We love Phuket. My husband and I have been to Phuket together many times - it was only a couple of hours away when we lived in Singapore so was the perfect weekend getaway.
My husband also has a golfing week here every year with some colleagues who still work in Asia. For us it has the right balance. There are some good golf courses, great small quiet beaches, a nice mix of fancy restaurants and excellent food stalls by the road and of course Thai people are always so friendly and welcoming.
There is a good range of accommodation in Phuket. You can stay in super luxury in a private villa, in a suite in a resort on the beach or in a cheap and cheerful 500 baht room in a small independent hotel. Over the years we have done them all, but this year we were meeting up with some friends and staying at their villa just south of Kamala and about 15 mins drive north from Patong on top of a cliff overlooking the sea.
The villa has a fabulous location. Occupying the highest point in a small estate the villa claims unblocked views of the Andaman Sea. You can see a video here.
When we landed in Phuket, we picked up a hire car (we always do this as we love the flexibility and also because we play golf) and drove 40mins to the villa. We were greeted by the 4 full time staff and all our things were quickly whisked away to our room.
Within 15 mins we were showered and enjoying the infinity pool while Khun Montha the live in housekeeper sped away on her moped to the market to collect ingredients for the dinner she would cook for us.
The Villa sleeps 10 people in 5 luxurious rooms, it has a TV room, a gym and a salt water infinity lap pool. As we were the first of our friends to arrive we got the pick of the rooms and chose the room below the pool that has a small outside sitting area and an outdoor Jacuzzi. We have stayed in this room many times and it has a bit of privacy away from the other rooms which is great if you are in a group and want an early night or don't want to be disturbed by anybody taking and early morning swim.
There is fast wi-fi available so I could happily tweet away whilst I was there, the rooms are beautifully decorated, the beds are made up with crisp white linens and the towels are big and soft....... Aesop toiletries are just the icing on the cake.
The Villa is amazingly luxurious.
The staff were telling me that many people often don't bother to go into the nearby towns for dinner and after tasting the home cooked food that evening I can understand why. Here are some photos of the food that was prepared for us over the course of the two weeks......
We had different curries, baked fish, steamed fish, fresh crab, fried rice, pad thai, satay sticks, prawn crackers, salt and pepper squid, fish cakes, garlic chicken, fresh fruit, creme caramel, baked pumpkin, pineapple cake and mango sticky rice.... and lots more.
There is even a bread machine so the staff can make fresh toast bread for breakfast...... we were feeling well and truly spoilt.
We simply selected from the menu (a range of European and Thai dishes) that we wanted to eat over the next few days and gave Khun Montha some cash and she would do all the shopping for us..... She even invited me down to the kitchen to show me how she made the Pad Thai noodle dish I love.
We did play a few rounds of golf while we were there, which was good as I think otherwise we were in danger of gaining too many kilos from the delicious food...if golf isn't your thing there is a gym room in the villa for dedicated fitness bunnies.
I prefer doing laps in the pool as a great way to use up some of the calories we were eating.
We had the villa to ourselves for 2 days and then our friends arrived and there were 7 of us. The staff were all delightful, always smiling and happy to work to make sure we had everything we wanted.
During the whole stay we felt thoroughly pampered. Not only inside the villa but also in some of the many massage parlors, where for 300 baht or 8 USD you can have an hour foot massage or Thai massage. After a day of golf there is nothing better.
Within one day of being in Phuket my husband had transformed into a completely relaxed, version of the person who had boarded the plane in Zurich.
There are lots of things to do in Phuket, especially if you like diving, snorkeling, jet skiing and all the other water activities. There are boat trips to some of the smaller islands and lots of beaches to explore. Even just a trip to the wet market in Patong is interesting with all the colour and smells of the fresh Thai ingredients we rarely see back in Europe.
We have been to Phuket so many times that we didn't feel the need to race around the island and this trip was all about relaxing with friends, but of course there are lots of other options available. If you are new to the island this guide to Phuket is a good place to start.
Its a very easy island to get around. There is a wide range of cuisines available and as I said earlier a huge range of accommodation to suit all pockets. Its an easy place to just turn up and find somewhere, so you can be flexible and go island hopping too or you can pre-book one of the islands many luxury villas for a family or friend group. A quick google search will throw up lots of options.
On this occasion staying with friends gave us an amazing luxury experience that I will remember for a long time.
Villa Getaways is the rental company my friend uses exclusively to rent out the villa we stayed in - Baan Santisuk.
I've written a few posts about Fabulous Things to in London. These are really aimed at those who have been many times and are looking for new things to enjoy in the city. I have been asked by both friends and people online to suggest things to do for a first trip to London and so here are the top 10 things I always suggest as 'must sees'.
Now before you start reading I have to say this was quite a difficult post to write.... because there are so many things to do in London.
I love London. I love when people take my advice and have a great trip. I love that people enjoy this great city. There is truly something there for everyone.
I lived there for 16 years and visit monthly to keep my sanity and get my 'city fix' so I'm fairly confident that I have covered the top things to do here...
The first thing I would suggest to anyone visiting London is to get an Oyster Card at the first tube station or train station you get to. There is a small cost for the card and you load it up with money to use on all the tubes and buses. It saves standing behind all the people who are trying to work out how to use the tickets machines at every tube station. You just tap it on the yellow reader at the gates to the tube or next to the driver on the bus and your card will be deducted the amount for the fare. The reader also gives you an update on how much is still on your card.
You can use contactless payment cards, like Visa debit and credit cards for this too, but you might get hammered with bank charges and a bad exchange rate if you do this from an overseas account.
Also because of this remember not to keep these cards together, you don't want to pay twice for every trip!!
Using the Tube or Underground is easy. The lines are colour coded and on the information boards on the platform the final destination (not next stop) of the next train is shown so you know if you are getting on the right train. ALWAYS check a street map before going into the tube because the tube map can be a bit deceptive. For example its much easier to walk from Leicester Square to Covent Garden than it would be to get the tube. And you never know what you might stumble upon on the way.
If you can, its worth consulting the Transport for London site before any day out. It is great for working out the best routes and it gives bus arrival times too. Here are some FREE apps you can also download to you phone for help getting around London.
In London we have amazing museums and galleries, and the fabulous thing is that its usually free to enter. There are often special exhibitions with a charge but the main / permanent exhibitions are usually free.
Everybody I know who visited The British Museum absolutely loved it. Not only is it an amazing building but it is HUGE. There is lots to see and you could easily spend a whole day here. (especially if it is raining) There is a lovely cafe and a restaurant inside which I would suggest over any of the places to eat in the area. I found that the pubs in this area offering 'Traditional Fish and Chips' serve miserable attempts at 'food'. I think its much better to enjoying the beauty of the library and eat under the glass dome.
The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square so you get to see this landmark as an extra. Entrance is free, unless you want to see a special exhibition. I like to go to see the BP photography exhibition every year and there is a small cost for this. As with most places in London, there are discounts for children, students and old people.. so make sure you bring your ID with you.
You are a hop skip and a jump from Covent Garden here and pretty close to Chinatown so there are limitless food options too.
From here you can walk down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. During the summer - when the Queen usually isn't around, the palace is open for visitors. I'd recommend booking in advance though to get the dates and times you want.
If you are up for a walk you can easily go from here to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben... which is the name of the bell and not the tower. Tours of Parliament are restricted to Saturdays and when Parliament is not in progress. You can find details and times on their website.
Again this is a stunning building.
From here you can enjoy a nice walk over Westminster Bridge, getting some great photos down the river and go for a flight on the London Eye. This is not cheap, and its better to book online than to join the queues for tickets, but if you have a clear day the views over London are spectacular.
If your are the energetic type you can actually walk from here all along the South Bank of the River Thames until you get to Tower Bridge..If you are lucky, or checked the times in advance, you can even see the bridge opening. After all this foot work I highly recommend a glass of champagne or a beer in the bar at Aqua in the Shard. You get an amazing view without having to pay the entrance to the View From the Shard. Double winner in my book... but you can decide.
On the South Bank on the way to Tower Bridge you will walk past the Royal Festival Hall, Tate Modern and more restaurants than I can even list. A quick detour over the 'wobbly bridge' opposite the Tate Modern will land you near to St Paul's Cathedral. One of my favorite London buildings. Another quick detour at London Bridge (also where the Shard is) you can grab something scrummy to eat at Borough Market.
The Natural History Museum, The V&A and The Science Museum are all close together, although they may be a bit much to do in one day. The V&A is my hands down fave in London. They have fabulous exhibitions and the cafe is beautiful. Not only the food but also the interior.
The Natural History Museum is in an absolutely breathtaking building and is worth a visit for that alone in my opinion. The Science Museum is not really my thing but loads of people love it, so it could be your new favourite too...
So that is the end of my Top 10 list... There were slightly more included there but 10 is such a hard number to keep to when giving London tourist tips.
Of course everyone is different and I hope I have given you enough to choose from... If not, here are some more things to consider...
How about a West End Show? I went to see Kinky Boots one of the newest additions in 2015 and it was amazing. You can also visit to Westminster Abbey, relax in Hyde Park, go shopping in Harrods or my favorite store Selfridges.
Fancy fish and chips ? my personal favorite is close to Waterloo station / The South Bank and its Masters Super Fish. There is always a line of Black Cabs outside while the drivers eat here.. not a bad sign. In Soho Berwick Street The Dining Plaice next to the market is very good too. Pretty much all the pubs advertising they do traditional fish and chips serve frozen and re heated versions that no true Brit would consider eating... well at least this one wouldn't.
I hope this was helpful. Please let me know what you have enjoyed on trips to London in the comments. Its always good to hear what others people have enjoyed.
Located on Nelson Mandela Square and open since 1994 The Butcher Shop & Grill is an actual butchers shop with a restaurant on the side. There is a butcher shop right next to the entrance and you can see the meat hanging and aging.
It was very busy when we arrived and we had a short wait for a table so I would definitely recommend booking in advance.
The crowd was very mixed, a couple of small tour groups, a few business people and some families all mixed together creating a nice level of chatter.
The restaurant itself is a little 'market' like with exposed pipe work etc so it suits the theme.
The menu is quite straightforward, nothing fancy or fine dining. No pretensions here. Steaks are what most people come here for but there was lots of other choice on the menu, they had veggie burger on the menu but otherwise it was heavily loaded with meat dishes... but I guess if you were vegetarian you wouldn't choose to go to a restaurant called The Butcher Shop and Grill....
My husbands sirloin steak was good, not an amazing cut but cooked as ordered. My beef ribs were delicious, but too big a portion for me. We didn't order dessert as we were so tired we just wanted to hit our bed however like the main menu they were quite traditional, old style.
The Butcher Shop and Grill. Shop 30, Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton, 2196, South Africa
We have so many cities in Europe are on our travel wish list and so when we had a weekend free in-between South Africa and London we decided to make a start on some of them.
Berlin was the winner because we have some friends who are currently living there, we managed to get convenient and cheap flights with Air Berlin and we could also use some free suite nights we had been awarded by Starwood Hotels Group.
My husband and I have very similar ideas about what a city break should include. A little bit of sightseeing, a couple of historical or significant buildings, a cathedral (but only if its an interesting one architecturally), nice walks and good food.
For us Berlin had enough to keep us busy and ticked all the boxes, except the food. No one ever went there for the food....
Our first day we decided to go for a walk and get orientated. We walked from the hotel towards the Berliner Don and on to the Tiergarten. This is a HUGE city park. It was a lovely walk, and there was plenty of shelter from the 37 degree sunshine that we had for this trip. We walked through the park towards the Reichstag Building, the home of the German Parliament. The building is beautiful with lawns in front where people were relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and meeting friends
We noticed a small queue for the dome on the top of the building and asked how we could get entrance. We were told it had to be booked online and so weren't holding our breath when I accessed the site on my mobile phone. To our amazement we were able to get timed tickets for later that day. Don't assume this will be the case. It was Sunday evening and the next other tickets I could get were for the following Sunday...
You can get an audio guide that tells you about how the dome was constructed and also about the spectacular views from the dome. Its well worth booking in advance to do this.....
Located on museum island the Berliner Dom was very impressive. If you are feeling energetic you can walk to the top of the dome.
There are parts where it is one way so there is a bit if chaos on busier days and times but the open views are well worth the effort.
Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie were really just sightseeing points. you can't get inside as there is nothing to get inside of. There is a Checkpoint Charlie museum though. Both are significant as at one point they divided the city. Depends on how interested in history you are as to if this will appeal to you or not...
Charlottenberg Palace was a bus journey away from the city centre but was worth the trip. It is beautiful. It is the largest castle in Berlin and sits in lovely grounds. It was severely damaged during the war but has been restored beautifully.
Obviously only one for the summer months is the city riverside beach bar. You can see a couple near to the main station as you arrive into Berlin from the Airport. There are two bars with rows of deck chairs on the river side. A lovely spot for a beer and to relax your sightseeing feet.
Blueman Group Show was a show both hubby and I had been wanting to see for a while. We got great tickets 6 rows from the front - in the poncho area. The show was fabulous, but the tickets were expensive. Its not for everyone, but we loved it.
Lastly the Pergamon Museum. The museum was far more popular than I anticipated... there were HUGE queues (over 2 hours) every day so on the last day we bought timed VIP tickets to get in and out quicker. This was something my husband wanted to see, me not so much. I even sub consciously placed it last on the list.... the exhibitions were impressive though.....
We stayed at the Westin Berlin, part of the Starwood Hotel group. We had a suite voucher to use up and got a beautiful room. The hotel is perfectly situated for all the sightseeing we did and we only needed a bus to see Charlottenberg Castle.
All in all a great weekend, despite the food being a bit 'basic'. There were a couple of great restaurants with good reviews but all three we wanted to visit were closed during the month we were there...... sadly, although we loved the weekend, we have too many other cities to visit to go back anytime soon.
My first thought when I saw the hotel on the drive up was WOW... Quickly followed by OMG OTT.
It is seriously over the top, there are gilt statues, huge chandlers, zebra skin and gold painted chairs, elephant statues and more..... Reception is a huge room with lots of staff eager to help with bags or offer a welcome drink.
The Palace of The Lost City Hotel is 5* and a Leading Hotel of The World hotel.
We took a smoking room because it was on a higher floor with more light from the windows. The lower floors don't get good light because of the trees. And even the higher floors don't get great light. Applying make up is a challenge. Also having the hairdryer 'fixed' in the drawer under the TV was not the work of a woman... There is no mirror nearby to see what you are doing with your hair..
The rooms are very comfortable, lovely bed sheets and very comfortable bed. The bathrooms have both a bath and a shower cubicle. The shower is pretty pathetic however. No rains showers here, it's more like an watering can effect, and it's very hard to control the temp. There were lovely Molton Brown products though to distract from this.
The main dining room for breakfast and dinner (they also do an afternoon tea) has huge windows giving it lots of light, however this also meant it was very cold for breakfast and also on the one evening we had dinner. Wearing outdoor jackets and coats when you eat isn't my idea of what should be happening in a hotel.
Breakfast service is a bit hit and miss. Jalapeños in my breakfast omelette and cold coffee on the first day. There was a great selection of fresh fruit, cereals and some excellent salami and cheeses though, so more than enough choice.
The one evening we decided to have dinner in the main dining room, we were very disappointed. We were a table of eight and the only person who enjoyed their meal was my husband, he had a curry. My lamb Ragu with pasta was sliced lamb which was dry, miserable and not at all what I expected. I was thinking about a rich sauce and shredded meat.... Desserts that were supposed to be hot chocolate were all cold and not at all appetizing. I'm not sure what other dining options would be better as we were at a conference and the other days we were at organized dinner parties.
The whole resort is enormous and there are shuttle cars that run transporting guests between the various sites. This service is a bit hit and miss on the success rate. Were were dropped off at the wrong hotel once and sometimes had to wait up to 15 mins for the next available car which is a bit frustrating when you have a dinner party to get to.
If you are here during the summer the pool complex - for hotel guests only is HUGE and there is plenty of space for relaxing, eating lunch or even swimming.
Despite all the niggles I have to say if you are going to Sun City for work or holiday, The Palace is the best hotel in the resort.
The Palace of The Lost City Hotel, Sun City Resort, 0316, Rustenburg, South Africa
Right in the centre of Sandtan The Michaelangelo is perfect for business or tourist visitors.
It's one of the Leading Hotels of the World and you can see why from the moment you arrive.
Our suitcases were whisked up to the reception area and the check in process was a breeze.
A room was available for us even though we were early to arrive - just after 11am.
The rooms are just as advertised, maybe a little 'traditional' for some, and I'm never a fan of carpets, but it was spotlessly clean and the bathroom had all the toiletries you would need. A separate bath and shower is always a winner for us too.
We went out for dinner the evening we arrived and when we returned the room had been completely re made. Not just a turn down service. We had fresh towels, replenished toiletries and a gift box of nougat on a newly made bed, the TV was on at a low volume and the remote control was sitting on top of a TV guide open to the correct page... We were impressed.
We tucked ourselves up in the incredibly comfortable bed with beautiful cotton sheets and slept like babies.
The hotel has a small pool and a gym for those who need to get their exercise fix whilst away.
The next morning breakfast was excellent. There was a good selection of cereals and yogurts, fresh fruits and all the other meats and cheeses you would expect in this standard hotel. To my husbands delight there was even an excellent home made chicken liver pate. The hot buffet was equally impressive with 'proper' bacon. I hate the streaky bacon, it always makes my heart sink when I find it in the buffet. After a bowl of muesli my waiter brought me perfectly cooked fried eggs and fresh toast and my day was off to a great start.
The Hotel is right next to a HUGE shopping centre with almost everything you could want. There is everything from Prada to Zara, restaurants, fast food and even a couple of beauty salons. Its also great to wander around after a long flight. You will feel completely safe and can also pick up anything you may of forgotten to pack.
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