The Lure of the Exotic

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granvia There are many enthralling places in Asia, but Kyoto, the vibrant and historic city in Japan stands above the rest. Kyoto offers a stunning combination of city life, hot springs resorts and a long and rich history to fulfill the dreams of most newlyweds. Built over the city’s JR Kyoto Station, the Granvia offers a delightful package for newlyweds: the chance to re-marry in traditional Shinto style. Couples, who must give at least a 4-day notice to hold their “renewal” vows, are driven by limousine to the Kamigamo Jinja Shrine, a World Heritage site. The bride is dressed in a marvelous kimono and the groom enters the temple to join a ceremony that’s full of mystique and glory. The Granvia’s package includes three nights in a luxurious jr. suite and complete wedding attires; the wedding ceremony is followed by a lush dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Although the Granvia has more than 500 rooms, one never loses the sense of being in a small, well-appointed hotel with extraordinary service and amenities. The hotel offers guided tours of Kyoto on foot or bicycle, taking newlyweds through narrow streets full of Japanese treasures. What makes the tours stand out is that guides escort couples through places where neither cars nor buses go due to the ancient configuration of the streets, which were originally designed only for carriages. The Granvia’s evening tours are a wonderful exclamation point to a romantic Japanese honeymoon. The price for the renewal vows package is approximately $5,500.

amanpuri The yin to the yang of bustling Hong Kong and Kyoto thrives in the Amanpuri in Phuket, the fabled Thai island town that’s to Thailand what St. Tropez is to France. The Amanpuri on Surin Beach is a short drive from Phuket, and it is a place of peace (Amanpuri means “place of peace” in Sanskrit) bending around a crescent-shaped beach on the Andaman Sea. Some say that the Amanpuri is where romance comes to find love, and honeymooners will not fail to be captivated by the sheer beauty of its natural surroundings, along with the flawless execution of its layout: all accommodations are pavilions and villas offering understated luxury. Nothing is quite as romantic or as mesmerizing as a midnight swim in the resort’s blue salt-water pools. Dining at Amanpuri’s restaurants is an experience that delights. Most of the dining takes place al fresco and one can sample everything from Italian dishes to obscure Thai delights. The spa ranks among the best in Asia and therapists use ingredients made from local plants. The Amanpuri has been lauded as one of the top service-oriented properties in Asia. Amanpuri rates run from about $970 dbl for a pavilion with a view, to approximately $1,700 for a luxury pavilion. Meals are included.

ananda in the himalayas If the tropical air seems a bit too heavy for honeymooners, the thin atmosphere of the highest mountains in the world just might be the ticket. This is where the Ananda in the Himalayas in India comes in. It is a majestic place oozing tranquility with a sense of remoteness. Newlyweds often liken it to an out-of-body experience. The Ananda sits in the Himalayan foothills between the mythological cities of Haridwwar and Rishikesh and edges the Sal forests while affording views of the Ganga River meandering in the distance. It bills itself as a “retreat for wellness” and guests may participate in traditional Indian disciplines like Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta. Ananda often seems like it’s shrouded in the mists of time, once being the private retreat of the Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal. The reception area is in the palace proper, where some of India’s most famous personalities have stayed. Despite its lofty name, the property retains touches of subtlety and all its ancient charm. The billiard room looks like a game room for royalty and the old skating rink is now a meeting hall. Sunlight filters through glass ceilings making the room, despite its royal lineage, feel warm and cozy. The spa is a 24,000-sq.-ft. marvel offering more than 79 treatments where traditional Indian techniques have successfully blended with contemporary Western spa methods.Rates stretch from approximately $490 dbl, for a deluxe palace-view room, to about $1,700 for a 2-bedroom villa with pool.