15 Romantic Suds

Atmosphere Kanifushi - tub

Happy Valentines Day sweethearts everywhere.  But especially in that global hotbed of romantic paradise, the Maldives

Get your clothes off for a hot and steamy, sensual delight, with a touch of perfume, bubbly, and flower petals. Yes, a romantic bubble bath. Here’s a not-so-dirty dozen of the best in the Maldives…

I’ve also added a “Maldives Tub Art” board to the Maldives Complete Pinterest so I can add more sexy suds as I find them.

I©Maldives
 

1. Atmosphere Kanifushi [above]

2. Cheval Blanc Randheli
Cheval Blanc Randeli tub

3. Vakarufalhi
Vakarufalhi - tub

4. Coco Bodu Hithi (thanks Paola)
Coco Bodu Hithi - tub

5. One & Only Reethi Rah
One & Only Reethi Rah - tub

6. Centara Ras Fushi
Centara Ras Fushi - tub

7. Kuramathi
Kuramathi - tub

8. Anantara Kihavah
Anantara Kihavah Villas - tub

9. Amilla Fushi
Amilla Fushi - tub

10.  Centara Grand
Centara Grand - tub

11. Loama Maamagili
Loama Maamagili - tub

12. Sun Siyam Irufushi
Sun Siyam Irufushi - tub

13. Hideaway Beach
Hideaway Beach - tub

14. Zitahli Kudafunafaru
Zitahli Kudafunafaru - tub decor

15. Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
image

Best of the Maldives: Expert Marketeer – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - Kat 1

All Saints Day and it was today 13 years ago (on a 9:30 am Qatar airways flight to be precise) that a saint among the communion of Maldives experts arrived on its azure shores. Kat has all received the digital equivalent of beatification being anointed as a TripAdvisor Forum Destination Expert (which she has since stepped down from).

I had a chance to not only spend time with Katherine Anthony (“Kat” to just about everyone in the Maldives circles), but also to sit down with her and talk her about many years in this paradise during my stop at her resort, Hideaway Beach, this July…

  • Q: When did you get into the hospitality industry and what was your first job?
  • A: I actually came into hotels completely by accident. I was working as a graphic designer in my hometown of Bristol. The company went bust and my godmother said ‘You’re never going to get a decent job in Bristol. You need to go to London. London is where the work is. So I moved up to London and realized there wasn’t a huge number of graphic design jobs there either. And I just ended up temping and the first job I got was working as a secretary in the sales department of the Churchill Intercontinental. And I have never left hotels since. I’ve never even left the sales team since. I’ve been in Sales and Marketing the whole time.
  • Q: Did you go from London to the Maldives?
  • A: Oh no. I did 3 years in London. It was fabulous. I didn’t save a penny. Had a really great time. Then I got offered this job in Qatar in 1999. At that time, nobody had heard of the place. I had to look at the map. And everybody was like ‘Why would you go to Qatar?’ I found a picture of the hotel when they were building it. It was literally desert, turquoise water and nothing else. I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s try it.’ So I flew there. Never seen the country before. Never seen the Middle East before. I had travelled around Europe, but I never been that far. I remember landing in Doha and it was flat, flat, flat. There is nothing there. Nothing, nothing, Nothing. And I thought to myself, ‘oh my god.’ And I ended up staying [in the region] almost 12 years.”
  • Q: How did you get introduced to the Maldives?
  • A: I got targeted by a headhunter basically. I had sent my CV out to a whole bunch of places and this guy from Australia came back to me and said, ‘I have this fabulous opportunity in the Maldives. Would you consider it.’ And I gave it half a second thought and I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’ I mean who the heck says no to a job in the Maldives?!
  • Q: Did you know what the Maldives was at that point?
  • A: I did. Because having lived in Doha, it is close to the Maldives and Qatar Airways had started doing flights. So I had seen some Tourism Board advertising so I had a vague idea – the whole image of the Bounty bar island.
  • Q: What year was this?
  • A: This was in 2003.
  • Q: Which resort?
  • A: What was then Hilton Rangali.
  • Q: First impressions?
  • A: Wow. You get there by seaplane. I think everyone experience this feeling when you come to the Maldives. First of all, you’ve never flown in a seaplane before. It’s a really amazing thing. It was a beautiful sunny day when I flew in. It was just magic, absolutely magic. When I landed, my boss Carten was there on the platform to meet me. And I was all ecstatic and I think we was wondering, ‘oh, what have we hired?’ But I calmed down after a few days. How can you not love this place? How can you not like it?
  • Q: What most exceeded your expectations?
  • A: The thing that really blew me away was the underwater world. Because you read all of the journalists’ stories about how amazing the coral reef is and how colourful the fish are, etc. But nothing really prepares you for what it’s like to come face to face with a manta ray or really any kind of fish, any colourful fish. And there you are in the water in their environment. It’s just magic. It really is amazing. That I did love.
  • Q: And what fell short of your expectations?
  • A: Well, I’m a redhead so I don’t tan particularly well and living in a tropical environment so living in a tropical environment with daily sunshine is probably not the smartest move. You have visions of lying on a hammock under a palm tree. I don’t do an awful lot of that because I burn really quickly. It’s hot and I don’t like sand that much either, so it’s not ideal.
  • Q: Have you been in the Maldives non-stop since you arrival.
  • A: No, I’ve tried to leave the Maldives three times…and I keep coming back.
  • Q: What was it like the first time you left the Maldives?
  • A: I was still working for Rangali and I got a great job offer in Dubai. I’m a city girl at heart so I thought, ‘Okay, fine, time to leave the Maldives.” I’d been there nearly 5 years at that point so I’d done my time in the Maldives. And I cried, and I cried and I cried on the plane…it was awful. I have a great time in Dubai. I made great friends and I loved Dubai. When you move to a new country and you don’t know many people, you always get homesick for the place you’d left before. I’d spend my Friday evenings in Dubai (which is the weekend in Dubai) thinking, ‘Oh, if I were in the Maldives right now, I’d be sitting in the staff bar.’ I actually got quite homesick for the Maldives.
  • Q: The Maldives has evolved enormously over the years. What has struck you about how both the guest experience and the staff experience has changed over the years?
  • A: The guest experience when I came in 2003 was all ‘no news, no shoes’, barefoot. That was the standard that everyone would expect when they’d come to the Maldives. There were no newspapers, no TVs in the guest rooms. We didn’t have Internet. If you wanted to check what was going on the world, I think there was one computer in the business centre somewhere. And there was only dial-up on the Internet. Whereas nowadays if you were to tell guests that you don’t have Internet and 500 satellite channels, I think they would go into complete melt-down. And I’m not convinced whether or not that is a good thing. For me on of the great things is that you are not part of the rest of the world here. It is just something separate and different. I see people complaining about the bandwidth, that they can’t download, they can’t Skype people. We are in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of nowhere, do you really need that technology? We did a test once when I was working at Conrad. They had 20 mbs Internet speed and they had 1,200 devices connected to it. So you have almost 300 guests in the full hotel, almost 400 staff, everyone has 1 or 2 devices on them. It’s a lot of things sucking up bandwidth not to mention that the hotel itself it trying to run on the same connection.
  • Q: You were at one point a Destination Expert for the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. That’s quite a kudo. There are only a few DEs designated per destination. What advice do you have for resorts and resort staff who want to engage with TripAdvisor?
  • A: Whoever is doing the engagement with TripAdvisor needs to be someone who likes to talk and chat to guests and give information. It’s no good saying, ‘Well, it’s your job to do TripAdvisor’ so someone who is not naturally communicative. You have to want to talk because otherwise it becomes just another task that you have to tick off every day. People can feel whether you are genuine or not. It comes across in your words and what you are writing. And the other thing is that you can’t take it personally. People are going to not like you resort or not like what you say and that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. There’s no point in arguing with them. Your resort is never going to be perfect for everyone. All you can do it try to correct facts. So if someone says that you have a Chinese restaurant and you don’t have a Chinese restaurant, you can go and say, ‘no, that’s not correct.’ But you can’t argue whether the food was good or the staff were friendly because that was their experience. It’s very, very hard to keep your own emotions out of it. I mean I love this country and I see someone writing things about Maldivians or things about a resort or guests house are particularly coming under attack at the moment, it’s hard not to want to defend it.
  • Q: How has Trip Advisor itself changed over the year as the Digital Revolution evolves?
  • A: It’s grown. I would say now that about 60% of English-speaking guests have been on TripAdvisor. They’ve either checked out hotel reviews or they’ve gone to the Forum and gotten information from there. In that way, it has worked really, really well because people can get the information that they want.
  • Q: Final questions…what are you doing today?
  • A: I’m going to be sitting in an air conditioned office all day. My parents have no idea what I do. They are under the impression that I spend my day wandering around beaches, picking up seashells and working on a great suntan. I’m in the office from around 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 or 8:00 at night. But at least I have a view out my window.

 

Hideaway Beach - Kat 2

Best of the Maldives: Vodka Shisha – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - vodka shisha

Another Middle Eastern taste treat in the Maldives is the increasingly prevalent shisha pipes. Most hookah essences are herbal or fruit, but Hideaway Beach adds its own distinctive “Vodka Shisha” made with Stoly Vodka ($67)…

“To make it, instead of the usual water in the pipe we put apple juice and two shots of vodka. You can use any flavour tobacco, but we recommend double apple. The juice and vodka just give the smoke an even smoother, more mellow flavour”

Best of the Maldives: Buggy – Hideaway Beach, Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - buggy

The fanciest wheels in the world will be on display starting today at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the largest auto show in the world. But for the most rad roadsters in the Maldives, the show is at Hideaway Beach and Sun Siyam Irufushi. They both are bringing a bit of rad styling to the paths of the Maldives.

Pimp my ride!

Hideaway Beach - buggy

And now at Amilla Fushi too (thanks Paola)

Amilla Fushi - buggy

 

Best of the Maldives: Indian Teppanyaki – Hideaway Beach

Fusion is blends one culinary tradition’s recipes with another locale’s ingredients. The Maldives is no stranger to a range of fusions incorporating fresh reef fish, tropical fruit and Indian spices into familiar concoctions from around the world. Hideaway Beach’sSamasara” restaurant goes a step further infusing the cultural show and drama of Teppanyaki with indigenous flavours. Their chef, Rahul, performs twice weekly at their over-water prime location. He yields the knives with characteristic dexterity, but the climax comes with the flaming grand finale not just in pyrotechnic drama, but dazzling flavours – the flambé fruit (watermelon, fruit, banana, vodka, anise star).

 

Maldives Tour 2015 – Day 2: Hideaway Beach

Island Hideaway - tour

And in this corner, challenging for the title of Best Maldives Resort in the 5-Star weight class, wearing the black-and-white brand colours – Hideaway Beach. Not the best resort in the Maldives. Not the “best” of the super-premium “5+” stars (sometimes referred to by the apocryphal “6 star” designation). But the best of the classic “5-star” category. That is what Hideaway is aiming for and based on my investigation, it makes a serious run at the title.

Like a fighter who wants to win the Heavyweight title. Not bulk up to win the Super Heavyweight one. Hideaway focuses on luxurious touches that are top class, not over-the-top. That raise eyebrows, but don’t make you roll your eyes. That cater to the taste of millionaires, not billionaires.

My visit also allowed me to connect with the third TripAdvisor Destination Expert (well, DE-emeritus) during one of our visitsKat Anthony. A 13-year veteran of Maldives management and one of the most respected authorities on Maldives resorts in the world. Kat is one of the first big name transfers in a Hideaway dream team that Carsten Sheick is assembling to take Hideaway to the top of the 5-star league table. They are in the middle of an ambitious programme to take the already superb Hideaway to knockout levels while still keeping it squarely in the 5-star class (eg. no underwater squash courts, no gold leaf adorned haute cuisine,).

I couldn’t fault Hideaway in any way and that is part of their focus. Getting all of the fundamentals impeccably right. And then adding a few fun, creative and thoughtful touches to spice the experience with distinction.

Another defining characteristic of the resort is “big”. It is a big island – 1,000 meters by 300 meters. Usually bigger islands are found on atoll plateaus which make for a weak or distant housereef, but Hideaway has as rich and accessible housereef as you will find on any inner-atoll classic poka-dot island. It’s just that there is a lot more of it. In fact, Hideaway has so much housereef that it is the only resort to boast a “double house reef” (details to follow).

The scale of the island has also translated to the scale of the accommodation. All of the villas are suites with living areas. This layout makes them great for families. Both for family games and hanging out, but also for extra sleeping accommodation if needed for children. In fact, their Hideway Palace was for a long time the largest single villa “complex” in the Maldives (though Soneva Fushi’s recent goliaths have surpassed it). Mind you, the price for the Palace is a not so crazy with a peak season rack rate of just over $4,000 USD which when you consider that it can house 12 people makes the price a sane ~$330 person (in fact, Hideaway Beach has 4 of the top 10 “Lowest Cost Per Square Foot” positions of the 5-star Maldives properties and the Hideaway Palace sits t #8). So if you want to unleash your inner Philip Green by having a large bunch of friends or family for a getaway to tropical paradise, you could rent out this “room”. Kat tells me that it is a great “party” villa (though the term “villa” sort of undersells it…it is really more of a “compound”).

If you are a work-hard-play-hard kind of person who has earned the treat of one of the world’s special experiences like a trip to the Maldives, and you value the finer things in life, but also value your hard earned money enough to not go splashing it around on extravagant excess, then Hideaway should be on your shortlist.