INDONESIA’S NEW WAVE!

Raja MendakaON THE EDGE OF WILDNESS

And then I reached paradise… Nihiwatu Resort on the island of Sumba, a mere hour’s flight from Bali’s Denpasar Airport followed by a fab safari style ride in an open air vehicle cross-island, you pass local children smiling and waving as you go, finally arriving  at the resort that will forever be known as “paradise”.

Nihiwatu

CHECK-IN

How this resort actually exists defies reason… it’s located in one of  the most isolated places I have ever been. A place where time may have literally stood still and then you arrive at this amazing resort called Nihiwatu, a paradise so delicately and perfectly planned – and so unobtrusive you might never have known it was there.

Nihiwatu consists of a total of 33 villas, including family estates… all of which are authentically designed, taking inspiration from the local Sumbanese style architecture all the while being luxuriously appointed. Here you are perfectly positioned  centre stage to take full advantage of the adventurous offerings that surround you.

Originally started by Claude and Petra Graves… and known foremost as a surf retreat – Nihiwatu has since developed into  so much more with the guidance an enthusiasm of new owners Chris Burch and his business partner, star hotelier James Mc Bride. Both have both helped Nihiwatu evolve into what I believe is one of the world’s best resorts. Truth.

The result is almost too fabulous to believe – here Aman meets safari (and that’s hard to do if you’re not Adrian Zecha!).

WHAT I LOVED

Interiors so achingly chic by Parisian interior designer Marco Scarani and partner Susan Colley – they all feature traditional Sumbanese artifacts throughout… including carvings, local wood and beautiful Ikat prints on the furnishings  (these fabulous, collectable ikats, have all been hand-woven on traditional weaving racks in villages nearby!).

Take Chris Burch’s private estate Raja Mendaka (like I did) – here you can kick back with ten of your nearest and dearest in full estate luxury – all perfectly private and super fab… and with a bit of luck you will have Marthen as your butler… to look after you like family. All villas have a tasteful island style in keeping of the natural surroundings and all come with private pools so a naughty dip is in order on those balmy late nights.

Careful… you might never want to leave the estate!

ACTION STATIONS

Ocean adventures abound to keep you going for weeks… swim with the whale sharks, snorkel the reefs or go fishing. Any water sport imaginable is on offer here, and of course you have the surf! Just quietly… you may even be lucky enough to witness a baby turtle hatch and release from the resorts conservation hatchery.

Also don’t miss the hiking treks – The Blue Waterfall and the Nihioka Spa Safari are all unmissable. Nihioka is the adults only full day spa experience – you start by trekking across Sumba, through herds of water buffalo and a traditional village (take some Rupiah to buy those covetable indigo Ikats) before you reach the heaven that is Nihioka. Here you will have two spa therapists for unlimited spa treatments all day – it’s out of this world.

Food is fabulous and the views while lunching at Nio Beach Club will take your breath away. I also liked the “family” dinners held a couple of nights a week as these gave me the opportunity to mingle and meet the most fascinating guests but you are equally welcome to dine (privately) poolside in your luxury villa – just say the word – all your meals are included in your rate here at Nihiwatu.

IN RESIDENCE

I spotted chic Parisian families surfing their days away (who I learned have been coming for years) and handsome, newly married couples who all agreed Nihiwatu was possibly the most romantic place on earth. The island definitely makes for the perfect upscale family island adventure but couples and A Listers are equally catered for as they can luxuriate privately, away from prying eyes.

I loved every minute of my stay at Nihiwatu – so much so I extended by a night (in fact 50% of guests extend their stay) so please… don’t plan a flight to rush back to your real life – you may just never want to leave.

Many thanks to James McBride who finally got me to the island to see what all the fuss is about and to Carla Petzold-Beck the resorts stylish GM who made sure my stay was absolutely fabulous.

Contact me to book your very own stay at Nihiwatu and receive VIP luxury amenities like complimentary upgrades and more.

ALILA VILLAS SOORI!

Alila Villas Soori

For my next stop in Bali I turned up the contemporary flair and checked into…

ALILA VILLAS SOORI

Located in the Tabanan Regency, beyond the madness that is Seminyak and Kerobokan – lies this sleek beachfront resort – Alila Vills Soori. Fronted by wild, black volcanic sand and the Indian Ocean on one side and UNESCO world heritage protected rice paddies on the other… this escape will take you into the heart of the real Bali.

Alila Villas Soori

ALILA STYLE

It’s ultimately a honeymooners paradise – you can lock yourself away for days in their contemporary pool-flanked villas. Choose ocean or mountain view – I prefer the mountain side with views of lush, verdant rice fields stretching towards mystical Mount Batukaru on the distant horizon. This is a place of quiet contemplation in zen like style and it’s the perfect base to explore the “real Bali”. With the help of Alila, you can take your pick of full-day and half-day bespoke experiences which focus on spa and wellness, Balinese culture, arts and crafts as well as environmentally conscious excursions.

DELICIOUS DINING

Decadent dining options abound at open-air Cotta (where you’ll enjoy the “tasting menu” breakfast-style spread daily) to the more intimate and romantic Ombak where you can indulge in the Kosong dinner menu… diners select from pure, fresh ingredients available on the day, and are joined at their table by the chef, who will fine-tune the complete customisation of your meal.

Alila Villas Soori

Contact me directly to book your very own stay and enjoy exclusive luxury privileges like upgrades, late check out and more.

Welcome to Wanderlust Union!

I am proud to announce that I am now represented by the fabulous Sophie Baker at Wanderlust Union – the global communications and public relations firm, engaged by premium clientele in the travel, food, wine and lifestyle sectors. http://www.wanderlustunion.com.au

So … for all press, advertising and social media collaborations with me – please email hello@wanderlustunion.com.au

Sophie Baker

Sophie Baker

Here is a little more about Sophie, founder and Director:

SOPHIE BAKER

To forge a deep emotional connection with audiences, brands need to work harder. They need to be leaner and more imaginative, able to respond nimbly to a frenetic and ultra-fragmented market. They need to be leaders.

Sophie Baker knows this. For 15 years she’s been generating solution-driven brand experiences and PR strategies that ensure her clients remain ahead – taking campaigns as far as the Cannes Lions Awards. She’s worked closely with luxury brands, destinations and major media outlets, from Hamilton Island and qualia resort, Audi, Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck Champagne, to Harper’s BAZAAR and CHANEL. In 2015 she won CommsCon PR Professional of the Year, having forged landmark partnerships with Tencent Weibo and Net-a-Porter, as well as pioneering Australia’s Instameet phenomenon with a swathe of digital influencers. Over a three- year period, Sophie increased earned media for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week by 70% and in 2014, at the travel industry’s prestigious HM Awards, she was deemed Australia’s Best Communications Associate and won Best Marketing Campaign.

Baker is a masterful communicator and a strategic thinker. At Wanderlust Union, she works personally with every client. It’s a bespoke and tailored service, just the way it should be.

AMANUSA!

Amanusa

AMANUSA

22 years later… this iconic beauty still shines as one of Bali’s leading luxury boltholes and its timeless Kerry Hill architecture still takes my breath away. The villas are still in picture-perfect condition and if you book with me I’ll do my best to see that you receive an upgrade to one of the ultra fab pool villas. It’s a discreet paradise – a place to luxuriate in traditional Balinese style, combined with effortless hospitality delivered from the heart. Think an elegant blend of terrazzo, marble, modern rattan and teak furnishings, manicured gardens (with groves of frangipani trees) and abundant bunches of tuberoses all cared for by the loving staff.

WHAT I LOVE

Located in peaceful Nusa Dua – on a breezy hill top, way above it all with the perfect sweeping view across the peninsula, Amanusa have also created what I would regard as my perfect beach club just down the hill in front of the Bali National Golf Resort. “The Club” consists of nine bales, each with two sun loungers. Refreshments, light meals, showers and washrooms are provided. The white-sand beach is one of Bali’s best and is fringed by a coral reef. Snorkelling equipment and kayaks are available. The Beach Club can also be the setting for candlelit barbecues, and sunrise breakfasts can be enjoyed in the privacy of the bales. Trust me, this is one of the world’s best beach clubs and beaches – you’ll spend most of your time here!

GO NOW

This is the “real deal” authentic Bali of the highest level – I suggest you combine with a few nights at my other Aman faves… Amandari & Amankila then you would have the perfect Balinese experience.

For bookings, contact me directly and enjoy exclusive privileges like upgrades, early check-in/late check-out and lots more!

AMANEMU

Amanemu

AMANEMU – JAPAN

Amanresorts announce the launch of Amanemu, located in Ise Shima National Park in Honshu’s Mie Prefecture, central Japan. The property will look out over the tranquil expanses of Ago Bay near the country’s most sacred Shintō shrine, Ise-Jingū.

Named after the Sanskrit word for ‘peace’ and nemu meaning ‘joy’ in Japanese, Amanemu will launch in early 2016, and will be Aman’s 30th property. It is the first Aman to integrate mineral hot springs (onsens) and each of the resort’s 24 Suites and four Villas features a private onsen in addition to open-air onsen pavilions in the Aman Spa.

Embracing a classical Japanese aesthetic in the ryokan tradition, Amanemu will also be home to a restaurant celebrating the region’s rich culinary heritage, from abundant fresh seafood to the renowned Matsusaka variety of Wagyu beef.

Amanemu will be the perfect combination with the stunning Aman Tokyo we think … to express interest in staying at Amanemu or to plan your stay at Aman Tokyo (or any Aman resort worldwide), contact us today.

CAPRI MEETS CABARITA!

Halcyon House

BEACHSIDE BEAUTY

Australia’s chicest boutique hotel Halcyon House has finally opened in Cabarita Beach and while you might think Cabarita isn’t the obvious choice for what will be known as Australia’s most daring and refreshing luxury hotel – I can assure it is. Situated halfway between the sexy Gold Coast and bohemian Byron Bay (my favourite destination in Australia at the moment) – this little beachside beauty is a stunner.

THE DETAIL

Inspired interiors by the talented Queensland interior designer Anna Spiro take each individually decorated hotel room to the next level. No two rooms are the same and (surprisingly for a beachfront retreat) upholstered walls only add to the fresh luxury Anna has created here. Bathrooms are a study in understated elegance with English tap ware, marble vanities and eye-catching, hand-made floor tiles.

Halcyon House

WHAT I LOVED

You’ll love the complimentary mini bar (alcohol not included) – I know I did, it’s the tiniest detail but I love it … for me it spells luxury. Mauro de Riso has been brought in directly from J.K. Place Capri to run this gem and I think the owners have hit the jackpot – Mauro runs the establishment with the well organised flurry only a handsome Italian GM can do – his eye for detail is everywhere (wait till you see the potted plants perfectly positioned throughout the property in chic pale pink terracotta pots!).

EAT IN

Paper Daisy is the in-house restaurant headed up by one of Queensland’s star chefs Ben Devlin who serves up  breakfast, lunch or dinner in sophisticated breezy-beachy style . I ate at Paper Daisy the entire time and loved it but if you want to venture out, I’d recommend Fleet in nearby Brunswick Heads.

THE LAST WORD

It’s all in the details here at Halcyon House – from the complimentary chilled Prosecco placed in your room on arrival (when you book with me …) to perfectly positioned sun lounges poolside – this is an elegant beachside retreat worthy of instant stardom.

Book your next stay with me at Halcyon House to receive upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), breakfast daily, a bottle of Prosecco on arrival along with other small surprises.

Thank you to everyone at Halcyon House for hosting me and to Sophie Baker at Wanderlust Union for organising every little detail.

I will be back.

RIVIERA MAYA NOW!

Hotel Esencia

HOTEL ESENCIA

My favourite Riviera Maya hotel has new owners and it’s had the perfect little make over – don’t worry, true Esencia aficionados won’t be disappointed, the new look is subtle with updated mid century furniture pieces now placed discreetly in public areas and in the guest rooms… it’s all perfectly executed and suits the feel of this classy beach-side resort perfectly.

Hotel Esencia

Nothing has been lost in its update – the cool, zen-like rooms are as fab as ever (most come with plunge pools) and everything is fresh, and in tip-top shape. Esencia still shines as the best of the best in Mexico… and just happens to sit on the best beach on the Riviera Maya.

Hotel Esencia

Come here if you want absolute luxe and seclusion, in fact Esencia would make the perfect Honeymoon destination too.

I’ve blogged about this beauty before and you can read about it here

Contact me for bookings… or perhaps join us in Mexico – May 2016 for our next luxury, small group Mexico Riche adventure?

*A big thank you to Kevin, Sebastian, Litzie and the entire Esencia team for looking after me (and the production team) so beautifully.

IT’S HOTTING UP IN MERIDA!

Casa Lecanda

Merida Now!

One of my favourite cities in Mexico just got hotter… while Merida has been on the it list of chic adventurous types for a while now – it still remains a quiet colonial town full of charm and some of the most authentic hacienda hotels in Mexico, and its food scene is thriving… the time is now to visit Merida!

Casa Lecanda

My home here is the chic hideaway Casa Lecanda – a small luxury boutique hotel located within the historical centre of Merida. I wouldn’t dare stay anywhere else, its luxury colonial charm and warm staff I now call family, make me feel at home each and every time I stay.

Oliva Enoteca

It’s perfect location just got better as owner Stefano Marcelliti and his gorgeous wife Melissa have just opened Oliva Enoteca… just across the street. An addition to Stefano’s first restaurant Oliva Kitchen a few blocks away – their burgeoning hospitality and culinary empire will hot up even more if Stefano gets his way and opens yet another hotel nearby.

Watch this space!

Stefano, Brent & Melissa

DON’T MISS

Coqui Coqui – the eponymous fragrance and design brand has a lovely boutique store in the centre of Merida… drop by and pick up one of their cult fragrances (Colonia de Linos will keep you fresh) – they also stock some covetable leather shoes, accessories and fab fashion for your gal.

Nectar Merida – Roberto Solis’ fab restaurant is still the talk of the town. Situated in Merida’s north – Nectar pushes the boundaries of contemporary Yucatean cuisine.

HISTORICAL HACIENDA TEMOZON!

Hacienda Temozon

STEP BACK INTO YUCATEAN HISTORY

A highlight of our Mexico Riche Luxe Tours is Hacienda Temozon, the 17C sisal factory turned chic boutique hotel in the middle of the Yucatan. You want authentic Mexico… you got it!

I’ve blogged about this beauty before and you can read all about it here.

I can however update you and tell you that is as chic as ever and we filmed an episode here for our upcoming LUXHD travel series. Stay tuned!

Hacienda Temozon

*Thank you to Cesar and the team at Hacienda Temozon who looked after us in great style. Hacienda Temozon is also part of the Starwood Luxury Collection.

Contact me to book and receive exclusive Where’s Brent Been amenities.

NECTAR MERIDA!

Roberto Solis

ROBERTO SOLIS

Guest Food Blogger Nettie Z has found a new food sensation… read on!

Sorry Heston but my new chef crush is on Mexican, rather Yucatecan born Roberto Solis. Yes, he did a stint at Fat Duck, Noma and Per Se. Now, he’s at his restaurant Nectar in hometown of Merida. My crush isn’t because he’s gregarious and gorgeous… It’s the fact that the humble herb, coriander is his all time favourite ingredient and that most people have very strong feelings about it… they either love or detest it! His passion and indifference is BRAVE!

Roberto Solis Nectar

Is it just my crush or is he a creative genius with his unique dish ‘Black onions?’ He blackens Chiles and uses the ash in the tempura batter that coats the onion w Xcatic (a Chile native to the Yucatan) coriander & lime aioli. These glistening black parcels are served on matt black charcoal… delicious, dramatic, daring and devilish. Or how about a taco of octopus wrapped in pork skin served with salsa? Melt in your mouth Seared tuna with segments of sour oranges, mandarins & grapefruit with a sesame, achiote (a spice unique to the Yucatan) emulsion.

Cooking class with Robero Solis

Exclusively, Roberto will demonstrate the ins and outs of Mexican cuisine at the exquisite Hacienda Tamchen on our next Mexico Riche Luxe tour… departing May, 2016. The full itinerary is at www.richeluxetravel.com

Cooking class with Robero Solis

Nettie Z