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Published: February 6th 2012
There is no doubting that this 12,000km oddysey is going to be challenging. The schedule will require us to be on the road on average 4 to 5 hours a day. One of return legs is a long stretch requiring a whole 9 hours driving in one day. So I am taking the opportunity to have some sporadic pampering. In Beijing, we'll be staying at The Aman at the Summer Palace, and in Hangzhou, The Amanfayun.
I am a self confessed Aman Junkie. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, The Aman Resorts have developed a fan base of loyal travellers who may decide their vacations according to the global Aman map of resorts. I am not sure who first coined the phrase, but these devoted fans have become known as Aman Junkies. The typical mis-conception is that Aman Junkies are mega rich well healed travellers who would not think twice about shelling out $1,000+ a night to stay at these uber luxurious resorts. The truth is that many Aman Junkies, including myself, are not particularly wealthy. For those that have stayed at Aman resorts, you know that you are paying for an experience, you
are paying for life long memories. We would rather spend four nights at an Aman than 2 weeks at a lesser resort for the same price. What you get from staying at an Aman is a treasured memory. It could be a romantic candlelight dinner at the ruins atop a hill in Rajasthan, or an Aman prepared picnic in the Paro valley, or an elephant ride direct from your doorstep at The Amanjiwo in Java, Aman staff are there not just to provide world class service, but also to give you dream memories where you can feel like a Sultan or a Maharaja. That said, fortunately or unfortunately, Aman have inspired numerous copy cat resorts and now travellers are almost spoilt for choice. On my last trip to Bali, I chose to stay at both Four Seasons resorts over any of the four Aman's because I feel that Four Season Bali have managed to mirror the Aman experience with some added extras like offering cooking courses at their special cooking school in Jimbaran Bay, and all at a cost slightly lower than that of Aman. I had stayed at The beautiful Amandari back in the 90's, and did return for
a dinner this last trip, but I felt something was missing. Perhaps they are becoming complacent or its just a case that their competition are getting better. Nevertheless I still remain a devoted Aman Junkie having had the pleasure of staying at Aman resorts in Bali, Java, Morocco, Rajasthan, New Delhi, Bhutan and Cambodia.
The story goes that Adrian Zecha, the Indonesian founder of The Aman Resorts, was in Phuket looking for a suitable clifftop site to build a holiday home following a successful career in publishing and hotels. Upon finding a picture perfect site, he then decided to build a hotel, but not your typical hotel building with 300 rooms. Instead he planned to build just 40 villas and offer a hotel service. At the time, Adrian found that none of the banks were willing to lend money for this crazy project as they could not see sense in funding a project for only 40 rooms when all hotels during this period had 300+ rooms. Inevitably Adrian called upon his personal friends and his own savings for funding, and the first resort, The Amanpuri, was opened in 1988.
Aman now have around 25 resorts worldwide.
it is The Banyan Tree, Naked resorts, The One & Only, Soneva by Six Senses, or other, I think they all owe their existence and inspiration to the original visionary that is Adrian Zecha.
What sets Aman apart from the rest is location, architecture, and service. Some of the locations are truly spectacular and leave one wondering how on earth could they have secured such a location. One such place is the Amanjiwo in Java, where their lobby hallway is aligned perfectly with a spectacular view of one of the ancient wonders of the world, Borobudur.
For this trip, I will be staying at The Aman at The Summer Palace in Beijing, another spectacular location, and The Amanfayun nestled in the mountains surrounding The West Lake in Hangzhou.
I understand that Adrian Zecha himself is quite fond of the word Aman Junkie. There are two types of travellers that stay at Aman, the truly well healed and affluent traveller looking for a luxurious respite, and the Junkie who often has to struggle to save up for their trip. I am the Junkie ....
If you look carefully through www.amanresorts.com, you can actually find a picture of
me in one of their resort albums.
Now that I've spent the best part of a Sunday evening following my salsa classes writing this blog, it may be wishful thinking, but wouldn't it be nice if this blog went viral, and attracted the attention of Mr Zecha and his team due to the increased bookings that are sure to follow, and then one day I wake up to a PM from Aman thanking me for promoting their resorts and offering me a free three night stay at one of their wonderful properties ....
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