Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Barefoot luxury at Makepeace Island - Noosa

When our editors Rhonda Bannister, Tanya Joslin and Nicole Deuble got the chance to join Richard Branson at his idyllic private hideaway Makepeace Island just upstream from cosmopolitan Noosa late last year, they came back gushing about the suave and eccentric billionaire with a surprisingly romantic side! 

Branson and his Virgin Blue co founder Brett Godfrey have taken what was once the secluded island home of local character Hannah "Shotgun" Makepeace, and converted it in to an exclusive destination for discerning couples or small groups of friends seeking out luxurious yet playful seclusion on the Sunshine Coast. 

Makepeace Island has now become sought after not only as a holiday retreat but also as a picture perfect location for weddings. With architecture and decor inspired by Bali, the heart-shaped island can accommodate up to 22 "castaways" - not a bad way to slit the $8000 a night price tag! - and boasts a two-storey open aired Balinese wantilan as the centrepiece to a tropical paradise ambience. 

The huge lagoon pool, a full sized tennis court and pavillion, spa facilities, theatre, office facilities and an expansive indoor bar is designed for entertaining on a grand scale. And the stunning gardens and indoor decor include giant sculptures, teak, granite and stone finishes, volcanic boulder bathtubs, ornamental lighting and antiquities and furniture commissioned and acquired in Bali, Java and elsewhere throughout Indonesia give one little doubt that this would be a spectacular residence to hold a small wedding - and you don't have to leave to enjoy the honeymoon. The island even has it's own private chef and a riverboat to transfer guests to and from Noosa!

Makepeace Island was recently voted 'One of the World's Best 101 Hotels' by the highly acclaimed Tatler Travel Guide and Awards, in which it was the only Australian property to feature in the Private Islands – Sensation Seclusion category. The Island will celebrate the achievement with a 6-month birthday celebration providing guests who book from today and stay in February and March 2012 with free flowing French champagne from the house of Moet and Chandon for the duration of their stay. 

We have always admired Richard Branson for his cheeky take on a luxurious lifestyle. Now we have even more reason to want to be in his world, even if just for a few days!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hot springs, rainforest, spa and wellness at The Banjaran, Malaysia

I've always been a firm believer that you can mix romance and wellness together in to a really special holiday. And as a long time devotee of the holistic escape, it was with great pleasure that I came across The Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat in Malaysia. 

This incredible retreat is in a spectacular setting, surrounded by million-year old rainforest and soaring limestone cliffs just outside the city of Ipoh, about two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur and 1.5 hours drive from Penang. With an amalgamation of natural caves, pristine jungle, waterfalls and geothermal hot springs, The Banjaran ticks all the right boxes for an exquisite experience where you can both indulge in each other in the utmost of peace, privacy and relaxation. 

And it's all about spa and wellness here ... with a good dose of luxe thrown in to up the romance factor for couples! The Banjaran has 26 villas spread out across a sweeping valley floor, with Garden Villas that are set within their own secluded gardens, while the Water Villas rest on the bank of the hot springs, with individual balconies overlooking the water.

And with hot spring dipping pools, thermal steam caves, anti-oxident restoration beds, ice baths, outdoor rainforest shower, meditation cave, crystal cave and a freeform swimming pool to completely lose yourselves in, might we suggest that this place is a slice of heaven on earth for couples seeking out a full body and mind experience! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The best rooftop bars in Singapore



Ku De Ta


Heading to Singapore soon? You're in for a real treat - some of the best shopping, restaurants and - most of all - an incredible array of world class nightlife! Start the night right at one of the city's many spectacular roof top bars, where you can kick back on a lounge and enjoy a drink with that famous striking Singapore skyline spread out before you. Offering dazzling cityscape views, exotic cocktail menus and fashionable decor, these sky high bars are the perfect place to wind down after a non-stop day of sightseeing or a stylish spot to kick start your evening. Here's five favourites courtesy of YourSingapore:

Orgo is a sophisticated Singapore institution that brings together great food and cocktails with an environmental conscious. With stunning 360° views of Marina Bay, mixologist Tomoyuki Kitazoe brings the concept of "organic chemistry" to life in this smart little bar;  starting with the best in organic ingredients for a menu of delicious food and cocktails. Try the Soursop and Calamansi Cocktail or be a bit adventurous and let your drink be your desert with a Roasted Apple Pie Cocktail. Orgo is at 8 Raffles Avenue, #04-01.

With the title of highest bar in Singapore, you know the view from 1-Altitude is going to be pretty spectacular. Situated 282 metres above the ground, offering unparalleled views of Singapore, 1-Altitude bar boasts a number of awards including the Time-Out Best New Rooftop Bar 2011 and the Singapore Prestige Brand Award 2010.  We hear their Chocolate Sidecar is amazing! Find 1 -Altitude at 1 Raffles Place (Former OUB Centre).

Ku Dé Ta
This Bali institution has well and truly arrived in Singapore, and it's been taken to sky high levels of luxury at Marina Bay Sands! Situated 57-stories above the city, the Ku Dé Ta rooftop bar features a pool side bar, observation deck, restaurant and club lounge.  With stunning 360° views of the city, Ku Dé Ta has fast become Singapore's after party "It" spot since opening in 2010.  We recommend Ku Dé Ta for sunset cocktails - try Lady Be Mine, a sumptuous martini with lychee, rose water and apple juice.
Skypark at Marina Bay Sands North Tower, 1 Bayfront Avenue.

Often described as eccentric, playful and hip this split level bar was designed as a refuge, sanctuary and canvas for city workers, creative minds and budding artists alike.  Sit back and relax on the gorgeous, plush lounges whilst taking in the chilled sounds and breathtaking views. Loof offers a delicious mix of international and quirky cocktails, such as the Gummiberry - a combination of Cointreau and Berry with Caramelised Meringue. Loof is at 331 North Bridge Road #03-07, Odeon Towers Extension Rooftop

Helipad boasts gorgeous views of Clarke Quay and the Singapore River.  Guests can soak up the atmosphere and observe Singapore's busiest district go about its business whilst relaxing on the deck's oversized, luminous seats, which form the bar's signature H.  The adventurous should try the Helipad Ice Tea - an original and lethal concoction of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, Blue Curacao and lime juice. Helipad is at 6 Eu Tong Sen Street.

Situated on top of the Fullerton Bay Hotel, Lantern features a 6 metre long lantern shaped bar, a 25 metre pool and panoramic views of the Singapore city skyline. A Latin American theme permeates the atmosphere, food, drinks and music.  We highly recommend the Red Lantern cocktail - a sublime mix of Don Julio Tequila with watermelon, cucumber, lime and a splash of Cointreau. Lantern sits proud at 80 Collyer Quay.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Discover the very best of Tasmania this Autumn

Tasmania continues to thrive in autumn with an array of exciting events for visitors. Check out some of the great things to see and do in the coming months - like we needed any more reasons to get down to beautiful Tasmania for that perfect short break ... 

MoMa (MONA market)
MONA's newest attraction, MoMa (or MONA Market), held on the roof of MONA every Saturday afternoon. As with all things MONA, MoMa will have art (and a dash of quirkiness) in its veins. Visitors can expect locally grown, organic, and sustainable produce from the Derwent Valley, greater Hobart area and beyond, set alongside craft, art installations, 'other bizarre bits' and 'elements of the unexpected' (in their words).
When: Every Saturday afternoon, throughh to 14 April, 1.30pm to 6.30pm
Where: MONA's rooftop, 655 Main Road, Berriedale
How: Admission is free. 

Officially launching on March 3 at Ghost Rock Vineyard, the Devonport Food & Wine Festival is a month-long celebration of the region's glorious local cuisine and produce. Cooking classes, cook-offs, exotic barbecues, family picnics, wine and beer tastings, culinary-themed dinners hosted by celebrity chefs, indulgent long lunches in vineyards and other special events are just some of the gourmand treasures in store. The deliciously-packed program of events makes it a great time for food-lovers to explore Devonport.
When: Tuesday 1 March to Sunday 31 March
Where: At various locations throughout Devonport
How: Prices vary from event to event. 

The Taste of the Huon celebrates the epicurean treasures of the Huon Valley, from apples, cherries, berries and mushrooms to salmon and truffles. One of Tasmania's most popular regional events, Taste of the Huon is held over two days, bringing together the best of the Huon and Channel region's provenance, wine, entertainment, arts and crafts. 2012 will be the twentieth year of the festival.
When: Sunday 11 March to Monday 12 March 2012, 10am to 4pm (the event runs to 5.30pm on Sunday)
Where: Ranelagh Showgrounds, Ranelagh, 30 minutes drive south of Hobart. Special buses will run between the festival site and Hobart City.
How: Admission is $8 for adults. Children enter free. Tickets can be purchased at the gate. 

The Longford Revival Festival made its debut in 2011 to celebrate the international motor racing heritage of the town. Longford played host to the world's greatest F1 racers in the 1950s and 60s, when it hosted the Australian Grand Prix on its 7.2km track. Although the track was closed in 1968, its most famous section, the Flying Mile, is specially reopened during the festival for car races and displays. The festival also plays host to the greatest automotive collection ever put together in the state, fine food and wine from the Tamar Valley, and live 60s music that recalls the town's hey-days.
When: Saturday 24 March to Sunday 25 March 2012
Where: Longford, 20 minutes (24km) south west of Launceston
How: Registrations are currently open for enthusiasts interested in racing or displaying their cars and motorbikes at the festival. There will be a general admission charge. 

Vintage in the Valley takes visitors on a harvest celebration at six of the most beautiful vineyards on the West Tamar Valley Wine Route. An additional six local wineries will join the celebration to present a bacchanal (moveable feast), where visitors can savour vintages from vineyard to vineyard complemented with fine local produce and lively entertainment.
When: Saturday 7 to Sunday 8 April 2012 (Easter long weekend)
Where: West Tamar Valley Wine Route - participating host wineries include Velo; Elmslie; Moores Hill; Marions Vineyard; Goaty Hill; and Holm Oak. Guest wineries will include Grey Sands Vineyard; Humbug Reach; Ninth Island; Winter Brook Vineyard; Tamar Ridge and Waterton Hall. 
How: For more information contact Velo Wines Tasmania on 03 6330 3677 or email.

The famous Targa Tasmania car rally has undergone an overhaul, with an additional 70 kilometres and an additional night added to the course. Kicking off with a street festival in Launceston on Thursday night, the competitors will then head for Strahan on Friday and Saturday, before the traditional finish in Hobart on Sunday afternoon. Targa is a must-see for automobile aficionados, as the best touring, sports, and Grand Touring (GT) cars gather on the state to drive through Tasmania's scenic but challenging tarmac roads.  
When: Tuesday 17 April - Sunday 22 April, 2012
Where: Various locations in Tasmania
How: Spectator information will be available on the Targa Tasmania website closer to the date.

Every autumn, Tasmanians follow the tradition of flocking to locations where the Fagus tree can be found, to witness its spectacular range of autumn colours from rust red through to brilliant gold. Called 'The Turning of the Fagus', this stunning sight can only be seen in Tasmania and nowhere else in the world.
What: Witness the fascinating Fagus tree as it turns a spectacular range of autumn colours
When: Late April and early May
Where: The best viewing spots include Mount Field National Park and Cradle Mountain National Park

Head to Tassie, rent a car and hit the road for some really special experiences! For a full and up-to-date listing of Tasmanian events and information on travelling to Tasmania, visit the Discover Tasmania website

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A year-round Valentine's Indulgence Package at Hansar Samui

So it's common knowledge we adore the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. Perfect island bliss, with equally ideal luxury to suit. And with Valentine's Day coming up soon (for the hopeless romantics!), we're thinking this could be a winner. Hansar Samui have just announced some tempting packages for couples wanting a tropical Valentine's escape. Situated just 10 minutes from the Island’s International airport, Hansar Samui is located on the tropical stretch of golden sands and turquoise waters of Koh Samui’s up-market Bophut Bay, which offers a front seat to island life.  

Hansar Samui offers 74 luxurious, beachfront, spacious accommodations with unobstructed sea views from every room, and super size private balconies and oversize daybeds for outdoor living and entertaining.  Not too shabby surrounds for that indulgent retreat together!

Hansar Samui’s romantic Valentine Indulgence Package includes:

- Private round trip airport transfers
- 3 nights luxurious stay in a Sea view or Sea view XL 
- Hansar  signature cocktail upon arrival
- Local fruit selection upon arrival
- Daily a la carte breakfast 
- A romantic private dinner for 2 with a specialised menu prepared by Chef Stephen Dion (choice of Thai or western set menu) 
- A hands-on ‘Pamper your Partner’ massage lesson for couples including certification from our Spa Manager upon completion of the class.  
- A healing Reiki session accompanied by the soothing mystical sounds of Tibetan Bowls 
- A floral foot bath 
- A herbal steam 
- A warm relaxing romantic candlelit floral and milky white chocolate bath 
- A Chocolate Glow: The LUXSA’s Signature Massage – heaven in itself
- Blended herbal tea
- Brunch-in-bed, complete with Butler service
- Nightly turn down treat
- Early check-in/late check-out 

With prices starting from US$1,250 for the Sea View room and US$1,437 for the Sea View XL based on a three nights stay, you might like to put it on your wish list ... and leave it somewhere obvious for your other half to find! Hint hint ...
Oh, and Hansar Samui have even allowed you to extend this special offer, so it's Valentine's style romance all year round. Perfect!