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Influencer of the Day: Nikita Willy

in Culture/Destinations/People by

One of Indonesia’s biggest stars, Nikita Purnawa Willy was born in 1994, in the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra. The renowned actress, singer and model has 6.1 million followers on Instagram and is a national icon. Her rise to fame began when she was only 8 years old, as a TV commercial model. Nikita recently became a vegetarian and aims to be more environment-friendly. This desire extends to her beauty businesses as well – she is the owner of Dreamy Skincare and Dreamy Clinic. We chatted with Nikita during her stay at one of our elite havens, Villa Windu Sari.  

Elite Havens:  How was Ramadan? Any unforgettable memory this year to share with us?

Nikita Willy: This year, Ramadan was quite hard for me. I was mostly shooting on location, under hot weather conditions, while fasting at the same time. There was scene where I needed to cry while delivering a romantic line. That was perhaps the hardest one to do while I was fasting.

 EH: What special tradition do you have in your family for Eid ul Fitr?

NW: I always stay home with my family at least for 3 days during the Eid ul Fitr holiday. Eating Eid food and spending time with close ones. Every person in the family who is not married yet, gets special treats from older family members, presents or some cash.

But this year is very special for another reason. For the first time, I’ve indulged myself by flying with family to Bali on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, and staying at an Elite Havens villa. I am so excited to be in the villa, and to spend my Eid ul Fitr holiday with friends and family.

EH: What is your favorite Eid ul Fitr food? Does your mom cook that for you?

NW: I belong to Padang, West Sumatra. The traditional food from my place is ‘Bebek Gulai Hijau’. My mom doesn’t cook this dish because it is quite hard to make in Jakarta. So instead, we ask our family in Padang every year to send it to Jakarta.

EH: This is your second time staying with Elite Havens,

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Fabulous Fun on Father’s Day

in Destinations/Families/Recreation by

He’s the one who took you to the doctor when you fell off your bike; and the one who taught you how to ride it in the first place. He hugged you tight whether or not you got As, and didn’t mind the mess in your room. He picked you up from your first dance party and opined that nobody was good enough for you. Through it all, you counted on him for the best advise and unwavering support. He will always be special, and gifts or words in praise will never be enough.

But there’s something you can do to bring a smile to his face. Surprise him with an unforgettable trip, a holiday of a lifetime. A vacation for the family, away from daily life, where you all can sit around in the evening, chatting up a storm or where he can relax and relive his youth playing with grown-up toys.

We have curated a handpicked list of vacation homes ideal for a Father’s Day getaway, or even just a trip to treat him to the one thing he values the most – quality time with family.

Bali

Pool fun is on the cards at Villa Malaathina, where a large swimming pool sits in the centre of the spacious grounds. Flat-roofed designs accentuate the villa’s special features: a bale by the pool which contains a dining area, a teppanyaki pavilion and a sunset terrace on which three large chairs shaped like giant chocolate Kisses rest. Dad will love the barbecue area and the ready-to-go Bose and Sonos sound systems. Villa Malaathina is in the Umalas region – a blissful rural area in Bali. But Seminyak is only 15 minutes away, where you will find fabulous restaurants, bars and spas.

Nearby, also in the Umalas region, Villa Umah Daun sits overlooking some rice terraces. Indonesian for ‘leaf house’, Villa Umah Daun has five large bedroom suites, a series of pavilions and gorgeous bowed roofs. The living pavilions, containing the dining area and living room, curve around the swimming pool in a charming fashion. Dad will love the relaxed vibe, the villa’s modern design and family appeal. There’s also a tree house, games room, kids’ wading pool and jacuzzi for unlimited fun. Best of all is the climate-controlled wine room;

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Elite Talk with CEO Jon Stonham

in People by

20-year travel veteran, fearless sailor and serial entrepreneur, Elite Havens Group CEO Jon Stonham rarely stands still. How did this British engineer come to be Asia’s luxury villa company maven? What is he up to now?

During the course of his early career, Jon Stonham clocked up many hotel nights – and admits to some disastrous personal hotel choices in Asia along the way; reliable reviews were thin on the ground at that time and local travel agents provided a flawed, under-informed service. Realising he was by no means alone in seeking accurate opinions to guide his choice of hotel led him to start asiahotels.com. Remember, this was in the mid-1990s, when internet marketing was in its infancy. The pioneering website quickly became one of the most popular Asian hotel portals, attracting some 30,000 unique visitors a day; it was the first website to introduce customer reviews in the region, and the first to employ staff specifically to inspect hotels and provide honest independent feedback for potential customers. It also spawned best-selling guides, such as Asia’s Best Hotels & Resorts.

Elite Havens: Tell us, how did an engineer end up owning a villa company?

Jon Stonham:  Frustration. There is a saying, “When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” Well, that’s possible a little drastic, but I was in London and knew I wanted a change. So 25 years ago I moved to Asia and haven’t looked back since. Initially – and I’m talking about a time when the Internet was at its infancy and people barely had email addresses – I was working at Hong Kong Telekom. I made some disastrous hotel choices in those early years and that’s why I started asiahotels.com. As it turns out, my pioneering move into the travel industry was a big success. We sold the company in 2005 and started focusing on villas. Our goal was the same: to help every guest find their perfect holiday villa. Here we are more than 10 years later with over 250 fabulous villas welcoming more than 60,000 guests a year. It’s been an interesting journey!

EH: You took time out between ventures, to do what?

JS: Well, it’s only a four-hour flight from Hong Kong to Singapore [where I’m now based], but my trip took considerably longer – I went on a two-year/12,000-mile sailing trip around Asia.

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Chef du jour: Baan Paa Talee

in Destinations/Dining by

From its elevated position over Cape Amarin, Baan Paa Talee, a sensational nine-bedroom luxury villa estate, commands arresting views of the beautiful Andaman Sea between Kamala and Patong on Phuket’s west coast. Spilling down the hillside, the estate is built over multiple levels, affording privacy and a sense of space, while maximising on stunning vistas.

Guests staying at this unique private estate are treated to luxurious living and dining spaces, both indoors and out. Expect grand halls, high ceilings and outstanding facilities, including a 25-metre pool with an indulgent jacuzzi, a fully equipped gymnasium, relaxing spa, and a media and games room. With plenty of space, this estate is an excellent choice for groups of friends or large families, corporate meets, wellness retreats or special events like weddings.

Food being a major component of any vacation, the modern kitchen at Baan Paa Talee is at the heart of this magnificent luxury estate. We chatted with Chef Ann, as she not only shared her recipe but also cooked Spicy Beef Salad Taco, Thai style, especially for us.

Elite Havens: What is your cooking background?
Chef Ann: I was working at Kanok Buri Resort in Koh Samui as an assistant cook and my tenure there sparked a thirst for excellence. I wanted to learn the art of cooking and become proficient in it. Thus, I decided to enrol in cooking courses.

EH: Did you study cooking? If you did where did you study cooking?
CA: I worked in many kitchens as a assistant chef and then I went to a cooking school in Phuket, where I was trained specifically on how to become a skilled villa chef.

EH: What qualities should one have to be a chef/cook?
CA: A great chef should always be learning and improving, and is one who takes responsibility. However, the most important quality is a passion for cooking.

EH: What did you cook for us today?
CA: Taco Nam Tok Neua (Spicy beef salad taco)

EH: Why did you choose to make this dish for us?
CA: I like this dish because it’s a fusion of two of my favorite cuisines- Thai and Mexican.

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A Delicious Tale of Cooking, Learning and Feasting in Koh Samui

in Culture/Destinations/Dining/Families by

It was a dinner to end all dinners – the perfect introduction to authentic Thai food, served with panache.

It began when our professional dinner host, Joe Sambataro , an American by way of Argentina, taught us how to make cocktails that would keep us happy for the rest of the evening. We started off by grinding limes using a muddler, a contraption resembling a mortar and pestle. “So, we just push and twist and get the juice out. But don’t push too hard because if you do that, you’ll break the skin and that will make your lime juice bitter. So think about something that makes you mad but not too mad, haha,” quipped Joe. We each got to choose our drinks; mine had rum and mango and tasted like a sunny day at the beach.

Joe then asked us how spicy we wanted our dishes to be. “Can I get a show of hands, who likes spicy food? Who likes mildly spicy food? Who doesn’t like spicy food at all?” he asked. “Do you know the best way to communicate your preferences to the staff at a restaurant? I’m going to help you out here. I’m going to teach you some very important phrases that will come in handy. If you don’t like spicy food, you should order your food ‘mai phet’ which means not spicy. Don’t forget to copy my rising intonation! That’s very important!

And if you are okay with a little bit of spice, you can say ‘phet nit noy’ which means mildly spicy. If you want your food medium spicy, you can say ‘kon kaang phet’. And if you like your food very, very spicy, you can order your food ‘phet maak maak’ which loosely translates as spicy very very.” He also cautioned us when we were making our own sauce, “With Thai chilies, take it easy. If you don’t like spice, don’t add spice. If you like a little bit of spice, start with two pieces and try it first. If you like mild, go with four. If you like a whole lot, add as much as you want, but just remember today it’s all fun, but tomorrow, ring of fire!” he added cheekily.

The dinner commenced with three starters, based on traditional Thai recipes.

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