Oceanfront Villas for Living x Sleeping x Swimming x Dreaming at Indochine Resort

The world is screaming summertime but alas, in Asia, it is summertime everyday. Call the pestering sun a blessing or a curse, but most who come to visit have remained and – at least – the haze has mostly blown away.

Now, I know you have no lack of choices for places to play and stay around Asia, but there’s never a bad time to recommend something for your next holiday. like I said, it’s “summertime” right?

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When it comes to Phuket, I have a bit of pride. I’ve been here about 15 times, so you can also call me Miss Tour Guide!

On my last trip to Phuket, I arranged for me and my friends to stay at Indochine’s new resort, Indochine Phuket.

While being scenically perched on the Patong hillside, most of the resort faces open views of the gorgeous Andaman sea. Themes of water, earth and nature elements evidently inspire the resort and rooms, and I also picked up a distinct oriental feel – this is no stranger to the strong signature decor that has moulded Indochine’s restaurants around Asia.

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Depending on what your personality is, this decision could be as good for you as it was for me and my friends – We enjoyed the proximity to Patong without having to live within it, for it is a crazy town that never sleeps.

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A 5-10 min shuttle or taxi from Indochine Resort will get you into the heart of the Patong action, while a 20 min walk for us to Patong was nice and breezy whenever we weren’t too hungry.

If you don’t crave bar-hopping and clubbing, Indochine Resort is saliently self-sustainable. The restaurant is large enough for a royal function and multiple-meal worthy, while the public rooftop pool beckons from day to night. This hotel IS a holiday in itself, and I would have gladly given myself into house-arrest for there was no reason to leave pleasures of the premises.

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If you need a holiday by the sea, here are some rooms you can possibly choose from.

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THE OCEANFRONT STANDARD ROOM could quite possibly, set the standard. Don’t expect a hotel room for all the Oceanfront Rooms are in the format of a villa, and quite self-explanatorily, give you some sort of uninterrupted views of sky and sea.
You don’t get a private pool with this 55 sqm room, but you do get a lovely outdoor verandah to enjoy your holiday views, and a huge stone jacuzzi (great for couples, but I think you could try to squeeze 4 people in it). Plonk yourself into the generous sofa, and use as much of the free wifi room as you want.

Info and reservations for OCEANFRONT STANDARD HERE.

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THE OCEANFRONT SUPERIOR ROOM sits 109 sqm wide, on the ground floor of Indochine’s resort/community/empire. Enjoy the jumbo-sized jacuzzi (it’s so big I would unofficially presume this to be somewhat of a private pool), and plenty of space on your outdoor terrace for sunbeds and lazy daytime lounging. Or, you can watch all the sky-sun-sea action from the inside comfort of your air-conditioned room, as your gaze extends beyond massive glass floor-to-ceiling windows.

Info and reservations for OCEANFRONT SUPERIOR HERE.

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I’m not even halfway done, people! How about THE OCEANFRONT DELUXE ROOM? It’s 70 sqm big, and takes you up to the top floor of the resort. This one comes with both an outdoor jacuzzi and an outdoor shower, so I guess you can’t help being clean in a room like this. If you like multiple showers a day, this is the right room for you! Since you’re on the highest floor here, no one will be peeking down on you… Sea views will be majestic too.

Info and reservations for OCEANFRONT DELUXE HERE.

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THE OCEANFRONT PREMIUM DELUXE ROOM is where I spent most of my time in Indochine. Whoever said life is hard, certainly wasn’t me! A grand space of 160 sqm offers an outdoor jacuzzi along with a private plunge pool. Some people have all the luck, huh?

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Info and reservations for OCEANFRONT PREMIUM DELUXE HERE.

If you’re going to take your time in Phuket (and why not, I say!) and want something a bit more modern, you could very possibly find yourself quite comfortable in Indochine Phuket’s GAYA STUDIO. Feel at home with cooking amenities here when you’re not gorging yourself on the resort’s culinary treats, and I love the indoor to outdoor decor touches and sofas where I can let my hair down and put my feet up.

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Slide a bedroom panel open and you’ve fallen into your living room. Slide another panel to reveal a kitchenette, and the double rainshower in your bathroom is just around the opposite corner.

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Did we just fly through space and time, from Oriental to European living? Yes we did. This is the modern beach bum’s home, truly… Kick back among the clean whiteness, and give range to a lifestyle of ocean infinity.

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Info and reservations for GAYA STUDIO ROOM HERE.

Another easy option would be to ditch the city life for a OCEAN SUITE CONDOMINIUM room in Indochine, available in a 2 or 3 bedroom format. I trekked up some stairs to visit this duplex style sea-facing unit, and loved how the lower level is great for entertaining friends or clients. A wide living room area makes great DVD nights, and I know I wouldn’t resist turning down a dinner invitation at this dining table. Keep your private time to yourself with a separate space on the second level, for no one needs to see your mess – nor you in your bathtub where you obviously look your best.

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Info and reservations for OCEAN SUITE CONDO HERE.

I’ve saved the best for last, which is also most popular for groups of friends who can’t bear to be apart. Welcome to the extravagant selection of pool villas at Indochine. This one was so tranquil, you could close your eyes and almost hear the trillions of salty drops come together as one, magnificent, never-ending ocean.

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The roomy pool deck seemed to go to waste this afternoon with just one little person, reading one magazine.

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A slightly hidden turn down some stairs on the side brought me into a play area. Take your winning shot at the dartboard or the table soccer table – there’s no room in this room for losers in fooseball!

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A pretty grandiose guest bedroom to be in, I thought… Until I opened the doors to the master bedroom. A jet-filled personal spa awaits its master/mistress. Bubbles and candles seem to be in celebratory order.

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Missing something? Your best friends, maybe. Bring them along!

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(This is another pool villa where some of my friends were staying.)

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Keep to yourself in one of the multiple bedrooms, or commune with your best friends in the living area to get your daily dose of last night’s gossip. When you’re done laughing at that drunkard’s antics (there’s always that one drunk!), roll outside in the sunshine for a dip in the pool. Grab your sunscreen, iPad or earphones, or you could just climb onto the rooftop to watch.

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There’s just so much to do in Indochine’s pool villa, it would take you from daytime chilling to night star-gazing – my friends have personally made the breezy poolside area a drinks-dispensing dance floor.
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The food at Indochine’s Resort is really good as well, and we were addicted to their Viet beef noodles. Me and my friends ate this about 4-6 times over our stay! I could barely believe how we were eating our way through the hotel. The duck crispy noodles and starter platter are worth mentioning and tasting as well.

Indochine is renown for its F&B group after all, and they take such pride in their food and where it comes from. No endangered species like Yellowfin and Bluefin tuna are served, and Chef Stuart Hickman is no stranger to the resort and fine dining world of French, Mediterranean and Modern Australian cuisine – in fact, my taste tests assure that he’s got the plate pat down.

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Whether you’re looking for peace or a party, you could probably find it all in Indochine Resorts.

Thank you Indochine Phuket for a splendid stay while you were hosting me. If anyone wants me to recommend or book the best oceanfront room for you, feel free to get in touch with me.

*Every room is unique – Please confirm all above-mentioned amenities with resort management when booking your desired room.

This is an advertorial for Indochine Resorts, Phuket. Create your own oceanfront experience by choosing one of the rooms above!

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Dinner and champagne brunch in Singapore – A special Kitchen Table at W Hotel THIS WEEKEND

It’s no secret that I’m a massive thundering screaming poster-holding fan of the W Hotel and general SPG group. Most of you – friends and followers of this blog – might have seen my multiple pictures in and around the W Hotel and related SPG hotels. The funky decor, top-notch service and comfortably chic vibe, make all the Starwood Preferred Group hotels a totally lovable and livable place.

Holidaying at W Hotel Taipei, Taiwan
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Eating, sleeping and working during my 2 week business trip at Fourpoints in North Carolina, USA
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Weekend in Aloft Bangkok – a younger, big value multi-facility hotel concept by the W Hotel.
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You can only imagine my glee when W Hotel Singapore called me and asked if I’d like to have a special dinner at their hotel’s flagship restaurant? “Let me check my calendar,” I say with a usual professionalism, while proceeding to salivate all over my living room floor. Two things my heart throbs for – good food, and all sorts of hotels. Combine the two, and I assure you, I am completely excited to wind down this weekend at The Kitchen Table, W Hotel Singapore.

I expect sugar, spice and everything nice – This is one treat for the tummy not to be missed! Freshly flown in just for THIS WEEKEND ONLY, from June 7th – 9th, revered Executive Chefs of Spice Market RestaurantsAnthony Ricco (W Hotel New York) and Peter Lloyd (W Hotel London) – will cook for all W Hotel Singapore guests at The Kitchen Table restaurant during dinner time THIS Friday and Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. (More details at this link.)

Spice Market was the brainchild of team of Culinary Concepts, created by famed chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Indulging in his Asian experiences and love of spice and far eastern ingredients, Spice Market restaurants can be found across the USA, London, Bora Bora, Kauai, Abu Dhabi and at W Doha. Enjoy this international sizzle this weekend at W Hotel Singapore

Char Grilled Chicken Kumquat Lemongrass Dressing

Char Grilled Chicken Kumquat Lemongrass Dressing

Hamachi Sashimi, Soy-Ginger Dressing, Radish and Avocado

Hamachi Sashimi, Soy-Ginger Dressing, Radish and Avocado

Pork Vindaloo, Crispy Herbs and Leeks

Pork Vindaloo, Crispy Herbs and Leeks

Spiced Chicken Samosas, Cilantro Yogurt

Spiced Chicken Samosas, Cilantro Yogurt

May I remind you again – only for THIS WEEKEND, not one but two kitchen legends will be cooking up a storm at W Hotel’s Kitchen Table. Set in the feels-like-an-escape-but-you’re-actually-still-in-Singapore Sentosa Cove, the scenery won’t be so bad – you only have to tolerate the idyllic view of W Hotel’s gigantic night-lit pool. I used to work in F&B, and I like to appreciate the people that make my food good great. Do you?

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W NEW YORK’S EXECUTIVE CHEF ANTHONY RICCO has been an integral part of Culinary Concept Hospitality Group’s team since he joined Spice Market in 2005. He is responsible for the operation and success of Spice Market New York. THE restaurant’s operations serves up dishes to 700 people, coming in and out over a normal night on weekends. Anthony Ricco has been a guest of LXTV, Martha Stewart Living Radio, De Gustibus Cooking School and The James Beard Foundation.

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W LONDON’S EXECUTIVE CHEF PETER LLOYD has held senior positions in some of London’s most demanding kitchens, and his cooking career seems to me like a dreamy soap opera. Being selected to join a team cooking for H.M the Queen and members of the Royal Family, alongside the King and Queen of Malaysia. After involvement in several successful restaurant launches, Peter was approached by Sir Anthony & Lady Bamford to act a private chef aboard their luxury yacht and their estates in the UK and the Caribbean. He accepted and in the following year, travelled extensively, cooking at prestigious events like the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix. Peter appeared on Masterchef on numerous occasions, opened and ran cooking masterclasses for children and launched other ventures within the group.

DINNER AT THE KITCHEN TABLE: 7-8 JUNE 2013
SGD65++ International buffet, SPG members enjoy 15% discount.

SUNDAY REMIX: 9TH JUNE 2013
– Inclusive of 2 restaurants, THE KITCHEN TABLE and SKIRT cuisines
$108++ International buffet, OR
$148++ INCLUDING FREE FLOW OF CHAMPAGNE.
SPG members enjoy 15% discount.

Join SPG for free today and receive this 15% discount among others.

If you see me at the W Hotel’s Kitchen Table this weekend stuffing my face with all things sugar, spice and nice, please say hi but let me know first if there’s anything stuck in between my teeth or around my mouth.

This is an advertorial/promo review for The W Hotel, Sentosa Cove.

Best thing to do in Phuket with The Sail Spin – Hello from the land of Sun, Sea, Sand, Party and Sailing!

It’s mid-week. You’re at your desk in the office, tired of doing the same number crunching you have been doing for the last 3 and a half years. Maybe you need a break, or you’re just bored. You’re poking about on Facebook and other sites, and somehow land up here on the internet. How about a little daydreaming? Wouldn’t you love to be on a boat?

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GET ON BOARD THE NEXT SAILING TRIP COMING RIGHT UP:


28th March – 1st April 2013 (Singapore public holiday: Good Friday weekend)
23rd – 27th of May 2013 (Singapore public holiday: Vesak Day weekend)

AHOY, MATE!

The Sail Spin is a world of pristine islands, chic sailing yachts and party people. The success formula is simple – you grab your best friends, choose a trip date, pick out your favourite sailboat, and cast off. Great holiday idea, right?! Modelled after the infamous European Yacht Weeks that I’ve watched wishingly on YouTube, each Sail Spin trip brings together 5-10 yachts full of like-minded people.

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Yacht Week in Europe had always been on my bucket list. Now, I get to do it a little closer to home, in Asia!
C’mon, Asia. Let’s do it better. The people are hotter. The waters are warmer. Everyday here is summer.

LOCATION OF PLEASURE: PHUKET, THAILAND

The Sail Spin world revolves around ours… Trips are usually scheduled around Singapore’s public holidays and weekends, to minimize the number of day offs you will have to take at the office. Everyone makes their own flight arrangements to Phuket, because while some ballers want to ride first class, someone like me might not mind flying budget. Also, this way, you are free to travel up from whichever city, or to extend your Phuket pleasures whether it be pre-sailing trip or post-sailing.

PREPARING FOR PLEASURE WITH A WORRY-FREE CONCIERGE SERVICE

I was picked up from the airport and chauffeured to wherever I needed to be. For most landing on the day of, you would choose to join The Sail Spin kickoff party – ours was hosted over a swim and drinks at Catch Beach Club.

SIDENOTE ABOUT CATCH BEACH CLUB: I’ve been to many bars and beach clubs, but let me tell you, this one is breathtaking. I started whining about wishing I came earlier, and if The Sail Spin chooses not to hold their parties here in the future, it is still worth a separate visit. You’ll be plenty entertained just sitting prettily on elegant white furniture, while you stare at the swells of the sea. It swirls seamlessly into a stunning sunset, while the rhythm of Cafe Del Mar ripples into your head. I couldn’t have asked for a more magnificent introduction to my new sailing group of friends.

After this, the shuttles took us straight to Yacht Haven, where a heavenly getaway would begin.

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Each trip spans about 4 nights, 5 days, and hops about designated stops around Phuket. The yacht route, on-land activities, in-boat groceries and night-time delights are all pre-planned as part of a ‘worry-free’ hospitality package. Alcohol can either be purchased for cheap at the Phuket International Airport, or show up as an extra charge on your bill if you would like the staff to take care of that.

Before VS After:
(The ‘worry-free’ service is a new and good move by The Sail Spin staff, as during my trip we didn’t have this and we went more than overboard with groceries. The boys bought enough Belvedere Vodka to last a war, and the girls each wanted about 10 cans of spaghetti. Needless to say, we were undomesticated, a lot of food was wasted, and we all got a little bit fat.)

SAILING ON BOARD OUR YACHT – THE JEANNEAU 57 “BAGGY”

Do you have to know how to sail to go on a sailing holiday? We certainly didn’t, but some of the boys on my boat tried to learn over the course of our great getaway. A professional skipper handles that, among much else. Your job is not to sail, but to swim or suntan.

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We picked a beautiful boat called the Jeanneau Baggy, run by THE PINK SHRIMP. It was 58.4 foot long, catered for 6 guests in three double cabins, and came with a young and strapping captain full of fine service – his half-British half-Japanese hospitality was like a button that was switched on every hour of our trip. He couldn’t have done it without the help of his co-captain, of course.

Don’t expect a villa-sized room on board any boat, for rooms are small and toilets are tight. Everything is squeaky clean, and your new home is a splendid suite of classy and cosy. Do note that our sailing yacht was fully air-conditioned, but not all boats have this.

PS: Luxe Nomad just ran a sale on this yacht, among a couple of others! Sign up for Luxe Nomad’s email list for first-hand news on luxury vacation flash sales.
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ZERO SEASICKNESS
Let me get real here and tell you that this is not a trip for everyone. If you get claustrophobic in smaller spaces and hate the idea of being out at sea, then this is not for you. However, you don’t have to be a daredevil to enjoy this special themed getaway – my friend Marlies gets seasick easily and she wore a seasick wristband from the beginning to the end of the trip. Not only was she never nauseous AT ALL, I never saw her stop smiling once.

I’m a bit of a hero when it comes to motion sickness, but the ocean got to me a bit on the third day as I was on the boat all day that day. I started to feel a rumbling in my tummy and my mood was extra cranky. I pulled Marlies’ wristband off her and put it on myself. I promise you – within merely minutes, the seasickness disappeared completely and I was back to my normal happy self. There is some serious magic in this band. If you sign up to go sailing, I highly advise you buy this.

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FYI, The bigger your boat, the less it rocks so feel free to splurge on some stability!

THE SAIL SPIN EXPERIENCE AND PEOPLE

The experience is created for you, but making memories is your job to do!

Sailing is typically deduced to be a hobby for the rich or filthy rich, but this luxury is now pretty affordable for young pleasure seekers like us too. As long as you have a passport that allows you into Phuket, people of any ages are welcome. Join as one person, or pull more friends along. During my trip, the cosmopolitan crowd tended to average around working adults in their 20s-40s. I’m not going to lie, they weren’t an ugly bunch!

The best thing about The Sail Spin is that it is just so special – it’s boatloads better than a normal holiday in Phuket, and more fun than going sailing with just one group of friends. This is package tour group 2.0! Choose to holiday side by side with other sailors in the sunshine, and share a drink or a laugh over a beachside dinner in the moonlight.

Each yacht sails beside each other in the day, and join in the on-land island stops where activities like snorkelling, spa massages, cave kayaking, cliff diving, sailing or more can be done. Personally, there were not a lot of activities planned during my trip, but it was The Sail Spin’s first big trip and with our feedback, they have now beefed up the list of fun that can be done.

My favorite stop was when we docked near a little island (think it was named Chokdee island), and it allowed for few casual hours of mingling over lunch, playing pool, snorkelling, and ultimately an afternoon of pure relaxation. Who needs hammer time when it’s hammock time?

You are free to request a light customisation of your own itinerary, although the plan is to stick with the programme. Consult with your captain if you want to make an extra stop or a tiny detour… Don’t get lost though, Robinson Crusoe!

By sunset, the party options kick in and drinks on your yacht will definitely start flowing. A couple of people choose to stay in and enjoy the yacht, but most jump off the boat to enjoy a little evening bustle. Some nights, buffet barbecue dinners are orchestrated by the beach, but other nights are free and easy. Wander around the little shops, or grab a drink at one of the local bars with old friends and new friends. Phuket is one big general party, and everyone from The Sail Spin ended up at this dingy beach club called Slinky. (Expect cheap shots, rowdy tourists, hardcore locals and plenty of glowing in the dark.)

This awesome holiday saves the best for the last, and a final night boat party ensues. A DJ (did I mention the sailing trip usually includes one resident DJ?!) breaks out the beats on board while everyone else downs the remainder of their drinks, dancing on deck and singing along to the chorus when their favourite song comes on. The final party is a little surreal – you hold hands with your new best friends and look over the vast waters and islands in a distance, feeling ever so slightly afloat as you listen to the rise of the fall of the tempo.

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Sleeping at night (if you should choose to) is not conducted in the middle of the open sea, but all yachts are safely docked either close to shore or inside hotel sea ports.

QUITE HONESTLY, BEST HOLIDAY EVER

Although I didn’t have a summer love nor meet my mer-man, every single person that I met on this trip made this trip better, and boy did we have a whirlwind of a sailing holiday together. It was such a new experience jet setting off to a luxe vacation in and around Andaman sea, spoiling myself with 5 days of refreshing mornings on my own personal yacht with my favourite friends, and catching up on reading, swimming, suntanning or plain ol’ conversations.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love being on a boat or just running away on a holiday. The feeling of being able to do both is completely enchanting, but rolling out of bed on a yacht and jumping into the perfect waters of Phuket to wake up is another dimension of deluxe.

This was, quite honestly, as of lately, my best holiday in Asia ever.

Feel free to email me at loveyouwrongtime@gmail.com for enquiries and bookings, or if you just want tell me how awesome my vacation pictures look!

THE SAIL SPIN is on Facebook: Say hello to them and see what the sailing fuss is about!

If you haven’t OD-ed on my pictures yet, dare yourself to browse through my full Sail Spin holiday album for extra envy.

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This is a sponsored post for The Sail Spin.

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EXTEND YOUR INDULGENCE – STAY AT INDOCHINE RESORTS, PHUKET

If you would like to extend your trip and unwind a little bit more in Phuket, I recommend staying at Indochine Resort where I was – they currently have a mega saver March promo on as well.

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This resort is not in Patong itself, but rather scenically perched on the Patong hillside. Depending on what your personality is, this decision could be as good for you as it was for me and my friends. We enjoyed the proximity to Patong without having to live within it, for it is a crazy town that never sleeps. A 5-10 min shuttle or taxi from Indochine Resort will get you into the heart of the Patong action, while a 20 min walk for us to Patong was nice and breezy whenever we weren’t too hungry.

Only on offer until 31st March 2013, pamper yourself with a 3 day/2 night experience at the Oceanfront room. (I stayed in this very room during my stay – it’s named a hotel room but feels like a villa.)

Rates are based on 2 persons/per room and includes a day activities package, a daily international breakfast, dinner at their restaurant (the alfresco area is absolutely relaxing), 2-way airport transfers, and shuttle services at scheduled intervals.

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Specially for bookings from Singapore – The full dates and details for this promotion can be found on the Indochine Group website.

It’s time to spoil yourself, people. Stay in a nice villa, go on an island holiday and take me with you!

Pool Parties in Singapore – W Hotel, Sentosa Cove debuts with a splash this Sunday 10 March 2013

3 weeks ago, The super people at the Starwood Preferred Group told me they were throwing their first ever pool party at W Hotel Singapore soon. I was getting excited. Guess what? It’s THIS SUNDAY!

SINGAPORE
W HOTEL SENTOSA COVE, POOLSIDE
10 March 2013, Sunday
2pm-8pm
Featuring: Some pretty notorious names in SG.
-> DJ Aldrin, DJ Has (ex musical director of the Lo and Behold Group), and DJ Xeum
$35 Cover charge per person for pool access, includes 1 drink

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I’ve always a huge fan of the W brand – Everything from the glamourous boutique decor in the rooms and lounge, to the thoughtful service and generally hip culture, has always been consistent.

I have been twitching for an opportunity to jump into this –

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There isn’t enough weekend pool-time hotspots in Singapore, but there are a few that I’ve been to –

1) GET WET at Hard Rock Hotel gave me a ‘Palm Springs school break’ sort of vibe, but
2) My usual weekly favourite is Tanjong Beach Club.

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3) I also started the St Tropez Sunday champagne x pool party series at LANTERN ROOFTOP (Fullerton Bay Hotel), all thanks to my hardworking team back when I was in employment with them (above picture, no blog post yet). You can check their Facebook page or Fullerton Bay Hotel’s Facebook page for current updates.
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I hope the first of W Hotel’s pool party series will succeed. It’s time for an extra splash of fun in our Singapore party scene!

If you’re in an oh-so sunny mood on Sunday, I will see you there.

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Special air fare promotion from Singapore to Europe via Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS): New direct Singapore-Zurich flight from S$679, return ticket (S$705 after taxes)!

Seriously, man.

Even though I’m finding it harder and harder to earn money, somehow by the fair laws of the universe and in the opposite parallel of things, it is getting cheaper and cheaper to travel!

I just heard that Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has launched special introductory fares for its new daily service from Singapore to Zurich that will commence on 13 May 2013.

An Economy Class flight from Singapore-Zurich starts from S$679 before taxes, S$705 after taxes. Sounds like an awesome deal to me – This is a return flight, including baggage!

If you’re a creature of high-class comfort, a round trip in Business Class is available from S$3705 and offers the innovative SWISS Business Class seats that eases into a 2-metre lie-flat bed.

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Seeing is believing – I went to check out the prices on the SWISS website myself. It was really as rock-bottom as the headlines claimed.

And then, being the cynic I am, I cross-checked it with SkyScanner just to be sure.
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SkyScanner.com doesn’t lie. This is a really good deal!

5 things a Singaporean might find special in Switzerland:

1) SKI, SNOW AND SCENERY
I didn’t go to/have never been to Zurich, but Switzerland is breathtaking in general and I had a snowball of a time there in Nov 2011.

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Disclaimer: This was definitely one of my favourite places when I was backpacking around Europe alone in Nov 2011 and I don’t regret going, but November is not a particularly popular time to visit nor a good time to ski.

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Trekking around Europe with my hardy Timberlands, courtesy of Timberland Singapore.
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Whether you want to see flowers or frozen rivers, Switzerland will show it to you. I like the cold and love the winter, but I made a lot of friends along the way who shared that summer is also a good time to visit Switzerland if you want a slightly warmer holiday.

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2) EXPENSIVE
The Swiss Franc (Swiss currency) is rather strong and certain parts of Switzerland can be pretty pricey. In November 2011, I made an impulse decision to go to Zermatt – one of the best ski-towns in Switzerland. (“Best” also means that it is popular and expensive.) I could see the world-famed Matterhorn everyday as I walked to the town and around.
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Skiing in the Swiss alps was a once-in-my-lifetime experience for two reasons… It was breathtaking, and it broke the bank.

Expect to pay for a skiing holiday:

– Ski lessons (Don’t take lessons in Switzerland – learn to ski somewhere cheaper like Australia, and then go to Swizerland when you actually know how to ski).

– Equipment rental (which you have to carry all the way to the top of the mountain by yourself, by the way)

– Ski lift pass (Check the weather forecast because these can be non-refundable)

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Don’t plan on skiing? No problem. You will probably spend your money on something else. A simple sandwich or burger there cost about 30 Swiss Francs ($39 Singapore dollars)… I re-used part of my breakfast as lunch everyday.

“Oh shit! S$39 for a lunch sandwich!?” I hear you cursing already. Don’t worry, there are ways around this. Read my next point.

3) EASY TO PACK A BACKPACK
Even though food and cost of living is expensive, you can buy your own rations (instant noodles!) from the supermarkets. As souvenirs from Switzerland for my friends in Singapore, I stocked up on supermarket chocolate.
There was another ‘kiasu’ Asian family before me who brought home even more –

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I get the cheese and sausages. But seriously, you’re bringing back bread?!

Switzerland is no anarchy and there is every reason to celebrate its cleanliness and orderly society.

It started out on a search with this napkin note…
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And it ended with me trying out glu-wine over a meal with some of the most wonderful people I could have met in the town of Zermatt.
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This city works like a perfect clockwork – it had the most helpful and honest citizens I encountered anywhere in Europe, train-times were never delayed nor a second late (unlike the rest of Europe), and every inch in the city looked like it had been sweeped – twice.

4) TRY A HOSTEL
No one usually wants to stay in hostels, but the ones in Switzerland are so clean that they look like hotels. (The floors are clean enough to walk around with socks on, and the toilets aren’t terrible at all.)

Money saver tip: My hostel included breakfast AND dinner in its nightly accomodation cost.
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Switzerland isn’t cheap, but it is definitely one of the most comfortable and safest places for backpackers.
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5) TRAINS
Zurich seems promising, but there are plenty of other beautiful areas in Switzerland to visit and things to do. You can also easily take a train from Zurich to other parts of Switzerland (again, this is not cheap. Expect S$40-$140 train trip ticket prices, not SMRT prices).

If I had the chance to go back to Switzerland again, I would. I would love to experience Berne, The Chateau de Chillon Montreux, Interlaken, Lausanne, Lauterbrunnen, Lake Lucerne, Jungfrau (one of the highest mountains in Europe), Lugano, and the village of Gruyeres – if you have a chance to visit Switzerland and you skip all of these places, I will smack you.

Obviously, as suggested by the beginning of this section, taking a train is definitely the best way to get around.

With cross-country trains, you don’t even have to get off for immigration and custom checks – THEY get onboard to check you. Too easy.
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The Bernina Express – One of the most famous and scenic train-routes in the world.

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Train tip: Some trains are fast, and some move slow (in Europe, they call it “scenic”). Don’t forget to pack food and water along for long journeys.

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To enjoy these unbelievably low fares from Singapore to Zurich, travellers must purchase their tickets between 14 January 2013 and 28 January 2013. Travel period is from 13 May 2013 to 30 November 2013. Terms and conditions apply. From my quick checks online, it seems like this applies to other Singapore-to-other-parts-of-Europe flights too.

Special priced flights from Singapore to Europe with SWISS International Air Lines:

Amsterdam from SGD 823.-
Barcelona from SGD 804.-
Brussels from SGD 819.-
Copenhagen from SGD 808.-
Frankfurt from SGD 978.-
Geneva from SGD 717.-
London (LHR) from SGD 1020.-
Madrid from SGD 806.-
Malaga from SGD 791.-
Manchester from SGD 991.-
Milan (MXP) from SGD 809.-
Munich from SGD 1099.-
Nice from SGD 815.-
Paris (CDG) from SGD 827.-
Prague from SGD 808.-
Rome (FCO) from SGD 822.-
Tel Aviv from SGD 802.-
Venice from SGD 802.-
Vienna from SGD 874.-
Zurich from SGD 679.-

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Wanderlusting on the SWISS website…
Singapore to Nice – now seriously affordable.
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Flight tip: When booking flights online, not all of them are always direct flights. Double check your flight dates and timings, especially to ensure that there isn’t too much or too little time in between stopovers.
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Life is short – visit Europe.

Start planning and booking your 2013 getaway with special airfare deals like this one at SWISS.

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I haven’t written a lot about it, but you can check out my blog category EUROPE for more snippets of my 1 month Europe-alone adventure from October-November 2011, backpacking from Barcelona-Venice-Cinque Terre-Florence-Pisa-Rome-Milan-Zermatt Switzerland-London-Edinburgh Scotland.

A must for Mobile Marketing Strategy – Hotels.com iPhone and Android app is simply brilliant for booking AND browsing hotel rooms

Last month was a productive month for me, as I worked further on my business idea and attended the Web In Travel 2012 conference for the first time. I am always utterly fascinated learning about the worlds of Travel and Tech, and it’s even more fun when they integrate so well together.

The Web In Travel 2012 conference addressed a bunch of insider issues, and took Q&As of the key trend of mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Whether you’re an outsider looking in, or an insider looking out, you just cannot ignore the little plastic power of the device in your hand that beeps and rings. Admit it, your phone rules the world (I know mine rules me)!

Every time I talk to people who work in big corporations, I like to ask them, “what’s your social media and mobile strategy?” They either give you a very good answer, or they squirm like ants under a magnifying glass… Don’t you know that Asia-Pacific is by far the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and smart phone shipments are expected to hit 137 million units in 2011 in Asia Pacific alone? And you don’t have a sales strategy that covers it? Huh? HUH????? Yeah, take that.

When I was doing research on government statistics for my own start-up, I was pretty shocked to realise that there are MORE MOBILE SUBSCRIPTIONS than PEOPLE living in Singapore. That means that many residents here actually own more than one phone! Whatever for? That is crazy, people!!

(Er, yes, I’m one of you… I have two.)

Cannot live without my BlingBerry 9790 and iPhone apps!

I’m a big advocate of browsing and booking things easily on my phone, and it is almost a fail in my honest opinion, for any major company to have an inefficient (or invisible) mobile strategy. (Sorry to be so blunt today, but I read a lot about mobile trends and marketing strategies!)

Thus, it is very easy to win my respect when a company spends effort and dollars in these areas. It truly delights me that this hotel booking site saw the importance in the mobile trend and built these power-packed iPhone and Android mobile phone apps – found on the respective app stores as “Hotels.com” (free to download, of course).

Here’s me testing it out on an iPad… Ready, set, swipe! You can use the app as “a guest” or create your own account.

To create an account, there are about 10 fields to enter your information in when you sign up, but after that it’s quick and fun. Start swiping, sorting or scrolling against the app’s interactive skyline.

Start your search first with exact dates, number of rooms & occupants.

Use the powerful filter tools to sort by preferences – do you want to see the lowest prices or best recommendations?

Check out pictures, descriptions, deals and room reviews.

I’m a bit of a design freak. I really truly appreciate when a website spends top dollar on a sleek interface that is thoughtful and intuitive on a phone or iPad. “Travel” is such a visual experience and browsing should be beautiful, not basic. The concept of a hotel or holiday can be very influenced by the choices of stylish design, glossy colours and magazine-like pictures on a mobile app.

The Hotels.com mobile design makes the UX (user experience) so gorgeous!

Only with the iPad app, you can find the nearest Hotels.com rooms in your live location, real-time.

Remember my previous post for Hotels.com? Can you tell that I just looove looking at hotels? It’s a very useless skill of mine. Guess which are some of the rooms and destinations I picked…

Store all your favourite room options with an add button, decide later!

Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore.
The Langham, Hong Kong.
Expo Hotel, Barcelona.
Club Quarters, London.

Which is your favourite?

I’m sure it will be quick to find a hotel/room to suit your budget and preference – The two smartphone applications are available in over 30 languages, and allow travellers to search and book more than 20,000 accommodation deals from over 135,000 hotels around the world.

Whether you’re planning a one-city quick trip or a cross-country vacation marathon, it’s really easy to flag (touch the ‘add’ button) all your favourite room options around the globe and you can always decide/book later. No need for opening multiple screens and toggling in between windows at all!

All your previously picked choices are stored in your account and organized in a grid next to each other for clear comparison. Which one was cheaper? Which one was nicer? Wonder no more, the design is really manageable and brilliant.

Don’t forget to keep track of the Welcome Rewards programme – when you book 10 room nights, you get your next night free. It’s easy like bubble tea.

Track your details and progress to getting that free hotel room

Even without a data connection, information like hotel address, phone number and map is ready on display as all past and future bookings can be accessed offline. I did this on an iPad and it can also be synced with your desktop and mobile phone. So incredibly useful!

Everything is clearly labelled and if anything goes wrong, you can call the help hotline straight from the app.

PS: I seriously did all this research in about 10 minutes on my friend’s iPad (I currently don’t own one). This is such a seamless app and is perfect for searching, comparing, and booking hotels while on-the-go.

If I need to make a last minute room reservation, Hotels.com will definitely be my app of choice.

“First, I’ll find a hotel room. Hopefully next, a husband…”

Next time you feel like browsing, booking (or just dreaming), get on the Hotels.com iPhone/Android app and pretend you are on a holiday. Let me know what you think!

This is an advertorial for Hotels.com

Hotels.com Welcome Rewards – Book 10 nights, get 1 night free. More bang for your buck!

Anyone who talks to me or knows me would have an idea that I love travelling and especially, love hotels. For my last job that I quit about 2 months ago, I worked for a beautiful 5-star hotel (Fullerton Bay Hotel).

What I really prefer though, is enjoying a hotel!


Blog post on Bali for Rachel K’s birthday in April 2012 here.

I’ve stayed in so many, I’ve almost lost count. Sometimes I’m happy to be in a hotel alone, but other times I travel with a bunch.

But whether it was is for work or for play, part of the ultimate hotel experience for me has always been not just staying in the hotel. – The ultimate hotel experience should ideally include an easy booking process and being able to secure extra discounts.

I love to ask for discounts.

And the best room with a view for whatever category I book.

And a free breakfast. With a basket of fruits.

“Could I also have a free bottle of champagne?”

I know, I can be a pain! But even if you are not as thick-skinned as I am, I think most of you are still somewhat the same, and are happy to sign up for things knowing that you are getting more bang back for your buck.

I have used all sorts of loyalty programmes (and there are so many out there), but the best are those who keep things sweet and simple. Loyalty programmes should either 1) save you money, or 2) give you free stuff that is easy and hassle-free to redeem.

Nevermind getting 1 point of rewards for every USD$1 “that qualifies” for what I have spent, or rewards that are tied into my credit card calculations or air mile exchanges. Forget rewards that don’t apply for non-business trips, or that have a long list of “Terms and Conditions apply”. Sheesh, show me the freebies already!

I have been sent the press release for Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards programme and the structure of their new loyalty programme seems rather straightforward so far –

For every 10 room nights booked, you get one free room night (excluding taxes and fees) via Hotels.com. The maximum value of the free night is the average daily rate of your ten (10) nights stay.

You can also claim a more expensive room for your free night – you simply have to top up the difference. So if your free night is valued at $100, but you want to book a room that costs $200, you simply have to pay the difference of $100.

THERE IS NO EXPIRY DATE, as long as you book one night every 12 months.

There are no points to calculate, but the best part is – NO BLACKOUT DATES! (There is nothing worse than trying to redeem a free room, and then finding out that you can’t because it so happens to be the Prime Minister’s 2nd son’s cousin’s birthday and a national holiday.)

Book 10 nights and get 1 night free… That’s getting us pretty excited.

Staying 10 nights and getting one free with Hotels.com’s new Welcome Rewards is an easy and effective loyalty scheme, just like those bubble tea shop cards that we all love. Except that redeeming free holidays or hotel rooms taste so much better than bubble tea!

If you like to travel or have a holiday coming up, why not check out updates on Hotels.com’s Facebook page OR their website to book some nights and get more bang……

… For your buck?

I will update this space again when I use Hotels.com to book my next holiday, and let you know my comments. Let me know your feedback too!

This is an advertorial for Hotels.com