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It's the season of celebrity engagements! While most of us would be content with an intimate proposal in a sentimental location and a carat or two, celebrities go all out with their engagements, often popping the question with a monster five or six carat ring while on vacation at some to-die-for luxury resort.
After word came yesterday that Natalie Portman and LeAnn Rimes said "yes" to their lovers, we found out that pop singer Lily Allen also got engaged to her boyfriend, Sam Cooper, at the Amankila Resort in Bali from the luxe Aman Resorts.
And coincidentally, a HotelChatter Flickr Pool member, had just dropped these gorgey photos of the resort in our Flickr pool.
Staying in Beijing at Amanresort's luxury Aman At Summer Palace - the hotel that's actually built in part of the Summer Palace so you don't need to leave your room to go sightseeing - is apparently not enough. Amanresorts are now saying they're giving travelers to China the "town and country" version of a Chinese vacation, because in 2010 they will open the Amanfayun Resort on the outskirts of one of China's seven ancient capitals, Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is about a hundred miles south-west of Shanghai, and the Amanresort will be twenty minutes outside of its center, in the buildings of an old village. Tea farmers used to live in the 47 stone courtyard houses which have been turned into 16 rooms, 21 suites and 5 villas, and with a pilgrim's circuit of Buddhist temples passing through the area, it's currently under consideration to become World Heritage listed.
After "sleeping around" at several of New York's hotels for the filming of Sex and the City 2, Carrie Bradshaw and co. have moved on to Morocco. Cindy Adams reports that the cast and crew are filming at the Amajena Hotel in Marrakech.
The Amanjena is, as the name suggests, a part of Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel collection with truly exotic locations. And it's so exotic that there aren't even standard room accommodations here. Just "Pavilions and Mansions" which start at $1,050 a night (and that's before taxes.)
So we're guessing that this hotel might just be a filming location and not a place where the cast and crew are shacking up for a few weeks. After all, would SATC rather spend money on hotel rooms or the wardrobe for the gals? Sigh, it is a question we have to ask ourselves many, many, many times.
No word on how a trip to Marrakech fits into the storyline but we just hope that Charlotte doesn't have any, um, "difficulties" eating the local food here.
Time to wish the luxurious Amandari resort on the tropical paradise of Bali a very happy 20th anniversary! There are a bunch of special events happening during October to celebrate the anniversary, including a photo exhibition, some joint events with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, screenings of old films on Balinese culture and some special meals on the actual anniversary weekend, 21-23 October.
A recent visitor to Amandara asked a very sensible question: is it still luxurious twenty years on? The resort was closed for three months earlier this year, but the changes were not all that extensive – even the décor, after some discussion, remained the same, because they wanted to continue the links to the traditional culture there.
All Aman Resorts properties tend to be noteworthy, and their new place, Amangiri, is no exception. Located at Canyon Point in Utah, it really is a small resort set in the wilderness: it's in the middle of an area that used to be Federal land for Navajo and Hopi tribes, but was claimed by Aman Resorts through a 2005 Act of Congress that swapped some private and Federal lands.
That puts Amangiri in the middle of an incredible desert of rock formations and gives you the kind of bedroom window views that really look like they're photoshopped in and it's just a stone's throw to the Grand Staircase, Escalante National Monument.
The Western Australian capital of Perth has its share of high-end hotels, but nothing that's claimed to be six-star luxury--until now. Well, until soon, because it's just been announced that Aman Resorts and friends are in talks to redevelop a key city site into a luxury hotel.
The Old Treasury Buildings are an historic part of downtown Perth and they've been empty for more than ten years now while everyone agreed on what should be done--being a heritage-listed site always makes it tricky. Now it looks like a slim tower will be added on to the back of the building and that will become the six-star hotel with up to 90 rooms.
The older part of the building will include shops, restaurants and apartments, and the most historic parts will be open to the public. No date set yet for when we'll be able to get a six-star night in Perth; in any case, we're six-star skeptics so we'll believe the luxury when we see it.
Yesterday's British Telegraph newspaper gave us some very handy tips on the best places to stay in Sri Lanka, but the most interesting one was a very positive write-up of the Amanwella resort near Tangalle on the south coast. Amanwella consists of thirty suites each with their own plunge pool, several different locations to eat, sea views galore, and best of all, a magnificent infinity pool.
Yes, maybe in ten or twenty years we'll look back sentimentally on the days when the infinity pool was all the rage, but right now this pool just helps us think Amanwella is a spectacular place. As the reviewer said:
I also liked the infinity pool overlooking the sea - the setting couldn't be more idyllic - and the tranquility it evoked. A couple of days here will relax the most stressed-out of visitors.
A picturesque row of palm trees actually line the space between the pool and the sea, so the image of the swimming pool flowing directly into the sea is somewhat disturbed, although in our imagination we simply have the palms growing in the water.
Just watch the full suite prices when you book into the Amanwella--off-peak rates are $325 per night for a pool-view suite, and $400 per night for an ocean-view suite, but the fine print warns of a 17.65% "statutory levy" plus another 10% service charge, so what you see is not quite what you get. Rates over the Christmas holiday season, until January 20, are exactly double.
Could Hoboken be the next luxury travel hotspot?
An intriguing August article from the Wall Street Journal is now online: The Search for the Next Hot Spot. It's a profile on several powerful travel industry executives who get to decide where their company will build their next luxury hotel.
Since they're looking years into the future in terms of completion, they are essentially making a big bet on whether a place will become the hot place to go in five years or not. They don't just sit back and wait for the crowds to decide for themselves of course. "Building a 200-room luxury property can cost $100 million" so the stakes are high. A little PR goosing is required.
Adrian Zecha, of Aman Resorts, "was partly responsible for putting Cambodia on the luxury travel map when he opened an outpost there in 2002." Some others don't turn out so well, like the Four Seasons in Beirut. (Now scheduled for 2008.)
So what are we going to be reading about in all the glossy travel magazines in the future? If W gets their way, it will be Doha or Moscow, and even Hoboken, New Jersey which is getting a W Hotel there next year. Ritz-Carlton is looking at Almaty, Kazakhstan and Crystal Cruises is hot on Sarande, Albania.
While we love the idea of exploring new places sometimes we feel like "picking new hotspots" is just another way to please overzealous developers who are only in the hotel biz to make a (few million) bucks.
· The Search for the Next Hot Spot [WSJ]
It's amazing where a little online bargain-hunting can lead. We were pursuing a tip that Aman Resorts' two Sri Lanka properties were offering 50% discounts on select rooms into next year, excluding the peak holiday season. Amanwella, near the village of Tangalle on the Indian Ocean, is minimalist contemporary; Amangalla, in a former residence in Galle, is more traditional. Think Michael Ondaatije's Running In The Family.
Our first stop, the Aman Resorts website, blew us away. We didn't remember it looking that intoxicating the last time we'd had a look. As it turns out, Amanresorts launched a new website earlier this week. It's stunning, with eye-poppingly vibrant photographs spanning the homepage.
But looks aren't everything. A few user tips, and more Aman Resorts news, after the jump.
A few days ago Zagat, publisher of handy restaurant and hotel guides, released the results of a new hotel survey. Amanresorts, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, and Raffles were the top four chains, showing those Asians know a thing or two about providing good service. It didn't stop there though: Asian chains Oberoi and Shangri-La made the top-10 as well.
Seven of the top-10 in the Small Hotels, Resorts & Inns category were in Asia, but the top one was Singita in South Africa, pictured here, which was also cited as having the best rooms. The best large hotel was Four Seasons George V in Paris, while the best resort was the Four Seasons in Hualalai, Hawaii.
A few wild card winners include three resorts in Los Cabos, Mexico, Inn at Little Washington (near D.C.) for cuisine, and a hotel in Vegas--Vegas baby! OK, it was the Four Seasons again, but still...
While we always take these surveys with a grain of salt--even we haven't seen more than a fraction of the best hotels all over the world--but you can't say they didn't try to get a good sampling. "The guide is based on the experiences of 21,783 frequent travelers and 1,626 professional travel agents who averaged 36.9 hotel nights per year."
And since we're highlighted the sorry state of WiFi in a lot of hotels this week, we can't resist this quote: "Zagat surveyors (23%) say the amenities offered have the greatest impact on their choice of hotel, with their favorite in-room feature -- the now nearly ubiquitous WiFi access (66% of business travelers say it's most important)." MOST important--hear that people? It's not an extra service you ream people on; it's up there with hot water and a door that locks.
· Zagat Surveys 23,409 Travelers to ID World's Leading Lodgings [PR Newswire]