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A Perfect Day In Ubud

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Wherever your villa is in Bali, do make sure you head for the hills and spend at least a day exploring Ubud. This once-sleepy village has grown into a bustling hub of activity since Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love film phenomenon almost a decade ago. Don’t wait for the annual Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Food Festival and Ubud Writers Festival; you’ll reap rewards with every visit to the island’s acclaimed cultural, creative and spiritual heart. Just ask your villa manager or concierge to organise a car and driver for the day, and then leave bright and early to give yourself as much time as possible to explore at leisure. Here we share a few ideas for your itinerary.

Make your first stop the famed Monkey Forest on the southern edge of Ubud – home to hundreds of long-tailed Macaque monkeys who are as comfortable with selfies as they are cunning/cheeky with stealing bananas (which you can buy at the entrance). It’s a magical place to visit before the crowds descend, as you can soak up the mystical atmosphere of the 14th Century Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, one of three temples within the sanctuary.

From here, it’s a 15-minute stroll up Jalan Monkey Forest to Ubud Art Market – a popular stop for those seeking souvenirs. Small shops line this road, and if you’re feeling peckish, stop at Three Monkeys Café for a late breakfast overlooking a rare central-Ubud rice field – or make a beeline for Jalan Goutama for a huge choice of warungs and world cuisine.

Wander through the market marvelling at the kitsch, collectible and covetable, jostling with the tour group crowds and enjoying the Balinese stallholders banter. (While there, why not pick up a sarong and sash so you can be appropriately attired to allow temple visits during your trip – though you’ll be able to hire these at many of the more popular temples around the island). Then head across the street to the ornate Ubud Royal Palace; the front section is open to the public free of charge, and the traditional ankul ankul gate provides a splendid backdrop for family photos. Even more photogenic is the water garden of Pura Taman Saraswati with its carpet of lotus flowers.

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An Amazing Thai Christmas For You and Your Whole Family

in Culture/Destinations/Dining/Families/Recreation by

How do you plan to celebrate Christmas this year? Imagine idyllic beaches, gentle sea breeze, swaying palm trees, and gourmet dining. Add to that, a touch of culture with traditional Thai dances and stunning views that reach for the horizon. A stress-free holiday where you can laze in bed until noon and lounge under the sun all day. Beach volleyball, a swim in the pool and sunset cocktails to end the day. Do we have your attention? You can have all this, and more, if you head to an elite haven in Thailand this Christmas.

 No more sweating it out in the kitchen to prepare a Christmas meal. Sit back as your villa chef arranges the most exquisite feast. Wine and dine with your nearest and dearest, and say cheers to ending the year on a high note. You’ll want for nothing in Thailand.

Phuket

If you decide to go to Phuket for the holidays, Baan Paa Talee is a magnificent and modern estate set on top of a cliff. The villa can fit up to 20 guests and there is a wealth of activities you can do nearby, including exploring the Andaman Sea aboard a luxury yacht charter, scuba diving or snorkelling to explore the enchanting underwater world. The beautiful sights of Phang Nga Bay, Raya Islands, Similan Islands, Koh Phi Phi and more are all within a day’s sail. You can delve into Phuket’s decadent brunches, DJ dance parties and romantic sunset dinners or discover the rich history and get a glimpse of local life on a cultural tour of Phuket Old Town.

Or if you prefer, you can simply stay in the villa and enjoy the dining room which can accommodate up to 20 guests, play a game on the pool table in the games area, have a karaoke party and or just lounge at the bar by the pool deck. Events with up to 80 guests can be arranged, so get your Christmas party-planning on. Make it a trip to remember.

If you’re looking for a cosy villa by the ocean for your Christmas holiday, try Villa Malee Sai. Discover the true meaning of Christmas as you spend time with your family or friends in this private and charming villa.

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Have an Unforgettable Christmas in Bali

in Destinations/Dining/Families/Recreation by

It’s that time of the year again: contemplating where to spend the year-end holidays, vaguely thinking about your list of presents, wondering what kind of Christmas gathering you’ll have. Do you repeat everything on the menu from last year? What decor should you have this year? Aren’t you just bored with doing the same old thing? Thinking of where to have Christmas dinner – where it isn’t booked solid? Sound familiar? Wouldn’t you rather be somewhere where all these errands could be taken care of, leaving you free to enjoy quality time with your loved ones? A villa vacation in Bali is your best bet, and we have handpicked incredible elite havens for you to choose from.

It’s time to party

Spending Christmas with friends? With personal plunge pools, world-class entertainment systems, private chefs to set up a delicious Christmas barbecue and staff to mix exotic cocktails, these villas promise an unforgettable party for you and your group.

At Villa Asada, away from the crowds of Bali, you are ushered into a well-kept secret that will amaze you. The large four-bedroom villa overlooks calm blue waters, with sea views that will make you swoon. The villa provides you with nothing but the very best, including an 18-metre pool, a gym to work off those holiday calories, a bar for sipping cocktails and the option to dine alfresco under frangipanis. If you want to dress up and don your favourite little black dress, you can opt for a more formal soiree in the dining hall. The choice is yours. Best of all, Western, Asian and vegetarian dishes as well as kids’ meals are available throughout your stay. Ask your personal chef to create a Christmas feast like none other, and he will be only too happy to oblige.

Kaba Kaba Estate welcomes you into its grand, open living room, which has a wall adorned with precious objects d’art and antiques that look towards a humongous swimming pool with dark gray tiles. The main entrance is filled with cabinets and curiosities from around the world, including a giant female Buddha, a welcoming bench and a staircase leading upstairs. The estate is large enough to accommodate up to 14 adults and four children, so don’t hold back those invitations. An added bonus is the large garden,

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Chef du jour: Villa Amanzi Kamala

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The first thing you see upon stepping inside Villa Amanzi Kamala is the grand and luxurious 180-degree view of the ocean. Surrounded by modern furnishings and a large expanse, you feel as though you’re floating above the water in your own private paradise.

Below you is the games room in which a large boulder the size of a hill rests – untouched from the original place Mother Nature left it in. This forms part of the villa, and leaves you breathless. On the 2nd floor, aptly-equipped bedrooms fill a large hallway. You will want for nothing.

But the real draw of the venue is the modern kitchen, where your chef will be able to make you anything you ask for. We interviewed Villa Chef Thietam to get his insights into cooking in this beautiful villa.

Elite Havens:  Hi, Chef Thietam. How did you learn to cook?

Villa Chef Thietam: I started when I was 18 years old; I’m 35 now. I was working with people who knew how to cook, and I learned to cook from them and then I started cooking on my own. And later on, I worked in hotels so I learned to cook from there too.

EH:      What did you prepare for us today?

VCT:     Thai beef salad, crab meat in yellow curry, and crispy pork.

EH:      Why did you cook these dishes for us today?

VCT:     These are our most requested dishes. Our villa guests usually ask me to prepare these.

EH:      Are these your specialties?

VCT:     In addition to these dishes, my specialty is actually fusion food. Usually when you go out, you   will see things like prawn or chicken Pad Thai but I like to make scallop Pad Thai. It’s not traditional. We don’t really have scallops here, we have to import them. So when people serve scallops here, they’re usually just sauteed with garlic and pepper. But me, I like to cook them Thai style, so I use them in Pad Thai instead of prawns.

EH:      What do you do in your free time? Do you eat out?

VCT:     I like to fish and I like to look for fresh ingredients and then I like to go home and make new          

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Paradise on Natai Beach

in Destinations/Families/Recreation by

Natai Beach is a quiet and peaceful 10-kilometre stretch of white sand with an attractive blend of unspoilt nature and stunning luxury villas. Situated in Phang Nga province, only 25 minutes away from Phuket Airport, Natai Beach is the perfect place to escape the crowds and discover the soft sand and lush landscapes of the less-traveled Andaman coast.

There are only a few facilities to be found on Natai Beach – it is not your normal tourist beach. There are no wandering peddlers, no beach chairs or umbrellas – only a random beach massage cabana and some long tailboats. There is nothing except the sun, sea, and sand – and these are the reasons why this destination is perfect for a stay in a beachfront villa.

There are also some fantastic activities and attractions that are within a short distance of Natai Beach if you are willing to put your cocktail down and head out of your villa.

Phang Nga Bay Viewpoint

The sunsets from Natai Beach are great, but the sunrise over the limestone casts of Phang Nga Bay are spectacular. The recently discovered Samet Nangshe viewpoint is 25 minutes away from and it’s well worth an early start to watch the sunrise. It’s not as popular as many of the viewpoints in Phuket so it isn’t crowded. It is becoming a popular place for photographers who want to capture the perfect sunrise. The clear night skies with millions of stars are not too bad either.

Sarasin Bridge

Sarasin Bridge connects the mainland of Phuket and Phang Nga and is known as one of the most beautiful bridges in Thailand. It has a very interesting history: it is named after Pote Sarasin, former Prime Minister of Thailand, but it is best known for an unforgettable tragedy. In 1973, two young lovers, one from a wealthy family and one from a poor family, jumped off the bridge and took their own lives. The story is this: the family of K. Gew, a girl from a wealthy family, forbade her from seeing K.Dam, a local bus driver. They tied themselves together and jumped. A Thai movie about the lovers, The Bridge of Love, was released in 1987.

Views from the bridge are beautiful,

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