Born out of a deep wish to curate special journeys to Bhutan, Amala Destinations’ philosophy of exemplary service and comfort was inherited from Amala Villa’s ethos of delivering real experiences, authenticity, as well as personalised and heartfelt service. Many years ago, in lush rice paddies of the untouched Bali landscape, our founders realised a dream. They would build a tropical sanctuary in which they could be close to nature; befriend local artisans who shared their passion for craft; and welcome loved ones in need of a soothing escape. Amala was born, so named after the Sanskrit word for ‘purity.’ What started as a holiday home evolved into a more inquisitive way of traveling: not just for leisure, but for learning as well. Soon, a growing community of friends and family set about discovering the world, forging meaningful connections with places, cultures, and people—and in turn, rediscovered themselves. Our founder’s legacy of destinations discovered, trails blazed, and relationships formed all over the world lives on with us. The pure and profound ways in which they journeyed are not lost, but passed on to a new generation of travelers seeking experiences that both enrich and enlighten.
Amala Destinations is a small group of seasoned travel experts that design profound journeys for the new generation of world travelers. Our founder’s legacy of destinations discovered, trails blazed, and relationships formed all over the world lives on with us. The pure and profound ways in which they journeyed are not lost, but passed on to a new generation of travelers seeking experiences that both enrich and enlighten.
Hiking & Cultural Guide
A dream journey to the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2009 inspired Ee-Cheng and motivated her to take on an unexpected role in the business of travel.
Her work with the Youth Development Fund (YDF) teaching the students at the Nazhoem Pelri skills training centre the ins and outs of producing carefully crafted products meant frequent and regular trips to Bhutan. This piqued Ee-Cheng’s curiosity for discovering new places in the Kingdom and to seek out fresh, authentic experiences. Her increasing local knowledge, coupled with a growing interest in travel from a different perspective, helped Ee-Cheng to realise that there was gap in the market for insightful private journeys to Bhutan.
Hence, Amala Destinations was founded in 2011 and became one of a handful of destination management companies in Bhutan with an office in Singapore. Licensed in both Bhutan and Singapore, its experienced team curates the most carefully considered journeys for its guests to Bhutan.
“Amala” means purity in Sanskrit, or mother in Dzongkha (the official language of Bhutan). Both meanings have much in connection with Ee-Cheng—the meaning of her name, and her other lifelong career. Ee-Cheng tragically passed away in October 2016 with a hundred butter lamps still burning in her honour today.
Born in the village of Dopshari, in Paro, Bhutan, Phub Dorji was a farmer before an interest in hospitality had motivated him to become a guide to travellers looking for extraordinary experiences in the Kingdom.
Before co-founding Amala Destinations, Dorji spent eight years working with esteemed luxury chain Aman Resorts at Amankora. With more than 20 years' experience as a cultural and trekking guide in Bhutan, Dorji is listed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan as a Senior Cultural & Trekking Guide; he is also licensed to take people on the world's most difficult trek, The Snowman's Trek.
Dorji relishes learning and sharing stories about Bhutan. Constantly collecting snippets of information, he loves to share folklore with his guests and to entertain them with local humour. He firmly believes that sharing anecdotes on everyday activities and experiences is the best way for guides to help guests form an authentic connection with the Kingdom.
Much like his co-founder Ee-Cheng, Dorji pays much attention to detail, and has a strong relationship with his carefully selected team of dedicated guides, drivers and hospitality partners.
Managing DirectorI've always been fascinated with the world; since young, encyclopaedias, articles about cultures, old copies of National Geographic and wildlife documentaries have always managed to capture my imagination. All that time spent absorbing all that information is most probably the reason why I'm so passionate about travel and because I believe in doing something that I am truly passionate about, I am now here in this industry, lucky enough to be creating and sharing these amazing travel experiences with everyone. But the six years spent in this industry has opened my eyes to less wonderful things—I do see a need for change. The focus on the luxury aspects of travel has to switch to something more experience based because travel is one of the best ways to understand not only diverse cultures but one's self as well. After recognising that its beliefs are very much aligned with my own, it wasn't hard to resist the opportunity to return to Amala. Apart from that, Amala is very much like a family and we put much care into making sure every trip experience is a special one. My dream here at Amala is to reintroduce the places, cultures and peoples of our destinations to everyone, the way they should be appreciated—for their differences as well as their similarities, to ultimately build experiences that are immersive, educational and enriching.
DirectorThe few years spent working with our late founder played a big part in shaping how I perceive travel; it is not about planning the longest or the most jam-packed journeys but more about planning journeys that allow our guests to experience something that they have not before and to learn something more about themselves—this is how I have found meaning in what I do. I believe that every experience, good or bad, is positive in a sense that they do come to shape our selves. We build our own characters through our lived experiences and that is why I try to travel as much as possible, near or far. I love exploring new destinations and I absolutely love revisiting familiar ones—from adventurous boat rides to just sipping tea (or homemade wine) with the locals; from conversations with strangers to tasting strange flavours—every experience counts! Besides being able to go on these wonderful journeys myself, one of my own personal joys is being able to plan unforgettable trips for guests and knowing how much they enjoy and love journeying with us. This is purely why I have found so little in my time spent with F&B and real estate; I have found so much more here at Amala—but then again, every experience counts.
Chief Destinations Planner(Europe)Aerophobia’ and ‘avid traveller’ would generally not go well together, but the irresistible wanderlust always manages to take my feet off the ground—having flown into the frozen lands of Arctic Lapland, fluttered in propeller planes to the remote island of Sumba, floated in a hot air balloon over the plains of Sigiriya and hovered up 3000 metres in a helicopter towards a glacier in the Swiss Alps. With all that done, the best flight I took is from banking more than 7 years ago to pursue this passion in travel and I have never looked back, always exploring new destinations and embarking on paths less-travelled.
Chief Destinations Planner(Africa)Since moving to Singapore over 20 years ago, my thirst for adventure and new experiences has led me from the Indonesian rainforests in search of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan to exploring the legendary Galapagos Islands, but it is the unique and diverse experiences of Africa, immersive and authentic, that have truly captivated me and which pull me back time after time; returning to nature and rediscovering parts of ourselves away from the constant chatter that is ubiquitous in our busy city lives. Proudly South African, I was born and raised in Johannesburg, where family vacations revolved around self-drive holidays across southern Africa, exploring wildlife reserves and rugged mountainous regions, with a particularly memorable trip along the desolate Namibian coastline. Perhaps this is where my passion for all things nature and travel began, and though an arduous path of jobs across various industries served as a lengthy roadblock, I think it is no mere coincidence that I found a way to come back full circle to the travel industry, finding purpose in what I do and with an opportunity to share this passion with others.
Administrative Executive My friends tell me that I become free and easy when I travel. I somehow find the courage to challenge myself in ways I would never do back home. But my fondest memories of a place are usually made at the local markets. I love picking out special ingredients to recreate my favourite dishes when I'm back home—this is the way I love to learn about new cultures.
DirectorI never had any interest in travel and hospitality; and admittedly, never paid much attention to Amala Destinations till I lost my mother, Ee-Cheng Tseng, so tragically to a stroke—I suppose in a large part, that is why I am so much more involved now. In some way, my participation in the company my mother left behind is penance for taking her for granted. Above all, taking on this project has taught me to recognise the interconnectedness of things, to avoid reducing social and professional realities to a segregation of industries. I brought my own academic interests—namely in postcolonial theory and representations of cultural identity in film and literature—to the business of travel; and now, as we envision to properly introduce (or reintroduce) Asia to the world, the travel and hospitality industries have become a whole lot more meaningful to me. While it is a goal of mine to realise my mother's hopes for Amala Destinations and Amala Villas Ubud, much of my time is divided and devoted to the pursuit of a Master's degree and a PhD (or two) so that I can one day write and lecture about film and literature.