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Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa-Al Husn (Muscat, Oman)

“6
Location Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah resort is located 45 minutes drive from Muscat Seeb Airport. If your looking to save on expenses, Its worth hiring a car as its overall less expensive than a one way taxi. The roads in Muscat area are of a very good standard & gives you opportunity to explore the mountains & deserts if you decide to leave the resort. Parking is done by staff for you. The location is very idyllic with the coastline bordering the mountain range. The resort consists of three hotels all part of the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort. Al Waha Resort is the less expensive more family orientated resort (full of children but great facilities for them), Al Bandar is an more up market business hotel and lastly, the hotel I am reviewing Al Husn is their most premium product. Various staff describe it as the VIP hotel when I asked what differed to the others. This is because of the exclusive facilities for Al Husn guests only. In short this is the most premium product of the resort and where I was told Sultans and other Royalty have stayed at. Room The room I stayed at was perfectly positioned facing the bay of hotels of the main beach. Very spacious 6 star standard of room from the exceptional attention to detail in creating a luxurious Arabic ambience with decor that includes a detailed classical thick but soft carpet, wooden detailed crafted walls and gold taps,switches and plugs. It feels cosy, glamours, a palace feel thanks to the luxury furnishings, wall designs and lighting . Artistic Omani framed pictures & photos enhance this ambience. The room is large with a long full mirrored corridor from entrance leading to very spacious bedroom. Large comfortable bed with clean white Egyptian standard of cotton bedding. Spacious, decorative with soft pillows. Either side is marble top built in bed side tables, both offering drawers with the one having a phone & a classic leather framed clock and nearby plug sockets. The highlight however is seen above both of the bed side tables; unique lanterns hanging overhead in creating the distinctive Shangri-La mellow Asian feel to the lighting, full room switches conveniently below. The back wall of the bed has an original artistic detailed wooden facade with a back white light relaxing and mellow. The craft design is consistent in other areas of the room such as the back wall behind the glass top desk that faces the bed. This is accompanied by an upright but comforatble burgundy leather chair. A large antique looking mirror above additional plug sockets, telephone, small nesexpresso machine plus drawers containing a hair dryer & handy plug adaptor. The table also contains a bose blue tooth speaker system- portable and connects to all blue tooth devices. Both sides of this large desk are small oval art deco lamps, again creating warm mood to further enhance the cosiness. A silver suit hanger that also holds cufflinks stands nearby. The room has two options of seating, a small classic sofa for two people that faces the TV. A glass top finish wooden coffee table plus a large classical velvet chair facing it. I was presented with some fruit and sweet snacks on top. To the left is a small wooden cabinet that contains the free mini bar- this include a collection of canned soft drinks, juices, perrier water and Budweiser and even some sweet & savoury snacks - all complimentary, replenished every day included in room rate. Generous sized Bombay Sapphire, JW Waker & absolute vodka is also available at a price. The cabinet also contain a kettle for making tea and the expresso capsules. Nice glass ware and mugs are also offered. Sony flat screen TV of decent size and clear clarity offers a generous 140 channels with convenient TV guide with programs from literally all over the world including news to movies channels and everything else. Beyond the thick black out curtains is a decent sized balcony, deep and private from neighbours offering both a small sofa with soft pillows a glass table with chairs for smokers. My room 1113 offered an impressive view of the main beach displaying the other hotels and sandy mountains in the back ground. Very nice for sunrise & general view of the resort. Great for relaxing & getting out of the sun. The bathroom is directly located by the entrance and is very spacious offering a complete marble finish to walls and floor with gold faucet taps in all areas. A large bath with window into main bedroom is present like in Asia but the Shangri-La offers sliding wooden doors for privacy when needed. Relaxing scented bath salts are offered in an artistic Arabian pot. There is a closed shower cubicle with both overhead rain and separate head's - all classical design & exceptionally clean. Toilet in opposite room with bidet- again gold faucets. A volume switch for the TV exist if you wish to listen while in bathroom. Amenities offered are extensive and generous that include L’Occitane branded Jasmin & Bergamote Shower gel bottles, shampoo, and conditioner, body milk and even Colgate total mouthwash. There is the standard full set of amenities such as dental kits, shavers, vanity sets, combs etc by Shangri-La. Another classical but glass clock is also on the spacious sink area. 4 water bottles are provided. Within bathroom is an inlet side room area with a convenient large luggage rack shelf. Staff have prepared your bags before you even arrive in there- its that efficient. There open wardrobe above has plenty of coat hangers and it also offers an iron, iron board, plus a laptop compatible safe and complimentary comfortable Shangri-La branded flip flops and slippers- so don't worry if your forget them. As standard branded robes are also offered. As I express such detail, i feels like your are in an Arabian palace guest room, soft classical carpet, cosy ambience and honestly in the many rooms I have stayed at, the Al Husn room had nothing you could fault. I really enjoyed just relaxing before retiring to sleep by just having the mellow lights on and absorbing the decor. Facilities There are way too many facilities to mention since this hotel covers all of the complex. However Al Husn guest's have exclusivity & benefits in addition to use of the whole Shangri-La Resort of three hotels. The main noticeable aspect of these is that its has a child-free policy to keep in line the luxurious ambient atmosphere. The other two especially Al Waha is full of children with busy pools and kids running everywhere. The Al Husn avoids this with the child-free policy at its private beach & the infinity pool that offers splendid views of the coast below. Jacuzzi's palm tree each side with soft comfortable sun loungers that face the ocean- the other hotels have very busy pools full of children but Al Husn is quiet and relaxing with plenty of space at both beach and pool to have your own privacy, in contrast to how busy the lawn of the main beach of the other two hotels was. The private beach you can walk down (5-10 minutes) or staff will happily drive you down with a golf cart. This beach is much nicer than the main beach of the other two hotels, positioned much more intimately between the rocks and cliffs, the sandy beach has many sun loungers that face two sides- one side offers a view of the large bay where the local marina of Yachts is nearby and where you can see the stunning sunset over the mountains behind. Beach staff offer canoes and other equipment for your convenience. Plus cold refreshing mist, bottled water and cold towels. There is also a beach bar in this area. Its is great for photos since one of the rocks that sticks out has a nice hole in it that boats stream thru. Sunset is mesmerising plus the sea seemed less wild in this area. There is a 24 hours gym - well equipped with weights and cardio, quite small but staffed readily there handing out towels and cold water bottles. A library exists with both apple and windows computers with printer plus off course comfortable arm chairs with plenty of shelves of interesting books of all kinds. Great place to rest and read especially in the main heat of the day time sun. In terms of catering there are two restaurants (at Al Husn) one of which offers the complimentary afternoon tea, enjoyable small selection of mini scones, sandwiches and cakes- very British with a large selection of teas offered from the proactive staff. This is also where the buffet and ala carte breakfast is served. An excellent offering of menu dishes with fresh international and Arabian choices plus a buffet full of delicious breads,fruits, meats and cheeses. I was impressed with my Salmon on Scrambled egg and Beef tenderloin. Another restaurant nearby is the most premium fine dining of all the 10+ catering facilities across the whole complex- I did not try this so cannot comment. Both areas have indoor and outdoor seating. There is also a complimentary pre-dinner glass of wine of mixed liquor drinks offered between 6-7. The Al Husn has beautiful decor both in lobby lounges and nice carpeted corridors scented with what I belief to be frankincense. There is also a Omani Coffeee and date station that door staff are ready to offer you upon arrival, in addition to the delicious tropical juice drink. Since there are so many facilities on sight of the whole complex, please look at picture of map but some items to mention in main areas (at the other hotels) include a lazy river (moving river) where you sit on lidos that carry you along between the other hotels- quite fun. Tennis court, SPA, Kids area, Volley ball and multiple water sports like banana boat and snorkelling plus a diving centre is also on site. Large selection of catering outlets across the whole site both Arabic and International foods. There is also an Art gallery, shops, outdoor Shisha/Hooka lounge, Mini Golf,and excursions amongst others. There is even a daily return transfer service to various sights in Muscat. A unique highlight though is Turtle beach where around late afternoon if your lucky, small turtles come to the beach in a small cove in an area of the resort close to Al Husn side. Its a 5 star resort with no reason to leave, full of activities but the Al-Husn goes further in fitting the 6 star standard with its additional facilities and attention to detail from both the product and staff service. Staff Staff are exceptional. I was welcomed upon arrival by with an authentic Omani Uniformed door man, dressed with the local traditional sword, ready to park my car, offer you a date and the Arabic local coffee available in the lobby. With bags taken and automatically delivered to your room while your checking in. A delicious welcome drink and refreshing cold towel with eager reception staff ready to personally accompany you to your room and explain the facilities and what the Al-Husn offers very clearly. Staff at afternoon tea are sincere and professional in their efforts to ensure your needs. This is also the case with the friendly staff down by the beach and even when visiting the main resort, staff in all areas are very attentive to the presence of the guest, consistently acknowledging you in a friendly manner with eye contact and a smile regardless which hotel you are at. In the evening I spent some time at the Shisha place to relax and look at the stars and the staff there were easily approachable and chatty noticing I was on my own. I walked around the others in the evening and daytime and the main difference is simply not the staff but atmosphere of the guests, the others two hotels are just very busy with lots of children. Overall the Al-Husn is very impressive product that I certainly feel is worth upgrading especially if your on a honeymoon or prefer a relaxing environment. A place that leaves a lasting impression of experiencing the true Omani Hospitality together with room decor comparable to an Arabian Palace. I hope to return here soon to experience more, since I was only there 24 hours.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Al Jissah Street, Qantab, Muscat, 100, Oman
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Cotton Bay Hotel (Pointe Cotton, Mauritius)

3 Case Rating
Location Cotton Bay is located on the east coast about 30 minute drive from Rodrigues airport. They offer a free shuttle based on flight times of Air Mauritius. Within area is a public beach which is well known for its octopus fishing, though a lot of other areas are also noted for this. There is a small hut with snacks etc by the public beach. For all major sight other popular beaches it's no more than 20-30 minutes by scooter as its a small island, most of the road are very well developed. Room My room which seemed to be the closest to the pool and main area is a spacious room, 3 star resort room (of Indian Ocean standards) standard but could do with some improvements. The bed is very large but quite firm- not that uncomfortable but not exactly soft. Each side are wooden bedside tables but no drawers. Lamps are on top & they are the main source of lighting, since the ceiling just offers a ceiling fan- making the room quite dark overall. One of the side tables has controls for the hallway light and the fan but to have a plug by the bed requires unplugging the lamps. There is a small straw sofa which is basically good for placing your bag on, since it only faces the bed - not the TV. The room also offers a dressing table/working desk with 2 UK plugs and 2 Euro. The chair is just a straw stool so ok for make up but not really for any length of time, such as working on a computer (then again this resort is not a business hotel). The desk drawers offers a bunch of candle sticks but no holders, so not functional unless you stick them to their desk, in which I am sure the hotel don't encourage (covering everywhere with wax). There is a pointless fold up luggage rack that the straps are broken, not sure why they don't remove it or repair it since it look bad. To the side of the bed at the beginning of the hallway is a flat screen TV, but no guide is offered. 8 channels, of all sorts, some very grainy picture, all but one is in French, BBC news though it has no sound when other channels did (an ongoing issue I am told by the management) . Above the TV, in a badly thought out position is a kettle with free teas and coffee but no bottle water, why it is above the TV and electronics makes no sense since surely it's a health and safety issue incas you spill the kettle and there is plenty of room on the desk. Below was an empty mini bar filled on request. Two large wardrobes one with umbrella & (shocking for resort) only 4 clothes hangers are offered. They offer no slippers or flip flops, or even robes - first I have seen at a beach resort which even 2 star ones do in Asia. Small bathroom is offered with a shower only, worked fine, only two towels one big one large and mini bottles of hotel branded shower gel, shampoo and body lotion only, no dental kit, annoying because I lost my tooth brush thinking a resort might offer one but only if if you buy. There is a patio outside with two straw chairs and table - the highlight of the room. Overall for the price they charge (200plus euros a night) and it is the number 2 hotel on the island, I'm afraid to say in my experience of resorts and beach, it was shockingly disappointing in how badly thought out everything is and lack of basic things like a safe and one free bottled water at the least. The broken luggage rack on display really makes the hotel look even worse, plus no guide to anything- TV, facilities, nothing. Hotel rooms I have stayed at In Reunion and Mauritius offer at flip flops and the Reunion one was only 2 star small hotel. Cotton bay should get their act together and consider the degrading standard of room but perhaps they are either broke or just don't care to fix these issues. It's seems like they are complacent being one of the first resorts. You can also hear the TV in the adjoining rooms and guest chatting, lucky didn't have any annoying 'noises' but the room 102 (the receptionist room) had constant stream of phones ringing thru the evening which as you trying to get to sleep became annoying. Facilities The hotel offers free wifi at the bar and reception only, it is very slow and painful but this is Rodrigues in general and not the hotels fault, though I do think a resort should have wifi across the board (such as in rooms) since even 10 metres from the lobby it won't pick it up. Especially considering how much it costs. The hotel offers a large pool full of sand but seemed ok very central to the hotel. With bar opposite and restaurant and lounge room which turns into a club at about 9-11pm playing local and international music like your at a 1990's wedding. The restaurant offers a buffet service which was fairly basic run of the mill, overall Mauritius suffers from bad food at resorts when at buffets but the barbecue fish was nice on the night I stayed. They have a guy waking around playing an accordion. I think it differs every night. There is a shop that sells some souvenirs including a map of the island at 200 rupiah in which seemed a very cheap that the hotel don't offer a free map anyway- similarly a postcard of the hotel, you even have to pay for. There is one computer to connect to Internet Windows only but is still painfully slow despite LAN connection. The hotel is right on the beach, outside room is a nice kind of garden of Aloe Vera plants and a few cabanas to sit in. They have plenty of deck chairs around the pool in which were comfortable so long mattress are on them. The ones on the beach are horrendous almost left angle design offering zero comfort but the odd upright chair is ok. However I noticed these on all the beaches i visited in Mauritius so must be public, it seems though worldwide the chairs of Mauritius including the airlines are some of the most uncomfortable I have experienced in the world. They have a boat house that advises on sea- subs diving and free snorkel hire, but when i went you are not allowed in the sea after morning due to its high tide. They do rent out snorkels, and advice of scuba and snorkelling trips plus there is a concierge desk for tours in which staff are very informative of. They also rent out scooters at 800 rupiah for day only (not 24 hours) and 4x4 at 1600 which staff try and push but I found the scooter fun to drive over this hilly mountain making stopping for the fantastic views easier to as the roads are a acceptable, even the ones with pot holes down lanes etc. There is a kids play area and SPA in which offers a sauna and steam room but you must book to use. Massages are also offered close to 2000 rupiah. I didn't see these facilities. It's again odd they offer those but not a gym. Overall the facilities are ok but dated in general its- there is no promotion of their facilities or guides so its hard to find out. Plus they don't seem to provide much in the way of entertainment other than the evening disco. I mean like most resorts such as day trips etc or things included in your package. Staff Staff here are actually much nicer and more warmer service orientated that you find on the mauritus island. Overall they were the strength of the hotel, easy to chat to but they do try and get as much money out of you as possible with excursions and car hire etc.. but that is Mauritius in general. Overall this hotel was paid for me but looking at the prices it is well over charged for what you get- especially the standard of the room. I mean the price is more than say a Shangri La in Oman but this is a 3 star hotel. The staff are nice and the location is really relaxing especially at night. Rodrigues is likely not a competitive market for hotels so a degree of complacency exists but hopefully cotton bay will reagin its former glory to the top spot with some work on the rooms and details of the facilities.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Pointe Cotton, Rodrigues Is, Mauritius
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36 Hours on Palawan Island

I was very lucky that I was given a schedule that enabled me to visit the beautiful island of Palawan, voted number one island in the last few years from Travel surveys conducted by travel magazines: Conde Naste & Travel + Leisure. However as usual my time was very short, 2 nights but with awkward flights meaning I had 36 hours on the island in total. Unfortunately, the 8 hour drive to the most spectacularly beautiful spot of El Nido, mainly responsible for the awards, was not possible. After some research & finding out that Palawan island has what they call the 7th nature wonder of the world : Puerto Princesa underground river, which is about 2 hours away. I decided to stay at the closet place to it, a small village called Sabang. The best place in my price range was a large resort called Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in which they provide the 2 hour one-way van trip from the nearest airport Puerto Princessa International Airport) for 500 peso shared but they do offer the opton of a private van, in which I used on the way back. That costs 2800 pesos but negotiable with taxi drivers in area to 2000 pesos. The sunset drive thru the city of Puerto Princessa was interesting, a very clean city compared to the likes of anywhere else I’ve seen in Phillipines especially Cebu. However the drive though becomes progressively arduous after about an hour when the road has at least 100+ tight turns thru the mountains. I found it fine in the front seat, but recommend motion sickness tablets, if you dred such a journey. That's the basic problem with Palawan, it's big and nothing beautiful is near the airport so long transfer times are required to the beautiful spots. There is though a small airport at El Nido (ENI) where small propeller (ATR’s) fly to, currently only Air Swift fly’s there from Cebu and Manilla. So I arrived at the Sheridian resort in Sabang to a warm welcome & confirmation they had booked my underground river tour. (Please note you need a permit in which can be got in the city of Puerto Princessa but the hotel will process this if you email them in advance with your passport. Highly recommend you do this if your stay is short like mine- since a limited amount of permits are offered per day so it make take a few days to process if you just arrive and do it there & then. Next morning I wake early and firstly enjoythe beautiful grounds and sunrise of the location I am at. Philippines - Sabang Sun Rise (Palawan) The underground river tour starts early at 730am in the hotel lobby. A group of about 12of us were briefed in the lobby about the process, the two boat rides, waiting time & warning of monkeys attacking you if you have plastic bag or smile - in reality I only saw one monkey so don't be too concerned just don't smile, as showing teeth is a sign to them that you want to fight. We walked over to Sabang wharf & waited there for about 45 minutes dealing with the bureaucracy as they have re-register every visitor- though staff do this, you just sit & wait & watch the van loads of tourists doing the same thing coming from all over Palawan island. It didn’t seem staying at the closest major resort next to the wharf had much priority or difference in price from staying in the city of Puerto Princessa & doing it as a day trip. You just can wake up a bit later and don’t have that terrible drive both ways in the day. Philippines - Sabang Wharf (Palawan) The first boat is really cool, you go at an enjoyable speed & able to see the landscape of Palawan from the boat- which includes the sleeping giant - a mountain shaped like a man sleeping. Philippines - Sleeping Giant Mountain (Palawan) You then arrive at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park on a beach before walking into the jungle a bit and again some waiting while they install audio kits. This is a result of the river experiencing a huge bat decline, which they relate to noise so there is no talking inside the river therefore this one ear piece audio does the tour for you. After this you walk thru some jungle before you see the lagoon area where the cave entrance is and paddling boats are. Philippines - Underground River Beach (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Sign (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Entrance (Palawan) So the UNESCO world Heritage cave river consist of 5.1 miles / 8.2km though you only travel thru 1.5 miles meaning the tour, in which cost me as part of a group; 1,800 peso actual inside cave time lasts about 20-25 minutes. Birds are flying small bats are everywhere but they never flew into you or boat. Many mentions of not looking up with mouth open for reasons of dropping bat urine. There are some very alien wall structures, on which you are not allowed to touch as it damages them. It's a relaxing boat ride, but they cram you in & as a big fella I found the boat uncomfortable though luckily I got front seat. The tour explain rock formation shapes that look like food & even they have found what they describe as the face of Jesus Christ. The guide in your audio goes into much detail about different parts of the cave such as St. Pauls area which is the largest open cave area, apparently based on the London cathedral that early explorers described it as. Overall it's very interesting but it is a relief exiting the cave as it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. One of the annoying things is the boat paddler handles the light and he moves around frequently which makes it hard to film as you will notice on my you tube video. I would recommend bring a nice powerful torch like a LED tactical tactical flash light. I wish I had brought mine but didn’t think of it at the time. After disembarkation I was lucky enough to see this huge lizard called Asian Water Monitor in which looks like a baby Komodo dragon but it is not harmful to humans. Unfortunately, the minute he spotted me he legged it so ended up with a poor shot. Philippines - Asian Water Monitor (Palawan) So back to the wharf where the tour ends. Here your find some amazing fresh fruit juice stalls which was great before I headed back to Sheridian Resort to relax and sunbathe, though 30 minutes in April (the hottest time) on the boiling hot beach sand sent me to my room for an hour after nearly suffering sun stroke- yeah it's that hot. The beach is clean though as is the sea but you it is cloudy. There is many boats chugging along to the river tour, which isn’t too noisy but it affect the otherwise idyllic ambience. Philippines - Sabang Beach (Palawan) So my second tour occurred a few hours later, the mangroves & zipline. I was so tired I decided on chill out & do mangrove tour first. The highlight though was my transportation to the sight - an original 1942 American world war 2 jeep picks you up on the beach & drives you to the sights- it is awesome. Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Jeep (Palawan) Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Dashboard (Palawan) The mangrove tour includes a paddler & tour guide, the tour guide emphases at the start that they are volunteer in which I got the assumption that get ready to tip at the end - no problem. The tour is very relaxing you just go deep into swamp land with huge roots shooting out of the small river occasionally seeing small Gold Ringed Cat Snake circled up on tree I which the guide will spot for you. They sleep during the day circled up on branches but it’s not something you want falling in your boat. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour(Palawan) I got to climb up on this huge mangrove tree as a photo opportunity and that was fun.. The guide also explains the trees and on the way back of the 30 minute boat ride, the paddler and guide sing a song for you, about preserving the natural habitat- it was a bit cringe to me but nice for a family with kids. They were really nice people though and I found the paddler in particular more interesting talking about the Japanese occupation during WW2 and how the locals hid in the Jungle. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour Guides(Palawan) After this an adjacent bridge follows signs to the zipline which then leads to a 10 minute walk down the beach before you climb a steep hill which is quite tough for the unhealthy and the path seems to go on forever thru the jungle, about 25 minute walk from entering the beach. I guess no one really does the zipline twice because of this. At the Zip Line you have 2 options sitting zipline (500 peso) or superman zipline (750 peso) which is lying flat - highly recommend the latter as the sitting down one I noticed people were spinning around a bit. The superman is so amazing it like you are coming to land as you launch of a mountain side over the sea to the island. It was awesome - again see my video to view it. Philippines - Sabang Zip line (Palawan) After all this my body aches from jet lag plus climbing the zipline mountain so straight to the hotel spa, which I was incredibly impressed with. The masseuse fully unknotted my back, I used the Sheridian Spa which is more pricey than the open beach ones but it was meeting an excellent standard. After I did what would become my favourite thing to do on Sabang, lying in the hammock between trees listening to sea & watching the sunset was about the most relaxing thing I've done in a long time. I could of slept there that night. A stray dog joined me underneath. Philippines - Sabang Beach Hammock (Palawan) Next morning before my lunchtime departure, the hotel was kind to offer me a snorkeling tour following some advice I offered their corporate marketing management. The snorkeling tour as a private boat is costly at around 3000 peso. You get taken with one of the hotel guide and snorkels by private boat to a random small island with small amount of coral surrounding it. Philippines - Sabang Snorkeling Island There you board a floating bamboo hut and you launch into the sea from it. Initially as you see in my video there is the odd fish all small & not as special as I've seen in Fiji & Indonesia but the nonetheless the guide caught a sea turtle, which I felt seemed a bit harsh to pull him out from under the sea rock as it was struggling, he looked scared so I told him to eventually let it go. I also saw prongs of a lobster poking out if the coral sea terrain & finally I actually found Nemo which was awesome highlight to end my video on. It was fun and overall worth a snorkel the people at the place also swim about on the look out for you in which was helpful. Back to hotel & off to the airport completed one of best 36 hour visits anywhere I've been to. Tiring but well worth the fun. Sabang offers a good amount of activities & Sheridan resort was so chilled out - they even have outdoor movie night by the beach. I would say for short visits to Palawan without enough time to El Nido, Sabang is an excellent alternative. Hotel website link: http://www.sheridanbeachresort.com Please check out the first Travelman video which films my experience.

Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa (Palawan Island, Philippines)

4 Case Rating
Location The resort is located around 1.5-2hrs drive away from Puerto Princesa. There is a shared van at set times that costs 1000 peso round trip or private one way is 2-2500 pesos (one way) the hotel offers it at 2,800. If you don't book with them, you need to contact them but it's not an easy process. To get to El Nido is 5.5hrs drive away. The wharf (to get boat to the underground river) is a 5 minute walk away. Room The very wooden finish of my 2nd floor room was fairly spacious offering two beds, medium softness in which I found was comfortable for sleeping. Back lit lights are behind with plug sockets next to each bed. Between the beds is a bedside table that has a lamp, telephone & one spare plug socket. A symmetrical look faces each bed with opposite wall offering a wooden desk & chair with a large mirror in front & two plug sockets on each desk. There is a TV in the middle above a cabinet that contains a refrigerator with beers & juices. TV has 18 channels both Asian, Russian & American choices such as HBO & discovery channels are offered. Along walk way to bathroom is a open shelf, where the kettle is with slim selection of sachet coffee and tea. They do offer a 1 litre complimentary large bottle of water though in glass bottle (replenished each day). Some snacks from the mini bar items are here. Below is a luggage rack for smaller cases & below that another shelf that offer complimentary hotel branded flip flops. Opposite is a wooden wardrobe, 2 robes & some coats hangers plus a small safe really for jewellery & money only etc but not large enough for a big camera or laptop. However the hotel is quite secure and I didn't worry leaving my stuff out. The bathroom was spacious & is the most modern part of the room. A large shower cubicle is offered, granite finish top sink area with good lighting. Hotel branded amenities include dental kit, cotton buds & mini bottles of shampoo, shower gel, soap & body lotion. There is also a torch on side of sink. No bottle water in bathroom that you usually find in Asia etc so assume tap water is clean to brush teeth with. In addition as my room is on second floor a balcony was offered with tall stools & a small matching table. If you are on the ground floor you get one sun lounger. Overall the room is dated but nonetheless comfortable, some maintenance issues with 3 lights not working but still clean. It had a separate AC unit in the corner controllable via remote. Facilities Catering includes a restaurant near the sea that has quite an extensive breakfast buffet catering to both westerners and Asians alike with an egg & noodle station. There is also a lunch & dinner buffet offered depending on occupancy. However there is wood oven pizza which I had & was generous & enjoyable, plus a very extensive menu of Chinese, Filipino & western choices like Burgers & Pasta. Also like the local restaurants on the beach outside - there are barbecue fish options. The restaurant, though expensive compared to others on the beach, does have a really nice ambience at night with a live singer and candle lit tables outside. Quality of buffet is also good, tasted fresh & some interesting items. There is also 3 bars other than the one in the restaurant. One is tiki hut style closest to the beach, another inside the pool that you can swim up to & another located on one side of the pools which is also a games room. You can order food from these locations & 24 hours room service is available. Business facilities include free secure WIFI for multiple devices, it worked in my room off/on just slow for my MacBooks but my iPhone wouldn't pick it up. It does drop frequently but at this location what can you expect, At some areas like the restaurant & lobby area it is stronger & phone works there. There is a library by reception with book & dvd rentals available. It is an area you can sit & check your emails as well as just get out of the sun for a bit. The room also contains two computers but this was the first hotel in all of my reviews to charge to use them (150 peso per hour)- they are simple computers and I did not see any printers. There is also a small shop selling souvenir of crafts & coffee shop selling drinks deserts & some odd Korean items such as s happy shower head. Conference / function facilities are also available in adjoining building near reception. Leisure facilities are of course extensive, suitable for families and adults. The pool is huge, really long for laps & is the best feature of the resort, there is also 4 different size jacuzzi pools. There is an outdoor but covered small workout gym - weights & cardio. Looked modern. Facilities for young children are good as they include a tree house & covered play area outside with teddy bears & toys etc. For adults there is a chess set, multiple pool tables, table tennis & beer pong offered at the side bar. There is also a SPA which offers 30% off during sunbathing hours of 10-4pm. Lyn gave me a really impressively good standard of massage fixing my bad back which condoned the high price when compared to outside local beach side places. There is a tour desk & the hotel kindly arranged my underground cave tour before I arrived since it was a short stay. You need a permit to go (so contact hotel & email passport copy if your stay is short). Also the hotel has an organic farm that you can visit & paint trees- this is 5km away & apprently many items in the restaurant are home grown there such as rice & fruit. Other tours include the zipline, mangroves, snorkelling etc. You can also hire mountain bikes. In the evening I arrived they have a huge projector screen close to the beach where they organise a movie night placing the sun loungers there. Quite relaxing sitting with a beer with fresh sea air but loungers could do with cushions. There are also some really nice hammocks between the palm trees at the beginning of the beach (part of hotel) .These are great for relaxing & rocking while listening to the sea. The hotel also have there own swimming area in the sea & plenty of sun loungers. The beach itself is clean but don't expect to see any fish, their swimming area is also quite shallow. Staff Staff are the highlight and I found them to be very consistently friendly, always acknowledging guests & easy to talk to. I would say the discipline & friendliness is better than some 5 star's I've stayed at & I give this the most credit from the staff. Overall a nice resort & great alternative place to stay in Palawan with benefit of being with walking distance of getting a boat to the underground caves, which is worth seeing. Resort does have a very relaxing ambience & the staff are the highlight, the rooms could just do with being better maintained & more modern.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Sabang Beach, Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa, 5300 Palawan, Philippines
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Samed Grand View Resort (Ko Samet, Thailand)

3 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located on Koh Samet party beach called Saikaew Beach. The beach has various restaurants & bars. It is a busy beach more for younger people with some party bars but light tamed- not like Koh Phan Ghan etc. Beach itself has powedery white sand & is clean. Sea is ok but the odd floating rubbish is quite frequent. Many boats are there as parasailing is offered. It's not the most chilled place but not a major party place just at nights some bars have loud music & fire shows. This hotel is one of them. During the day, it is relaxing with deck chairs but at night quite loud until about 12-1. To get here you there is a direct speed boat from Ban phae pier (300 each way) - it is quite bumpy but fast (20 min) with direct drop off outside your hotel. You just have to jump in sea, but its o your bags won't get wet as assistance is offered. Otherwise a ferry service is 50 baht, which is slower & drops off at the pier on Koh Samet-about 1-2km from hotel. From Bangkok to pier in main land to get speedboat expect 2-3 hours to get there by taxi (cost 2-2500 baht one way) but tourist buses are cheaper & available. Room The booking was for twin beds - but which hotels.com state only Thai cottages (the most expenses product) offer twin beds. However when you arrive at these cottage certainly do not offer twin beds. Only deluxe rooms do. I did see the cottage - very traditional Thai wood work design nice & cosy with a covered porch- perfect for a romantic couple but not for two friends. As we complained we needed twin beds as requested- hotel provided the cheaper deluxe room in main building. This room is like a duplex. As you enter the bathroom is presented on ground floor- large room with glass front offers shower & toilet in same room- overhead and separate shower head- be careful not to get water on toilet paper as toilet is next to shower. Large sink with hotel branded amenities of generous size - shampoo, body lotion & shampoo & soap, dental kit and vanity as well are offered Large mirror & wooden chair. To side is a wooden staircase which takes youup to the industrial clinical characterless room with two twin bed - quite hard beds. Each bed offers a bedside table with two twin pin US plugs - though one is occupied with a mosquito plug. There is oddly a window on wall where you can see into other people's room- so remember to close curtains. Facing the bed is a very poor TV - all crackly offering some channels some times but mostly crackly, some times channels are not working. We found only English speaking channel was NHK Japan (but in English) & a Korean Channel. All else is in Thai & very basic no movie channels. To the left corner is a cupboard unit with a mini bar full of beers & soft drinks in a fridge , coffee machine along with salt & sweet snacks. In addition on top is a large safe suitable for large laptops & everything else- somewhat easy to use. There is no wardrobe in room 18 which is why my review is so bad - we had to put our clothes on the floor, which for $100 is totally unacceptable. (however noticed other rooms had wardrobes). The highlight of the room was the large balcony with two chairs & is great for smokers. Overall the room is a terrible product, especially for price. Even 2 stars have wardrobes. There is also no ironing board. There is no hotel guide & beds are hard. There is also a basic A/C unit that is kind of noisey. You have to put clothes on floor which was totally unacceptable- they do have only coat hangers (2 ) I noticed was in balcony for wet clothes.I wouldn't hang up normal clothes up there as it will fade in the powerful sun. Overall the room for the price was terrible- avoid room 18 unless you like to put all your clothes on the floor as no wardrobe is offered. Facilities Catering - the hotels offers a main restaurant in which complimentary breakfast is offered. Service omelette station which also has fried eggs, pancakes , French toast , bacon rashes- all pre made. Buffet items include various breads & got foods of Asian dish such as sweet & sour pork, fried rice, fish dishes etc-they were quite nice. Some fruit is also offered. Food is actually ok but the eggs are luke warm unless you demand the chef cooks it again, she does but just cooks and leaves it there- they are heart shaped though. They also offer dinner there but did not try this. Other outlets include a neon bar(finale bar) which plays load music and offers comfy bean bags on beach. Another beach bar is opposite the neon bar that does sell Thai to western food. Pad Thai was particularly tasty. Fresh coconuts & cocktails are offered in both. Lesuire facilities include a pool table, darts & table football- at the bars. No pool but bar is directly on sea. This is where they gave an impressive fire show at 9pm at night. This bar, finale bar, has a more Bangkok boutique feel to it but dependant on the music it can be terrible or good- depends if you like banging terrible EDM music like David Guetta. Lying on the bean bags though are very easy to fall asleep to. There is some toilets & washrooms on site so you don't have to go back to your room. Inside the main building I noticed a book shelf library area. No gym, and I did not see any spa. There are no business facilities except free wifi in which frustratingly drops frequently. When it works it is ok and is secure for multiple devices. Staff Staff couldnt be more incompetent, there was no details about room at check-in and because we wanted twin beds- it seemed to obviously inconvenience them. On our 2nd day they demanded we came to reception at 6pm stating we were suppose to check out- but after showing email they agreed it was next day - no apology though, just rude & woke my friend to do this. The bar servers were only nice staff but still hit & miss. There is certainly we couldn't careless attitude & staff never smile. Check in they explained very few details. Overall for 3 nights at $320- it's a complete rip off of what is a distinctional 2 star hotel. There is nothing very strong about this hotel other than its clean. However my experience was negative & certainly hope to never stay here again.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 95/2 Moo 2, Ko Samet 21160, Thailand
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Austria – Classic Period 18th Century (Vienna)

My short visit to Fiji, Kava and Category 5 Cyclone Winston

So I have always wanted to see Fiji and the Pacific islands in general, a first for my travels. I heard it was the real natural tropics. Due to originally having only 2 days here, I decided to book Bounty Island since it’s the closest reasonably priced resort to Nadi, 35 minutes by the South Sea Cruises Catamaran. I booked a modest treehouse, £39 at the time in which is in the mid range accommodation, offering privacy and a private bathroom between cheaper priced  dormitories or  more expensive cement AC buildings. Mine only had a fan but it was fine. Since the whole island is owned by the resort there is no alternative place to eat on the island, therefore you must pay the mandatory 3 course meals with WIFI which cost around £35. Upon arrival I was greeted by a small boat that picked me up from the big boat, the guys want to know your name, introduce themselves and upon arrival I was greeted by guitar playing staff singing a traditional Fijian welcoming song. Immediately I was excited, the majority of hotels I stay in might offer the juice and towel but not a singing welcome. At check-in you get an intro, all the staff introduce themselves sporadically and you suddenly feel like you are staying with a family. I am bad with names but they remembered mine throughout and constantly asked how I was doing, addressing me by name, it was the start of being welcomed into what I assume is unique Fijian hospitality. The island itself is small; circumnavigating the shoreline takes no more than 20 minutes. There is a sort of jungle in the middle with plenty of spaces to loose yourself. Coming off a flight from LA as I always do from long haul flight - I felt bloated and fat, so I skipped lunch and went kayaking around the island for exercise, which is available at no cost. So popping my headphones on I listened to Lee Burridge’s Live @ Burning Man set, which fitted the mood for my journey around the island. It made me feel almost like a castaway; most of that side of the island you see no one, which is great. I noticed some guests on the beach far from the main entrance having their own peaceful time as I kayaked past occasionally looking down at the turquoise sea and coral below. It was hard see fish but some colourful formations were below me. The music and the surrounding had a sense of meditation, free of any thought, just absorbing the complete seclusion of paradise. Fiji water Once I got back I decided I needed to see the sea so I took the free snorkelling equipment. In all honesty there was quite a lot of damaged coral but plenty of fish, I had a 2-3 foot fish with a blue stripe on it's back which swam with me for ten minutes. It was awesome. Fiji is the place where you can swim with Reef Sharks and manta rays – it’s the real deal. I tried to swim around the whole island, which went on for an hour. It was hard work against the current so I gave up and just lay on the beach in the sand. It was a real sense of freedom with the calm warm water just brushing against my head. I just wanted to stay here for a while in total relaxation; it was just so overwhelmingly blissful. There were moments though back at beach when the weather had started to look slightly unpredictable. IMG_3742 Back at the resort I started to engage more with the staff. I had an interest in trying kava kava, a traditional welcoming drink in Fiji which staff had invited me to join them in. It’s the national drink of Fiji that comes from a root of a plant – it is suppose to have a sedative effect to aid you in sleeping but also to relax your muscles - it was described to me as like weed without any paranoia high as such but just body relaxation - I was interested. At this point I had just learned that a Cyclone was headed for Fiji. I get confused with storms, Typhoon and Cyclone I assume are just bad weather so I didn’t realise the severity of what was happening. It wasn’t until later that I made the connection to a terminology more familiar to me: hurricane. So rather obliviously I just chatted away to the staff and we sat in a circular group in the corner of a bar as I was introduced to Kava. There is a ritual to drinking kava - they swell the powder around in a cloth in rain water in like  large round bowl, constantly striving the magic formula, it is then handed to me, and I say “Bula!” (which means “wishing you happiness and good health”). I clap my hands before taking it and knock it back like a shot, it isn’t supposed to be sipped. The taste is unusual but not foul. It is kind of salty and spicy at the same time. My tongue tingled a bit, not unpleasantly so. To complete the ritual I handed it back and clapped three times and this is done by all as the drink is passed around our circle. A sort of tribal ceremony. The effect is not immediately obvious, but there was definitely a relaxing feeling slowly coming. Discussing with the staff, they said it helps with relaxing after work, the loneliness of not seeing their family for long periods and in general it aids to relaxing the muscles and helps you to sleep like a baby. Everyone smiles and everyone is very chilled out. I chatted amongst everyone and felt that I was in the company of friends that I had known for years. They offered me this, didn’t want anything back and I really felt this is so unique in today's world. Fijian’s are known to be some of the happiest people worldwide, the combination of the island life, the natural peace of the surroundings and I’m sure the kava helps to contribute to this. This area was once full of rival families and to resolve conflict they would sit together and share kava before they discuss their issues. In most circumstances they resolved the situation, I was told. I thought why can’t the UN, EU and G8 all have this prior to their meetings. After about 10 drinks I decided to go for dinner and later returned where the staff were now outside. I brought some new travellers that I shared dinner table with; a Dutchman and German girl. She had tried it before, he hadn’t. Both seemed up for it as I said I would return. I felt a real bond with the Fijian Staff as well a these travellers but not many others, there were three different crowds; the young on gap years staying in the dorms who partied at the bar like it was a musical chairs but without the chairs. The resort organised entertainment activities for them. There were people like me, happy to chill and hang out with the locals, some families too and a big group of Chinese of which only a young girl in the group that could actually speak English, they were having a great time in the swimming pool at night, all 8 of them.kava_session I liked the staff a lot, it wasn’t like your typical hotel customer service; it was personal, you are our friend, join us, do as you please and we don’t expect anything in return. They told me they just liked to talk to their guests. It kind of reminded me of working in hotels in Miami, I loved chatting to the guests but Miami was different, there was greed in Miami and all interactions had an undertone of a desire for being tipped well. The second kava session seemed much stronger, my lips numbed for a short period and my body felt totally relaxed, myself and the Dutchman decided to play ping pong. We didn’t care about rules or anything, we just wanted to keep the ball flowing, and we went for it. We were definitely under the influence of the kava, there was no competitiveness we just keep the ball flowing between us and were having a lot of fun.One issue with Kava is it makes you feel really hot, it was now night time and even with the fresh sea air I was dripping in sweat and this was even prior to the ping-pong. After the ping-pong we all sat round the pool, the Dutchman cooled down in the pool and I chatted to the resort’s engineer. It was then that he strongly emphasised how serious this cyclone was, that it was category 5 and was headed for the island within 48 hours. He had a relaxed approach and explained his previous experience of a cyclone. He was a interesting fella, we talked in depth about Samoa, Vanuato, Tonga - he had positive and negative things to say but he was most proud of his Fiji. I am now really interested in this very secluded part of the world where it seems nature is untouched and the people are the happiest I have ever met.After a few more kavas around the pool, the talk was increasingly about the cyclone and what to do. Mostly it was the guests who had extended trips that were concerned, the locals just smiled and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. I almost wanted to give them all a hug but it may have come across as weird - at least that’s what my western sensibilities were telling me. The talk of a cyclone being category five didn’t really bother me, I was only here for one day but perhaps it was the kava that made me think it will be fine; I was actually excited, thinking that it could be an experience. There was a huge circle around the moon that I gazed at - it was beautiful, the fresh air and peace was mesmerising. Maybe at that point I had had a little too much kava. Overly kavaed up if there is such a word but I just felt purely at peace and in my element, not many places offer this – there was no pretentiousness no judgement and everyone was so polite doing their thing. I went to bed early at 10:00, I still really hadn’t slept from the LA flight from which I had landed from 15 hours prior. Back in my room the fan was fine and a small lizard joined me in bed, I didn't really want him there but couldn’t be bothered to do anything so we just looked at each for a while before he’d had enough and jumped off. I guess I wasn't it's type. The day of the Hurricane “Everyone must be evacuated all islands, you will be taken by 12” was the welcome at the breakfast buffet. “Oh shit” I thought. I haven’t even seen the jungle yet or taken a walk around the island by foot. This was my priority; forget breakfast. So I put my headphones in, this time the Pig and Dan debut album which fitted the sunshine vibe great and I took a nice stroll. I came across a lady trying to explain to the Chinese man about the evacuation he didn’t speak any English but my “Ni hao” (hello to him in Chinese) made them assume I could speech the language, my quick attempt at sign language to say we must go, didn’t look well understood so I continued my walk. It was beautiful, the weather was cloudy but no real sign of a storm coming, the air was pure, the smell of the sea and palm trees on the small clean beach was just fresh as can be. I ventured into the jungle, which really was not that interesting. I found some pathways, which made the walk a little more interesting. The only real wildlife were birds, many beautiful ones, squawking and welcoming me to their home just like the Fijians, at least that is what I imagined in my high morning spirit. IMG_3773IMG_3775Back at breakfast there was some degree of chaos, some were calling their parents, others embassies, the Dutch guy was told by the Dutch Embassy to drink plenty of beer! The staff explained that boats were on their way to take us all to safety. I booked the 9am ferry but it never came, there were two boats evacuating: a small one, I guess part of a package tour which unfortunately included a Australian family with very young children, which made everyone worry as the children were young. Another scheduled service, a large catamaran which I booked as well as the rest. Mine was suppose to come later but never came. The sky was grey and the view to the destination in the distance showed dark clouds, the air definitely started to feel like something bad was looming. The sea became progressively rougher. By now the cyclone had already struck the northern island of Vanua Levu, the smaller of the larger islands quite far north. I felt sorry for the resort; they had a map with the predicted path showing the eye of the storm will pass straight to the island. It was due in about 10 hours. It took 3 hours before the first set of passenger were able to leave, the issue was that the boat to ferry passenger to a larger boat was just a small 10 seater. After loading all the luggage and passengers, it started filling up with water due to waves and the weight. Looking around people were becoming nervous as all the passengers had to get off while the boat sped off to offload the water. Everyone was begining to think ok, "so we are stuck" to brave the storm. Saying that the male staff had to stay so it seemed a little insensitive thing to think/say. Anyway, as the sea starting getting very choppy, I talked to the Fijians for a while before having a chill out session just watching the turtles. The resort had a turtle pond to protect the new born for a year before they then free them, its because the government say they will become extinct since their survival rate in the wild is poor now when first born. Fiji_turtles Overall the spirit got better but the current weather looked worse with sea waves getting higher. Certainly no longer safe for swimming. Much of the male staff were packing everything away, to avoid damage such as the food supplies, a few of us give them a hand. There was a community feeling and I felt like we owed it to them to help and at the same time the reality was that within 24 hours this island could be badly destructed, as shown by the path on the maps at reception. Unless the luck of the land was to make the cyclone change path. cyclone At the back of my mind I worry about these new friends of mine. They show me their underground bunker, which should be safe. But what if the sea covers the island I was thinking? I mean it’s a category 5 - the king of damage. We all wait around the pool and restaurant – everyone has checked out but waiting for the boats to take them to the big island under the instructions of the Fijian government. The younger dorm back packers are in high spirits, singing together to Celine Dion that is playing on the radio. Kind of annoying actually I was thinking at least keep the spirits high with something good like a Bob Marley classic.  I see the news on the BBC website ‘Megastorm To Hit Fiji’ which gets posted straight on my Facebook to mixed reactions from my friends back home. We were told that the last remaining boat would have to leave the island by noon after which time the port authority will shut down the boats. It was 12:30pm. The sea was so choppy its now that I think it’s best to fully cling film my laptop and other essential electronics up and cover my bags with the help of the staff- whom do this with everyone using clear bin bags. Eventually a Catamaran turns up at 1pm. But the small boats still need to get us to it, they think about it this time and only take a hand full of passengers 3 times to avoid getting water on board. It pretty full on ride but nowhere near as bad as what is coming. The staff still remain in very high spirits bless them. Fiji_evacuation On board the large Catamaran, We are told we need to go further north and pick up passengers from two more islands. The ride there and back to Nadi can only be described as hell. I have been through the worst turbulence and can deal with that, with over 1000 flights in the last 4 years it doesn’t generally worry me. Boats on the other hand I cannot deal with. I move to the middle after sitting at the side - the boat jumps, huge waves hit one side, it is quite terrifying and many people are vomiting. It’s almost like one of those pirate ships that you find at a theme park. Jumping up and down, the waves fully engulf it. I was just trying hard to hold down my food. Headphones in, I am now listening to dark drum and bass. It feel inappropriate but I think its making me trying to absorb the vibe. I was wondering if the boat was sturdy enough to take the constant battering of these big waves for a full 40 minutes. Fortunately all was okay and I was relieved to arrive in port. I said goodbye to my new friends the Dutchman and his German girlfriend who were a lovely couple and I wished them the best of luck through the impending doom. I had a friend that I am involved with in a business capacity, pick me up, she shows me her town of Nadi which reminds me of a high-street in New Zealand but also has that South African feel to it with some of the designs of the buildings. Overall it’s small but this is the largest island and the biggest town where the international airport is located. One thing I notice is that very few people have boarded up their windows. When I lived in Miami Beach, even the slightest mention of a hurricane, even a category 1, all shop windows and homes have wooden boards drilled in. In Nadi very little presence of this surprised me especially because so many places have full glass fronts. I even drive past a window shop which is on a 2nd floor, full glass windows. I wonder now as I write this what happened because it looked very vulnerable. I guess I will never know. My contact recommends that I stock up on fruit and water so we visit a very interesting fruit market. It is now raining heavily. The Fijians goodbye, after buying my bananas is "happy Hurricane" with a barrel of laughter - I love it here. Even the prospect of one of the worst cyclones coming does not damage the spirit of the people. Fiji_fruit_market I checked in to my hotel, The Toka Toka Resort, which is walking distance to the airport. Here I also learned that my flight was cancelled for at least 48 hours. The airline had moved all aircrafts off the island for safety. Once I checked in I asked the porter if he had any Kava as I was thinking how chilled I was the night before and with a night coming like this, I couldn’t think of anything better. With 5 hours to go, he came back and made it in the same way that they did on the island. We drank together and discussed the hurricane, he told me about his experiences in 2012. His house in his village was flooded, the water came up to over 7 foot causing his furniture to float - but he said he was right on the sea. I think about some of the fellow travellers that booked accommodation right next to the sea, and whether that was a good idea. For me I assume I am okay as I am quite far inland now. Not much happens other than a few staff join me for a kava now, i gotta an open door policy  until about 7 o’clock when I fall asleep. The wind is noticeably getting louder but not much to worry about. I talk with a security guard after I hear a huge bang, one of the palm tree branches had fallen on the roof, they are quite heavy you know. I then fall asleep. About 9pm, I can hear the wind inside my room. I opened my shutter windows and venture out of porch. It’s night but I have a powerful torch and shine on the leaning trees, a staff member comes and joins me for a kava. He explains the palm trees that surround my ground floor hut wont fall but some of the other trees will. He says they have been working all day cutting dangerous branches as so not to hit the multiple buildings, since the hotel is totally full due to flight disruptions. Again I fall asleep, I suffer from nightmares, which are rare for me and must be connected to the general energy in the atmosphere. At 11pm I am woken from the sheer roar of the force of nature – it’s scary. This is it, Cyclone Winston is above me. The force of nature beats anything else. It’s the noise the ceiling drips with water but impressively the lights remain on thanks to the hotel generator. My bed is getting soaked from ceiling water, I now worry the ceiling is going to take off so everything goes into the wardrobe. I just lie on the bed. I don’t have much fear but strangely enjoy this unique experience. To be fair the one drink of kava turns into 15. It occurs to me that this should really go in my website as a blog entry- we here we are. I wonder what will happen if the roof takes off. There is no local TV, no WIFI and the roar is unimaginable. It’s midnight – I open my shutters and although it’s dark, so much is going on outside that it’s hard to focus on anything, so much rain and wind that I recon is now almost 200mph. I also notice a huge puddle covering most of the floor of my room. I stop writing and I think about the new friends on Bounty Island, the guys that had to stay. I mean, I am on the main land but the island must be so devastated - I hope and pray that they are safe, I am not religious but I feel it’s the least I can do. I’ve drunk almost all the kava now and with the unrelenting wind blowing hard outside I fall asleep again. About 3:30am I wake up, it seems all is calm now. There is no noise; nothing and I decide to go for a walk with my torch. Tree branches block the path leading behind my hut but there is another path that is clear, I see a few trees down but no damage to the multiple huts on the resort. Just fallen branches, mess everywhere and I notice a bird shaking on the grass - the poor animals I think, this must be like some kind of apocalypse to them. The place is messy as expected but not as much damage as anticipated, at least to the building but surely other places do have. Staff come and find me and tell me there is a curfew in effect and all guests must remain in their rooms since they expect a second wave - they escort me back to my room. There is no second wave just constant rain. IMG_3808 IMG_3817 The next morning I can see the damage in full. All the guests are walking around. It seems that everyone is in good spirits and no damage affected anyone, most people just had water in their rooms like me. My door was slightly damaged as branches bashed against it in the wind. I couldn’t re-open it and needed assistance. One tree was down and that was it. It was not really that bad because it was the fastest moving Cyclone in the history of the south pacific had it stayed above for longer then the damage could have been much worse. IMG_3819 IMG_3830 Flights resumed the next day and luckily I got out on the first flight to Hong Kong. I will never forget Fiji that is for sure, it is simply beautiful, natural and such a happy place to be. It is as much the surroundings as the people that make it this way. It’s a shame it is so far from anywhere but New Zealand and Australia. I must come back. I hear the island survived okay, apparently no rooms were damaged and the staff were fine. A few trees came down but thankfully that was all. Here is the picture of the kind staff that made me feel so welcome. Bless them all. Fiji_bounty_island

Bounty Island Resort (Bounty Island, Fiji)

4 Case Rating
Location Bounty Island takes about 35 minutes by South Sea Cruise (that goes 2-3times a day) though believe another service does go there from the Danaree port not far from Nadi (30 minutes) It is a small island that the whole resort owns, you can loose yourself in the small jungle or walk around the island in 20 minutes. Perfect for finding your own private time with yourself or loved one on the nice beach that surrounds the island. Room The room called a Tree house was simple but reasonably priced. A wooden hut with shutters & mosquito nets surrounding it. I didn't upgrade to next level that offers A/C and is a cement building on the beach. There is also a lower level bunkbed dormitory. The room offer quite a hard bed, not great comfort but this is a modest resort- above is a ceiling fan which was ok. There are no bed side tables, just a fridge on a stool & kettle with tea & freeze dry coffee-they include milk but no water (though they offer top ups of your bottles from the filtered water at the bar). A large blanket is offered as well as a small stool level table in corner- other than that it is bare. The bathroom is of good size with shower that had decent hot water with amenities of mini bottle of soap & conditioner. Overall the room/hut is very simple. For Fiji islands the price was good as some comparisons only offer shared bathroom. This was around US$65, but you can upgrade to a better room for double that or half the price for dormitory. There is no TV only at the bar but at a paradise place like this there is no need. Facilities The resort charges you a set fee of $85 for the full board service, there is no option & all of the Fiji island resort's do this, since there is no other options as to where to eat. For breakfast & lunch there is a buffet which has vegetarian options spinach dishes etc & meat such as curry for lunch or sausages for breakfast. For dinner you get 3 course ala carte with the choices when I was there being fish or lamb curry. Fish was good, you get soup for starters & fruit/ice cream for desert. Overall the food was ok. There is no drinks included except tea or coffee. There is a bar though that serves cocktails. In terms of WIFI- it is quite expensive. About FJ $8 one hour or $25 for 24 hours. It also only can only be used by the bar/pool & restaurant- not from any room. It's work ok & understand they need to charge since it's done via satellite. Leisure facilities include a pool, 2 volleyball places, 1 on beach & 1 in a field, a boat shop that offers free kayaks both single & two person. Free snorkelling & also surf boards for paddling. You can also rent jet skis for around 20 minutes it is FJ$115- quite expensive. Snorkelling wise it is ok- not incredibly impressive as quite a bit of coral is damaged but I still saw some big 3 foot fish - the sea is clean & it's nice and clear. The kayaks are also good & I circled the island for excersise in 25 minutes. The hotel offers many sun loungers under wooden huts - very relaxing to have a sleep. the bar has some activities at night. It seemed at night there was two options- those that wanna hang out with the staff & drink a kava ceremony (me) very nice or the younger crowd whom wanna dance & party with alcohol. This island also offers massage facilities, a jungle walk through the middle of the island & also a turtle pond- where they save the babies for a year before putting back in sea (as survival rate is low for new borns in sea). Staff Staff are the highlight, some of the nicest people I have ever met & hanged out they make you feel like a family member, they are so welcoming use your name all the time, despite I kept forgetting theirs. There is true 5 star Fijian hospitality offered at this resort. Overall the resort is so chilled, clean with something to do each day, the room is simple but it is reasonable. I highly recommend this resort of it staff and if you have a few days off and need to be close to Nadi like myself. There is better resorts further out for snorkelling etc but this only 30 minutes. I was there during Cyclone Winston in which we all had to evacuate the next day, staff handled this well and i was glad i stayed so close as the sea was extremely choppy with an unpleasant ride back to the port at Nadi.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Bounty Island Resort, Bounty Island, Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
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Panglao Island Nature Resort & Spa (Philippines)

4 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located on the northern side of Panglao Island. There is an airport on the island but as arriving from Cebu, the only way I was able to get here was via the ferry from Cebu- which takes about 2 hours. This arrives in Tagbilaran which is on the island of Bohol, however Panglao is only a short bridge away from it. To get to hotel from Ferry port, it takes 15-20 minutes drive in which the hotel offer a free pick up/drop off service, so long you let them know your arrival time- a representative meets you there.. The resort itself is in a very quiet spot on the island near to Panglao famous ‘Hindangan Cave”- a cave where you can swim. The hotel though also has its own swimming cave, just smaller. To get some night life and energy outside of the hotel, there is Alona beach in which is on other side of island about 15 minutes drive away. Other major close by attractions are on Bohol island and include Chocolate hills (2 hours drive) and also the Tarsier Sanctuary (1 hour drive) – both of which very interesting places to visit. I hired a motorcycle which was doable to visit both within a 5 hour time frame. Room The deluxe room comes in a large wooden cottage which has 3 other rooms attached. Mine was upstairs and offered a lovely heavily wooden balcony with glass table top and wooden chairs (very organic lodge style) & a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink or smoke in the evening and listen to the sound of nature –very quiet relaxing resort and feels like you’re in a jungle on top of a cliff by the sea. The room itself was very spacious and included a very large king size bed but believe two beds were connected. The bedding is ok but pillow are very polyester filling etc. One side offers a bed side table with lamp and a crackly telephone plus alarm clock. There is a large rocking chair in true Phillapino spirit (means good luck to have in local culture). A wooden large cabinet faces the bed and includes a large TV- that a quick view offered mainly US channels but also Japanese- there is no guide so not entirely sure what is offered but it worked well. There is a fridge below which includes some very limited mini bar items, a few beer cans and soft drinks etc. The room also has a wooden desk with mirror and kettle with some teas sachets and coffee – this is where they present two bottle waters and a basket of fruit and local peanut snacks upon arrivals- plus the delicious welcoming drink and cold towel at reception. In addition much needed mosquito plug is offered on the desk. There is a single a/c unit but it is quite loud though you get use to it- it does cool the room down sufficiently and offers a remote to control. Plugs overall are limited but it is a nature resort. The adjoining bathroom has wooden shutters to separate from room. It is very spacious offering a shower cubicle and a very small bath. Shower worked well. The toilet offers a simple bidet not quite washlet but I expect its is offered to prevent guests using tissues as toilet got blocked and told paper is suppose to go in bin next to it (though no sign signifies this). Full hotel branded amenities that include shower gel, body lotion and shampoo. Dental kits & combs as well. The bathroom is also where the open wardrobe is offered that had hangers and some female esq shoes, not really flip flops for the male. There is also a small safe in which is quite dated with key and combination- not sure what the benefit of this is as you need combination to use key anyway. Overall the room is pleasant for a couple or single traveller. Spacious but simple 3 star standard functionality- however it was clean and spacious. The sort of hut building itself and outside balcony area makes it feel like a game reserve lodge etc. Facilities The hotel offers free WIFI but only by the lobby or pool area. It worked ok but does drop occasionally. There is no WIFI in any of the rooms or cottages, which actually was quite welcoming to just get away from technology and absorb the beautiful nature. The resort is quite vast in space and so golf carts travel passengers from room to lobby and other areas. Catering options include one restaurant placed over the main swimming pool area & so offers a sensational view of the sea and pools. This is also where you get your room service & bar drinks. Food quality is quite pricey for local standards but in general the BBQ pork belly was delicious- I missed breakfast due to tour so cannot comment on that. Leisure facilities include 3 variations of swimming facilities. The major pool is just down from the lobby but is split into 3 pools next to each other- there is little difference between them, just some are deeper, smaller than others,- one includes a walk up stool by a bar (though it is just a seating area- there is no actual bar etc that I noticed. In addition there are Jacuzzi pools within- with one that offers a small waterfall which was very cooling place to drink your pina colada. This pools offers exceptional view of the sea below. There are also showers, toilets & sun loungers around. WIFI is offered in this area. This pool is more for leisure purposes and relaxing than laps. The other pool is a large square pool that is more suitable for work out swimming doing laps etc. This is offered other end of resort next to spa and gym. The gym has modern equipment and is staffed which overlooks the work out pool. Behind this is a spa- which is in a nice building, offering massages from Japan, Africa, India and Philippines- quite pricey but was of good professional standard. There is also a sauna and steam room in the SPA complex. There is a unique swimming option offered at this hotel which is first I have come across, an underground cave with supposed healing mineral water- it is cold but is very interesting- bring googles to look at the underwater landscape but don’t swim too much into the dark area as that is where bats are heard. To use that facility you must be accompanied by staff so any length of time in there felt limited though staff are happy to take pictures and did not feel rushed but its not a place to chill for say an hour. However, it is an exciting facility and fun to swim and see the landscape from down below- they have underground lights so the texture is nicely lit up. There is also a much smaller cave located next to the square swimming pool by the spa, however it does not look inviting to dip into and is too small like a paddling pool size. Other leisure facilities include a kids play area, a games rooms with pool tables etc, a souvenir shop of local crafts and t-shirts but also with some bathroom & snack items. In addition but at a renting charge are the following: Tennis courts, kayaks, snorkelling, and tours. There is a beach located down some steps which is right under the cliff, some sun loungers are located but not many- however there is a guard there on duty and I believe the beach is private. Across from beach but easily walkable due to low sea level is a man made island. It quite interesting to go but not much on it- it seemed it might have been a venue of some sort historically as toilets are located on it and some palm trees. Steps in the sea on the 4 sides. It is very easy to get to even for children as the sea level is barely 2-3 feet. In addition the hotel also hires DVD players, KTV & some other items I noticed in the guide for the ideal in room experience. Staff Staff at reception are very helpful and accommodating with my requests regarding directions and check-in/out overall was smooth with warm service- I explained I needed a double bed as have issues falling out of single beds- they quickly amended this and joined the beds. They also were able to pre-book my ferry ticket back to Cebu. The other staff, house keeping, bellman/golf cart drivers were very upbeat and friendly. Overall very friendly but there is an essence of needing to tip- which was of no issue (they did not ask but you felt the vibe). The bar staff don’t get tipped as you pay for the service charge already in check, they are generally not that proactive enough at the pool as you have to find them to say request drinks. However the staff do offer a degree of premium level of Pilipino hospitality. Overall what stands out at Panglao Nature resort is how nature it is, I saw a 2 foot long lizard run across the road plus the sounds of the jungle and sea at night made this true nature spot and great to take in the relaxing environment. The room itself could be modernised and more functional which is more like a 3 star hotel but the resort facilities were exceptional especially the cave and better than some 5 stars I have stayed at. It was a very relaxing place to stay and one night just seemed too limited. I give it 5 stars based on the location, facilities and kind staff being the strengths and cannot be faulted but the room could easily be improved. It’s a unique spot romantic, natural and pure relaxation.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Panglao Island Circumferential Rd, Panglao Island, 6339 Bohol, Philippines
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Ramada Bintang Bali Resort (Kuta, Bali, Indonesia)

4 Case Rating
Location Hotel is about 15 minutes by taxi from DPS airport. Kuta town with the shops, mall & bars is less than 10 minute walk. Outside of hotel is a family mart, traditional local souvenir market stalls & some massage places. It is fairly central but the beach for swimming is a fair walk away- the Ramada beach is more for boats. Room The room closest to the pool on 3rd floor was smallish but offered a double four poster bed with mosquito nets. Quite soft with some cheesy heart shaped pillows. Bedside tables either side with lamps, but not ideal for reading. There are no easy to access spare plugs close to bed without pulling out lamps. A random straw chair sits next to the bed, which faces a small oval shaped desk with flexible tall lamp- only one plug nearby not great for the business traveller to work from but then we are in Bali. Facing the bed is a large TV, with a random hair dryer next to it. There are 64 channels, a good selection of cable channels local & from US such as HBO but channels from each European country plus India, Korea, China, Russia & Japan. Under TV is mini fridge that was empty, with simple tea making facilities next to it. By entrance of room, a large luggage rack, umbrellas, flip flops, smallish safe (not laptop size) in two large wardrobes but no robe or room slippers. Bathroom is smallish marble fitted with combo shower in bath. Quite dated fixtures & toilet that need a 5 sec button to flush (signage). Two half litre bottles of water provided & basic Ramada amenities such as shampoo & bath foam plus plenty of soaps but no dental kit, body lotion or even conditioner. Disappointing for a 5 star hotel. Bathroom mirrors can be opened up to main bedroom with some nice Balinese face masks. There is also a balcony with some seats & view of hotel. The hotel offers a mosquito vape & digital A/C which seemed to be set at 24.5 C Overall room feels like it's from 10 years ago, plain and simple for Ramada- nothing modern but quite romantic. Facilities WIFI is free but experienced so many issues that whole complex had to be reset. Then was ok. Basically the closer you are to lobby the better it works. Secure & multiple devices- just enter email but any work. Catering facilities include brasserie where breakfast is & has a fairly good selection. There is also a restaurant by the pool that faces the sea, lobby bar & pool bar. Room service quality of food was fairly good both local & typical international choices. Leisure facilities include a very nice huge pool with island in middle plus basketball net & bar inside pool, 2 jacuzzi- one hot & one cold. A tennis court, table tennis table, bicycle hire, kids area and playground, Gym, many chairs around pool & some on beach. There is also a beach volley ball court. There is also a exceptional SPA where you can enjoy a nice reflexology in air conditioned window room overlooking the beach and sea view- very relaxing. Other facilities include tourist information, local souvenir shop with snacks, business computers in lobby. The grounds & gardens are pleasant & what you expect from 5 star. Nice palms tree's and walk ways all well maintained & overall hotel was clean. Staff Staff in general are mixed, reception in general are friendly enough as is the large concierge desk. Breakfast staff are more like a package holiday, they just clear and you have to ask them for some tea or coffee...they lack proactivity that one would expect in a 5 star. Also none smile much for Indonesia. At the pool, the manager was very assertive about pool closing at 8pm despite me wanting to do laps at 730, I finished by 8 but he could do with some customer service training as very un enthusiastic about me wanting to swim 30 minutes before they close, somewhat encouraging me not to but only arrived at hotel and needed a swim. Staff there also seemed a bit unprofessional boys sitting on walls shouting "Neyo" to all the Chinese guests walking past. SPA staff though were lovely. Overall this is one old Ramada in terms of the quality of room- they need to update a bit, though the resort itself is nice & meeting 5 star. Some issues with AC made the night uncomfortably hot & don't depend on the WIFI. Staff were inconsistent for Indonesian hospitality standards, some really nice, however it is very much seems like a package holiday attitude to guest in the restaurants- as in not much effort to be friendly or offer you a hot drink- there is no machine so you have find them for your morning coffee. The resort is nice in a quieter part of Kuta but no-one was swimming in the immediate beach, it seems about 10-15 minutes walk away, from what I could see. Not sure I would return again.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jalan Kartika Plaza, Kuta Bali, Bali 80361, Indonesia
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Pullman Phuket Arcadia Nathan Beach (Phuket, Thailand)

5 Case Rating
Location Hotel is about 20-30minutes drive from HKT airport. If you are getting taxi upon arrival go outside of airport building to taxi stand where they will charge 600thb, inside stands it is 800thb. The immediate area Naithon Beach is very quiet, you can walk down the stairs from the pool in a few minutes. The beach is ok, clear but not so calm but it is not busy & mostly guest stay at hotel, it's quite nice but not amazing for say snorkelling, I saw more surfers than swimmers. There is a road along beach in every other store is a massage place & about 4 restaurants one Italian pizza place & some bars. It was vey quiet at night,and is not a party place- the hotel offers a better bar due to the ambience. There is also atm, pharmacy & mini mart. on the road. Seedy Patong is about 25 km away or over an hour drive which is where the main night life is. Room The rooms at this Pullmans are all over the side of a hill in maybe 20 different buildings with different categories of room. The buildings are all over the huge grounds up the hills with small roads etc but a 24 fast car service gets you to entrance, beach or lobby where catering facilities are via a phone call - they offer quick response.You can walk it as some short cut pathways exist. My room in building 6 was almost at top of hill near the 2nd swimming pool. The room was deluxe King that was very spacious & functional - boutique bright colours with excellent lighting, it reminded me of the W hotel brand with all open zones like bathroom but pull across shutters are offered if privacy is needed. The bed is huge, very soft & comfortable- easily enough room for 3 people. Either side offers international plug sockets, a huge alarm clock & phone on the bed side tables where below decorative small storage boxes are offered. A small soft chair with coffee table is next to bed & comfortable to watch the large TV that faces the bed. The TV offers many US movie, documentary & sports TV, many Thai & regional channels, plus German, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, French & Spanish language channels etc.. The TV is on a large desk with plenty of space & easy to access plugs & so is functional for working on a personal computer. There is an extensive mini bar & modern kettle to make teas. The hotel offers a generous x4 half litres bottles of complimentary water. The bathroom offers a large sink area with stool for ladies to sit to do make up. A large bath & separate spacious shower cubicle that offers a nice rain shower as well as detachable head. The toilet is in a separate room. Full 5 star amenities are offered with generous size personal C.O Bigelow (as in all pullman's) that includes shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, vanity, shows cap & dental kits. All that is missing is a shaver set. Near the entrance to the room is a convenient open wardrobe though a slider door can close it. This small walk in wardrobe offered a large luggage rack, easy to use medium size safe, ironing board, hair dryer, robes & slippers plus a mosquito burning stick for the balcony. The only item missing is flip flops which Pullman in Kuta offer and strange for a beach hotel not to, also no shoe polish. All rooms offer a balcony which is very comfortable offering a bed with a pillows that a couple could both snug up to and listen to the sea and jungle noise oustide. Nice place to chill but be wary of the mosquitos (though they provide a stick to light and smoke to avoid any attacks). As all rooms are non smoking inside so a chair & table is offered with ash tray for smokers. Digital easy to use AC plenty of international plugs & decent lighting that include reading lamp & ambient settings. Overall very functional room - well maintained & clean with a wooden modern look that is 5 star standard with no fault, just some missing items, shaver set, flip flops etc. Facilities There is secure complimentary WIFI for up to 4 devices that worked reasonably well. There are two pools- both infinity design. One at the top of hill which is more for lengths as straight rectangular design that offers a small bar for drinks and snacks, 24 hour modern equipment gym, roof deck for doing early morning Yoga plus an impressive children's playground that even includes a mini climbing wall. I did yoga though at the sun deck and it was incredibly meditating experience, the yoga guy was well trained and relaxed so helpful with getting back familiar with breathing exercises. The main and large pool located by the lobby is the highlight though, very nice looking original design but not so good for lengths. It does though offer a superb view of the beach below, which new to has stairs going down to. This pool area offers plenty of sun loungers some in the pool some on a man made beach below & others along the cliff edge walk way to sun set deck, where some bean bags are located. The pool area also has a all day dining restaurant and pool bar for snacks and cocktails. Nearby is the hotel spa which is quite pricey in which you pay for the excellent level of ambience. I had a Balinese massage, which is their most popular but is over 3k baht for 60 minutes. In the nearby the bar I ordered a Pad Thai in which tasted lovely. Upstairs, above is the main restaurant & wine bar but did not visit. The lobby area has another cafe that offers live music in the evening during happy hour where the local singer sounding very uncanny to David Gray. Seating offers an excellent variety including a circular table with a water display offering a very nice relaxing view. There are also beds, pods, sofas- enough for the family or the romantic couple- with good levee of privacy. Other facilities I noticed included a deli for sandwiches, ice creams plus two shops- one for ladies boutique fashion & another which sells a lot of Pullman products as well as local items such as pillow spray & sun tan lotion. The resort is vast with many roads around it but frequent car service that you call offers no walking & arrive fairly quickly after requesting. There is also a meeting room and business centre and am sure there are ore facilities I did not see. Staff Staff offer a true Thai hospitable welcome, not just at front desk but at bars, spa's and even the drivers. The service approach is the 5 star Asian standard. Initially on my first nightI had some issues with the staff (all I say is if your allergic to chilli be wary of the peanuts complimentary snacks they offer in the cafe/lobby bar). However they were very helpful and the Australian GM wanted to meet me and resolve/repair the issues I experienced. He did so with care and understanding of my experience with a high level of professionalism that couldn't of been better resolved. Other staff such as the drivers (to the room), yoga instructor, pool catering staff and even house keeping are so warm and welcoming - Pullmans has a great approach to maintaining the original Thai hospitality, which is sometimes lost in Bangkok hotels. Overall this hotel is outstanding & the best Pullmans I have been to. It caters for everyone great facilities for kids, families, honeymoon couples and even single business travellers like myself. I found the whole experience so relaxing and therapeutic. I only say this is a hotel you essentially stay at most of the time as its in a nice idyllic quiet area.Its not for party goers or seedy travellers looking for girls. I cannot wait to return here again.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 22/2 Moo 4 Naithon Beach, Amphur Talang, Phuket 83110, Thailand
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Prama Sanur Beach Bali (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

4 Case Rating
Location Location on Sanur beach, not far from DPS airport maybe 20 min by car. Did not venture outside resort but noticed on street a few touristy shops on closeby streets nearby. Room Room was on 3rd floor offers and offers a somewhat dated look but typical of beachside style hotel bedrooms from pre-millenium. The large king size medium firmness bed was comfortable with sufficient amount of pillows. Two traditional style lamps, telephone & light control on bed side tables with a back wall wooden along fixture that had a a laptop size safe also seen along wooden fixtures. The bed faced a dressing table in which had a large mirror and lamp with one Euro plug. This is sufficient for ladies needing to put make up and business people working on a computer but only one plug exists in this area. Next to this is a large size luggage rack with some drawers under. On the right hand side from bed, in corner of room, was a small LG flat screen TV- which faces bed at a side angle and has a chair next to it presumably to be used with the front bed facing table with mirror back drop. Facing the TV though is a rather upright lounge single seat with footstool so one can watch Tv directly in front- not that comfortable as it is very upright. The TV offered 47 channels of which HBO , ESPN, BBC Al Jazerra pus Australian networks are offered in addition to Indonesian and other Asian channels. In the corridor adjoing the bedroom are mini bar items in a small fridge, all drinks but no snacks & above kettle with some tea & coffee sachets but no plug nearby. A large wardrobe also exists & offers 2 umbrellas but no ironing board. The bathroom is quite small, only room for one person with cubicle shower & sink offering Aerowisata branded shower gel, conditioner, shampoo in small bottle.The room also offers manual AC controls which worked fine but overall there was a lack of plugs in general if that is important to you. The room also offers a balcony with two seats and is perfect for smokers that want a non- smoking room that in my zone overlooked the gardens. Overall for a beach hotel room- it was comfortable & clean but the furnishings look a bit tired & bashed about- its looks dated pre-millenium but the room was ok for a cheaper 3-4 star beach resort expected standard. Facilities The hotels offer free WIFI in which was acceptable but not that fast. By reception there are 3 traditional Balinese souvenir shops and 1 essential lobby shop for snacks and bathroom related products. In this area is a bank- teller and ATM plus a business centre with some computers. There is also at end of corridor a kids clubs and this then leads to the gardens outside between the blocks. At end of walkway one notices Bamboo bar with plenty chairs, facing a stone oven Pizza place. These outlets both face steps from Sanur Beach which the hotel had large concentration of beach chairs plus a beach chair desk for getting towels. Nearby is a large pool of decent size and the main restaurant Titra where breakfast is served - a good selection of hot and cold choices in a buffet - but did not try . Also within area is the Aromk Spa retreat and another Indo seafood restaurant, plus a nice temple style stage area etc. I did not try only saw food so cannot comment on quality of food. There is also a tennis court, Mosque and health centre offered at this hotel. Staff Had minimal dialogue with staff as client checked me in and out but they did offer a typical warm Indonesian dialogue with welcome drink and staff carried bags well to room. They also remembered my wake up call request. Overall there are so many choices in Bali and this does not shine out but is comfortable with a really good amount of facilities for say families and with children, room though was tired and in need of a refit.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jalan Cemara, Sanur, Denpasar Selatan, Kota Denpasar, Bali 80228, Indonesia
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Amatoa Resort (Bira, Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia)

5 Case Rating
Location Located about 4-5 hour drive from nearest airport Makassar. The drive is slow moving & painfully long but worth it for the beauty of Bira beach. Amaroa resort is hard to find, down a very badly made road about 200-300 meters from main beach area . A Spanish looking house on right is entrance. Within the area 10 minute walk down the lane leads to main beach, small snack stalls & the guest houses of which some offer restaurants. Bring torch if you go out at night as no lighting on lane. An island exists opposite where you can rent a boat to get to & swim with turtles. The coral is untouched, stunning for snorkeling. Room Room was standard room closest to reception - room 3. I heard it is the only room you can pick up WIFI inside as within 10 meters of router. The room is right in front the long rectangular pool as are standard rooms 3-5. The room is spacious authentic wooden hut style with low lying floor bed - very comfortable & romantic as covered by see through curtains to create a four poster privacy (but w/o posts). Bed is cosy & conveniently a boxed bed post is behind pillows where a main light switch is located. Easy just to switch everything off. The room offers four chairs- two arm chairs & two normal chairs on either wall side. There is no TV in the room which is suitable to keep with the ambience of the location. Buddhist influenced art work exists & in corner of room is a small wardrobe cupboard, rather small, ok to hang T-shirts but not dresses or trousers. There is a small safe & small refrigerator inside but no mini bar was offered. However two bottled waters come with room. The bathroom exists behind bed, through some traditional wooden doors- all stoned finish spacious with open shower (no curtain) & sink. Be wary due to no curtain toilet paper will get soaked. Amenities in bathroom include two toothbrushes,2 soaps, packet of toothpaste &2 dispenser shampoo & body cleaner. Although on small table & not attached to wall. Overall the room is not up to standard , lighting in bathroom did not work, no shower curtain & kind of cheap 2 star dispenser amenities. However the large windows facing the bed opens up to an incredible sea view. Be wary though at night the curtains are strange, not thick & some see through so will lights on people walking past may be able to see in. A/C unit is also offered with remote worked fine, The bed is also so comfortable, so quiet with sea noise making the 'chill factor' so high that these minor room issue, really doesn't matter as you feel so relaxed at this location. Its all the ambience which this small 6 bedroom boutique hotel offers so perfectly on the cliff top. Facilities Wifi is free but initially did not work, however when it does- it worked fine. Its a dongle kind so not super fast. It is available within 10 meters of reception & restaurant. The restaurant is open until 10. Food is ok, nothing special but ok. Breakfast is included & continental or western but oddly not Indonesian. Western eggs anyway toast. Tea, fresh juice and plate of chopped banana is offered. While the food is nothing special. You cannot beat the ambience of listening to the waves crashing against the cliff in this idyllic Spanish/Mexican style boutique surroundings. Lots of good lighting & cactuses. As mentioned there is a large infinity style pool right outside the standard rooms 3-4. It is very refreshing & great for looking out to sea. There is also incredible well positioned large chair/bed that faces the sea. Great at night for lying down watching the stairs & listening to the sea below crashing against the cliffs (so relaxing I made a recording!) There is a staircase/ladder going down to the sea as well. Sea was a little choppy when I was there so did not jump in but be careful going down there as steps are slipping & if sea is rough one wouldn't want to be smashed against the cliff. Staff Staff at least the guy 'Juventus' was just such a nice chilled out staff member. Welcoming & helpful. the female staff are also really chatty & friendly. Overall this is the place for honeywoods & romantic getaway. I was with clients & only stayed because I needed WIFi but it was such a gem of a find. Its the more premium facilities you will find at Bira Beach. I give it 5 stars, the room is not perfect but the decor design & setting is instant 'valium' and felt strongly about this. Mind blowingly chilled, with really nice staff which overrules the issue of the room.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jalan Pasir Putih No.6, B I R A, Bonto Bahari, Kabupaten Bulukumba, Sulawesi Selatan 92571, Indonesia
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Villaggio Turistico Internazionale La Plana (Catania, Sicily, Italy)

“2
Location About 10 minutes drive from the airport (€20 by taxi). Located right on the main beach strip- the area has some shops and within the "Village Compound" there is a restaurant and night club. You are also located right at the end of the runway so expect really loud aircraft noise- but that is minimal compared the noise coming from the "Afroclub" right in front on the beach as the base house music goes on till 5 and is very loud. Definetly the wrong location if you want to relax and sleep but good if you want to party all night. Room Possibly for the price paid - one of the worst rooms ever. Each room is a villa and looking at other hotel pictures on this site- I clearly had the worst deal. Immediatly as you open the door within 30cm is the end of the double bed (no room to breath let alone getting any luggage in) then one major fault is to get to the bathroom - there is a shelf with a TV (from the 1990's) on it that stick out- making it basically difficult to get to the bathroom. Within bathroom the shower, toilet is all on the same level - so water from the dirty looking shower goes everywhere. There was no real amenities - just a shampoo "sachet" and within the room an empty unplugged fridge. The A/C took about an hour to cool down the 3 by 3 metre room and was not that cold. It is also about a 5-10 minute walk from the entrance as all the villa's are spread out. Facilities WIFI password was given but within the 310-330 range of villas- you will not get any reception and is useless. There is a beach restaurant & snack bar which although had nice staff- it took ages to order and food was nothing special. There is a night club set up within the area and then a large night club called 'Afrobar" right in front on the beach- in front of the villa. Went for a beer- the set up is ok, a sort of run down cheaper version of Nikki Beach in Miami- but staff all looked 'high' and say nothing. The music is really loud for when trying to get to sleep. The actual beach was ok but little bit dirty- it is the main strip area though. Staff Staff were really nice during check-in and at bar restaurant staff were ok but the bar tender at the snack bar was really nice to chat to- speaks English well. Overall the purpose of my visit was to have a night close to the airport- it was completely the wrong place for this and from looking at Agoda got the impression it was a smaller quieter place. For the money paid the room was terrible and no WIFI. If you don't mind noise and are about 18 and wanna party then perfect. I wouldn't stay here again.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Viale Presidente Kennedy, 47, 95121 Catania CT, Italy
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