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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FOR EVERY BOLLYWOOD-LOVING TRAVELLER

If you’re a Bollywood buff with an undying passion for travel, here’s what your travel bucket list should look like

You want to go where the celebs go and why not? It’s great to visit the beautiful locations where your favourite film or song was shot. Plan your next holiday to Iceland and shoot your very own version of the romantic number Gerua or head to the Mediterranean island of Corsica with a bunch of friends and indulge in some matargashti. If you haven’t planned your holidays yet, here are the top destinations for Bollywood-inspired travel. It’s hard to pick one!

Whisk your partner away to BRUGES, BELGIUM

BRUGES, BELGIUM1Remember the romantic song ‘Chaar Kadam’ from the film PK? Anushka Sharma and Sushant Singh Rajput happily sing and dance along the picturesque canals, medieval buildings and everything else that looks unbelievably enchanting. It is none other than Bruges – the fairytale city of the Flanders region. Postcard-perfect Bruges still testifies to a past steeped in history. Though quiet, atmospheric and arrested in time, it is also a convivial place.

Vivid canals of BRUGES, BELGIUM
Vivid canals of Bruges in the Flanders Region of Belgium

Visit the Market Square that is dominated by its Belfry that stands 83 metres tall and offers jaw-dropping views of the expanse of the quaint town below. Yes, you can still climb to the top of the tower! It is also a place that is pleasantly adorned with food joints, cafes and restaurants that serve delicious food. Don’t forget to sample Bruges special popular frites and mayonnaise or pamper your sweet tooth with the world’s best waffle dipped in chocolate. With its cobblestoned streets, vivid canals and old world horse-drawn carriages, it boasts of some of the most photographed spots in Flanders. Stroll, amble and saunter down the streets of this beautifully-preserved medieval city with your partner and fall in love all over again!

Soak up some history in LUBLIN, POLAND

LUBLIN, POLAND1We bet you wanted to play Alia in the film Shaandaar only to be able to stay in that magnificent 18th-century Zamoyski Palace located in Kozlowka, Poland. Plan your next holiday to Poland and visit this authentic Polish aristocratic residence. Miraculously, it was destroyed neither by Nazi Germans or Soviets during World War II nor by communists after the war, and preserved with its original décor. This baroque and neoclassical palace-and-park complex in Kozlowka is now one of Poland’s national historic monuments.

The charming, majestic palace in the film Shaandaar is Zamoyski Palace located in Kozlowka, LUBLIN, POLAND
The charming, majestic palace in the film Shaandaar is Zamoyski Palace located in Kozlowka, Lublin

There are many other places to visit nearby. If you’re someone with an interest in Jeweish history, the city of Lublin is a must visit. It may attract fewer tourists than Krakow or Warsaw, but it is that one place that saw Polish and Jewish cultures harmoniously coexist while the city’s fibre developed. Apart from a very charming Old Town that looks like a ready-made medieval film set, Lublin offers other attractions, including a wild nightlife and a multitude of friendly restaurants and cafes. On your visit to the Old Town, you simply cannot miss the Dominican Church and the monumental neo-Gothic castle that boasts of a chapel decorated with 15th-century frescoes.

Wonder at the marvels of nature in ICELAND

ICELAND1Obviously apart from the iconic SRK-Kajol jodi, what really made you fall in love with the romantic song ‘Gerua’ from Dilwale was the breathtaking scenery of Iceland. Want to visit all those dramatic natural landscapes? Travel to Iceland to experience the stunning Icelandic nature, the beauty of the rugged landscape and the creativity of the Icelandic people. Rainbow-arched waterfalls of Skógafoss, Black Beach at Sólheimasandur, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, the world-famous Reynisfjara shore and Stokksnes – a headland on the southeastern Icelandic coast are places you simply cannot miss.

Skogafoss waterfall in  ICELAND where a part of the song Gerua was shot
Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland where a part of the song Gerua was shot

Iceland is home to the largest glaciers in Europe, as well as some of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Its location, just below the Arctic Circle, makes for long summer days with near 24-hours of sunlight; offset by short winter days with very little sunlight at all. Fortunately, while winters in Iceland are dark, they are relatively mild and play host to one of nature’s most spectacular exhibitions of beauty; the Aurora Borealis. One of the most interesting places is the capital of Iceland – Reykjavik – that combines colourful buildings, excellent museums, quirky, creative people and rich culinary choices. A mere twenty minute drive from Reykjavik center takes you out of the hubbub of city life and into the seclusion of Iceland’s spectacular landscapes. But the landscape is not just for gaping at; Iceland’s rivers are perfect for rafting, fishing, diving and snorkeling; its mountains, volcanoes and glaciers are good for hiking, climbing, dog-sledding, and snowmobiling; its snowy hills for skiing and snowboarding; its waves for surfing; its caves for exploring; and its barren highlands for jeep safaris.

Sunbathe on the pristine beaches of KRABI, THAILAND

KRABI, THAILANDWhile Thailand is already a hotspot for destination weddings and bachelor-bachelorette parties, it’s become a favourite holiday destination among the younger lot after the filming of Pyaar Ka Panchnaama on the pristine beaches of Krabi Island. Yes, Krabi has everything you’d need to let your hair down in the company of your friends – exotic white-sand beaches, crystal clear water, extensive coral reefs, charming locals, interesting markets, intoxicating nightlife and adventure galore. Situated on Southern Thailand’s Andaman coast, Krabi’s most-visited attractions include hot springs, a wildlife sanctuary, sea caves, limestone cliffs that draw rock climbing enthusiasts from around the world, and national parks that include the island paradises of Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. You can easily spend weeks in Krabi and leave yearning for more.

F33-193227It’s difficult to take your eyes off these beautiful limestone cliffs in Krabi

Moreover, here you can enjoy some of the most photogenic sunsets in Thailand, that are best viewed from a beachside bar or restaurant. The charming riverside town features a number of cozy cafes and inexpensive, authentic Thai cuisine is served at an outdoor, riverside evening market. Book a stay in the bustling centre of Ao Nang, a seaside strip of guesthouses, hotels, bars, restaurants, spas and souvenir shops. Since Ao Nang is the major launching point for boat trips to nearby islands, it’s very convenient to put up here.

Saunter around the stylish coastal town of CORSICA, FRANCE

CORSICA, FRANCERanbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone starrer Tamasha has given us another beautiful location to dream about. Corsica is an island hidden between the borders of France and Italy and is divided into two parts: Upper Corsica (Haute Corse) and Southern Corsica (Corse-du-Sud). Travel to this Mediterranean paradise to enjoy sparkling waters full of marine life, mountains, bays, beaches, valleys, tiny seaside villages, dense forests and hilltop chalets. Corsica is a land of character. The 67 Genoese towers which cover the Corsican coastline, the Calanche de Piana, the remains of Filitosa, or even the beauty of the reserve of Scandola, are marks of time that have shaped its unique contours. Struck by the tumult of the past, Corsica offers a remarkable built area: Romanesque and baroque churches, prestige homes etc.

This would surely remind you of the song Matargashti from Tamasha that was largely filmed in CORSICA, FRANCE
This would surely remind you of the song Matargashti from Tamasha that was largely filmed in Corsica, France

With its magnificent mountain scenery and delightful seascapes, Corsica is full of surprises. Shaped and hollowed by erosion, the striking red granite cliffs known as the Calanche de Piana plunge steeply into the sea. Consider a drive to Calvi. The charming city is located on the northwest coast of Corsica. Down the small town’s cobblestone streets, you will find plenty of restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Or hit the beach. Corsica is surrounded by stunning beaches. Grab a spot on the white sand, catch some rays, and take a dip in the cool waters of the ocean. Not only does Corsica offer a million pretty sights to see, it also gives you some amazing options for outdoor activities. Try mountain biking, horse trekking, quad biking, white water activities and more.

PLAN AN ALL-GIRLS GETAWAY TO KRABI

My escape to Krabi with my girlfreinds had everything needed to make an “all girls” vacation awesome – exotic white-sand beaches, charming locals, interesting markets, intoxicating nightlife, adventure galore and not to forget ‘safety’

Who says family vacations aren’t great? But a time away with your best friends is an emotional necessity. You got to go for it to know it. If you haven’t yet, add it to your bucket list now! This way, you not only get to know them better but also get a chance to create loads of memories – these shared stories will be things that you and your friends will reminisce and laugh about forever. In June last year, I decided to take off to Krabi (in Thailand) with my gal pals and it was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. Since we were a trio – each with competely different and craziest travel sensibilities – we did have disagreements on things like where to eat and what mode of travel to opt for. Being an undisputed nomad, I would want to explore most places on foot, sample the wierdest of street foods and dive into all kinds of adventure while my best friend, a complusive shopaholic by passion and a desi (jain) vegeterian out of choice, wouldn’t refrain (in spite of all my attempts to demotivate her) from hunting for an Indian restaurant that serves her the tastiest paratha and biryani in town! And trust me, she succeeded every single time! You’re definitely heaving a sigh of relief if you’re another ghaas phus person (as we non-vegeterians call them), but if you’re not one, you can imagine my plight! Thankfully, the third one among us was pretty much okay with anything, as long as we let her put on her ‘selfie-clicking’ mode. Yes, she has this uncanny ability of clicking some amazing mirror selfies even in the loo, pouting with the pot in the background! Nonethless, it was a joy ride as Krabi somehow manages to seduce every kind of globetrotter.

EXPLORING AAO NANG ON FOOT

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We started the trip on a lighter note by relaxing a little post the five-hour flight and then exploring the area around our hotel at Aao Nang (40 minutes from Krabi airport) – one of the most happening and attractive spots in Krabi. Compact, easy to navigate and comparatively cleaner than Krabi town, Aao Nang has plenty to offer. Apart from offering midrange and luxurious stay options and tons of restaurants, massage parlours (if you know the art of bargaining here, you know it all!) and local stores for a fun shopping experience, it’s the central spot from where all the adventure tours like snorkelling and island tours are organised. For a dose of relaxation, we straightway hit a decent-looking, no-frills massage joint that had more than 20 beds in a row and a host of over-friendly masseurs; it pretty much did the trick for us! Whether it’s a foot massage with shea butter cream, just a plain head massage or a full body coffee scrub, the menu will make it tough for you to zero in on one treatment. We spent the remaining evening strolling around, picking up some souviners and sampling some local dishes. If shopping or therapy isn’t what you are looking for, think spending a laid-back evening on the beach under the stars. The area is known for its fairytale limestone crags and beautiful beaches with turquoise blue sea, tied together by narrow strips of golden sand. Read more