Robb Reader

When it comes to suss­ing out ex­otic and ex­clu­sive stays in far-flung des­ti­na­tions, one cou­ple is leav­ing their com­pe­ti­tion in the dust.

Robb Report (Malaysia) - - Contents - By SHEELA SARVANANDA

I t is not of­ten that ro­mance is as­so­ci­ated with a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, even one that in­volves cu­rat­ing a niche list of stays the world over, hand­picked by James and Ta­mara Lo­han and a team of anony­mous re­view­ers that in­cludes de­sign­ers Henry Hol­land and Stella Mccart­ney. The very name of the busi­ness, Mr & Mrs Smith, is it­self an ir­rev­er­ent nod to the pseu­do­nym of­ten adopted by week­end­ing cou­ples.

TL: I’m al­ways look­ing for a new ex­pe­ri­ence.

This doesn’t have to be dra­matic – it can be a lit­tle some­thing that makes me re­alise that there is some­one who re­ally cares. I live to travel and I al­ways knew I was go­ing to do some­thing in travel, I just didn’t know what. I learnt to fly a plane in my early 20s and nearly joined the Royal Air Force. James and I ac­tu­ally met on hol­i­day – and it was a hol­i­day ro­mance that lasted!

JL: Spon­tane­ity is all in the plan­ning and you can al­ways change your plans if they don’t fit when you get there.

Throw your­self in whole­heart­edly, take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that comes your way and get out of your com­fort zone.

TL: When we were in Sin­ga­pore last year, our friends took us out for din­ner to a road­side cafe.

This was es­sen­tially a restau­rant in an in­dus­trial es­tate. You could get your car ser­viced across the road while you ate. The view was ter­ri­ble, but it was packed and served the best chilli crab I’ve ever eaten. We ended up hang­ing out with the owner in his tiny, air- con­di­tioned whisky room, tast­ing our way through his stag­ger­ingly good col­lec­tion.

JL: I once had a mas­sage in Morocco that I still can’t talk about – not at a Mr & Mrs Smith ho­tel, I must add!

It was so ‘au­then­tic’ that I was silent for at least two hours af­ter­wards with the shock of be­ing pushed, pulled and probed by a man who looked like he could have been my cell­mate if we were in prison. I’ve been a lit­tle less ad­ven­tur­ous with my spa treat­ments since then.

JL: ‘Per­fec­tion’ is a much-abused word in travel, but Soneva Fushi in the Mal­dives comes pretty close.

You get your own Man Fri­day when you ar­rive and he will sug­gest all kinds of day and night ac­tiv­i­ties. Our tour of the eco cen­tre was a high­light: they make wealth out of waste. You can also go snorkelling with a marine bi­ol­o­gist to get a sense of your un­der­sea sur­round­ings. It was a truly in­spir­ing place.

JL: I can tell from the en­trance sig­nage if the ho­tel is go­ing to be right for us.

And if that’s a bit soon, then I’m 90 per cent sure af­ter see­ing the lobby de­sign and get­ting the wel­come. If they clear the first fence, it’s straight down to de­tails: the thread count of the sheets, the bath­room prod­ucts. Then it’s to the bar to hear the mu­sic, taste the drinks and check the am­bi­ence. If that’s still go­ing well, we go into food and ser­vice – and of course try­ing out the spa if they have one.

TL: For me it’s about the wel­come – from the mo­ment you walk in the door you are ei­ther made to feel spe­cial or made to feel un­com­fort­able.

That can be done via a thou­sand dif­fer­ent touch points - from the mu­sic they are play­ing in the lobby to the light­ing. ž

“Throw your­self in whole­heart­edly, take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that comes your way and get out of your com­fort zone.”

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