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Hotel/Accommodation, Middle East, Qatar, Travel

Staycation at the Westin Doha

May 22, 2017

Staycation at the Westin DohaBack in December, I won a free night stay at the Westin Doha. The Westin Doha is a newish hotel in Doha and it is not in the area where most of the hotels have been built. In the past few weeks, I have read a few negative reviews regarding events and a few of the restaurants. Since the voucher was going to expire and I am about to leave, I thought I would give it a try and have a staycation for one night.

The Room

When you enter the room, you are greeted with a panoramic view of the whole room, including some of the bathroom. After I noticed the open layout of the room, the next thing I noticed was the soaker tub that looks out over the room. I couldn’t wait to get it and soak for a while. It seemed like you could see the television from the tub. Watching a movie from the tub sounded like a great idea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the tv from the tub. This was due to the divide between the room and the bathroom. Seems like a huge design flaw.

Staycation at Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

However, the rest of the room was pretty great. My room was a deluxe room with a pool view. The room was quite large and had a king sized bed. The Westin Hotel is known for its beds and it did not disappoint! Thick carpet with a beautiful design extends throughout. Heavy blackout curtains block out the Middle Eastern sun perfectly.

Staycation at the Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

The usual amenities are present, such as a desk and a beautiful cabinet with the mini fridge and coffee and tea. For all the Brits out there, yes, there is evaporated milk for your tea! What was great was there were plenty of international plugs for all your devices. One complaint was that my room was right by the elevator and everyone is loud getting off the elevator. Not really the hotel’s fault, but the door could have been sound proofed. The other issue was that they had lights on sensors so when you get out of bed at night, you can see. Great idea, but they took forever to go off and one time it went off when I was moving around in the bed.

The Food

The restaurant I had heard good things about was Sabai Thai. It is a small restaurant set back from the hotel. Unfortunately, you have to go outside to reach Sabai Thai, which during the summer in Qatar it could be an issue. When entering there was a Thai woman playing a traditional Thai instrument that had a lovely sound and was so much better than the loud music some place blast in restaurants.

I did not order a starter as I wanted dessert. For the main course, I ordered, Gai Phad Med Mamuang. This is a stir fried chicken dish with cashew nuts, spring onions and chili paste. It was served with steamed rice. The dish was light and flavorful and they asked how spicy I wanted it. I said light since I wasn’t sure how spicy light would be. I could have gone with the medium. For dessert, I ordered my favorite Thai dessert of Mango Sticky Rice. Theirs was probably the best I have ever had! The mango was really ripe and the coconut sauce was not too sweet.

Staycation at the Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

In addition to good food and atmosphere, the service was great and never had to wait for anything.

The Service

When I called to make the reservation, I had to email them the voucher, which seemed odd, but I went with it. After I emailed it, everything went smoothly. They even asked if I want to book any spa treatments and asked for my SPG number for points. This service was the same when I arrived. Someone greeted me when I entered and escorted me to the check-in desk. While checking in, I was brought a hot towel and a juice.

About 15 minutes after I arrived in my room, the front desk called to make sure I was happy with my room. While I didn’t call them for anything during my stay, I am sure it would have been quick and efficient. Upon checking out, I was also given great service. There was only one person checking people in and out. Another staff person saw me waiting and quickly went to a desk to check me out.

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay and if I was in Doha longer, I would be going back for another staycation. The pools are huge and look amazing. I also wish I had more time to explore the menu of Sabai Thai.

Have you stayed at a Westin? What was your experience?

 

 

 

Asia, Hotel/Accommodation, Sri Lanka, Travel

Heritance Kandalama Hotel

March 13, 2017

Heritance Kandalama

Driving down the dirt road, you have no idea there is a luxury hotel waiting for you at the end. You almost have to reach the end of the road before you can see any of it come into view. Then the top of the hotel peaks out and the road curves up a hill, and there is the Heritance Kandalama hotel. Well, what isn’t hidden in the jungle.

Heritance Kandalama

Never I have seen a hotel like it before. It almost looks like the hotel time forgot with vines hanging down the front of the building. The hotel is built around the rock face facing the Kandalama Reservoir. The hotel was built by Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. He designed it to blend in with nature allowing it to envelop the hotel and for waters and animals to be able to go under and around it.

Heritance Kandalama

Hallways of the hotel are open to surrounding rock face and the room balconies face the jungle. There are even signs on the doors warning you to keep them shut so that monkeys do not get it. Nature truly surrounds the hotel. While there I saw monkeys, huge squirrels, hawks, cranes, starlings, other birds and a centipede! (None in my room, though.) Not all of it was wonderful, though. Keep reading to find out why.

Rooms

Every room has a balcony overlooking the reservoir at different heights. One wind faces Dambulla and the other Sigiriya. On a clear day, you can see Sigiriya Rock.

Heritance Kandalama

The rooms are decorated in dark tones that match the surrounding nature. My room was a deluxe room, which is the most basic room. It was on the smaller side, but since it was just me, I did not mind. The bed was very comfortable, and the air conditioning worked so well, I had to turn it off! However, the dark tones that look so nice during the day make it difficult to see anything in the room at night since the overhead lighting is not adequate.

Heritance Kandalama

My bathroom also had large windows facing out to the reservoir, which gave it the feeling of showering outside. As I discovered early on in my trip to Sri Lanka, the water faucets work the opposite way of what I am used to, and it did take some time for the hot water to arrive.

Heritance Kandalama

Due to the threat of monkeys and mosquitos, I did not spend to much time outside on the balcony. I spotted many monkeys hanging out on the hotel and around one of the pools! Overall, the rooms were nice, comfortable and clean.

Facilities

There are three pools! Each pool is on a different level and has different scenery. I elected not to swim since I was not sure the water was warm enough for my now thin blood! And I wasn’t going to swim at the one where I saw the monkeys.

Heritance Kandalama

Located on the 6th floor was a wonderful lounge area with ample seating. You could spend several hours reading on these couches. If you are lacking reading material, there is a library on the top floor that you can take a book left by others.

Heritance Kandalama

There is also a Six Senses Spa on site. I never ventured down that wing to see what it looked like though. I was too busy looking for elephants and monkeys! Not only that, but this hotel is supposedly a mile long from end-to-end. I wasn’t going to walk a mile to get to the spa.

Food

This was one of my complaints. The hotel is isolated and there isn’t any option but to eat at the hotel unless you want to take the 20-minute ride down the dirt road to the tiny town. There are only two options in the hotel as well. One is a buffet dinner and one a sit-down. I opted for the buffet both evenings because I was pretty tired each day. Both nights I was disappointed. The food the first night was terrible. The second night it improved, but given the amazing food of Sri Lanka, I was sad to find out that very few Sri Lankan options were offered. The breakfast was better, but the meat was being served outside with the bugs.

The Disappointment

My last morning, I decided to walk down to the reservoir’s edge. I had been told it was safe. I was looking to get some shots of wildlife at a different angle. Instead, I was greeted with a huge disappointment. Chained up by the reservoir was an elephant for riding! I was almost in tears. The elephant scared me as I didn’t know he was there and was chained. He or she looked mad! I couldn’t believe the LEED certified hotel had an elephant chained up. I have written a letter of complaint to the hotel.

For this reason, I cannot recommend you stay at the hotel. A friend of mine told me after she found out I stayed there, that she stayed there last year and the elephant was there then! If the hotel writes me back with a positive response, I will update this post.

Since I can’t recommend it, here are some other options in Sri Lanka offered by Lauren of #ljojlo.

Update: The hotel responded to my email with some positive things. I won’t copy and paste the whole email as it is long. Basically, they know it is an issue. They have to change it from riding the elephant to walking with the elephant. The hotel does not own the elephant and leases her and chooses to do so they can keep an eye on her to make sure she is being cared for properly. They were happy to receive feedback to share with the person that owns her and help convince him to change his ways. As I say about anything, change takes time, and the hotel and I understand that. The asked me to write back with any ideas or suggestions regarding this. I will be asking for the elephant not to be chained and not kept in such a confined area. I am so happy they responded and have taken action!

Asia, Hotel/Accommodation, Sri Lanka, Travel

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

February 13, 2017

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Eco-friendly and luxury are not usually two words that I use together to describe anything let alone a hotel, but this is Waterland. Nestled between the Maha Oya River and the Negombo Dutch Canal sits Waterland. Recently, I was a guest of Waterland; however, all opinions are my own.

Waterland is a four villa hotel located about 40 minutes from the Colombo Airport. However, Waterland is much more than a place to stay on the way to and from the airport. It is a destination. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Birds and Plunge Pools

Another two words not often associated with each other. However, you will find both at Waterland. Due to its location on the river, birds of all kinds flock to the river to fish and eat the mosquitos. While I was there, I saw a Kingfisher, White Herons, a Purple Heron and at least one Brahminy Kite. Waterland had provided a picture guide to the local wildlife, which helped me identify what I was seeing.

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

All this was spotted from my villa pool deck! Each villa has its own private plunge pool. The Deluxe Villa has a larger pool and is more like a small plunge pool! There are lounge chairs as well. This way you can sit in the pool and watch the birds. The first night I sat there for an hour watching the sunset and the birds.

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Villas

There is one Deluxe Villa, which offers two bedrooms and three Studio Villas, which is one room. The Deluxe Villa is great for two couples or a family with older children. There are two bedrooms of equal size over two floors. The downstairs contains a living are with television, one bedroom and bath plus the pantry. The upstairs has a large deck with the bedroom off of that. The bathroom is huge; there is just no other way to describe it!

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

The Studio Villa is not small by any means, and if you are lucky enough to get Villa #3, then you have the best view of the river. The bathroom is smaller, but by no means small. All the bathrooms are open plan and feature rainfall showers. There is not a bathtub, so you will have to do your relaxing in the pool. The bathrooms are well equipped with hairdryers, lotion, soaps and hair care products. What I really like is they were all in dispensers and not in small travel containers. The staff refills them as needed, which reduces waste. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

The villas themselves are decorated in a modern fashion with slate floors and concrete walls in the bathrooms. The beds are set on a concrete platform. There are two international plugs next to the bed! Usually on of my chief complaints is a lack of plugs, but not at Waterland. Due to the floor to ceiling windows, there is plenty of light during the day. The lights at night are a bit harsh, though, and the only soft lighting is the reading lamps by the bed. Since I am not a morning person, I could have done with more shades to draw to block out the morning light. Bring some earplugs if you want to sleep late as the local rooster is up very early! 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

All the villas are equipped with solar panels and energy-saving features, such as power is only on when you key is inserted in the slot. Outside the lights are controlled by motion sensors. 

Food

Breakfast was included during my stay and you are offered fruit, curd, juice, coffee or tea, a choice of eggs and toast. I opted to have Sri Lankan scrambled eggs most of the mornings. The eggs were great and had the added spice of curry leaves. One morning I was brought a more tradition Sri Lankan breakfast of coconut noodles, curry, and a coconut mixture. It was quite good, but not a breakfast for me. Lunch is light fare, and I indulged with vegetable spring rolls two days in a row! The dinner selection is not large, but the food was excellent. All meals were served outside. There is an indoor area in case of rain. 

Waterland in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Overall, I would highly recommend Waterland on a visit to Sri Lanka. It is a great place to unwind and enjoy nature. All this within a short drive to Negombo if you want to see more or visit the beach. 

Hotel/Accommodation, Qatar, Travel

Staycation in the Sky: InterContinental Doha the City

December 5, 2016

InterContinental Doha the City

Over the weekend, I was invited by the InterContinental Doha the City to enjoy a staycation with them. The end of a semester is always stressful at my day job. Having a staycation is a way for me to relax and wind down without having to make travel plans or get on a plane.

The warm welcome from the InterContinental Doha the City started even before I arrived when I received an email welcoming me to the Club InterContinental. The benefits of staying there as a Club InterContinental member is that you get to check-in at the Club InterContinental on the 45th Floor, late check-out, afternoon tea, evening drinks and snacks. You are also able to use the club anytime. At the InterContinental you get the added best benefit of stunning views of West Bay!

InterContinental Doha the City

The Room

Light flooded the room from the floor to ceiling windows in the room. The views were just as incredible from the 42nd floor where my room was located. Besides the view, the next best thing was that when I shut the door, it was quiet. The noisy streets of Doha disappeared when I closed the door.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

The living room area of the suite felt like walking into someone’s apartment and not a hotel room. There were a small couch and a chaise lounge. The tv was across from these but not the focal point of the room, which I prefer. Next to this was a good-sized desk where there was both a Nespresso coffee machine and a tea kettle. The best part about the desk the plugs were built into the desk, and a universal plug was included!InterContinental Doha the City

More windows greeted me as I entered the bedroom. The king-sized bed was facing another tv and another view of downtown Doha. There is also a plush chair to sit in. Off the bedroom was the bathroom with, you guessed it, more windows! You can have a bubble bath and watch the traffic go by. The view extends into the shower, which is large with a rainfall option.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Overall, I loved the room. The carpet was plush, the bed comfortable, plugs beside the beds, coffee maker and blackout curtains are all things I love about a hotel room. There could always be more plugs and the windows provided great views but did give glare off the tv. I wouldn’t trade the views for the tv, though!

The Food

If you are going to a hotel for a staycation, then you probably don’t want to leave the hotel and to do that you need great food options. The InterContinental Doha the City does not disappoint. Since I was there on Friday, I was invited to have brunch at Hwang. Brunch is a traditional activity here on Friday. Hwang is Pan Asian, and the brunch is their take on Yum Cha brunch. Unlike the traditional buffet brunch, Hwang is a tasting menu that you order from, and they bring you as much as you like.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Having only been to Hwang once before, I was eager to have the things I know I liked and to try new dishes as well. Not only was the food superb the service was excellent. The waitresses suggested items to try and made me feel like I was eating with friends. My favorite dishes were the Crispy Prawns with Wasabi Mayo and the Crispy Wok Friend Duck with Long Beans and Thai Basil. The brunch is reasonably priced at QR 228 with soft beverages, QR 328 with wine and beer and QR 428 with wine, sparkling wine, beer, spirits and cocktails.

InterContinental Doha the City

That evening I had dinner at Al Jalsa Garden Lounge. Now that the weather has cooled down in Qatar, this is an excellent option as it is outside. The offerings are mainly Arabic food and shisha is an option. The muttabel I had there is the best I have had in Doha and I have had tons of muttabel.

InterContinental Doha the City

You can’t stay in a hotel without enjoying the buffet breakfast. The wonderful service continued at The Square where upon entering they took my coffee and omelet order! Kids will enjoy this breakfast as much of it would be visible to them. In fact, I saw one little boy jump from his stroller when he saw strawberry milk.

There are several more options in the hotel including Prime, the steakhouse, the lobby lounge for tea, Strata lounge and restaurant and Hive restaurant and lounge. You will never go hungry at the InterContinental Doha the City.

The InterContinental Doha the City is an excellent choice for a staycation or a weekend in Qatar, check rates here. Even if you decided to venture out from the hotel you are close to two malls, Katara, the Corniche and the amazing Souq Waqif.

 

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