Enter the Dragon - The Weekend Australian February 24, 2007

THE HOUSE PARTY TEST
Susan Kurosawa checks into a feng shui-designed modern mansion on the bright and beautiful Sunshine Coast.
THE latest accommodation trend in Australia is what Tourism New South Wales (among other state bureaus, I suspect) has dubbed compatriot tourism. It goes like this: gather the family members or friends you don't see nearly enough of and persuade them to band together and rent a holiday home. The escape need not be for the standard Christmas or school holidays but a battery-charge long weekend, Easter break or special occasion.

I like the tag of house-party tourism much better: it comes with a more festive-sounding air and the distinct promise of champagne by the pool.
The notion is quite different from staying at, say, a B&B or guesthouse because the rental is self-contained, with no strangers in the hallway or over-eager hosts chatting at breakfast. From the moment the front-door key is turned, you and your party members are on your own.
Inherent in this trend has been a choice of luxe rentals: in the main, the house-party gang could equally well afford to stay at a good hotel, so this home has to be high-end, with all the luxury trimmings.
At Coolum Beach, near fashionable Noosa on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, a new property, The Angkasa, is a prime example of house-party digs. Owned by Andre Cheah, who says this laid-back region "reflects the same lifestyle" familiar to his family growing up on the Malaysian coast, The Angkasa has four commodious double bedrooms spread over three levels of an ultra-modern home near the beach.
The pick is the Ocean Penthouse on the top storey, with a contemporary four-poster, freestanding tub and a second wall-mounted television in a skylight-roofed bathroom and a lounging area big enough for a couch, desk and entertainment centre.
On the middle level, the Canopy and Tropical suites are also ultra-spacious, the latter with a Balinese-style daybed on a covered balcony. The rainforest suite, on the lower ground level, may seem tucked away but is equally well appointed, also with a daybed-furnished balcony, and a hand-carved teak bed and lounge area sufficiently large for a pre-booked therapist to set up a massage table. All bathrooms are of five-star hotel standard and come with rain showers and Lanvin toiletries.
In many ways, The Angkasa -- which Cheah explains means "the heavens" in Bahasa Malaysian -- feels like a boutique hotel, albeit without a button to press for room service and bowing butlers on call. The feel is urban Asian, with well-chosen pieces of lacquerware and statuary, oriental lamps, lacquered cabinets and armoires that hold TV sets and DVD players, Vietnamese celadon tea sets and serving bowls.
The decor is beige, bone and cream; walls are mostly white, with a few featured in a soothing deep grey, and the communal areas, bathrooms and decks are tiled in sand-coloured travertine marble. The kitchen is so smooth and sleek, we half expect to find Nigella and a camera crew lurking behind the double-door stainless-steel fridge. The Angkasa look is straight from an interiors magazine, complete with 21st-century design conceits such as floating "walls" draped in white sheers. The beds are sink-into comfy; there are light silk spreads in metallic colours and the Egyptian cotton sheets have such a high thread count they make most hotel equivalents seem like sandpaper.
So Angkasa is very groovy indeed, but there are a few setbacks that would affect travellers with children. The pool, for example, is so small it defies the term. Perhaps it has been purely designed for shoulder-to-shoulder spa dipping (there are jets and a lovely waterfall) but, if so, why? There is a ton of space on the terrace for a proper pool; only two sun loungers are provided, but the house sleeps eight. Another drawback for communal entertainment is that there is no TV in the public areas -- although, oddly, there is a connection and space for one in the lounge area adjoining the kitchen -- and no guest toilet, so it's a matter of going back to one's bedroom (which could mean several sets of stairs if, say, caught short between the top-floor kitchen and the Rainforest Suite). But these are minor quibbles given the overall style and standard, and the house is proving a popular venue for wedding parties and small functions and mini-conferences.
Sandra Kachad, who acts as Angkasa's meet-and-greet person, is a local feng-shui expert who shares Cheah's vision of a harmonious abode with all the right flow-through energies. The more time I spend studying the house's angles, I start to really appreciate the clever plays of light, the filtered sunshine, the windows specifically angled towards a gully of native rainforest where green butterflies flit and kookaburras cackle at unearthly hours. There's an intense restfulness in being cocooned here in a quiet side street opposite Point Arkwright with glimpses to the east of blue ocean and gleaming horizon.
We shop for groceries at Coolum village, cook up a storm, grab BYO supplies of chilled rose wine and venture to our favourite Sunshine Coast cheapie, Franco's pasta and pizza joint in the Town of Seaside enclave at Marcoola. We walk on the beach at sunrise, buy the papers to take back to Angkasa, read the news we'd prefer to forget about with our feet in that too-petite feng-shui pool. But we are in such a good mood we decide Cheah really only needed it to be big enough for the Chinese imperial dragons to pass through and pause for an invigorating sip.
Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Angkasa.
Checklist
Virgin Blue flies from a wide range of Australian ports to Sunshine Coast (Coolum) airport. Book online for best deals and check Happy Hour specials between noon and 1pm (Eastern standard time) daily. More: www.virginblue.com.au
Angkasa can book an in-house massage (request therapist Janelle for a fabulous treatment) and arrange a welcome hamper of groceries, which is a good idea as the kitchen has few provisions. There's a minimum three-night stay from $3000 (or in house party style, for eight, that's less than $140 a head a night). More: (02) 95524529; www.theangkasa.com.au

   

Getaway Feature Short video presentation

The Sydney Magazine " Coolum Luxe. "

Vogue " The Serene aesthetic of South east Asia....."

Queensland Home Magazine " Coolum Cool "

Qantas " A New Sunshine Coast retreat in an Asian-Inspired Mansion....."

The Australian
" ENTER THE DRAGON "

The Sunday Mail " Lap up Star Treatment at resort fit for a King "

Sunday Telegraph " The big chill-out "

Sunday Mail, escape " ...ever dreamed of dwelling in marble halls..."