November 20 2006

It's a brave concept for a hotel: modeling the entire aesthetic on the industrial oil rigs of 1950's Mexico. Especially for one that's "moored" at the hedonistic Caribbean adventure playground that is Playa Del Carmen. But Hotel Basico  - the chic offering from boutique hoteliers Grupo Habita pulls it off with unapologetic conviction.

The gist is as follow.  The building, perched on Playa del Carmen's exclusive Fifth Avenue shopping and restaurant strip, references Mexico's rustic petroleum industry, with the rooms looking out onto a central mess hall-like restaurant area (note: best fish tacos in the 'hood). Above is a rooftop cocktail bar that features luxurious cabanas made from the back of old trucks with inbuilt mattresses and white-as-white cushions, two concrete petroleum tanks that serve as swimming pools (note: from the pool you can sip old-school margaritas and look down on the crowds below and out to the Caribbean, one block away). Breezy house music and handsome hotel staff waft throughout the building all day. Effortlessly surreal.

Now, I personally go by the theory that if you're going to work with a gimmick, be sure to go the full distance. Basico's architect, Hectar Galvan, seemingly agreed with the sentiment when he put this project together.

In the rooms, no detail is left un-themed. Exposed pipes with fire hydrant-style taps run along the walls. An industrial-strength bath and the king-sized, multi-purpose bed (perched on an elevated palate) sit in the middle of the room. Everything is exposed and raw; the toilet is the only thing in the room concealed. There are rubber curtains on the floor-to-ceiling window and pulley chain detailing throughout. The signage around the hotel references the typography of Mexican taxis from the 1950s. Superbly construction-worker chic!

The effect is softened, however, with what one of the managers referred to as "nana touches". Continuing with the retro feel, mosaic planter pots are smattered throughout and the recycled floor tiles are straight from "a Mexican grandmother's patio". Or so said the manager. The freight lift that takes you from the open-air reception to the rooms and restaurant above is decorated with succulents in red pots.

Some adventures in life are about the journey. And some holidays are about a wild hotel room experience. A sojourn at Basico taps into this ideal. This isn't the romantic experience for honeymooners wanting to hide in their own Caribbean cocoon. No, it's all about the exhibitionist couple who get into the flirtatiousness of the concept, who want to be part of the party that goes on up at the rooftop bar every night until 1am. And who are open to "having lots of sex", as suggested in the hotel introductory manual that's chained to the bed. It doesn't have to be alone.

PS. Be sure to borrow the hotel snorkeling gear and visit the surrounding cenotes (underwater caverns teaming with colorful fish).

PPS. While in Mexico check out the other offerings in the Grupo Habita chain: Deseo in Playa Del Carmen and Condesa in Mexico City.. by Sarah Wilson


Share It:  

August 5 2006

Iconic French designer Christian Lacroix is the latest couturier to lend his unique sense of aesthetics to the non-fashion realm. In this case, Lacroix was chosen by the French Railways to renovate the interiors of their high-speed trains. Over the next 5 years, all high-speed trains on the Atlantic route and the new route to Eastern France will be made over by Lacroix and his design team, promising to transform their drab interiors into ultra modern, stylish, boutique-hotel-like environments.  It's actually the second time Lacroix has delved into the world of interiors. He transformed the Hotel du Petit Moulin in Paris into a stunning art hotel, creating different themes for each room.

As far as we know this is the first time a high fashion designer has been charged with revamping the railways. Could train travel get any more hip? ">by Billy T

Share It:  

May 31 2006

If you've got the cash (a cool $US 2.5 million) you can now own your own piece of one of the world's most luxurious exclusive holiday villas at The Banyan Tree in Phuket. Next month the renowned resort will launch the hot new double Pool Villas, which owners can use exclusively for 60 days of the year.  Owning your own piece of world renowned luxury is the ultimate in status, and the offer is expected to be taken up by status conscious celebrities, royalty and other millionaires for whom money is no object. For members of this exclusive club it's no longer enough to sample a luxury brand, true status now is about owning it. If you're not in the market for a luxury villa you can book a short stay for $2,200 a night. The centre piece of the villas is the floating bedroom, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows that open onto a wading pool. The villas also have two private pools. Why two? Well, in the land of the rich and famous, one (of anything) is never enough, of course! by Bill T


Share It:  

May 30 2006

Forget Europe's hot spots, if you're aching for a moment of pure, indulgent, unashamedly hedonistic bliss you MUST put a stay at Phuket's exclusive Banyan Tree resort on the top of your to-do-before-i-die-list.  The gods were smiling upon me this week when I got to sample this slice of super-luxe-heaven myself. My real-life fantasy began like this: The Banyan Limo awaits at the airport, a gentle smiling chauffeur greets me. Within 30 minutes I arrive, greeted by a barrage of staff bowing to me as if I am some kind of Buddha, one of whom hands me a bracelet made out of Jasmine flowers (very Fantasy Island). They form a phalanx around me like protective body guards, escorting me through the grand foyer. So this is how Mick Jagger feels, I think to myself. But the star treatment is no act, it's sincere and endearingly polite - so humbling to be on the receiving end.

A golf buggy awaits, the resort is so big that they require the buggies to ferry guests to their villas. I arrive at Villa 205. The Pool Villa (pic above). Sonthaya, my private host welcomes me. I'm completely blown away.  The bed, ever so inviting, faces out to the pool. I've stayed in numerous 5 star resorts in my time but this one is exceptional. Sonthaya explains where everything is, a beach bag with a towel and sunscreen is prepared for me, a fruit bowl with some exceptional fruit sits on the table, my own toiletry bag with everything in it. They have thought of everything, even an outdoor bath to soak in later.

After Sonthaya leaves I decide, like a scene out of Porky's, I strip naked and jump right into the pool.  It's extremely private and not only can nobody else see in, it feels as if I have the resort to myself. But then I've barely left the villa, it's that kind of place. On the second day, I head out to the beach just a two minute walk away. I spot a French couple enjoying an $8 per/1 hr foot massage on their lounge chairs.  By the end of the day I have a golden tan. Later I spot the Presidential suite, or what I've dubbed The rockstars VILLA. It has its own private drive-away entrance so paparazzi shy-celebs can glide straight in from the airport. I'm told Liz Hurley, Olivia Newton John and Pierce Brosnon have stayed there recently.

The following morning as I head out for breakfast walking pass numerous staff who, bow after bow, greet me in Thai 'Sawatdi Kha'. Their smiles contagious and its then I realize what makes this place so special. It's the exceptional service. The Banyan Tree more than deserves its perpetual place on Conde Nast Traveller's HOT LIST.  It's the service, those gently sincere smiling faces, are like nothing I've ever experienced before.
At the extraordinary breakfast buffet I mouth the words OH MY GOD over and over as I swallow bite after bite of the perfectly made omelette, poppy seed pancakes, the fruit, the yoghurt, washed down with pineapple and mint juice.  The waitress asks if I would like a copy of the paper, another one passes asking if I would like champagne, "coffee or tea Mr Bill". I order peppermint, I pour a cup, spilling a drop on the plate and it's replaced a second later. The attention to detail by the staff is incredible.

I'm not surprised The Banyan Tree Phuket is one of the most traveled destinations in Asia. The privacy of one of the 127 private walled villas creates the feeling of utter seclusion. I'm told it's a favorite amongst celebrities, royalty, and other VIPs because it's so paparazzi-proof.

It's difficult to avoid hyperbole when talking about the Banyan Tree. It has earned its reputation through its indulgent service, radiant beauty and spectacular setting. We have hunted cool before and will again, however my stay at the Bayan exceeds the word cool and encompasses something brighter, deeper and stronger which resonates within you long after you have parted ways. by Bill T

Share It: