Expectation can be a terrible thing. For weeks my other half and I had been counting down to our Philippine weekend jaunt. Fantasising about tropical downtime kept us afloat amongst freezing winter downpours of rain. As we boarded the private jet that was finally facilitating our escape to the Amanpulo I started to fear that nothing could match my inflated expectations and all that lay ahead was disappointment. Conversely, the moment the sea transitioned from undulating expanses of dull blue to vibrant turquoise inviting us towards perfect white sand beaches, it dawned upon me that the disappointment was actually going to arise from returning to normal life. The protective reef encircling Pamalican had opened its exclusive doors to allow us entry into island paradise beyond and with it came our evolution from humble humans, content in our ignorance of this atoll to privileged beings granted VIP access to what can only be described as heaven on earth. We didn’t exchange words, our jaws dropped in unison and mouths remained wide open in awe for the duration of our stay in this secluded paradise.
The Amanpulo was to provide the ultimate romantic weekend away; a relationship revival rekindling our flame six months after our wedding. After touring the seductive range of facilities sprinkled throughout the island we were shown to our private beach casita, gloriously separate from anyone and anything else. The Amanpulo, built almost 20 years ago, hasn’t attempted to modernise itself unnecessarily. The setting, service and quality speak for themselves rather than relying on modern gadgets and design. Whilst the rooms thus feel more rustic than ritzy it allows the beauty of the island to stand out rather than overpowering it. We explored our giant private villa; simply styled with dark stained wood contrasting with crisp white cushions intimately nested away on its own stretch of beach. The sprawling bedroom led through to a bathroom of the same size. Our complimentary straw hats sat urging us to head seawards and explore the private path, past our two person hammock, down towards the sea. As I scanned the horizon, toes ensconced in cashmere soft sand Mr Smith, standing tall and proud and donning his new straw hat, declared himself the modern day Robinson Crusoe.
There was not a soul in sight from our private beach cocoon allowing for hours of sun kissed book reading and sea swaddled embraces. Rather than feeling hauntingly empty, the lack of interactions (continued in the spa and restaurants) heightened the romance and luxuriousness of our stay. However, as we were drawn into this laid back way of living, our perceptions of reality shifted and paradise decided to spit up some romantic hurdles. A real chore was choosing how to navigate between the sprawling romantic restaurants, hilltop perched spa with panoramic views, endless pool surrounded by private pagodas and our homely casita. The husband’s preference lay with scooting along the interior paths (flanked by reclining lizards and coconut trees) in our golf buggy, whereas my affinity lay towards ambling our way round on bicycles or walking barefoot along the deserted beach, feet soothingly cooled by the passive sea. Paradise confronted us with more hardships. My scheduled relaxation, occasionally interrupted by gourmet meals and seductively sipped mojitos was compromised by my concession to satiate his restless energy and accompany him kayaking and snorkelling. Mealtimes fortunately provided a lull in decision making as we resolved to sample all the culinary treats on offer. An evening spent deconstructing a crab overlooking the sea at the Lagoon Club, a lazy lunch grazing on tapas at the Beach Club and breakfasts lingering over fresh coffee in the cooling shade of the elevated Club House restaurant surveying the pool and island beyond.
After two days of self-imposed lethargy and allowing our everyday woes to be replaced with inane island fodder dilemmas we approached our final evening keen to preserve our love-struck sentiments. Walking barefoot down to the beach from our casita we stumbled upon a candlelit table for two standing alone, surrounded only by bamboo torches and wicker lanterns flickering romantically across the sand. My toes sank deep, my eyes watered and my heart melted. My husband, despite not letting me drive the golf buggy and causing me to blister my fingers kayaking, was positively back in my good books for arranging this. He glowed, not only from sunburn but self-congratulatory brownie-point earning. As a guitarist delicately serenaded us with ballads I realised only one thing could elevate this picture perfect evening to its full realisation; a proposal. Unfortunately for me mine had come 12 months too early so I had to make do with an impossibly romantic evening staring in the eyes of my already unwaveringly committed husband under a moonlit sky. Finally, induced by cocktails and wine I fell asleep on our hammock swaying in the breeze, snoring contentedly leaving the husband remembering why he doesn’t spoil me as often anymore; lack of appreciation.
The next day we reluctantly packed our bags before I forced us to slowly circumnavigate the island, allowing the Amanpulo’s mystical charm to seep deep into my memory. Paradise this idyllic should only be experienced once; stay too long and real life will become unbearable. As we stepped back onto the private jet and ascended out of our VIP island and back to reality I started to wonder if the whole weekend had been a dream. Could such secluded perfection really exist? Would God create such a paradise and only allow access to so few? Then I remembered, God didn’t create this haven, Aman did.