D-Brief Bangkok, 31 January 2011
Dear Partner, Let us be the first to wish you a Happy Chinese New Year and welcome you to the Year of the Rabbit with our latest edition of D-Brief! As promised in December‟s preview, we start off 2011 showcasing some of the most interesting architecture from around Asia. In many ways, local beliefs and traditions are reflected in the design of numerous buildings, which form an integral part of the Country‟s identity. The architectural treasures of Singapore, Bhutan and India, all come with a unique story and or heritage. Whether it is the contemporary style of Singapore‟s chrome and glass skyscrapers, to the spiritual influence of Bhutan, to India‟s colonial charm, harking back to a bygone era, each has a unique and interesting story. Explore these fascinating facts with us over the coming pages. Sincerely yours, Victoria Sertic Chief Sales Officer Diethelm Travel Group
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Nowhere in the world will you be able to explore greater architectural diversity than in Asia. With so many different cultures, values and traditions, the region holds a vast array of beautiful treasures for every architecture fan. Join us on an aesthetic journey through three countries which could not be more different: India, Bhutan and Singapore.
For those who appreciate contemporary architecture, you can‟t go wrong with Singapore‟s newest developments: The Marina Bay Sands, The Singapore Flyer, Esplanade Theatres; just to mention a few. Read more about these spectacular highlights by clicking on the below link:
Modern Architecture of Singapore
Many of India‟s old palaces and beautiful mansions, which were built during the British Raj‟s time, have been preserved for today‟s visitors. An unparalleled choice of colonial manors and palaces, converted into luxury hotels, makes India‟s architecture rich and unique. Discover the magic of Falaknuma Palace and Umaid Bhawan Palace in the India section:
For all culture lovers, you will be architecturally inspired by Bhutan‟s colourful monasteries and fortresses; dating back to the 14th century. The country‟s architecture ensures each building is in perfect harmony with its harsh environment and at the same time, remains a unique creation:
Traditional Bhutanese Architecture
The H Nomads ofT Bhutan ModernAArchitecture RC I T of ECSingapore URE
Home to some of the world‟s most iconic and cutting edge design, Singapore‟s big corporations and government are actively developing landmark buildings, to attract business and tourism. Since the country‟s independence in 1965, Singaporeans have used architecture to build a unique skyline. In 1986, the city‟s 280 metre Overseas Union Bank Centre, was the highest building outside North America and with this project Singapore started a trend of building high-quality skyscrapers all over Asia. Nowadays, Southeast Asia is home to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Taipei 101, which are among the world‟s tallest structures. Petronas Towers was only recently topped by Dubai‟s Burj Khalifa, boasting a remarkable 828 metres height. Unfortunately, due to Singapore‟s close proximity to Changi International Airport, strict building height restrictions are
enforced. Nevertheless, or maybe exactly because of these restrictions, Singapore strives to find other ways to promote the City to the world through its architecture. During the last 10 years, internationally famous architects have created awardwinning buildings for the City, including the Esplanade Theatre, the National Library of Singapore as well as Norman Foster‟s Supreme Law Court. Recent additions such as the Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands complex complete Singapore‟s first class attractions and entertainment facilities.
While other cities can only dream of such an array of architectural delights, Singapore‟s city landscape also boasts traditional Malay shop houses, Chinese temples and restored heritage sights. A true architectural treasure!
Marina Bay Sands
With a cost of 6.2 Billion USD, Marina Bay Sands is home to a 2,560 room hotel, a 120,000 square metre exhibition centre, a shopping mall, a museum, two theatres, six „celebrity chef‟ restaurants and a casino with 500 tables including 1,600 slot machines. The three cascading hotel towers are topped by a 340-metre-long and 38-metre-wide rooftop structure called the SkyPark. Being the equivalent in size to four and a half A380 aircrafts, the park features a colossal 150 metre swimming pool, restaurants and a public observatory with a total capacity of 3,900 people. Arup, the company who headed the engineering for this mega project describes the construction as one of the most difficult undertakings to date. The infinity pool holds 1,424 cubic metres of water and had to be built with four joints to help withstand the natural motion of the towers. In addition to wind, the Hotel tower‟s settlement in the earth had to be taken into consideration. In order for the infinity pool‟s overflowing system to function properly, the pool stands on custom-made jack legs which allow for future height adjustments to be made. Clearly a fantastic piece of engineering! Singapore Tourism Board
Designed by Michael Wilford and DP Architects from Singapore, Esplanade Theatres On The Bay, affectionately nicknamed â€žThe Durianâ€&#x; by many Singaporeans, brings Singapore to the forefront of the international arts scene. State-of-the-art mechanisms, such as reverberation chambers and an acoustic canopy make sure that the Concert Hall is a premier venue for performing all kinds of music. The most eye catching feature of Esplanade, is the cladding and sunshade system, making up the outer shells. The designers studied natureâ€&#x;s elements such as sunflowers and fish scales before coming up with a repetitive pattern of sunshades. The distribution of the panels allow a great view from the inside, but at the same time provide protection from the sun and control the internal temperature of the building. Esplanade Theatres is aimed to be Asian in style, without being traditional: Architecture in Asia is often based on a solid floor with a roof that seems to be much lighter. This balance between solid and delicate is reflected in the two very light shells presenting a soft and organic looking form. Singapore Tourism Board
A ride on the Singapore Flyer is not for those afraid of heights. If you can brave it, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and harbour. Here are a couple of fun facts to wet your appetite: • The Flyer is the world‟s largest observation wheel at 165 meters and 150 meters in diameter. Each capsule is about the size of a city bus and can hold up to 28 visitors. • Officially opened to the public on the 1st of March 2008, the flyer rotates in an anti-clockwise direction. Four months later, its rotation direction was changed under the advice of Feng Shui masters and now runs clockwise. • Due to space limitations, a pioneering vertical assembly method was used in construction: The wheel was erected piece by piece, with each section being rotated until all parts had been installed and the observation wheel was complete. • Celebrating a birthday or anniversary? Full Butler Sky Dining and private capsules, holding 2 up to 10 people are available for rent, if you are looking for privacy breathtaking views. Contact your Diethelm Travel team to find out more and to book this incredible experience. Singapore Tourism Board
Having a rich heritage, five blocks of restored warehouses along Clark Quay are nowadays home to various restaurants and nightclubs. During the colonial era, Clark Quay and the river of Singapore was a busy centre of trade, full of barges and boats transporting cargo. By the second half of the twentieth century, the river became so polluted that the government relocated its cargo services and made efforts to clean up the area. Today, the riverfront district is easily recognised by the umbrella-like canopies that provide shade and transform the area into a pleasant leisure location. While these canopies cover the main streets and internal courtyard of Clark Quay, Alsop, the British architecture company responsible for the redevelopment, created an elevated dining area along the river. Dining platforms are illuminated at night and create colourful reflections on the river, making for an exciting and fun dining experience. Clark Quay MRT Station is conveniently located, if you wish to explore this futuristically looking entertainment area on the riverside. Singapore Tourism Board
Traditional Bhutanese Architecture
The Land of the Thunder Dragon has for a long time been isolated and is thus one of the last places in the world, where ancient traditions are still the way of life. The Bhutanese government has made efforts to promote traditional architecture and building construction methods, and hence preserve an important part of the country‟s unique culture and heritage. Bhutan‟s architecture is without reservation, one of the finest expressions of the Thunder Dragon Kingdom‟s distinctive character. Its main roots date back to neighbouring Tibet, which itself was influenced by Chinese styles and faraway Persia, thanks to the merchants travelling the Silk Road. The main characteristics of Bhutan‟s architecture is first and foremost the consequence of the region‟s natural positioning, especially the climate. In the countries to the north of the Himalayan
mountains, namely Tibet, long harsh winters and frosty continental winds have produced a dry landscape, consisting of only sparse vegetation. In contrast, those in the south, such as Nepal and Bhutan, have a much milder climate with plentiful rain, particularly during the summer rainy season. This typical weather has produced alpine-type fauna, with forests containing many species of trees. Naturally, this rich supply of timber was the basis for an architectural style, where wood plays a key role. In addition to the weather considerations, the kindness and peaceful mentality of the Bhutanese people has led to a brighter and more graceful architecture than in Tibet. As you will discover in the following pages, each building is designed in harmony with its environment, while fulfilling specific functions, religious or worldly, all are true masterpieces.
Bhutanese Monasteries & Fortresses
Among Bhutan‟s vast array of buildings, temples, monasteries and fortresses (dzongs) are the country‟s finest expressions of Bhutanese architecture. With their colossal stone walls and striking floral, animal and religious motifs, an unparalleled blend of artistic beauty and engineering talent is displayed in all structures. • Local building materials are used and traditionally include timer and bamboo from the forest, stone, brick and rammed earth which are then whitewashed for the full effect. • Traditional buildings in Bhutan are usually built without a formal architectural plan or schedule. Instead, a high Lama leads the construction and establishes the correct location of the building elements by means of spiritual insight. • Even though the names of most founders of dzongs and monasteries have been written down, it is unknown which architects or artists have built them. Artistic creations in Bhutan are not considered to be a form of personal expression, but reflect a communal achievement.
Built in 1216, on the western bank of the Wang Chu River, in the capital city of Thimphuu, Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress. In 1952 King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck completely restored and enlarged it in the traditional style; using neither nails nor written plans. Since this time, the building has been the seat of Bhutan‟s government housing the Throne Room and offices of the King, the secretariat and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. This is also where His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned as the fifth Dragon King of Bhutan on 6th November 2008. Characteristics of Bhutanese dzongs are: • Massive inward sloping stone walls painted in white with only few windows in the lower parts of the wall surrounding a complex of temples and administrative offices. • Chinese-style flared roofs constructed in hardwood or bamboo without the use of nails. • Temples and buildings in the inside are decorated with vibrant art motifs and elaborately carved ornaments and often feature a red ochre band running around the top of the walls.
Taktsang Monastery (Tigerâ€™s Nest)
The Taktsang Monastery, or Tigerâ€&#x;s Nest Monastery, is best known for its breathtaking visual appeal. Located near the town of Paro on top of a steep cliff at 3,120 metres high, this architectural wonder is a must-visit for all travellers to Bhutan. Built in 1692, Tigerâ€&#x;s Nest is one of the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan. The monastery consists of six temples and a residential area, which was designed to perfectly fit on the granite ledge and give access to the eight meditation caves, located behind the buildings. All structures are interconnected through steep stairways, carved in stone and small wooden bridges. The beautiful and elaborate wall paintings and statues, inside the various temples, offer a deep insight into early Buddhist philosophy and practices. A peaceful hike through pine forest, which are colourfully decorated with moss and prayer flags brings you to Taktsang Monastry. However, visitors who are not used to hike uphill on steep, mountainous paths might do best to take a horse or mule up. Special permission to visit the monastery is needed and will be organized, should you wish to book this breathtaking experience with us.
The Legends of Tiger’s Nest
Taktsang Monastery‟s roots date back to the 8th century and the existence of the historical figure Guru Rinpoche. Legend has it that a former wife of the well-known emperor Yeshe Tsogyal joined Guru Rinpoche‟s company and willingly transformed into a flying tigress, so that she could fly the guru on top of the cliff. Guru Rinpoche, who is believed to be the second reincarnation of Buddha and was responsible for the spread of Buddhism across the region, meditated and developed his eight manifestations in one of the caves. Later, when the monastery was built at this exact holy spot, it was given the name Taktsang, translated means „Tiger‟s Nest‟. Construction workers faced the steep cliffs and precipitous path, which lead up to the rock‟s ledge. It is said that flying Dakinis, (female deities of enlightened energy who travel in the sky), where transporting construction material to the mountain top to facilitate the building process. For centuries the temple remained in its original state, until unfortunately in 1998 a fire destroyed a big part of it. The Bhutanese government immediately started renovations and since 2005, the Monastery can be visited again in its full glory.
India is a country of diverse history. Over time India has been influenced by different religions, rulers and empires; all of which have left their mark, in the form of stunning and captivating palaces. During the colonial area, the European involvement in India brought Edwardian architecture and later, in the 1920s, the Art Deco movement to the Country.
Having been the centres of power for numerous dynasties of Indian leaders, India‟s palaces have a rich history worth exploring. Many of the forts and palaces still stand proud all over India. They are examples of the Maharajas‟ great wealth at the time and display precious art collected from all over the world. Nowadays, the grandeur and magic behind these places can be experienced first hand by visitors, as many of the palaces have been turned into luxury hotels.
We are highlighting two of these palaces, that might not be as well known as the Taj Mahal or the Udaipur Lake Palace, but in no way lack history or a great blend of Eastern and Western architecture. While Umaid Bhawan Palace‟s sandstone structure perfectly blends into the desert landscape of Rajastan, Falaknuma Palace is entirely built out of Italian marble and shines brightly over Hyderabad‟s lush city. As different as the two buildings might seem from the outside and even though they were constructed in different centuries, both palaces are exemplary illustrations of the great architectural achievements of their time. Not only honeymooners in search for a romantic, royal experience, stay at the palaces, but also thousands of heritage lovers come to India‟s palaces to experience the grandeur.
Falaknuma Palace – Hyderabad
Falaknuma Palace is one of Hyderabad‟s, if not India‟s, finest palaces. A nobleman from the Paigah family, who later became Prime Minister of the Hyderabad State, built it from 1884 to 1893. Falaknuma, which translates to „The Mirror of the Sky‟, has hosted many great public figures such as the King and Queen of England, King George V, the Governor General of India, and Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. Originally, Falaknuma Palace was designed to have the shape of a scorpion: The palace consists of two wings spread out towards the north, while the main building is in the middle section and the kitchen and harem quarters are in the south. However, over time the building lost, due to too many additions and alternations, its original shape. William Ward Marret, an Italian architect, designed the palace in a rare blend of Tudor and Italian style: a staggering 32 different kinds of marble were used. Stained glass windows allow a bright spectrum of colours to lighten up the total of 60 rooms and 15 spacious halls. The last Nizam of Hyderabad changed the exterior decor of the building by adding unique themed gardens to the palace.
Taj Falaknuma Palace â€“ The Hotel
After over a decade of extensive and very detailed restoration of 45 rooms and 15 suites, the Taj Hotel Group has opened the five-star Falaknuma Palace Hotel, within parts of the elaborate palace. Overlooking the city of Hyderabad and covering over 32 acres of parks, the palace offers the perfect setting for historic tours, romantic getaways and weddings. Indulge in state-of-the-art facilities and take advantage of the palace butler, while discovering priceless art and artefacts, treasures and paintings collected by the Nizam while travelling the world. Some of the extraordinary features of the house include Venetian chandeliers, tableware of crystal and gold, hand-crafted French tapestries and ornate inlaid furniture from Kashmir. The Imperial Library is a replica of the one at Windsor Castle and boasts, next to its walnut carved ceiling, a collection of 6,000 rare books and manuscripts. This, beyond doubt, is the setting to travel back in time and discover Indiaâ€&#x;s most colourful past. Diethelm Travel India will be happy to provide you with rates and help you design an itinerary around this wonderful palace. Do not hesitate to contact your Diethelm Travel team for more information.
Umaid Bhawan Palace – Jodhpur
With a total of 347 rooms, Umaid Bhawan Palace was the world‟s most extensive private residence when completed in 1944. The construction of this unique palace took place from 1929 to 1944 and was initiated as a drought relief measure to provide work for over 3,000 people. Jodphur, the location of Umaid Bhawan, is also known as the „Desert City‟ and experienced consecutive years of drought at the time. The palace was named after the late Maharaja Umaid Singhji and, today, remains the residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Due to its location on Chittar Hill, high above the city, many locals also call it the „Chittar Palace‟. The palace is made up of carved, interlocking yellow sandstone pieces; slotting together a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. In order to transport these large stones to its final location a train line had to be created. A constant temperature of 23 degrees Celsius is maintained in the palace, which is a blend of western and eastern architecture. The interiors, originally designed by Maples of London, was sunk by the Germans in 1942 on the way to India. As a result, Polish interior designer, Stefan Norblin, created the lavish interiors in elegant Art Deco fashion.
Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace – The Hotel
In 1972 Umaid Bhawan Palace was opened to the public and parts of it were converted into a 64 room hotel. Since then, it has been associated with one of India‟s premier hotel chains – the Taj Group. Guests can stay in the Historical or Royal Suites, which were the residences of visiting royalty, the Maharaja and his queen. Each suite has its own unique style, embellished with Art Deco interiors and modern conveniences. The Central Dome soars 32 metres overhead and provides a focal point for all visitors to the property. Views from the various food and beverage outlets at sunset, especially the Pillars restaurant, are spectacular. Landscaped gardens create an ambiance which is serene and restful, yet spectacularly royal. Located indoors, tucked away in the basement lies the Zodiac Swimming Pool, a cool blue and private retreat. The hotel also has a large outdoor swimming pool, which was subsequently added. If you wish to feel like royalty and enjoy pure relaxation amidst 26 acres of lush gardens, rooms at Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace as well as ground services, can be booked through Diethelm Travel India. Contact us for reservations and more information.
Recipe of the Month: Fresh Prawn Spring Rolls
Ingredients 50g rice vermicelli noodles 20 round (20cm diameter) rice paper sheets 20 cooked king prawns, peeled, deveined, halved lengthways 1 cup (55g) bean sprouts, trimmed 1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks 1/4 cup (40g) finely chopped peanuts 20 mint leaves 20 coriander leaves
Recipe of the Month: Sung Choi Bao
Peanut Sauce 1 tbs peanut oil 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 2 fresh red birds eye chillies, seeded, finely chopped 1/2 cup (80g) unsalted peanuts, finely chopped 1/2 cup (125ml) water 1/3 cup (80ml) coconut milk 1 tbs lime juice 1 tbs fish sauce 1 tbs brown sugar
How to Make Fresh Prawn Spring Rolls: 1. To make the peanut sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and cook, stirring for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add the peanuts, water, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and cook, stirring for 5 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. 2. Place the noodles in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain well. 3. Soak 1 rice paper sheet in warm water for 30 seconds or until soft. Drain on paper towel. Place on a clean work surface. Place 2 prawn halves along the centre of the rice paper sheet. Add a little of the noodles, bean sprouts, carrot, peanuts, a mint leaf and coriander leaf. Fold in ends and roll up firmly to enclose filling. Repeat to make 20 spring rolls. 4. Place on a platter and serve with peanut sauce. Source: Taste, www.taste.com.au
Visa & Borders
CAMBODIA In general, immigration formalities are quicker when visitors already possess a visa prior to arrival. However, Cambodia has very liberal visa regulations and for US$ 20 all travellers can obtain a 30 day Single Entry Tourist Visa upon arrival. A passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the visit and one passport photo are needed. For travellers joining a Diethelm Travel Cambodia tour departing from Bangkok, visas can be arranged in Thailand within two working days. Every visitor has to complete an immigration and a customs form during the arrival flight or upon arrival. Cambodian tourist visas can be extended one time for 30 days. Please note that the following 9 nationalities cannot get a visa upon arrival: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Visitors can also apply for a tourist visa on the Ministryâ€&#x;s website. Valid ports of entry and exit
for e-Visa holders are: Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, Bavet-Moc Bai, Koh Kong-Trat, PoipetAranyaprathet. A scanned copy of the passport and US$ 25 paid by credit card will get you an e-mailed visa which you have to print and bring with you. The above mentioned ports are equipped with a special terminal system and dedicated lane for e-Visa holders. For more information and to apply for an e-Visa, please log on to www.mfaic.gov.kh (be aware of fake visa sites). Good to know: Every passenger departing from Phnom Penh International Airport or Siem Reap International Airport has to pay an Airport Tax of US$ 25. Domestic Airport Taxes no longer have to be paid.
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