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A tour of Ireland’s oldest distilleries and scrumptious food trails Central Business District of Vadodara, the upcoming business destination A regally inspired and culture enriched city – Mysore

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this issue editors’ page

Dear Readers, Here is wishing you a very Happy New Year to each one of you! Though 2012 ended on a misty note for all of us it left behind beacons of hope that emerged from within us to take the torch of revolution forward. With this, we hope our capital becomes a safer place to live in.

A tour of Ireland’s oldest distilleries and scrumptious food trails Central Business District of Vadodara, the upcoming business destination A regally inspired and culture enriched city – Mysore

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We begin our January issue by scanning the Central Business District of Vadodara, a city which is taking gradual but steady steps to become a world class business centre of India. Our expansive leisure travel section includes destinations from India and abroad giving a glimpse into some exotic sights, indulgent shopping and glances of history. A virgin yet outstanding destination, Bentota in Sri Lanka invites you to cut loose at its mild beaches and quaint sceneries. There’s more to Indonesia than Bali. 48 hours in Jakarta, and we can’t wait to go there next! Plunging southwards, we gaze at tourist attractions the Southern state Tamil Nadu has to offer. Continuing the tour of South India, our feature on Mysore will vividly explain the city’s architecture and more about this majestic destination known extensively for its temples and silk. We are sure you will enjoy flipping through the pages in amazement gazing at the magnificent palaces and ancient architecture of Istanbul in our exclusive photo feature on the artistic capital of Turkey. Treat all your senses as you take a luxurious tour of the Barai Resort in Hua Hin Hills, Thailand and indulge in the lavish spa treatments they have to offer. In Metro Travel, we have laid out 6 plush Spas of Pune at leading 5 star hotels of the city for you to handpick the best treatment suitable for your body needs. Closer to Pune we have an exclusive feature on the new luxury residence of Mumbai, the Sofitel Hotel at Bandra Kurla Complex. Flanked by mushrooming multinationals, the hotel is close to the airport while being nestled in the business centre of Mumbai. Our lineup of Eating Out options adequately covers Chinese, Asian, Italian and International cuisines in major cities like New Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Goa. Happy Reading!

readers write in Luscious Lavasa

I have heard a lot about Lavasa but your feature on the destination captured all the aspects the city is famous for; nature, scenery and luxury. Thanks for highlighting the various accommodation options in the city which come useful when one plans a trip to the destination.

Hua Hin Vineyards

Pankti Joshi, Ahmedabad

I thought Thailand was all about sandy beaches and Buddha temples, till I read the article on Hua Hin Hills Vineyards. Sure, the wine industry in the country is flourishing and how! Moreover, the number of activities mentioned in the region sure put Hua Hin on any tourist’s ‘to-visit’ list.

Sensational Sunday Brunches

Sameer Seth, Chennai

I am often on the lookout for some unique Sunday brunches in the city where I can wind up the week. The Sensational Sunday brunch story served as a handy guide to some exclusive brunches of Mumbai for a lot of people like me. Can’t wait to go ahead and explore them soon!

Cinematic Splendour

Parth Narang, Mumbai

It was great to see the action from the movie, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and witness the progression India is making in terms of cinema tourism. Cities like Jaipur and Udaipur are no longer just a national favourite but are also gaining international attention with more directors making these sites Cinemascape. Anita Razdan, New Delhi

Editor: Navin Berry Features Writer: Avni Mehrotra Marketing & Sales: Vimal Talwar Advertising: Saurabh Shukla Design: Ashok Saxena, Neelam Aswani Go Now is printed and published by Navin Berry, on behalf of Cross Section Media Pvt. Ltd. Printed at Rakesh Press A-7, Naraina, Phase II, New Delhi. Go Now is published from IIIrd Floor, Rajendra Bhawan, 210, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi - 110002. Tel: 91-11-43784444. Fax: 91-11-41001627. E-mail: info@crosssectionmedia.com This issue of gonow contains 80 pages plus 4 pages cover

drop us a line

Like something we wrote? Wondering how to get somewhere? Or been to a place you want to talk about? Write to us and let us know. Don’t have the words to describe a place? Don’t worry – send us your best travel pictures and we’ll let them speak for you. If your letter or photo is published, you will get a year’s subscription to gonow absolutely free! Send your letters and photographs to E-mail: info@crosssectionmedia.com Material not used will not be returned

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contents Destination Business

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16 Vadodara CBD: The city has shed its old town image to embrace progress on a rapid basis

Leisure

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20 Evason Ma’ in: A perfect blend of beauty, luxury and wellness 24 Magnificent Mysore: One of the most regal, culture centric and picturesque cities of India

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28 Bliss in Bentota: A balmy weather, exotic sceneries and a plethora of water activities welcome you into this southern coastal town of Sri Lanka 32 Tamil Nadu: A vibrant tourism destination with different experiences waiting to be explored

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38 48 hours in Jakarta: Indonesia’s capital has a myriad experiences including some of the best shopping in South East Asia

Photo Feature Istanbul

CORRIGENDUM

Reference the feature, Kaleidoscopic Krakow in the December issue, the photographs were by Neeta Lal. The omission is regretted. 4

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Wellness

52 Barai resort: A Harmonious Journey of the Five Senses in Hua Hin region

Food

56 Culinary tryst with Ireland: the Irish culinary melting pot has lots in store for visitors

Metro Travel Luxury

60 Sofitel Mumbai BKC: The hotel offers indulgences par excellence right from cuisine to business to entertainment to relaxation

Spas

66 Pune: Six hotel spas to get rid of stress and disorders

Accommodation

70 Chennai: Rooms and suites of Hilton Chennai

Chef Speak

72 Top Toque: Masterchef Zhang Qingsheng, House of Ming, Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

Eating Out

74 EEST, Westin Gurgaon: A Pan-Asian 5 Star dining haven

42 A town full of museums, mosques and palaces, the capital of Turkey promises a breathtaking tour of religion seeped in history

76 Park Hyatt Hyderabad: Traditional Italian Recipes at the Tre Forni restaurant

Niche Travel

78 Goa: Five unique shacks of the renowned vacation capital

Cinema Tourism

48 Prague: A city all about bones, music and Black Theatre

On the Cover Istanbul. Photo: Ajay Mehra


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travel buzz : airport lounges

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways launches its first ever premium class terminal at Doha International Airport 6

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travel buzz : airport lounges

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o keep up with their efforts to constantly innovate and invent, Qatar Airways went a notch ahead with its first dedicated passenger terminal at the Doha International Airport. If you are their First or Business Class passenger, feel royal as you glide in with a concierge style check-in to experience some fine dining and exclusive shopping at the lounge. An array of dedicated business and wellness facilities, spa treatments, Jacuzzis & saunas are some of the many luxurious comforts that you are exclusively treated to. The sprawling lounge takes care of your business and entertainment facilities alike by housing conference rooms, nursery and play area, spa, duty free shopping and also fine dining restaurants. Open round-theclock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Premium Terminal is a promise from the airlines to let its First and Business Class passengers commence their international journeys in style.

Facilities like dedicated First and Business Class check-in desks, self-service check-in kiosks for passengers with hand baggage, dedicated e-gates to speed up immigration formalities, business centre with secretarial services, free Internet access stations set the terminal apart in terms of passenger comfort. The Premium Terminal also welcomes Premium passengers flying on codeshare flights operated by Qatar Airways. Further, children and nannies travelling Economy Class with First and Business Class passengers are also welcome to use selected areas. January 2013 go now

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travel buzz : airport lounges

Singapore Airlines

The newest lounge from Singapore Airlines – SilverKris opens at IGI, New Delhi

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f you are a premium customer of Singapore Airlines, your share of exclusive luxury awaits you while waiting for your flight at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. Adding another name to their list of exclusive lounges worldwide, Singapore Airlines recently made their foray into the country by unveiling the SilverKris Lounge at the Delhi airport. The lounge is designed for Premium customers flying out from the Terminal 3 of the airport, First and Business Class passengers as well as PPS Club, KrisFlyer Elite Gold and Star Alliance Gold members. Decorated with timber and marble furnishings, the lounge was

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opened in Delhi as it served as one of the busiest markets of the country. The lounge wishes to offer their customers a space to relax and unwind, before they catch their flight. You can treat yourself to a selection of hot meals, light snacks and beverages slouched on the comfortable seating of the lounge while enjoying satellite cable channels screened on LED televisions. Internet access terminals to stay connected with family or for work purposes are also available at the Business Centre. They are equipped with complimentary wireless broadband for seamless internet speed at this 80 seater lounge.


travel buzz : airport lounges

British Airways

Experience the exclusive BA Lounge at Terminal 5, London N

ow your trip to London can begin right from the moment you touch its grounds. Literally! A destination in itself, the Terminal 5 at the London airport houses six expansive British Airways lounges to enhance your time there. With the Concorde Room, the First class lounge, three Club Lounges and an Arrivals Lounge, they are collectively capable of hosting up to 2,500 people. To relax and unwind, take a shower at their recently overhauled washrooms or surf the internet at their many service desks. If you are a First Class customer or a specially invited guest of the airline, the Concorde Room awaits you with its exquisite selection of wines and fresh meals served throughout the day. Business travellers will have no hassles in conducting meetings or checking their computers in privacy in the lounge’s secluded boardroom. Adding glitter to the Terminal is the Galleries First Lounge with 542 seats especially for FIRST customers and Gold Executive Club members. A gold leaf wraps the ‘Gold Bar’ which is stacked with an eclectic international range of wines and spirits. Kids and adults can make the most of their waiting time with the lounge’s dedicated service desk and a work and entertainment zone. The largest lounge with 830 seats and two ‘silver’ bars is the Galleries Club Lounge which is open to Club World, Club Europe, Gold and Silver Executive Club members. The terminal also has 156 seats at the Galleries Arrivals Lounge which is open to First class, Club World and Gold Executive Club members travelling on longhaul flights. Your tryst with luxury doesn’t end here. Within the lounge you can experience a range of treatments at the Elemis Travel Spa or revive yourself in one of the 94 shower rooms. The two Elemis Travel Spas are situated in the southern Galleries lounges and the Galleries Arrivals lounge both boasting six treatment rooms each and a slightly smaller version in the Galleries Club Lounge with four treatment rooms. If you are a First class and Club World customer or Gold Executive Club member travelling on long haul flights, all treatments at these spas are available on a complimentary basis.

Choose from a range of flying facials, shoulder to scalp massages, flying feet treatments, Exotic Hand and Arm Re-Energiser or the Elemis SpotOn Power Back Massage. The Spa is open from 6 am to 2 pm while the departures spa within the

Galleries complex is open from 6:45 am to 9 pm. Moreover, beautiful detailing and expert design that adorns the interiors of the British Airways lounge makes your time there a visual treat for all your senses.

Emirates Airlines

Luxurious Emirates Lounge at Mumbai International Airport E mirates’ First Class and Business Class passengers along with Gold Members of Skywards will be hosted to an assortment of amenities at the first dedicated passenger lounge by Emirates Airline at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The lounge can accommodate more than 100 people at a time who can indulge in some fine dining within its premises or surf the internet at the Business Centre. The 24 hour buffet serves Indian, Arabic, Italian and Continental cuisine coupled with a German showmaster displaying mouth watering desserts. You can sink in the Arabic furniture and grand leather sofas that form the seating of the lounge to ensure that you have a relaxing time while

waiting for your flight. Paintings by Bangladeshi artist Tina Ahmed adorn the walls depicting a mix of Indian and Arabic culture. For information and entertainment flat screen televisions, designer bathrooms and a collection of local and international newspapers and magazines are available for guests’ convenience and comfort. Additionally, the Emirates lounge consists of two widescreen displays alerting passengers of their flight schedules. As continuous travelling can exhaust many a seasoned traveller, the Emirates lounge ensures you are at your comfortable best by indulging in a therapeutic massage session in their designed German massage chair while reading a book or sipping a cup of coffee. January 2013 go now

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travel buzz : AIRLINES & AIRPORts

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is tunes have had our feet tapping on ground for long but when it was time to do it on-board, Skyscanner, a global travel search site found out that 73% of the Indian travellers would like to bid farewell to 2012 on a plane with Korean star PSY. On a recent facebook poll, PSY was voted as the No.1 dream host for New Year’s party plane beating his international and Bollywood contemporaries like Lady Gaga and Katrina Kaif alike. He was even a rage in other South East Asian countries garnering huge share of votes in Philippines and Indonesia. New Year’s Eve gives reasons galore to rejoice and celebrate but doing it at a height of 35,000 feet can sure give you a new high. As Indians love and enjoy tapping their feet to trippy rythms, the worldwide rage for PSY could sure not miss us. This recent study simple confirmed that Indian travellers want nothing but a chance to dance Gangnam style and party with PSY to welcome 2013.

Indians want to welcome 2013 on-board in ‘Gangnam Style’

Virgin Atlantic makes boarding passes available through Passbook V irgin Atlantic recently became the first UK based airline to integrate Passbook into its mobile boarding cards, allowing passengers a paperless journey through the airport with their iPhone or iPod touch. Passengers can now bypass check in kiosks and head straight to security checking by having an option of sending their boarding card directly to Passbook on their iPhone or iPod during the online check-in process. This move was undertaken to enhance the passenger’s experience and cut down the impact of printing cards. After using online check-in and selecting to send the boarding card to Passbook, an email is sent to the passenger containing

a Passbook attachment. As the attachment is opened the boarding card is securely loaded into the app ready to be scanned at the departure gate ahead of boarding the plane. Passbook stores the boarding card data in an industry standard barcode which can be scanned and read at departure gates at all Virgin Atlantic UK departure airports – Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. Passbook and mobile boarding card technology is available to use at key UK airports, selected airports around the world and will be rolled out to more airports as authorities approve it. To know more about this enhanced online checkin experience, log on to www.virginatlantic.com

British Airways increases flights from Hyderabad and Chennai

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assengers flying to England will soon have more options since British Airways announced its route expansion from Hyderabad and Chennai from summer 2013. The airlines will now operate six flights per-week as opposed to the current five flights perweek. The step was undertaken keeping in mind customer experience and considering the increased demand to travel to Britain from Hyderabad and Chennai over the last few years. As India serves to be one of British Airways biggest markets, the increase in flights from these two cities will aid in enhancing passenger comfort.

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travel buzz : shopping

Shop till you drop in Europe’s interesting markets T

he fairytale locations of Europe not just provide the required visual therapy for its visitors but also let you indulge in some retail therapy in its bustling streets. A place where you cannot just pick some international brands but also scan the streets to grab some interesting artefacts, Europe is a unique concoction of art and fashion. Apart from the regular streets which are thronged by tourists there are some lesser known yet inspiring ones waiting to be discovered in this beautiful continent. In Budapest, Hungary one can scrounge for trendy clothes, toys, furniture and even recyclable objects at this Hungarian design market, ‘WAMP’.

A monthly affair in the Milenaris Park, in Budapest, the Sunday fair is an opportunity for a wealth of young designers to showcase their work for the first time. With a singular goal of making design accessible to all, the market garners more than 100 designers to inspire tourists, expats, locals and artists alike. The Nationale straat, in Antwerp, Belgium is one of Europe’s most prominent fashion districts housing a Fashion Museum (MOMU) and the renowned fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The street is lined with boutiques of top Belgian designers such as Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Martin Margiela, and Raf Simons

and can be seen flaunting a unique fashion vibe at every turn. From business honchos to celebrities, everyone loves shopping in United Kingdom. While the streets of London have shopping options galore, another unique shopping destination would be the Northern Quarter in Manchester. Cafes and music shops meet alternative fashion here while cakes and tea make for lunch. Another street, Oldham is full of vintage and second-hand shops, and the adjoining side streets contain a whole host of hidden gems for savvy shoppers. So take a detour and head to Manchester to experience ‘a highly concentrated record shopping experience’, as they say! January 2013 go now

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travel buzz : packages

Four Fountains Spa introduces ‘Warming Red Thyme’ aromatherapy massage

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Jodhpur International Desert Kite Festival at Ranbanka Palace W inters, especially January are the best time to visit Rajasthan. The entire atmosphere wears a pleasant climate and breathes the vehemence of festivity. Keeping up with this spirit, the Jodhpur International Desert Kite festival will be held from 12 January to 15 January at the Polo Ground in the blue city. The festival invites novice and trained kite flyers to improve or showcase their kite flying skills. To let you partake in these activities, the Ranbanka Palace offers exciting packages and also announces the inaugural of their Jodhana wing. Their Jodhana wing experience package is priced at Rs. 21,999 per couple and is valid up to March 2013 letting you be a part of the Kite Festival in a royally decked style. The Jodhana wing overlooks Ranbanka’s famed courtyard and lets you partake in rare pleasures hitherto

inaccessible to travellers and visitors. If the royal treasures of the bygone era of Rajasthan excite you then you will be thrilled to experience a unique shopping experience which brings the royal family’s own tailors and craftsmen to your doorstep. Exclusive collections of traditional bangles, exquisite saris, tailor-made Jodhpuri suits, precious and semi-precious jewellery, handcrafted juttis and antiques from the best crafts men in the region can be made available in the comfort of your room. The package valid for 2 nights and 3 days includes a traditional welcome, breakfast, complimentary foot reflexology, complimentary usage of steam room and swimming pool.

lessed with natural essential oils and extracted from red thyme, the Four Fountains Spa have introduced the ‘Warming Red Thyme’ aromatherapy massage in their bid to keep you warm and cosy this winter. Moderately priced at Rs 2,199, the therapy offers several health benefits. Red thyme aids in blood circulation while the herb Clary sage reduces muscle pain and prevents dryness and roughness of skin. Another ingredient clove is effective in preventing cold, cough and sinus which are common during winters. Keeping in mind the current weather conditions throughout North India, this warm and relaxing therapy will aid in giving a smooth and soothing experience to the entire body. The massage is available in two Delhi outlets – Gurgaon and South Delhi.

Prior appointments can be made by calling 0124- 4270088 and 011-4165 0016.

For terms and conditions and bookings, contact: 09351157071 or E-mail: reservations@ranbankahotels.com

Relaxed 2013 weekends at Leela Hotels Packing your bags and getting away for the weekend is an activity everybody loves to indulge in. Now you can do the same, within your own city or pick a hotel from one of the many properties Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has throughout the country. This New Year, the Leela group has introduced a special ‘Weekends on Sale’ promotional activity, which lets you make the most of your relaxed weekends lapped up in one the finest and most luxurious abodes. Valid throughout the year, you can now book any room in advance and save 30% 12

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on the Best Available Rate of the day. Also, you receive a complimentary breakfast and further save 10% on rejuvenating spa experiences, food and soft beverages. The offer is valid for bookings made until January 31, 2013 and can be availed at any of the participating hotels by the group namely The Leela Mumbai, The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon, The Leela Palace Bangalore and The Leela Palace Chennai.

For terms and conditions or reservations, call The Leela Reservations Worldwide: 1800 1031 444 or +91 124 44 25 444 or email: reservations@theleela.com


travel buzz : packages

Celebrate Dubai Shopping Festival at Avari Dubai Hotel

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ontinuing with the 17 year long tradition, the Dubai shopping festival is back again, much to the delight of tourists and shopping lovers alike. The month long gala that starts from 3rd January 2013 and continues till 3rd February 2013 is like paradise for all shopping connoisseurs. As Dubai is a celebrated shopping hub worldwide, the shopping festival is one event which no shopping enthusiast dares to miss. Welcoming everyone to this shopping destination is the Avari Dubai Hotel which offers exciting double-room packages for a period of 3 nights at an attractive price of Rs. 25,000 (1666 dirham) onwards. The hotel is located next to the famed Dubai Clock Tower, a short walk away from the Dubai Metro and the jaunty Al Riqqa food street making you accessible from all ways to this pompous shopping destination. The hotel is surrounded by big, beautiful and astounding malls where you can shop to your heart’s content and enjoy with each other and every one staying at Avari Dubai Hotel.

For reservations contact: Avari Dubai Hotel at +971 4295 6666 or Email: reservations1@avari-dubai.ae

Honeymoon packages at Club Med resorts worldwide For this Honeymoon season, Club Med resorts have initiated their offer to pay for 2 Nights and Stay 3 nights at select resorts which not only provides you the most peaceful and tranquil respite from wedding stress but also doubles up as a perfect wedding gift. This exclusive offer is on till March 7, 2013 and newlyweds can chose from a range of exotic locations where these resorts are present. In Kani, Maldives, Club Med has a private beach resort seeped in sunlight and bathed in turquoise water, where newlyweds can wake up gazing at the crystal clear skies commencing their marital journey together. The first Eco nature resort by Club Med at Cherating, Malaysia gives couples 2 miles of pristine white

sandy beach to relax and unwind. Along with an array of activities Malaysia has to offer and a delectable range of cuisine, couples can catch Mother Earth in her tranquil best at this sprawling resort. Another honeymooner’s paradise, Club Med’s resort in Phuket, Thailand acquaints the couple with Kata beach’s sun kissed sands and also houses a world class spa. The renowned destination for wellness and luxury, the Club Med Spa at Bali lets couples dissolve their wedding stress and revel in the joy of togetherness in the picturesque and culture-rich Indonesia. For further information or bookings visit: www.clubmed.co.in or email at sales.india@clubmed.com  

Wine & dine in Mauritius

A beautiful island within the azure hue of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is one of the most frequented destinations by tourists from across the world. Along with providing exotic locations to relax and unwind, Mauritius also doubles up as a culinary paradise drawing inspiration from Creole, Chinese, European, African & Indian cultures and cooking techniques. Leading chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and the Troisgros brothers have visited the island and introduced menus to boost the top-quality cuisine already available. Meanwhile, local chefs of the country have brought in a new zing to the traditional dishes by playing with ingredients and techniques to create some lip-smacking fare for the island’s most famous hotels. One can see cultures combine over food as Indian breads are cooked alongside European daubes and stir-fried noodles from China, all mixed with locally available ingredients. The cuisine Creole beautifully combines French, Spanish and African cuisines, while being highly influenced by Asian flavours. While there, make sure you try the “Rougaille des îles” – a Créole specialty, which is the staple dish for many Mauritian families. The dish is tomato-based and seldom creamy, the combination of sweet and hot makes it so appetizing that keeps your palate asking for more. For more information, visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu January 2013 go now

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travel buzz : destinations

Participate in Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong S

tarting from 4th of February 2013 to the 17th of the month, Hong Kong City will shimmer with Chinese New Year celebrations as age-old traditions would be practiced alongside cosmopolitan events globalizing the entire city in the fervour of festivity. Visitors from within the country and abroad can witness the festival in this world city and be a part of the celebrations. The traditional way of giving money in red packets is practiced as youngsters receive cash from elders. Homes are cleaned and tidied while red banners are pasted on doors to seek blessings. Shops stock up on auspicious food and temples are filled with the aroma of incense and anticipation of good fortune. Everybody is drenched in the excitement of being together for a family dinner on the eve of New Year. Though earlier the Chinese used to bring in the lunar year by scaring away evil spirits with firecrackers, Hong Kong now makes up for it by putting on a stunning parade and pyrotechnic show on a magnanimous scale ample enough to ward off the evil spirits in a more modern manner.

For more details log on to www.discoverhongkong.com

64th Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan

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ne of Japan’s biggest cultural extravaganzas, the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival will be held from 5th to 11th February, 2013. Major attractions which line Odori Park, the grounds at Tsudome and the main street in Susukino are a number of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures which grab the eyeballs of locals and tourists alike. For seven days in February, Sapporo transforms into a dreamlike wonderland of crystal like ice and sparkling white snow. With a small beginning back in 1950, the festival has now turned into one of Hokkaido’s biggest and most renowned winter events. The main site of the festival is the Odori Park, downtown Sapporo, where one can see variety of snow and ice sculptures in various sizes. Those looking for some adventure can head to Sapporo Tsudome where one can not only enjoy the charms of winter in Hokkaido but also snow slides and mazes, the snow experience corner and regional delicacies. At the Susukino Site, an ice sculpture show will be held in Ekimae-dori (Station Avenue) and ice sculptures with real crabs, squids, and salmon made with snow will be featured. During the festival, a variety of events will take place at the Susukino site including the Ice Sculpture Contest and a special photo opportunity to see the Ice Queen. For more information visit jnto.go.jp

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Circus takes a new spin at the International Circus Festival of MonteCarlo, Monaco

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f you are a circus lover and wish to experience it at a scale beyond measure, the exotic country Monaco invites you to witness the 37th edition of the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, which will be held from January 17th to January 27th, 2013. The festival is held each year in mid-January and is one of the most innovative circus manifestations in the world and is a visual spectacle witnessed by a large international audience. This year, circus watchers will have artists from 3 new countries who will take part in the festival for the first time. From Vietnam, the JIANG BROTHERS, from Armenia, the SEYRANIYAN SISTERS and from Cuba, the CIRCO UNCINAL DE CUBA who are ready to enthral the audience with their breathtaking performance. Also, the CIRCO MUNDIAL from Spain brings the audience a fantastic act featuring 5 Indian elephants performing amazing acts at incredible ease while the KAZAN TROUPE from Russia will be presenting a dynamic juggling act wherein 8 jugglers will throw clubs and balls at each other at growing speeds. To enchant the audience with some more stellar performances of young artists, the 2nd edition of the Festival – New Generation – will take place on February 2nd and 3rd, 2013.


travel buzz : adventure

India Bike week commemorates Bike Festival in GOA! If you are a biking expert or simply an enthusiast, you should head to Goa on the 2nd & 3rd February 2013 to celebrate the spirit of the Indian Biker at the India Bike Week. The tickets are priced at Rs 3,000 and available at www.indiabikeweek.in and www.bookmyshow.com Replicating the ‘Sturgis Motorcycle rally’ in South Dakota that attracts over 5,00,000 bikers every year, India Bike Week is posed to be the largest congregation of Bikers in India’s history. From Riders to Scramblers, Cruisers to Superbikers, this annual event celebrating India Biker’s brotherhood, will bring together about 8,000 fans including some of India’s biggest biking celebs to Goa, soaking in Indian and international biking trends, new bikes displays, products and accessories, music and entertainment. Moreover the festival will house Live Entertainment Zones, Burn Out Bars, Electronic

Music Stage and Beer Garden for the leisure lovers. The Display Zone will showcase some of the most amazing motorcycles from across the world ranging from rare vintage 2-wheeled gems to champion custom builds and hyperbikes to famous motorcycles from films. Those who like action can try their hand at the arm wrestling table or work out at the

Biker’s Gym. Bike lovers can also try out the best of India’s superbikes, live and on-road at the Test Zone & Trials Track. To be a part of this exciting event, more information and tickets, visit www.indiabikeweek.in and www.facebook.com/indiabikeweek

World’s Largest LED Sculpture – ‘The Bay Lights’ Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Bay Bridge, San Francisco

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he citizens of San Francisco will soon experience a two year long shimmering twist to the Oakland Bay Bridge on the occasion of its 75th Anniversary as a major light installation will adorn its north side that faces downtown San Francisco. Designed by Leo Villareal, the Bay Lights is a fine art piece designed to be installed on the western span and features 25,000 individually programmable, energy-efficient LED lights mounted on the bridge’s vertical cables. These lights would remain on the bridge for two years slated to start with a Grand Lighting Ceremony on March 5, 2013 and will be on

display daily from dusk to 2 am. The Bay Lights will not only It will impact the 50 million people in the Bay Area but billions more who will be seeing them in media and online over two years. These lights are a site specific installation and the artist will use patterns of weather, water and traffic of cars, ships and wildlife as inspiration for creating his software algorithms. No pattern would be repeated ever and the power used will be offset by solar credits for least environmental impact. For more information visit www.thebaylights.org and sanfrancisco.travel

Get the thrill of skydiving in Aamby Valley City

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he luxurious abode near Mumbai gives a new residence to adventure with the launch of its nine-week sky diving event. Producer Ritesh Sidhwani and actor Farhan Akhtar flagged off the event by jumping off a plane and launched the adrenaline filled sport of Sky diving at this planned hill city. This initiative gives a professional experience to adventure enthusiasts who will get the opportunity to sky dive with the internationally acclaimed Sky Diving Art of Extreme crew from Spain. The project spanning two months will also offer enthusiasts a full skydive experience without training right from flying up to freefalling to parachute ride to landing while maintaining full security. Indeed, flying high on the picturesque and plush locations of the Aamby Valley City will not only give you a rush of adrenaline but also make for a memorable visual splendour. Moreover, this will bring in a new form of sport to the country which can be flagged off under the guidance of world renowned skydiving experts. The Skydiving event at Aamby Valley City will run from December 15th December 2012 to 16th February 2013. For more details visit www.aambyvalleycity.com January 2013 go now

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travel buzz: destinations

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travel buzz: destinations

Kyushu in Japan to have its own luxury train this year Starting October 2013, a new luxury way to travel will roll out in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. Named the ‘Seven Stars in Kyushu’ Cruise Train, it will travel past some of the best sights of Kyushu all the while offering luxury moving accommodation and a way to experience the countr yside at a relaxing pace. The number ‘seven’ in ‘Seven Stars in Kyushu’ has threefold meaning. Firstly it signifies the seven prefectures of Kyushu. Secondly the train will cover the destination’s seven principle tourist attractions namely Nature, Local Cuisine, Hot springs, History and Culture, Power Spots, Friendliness and Train Travel. Thirdly, the train is made up of seven cars. T he lead ca r w ill have a glassed-in forward observation space offering wide-open views. The centre section of the car will be equipped with seating for relaxation and a space for enjoying various events. The rear of this car will feature a bar counter. All cars will have panoramic windows. There are two deluxe suites and three regular suites per car. There will be two and four day courses available both starting from Hakata Station in Fukuoka. The itinerary will take in Oita, Yufuin, Miyazaki, Aso, Kagoshima and Kirishima. Ticket sales are expected to start before the end of 2012. For more information visit www.jnto.go.jp or www.jrkyushu.co.jp compiled by avni mehrotra

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destination : business The street scene between Sayajigunj and Alkapuri

VADODARA CBD

A newly evolving city in one of the fastest growing economies of the country, Vadodara has shed its old town image to embrace progress on a rapid basis. We take a tour through the Central Business District of Vadodara, Alkapuri and present to you luxurious places for accommodation, fine dining options and the plethora of industries which flank its vicinities.

Kai Asia Restaurant at The Gateway Hotel Vadodara

The Fine Arts college of the MS University falls between Sayajigunj and Alkapuri

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Baroda Railway Station falls in the CBD


destination : business

Hampton by Hilton

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adodara, better known by its former name Baroda, has a long history as a business centre. The visionary and progressive ruler of Baroda Princely State, Sayajirao Gaekwad, realized the potential of building the city into an industrial hub in order to increase the wealth of his realm. He established institutions for technical and creative pursuits, and encouraged industry. Alembic Chemical Works, one of the oldest surving pharma companies in India, came up here in 1907 because of the tax advantages of Baroda Princely State. Since then, Vadodara has grown into a centre for pharmaceuticals, engineering, plastics and other industries. The finding of petroleum near Vadodara also supported the building of a refinery on the outskirts of the city, with petrochemical units nearby for downstream processing of petroleum products. After Gujarat achieved statehood in 1960, the Government of Gujarat established industrial estates at Halol, Nandesari, Savli and other sites near Vadodara which have become the hub of various industries. Today, Vadodara has units of many industrial majors. Public and Joint Sector Units like ONGC, Gujarat State Fertilisers & Chemicals (GSFC), Gas Authority of India Limited and Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Limited (GACL) are located in the vicinity of Vadodara. Sun Pharmaceuticals, one of India’s pharma majors, is also based in Vadodara. Bombardier Transportation, a global major in railway transport, has its manufacturing plant for railway at Savli near Vadodara and a software office at Maneja in Vadodara. From here it supplied the metro cars for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Another multinational, General Motors, has its manufacturing unit at Halol. Already an education centre

Hampton by Hilton

The Cambay Pavilion

with the prestigious MS University, Vadodara is gradually becoming a hub in Gujarat for IT and other development projects.

CBD The Central Business District of Vadodara is located around Alkapuri, the Race Course Road to its west and Sayajigunj to its east. Driving from Gotri Road through Race Course Road to Alkapuri and Sayajigunj, you can see the corporate offices of multinationals, units of Infotech and IT-enabled service companies, and offices or branches banks like HDFC and ICICI. The CBD has large shopping malls, big hotels and restaurants for various cuisine. Interestingly, Alkapuri besides being a CBD is also an upscale residential neighbourhood with housing commanding high rates. Another interesting feature of the CBD is that some of the MS University’s prestigious colleges are located in the Sayajigunj area.

HOTELS Thanks to the large business houses that have their manufacturing or service units in or around Vadodara, the CBD boasts some of Gujarat’s best hotels. Welcomhotel Vadodara, one of the state’s first five-star

hotel, is located on RC Dutt Road in Alkapuri. While offering contemporary facilities, this hotel is unique in having incorporated aspects of the regional culture from the Jain temple architecture, the artworks in the lobby, the woodcarvings for which Gujarat is famous, a courtyard and a swimming pool which takes inspiration from the state’s stepwells. The hotel offers 133 room including 6 suites, and conference facilities. The Cambay Pavilion is the all-day-dining restaurant cum coffee shop of this hotel, getting its name from the Gulf of Cambay which is about an hour away from Vadodara. The hotel also has ITC’s signature restaurant, Peshawri, which is a big draw for dinner. Express Towers is another hotel that is a Vadodara landmark. One of Gujarat’s first four-star hotels, this 65-room property is ideally situated just five minutes drive from the city’s railway station and 20 minutes or so from the Vadodara Airport. It has the Mandap restaurant, started in 1974, which is one of the best places for Gujarati thali in Vadodara. The coffee shop here is a city icon. If you want to stay in the very heart of Alkapuri, the Express Residency is a 54-room hotel with the Jade Restaurant looking out at the lawns. January 2013 go now

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Welcomhotel Vadodara Welcomhotel Vadodara

The unique feature of this restaurant is that it is disabled friendly with wheel-chair access. Heading to Sayajigunj, you find hotels like Surya, Surya Palace and Sayaji which are at the heart of the city’s culinary scene. Many who come into Vadodara en route to Ahmedabad or Surat head to these hotels for a bite. Azure at Surya Palace boasts an extensive buffet lunch, where even those who come in on inter-city trains from Ahmedabad or Surat for a day business visit drop in for a sumptuous meal. Kalaghoda at Sayaji Hotel is one of the city’s best loved restaurants, well-known for its buffets. Driving south from Alkapuri to the Akota Gardens you come to The Gateway Hotel Vadodara which is a business hotel with one of the city’s best known restaurants, Kai Asia, where the well-heeled society crowd and business travellers head for pan-Asian food. Here, you can watch cooks at work on making sushis and teppayanki plates. The cuisine ranges from Chinese to Japanese to Thai. The Royal Orchid Central is another star-rated hotel located in Akota. The Hampton Inn by Hilton Vadodara, located in Alkapuri, is ideally situated and facilitated for business visitors to Vadodara’s 20

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CBD. For MICE, there is a rooftop banqueting area in this hotel.

RESTAURANTS With the corporate offices and flow of business visitors to CBD, combined with the affluent residential streets of Alkapuri, there is a good selection of restaurants here other than those in the hotels. One of the cozy and appealing restaurants here is Little Italy, near HDFC Bank in Alkapuri. As the name suggests, this is the place to enjoy Italian food, albeit pure-vegetarian fare, especially pastas and pizzas. Sampatrao Colony in Alkapuri is an eating out hub of the CBD and plush residential areas. Aamantran here is a famous Gujarati restaurant which serves regional cuisine in silver platters. That Place is one of the trendy new eateries on this street, which has a range from Lamb Curry, Bangers-and-Mash and Chops in the British/Anglo-Indian style to Cajun Prawn and a range of pastas, baked dishes, Mexican favourites and more. This is a good 11am-11pm place to kick-back-and-relax with snacks or a meal. At Sayajigunj, Havmor has pride of place on the main thoroughfare. From decades, this restaurant is known for its Channa Puri,

factfile GETTING THERE The CBD is walking distance from Vadodara’s Railway Station, which is well-connected to most of the major cities of India. Alkapuri is about seven km from the Vadodara Airport. From the Delhi-Mumbai Highway or the AhmedabadVadodara Expressway, you can drive into the city and reach the CBD in about 20 minutes.

Kadai Chicken and other North Indian food, but also for Chicken Sizzler. It has introduced a gamut of international vegetarian food. Along Race Course Road, there is a good choice of restaurants. Mirch Masala, a colourful restaurant with Bollywood posters, murals and funny lines from Hindi films, is one of the most popular. Their chaats, kebabs, curries, biryanis and jalebis are a hit year round, while in winter people come specially for their Sarson-ka-Saag with Makki Roti. The CBD also has most of the well-known chains like Mainland China, Barbecue Nation, Pizza Hut and so forth. For a quick bite, you can drop in at the Lilleria Food Court or tuck into a casual meal at Goodies Café. Text by anil mulchandani photographs by Dinesh shukla & respective hotels


destination : leisure

Deep Cosetting

EVAS0N MA’ IN In Jordan we plunged 1,300 feet into the womb of the earth.

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his is the sort of setting from which mankind emerged and you, too, can feel rejuvenated here, if you really want to. Sadly we didn’t have the time to do the whole restorative treatment but we do know that the oxygen levels here are much higher than on the surface. In other words, we were virtually in a beautiful hyperbaric chamber which refreshes and restores. The name of our most unusual retreat was Evason Ma’in and it is snuggled at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley within hiking distance of the Dead Sea, which, as everyone should know, is the world’s largest natural spa. We learnt all this after we had landed in Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport in the Hashemite kingdom’s capital, Amman. We kept awake on the 60 minute drive, even though we felt a little frazzled after our flight from India. Jordan’s landscape is varied and fascinating. Much of it is undulating: modern towns and old villages massed over scrubby hills, grey-green olive trees cushioned sandy slopes, grape vines festooned trellises, We left that behind and entered a region where arid deserts spread like camel-hair blankets encrusted with eroded rocks in fantastic shapes. Quite unexpectedly, then, a sign proclaimed

‘Sea Level’ Our highway ignored that and plunged down. Not under the sea, but to the lowest point on the surface of the earth: the lands around the mineral-rich Dead Sea. This is when we saw the canyon. It was deep, and long, and green with trees, including the resplendent gul mohur. Down one wall of the canyon, cascaded three waterfalls painting their rocks green, yellow, blue and white as if some bizarre designer had smeared them for an extravagant James Bond movie. The movie-set look was enhanced by a building that resembled a sheikh’s desert castle: domes, flat-roofs, limestone arches mottled with the shifting 22

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destination : leisure A hot waterfall cascades into the spa pool

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destination: Leisure

The reception of the Spa

A massage room

shadows of date palms. A blue swimming pool mushroomed with white beach umbrellas stretched at the base of the largest water-fall. And a blue stream threaded its way at the bottom of the canyon, linking the complex together before adding its waters to the Dead Sea, shimmering neon-blue in the cleavage of the mountains. The Evanson Ma’in Hot Springs and Six Senses Spa, to give it its full title, is the brain-child of Africa-born NRI Sonu Shivdasani and his wife Eva who have created a setting that is as sybaritic as an Arabian Nights fantasy. 24

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In fact, our Spa Suite had a bedroom, living room and an en-suite Spa room with a massage bed. It also had the other starrated accessories and horizon-spanning views down the dramatic depth of the gorge. Gardeners were working on the organic farm and a chef was setting up an out-door cook out to initiate guests into the secrets of gourmet food. We could have had a massage in our room but we preferred to call up one of the hotel’s electric cars, drive past the outdoor movie theatre, Cinema Paradise, and on to the resort’s exclusive Six Senses Spa. The spa has its own hot springs’ waterfall feeding


destination: leisure View from our balcony

into its two swimming pools. We opted for a massage with local products: warm, and soothing, olive oil and a rub with the highly reputed Dead Sea salts, followed by a shower, and some indulgent relaxation. We couldn’t assess their therapeutic value after just one massage, but there’s no doubt that our skins felt smoother and softer when we emerged from the treatment. The spa also offers a His & Hers massage where couples can be treated at the same time on twin massage beds. Togetherness also extends to other Life Experiences, as the resort terms them. They have a separate department just for these activities. There are Walking and Jogging Trails through the valley, with maps and water bottles to help you along. One trail asks you to wade through the stream, trudge to the far end where it joins the Dead Sea, and then brings you back by car. Or you could cycle through the gorge: helmets are compulsory. We, personally, would have liked to have the Bedouin Experience but we were not there on the right day. A Bedouin camp has been set up in a grove where guests can get a taste of authentic desert hospitality including lounging on rugs and cushions, sipping cardamom-flavoured coffee and dining on a whole sheep cooked in a hole in the ground on earth-covered embers. It sounded fascinating but, even if we had been here on the right day of the week…. possibly Thursdays… we’d have had to muster up a fair number of other diners to justify such a substantial barbecue. To ring the changes from Arabian fare we found their breakfast buffet both imaginative and wide-ranging with two chefs in caring attendance. Our snack lunch was the Arabian version of the Spanish tapas and proved that not all dishes in the resort had to be snooty haute cuisine. But though the setting for dinner… on the terrace overlooking the illuminated swimming pool and the floodlit main waterfalls… was dramatic and perfect for fine dining by candle-light, the grilled meats were a shade too over-done as if a makee-learnee chef had experimented on our order! But then grilles are temperamental things depending on a delicate resonance between the chef, the meat and the customer! To our delight, however, we discovered that the well-stocked bar had our favourite Scotch: Glengoyne. This distillery was once.. and possibly still is… owned by a descendant of the pirate Captain Cook. It is unique in that it straddles the Highland Line and can thus

factfile Getting There Air: Royal Jordanian Airlines flies from Delhi and Mumbai to Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport. Road: A 60 minute drive from the airport. Six Senses Spar offers – Massages – Swedish, Holistic, Oriental Fusion and Energiser • The Touch of Beauty - Natural Sunburn Soother, Thai Silk Facial, Luxury Facial. Deluxe Manicure, Deluxe Pedicure, Hand Rejuvenator, Foot Recovery • Specialized Treatments – Jet Lag Recovery, Thai Massage In Ma’In, Thai Herbal Massage, Hot Stone Therapy, Sports Massage, Pregnancy Massage, Indian Head Massage, Foot Acupressure. Reservations Evason Ma’In, PO Box 801, Madaba 11117 Ma’In, Jordon Tel:+962 5 324 5500 Fax:+962 5 324 5550 E-mail: Reservations-main@sixsenses.com

claim to have the qualities of both a Highland and Lowland Single Malt. Before our dinner experience we had been around the top-floor Honeymoon Suite. The 360 degree views from there are stunning, spanning an estimated 105 sq kms. We noticed that the security was so tight that even a nervous billionaire would feel safe, nevertheless they do have separate facilities for bodyguards. Their up-market clients are stratospherically up-market! If such quests decided to use the king size bed on the terrace, rather than the one in the bedroom, they could wake to dawn gilding the tops of the canyon. And then, they could get the resort’s friendly staff to organize a breakfast for them on top of the Ma’in waterfall! For all the wide-spectrum experiences that they can offer you in the resort, there is also the option of visiting the other interesting destinations in Jordan. Amman’s souk is fascinating, Petra is heart-stopping, pick up fabulous mosaics in Madaba, do your own Lawrence of Arabia camel safari in Wadi Rum as Peter O’Toole did. But before you think of all that, remember that virtually next door to the resort is the unbelievable Dead Sea. It is so saline that you can’t sink in its waters. It is also customary to slather yourself with the skin-toning black ooze that has collected over millennia at the bottom of this ancient lake. Our verdict: this is a great place for a cosseting, rejuvenating escape, far from the everyday world. Can you ask for more? Text & photographs by Hugh & Colleen gantzer

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destination : Leisure

historical & magnificent

mysore

Of Victorian times’ towers and conventional Hindu temples, Mysore is one of the most regal, culture centric and picturesque cities of India.

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The soaring twin towers of St. Philomena’s Cathedral

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egality radiates out from its incredible Palace, reflecting the changing fortunes, of the famed Wodeyar Family. They were the ruling princes of Mysore from 1399 with their capital in Srirangapatna. In 1799, the British East India Company installed the infant Krishnaraja Wodeyar III on the throne of his ancestors in a rather ramshackle, wooden, palace in Mysore. When it was burnt down during a wedding ceremony in 1887, Queen Victoria’s government decided to intervene. The Mysore Palace, with the very Victorian cast-iron pillars of its gallery verandah, its red onion-shaped domes, and its central tower rising vaguely like the campanile of a cathedral, hinted at the Empire’s international reach. But though its façade spoke of its liberal hybridization, its interiors were unabashedly, magnificently, regally, Indian. The Marriage Pavilion, or Kalyana Mantapa, has a domed ceiling made entirely of stained glass. On the walls of this fascinating hall is a running diorama of the Mysore Dasara. Traditionally, the maharaja would ride in a golden howdah, atop a huge elephant, in this procession. Nowadays, however, an idol of Chamundeshwari is placed in the howdah. We can’t decide whether the Marriage Pavilion, or the Hall of Private Audience, the Diwan-i-Khas, is the more spectacular. We also saw the main Durbar Hall known as the Diwan-i-Aam, the Portrait Gallery, the Silver Door and the one inlaid with ivory, the silver chairs and the Period Furniture Room. These are in the public section of the palace, open to visitors. The former princely family still lives in the private wing which is not part of the tourist circuit. From the magnificence of the Palace, we drove down broad avenues with occasional statues of old maharajas. The Wodeyars ruled a prosperous land and were enlightened enough to share their wealth with their people and their faith. This faith is centered on Chamundi Hill. We sped up the broad, winding, road cut into the scrub-covered


Resplendent corridors in the Mysore Palace

hill with occasional clumps of trees giving the impression that it is fairly densely wooded. Mysore spread, blurred with heat-haze, across the plain below so though the hill must offer a spectacular view in a clear day in the monsoon, it was very indistinct now. We got out of our car at the flat top of the peak. Most photographers find the impressive statue of the demon Mahisasura irresistible. There he stands, in his own, green, fenced circle, a scimitar raised in his right hand, a large upright serpent in his left, ferociously moustached, bulbous eyes staring fiercely: the epitome of every villain who has ever appeared in a southern mythological. Curiously, Mysore derived its name from this evil character, slaughtered by the goddess of this hill: Sri Chamundeswari. She is the family deity of the Wodeyars. The temple is a very impressive one. Not only is the gate tower a powerful assertion of the Dravidian style of temple architecture, but the vimana covering the sanctum has a golden kalasha or Pot of Plenty. Under this auspicious symbol, the beautiful image of Sri Chamundeswari is adorned by a garland of golden skulls. This is, generally, associated with Kali. But though Kali is, by her

An albino peacock dancing in the Mysore Zoo

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destination : Leisure Mahisasura in front of the Sri Chamundesvan Temple

factfile Getting There By Air: Bangalore is the nearest airport and then 150 kms by road By Rail: Direct trains available from Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi By Road: By taxi or bus from Bangalore Accommodation A wide range of accommodation. Here are some. • Hotel Lalit Mahal Palace Tel:0821-2470470 • Hotel Mayura Hoysala KSTDC JLB Road – Tel: 0821-2425349 • Quality Inn Southern Star Vinoba Road – Tel: 0821-2426426 • Windflower Spa & Resort Maharanapratap Road, Nazarbad Tel: 0821-2522500 – Reservations: 9901446666

very name, a black goddess, the idol of Sri Chamundeswari is a radiant golden goddess proclaiming its independence from northern Indian religious iconography. The Wodeyars were liberal princes and the twin towers of St. Philomena’s Church are proof of this. Fearing that the conquering British, who were Protestants, would regard all Roman Catholics as traitors, the Catholics chose the protection of the young Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, newly installed on the throne of Mysore. It was a wise move for those persecuted people. At first they worshipped in a small hut under their French priests. Then, as the congregation grew under 28

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the patronage of the Mysore ruler, Krishanraja Wodeyar IV laid the foundations of the present St. Philomena’s in 1933. There are many features about this church that still make it a very special place of worship. The church’s twin towers, surmounted by a cross, rise to a height of 141 feet, reputedly the tallest in the country. The stained glass windows were made in France and depict the Nativity of Jesus, His Baptism by St. John, the Last Supper and His Crucifixion. In the crypt under the church is a wooden altar with a reclining statue of St. Philomena. There is also a bone relic of the saint, sent from Rome. Shrines, such as St. Philomena’s link com-

munities with their heritage, provide firm foundations from which they can face the challenges of the future. But there is an older heritage that we must also protect: the heritage of the natural world. We visited the Mysore Zoo, known formally as the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens. It was crowded on that holiday, with people waiting in long queues outside the gate. Inside, it gladdened our hearts to see that while children were excited to see the animals, very few tried to tease them. And those that did make an attempt to draw the attention of some of the wild creatures were sharply rebuked by their seniors. Like most good zoological gardens all over the world, it had many enclosures, in which the animals could move around in comparative freedom. We photographed the tapirs, those ungainly hoofed nocturnal animals of Central and South America and Malaysia, an albino peacock putting on a superb display with his snow-white tail fanned out like a static star-burst, and endangered birds and animals successfully bred in this conservation-oriented zoo. Finally we drove to the fame Brindavan Gardens. This extensive spread of formal flower-beds and fountains looks spectacular when it is illuminated at night. It stretches at the base of the great Krishnaraja Sagar Dam. The backed up waters of the Cauvery River give clean power and irrigation to much of the state: another lasting example of the foresight of the old Wodeyar rulers. As in the rest of Mysore, this is inspired regality, pragmatism and spectacle, perfectly blended. Text & photographs by Hugh & Colleen gantzer


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destination : leisure

Mangroves in Bentota

‘Catch of the day’ display at Vivanta by Taj

Bliss in Bentota

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A balmy weather, exotic sceneries and a plethora of water activities welcome you into this southern coastal town of Sri Lanka

push the hotel suite’s window open and the glory of a star-speckled Indian Ocean takes my breath away. The autumnal breeze, boats bobbing out on sea, the rhythmic rise and fall of the waves against the dun-colored beach, all work like a salve for my city-frazzled nerves. Vivanta by Taj – our abode for three days – is an ocean-fronted property in Bentota, located on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast. Its colonial architecture, slatted red-tiled roof, a terraced infinity pool with a sunken bar and the lobby (the centerpiece of which

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is a vertiginous ceiling that makes us crane our necks like giraffes), make for an eyepleasing combo. After being greeted with ‘Ayubowan’ (welcome in Sinhalese) by the front desk, we’re served a refreshing trio of welcome drinks – Nelli (gooseberry nectar), passion fruit juice and Ceylon iced tea. All this at 4 am! Bleary-eyed from overnight travel, we quaff our drinks and scamper to our rooms after requesting for an in-room check-in. A refreshing nap later, we’re ready for our quota of the surf and the sand. As we’re just a heartbeat away from powdery blue beaches,

the coastline becomes our second home. We loll for hours on its sands, listening to the oceanic symphony with nary a soul to bother us. Breakfast on the beach turns out to be a brilliant idea. As a phosphorescent sun peered through hazy clouds and the oceanic breeze ruffled our hair – we feasted on oven-fresh breads, freshly-squeezed juices and water from coconuts plucked off trees in front of us! Sizzling bacon, omelettes and sausages added more heft to the meal. The name Bentota, the local guide informs us, comes from a mythical story dating


destination: leisure

Taj poolside

Buddhists at a temple in Colombo

back to many centuries according to which a demon called ‘Ben’ ruled ‘tota’ or the river bank. The moniker stuck and the Sri Lankan city has today morphed into a popular holiday destination. Bentota also offers the possibility of numerous interesting excursions. We take one to the enchanting 15-acre estate of Lunuganga, an exquisite property that is

a tropical rendition of an Italian garden. Lunuganga fringes Deduwa Lake and is one of the world’s most magical garden retreats complete with statues, courtyards and lily ponds that flank secret pathways. Prodded by two adrenaline-spiked kids, we also visit Sunshine Watersports in the quaint town of Aluthgama. The company’s owner, Thusal, a strapping six-footer with

rippling muscles and an imposing personality welcomes us. Thusal apparently has held the Sri Lankan windsurfing record for 13 years and runs a fairly large water sports operation offering everything from fishing boat trips, jet skis, wakeboards, windsurfing, wakeboarding windsurfing, waterskiing, banana rides, donuts, kayaking and jet ski. He has hosted Bollywood stars and the Indian cricket team too, he tells us, proof of which are the assorted photos that adorn his office. We begin with banana boat rides and then work our way up on the excitement meter to water tubing, jet skiing and canoeing. Apparently, the Bentota region benefits from a large flat estuary at the mouth of the Bentota Ganga, which ensures safe waters all year round for. Therefore, even during the monsoon (April-Nov) when the sea is unsafe for swimming and other activities, water sports continues to attract sports buffs. After a couple of hours of serious action, we opt for a quiet safari on the picturesque ‘Madhu Ganga’ river nearby. The boat glides on the shimmering waters to chart its course through mangroves so thick that we need flash in broad daylight to snap photos! There’s abundant flora and fauna here. January 2013 go now

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destination : leisure We get to view from up close the primitive style of fishing and prawn trapping still practiced by the island’s inhabitants. Seeing our boat approach, a native pulls out a baby alligator from the waters, leading to collective shrieks from our group! Next day, we visit the local Buddhist temples and the Sea Turtles Conservation Project. We also spot tsunami-ravaged villages that struck this region on December 26, 2004. The unexplored Bentota village, situated between the beaches too, offers an interesting slice of local island life. The beach also has a turtle hatchery where we say our hellos to multifarious varieties of turtles, including a 60-kg albino turtle! The Induruwa beach – five km from Bentota – offers us more opportunities for turtle spotting. We slake our thirst with the refreshing ‘thambili’ or King Coconut water bought off a vendor. The 17th century Galle Fort, a UNESCO World site, is a gargantuan Portuguese fortress which remained virtually unscathed during the killer tsunami. It is a bit of a climb but

factfile Bentota is situated on the southern coastal tip of Sri Lanka and is a popular tourist attraction for its fine hotels and water sports activities. Well-connected by road to Colombo, it is a mere 62km from the Sri Lankan capital. The city’s name is derived from a mythical story according to which a demon called Ben ruled over a river (tota) Ergo, Bentota! Bentota is also known as a historical place described in ancient messenger poems (sande ak vya). The city is renowned for its ayurvedic products, production of toddy and coconut nectar. It was heavily damaged by the 2004 tsunami which devastated the Sri Lankan coastal belt. However, few traces of that calamitous devastation is visible today. The city seems to have bounced back to vibrancy and is a big tourist attraction offering adventure sports and water activities like river cruises, jet skis, wakeboards, windsurfing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, banana rides and kayaking. Clearly, a holidaymaker’s paradise! Weather is balmy through the year (25 to 35 degrees C), so carry T-shirts, shorts, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen for the beaches. Connectivity to Colombo from India is pretty good as most major airlines have daily flights from Indian metros. To get to Bentota from Colombo, hire a cab which are easily available from the airport. Don’t forget to negotiate for a good price though!

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well worth visiting. A stroll around the ramparts of this ancient stronghold (that has truly withstood the test of time) offers spectacular scenery. From the fort’s top, we take in gaspinducing views of the waters that crash all around its ramparts and snap photos. It’s indeed been a full day. And as the golden orb dips into the ocean, we head back to the hotel. As we enter, mellifluous jazz notes are emanating from the resort’s Lounge Bar where a crooner is regaling an audience. We sidle into comfy couches and order a delicious round of fusion cocktails with canapés. Dinner is at The Shack, Vivanta’s ethereal al fresco eatery overlooking the Indian Ocean. The oceanic breeze caresses us as we step in, even as local musicians are serenading the diners here under a starlit sky. The restaurant offers no menu. Ergo, we walk across to a counter displaying `catch of the day’ to choose our dinner -- a grilled seafood platter. There’s cuttlefish, sea bass, pomfret, squids, lobsters and prawns which are grilled and brought to our table. Accompanied by oven-fresh breads and a crisp chardonnay, the meal tastes like manna from heaven! The next day, I head for a spa experiential to banish my travel-induced aches and pains away. Taj’s Jiva Spa lies on a secluded stretch that is removed from the main property, helping spa junkies surrender to bliss in pristine surroundings. Deadline pressures seem far away from my mind as I pad about at the spa in a fluffy white gown and slippers, sipping chamomile tea and listening to the birdsong amidst glorious Frangipani trees. The blue lotus – Sri Lanka’s national flower – floats in attractive ceramic water bodies and works like a balm for my pollution-fatigued eyes. After much pummeling and pounding under the therapist’s magical hands, I emerge reborn. Also hungry. Ergo, we head to a local eatery for delicious, spice-infused Sri Lankan curries and stews. The meal is a profusion of seafood with fine wines. Balsamic Red Snapper, shrimps in a saffron broth, red rice risotto, garlic-speckled bread and more make for a great gourmet experience. After three days in Bentota, we take advantage of its many motorable roads and head towards the capital city of Colombo, a mere two-hour ride away. There’s much to savor in Colombo also known as the ‘Emerald Isle’. The tapestry of this vibrant metropolis

The Shack restaurant at Vivanta by Taj

Pachyderms at a zoo in Colombo


is interwoven with stately neo-classical colonial buildings, towering high rises, Buddhist temples, a picturesque landscape and miles and miles of a beautiful coastline. The National Museum, smack dab in the heart of town, showcases a trove of ancient exhibits and art from various eras including that of the putative Kandyan kings of the 17th century. The elegant Independence Square is a stunningly-crafted structure erected to commemorate the liberation of Sri Lanka from the British rule in 1948. How could we miss visiting Sri Lanka’s beautiful temples? A short temple tour brought us face to face with ancient temples, one more exquisite than the other. Shopping – that mandatory must-do on all Indians’ itinerary – is a delight in Colombo with a strengthened rupee offering great

value for money. A slew of air-conditioned malls offer everything from precious stones to plantation fresh tea, branded clothing to exotic masks, continental spices to indigenous handicrafts and everything in between. At twilight, we amble across to the beachside which is a beehive of activity. Hawkers selling local snacks and beverages are servicing happy families and tourists, the carnivalesque atmosphere heightened further by toy/balloon/ice-cream vendors. We venture towards the sea and let the cool ocean wash over our feet time and time again. My little daughter urges me to go further and further into the ocean despite my squeamishness. Each time, the surf hits her tiny feet, her ringing laughter resonates in the air. And fills my heart with joy! Text & photographs by neeta lal

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destination : leisure

destination

Tamil nadu

Photo: Tanmoy Das

It’s a state that’s on the fast track with the country’s second largest economy (Only Maharashtra is bigger) and it’s also a state that features a unique history almost untouched by external invasions. Tamil Nadu, one of India’s Southern most states is also one of the country’s most vibrant tourism destinations with myriad different experiences waiting to be explored. From historic temples to cool hill stations to sandy beaches and throbbing metros there’s more to Tamil Nadu than you can ever imagine.

Kalakshetra Foundation – one of India’s most respected classical dance institutions

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Santhome Basilica


Photo: Tanmoy Das

destination : Leisure

Chennai

Chennai The Hub: Begin your Tamil Nadu odyssey at the state’s capital located on the northern tip of the state. The starting point of the British Empire in India and also the final resting place of St. Thomas (One of the disciples of Jesus Christ), Chennai (Previously Madras) is drenched in history and culture for a city that was officially founded only in 1639 as a trading post of the East India Company. Often referred to as the cultural capital of India for its rich Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam traditions, the city hosts a month long music festival (Dec 15 to Jan 15) which is one of the biggest classical music and cultural festivals anywhere in the world and has begun to attract scores of International visitors. Mamallapuram near Chennai also hosts the Annual Bharathanatyam festival. The city is also home to the Kalakshetra Foundation – one of India’s most respected classical dance institutions while Dakshin Chitra that is located about 25

kms South of Chennai features re-created and re-located homes from the four southern states from the 18th Century onwards. T Nagar in Chennai is a great place to shop for silk sarees and traditional South Indian jewellery while the city’s Kapaleeshwar and Parthsarathy temples are a hub for the faithful. Chennai is home to one of the oldest Protestant Churches (The St Mary’s Church) outside the UK and also to the Santhome Basilica, one of the most revered catholic churches in India. The Marina Beach is the world’s second longest urban beach and Chennai has scores of other beaches that attract locals and visitors alike. Chennai is also the perfect hub to travel to Tirupati (About 4 hours by road) or for a slice of France in Pondicherry that is just three hours away on the scenic East Coast road. The city’s malls and nightlife (With a few five star hotel bars that work round the clock) provide the perfect sanctuary for travellers seeking familiar comfort zones. January 2013 go now

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destination: leisure Beaches Some of Tamil Nadu’s finest beaches are in and around Chennai. The Marina Beach is one of the city’s largest open spaces that draws thousands of visitors on weekends. The Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar in the South of Chennai is a popular youth hangout and has great dining and shopping options along the beach. The East Coast road that connects Chennai with Pondicherry along the Bay of Bengal has a large cluster of quiet beaches and luxury beach resorts like the Vivanta by Taj, Fisherman’s Cove and the Radisson Blu Temple Bay resort at Mamallapuram. Further south the state’s long coastline features scores of idyllic beaches in areas like Nagercoil, Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari where the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean meet.

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destination : Leisure Marina Beach

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Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

Arjuna Penance, Mahabalipuram Udhagamandalam, popularly known as Ooty

Courtallam, the ‘Spa of the South’

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destination : Leisure The Hills

Rameswaram

Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram

Tamil Nadu’s hill stations were developed thanks to the British Raj and provided the perfect summer getaways from much of the state’s hotter climes during extreme summers. The Nilgiris district is one of the major tourist belts and its capital Udhagamandalam (Ooty) still retains some of the charms of the British era, despite a population increase and pressures on its infrastructure. Coonoor located close to Ooty is less crowded and is home to scores of Tea estates that spread out in swathes of green. Aside from stunning view points and brilliant weather almost round the year, the Nilgiris region features great golf courses and is also home to one of the most charming railway routes that connects Mettupalayam in the plains with Ooty. The region features some great accommodation options that include luxury hotels and enchanting British-era bungalows that have been converted into quaint hotels. Kodaikanal closer to Madurai and to Munnar in Kerala is probably Tamil Nadu’s finest hill station. It’s not as crowded as Ooty and boasts of great flora and fauna and a host of stops for tourists. Kodaikanal is also home to a couple of historic gentleman’s clubs. Yercaud near Salem completes the trio. It’s not as large as Ooty or Kodaikanal but is more accessible and is a major trekking destination.

spread over 45 acres features awe inspiring architecture and forms the lifeline of the historic 2500 year old city of Madurai.

Religion From temples to churches to Mosques, Tamil Nadu is the perfect place to explore your spiritual side. The Vaishnavite shrines in Srirangam (Near Trichy) and Sri Villiputhur feature ornate architecture and are thronged by scores of pilgrims. The Karthigai Deepam ceremony at the Arunachaleswarar temple at Thiruvanamalai is witnessed by 3 million people and is one of the most surreal experiences. The Thillai Nataraja temple at Chidambaram where the presiding deity is Lord Nataraja is a major Saivite shrine in the state. People from all religions and faiths throng the Annai Vailankani Catholic shrine that is near the coastal town of Nagapattinam (About 6 hours South of Chennai). The Nagore dargah one of the state’s most popular Muslim shrines is close by. Built over the tomb of Hazrath Nagore Shahul Hamid, a 16th Century sufi saint, the shrine attracts people across faiths. According to legend, Lord Rama built a bridge across the sea from Rameswaram to rescue Sita from Ravan. The Ramanathaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is also closely association with Lord Rama and is one of India’s holiest shrines.

History

Cuisine

Tamil Nadu was home to some of South India’s greatest dynasties like the Cholas and the Pallavas. The Cholas were one of the first maritime empires in India and their conquests reached as far as South East Asia. You can find some fine examples of Chola architecture that have stood the test of time. The Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur built by the great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola in 1010 AD is one of India’s architectural marvels that showcases Dravidian architecture at its zenith. There’s also Gangaikonda Cholapuram that features stunning temples built by his successor Rajendra Cholan. Mamallapuram (about 60 kms from Chennai) features great examples of Pallava architecture that date back to the 7th Century; the most famous of these is the Shore temple. The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture with elements of Buddhist design. The government museum in Egmore, Chennai features one of the best bronze galleries in the world while the Fort St George Museum takes you back in time to the British Raj. The Meenakshi temple at Madurai

The state’s rich culinary traditions include a mix of traditional cuisine and cuisine with external influences. In the Chettinad region near Madurai you can enjoy the authentic flavours of the Chettiar community whose cuisine has been influenced by their trading ties in South East Asia and where unique spices like Star aniseed are used to craft delectable cuisine. Madurai is one city that never sleeps and where you can find some of the finest street food like the Jiguruthanda (The city’s own yummy interpretation of the Falooda). Chennai’s exclusive gentleman’s clubs and some of the old kitchens in hill stations like Ooty are probably the few places in India where you can still sample flavours of the British Raj and Anglo Indian favourites like Mulligatawny soup. Unassuming shacks at Chennai’s beaches and Mamallapuram dish out finger-licking seafood like Calamari fritters. You can dig into king sized Tamil Nadu meals at almost any corner of the state and savour the fresh aromas of authentic South Indian filter coffee in most parts of the state. Text by Ashwin Rajagopalan Photo courtesy Tamil nadu Tourism

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destination : leisure Jakarta Skyline with the Keraton at the Plaza Hotel

Indonesia’s capital has a myriad experiences waiting at every corner and if you are willing to brave the city’s infamous traffic there’s a lot to be explored including some of the best shopping in South East Asia.

H

I

48 hours in Jakarta

t was my last evening in Bali and I was already wishing I could extend my stay at this blissful island indefinitely. That’s when a bunch of Australians I bumped into at the cocktail lounge made me feel worse when they discovered that my next port of call was Jakarta where I had planned to spend 48 hours. “You don’t need 2 days for Jakarta. Just stay in Bali and head back to India” was the chorus refrain. As I touched down at Jakarta’s all-new Soekarno-Hatta airport the only thought was how I was going to make these 48 hours count. I had heard tales of Jakarta’s infamous ‘macet’ (The local word for traffic) but even that didn’t prepare me for the never-ending ride in one of the city’s Blue bird taxis to the hotel. Despite wide roads and multiple lanes the sheer volume of vehicles and the lack of a local metro rail network compound Jakarta’s traffic woes. But the one thing that strikes you is the relative calm with which locals negotiate the traffic without honking and swearing. Their Blackberries come to

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has direct access from its lobby to Jakarta’s most happening mall – the Plaza Indonesia. At 12 noon on day one Plaza Indonesia was my first stop. It’s easy to get lost and wander aimlessly in this world-class mall that offers the perfect blend of popular brands and designer brands like Aigner, Fendi, Etro and Jimmy Choo and at prices that are considerably lower than other cities in the region like Singapore and Hong Kong. After two hours of retail therapy it was time for an authentic Indonesian meal at Lada Merah, a cosy eatery within the mall with a menu full of signature favourites like the Nasi Goreng, Beef Rendang and Pecel, a scrumptious vegetarian salad with chillies, peanuts, tamarind and coconut sugar served with rice crackers and steamed rice dumplings. If you are a mall rat, you will be spoiled for choice in Jakarta. While malls might be the same in most parts of the world, I still made time to check into the Grand Indonesia Mall that is part of a cluster of malls within the Jalan Thamrin area. This mall is home to Google’s Android concept store that seen its global debut in Indonesia. Developed along with local gadget retailer Erafone, Android Nation is a

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their rescue; everybody from cabbies to corporate honchos love their BBs in Jakarta and probably all over the country. The best way to overcome Jakarta’s traffic is to find an oasis that’s close to all the action. The Keraton at the Plaza is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection and is also one of Jakarta’s best located hotels in the heart of the city’s shopping and financial district – Jalan Thamrin. Named after the Javanese word for Palace and seeking inspiration from symbols and relics from royal palaces of yesteryears, the Keraton is truly the last word in opulence. The large rooms with a studio apartment ambience showcase contemporary Indonesian design and feature oversized bathrooms with luxurious amenities. The floor to ceiling windows give you stunning views of the Jakarta skyline. The Keraton Lounge just off the opulent lobby serves a delectable high tea that brings together English and Javanese favourites and that’s where I got to knock off the effects of the long drive from the airport. The hotel

must visit for all gadget freaks and an absolute must do if you are an Android fan. It’s 5 pm and I am ready to visit Jakarta’s most famous monument. It’s the perfect evening, it’s cloudy and the dark clouds and the hint of the setting sun provide the perfect backdrop for the Monas (National Monument). The brainchild of the country’s first president Ir. Soekarno, it is easily the pick of Jakarta’s attractions and is a symbol of the country’s freedom struggle and independence. This 400 feet plus marble obelisk is topped with a flame made with real gold foil and is truly dramatic. There’s a museum that depicts Indonesia’s freedom struggle at the base and you get stunning views of the city once you scale the top. I decide that I want to beat the traffic and take my local host suggestion to jump aboard Trans Jakarta, the city’s own version of a metro. It’s essentially a bus line with its own exclusive lane and a network of stations. While the crowds are not very different from a Mumbai local in peak hours it’s easily the fastest way


destination: leisure

Photo: Ashwin Rajagopalan

FINAL Non-peak hour traffic at Jakarta with the Trans Jakarta Bus traffic lane

National Museum

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Photo: Ashwin Rajagopalan

Photo: Ashwin Rajagopalan

Monas

Android Planet store

Room - Keraton at the Plaza

to move in peak hour traffic in Jakarta. A fairly comfortable ride brings us to the Dutch Old town area where Indonesia’s colonial past lives on in heritage buildings and narrow streets, each with its share of old legends. It’s almost 8 pm as we arrive at Café Batavia, the city’s legendary nightspot that is located within the confines of a dramatic 19th century Dutch era building dripping with character. High ceilings, antiques, original fixtures and walls filled with photographs all add up to the atmosphere that might remind you of a romantic Mediterranean café like Rick’s Café in the Hollywood classic Casablanca. With an impressive wine list and exotic international cuisine (The Caesar’s salad is a must try) it was probably the highpoint of my stay in Jakarta and it’s easy to understand why it’s a favourite with expats and locals alike. A late breakfast at Bengawan, the signature restaurant at the Keraton Day is the perfect beginning for day two. An extensive buffet 42

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with local and international favourites backed by exceptional service and a great ambience set the mood for the day. It’s a tough call but I decide to visit one of the city’s museums instead of making my way to Dunia Fantasi an amusement park located in the suburbs. Jakarta has quite a few compelling options and I pick the Museum National. This white columned building was originally constructed in 1868 and also features a modern wing that was added in 2007. It’s one of the finest archaeological museums in South East Asia and offers a tremendous insight into the region’s history and culture. From costumes, bronzes, stone tablets from temples, Chinese ceramics and musical instruments, there’s enough to keep you busy for an entire morning. Its 2 pm and time to head for a late lunch to a restaurant that’s a hub for foodies in Jakarta. Cali Deli serves terrific Vietnamesestyle sandwiches with authentic Vietnamese coffee and was the perfect pit stop located just a few blocks away from the city’s bustling

factfile Getting there and around there: The Soekarno-Hatta airport is well connected to some of the region’s busiest airports and also has direct flights from some Indian metros. Blue bird taxis are the best form of local transportation. When to go The temperatures don’t change much round the year and remain in the 30s. The dry season (April-September) is more advisable if you want to avoid sudden downpours.

Jalan Surabaya. This market in the Mentang area of central Jakarta is worlds apart from the city’s plush temperature controlled malls. The Jalan Surabaya is an open-air market and a great place for you to hone your bargaining skills and perfect to pick up souvenirs and gifts. From textiles, to porcelain, traditional batik and handicrafts this bustling market rounds up almost everything from across Indonesia and even before I realise the sun has set and it’s time for an early dinner. The Food Louvre at the Grand Indonesia Mall features a cluster of exquisite dining options from Japanese to All-American meals and we opt for Marche, a Swiss restaurant with a market ambience that features fresh salads, pastas, Lindt milkshakes and an exotic selection of desserts. And it’s time to party my last night in Indonesia away at the Shangri-La. B.A.T.S. (Bar and restaurant at the Shangri-La) is one of the city’s busiest nightclubs with a metal ceiling and brick walls that is also home to some of the city’s best live acts. And if there’s one thing I learn here and through my interactions with locals from almost every sphere it’s just how popular Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan are in Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia. And as I leave the comfortable interiors of the Keraton and head to the airport at Cengkareng, I’m busy writing on the back of a postcard for my local host. It’s not just a thank you but also the list of places that I intend to visit the next time I’m in Jakarta – street food like Nasi Goreng Kambing at Kebun Sirih, more historic museums, amusement parks and the Istiqlal mosque. The Australians I met in Bali were wrong; you need more than 48 hours to truly explore Jakarta. Luckily for me I’ve already decided I will be back in Jakarta; it’s tough not to love Jakarta’s raw energy and warm hospitality, especially if you are from India. by Ashwin Rajagopalan


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photo feature : istanbul

With ancient artistry and enchanting history, Istanbul is a city to bask all your senses in. A town full of museums, mosques and magnificent palaces, the capital of Turkey promises locals and tourists alike a breathtaking tour of religion seeped in legendary history . The following pages will sure take you for a visual treat before you go packing to discover this heritage town.

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photo feature : istanbul

Sultan’s Tomb

Dolmabahce M

osque

Hagia Sophia Mosque – known as Ayasofya in Turkish is the fourth biggest cathedral in the world and is serving as a museum today mabahce

Visitors at Dol Mosque

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Eyüp Sultan Mosque – an important religious symbol of Istanbul where many devout Muslims visit regularly

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photo feature : istanbul

ce – one of Dolmabahce Pala s agnificent palace m Istanbul’s most

Kadir Has University – a leader in educational and cultural fields in Turkey and an international center for research and scientific development

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photo feature : istanbul

Pera Palace Hotel

Sultanahmet Mosque Dome – constr ucted by Sultan Ahmed this mosque becomes like a fair ground during Ramad an

Dolmabahce Palace – there is plenty to see here like the Concubine division, Kadinefendi rooms, Atatürk study and countless valuable items

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photo feature : istanbul Shopping in Istanbul-grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar Entrance – the bazaar was founded by the orders of Fatih Sultan Mehmet

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photo feature : istanbul

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar – a center of attraction swarming with shops selling gold, leather, carpets and ornaments

Photographs by

ajay mehra

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niche travel : cinema tourism

It’s bones, music and Black Theatre at

Prague

Ashish Shukla takes on a 25-day shoot through the heritage city where his forthcoming psychological thriller is rooted

A

shish Shukla’s Prague is a psychological thriller that has been filmed in the heritage city of Prague over a period of 25 days. Quiz him on his choice of location and Shukla explains, “My producer had been to Prague for a Harper’s Bazaar fashion shoot and was fascinated by this city that by day is bright and happy, but by night acquires a dark, mysterious, vibe because of the golden cast on the Gothic structures from the yellow lights all around. I had never been to Prague myself, but when

I started googling it, I was surprised to find that its history – it was devastated by the 14th century conflict between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, numerous armed invasions, the World War and the Plague – reflected the disturbed mind of my protagonist.” To underline this similarity, Shukla not only shot in the usual tourist spots like Prague Castle, the Old Town Square Charlesbridge and streets teeming with musicians and ‘live’ 100-piece orchestras, but also captured on film Prague’s specialty, the Black Theatre that uses black curtains, a darkened stage, ‘black lighting’ (UV light) combined with fluorescent costumes to create visual illusions. This is one of January 2013 go now

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niche travel : cinema tourism

Prague’s USPs (Unique selling Points) and the film’s too. The unit also shot for four hours inside the world famous Bone Church in Kutna Hora, a medieval town east of the main city. St Barbara’s Cathedral has been on the UNESCO heritage site list for over a decade because it is built entirely of human bones, about 40,000 of them, coming from the victims of the 14th century Plague and the 15th century Hussite Wars. Even inside, the church is strewn with crosses, columns, chalices, chandeliers and has a skull candelabra made of every single bone in the 52

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human body hanging from the centre. A macabre sight no doubt, but one that, Shukla points out, is in keeping with the turmoil his central character goes through in his personal struggle between love and power. The film revolves around a delusional protagonist who goes to the city known for its architectural splendor, and there discovers certain things that change his life forever. Adding to the suspense and drama is a young Czech gypsy, a Brutus-like buddy, and a third character who could be real or just a figment of the mind. The girl, Elena Kazan, is a real Czech who even sings in her

native tongue in the voice of a local. “I was introduced to Daniella by her boyfriend. She had just come out with her music video and as soon as I heard the song, I knew I had to have it in my film and bought the rights. Later, Daniella also recorded another song specifically for the film, a Czech-Hindi duet,” informs Shukla, adding that having local character in the film talk in a mix of Russian and Czech and have his leading lady speak and sing in the same language, adds to the ambience and justifies his reason for shooting in Prague. “I don’t like to use a European city as a backdrop for a song or an action sequence. I wanted to transplant an Indian story in Prague and let it unfold there.” While he is all raves for the picture-perfect city of changing colours and character, he points out that given its heritage status, it is not possible to build sets in Prague and permission to shoot there is also not easy to come by. “But the Czech Tourism Board cooperated with us and the local authorities facilitated things by getting us the required permission. Still, we did not have the budget of Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar (2011) that had shot there earlier, and on occasions had to resort to guerrilla shooting on the streets or in public places because you would need a budget of at least Rs 4 crore for a shoot there to be eligible for incentives,” admits the director. However, he agrees that it is easier filming in Prague as compared to other European cities like Berlin and Paris since there are no film unions there. “Also, Prague hasn’t yet converted to Euro so it’s comparatively cheaper, though you still had to shell out approximately Rs 9,000 to hire a junior artiste as against the Rs 500-1,000 that we would have had to spend in India. To fill up a restaurant with locals, it would cost you close to Rs 50, 000 which is big money for a small film like ours. But given the subject and the setting, the shoot was worth every extra rupee spent,” he asserts. Produced by Rohit Khaitan and Sunil Pathare under the banner of Maxwell Entertainment Pvt. Ltd and Glamour Struck Productions, Prague stars Chandan Roy Sanyal, Gulshan Devaiya, Kalki Koechlin, Elena Kazan and Arfi Lamba. The film is eyeing a February-March 2013 release. by Roshmila bhattacharya

(The author is the Editor of the entertainment weekly, Blockbuster)


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niche travel : wellness

The artistry of the architecture of The Barai reigns supreme – heightening one’s visual senses. Simultaneously, it still does not prepare you for what lies within.

A Harmonious Journey of the Five Senses

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niche travel : wellness

T

he Barai’s one-directional journey, closeted initially between chromatic maroon walls, begins at the Arrival Court where a series of stepping stones lead to the tunnel-like Arrival Gallery and on to the Wall of Stars. Here sunlight pours through star-shapped cut-outs on the western wall displaying constellationlike shapes on the solid wall across. Deliberately, artfully designed to slow down guests – physically and mentally – while a hushed tranquility descends and transports you into another world. You walk past admiringly and come to the spectacular Salarai water court or ‘baray’, the spa’s central core. ‘Barai’ comes from the Khmer word ‘baray’ – a square, open-to-the-sky, man-made reservoir, traditionally located in front of the village temple. It channels irrigated water for the Khmer people’s use in their daily lives, and

is believed to be a source of serenity, healing, spirituality and peace. The Barai experience offers the same holistic approach infused in each of its nuances. One of the openings from the four-sided Salarai leads to the Reception room where consultants help you select oils and custom-designed massages. Personal spa butlers and therapists escort guests to their treatment rooms – encountering more visual delicacies en route limited only by the boundaries of your imagination. A tall conical temple-like ceiling with shelves on the side make you look skywards, while at eye level sculptures depicting an Apsara’s torso, skirt, hair et al keep you guessing till you are told what they are. Further, cobalt blue walls along courtyards and sandy patches stenciled aesthetically remind of your proximity to the sea.

Architecture For renowned Thai architect, Mathar ‘Lek’ Bunnag of Bunnag Architects International Consultants, his design plays a critical role in influencing the moods and feelings of people. The Barai inspired by the glorious 11th century Khmer architecture, also has regional elements incorporated. He merges the contrasting solidity of architectural edifices for posterity with the impermanence of water flowing through the spa. Among noteworthy regional hotels and spas designed by him are the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi and Spa at Four Seasons Chiang Mai, to name a couple.

The Barai Suite Exterior

The Barai Suite Plunge Pool

McFarland House

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Outdoor Treatment Area

Treatments A daily 60-minute spa treatment is included in your Barai Suite stay. Choose from Traditional Thai Massage, A romatherapy Massage, Swedish Massage, Muscle Relief Massage. Additional optional spa packages based on the four elements – Water, Earth, Air and Fire – are 2.5 -hour Element Spa Rituals, 3.5-hour Element Spa Rituals, and 4-hour The Element Journey Package.

Aromatherapy Massage

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Treatment Room

Compress Massage


The Barai Suite Treatment Area

Kudos to this, and for much more yet to come, goes to the inimitable Thai architect, Mathar ‘Lek’ Bunnag reputed for his interpretation of constantly evolving design and incorporating cultural and historical identities in his work. An example being the entrances to passages, doors, windows and niches in walls being inspired by the shape of hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards in prayer or greeting as ‘wai’ in Thailand, or ‘namaste’ in India. The 18 treatment rooms are embellished by either handcrafted glass mirror mosaic found in Thai temples, or brightly coloured glass pieces in walls and ceiling forming a kaleidoscopic pattern, while swooping drapes and curtains give an Arabian touch. Sliding windows open onto airwells with shallow ponds to cool the rooms naturally. Opened in 2007, The Barai pioneered spa concepts, raising the benchmark regionally. Set over two hectares, all paths of the maze-like structure eventually lead to the Tranquility Court, a serene sandy walled-in courtyard dotted with 100-year-old tamarind trees, mountain rocks and a linear 30-meter infinity pool. Its not a perfect rectangle because Bunnag took care to avoid destroying

factfile contact: Tel: +66 3251 1234 or call your local Hyatt Hotel, Hyatt Worldwide Reservations Centre www.thebarai.com

any trees. This space is ideal for meditation, yoga, a swim or simply to get away from it all.... yet, at the far end a narrow split in the wall offers a glimpse of the sea beyond. Hua Hin’s first and only residential spa comes self-contained with eight beachfront Barai Suites with their own private entrances surrounded by mature tropical trees. The four on the ground floor open onto a courtyard with an infinity plunge pool, while those on the upper level lead onto a balcony. Other features include oversized soaking tubs, massive 3m x 2m beds, Thai day beds, spacious His & Her vanity rooms and walk-in closets, cosy dining niches, 40-inch plasma TVs and complimentary broadband Internet connectivity. From the entrance door one views the depth of the entire suite. Minimalist in décor, and furnished in white and earth tones, eye to detail is apparent with ocean wave-like contours on the ceiling, door handles shaped

like delicate ears with elongated lobes, and bathroom sinks moulded like flowers seen on Apsara sculptures at Angkor Wat. Meals are available at the adjacent, elegantly restored McFarland House offering 180 degree views of the Gulf of Thailand. The 19th-century two-storey bungalow while retaining much of its original structure, is transformed into a casual restaurant and bar. Lounge-style seating, western and Thai flavours on the menu and relaxing music complete the ambience. In totality The Barai succeeds in assuaging the five senses thus – Sight: Charming, unpredictable architecture; Touch: Individualised treatments by skilled therapists; Sound: Background music based on water sounds – the sea, rain, waterfalls, streams etc. Smell: Aromas of essential herbal oils, and Taste: delectable cuisine at McFarland House. Once experienced, you will agree that The Barai’s philosophy provides the path to inner tranquility – a journey of peace, serenity and personal exploration – before you are released to greet the world anew. Text by Amita Sarwal Photographs: Martin Nicholas Kunz courtesy The Barai, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin January 2013 go now

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niche travel : food

Salmon on Irish wheatbread

Kevin Thornton’s Tipperary duck

Culinary tryst with

ireland Kevin Thornton’s sauteed Foie gras

Kevin Thornton’s Choc Mousse

Thornton’s Scot room 58

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Master Chef Kevin Thornton


niche travel : food

B Irish stew

lessed with stunning beaches, soaring mountains and large expanses of greenery, Ireland boasts of a cuisine that is exciting and consists of incredibly fresh seafood and lots more. Splendid restaurants, great food products, gourmet stores and exceptional artisan grocery shops all over the island make this fascinating country a gourmand’s delight. These days in cities such as Dublin, avantgarde chefs are creating their menus in a more contemporary style, using local products. The Irish financial boom in the late 1990s, which encouraged locals to travel and discover more foods globally led to this food revolution in the country. Apart from their own cuisine, several restaurants in Ireland serve world cuisine in a great ambiance. I visited several such inventive and unique restaurants while in Belfast and Dublin.

Seafood Masterclass

Sumptuous seafood, intoxicating Irish coffee, Michelin star restaurants, innovative Chefs, artisan cheeses, organic delights, the Irish culinary melting pot has lots in store for visitors.

Irish lamb prepration

To learn more about this unique cuisine, I decided to attend a cookery class in the Belfast Cookery School managed by Mourne Seafood Bar. With flexible timings, the courses vary in length from a couple of hours to a full day and are conducted by experienced chefs and food experts in the state of the art training facility. I was given a crash course in the form of two Irish seafood preparations- Crab Claws and Hake with Chorizo, tomato and Red Pepper Cassoulet. “Seafood has always been a part of our culture. When they were digging up the foundations of our Belfast restaurant to put cables in, they found oyster shells. Later we found out that the ‘Fadgies’, the Gaelic speaking community in Belfast traded fish here in the 19th century. It’s a brilliant thing that we are reinventing that part of our culture; we are surrounded by great fish. Ewing’s is the oldest fishmonger in Northern Ireland. He has marvelous ways of smoking fish that go back to his father and grandfather. It’s great to see people who have an immense passion for what they do here in the food industry,” said Chef Andy Rae from Mourne Seafood Bar in Belfast.

in Ireland. Strawberry Tree uses foods that are grown to order on nearby organic farms, or foraged by their own chefs and full time food forager, on the lanes and in the fields and woods surrounding Macreddin village. Recipient of several food awards in Ireland, their innovative cuisine is aptly supported by impeccable service and an elegant looking restaurant. A meal here includes a walk in their Wild Foods pantry featuring the produce used to cook, as well as a selection of their organic meats cured in their own Smoke House and some great Irish cheeses. The interesting menu tempted us with delicacies such as Aubergine fritters with grilled courgette, roast red pepper coulis, Grilled wild Scallops with wild langoustines, fennel, mango, wild squid ink aioli, Wild venison loin with green cabbage, wild crab apple, wild damson, juniper jus, Wild Mallard breast with confit leg, Jerusalem artichoke mash, poached quince, wild elderberry sauce, Goat’s cheese mousse with poppy seed crust, baked plums, hazelnuts and mixed leaves.

Fabulous Food Trail I was told that the best way to discover Dublin was to go on a food trail in this stylish and vibrant city. Led by Eveleen Coyle, an experienced and knowledgeable guide, my

Organic Odyssey While in Ireland I noticed a great interest in organic farming, several restaurants serve organic preparations with suppliers for each ingredient listed down on their menus. Strawberry Tree in Brooklodge hotel in Macreddin village is the prefect example of this trend, being the only certified organic restaurant

Irish coffee

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niche travel : food food trail was an impressive introduction to the city and it’s cuisine. A gentle 2 ½ hour stroll with frequent and generous tastings along the way, Dublin’s Fabulous Food Trails seem to be very popular with both tourists and locals. A group of eight people is usually taken on these tours which start from 10 in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays including Thursday evenings at 5.30 starting from the months of May till September. What makes these trails unique is an interaction with people whose families have been in the food business since ages and still produce fantastic food also those who have brought new international tastes and food ideas to the Irish table. Eveleen suggested some interesting places for lunch, dinner and a pint. And this wasn’t all! My food trail took me to The Cake Café, Cocoa Atelier – Dublin’s first dedicated chocolate shop, The Daintree Building-the first pure eco building in the city centre, Fallon & Bryne-exchequer St.Dublin’s hip food emporium stocking the best of everything, the Georges Street Arcade which is not only a beautiful Victorian market, but it is full of delicious funky little food shops and small stalls, Hogan’s butcher which has the best cuts since 1939, Lolly and Cooks-a compact stall that provided the best lunch goodies and great soups, Sheridan’s Cheese-mongers-they store the best cheeses in Dublin and The Swan Bar-the best pint around and a very popular bar in Dublin.

Bushmills Pot Stills

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Encounter with a Michelin Star Chef The revered Michelin Guide has awarded star s to several re staurant s in the Republic and Northern Ireland. One of these restaurants in Dublin is Thornton’s run by Masterchef Kevin Thornton. Ireland’s most well known Michelin star celebrity Chef Kevin Thornton enjoys dishing up natural food and that which is in season such as Wild sea bass, Venison, Pig’s head, and fresh vegetables. Kevin’s contemporary cooking has distinct flavors of local produce and is inspired by his keen appreciation of nature. His passion, understanding and drive to bring excellence to the plate has made him Ireland’s highest achieving chef and he is the first Irish chef ever to have received 2 Michelin stars. He says, “I pick a lot of my herbs in the mountains, my game is shot thrice weekly. In addition, all the fish is wild Irish and comes from the west of Ireland. I love to cook with wild sea bass, woodcock, snipe, pastry and chocolate because I feel that this brings me closer to the seasons and still maintain respect for animals.” Regarded as a great philosopher of Irish cuisine, after many years of international experience, including the renowned restaurant Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Kevin opened his own restaurant. Thornton’s has won every major food award nationally and internationally and continues to set the standards in Ireland’s culinary landscape.

Strawberry Tree organic restaurant

Bushmills Distillery


niche travel : food

factfile Getting There British Airways has 45 flights a week to London, Heathrow Airport from five keys cities in India (Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore). After landing in Heathrow, one can board a connecting flight to Belfast or Dublin operated by Aer Lingus airlines. Best months to visit May through September.

Ireland’s oldest distillery One of my stops during the Causeway Coastal Route road trip was the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland. Bushmills Irish whiskey is hand crafted in small batches for a smooth taste at Ireland’s oldest working distillery. Bushmills has over 120,000 visitors each year and is a major tourist attraction in Ireland. An informative 40 minute tour priced at 7 pounds per adult takes visitors through each stage of the process, with information on everything from history and tasting notes. The best way to enjoy Bushmills, like the ten-year-old malt with its hints of vanilla and honey, or the gently spicy 21-year-old with its essence of orange peel and oak or even the latest Irish Honey which stands out because of its deliciously fruity taste with a tinge of honey is also incorporated into the information given on these tours. The original license to distil whiskey in the Bushmills area was granted over 400 years ago in 1608 and currently their brand portfolio includes six award-winning whiskies, Black Bush, Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, Bushmills 21 Year Old Single Malt and the anniversary edition, Bushmills1608. This is the only distillery in Ireland to use 100% malt barley to make triple-distilled malt whiskey, which creates the unique, rich, mellow and distinct flavor that it has. Our guide informed us that only the highest quality selected oak casks are used to mature its whiskey and are sourced from select suppliers including Spain, Sherry-seasoned casks; American Bourbon from Kentucky; and even Portugal and Madeira for the distinct flavor they lend to the whiskey. The whiskeys produced by Bushmills have been winning awards since 1883 till date at awards ceremonies across the globe consistently. My culinary tour culminated with the revelation that Ireland is a gourmet’s delight in many ways owing to its superb restaurants, innovative chefs, pulsating pubs, intoxicating distilleries and breweries! by jyoti balani January 2013 go now

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SOFITEL MUMBAI BKC

Quintessentially French Embodying the statement “Life is Magnifique�, the hotel offers indulgences par excellence and challenge to satiate you with their holistic services, right from cuisine to business to entertainment to relaxation

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metro travel : luxury

C

onnoisseurs of Mumbai, looking for a high end luxurious living embraced with splendid French Hospitality can lay back and relax at the Sofitel Mumbai which recently opened in the business hub of the city, Bandra-Kurla Complex. Located right in the centre of Mumbai, the hotel can be easily accessed to major highways, Sea-Link, airport and tourist attractions within the city and adjoining suburbs.

of angular glass, natural marble, intricate chandeliers but simultaneously stay rooted with Indian art forms like gold & diamonds, stately furnishings, and other bespoke design elements to form a signature design style for the hotel. Right from the moment you enter into the grand lobby and sway into the rooms and suites, the entire area can be seen breathing an elegant mĂŠlange of Indian and French cultures. The waiting lounge is adorned with delicate Indian columns,

vibrantly weaved carpets, and is furnished with classic French furniture. Stone artwork, reminiscent of ancient Indian temples, is incorporated in the reception area, bordered by brick-shaped mirrors that add a distinctly contemporary appeal. Those on business to the city not only get the benefit of the hotel’s centric location but can also catch up with their business requirements at the smart and inspiring spaces of the business centre.

Dainty Design The hotel interiors are designed by renowned French designer Isabelle Miaja and narrate the aesthetics of French impertinence with Indian reverence. This convergence of two cultures draws inspiration from Indian art including temples, sculptures, and monuments while adding an attractive contemporary touch. Isabelle has skilfully combined French culture with Indian tradition. She drew inspiration from Indian art; including temples, sculptures, and monuments, while adding an attractive contemporary French touch. All 14 storeys of the hotel vividly convey boldness and confidence by emphasizing the use

Club Millesime

The Lobby

Le Bar Diamantaire

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Jyran – Tandoor Dining & Lounge

Tuskers – speciality restaurant for vegetarians

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Pondichéry Café

Culinary Concoction Once inside the grand lobby, one finds oneself entering Le Bar Diamanta ire – Lobby Lounge. The lounge sports a majestic floor-to-ceiling Wine Tower, along with a collection of select international wines. It also acts as an elegant companion to the Pondichéry Café for both pre- and post- dinner. The gamut of options for fine dining that the Sofitel BKC houses are: Pondichéry Café: This all-day Dining, round-the-clock restaurant offers guests a relaxed, luxury-market atmosphere with well-lit open spaces to stroll around, while they sample delectable offerings Asian, Indian and French cuisines. Artisan Pâtisserie

Chef at Jyran restaurant

Le Bar Diamantaire

Artisan: Take a flight to France and enjoy some Épicerie, Pâtisserie, Chocolaterie amidst the stylish charm of recreated French interiors. Daylight streams in from the floor-to-ceiling windows and enhances the delicate grill works around the restaurant while fine handmade chocolates, house-smoked charcuterie, freshly baked breads and the authentic chees-

es make up for the ‘Parisian’ menu. Tuskers: For the veggies, this is a speciality restaurant. The name is grandely inspired from the most majestic creatures- the Elephants – who also constitute the vegetarian bandwagon. With bold and masculine interiors, Tuskers is designed to be the ideal venue for dining, having business lunches or hosting events. The dining bar also offers a private dining area situated in the far side of the restaurant, for those on business meets. Jyran: The signature restaurant gets its name from the Persian word Jyran which means ‘lost love’ and symbolizes hope, new beginnings and emotions that follow. This Tandoor Dining & Lounge draws inspiration from the Northwest Indian Frontier, a land of warriors & poets and is designed with celebration and drama in mind, where many of the elements are inspired from Bollywood. Those who love to relax by the open air pool side and decks there is there’s L’OH – Pool & Bar. A serene open air space overlooking the calm swimming pool, where one can relax with a light snack and a crisp beverage. Perfect with a good book and a cocktail in hand! January 2013 go now

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metro travel : luxury Accommodation and Business The Sofitel has 302 guestrooms with 28 Superior Rooms, 203 Luxury Rooms, 40 Club Millésime Rooms, 8 Junior Suites, 22 Prestige Suites, and one lavish Imperial Suite. Their commitment to design and perfection is reflected in the living spaces. Maintaining uniformity, the bedroom interiors are a perfect blend of French elegance and Indian culture. All rooms come with luxurious hardwood timber flooring, large bathrooms with oversized tubs and separate showers. Paintings on the theme of “A Tale of Two Cities” brighten each room, while the use of royal purple adds an additional touch of luxury. InspiredMeetings, Sofitel’s meetings concept is designed on a simple but effective philosophy – “Inspired by you. Staged by us.” InspiredMeetings understands the need to carry out a successful business event and hence combines the latest conference technology with an underlying passion for excellence, dedicated to making every event an unforgettable success. The dedicated 2nd floor of meeting space with 8 meeting rooms is designed to allow Bathroom

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Grand Salon Ballroom

a wide range of event styles. A full-size and full-service business centre and loft kitchen – innovative cocktails and coffee break around an interactive kitchen encompass the offerings on this floor. All meeting rooms are equipped with the latest audio-visual equipment and wireless Internet access. Their Grand Salon Ballroom can accommodate up to 250 guests and serve as a multi-purpose ballroom with flexible layouts and full-wall soundproof dividers. With French windows that allow natural light and

Bedroom

custom-made chandeliers lacing its ceiling, the ballroom displays an aura of glamour, gleam and gold.

Health and Wellness After meetings and business for the entire day, one can relax at the So SPA featuring 6 treatment rooms including an exclusive couple’s spa area with a private Jacuzzi and more. The SPA treatments draw inspiration from a French restaurant menu, Sofitel’s sphere of excellence. The Starters&Desserts


Treatment room at So Spa So Spa reception

So Spa

factfile Address C-57, Bandra Kurla Complex Bandra (East), Mumbai, Maharashtra Tel: (+91)22/61175000 E-mail: h6451@sofitel.com Average Price: Rs. 10,159 per night

last for 30 minutes, the Main Course lasts between 30 & 90 minutes. There are a few Specials and Menu Suggestions that last upto 150 minutes per treatment. C h o o s e f r o m S o S p a’s s i g n a t u r e Treatments; So Rejuvenating Facial, So Exhilarating massage and Le Diamantaire Facial by Gemology, exclusive to Sofitel Mumbai BKC. And for the ones who can’t do without the daily workout, Sofitel has created So FIT, the brand’s trademark fitness label, which works around the busy traveller’s hectic schedule. So FIT fitness centre offers a blend of performance and freedom of use, bringing the latest exercise technology. Attentive trainers enable guests to get the most out of their workout sessions. compiled by avni mehrotra

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metro travel: spas The city of Peshwas is waking up to the pleasures of a good spa treatment to get rid of stress related illnesses and disorders.

‘W

hen you enjoy a great massage, you are participating in an ancient healing practice that has been used for centuries all over the world. It is the oldest form of healthcare’ announces the massage menu of Skah Body Opulence in Pune. A session of sybaritic pampering has become part of Pune’s lifestyle and many high end spas have been set up in the city to cater to this trend. “A spa treatment in Pune is now looked upon as a solution for health problems and stress related issues rather than a luxurious indulgence which people would earlier think of engaging in once or twice in a year”, says Punit Sheth, Executive As-

sistant Manager, The Westin Pune. “Spa treatments devised at The Heavenly Spa are meant to provide our guests with the ultimate renewing and refreshing experience. From the very beginning of the spa ritual with a refreshing green tea offering until the end with a crisp chocolate cube to relish, every minute spent at The Heavenly Spa adds to the well being of one’s body, mind and soul,” he adds. For a price sensitive market like Pune, will high end spas survive in the long run? “We focus on the quality of the treatments, products, trainers and of course, the ambience, which is why our clients are always satisfied regardless of the price tags”, reveals Riona Biyani, owner of Skah Body Opulence.

SYBARITIC SOJOURn   Spa Blue – Radissonn

Meditation before relaxation This luxurious and tranquil spa offers a repertoire of facials, body wraps and massages that leave one glowing and rejuvenated. Nestled on the 7th floor of the Radisson Pune, Sap Blue is equipped with three treatment rooms named Azure, Beryl and Cyan that are designed and decorated to promote deep relaxation, soothe the senses and

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metro travel: spas calm the mind. Therapists at this spa incorporate deep relaxation and meditation techniques into their services which include cleansing rituals before or after the treatment. The menu also has a section called journeys which are elaborate treatments, a combination of scrubs, soaks, massages and body wraps. Indoceane is one of their signature treatments and begins with the Mediterranean step which involves purifying with a sea salt, brown sugar and essential oil scrub followed by the Egyptian step-a Cleopatra milk bath. The third part is known as the Indian step and consists of a deep movement massage involving essential oils. The treatment concludes with the Chinese Step in which one relaxes with the help of a rice germ wrap. Radisson Hotel Pune, Kharadi Bypass, Hadapsar, Pune. Call: +91 20 2706 0606

 The heavenly spa by westin n

A lavish personal retreat This aesthetically designed spa provides state of the art treatments and facilities that cater to all aspects of wellness needs. Equipped with sauna, steam rooms, jet tubs, The Heavenly Spa is designed by the prominent Andy Fisher Workshop and Design Cell and offers a repertoire of treatments such as massages, wraps, facials, scrubs as well as soaks. This 900 sq. ft spa has 6 treatment rooms each with their own steam and shower amenities. The Heavenly Spa has two couple treatment rooms called Embrace and Escape which offer more space for a personal retreat. The Signature Massage is a must try experience during which a warm heat pack is applied to the back releasing stress, followed by a powerful aromatherapy remedy to release any tension held in the body. Ideal for improving blood circulation and increasing one’s energy levels, therapists at this spa claim that relaxation comes from the harmonious balance of smell and touch. The Rollers Sage and Jet Lag Reliever are popular massages in this spa. The Westin Pune, 36/3-B, Koregaon Park Annexe, Mundhwa Road, Ghorpadi, Pune. Call: + 91 20 67210000 January 2013 go now

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metro travel : spas

 O Spa n

Specialised stone massages

  Arogya Spa – Hyatt regencyn

Ayurvedic indulgence Located on the first floor of the hotel, this spa houses Pune’s only indoor heated pool. The spa lounge is spacious and has soothing hues of the color beige with soft lighting. Spread over an area of 650 sq ft, Arogya spa has six treatment rooms, three of which are individual rooms, two are ‘couple’ rooms and one is an Ayurveda room. The menu sounds interesting with all the treatments listed down in Sanskrit nomenclature such as Samartha, Aniika, Nari-Shiinta, etc. Treatments are a mix of Ayurvedic and Swedish therapies and the menu offers a full range of body massages, wraps and even facials. Ayurvedic treatments listed down are the Shirodhara, Abhyanga and Choornasweda. The Shirodhara relieves stress, reduces anger and induces sleep, perfect for those with sleeping disorders, the Abhyanga is ideal for management of high blood pressure while the Choornasweda helps cure arthritis. Hyatt Regency Pune. Weikfield IT Park, Pune Nagar Road, Pune. Call: + 91 20 66451234 70

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The fact that one can choose whether they want to undergo a spa experience indoors or outdoors makes the O Spa well worth a visit. Open terrace treatment rooms overlooking Pune city with water bodies around succeed in creating a peaceful ambiance. For those who prefer the indoors, there are 5 treatment rooms where various body massages, luxurious caviar facials and seaweed body therapies can be experienced. Sabai stone massage is one of their signature massages and helps promote a deep sense of relaxation and skin rejuvenation. Black Granite used during this treatment is a non porous stone that retains greater heat and remains bacteria free. One can exhale and relax as the therapist administers an advance tri-phase stone therapy far exceeding traditional stone therapy. This treatment helps to de-stress one’s entire well being-mind, body and spirit. Other benefits of the Sabai Stone massage are skin rejuvenation, blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. This massage also helps cure arthritis and joint pains. Popular massages in the O Spa are aromatherapy, Swedish and Balinese massage. The Nuvola dry floatation water bed treatment, excellent for treating insomnia and jetlag is one of


metro travel : spas

the unique therapies offered in the O Spa. The O Hotel, North Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune. Call: + 91 20 40011000

  skah body opulencen

Fruity fresh body wraps Skah is a Native American word that means white and pure. With an area of 2300 sq ft, Skah is located in the plush vicinity of Koregaon Park. This award winning spa offers a variety of body treatments, aromatherapy, facials, body wraps, body polishing, anti tanning treatments and nail spa. A combination of both Western and Eastern treatment philosophies, Skah has highly qualified and trained Thai therapists who offer effective treatments with organic and handmade products. Interesting body wraps such as the mango enzyme indulgence, pear and green apple indulgence and chocolate truffle indulgence that stimulate the body’s senses with sea salts, minerals and essential oils are part of this spa’s unique and expansive menu. These special wraps help improve the texture of the skin, tighten it, restore its elasticity and also aid in hydrating the skin. Their soaks such as Gold water soak, Royal milk saffron honey soak and the Chakra balancing bath find many takers in Pune. 1, Adit Enclave, P. P. No. 393, Lane No. 5, South Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune. Call: +91 20 40024878/26052005/260520006. by jyoti balani

Prices of all the spa treatments are in between Rs. 2500-5000 + taxes.

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metro travel : accommodation

Comfort and convenience at their best at Hilton Chennai The hotel is a harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary style which makes it a perfect tribute to the city

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metro travel : accommodation

L

ocated in the new city centre of Chennai and in a zone that boasts of a cluster of world-class hotels, the Hilton Chennai has quickly become an integral part of the premium hotel landscape in Chennai. Located just 15 minutes from the Chennai airport and within easy access to the city’s commercial and business districts, the hotel is also located close to the city’s key IT parks. The Hilton has a range of culinary diversions that include Ayna that brings together the finest flavours from across India in an opulent setting. There’s Vasco, a casual all-day dining restaurant and Vintage Bank, a relaxed cheese and wine bar. The action shifts to the rooftop in the evening where the hotel’s popular nightspot, the Q Bar comes to life. The Hilton has a host of banqueting options including the Grand Ball Room that can accommodate upto 750 people. Geared to handle all the needs of the jet setting corporate travellers, the hotel features a fully equipped centre with meeting rooms and high-speed internet connectivity. The hotel’s contemporary guest rooms are a great blend of comfort and convenience and feature state-of-the-art technology and luxurious amenities. Floor-to-ceiling double glazed windows in the rooms allow plenty of natural light while the large desk and Wi-Fi connectivity allow you to work from the comfort of your room.

Executive Guestroom

Suite

  Room types  King Hilton Guestroom (Rs 12,500 + taxes): The room is decorated with soothing tones with the presence of traditional designs and details like saree borders and motifs and spread over 33 square metres. Unwind from the comfort of an oversized chair as you flip channels on the 40 inch flat screen television. Shift your office to the comfort of your room with dual phone lines, wireless internet connectivity and a comfortable work desk. And seek solace after a long bath in the elegant bathroom with a rain shower or the luxurious bed with four jumbo hypo-allergenic pillows. There’s also the twin Hilton Guestroom (Rs 12,500 + taxes) that’s similar to the King Hilton guestroom except for the presence of two luxurious beds. King Hilton Executive (Rs 15,550 + taxes): Located on the higher levels of the hotel with stunning city views and an exclusive private check-in. The rooms offer access to the Executive Lounge where guests can enjoy an exclusive complimentary breakfast in the morning and cocktails and canapés in the evening. The plush bathrooms feature a range of

luxurious toiletries. The Twin Hilton Executive (Rs 15,500 + taxes) features twin beds. King Junior Suite (Rs 18,000 + taxes): Indulge yourself in this 48 Sq metre suite that features a fusion of design that combine the traditional and the contemporary and offer great city views. This suite features separate living room and working areas that feature international plug points. The suite offers access to the executive lounge and offers a range of in-room entertainment options through two 40 inch flat screen televisions and a plug and play mp3 player. King Executive Suite (Rs 25,000 + taxes): The most magnificent of all the rooms and spread over a large 64 square metre area, the King Executive suite features a relaxed contemporary chic that co-exists with traditional design elements. The suite offers all executive lounge privileges including an express private check-in and check-out. With clearly demarcated living and working areas with a large work desk it’s the perfect place to mix business with pleasure. by ashwin rajagopalan

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metro travel : chef speak

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top toque: wok of fame

masterchef zhang qingsheng, house of ming, taj mahal hotel, new delhi

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reat cooking is intrinsic to the vibrant and ancient Chinese culture. Since the beginning of time, Chinese food has been acknowledged as one of the great “original” cuisines of the world. Giving a nod to that tradition, The Taj Mahal, New Delhi recently launched Masterchef Zhang Qingsheng at its iconic Chinese eatery House of Ming. The chef’s culinary skills and his passion for the job, say his fans, transports them straight to the provinces of China. His burst of flavors, textures and taste are quintessentially Chinese, they say, while the food’s soul is global. Chef Zhang specializes in Cantonese, Shan Dong region and Szechuan cuisines apart from being proficient in Japanese, Korean, Arabian, Malay and Thai as well. His eclectic style of cooking has resulted in the birth of many sought after dishes such as steamed juicy chicken buns as well as succulent steamed crab stick and shrimp dumplings. Zhang’s toothsome hot and sour soup, Cantonese style has created an avid fan following. Deep fried shrimp and taro spring roll, clear flower-shaped tofu soup with crab roe, wok-fried diced chicken with fresh chilli, steamed Alaskan king crab with egg custard in homemade soya sauce, sichuan pepper in noodle basket are the other acclaimed dishes in his redoubtable repertoire. Interestingly, the prodigious chef started working in a professional kitchen at age 17. By the time he was 20, Chef Zhang’s fame had spread across his hometown Shan Dong. He was soon snapped up by a local five-star kitchen. There’s been no looking back since then as the chef went on to hone his skills further in the haute cuisine kitchens of the world. What is the reason for his success at such a young age? “For me, customer is king,” says the 36 year old. He customizes his dishes according to his guests’ tastes without foisting upon them the virtues of ‘authenticity’. Nor does he let his ego interfere with the proceedings. “I like to interact personally with all my guests and always welcome their feedback – whether good or bad. I feel a chef has to always keep evolving as a creative person and customers’ inputs are great catalysts for growth,” sums up the expert. Excerpts from an interview:


H

ow challenging do you find the Indian market to work in considering our concept of Chinese cuisine (Chin-jabi, so to say) is markedly different from the authentic Chinese version?

It is definitely a challenging job keeping in mind the vastly different types of clients I have to deal with. Yes, the concept of Chinese cuisine in India is different, but now increasingly people are traveling a lot. This is making them more aware of the authentic Chinese taste. The change is slow, but it is definitely happening.

Do you make allowances in your cuisine for cultural adaptations – tempering spices, making alterations in terms of meats etc which deviate from the original recipes? Indians don’t eat beef, for instance; a few shun pork. As of now, yes I do have to tweak my recipes here and there to adapt to the local market and guests. For example, pork is the most consumed meat in China, but when you talk about India very few people relish this meat. For that matter even beef. So I have to replace these meats with either chicken or lamb and alter the recipe a bit.

Having worked abroad extensively, how evolved do you find the Indian gastronomic landscape? If you compare India with other European or even Asian countries, it is way behind in terms of evolution. The country still has a long way to go to make its presence felt in the international market. The evolution has started but it’s slow.

Globally, which has been the toughest market to work in and why? I’d say China because it has the largest population in the world. There are different kinds of people and they have vastly different tastes. So catering to the needs of such a large variety of people is tough.

Which Indian city do you most love to work in and why? New Delhi without a doubt. After all it is the capital city and the heart of the country. Most of the ingredients are readily available here as compared to other cities. Also, the clientele is such that they are willing to experiment with new stuff. My second favorite would be Mumbai.

Personally, which cuisine do you love to cook and eat? Why? French cuisine, definitely. I feel it is so beautiful and delicate. The use of flavorful

If you compare India with other European or even Asian countries, it is way behind in terms of evolution. The country still has a long way to go, to make its presence felt in the international market. The evolution has started but it’s slow. condiments and spices and the cooking methods which require utmost precision are just fantastic.

What do you feel about the type of Asian food available in India/Delhi? In India, from what I can analyze, there is a great scope for Asian cuisine. Chinese food is one of the favorites over here. Although there are other Asian cuisine restaurants like Thai, Vietnamese, Malay, I feel Chinese cuisine is the most in demand.

What are the new and interesting developments in Asian cuisine? The use of ingredients from the West and their application in Asian cooking techniques is failry new. Also, food styling has gone to a different level altogether. Every time someone walks in to a restaurant, they expect something new and different which has never been done before.

What are your thoughts on Indian

cuisine? Do you like to eat it? I think Indian food is the spiciest food in the world. I do like certain dishes like dal makhni, chicken curry and biryani. My favorite of course is the jalebi. I simply love it. I was fascinated the first time I saw how it was made and the kind of shape it has!

Which chef is your personal hero? Why? Thomas Keller. He has two restaurants and both are Michelin stars. His food presentations , innovation and the combinations of different ingredients is simply mind-boggling.

What do you think are the attributes of a great chef? Apart from a good cook, a chef should also extend warm hospitality to his guests and cook for them with love. Hard work, good communication and good knowledge of his craft are also essential qualities.

How has Chinese restaurant cuisine evolved over the last few years? You can see a lot of chefs using new and different techniques and ingredients compared to the traditional ones. Also, European influence can be easily noticed in Chinese restaurants.

What do you like most about India? The culture and its people. The kind of hospitality that is offered in this country is warm and welcoming.

What are you hobbies? I love traveling and listening to music. Text & photos by neeta lal

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metro travel : eating out

This restaurant at the hotel Westin, Gurgaon promises to treat you to scrumptious delights from three regions of Asia, namely Thailand, China and Japan. So fasten your seat belts as you take a flight over the Asian sub-continent and drop off at authentic restaurants of each destination at this PanAsian Diner.

Asia on a Platter – EEST, Westin Gurgaon

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n a cold November night, we hitched a ride to Gurgaon to experience a pompous feast at EEST, Westin which broke all myths about fine dining for us. Usually, 5 star restaurants are defined by opulent seating and snobbish dining etiquettes which concentrate more on ‘how you eat’ than ‘what you eat’. EEST cuts through all misconceptions as the entire staff focuses significantly on making us feel at ease without marring the essence of an affluent dining retreat. Our reserved table greets us with a ‘Promised’ sign as we are ushered by our host to the restaurant’s arty Asian interiors. Wooden chairs, leather sofas, vintage Indian seats form the varied seating options while Chinese clay pots, bottles of Indian spices and elephant statuettes serve as their accompaniments in establishing the ambiance of the restaurant. We observe Indian socialites, Korean, Japanese and Chinese expats, Thai tourists and guests from varied ethnicities sharing thoughts at the confluence of their cultures over delicacies from each other’s homelands. More like the entire continent

came to dine under one roof to indulge in delectable delights fostering camaraderie and candour. Strangely, there is no music in the background which enhances the ambient resonance of the china bowl and chopsticks. The space isn’t dark yet lighting is minimal to let you enjoy a cocooned dinner in subdued radiance. Perhaps the speciality of EEST would be their private dining venues which give the luxury of dining at the restaurant yet in private. As the restaurant serves cuisines from three nationalities namely China, Japan and Thailand, they have expat Chefs who lead the cuisine of each region. Since childhood a personal favourite has been the Veg Hot and Sour Soup, which, post this dinner, will never be the same again. Usually, I tend to add a little bit of vinegar or other condiments in my soup to make it ‘perfectly palatable’. At EEST, needless to say none of that was required as the soup tasted exactly the way it should have. The restaurant sure drive their vision home of serving authentic cuisine from all the regions panned out in their expansive menu. We try their Crispy Thai

factfile Address Number 1, MG Road, Sector 29, Gurgaon, Haryana. Tel: 0124- 497 7777 Table for two: INR 3500 + taxes Must Tries: Non Vegetarian Dimsums, Pan-Fried Noodles, Green Tea Ice-Cream

Vegetables, non-vegetarian dimsums and sushi, Pan Fried Noodles and Deep Fried Tofu in Chilly Sesame Sauce with Sticky Rice and seal the dinner. We feel sluggish much to even have water but can’t resist their offer of the quirky Green Tea Ice-Cream and the Portuguese Egg Tart. Keeping up with tradition and flaunting their signature range of Chinese Teas, the meal concludes with the scented Jasmine Tea. Westin acquaints us with an assorted platter of Asian cuisine which is not just authentic, but luscious at the same time. A dim-lit setting, generous service and a spread which leaves us ‘high on food’, the meal leaves us full to the hilt yet craving for more. by Avni mehrotra

January 2013 go now

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metro travel : eating out

park hyatt hyderabad

tantalizing tre forni Traditional Italian recipes flavored by the creative juices of a young enthusiastic Chef from Verona, served with an extensive selection of Italian wines. This just about sums up the fine dining experience at Tre Forni, Park Hyatt Hyderabad’s signature Italian restaurant.

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re Forni is designed around three ovens, hence the name. With softhued colors of customized hand laid and articulately designed tiles that adorn the walls in a contemporary setting, this restaurant offers home style authentic Italian food. Wine aficionados are in for a treat here what with an impressive floor-to-ceiling wine cellar featuring more than 2,000 premium and regular collection of Italian wines. Apart from wines, the extensive beverage menu consists of a selection of Italian aperitif, bitters, cocktails,

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homemade Limon cello, Amaretto, Grappa, Sambuca, fresh juices and other warm Italian coffees. The 96 cover Tre Forni is an epicurean’s delight-a veritable treat for the senses what with a luxuriously designed restaurant, the aroma of freshly baked breads, pizzas emanating from the kitchen and the delectable Italian fare. There are 40 covers in the bar along with a semi private dining area which can seat 24 people at once. Tre Forni’s open kitchen creates a unique ambience and enables guests to sit together on a long shared table while watching chefs toss up their food. For those who like to enjoy their meal under the stars, the restaurant has an alfresco seating area as well. The menu has been conceptualized by Chef Matteo Grandi, and consists of a selection of unique, authentic Italian flavours. “Italians know how to eat and celebrate the pleasures of living,” says this 21 year old Chef. “We are delighted to offer a place where guests can gather to celebrate the best that Northern Italy has to offer through traditional home style cooking which we showcase in Tre Forni. The simplicity of the food, handpicked and fresh ingredients that goes into our cooking lets the food in our

factfile Address Tre Forni Restaurant and Bar, Park Hyatt Hyderabad, Road No. 2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Call: + 91 40 49491222 Timings: Weekdays: 12:00 pm to 3.30 pm, 7.00 pm to 11.30 pm. Weekends (Saturday and Sunday): 12.00 pm4pm, 7.00 pm to 11.30 pm Meal for two: Rs. 2,000 plus taxes

restaurant speak for itself and this is our main focus in Tre Forni,” he adds. To begin with, the distinctive menu features antipasti options such as the ver y popular Parmigiana di melanzane (Eggplant, mozzarella, sun-dried tomato puree), Insalata di Polipo (Ligurian octopus, steamed potatoes, black olives, cherry tomatoes and pesto) and Petto d’oca (Smoked duck breast with caramelized pear). Tre Forni makes its own hand made, flavorful and light pastas accompanied with rich long-simmered and full bodied sauces. Homemade pizza toppings include a variety of ingredients such as cooked ham, spicy salami, cherry tomatoes, roasted bell peppers,

artichokes, zucchini and so on. For the mains, there is the Branzino alla Bartolomeo (Pan fried sea bass fillet, dried fruits, nuts and balsamic vinaigrette), Filetto di Triglia con patate, pomodori secchi e salsa allo zafferano (Grilled red mullet, roast potatoes, sun-dried tomato, saffron sauce), Costolette d’agnello con cipolle dolci patate e salsa al timo (Grilled lamb chops, sweet onion, roast potatoes, thyme jus) and Saltinbocca alla romana (Pan fried tenderloin, parma ham and sage) and Florentina alla griglia (Grilled T-bone served with grilled vegetables, black pepper sauce). Those who like to end their meals with a dessert can choose from the semifreddo al ronedi cologne veneta (Italian nougat semifreddo, berry sauce), Mille foglie alla ricotta e cioccolato (Chocolate ricotta mille-feuille) and Panna cotta al pistachio con salsa di amarena (Pistacchio panna cotta, amarena cherry sauce). Homemade ice creams, sorbets and gelati also form a significant part of the dessert menu. Tre Forni is an ideal venue for a relaxed evening in a luxurious environment while feasting on Chef Matteo Grandi’s authentic Italian cuisine paired with some fabulous wines! by jyoti balani

January 2013 go now

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metro travel: eating out

Five unique shacks of

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aPlage

If you’re a beach lover then you would have at some point definitely dreamt of visiting the famous beaches of France. But if you didn’t make it to Cannes then head to LaPlage on the Ashvem beach in Goa. This is probably the closest that you are going to come to fine dining,

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Not so long ago, the words ‘Goan shack’ used to embody an average sized hut with basic amenities, for me, until I came across these five exotic and unique destinations in Goa. Before this, a shack was just a place to get some decent meal (on a budget) and cheap beer; a base camp of sorts where my friends and I would dump our bags before we went for a jaunt or a swim in the ocean. But to my utmost delight I have discovered that a shack on the beach can be a lot more than a simple hut with thatched roof! You will know the real meaning of the word ‘exotic’ only after you visit these five places in Goa.

French style; and a truly international beach experience in India. The exotic French cuisine and hospitality of the three owners – Florence Tarbouriech, Serge Lozano and Morgan Rainforth is worth every rupee that you will spend here. Try Head Chef Morgan’s signature dishes but don’t let the long French names in the menu intimidate you. Look at it as a crash course in learning French! For dessert try the ‘Thali au Chocolat’ or the Chocolate thali, a sinful assortment of chocolate desserts. The translation of LaPlage is ‘the beach’. As that is where the restaurant is located, it is a good idea to reach early to watch the sunset along with your drink of preference and if possible, some romantic company too. After all you’re in a French restaurant and

the French are considered to be the most romantic people in the world! Aren’t they?

Thalassa From France we sail to the pristine beaches of Greece. Don’t worry we are still in Goa! The colors and the setting of Thalassa Greek Taverna will remind you of the movie Mamma Mia. It sits pretty atop a cliff overlooking the Vagator beach with a picture perfect setting of palm trees swaying under the bright Goan sun. At twilight the white of the table linens is fabulously offset against


Shanti Thalassa

Marbella

the multihued sky. The only thing topping the ambience of Thalassa is its food. Try the Tzatzika dip with homemade bread and Mushroom Mousaka or a Greek salad called Horiatiki for starter. The Greek meat preparations and sea food is excellent for the main course as are the exciting variety of desserts. Can a mortal be blamed for feeling like a Greek God here while enjoying the sun, the exotic cuisine and the view from a high vantage point. Thalassa Greek taverna is aptly named after a Greek sea goddess.

Marbella If a little girl’s doll house could be transformed into a real one it would look like the Marbella guest house in Goa. This exotic villa destination is in Sinquerim Bardez North Goa and feels truly like home. With just six rooms, (huge, clean and each with a unique theme) be assured of excellent service and personalised attention. The brightly colored Portugese architecture and the flora-fauna here is like medicine for the stressed mind and a tonic for the tired eyes. Visiting this place in the monsoon is ideal when the nature in its full glory is absolutely scintillating. Here you can indulge in bird

watching or a walk on the beach which is just ten minutes away. Marbella is also very close to Fort Aguada and Taj hotel. But why would you want to stay at the Taj when you can get the same exotic experience for half the price! They have their in house restaurant to serve you breakfast, lunch and dinner. Order in the morning if you want to have fresh sea food and barbeque in the evening. Drinks and snacks are available round the clock. However they don’t allow children so it’s not ideal for a family vacation but a very romantic spot for a honeymoon.

Shanti Shanti on the Ashwem-Mandrem beach belongs to the original Shanti restaurant and club in Moscow and is a real treat for party lovers. Shanti is as eclectic and vibrant a place as the people who come here. It is a multi-purpose, high end shack with a restaurant, a classy bar, a dance floor, a tearoom, cinema hall and an art gallery all under the same gorgeous shell shaped roof. You can also enjoy an array of beach and water sports here. At night the place transforms into a trance and electronica haven as DJs from

around the world spin for you. If live music is what you prefer then there are many international live performances to choose from. If music is the food of love then love for food is apparent in the Shanti kitchen with Continental, Indian and Pan-Asian delicacies to choose from. The experience here is enough to satiate one’s appetite for adventure and exotica.

Zeebop Zeebop by the Sea is heaven for Goan and sea food lovers. The service here is like the ebb and flow of the tides which means that you can never be sure when it’s going to be a good time to catch the fish but the good food and the view are a constant. The Goan fare here blends beautifully with the surroundings consisting of vast expanse of sand and hammocks tied between palms trees. Weekends are lively here with parties and music. Inspired by Santana’s music, the owner wanted to create something to match that and I think he may have succeeded in giving us a relaxing rhythm to sway to when we want to experience something exotic which is well within our reach. by mansi jhingran

January 2013 go now

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experiential travel

Green Alert This section is exclusively for readers who have seen life at its prime and wish to mingle with nature’s many offerings in its most pristine form. Perhaps there is no other way to do it than indulge in some local activities at some unexplored and virgin destinations. To start off, we bring to you tranquil tea gardens and cottage accommodation at Norwood Greens, Palampur in Himachal Pradesh.

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very now and then we love to get away from the frenzy surrounding our daily lives and escape into the arms of nature. For those who think alike, the residential cottages in Palampur near Dharamsala would be worth taking a second glance at. Norwood Greens, located in the Bundla Tea Estate are set at the confluence of plains and hills, accompanied by streams of water flowing down the hills, trekking activities and an air of serenity perfect to rejuvenate, relax and unwind. Providing not just the scenic beauty of the Dhauladhar mountain range, the cottages are also flanked by rich tea gardens and pine forests nature lovers can stroll for a meditative trail. Each cottage can accommodate around 8 people with adequate facilities for

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factfile How to reach? Pathankot, 112 kms away, is the nearest railway station. From there, one can take a toy train or drive down to Pathankot. Best time to visit Throughout the year. Summers (April to June) are pleasant with temperature from 15°C to 29°C. Temperature in November to February can reach down to -2°C with occasional snowfalls. Nearby attractions Bundla Tea Estate Chamunda Mata Temple Shiva temple at Baijnath

dining, laundry, cooking, parking, security along with a front and rear garden which overlooks the tea gardens. We are sure, upon seeing local dames pluck fine tea leaves you will be lured to try your hand and experience the same! There is an LCD television in each room to take of your entertainment and leisure needs. If this wasn’t enough, you can even test your skill at carving out some earth ware at a nearby pottery. Definitely, they will make up for experiences that will last a lifetime. Love adventure? Indulge in paragliding or nature treks in the adjacent hills. Ideal for couples and families alike, Norwood Greens can well serve your purpose of absolute relaxation in a home away from home. Compiled by avni mehrotra


Date of Publication: 07/01/2013

RNI No. DELENG/2000/3645 Posting Dt. 4-9/01/2013 Licence No. U(C)-299/2012-2014 W.P.P. at MCB-1 Reg No. DL-(C)-01/1250/2012-14

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