Remote beaches, swaying palm trees and the lure of the sun, sand and sea. Whether it’s a short hop to Phuket or a longer haul Down Under to Hamilton Island, spend December being a luxe beach bunny. By Kenneth Goh.
Head to a little slice of paradise in Queensland.
There is nothing more spectacular than flying to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays on a clear, sunny day. The Mykonos-blue waters over the Barrier Reef are unbelievably clear, the air crisp and unpolluted and, even though it is winter Down Under, the temperature warm and welcoming at 23 degrees. I am here to experience Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the biggest yachting event on the island’s social calendar, held from 20 to 27 August, 2016.
There is only one place to stay when you come for race week—Qualia, which in Latin means a “collection of deeper sensory experiences.’’ In other words, a discreet, luxurious retreat that excels in service, food and making you feel like a princess or prince, whatever suits. The Australiandesigned resort is located in the secluded northern-most tip of Hamilton and is surrounded by well-kept, mature gardens. Accommodation pavilions are tucked discreetly, almost hidden, in the landscaped gardens. The 60 pavilions, some with plunge pools, are generously large, with an open deck, big bathroom with bath and separate shower, and equipped with a coffee machine, fridge, kitchenette and Aesop toiletries. Each pavilion comes with its own golf-buggy but on race week, there are spanking-new Audi cars to transport you from the hotel lobby to the seafront to watch the race. Like the Melbourne Cup, Hamilton’s annual regatta is a bit of a hedonistic pursuit, with invited guests sipping copious amounts of chilled Champagne and eating fine food.
If there’s one thing you have to experience during your stay, it is the amazing Kumali Ritual massage at Qualia’s spa. Kumali is an Aboriginal word meaning “sacred”. This is what sets it apart, as the spa uses a unique Australian blend of herbs and spices to help relieve muscular aches and stimulate circulation. It starts with a ground walnut exfoliation, followed by an Australian bush-essence body wrap, before an aromatic warm ball of native herbs and spices is massaged and rolled over your whole body. The skin is then sealed with a mineral-rich Kumali hydration moisturiser to retain the healing herbal essence.
Dinner at the Long Pavilion had surfboard designer Hayden Cox show off his chrome board to tie in with the launch of his book, New Wave Vision. Guests dressed in metallic black-and-white outfits feasted on a barbecue of king prawns, wagyu beef and roasted vegetables. The next day, the Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Lunch cooked by famed French chef Guillaume Brahimi introduced a bit of the Cote d’Azur via a salad of fresh scallops, a delicious fish main course and a winning dessert, each matched with different Champagnes.
On the last day before leaving for the airport, we went for a gentle spin on the luxury Quantum cruiser to watch the competing yachts on the waters. There was hardly any sun but we were rewarded by the sighting of a pod of whales with their young calves. A perfect ending to a fun-filled regatta at Hamilton Island. Visit www.qualia.com.au.
From top: A bird’s eye view of the beautiful Whitsundays and Hamilton Island. The pool that sits right by the water’s edge. Relaxing with cocktails under the cabana by the infinity pool by the reception area.
VIEW FROM THE TOP.
Seek refuge in lush greenery and warm hospitality in Phuket.
You know you’ve struck vacation gold when you are ushered into a soothing sandstone building, one that whispers high luxury (and maintenance), only to ask where the check-in counter is and to be told this entire sanctuary of lush Zen perfection is all yours. Soft beige walls guard a 21-metre-long infinity pool that runs the length of the two-storey house. Floor-to-ceiling windows line the crisp cubical structure for dining, while a separate building is set aside for chilling out on the expansive sofas. Each entertainment cube opens out onto outdoor decks for relaxed socialising. Right smack in the middle of the lap pool is a fire spout that lights up at night and bathes the whole residence in warm golden light. An outdoor sala hugs one end of the lap pool, which is perfect for cocktails when the soft breeze wafts in from the sea. The cavernous master bedroom is also set off to the side of the ground floor, resplendent with double showers, an enormous bath, a walk-in wardrobe and a lounge area.
Yes, Anantara Residences is about as close you can get to paradise. The service is as stellar as the surroundings with a personal butler so well-trained and efficient that you even see your slippers turned the right way round when you step out from the pool to rinse off at the outdoor shower area.
Set in a private bay surrounded by lush greenery, this luxurious property overlooks the Andaman Sea and has sweeping views of the brilliant turquoise waters. Consisting of 15 exclusive pool residences, when you finally deign to rejoin the outside world, you can tap into the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort’s activities, private beach, restaurants and spa. Spend an evening at the Thai restaurant Dee Plee for delicious local cuisine (or try the day cooking classes), or go Mediterranean at Sala Layan for a scrumptious pizza, pasta or both. The couple spa at the Anantara Spa is delightful, as are the facials using pampering Elemis products.
The residences come fully furnished and equipped, and range in size from two to seven bedrooms, spanning 18,000 to 42,000sqft. The downstairs area has a study, gym, staff accommodation and even a personal spa room. Glass skylights on the floors of the infinity pool shed natural light into these rooms, giving the sense of being underwater. The only sadness comes with packing to go home. Visit www.residences-anantara.com.
WHAT TO PACK.
Soak up the sun in breezy brights.
Clockwise from left: Kaftan, Missoni. Dress, Seed Heritage. Sandals, Tory Burch. Bag, Shanghai Tang. Sunglasses, Dior.
From top: The main bedroom overlooking the Andaman Sea, and your own personal infinity pool and sala. The grand hotel pool of the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort. The expansive space and terrace for entertaining and relaxing at the Anantara Residences.