Thursday, November 27, 2014

Possibly the best resort I have ever stayed at

If you told me a resort that has not been totally overhauled for over 20 years, I would think maybe the owner is just too cheap to do it and I ain't going there.  Well, I'm glad I went to Amankila resort on the island of Bali, Indonesia because it looked exactly what I expect it to look (traditional Balinese) and the experience was just magical.

The check in experience was by far much much better than Amanjiwo for me.  At Amanjiwo, I had a middle aged lady who was extremely stern looking and did not smile once during the whole check in process.  On contrary, Claudia, the general manager at Amankila, came out and greeted me with profusion of smiles and was just terribly sweet and kind.  I felt at home already before even seeing my room.

The suite I stayed was called Kilasari suite.  I liked it better than Indrakila and Amankila suite because it offers the most privacy among all three suites.  The views at Indrakila and Amankila was definitely superior to Kilasari's but the privacy that was offered by Kilasari out weight the view for me.  Plus the Kilasari suite is right off the drop off point for the buggie.  Thus you only have to walk few steps down and you are there at the front gate to your suite.  Both Amankila suite and Indrakila suite are close to the main building.  However, to get to those suites, it requires going up and down several stairs.  If you are lazy like me, Kilasari suite is the way to go.  Also neither Kilasari nor Amankila suite has a gate to keep people out.  So if you decide to get a tan without tanning lines, those two suites are not the way to go.  You can hang a privacy sign outside but I don't trust it.  However, Amankila is the only suite that has two villas so if you are traveling with family, it's the only way to go if you want connecting suites.  Some of the pool suites are designed in a way that allows you to somewhat connect to the villa next door so for those of you who are on a "budget", it is doable to stay close with your love ones.  The none suite villas don't have that much outdoor privacy especially the ones not at the end of the path.  If one decided to sit in the lounge area right outside his door, a passerby can easily see you.  However, my guess is that if your villa is at the very edge of the property, then you will have some privacy.  But as you can imagine, if your villa is at the edge, you will have to trek a long way to the main building.  For active people, that's totally fine.  For me?  No thanks.  I do my workout at the gym and no more.  By the way, the layout of all the villas, including the most expensive Amankila suite, is exactly the same or extremely similar in size and finishes.  The only differences between them are location, privacy, view, and if there is a pool or not.  But the lack of outdoor privacy for regular none suite villa is not that bad since the whole resort only has 37 villas so frankly speaking, when I was there, I rarely saw anybody at any given moment.

The food at Amankila is generally good.  It's not one Michelin star good for sure but good enough that you are happy to return to their main dining room nightly.  The menu consist of local fare and western food.  I had mostly western food which was fine.  At night, Claudia, the general manager, will come to each table to say hi and chitchat.  It didn't feel like a put on; I felt she was genuinely wanting to get to know me and wanted to make sure I was well taken care of.  She's is a gem in the Amankila resort group for sure.  The owner would be stupid to ever left her go.  In fact, he should send her to Amanjiwo and teach them how to be warm and friendly.  BTW, while I was there, a frog came out nightly to greet all the guests.  Some of the kids went chasing after the frog which was funny.  Oh and there weren't too many kids while I was there and the ones there were not rowdy.  In fact, the whole resort felt kinda empty.  The only time you see a "crowd" (ie. more than 10 guests) is during dinner time at their main dining room. 

The infinite pools at Amankila are photographs million of times and over.  I guess it's the signature of the resort and I can see why.  They had a total of four public pools.  Three in the main building overlooking ocean.  One near the beach next to a restaurant (which I have never seen anyone eating in there).  The beach club is actually a trek down a narrow path from the main building.  I walked it once and rest of the time, I took resort buggie.  It's actually a good exercise to trek back up on foot if you like exercising.    

I loved the beach at Amankila.  It was extremely private.  The way Amankila property is situated on that part of the Bali, there is no way for none Amankila guests to reach that part of the beach unless they take a boat.  Thus in effect, that stretch of the beach becomes a private beach for Amankila guests.  The beach has black sand because Bali island has volcanos.  While it may not be the prettiest thing, they do feel great on one's feet.  No complaints here.  There are about 10-12 bale on the beach nestled into vegetation so you are away from glaring sun.  In front of each bale, there are two chaise lounges for you to tan plus an umbrella.  Next to each bale, there is a water jar with scented flowers floating inside.  You can scoop out water using a large wooden spoon to wash your feet before getting onto your bale.  Very thoughtful.  In addition, they provide you with free fruit juice popsicles and fruit-khababs for your enjoyment.  Ice cold scented face towels is a nice touch too.  You can have your lunch in the bale as well.  Oh and the wave is great for body board surfing.  Nice strong wave but not too huge.  On top of that, you share that beach with maybe 6, or 8 other hotel guests.  That's it.  Sometimes, there are no one there but you.  Just incredible! 

Activity menu is the differentiator between Aman resort versus luxury resorts brands like St Regis and Four Seasons.  Everyone is given a booklet of activity menu to choose from.  Few are included in the price of your room....most of the time you have to pay extra.  Trust me, it's worth to pay that extra.  The activities can range from guided trekking tour through countryside to shutting down the whole beach at night for you and your love one so you can enjoy a romantic dinner together in private.  Some of the activities felt like it came right off that ABC's show The Bachelor... extremely romantic and exclusive.  Aman went out of their way to think of fantastical activities that unless you are local, you would not be able to dream them up yourself as you don't know where to go.  Sure, you can have Four Seasons concierge to get you a private boat to the Blue Lagoon to go snorkel with your love one.... but there is no way for them to shut down a public beach for you to have a romantic dinner or take you up to one of their private bale off site in one of the hills with panoramic view to have a picnic with a staff in the far distance ready to take care of you when you ring a bell.  They just absolutely have thought of everything.  I'm so impressed.

Oh and lastly, the villa looks pristine.  At least mine did.  Furniture had no nicks on them and all the shell inlaid on furniture are intact.  The style is classic Balinese so it doesn't look dated.  They upkeep everything so well down to faucet and shower head.  I swear those things look like they were installed just a few months ago.  The only breakdown for me was there were some pesky bees flying right outside my villa.  I complained.  Management promptly sent people to spray the exterior of the villa and left a huge bouquet of flowers outside as an apology gift (also to cover up the smell of the chemical).  Very smart and thoughtful.

At the end of my stay, I did not want to leave.  I can stay there for a month...ok.  I lied.  I can retire there in that resort if money is no object.  I 100% recommend anyone to go there without reservation.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Presales galore!

Presales have started at several places... from Bottega Veneta to Barney's New York.  Better hit the store ASAP before everything is picked over and then some.  Sometimes sales people hold items that they think their best clients may want so don't afraid to ask if they have more sizes available in the back (as they always do)!

First up, Barney's New York.  Presale started today.  You can tell which pieces are on sale or not by looking at price tags; if there is a dot on the tag (look at the back of the tag), it's in the presale pile.  All major brands (think Balmain, Thom Browne, Givenchy, Saint Laurent Paris) are at about 40% off.  Probably the best deal so far.  You can pick up your purchases after December 2.  And no, Moncler is not on sale at this time as usual.

Bloomingdales started their pre-sale last weekend.  Also around 40% off.  Better hop to it quick.

Prada's pre-fall and fall are on sale at 40% off.  Started last weekend as well.

Saint Laurent Paris is pre-saling at 30% off.  Not as good of a markdown... but then again, it's the hottest brand right now so what can you expect.

Saks started earlier last week but selection isn't so good.  Selection meaning Lanvin, Givenchy level goods are not discounted...

Lastly, Bottega Veneta started presale as well.  But unless you are a regular at the boutique, you won't be able to access the discounted items (unless you want to pay full price) as sales people check their computers to see if you qualify for presale or not.  If you don't qualify, check back December 1 when the presale goes public (Actually I would check back November 30th because I bet the staff would be able to bend the rules then).  Leather goods 30% off and clothes/shoes at 50% off.

Happy Shopping!!  :)


Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Holidays! It's another Giveaway edition!

Well, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and to thank you for continuing reading my blog, I'm giving away a leather Marc by Marc Jacobs coin and key purse.  Outside is black on one side and taupe on the other side.  The leather is soft and zipper on top is matte gold with black leather.  Inside features a matte gold key loop attached to a leather string.  All in all, a very versatile little purse to use daily or giveaway as a Christmas/ birthday gift if you decide to part with it!

Thank you again for stopping by.

Please note: apologies to my international friends - I wish I could extend these giveaways to you but legal restrictions prevent it. Thanks for understanding.