If you’re intending to surprise your other half with a memorable getaway, here are some options, according to the head of brands and marketing for Alila Hotels and Resorts
What are some marks of an enjoyable stay at a resort? Staff who treat you like family, spotting wildlife when you least expect it, or a candlelit dinner on the beach, under a starlit sky?
Doris Goh, head of brands and marketing for Alila Hotels and Resorts, now part of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, knows it all too well.
The word Alila means ‘surprise’ in Sanskrit, and with this, Goh endeavours to ensure that each guest of Alila – there are currently 16 hotels and resorts in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Cambodia and India, with more to come – enjoys an extraordinary stay. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything mind blowing or over the top. In fact, it’s all about the least expected and underrated moments.
We pick her brain on some of her most memorable travel experiences, and the hotels that have left an indelible mark on her with the personal touches and charming experiences they offer.
Sabona Wildlife Reserve
Where: Cape Town, South Africa
Goh says: “Sabona Wildlife Reserve has beautiful lodges and tented villas along with passionate guides to educate visitors on the wildlife and the environment. As a city dweller, I particularly enjoyed the silence and sounds of the wild, as it’s different from the city buzz I’m used to. Each safari trip proved to be a surprise. On one particular trip, we were out on the trail of a white lion only to realise that the king of the jungle paid a visit to our lodge; everyone rushed back to base camp in hopes of catching catch a glimpse.”
Where: Kanazawa, Japan
Goh says: “This ryokan is located in the historical Yamashiro town, which is one of the rare cities that wasn’t destroyed during World War II. It was designed by Japanese architect Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama. The highlight of our trip was when the owner of the ryokan welcomed us into his home with a traditional tea ceremony. His wife also led the daily yoga sessions each morning.”
Jacquemine Luxury Guesthouse & Art Gallery
Where: Brugge, Belgium
Doris says: “The guesthouse has since permanently shut down, but this was one of my more memorable stays. Located in the historical centre of Brugge, this century-old guesthouse was owned and managed by Jacquemine and her artist husband. There were just three bedrooms, which meant we enjoyed a lot of face time and interaction with the couple. Jacquemine made it a point to take her guests on art and architectural tours, and she served the most amazing home-cooked breakfasts.”
Where: Bordeaux, France
Doris says: “There are just five cosy suites with panoramic views of the valley and the Saint-Emilion vineyard. It’s truly a one of a kind experience, as it felt like an oasis for travellers to indulge in a piece of heaven while on the road. What struck me was how everything here was very personal: the food was made from scratch, the music playlist was curated to our taste, and activities were organised based on our interests.”
Alila Jabal Akhdar
Where: Al Hajar Mountain, Oman
Doris says: “I may be slightly biased, but Alila Jabal Akhdar is one of my favourite resorts. It’s perched on the peak of the Jabal Akhdar mountain, Oman, (also known as Green Mountain), which lies 2,000m above sea level. This design of the resort takes inspiration from abandoned villages on the mountain, and traditional Omani architecture. The resort’s central location makes it a suitable base for exploring the region, there are many walking trails and treks on the Via Ferrata. The restaurant also grows excellent organic produce on the mountain. Guests may also explore the Omani rose farms when it is in season.”