Wanting to escape from the heat and dust of Mumbai over the long weekend in October, Laveena and I, were excited about our visit to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa which is located in the Sahyadri hills. Our 3-hour drive to the retreat was a pleasant one and although there is a short 2 km stretch of mountain road which is uneven and bumpy, the emerald-green, rain-soaked landscape more than makes up for it.
A comfortable 3 and a half hour car ride from Delhi, on the Yamuna expressway, got us into Agra on a Friday afternoon. The traffic on Friday is thin in Agra, as it is the one day in the week that the Taj Mahal is shut for tourists. As we drove along a sweeping approach road, surrounded by native trees, through the gates of the Oberoi Amarvilas, we were met at the main entrance, by a young hotel staff member who guided us past the grand quadrant style forecourt, into a lobby where a crystal chandelier hung from a blue-and-gold dome, showering its glittering light onto the marble floor.
In February this year, one of our dearest friends, Nikita Sanyal, celebrated her 40th birthday in Bangkok and we were invited to spend a night at the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park. We had arrived in Bangkok a day earlier as we didn’t want to miss out on staying at our favourite city hotel in the world, The Siam Kempinski. On the day we were to shift, I remember telling the staff at the executive lounge at the Siam Kempinski, that we were sad to be leaving to stay at another hotel in Bangkok, but we did tell them that we would be back in a day. When our taxi arrived, the Bell Captain at The Siam Kempinski, while loading our bags asked, “ we hear you are moving to another city hotel Mr. Mitha. Why?” We explained it was only for a night, for a friend’s birthday celebrations and promised we would be back.
Well located at Business Bay, just minutes away from the iconic Burj Khalifa and a short drive from Dubai Mall, stands the majestic Oberoi Dubai Hotel.
Laveena had a short break for Holi ( the Indian festival of colour which ushers in springtime). An early morning flight to Colombo, on Sri Lankan Airlines, was followed by a long wait at the Bandaranaike International airport. From Colombo, we boarded a flight to Male, the densely populated capital of the Maldives, a stunningly beautiful island nation in the Indian Ocean. The hour long flight to Male was a pleasant one. Indian citizens receive their entry visas for the Maldives on arrival at immigration. We collected our luggage and were greeted at the airport by a Soneva Jani representative, who first checked us in for our sea plane ride to our resort island and then drove us to the Soneva Jani lounge where we waited for over an hour for our 40 minute long sea plane ride from the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Malé to Soneva Jani.