in the world.

 

That night our hosts General Manager, Gauderic and Linda provided the most wonderful "Dine by Design"sunset dinner amidst the jungle in the bamboo forest within the elephant camp.

We were welcomed to dinner by 3 elephants along with their mahouts. These giant elephants would let you  touch them and have photos with them, these elephants are not used for activities. In fact the property is home to 22 elephants with only 8 that participate in some kind of gentle activity, as they are young, strong and in good health. 

As we sat down, to enjoy a wonderful Thai meal, the sun set and we watched all the firefly’s around us. The service was excellent especially considering we were having dinner in the jungle surrounded by nature.

 

As well as employing local staff the Anantara Golden Triangle funds the ethical elephant sanctuary/camp, which is a wonderful initiative to help street elephants rehabilitate in their natural environment. The organization running the camp is GTAEF - Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation  which supports and protects sustainable Elephant tourism while providing a home & education for the Mahout families - (a mahout is an elephant trainer, rider or keeper). GTAEF are globally recognized for responsible wildlife tourism and one of the only options in Thailand for conscious travelers who want to get up close and personal with elephants.

The elephants have 160 acres of hills and jungle to roam freely and the rivers to keep cool in. As the elephants have grown up listening to only their mahouts they are kind of conditioned to their voice. So with this in mind the foundation invited the mahouts to live onsite and to rent the elephants from them in exchange for a home and education for their families, medical insurance and jobs as the wives of the mahouts make handicrafts such as bags, table runners and the mahouts outfits (from old outfits they are recycled to make other items).

 

The oldest elephant in the camp is 62 years old and its home to only 3 males. The elephants are not allowed to breed so the males are kept away from females.

 

To answer any questions you may have on Golden Triangle Asian Elephant foundation – click to read this post: http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2019/10/02/golden-triangle-elephant-camp/

 

DAY 4 Chiang Rai

We woke up bright and early and watched the beautiful sunrise over the Laos mountains. This  was the morning I had been waiting for - to walk with elephants, And what a truly incredible experience it was! We were introduced with a talk from a member of the GTAEF team on how to act around the elephants,  informed not to walk in front of them as they can walk very fast, only walk along side them or behind them. This experience was so amazing - to walk next to these giants who quite frankly were not fazed at all with us being next to them. They did their own thing and we just slotted in next to them. They would stop to eat leaves off high branches, scratch up against the trees when they had an itch and you could take a picture when they stood still, but when they moved, you had to move with them.  It was a peaceful yet exhilarating walk and experience especially as the elephants were so quiet. They then walked into the river, as we sat to watch them on the cliff side, they splashed around in the water and the noise from them playing was incredible.

 

To have witnessed this, I can only say that the elephants are happy and free, of course they can not be put back into the wild as they have never lived in that environment however this is the closet they will get to that life and this is all thanks to the work the GTAEF is doing to and funded by the Anantara Group of hotels.

 

As this is the jungle don’t forget to bring walking clothes and trainers with you for the jungle. We were given the pants and top what the mahouts wear, which was a really nice touch. As our trainers got very muddy, the hotel offers a cleaning service and I’m pleased to say my shoes came back looking brand new. We then all enjoyed a yummy breakfast together and had the entire day ahead to enjoy the pool, spa and to explore this exceptionally unique property.

 

Anantara Golden Triangle is a wonderful child friendly property with many outdoor activities on offer by the in house team. I went to check out one of the 6 family suites, which are 2 bedrooms and a perfect size for a family of 5.

 

To fully enjoy this bucket list experience, I would highly recommend the VIP arrival treatment. This includes being picked up from the airport, then taken to the Mekong River for a 20 minute boat ride then your greeted by the elephants and invited to walk with them to the hotel. Now that’s a welcome you wouldn’t want to miss!

 

Day 5 Chiang Mai

We were now heading to our next destination Chiang Mai by road, which would take 3 hours - stopping along the way at the “Blue Temple” and the “White Temple” known as Wat Rong Khun.

 

My favorite temple was definitely the White Temple as it really stood out due to its blazing white color and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster, which sparkled in the sun. The white color signifies the purity of the Buddha, while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dharma, the Buddhist teachings. The entrance fee is only 50 Thai Bhat and well worth a visit – but go early, as it gets busy and don’t forget to make a wish!

 

The drive to Chiang Mai is relatively easy as we arrived just in time for lunch, which we had booked at Villa Mahabriom.

Wow this was a hidden gem that we really didn’t expect to be as wonderful as it was. This boutique hotel took 7 years to complete, as its 14 spacious rooms are all villas that have been meticulously restored and brought to Chiang Mai from all over Thailand. These traditional teakwood Thai homes are surrounded by beautiful gardens and offer peace and relaxation for its guests. Raised on stilts and topped with a distinctive gabled roof complete with handmade clay tiles, each villa houses a suite of bedrooms, study area and spacious Italian marble bathroom featuring the latest amenities. Some villas feature a covered, opened-air living room on the ground level decorated with object d’arts and antiques from the owners’ private collection and each individually decorated with its unique style. A few of the villas had a private swimming pool otherwise there is a large pool in the middle of the property. If you want luxury living in a traditional Thai property, this is the hotel for you.

 

After lunch we headed to a newly open spa called Fah Lanna Spa. We all enjoyed a two hour deep tissue Thai massage before heading to our next hotel which was located 10 minutes away. I was super excited as this was a hotel that I had been waiting for the ladies to experience I I new that they were in for a treat!

 

Welcome to 137 Pillars House a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

We were welcomed with open arms by the beautiful Anne, who is the General Manager of this stunning property. We checked in from the comfort of our rooms and were assigned our personal butler who was on hand via Whatsapp. To be honest I love this touch and a lot of luxury properties are starting to offer this service for convenience and all-round indulgence.

 

The spacious suites are situated in a well laid out garden and furnished in sumptuous modern interpretation of colonial style, radiating unbridled luxury.  The rooms are expansive and beautifully laid out. They are designed and built around the historic teak house of the British Borneo Company. There’s a beautiful story behind this brand which includes so much history, visit this link for more infohttps://137pillarschiangmai.com/en/our-story/

 

Visualize teak wood floors, a four-poster bed and a large outdoor seating area complete with comfortable sofas, complemented by extra-large bathrooms which feature colonial style claw tubs, as well as indoor and outdoor showers. Some of the larger suites come with private pools, which are ideal for families. The rooms have been well thought out in order to create a more relaxed at-home feel for additional comfort and relaxation.

 

By now most of you know I have a thing for baths – its apparent on my Instagram – so this beautiful white washed bathroom with clawed bath tub teamed with mosaic patterned floor tiles and vintage wall hangings gave a modern colonial twist to this utterly perfect bathroom.

 

That evening we had the pleasure of dining with Anne who explained more about the history of the property. We sat in the remarkable main heritage dining room which is held together by 137 pillars which is how the hotel was given its name.  

 

Day 6 Chiang Mai

137 Pillars House is a true beauty waiting to be enjoyed so today was a day of leisure to do absolutely nothing but to soak up the hotel in all its glory.

There are lots of peaceful areas around the hotel and in one quiet corner is the 25-metre long pool, set against a huge vertical plant wall that adds instant tropical vibes to the mood.

 

Located on the west side of the Ping river in the Wat Gate area of Chiang Mai’s historic foreign quarter, the 137 Pillars House is close to the city’s main sites, boutique shops and cafes plus the famous night market which is a 15-minute walk away and the old city can be reached by a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride.

 

For lunch we were invited to enjoy a 137 cooking class but only after we had visited the local Tanin market with one of the chefs to see the local produce. The market was nearby and actually surprisingly not busy. You name it they sold it including dry soy sauce crickets, a local delicacy, which Taya from Thai Tourism loved!

 

During our cooking class we learnt how to prepare a 3 course meal – Papaya Salad, Pad Thai noodles and for desert banana in coconut milk. Personally I’m a “Cant Cook, Wont Cook” type of person but it was apparent from my time in the cooking class that these meals are so easy to prepare as its all about the tasty ingredients that’s mixed together providing a sumptuous delight of flavors. We all had so much fun in the cooking class and were rewarded with what we cooked, our apron and a certificate!

 

137 Pillars is a beautiful escapism and a place I will surely return too. Children are welcomed at the property, there’s no kids club as such but your personal butler will help with everything you and your family need. Opt for the rooms with the private pool as the space is ideal.

 

Day 7 Bangkok

Up early and after a great breakfast we were back at the airport to head back to Bangkok for one more night before our flight to Dubai.

We checked into the fabulously grand Peninsular Bangkok. This is an elegant luxury hotel with a classical style mixed with contemporary Thai touches.  This is a property that has history, class and experience which works well for any guest wishing to stay.

 

Located on the opposite side the city on the Chao Phraya River. They have a resident boat taxi to take you across the river and to Iconsiam mall, which is literally next door to the hotel and home to many luxury and high street brands.

The hotel took us on a tour to see their larger suites – they take up an entire floor of the building with direct access to the Helipad where the hotel’s signature lifesize ‘Pagebear’ was waiting to greet us. The hotel had thoughtfully embroidered our names on our pillows on the bed, which was a beautiful touch and we all had our own tiny Pagebear with our names embroidered on. These little touches were so sweet. I personally found the rooms a little dark but they were very spacious and from my room I had a wonderful view of the pool and river.

I really liked the hotel pool which is 88 meters long and has three tiers access is via their large spa and continues to the river edge, with private pagodas as day beds.

I really enjoyed the breakfast as they offered a wonderful selection including many gluten free and diary free options and to top it off breakfast is served on the river edge.

                                                   

Day 8 Bangkok - Dubai

On our final day in Bangkok we all spent time exploring the city adding in a little shopping and time by the pool before checking out to leave for the airport.

 

My time in Thailand was an unbelievable adventure and I managed to tick walking with elephants off my bucket list. I am grateful to have shared this journey with so many wonderful women.

 

A huge thank you to the TAT team especially Taya and Pop for working closely with me to create this amazing itinerary. A huge thank you to Pinky for being the best tour guide and “Mum” we could have EVER wished for and of course all the hotels for their kind hospitality and warm service.

 

For anyone interested to replicate this Thai odyssey and get an authentic, and exhilarating experience of this magical country, please contact Unique Family Travels.

 

Watch our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHjSKfupfmo&t=5s

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
dani-footer

About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

Get in touch and let's start planning your dream holiday

+97150 6882308

Partner

© 2019 Unique Family Travels. All rights reserved. | Company Registered under ARTE EXPERIENCE GROUP FZE