Celebrating 5 Years at Banyan Tree

I probably would have had this up earlier, but I have been so sick lately. I came down with the worst cold, which I am still recovering from – I don’t think I’ve actually been this sick since before I moved to Dubai over 5 years ago. It’s been lingering, annoyingly, for about 10 days now. Every day I say: maybe tomorrow is the day I’ll wake up and I’ll feel better again. But no. Not yet.

Anyway, last weekend the boyfriend and I went off to the Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach resort to celebrate our five-year anniversary. Just a little over an hour’s drive outside of Dubai, this is a small luxury resort exclusively offering private beachfront villas with pools. It has a sister hotel out in the desert (Banyan Tree Al Wadi) offering similar luxury and privacy, but with the midday heat hovering around 50°C/122°F this time of year, a stint in the desert wasn’t that alluring to me (especially considering the last time we chose a desert hotel to celebrate our anniversary, my car broke down on the way home, ages away from ANYTHING and it was an absolute disaster).

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So anyway – Banyan Tree on the beach! It was lovely, if a bit worn. The place is only about two years old but the extreme conditions: heat (see above) endless sun and salty sea air have definitely taken their toll. I don’t really fault them because you are fighting a losing battle against those sort of conditions, but it was a bit more worn that I expected – although pretty fabulous.

You’ve got your little private villa on the beach (basically a one-room suite) with a private plunge pool and private cabana, so there’s not much to complain about. The pool is nicely sized – actually a bit bigger than I expected, and perfect to spend the evening keeping cool in while watching the sun set over the Gulf (and I have to admit, I don’t know if it was a coincidence or if it had to do with the location, but it was one of the nicest sunsets I have seen, at least in the Gulf).

Tips: If you want privacy, book a a villa closer to the spa, and further from the reception area (we had the last villa, next to the spa and I felt we had total privacy); note that these villas don’t have direct water access (unless you scramble down some rocks, which, naturally I did). If you want the water just steps away from you, book the villas closer to the reception, although you’ll lose privacy what with all of the people wandering the beach and playing in the sea. I guess you have to decide which is more important to you.

The villa itself is quite cush, with a great, spacious shower (and if that’s not enough for you, there’s another shower and a deep sunken bath outside), ideal for a relaxing weekend. On the downside, the resort only has one restaurant (although you can get shuttled to the Al Wadi location to dine at one of their restaurants) but why would you even want to leave the confines of your luxe pad? Room service it is! The food is pretty good – nothing truly outstanding, but it certainly gets the job done. I don’t have any real complaints about anything that I ate.

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One of the highlights of my weekend there was seeing desert foxes (those big ears! that fluffy tail!) in the wild (as “wild” as a resort can be anyway). I’ve always thought they were one of the cutest critters, but never imagined I’d get to see any outside of a zoo or off of Animal Planet TV. There were a couple that would scamper past our villa from time to time. They were very skittish and you can’t get remotely close to them, but it was still neat.

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I was looking forward to the weekend, and the experience turned out even better than I expected it to be. I’m not big on sitting around and luxuriating (I prefer to keep myself busy and return to a luxe crash pad), but a place like this one definitely makes it tolerable to say the least.

And now off to my weekend. At home. With wild (but not so much) cats scampering around the grounds and on me (from time to time, anyway; they prefer using the boyfriend as their personal catwalks). Where I will be taking in the finest of room service (my cooking – which is actually not bad, although I feel the boyfriend is the better cook). And, if desperate for a private pool, splashing around in my bathtub.

[ Read my blog about the desert version, Banyan Tree Al Wadi here ]

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Party boat that was sailing around all afternoon, then in the evening lit up like some cheeseball dance club
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