Passion Points: Escape
First Look: Amano'i
The Aman hotel company is well known for choosing exceptional locations for their properties. Sometimes remote and often logistically difficult to build, (examples include the Amangiri in Utah, Amankora in Bhutan, and Bali’s Amanwana). Their placement may not always make immediate sense, but upon arrival every guest is guaranteed to have an “aha moment.” Amano’i, the brand’s first foray into Vietnam, is no different. Located near the untouched Nui Chua National Park in the Khanh Hoa Province of the country, the resort sits amidst a rocky landscape of cliffs. The overall mood of the area conveys a sense that the region has remained unchanged for at least a century.
Most itineraries to Vietnam will include time in one or both of the major cities, Hanoi and Saigon, as well as a few days in the central part of the country. Each of these destinations is popular with tourists, rich in history, and somewhat exhausting to navigate. The draw of the Amano’i is its remoteness, serenity and the natural beauty of its area—the property sits on a hill with sweeping views over the Vinh Hy Bay and South China Sea. By the end of my ten-day visit to Vietnam, I was craving relaxation and time to reflect on all I had seen of the country. The Amano’i offered the perfect opportunity for pampering and quiet before I returned home.
Upon arrival, guests enter the resort’s largest common space, the central pavilion, which was built to resemble a traditional Vietnamese communal hall. The massive structure has ceilings that reach over 40 feet high and 360-degree views out to sea from its terraces, creating an incredible first impression of grandness and natural beauty.
Thirty-one one-bedroom pavilions and five Aman villas fan out over the hillside. Interiors are sleek and contemporary, with nods to traditional Vietnamese architecture and the trademark Aman aesthetic of understated elegance. Living and sleeping spaces merge, opening out onto teak decks, and are decorated in neutral tones and natural materials.
As this is a new property, expect some uneven service (during my stay, for example, wait times for buggies to the beach were long). Much of the staff is local, which further emphasizes the property’s focus on providing guests with a great sense of place. This does, however, mean there are occasional language and communication difficulties.
The spa has a central location and overlooks a small lake full of lotus flowers. On my first afternoon at the resort I took a sunset yoga class and quickly sank into an Aman-appropriate state of Zen. The extensive spa menu features treatments utilizing local and natural ingredients. A highlight of my visit was a traditional Vietnamese cupping massage, where suction is used on the skin to promote blood flow and healing. The massage was so relaxing that I was transported into a different universe of relaxation. In addition to the spa’s five treatment rooms there are two hydrotherapy suites, a gym, Pilates studio and yoga pavilion. The focal point of the property though is the beach club complete with a lap pool, beachside restaurant, access to non-motorized water sports and unbeatable views into the bay.
Activities on property are also complimented by an array of off-property excursions that are available to guests. One of my favorite memories included a visit to a floating restaurant in the Vinh Hy Bay. When I got to the restaurant, one of the owners asked what I would like for dinner. He then promptly put on a mask and dove into the water to catch a grouper in a small hand net. It was the freshest, most delicious meal I have ever had, complimented by the beautiful views of the hillside, the bay and beyond.
When to Go: Late spring and summer months are the best time to visit the property
Who it’s Right For: Travelers looking for downtime and relaxation at the end of their trip to Southeast Asia or Vietnam. Those expecting a significant amount of culture will be restless here.
Getting There: Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cam Rah/Nha Trang airport (a one-hour flight) and then drive the 37 miles to the property.
Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days
Experiences Not to Miss: Kayaking in Vinh Hy Bay, dining at the local floating restaurants, hiking in Nui Chua National Park, a Vietnamese cupping massage, Pilates and yoga on property and snorkeling.
As I have spoken to travelers, seen where inspired hoteliers are opening and thought about where I am interested in going this year, I have noticed that getting off the grid and into the wild and remote is growing in appeal.
I think it is because technology has allowed us—and now demands us—to be plugged in and turned on every waking minute. On those rare occasions when I have no cell service (whether it’s in a place like Cuba or Myanmar or Montana) I return to a less distracted and more present state of being. Getting to share that with friends and family is my hope for this coming year and here are some of the new spots that I think are ideally suited for indulging in isolation.
For more than a century, Swedes have escaped to the mountains for fresh air and solitude. Entrepreneur Lars Bertmar has added serious modern comforts to a historic mountain retreat, so guests at Fjallnas (www.fjallnas.se/en) now stay in folk-farm style buildings with wifi and heated floors. Depending on the season (here they count eight, including Crusty Snow and Eternal Sun), days can be spent on hikes, cross-country skis or in the spa but always with a focus on nature.
Until recently, adventure travelers were most familiar with Argentina’s Patagonia, with its lunar-like landscapes and theatrical Perito Moreno glacier. On my next trip, however, I would like to visit the smaller Chilean side, now home of a handful of incredible lodges. Top of my list to stay is Awasi (www.awasipatagonia.com), one of Patagonia’s most celebrated arrivals, with just twelve spacious villas. Each comes with a private guide and 4×4 for customized excursions in the park. Other highlights of Chilean Patagonia include the picturesque Paine Massif and Glacier Grey, numerous glacial lakes and wildlife, including condors, guanaco and puma. It’s an absolute must-visit destination for photographers and naturalists.
Two longtime Tanzania wildlife lovers have expanded their offerings in the wild this year. Legendary (www.legendaryexpeditions.com), the outfit run by billionaire conservationist Dan Friedkin, has added a lodge near Ndutu called Mwiba. Its resemblance to some of the Singita properties is no coincidence, as ex-Singita staffers were involved in its creation. And within driving distance, Chem Chem (www.chemchemsafari.com) has added another tented camp called Little Chem Chem with access to incredible game viewing in Tarangire. Both are lodges I hope to visit this year.
Camp out in Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia was based. A new luxury tented camp has just opened so you can enjoy the desert remoteness but with hot showers and copper basins in the bathrooms. Spend the days hiking, dune surfing or exploring by camel, 4×4, hot air balloon or hang glider. In the evenings dine in a Bedouin tent by lantern and star light.
From an icebound ship turned into a hotel, you can explore the pristine Arctic. Just reaching the basecamp is an adventure as you set out from a trapper’s cabin on snowmobiles to travel across frozen valleys. Stay in berths on the ship for one night and explore glaciers or sign up for a small boat cruise to set out to photograph polar bears. Or for those who are less interested in snow, book a lighthouse room for the night.
South East Asia
Parts of South East Asia have seen massive tourism development in the past decade, but board a classic sailing vessel and head out into the distant islands of Indonesia like Sumba and Sawu or the little explored coast of Myanmar and you can find pristine beaches, jungles filled with wildlife and glorious time away from civilization. When Gwyneth Paltrow took her family on such a cruise last year, she declared, “a dream of mine came true when I traveled to Indonesia for the first time…Never did I imagine that we would run our hands through the dark ocean at night and watch it light up with phosphorous, see a Komodo dragon in the wild, swim over a massive sea turtle, or be taught to make native dishes in situ.”
For help planning your next itinerary focused on getting away from the crowds, contact Indagare’s Bookings Team by calling 212-988-2611 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indagare Adored 2014
Twelve special hotels and resorts around the world join the prestigious Indagare Adored, a list that includes our travel community’s most beloved properties.
We launched the Indagare Adored list three years ago with ten incredibly special properties—places that defy categorization but excel at one thing: making guests feel transported. This year, twelve magnificent addresses made the cut, ranging from a blissful retreat in the Tennessee foothills and a luxurious Indian oasis to a tucked-away boutique hotel in New York City’s Upper East Side and not just one, but two, beloved safari camps. They are the Indagare Adored 2014.
ARIZONA: MII AMO
Adored For: A sacred, healing spa experience and beautiful location.
Ideal for a solo trip or as a visit with friends or family, Mii Amo, a luxury resort outside of Sedona, Arizona, leaves guests raving—and replenished. Mii Amo, which means “journey” in a Native American language, focuses on ones personal journey to health and wellness. The sixteen spa casitas and suites are designed with a southwest aesthetic and minimalist furniture for a sleek, soothing atmosphere. Spa programs last either four or five days, and the surrounding red rocks provide ample hiking opportunity so guests can be as sedentary or active as they please. Read more about Mii Amo.
CHILE: CLIFFS PRESERVE
Adored For: Simple luxury and proximity to nature.
Set along six miles of coastal beaches and backed by seemingly unending temperate rainforest, Cliffs Preserve Patagonia is a dream come true for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers, as well as families and couples. Despite the retreat’s presence, the surrounding terrain is left respectfully untouched, and guests are encouraged to explore the great outdoors via horseback riding trails and boating trips to sea lion colonies, and celebrate the rural beauty of coastal Chile through photography and culinary tours of the property’s organic farm. And should the blustery cliffs turn chilly, en-suite fireplaces, hot tubs and the serene spa are an indulgent remedy. Read a member postcard about Cliffs Preserve.
INDIA: THE LODHI
Adored For: A tranquil vibe in the bustling New Delhi.
Set amid one of Delhi’s greenest neighborhoods (the setting of the Delhi Golf Course), the Lodhi exudes serenity. Public spaces are at once grand, with huge glass walls looking onto water features, but also warm with plush seating areas and a hushed ambience. With resident managers who are beloved fixtures in Delhi society, guests feel like honored visitors with insider access. The pièce de résistance is each of the 40 rooms’ personal plunge pool, decked out with a double chaise lounge upholstered in beautiful woodblock prints. Nothing could be more refreshing after a day of Delhi sightseeing than a dip in your private pool, emerging for a drink on the protected patio. Except, that is, for the Lodhi spa, whose treatment rooms each have their own showers, steam rooms, bathtubs and chaises. Read more about the Lodhi.
LAKE COMO: VILLA D’ESTE
Adored For: Understated glamour.
Villa d’Este, on the southwestern edge of the lake, is beloved by Italians and foreigners alike for its excellent service, divine views and sumptuous accommodations. Built in the 16th century for a private family, the twenty-five-acre property features gardens as gorgeous—and historic—as the public spaces. A full afternoon could be spent wandering the grounds amid jasmine and azalea bushes. Meals at Verandah are princely affairs, while the more relaxed Grill is a favorite among guests, thanks to its alfresco setting on the lake. Read more about Villa d’Este.
MEXICO: ONE & ONLY PALMILLA
Adored For: A perfect mix of uber-glamorous and dressed-down chic.
Part family-friendly enclave, part indulgent adult playground, the One & Only Palmilla maintains a delicate balance between laid-back and stylish-chic, mostly thanks to the welcoming and caring staff. The hub of the property is a traditional Mexican hacienda, complete with a whitewashed chapel and bell tower, and the surrounding twenty-five lushly planted acres sport lavish guest suites with breathtaking views of the Sea of Cortez. Two notable stars: the four-bedroom, extravagant Villa Cortez, and famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who oversees all of the property’s dining options. Read more about One & Only Palmilla.
MOZAMBIQUE: VAMIZI ISLAND LODGE
Adored For: A far-flung honeymoon must.
About seven miles long and a fraction of that wide, Vamizi Island, off the coast of Mozambique, sports an oasis-like hotel and offers it all; turtle nests endlessly occupy, soft, white beaches induce a dream-like haze and meals of only the freshest fish delight. But the emphasis here is on the sand, the sea and the creatures that live in the clear blue waters; the snorkeling and scuba diving in this area are world-renowned. Island time is the only time at Vamizi, but even that runs out too quickly.
NEW YORK CITY: THE LOWELL HOTEL
Adored For: Discreet luxury.
If you want to live like a local on the Upper East Side, check into this homey hotel on East 63rd Street. With excellent service (the concierge can arrange for theater tickets and babysitters) and tasteful upscale interiors (muted color schemes and mahogany furniture), the beloved hotel will make even the most nomadic feel at home. If that’s not enough, en-suite wood-burning fireplaces seal the deal. Read more about the Lowell Hotel.
NEW ZEALAND: KAURI CLIFFS
Adored For: Unforgettable views and excellent golf.
The cottages at Kauri Cliffs have two separate suites, each of which, after you pass through a small entryway and into a large bedroom with a fireplace and sitting area, opens onto a private porch that looks out over the gleaming Pacific. It was those exact views that prompted Julian Robertson, Jr. and his wife, to snatch up the stretch of land along the New Zealand coastline in 1995; when Robertson, an avid golfer, first saw the 4,000-acre farm and the way it hugged the cliffside, he thought it cried out for a golf course, and the luxurious lodge soon followed. Golfers have come from around the world for the Dave Harman–designed championship course since it opened, but even non-golfers delight in the cozy living quarters and abundant activities, from scuba-diving to sheep shearing. Read more about Kauri Cliffs.
SEYCHELLES: NORTH ISLAND
Adored For: Romantic, barefoot luxury and spectacular coral reefs.
In a place as unspoiled as the Seychelles (the country’s slogan is “as pure as it gets”), North Island made sure to carefully blend the resort into the landscape while providing the ultimate tropical escape for guests. The emphasis is on space and privacy, with only eleven guest villas, all roughly 5,000 square-feet and handcrafted by Seychellois craftsman with local wood, stone and thatching. The stilted villas are delightfully breezy, and couples appreciate the emphasis on privacy; guests can pull a rope across their villa entrance for peace and quiet. There’s equipment available for biking, hiking, kayaking and snorkeling, and divers have the chance to explore part of the world’s longest coral reef, with such an abundance of marine life it has been nicknamed the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.’ Read more about North Island.
SOUTH AFRICA: ROYAL MALEWANE
Adored For: A lavish safari experience.
Royal Malewane is a jewel of a property in Thornybush, a private game reserve in Kruger National Park, which means off-roading is allowed, and wildlife is plentiful. Made up of a main lodge (with just nine suites) and a private six-bedroom villa called Africa House—hand-carved Tunisian wooden doors mark the entrance, while beaded necklaces and Japanese screens detail the interior—the property is full of personality and is supremely pampering. The staff is so intuitive it sometimes seems like magic: hot water bottles and fleece blankets appear in the Land Rovers on chilly mornings and delicious snacks are ever-flowing from the kitchen. Read more about Royal Malewane.
SOUTH AFRICA: TSWALU KALAHARI
Adored For: A tailor-made stay.
Tswalu Kalahari, meaning new beginning, is the Oppenheimer family’s 13-suite lodge that exists “to restore the Kalahari to itself.” A side effect of the family’s trailblazing conservation efforts is that this rare corner of the Kalahari Desert, with its black desert rhino, 380,000-year-old cave drawings, precious colonies of meerkat and aardvark, and dramatic Korannaberg Mountains, is free to explore and admire from the luxe confines of the designer lodge. Unlike most lodges, guests set their own schedule here, so a pre-dawn game drive can be swapped for a Champagne breakfast in bed or a spa treatment. Oppenheimer’s own five-suite lodge, flanked by two mountains, is available to rent, as is the very special “sleep out” deck that lets you slumber under the stars. Read more about Tswalu Kalahari.
TENNESSEE: BLACKBERRY FARM
Adored For: A luxurious yet down-home vibe, and the resident truffle dogs.
This fabled farmstead retreat in Walland, Tennessee lures laureled chefs and enlightened bons vivants, many of whom return year after year to partake in a certain wholesome hedonism with deep southern roots. Free time can be filled with private whiskey tastings, treatments in the 12,000-square-foot spa and the many, many outdoor pursuits on offer, from mounted foxhunting to fly-fishing. By the end of a stay in these ancient foothills, guests may be persuaded that Blackberry Farm is not just the relic of an irretrievable past, but an intoxicating declaration that our relationship with the land can be reclaimed. Read more about Blackberry Farm.
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