Welcome to Ampersand's travel blog. This is where you'll find out all the latest goings on from our travels across Asia.
Our motto is that luxury is in the experience: watching tigers padding through the Kanha jungle in the company of an expert guide… camping out under the Ladakh stars wrapped in cashmere blankets… having a rickshaw driver at your disposal 24 hours a day in Siem Reap... these are the things we adore.
All over Asia – from Bhutan to Bali, from Sri Lanka to Laos – we know the most charming privately-owned hotels, the best secret beaches, the prettiest palaces and the fattest, happiest elephants for bespoke safaris. Our Little Black Book contains the best textile buffs, the greediest foodies, the wittiest maharajas and the loveliest places to drink champagne in the moonlight.
But what we love most of all is revealing these treasures to our clients. In our blog we hope to inspire and inform you by providing the latest travel news, hotel openings and luxury holiday ideas across Asia.
Ampersand recently organised a week’s stay in London for the fabulous Martha Debayle and her family, who is one of Mexico’s most prestigious presenters, broadcasters and businesswomen. I must say, she was a total burst of sunshine and it was a delight to take care of her. They stayed at two of London’s smartest properties, the Corinthia and Brown’s, which are the perfect launchpads for exploring the capital’s shopping, arts, restaurants and cultural attractions.
Highlights of Martha's time in London included:
- Watching the Changing of the Guards
- Westminster Cathedral
- Kensington Palace
- The National History Museum
- The Victoria & Albert Museum
- Christmas shopping at Selfridges and Liberty
- Portobello Market
I joined Martha and her family for dinner at The Ivy and a tour of London’s East End to Colombia Road Market and Brick Lane – both days were filled with laughter and entertaining conversation. Huge thank you to Martha for being fantastic company and for choosing Ampersand to organise her tailor-made London itinerary. We hope to welcome you back soon – perhaps a summer tour combining London, Edinburgh and Paris next time!
The New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Amangalla are a million dollars – chic, relaxed and gloriously tropical – particularly when followed by the informality of the insiders’ hangout, Wijaya Beach, afterwards.
We think the Amangalla is the most stylish colonial hotel in the world, set right in the heart of the 17th Century Dutch fortified town of Galle. The property oozes sophisticated luxury and old-world charm with its antique furniture, polished teak floors and high ceilings. The history of Amangalla is fascinating: it was the site of the original hotel to open up here, the New Oriental Hotel; before that it was the headquarters for the Dutch commandeur and his officers and later a billet for British soldiers. Whereas many Aman hotels are quite minimalist, the Amangalla’s architect, Kerry Hill, has maintained the unique history of the building allowing you step right back to Galle’s colonial heyday.
Galle is the place to be during festive season, with the Amangalla at its helm with rows of beautiful vintage cars lined up in the ramparts in front of the hotel and fairy lights in every tree. The suites are the perfect environment to get ready for the NYE celebrations, with a personal butler, swing jazz music wafting through the room and freestanding bathtubs to scrub up before joining the beautiful people downstairs in all their understated finery. The Amangalla is famous for putting on Galle’s most traditional and smartest event, with gourmet dinner, live Jazz music and firework watching at midnight.
Once the bell has chimed and the fireworks have dazzled, we suggest letting your hair down with your feet in the sand at Wijaya Beach. Just 15 minutes tuk-tuk away, this much-loved beach shack is fun all year round, but the NYE After Party is well-known amongst the cognoscenti as being the most fun and most bohemian after-party to dance until well past dawn.
New Year’s Day is the perfect time to make use of the Amangalla’s exquisite spa to cleanse from their devilishly good Arrack Sours from the night before!
We love receiving feedback from our clients. We have a ritual of gathering around to read our client feedback forms together when they are sent back to us – it is genuinely one of the most useful elements of our job. Although we always test our products first ourselves, the real proof of quality is when our clients come home happy. They almost always share their favourite experiences and hotels with us and shed light on the things they liked less, which is invaluable to us. We enjoy receiving their photos too… sometimes a photo is all you need to see how much they enjoyed themselves!
Two of our clients recently returned from a luxury cultural tour of China and very kindly agreed to showcase their photos and feedback here on our Blog & Facebook. We hope to have more client case studies to share with you in future. One of the most marvellous things about travel is sharing and receiving up-to-date tips from like-minded travellers...
Their China highlights: "The Great Wall, the Terracotta Army and the smaller Terracotta Army, our cycling trip around the limestone mountains of Yangshuo, the boat trip along the Li river from Guilin - Yangshuo, the sidecar motorbike ride in Shanghai and the trip to the water village in Shanghai."
Hilton, Xi’an – "Great location within the city walls, no better than the average Hilton though. Excellent buffet and ice cream choice (and a chocolate fountain)."
Li'An Lodge, Longsheng– "Excellent given it is on top of a mountain and a real trek to get there. Very individual rooms – some twin, some double. The food is extremely good."
Peninsula, Shanghai– "Outstanding, the stand-out hotel of the trip: the food, views, service and free international telephone calls were a highlight. There is even a nail drier in the room!" Their guides:
Jerry in Beijing– "Extremely friendly, well-read and interesting company. He did his best to make us do as much as we could along the Great Wall."
Monica in Hangzhou– "Very enthusiastic and driven to succeed. Insatiable curiosity and good company."
Longsheng– "Steep and uneven walling but the great views were worth the effort. There is only one rice harvest here, so the best time to witness the golden rice would be in August / September."
Guilin – "The river trip through Khushi hills to Fuli was excellent. Fuli village was very interesting."
Yangshuo– "The 'Impressions’ cultural show we saw was very impressive. Cycling was good fun, as was punting along the river."
Hangzhou– "West Lake is a great place to unwind. There is an interesting Buddhist monastery and good restaurants."
Shanghai– "We had a great trip on a vintage motor scooter sidecar through the Old Town, organised as a surprise for us by Ampersand"
To start planning your own tailor-made holiday to China please contact our China specialist, Mark on +44 (0)20 7819 9770 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Ampersand's client testimonials please click here.