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Rail Journeys

Trans-Siberian Thrill


Stress-Busting Oases

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.

T: +61(0)410324535



Publisher’s Letter


elcome to another issue of Explorer, the

environmentally-friendly travel magazine for true world wanderers. Summer is coming to an end in the north, and the days are set to warm in the south, making it a perfect time for last-minute ski vacations, a spot of tropical indulgence, and great family holidays to the world’s farthest corners. In this issue we have a ton of adventures and unique experiences on offer for travellers of all ages and inclinations. We have some of the best wellness retreats in Asia Pacific, perfect havens for both the mind and body, we visit The Farm, the Philippines’ leading house of healing, and delve into tropical family-friendly luxury in Mauritius, one of the Indian Ocean’s least developed but most beautiful locales. We follow our taste buds through the kitchens and cooking streets of Macau, a former Portuguese territory near Hong Kong that’s home to the world’s first fusion cuisine, before Richard Green whisks us away to Russia on the famed Trans-Siberian Express, the world’s most remarkable rail journey. Finally, you’ll read about how Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific continues to thrill those lucky souls in business class, before setting sail with the local fishermen of the Maldives in our latest Reader’s Report. Where ever you’re travelling, and what ever kind of adventure you’re looking to have, I’m sure Explorer will be your trusty digital guide. Safe travels.

David Leung Publisher


A tribute created by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is one of India’s biggest tourist attractions. Credit: Silversea

Once a dominant mode of transportation, the gondolas of Venice now cater mostly to tourists. Credit: Holly Goddard

You Beauty Fantasia, a traditional exhibition of horsemanship performed during cultural festivals in Morocco, is inspired by historical wartime attacks of Berber and Arabian desert riders. Credit: Moroccan National Tourist Office

St Issac’s Cathedral in the heart of St Petersburg is an increasingly popular destination for travellers as Russia continues to warm to tourism. Credit: Nick Walton 4

The Treasury, in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra, was famously immortalised in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Credit: Mike Stone

Part of Bangkok’s Grand Palace complex, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Credit: Abigail Silver

From stunning architecture to breathtaking natural wonders, the world is waiting for you to explore.

Visitors to Antarctica can get up close and personal with inquisitive wildlife like these Emperor Penguins and Fur Seals in South Georgia. Credit: Aurora Expeditions

The ancient market streets of Gdansk in Poland have been selling Baltic amber for centuries. Credit: Nick Walton 5


Jodhpur Rajasthan International Folk Festival

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Folk art forms become the focus of Jodhpur’s cultural scene as it prepares to host the Jodhpur Rajasthan International Folk Festival. Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon in Northern India, the festival promotes Indian heritage by inviting over 250 artists to perform traditional music and dances, and display colourful artwork. The highlight of the festival sees musicians play inspiring early-morning ragas with the fiery sunrise in the background, allowing attendees to appreciate the nuances of Indian culture.

London’s Tate Modern does justice to Henri Matisse’s rich artistic talent in an exhibition of his Cut-Outs, brought together for the first time in over 50 years. The gallery showcases 120 incredible pieces of artwork created between 1936 and 1954, when poor health prevented Matisse from painting. Matisse’s mastery of light and colour is evident in famous pieces such as The Snail, Memory of Oceania, and Large Composition with Masks, alongside a collection of Matisse’s renowned Blue Nudes.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, India October 8 – 12, 2014

Tate Modern, London, UK April 17 – September 7, 2014

Nagasaki Kunchi

Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival

Immerse yourself in the richness of Japanese culture as you bear witness to the lively festival of Nagasaki Kunchi, a festival celebrating the city’s diverse history. With a tradition stretching back more than 370 years, spectators are enthralled by the parade featuring massive ship floats and dragon dances that pay homage to the city’s Dutch and Chinese influences. However, the highlights of the festival are the traditional Japanese performances and colourful ethnic performances that engage and tease the senses.

Gathering gastronomic talent from around the world, the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival aims to thrill taste-buds with a host of cuisines and wines. Featuring celebrity chefs like Mario Batali and Alain Ducasse, as well as sommeliers like Andrea Robinson, the event promises worldclass dishes and fine wines from local and international vineyards. Check out the intimate dinner hosted by Alain Ducasse and be spoilt with French bistro delights.

Nagasaki, Japan October 7 – 9, 2014


New York City, USA October 16 – 19, 2014

Fine Art Asia 2014


October 4 – 7, 2014

Theresienwiese, Munich, Germany September 20 – October 5, 2014

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Fine Art Asia 2014 will transform Hong Kong into a haven for all things art. Attracting thousands of collectors, dealers, and enthusiasts, the exhibition hosts 100 distinct collections featuring ancient Chinese antiques alongside Himalayan bronzes, classical French furniture, and contemporary art. Watch demonstrations, attend lectures, and analyse artefacts in an exploration of culture and philosophy.

What began as a town’s celebration of a royal marriage in 1810 has now evolved into Oktoberfest, an international event attracting more than six million people to the world’s largest celebration of beer. The first day kicks off with the ceremonial tapping of the first beer keg at noon, while the rest of the festival sees revellers enjoy quality local brews and Bavarian delicacies in cavernous tents, along with plenty of music, dancing, and carnival attractions.

POP Montreal 2014

Ryder Cup 2014

POP Montreal 2014 is a must for any pop-rock music lover. The international music festival features local talent as well as big names in the industry like A Tribe Called Red, Sheryl Crow, and Suzanne Vega, amongst many others. However, the festival is more than just a series of concerts; POP also promotes contemporary film and art, giving insight to the city’s ever-evolving cultural scene.

Scotland, the traditional home of golf, will play host to the 2014 Ryder Cup in September. Played on the same greens on which King James IV learned the game in the 15th century, this year’s competition will see Team USA go head to head with Team Europe in a battle for golfing supremacy. In a game where skill and precision is essential to victory, the Ryder Cup is sure to be an exciting display of technical mastery.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong

Montreal, Canada September 17 – 21, 2014

Gleneagles, Scotland September 23 – 28, 2014 7


ENTERTAINMENT AT SEA Miami-based cruise line Regent Seven Seas is taking entertainment at sea to new heights with the introduction of 12 exciting new productions aboard three ships. Produced by Jean Ann Ryan Productions, the shows combine world-class theatrical, musical, and acrobatic performances, and utilise a new full-stage LED video wall that helps transport guests to exotic locales like the Moulin Rouge, or the set of a classic television show. The shows vary in their musical and stylistic content, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Standout shows include Cirque Rock ‘n Roll, which sees jaw-dropping aerial performances set to music from Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, and Beyoncé; Film Flashback, where the 80s come to life with iconic moments from Flashdance, Footloose, and Dirty Dancing; Broadway Tonight, where guests can sing along to music from hit Broadway shows like Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages; and Dancing to the Hits, a spellbinding display of ballroom dance set to pop music by artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Adele. The shows will be featured aboard three of the line’s ships – Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Mariner, and Seven Seas Voyager – each of which have recently emerged from a multi-million dollar refurbishment and now boast new two-deck high, state-of-the-art theatres. LONDON’S LITERARY TRIBUTE London will pay homage to a host of literary (and some perhaps less literary) greats in a unique initiative titled Books About Town. Until September 15, 50 eye-catching ‘BookBench’ sculptures, designed by local artists and famous names can be seen scattered around central London, celebrating the city’s long literary heritage. Among the benches are tributes to Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare, as well as icons like Paddington Bear, Mary Poppins, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr Seuss. Four trails through different areas of London allow visitors to see different benches, as well as some of the city’s landmarks. The Greenwich Trail goes through Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory; the Bloomsbury offers access to literary sites like Charles Dickens’ house, and the British Museum; the City Trail takes you to the heart of London, with monuments like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London; while the Riverside Trail allows you to stroll by the Thames, taking in the sights of London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, and The Shard 8

CELEBRITY TRAVEL INSIDERS London-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts have named three new personalities to their lineup of Rosewood Curators, each of which are linked to Rosewood properties in exotic locales. Tennis it-girl Maria Sharapova joins the program as Curator for Rosewood Mayakoba, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, where guests can learn her vacation fitness regime and find her favourite pottery stores in Playa del Carmen. For those visiting the Texan properties of Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek or Rosewood Crescent, retail entrepreneur Brian Bolke provides insider knowledge of Dallas’ vibrant shopping and arts scene, giving guests access to the best vintage stores and quintessential local experiences. The final Curator to be named to the program is celebrated designer and model India Hicks, who assists guests of Rosewood at Baha Mar, in the Bahamas, in understanding the local traditions of Junkanoo, finding the best conch salad in Nassau, and discovering the islands’ hidden treasures. Launched in September 2013, the Rosewood Curators program sees high-profile personalities share their favourite haunts and experiences at Rosewood destinations across the globe. Sharapova, Bolke, and Hicks join the 14 existing Rosewood Curators which includes former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, journalist Piers Morgan, and singer Sarah McLachlan.

SYDNEY’S WILD SIDE Visitors to Sydney can experience a compelling nature-based experience with the recent opening of Zoo2Q, a unique outdoor adventure offering a taste of ‘glamping’ and hiking in the heart of Australia’s biggest city. Over a three-day, two-night fully-guided journey, guests will explore some of Sydney’s most spectacular natural and cultural wonders. The backto-nature experience starts with a cross-harbour trip from Circular Quay to the ever-popular Taronga Zoo, where guests will get up-close-and-personal with some true blue Australian wildlife, before going on to see ancient Aboriginal rock art, and spending the night at the zoo’s world-famous Roar & Snore site, where they’ll sleep in luxury safari tents in view of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The following day, the expedition continues with a 15-kilometre walk through the Sydney Harbour National Park to the sumptuous Q Station at Manly, where guests can recover from the day’s exertions with dinner at the award-winning Boilerhouse Harbourside Restaurant & Bar. Zoo2Q departs every second and fourth Sunday each month. 9


THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL BUDDY The ultimate luggage for globetrotting tots, the 3D Travel Buddies from TrendyKid thrills kids with their colourful, whimsical appearance, while their parents will appreciate their functional, practical design. Available in several designs – including the Archie Alien, Lola Ladybug, Popo Parrot, and Rusty Robot, - the eye-catching luggage is sets include a wheelie case and a backpack. The 18-inch wheelie case meets airline carry-on regulations, and features colorcoordinated easy-roll wheels, a carry handle and retractable pull handle, while inside, the polyester lining, diving pocket, zip compartment, and garment straps ensure efficient packing. The separate backpack is spacious yet easy to carry, and includes adjustable back straps, a zipped inner compartment, and Velcro sides to make sure no toys try to escape. Designed by kids, for kids, the 3D Travel Buddies are the perfect travel solution for vacations, school trips, or sleepovers, and give kids an added thrill when leaving for a sojourn. From GBP50 (US$85) per set.

MASTERFUL ILLUSIONS The illusion-centric Trick Eye Museum has opened at Resorts World Sentosa and is guaranteed to captivate kids and adults alike. Singapore’s first 3D museum brings 80 paintings and optical illusions to life in a immersive and interactive experience where guests become part of the installations through cutouts and photo-altering effects. The museum is divided into six themed zones - World of Masterpieces, Safari Kingdom, Star of Circus, Dreams of Fairy Tale, Love in Winter, and Adventure Discovery. As they make their way through the displays, guests will have the chance to get up close and personal with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Michaelangelo’s David; traipse through bamboo forests with pandas; interact with familiar characters like the Three Musketeers and Puss in Boots; and experience the Ice Age. The Singapore outlet is the first overseas foray for the Trick Eye Museum, the Seoul-based venture that has captivated visitors with its trompe l’oeil paintings since it opened in December 2010.


BRICKS OF KNOWLEDGE This summer, kids can have fun while keeping their minds engaged at a series of innovative workshops at the Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto. The three workshops are designed to correspond with Ontario’s education curriculum and introduce and reinforce the ideas learned in the classroom, and each one is geared to specific school grades. For the kindergarten set, the Design and Technology-focused Tall Towers Junior teaches tots to follow directions, recognise shapes and patterns, and develop fine motor skills as they build Lego towers. Tall Towers, for those in grades one through three, introduces young students to the design and engineering considerations behind the construction of skyscrapers by letting them build Lego towers and test them on ‘Earthquake Tables.’ For the older kids, those in grades four through six, the Race Car Workshop combines elements of design and technology, science, and maths by getting them to build Lego cars, indulge in track racing, then collect data and use their maths skills to evaluate their cars’ performance. The educational program has been created to offer young minds the opportunity to think critically about how things are built, play and learn in teambased workshops, and develop interests in professional industries like architecture, engineering, and art.

BEHIND THE SCENES Starline Tours, the leading celebrity tour company in Los Angeles, has partnered with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) to launch a new landmark-heavy tour that takes die-hard movie buffs to some of the most recognisable movie locations in the city. The three-hour Movie Locations Tour of Los Angeles combines over 50 filming locations, movie clips presented on a 65-inch HDTV screen, and expert TCM commentary as participants are driven around Los Angeles aboard a speciallydesigned panoramic viewing bus boasting panoramic windows and retractable side windows and skylights. The tour covers movie locations through Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles, visiting architectural and panoramic landmarks that have featured in a range of movies like Transformers, Fast & Furious, Pretty Woman, The Aviator, LA Confidential, Rebel Without a Cause, and early movies starring Charlie Chaplin and Mae West. Highlights of the tour include the Bradbury Building Interior, which has appeared in Blade Runner and The Artist; Hollywood Boulevard, which featured in The Italian Job and Iron Man; and the Union Station interior which was seen in The Dark Knight Rises and Catch Me If You Can. During the summer, tours are scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 930am and 130pm; and Mondays and Thursdays at 130pm. 11


Indian Ocean Potential The recently-opened Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa is the latest five-star addition to the Indian Ocean island. Gayatri Bhaumik checks in to see what the property has to offer.


utrigger Hotels and Resorts has made a name creating beautiful beachside resorts around the world, and it recently made its first foray into the Indian Ocean with the Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa, a rebranded property in the island’s south that’s been given new life with a multi-million dollar makeover. However, while the property has some great features, it doesn’t quite live up to its promise of five-star luxury. The 181 guest rooms here are spacious, comfortable, and designed with a simple beachside feel that’s in keeping with the surrounds, with a collection of family-friendly rooms featuring a separate area for the kids and bunk beds. Yet


confronted by a desk barely big enough to write on, the glaring omission of a coffee machine, and somewhat erratic housekeeping – used champagne glasses remained outside the neighbouring room for nearly two days - you feel this isn’t quite what you expect from a five-star resort, and that perhaps some of the renovations were rushed. Like other resorts, the Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa has several international dining outlets, and these are some of the treats to be found here. Breakfasts at the market-style Mercado restaurant were a real treat – the omelette with everything was a delight – while beachside seafood lunches at Willie’s Rum and Crab Shack or Edgewater Bar and Grill wouldn’t go amiss, even if it can be confusing to work out which items on the menu are included with the full-board package. Unfortunately several dining experiences were tainted by strangely slow service that, with mostly-empty restaurants and hoards of staff, went unexplained. The resort fares better when it comes to the amenities and services it offers. The pool at the Plantation Club – the newly-built colonial-style executive lounge – is great for whiling away a few hours, although the garden pool, wreathed by cabanas, sunloungers, and a small bar, was a favourite. However, the castle-like Navasana Spa was easily the standout feature of the resort. Built around a leafy central courtyard, the spa offers a full complement of wellness rituals – the indulgent massage was definitely relaxing, nearly soporific – and features a gorgeous Middle-eastern inspired area that boasts saunas, a hammam, and a jacuzzi. No trip to Mauritius is complete without enjoying the Indian Ocean, and you’ll find myriad complimentary water activities on offer, including snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, and water-skiing, although it’s not made clear where to go or who to see to indulge. Ask the concierge to organise a dolphin tour; I spent a morning on one, and snorkelling in open water while a pod of wild dolphins frolic near the ocean bed below is a not-to-be-missed experience. The Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa holds promise, and with careful attention to detail and a steady addressing of teething issues which can easily be rectified, the property could prove competitive in this market, and delight guests for years to come. Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa Allee des Cocotiers, Bel Ombre, Savanne, Mauritius, +230-623-5000, 13


Finding Your Inner Peace For many regular travellers, stress is an unwanted but constant bed fellow. Meeting deadlines, watching budgets, travelling through time zones and juggling work and personal lives can all lead to increased stress levels on the road. Make lowering your stress levels a new resolution with these refreshing and revitalising anti-stress wellness rituals and treatments.



idding yourself of stress doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, some of the most effective anti-stress treatments are the most soothing wellness treatments available. Heat is a great way to relieve pent up tension in muscles, especially in the neck and back. On the volcanic island of Bali, the spa at Karma Jimbaran has introduced a Sandalwood Stone Massage that helps relieve tension on these vital muscle groups. The heated volcanic stones are dipped in organic rose and sandalwood oils and placed down the length of the spine, stimulating energy flow and purging tension and stress. Business travellers bound for Dehli can be forgiven for their mounted stress; traffic delays, bureaucracy, and cross-cultural confusion all play havoc. Fortunately the luxurious Leela Place New Dehli, located in the city’s Diplomatic enclave, features a spa that knows a thing or two about stress relief. The Executive Stress Buster ritual focuses on the lower back, shoulders, and neck and includes a skin brushing and exfoliation treatment, before a full-body hot stone massage. This indulgent journey finishes with a scalp massage that relieves tension and restores energy levels. In addition, if you’ve had a hard night at the tables, the spa at the Banyan Tree Macau combines a hot stone massage with a lotus and rice body conditioner and a herbal bath to ease aching muscles and discharge toxins while leaving the mind clear and focused.

Based on the similar heat transferring process, the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui offers a new Ku Nye Tibetan massage that uses a blend of five essential oils and salt in a heated Himalayan poultice infused with marigold and lavender to energise the body’s meridian lines and draw out tension from the back, chest, and legs. Another popular practice for gentle stress reduction is reflexology, an alternative medicine that focuses on pressure points in the feet, hands, and ears. These pressure points are manipulated without oil or lotions, to help relieve tension. After a long day on your feet in Hong Kong, pamper yourself with the Oriental Food Reflexology treatment at the Ritz Carlton Spa by ESPA at the towering Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. The treatment is conducted in one of the spa’s lavish spa suites and focuses on the various pressure points and their corresponding body systems. The 60-minute treatment focuses on individual guest needs according to the pressure point manipulation, and afterward, take a dip in the pool on the 118th floor. Another popular stress relief using pressure points is the Japanese art of shiatsu. Using finger and palm pressure, a shiatsu practitioner reduces stress and tension throughout the body. Created by Tokujiro Namikoshi and perfected at his first college in 1940, shiatsu incorporates elements of traditional Chinese medicine and is also used to reduce anxiety and depression. The Peninsula Spa at the 15


Peninsula Tokyo offers a comprehensive shiatsu wellness journey over 50 minutes or 80 minutes. Created to help restore the body Qi to balance and equilibrium, specialist therapists use fingers, palms, and elbows to manipulate pressure points to correct energy flows. Guests stay clothed, as is the tradition for shiatsu, and the result is a stress-free body and mind. But it’s not just the mind that needs soothing. There are several therapies that de-stress and rejuvenate the body that prey on our other senses. Meditation maybe not be for everyone but it can be an effective tool against the effects of stress on the body and mind. Meditation is the practice of training one’s mind to induce a mode of consciousness that promotes clear thinking and relaxation. There are many different styles, some of which you can learn at Ananda in the Himalayas, a destination spa at the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. Formerly the home to the Maharajah of Tehri-Garhwal, the 100-acre estate is just the place to clear your mind and find a slice of inner peace. One on one meditation sessions are tailored to the needs of each guest and incorporate Buddhist teachings and yoga breathing practices. When you’re not having a spiritual moment you can enjoy treatments in the 21,000sq ft spa, explore the temple villages of Haridwar 16

and Rishikesh, or try your new found mental powers on the Maharajah’s billiards table. Aromatherapy is another alternative medicine that uses essential oils and the sense of smell to alter a state of mind and health. The process of using the aroma of spices, herbs, and oils has existed since the first century and ingredients like lavender, eucalyptus, rose, and tea tree oil are common in aromatherapy clinics. Take your nose on holiday with you to Anantara Kihavah in the Maldives, where a signature Stress Release Massage uses strokes and acupressure, combined with a special formulation of essential oils, to rid the body and mind of anxiety and stress. Combined with a floral foot ritual, it’s the perfect way to leave the rat race far behind. You couldn’t ask for a more relaxing place to start the year off than the Spa de Constance at the new look Constance Le Prince Maurice in tropically idyllic Mauritius. The resort recently emerged from an extensive refurbishment and its elegant spa complex boasts an indulgent list of stress busting aromatic treatments, including the 120-minute Esprit du Rhum, an innovative ritual that uses locally-sourced aged amber rum, as well as vanilla and cinnamon in a muscle-melting wrap. Finish off with the Massage Fusion, a treatment that marries Thai, Shiatsu, and Swedish massage traditions and focuses on the nervous system to soothe and regenerate a stressed body and soul. 17


The Healthly Road Less Travelled Gayatri Bhaumik visits The Farm at San Benito in the Philippines and discovers how an unassuming property in an unlikely destination has made a name for itself.



don’t consider myself particularly wellness

orientated, so it’s probably a good thing that my first retreat experience is at a property that’s become something of a cult favourite in Asia. The Philippines isn’t an obvious choice for a health retreat, but The Farm at San Benito, a quiet, unassuming wellness resort about two hours from Manila, has won awards for its cuisine and accolades for its medical services, allowing it to standout in the Asian health scene.

My initiation into wellness starts at the property’s ‘Alive!’ restaurant, where all vegan, mostly raw cuisine is designed to kick-start the body’s internal rebalancing. ‘Living’ cuisine is the driving concept here, so specially-designed dehydrators are used to ‘cook’ raw ingredients without destroying their nutritional value and enzymes, allowing diners to reap their full health benefits. The food is fresh and creative, no doubt the reason it’s won many accolades, and although the sudden, drastic change in diet was, for me, initially a shock to the system, I adjusted quickly. The pasta carbonara helped; a menu staple featuring ‘bacon’ made from coconut, swimming in a sauce of cashew butter and coconut milk, and finished with ‘cheese’ and walnuts, it was almost as heavenly as the real thing; accompanied by a glass of wine, I almost forgot I was ‘eating healthy’.

am scheduled to try one of the medical treatments The Farm has built a strong reputation for. While some wellness retreats offer medical services, few integrate them into the experience so completely as The Farm, where they are central to the overall experience. The Clinic, overseen by well-qualified professionals, offers everything from colon hydrotherapy to acupuncture and everything in between. Most guests spend quite a bit of time at the clinic, viewing the medical services as a necessary element of their overall health. I opted for a nutritional microscopy, a treatment innocuous enough for a newbie, where a drop of blood is put under a microscope, and the cells are analysed for insight into the patient’s health. Not that I expected different, but it was comforting to see proof positive of my good health.

Many destination retreats boast about using local produce in their cuisine, but The Farm takes this a step further by growing their own ingredients on site. Everything from tomatoes and okra to avocado and snow peas is grown in the extensive Organic Garden next to the restaurant, while the Kitchen Garden provides a host of fresh herbs like tarragon and basil. Even wheatgrass, a popular crutch of health aficionados, is grown onsite in a dedicated Wheatgrass Bungalow. Later, when I visit the Healing Sanctuary – the spa – for an afternoon of pampering, I discover that The Farm also creates an array of products using ingredients grown on site. The fresh coconut grounds

and cold-pressed coconut oil used in my treatment are crafted from coconuts grown in the property’s working plantation, which also supplies the raw materials for coconutderived ingredients at the restaurant. The next stage of my initiation takes me to the Clinic, where I, admittedly nervous,

Few would think of the Philippines as a wellness destination, yet with steadfast dedication to purpose, The Farm at San Benito is consistently ranked among the best retreats in Asia. Its muchlauded healthy, enticing cuisine; its perseverance in growing as much of its own fresh produce as possible; the use of home-grown natural products in spa treatments and throughout the property; and a comprehensive lineup of integrated medical services are just some of the features which have allowed The Farm to make a name for itself. Coupled with its lush environment, well-appointed accommodations, roster of daily activities, and oasis-like spa, it’s no wonder dedicated followers of wellness flock here.The Farm at San Benito, 119 Barangay Tipakan, Lipa, Philippines, +63-2-884-8074, www. 19


Coastal Cruisin’ Atlantic Canada, with its miles of coastline and open roads, is the ideal touring destination for those travellers looking to get out on the highway and look for adventure. A self-drive holiday is the perfect way to explore the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where the roads are wide and often deserted. Passing by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, lighthouses, fishing villages, and vineyards. the region offers plenty of scenic routes to choose from this summer, but this year’s top picks are:


New Brunswick

Fundy Coastal Drive (390km)

This route takes visitors along the Bay of Fundy coastline, home to the highest tides in the world, and stretches from Aulac to St Stephen. Passing through the cities of Saint John and Moncton as well as the coastal town St Andrews by the Sea, visitors should look out for whales breaching off the coast, discover fossil-filled mudflats, visit the Hopewell Rocks, and explore the coastal islands. For a true coastal experience, spend a day island-hopping and whalewatching around the Fundy Isles; Grand Manan, Campobello, and Deer islands.

Acadian Coastal Drive (440km)

Running north to south, along the eastern coast of New Brunswick from Dalhousie to Aulac, this drive passes sandy beaches, fishing villages, and coastal towns. The Acadian Coastal route area is known for its excellent beaches and some of Canada’s warmest swimming beaches are located on this drive. Along the route travellers will experience the French Acadian culture and the joie de vivre of the Acadian people who share their story, culture, and cuisine with visitors at attractions including the Acadian Village, local festivals, and Le Pays de la Sagouine; an exciting living museum. There are also plenty of opportunities to dine on delicious fresh seafood.

Newfoundland and Labrador The Irish Loop (312km)

The Irish loop starts at St. John’s and heads south into the heart of Irish Newfoundland, where whales, seabirds, and caribou can been seen, before circling back to the capital. The area is named after the Irish immigrants that first inhabited this part of Newfoundland, and highlights include Aquaforte, where the harbour resembles a Norwegian fjord and Witless Bay Ecological Reserve; home to millions of seabirds every summer. Visitors should also look out for icebergs which drift down from the Arctic in the summer and stop at beaches and hunt for ‘bergies’ (mini chunks of iceberg).

UNESCO World Heritage Trail (1,050km)

There are only 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada and this route takes in three of them; Red Bay National Historic Site, GrosMorne National Park, and the Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. Drivable in four days, travellers will also visit beautiful beaches, glacier-carved fjords, and mountainscapes. 21


Nova Scotia

Wines, Whales, and Whiskey (867km)

Discover the northern edge of the province on the wines, whales, and whiskey tour. The route takes visitors through Nova Scotia’s wine region, the Annapolis Valley, which boasts a number of wineries, including Luckett Vineyard with its signature red phone box in the middle of the grape vines. The route also passes along the Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, ideal for whale watching. Visitors can also try North America’s first single malt whiskey at Glenora Inn & Distillery. Other highlights along the route include Northumberland Shore and Cape Breton.

Cabot Trail (300km)

Known as one of the world’s most scenic drives, The Cabot Trail on the Island of Cape Breton, northeast of Nova Scotia, is home to a 185-mile trail which passes through small fishing villages and a mountainous interior with dense forest, and along shores lapped by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. The trail also passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, home to moose, black bear, and bald eagles. The town of Baddeck, on Bras d’Or Lake, is a good starting point for the drive. From here, visitors can complete the Cabot Trail loop in either direction. Visitors can dine on fresh seafood plucked straight from the Atlantic, overnight in a traditional inn, and hike some 22

of the national park’s 25 trails along the way. The most recommended one would be the Skyline Tail which is just a 15 minutes’ drive from the park entrance.

Prince Edward Island

Central Coastal Drive (198km)

Travel through Anne of Green Gables land on Prince Edward Island’s central coastal drive. Highlights include the coastal resort town of Cavendish and PEI National Park, which has excellent walking routes so travellers can stretch their legs. The route also passes through the quaint town of Victoria-by-the-Sea which has changed very little since the 1950s and visitors can also explore the vibrant capital of Charlottetown at the end.

Points East Coastal Drive (411km)

Ideal for outdoor aficionados, The Points East Coastal Drive passes through parks and trails, as well as six lighthouses which are open to the public during the summer. Other highlights include Greenwich Dunes and the floating boardwalk, cycling the Confederation Trail through Morell and St Peters. Visitors should also head to the beach at Basin Head Provincial Park where the sand ‘sings’ when walked upon. For more information visit



TRANS-SIBERIAN THRILL Richard Green travels one of the world’s

most famous rail lines and discovers that in the jet age the journey can still be more than half the fun.


lickering past the train window are birch trees and patches of spring snow. And this everchanging yet never changing scenery has become the surprising highlight of my time on the Trans-Siberian Express. It’s slow travel at its best, where the chief thrill is the journey itself: the cosy carriages, onboard camaraderie, and the constant edging forward across the vastness of Russia. The whole trip from Moscow to Beijing is a journey of 4,736 miles, which takes six days on an ‘ordinary’ through train, or 16 days on the Tsar’s Gold tourist train, which makes sightseeing stops along the way. This German-run ‘cruising on wheels’ experience is for people who prefer everything pre-booked and arranged in advance and don’t fancy tackling the language barrier on regular Russian trains. I boarded the Tsar’s Gold train in Yekaterinburg, just east of the Ural Mountains, for a three-night ride to Irkutsk, not really knowing what to expect. 23


I learnt that it wasn’t just the Imperial family whose enforced journey eastwards was doomed, when after dinner, Larissa, the guide for us English speakers gave her evening talk on Siberia.

We chugged out of the city and passing the tiny kitchen at the end of the carriage, I entered the toasty dining car and began meeting the jolly group of about 20 English speakers. Most passengers on the train are German, but the ‘English’ group on this trip were Brits, Danes, Dutch, Italians, Americans, and a Spaniard. We were together for meals and tours. It was nice to warm through, eat a hearty meal of fish salad, cabbage soup, and ‘beef in Russian Monastic Manner’, and move on from the gloomy spots that I’d visited before boarding in Yekaterinburg. In 1918, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot, mutilated, and then dumped down a well there. 24

“It’s been a place of exile for 300 years, with perhaps 21 million inmates passing through the gulags in total,” said sparky Larissa. The majority of people were sent east during Stalin’s time, when he expanded the isolated prison camps. “Even on the trains,” said Larissa, “There were gun emplacements on the top of the carriages and hooks underneath to kill anyone trying to escape”. I wouldn’t fancy anyone’s chances in this wilderness. Between the cities there was barely a sign of life, save for a meagre hut or two close by the train tracks every few hours. I’d imagined that the size of towns would grow smaller and cuter as the train trundled further into Siberia, but Novosibirsk, the first stop after Yekaterinburg and 2,000

On my last night aboard the train I returned to my compartment tipsy from a robust vodka tasting evening with Larissa and the group. I fell asleep wondering if she had really said that Tsar Peter the Great had made dancing and moustaches compulsory? We joked as the train approached Irkutsk – “Yes, Peter the Great really did that!” beamedLarissa. Then after my 100-hour stint on the train, I popped back to the compartment for a last stare into the birch forests.

miles east of Moscow, was big and bombastic. Soviet-era edifices here included the country’s largest opera house, and a prominent Lenin statue flanked by five heroic workers. At Krasnoyarsk, while other passengers were having a city tour, I asked train manager Hans for a peek in all the carriages. Squeezing past a large man with a small vacuum cleaner, I entered the Classic category of cabin - a basic compartment with two bench seats that convert to four bunks, with shared toilets at either end of the carriage. It costs about £4,000 oneway per person. “All of our classes include the same meals, and sightseeing”, said Hans, as we moved briskly down the corridor. The windows of the Nostalgia cabin, with one shower shared between two cabins, were being cleaned inside and out – “so our guests can always take good photographs”, he explained. At the front of the train were swish, modern

The monotony had become magical, the carriages homely, and several of the group were now friends. What a cracking experience, and what a wrench to leave for my six-hour flight back to Moscow. Bolshoi Class compartments with double beds and an ensuite toilet and shower. I caught up with the group walking towards the city with local guide Irena. Siberia may conjure an empty freezing wasteland to us, but almost 25 million people live here, in an area about the size of China. Down by the river promenade, the spring sun was enlivening everyone’s spirits. Sitting on the open deck of a large pleasure boat I fell into a backslapping beer-fuelled chat with some young Russian lads about football and pop music.

Travel Notes The Russia Experience (trans-siberian.; 0845 521 2910) has a 16-day Tsar’s Gold train journey from Moscow to Beijing (or vice-versa) starting from GBP3,580 (US$6,000) per person in standard category based on two people travelling excluding flights. The “classic” journey costs from GBP2,065 (US$3,461) per person for an 18-day trip between St Petersburg and Beijing (again based on two people travelling and excluding flights). If budget is no problem then the top-of-the-range Golden Eagle starts from GBP9,695 (US$16,253). 25


New Kid on the Block With brilliant levels of service and a world-class product, Cathay Pacific’s arrival on the Hong Kong-Maldives route will put real pressure on existing airlines flying to one of Asia’s favourite playgrounds, discovers Nick Walton. Background

Celebrating its sixth month flying direct between Hong Kong and the Maldivian capital Malé, Cathay Pacific is the first true full-service island connecting the Fragrant Harbour with the Indian Ocean archipelago, doing so with a state-of-theart aircraft and levels of service that are bound to worry the competition.


Departing from Hong Kong, I checked in my luggage at the Hong Kong Island Airport Express Station, meaning I could make my way to the airport, boarding pass 26

in hand, in my own time. Cathay’s business and Marco Polo members were served in a designated counter, which made things much faster. The check-in staff noticed a maintenance message on my preferred seat and managed to find me another window seat without any fuss – always better than finding out the hard way when I board.

The Lounge

Cathay Pacific’s business and first class passengers are spoilt for choice at Hong Kong International Airport, with several

signature lounges to choose from. As my flight was departing from gate 16, I used the G16 lounge located on the mezzanine above the concourse. Although it perhaps lacks some of the flashiness of the likes of The Wing and The Cabin, G16 is a hidden gem; it’s never crowded, the soaring ceilings of the airport above give a sense of space and light, and its proximity to the departure gates below couldn’t be better. Cheerful staff welcomed me and I quickly found a corner overlooking the airport apron, a Gin and Tonic, and a plug for my laptop.


With the departure gate directly below I was able to time my departure from the lounge perfectly and walked straight onto the air bridge. More cheerful staff greeted me at the aircraft door and escorted me to my seat, 12A.


I was surprised to find Cathay Pacific operating an A330-200 with its newest generation business class on the predominately leisure route but it was a welcomed sight none the less. The newlook business class seat really is a perfect example of intelligent design; every passenger gets access to the aisle and window lovers get three to themselves. There is ample privacy without a sense of being trapped; plenty of storage space, including a little cupboard for smaller items and one specifically for shoes; great connectivity with USB, iPod, and AC points; noise-cancelling headphones and a brilliant 15-inch personal touch screen.

Smiling, happy staff served chilled glasses of Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne, piping hot towels, and amenity kits (which is impressive for such a short flight) in preparation for the 5.45pm departure, which was only slightly delayed by the late arrival of the aircraft. A senior attendant confirmed my request for a special meal (organised by an overly zealous travel agent – I’m allergic to quails eggs of all things!) and generally made me feel like the only passenger in the 36-strong cabin. The captain give a clear and concise briefing of the six-hour flight ahead, and I sat back to let one of the world’s top airlines do their thing.

roasted tomato and a lamb jus; Tandoori spiced chicken with murg, pulao and vegetable korma; and spinach and saffron tortellini with tomato and roasted pepper sauce. The tandoori chicken was succulent and perfectly spiced, and the portion was well measured. Dinner was matched with Cathay’s signature wines, which include a sensational Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and a Zonte’s Footstep Chocolate Factory Shiraz from Australia. The mains were followed by a series of New Zealand and French cheeses and a rather indulgent blueberry swirl cheesecake with mixed berry compote.

The Crew

With a great pre-flight product, a fantastic inflight product, the youngest and most modern jets on the route, and some of the best crews flying the skies today, Cathay Pacific seem very comfortable in their position as regional leader with global reach.

I fly business very regularly, on an assortment of aircraft and airlines, and have to say the crew on this particular flight to Malé were the best I’ve ever encountered. Attentive, intuitive, approachable, and efficient, they worked well as a team and as individuals, serving diligently, working the cabin in sweeps, and never hiding behind the curtain as others have been known to do. They generally epitomised what modern business class service should be – clean, warm, and intelligent.


Note: The author flew on a fully paidfor business class ticket without the knowledge of the airline mentioned.


On our night flight to Malé we were offered a Cajun spiced prawn and green mango salad, which was light and zesty, followed by a choice of steamed halibut with spiced termite mushroom, jade melon with deep-fried garlic, medlar seeds and jasmine rice; roasted lamb chop with polenta mash, fava beans, 27

A DAY IN ...

Macau Cuisine

Welcoming visitors from around the globe, the pint-sized former Portuguese colony of Macau offers foodies a kaleidoscope of taste sensations and a unique culinary culture that has one foot in the past and one firmly planted in tomorrow.


he sleepy village of Coloane never seems to get busy, no matter what day of the week it is or how bustling the nearby casinos get. Down its ancient cobble stoned laneways, the utterly addictive aroma of freshly baked cakes, muffins, and tarts waft, heralding the start of business of one of Macau’s most iconic culinary institutions. At Lord Stow’s (1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane; openfaced bakery, bakers hustle with massive trays of cookies, dense chocolate cakes, and delicate pastries above their heads,


in a rush to meet the morning queues outside. Around the corner, the bakery’s small cafe is already serving up a storm of cappuccinos and iconic egg tarts. Lord Stow’s egg tarts are legendary in this part of Asia and despite plenty of franchises serving up mirror images of these unique sweets, there is nothing like starting your day off with the real thing, fresh from the oven. They also serve to illustrate Macau’s unique culinary scene. Although Macau’s egg tarts seem timeless in their popularity, Lord Stow’s tarts were only invented in 1984 and are in fact younger than many

of the people who catch the bus down to the village from the glitter and glam of the Cotai Strip to eat them. To follow your tastebuds across Macau is to taste the past, the present, and in many cases the future of Asian cuisine. For a breakfast that’s a bit more substantial, head to one of Macau’s many cha chaan tengs, local restaurants that serve up classic working class dishes like macaroni in chicken broth with minced beef and egg, or the hearty nam peng sandwich, fluffy white crustless bread with fried egg, spam, and barbeque pork. For an authentic

with photographers as it does with the hungry. Be sure to pick up a batch of freshly baked almond cookies, steamed buns stuffed with egg custard, or cellophane-wrapped slices of sticky preserved beef. For dinner, you’ll find the pedigree of Macau’s traditional dining scene at the pastel pink Clube Militar de Macau (975 Avenida da Praia Grande;, a former military barracks that’s now home to the city’s culinary association. Built in 1870 and located beside the Grand Lisboa, the club still features its original arched windows, polished timber floors, and antique Chinese dishware, while the restaurant has superbly stuck to the classics, with a decisive nod to Portuguese flavours and textures. Dishes to look out for include the grilled king prawns in olive oil, with coriander and garlic; bass steaks roasted “á la plancha” with Portuguese smoked ham and mint; and the roasted suckling pig “Bairrada” style, served with pala-pala potatoes. take on breakfast, head for Macau’s most famous cha chaan teng, Cafe Nam Peng (Rua de Cinco de Outubro, Macau). Little has changed here – including the menu – since it opened in the 1970s, and breakfasts are leisurely and very affordable. A few hidden gems still serve up the staples of true Macanese cuisine, including Restaurante Litoral (Rua do Almirante Sergio;, a local culinary icon that’s best enjoyed at lunch time. Its proud, white-washed facade opens to a bustling, family-feel restaurant that’s decked out in wood and bronze not unlike a Portuguese inn. For the past 16 years, Litoral has been taking authentic Macanese cuisine and serving it up to locals jostling for space with tourists in-the-know. Classic favourites include minchi, mince with fried potato and egg; duck rice, hearty tacho meat and vegetable stew; salted bacalhau cod; and Galinha à Portuguesa, pieces of chicken and potato cooked in a mild coconut curry.

Spend your second day in Macau grazing its more contemporary eateries, of which it always has an abundance that’s to the money flowing in at the countless casinos. Brunch is becoming increasingly popular in Macau as weekend visitors look for a happy in-between-meal that means they don’t have to get up too early. The extremely elegant Vida Rica Bar (Mandarin Oriental Macau, Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen; mandarinoriental. com) not only serves up some of the city’s best cocktails at night, but during the day takes advantage of its double-height floor-to-ceiling windows and lavish interiors to create Macau’s top spot for brunch. The Bar puts on an impressive spread; the extensive appetiser buffet, which includes everything from sashimi to roast pork loin, is followed by a choice of delectable mains. Be sure to leave room for the staggering dessert counter stacked with bite-sized morsels like vanilla panna cotta and hand-made chocolates.

Dinner is typically served late in Asia, but you can sustain yourself with the plethora of street snacks available. To fill the gaps between lunch and dinner, visit Taipa Rua da Cunha (Rua da Cunha, Taipa Village), a pedestrianised food street that single-highhandedly keeps many Macanese culinary traditions alive. Here among the shopfront restaurants, with their bright red shutters and awnings - testament to Portugal’s considerable influence - vats bubble, ovens bake, and food seems to be the language, religion, and national sport. Old restaurants like Fat Sin Lau, which opened in 1908, and Portuguese favourite O Santos, which opened on the street 20 years ago, continue to draw in locals and tourists alike, while the historic street remains as popular

If you’ve had a win at the tables and are looking to celebrate, you can’t go past the newly renamed Robuchon au Dôme (43/F Grand Lisboa;, a sensational and elegant Michelin three-star fine-dining restaurant located at the Grand Lisboa Hotel (it was previously named Robuchon A Galera and was located at the original Lisboa). A menu of the acclaimed chef’s classic dishes, including smoked foie gras with horseradish; pan-fried Iberian pork loin with artichoke and capers; and braised ox-tail with black truffle, fregola pasta and white mushroom emulsion, is matched with truly glamorous interiors, views to kill for, and one of the city’s best wine lists. 29

Start your evening out at a new arrival on the city’s culinary scene. With bold cuisine and even bolder interiors, Belon (Galaxy Casino, at the Banyan Tree Macau is named for Brittany’s famed oysters, and offers guests a luxurious culinary encounter, with chef Matias Martinez’s creative dishes matched with aquatic-themed interiors and stunning views from the 31st floor. Guests dining in the ocean-themed dining room, an elegant space of natural stone, rich timber, and coral-hued glass, can enjoy a menu that’s heavy in inventive seafood dishes, including smoked tuna with grapefruit and avocado; Chilean sea bass with green apple and Thai basil; Maine lobster with watermelon kaffir lime infusion; and flambéed lobster claw bisque. But it’s not all from the sea; sous vide pigeon with lychees, strawberries and rose; roasted Korobuta pork belly with garlic coconut emulsion; and a enviable selection of beef cuts from Canada, the US and Australia also make an appearance. Finish off with a Valrhona dark chocolate souffle or the fruit gargouillou with rose, mint, red berries, and marshmallows. If you’re looking for something a little less nautical and a little more authentic, you can’t go past Golden Flower (Rua

Cidade de Sintra; at the Wynn casino. The creation of Golden Flower sounds like the plot of a classic Chinese movie; emissaries sent out to scour the land looking for the most talented “warriors”; grand masters who will come together to fulfill a prophecy. Except, in this instance, the prophecy was passed down by none other than Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn Macau, who wanted to create the world’s best Chinese restaurant, while the ‘masters’ are seven of Mainland China’s top culinary talents. Led by master chef Liu Guo Zhu, they create authentic yet contemporary regional cuisine, matched with an enviable selection of Chinese teas, dished out by a dedicated sommelier. Be sure to book ahead for one of Zhu’s signature menus, served in bright yet elegant surrounds. End your culinary journey in Macau with the city’s newest dining and entertainment venue, Sky 21 (21/F, AIA Tower, 251A, 301 Avenida Comercial de Macau;, a “super luxury” multi-faceted restaurant and entertainment space. The MOP$20 million dollar development combines Sky 21, a pan-Asian dining room, Sky B, an ultra-modern lounge, Sky Life, a chic clubbing space, and Sky Luxe, a luxury shopping counter, all spread across two floors and a roof top deck. Sky 21 is equipped with state-of-the-art acoustics and visual enhancements for live musical performances, while the balcony al fresco dining and rooftop terrace offer stunning views across the city. Sky 21’s Zen-inspired interiors set the mood for chef Daniel Brolese’s delectable pan-Asian dishes, which take their cues from the best of the region’s cuisine, including Chinese, Macanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Indian. Signature treats to look out for include


fried prawn in coconut, a favourite of King Khải Định’s of Vietnam’s Nguyễn Dynasty; steamed sea-bass with lime and chili “Pla Neung Manow” style; and mixed vegetables curry “Navrattan Korma”, a northern Indian style served with saffron rice.

Macanese cuisine is often considered the world’s first true fusion cuisine. Portuguese troops brought to the garrisons of Macau brought with them a taste for the local spices and flavours of Malacca, Brazil, Angola, Goa, Mozambique and other Portuguese colonies. They married into the local community and the men would describe the dishes they had enjoyed abroad to their new Chinese brides, who dutifully worked hard to replicate them. Using exotic produce like turmeric, coconut milk, bacalhau, star anise, and cinnamon, ingredients their husbands had become accustomed to, in addition to Asian ingredients that were easier to find, the women turned Southern Chinese and Portuguese dishes into a whole new cuisine, unique to Macau. But with less young people cooking at home and the city increasingly welcoming new residents from Mainland China, Macanese cuisine is an endangered tradition. Several ‘old guards’ restaurants still remain, including APOMAC, the retired civil servants clubs; the tiny but authentic Riquexo Canteen; A Lorcha and the elegant Restaurante Litoral, the last two of which are almost side by side, an easy ten-minute cab ride from downtown Macau.


Under a Starry Sky Regular Explorer reader Ben Pratt travels to the Maldives to fish with the locals under a canopy of Indian ocean stars. 31


with evidence of Arabic blood in their wide jaws and long noses. But as soon as I climb onboard and don a pair of well-loved cotton gardening gloves in anticipation of the night’s fishing, smiles break out and the newest member of the crew is accepted.


t’s that beautiful time of evening, when day and night converge, one departing and the other arriving, both trying their best to dazzle the world below in a symphony of colours that cascade across the sky. And here, in the Maldives, an idyllic scattering of emerald-hued atolls in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, the show is nothing if not captivating. It’s also the time when the archipelago’s traditional fishermen clamber aboard their brightly painted dhonis and head out to sea in search of dinner. I’ve been staying at the Anantara Kihavah, a luxurious retreat located in the Baa Atoll, far from the Maldives’ tiny capital, Malé, and watch from the end of the resort’s pier as one baby blue dhoni sways and bounces its way through a light chop from the nearby local island of Kudarikilu. Onboard are ten serious looking Maldivian fishermen, their hands calloused, their skin sun-beaten, their eyes boasting the intense 1,000 yard stare of people who live off the sea. Their faces are dark and brooding,

While many resorts offer night fishing in the Maldives, it’s done with restored tourist dhonis, small armies of guest relations staff, and chilled hand towels scented with lemon. Encounters between local Maldivians and foreign travellers remain rare, but resorts like Anantara Kihavah are trying to change that, inviting guests to spend a night working for their supper with local fishermen. We motor out to sea, our helmsmen steering the rudder with his toes in the traditional style as he scans the horizon and watches clouds form in an evening squall far to the west. The colour drains from the sky and stars emerge high above as the first lines are set, one crew member skewering wriggling, bright orange bait fish called gaurung onto hooks at the end of hand lines. As part

of a sustainable fishing initiative, only hand line fishing is allowed in the Maldives, which gives me pause for thought when I think of the man-sized tuna on display at the fish markets in Malé and the determination it must take to land a fish of that size by hand. Fortunately the Maldives’ seas are still plentiful and another fisherman called Mohammad shows me how to throw the now weighted line overboard, the line unravelling quickly as the lead weight – and my little orange fish – plunge into the dark waters. The rest of the crew cast their first lines, the sound of nylon on cotton gloves and the slap-slap sound of the sea on the hull the only noise, as if the crew have collectively held their breath. Then, one by one, lines begin to tug in earnest and the catch is on. Mohammad urges me to start hauling in the line and I plant my bare feet on the chipped paintwork of the deckhouse and begin to heave in a fishing line that jerks and sways in my hands. It’s hard work; the line now weights a lot more than it did with only a tiny gaurung at the end but soon I start to see a silver shimmer darting 32

below as my fish inches closer to the surface, the line biting into my gloved hands, the sweat streaking my forehead in the early evening heat. Finally a gleaming jackfish emerges from the deep, wriggling and dancing on the end of the line. Mohammad takes the catch from the line and it sails into a tank of seawater as another gaurung is skewered in the blink of an eye and the line is cast back into the indigo seas below. We continue reeling in fish as fast as our arms will let us, the deck now slippery with sea water, the bait man preparing lines as fast as he can as the fishermen cast and haul, cast and haul under the stars, as their fathers and grandfathers did for generations before them.

Weary, after two hours on the lines, fishing tapers and men sit in the red light gloom of the wheel house while others pile high a gleaming, motley crew of tropical fish into a tarpaulin with the aid of a climber’s lamp. There are smiles in the moonlight; tonight’s been a good catch and there will be fish left to sell after each family takes its share. It’s a humbling experience as I’m dropped back off at the pier of the Anantara with waves from my new friends as they motor away into the inky darkness of the night, their tanks full for another night under the stars, but at least now I feel I understand this nation beyond its perfect beaches and glitzy resorts. 33

Explorer August 2014