Saturday, 14 May 2016

Hotel Review: Palazzo Versace Dubai

 
When I think of Dubai, I naturally think of opulent luxury. It’s hard not to. Home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest mall and one of the few places in the world where you can order an Uber Chopper, the glamorous emirate is a place for indulgence and excess. I’ve travelled to Dubai on several occasions and knew this all too well. Deciding where to stay in Dubai is quite frankly mindboggling. The competition between hotels is extremely high, which each hotel aiming to redefine the notion of luxury in their own way. There truly is something for everyone in Dubai but if you’re after sumptuous extravagance, there really is only one place to stay in Dubai, the newly opened Palazzo Versace.
 
 
Palazzo Versace Dubai is the second hotel from the iconic fashion brand, the first being on Australia’s Gold Coast. Opened in December 2015, the hotel is an ode to luxury with Artistic Director Donatella Versace overseeing design for all of the interiors, including each of the 215 rooms and 169 condominiums. Design elements include hand-cut marble, stained-glass mosaics and ceilings hand painted in gold as well as the Medusa head, Greek Key and iconic Versace prints.
 
 
Situated on the rather quiet Dubai Creek, Palazzo Versace has an imposing presence on the waterfront. Styled after a 16th-century Italian palace, the hotel is one of the first to be opened in Dubai’s new Cultural Village and therefore enjoys a premium position in what is sure to be Dubai’s hottest spot. Currently, the Cultural Village is a work-in-process, with building work going on around Palazzo Versace. This wasn’t a problem at all for me; it’s totally unnoticeable once you’re in the hotel and its grounds, which act as a lush paradise amid the construction. One of the buildings currently being constructed in the vicinity is set to be the tallest building in the world – overtaking Dubai’s own Burj Khalifa.
 
 
Once inside the hotel itself, you are transported to an oasis of Italian luxury. The floor of the 1,000sqm lobby is decorated with 1.5 million mosaic pieces while the ceiling is adorned with the most spectacular chandelier. It’s a truly breath-taking space and sets the tone for the rest of the hotel. While furniture features Versace prints, the textiles are decorated with peacocks, falcons or horses.
I stayed in one of the sumptuous deluxe rooms with views of the lagoon and Dubai Creek.
 
 
The room was truly magnificent. The high ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows gave the room a super spacious feel while the details just oozed luxury. Beautiful timber parquet flooring was paired with the most luscious rug in the room and dressing area while the bathroom mirrored the lobby with marble and mosaic elements. My room had a soothing salmon pink colour theme with Versace-printed linens and textiles. The bathroom, complete with a walk-in shower, his and hers sinks and a huge bath, was as luxurious as you would expect from the House of Versace.
 
 
 
The service more than matches the opulence of the hotel; each member of staff was so friendly, accommodating and welcoming – the staff at the pool always made sure I had a shady cabana to read in and kept me cool with cold towels while the doorman, Victor, gave me a warm welcome every single time.
 
Staying at Palazzo Versace was truly an experience. The entire hotel is a sublime design spectacular, which the photos are able to capture more than words could. My entire stay here was wonderful. I’ve stayed at a lot of incredible hotels during my travels but my stay here was a very, very special experience. Hotels in Dubai better watch and learn, Palazzo Versace has really raised the bar and redefined the meaning of 5* luxury.
 
 
*Sponsored*
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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hello, Dubai


After my brief pitstop in Dubai on the way to Malaysia last month, I had a hankering for more. There's nothing like a 24 hour trip to whet your appetite for a place, so I booked myself a little break to the most popular Emirate for sunshine, shenanigans and lots of food. See you on the flipside!
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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Selamat, Perhentian Islands

 
The last couple of weeks have been crazy - sunrises and street food in Penang, jetskiing and beach days in Langkawi plus the most beautiful natural scenery in the stunning Cameron Highlands. After all of that adventure, I’ve headed to the Perhentian Islands for a little R&R. Turquoise waters, white sand, sharks and a good book, bliss. Keep up to date with my adventures on Snapchat - @Reena_Rai and Instagram - @Reena.Rai. 
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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Selamat, Malaysia

 
After the longest journey, I am finally in Kuala Lumpur. As with previous trips to Vietnam and Cambodia, I’m going to be pingponging across the country over the next few weeks, mainly island-hopping across Penang and Langkawi ooff the West Coast and the Perhentians off the East Coast. Keep up to date with my adventures on Snapchat - @Reena_Rai and Instagram - @Reena.Rai.
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Thursday, 17 March 2016

Hello, Dubai


Yes, I’m off again. I’m pingponging across to Southeast Asia, via the briefest trip to Dubai. One of the best thing about having friends scattered across the globe is planning impromptu trips to see them – booking a longhaul flight with a layover is always a good idea, particularly if it means catching up with one of your oldest friends. I’m only in town for about 20 hours, enough time for dinner, drinks and a bit of sleep before heading off for a little adventure in Malaysia but sometimes it’s the quality of time you spend with people rather than the quantity. Follow my mini Dubai adventure on Snapchat - @Reena_Rai and Instagram - @Reena.Rai.
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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Ciao Milano

 
I’m currently en route to pretty Milan for a little New Years break. Somehow, this is my first ever trip to Milan and I’m so excited to see in the new year in one of the world’s fashion capitals. It’s very apt that I’m heading to the Just Cavalli club for a Great Gatsby themed soiree, then indulging in all of the pasta. Keep up to date with my antics on Instagram (Reena.Rai), Twitter (Reena_Rai) and Snapchat (Reena_Rai).
 
I’m not one for resolutions or any “new year, new me” type declarations. I see the New Year as symbolic but I don’t see why anyone needs to completely overhaul themselves or their lives; we’re all a work-in-progress but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Towards the end of the year, I set out positive intentions for the year ahead and areas of personal growth that I would like to achieve, for me it’s about enriching my life, learning and existence rather than resolving to lose  a kilo or learn to tap dance. Each to their own though and however you wish to approach 2016, I hope it’s a wonderful year for you.
 
See you on the flip side!
Reena
x
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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Hotel Review: The Oberoi, Bali


One of the things I love about Bali is that it truly has something for everyone, from Kuta’s a brash, backpacker’s paradise to the spiritual sanctuary of Ubud. For those who prefer their travel a little more luxe and cosmopolitan, Seminyak is an absolutely essential destination. Located on the West coast, Seminyak is a fashionable beach resort which almost feels like a separate island in its own right. Its popularity is growing owing to the plethora of high end boutiques, art studios, chic restaurants and of course 5* hotels. This is the place to truly indulge, relax and forget your worries, which is exactly what I needed after an action packed five days in Ubud - Seminyak felt like just the place to unwind and put my feet up.


We stayed at The Oberoi Bali, which is located right on Seminyak beach. Although The Oberoi is within walking distance of the key bars and restaurants in the area, the resort itself feels like a remote beachfront sanctuary. We had planned to watch sunset at one of the renowned beach clubs in Seminyak on our first night at the Oberoi but the view from the beach was so perfect we enjoyed a couple of cocktails at the Kayu Bar before stepping onto the beach to watch the sun melt into the ocean. This was without a doubt one of the best beach views I’ve experienced in Bali, if not in South East Asia.


 
The hotel itself is as beautiful as the beach location. Set amongst acres of perfectly manicured tropical gardens adorned with frangipani, the hotel grounds are a tranquil and calm oasis in the midst of a chic resort town. The resort is picture perfect and the delicate frangipani scent in the air just adds to the serene vibe. Ancient Balinese temples are dotted around the resort as well as a natural stone amphitheatre, which serves as a setting for regular Balinese dance performances. Just beyond the amphitheatre is the pool, which overlooks the beach and serves as the heart of the hotel. Despite leisurely breakfasts at the Frangipani Café, we always found space around the pool. The pool staff were also super attentive and made sure we were covered when it came to the essentials – towels, sunblock and cocktails.
 


We stayed in an ocean-view Linai room which was everything you would expect from an Oberoi hotel. As with the rest of the hotel grounds, rooms and villas heavily feature Balinese influences. Floor-to-ceiling double doors ensured that our room was bathed in natural light, complementing the dark teak furniture and dove grey marble tiles. The room is perfectly appointed, as you would expect from The Oberoi, with an opulent kingsize bed, TV, DVD player and iPod dock. For me, the piece de resistance was the incredible glass-walled bathroom, which features an beautiful sunken marble bathtub complete with bath salts, bubble bath and candles.

 
Seminyak is the glittering jewel in Bali’s crown and standards for boutiques, restaurants, bars and hotels is incredibly high. The Oberoi Bali exceeds the high expectations; the hotel, location and grounds and unparalleled and the super attentive staff make sure your stay is blissful and stress-free. My stay in Seminyak was definitely one of the highlights of an incredible 2 week trip to Bali, a testament to the hotel and it’s staff. 

 
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Friday, 16 October 2015

Home Sweet Home

 
I am finally back home, well in body maybe not in mind. Bali was an absolutely incredible place and I’ve fallen in love with it a little. Ok, maybe a lot. From the beautiful, spiritual Ubud, to the beachside havens of Seminyak and Jimbaran and of course the unconquerable Mount Agung, it’s been a real adventure in the truest sense of the word. I can’t wait to share more about my travels but for now, I need some much needed sleep. Check out my Instagram Instagram (Reena.Rai) and Snapchat (Reena_Rai) for some gorgeous images of my favourite island.
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Friday, 9 October 2015

Escaping to the Gili Islands

 
Well, that mountain climb was no walk in the park. Climbing Mount Agung is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done. Through the dense jungle, there’s barely a path and I spent the majority of the climb pulling myself up on tree branches, roots and the odd vine. Once above the tree line, the temperature drops about 10°C and you’re shivering as you clamber up rock on all fours. We also had to contend with a wind storm which made conditions very difficult, so we had to abandon the climb about 40 minutes from the summit to take shelter in a cave. I would have liked to make it to the top but safety first, none of the 12 climbers who attempted the climb actually made it to the top.
 
To balance out the arduous climb, I’m hopping over to the beautiful Gili Islands for some much needed beach time. The Gilis are 3 tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. They are so tiny you can walk around them in under 2 hours and the only modes of transport available are horse and cart, bicycles or your own two feet. They sound like bliss! Follow me on Instagram (Reena.Rai) and Snapchat (Reena_Rai) for a sneak peek into life on the islands.
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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Climbing Mount Agung


As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been planning on climbing a mountain. More specifically, Bali’s highest mountain, Mount Agung, which stands at over 3,000m in height. This is happening tonight; the plan is to start the climb at 11am and reach the summit 6 hours later just in time for sunrise. There are shorter climbs which would take me to the crater edge but in for a penny, in for a pound. The climb is supposed to be incredibly tough, I’ve heard that it’s harder than Kilmanjaro! Wish me luck! I’ll try to take some snaps along the way, follow me on Snapchat at Reena_Rai.
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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Off to Bali!


Right you lovely lot, I’m heading off to Bali today for some much needed post-Fashion Week R&R. Well, I say R&R; I’m planning on climbing Bali’s highest mountain (and active volcano) in between the inevitable beaching and eating. Follow me over on Instagram (Reena.Rai), Twitter (Reena_Rai)  and Snapchat (Reena_Rai) to keep up to date with my adventures.
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Friday, 7 August 2015

Hotel Review: Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur


Over the last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to Asia fairly frequently and I’ve learnt that the journey is as important as the destination. Of course, my trips to Cambodia, India and Vietnam have all been incredible but spending 20 hours on a plane to arrive super jetlagged is no fun. This is why I prefer booking flights with overnight layovers – I break up the journey, arrive more refreshed AND I get to check out a whole new city. This is exactly what I decided to do on my way back home from Cambodia, as I was flying with Malaysian Airlines I decided to stop off in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days rather than wile away a few hours at the airport.

As I only had a couple of days to take in as much as possible, location was the most important factor when looking at hotels. The beautiful Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is located in the Golden Triangle, enjoying the enviable position of being at the centre of modern Kuala Lumpur. The Golden Triangle is the heart of KL’s shopping and nightlife area and the ideal location if you’re only in the city for a short stay, the Triangle is home to Bukit Bintang is the main shopping area as well as Jalan P. Ramlee which has some of the best places to go out at night too. During my stay, I spent time in Starhill Gallery – a luxury mall which is interlinked to the hotel – as well as Bukit Bintang and Pavillion Mall which are just a short walk away.


The hotel, as you would expect from a Ritz Carlton hotel, is luxurious and opulent. The lobby oozes old world charm, with marble floors, Venetian paintings in ornate guilt frames and a glittering chandelier. My check-in was super speedy and the concierge was so helpful, pointing out the various places within walking distance as well as giving me some great restaurant and bar recommendations.

Before I knew it, I was being whisked up to my suite. The exquisite Premier Suite was decorated in neutral, cream shades with luxurious detailing, from the lush beige carpets to the sumptuous golden blackout curtains. The living and dining area was well appointed, with an inviting sofa as well as a desk and dining table, which came with some delicious fruit and macaroons. The huge windows had amazing views of the stunning Kuala Lumpur skyline. I barely had time to take in the view when there was a knock at the door and I met both of my personal butlers who were on hand for the duration of my stay. As an executive hotel, each of the 365 rooms enjoys butler service on their respective floor; however the suites have the added luxury of personal butler service.


The master bedroom was equally elegant, super spacious and tastefully decorated with a lavish, inviting kingsize bed as the centerpiece. The bed was such a cocoon of coziness that I was loathed to leave it in the morning! The bedroom was accompanied by a walk-in wardrobe, which made me regret only spending a couple of days in Malaysia. The piece de resistance was the chic marble bathroom, which featured a large shower enclosure with a rainfall showerhead, separate marble bath and matching sink.


If you could tear yourself away from the magnificent room, the Ritz Carlton’s wonderful Spa Village occupies the 4th floor, which has a family-friendly pool and a separate pool for adults - the latter being the perfect spot to relax. The spa itself offers a plethora of treatments to help you unwind, though I have to admit I didn't have the opportunity to indulge in any treatments.


I could sum the Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur in two words: class act. The hotel is absolutely beautiful without being ostentatious, the décor and atmosphere was that of understated elegance which automatically makes guests feel at ease. The service was absolutely impeccable from my airport pickup to the swift check in and ever helpful concierge. My entire stay felt so easy and seamless, nothing was too much trouble and my suite was perfection. It's rare for me to feel at home in a hotel but that's exactly how I felt for the duration of my stay at the Ritz Carlton. It was wonderful to stay at the Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur for my layover - next time I'm making it my destination rather than a pleasant stop in my journey.

 
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Friday, 10 July 2015

Hotel Review: Roomers, Frankfurt


Known as Germany’s financial capital and home to the European Central Bank, Frankfurt isn’t the obvious destination choice for those visiting Germany. But as I learnt during last year’s trip to the Malmo in Sweden, sometimes visiting a city which is a little off the beaten track is so rewarding. Frankfurt has a lot more to offer besides banking. The beautiful river Main snakes its way through the city, with beautiful tree-lined walkways on either side of the river. The city itself has a striking mix of architecture with the quaint timber-framed buildings contrasting with the imposing skyscrapers which dominate the skyline and have led to the nickname Mainhatten.

Due to the financial focus of the city, the majority of hotels have a very business-like feel so when I discovered Roomers; I knew I had to stay there. There’s nothing clinical about the sensual dark tones and luxe leather accents and the location is superb, just a stone’s throw from the Hauptbahnhof train station and all of the major sites and attractions.


After a super late flight, I checked into Roomers just after midnight, a little weary from travel and expecting check in to be a little difficult based on past experiences of checking into hotels at unsociable hours. I was pleasantly surprised by the super-efficient and friendly check in, within three minutes of stepping foot in reception I had a glass of bubbles in one hand and my room key in the other. I couldn’t help but notice that the hotel was playing Mystikal, so of course I commented on how great the music was. The staff all suggested I check out the bar, which is one of the best in Frankfurt and the DJ only plays hiphop. Sold.


As tired as I was, I found the energy to freshen up and head to the bar. In keeping with the rest of the hotel, the bar was super dark with an intimate feel, cosy cubbies on one side with the oval bar dominating the room. Part upscale New York bar, part speakeasy, the vibe is so cool and totally unexpected in Frankfurt. I managed to find a seat by the bar and this is how I met Thomas, one of the best barmen I have ever met (and I know a lot). After ordering a couple of cocktails from the menu, Thomas took charge and created some amazing cocktails and shots including an Oriental take on a classic Bloody Mary. I had so much fun chatting to Thomas and tasting some incredible cocktails, I actually spent both nights hanging out in the bar until closing.

 
Needless to say, after those cocktails and 5am bedtimes, I was pretty keen to check out the exclusive spa on the top floor of the hotel. Designed by 3Deluxe-Biorhythm architects, the spa is a mixture of Balinese zen balanced with contemporary design. I took advantage of the relatively empty spa and spent a long time hanging out in the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms as well as the incredible relaxation tubs filled with glass beads. When all of that relaxation became too much, I wandered out to the serene roof terrace to take in the breathtaking view of Frankfurt’s skyscrapers.


When I walked into my room, I couldn’t help but smile. It was beautiful. All dark wood floors, padded leather headboards and sweeping organza curtains; undeniably sexy. The queen-sized bed, complete with a golden leather headboard and faux fur throw, was so inviting and super comfy. So much so that I refused to leave my room until Saturday afternoon, opting to listen to A$AP Rocky’s new album through the Marshall sound system and laze around in bed rather than take in the sights of the city. Despite the dark colour palette, the room felt spacious rather than closed in, this is partially due to the exposed bathroom design – the sink, vanity area and shower are part of the room rather than being enclosed, much like the design of The Standard in New York.
 
 Between the room I couldn’t tear myself away from, the serene spa and the amazing Thomas, I enjoyed a wonderful stay at RoomersFrankfurt. From the moment I walked in, the bar was set very high and the design touches and wonderful staff consistently exceeded expectations. Everything was so well considered and the staff felt like friends by the time I left, this is undoubtedly the place to stay in Frankfurt – in fact, I’m sure I’ll be back within a year to visit Roomers again!

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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Travel: Frankfurt Visual Diary

 
Sunset over Frankfurt, beautiful
 


Love locks on one of the bridges across the Main river


The contrast between old and new

 

Walon & Rosetti - incredible food!

 
The European Central Bank

 
Hello!


The chap on the right looks like he's taking a selfie

 
 
Heading across the Main


Prosecco and a semifreddo at Trattoria i Sicilliani

 
Goodbye Frankfurt!

 
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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hotel Review: Hotelito Lupaia, Italy

 
 
The process of choosing a hotel is a funny thing; everyone has a different set of priorities and you can easily spend hours if not days choosing where to stay. But sometimes you get lucky and a hotel chooses you. As much as I love a gallivanting in a new city, I’ve been yearning for some peace and quiet recently, my priority became finding a lovely under-the-radar, hidden gem of a hotel for some much needed R&R. While trying to decipher which pretty, picturesque little town to visit in Tuscany, I stumbled upon a picture of Hotelito Lupaia. More specifically, the jaw-droppingly beautiful infinity pool which has views across the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. Sold.
 
Hotelito Lupaia is located in the middle of a picturesque lush, green valley in Val d’Orcia, between the towns of Montepulciano and Pienza. As the images I had seen suggested, it’s very remote and idyllic. To describe it as off-the-beaten-path is an understatement; I used the latitude and longitude in the sat-nav and drove about 10 minutes on a little stony road to my final destination.
 
Hotelito Lupaia is truly breath-taking; even my pictures failed to capture how magical it is. A former medieval borgo, the hotel is made up of several cottages all connected with lovely old stone paths and surrounded with well-manicured gardens. And all around, the Tuscan countryside is laid out in front of you like a painting.
 

Like all good homes, the heart of Lupaia is its kitchen. Located in the biggest building at the centre of the hotel, the kitchen is a rustic Italian dream with the original beams, pretty tiling and copper pans hanging from the ceiling. The wonderful chef and team are on hand, preparing an authentic Tuscan feast each evening and the most impressive continental breakfast spread I’ve ever seen in the morning.
 
I was spoilt for choice and just had to indulge in a mammouth multi-course breakfast of homemade jams, cakes and croissants as well as fruits, cheeses and freshly cooked eggs. Hotelito Lupaia prides itself on being as carbon-neutral as possible; the cheese is sourced from a farm just across the valley which has the best pecorino I’ve ever tasted. The weather was gorgeous so I enjoyed my breakfast in the quiet wisteria-laden courtyard and took in the beautiful view of the Val di Chiana hills.


The rooms themselves are pretty, ivy-covered cottages from the original borgo, each one has been painstakingly restored and is unique. I stayed in the emerald green haven that is the Bosco room; I can safely say that I have never stayed anywhere so magnificent. From the cool, terracotta tiles to the handpainted walls and sumptuous window swags, the entire room was decorated in complementary shades of bold yet calming green.

I’m not the biggest fan of green but it really worked. Nothing about the décor in minimal, everything is carefully selected for impact – the hard-carved antique walnut bed with matching dressing table was the focal point of the room. Though the colours were bold, the room still retained an undeniably luxe feel with heavy fabrics and pretty, rustic touches such as the original rafters.

The real cherry on the cake is the magnificent infinity pool which overlooks the stunning rolling hills. The view coupled with the tranquillity and peace make for a killer combination; the pool at Hotelito Lupaia is among one of my favourite places in all of Italy.

My stay at Hotelito Lupaia was truly wonderful; all of the little details and touches have made this a really magical place unlike anywhere I have ever stayed. I can't fault a single thing, everything from the rooms and décor to the location and food is absolutely perfect. Lupaia has earned a special place in my heart and I'm looking forward to coming back for years to come.

 
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