PROPERTY REVIEW: Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Last Visit
January 2014

~ Early Morning at The Summer Palace, Lake Kunming, Beijing, PRC ~

This happens to be one of my favorite shots (highlight) of this long work week during my visit to Beijing and China.

It is early morning – 06:30 on a weekday – ahead of predictably all day long and late evening meetings in closed office towers in central Beijing but with jet lag working in my favour, I am wide awake and anxious to begin the day on the right mental foot, so to speak. Walking or gently hiking is my proven method to ease severe jet lag, as much as possible before near collapse (on my part). Today, I felt incredibly inspired to capture the slight morning breeze with the dead calm of Lake Kunming’s serene sheen – almost reflective – waters. There is a lot of emotion in this photo. Admiring the Aman at Summer Palace exclusive property rights to offer guests direct access, I am quite literally relishing in this historic moment and so thankful for the privilege to enjoy this. I was not able to view this UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 pre-Summer Beijing Olympics due to renovations.

I am here now and it is like a dream.


PROPERTY REVIEW: AMAN at The Summer Palace, Beijing PRC

Aman at The Summer Palace

Having already long become an avid Aman lover for many years of all-things-Aman, I am in love with this property.

Aman Group has set itself apart from many other hotel, resort or property management groups. Their dedicated, exclusive, mind-blowing attention to every (personal) detail, truly ranks them far above and beyond competition and thereby makes them my uber favorite among all reviews, as a group.

This particular property in Beijing I would say like all other Aman locations, has set a standard that most can only strive to achieve.

I am that impressed.

However, like anything – open for constructive criticism – there is always room for improvement.

First things first, this Aman site quite literally sits on UNESCO World Heritage grounds (The Summer Palace and Lake Kunming), protected by both the local principality amidst the Fifth Ring and of course having successfully surmounted the Chinese government to gain exclusive property rights on site. That is a feat unknown to most properties in China no less and Aman was ultimately successful in promising to devise a property plan conducive to maintaining historic relevance.

My property review takes you through their every day activities, my host parties, private, discreet concierge services, amenities, spa treatments, spoilingly-indulgent courtyard living space and of course meeting with their General Manager Todd and friends during my special visit this past month.

Updated 31May2013

Here is my welcome note and guest package (includes local map of Metro Beijing, useful Mandarin Chinese-to-English translation card for essential phrases, emergency local telephone numbers, daily activities) from GM Todd and a slight study of the vast grounds. Once you peruse on foot, you needn’t carry the property map. It is a large expanse of green and bush but you’ll assimilate in time.

True to the architectural structures of the Summer Palace grounds, the Aman’s main lounge area offers guest more civilized greetings by whole staff and introductions to those who will be at your beck and call. This was my first interior view of the main imposing building from their meet-and-greet welcome reception upon arrival and disembarkation in Beijing direct from the long 13+hr flight from London Heathrow.

As my beloved architect and mentor friend Kate Foster always pointedly said about interior structures, “Continuity”. She would be proud of me for noticing. Aman constructed NEW courtyard buildings in similar size but to the exact – albeit stronger, modern eco-friendly materials – as is the former Emperor’s Summer Palace grounds, which is another feat to offer guests and visitors a sense of ‘continuity’ from the property grounds to the UNESCO World Heritage site, all evidenced here.

I am not solely here to build relationships and power network, conduct meetings and host parties, but principally I am here as a student of interior design and architecture. One has to be attuned to every painstaking detail and ‘notice the details’ and be able to decipher and discuss any flaws or improvements. My training is hands-on or rather ‘eyes on’ in the face of educating beyond the classroom. Here stands the main entry of Aman’s cultural building offering guests classes in traditional Chinese tea ceremony, calligraphy and art. It happens to be a great investment in this property’s activities program.

This photo reveals what guests see upon leaving their courtyard living space. To the left is the music pavilion which offers private dining and classical Chinese ambience while overlooking a koi pond, surrounded by towering pines and bamboo. I am standing on top of a staircase for a higher view at the main guest entry corridor.













RPT-Manila rising, so are rents as confidence in Philippines grows | Reuters

via The Original “Moments of Delight at Mandarin Oriental” – YouTube.

Such an inspiration for wanderlust…

Among the larger scale luxury hotel groups, Mandarin Oriental is one of my top favourites. Watching this video always reminds me why we have wanderlust and the curiosity to travel far and wide outside our comfort zone – albeit in lush accommodations in exotic locales – but when you need inspiration, this captures my heart in the way I desire to explore other “nether regions”.

Just arrived today is the 2013 Zagat London for which my comments made publication. So happy!

No doubt. I am a foodie.

Zagat is one of the best forums to either help make or break an establishment (hopefully less of the latter). A potential demise is never welcome, but sometimes striking the right balance of synergy and food, atmosphere and service, service, service are the mainstays of what determines the overall success of a restaurant.

Submitting many years of reviews while patronising my favorite restaurants across the globe and being able to contribute to the much anticipated results of Zagat’s annual surveys with my comments published as part of a restaurant’s overall description feels like success. A long time patron that fully exercises my rights by voting in Zagat’s surveys – to rave or to rant – publicly, is one of my few contributions to the dining world.

A Happy – Belated – New Year 2012! Toast and Cheers!

Wow! Incredible!

Happy, Happy…joy, joy!

I hope you are all enjoying the start of another year. Incredible! I’ve not been available much to continue blogging these days, especially not with all the changes happening: left and right, every day, every month – CHANGE!

Juggling all that exists is really difficult and trying to maintain composure without losing it has grown to become another life challenge, but I accept it. Life’s throwing a bit of lemons right now, but as the saying goes, “make lemonade.” I may have lost sight of what my purpose, my ambitions are, but I’m back full swing, full steam ahead.

As goals are reset and ambitions abound, so too are the drive and will to do it ALL!

I have many balls juggling in the air right now and while life’s about making lemonade from those lemons, please bear with me as I continue offering what I can about those little reminders of why maggiesmusings exists.

What was that?

Oh. Yes!

My mission statement as a blogger and a reminder – to bring true enlightenment to others. I wish that will be used as a source of cultural enrichment, diversity and education, using global travel as a means to help bridge societies into borderless destinations highlighting our common “human” traits.

Another reminder amid the sea of change this year, I continue to take a different road from my predecessors. I dream of carefully carving my life through creative outlets. If there’s one great lesson today for my young son, I wish to teach him that While gratitude and happiness go hand-in-hand, to truly grasp and live a happy life, a path must be created to reach this goal, including the seemingly long arduous journey with challenges at every corner, but it’s there…if you take it.


Saying Goodbye to Summer 2011…

Here is Baby Sully taking in as much sand between his toes on Tucker’s Point Club. After “Irina’cane” we’re already relishing this final – last gasp – weekend of Summer 2011.

Old Spanish Towne, Manila, Philippines

Still jet lagged but excitedly exploring the Spanish Fort town just north of Manila.

‘Tis the Season

An especially magical Christmas for our toddler at home in complete wonderment.

Who knew our very adult, mature home would convert quite literally into an all-things-for-kids room, storage, or whatever available space has been encroached upon by TOYS, TOYS, TOYS!

Unloading Some Almost-Forgotten Photos Before the New Year Begins…

This is the landing card for Singapore Customs & Immigration given by flight attendants on a recent Singapore Airlines flight prior to arrival. It’s an understatement in this case where language or any misinterpretation of the law has no grey or middle area. That is to say DEATH as a deterrent for crime might actually work but it’s so final.

So much for the petty crimes of chewing gum or spitting in public [not that I’d actually participate or play privy to such an outrageous activity here]. Caning anyone, anyone? Welcome expatriates!

Learning to let go and saying goodbye to some old ghosts…spooky, huh?

I think I’m just a tad little too loyal – or attached – to everything (and everyone) from my past. We all need some nostalgia to relive some memories now and then, and require lessons from the past to get through life now. At least at my age this sentiment rings true.

The holidays have this hold on me and sort of make me hunger for things that once were, including people and places where I’ve been. I feed on this especially around this time – as we transition into another new year – and yearn for all things novel, nostalgia-revisited, and just enjoy reminiscing with dear old friends and family, even if that means opening up old wounds.

Oh, blame the sad, sappy, sentimentalist in me. I’m a hopeless romantic always seeing things in an idyllic way: people, places, things, memories…until someone wakes me and…oh….then I realize how fatally unrealistic I am, my true downfall.

On the brighter side, all things considered, I still believe that in order to look forward, you somehow have to take a peek at what happened to bring you back heretofore. Ah! Tears and joy. Isn’t life grand? Toast and cheers everyone! Happy, Happy, Merry, Merry!

More interior design space for my ever-changing palette. Hmmm? Here’s to another “new beginning.” A clean slate. A chance to start anew…once again.


Overlooking the Hudson on a bitter cold afternoon with the Goldman Sachs tower across the river in Jersey City to the upper Battery Park City high rises on the western side of World Financial Center. Ah! Look below. The recreational center is almost complete.

With all the lighted frasier firs dotted along Park Avenue I might not have ever noticed this dedication plaque had my scarf not been blown off-kelter in the wind. Apparently, this young girl never made it to her 10th birthday and for some reason I noticed it on the very same day as her birthday…7th Dec 2010. Stranger things have happened. Bless the angelic soul.

Among all the birthday arrangements I received this year, though I thank everyone for their kind thoughts and gestures, as you know, despite the morbidity of all white flowers, I just adore white hydrangeas, roses and everything flora-white this season. It’s so pretty! Somehow the idea that growth is halted – or dormant – during these snowy, bitter dry, long cold days make floral arrangements like these, just pop out! Yeah…yeah…birthday, schmirthday! Ahahah! I LOVE IT!

I can’t count how many functions we attended this year, but it’s all a blur now. Still can’t believe Christmas is next week and the new year’s next. Where am I?

Season’s Greetings, Happy, Happy, Merry, Merry!

2010 Bedford Home Christmas Tree.

Most of the ornaments are kid-friendly, i.e. they are crafted from soft cushy velvet with applique threading creating unbreakable decorations for our roaming, destructive toddler at home. Thank you Fortnum & Mason for considering my crazy toddler.

So, it’s that time again and while there’s so much to see and do with all the gatherings, I thank all my friends and family that actually remembered that my birthday is indeed this week. Everyone is crazed running to and fro trying to juggle everything, so I am always appreciative of those who remember.

I am that kid that always, somehow got jilted season after season from receiving those forbidden all-in-one Birthday+Christmas gifts. Dare I say I’m still sore ’bout that….eeheheh!

Seriously, I’m at that age where quiet reflection and a time to reassess my life is the “norm,” and way – I CHOOSE to celebrate my birthday – not the big blow outs or loud crazy festivities of years past. Instead, I give thanks and wish for nothing but another wonderful holiday – uh, birthday – with everyone.

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