A 130-pound Santa arrived at our hotel on Christmas Eve, thrilling young guests of all religions.
Clue #2: Note the open-air design of the resort’s lobby and its batik textiles.
Clue #3: When guests arrive, they’re welcomed with a dance. (For the music and movement, see the first video below.)
Clue #4: Santa came by WaveRunner, speeding past a mosque, a church, and a stupa en route.
Santa brought enough gifts for every child—and the gifts were substantial: Doug, my 13-year-old, got a radio-controlled car.
The kids got to make Christmas cookies in the kids’ club.
Then the hotel held a Christmas-cookie-decorating contest.
The kids’ contest was deemed important enough to be judged by both the hotel’s executive chef and its pastry chef.
First prize was a chocolate Christmas tree. Charlie, my 14-year-old, won!
Christmas morning began with breakfast. Every Western breakfast food was available, but I always prefer to eat like the locals.
After breakfast we visited a local charity that provides food, clothing, education, and medical support to children living in extreme poverty. A lot of homes here were wiped out by a tsunami in 2004.
We brought gifts and played games. This is Pin the Eye on the Elephant.
This bat-and-ball game is called rounders. Watch the videos below to see what else we did and how much fun we had.
In the afternoon we explored the lush estate that the country’s iconic architect built as his country home. It’s 90 minutes from the capital city (where he designed the parliament building).
The architect liked to bring the outdoors in, blending nature and design.
The gardens are a tropical paradise. Check out the height of the trees next to Doug.
Begun in 1947, the gardens were the architect’s experimental laboratory for new ideas.
We’re in a wet tropical zone where temps range from about 80 to 90 degrees.
Here’s another clue for you.
The estate doubles as a country house hotel with five guest suites. They were serving Christmas lunch.
Back at our hotel, note the architectural similarities. In 1995 the architect who built the estate you just saw was commissioned to design this luxury resort. He died before he could finish; years later, one of his protégés took over the project.
Note how the resort’s open-air design reflects the deceased architect’s vision.
The hotel’s pool
Late-afternoon view of the beach from the pool
One of the hotel’s signature offerings is a private dinner on the beach. This was ours.
Check out the canoe filled with fresh-caught seafood to be grilled.
In the lobby on Christmas night, a blend of East meets West.
They sure went to a lot of trouble with the holiday decorations.
More of those chocolate Christmas trees, to be delivered to each guest room. Yum.
The next day we left to explore other parts of the country. It’s local custom to tie a string around your wrist as a blessing, for good luck.
The final farewell blessing.