Hidden Jewels Unveiled in the Hills of Phuket…..

The Residences at Anantara Phuket Layan

Every once in a while, you walk into a space so brilliantly put together and thought out that it leaves you speechless. The newly unveiled Residences at Anantara Phuket Layan are a true design triumph carved into the quiet Layan hillside – a project sustainably carried out so that no trees were cut down in its creation.
ALAY_Residences_Overview_G_A_H

These fifteen three to seven bedroom Residences are vast – beautiful rooms with high ceilings and sumptuous beds that seem to have no end. The shared social spaces are elegant and perfect for all sorts of occasions – whether it be a formal dinner in the airy dining room, to a laid back barbecue next to the pool. The Residences also come with their own butler and private chef making a stay here the absolute epitome of luxury in the comfort of a totally private space, away from prying eyes.

P4232309

P4232304

P4232370

The stunning infinity pools are a joy and days can be enjoyed doing laps up and down them or just cooling off and taking in the views out to sea.

All Residences guests have access all facilities at the Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa, a gorgeous property at the bottom of the hill with two brilliant dining options – Dee Plee (keep a few hours free to indulge in the glorious breakfast) and Sala Layan.

A room dedicated to cured meats and cheese

A room dedicated to cured meats and cheese

Yumm

Yumm

Superfood Corner at breakfast

Superfood Corner at breakfast

For something really special, book one of Anantara’s signature design concept, Dining by Design – we had Dining by Design dinner on the beach, lit by the light of the stars above and lanterns leading all the way to our romantic spot in front of the sea.

Dining by Design at Anantara Phuket Layan

Dining by Design at Anantara Phuket Layan

A Pool with Diamonds

A Pool with Diamonds at The Residences

Nightly rates at Anantara Phuket Layan Resort and Spa start from £670 on a B&B basis. For information on rates at The Residences, please get in touch with the Grifco team.

Golden Triangle – the land of Three Countries

Anantara Golden Triangle Resort

The northern part of Thailand borders with Myanmar and Laos and in this corner of the world lies the Golden Triangle, a magical rural area where Anantara’s Golden Triangle hotel lies, complete with one of the world’s most spearheading Elephant Camps.

Walking with Giants

Walking with Giants

In a world which is becoming thankfully more sensitive to elephant tourism, Anantara’s Elephant Camp is continually applauded for the work that is done there to protect and save elephants that are brought in from the streets, where they are brutally forced to beg or perform.

These gentle giants now live happily in the 1,200 hectare resort, where they live alongside their faithful mahouts, who tend to them daily – tasks of which include feeding them and taking them down to the river for frequent baths to keep the eles hydrated. Elephants are incredible creatures, each with distinct personalities and it is so nice to see their eyes shining cheekily as they happily go about their new lives at Anantara’s  Elephant Camp. The mahout’s wives keep busy by spinning silk and creating fabulous scarves and souvenirs.

Mahout wives at work

Mahout wives at work

The hotel is designed exquisitely with its elephants heritage peppered throughout. Stay in one of the 3 Country View rooms to wake up to views of Myanmar and Laos across the river and walk up to the top of the hill to lay gift to the Spirit House and see a glorious view of the Mekong River. For a really spectacular arrival, guests can even choose to arrive by boat, beginning their journey on the river and then being picked up at Anantara’s dock and taken up to the hotel.

Make sure to pay visit to the Anantara Spa which enjoys natural light flooding through its ceiling to floor windows. The Signature Massage is like a gift from Buddha after a long journey getting there.

Fancy a dip?

Fancy a dip?

There are two dining options – Sala Mae Nam, serving up delicious, authentic Thai food and also Baan Dhalia, a fine dining Italian restaurant, where signatures dished are whipped up at the table….this includes a Caesar salad spun in an ice bowl and spaghetti prepared in a Gran Padano wheel!

Baan Dhalia Table Cooking

Baan Dhalia Table Cooking

Baan Dhalia Caesar Salad

Baan Dhalia Caesar Salad

Cooking in a cheese wheel

Cooking in a cheese wheel

An aspect of the Golden Triangle’s turbulent history is its part in the Opium Years, when it was one of the world’s main producers. This troubling time is carefully and thoughtfully curated in the Hall of Opium, funded by the Thai Royal Family and located across the road from the Anantara. All Anantara guests are given a ticket as part of their stay and are very much recommended.

Nightly rates at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort start from £700 on an all-inclusive basis.

26 Hours in Beijing

After enjoying the endless beaches and blue skies of the Philippines as backpackers for two weeks, arriving in Beijing was somewhat overwhelming, but luckily we were heading straight to luxurious Park Hyatt. Located in the city’s booming business district, Chaoyang, Park Hyatt Beijing takes up floors 35 to 63 of one of the city’s tallest buildings, giving guest’s uninterrupted views out over the skyscrapers.

BEIPH_P187_Hotel_Lobby_39815_med

On arrival we were thrilled to find our room was a lovely blend of oriental design and high-tech gadgets. The marble bathroom came complete with epic rain shower and big square bath, with a dressing table island and walk-in-wardrobe. Sliding doors in the centre of the room provided privacy from the big king bed.

BATHROOM_32021_med  photo 5

After a quick-nap and an in-room coffee to recover from our five-hour flight from Manila, we set off on the metro to Tiananmen Square. Although we didn’t make it to the Forbidden City before it closed, not all was lost as we were able to explore the beautiful grounds and temples, and eventually found ourselves up high on Jingsan Park with a stunning view of the whole city.

IMG_0686IMG_0707

We returned to the Park Hyatt to find chocolate dipped strawberries and fresh fruits waiting in our room, and a box of chocolates with images of Beijing printed on each one. As evening fell the view from our room slowly lit up, a stretch of glowing lights in all directions. Up the 63rd floor Beijing’s cool crowd began to gather for cocktails in the hotel’s fashionable China Bar, although here as in Barcelona and Berlin, the partying usually only really gets going past midnight. The hotel’s signature China Grill restaurant serves delicious Chinese and European cuisine, and holds the prestigious title of the tallest restaurant in the city!

photo

Breakfast at the Park Hyatt was a real highlight: freshly made vegetable juices, pastries and full English alongside Chinese style choices. The granola was some of the best I’ve tasted, which I drizzled with honey dripping from a massive suspended honeycomb.

IMG_3278IMG_3286Staying at the Park Hyatt Beijing was a lovely, relaxing experience, and I can’t think of a more ideal way to break up the long journey from Manila to London. Our only regret is that we missed the Forbidden City, but this does give us a great excuse to come back!

beijing.park.hyatt.com

36 hours in Chengdu

I was lucky enough to visit Chengdu this autumn with Dorsett Hotels & Resorts. Set on the western edge of the Sichuan basin, China’s forth city is not only thriving with cultural history and world-class cuisine, it is also the gateway to the country’s most magnificent natural wonders, not least, 80% of the world’s panda population. Unlike its bigger sister cities such as Beijing, Chengdu boasts a far more jovial rhythm, a captivating local culture and a plethora of tourist attractions.

DSC_0558

Giant Pandas playing in the early morning sunshine

Vibe

Despite being home to more than 14 million people, Chengdu is notably laidback. Whittle away the afternoon in one of the many traditional teahouses (do as the locals do, and try your hand at a game of mah-jong) or take a wander down Wide & Narrow Alleys, stopping to try local delicacies such as Dragon’s beard candy (a delicious Chinese sweet similar to spun sugar) as I did.

Chengdu.  Wide & Narrow Alley (55)

Street food and culinary delights at Wide & Narrow Alley

DSC_0370

Wander

….down Jinli, an ever-popular and vibrant street, Jinli’s history can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty of 221BC. Soak up the atmosphere, inhale the spicy and irresistible aromas wafting up from tea stalls, and take your pick from one of the many Sichuan snacks, or xiaochi. Everything is rustled up on the spot and this place is the only street in town that you’ll get anywhere close to trying Chengdu’s 5,000-plus specialities, from rice glueballs to wontons and boiled dumplings.

DSC_0440

Beautiful tree decorations on Jinli Street

Ignite the taste buds

…with a Chengdu hotpot. The capital of the Sichuan Province, Chengdu has the highest density of restaurants and teahouses of any city in the world – some 42,000 at the latest estimate. Food crazes blaze across the gourmet scene like prairie fires, but the hotpot has been a longstanding Sichuan delicacy and is here to stay. With good reason, Unesco designated Chengdu the first City of Gastronomy in Asia, ahead of Singapore, Tokyo and Singapore in 2010.

DSC_0826

Sizzling Sichuan hotpot

Dine like a king

…at Yu’s Kitchen. This magical restaurant is by reservation only. Referred to by Fuchsia Dunlop as China’s answer to El Bulli, manage to secure one of the six tables as we did and you won’t be disappointed as chef Yu Bo delights the senses with an idiosyncratic display of gourmet Chinese dishes. Marvel at the beautifully-presented plates on the 32-course tasting menu, from alligator to truffle to edible ‘calligraphy brushes’ with sweet tomato dipping ‘ink’, all washed down with spherified jasmin tea.

DSC_0692

Just one of the dishes on the 32-course tasting menu at Yu’s Kitchen

DSC_0688

Our table at Yu’s Kitchen

Drink

…Tea. Natural wonders and food aside, it’s not just tea aficionados that should experience one of Chengdu’s greatest traditions – the teahouse. Traditionally synonymous with cards and mah-jong, discover these inviting houses nestled among the quieter corners of the city, perfect for a chrysanthemum or flowering osmanthus tea – a show in itself!

DSC_0675

Tea and spice markets

DSC_0679

Too many tea infusions to choose from

Cuddle

…A panda! These cute furry friends are the city’s main attraction, and the Giant Panda Research Base is an easy taxi journey (6 miles) from downtown Chengdu. Encompassing a vast 600 acres, this panda mecca is home to Giant Pandas and Red Pandas. The latter, smaller in size and rather endearing to watch as they happily played among the grass at breakfast time. Go at dawn when the pandas are most active, rolling around and climbing trees. For a hefty fee (circa £95) you can even cuddle one!

DSC_0486

Young Red Panda cub

DSC_0564

Just chillin’

& if you’re lucky

…catch a glimpse of the utterly adorable baby panda cubs, like we did!

DSC_0568

Little baby pandas, born just one week prior to our visit

Sleep

…In the comfiest beds in town. The beautiful Dorsett Grand Chengdu is perfect for those keen to explore both the city and surrounding areas. Fresh off the plane, the large bathtub and array of delicious lotions and potions made for a welcome night’s sleep as I dove face-first into this cloud of a bed on the 39th floor. With the curtains drawn, the room is enveloped in complete darkness guaranteeing even the most troubled sleeper an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

DSC_0311

Spacious, airy bedrooms and irresistibly comfortable beds at Dorsett Grand Chengdu

DSC_0299

Beautiful interior design in the lobby at Dorsett Grand Chengdu

Location is also hard to beat when it comes to Dorsett Grand Chengdu. Ideally situated in the lively Luoma Market area of the city, the hotel is just moments from the bustling Chunxi Road and renowned Chengdu sports centre. Metro stations just across the road render exploring the city cost-effective an hassle-free.

www.dorsetthotels.com/chengdu

Getting There

Many airlines fly from London to Chengdu, and BA launched a direct flight route from London Heathrow just earlier this year. Flight time: under 11 hours.

 

Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

Conrad Hotels & Resorts has recently launched an exciting social media campaign with Conrad Connections, a digital documentary series in which globally renowned cultural curators and opinion leaders discuss what they find inspirational about their home cities.

These insightful vignettes, which you can view at www.facebook.com/ConradHotels, feature industry pioneers and taste-makers the hotels have connected with, in destinations from Tokyo to Miami.

Here Conrad Hotels go behind the scenes with renowned French cuisine chef, Yosuke Suga, as he lets us into his secret Tokyo and takes us on a journey through Tokyo’s vibrant sushi culture.

Watch as he explores the ancient practices and navigates his way around the famed Tsukiji Market, conveniently located right next door to Conrad Tokyo…. Before visiting the modern sushi master, Sukiyabashi Jiro, or ‘Jiro’, as he is known by many. You might recognise him from the cult film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” – have you seen it?

We find out where Suga gets his inspiration as he films with Jiro, who began making sushi aged 12, and continues to do so in the heart of Tokyo, now aged 88. As Suga highlights, when Jiro makes sushi, ‘it becomes beautiful’…

20-11-2013 12-47-43

Check it out here: Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

To find out more visit www.conradhotels.com

Snapper Ceviche at Gaya Island Resort, Borneo

Always ones to be hot on the heels of the latest food trend, Grifco has been obsessed with the refreshing dish that is Ceviche for some time now. With the likes of Ceviche on Frith Street, Lima London and now Sushi Samba opening their doors and introducing us to the healthy delights of smackingly fresh raw fish cured in zingy flavours, we couldn’t wait to master this dish ourselves! So imagine how pleased I was to learn that on a recent trip to the new (and stunning) Gaya Island Resort in Borneo I was to have a personal Ceviche lesson from one of the resort’s best chefs. Luckily the recipe was super easy and the results impressive! Read on to learn how to recreate delicious Snapper Ceviche yourself at home…

Snapper Hinava

 (Cured Snapper Fillet With Lime Juice)

A native dish of the Kadazan

Ingredients

Cured Snapper

Snapper Fillet (Seabass is a good alternative) 80g

White Wine Vinegar 100ml

Lime Juice 100ml

Salt 3g

Ginger (Finely sliced) 5g

2 Birds Eye Chillies (Finely sliced)

1 Shallot (Sliced)

Sakura Cress

Lemon Air

Lemon Juice 80ml

Lime Juice 80ml

Sugar 8g

Salt 2g

Lecite 3g

Coriander Oil

Coriander Leaves 20g

Rock Salt 3g

Corn oil 50ml

Method

For the cured snapper, Slice the fish fillet into half inch thick strips. Marinade in the white wine vinegar for 30 minutes, then pat dry with a paper towel. Transfer the fish fillet to a flat container & add the rest of the ingredients. Let it marinade for at least 1 hour.

For the lemon air, combine all the ingredients and foam using a hand blender or whisk. Admire how impressive and cheffy this looks with minimal effort!

For the coriander oil, place coriander, salt and corn oil into a blender and blend on a high speed. Transfer to a bowl and let the flavours mature. Strain the mixture to be left with a delicious, flavoured oil.

To assemble, roll the fillets individually and arrange on a plate. Then garnish with the ginger, chilli and shallot taken from the cured mixture. Last but not least, top with the lemon air, sakura mix and drizzle with coriander oil.

Voila! Delish.

www.ytlhotels.com

 

Heavenly Hong Kong

Hong Kong, a place that never sleeps, isn’t usually associated with relaxation, but it is possible!

Flat bed with plump pillows and cosy duvet? Check. Jersey pyjamas and matching slippers? Check. 7 course tasting menu created by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton? Of course. WiFi at 35,000ft? You bet! My recent trip to Hong Kong began in style, courtesy of Hong Kong Airlines and their newly launched all-business class flight from London to the Asian hub. The new service offers a luxurious way to make the 12 hour journey, with a choice of Club Classic and Club Premier cabins. I was lucky enough to trial the Club Classic service and was really impressed.

On this trip I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for the first time, one of the true “Grande Dame” hotels in the Skyscraper City, with its unbeatable harbour-front location in the buzz and excitement of Wan Chai (probably my favourite area of HK to wander around, with its non-stop action, colourful markets, delicious and often unidentifiable food objects and general centre-of-the-action feel).

The views from this hotel are extraordinary, and the swimming pool on the 11th floor is the perfect retreat when it all gets too much in this 24-hour destination. I found a fresh watermelon juice and a dip in the pool the perfect tonic to running around town! NB. They also serve the best mango pudding in Hong Kong.

The hotel’s Plateau Spa is also the place for frazzled souls, whether it’s jet lag or the night before you’re suffering from – it boasts some of the biggest treatment rooms I’ve seen anywhere and highly professional therapists. You can even check into the Plateau Rooms – hotel rooms located actually within the spa, with sunken futon beds that you can have your treatment on, and then spend the night. How often have you had a massage and wished you could float straight to bed? Next time I want to stay in one of these.

I sampled both a 60 minute Plateau massage at the Grand Hyatt, and a 60 minute neck, back and foot massage in a local Chinese massage shop and the two experiences could not have been more different. Both great – one a highly relaxing, pampering and soothing experience that left me floating on a cloud, the other an hour of back-cracking and knot busting that I’m sure left me an inch taller…I’d recommend trying both to experience both ends of the spa spectrum!

www.hongkong.grand.hyatt.com

www.hongkong.grand.hyatt.com/hyatt/pure/spas

www.hkairlines.com