Wednesday, 1 September 2010

cha-am -- Alila, where less is more

Alila is minimalistic with a lower case ‘m’ because to use a capital letter would be just a little bit too much for it.

It strives for --and reaches -- a state of Zen. The bare concrete bunker-like walls are rough screed with nary a picture nor photograph for relief. Wood is used heavily. The tones are earthy, muted. And water, in pools and ponds, is everywhere. But in strict rectangular formats. Even the pot plant – yes, singular – in the room is a dried brown arrangement.

But maybe it’s this very visual vacuum that allows the imagination to roam, and the senses to fill themselves in other ways.

This way you notice the jazztronica lounge music seeping from the waterproof Bose speakers outside Motion restaurant. Or you indulge yourself fully in the 3000-inch TV in your room, with your choice of dozens of movies and hundreds of pre-loaded songs on Apple TV. I never appreciated lounge music before – found it aimlessly meandering,frankly – but at Alila it makes perfect sense. It’s a tailor-made musical score.

In the room with its soaring ceiling height, and all the furniture and fittings being floor-to-ceiling heighten that spatial effect, the rain shower is a joy. Liberation at the turn of a tap. It becomes a makeshift dancefloor where you can groove to the music which – a rarity in a hotel – actually goes to ‘11’ so you can revel in it. Jing jing!

What about your neighbours? At Alila, everything is solid, so you don’t seem to need to worry about noise. The walls seem metres thick. The feature furniture is huge chunks of timeless timber.

At Red Bar finally I find some colour: you guessed it, red. And then the LEDs change to yellows and blues. I sink into the sofa and soak in the pool scene: all young couples. All paired off. An over representation of young Thai men. All paired off.

A spa treatment continues the languid sensory indulgence. The signature here is a combination of Thai and Balinese strokes. I sleep through much of it such is my soothed state. Zen bliss.

And Zen, sorry, then move up to the Clouds loft for dinner, where the view back over the rooftop pond to the open air lobby at the other end is almost transcendental. The chef produces a gourmet feast of Mediterranean-style dishes here. Beef fillet topped with lobster. Seared tuna. Ravioli with prawn. Heavenly.

I can see why people come back to Alila so often. I fully get it. Who wouldn’t want more of this? With a lower case ‘m’ of course. Because less is more here. And Zen is now.

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