A short drive to the desert from Dubai

1. The villa suite was stunning, it’s design a triumph from the hand colourful Balinese carved doorways, carved canopy bed, thatched roof, private walled tropical garden, open sided stand-alone living pavillion just out from the sleeping area. Then there is the very sexy, very private, outdoor shower, except for a curious monkey, and a walled courtyard that would defeat any prying eyes. Balinese are friendly by nature and with a smile, a staff member who had a master key to the front gate had just laid out my breakfast after I had my morning dip in the private plunge pool. However, as I sat munching on the tropical fruit at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Jimbaran, Bali, amongst all this luxury and pampering, it suddenly struck me. I was alone. Even the brown beady eyed gecko who starred up at me from the stone floor, didn’t hang around. How wonderful it would have been to have had a companion. Thinking more about that idea, it occurred to me that this would be the five star venue for a tryst. Yes, this would certainly top my list as one of the best assignation sites. The idea of privacy, food with the press of a button, overlooking the blue seas, sharing one of the large private treatment rooms at the very spacious spa with an adorned one got me thinking about other journeys, other destinations for sensuous sojourns. Hotels for clandestine meetings became my passion as I continued to travel alone with an eye for seducement.

2. The Residence Hotel and Spa is part of One and Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Although the original idea for the hotel may not have been for rendezvous purposes, they had the circumstances down pat in this idyllic atmosphere. Not one window of any of the suites faces the outside world. Each suite is so private and with the added effect of the healthy vegetation planted around the grounds so that even Indian Jones couldn’t have hacked his way through the shrubs. Neither outsiders or guests who are staying at the two sister hotels on this huge property is welcomed at the restaurant or for that matter, allowed to visit any areas except with an appointment at the very swanky, downstairs, out of the way spa. The hush tones in the small but posh chandelier lobby may be the only place to see anyone, other than in the fairly formal but small restaurant. But then there is always room service!

3. As I continued with my secret agenda travels for the best sensual spots in the world, I was mesmerized by Mom Tri’s Villa Royale, The Gourmet Hotel, in Tata Beach, Phuket. Built as the sumptuous private residence of the royally connected Mom (his royal title) Tri, this Harvard University architect graduate, had built in classical Thai style, a home. Villa Dharma Raksa, sits high on a hill among a garden designed by noted author and style maven, William Warren, overlooking the azure Andaman Sea. Naturally, the chic hideaway is one of the most beautiful accommodations since it was Mom Tri’s very own getaway from Bangkok. Just below this residence another grand space built to include a huge rock, is the former office of Mom Tri and his precious wine cellar. Now that this room is part of the hotel, the cellar causes much amusement as the largest mini bar in the world and bottles are counted each morning. Mom Tri had a sudden inspiration to add on a few dozen rooms and voila a small hotel that deserves the word boutique. There are several small secluded sea terraces tucked away on the property. Here at the hotel, luxury abounds with the island’s multi award winning restaurants within the hotel compound but separated by more gardens and a reception house. At Villa Royale, there is also a spa, very privately located up another hill, passed an antique carved temple gate and a large niched Buddha. The wellness centre offers papayas and tropical fruit rubs which enrich and nourish- with, of course, the opportunity to have treatments in the same room. There is also the choice between two pools , one fresh water, the other salt water both, large enough to swim comfortably but small enough not to invite too many sun worshippers. The sandy beach is a bit of a travail, down a few dozen steps to one of the top beaches, Kata Noi..

4. I couldn’t help but think that, although my next nomination for a seduction venue may be at the other end of the world, Jerejak, an island off Penang and just about 20 minutes from the capital city of Georgetown, is well worth the end result. And what a history this small island has. It’s a 10 minute ferry ride away from the capital city of Georgetown but with a legendary history. Once a leper colony (now stay with me, it gets better), it was also a Russian cemetery (keep reading) and also German submarine base (so that part isn’t romantic!). But now it’s a glorious hotel with a noted spa where there are individual opened side treatment rooms for two, hiking trails for those adventures that have climbed out of bed and wall climbing to keep the body in shape. As for the villas that are very well appointed and extremely private.

5. I love Asia so it wasn’t a difficult decision to head off to the up and coming tourist destination, Cambodia. Of course, Angkor Wat is usually the reason tourists visit but then La Residence d’Angkor in Sien Reap should be reasons number two. Over a small bridge that spans lotus flower filled waters, is a typical Khmer designed lobby. Papa Hemingway would have loved the upstairs dark wood paneled room fitted with several ceiling fans and usually quite empty since most people are off traipsing through the temples. During mid afternoon when the sun is too hot to do much else, the soft breeze wafts through the open windows and this becomes a tea room. Before and after it’s a fine library sitting room and then pre dinner, it’s one of the chicest choices in the small city for drinks while listening to local musicians play their unusual looking instruments. Down a well marked stone pathway and around the swimming pool which features thousands of hand made tiles in every imaginable colour of green, are splendidly decorated rooms. Each has its own balcony , most facing the swimming pool. Here privacy is honoured. The only reason to leave this abode is to roam around the ancient Angkor Wat, the world’s most famous temple, only 10 minutes away. Other than going to the restaurant on the premises for Cambodian dinner and a chance to see young Aspara dancers, a couple could easily seclude themselves from anyone they may know or have met. Besides, the ever so appealing large free form triangular bath does have a come- hither look about it. Ah, it is so Greta Garbo… “I vant to be alone”.

6. Shangri La Hotels are a major team player in the world of chain hotels. They’re usually large, perfectly designed with service that is without fault. Too large for an assignation, you say? Never if you’re in Kowloon’s (Hong Kong) Shangri-La. On the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour (there’s another Shangri La in Central), the waiting doormen usher you in like royalty. From the 20th floor on, the executive floors, are very spacious rooms. Especially applauded are the ones facing the harbour with the lights of the architecturally grand skyscrapers across in Central, the downtown area in Hong Kong Island. With the efficiency of the room staff, they are happy to return at your pleasure to tidy up the room. What makes this hotel so romantically feasible is that thee is an exit on the third floor which leads to the harbour waterfront and the Avenue of Fame walkway. The love struck never have to use the main entrance nor for that matter, do they have to dine in one of the several on-site restaurants, although it would be a shame not to try the award winning Chinese food Shang Palace. What could be more sensuous than eating an exquisite meal? The answer is going to the bowels of the building, walking passed the laundry and the florist and entering the inner and very private sanctum of the wine cellar. It’s not advertised and the likes of Jackie Chan, Hong Kong’s most famous personality often, for privacy’s sake, selects this venue. Surrounded by rare wine, the table is decorated with the finest china and flowers and since the room is never mentioned in their pamphlet, it has, up until now, been a well kept secret. Of course, to cool things off, there is an ice cream bar and not far is the local sport, shopping, with many top designers stores within a stone’s throw.


View from the Villa at Biras Creek Hotel

Seating area on the verandah

7. Closer to home, on this continent, is the Relais & Chateaux rated, Biras Creek Hotel on the Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. On the ½ hour boat ride from the small airport to the isolated 60 room resort, I was quizzing a newly wed couple as to why they decided on this resort as apposed to the better known, more elaborate Little Dix Resort. The groom laughed and with a smile answered, “how could I tell anyone that I was going on my honeymoon to a place called Little Dix?” Getting to Biras Creek is like a tour of how tropical living should be. Elegance without formality. On the tranquil 140 acres property are thick busy green vegetation with shots of colourful, large flower. For drama, there are nature’s gift, huge, carved rocks. On this small island you’ll find a good mix of nature and civilized amenities.

The only time a couple has to see or be seen is at check-in.

The villa suites include a living room, large bedroom, well designer spacious bathrooms and verandah. Two bikes lean against the side of the white bougainvillea filled outside wall for the convenience of the guests. The beach is not easily reachable, and that’s where the wheels come in handy. All the facilities are up and down the various hills and valleys. The restaurant and library are up one hill, the spa down near the water’s edge. With only- guest allowed policy, the spa is usually a busy place. Yoga takes place daily on the outdoor platform overlooking the various blue water. And for couples that can’t bear to be apart there are double massage rooms where the aloe and neem leave concoctions are soothing and revitalizing.


One of the accommodation houses at Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling

8. It would be remiss for this scribe not to mention the land that brought you the Kamma Sutra. India is a patchwork for textures, smells, colours and romance. High in the Himalayas is Windamere Hotel the original Heritage House of the Himalayas. Certainly the location would be a clue for seclusion however this hotel is so well known that it’s necessary to plan well ahead, which should be done anyway for a lover layover. Although the name is quite off putting, TinkerBell’s Cottage is more aptly known as the Honeymoon Cottage. Set apart from the rest of the buildings on the property built on Observatory Hill where Darjeeling had its beginnings, this sweet suite sits on a small hill. TinkerBell comes with all the niceties one could expect from this gem of an hotel. No matter how warm and cozy the hotel accommodations are, a gloved attendant starts the fire in the fireplace early each evening then later places a hot water bottle between the sheets so that snuggling under warm bed covers is part of the service. However, one could only hope that there is enough heat permeating already. The expected privacy comes with a dedicated and very discreet maid/butler. It may be hard to conceive that rolling out of the sack at 3 AM can be romantic but even those needing more bed time would be miserable if they didn’t take advantage of viewing the blazing sunrise on Tiger Mountain, 35 minute car ride away. Watching the blazing colour change on this part of the Himalayan mountains is an awesome but bone chilling experience where winter warm clothing is a must. However, it’s well worth the non challenging climb for the colourful palette vista. Although porridge may not seem like the most sensuous meal of all times, Windamere is noted for theirs and it’s part of the breakfast that’s awaiting from your mid morning return. Either in TinkerBell’s Cottage or the small, intimate dining area, be a bear and have a bowl.. Later in the day, like many Maharajahs and their ranis, (plus other visiting European royalty who have visited this hilltop resort), for those in search of “old” India, there’s the traditional afternoon tea – an indispensable part of the Raj experience. When I visited, (let me insert that I was, unfortunately, again on my own), it was served on the Sunnyside terrace by white gloved waiters carrying silver trays. Some guests prefer to have their tea in Bearpark’s Parlour or Daisie’s Music Room, but the undulating, deep blue and purple valleys that rise in the far distance to snow capped peaks makes a glorious view from any venue. This most rounded romantic trip should include a visit to market square down below, visiting the Buddhist monastery established around 1755, located at the top of the hill. It’s is also where a century later, a Hindu shrine was also built. Other activities are the Windamere Centre for Well Being, Itati, recently opened, Z’ri, the newly opened gift shop, named after a Tibetan stone that is supposed to have sacred and lucky properties, both good omens for a happy tryst.. (Tel 91 0354 54041 Windamere@vsnl.com)

9. Driving in India is a life threatening affair but it’s well worth the risk considering the old fort that awaits you. Two ancient cannon straddle the entrance to Khimsar Fort, established in 1523. It’s easy to get hooked on this unexpected palace turned resort perched on the edge of the Great Thar Desert. History abounds. This was the ancestral home of Rao Karamsiji, the 8th prince of Roa Jodhaji, Maharaja of Jodphur. The accommodations are massive, bathrooms large enough to be an adequate size for a bedroom. Dressing and sitting areas and the huge bedroom with scalloped Rajahstan architectural arches, make this feel very princely. A narrow stone rampart leads to another part of the fort, the domed terrace and the observation area. Breakfast is served here and is pure perfection on the constant sunny days. It isn’t difficult to spend hours lingering over the delectable choices from the buffet followed by a hand in hand, exploration of the property which is a regal sheer delight.

10. New Yorkers, Liz, a magazine executive and Chris, a Wall Street financier, were holding hands over a table at breakfast when I met them. They were on their honeymoon. Sitting here in a remote part of Tanzania at the luxurious tented Grumeti River Camp, they told me it had taken months of researching various global destinations before they decided on this idyllic valley in the western corridor of the Serengeti National Park. And they couldn’t have chosen a more romantic and private spot in the world. It’s roughing it in Ritz style.

From a blanket of Nile Cabbage leaves in the Grumeti River, just past the long narrow garden, out popped a huge hippo, exhaling and inhaling before submerging again. More discreet were the crocodiles which keep a lower profile at this time of the day, also hidden away under the cabbage leaves. However, all the couple wanted was to get to one of the 10 canvas, beautifully furnished ensuite accommodations where they could dash into the outdoor shower. Among the décor is a Phillip Starck inspired conical sink, quite a departure for a tent in a bush. During the day, the focus is on game viewing drives. And this being the heart of Africa’s greatest wilderness, a sighting of a dazzle of zebra, pack of hyena, journey of giraffe, crash of rhino, raft of hippo, heard of buffalo and troop of baboon, makes for an exciting journey before Liz and Chris headed back to their sumptuous deluxe tent.

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