The Lure of the Exotic

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wildflower hall For romantic honeymoons, or even bragging rights about having spent a few days of bliss in what was once the summer residence of Lord Kitchener, the commander-in-chief of the British Raj in the early part of the 20th century, few places can hold a candle to Wildflower Hall, the dazzling resort at the foot of the Himalayas near Shimla, the capital of Himachai Pradesh Province in India. Shimla is less than an hour by air from Delhi but centuries removed when it comes to romance and seclusion. Wildflower Hall is an Oberoi-owned property that’s fittingly been described as “a fairytale luxury resort”—a tag that, for once, doesn’t disappoint. It is easily the most luxurious five-star resort in the area and its innovative and modern designs belie the elegant simplicity of bygone days that the resort epitomizes. This is a world-class resort celebrated for the exquisite service its guests receive. The resort has 85 rooms (rates vary during the season, but generally run from approximately $250 per night dbl for a premier room with garden view, to about $750 for a deluxe suite) all replicating the grandeur of the Raj. Wood paneling and original artwork create an aura of Old World charm. Teak floors, hand-knotted rugs and affluent furnishings complemented by the spectacular views of the property give the rooms the feel of very special and secluded, romantic sanctuaries. The restaurant is legendary for its fusion of Indian and continental dishes and the Cavalry Bar looks like an old tavern where Kipling would have felt right at home.

royal mulu resort How about spending a few days of honeymoon bliss in a stilt house built in the style of ancient Indonesian loghouses some 12 feet above ground? Now imagine that this accommodation is linked to a resort’s reception by bamboo walkways running along the banks of Borneo’s Melinau River, smack in the middle of a pristine environment where nature puts on its most attractive face. This is the setting for the Royal Mulu Resort in Sarawak—an island province easily accessible by air from Kuala Lumpur—one of the most romantic and remote honeymoon spots on earth. It’s adjacent to Mulu, a small village of 800 people with varied ethnic backgrounds who live life as it was perhaps a century ago. The Mulu is a favorite destination for European bigwigs. Prince Albert of Monaco—who described Mulu as “the ultimate rainforest experience”—and other bluebloods have heaped praise on the resort after a stay. Film stars are frequent visitors, perhaps attracted by the sense of isolation of the resort. The bungalows are luxurious and air-conditioned. Its suites have full facilities. The resort’s WildFlower Restaurant has mouth-watering Indonesian and international cuisine. There’s a full-service spa, swimming pool, a poolside jacuzzi and a multitude of leisure activities. Activities vary from night cruises on the river to birdwatching and cave exploring. This is the place for those who wish to honeymoon away from it all. Rates are from approximately $330 dbl for an executive suite, to about $430 for its top-of-the-line Royal Suite.

mandarin oriental, sanya When it comes to romantic honeymoon resorts, the Mandarin Oriental has raised the bar with the opening of its new resort in Sanya, on the southern tip of Hainan Island on the South China Sea. This is a tropical utopia with a balmy climate and ringed by a blue sea edged with coral reefs. Its luxury and relaxed atmosphere provide the setting for a romantic, out-of-the-way honeymoon. That such a resort exists in Asia is not surprising. What comes as a pleasant jolt is that the Mandarin Oriental, Sanya is in China, just off the coast of Vietnam, where miles of beaches, winding rivers and towering mountains showcase the old Middle Kingdom at its natural and romantic best. Every room in the resort has spectacular ocean views. Most have private plunge pools and gazebos from where to enjoy quiet solitude amid luxury. Activities include hiking, biking and shopping for pearls from merchants who consider bartering a sport. The amenities offered by the Mandarin Oriental, Sanya run on par with the hotel chain’s reputation for comfort in the lap of luxury while special care is given to newlyweds, with flowers on arrival, and the usual trappings. Rates range from about $230 per night dbl for a terrace room, to approximately $1,260 for a 2-bedroom duplex villa.