February can be a tough month for couples trying to show their grand gesture of love. New couples commonly struggle to find ways to impress, while older ones usually strive to keep the romance alive and avoid the same old routines. Personally, I think the best Valentine’s Day gift is to travel together as a couple and make new memories. This way, you will have something to talk about for years to come. Since 2016, I have been working on what I call “The Love Destination”. Here is my selection for this year.
Judging from the number of love stories coming from this country, China is definitely one of my love destination countries to visit. That is, in particular, to the city of Lijiang. As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Lijiang has one of the most wonderful nature vistas from the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to the everlasting blue river at Blue Moon Valley.
As a destination, Lijiang offers much excitement for couples. Highlights here include outdoor hiking around Blue Moon Valley, exploring Lijiang Old Town – particularly Sifangjie (the Square Market) where we can see, smell and taste various local flavours – to a daylong excursion to the very mesmerising ancient Baisha Village.
To heighten your romantic getaway, surprise your partner by booking a suite at Amandayan that is located on the top hill of Lijiang Old Town. Designed by our own Jaya Ibrahim, Amandayan will bring you back to the glorious ancient times but in luxury and modern comfort. After a long day exploring the Old Town, you can have the traditional Tui Na massage for two before continuing with a private dinner at Wenchang Palace courtyard (located inside Amandayan) that dates back to 1725. Surprise your loved one with a romantic breakfast in one of Amandayan pavilions overlooking the Old Town. It will truly make a memorable romantic experience.
Dubbed as one of the most romantic places in the world, Maldives has a well-minted reputation for more than a decade now. After my visit there last year, I can fully understand why many couples make this country their romantic destination. The idea of just being the two of you in a private island surrounded by white sandy beach and crystal-clear water while enjoying the cool sea breeze is actually quite romantic, like in the movie The Blue Lagoon.
Of thousand atolls that surround Male, Hurawalhi Island – part of Lhaviyani Atoll – is my recommended love destination for couples who are into sea and sun. Set as an adults-only island resort, Hurawalhi with its 90 villas offer everything that you need from greatly designed villas on the water with private pool and sun deck, great restaurants and beautiful beachside that stretches all around the island to various great outdoor activities. Think snorkelling, diving, island hopping, dolphin watching, fishing, afternoon sunset cruise and many more.
The highlight here includes the amazing romantic dinner at the world’s largest all-glass undersea restaurant called 5.8 Undersea Restaurant. Imagine a dining experience where you are served with one of the best modern cuisine dishes by Chef Bjorn van den Oever while watching citizens of the sea swim majestically surrounding you. It is without a doubt one of the most romantic and rarest spots to find.
One of my favourite romantic experiences in Hurawalhi was when they took me to tiny sandbanks on the beachfront for a private afternoon picnic. It is such a magical spot to be with your loved ones while floating elegantly at the beach with a glass of champagne.
As a country, Indonesia also offers many love destinations. My pick for this year is a quaint city called Magelang in Central Java. Compared to its more famous neighbour Yogyakarta, Magelang is less known, and most of the time, it’s even considered as part of Yogyakarta. There are many gems that are located in this city, from historical to natural beauty. For example, the famous Borobodur Temple is actually located in Magelang, not Yogyakarta. Aside from Borobudur, we can also explore 12 other ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples that are scattered around the city. Catching the dawn at Borobudur may be a popular thing for sun worshippers, but when it comes to sunset, the view here is somehow more romantic.
Magelang is also home to the famous Amanjiwo that was opened 30 years ago. Designed by Ed Tuttle and inspired by the Borobodur Temple, Amanjiwo has 36 suites that are not only luxurious but perfect for a romantic getaway. From the rotunda that functions as the main restaurant, we can catch a glimpse of Borobudur Temple from afar. The whole resort oozes a sense of grandeur and romance. In the evening, surprise your loved one with an authentic home-cooked private dinner at Pak Bilal’s traditional Javanese home nearby Pawon Temple with candlelit setting. It is not your usual type of romantic candlelit dinner, but better!
Amanjiwo is located at Menoreh Hill that is perfect for trekking. You can also explore the surrounding village on foot where you can see the locals in their everyday life. Ask the hotel to prepare you a romantic breakfast at Eloprogro Art House where you can enjoy a beautiful natural setting in front of the famous Kulon Progo River from the hill in picnic style. I have to say that when it comes to creating a romantic experience, Aman is really good at it.