It’s hard to find any fault with even the worst massage. But if I do have pet peeve with spa treatments, it is the face hole in the massage bed. The worst ones are barely padded or use an awkwardly rolled up towel. At the end of the massage, you have a big, red, aching indentation mark across your forehead. But Velaa has figured out the ultimate head support at its spa…
1. Glass Floor View – Good. If you are going to stare straight down for an extended period, then have something pleasant to set your eyes on is a treat.
2. Coral View – Better. A couple of resorts do provide glass floor views for their over-water spa treatment rooms. In every case that I’ve seen the view is just a sandy bottom (not the good kind). The sandy deserts of the lagoon floor have very little marine life to gaze upon aside from the stray white fish. But Velaa has situated its view directly over some fine coral croppings for an enchanting spectacle of small tropical fish darting to and fro.
3. Gel Mask – Best. Wow. I’ve had all sorts of face pads on massage beds from the aforementioned hard board to plush cushiony affairs. But you don’t get any more soothingly soft than a gel mask. Perfect.
There’s bed decorating…and then there is bed artistry. Some of the duvet ovations at Velaa are worthy of a museum. Didn’t know whether to sleep in the bed or frame it. Anantara Kihavah is also executing similarly exquisite renditions, but I gave the nod to Velaa because I have come across more examples and their peacock above is simply masterful. I particularly like the use of blue flowers. Most bed pieces are red petals, increasingly green fronds, and sometimes yellow petals. But blue is sort of the Maldives national colour (if there was one).
Happy Thai New Year! The Thai celebrations include a number of traditions typical in many cultures ringing in the calendar milestone – feasting, visiting families. One ritual distinctive to “Songkran” is cleansing. A bit reminiscent of the new beginnings and fresh starts embodied in New Year’s Resolutions. People go to Buddhist temples to wash away their sins and bad luck. The custom has grown quite lively with a now iconic water festival where people splash each other with water.
If you want to wash away your sins and bad luck, the best place in the Maldives is Velaa’s My Blend Spa by Clarins. This indulgent facility includes a number of innovative features from its snow room to its “cloud pod” to its steam room-with-a-view. But one of my favourites was the “Soaking 4 Ways” (my term). Quattro Fradicio.
In a single room, they offer 4 different soaks…
- Rain Shower
- Waterfall Shower
- Hand-held Shower
- Bucket (!) – see above
The “Bucket” seems to be the ultimate in drenching. Possibly the culmination of an ever intensifying trend. First there were “normal” showers. You turned them on…water came out. Then came the power showers and massage showers which pushed that spray a bit more firmly. Then, came the soaking “rain” showers. With twice as many and larger outlet holes, the water poured down on you sumptuously. The next obvious step was the “Waterfall” showers where the flow-impeding holes were done away with entirely. Now the “Bucket just drops the entire dose of water on you instantaneously.
Vintages are the marques of distinctive quality for the finest wines, but how about “vintage” cocktails? Velaa bills them as the Maldives’ “Rarest and Most Expensive Cocktails”. Starting at $1,230, they would make a Top 10 list in the world are a mostly certainly the most exclusive in the Maldives. But anyone can throw together lots of expensive ingredients. What I like is their distinctive attention to the story behind each…
“History in a glass – the cocktails celebrate vintages from bygone years – using the finest vintage Ports, Cognacs and Armagnacs, such as Guy Lheraud, Vieil a unique 1930’s vintage as the base liquors for each drink…The dedicated mixology team at Velaa has developed their first-class repertoires for these fine aged cocktails and aim to transport guests back in time to the prohibition years in New York or Chicago.”
- The Goal of 1934 (USD$2,090) – Inspired by the 1934 World Cup in Italy, where Czechoslovakia lost 2-1 to the host nation in the final. This cocktail is created with Guy Lheraud “Carafe Eve” 1934 and Bollinger “RD” Extra Brut, 1996.
- A Good Year Cocktail (USD$1,930) – 1930, known as the year of peace and tranquillity, heard BBC Radio from London on 18th April reporting that “There is no news” and a good year for all, uses vintage Armagnac – Guy Lheraud, Vieil Armagnac 1930 and topped with Louis Roderer Cristal.
- Lucky & Al (USD$6,530) – Homage to the Prohibition era in the US, this cocktail is created with a vintage 1930’s Guy Lheraud, Vieil Armagnac and Salon 1988 Champagne.
- The Belle Époque (USD$4,285) – A time of peace and prosperity, this era is considered the start of the ‘golden age’ post World War I and is made with a rare Guy Lheraud, Vieil-Armagnac, “Baron Gaston Legrand” 1888 and Dom Perignon Cuvee Rose 1982.
- Eiffel Tower (USD$2,470) – For 1990, when the Paris World Exhibition celebrated the Eiffel Tower, this cocktail is created with Guy Lheraud, Vieil-Armagnac “Baron Gaston Legrand” 1900 and Dom Perignon Onotheque 1996.
- Fly me to the Moon (USD$1,230) – Based on the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, uses Vintage Port- Graham’s 1969 or Cognac Guy Lheraud “Fins Bois” 1969 and is topped with Salon 1999 champagne.
So you can toast today’s 127 anniversaire of the Tour Effel’s opening with a double distillation of “drinking stars”.
Turtles all the way down…
Turtles aren’t just some namesake mascot for Velaa (“Velaa” means turtle in Maldivian). They are more like its spirit animal that imbues the property from top to bottom. And everywhere in between.
From top, the entire layout of the resort is designed to look turtle shaped from an aerial view. The water villas have been arranged in an almond shape to resemble a turtle head, and 4 jetties surround the circular island to complete the chelonian outline. From below, Velaa is itself a turtle nesting ground (as we so fortunately witnessed when we visited).
But the today’s “Best Of” distinction is more about the in between bit where the essence of the turtle is stylishly reflected in every nook and cranny of the property. The most distinctive design element is its simple, chic logo motif which pervades the resort. A football-like mesh pattern of hexagons and pentagon evoking the characteristic patterns on a terrapin shell. I’ve included just a few snaps I took of the restaurant, the Tower bar, the spa. And at bottom is their cappuccino decorated with cocoa in the same distinctive pattern (thanks Belinda).
“In my day, we had fantastical feasts when I lived in the palace.” – Ursula, The Sea Witch
I’ve seen a lot of fare offered up on the smorgasbord that is the Maldives buffets. But first time I encountered fresh, octopus sashimi (or as our young son called it “Sea Witch” from Ariel) was at Velaa’s expansive breakfast banquet. Fantastical.
Witch food are you eating for breakfast??
No, not “Elevator Décor” (though coincidentally, Velaa does feature the only elevator in the Maldives resorts). After 60+ Maldives resorts, I haven’t seen it all (not by a long stretch), but I’ve seen a lot. And so my obsession is ferreting out the different and unique touches that these properties put on their various patches of paradise.
Overall, Velaa sports one of the most distinctive design and décor in the Maldives. I’ve actually got several “Best of the Maldives” pieces lined up about various aspects of their flairs and flourishes. But as a contrast to yesterday’s downward looking post, I thought I would do something a bit more uplifting, quite literally.
This height-motif is not your grandmother’s commemorative plate collection on a shelf. It starts with their bright array of chandelier lighting fixtures (definitely a post on these latter though on was shown in my post on their use of bamboo). But what really caught my eye were the various floral pieces on top of armoires and other elevated surfaces (see photos).
Luxury is all about going beyond the expected. Even the most prestigious hotels can have a sort of Spartan, hollow feel to them. So many places just focus on ticking the boxes of the essentials. They might do it with fine quality, but they often don’t go beyond getting that blank space covered or engineering some minimalist vibe so that the nothingness is justified as some sort of trendy hipness. Velaa has packed its spaces with visual delights. It not only imparts a more elegant feel to the place, but it also makes it seem more warm and inviting.
Good things are looking up at Velaa.
The Maldives is the ultimate life aquatic. Never mind the “SUNNY side of life” (there is sun all over the tropics), the Maldives is the aquatic side of life. A destination that is 99% sea. That’s what you go for. The best experiences are all about the water – the otherworldly sense flying over the waterworld of islands, the world’s best snorkelling. The water offsets the warmth of the pervasive sunshine with a compelling contrast. And the sun-and-sea blend is also quite common among tropical resorts. It’s just that few destinations have as intimate a connection with the water as the diminutive plots of sand in the Maldives.
A few resorts have provided their guests with a chance to savour the water even more soaking their toes with waterside dining tables or even Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s in-pool table. But none so ambitiously as Velaa. They have loungers in their pool (see bottom), and dining tables in their pool (see above). They even have pools in their dining room. Yes, they have designed their seaside dining area with a small pool for diners to sit in over their meals if they prefer a more sheltered and secluded table to the pool option.
There’s nothing like a good foot soak. Along with a steamy air (tick for that too in the Maldives), it’s sort of the caricature of the cure for what ails you. Also, the “no shoes, no news” barefoot ethos of the Maldives is decadently delightful, but all that salt and sand can take its toll on the unaccustomed feet used to being cosseted in cotton and leather. So a cooling soak over that pina colada or just about any mealtime is an added sensory treat.
You can have a more simple pizza at one of the Maldives’ most exclusive resorts, Velaa. Nonetheless, I can guarantee you it will be the most exotic “Pizza Hut” you have ever eaten at (yes, that’s exactly what they call it).
So after you hit the beach, you can hit the hut!
QI question of the day: Q: What is the base ingredient of gazpacho at Velaa? A: Tomato? Q: Buzzz…wrong. It’s cabbage.
Velaa not only served two of my favourite soups – gazpacho and bisque – but they did so with an entirely refreshing slant. In many respects, they were nothing like gazpacho and bisque and everything like them at the same time.
For starters (pun intended) the gazpacho had no tomato (pretty much the defining ingredient to gazpacho – “Spanish Cookery. 1. a soup made of chopped tomatoes…”). Instead, it uses red cabbage as the base. It also blend in green apple and passion fruit which is a bit more exotic than the classic cucumbers and onions.
Their “Laccadivian Essence” (named after the Maldives sea) was really a bisque of lobster, coconut, fennel, and seaweed. Both were Michelin star quality. They were sort of non-bisque bisque and non-gazpacho gazpacho.
The inventive twists reminded me of the food-play by Heston Blumenthal at his world-famous restaurant the “Fat Duck”. Just down the road from us in the UK, we used to go when Heston first started playing with his culinary chemistry set. We were sometimes the only people dining there and he would step out of the kitchen to have us try some wonderfully weird new concoction.
One of Heston’s signature dishes was the Orange and Beetroot Jelly. As ‘Boots in the Oven’ describes…
“The mousse was trailed by two small trays bearing two squares each; one a garnet red and one a deep yellow. The waiter explained that we would be eating orange and beet root jellies. This opening dish is the perfect example of the Fat Duck dining philosophy. Heston and his team don’t just want you to have an awesome eating experience; they want to f*ck with your head.” [HINT – Not is all as it appears]
In fact, Velaa’s gazpacho might just have been inspired by Heston as Red Cabbage Gazpacho also featured is on his menu years ago.