Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

BLOGGING HAS GIVEN ME opportunity to stay in some of the finest hotels and resorts. But often many luxury properties fail to touch your heart and forge a personal bond with you. The smaller properties and home stays are often the better bet.

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View from some of the rooms be like….

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is a rarity. Despite its huge size and a large number of staff, everything this resort does exudes warmth and friendliness. I interacted with many of the staff members and each one of them has attended to the guests with utmost care, willingness and a broad genuine smile.

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Its secluded pool!

One of the front office staff Naser Herzallah chatted with us for a long time even after his duty hours was over. When we asked him if we can visit his home for a deeper immersive cultural experience, he did not take even a second to invite us to his home. We could not visit his home due to lack of time.

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The friendly Filipino host Jonalyn Lagaspi at the restaurant.

The next morning, the many Filipino girls at the Palm Court Restaurant & Terrace won our hearts with their attentive and friendly service. They anticipated our need and would leave no stones unturned to give us a memorable experience. The vibrant restaurant has an indoor dining option as well as an outdoor section.

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The al fresco restaurant

It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sampled only breakfast which comprised of a wide array of Middle Eastern and European cuisine. The live cooking made the ambiance lively.

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The friendly people who willingly posed for us at the al fresco dining!

Apart from the buffet, the restaurant also offers à la carte dining menu. The second day, I dined in the private dining room which was quieter and less packed. I particularly liked the youthful décor of the restaurant.

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Palm Court Restaurant and Terrace

My suite was huge and airy. Its windows and 2 terraces opened to sweeping views of the Aqaba city. Some of my co travelers got even better views of the ocean. Balcony was my favorite part where I would spend all my leisure time watching the city over a smoke. The bathtub helped me fight the tiredness, thanks to a busy day of travel. The sitting area was huge, none of which I could use due to lack of time. The suite even had a kitchen and a large refrigerator.

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The living room of my suite!

Where Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba wins is its attention to detail. It sure knows how to delight its guests. I was delighted to see a local craft on my bed. It was a gift to me from the resort along with the cookies and delicious dry fruits. Even the bathroom slippers in the hotel were not a bland white. It was colorful and depicted local art.

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My room. Notice the complimentary gift so thoughtfully presented!

The resort is so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist saving some time in the early morning for a property round. There is a bridge which connects the main building to another. This bridge is on the top of the road called King Hussein Street. It was very creatively used for an al fresco Jacuzzi pool. We arrived at the private beach of the hotel from where it offered many water sports. Ala’a Salman, one of the jovial staff took us on a tour. Though he knew little English but we communicated well between smiles and wallahs.

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Ala’a Salman with my co traveler and friend Arka Das.

He even showed us the border of neighboring countries from the hotel. He was another staff member who touched our heart and exceeded our expectations. I like the way people from different countries work here as a team. A co traveler told me his room was serviced by a very friendly attendant from Patna, Bihar! Who would have thought?

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Naser Herzallah was a delightful company. He talked to us for a long time even after his duty hours were over. Picture Credit: Naser Herzallah

Ms. Layali Nashashibi, Director of Communications and PR, herself showed us some of the ethnic decor of the resort and educated us about the history of Mövenpick chain and its core values.A brilliant and vivacious lady, she patiently answered all our questions and offered us the famous Mövenpick ice cream.

I have always valued human interactions more than the material comforts in a luxury property. Not all of them do it well. Very small percentage of luxury hotels get that right. Fortunately, Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is one of them.

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The private beach of the hotel

And oh, Don’t forget to eat the famous Mövenpick Ice Cream if you go there!

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Don’t forget to check out the ruins of an ancient city Ayla in front of the resort.

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Me posing at the resort in Aqaba, Jordan. Behind me is Israel!

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The Palm Court & Terrace- All day dining!

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Me, faking it in the lobby of Movenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba! (Pic: Arka Das)

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

WARNING: COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

4 Rooms Hotel : My Stay in a former merchant’s house in the mountains!

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The 4 Rooms Hotel in post rains!

Staying at 4 rooms hotel in Gunehar is a very unique experience. A few hours away from the bustling Mc Leodganj, which is perennially crushing under the touristy madness is this quaint home stay, away from all the touristy frills and other nonsense. I had never stayed in a restored property so I was looking forward to the charming vacation bang in the middle of a real Himachali village.

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Manjulika, Parnashree, me and Dipanshu (L to R) at 4 tables restaurant!

I was accompanied by 4 other travel bloggers who braved the early morning downpour to reach the hotel. But not before maneuvering our way through herds of cattle tended by the Gaddi shepherd community.

Picture above : 4 room hotel – BEFORE (Pic by Frank) 

We were delighted to take a round of the rustic property. Built out of mud and wood and bamboo as main components, the hotel exuded an earthy charm. Walking bare feet on the mud floor of the hotel, I stared lustily at the verdant valleys and misty air from the balcony, disturbed only by the chirps of birds that set up their nest in the ceiling.

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View from the balcony of 4 rooms hotel!

I was told it was originally the partially burnt house of a wealthy merchant. When I looked closely at the other bigger traditional houses in the vicinity, I found a striking similarity except that the hotel was more sanitized and spruced up.

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4 room hotel – during restoration (Pic by Frank) 

Like all things Frank has done to put Gunehar on the ‘discerning’ traveler map, without alienating the locals and their lifestyle, 4 rooms hotel effortlessly blends with the local milieu and atmosphere.

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Ribbon Cutting of 4 rooms Hotel (Pic by Frank) 

The rooms are simple and comfortable, the washrooms equipped with bathtubs and the walls are adorned with gorgeous crowd sourced photographs from the rural Himachal. All the rooms in 1st floor open in a balcony with wooden seats, tables and cushions. We loved hogging on hot Tea over some pakoras (fritters) and spiced up Maggi noodles as the rain lashed the tress gently.

Picture above : 4 room hotel – After restoration 

The balcony is also a great place for people watching. We languorously saw life pass by in slow motion as school kids, shopkeepers, farmers and many people from Gaddi community, dressed in their traditional avatars, kept the place alive with their activity. The rooms on ground floor open in a lawn landscaped with flowering plants and a huge swing. My vote goes for the first floor rooms though. All the rooms differ from each other (Remember it was a home once?) in décor, design and mood. In some rooms you are literally sitting on artworks (Look at the beds carefully)

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The breakfast at 4 tables restaurant 

This is the kind of hotel where you should come to do nothing. The maximum you should do here is take a walk in the Gunehr village, talk to locals, maybe indulge in paragliding in nearby Bir, or sample Tibetan food in the monastery rich Tibetan Colony nearby. This is the place to slow down, as they say, this is the place to indulge in JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out. I found my stay meaningful here as the hotel is rich in soul and character unlike the clinical hotels one is used to. Also the village is as authentic as it can get.

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The breakfast at 4 tables restaurant 

However, it’s not a hotel as we know it. There is no room service and one needs to place the order of meals at least 2-3 hours in advance. This is also not the place for your tantrums, whims and fancies. It’s a cool concept if you understand that the owner himself cooks the food for his guests in 4 tables restaurant. The restaurant is a 5 minute walk away from the hotel.

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First things first, I can’t see 4 tables near Bir as a restaurant. It is a labor of love. It’s more of a personal space where you get to interact with Frank, the Indo-German owner who has turned the ground floor of his rented house into an eat-‘play’-love zone! There is this je ne sais quoi Frank touch in everything you eat and see. The food has that surprise element which you will not find in any restaurant or recipe book. He makes the traditional food exciting in his own unique way.
You can dine in an indoor setting (low lighting, great music and candles, et al) or al fresco in a balcony (sunshine, fresh flowers, scented air, bird songs) overlooking the verdant valley.

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Frank is fond of cheese, so are we!

The ingredients are fresh and exotic for a remote village like Gunehr. It’s easy to opt from vegetarian, vegan (He makes amazing vegetarian food. Being a strict vegetarian, I can vouch for it!) and non vegetarian dishes. Just ask. Here’s what we ate in our 2 night, 3 days stay – Bread basket (baked at home) with dips, salad, olive and cheese platter; cereals and fruit bowls, cappuccinos, wood fired pizzas, variety of pastas. My favorite was a fluffy pancake for which he actually used Dosa/Uttapam batter, or the cookies drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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Desi Paneer with a western twist!

He even turned the boring paneer (cottage cheese) into a gourmet food with his innovation. The breakfast at his place was worth going for again and again. In fact, it’s said about his food that one must come to Gunehr only to ‘eat out of his hands’. I can’t agree more.

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The 4 Tables restaurant!

No wonder his restaurant is also covered by the Food and travel show Highway On My Plate. Be warned though, it’s a strictly ‘NO KETCHUP’ restaurant. Initially I had problem dealing with it (My Mom says I drink ketchup!) but thanks to Frank, I soon learnt how to appreciate food sans ketchup.

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Frank at his famous wood fired oven, making pizzas for us!

It’s also a great place for striking conversations and meeting some interesting people. We chatted up with many intriguing and lively people here. Frank is so much fun to talk to. He can regale you for hours with many riveting stories from his hometown Germany and from the hills in India, peppering it with those local accents (be very attentive) and animated expressions.

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We sitting inside Frank’s home/restaurant on a rainy night!

What makes this place more personal is that Frank lives on the first floor with his son Aloke. The first floor also has a studio where the art works from the conceptual art festival Shop Art / Art Shop-1 are displayed. It is an interesting initiative by Frank where a part of village is turned into an arts festival. Read more about it and more details of how/what/where here.

The view from my #SoulWindow is welcoming!

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Little touches of Frank can be found around his house cum restaurant!!

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Little touches of Frank’s son Aloke can be found around the house and restaurant!

For booking enquiries, pls click here 

Note : I was invited by Frank to brief about a very interesting arts festival called Shop Art / Art Shop. In this festival, the nondescript village of Gunehr turns into a arts festival. Know about this unique festival below :

A village turned into an open air art gallery

Also invited alongwith me were other travel bloggers namely Dipanshu Goyal, Manjulika Pramod and Parnashree Devi.

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The local prasad (holy food) we were served on Mahashivratri!

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.