review: phinda mountain lodge, south africa

This would have to be it… the most wonderful place I’ve ever stayed (so far, anyway).

Phinda Mountain Lodge, an andBeyond property, is located near St Lucia in the province of KwaZulu Natal. The lodge itself is located on the Phinda Private Reserve and there are several other lodges within its confines.

The first impression of this place is incredible. We were seated on the main deck for our welcome drink and orientation, and it was hard to take in much information when the view of the mountains and valley is such:

lounge/main deck

lounge/main deck

view over the mountains from the main deck

view over the mountains from the main deck

We were assigned a guide and driver and briefed on the afternoon’s game drive before being shown to our rooms. The rooms could be more accurately described as a villa; a sprawling space with everything one needs, opening up to a beautiful deck complete with loungers, a plunge pool and an outdoor shower. One can sit in the plunge pool and look down onto the plain to watch elephants roam. Or imagine taking a shower afterwards and a giraffe pops his head up to say hello!

We were given extremely strict instructions, however, that after dusk we were not to attempt to enter/exit our rooms without security as the risk of injury was too high (read: being eaten)! No matter, the security guards were so caring and obliging of us that it felt lovely to be looked after so.

my bed - wonderful

my bed – wonderful

The mini bar was extensively stocked (to the point of having cocktail shakers) and this was included in our room rate – no nasty surprises upon checkout!

In the evening, I would arrive to my room thinking to myself “gee, what a day, a long soak in the tub would be beautiful” only to walk into the bathroom and find it already filled – complete with rose petals!

bathroom

bathroom

outdoor area

outdoor area

getting around on game drives with our driver/guide and spotter

getting around on game drives with our driver/guide and spotter

Unforgettable experiences are guaranteed at Phinda, whether they be sundowners on a hill overlooking a herd of elephants, tracking a rhino on foot, or a candlelit braai feast in the middle of nowhere. The wonderful guides and spotters are extremely well-educated on the wildlife, but the highlight for me was having an in-depth discussion on the universe with our guide while star-gazing. I thought I knew quite a bit on this topic but he put me to shame!

All in all the three days/two nights spent here on safari were absolutely incredible and I’d recommend it to anyone. The only negative about my stay was that hubby wasn’t there to share the experience; no matter – we’ll be staying here when I manage to make it back with him.

the author travelled to Phinda as a guest of South Africa Tourism

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review: centara grand at central world, bangkok

We were off to a slow start when our driver (after negotiating an hour’s worth of Bangkok traffic) dropped us at the wrong Centara. We were booked into the Centara Grand at Central World and not the Centara Grand Central Plaza. After a long flight we were weary and didn’t notice we were at the wrong hotel until well after the driver had gone, leaving us to schlepp across town to find the right hotel. When we reached our hotel, it’s fair to say we were glad we were booked at the Central World Centara and not the Central Plaza – the Central World just nails the wow factor as soon as you walk in. The check in staff were friendly and helpful.

It was so late by the time we reached our room that the restaurants were closed so room service it was; we promised ourselves this would be the one and only time we ordered pad thai on this trip (we wanted to sample more quirky local foods) but alas – the dish was disappointing and set in motion a ten-day quest for an authentic version.

As is often the case in Asia, the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable for my Aussie bottom and the room did have a couple of quirks; for example one of the lights in the room wouldn’t turn off which made for some restless nights but the room itself was lovely and spacious, very clean and the bathroom was excellent. What you want is a massive tub to soak in after a gruelling day shopping at one of Bangkok’s mega malls or markets and that’s exactly what this bathroom had.

There are some things you don’t really expect at a five-star hotel: the restaurant running out of spoons at breakfast, paying through the nose for internet, having to call up at 5pm because your room hasn’t been made up etc… but hey, it’s not like any of these things ruined our stay.

The hotel itself is in a decent location – in the high-end Western district of Pathumwan so it was nice and close to MBK and the Paragon mall but harder to get to Patpong night markets, Chatuchak etc. One night taxis and tuk tuks flat-out refused to take us to Patpong because of the traffic which was pretty disappointing.

The Red Sky bar on the 55th floor really was the highlight (and actually what drew me to this hotel in the first place) – amazing food (we had the squid), delicious cocktails and breathtaking views over the whole of Bangkok.

Overall would I stay there again? Absolutely, although I’d consider an alternative like the Banyan Tree which is a little closer to all the action.

P1020418

P1020419

a short but passionate love affair

Air Mauritius, we need to talk. About us. I think we need to take some time apart. It’s not you, it’s me… Actually, who am I kidding? It’s you.
You reeled me in so easily. You seduced me with your cheap fares, glamorous destinations, sweet-talking cabin crew, French champagne and fine dining. I was in love. The kind of love you shout from the rooftops and post all over Facebook and Twitter. Then you left me stranded for three days and you broke my heart (and make me look like a fool).
You promised so much but as our relationship went on, you stopped caring. You made promises you never planned to keep, took advantage of me financially and when I tried to fix things you gave me the cold shoulder. All the while you kept giving me just enough hope to keep believing in you.
The sad thing is that even now, when I’m sitting here thinking about you, writing you a letter trying to recoup the thousands of dollars I’m out of pocket because you gave up on me when I needed you most – I’m still a fool for you and I would probably do it all again. Sigh.
Business Class on the Air Mauritius A340 from Perth… beore the cyclone, the four day delay, and the re-route via Hong Kong. A happier time.