fluffy towes
Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in travel memoirs, destination pieces, hotel reviews, guidebook contributor, travel advice, restaurant reviews, family travel, and copywriting.

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All loved up in Koh Samui

filed27 Feb 2017 from

Koh Samui's tumultuous weather gods holding court

Koh Samui’s tumultuous weather gods holding court

The night promises all the drama of a tropical storm as palm trees bow to the tumultuous weather gods holding court. Koh Samui’s serene skies make way for the approaching monsoon season as the rain pounds sideways into Manathai Koh Samui’s restaurant Waterline. Everyone takes cover as the wait-staff prepare the restaurant for the impending deluge. There was a time not that long ago when fine dining wasn’t a feature and Koh Samui, was famed for its fishing communities and coconuts. Now its staggering beauty fringed by aquamarine is a drawcard for loved-up couples.

Crystal Bay's obscene beauty

Crystal Bay’s obscene beauty

There’re plenty more civilised ways to get soaked, like the glorious Crystal Bay whose name derived from its insanely pretty waters. Join the bevvy of bikini-clad pretties emerging from the sea swanning into Rock Salt Restaurant perched on the water’s edge for plenty of raw and green options. Choeng Mon, near the Big Buddha on the north-western tip of the island, is popular for the sophisticated while the soft sands of Bophut Beach give the calves a workout leaving you completely justified to flop until you need refreshment from the nearby Fisherman’s Bay.

Forget the trashy full moon parties and instead, explore Koh Phangan’s gorgeous beaches in virtual seclusion just 20 minutes away by ferry. Hire a taxi from the ferry terminal or grab a map and hire a boat or bike to explore at whim. Two stand-out beaches are Bottle Beach in the remote northern end adorned with powdery white and turquoise hues and if time and energy permits, climb the steep track for envy-inducing Instagram views. From Bottle Beach, walk or take a longboat to Thong Nai Pan Beach, which has two heavenly sandy bays lined with rustic eateries. There are plenty of water lapping bungalows which is just as well since you’re not going to want to leave. Lingering on the island demands a gorge on Parisian fare at the candle-lit L’Alcove with dessert at the nearby Organic Chocolate House; aka the Naked Chocolate café and I dare you to ask why.

Flipping out at Angthong National Marine Park

Flipping out at Angthong National Marine Park

Safari Boats offer tours and private charters of Koh Phangan, Koh Nang Yuan (believed to be the most beautiful of them all) and Angthong Marine Park, featuring an archipelago of 42 islands, including monkey island which has no monkeys but claims its name from its gorilla shape. Snorkel through schools of sea bass and pilot fish, take an invigorating climb to Emerald Lake, go sea kayaking and swimming through spectacular outcrops.

It's not hard to work out where Emerald Lake got its name from, Angthong National Marine Park

It’s not hard to work out where Emerald Lake got its name from, Angthong National Marine Park

Back on the mainland, it’s time to create more memories and pad thai, green curry chicken and green papaya salad at the Island Organics cooking school. Even if you’re no connoisseur its worth spending time with owners Cameron Hanson, a renowned photographer, and his gorgeous wife Lat on tours through her abundant garden which she impressively transformed from a barren plot.

Lat from Island Organics

Lat from Island Organics

Now, back to our stormy dinner at Waterline Restaurant. Inspired by his Italian roots and items randomly washed ashore, chef Roberto Bellitti creates a whimsical menu like Liquid Underwood depicting the ebb and flow of the tide with a mushroom and herb soup with mascarpone, or Sweet and Salty constructed of river prawns with calamari, mango and coconut salsa. Not only is each dish a revelation, but each plate itself is unique.

Waterline Sweet And Salty, Manathai Koh Samui

Waterline Sweet And Salty, Manathai Koh Samui

Daylight transforms the menu into casual dining and a beach club. As the wooden boats tied to the pier in front glitter with green lights attracting squid, Manathai’s General Manager Natalie Kamolwattanasoontorn enthusiastically chimes in about what sets Samui apart, “It’s the third largest island in Thailand and for me its yesteryear charm, romantic secluded beaches and bungalows meet our visitor’s needs. And because of its petite size, there are sea glimpses every which way.” Following the island’s lead, the Manathai is unique in that it’s the only colonial style hotel on Samui. If Graham Greene were still alive, I could picture him penning a novel here just as he wrote the Quiet American in Hanoi’s Hotel Metropole. Recently opened in July 2015, the suites decorated in soft blues and greens with four poster beds and wood panelling are luxurious in their furnishings and size.

This "healthy" dessert isn't what it seems at Manathai

This “healthy” dessert isn’t what it seems at Manathai

Manathai is located in Lamai, an area known for its French expat community, and there are several French bakeries and a cheese shop nearby which could be the makings of a decadent beach picnic. Or be enchanted at Villa Chocolat, a café serving coffee and chocolates handcrafted to the tunes and twirls of the ballet school on the premises.

Just as the island prides itself on its pristine condition, it naturally attracts couples attune to keeping their bodies aligned and healthy. The insane views of Jungle Club, Gecko Bar and June’s Art Café are just a few hotspots dishing up organic freshness as do Vikasa and the Yoga Garden along with yoga for the bendy. Day spas are plentiful, and Tamarind Springs is conveniently close to Manathai (whose spa opens in October 2016) offerings all kinds of heavenly treatments amongst lush vegetation.

One of Manathai's opulent bathrooms

One of Manathai’s opulent bathrooms

Carmen Jenner was a guest of Manathai Koh Samui www.manathai.com/samui rates start at approximately AUD$100 per night. For more information on Koh Samui go to www.kohsamui-tourism.com

This article was originally published in Marque BMW Autumn 2016 as Love is in the Air

Gently Bentley

filed30 Mar 2016 from

driving

Pulling out of the Bentley showroom in Claremont onto Stirling Highway, I’m very much aware many houses cost less than the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S we’re test driving. However, given the craftsmanship on this elegant beast, it almost seems gauche to mention to money.

Our automatic seat belt presenter embraces us as we head up into the Perth Hills for a night of indulgence. It doesn’t take long to relax into the ventilated massaging leather seats with contrast cross …

How to survive a health retreat

filed02 Nov 2013 from

Whether it’s an ashram in rural India or a 5-star facility in some far flung destination, you’ve done the research and selected the ideal health retreat. Or so you thought as you’re poked and prodded, basted in oil and prescribed foul tasting medicinal potions. Here are 10 reasons to stick it out.yoga

 

  1. Feeling good. No matter what happens, or how tired or confronted or hungry or sick you feel, it passes. You will feel better and be healthier than

Truffle Time

filed29 Jul 2013 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Ten years on, the Wine and Truffle Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt last week and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated the …

More mooning, aka Nakation

filed07 Jun 2013 from

Photo 7 breast

If you read my post on 10 ways to moon your honey post and it left you wanting more (or is that less?) then these adrenaline pumping activities in the buff may satiate. Or if you’ve got any other suggestions, don’t be shy?

 

Water nymphs:

Public nudity in Asia is generally frowned upon, which makes skinny dipping so thrilling. However, law abiding naked bods should head to Australia to let it all hang out. And while you’re down there, …

10 ways to moon your honey

filed24 May 2013 from

Moon your honey 194

 

Up for a risqué holiday? Then you may want to check out one of these 10 retreats where the romance is high and the clothing in optional.

Afterall, what’s more enticing than your lover frolicking without a care in the world? Well, whisking your beloved off to an exotic location donning little more than a smile would probably trump it. Here are some ways to moon your honey, but you don’t necessarily need to wait until the honeymoon to …

I think I’m stripping Japanese, I really think so

filed09 Mar 2012 from

Sadly, March marks the anniversary of the great Japan earthquake and tsunami and although the devastation and heartache is insurmountable, tourists are returning to Japan. Who can blame anyone wanting to explore the land of sumo wrestling and geishas, where everything is familiar and foreign all at the same time. A culture obsessed with rules and protocol and yet consumed by perplexing, and quite frankly kinky, pasttimes.


Photo 8 bride back

 

Luuuurve Hotels

Cheesy Love Hotels rented by the hour in Japan were …

The launch of Fluffy Towel Travels

filed28 Sep 2011 from

NOW AVAILABLE AT DYMOCKS KARRINYUP & SUBIACO, BODHI TREE & PLANET BOOKS FOR $20

ALSO AT KALM WELLNESS CENTRE WITH TRAVEL TOWELS FOR $40

I will also have a stall at the Festival of Christmas markets at the Perth Cultural Centre on 9th December. Well done to  Events and Beyond for utilising Perth’s public spaces with cultural events  http://eventsandbeyond.com.au/

My travel memoir, Fluffy Towel Travels was launched on 21st October at Quinlan’s Cafe Fremantle in a flurry of wine, …

The Not-so Amazing Race

filed23 Mar 2011 from

 

WELCOME to The Not So Amazing Race. The first part of the Joneses’ challenge is to gain access to an apartment for their stay in Paris. The Jones family comprises of husband and wife, Jason and Simone, and three-year-old Jessica.*

None of the Jones family will speak French on this leg of the race. The final challenge is teamwork. Will Jason and Simone make it to the end as a married couple? Their prize is a month’s use of …

Petite Paris

filed10 Mar 2011 from

THERE are few places as lively, vibrant and stimulating as Paris. I’m not entirely referring to the city either as my daughter is named after the City of Light. It seems fitting that the two should meet. But if you shudder at the thought of dragging young children around vast museums, consider these tips on how to toddle around the French capital.

1. Cafe culture: Sip hot chocolate together as you watch people and dogs. Discuss, write, draw and photograph …

Contiki Tip 34: How to use a map

filed13 Nov 2010 from

So there we all were, waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting for our ferry to take us to Venice. A very exciting prospect indeed as I was dying to see one of the most romantic cities of all time. However, there was nothing very romantic about our situation. We were at the very dodgy port of Patra, aka the Rats of Patras, waiting to board our ferry for a two night cruise to Venice.

We were about halfway through our 34-day …

Paris at the Hilton

filed08 Nov 2010 from

 

The harpist serenades us as lady-boys shoo away flies with white cloths, or are they merely surrendering to the scorching heat?  Celebrating our daughter’s sixth birthday, we’re having lunch at No Problem Restaurant in a wooden structure suspended on stilts over a mangrove on Mactan Island, one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

We’re sampling the traditional dish of Sutukil, a term derived from three words Sugba (SU), Tuwa (TU), Kilaw (KIL) meaning to broil, …

The art of aphrodisiacs

filed03 Nov 2010 from

Aphrodite’s Feast

A bottle of red, a torn baguette, a slab of cheese, crumbled sheets, and laughter. The act of seduction is complete. The scene is simple and the ingredients are bare. Step it up a notch with baked fish and herbs, threads of saffron, a squirt of wine and the juice of a lemon. Handmade linguine slurped in unison or a lobster torn apart and then devoured. Simpler still, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a voluptuous avocado. Pick …

What Race?

filed01 Nov 2010 from

 

I had lasted 11 hours in my silly shoes, but there was no way I could wear them for the twenty-minute hike back to the car. As my sandals dangled from my hands, the cool tarmac had taken a velvety texture beneath my bleeding feet.

The brisk air itched my sunburnt shoulders and ached every muscle as my hangover kicked in. However, I was healthier than many of the other punters we passed along the way. Some were in vomiting …

Holy Cow! Five Reasons to Not Bustle Past Cowaramup

filed28 Oct 2010 from

Holy Cow!

If you’re moo-ving around the Margaret River region three hours south of Perth, you may notice some life-size cow sculptures left-over from the CowParade Margaret River, an international event held in over 50 cities. The competition saw local artists hussling up the bovine creatures in all kinds of attire and positions. It seems only appropriate to start your cow hunt in the charming dairy town of Cowaramup, situated on the Bussell Highway and just 10 minutes north of …

Smiles from the Teardrop Isle: Family Travel in Sri Lanka

filed31 Aug 2010 from

Art imitating colourful life in Sri Lanka

Like a jewel dropped into the ocean, Sri Lanka sparkles bright. Tamer than its Indian neighbour, the spicy isle is heaving with culture, wildlife, gems, adventure, welcoming locals, and exotic beauty every which way.

Unlike other Asian hotspots Sri Lanka is virtually untouched by tourism compliments of the 25 year war. The country breathes a collective sigh of relief as the war is finally over. The figurative doors have flung open and tourists …

Death of a Suitcase

filed28 Oct 2009 from

CJKK20080713 282a

The unthinkable has happened. Like a down-trodden wife, my beloved suitcase, has reluctantly been disgarded for a newer, shinier model.

Clad in navy blue, she was the ideal size for a quick getaway or an extended trip, and very popular among family and friends. I didn’t mind, as I saw this as an opportunity for my suitcase to getaway, even when I didn’t have the chance to myself. Although well-travelled, she didn’t look too shabby considering her lifestyle.

My old …

Reversing the Rite of Passage

filed13 Oct 2009 from

My mother used to have a sticker on her car that read, “Live long enough to be a burden to your children.” By the age of 31, she had six daughters giving herself plenty of time to fulfil this quest. Twenty three years later my parents departed from the Perth International Airport for the very first time. It was obvious they were virgin jet-setters because they didn’t turn and wave as they sailed down the hall to immigration. Everyone knows …

This Parisian Life

filed20 Sep 2009 from

THIS PARISIAN LIFE – PART I

French Beauty

 “One is not born a woman; rather one becomes a woman.”  – Simone De Beauvoir

The French model wears a petticoat crafted from balloons. The model behind her flaps wings styled like a bird of paradise. Men sit rigid in their seats during this Parisian couture fashion parade, admiring these heavenly beauties.

Cameras flash, flattering some of the models and insulting others, who sneer at the audience. We are engulfed in wall-to-wall …