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THE LAKE OF LIFE Cambodia’s Tonle Sap

p u b l i s h e r ’s l e t t e r


elcome to another issue


E x p l o r e r, the


friendly digital travel magazine. We hope you’ve had a safe and enjoyable beginning of the year and that the months ahead are filled with exciting travel plans – we know ours are. In this issue we scour the globe looking for new and fun travel destinations, trends, tips, and tales. In Cambodia, Nick Walton travels on the Tonle Sap Lake, one of Asia’s largest, with new river cruiser Aqua Mekong, to see a new side of one of the region’s fastest emerging destinations. Cruisers will love our run down of the top new ships recently introduced or slated for introduction to the world’s seven seas this year, including some brilliant new vessels from some of the leading players. We also spend a day soaking up the sun in Santiago, Chile, and follow our taste buds on a citrus-themed adventure from Gayatri Bhaumik, before delving into the colours and textures of Hyderabad with local expert Sakshi Kaushik. Wherever you’re travelling this year, we hope Explorer will continue to be your guide and your inspiration. Safe travels.

David Leung Publisher

Villa Sungai THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN A secret to be discovered, hidden deep in the heart of the authentic Bali. Floating above a river, beneath a towering canopy of rainforest, Sungai has everything you expect from the finest hotels..but with exclusivity. Here time stands still..... pavilions perfumed with tuberoses, a magical eighteen metre horizon pool spilling into the valley, palms and frangipanis, khaki and whitewash, and sleek and sexy white on white. It’s hard to believe that this piece of paradise is only a short drive from the bustle of Legian and Seminyak. Welcome to Villa Sungai.

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World in Pics An oyster diver on Vietnam’s Lang Co Beach, an emerging tourist destination.

A World

A regal hall in St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. The famous exhibition hall opens a new contemporary art wing this year.

of Wonder

Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor winds its way through the Dinaric Alps and the harbour in the heritage-listed city of Kotor. Credit: Royal Caribbean International


A lone swimmer does laps in Bondi’s iconic ocean pool in Sydney, Australia.

World in Pics A lone boat sails home under a picturesque sunset over Borneo’s Kuching River. Credit: Backyard Travel

A swing awaits the return of summer of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand.

Natural and manmade attractions abound all over the globe, just waiting to capture your imagination. A polar bear and her cubs amble along an ice flat in the Greenland Sea. Credit: Philip Ogilvie

A lively traditional dance performance on Papua New Guinea’s Trobriand Island. Credit: Aurora Expeditions 5


Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

Java Jazz Festival

Hong Kong March 27 – 29, 2015

Jakarta, Indonesia March 6 – 7, 2015

The most anticipated annual event in Hong Kong – indeed, one of the most important sports events in Southeast Asia – the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens will see thousands of fans from across the world descend on the Hong Kong Stadium in Happy Valley to watch 28 teams from the biggest rugby nations battle it out for the top spot. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, expect a party-like atmosphere, crazy costumes, and plenty of fun.

Held at the Jakarta International Expo Centre, this music festival is a captivating annual showcase of international and local jazz acts. This year’s lineup includes some of the music world’s biggest names, including Chaka Kahn, Christina Perri, Jessie J, and Chris Botti; rumour says Dionne Warwick may also put in an appearance. A must for any Jakarta-bound music lover.

French Quarter Festival New Orleans, USA April 9 – 12, 2015

If you can’t get to the epic party that is Mardi Gras, get your fill of boisterous New Orleans fun at one of the largest festivals in America’s South. The 2015 event will see a host of big local acts like the Orleans Brass Band, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and Steve Pistorius & the Southern Synctopators, as well as artists like Chris Ardoin and The Write Brothers, who will make their festival debuts. The city’s best eateries will also be serving up delicious treats for festival-goers. 6

Adelaide Festival

Adelaide, Australia February 27 – March 15, 2015 A celebration of all things art, the Adelaide Festival thrills audiences with over 300 performances, including theatre productions, dance and music shows, and striking visual art displays. For 2015, the two-and-a-half week festival’s highlights include Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton; Mixed Rep, a show by the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; and a risqué, modern adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.


Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Victoria & Albert Museum, London United Kingdom March 14 – August 2, 2015

Made in Hong Kong: Our City. Our Stories. Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Hong Kong March 6 – September 4, 2015

Following its success at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty returns to the designer’s hometown of London. With more than 200 examples of his work, the exhibition is a compelling retrospective of McQueen’s career, spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection through to the Autumn/Winter 2010 collection, left incomplete after his untimely death.

A special new exhibition in the Harbour City tells the history of Hong Kong through the stories of the people that live here. A series of immersive and interactive galleries use interviews, photographs, film, and music to explore the city’s changing social and political landscape, shifting economic tides, and the lives that underpin the city’s success.

Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA

BNP Paribas Showdown

Georgia Elvis Festival

March 10, 2015

Brunswick, Georgia, USA March 12 – 15, 2015

The BNP Paribas Showdown marks the official kick-off of the North American tennis season. A one-night-only event, the showdown sees some of the tennis world’s best battle for the Billie Jean King Cup, named in honour of the legendary American tennis champ. The 2015 event is set to thrill as seventeen-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer takes on up-and-comer Grigor Dimitrov, and tennis greats Monica Sales and Gabriela Sabatini commemorate the 25th anniversary of their epic five-set WTA Finals match.

Georgia’s annual celebration of ‘The King’ returns to Brunswick’s Ritz Theatre with a lineup of events sure to thrill Elvis fans from all over. The weekend-long festival will host the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, the Elvis Gospel Contest, and plenty of parties, all featuring his iconic music. Kick-off your weekend with a stroll through the shopfronts in the downtown area, all of which are decorated with Elvis memorabilia for the weekend. 7

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Downton in America Fans of hit series Downton Abbey can immerse themselves in the lives and costumes of the show’s Crawley family with Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times, an exhibition housed at the sprawling 250-room Biltmore House, once the largest home in America. On display will be more than 40 gorgeous costumes from the popular TV show, including the servants’ uniforms, country attire, and lavish evening gowns. The elaborate outfits are juxtaposed by the real lives of the Vanderbilt family who built the estate. Guests can complete the back-in-time experience with the Dressing Downton package offered at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, which includes breakfast in The Dining Room, afternoon tea in the Library Lounge, an audio guide to Biltmore House, a Biltmore souvenir guidebook, valet parking, and admission to the Biltmore Estate and the exhibition. Available until 22 May, 2015.

Tot-sized Totes Perfect for globetrotting tots, the brand new Explorer backpacks from British brand Babymel come in two designs and are perfectly sized for carry-on luggage and weekends away. The bags combine bright, kid-friendly original prints with hardy fabrics and fully-functional features. Padded should straps and webbed grab-top handles make these rucksacks easy to wear, while an external bottle pocket and pen pockets ensure these items are readily accessible. Wipe-clean inner linings make it quick and easy to clean up any spills. A detachable, insulated lunch bag, made in the same print and wipe-clean material as the backpack, is also included, and features a separate elasticated bottle holder, cutlery holder, and grab-top handle. The Trains Explorer bag features a vintage-feel pattern of old-fashioned trains, traditional travel luggage, and station signs, while the Princess Explorer boasts a pattern of hearts, bows, and tiaras on a background of pale purple.


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The Pirate’s Life Playing up the area’s notorious past, Pirate’s Quest is the newest attraction in Cornwall. Located in the town of Newquay, the attraction is filled with swashbuckling murals and displays by Greg Winter, a scenic artist who’s worked on Into the Woods, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Game of Thrones. To create the interactive experience, Winter was inspired by images of Newquay’s 18th century harbour, known as Towan Blystra, the wreck of the Royal Anne galley, and the Neptune, the ship of notorious pirate Calico Jack. Pirate's Quest combines actors, captivating special effects, and detailed sets that offer visitors an authentic, fully immersive experience that brings Cornwall’s exciting history and legends to life. Go on treasure hunts, experience the terrifying Lost Land of Lyonesse, and get up close and personal with the sea’s most notorious characters.

A History of Scandinavia Discover the truths behind the myths surrounding the Vikings on Hurtigruten’s 12-day Voyage of the Vikings itinerary. Sailing from Bergen on September 14, travellers will cruise the coast of Norway, visiting a total of 34 ports in each direction. On board, guests will gain insights into the history of the Vikings from Gareth Williams, from London’s British Museum, who will give lectures and lead land excursions. Intrepid historians will explore the Viking legacy through their achievements, drive for wealth, tendency to explore, and socio-economic placement. The trip’s highlight is a stop in Trondheim, an old Viking capital, which includes the Nidaros Cathedral where Viking King Olav Tryggason was laid to rest. Those wanting a truly immersive experience will have the option of joining a Viking Feast excursion, where guests will visit a Viking chieftain and his family in a reconstructed longhouse for a night of food and entertainment. 9

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Boston Pride at Sea Die-hard fans of the Boston Red Sox baseball team should plan to take to the seas in January 2016, with the recent announcement of the Take Me Out to the High Seas 2016 Red Sox Fan Cruise. A collaboration between the team and Celebrity Cruises, the onceonly cruise will set sail from Miami on January 9, 2016, and cruise the Caribbean with legendary Red Sox players aboard the cruise line’s newest ship, the Celebrity Reflection. While guests enjoy the dining options, spa treatments, and interactive events onboard the ship, they’ll also get the chance to enjoy exclusive fan activities with players like Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Mike Timlin, and Keith Foulke such as karaoke nights, Q&A sessions, autograph sessions, and meet and greets. The cruise is the latest offering from the long-standing partnership between the team and the cruise operator, and will see fans stop for fun in the sun in San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

Cowboy Dreams Grab your chance to play cowboy (or cowgirl) with an exclusive horse-riding adventure through the heart of Australian bush. Limited to just 40 riders per year, The Long Paddock Cattle Drive takes wannabe cattle ranchers through the beautiful natural heritage of Australia. The all-inclusive experience begins three hours north of Melbourne, and sees guests goad a herd of 500 cattle across the sweeping Hay Plains – known to be the flattest place on earth – over the course of a weekend. The ride starts in Wanganella, in southern New South Wales, and goes south towards Moama in Victoria. When not herding cows, adventurers will enjoy locally-sourced food and wine, and good old-fashioned camp cookouts. The adventure caters to all levels of riding experience, with riders given different positions around the herd based on their confidence on a horse. Participants will ride approximately 10 hours over two days, and will considerably improve their riding skills under the expert guidance of instructors. The Long Paddock Cattle Drive will be offered on only two weekends in 2015, from May 1 – 3, and May 8 – 10. 10

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Explore Exotic Bhutan Backyard Travel, specialists in insider tours through Asia, has announced a new itinerary which will allow intrepid travellers to explore the magical Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. The eight-day Bhutanese Adventure itinerary begins in Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, where travellers will see the city’s key cultural landmarks and gain insight into the country’s unique brand of Buddhism and the royal family. En route to the village of Gangtey, travellers will encounter centuries-old fortresses and the breathtaking peaks of the Himalayas. The highlight of the trip is a three-day trek through flower fields and forests that culminates with a hike to the top of the Shobju-la Pass, where visitors can bask in sweeping views over the mountains. Later, weary hikers can recuperate in Wangduephodrang and the picturesque Punakha Valley before exploring Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries in Paro. To celebrate the launch of its new Bhutan itinerary, Backyard Travel is offering a 10 percent discount on all Bhutan tours booked before the end of April 2015.

Maldives for Kids Family holidays to the idyllic isles of the Maldives have just become a little more enjoyable with the unveiling of Kandoo Kids, the allnew nautical and nature themed kids club at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. Boasting over 500sqm of kid-friendly space, Kandoo Kids is one of the biggest children’s entertainment zones in the archipelago, and with a wide variety of amenities and activities on offer, tots are guaranteed to be entertained for hours. The air-conditioned duplex indoor zone is bright and colourful, featuring a library, an arts and craft area, an interactive gaming room, a ball pit, and a craft-making space. For those needing a bit of a break in play, the club also has a crawl and napping area. Outside, kids can play in the club’s Splash Pool, where they can enjoy waterslides, water cannons, and a spray wall. The club is staffed with well-trained Kandoo Hosts who are on hand to keep kids engaged with fun activities like henna artwork, face painting, cake decorating, and t-shirt design. 11

Ca m b o di a


Nick Walton cruises aboard the newly-launched Aqua Mekong, a luxury river cruiser that offers intrepid travellers the chance to explore further than ever on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake. 12

Cam b odia


t’s a truly unique scene as an elderly Buddhist monk, shrouded in brilliant crimson robes and wreathed by a trio of wide-eyed novices, chants a blessing incantation that resounds across the still water. In the floating villages of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, nothing is permanent; everything ebbs and flows relentlessly with the movement of the life-bringing waters, including this pint-sized floating temple, which rocks back and forth with each pass of bumblebee-like longtail boats. The chanting complete, the prayers for seasonal rains and safe passage finished, passengers of the newly-launched Aqua Mekong river cruiser board their modern skiffs and, with a final wave, make for the setting sun. It’s a magical way to end a day on Cambodia’s Great Lake. Tonle Sap isn’t a new destination; it’s been on the backpacker route for many years, its lively floating villages the perfect

day trip contrast to the temples ruins of Angkor Wat. But the launch of Aqua Mekong, Aqua Expeditions’ newest expeditionary ship, heralds a new era for the lake, and for the Mekong River on which the ship cruises on three, four, and seven-night itineraries between Siem Reap and Saigon. Sleek, intimate, and unashamedly modern, Aqua Mekong boasts a unique marriage of adventure and comfort, offering travellers – from couples to inquisitive families - a new way to explore this expansive body of water. And the new cruises come at the perfect time, as large scale hydroelectric projects under construction in northern Cambodia and Laos, scheduled to come online over the next decade, threaten to alter this unique landscape forever. You couldn’t find a better waterway in Asia for cruising. A vast inland sea fed by snow melt from the mighty Himalayas and in turn draining into its own name-sake tributary, the waters of which link up with the Mekong, Tonle Sap is a crucial ecosystem, 13

Ca m b o di a

with over one million people living on its banks or in its floating communities. It’s one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes, a vast basin with a water level that changes rapidly and dramatically with the passing seasons, its fishing hamlets retreating to the new shore line during the flood season and, during the dry season when we visit, to deeper waters. The 20-suite Aqua Mekong may be a luxury ship, but cultural immersion is at the heart of the experience, thanks in part to the vision of the ship’s owner, Italian-American adventurer Francesco Galli Zugaro, who has forged the perfect balance between luxury and discovery. Zugaro founded Aqua Expeditions (the company’s other two ships ply the Peruvian Amazon) after working on an expeditionary ship in the Galapagos Islands, recognising the rising tide of experiential luxury travel; well-heeled travellers no longer want to trudge along the beaten path or sit by the pool of luxury 14

resorts, but want cultural interaction and creature comforts in equal measure; they want to be able to visit remote villages and learn ancient cultures by day, and enjoy wine-laced degustation menus and signature massages by night. Zugaro got the comfort bit perfect; with designs by Saigon-based architect David

Hodkinson, the Singapore-built vessel is decked out in polished timber and glass, with an intimate, contemporary colour scheme throughout the 20 spacious Design Suites – eight of which feature balconies – and elegantly-appointed public spaces. Each cabin features a kingsize bed, bespoke furnishings, a walk-in wardrobe, complimentary WiFi, and even

Cam b odia make it easy for Aqua’s 27 guests to slip into this unique landscape without disturbing the visitors. Immediately, we start to spy graceful great egrets and Indian shags, and the bird world’s biggest show offs, Oriental Darters, which we watch parade at the tops of half-submerged trees, their wing’s drying in the morning sunshine. Squadrons of pelicans, their great wingspan allowing them to soar effortlessly, patrol above us as we moor beside a large tree that hosts a make-shift ranger station.

Nespresso machines for those early risers looking to greet dawn on the lake with a good cup of coffee. A superb crew led by hospitality genius and country manager Kim Loan Le, a standard-breaking staff to passenger ratio of 1:1, and sensational cuisine by Michelin-starred maverick David Thompson ensure a river cruising experience like no other. And then there is the itinerary, which features two excursions a day, some exploring the aquatic landscape of Tonle Sap via the ship’s fleet of modern military-grade skiffs; others on two feet through colourful lakeside and river communities. It’s an early start on our first full day aboard, as we venture out in the skiffs towards the flooded forests of the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. This vital sanctuary, which takes up a

staggering 31,282 hectares of the lake’s northwest corner, is a temporary home to tens of thousands of migratory birds, from ibises to storks, passing through the region. It’s especially active during the dry months, and the Mercury outboards of our skiffs, which run virtually silently,

There are 36 ranger stations spread across the sanctuary, and some 90 rangers – many of whom were once poachers and hunters – now patrol the park, keeping fishermen and poachers at bay. By employing the poachers and giving them a stable income, the government, with help from Unesco, has helped 15

Ca m b o di a long boats, through mirror-like water, like pint-sized gondoliers. Fishing is the main industry across much of the lake – more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia comes from Tonle Sap – and many of the simple homes have builton fish farms, their nets swarming with thrashing Mekong catfish as we pass. Our guides and boatmen need to use GPS and line of sight to find tiny, remote Moat Kla, a picturesque water village which emerges from a sea of green, submerged tree tops. Excited children run to doorways and wave, and local fishing

curb the poaching of many endangered species. The rangers smile inquisitively at us as our translator, one of two Cambodian and two Vietnamese guides, bridges the cultural divide. Another shy ranger lies in a canoe and listens, while a third sleeps in a treehouse above after a long night shift. No other tourist boat has the same access to the sanctuary or to its protectors, and the rangers smile as we depart, the pelican escort occasionally swooping down for a closer look as we cruise back to the ship. 16

The floating villages are also a highlight of any Tonle Sap visit, and it’s these communities which have the most to gain from increased tourism on the lake and the most to lose from the construction of the dams up country. The villages vary; some, like Kampong Khleang, a clutch of colourful homes perched on pontoons, are used to foreigners as they’re easily accessible on day trips from Siem Reap. Nonetheless, our visit draws plenty of interest; curious adults and children alike glide past our skiffs on traditional

Cam b odia boats follow our progress, creating a makeshift convoy. Startled pure white herons leap into the robin’s egg sky, their brilliant colour reflecting off the lake’s waters perfectly. The effect is nothing short of magical. Not all the excursions are on water. In Kampong Chhnang, an important port on the Tonle Sap River, which connects the lake with the Mekong, guests clamber into fire engine red tuk tuks that chug their way through town. It’s wedding season in Cambodia and we pass no less

than three receptions, colourful, loud, and crowded affairs that spill out onto the street as neighbours and friends visit the new couple with gifts of ripe fruit and lucky red envelopes of cash. In the shade beneath a family home, we watch young girls hand-shape Angkorian-styled pottery and gaze in amazement as a 65year old plantation owner named Mr Rhi deftly climbs a palm tree to collect the fruit that he uses to make palm sugar and fiery yet sweet palm liquor. On the tiny island of Koh Chen, one of two

that split the Mekong River as it passes Phnom Penh, Aqua’s guests visit a village famed for its silversmiths. In the shade of a workshop, artisans fire molds and etch out new engravings on ceremonial alms bowls, while down the road, closer to the river, a carpenter puts the final touches of paint on a set of hand-crafted oars for the village’s ngo dragon boat, in time for the seasonal competition on the Mekong. We spend the afternoon learning about traditional silk weaving, watching silk worms thrash in slow motion in a shaded basket, while elderly women oversee a troop of young girls manning massive silk looms rigged with vividly coloured thread. Hoping to live up to the blessings of the

monks in their floating temple, our last visit is to a primary school on Koh Oknha Tey, another river island on the Mekong. Aqua Expeditions works hard to include the local community in itineraries, and here we have a chance to not only help the children with their English but also donate stationary, which is always sorely needed. Unlike areas closer to the capital, the school receives few foreign visitors, and it’s hard not to love the celebrity welcome as tiny faces with bright eyes peer out from shuttered windows, and classes come to a dramatic halt in a wave

of sing-song welcomes. The kids are as curious about us as we are about them, and it’s with reluctance that we wave goodbye as the sun begins to settle in the west. It will be up to these children to navigate Cambodia’s future, and much of that future depends on Tonle Sap, the Great Lake, as its waters continue to flow through this beautiful country, as they have for millennia.

Travel Essentials Cruise: Aqua Mekong offers regular 3,4 and 7 night cruises on Tonle Sap Lake from US$4,000 per person, inclusive of all meals, selected beverages, transfers, and excursions. Stay: Raffles Hotels & Resorts has historic and luxurious properties in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. 17

Taste Bu d T r av e l


CRAVINGS Believed to have originated in the lush valleys of India, Myanmar, and China’s Yunnan province, the members of the citrus family are now well and truly fruit of the world, and regular travellers will be surprised just how often they can enjoy their sweet and sour surprises on the road. By Gayatri Bhaumik


Taste B u d T r ave l


itrus is big business in Florida where the local industry is second only to tourism. For a really all-encompassing citrus experience, head over to Bradenton to visit Mixon Fruit Farms. Sample freshly-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, try the ‘orange swirl’ ice cream cones, and prop yourself up at the wine counter for a tasting of local wines made with muscadine grapes and Mixon’s own oranges. Then, jump on the Orange Blossom Express tram to check out the working citrus groves while learning about Florida’s citrus heritage. The homemade marmalades, zesty salsas, and other citrusy products in the gift store make great take-home gifts. On the west coast of the US, in San Francisco, master mixologist Kevin Diedrich serves up the ultimate thirst-quencher at Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen. Inspired by a trip to the beer halls of Europe, Diedrich’s cheeky Wiessen Sour combines Buffalo Trace bourbon with lemon juice, orange marmalade, orange bitters, and just a splash of Hoegaarden white beer. The result is a flavourful, refreshing tipple perfect for whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon. For a wonderfully aromatic and indulgent experience, go north to Canada, where Ste Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario offers some seriously soothing citrus-based pampering. The Citrus Sun treatment begins with a hydrating foot soak laced with citrus essential oils and fresh orange slices, before you’re scrubbed down in a full body exfoliation using a halved grapefruit dipped in sugar. After rinsing

off with an invigorating hydrotherapy bath filled with citrus essential oils, your treatment winds down with a thoroughly relaxing citrus massage, a blissful experience which revives, energises and refreshes. Citrus-flavoured desserts are relished the world over, but none have the cult following of the Meyer Lemon Tart of Melbourne, Australia’s Albert Street Food & Wine. Fans flock to the chic eatery for a slice of the decadent dish, which took creator Philippa Sibley years to perfect – and what perfection it is. Zesty Meyer lemons provide just the right amount of tartness for the velvety-smooth curd, which melts on the tongue, while the thin, golden brown base is a masterful savoury counterpoint. A dusting of icing sugar is the final flourish on this rich, sinful, but oh-sodelightful dessert. Continue your citrus journey to Spain. Valencia is known for its oranges, and it’s the sleepy coastal town of Burriana where you’ll find a true tribute to the humble fruit. Housed in a late 19th century merchant’s townhouse, the Museu de la Taronja – which grandiosely translates to the Spanish Citrus Historical Museum – is a treasure trove of information with more than you’ll ever need to know about the town’s most famous export. Duck through the display rooms to track the history and evolution of Valencia’s orange industry, spanning from the 18th century to present day. For serious aficionados (or academics), the museum’s library boasts over 6,000 holdings and a collection of more than 1,000 photographs, among other orange paraphernalia. 19

Ne w S h i ps

Avid cruisers will love the new ships being introduced to the world’s oceans and rivers this year, discovers Nick



New S h ips


aunched earlier this year, the Norwegian Getaway is the first in a planned series of three Breakaway ships that are slightly smaller than other newer NCL ships but still pack plenty of entertainment. With 4,028 passengers and a New York theme, the Norwegian Getaway is the largest ship to be based in the Big Apple and features the signature large scale entertainment of its sister ship Epic, including the Blue Man Group and Broadway show Rock of Ages. Sailing the Southern Caribbean, highlights of the new family-friendly ship include a massive sports complex, five waterslides, a rock-climbing wall, dedicated seafood restaurants by Geoffrey Zakarian, adult-only deck spaces, and the luxurious Haven ship-within-a-ship space, complete with its own pool, butler service, and restaurant. 21

Ne w S h i ps Another ship which launched this year is the Royal Princess, the first of Princess’ new two-ship class catering to 3,600 passengers. At 20 percent larger than the line’s largest ship, the award-winning Royal Princess features an innovative Sea Walk – a cantilevered glass-enclosed walkway that extends beyond the edge of the ship - as well as exciting new restaurants, an expanded atrium, the line’s largest top deck pool ever, and an enhanced Movies Under the Stars screen. The ship’s Piazza, at 50 percent larger than previous Princess ships’ central atria, will also feature new venues, from a seafood bar to a gelateria. Also look out for Princess Live, a television studio where the morning broadcast will be filmed each day in front of a live audience. Joining its sister ships Le Boreal and L’Austral, the 264-passenger Le Soleal is the newest addition to the Compagnie du Ponant fleet. Debuting in the Arctic, the new boutique luxury cruise ship offers two restaurants – the signature Gastronomic Restaurant


and the more casual Grill Restaurant – as well as sophisticated lounges, a modern theatre, and a comprehensive fitness centre. Certainly one of the more luxurious ships to be plying the remote waters of the Arctic, as well as the Adriatic and Asia, guests can enjoy the views of the Northwest Passage or Greenland from the balconies of their contemporarystyled stateroom, or from the many elegantly-appointed public spaces throughout the boutique ship. http:// A powerhouse in European river cruising, Ama Waterways launched two new ships in 2014, and will offer new excursions on Europe’s most popular rivers, as well as on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy. This year, the line launches AmaSonata and AmaReina, sister ships of the 164-passenger AmaPrima, on rivers in Europe. Both will feature twin balcony staterooms and suites, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations, complimentary fine wine and beer at lunch and dinner, multiple dining venues, a heated pool

New S h ips part of the Silversea Expedition fleet, which already includes Silver Explorer and Silver Galapagos. Entering service in March, Silver Discoverer features extensive facilities onboard, including 12 Zodiac boats; a swimming pool; a gym and beauty salon; a restaurant and pool grill; a lecture room for in-depth stories and briefings about the destinations; and a panoramic lounge. She weighs 5,218 tonnes, is 338 feet long and 51 feet wide. Cruising the French West Indies, as well as the Panama Canal and Europe, the MV Tere Moana is the first ship in the Paul Gauguin Cruises line to venture away from its traditional French Polynesian cruising grounds. The line’s newest ship, the Tere Moana boasts sleek lines and luxurious accommodation for just 90 guests in 45 ocean view staterooms. Each cabin features king-sized beds dressed in fine linens and feather-down duvets, as well as cutting-edge technology, complimentary minibar, and spacious bathrooms. With traces of Tahiti’s French heritage, the ship offers two elegant dining venues, both of which incorporate fresh, locally-sourced ingredients into their menus. After a long day exploring, retire to the ship’s Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm, which delivers signature spa treatments, or to the outdoor swimming pool and hot tub. with swim-up bar, massage and beauty salon, fitness centre, and free internet and Infotainment in every stateroom. AmaSonata will travel the Danube and Rhine Rivers on seven itineraries, while AmaReina will be dedicated to the seven-night Enchanting Rhine itinerary. In addition AmaPura, a 76-passenger river cruiser, will launch in Myanmar, with itineraries that capture the beauty and mystery of Asia’s most exciting new destination. Luxury cruise line Silversea, which has championed refined expeditionary cruising, launched its newest adventure ship Silver Discoverer in 2014. Catering to just 128 guests, the boutique cruise ship will explore more remote destinations from Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia to the Russian Far East, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. The small-sized ship, the eighth in Silversea’s fleet, will become 23

A Day I n ‌



One of Latin America’s most modern and cosmopolitan cities, Santiago comes to life during the southern summer months, when music fills the streets, kitchens cook up a storm, and locals celebrate their place between the towering Andes and expansive Pacific. 24

A Day In…


Check into the chic, boutique hotel The Aubrey, a 15-room former regal mansion that has been loving restored. While many of the guest rooms have terraces or patios, our favourite, the Art Deco Suite, is a chic, spacious hideaway with plenty of natural light, 300-thread count linen, high-speed wireless internet, and a warm, bright design persona. Be sure to make time in the evening for your complimentary Pisco Sour cocktail, made with South American sugarcane brandy and best enjoyed beside the hotel’s outdoor heated swimming pool. Suites from US$450, Constitución 299 - 317, Bellavista, Santiago, +56 2940 2800;


Head out on one of the three free walking tours conducted by Spicy Chile. The tours start from the Salvador Allende statue next to La Moneda Palace, and delve into local markets, old neighbourhoods, and key tourist attractions of Santiago over three to four hours. The highly entertaining guides all speak fluent English, and if you’re looking for something a bit more bespoke, they also do private tours.


If you’ve worked up an appetite then the place to go is the Mercado Central de Santiago, the city’s central markets. Opened in 1872, this maze of stalls and stands serves as a central grocery for the city’s kitchens, and a palatepleaser for gourmet tourists looking for fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as the city’s best seafood. A few casual restaurants are located within the former railway station, serving up the likes of almejas con limón, raw clams with lemon juice; empanada de mariscos, a traditional turnover filled with chopped seafood, onion, and seasoning; and eye-catching pastel de jaiba, Chilean crab pie served in its own shell.


Walk off your lunch in the Parque Metropolitano, a vast park with the peak of Cerro San Cristóbal at its centre. Take the funicular to the top for stunning views of the Andes from outside the summit’s Catholic church, where Pope John Paul II once gave mass, and while away the afternoon heat in the botanical gardens or the park’s two public swimming pools. 25

A Day I n …



Spend the cooler part of the day exploring Santiago’s emerging arts scene in the chic neighbourhood of Vitacura, where contemporary galleries like Sala Cero (www. and Galeria Animal ( are turning artsy heads and drawing in the punters shopping on the Avenida Alonso de Córdova, one of the city’s top luxury retail precincts. If the art doesn’t catch your fancy, the fashion in the local and international boutiques, which line the avenue and its narrow side streets, are bound to.

Finish your day at the stylish Whiskey Blue nightclub at the lavish W Santiago (www.wsantiago. cl) to dance the night away with the city’s A-listers. The first bar to be opened in South America by Midnight Oil chain founder Rande Gerber, expect floor-to-ceiling mirrors, plush interiors, a roster of international DJs, and an innovative list of pisco-laced concoctions.

9pm South Americans tend to dine late, but the wait will be worth it at Aquí Está Coco (, an eclectic and lively eatery housed in a 140-year old family manor. Arrive early and sip aperitifs or local reds in the subterranean cellar lounge. Then head upstairs to select from one of the city’s top seafood menus, laced with freshly caught specialties like octopus carpaccio with black olive sauce; seared swordfish with black butter; and Chilean buckwheat risotto with Patagonian scallops.

10am Sample a South American take on tapas and one of city’s best breakfasts at Arola at the RitzCarlton Santiago (www.ritz-carlton. com). Call ahead for one of the coveted terrace tables and enjoy the likes of endives, chicken and roquefort salad; suckling pig with mashed potatoes, cherries and coconut; and Chilean sea bass with caviar and sea water veil. Match the meal with DJ spun tracks and a bottle of local Undurraga Brut NV.


Fresh abalone cappacio, a seasonal delicacy


Jewellery featuring lapis lazuli, a blue semi-precious stone that can only be found in Chile and Afghanistan.


A private tour of the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art 26

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Dining Reaching cruising altitude, the crew announced dinner, with the option of "chicken," or “vegetarian option” and that spirits and champagne could be purchased to accompany meals. Hmm, decisions, decisions. I was quite happy to settle for a complimentary Carlsberg to go with my gelatinous but overall edible “chicken”, which was efficiently but unceremoniously served by crew who cleared the cabin quickly, knowing passengers wanted to catch as many sleeping hours on the 10-hour, 45-minute journey as possible.



Many airlines have introduced premium economy products on their long-haul flights, but Nick Walton finds Finnish flag carrier Finnair’s attempt a little short of the mark. Check-in Like many regular travellers, I’ve become very accustomed to checking in online. However, after repeated attempts, with different codes and ticket numbers inputted, I was unable to get past the login page on Finnair’s site, meaning I would need to get to the airport earlier than planned to get a decent seat on my long-haul flight from Hong Kong to Helsinki. Fortunately, Finnair is among the airlines that travellers can check-in for at Hong Kong Station, home to the Airport Express train. Here, I was assigned an economy class seat and told to enquire about an upgrade to Economy Comfort through a Finnair call centre. Unfortunately, neither of the two numbers given were answered and I was told by the check-in staff to enquire at the airport. There, I was directed to the boarding gate, which in turn directed me to the flight purser, who ended up handling the $60 upgrade fee during the boarding process.

Onboard Finnair has taken more of a half-step than a giant leap into the premium economy scene. Welcoming but rather robotic crew directed Economy Comfort passengers through a ancient business class cabin filled almost exclusively with Finnish travellers (in fact, very few passengers seem to be bound for

destinations beyond Finland, despite the airline’s marketing slogan offering the fastest route between Asia and Europe), before dishing out the perks of the new Economy Comfort, which include an “amenity kit” (really a loose handful of toothbrushes, eye masks, and earplugs in plastic sleeves), and “noisecancelling” headphones that pale to those in most business class cabins. Fortunately I brought my own of both.

After hours of snoozing rather than real sleep, the lights came back on as we cruised over dark western Russia, and the crew served a simple omelet with a chicken sausage, grilled tomato, and diced roasted potatoes. It was a vast improvement on the chicken surprise.

Conclusion The Finnish are famed for their minimalist streak and that national ethos has been extended to its flag carrier, which keeps their inflight product lean and whilst not quite mean, a few smiles south of industry leaders. The new Economy Comfort product, at a reasonable price point, will prove popular with economy class passengers looking for a touch of yesterday’s coach experience rather than those travellers expecting a mid-way point between the back of the plane and business. Unfortunately it’s a half-step in a direction that many airlines are already running in.

Note: The author travelled on a fully-paid economy class ticket and paid economy comfort upgrade without the airline’s knowledge.

The new class uses the same dated, narrow seats as the rest of the economy cabin on the A340-300 aircraft, except that there is between 7-13cm more leg room and a “comfier” headrest that looks pretty par for the course on many other airlines. While the leg room is certainly appreciated on long night flights (the front row facing the bulkhead had football fields of room compared to the rest of the comfort seats) the airline has overlooked a few things, including armrests which barely lift to 45 degrees, meaning even if you have a spare seat beside you, you’re not going to be able to do much with it. Finnair, like a growing number of airlines, allows the use of smartphones and tablets in flight mode from gate to gate so I was well settled into a movie by the time we took off, wedged half under the rickety armrest to allow for the reclined chair in front. 27

In s i g h t



Known as an ancient diamond and pearl trading centre, today Hyderabad celebrates its unique blend of culture and modernity with gusto. From the historic sites of Golkonda to the mayhem of Charminar, it’s no surprise that locals call it ‘the lion city’, says Hyderabad native


Sakshi Kaushik

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On the Table You’ll never go hungry in Hyderabad as eateries can be found in every nook and cranny. Barbecue has taken the city by storm, and the best place to sample the craze is at Absolute Barbecue (www., +91 40 3091 1222) in Jubilee Hills. A meat lover’s paradise, the barbecue joint is greatly praised for its exotic meat range which includes rabbit and emu. At the eatery’s Wish Grill, guests can choose their meats, veggies, and sauces, then step back and let the grill-masters do their thing. Tender churrasco beef with pineapple is the signature combo here, but leave room for the selection of international and local desserts. AB’s is popular, so be sure to book a table at least five days in advance. For those wanting to satisfy their Italian cravings, Olive Bistro (www., +91 40 6999 9127) is the top choice. Located in the lush Durgam Cheruvu National Park, and overlooking the nearby ‘Secret Lake,’ the restaurant is known for its tranquil ambience. A calm alternative to the bedlam of the city, it’s the perfect place

to unwind over hearty Italian cuisine with a slight Indian twist. Try the Flash Baked Thyme Rubbed Stuffed Chicken, packed with walnuts, smoked scamorza, and spinach, and served with herbed linguini, pan jus, and chimichurri. A cosy little gem hidden away in a small side street in Jubilee Hills, Ulavacharu (1299/F, Road 68, Jubilee Hills, +91 40 3192 1114) produces the city’s best lineup of authentic dishes from Andhra Pradesh - served on banana leaves - and takes full pride in its signature dish, the Rajugari Biryani, a rice dish packed with succulent pieces of mutton marinated in yoghurt and spices. The menu also features fish dishes cooked in an authentic spicy sauce that’s sure to leave the mouth tingling. Finish with the local sweet treat: rich badhushahs finished with pistachios.

Bedding Down Known as one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, the Park Hyatt Hyderabad (, +91 40 49491234) in upmarket Banjara Hills provides sophisticated rooms, excellent facilities, and an unparalleled dining 29

In s i g h t

experience. The stylish 110sqm Park Suite King boasts neutral tones and quality German linens, and features a spa-inspired bathroom with a marble bathtub, signature products from The Spa, and a 17-inch television. The hotel also maintains a reputation for fine food with its famous Tre-Forni Restaurant and Bar, which marries flavours from northern Italy with hints of southeast Asian spices. For a one-of-a-kind experience, check into

The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace ( w w w. w e s t i n h y d e r a b a d m i n d s p a c e . com,+91 40 6767 7676). The hotel’s central location in HITEC City is reflected in the elegant atmosphere of all its suites, highlighted by bold splashes of modernity, bright colours, eclectic furniture, and high ceilings which invite a sense of space. For the ultimate high-life experience, grab a private cabana by the pool, or savour a 30

sundowner cocktail on the grand outdoor terrace. For a culturally rich experience, look no further than the decadent Taj Falaknuma Palace ( 40 6629 8585). Situated on a ridge overlooking the city, the Taj is bedecked with shimmering Venetian chandeliers, and elegant 19th century European décor influenced by graceful Nizam architecture. Check into the Grand Presidential Suite, a lavish chamber finished with custom-made Turkish upholstery and antique colonial furnishings with access to a private swimming pool and jacuzzi.

Hit the Town Hyderabadis love a drink, so it’s only natural that the city is a playground of great watering holes. Fashioning itself

after an English pub, 10 Downing Street (, +9140 666 29323) in Begumpet is suitably laidback, doing full justice to British heritage through its rustic milieu. Fondly known as ‘TDS’, the pub is a popular place to wash down a few pints of local Kingfisher beer or pitches of icy sangria laced with fresh fruit. With a kitchen that whips up delicious gastropub fare, you must sample the mouth-watering shepherd’s pie, laced with subtle hints of masala. Great food, great drinks, and fabulous themed nights throughout the week; what’s not to love? Sheesha, known locally as ‘hookah,’ is almost a way of life in the snazzy Banjara Hills district, and the oneof-a-kind Sheesha Sky Lounge (, +91 40 65797565) celebrates this lifestyle with

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Out & About The best way to see Hyderabad’s rich history is to visit Golkonda (www., +91 40 2351 2401). Meaning ‘Shepherd’s Hill’ in Telugu, the district was legendary for its medieval diamond mines which unearthed the priceless Koh-i-Noor and Hope diamonds. Rising well above the city’s skyline, Golkonda was once home to a distinguished 16th century sultanate and boasts a massive fort rendered in a gorgeous Indo-Islamic architectural style that reflects the city’s cultural diversity. Whether you’re visiting the court grounds of the Kakatiya dynasty, the Qutb Shahi’s palatial gardens, or Aurangzeb’s pavilions and victory gates, Golkonda is teeming with history. Despite having a reputation for being a hub of heavy industry and finance, Hyderabad is also a mecca for the arts.

The Ravindra Bharathi National Theatre (,

a passion. An assortment of popular flavours– green apple and peppermint are house favourites – to puff over low-rise tables surrounded by plush cushions in Arabic-style tents makes for the perfect place to relax with a group of friends. The charming ambience is completed by the delicate aromas emanating from the Mughalai-style kitchen, where the chefs serve up platters of grilled meats and fried titbits. Don’t leave without trying the chapli kebab.

premium labels such as Gordon’s, Grey Goose, and Bacardi. Looking, as it does, like the scene for a boisterous Bollywood dance number, it’s no wonder that this is the city’s most popular spot for local celebrities.

+9140 2323 3672) prides itself on hosting some of India’s finest displays of South Indian culture, including Bharatanatyam dance, Kathakali drama, and Carnatic music. With concerts and performances held nearly every night on the theatre’s grand stage, the opportunity to experience some of India’s rich cultural heritage should not be missed.

The city’s hottest party destination, Bottles & Chimney (www., +01 40 8587 0000), is set in Begumput and guarantees the ultimate clubbing experience. Priding itself on being one of Hyderabad’s first nightclubs, the space features trendy lounges, top DJs at the decks, and massive LED screens lighting up the dance floor. The bar offers a range of classic cocktails and spirits, and uses 31

Profile for Don Pierre Riosa

Explorer FEB 2015  

Explorer FEB 2015