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    Although only a 3-hour flight from Hong Kong, Koh Samui seems like worlds away. From the moment you enter the air space and look down at the crystal clear sparkling blue waters and the white sand beaches you realise you’re in paradise.

    The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui is nestled within the cliffs looking out at the gorgeous turquoise sea and is the perfect getaway from Hong Long without having to travel a million miles.

    Jesper and I recently celebrated our 13th anniversary and what a pleasure it was to spend it at The Ritz-Carlton and child-free might I add. We had just found out we were expecting another child so a celebration or “baby-moon” and some alone time was well in order.

    Being lovers of food we were impressed with the many dining offerings within the resort including a candlelight dinner at Sea Salt where fire dancers performed just feet away. As our stay was quite short we enjoyed spending all our time there. We wanted to add a few special touches to our trip so the resort happily helped to arrange a Thai cooking class with the Chef for us where we learnt to make some of our favourite Thai dishes. We travelled to the local markets and sourced all the fresh ingredients to make our dishes. Jesper was in photography heaven while I was just in local Thai food heaven. During our class we painfully learnt how unhealthy our favourite dish mango sticky rice is, so I will be for sure experimenting on how to make this dish healthier at home.  I can never look at mango sticky rice in the same way haha.

    To make the trip extra special we enjoyed a luxury boat trip across the surrounding areas in the resort’s own yacht. The gods were on our side that afternoon as the sunset was perfection.  We got to snuggle, dance and canoodle. All very romantic stuff haha.

    Our villa seemed to sit within the clouds above the sea. We were more than happy to stay right inside the room or in our private infinity pool and watch the clouds float by.

    This trip was a special one for so many reasons and as far as The Ritz-Carlton, we will be back soon. Maybe with the monsters in tow next time.

    If you want to experience The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, visit

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    Photography by Jesper McIlroy
    Our family was recently invited to be the first guests to stay at Bay Bac Villa, which is a brand new villa located on the property of The Intercontinental Denang. From the moment we arrived at the airport, we were received with 5 star treatment. It’s those little touches, like snacks and cool aroma towels in the van, that really get me going. Ever since this trip, every time we get into a van or taxi, India asks “where are the smelly towels and snacks.”  Lord help me, what have we created!
    While driving to the location of the hotel/villa we were called by our delightful butler, inquiring to see how we were doing,  or if there was anything special we needed upon your arrival.  I mean, that’s pretty special. The drive to The Intercontinental from the airpot takes about 30 minutes, and is absolutely gorgeous, with views out into the ocean as far as your eyes can see. A 1.5 hours flight from HK and 20 mins to the hotel makes it a super easy destination.
    Once we arrived, we were blown away. The hotel is located in the heart of Son Tra Peninsular Nature Reserve on a pristine cliff facing the ocean, with a vista unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  A hotel buggy took us on a small tour of the magnificent hotel grounds and as we made our approach to our villa we knew we were in for a treat.
    Bay Bac Villa has a strong post modernist look, which makes it very unique. It feels less like a holiday rental and more like an artists fancy home. The villa consists of 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 pools, a large living room, and kitchen area. It is extremely private and the ocean views are breathtaking.  You also have a great view of the hotel from the pool deck.
    Although the villa is not situated exactly near the main hotel, its a very short walk, or if your feeling a bit lazy, you can always have your butler drive you where ever you like.  We loved the walk, which takes you through the lush green property and we loved exploring every nook and cranny.
    The hotel’s facilities are undoubtably 5 star, living up to its award winning reputation.
    We started our days watching the sunrise from the very unique Citron restaurant. What makes this restaurant so special is their floating tables that sit above the hillside, 100 meters above sea level, with spectacular views of the entire bay and surrounding mountains. Make sure you go earlier though, as it’s first come first serve, and well worth the early wake up. In our case, We were lucky as Freija basically never sleeps, so we had no problem getting best seat in the house!
    Our days consisted of dropping the kids off to the kids club, which I have to mention, because it is freaking amazing. We literally couldn’t get India to leave. We had to drag her out though as we wanted to spend time with her too.
    After the kids club we would chill in the kids pool, which is lovely and shaded. Then we would head to the gorgeous L_O_N_G bar to relax in their beautiful day beds and have lunch. L_O_N_G also has very special design.  You are taken back in time to a colonial era with these beautiful big fans and high ceilings.  I could stay there all day and read, if I wasn’t travelling with children of course. Most afternoons we enjoyed time as a family in our villa, and watched the cheeky monkeys steal our fruit. There are also other amazing restaurants within the hotel including , La Maison 1888 which is now home to the world-renowned three Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. It was also crowned as “World’s Leading Fine Dining Hotel Restaurant 2017 and Top 10 in the World’s Best New Restaurants 2016 by CNN.  We didnt have the opportunity to dine there this time as they don’t allow children. That makes a lot of sense to me -God, if I was there with no kids on a romantic getaway, spending that kind of money, and had kids like mine on the table next to me, it would not be cool haha. Just kidding, kinda. We also could have easily hired a nanny, but we decided to make the most of our incredible villa, and spend time together as a family. This trip was to celebrate, my birthday, India’s birthday and Jesper and I’s 5 year wedding anniversary and to be completely honest with you it was the perfect choice. I hope to return soon to this little slice of heaven in Vietnam.
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    LOCATION: Hong Kong WEARING:  Jourden blouse and skirt from Lane Crawford, Christian Louboutin lipstick

    Have you ever wished you had your very own personal photographer to accompany you wherever you go? Someone to capture that moment when you watch your very first sunrise with the man of your dreams. Your child’s first swim with wild fish nibbling at her toes. Or is someone special always missing from your photographs because they are behind the camera? Sweet Escape has made capturing your holidays, work trips or special moments easy, nearly anywhere in the world. Now, where ever your dreams can take you Sweet Escape can follow you there, and those moments can live with you forever not only in your memory.

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    June 18th 2015, by Cara G Mcilroy in Travel and Family


    Thailand is always a good idea in my opinion, especially if you live in HK – It’s so close by! Our past vacations to Thailand have been spent at the beach or at street stalls eating till our belly’s can’t take anymore Pad Thai. This time around, we did some resort hopping! Our first location was Angsana. This was such a great spot for families with kids; so many different pools and a kids club where you can drop the kids off for an hour or two while you escape for a massage or a cheeky sunset cocktail.  As I’m currently pregnant with our second child, there were no cocktails for us – unfortunately! (I’m dreaming of the day a yummy margarita passes through my lips again).  I was lucky enough however to manage an escape to the spa, sans margarita! The massages at Angsana are truly amazing. Phuket is where the Angsana global massage training headquarters are located and we were lucky enough to get a special VIP tour of the massage school – Oh how I would love to be a model for their training students and just get massaged all day long! Heaven. The resort was massive with multiple resorts attached to the same property. Exploring the grounds wasn’t on our agenda, instead we spent our time at the beach club and lounging by the pool! It was spectacular.
    Our second location was The Double Pool Villas by The Banyan Tree.  This place was pure luxury.  The villa came with a butler, on call 24 hours, a car (buggy) service and your own massive property with a private pool to make yourself feel right at home. The actual villa was possibly twenty times the size of my apartment in Hong Kong! This place was jaw dropping, two nights was simply a tease.  All your creature comforts can be enjoyed in the luxury of your own villa. They even had a lovely man visit the villa to host activities and play games with India.  His name was Thao if my memory serves me correct.  He was so charming and India loved him.  We painted a tote bag, made balloon animals and painted. It was so much fun and especially awesome not to have to leave the comfort of the villa. One night we enjoyed a seafood BBQ right in our own backyard.  This was perfect for us with a young baby, as we didn’t have to worry about leaving her or coming back at a certain time.  The BBQ was so delicious but, word of advice; do not have a big lunch if you’re planning to do this.  There was enough food for 6 people.  I kept insisting that the staff on duty sit down and help us out but they politely refused.  The Double Pool Villas was for sure a very special treat for our family. The butler service and car service is not our usual holiday experience so we appreciated every moment of it. This little treat was ideal for our baby-moon! I mean, how many baby moons do you really get? If you’re interested in staying at either of these two resorts, The Luxe Nomad offers discounted rates year round. Visit



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    April 29th 2015, by Cara G Mcilroy in Family & Travel

    29.4.14 - GRANDHYATT 229.4.14 - Grand Hyatt29.4.14 - Grand Hyatt p429.4.14 - Grand Hyatt P529.4.14 - grandhyatt P329.4.14 - grandhyatt29.4.14 - Grand Hyatt P629.4.14 - Garnd Hyatt P7

    When looking for a restful weekend away we often look to places abroad. Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia are usually our top choices as they are close by and affordable. I still love these places just like the rest of you. But with a growing family in tow the whole airport, packing fiasco is exhausting just to think about. Especially just for a night or two. That is why last weekend we opted for a staycation at the Grand Hyatt instead.
    No waking up at some crazy hour to rush to the airport, no immigration lines or long taxi rides. No stress about things you have not packed. As you can get home in 10 minutes. You will also have a happy family because everyone was able to sleep in, a little.
    We were lucky as the gods blessed us with amazing weather so we pretty much spent the entire weekend at the pool. It was heavenly, we ate like kings at the buffet for lunch one day and pool side À la carte the next.
    Another great thing about being so close to home you have the comfort of having someone you know babysitting the kids for the night. We had our baby sitter pick India up at 5pm sat so we could have a romantic night in. We had big plans to go out on a date night. Even go to the movies but instead we ordered room service and went to bed early. As lame as that sounds it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
    We managed to sleep in until 8am which is a “sleep in” in our books these days. We had India dropped back to us at 9am. We had arranged an 11am drop off, but we missed her like crazy so brought it forward. We all enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast before spending another perfect day poolside.
    All in all I would recommend everyone to try a staycation for a well deserved weekend away.
    It was not the cheapest weekend away. But if I was to compare it to the cost of flights, accommodation and travel time for a family of 3, it was worth it for sure. When booking your staycation don’t forget to ask about deals for locals.



    November 22nd 2014, by Cara G Mcilroy in Travel


    December 4th 2014, by Cara G Mcilroy in Family & Travel

    Recently I took a family vacation to Bali, magical Bali. I have travelled to Bali many times since I was 16 years old and every time I return I’m still swept away buy its beauty and charm. I have done the backpacker thing which pretty much meant sleeping on the beach, I have done it the cheap way paying 800 rupee per night for some tiny dirty room down a back alley in Kuta but this trip I splurged and booked through The Luxe Nomad and gave myself and my family a real treat.

    First stop was Ubud.

    My mother actually booked the hotel in Ubud, it was called Ananda Cottage Hotel and it was lovely and very affordable. The hotel was nestled amongst the rice fields with the swimming pool looking directly over them.  At sunset it was divine to have a dip in the pool and watch as the sky and sun cast a rainbow of ever changing colors over the fields.

    While in Ubud I tried almost every Raw Food restaurant there. My favorite one being Sari Organiks. The place has many mixed reviews online but our experience there was delightful. The staff were more then happy to snuggle India while we enjoyed our vegetarian Nasi Cumper and green juice.

    Another top attraction was the Holly Water Temple; although very touristy the place had a calm and beauty that I can’t explain.

    After Ubud we heading towards the beaches of Seminyak.

    In Seminyak we stayed at The Santai and then The L Hotel. Both places were really lovely. The Santai was a villa so it was really private. We literally spent 2 days in the pool just swimming and relaxing on the big comfy floating bean bags they provided and riding bikes around the near by streets.

    The L hotel was very different. It was right smack bang in the middle of the action in Seminyak, which meant I could do some shopping, yay. The hotel had some really quirky services. One in which they provided each guest with a mobile phone so that you could contact your own personal butler to pick you up or drop you off where ever you needed to go, 24 hours a day, umm amazing. They also had a pillow menu and provided you with a little bedtime story, which was cute. The beds were the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in. Best sleep I have had in since India my daughter came along. Again I also visited all the vegetarian and raw restaurants in the hood my favorite being Desa Seni. It was kind of a bitter sweet visit because once arriving I didn’t want to leave I just wanted to stay there do yoga and eat their yummy food for a week haha. Next time.

    Our last stop was possibly my favorite. Karma Kandara was the perfect setting for a family or anyone for that matter.  The staff loved our little girl and were so accommodating.  In the villa we had our own pool that was frequently visited by some cheeky monkeys which we loved.  The resort is built into a cliff by the sea and the views are breathtaking, mouth dropping  even. Breakfast at the Di Mari was my favorite time of the day.  The view from this restaurant forced you to stop in your tracks, breath and relax.  I believe some mornings we would take 2 hours to eat breakfast as we simply didn’t want to leave. The spa was a special treat, set within the cliffs over looking nothing but ocean as far as your eyes can see.  There was a gentle breeze blowing into the room as I was pampered to perfection.  I truly felt like a Balinese princess. The beach unlike many other beaches in Bali was crystal clear although quite rocky.

    I would happily stay at any of the above places again.

    Bali, until next time.