Former fashionista Elizabeth Kiester gave up a crazy-glam-hectic New York lifestyle (complete with full Sex and the City trappings, requisite high heels and sashimi-platter lunch dates) to give something back to the Khmer people she’d fallen in love with on a trip to Cambodia.
She sold her apartment, packed her bags and (quite literally) set up shop in Siem Reap. Which is where we discovered her, while researching star stays for our next hotel guide, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: South-East Asia (out later this year).
The result, Wanderlust, is a lifestyle concept boutique selling hand-made clothing and homewares, all created by local women – it’s been so successful that there are already three outlets in Cambodia.
Tell us a bit about Wanderlust, Elizabeth – how did it come about? What drew you to Cambodia in the first place?
I came to Cambodia in 2008 on a short-term volunteer holiday through an American NGO. I wanted to take a vacation, but I really wanted to do something. I was at crossroads in my life, and the idea of a week on a beach just didn’t appeal at the time. I have always loved south-east Asia and Cambodia was on my ‘must check out’ list. So I came to Siem Reap and installed water pumps in rural villages, painted a pagoda, and taught songs and English to the kids at a local orphanage.
I just loved the magic of the place: the light, the sounds, the unfamiliar and strange smells, and the sense of hope that I felt everywhere, in every eye and every smile – even in every tear I saw shed. I wanted to be part of it on a deeper level, and try to do what I could to help instill a sense of security in the Khmer people, and above all, to celebrate and make noise about all of it.
Credit crunch, schmedit crunch… what we all need during January’s bleaker moments is a bit of holiday escapism. So we quizzed editor of Luxury Travel magazine Alyson Cook about the highs and lows of luxury, and asked her for some luxe-for-less tips to make your budget go further…
Luxury for me is the chance to relax and hide away in a hotel incognito; unrecognised by an enthusiastic general manager keen to impress me with his latest, luxury suite tour! I love my job and I have been privileged to stay at some amazing places, but I also guard my privacy with the family – the chance to be with them, undisturbed, in a sunny location, preferably with a good book in one hand and a glass of fine white wine in the other, is my ideal relaxation.
Wow-inducing bathrooms have become as important as seductive boudoirs at the hotels Mr & Mrs Smith visit, and they’re a great opportunity to showcase imaginative design. Double sinks, or even double baths create a glamorous boutique-hotel feel, glass-enclosed wet-room-style showers and baths with a view add drama. Beautiful materials and different textures, from stone tiling to special towels, creates interest. Otherwise attention to detail gives bathrooms more personality, whether it’s an extravagant mirror or beautiful antique chair. Zero clutter, plumbing that really works, adjustable lighting, enough hooks to hang your towels, and even the odd technological flourish are all factors that can turn a good hotel into a great one.
Without further ado, allow us to present, in no particular order, our run-down of the best hotel bathrooms on the great green earth. Hold on to your shower caps…