Falling in Love with The Lombok Lodge

After countless visits Bali, we returned from our first trip to Lombok in May (of which I’m sure will be many more), and I’m compelled to write a post entirely on the subject of the hotel that we stayed at, and yes of course all the trimmings that came along with it.

Lombok is the next island along to the east of Bali, separated by the Lombok Strait. Most tourist activities are focused around the Kuta area in the south, and the north eastern Sengigi area. In Kuta you’ll see lots of surfers, and travelling east up the coast there are beautiful white sand beaches, each one more beautiful that the next. The waves roll quietly and softly onto the sand unlike the huge beastly, crashing waves of Bali, and the beaches are clean! My favourite day in the south was spent on Selong Belanak Beach, about a 25 minute scooter ride from Kuta.

DSC01952

Selong Belanak Beach

In the north, Sengigi is close to the capital of Mataram and the old airport site and is therefore a larger hub for tourists and local expats, with lots of bars and more hotels to choose from, as well as shops, which you will be hard pressed to find in the south. A little further northwest is the Medana peninsula, where you’ll find a few luxury resorts such as the Oberoi and Tugu Hotel. Nestled in between these two is the loveliest of all, The Lombok Lodge boutique hotel. Believe me when I say that there is nothing else like it on the island, and indeed, with all the travelling that I do, I can honestly say it is one of the nicest places I have stayed at.

It was not just the luxury lodgings, nor the food, nor the attention to detail and service, activities, the smaller details or the beauty of the surrounding areas. What makes this hotel so special is that every single thing is done perfectly, and you are made to feel at completely at home – everyone literally knows your name.

DSC02047

Poolside at the Lombok Lodge

The design of the hotel is really ahead of it’s time on Lombok, a developing island where high-quality architecture is difficult to come by, as are skilled construction teams and quality materials. The architect is Belgian-based Italian designer Vittorio Simoni –  he has created 9 low rise suites, which are terraced so that each suite has a view of the ocean. It is a truly functional space, and whilst the land on which the hotel is situated is not actually that big, The Lombok Lodge feels quite grand.

DSC01999

A terrace with a view

DSC02001

The bedroom, complete with ipod dock, beach bag and sunhats

DSC02003

Motivational quotes in each room

Bathroom

The bathroom – Hermes bath products, stand alone tub and outdoor shower. Orchids and frangipani everywhere!

The people are a big part of making this place what it is; some of the staff were trained at the nearby Oberoi Hotel, whereas others had no official hospitality training. Regardless of this, the whole team are super sweet, friendly and eager to help and make your stay as special as possible. What makes a huge difference is that the Belgian owners of the hotel stay there for half of the year, perhaps that’s why the standards are so exceptional.

The Resort Manager, Mangsur Y Wayan, is a true perfectionist, and makes sure that everything is always running smoothly. They contacted us prior to our stay to make sure all was in order, suggested several itineraries of things to do whilst we were there, gave us a late check out when needed, made no fuss when I forgot to cancel my spa booking, left notes on our pillow every night, printed out our boarding passes when we were in a rush and delivered them to us by the pool, and offered to clean our sunglasses whilst we sipped on our complimentary pool smoothies … I could go on and on.

Dinner

Traditional rijsttafel dinner

Breakfast

Some of the breakfast selections at the Lombok Lodge

Continue reading

Advertisements

LoveBites Staycation: Tai O Heritage Hotel

We had a special occasion to celebrate last weekend, and I thought that a staycation was just the ticket! After reading an article on Le Figaro online that mentioned the Tai O Heritage Hotel, PB suggested that this place was worth a visit. Tai O is on the western side of Lantau Island, closer to the airport and Tung Chung than it is to Mui Wo. It seems like such a long way away, and by Hong Kong standards, it does take some effort to get there, but boy oh boy is it worth the trip!

IMG_5047

Green, green and more green as far as the eye can see

Tai O is Hong Kong’s oldest fishing village, and is commonly referred to as the “Venice of the Orient”. The houses are built on stilts above water, so I can see where the reference comes from – but that is where the similarities stop.  It is home to the Tanka people, a community who have lived here for generations. Tai O is local beauty in and of itself, and needs not this reference to my favorite city in Italy. Admittedly, you can’t exactly call these stilt houses beautiful – they are built seemingly haphazardly with any materials the villagers can get their hands on. Somehow, each ‘house’ is different, and the residents have added their personal touches, some colourful potted plants, structures of different sizes and shapes, ornate door decorations, and yes, even some familiar looking knomes.

IMG_5056

The Venice of Asia?

IMG_5067

The Caravan House

IMG_5069

The Leaning House of Tai O

The Garden House

The Garden House

The Bonsai House

The Bonsai House

IMG_5137

Apparently, Snow White is a desperate housewife!

IMG_5119

I was really struck by how much character this village has, and how they have maintained much of it’s heritage and industry. We witnessed villagers collecting sea moss for drying, and stirring huge vats of purple goop (shrimp sauce) that will be jarred and sold, fish drying on racks outside houses.  There is a real community feel about the area, from the closely built houses, the large gathering areas,  and the crash crash of mahjong tiles in the evenings. We enjoyed walking across the bridges and gangways to explore different parts of the village. The locals must be quite annoyed by all the tourists wondering into their backyards!

IMG_5148

A gathering area perhaps?

We took an easy hour-long walk along the Fu Shan Hiking Trail, starting just to the left of the Shaolin Wushu Cultural Center. From the pagoda, you can see ocean as far as the eye can see, and watch planes descending towards the airport on the right. Apparently you might catch a white dolphin or two from this vantage point, but I think you’d have to be extremely lucky to!

Tai O Map

Cute illustrated map of Tai O Fishing Village

IMG_5120

The Shaolin WuShu Cultural Center

IMG_5124

An hour-long stroll up the mountain

IMG_5128

The view of Tai O from the top

A walk through the Tai O market is lots of fun, there are umpteen shops selling all sorts of things: seashell and pearl jewellery, dried decorative blowfish (!), hats, toys for the kiddies etc. If you grew up in Hong Kong, you’ll remember those little tubes of goo, a little of which you place on the end of a stick and blow to create a big plastic bubble. Remember? Hours of endless fun!

Bloonies

IMG_5058

All sorts of stuff for sale at the Tai O Market

There are, of course, all the vendors selling a myriad choice of dried fish and seafood, as well as shrimp paste, the smell of which permeates the air, but you get used to it after a while!

IMG_5153

The ubiquitous (in Tai O) shrimp sauce

IMG_5052

Dried fish everywhere

IMG_5053

And more dried fish and seafood

IMG_5055

Looks very unappetising and slightly alien

Most of all, I loved stopping by all the street food vendors and trying all snacks on offer (especially after not being able to during my recent trip to New Delhi!)! Our favorite was the Pandan Egg Ball Waffle Lady, she was situated right at the end of Market Street. For HK$14 she made us these egg balls delicately flavoured with pandan, on an old manual waffle maker.

IMG_5060

Yummy Pandan Egg Balls

IMG_5064

A hint of pandan taste makes these egg balls fragrant and slightly different from the ones that are usually available

There is another egg ball waffle vendor at 59 Kat Hing Back Street, where the majority of the vendors are. He seems to be quite famous, and there was a queue stretching down the street for his charcoal grilled egg waffles.

IMG_5140

Egg balls cooked over an open charcoal fire

IMG_5142

Chinese Pizzas HK$25, similar to Beijing Jian Bing

Well that about says it all! The are similar to the ¥3 Beijing Jian Bing (fried savoury crepe) that were so unkind to my hips yet I so loved when I lived in Beijing! Comparatively, these ‘Chinese Pizzas’ just had too much stuff for my liking, and way too generous on the spring onions. The ladies who served them were super nice and friendly, and I still recommend going to check them out and ordering a pizza.

We stayed at the fabulous Tai O Heritage Hotel on a Saturday evening. Formerly housing the Tai O Police Station, this grade II listed building was beautifully restored by the Hong Kong Conservation Foundation and very tastefully converted in to a 9 room boutique hotel, which opened in 2010. It is a (I’m running out of suitable adjectives) outstanding example of colonial architecture, with it’s arched facade and French windows. They’ve kept many original features (such as the holding cell which is now used for left luggage), and placards outside the doors inform us what our room was once used for (ours was the Barrack Office). This is one example of how Hong Kong has gotten it RIGHT – preserving a beautiful building, rich in history, for us and visitors to enjoy.

IMG_5072

The leafy entrance to the Tai O Heritage Hotel

Continue reading