GLAMOUR-FILLED GETAWAY AT PLANET HOLLYWOO BEACH RESORT, GOA

Yes, we love staying in homestays and sharing a meal with the locals, but a dose of glamour and sophistication – once in a while – doesn’t hurt much. On our recent trip to South Goa, we chose to stay at Planet Hollywood Beach Resort located in the quiet village of Utorda and returned feeling like a celebrity. Owned by director Sachin Joshi, this 10-acre beach resort is the first Planet Hollywood resort operational outside the US. It is the only second such resort after Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas.

PERSONALISED OPULENCE AT ITS BEST
We were picked up from the airport by a courteous, knowledgeable driver in the owner’s very own brand new white Audi! How’s that for a grand entry to the hotel? Post a warm welcome and quick check-in procedure, we were guided to our suite.

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Striking red sofas in the living room, a private massage chair, soft mood lighting, well-stocked bar, sleek sound bar where you can dock your personal music device, bedroom with an interesting slice of Hollywood memorabilia, a spacious bathroom with a jacuzzi tub and walk-in wardrobe – our suite had it all!

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TRANSFORM YOUR ATMA-MAN-TAN

buddhaMy husband and I are packing our bags for a four-day break at a newly-opened health retreat near Mulshi Lake, Pune. We are thinking of packing swimwear, laptop for checking office e-mails and kindle so that we can read some e-books by the pool to pass the time. However, we don’t end up reading a single page of any e-book and completely forget about our emails or text messages, or you can say “work”. We both are super busy, but in a very healthy and fulfilling manner. As enthusiastic newcomers to the world of luxury wellness retreats, we happily devote ourselves to the course planned for us, as per expert advice.

IMG_20160602_070611 (2)When I utter the word “luxury”, I don’t mean you’re assigned a chauffeur with a Lamborghini to pick you up from your residence or served with rich, ghee-laden Indian food in plates of silver. Here, opulence is associated with being trained by a highly-skilled fitness expert, treated to authentic massages by master masseurs and offered food that’s loaded with healthy, farm-fresh ingredients. To sum it up, before you head to Atmantan, you must be mentally prepared for a kind of a lifestyle makeover!

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PAMPER YOUR MIND, BODY & SOUL AT HILTON SHILLIM ESTATE RETREAT & SPA

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I said some peace and solitude. So, we opted for a three-day getaway to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, near Pawana Lake, a 45-minute drive from Lonavala. Set amidst the breathtaking landscape of the Sahyadri mountain range in the Western Ghats, the 320 acre property offers undisturbed natural beauty, topped with complete seclusion and serenity.

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Since it was a warm summer’s day, it was nice being greeted with a cold, fragrant towel, a glass of fresh juice and some homemade energy bars that instantly helped us regain all the vitality we had lost during the five-hour road journey from Mumbai to Pawana Lake, courtesy the traffic jam at Mumbai-Pune expressway. Yes, our stomachs were growling with hunger and we headed straight for breakfast, obviously a healthy one.

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Post a hearty breakfast, we were escorted to our discreet King Spa Pool Villa – a 205 sq m villa, with a private pool and lawn area as the name suggests – and we were more than delighted to make it our home.

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Apart from offering breathtaking views of the valley from the private deck, the villa featured a sun bed to spend some relaxing time outdoors, a beautiful stone bathtub with candles to amp up the romance factor, outdoor and indoor shower with indulgent bath amenities and, not-to-forget, a royal four poster bed. Clean, contemporary and elegant. Read more

KEEMALA: WHERE LAVISHNESS MINGLES WITH RUSTIC NATURE

Being a frequent tripper, “a holiday in Phuket” – at first – didn’t really sound very exciting to me. Having been to Thailand a couple of times, I had already lived the sun, sand and the sea. But as soon as I browsed the website of Keemala, what I simply wanted to do was pack my bags and head right out of that door! The property looked unbelievably enchanting in pictures and I was curious to know if something like this really existed on the world map. A large part of travel often depends on where you stay, and my stay at Keemala gave me the finest experience of the paradisaical island.

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Keemala is exactly what dreams are made of. At some point in life, we all dream of living in a dimly-lit, swanky villa; sleeping like royalty on a beautifully-carved canopy bed; and swimming in our private pool while sipping on a glass of old, pricey wine. And this rainforest retreat fulfills all these fantasies and more, in the most understated manner possible.

VILLA WITH A PRIVATE POOL

So, when I finally arrived at Keemala and checked into my Tree Pool villa, I still thought I was living in my little bubble of bliss and that someone would burst it any moment.

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My pod-shaped Tree Pool Villa

The villas come in four different categories: hut-like Clay Pool Cottages apt for solo travellers; Tent Pool Houses with wildlife-inspired interiors, perfect for adventurous nomads; pod-shaped Tree Pool Houses with an upper, outdoor relaxation space, great for a family of four and opulent Bird’s Nest Pool Villas with giant terraces overlooking the Andaman Sea.
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WALLOW IN A BREATHTAKING BEACHSIDE SETTING AT SURYA SAMUDRA – KOVALAM

Planning a trip to Kerala and looking for a setting that will give you an ethereal experience of  ‘God’s Own Country’? I happened to stay at this beautiful heritage property called Surya Samudra – Kovalam by Niraamaya Retreats with my family a couple of months ago and simply didn’t want to return. I had almost planned to apply for a job as a staff member only so that I could live in the tranquil surroundings for the rest of my life. 😉

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The jade blue infinity pool surrounded by greenery. How can you not love it?
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Some bird watching at the nearly private beach of the resort

Set in 20 acres of landscaped gardens, Surya Samudra is a peaceful retreat built at a stunning cliff-top location with dramatic views of the Arabian Sea apart from the two secluded and nearly-private beaches, yet not more than 12 km from the hustle and bustle of Kovalam. Everything from the reception to the polished wooden cottages reflect the 100-year old traditional Keralan homes and lifestyle.

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The reception of the resort has a very earthy appeal with its wooden interiors

Spaced well apart, surrounded by a number of coconut trees, the cottages are perfect for families looking for deep relaxation or even a couple looking to sharing some romantic moments with each other. In fact, a solo trip here is highly recommended too as you’re sure to come back with a lot more calm and renewed energy for your next opus. Read more

ANANDA IN THE HIMALAYAS: LUXURY DETOX IN THE LAP OF NATURE

Even a month after my stay at Ananda – In The Himalayas, I can picture myself floating in the tranquil temperature-controlled pool with alluring turquoise-feathered peacocks wandering all around. I can hear the gurgling sound of the waterfall I enjoyed while lazing in the balcony of my premium valley-view room overlooking verdant hills and the dimly-lit, meditating Rishikesh. Every time I close my eyes, I can feel the composure I experienced after every rejuvenating spa therapy performed in their very idyllic setting. And once I am in this bubble of bliss, it takes a hell lot of effort to decamp and get back to work. Such is the repercussion of my four-night getaway at the opulent destination spa in Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand.

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Living ‘maharaja’ style
The moment I entered the space, I was welcomed with more than a dozen warm smiles and a rudraksha necklace around my neck. The reception area – housed in the palace – instantly transported me to an era of Indian royalty and the typical, soothing essential oil aroma shook off all the travel tiredness.

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