Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld



Inevitably, when people hear about my work reviewing luxury hotels, I'm kindly accused of having 'the world's best job'. My knee jerk reply is 'beware of jobs that sound too good' – but, when I reflect, I'm able to admit that this life does confer plenty of highlights.

One of the most memorable was also one of my first, when I was sent from New York City in winter to Thailand to interview the general manager of Trisara (trisara.com), Phuket's swankiest resort. Since that first hotel assignment around 10 years ago, I have managed to come up with at least one plausible story idea each year that requires me to check in again at Trisara, be it the launch of their six-handed massage, delectable new seaside Mediterranean seafood grill or lavish private residences. Each time, I'm awed by the blue Andaman view from every vantage point in my sprawling pool villa, by the lush tropical foliage tended to by three dozen gardeners and by the Swiss precision of the Thai staff, at least one of whom always remembers to leave turndown chocolate truffles for two, even when I check in alone.

Often I'm asked for indulgent weekend escapes within a few hours of Hong Kong. Eyes pop open wide when I reply that one of my all-time favourite retreats lies just 45 minutes by car from Taipei's international airport, Taiwan. Oenophiles will appreciate rare sips in the world class wine cellar at Villa 32 (villa32.com), the personal playground of a Taipei tai-pan turned ultra-plush five-suite hot springs retreat on the camphor and maple leaf slopes of Yangming Mountain. Seven years after my first visit, I still can't decide its most indulgent detail: the Hermes horse bit utensils in the gourmet restaurant, the mineral rich curative waters infused with jade green and white sulphur or massages in the spa where all therapists train in qi gong to develop uniquely precise chops.

Occasionally editors send me to investigate new properties beyond Asia, even as far as the Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, known for its powdery sand beaches and breathtaking Mayan ruins. I never saw those. Instead, I spent every waking moment – and many a siesta – within the 250-acre grounds of Hacienda Petac (haciendapetac.com), a five-bedroom villa magnificently converted from a 17th century sisal plantation. A driver was on call, had I felt compelled to explore the ancient pyramids at Uxmal and Chichen Itza. I did send him out once, to round up some of the region's renowned hammocks, while I stayed happily ensconced on one by the tree-shaded swimming pool. I can still hear the sunset serenades and taste the fresh fruit margaritas that signalled the impending arrival of homemade tamales.

Only once have I reviewed a hotel so exceptional that, while I loved it, I could not bear to stay there alone, an unfortunate occupational hazard. Elephant ear palm fronds and tropical flowers heighten the seclusion in each of the 30 villas at Maia Seychelles (maia.com.sc), where day beds, the infinity pool and outdoor bathtub have been strategically angled towards the Indian Ocean. Without a second champagne glass to toast against my own, I raised my bubbly filled flute over the azure waters that sparkled against a stunning cotton candy hued sunset, grateful for this life but aware of the trade-offs.


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