Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa

This iconic resort, on Penang Island, off the Malaysian coast, reopened September 28th after a 21-month rehab, much needed after 33 years of action.

I wanted to check out the ‘love of life and its pleasures’ that Rasa Sayang means, but the usual one-night stand had to be extended since I arrived at 10pm and left at 6.30am. As my car drew up after the 45 minute ride from the airport, I was met by a posse of absolutely charming employees and taken upstairs to room 2522, on the fifth – top – floor. May we take your photo? Gosh, how would this look, after such a long day.

Once alone, I quickly ordered room service, unpacked and, hey presto, dinner arrived. For a simple salad and pasta request I got a wheeled table with white china and crispest white linens, highlighted by an old-gold ikat mat that matched the orchids. The napkin was stylishly folded through a striped shell napkin ring. Dishes were covered metal hats that could have been designed by Philippe Starck – and the al dente penne, liberally covered in what seemed like a no-calorie ‘cream’ soy sauce with baby asparagus bits, was totally delicious. Designer baths, hinting at the elixir of youth and wellness, are complimentary, and a rose petal and pink French clay special had been drawn in the marble bathtub that was sexily out on my balcony. I slunk into it, hoping there were no Peeping Toms around, wallowed marvellously, and collapsed into bed.

In the morning I had a good look around my room, a 680 sq ft Premier category in the Rasa Wing, the super-luxury category of what is now a 304-room resort. The space flows, from marble foyer to marble bathroom, with one glass wall (with blind) looking into the bed part of the main room, which is divided by a ten-foot work desk with lots of electric sockets and speedy wired broadband – there is wireless in public areas, including gardens. The bed is like a mass of white clouds, its bed head a wall of silk panels in the room’s colours, namely golds, persimmon, soft brown. The mini bar comes with a blue martini shaker, the wall-set flat-screen is Philips, the safe has a little box for jewellery, and the notepaper has my name on it. Light switches are all labelled (someone has a lot of common sense, here).

Through the all-glass wall fronting the terrace, I could now see how fabulous the grounds are. Nine of the trees on the total-30 acre estate are protected rainforest species, apparently over a century old. The newly-landscaped walkways and immaculate lawns include a circular arena for weddings. The wing has its own curvilinear salt-water pool – down one S-shaped wall, you can swim past 27 small horizontal water jets into a water protuberance (like the sticking out part of a jigsaw piece) which is a vitality pool. Beyond are shady lawns with wood lounge chairs and tables. Beach concierges bring you discreet wireless bells: ring, and someone comes running, or perhaps cycling, to take your order. Beyond this is the sandy beach, which from later this month will have a full dive centre.

My wake-up run took me around all this, and the executive (that is to say bijou) golf course, and pair of tennis courts, and the neighbouring, more-casual, Garden wing of the hotel. I looked back up at the Rasa wing’s roofs, each of which is built in typical Minangkabau style, like two big open books, spine up, the whole then sprayed with dark brown paint. I admired the clever layout of balconies which means no-one can in fact see anyone having their outdoor baths.

The theatre-style breakfast buffet, in Spice Market, was copious, with fabulous juices-to order, and Greek-type home made yogurt and exotic

fruits. There is Malay hot if you want it, or Chinese, English, Japanese, or anything: all serving stations are decorated with mammoth sculptures of brightly-coloured spices from a local merchant. There is a good gym but most guests, who were predominantly European during my stay, prefer to spend the day outside, being energetic but in the main lounging in a private area somewhere in the grounds. This is a resort to get lost in, if you want. Rasa guests can also lounge in their lobby, which serves complimentary-everything day and evening long. There are 550 employees for the whole resort, and every one seems to know every guest’s name: perhaps the arrival photos are used as aide-memoirs.

It was fortunate that I had a reservation at CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, which appears to be doing thriving business from both sexes. Even getting there is an experience. You hardly realise there is a winding meter-wide walkway that, shielded by a tall bamboo walls, wraps around that curvilinear pool. After 60 steps I found myself in a ten-sided Tibetan house, topped by a giant bell. I was led to Namshe, one of 11 ‘homes’ in the adjacent ‘spa village’. Inside, a foyer led to full bathroom one side, the treatment room the other. Beyond, shielded by an eight foot stone wall and more bamboo, was an outdoor tub for two. My feet were washed, my face was treated, my feet massaged while the mask set. Delicate bells awoke me (a treatment is a great place for a quick shut-eye).

Back in my room, butler Syed had returned my laundry, in a big brown leather box, with interior compartments, each laundered item individually wrapped in crisp tissue paper. The bowl of whole fruits, under a gauze hat, had been replenished. It was time for dinner at the Feringgi Grill, where couples seemingly anonymous by day have been transformed by smart-casual shirts for him and mostly sleeveless-long frocks and quite a lot of jewellery (hers). Walls here are old bricks, the carpet cranberry, table linens white. Add candelabra bearing three twisted gold candles, and mottled green display mats produced by a local glass blower, and view into the night garden or, looking in, across to the kitchen. There is lots of table-side service, with real flamb├ęs performed with theatrical panache. Regulars head straight for the beef, mostly Australian. 60% opt for the kobe-style wagyu, which is three times the price of merely grain-fed. Rasa Sayang attracts the value-seeking connoisseur rather than the quality-less penny-pincher.

My bed had been turned down, and my photo, taken the previous night, stood in a souvenir leather frame with the hotel’s name on it. Clever. No wonder there are so many repeat guests here. The night was all too short, room service breakfast arrived with enough of that yogurt to keep centenarians living for many more decades. Downstairs, still pre-dawn, GM Arbind Shrestha – surely the only Nepalese-American GM in the ultra-luxury hotels industry – waited. Well, he said, I am a hotelier. This is my job, and passion. Butler Syed was also there, and he came with me all the way back to the airport.

Options – Your Corporate Retreat in a Luxury Condominium Resort – Golf, Water, Spa

As a hotelier, this article will be a little different from most that I write. Today, I will be discussing the option of planning your corporate retreat in a luxury condominium resort.

Having spent over thirty years in hotels, I normally think of conventions and meetings being held in hotels or large convention halls for City Wide Conventions where housing is at the surrounding hotels.

However, I recently wrote about having a very small corporate retreat in a cabin, in the mountains. For extremely small groups, cabins works fine.

But, let us talk today about a corporate retreat for small to mid size groups, from ten to one hundred and discuss anther option. What I am talking about is a facility to not only conduct meetings, but to relax and enjoy.

Recently I had the opportunity to stay at the RiverStone Resort & Spa in the Mountains of East Tennessee. To quote them, “Are you more business than pleasure?” “Or are you more pleasure than business?” They are a luxury condominium resort in a majestic Smokey Mountain setting.

But, what makes them different from a regular convention facility?

First, and foremost are the one hundred twenty five luxury condominiums they offer instead of hotel rooms. Each one has spacious interiors and customized details. Offered are one bedroom to four bedroom units that all have a nine foot and/or volume ceilings. Each unit has granite counter tops in the kitchen area, a large flat screen TV in each living area and an outside balcony overlooking the river on one side or a premier golf course on the other.

What fascinated me was the ability to take your family along with you and have a common area to eat, watch TV and socialize. This works even better than a hotel suite, because you have a complete kitchen with a nice dining table. Granted, you can eat out if you want, but I always like the option of a few items from the refrigerator.

Second, it has a first class spa right in the facility. Enjoy it by yourself or have a “Couples” massage. Body treatments, natural nail services and facials are also available, to mention just a few.

Third, enjoy the water. RiverStone Resort & Spa has a large glassed in pool for those so inclined, but outdoors they offer a 300 foot heated lazy river. Just hop in one of their inner tubes, float around and relax. My wife and I spent almost an hour enjoying the lazy river relaxing and letting all of our cares float away. We will do this again.

Fourth, golf is available for the avid outdoorsman. With one of the premier public golf courses right next door, you have the option of playing by yourself or setting up a tournament. You may be lucky enough to get one of the balconies overlooking the 7th fairway of the Gatlinburg Golf Course where you can relax and watch them play several holes.

Fifth, unique places are nearby. Dollywood Theme Park is less than a mile and a half away, right on the same street. Pigeon Forge also offers endless shopping, craft shops and musical showcase theaters within walking distance.

Sixth, first class meeting facilities are available for up to 150 classroom style along with wonderful inside and outside areas for wedding receptions. One balcony overlooks the Pigeon Forge River and is a perfect setting for receptions, breaks and lunches. Additionally available is a spacious workout room with multiple equipment options, plus a game room for all that includes a pool table and an air hockey table.

Finally, perfect balance. “Simply, it’s all about achieving a perfect balance of relaxation and wellness, and creating the ultimate escape” as stated by the RiverStone Resort & Spa. To me, it is a facility to not only conduct meetings, but to relax and enjoy. Take your family along, relax in luxury condominiums, enjoy the lazy river, golf, shopping, musical theaters and maybe spend a few minutes in a business meeting. Can you think of better way to have a Corporate Retreat? So, think different and deviate from your norm. You will enjoy it!

All Inclusive Palace Resorts – Playacar Palace Riviera Maya

The Playacar Palace is an exceptional all inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, situated just south of Cancun on the Caribbean Sea. This modern retreat is in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, which is renowned for its luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and the second longest barrier reef in the world. With its white sand beaches, clear blue green waters, and proximity to the Fifth Avenue shopping district, the Playacar Palace is in an excellent location and an exceptional environment where you will be able to discover the true heart of the Riviera Maya.

All of the hotels two hundred and eight beautifully appointed rooms have double Jacuzzis, twenty-four hour room service and balconies, most with a sea view. The new “Palace Beds” will guarantee a restful slumber. The state of the art bedding is finished with lavish sheets, duvets, shams and five pillows. Each room has a satellite TV with remote, mini bar, liquor dispenser, coffee maker, and individually controlled A/C. For guests’ convenience, purified water, in room digital safe, alarm clock, hair dryer, bathrobe and slippers, wireless internet and iron and ironing board are provided as well.

The outdoor pool has a swim up bar. Lounge chairs are available at both the pool and the beach, with beach towels provided for free. Guests who prefer shade rather than sun can take a soothing rest under any of the beach palapas. Just a stroll away is a luxury spa and golf club (also a part of the All Inclusive Palace Resorts brand of destinations), which offers an eighteen-hole golf course and a state-of-the-art spa facility. Guests of the Playacar Palace can stay at one and play at both!

Meals can be enjoyed at any one of the fabulous restaurants and bars in the hotel, all of which have a relaxed dress code. The Cafe del Mar in the central lobby has buffet dinners of international and Mexican cuisine and is also open for breakfast and lunch. The Terrazza offers Italian cuisine. The MoMoNoHaNa in the central lobby brings fine Asian cuisine. The Aquabar is a pool and snack bar offering service until 11 pm. The Luna Lounge serves drinks with Thai hors d’oeuvres in the evening until 2 am. The Cielo Bar in the lobby is open all day until 1 am. So as you can see, there will never be a lack of food and drink at the Playacar Palace, not matter what your tastes or what time you wish to eat or drink!

Guests of the all inclusive Playacar Palace resort can relax knowing they’re in a unique environment in a historic playground that is sure to make any vacation a memorable one. The splendor of the Playacar Palace has everything anyone needs for the total enjoyment of vacationers.

One visit and you’ll enjoy fun in the sun, beautiful beaches, strolling around town, spa treatments, golf, recreational activities, fine dining, entertainment and fun activities…all at affordable all inclusive prices!