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No. 7-9 BUCKINGHAM GATE ST JAMES’S PARK, LONDON SW1 The Buckingham is a collection of six impressive grand two and three bedroom apartments, crafted out of three 19th-century Grade II Listed townhouses. Offering views over the grounds of the Royal Palace, each meticulously designed apartment has been painstakingly renovated for 21st-century living and is serviced by a range of private amenities, including secure underground parking and 24-hour concierge and security.

Karolina Fiszbak-Moore

Marcus O’Brien

Lettings Prices starting from £5,000 / Week No tenant fees

Sales Prices starting from £4,350,000 999 Year leasehold plus share of freehold

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CHIEF SUB EDITOR Philippa Walton

hoosing where to travel is more than just picking a season, a hotel or an airline route. The decisions we make about where we go, and where we spend our money as travellers, has far reaching implications, both from a financial perspective and a geo-political one. Each dollar,

peso, dong or rupee we spend when travelling is a personal pledge to a country and its people, so we must ensure that we believe that destination deserves our contribution, no matter how small it may seem in the greater scheme of things. Case in point, Myanmar. The government of defacto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under significant international criticism over its handling of Rohingya Muslims in the country, leading to a sharp decline in tourists who don’t want to condone those actions with their spending power. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the country many times since Ms Suu Kyi left house arrest and always found the nation to be one of tolerant, peace-loving people, which makes recent developments so hard to comprehend. The financial and political implications of Myanmar’s treatment of religious minorities will be far reaching, but that impact starts with grassroot-level decisions by travellers with a conscience. On the other hand, I recently returned from Zimbabwe, a country long shunned by the international community because of the controversial policies of its leader Robert Mugabe. Yet today, tourism is directly benefiting Zimbabwean communities long disenfranchised by and distanced from Harare. There will always be countries that are working hard to be active members of the international community, to encourage tolerance and openness, and they are the destinations we should be bolstering. Tourism is a privilege that goes both ways, and I encourage you to make sure that the next time you cast your vote with your cheque book or credit card, you’ve thought about the impact, no matter how small, it might make. Safe travels ahead.

Nick Walton

Managing Editor


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Room with a View

Sabi Sabi Lion Sands Treehouse



City on the Steppes



Monique Forestier



Himalayan Harmony


Hotel Review

Cabo Cool



The Sea of Tranquility



Zimbabwe’s New Beginning




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a MoMent on the Lips



the spyder’s bite



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Junkanoo Parade Nassau, Bahamas January 1 – 2, 2018

Set in the capital city of Nassau on New Providence Island, the Junkanoo Parade is the National Festival of The Bahamas with its origins dating back to the days of slavery in the 18th century. A significant street parade featuring cultural music and dances, this historic event celebrates national pride and showcases Bahamas’ art and heritage. Watch masked marching bands in colourful Igbo costumes and massive floats move along Bay Street in the city’s downtown area, with the rhythmic sound of brass instruments and goatskin drums playing in the background.

Where to Stay: Located 20 minutes from Bay Street, the Ocean West Boutique Hotel boasts 10 well-appointed rooms and suites with a neoclassical design and views of the Atlantic Ocean. Other facilities include a rooftop fitness centre, a massage suite, and a fine dining restaurant serving Bahamian cuisine.

Carnival of Binche Binche, Belgium

February 11 - 13, 2018 A three-day celebration preceding Ash Wednesday, the Unesco-recognised Carnival of Binche is a folkloric event that originated in the 14th century. On Shrove Tuesday, up to a thousand Gilles, dressed in joker costumes, along with peasants, pierrots and harlequins, paint the streets with colour and start a march to the rhythm of drums and viola along the Grand Place in the early hours. Spare a hand to catch oranges thrown by parade characters for good luck. Pre-carnival activities include drum rehearsals, orchestral performances, and gala balls.

Where to Stay: A 15-minute drive from the Grand Place, the Best Western Plus Orange Hotel in La Louviere includes 84 rooms and suites across five categories, with all rooms featuring a simple yet lively design; the spacious Suite Room spans 50sqm and includes a large sleek bathroom.


Thailand’s biggest arts and music celebration, the eco-friendly Wonderfruit Festival provides a four-day immersive experience of arts, music, wellness and adventure at Pattaya’s world-class Siam Country Club. Festival-goers will be entertained by a series of cultural experiences, from fire shows to graffiti, while DJ Richie Hawtin; English singer-songwriter Izzy Bizu; and rapper Roots Manuva will boost the energy of the festival with performances. Health-conscious visitors can do yoga or learn Muay Thai with professionals on hand, and recharge at the nearby food trucks when famished.

Where to Stay: Just 15 minutes from the event venue, The Magnolias Pattaya Boutique Resort offers 32 modern accommodation options with various colour themes and a welcoming ambience. The Mag Junior Suite King comes with a private balcony overlooking Lake Mabprachan.


Magical Lantern Festival YORKshIRe, uNITeD KINgDOm

November 24, 2017 – January 1, 2018 After its debut in Leeds last year, the Magical Lantern Festival Yorkshire will return to Roundhay Park this November. Promoting creativity and acknowledging traditional Chinese culture, the event exhibits a variety of illuminating Christmas-themed lanterns. Walk the lantern trail to explore the spectacular light-filled world, which turns the park into a luminous platform for art, culture and the heritage of the Lantern Festival. The nearby entertainment area provides visitors with an array of international culinary offerings, as well as rides and games to enjoy before the event kicks off.

Where to Stay: Four-star The New Ellington is a 15-minute ride from Roundhay Park, and features 38 well-appointed rooms and suites comprising ensuite bathrooms, while ensuite include separate lounges and additional TVs. The boutique hotel's bar, Gin Club, is ideal for a night of post-event indulgence.

Carnival of Venice VeNIce, ITaLY

January 27 – February 13, 2018 Started as a celebration of the city’s victory against Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia, in 1162, the Carnival of Venice is an annual pre-Lent festival held before Ash Wednesday. Attracting millions of visitors to Venice each year, the festival includes the Festa Veneziana, which marks the opening of the carnival with an evening show on the water along the Cannaregio shores, followed by the Best Mask Contest and the Festa delle Marie, which features twelve Venetian “brides” in traditional costumes and a walking parade to the San Marrco stage. Don’t miss out on the Flight of the Angel, where the “Angel” descends from the San Marco bell tower to the centre of the square to meet the Doge, the chief magistrate of Venice.

Where to Stay: Check in at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, one of Europe's most iconic hotels. This luxurious 95-room Venetian classic features an expansive pool, manicured gardens, a luxury spa, and an Adam Tihany-designed finedining restaurant.

Winter Light Festival Japan KuWaNa, JaPaN

November 15, 2017 - March 16, 2018 One of the largest winter light events in Japan, Nabana no Sato: Winter Illumination, also known as the Winter Light Festival, is held at the Nagashima hot spring resort of Kuwana in Mie Prefecture each year. Dressing the resort’s flower park Nabana no Sato in millions of wonderful light bulbs, the four-month-long themed event features various structures iconic to different countries. Last year’s highlight was a captivating 100-metre illuminated tunnel, lit with alternating green, red and orange hues, reminiscent of Japan’s momiji autumn leaves. www.

Where to Stay: Visitors can take advantage of the festival venue and check into the Nagashima Resort, which provides guests with exceptional experiences at its four other main facilities, including the amusement park Nagashima Spa Land and the Anpanman Museum.






There’s nothing quite like waking to a new day on the African savannah, the sound of birds and grazing game, the transition of the light, the sense of wonder and anticipation of what the day ahead holds. But for the ultimate wake up call, you can’t go past the Kingston Treehouse at the acclaimed Sabi Sands Reserve in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. This unique open-air master bedroom is perched high off the ground, offering captivating vistas no matter the time of day. Catering for up to two adults and two children, and with its own shower and bathroom, the treehouse allows intrepid travellers the chance to fully immerse themselves in this remarkable destination. After a day of guided game drives, retire to your al fresco suite for a gourmet picnic dinner, before tucking yourself in under a breathtaking canopy of stars.




Following the addition of Superior Deluxe cabins, the Golden Eagle Danube Express luxury train has added three new itineraries to its 2018 line up, including a grand tour of the European alps. In addition to new routes though Champagne and Sicily, the new Grand Alpine Express Itinerary, departing June 22, 2018, travels from Budapest to Venice on some of the most scenic railways in the world. From the classic capital cities of Budapest and Vienna, the Golden Eagle Danube Express ventures deep into the Austrian Tyrol, visiting Innsbruck and passing through St. Anton before crossing Liechtenstein, and diving into the valleys of the Swiss Alps to Zurich. In the Italian lake district there’s time for lunch at Lake Como and a meander along the shores of Lake Garda, as well as visits to Milan and Trieste. The train then loops into western Slovenia climbing through the Julian Alps towards picturesque Lake Bled and Ljubljana, before returning to Italy for the voyage’s end, Venice. Off the train, passengers can enjoy a private concert at The House of Mozart featuring the Vienna Supreme Orchestra; and a cellar visit to sample the Veneto region’s famous Soave wines in Verona. From GBP7,495 (US$10,140) per person, including four nights’ hotel accommodation and six nights on the Golden Eagle Danube Express.



Celebrating the forthcoming release of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express with Johnny Depp, Penelope

Cruz and Sir Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, the Manetta’s Bar at London’s Flemings Mayfair hotel has created a series of era-inspired cocktails. Named after the original 1930s Flemings bar, Manetta’s recaptures the spirit of Christie’s crime novels, a place where spies can swap secrets and covert tête-à-tête take place. The hotel has a history with Christie, who based her book At Bertram’s

Hotel, on Flemings Mayfair. The four new cocktails are named for the carriages on the Orient Express and include the L’Oriental, a potent, scarlet-red aperitif with Calvados,


Headed to San Francisco and looking for stylish new digs? The Kelly Wearstler-designed Proper Hotel has opened in the city’s Mid-Market neighbourhood, complete with luxurious rooms, restaurant concepts

Dubonnet and Lillet Blanc; and the Cote D’azur, a fragrant combination of Grey Goose L’Orange, fresh lemon juice, blue almond syrup and violet liqueur, which features a deep colour inspired by artist René Lalique’s luxurious glass sculptures which adorn the 1st class carriages of the Orient Express.

by acclaimed chef Jason Franey and cocktails by BVHospitality’s Josh Harris and Morgan Schick. Housed in a beloved flatiron hotel building on the corner of 7th and Market, Proper Hotel boasts 131 guestrooms, each with Aesop bath products, Vifa speakers, Aireloom mattresses, and Bellino fine linens. Be sure to leave time for drinks at the hotel’s Viennese Secession art movement-inspired rooftop lounge; a bite at the four dining outlets managed by James Beard-nominated executive chef Jason Franey; or a chance to explore the city with complimentary Shinola bicycles.


How about a private jet jaunt around the world? Aman Resorts, Hotels & Residences has created a 22-day private jet itinerary that combines its properties in nine countries. The Private Jet Expedition, a partnership with travel company Remote Lands, departs April 2018 and jets just 16 guests around the globe in a luxurious Airbus ACJ319 corporate plane. There are opportunities to visit Tokyo during the Sakura season, visit the new Amanyangyun in eclectic Shanghai, and sun worship on Vietnam’s idyllic Vinh Hy Bay and Phuket’s west coast, before boarding two smaller G200 jets to visit the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, home to two Aman retreats. In India guests will delve into the rich tapestry of Rajasthan before flying to Athens for a helicopter transfer to Amanzoe in the hills of the Peloponnese. After visiting Montenegro’s iconic islet of Sveti Stefan, guests will finish their journey in Venice, with time for tours of Piazza San Marco, the Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Market before a farewell dinner is served beside the Grand Canal.





Make the most of your next visit to Italy with a unique vintage car excursion offered by Four Seasons hotels. The group’s three properties in Italy -  Four Seasons  Hotel Milano,  Four Seasons Hotel Firenze  and  Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A  Four Seasons  Hotel – can be linked with a luxury driving experience that couples a classic car from the 1960s with lavish accomodation along the route. This exclusive road trip can be organised from any of the three destinations and can be custom-made with a personalised itinerary by hotel concierges to ensure guests don’t miss any points of interest. Stops along the way may include romantic Portofino; Finalborgo, an ancient Middle Ages village on the hills of Liguria; or Modena and Parma. Every detail has been anticipated to ensure guests can concentrate on their vacation, including road assistance and the possibility to switch to a modern car whenever they wish; packing/ unpacking and luggage service; as well as picnic boxes prepared by hotel chefs. Guests can pick their choice from a selection of original models including a 1961 Giulietta Spider, a Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Cabrio and a Porsche 356 Speedster (made famous by James Dean). Priced from US$3,183.




QT Hotels & Resorts is set to open its newest property in the New Zealand Alpine playground of Queenstown. Featuring 69 spacious and luxurious guest rooms, the property, which opens December 1, follows the design DNA of other QT hotels, with designs by Nic Graham, styling by Anna Roberts and staff uniforms by Janet Hine. When you’re done soaking in the vistas of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables ranges, head for Bazaar Interactive Marketplace, the hotel’s innovative restaurant (pictured), which makes the most of Central Otago’s world-class produce, and Reds Cocktail Bar, home to some of New Zealand’s best wines as well as inspiring signature tipples.


The Anantara Angkor Resort in Siem Reap has upped the luxury ante with the unveiling of two presidential suites inspired by the explorers of old. Part of a magnificent new look for the 39-room boutique hideaway, the Henri Mouhot and Anantara Explorer Suites gives off old world charm and contemporary luxury in equal measure; the two-bedroom 235sqm Henri Mouhot Suite caters to six guests and pays tribute to the French naturalist and explorer who alerted the West to the ruins of Angkor, capital of the ancient Khmer civilisation of Cambodia, in 1860, while the one-bedroom 178sqm Anantara Explorer Suite was inspired by Jim Thompson, a former CIA officer who founded the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company.


For the ultimate group adventure, experiential travel specialists Country Holidays has created a new Jeep Safari tour through the Silk Road, departing April 2018, as part of the company’s Signature Departures collection. Traversing some of the highest mountain ranges in Central Asia, including Tianshan, the Hindu Kush and the Pamir, this exciting itinerary also visits mesmerising Issyk Kul Lake in eastern Kyrgyzstan, and delves into the verdant Fergana Valley, which links eastern Uzbekistan with southern Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan. You’ll travel by luxury Land Cruiser convoy, visit local homes, picnic in pristine landscapes, tour the mausoleums and minaret of Uzgen, learn about the timeless art of silk production in Ferghana, and even help erect a traditional nomadic yurt in Bishkek. From HK$45,550 (US$5,830) per person.

Both suites feature imported Thai silks and fabrics, lounge and bar areas complete with a wine humidor; two dining areas; marble bathrooms with double vanity, bathtub and oversized rain shower; dressing rooms; a private spa room with a Jacuzzi bath tub; and a plunge pool in an enclosed private garden.




The first camp for Asilia Africa in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, Roho ya Selous is an intrepid

first step for the company into southern Tanzania. With just eight-tented suites, equipped with ensuites, flushing toilets and wifi, the new camp combines plenty of creature comforts, including a swimming pool and ‘’evening breeze’’ cooling system over beds, with daily activities ranging from boat safaris and fishing to the more traditional game drives and guided walks in search of elephants, antelope and leopards. This is regarded as one of Tanzania’s photography hot spots so be sure to pack a camera.




Indulge in a thoroughly luxurious camping experience at Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, which recently emerged from a multi-million-dollar renovation. The Redwood Canyon Glamp-sites, located within the resort’s eight-hectare redwood-canopied forest, offer the ultimate commune with nature – with life’s creature comforts only steps away. Featuring customdesigned glamping mattresses set within safari-styled canvas tents, as well as curated picnic baskets and a private firepit, guests also have access to the new Bath House, home to teak-enclosed showers, marble vanities and hotel-styled amenities. If you prefer nature to be on the other side of the glass, the new Alila property also boasts 59 refreshed guest rooms, some with private patios and infinity-edged hot tubs and Japanese soak tubs, as well as a full-service Spa Alila and an expanded Sur House restaurant, with views to the Pacific Ocean.





Opening next month, Shinta Mani Angkor – Bensley Collection is an intimate new all-villa property by US interiors whizz Bill Bensley located at the heart of vibrant Siem Reap. The debut retreat of the stylish new Bensley Collection, Shinta Mani Angkor – Benley Collection features just ten ultra-luxurious, twoleveled Art Deco-inspired villas, each set beneath a canopy of ancient palace trees. This unique urban hideaway offers great proximity to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake for the active, and an idyllic respite for travellers looking to disappear for the weekend. Hidden away behind towering stone walls, each villa boasts oversized lap pools, manicured gardens and rooftop living spaces, as well as mesmerising glass-encased bathrooms and outdoor baths.




Astana, Kazakhstan’s eye-catching capital is a wonderland of surreal architecture, traditional hospitality, and blind ambition, making it the hottest destination in Central Asia for the year ahead.

By Nick Walton

24 HOURS 31


Kazakhstan’s national carrier, Skytrax four-star airline Air Astana, connects Hong Kong, Bangkok, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul with Almaty, the former capital, or Astana. The airline regularly wins awards for its world-class service and is rapidly expanding its network to offer connectivity between the east and the west. Business class Hong Kong-Astana (via Almaty) from US$3,200 per person.


Start the day right with breakfast at your hotel, the brand spanking new Ritz Carlton Astana. Located in the coveted Talan Towers development, the hotel’s 157 guest rooms include 32 suites and 27 residences, each with panoramic views of the city. Head for Mökki, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, home to both European and classic Kazakh dishes.


Give some context to your visit to Astana at the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which opened in 2014. Home to a staggering array of exhibitions detailing Kazakhstan’s history and heritage, look out for the Hall of Ethnography, filled with timeless pieces from the country’s nomadic culture; the Gold Man, a third or fourth century warrior that was discovered in golden armor in

1969 and which has become a natural treasure; and the regular, patriotic performances of a huge, suspended eagle in the museum’s atrium.


Make your way to the riverside restaurant Farhi Hall, a popular spot with visiting dignitaries. The main dining room is regal and refined and themed on the traditional yurts of the nomads. Here you can sample some of Kazakhstan’s most iconic dishes, including national staple Besbarmak, boiled horse meat with onions and pasta-like noodles; rich sorpa broth; cheese samsa pastries with beef; and smoked Kylmai sausage. 


For a quirky take on the capital, walk off your lunch at Khan Shatyr, a Norman Foster-designed mall that also takes its inspiration from the shape of a traditional yurt. A crowning jewel of the city’s architectural scene, Khan Shatyr was designed to give residents of Astana, the second coldest capital in the world after Ulaanbaatar, respite from the winter months; in addition to a shopping mall, there’s a mini golf course, food court, boating river and even an indoor beach, which makes sense when you’re this far from the ocean.




The best place to see the end of a day in Astana is atop the 105-meter-tall Bayterek Tower. The vision of Kazak president Nursultan Nazarbayev and themed on the mythical Tree of Life, this unique golden tower features an observation platform with spectacular views of the fledging city. Be sure to place your hand in the mold left by the president to have your wishes granted.

Alternatively, for something a little more contemporary, head to Selfie Astana, the newest venture by Russia’s White Rabbit Family. Located at the Ritz Carlton, Selfie boasts an open kitchen by Italian designer Andrea Viakava, chic interiors by Moscow’s Valery Lizunov, and views across the Garden Ring Road, setting the scene for the cuisine of two-star chefs Vladimir Mukhin and Anatoly Kazakov, who make the most of Russian produce, including pork from Kursk, halibut from Murmansk, veal from Bryansk, asparagus from Tver, and


truffles from the Crimea, to create captivating dishes packed

Pivovaroff beer halls, one of which is located on the left bank


Take a break with the city’s style set at one of Astana’s two of the Ishim River and the other on the right. Both are part of a clutch of new craft beer bars taking this traditionally vodkaswilling market by storm. Pivovaroff produces two types of beer on site in copper vats, a light Czech-style unfiltered pilsner, and a reddish, malty dark filtered ale. Here you’ll rub shoulders with Astana’s young millennials, especially during popular weekday happy hour, when they crowd the bars for the networking, the live sports and as the night progresses, the karaoke.


For a meal that whisks you back to the Silk Road era, head to Ali Baba Summer Restaurant, with its expansive courtyard, wait staff in traditional costume, and menu of Kazakh, Caucasus and Russian classics. You’ll feel like you’re dining in a nomad camp thanks to walls decorated with swords and shields, yurt-style tented booths packed with throw pillows, and a soundtrack of traditional folk music.

with flavor and colour.

Night owls can head to Cinzano, one of Astana’s most acclaimed cocktail bars, a refined red, black and cream space with an extensive cocktail list. Be sure to try an icecold martini using locally-produced Snow Queen vodka, or the signature negroni, and take a perch at deep-set booths beneath walls adorned with Andy Warhol stencils. Zhengis Ave 5, Astana; +7 717 234 7785


Taste the local art scene at The Has Sanat Gallery on Nurzhol Boulevard, which champions emerging and established Kazakh artists while also introducing local collectors to pieces from beyond the region. Opened in 2003, the gallery’s name means ‘real art’ in the Kazakh language and its mission is to showcase pieces that are inextricably linked to the rich cultural heritage of the country. Here you’ll find works by some of Kazakhstan’s foremost artists, including Sadyhanov, Urazbekova, Denikeev, and Beysembinova, A.Shkolnyi, E.Volkova and Assanova.





Explore Manhattan like a local by basing yourself at one of these chic urban hideaways. By Isabelle Lui

Photo credit: Preferred Hotels & Resorts

Chambers Hotel

The Chambers Hotel is the perfect urban escape for theatre lovers. The Midtown hotel’s 72 guestrooms and five suites are filled with original artworks, while also incorporating elements of contemporary design. All rooms feature soaring ceilings and high-tech amenities, such as preloaded iPads and laptops and complimentary wifi, as well as sweeping views of the Big Apple. Enjoy a communal dining experience at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Má Pêche, which serves Vietnamese-infused French bistro-style dishes at long wooden tables. When you’re not out delving into the city, bring a book to the Mezzanine library for a relaxing afternoon. 15 West 56th Street, New York City, New York 10019; +1 212 974 5656;


The Whitby Hotel

Located in vibrant Midtown, the newly-opened Whitby Hotel offers 86 chic, contemporary guest rooms and suites, each of which is individually designed and features floor-to-ceiling windows – some even boast terraces with views of the Manhattan skyline. Complementing the hotel’s focus on art and design, the 16-storey retreat enjoys an enviable location nestled within a neighbourhood of leading galleries and museums. The exclusive Whitby Suite on the hotel's top floor includes two master bedrooms with king sized beds, a spacious drawing room, and two spacious terraces. The sleek marble or granite bathrooms come with double vanities, walk-in showers, and RikRak luxury bath products. For wining and dining, The Whitby Bar features a nine-metre pewter bar and round marble tables from India, as well as seasonal a la carte menus by head chef Anthony Paris, complementing beautifully-crafted cocktails. 18 West 56th Street, New York, NY 10019; +1 212 586 5656;

Crosby Street Hotel

Tucked away in eclectic SoHo, the 86room Crosby Street Hotel offers modern, warehouse-style rooms featuring floorto-ceiling windows, flatscreen TVs, and Bluetooth Bose sound systems. The hotel’s suites boast abundant natural light, spacious sitting areas with elegant décor, private terraces or additional bedrooms; while upper floor suites are graced with uninterrupted views of the city’s skyline. Leisure facilities at the hotel include a drawing room, a screening room, and a fully-equipped 24-hour gym, in addition to a restaurant and a rooftop kitchen garden. The Crosby Bar offers an all-day dining menu featuring modern American cuisine laced with ingredients sourced from the 12th floor organic garden. 79 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012; +1 212 226 6400; M AU R I T I U S • S E YC H E L L E S • M A L D I V E S • M A DAG A S C A R


ROAD WARRIOR Photo credit: Simon Carter

The first Australian woman to climb routes graded have visited some pretty remote and beautiful places, like Madagascar. I really love how climbing has taken me to some random places that I 31 through 34, rock-climber Monique Forestier would not have visited otherwise. has been challenging herself to some of the world’s most dangerous climbing destinations You live in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney; what about the region fascinates you? for over 20 years. She talks with Isabelle Lui The Blueys have thousands of rock climbs all in my backyard. I’m like about her past and upcoming adventures, and a kid in a candy store, spoilt for choice. There is certainly no shortage hard and interesting routes to challenge myself on here. I love how how she combines the climbs with her travel ofI can work in the office for half the day and then race out and trash experiences. myself climbing. You started rock-climbing 20 years ago; how did it begin?

What are the travel essentials we’ll always find in your carry-on?

I got a free pass to an indoor climbing gym and I was hooked from the

Baby wipes – ever since my daughter Coco came along on a trip I

first time. I started going to the gym once a week, then twice, and so

don’t leave home without them; a book of cryptic crossword puzzles; lip

on, then I met some climbers who took me outdoors on rock, and that’s

balm with sand paper wrapped around it so that I can sand the dead

when the real fascination kicked in.

skin off my fingers; a water bottle and harness; and shoes and a chalk bag, because if my main luggage doesn’t arrive I can still go climbing.

You’ve conquered numerous challenging routes including climbs in China, Madagascar, France, and Spain; which are the most remarkable? A stand-out for me was a 55-metre high route I climbed in Spain, called Mind Control (grade 34). It’s the hardest route I have ever climbed and it took me three separate trips before I succeeded. Failure is part of the process and it taught me to remain true to myself. One of my favourite routes is Tom et je Ris (grade 32), located in the spectacular Verdon

You and your husband Simon Carter led the ‘Sicily on the Rocks’ climbing trip with World Expeditions last October, and will be leading the eight-day ‘New Zealand on the Rocks’ trip next February; how do you see these trips benefiting today’s travellers and sport climbers? World Expeditions now offers a greater variety of trips which help

Gorge in France. This one really appealed to me because it was such

facilitate people to travel in pursuit of their special interests. They make

a beautiful line; it follows two vertical columns up the rock for nearly 60

travelling easy as everything is arranged and they have extraordinary

metres. I climbed this route after having a child and it showed me that

people leading their trips. We’re honoured to be hosting their climbing

it was possible to still climb hard and I could do so overseas.

trips, and offer a unique experience for climbers to learn new skills, improve their climbing, and along the way have a great time in an

How do you take advantage of climbing to expand your travel experiences?

appealing destination.

Nepal, thinking these were adventurous trips. Now it’s the climbing

Waterval Boven in South Africa and Smith Rocks in Oregon, USA are

Before climbing I backpacked my way around Europe and hiked in destinations that set the bearing of my compass and that has meant I

What places are on your bucket list? the next places on my list.



Featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and a modern Moorish vibe, Hotel Californian has opened at the heart of Santa Barbara. Boasting 121 guest rooms and spectacular seafront vistas, this beach retreat is bound to be popular with spaophiles thanks to the resort’s glorious Spa Majorelle. Dressed in a distinctly Moroccan blue found in the traditional tiles, windows, and doorways of Marrakesh, Spa Majorelle offers a selection of bespoke wellness treatments including massages, skin and nail care. Treatments are conducted in a clutch of elegantly-appointed spa suites, including a dedicated space for couples. Finish your treatment with a steam, or make your way to the rooftop pool for views of the Pacific under California skies.


Dream on a Cruise

Travellers can now enjoy a luxury sleep experience at sea with the launch of Celebrity Cruises and Canyon Ranch SpaClub’s new wellness programme, Mindful Dreams, on board the line’s fleet of cruise ships. Highlighting the importance of quality sleep, the new programme features four new spa treatments delivered with the use of luxury products from Voya and Tranquility, as well as a series of sleeping aids. The 75-minute Mindful Dreams relaxation treatment includes a sleep-inducing massage and meditation techniques, complemented by calming lavender essential oil, which helps to relax muscles and soothe the skin. The spa’s staff also provide guests with nutritional advice on culinary choices for a better sleep at sea.

Sardinian Spa

Sardinia’s Forte Village Resort has opened a new wellness facility, AcquaForte, in collaboration with the Thalasso Research Centre at Milan University. The first medical spa on the Italian island, this new property spans 49 hectares of scenic gardens along the Mediterranean coast. Promoting the healing benefits of sea water, AcquaForte offers four bespoke ocean-inspired experiences focusing on anti-aging, detoxification, health, and weight-loss. All four or seven-day wellness-driven programmes include a medical assessment, daily treatments, and therapy sessions, including thalasso circuits at the spa’s pool.

The Art of Fusion Pamper yourself at Nuo Hotel Beijing’s Nuo Spa, with the new Nuo Fusion Massage, which combines techniques from various massage styles, including Chinese acupressure, deep tissue, and Thai massage, into one treatment. The new 60-minute experience can help soothe muscle tension and improve circulation using grated ginger root and a blend of aromatherapy oils, and includes an acupuncture treatment that helps improve the flow of qi to maintain the harmony of the body.

Journey to TRANQUILITY The new 60-minute Voyage Des Sens experience, a collaboration between French audio brand Devialet and the Plateau Spa at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, is a ground-breaking treatment that uses the brand’s iconic Gold Phantom wireless speakers to deliver a track titled The Journey Through Hidden Sanctuaries of Hong Kong, an audio odyssey through the city's urban and natural landscapes, from the sounds of temple chimes and bird hums, to calming waves and waterdrops. Offering the perfect balance of music and a soothing massage, complemented by intimate lighting and the relaxing scent of lavender, the new treatment is ideal for visitors to this vibrant world city.







BHUTAN (From top) Local students outside Paro's Rinpung Dzong fotress; prayer flags on the climb to the Tiger's Nest; the Punakha Dzong.

on the side of a steep hill. Como was one of the founders of the Bhutan luxury travel scene and now has two acclaimed hideaways in the country. Here at Como Uma Paro, the first stop of Como’s groundbreaking new Scenic Heli-Adventure, it’s very easy to be happy; there are roaring fires and comfy beds, while the Como Shambala Retreat does an indulgent hot oil massage, and the Bukhari restaurant feeds both the body and soul with healthy local fare. Perhaps Bhutan’s secret to happiness is its timelessness. Thimpu, the kingdom’s tiny capital, which I explore with my guide Yarob





genuine guides





pristine national dress is exactly the welcome travellers want when they step out from Paro’s pint-

sized terminal, many still pale from a dramatic, nailbiting landing, for which only 12 pilots in the world are certified. Happiness is what many visitors to Bhutan are searching for, for no other reason than that the economy essentially runs on a warm, fuzzy feeling. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, a measurement of the collective contentment of the Kingdom’s 740,000 citizens, is a remarkably progressive approach for a country named after a thunder dragon. Coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s fourth king, HM Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the idea has evolved into a socioeconomic development model recognised by the UN. There’s no doubt Bhutan is a land of happiness and peace, and despite a complicated visa application process, mandatory guides, and a daily per diem of US$250 per person, which keeps tourist numbers low (in 2014 Bhutan welcomed 134,000 travellers, compared to North Korea which welcomed more than 250,000 in 2014), an increasing number of wellheeled visitors are clinging to their airplane armrests in pursuit of their own little slice of Himalayan harmony. My pursuit of happiness takes me first to Como Uma Paro, an intimate 29-room retreat that, like virtually everything in this vertiginous nation, is perched



and driver Gopal, seems trapped in a time

the target and acknowledges the talents of the

warp; at the town’s main intersection a police

archer. Despite the competitive nature of the

officer, resplendent in his uniform and white

sport, there’s nothing but smiles and camaraderie,

gloves, directs traffic from a tiny hut decorated

stoked with a little local ara rice wine.

in bold reds and yellows. Bhutan has worked hard to improve its infrastructure, but when the

We climb the Dochula Pass on a dusty

country’s first traffic light was hoisted at the same

96-kilometre-long ‘highway’ lined by towering

intersection, so many accidents occurred that it

pines and tiny roadside shrines, and populated by

was quietly lowered again that very evening. It

grumbling India-made trucks painted with vibrant

just shows that sometimes happiness is found in

deities and protective mantras. At some of the

not fixing something that isn’t broken.

wicked switchbacks, little stone tablets offer words of caution, ranging from “After Drinking Whisky,

Nearby all the action can be found at the khuru

Driving is Risky” to “Be Mr Late, Not Late Mr”. At

field, where the national sport of archery,

the summit, with the majesty of Himalayas on the

dzongkha, is the biggest ticket in town. Men

horizon, we pause at the solemn Druk Wangyal

wrapped in kimono-like ghos, aim for a tiny

Chortens, a memorial of 108 stupas dedicated

bullseye 150 metres downfield, from where the

to both the soldiers and rebels who fell during

opposing team directs a series of playful taunts

the Assamese uprising of 2003-04, the first ever

in a tradition called kha shed. When the arrow is

military conflict for the Royal Bhutan Army.

finally loosened, all eyes turn to the heavens, the

bolt streaking through cobalt blue skies, sending

By dusk we’ve weaved our way through the

opponents scattering. A successful strike is

farming hamlets of the verdant Punakha Valley,

answered by the opposing team with a respectful,

where rice paddies are being replanted and water

traditional dance called a Da Cham that blesses

buffalo slosh through the mud, and I’m in my


(Clockwise from top left) Como Uma Punakha; a helicopter of the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service in Laya; Buddhist art at Chimmi Lhakhang; painted river stones at Como Uma Paro; yak momos



Clambering into a state-of-the-art Airbus helicopter the next morning couldn’t be more of a contrast. Behind the controls, beaming British captain Nik Suddards readies us for the flight of a lifetime. As part of the Scenic Heli-Adventure, a pioneering partnership with the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service, the kingdom’s fledging air ambulance fleet, Como guests can visit some of the kingdom’s most remote corners during two flights, one from Paro to Punakha via the rarely-visited Laya Valley, and one from Punakha to Paro via the Utsho Tsho, the Turquoise Lakes of the Labatama Valley. I’m taking a shortcut, climbing from Purnakha to Laya and then on to Paro’s international airport. With a roar from the turbines that reverberates off the mountain sides, we swoop up the valley, soaring high above the Nalanda Monastery and the sacred peaks of Jigme Dorji National Park, Bhutan’s second largest and home to snow and clouded leopards, Himalayan black bear, red pandas, and ancient glaciers. After 40 minutes in the air we circle the tiny village of Laya, the Kingdom’s highest settlement at 4,115 metres above sea level, white prayer flags dancing in the downdraft.

spacious suite, one of 11 at Como Uma Punakha, a luxurious mountain retreat designed by architect Cheong Yew Kuan that overlooks the meandering Mo Chu River. There’s rusticchic sheesham-wood furniture, a wood-burning stove, and a deep-soak tub that’s perfect for Punakha’s frosty nights. Nearby the retreat’s dining room (a favourite with passing Bhutanese royalty), produces inspiring local fare from organic produce sourced from surrounding farms. Sated and rested, I set out the next morning to explore the valley, first climbing to Chimmi Lhakhang, a 15th-century fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Buddhist saint who is said to have defeated evil spirits with his Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom, earning him the nickname the Divine Madman, and then exploring the Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, the valley’s ancient fortress, which dates from 1637. Beyond, the fields are alive with colour as a thousand Buddhists assemble to hear a sermon by Trulku Jigme Chhoedra, the country’s religious leader. There are monks swathed in terracotta and tangerine kasayas; elders from the mountain villages in black ghos and white shawls with matching whiskers; giggling novices with freshly saved heads; and wizened old women wrapped in silk scarfs the colour of glacier water. We’re the only foreigners present.


Located in one of the most remote and least developed parts of the country, the semi-nomadic Layap people eke out a living harvesting cordyceps, a rare fungus used in Chinese and Tibetan traditional medicine. The Layap people call their valley, an eightday round trip hike from Paro, Bey-yul, or the hidden paradise. The village is protected from mischievous spirits by an ancient gate through which a pack mule train, led by two young sisters, meanders up to meet us. Foreigners are extremely rare in Laya, as are helicopters, and the younger of the two girls, named Gangchea Tage, stares at me intently; Yarob tells me I’m the first foreigner she’s ever seen. The sisters peak from behind a bolder as the blades begin to spin 30 minutes later and wave as we roar off into the mountains, passing over remote alpine lakes and tooth-like peaks as we descend into Paro. The last day of the Scenic Heli-Adventure is a little more hellish. By this stage guests will have acclimatised to the altitude, meaning it’s time to climb to Taktsang Palphug Monastery, a prominent Himalayan Buddhist site also known as the Tiger’s Nest, set on the side of a dramatic cliff face. We set off early to avoid the heat of the day but almost immediately the dirt track climbs at an unbelievable angle, and my legs ache with the strain while my lungs heave for oxygen. I let out a silent gasp of disbelief when I look back and see Yarob and

more ambivalent. The cliffside monastery (Clockwise from top left) Gangchea Tage outside her village in the Laya Valley; crossing the Paro Chu River; monks in the making; a champion of the khuru field.

is fascinating and in incense smoke-filled halls we ask for blessings for our loved ones to the serenade of monks chanting scripture. I’m in disbelief again as, on the descent, we

Gopal casually strolling behind me, gossiping

pass young monks carrying large bundles

and texting on their phones. I guess if I’d climbed

of supplies up to their dormitories. Here I

Tiger’s Nest 798 times, as Yarob has, I’d be a little

am, about to keel over, and they’re grinning and chatting as if they’re taking a stroll by the seaside. With sweat running into my eyes and the sun scorching my neck, I can’t help but smile back, happier than I’ve been in an age. It turns out, in Bhutan, happiness is infectious.

Travel Essentials Fly: National carrier Druk Air operates flights from Bangkok to Paro from US$780 in economy. Stay: Como’s six-night Scenic Heli-Adventure is priced from US$27,280, twin share, and includes airport transfers, two flights, scenic drives, meals, spa treatments and accommodation.



When most people hear the phrase ‘allinclusive’, long buffet lines and watereddown drinks typically spring to mind. However, that’s all changing thanks to Grand Velas Los Cabos, a lavish new seaside retreat that’s changing the all-inclusive game single-handedly. Nick Walton checks in to see what all the buzz is about.


t’s a winning combination – the mesmerising blue water of the Gulf of California, worldclass dining by a series of heavy-hitting chefs, a commitment to the arts, warm, intuitive service, and a design persona that’s elegant

and luxurious without being ostentatious. It’s obvious that Mexico’s Grand Velas Los Cabos is a resort that was built to seduce affluent travellers like never before. Opened less than a year ago at a price of US$150 million, this magnificent all-suite resort, a short drive from Cabo San Lucas’s international airport, the fifth property for local brand Velas Resorts, is bringing a touch of finesse to the all-inclusive accommodation segment by infusing levels of quality usually reserved for the likes of Rosewood or Four Seasons.


I’ll admit I was skeptical at first; I’d been to all-

level room category, it’s already leagues above most

inclusive resorts before, and many claim to be a level

resorts; huge, airy, well lit, intuitive and indulgent,

above their brethren but when my hotel Escalade

the space is really made for living in – there’s an

drew up to Grand Velas Los Cabos’ cavernous lobby,

expansive bathroom with twin vanities, a walk-in

with its breathtaking views of the sea and its army of

shower, a spa tub and L’Occitane amenities. The walls

staff dressed in immaculate white uniforms, I knew I’d

are graced by locally-sourced art inspired by the Baja

arrived somewhere unique.

landscapes, the bed is dressed with luxury linens and goose down pillows; and the daily-restocked minibar

An oasis on the desert shoreline boasting 304 ocean

features Te Forrte teas, a Nespresso coffee machine,

view suites in a wraparound building designed by

and full-sized bottles of wine and the resort’s own

architect Ricardo Elias that’s reminiscent of the

artisanal tequila – essentially everything a modern

Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Grand Velas Los Cabos’

day recluse could ask for. However, if there’s anything

nightly rates start from a very reasonable US$548

amiss, round-the-clock butlers are just a call away.

per person, per night twin share. For that, guests enjoy oversized suites complete with complimentary minibars, deep set terraces (some with plunge pools) and king-sized beds so large you’d need to be a sprinter to catch your significant other. The price also includes access to a plethora of intriguing restaurants overseen by executive chef Juan Licerio, including one by two Michelin-starred chef Sidney Schutte; a standing appointment at a Leading Spa of the World; and the choice of not one but three palm-lined pools. If I ever choose to be a hermit and sequester myself from the world, I’d barricade myself in one of Grand Velas Los Cabos’ 100sqm Ambassador Suites, designed by Ernesto Vela. While it’s the resort’s entry



That said I’m a pretty social person so I did eventually emerge, enticed by the crashing ocean, the vibrant gardens that wreath the terraced swimming pools, and the promise of mezcal margaritas. The active will have no shortage of things to keep them inspired and entertained at Grand Velas Los Cabos; you can work up a sweat in the state-of-the-art Technogym Fitness Center, where personal trainers can set you up with a bespoke exercise programme or guide you through a dawn yoga or meditation session; before cooling off at the SE Spa by Grand Velas. The spa is reason enough to check into the resort. One of Mexico’s most luxurious wellness enclaves, the spa is the ideal place to while away the hottest hours of the day. Leave plenty of time to perform the seven-step water journey (if you’re travelling with kids, send them packing to the dedicated teens and kid’s clubs, they won’t want to leave), which includes an ice room, a clay room and an experience pool packed with muscle-melting jets and torrents. If you still haven’t shaken off the busy world beyond, make a beeline for one of the glorious treatment suites and treat yourself to the signature Blue Agave massage or the Blue Agave Exfoliation, two of the most popular treatments from a list of innovative wellness rituals conducted by some of the country’s leading therapists. The barbershop and salon also do great wedding packages, a popular option for couples looking to tie the knot in paradise. All that pampering is enough to give you an appetite. Fortunately, some of Baja’s best dining is only steps away. Kick off with one of those aforementioned mezcal-laced libations at one of the resort’s three bars – the lofty Koi Bar with its al fresco tables overlooking the ocean and list of international and Mexican wines chosen by master sommelier Don Pedro Poncelis Brambila; the beachfront Mezcal & Tequila, the best spot for sunset; or the chic Sky Sports Bar, a popular spot when the game is on. There’s also coffee and cake at Amat Café, a hidden nook that's great for lattes and contemplation. From here you can choose by cuisine or by chef: there’s the decadent 8-10 course tasting menus of chef Sidney Schutte at Cocina de Autor, home to 'creative cuisine'; the finest Wagyu beef and local seafood at chef Sergio Lopez’s

While it’s nice to dress up on those warm Mexican evenings and explore the culinary landscapes on offer at the fine dining joints, I find myself drawn back time and time again to Mendoza’s ceviche hot spot. A simple shaded terrace overlooking both pool and sea, the concept is superbly simple – fresh seafood, attentive, friendly service, and a menu that’s packed with flavour without being overwhelming. And at the end of the meal there’s no bill to pay or forms to sign, just an insistence that I come back for the swordfish. That’s a promise I intend to keep.

waterfront eatery Velas 10; authentic Mexican fare with a modern twist by chef Roberto Sierra at Frida; French flare and fine Old-World wines with chef Aurélien Legeay at Piaf; the Italian comfort cuisine of chef Antonio La Monica at Lucca; poolside ceviche by chef Dayana Mendoza at Cabrilla; and an international buffet with regular thematic nights and live music at Azul with chef Luis Quiroz. Still think all all-inclusive resorts are born equal?

Travel Essentials Fly: American Airlines, a member of oneworld, offers flights from Hong Kong to Cabo San Lucas via Los Angeles. Business class return from US$5,000; Stay: Ambassador Suite from US$548 per night, all-inclusive.




Set sail on a journey of discovery with Lindblad ExpeditionsNational Geographic on Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the Pacific. Words & Photos by Nick Walton



(from top) Life in the desert; paddle boarding at Isla San Marcos


t’s often when you least expect it that the most amazing travel experiences take place. As we skim across the mirror-like waters of the Sea of Cortez, basking under a blazing mid-day sun, the air laced with salt and the warm rubber of

the zodiac, most of my fellow guests are thinking more about lunch than wildlife. That is until a grey whale calf decides to put on an impromptu performance, leaving its mother’s side for a moment and leaping out of the water like an SUV-sized rocket, the golden sunshine shimmering off its flanks as it collapses back into the water. We’re half expecting to hear a child-like giggle over the drone of camera mechanisms and the chug of the outboard as the waters still once again. It’s the latest in a series of magnificent up-close-and-personal encounters with the residents of Mexico’s hidden gem. The Sea of Cortez, a finger of water nestled between the Mexican mainland and the Baja Peninsula, is the kind of place where one should expect the unexpected. With a dizzying array of marine life and a multitude of fragile, interconnected ecosystems, the Sea of Cortez has enchanted navigators, explores and naturalists for centuries. Fed by great rivers like the Colorado, the Sinaloa, the Sonora and the Yaqui, the Sea of Cortez is one of the most diverse seas on the planet, with over 900 fish species, fevers of graceful manta and devil rays, and colonies of grinning sea lions. It’s quite possibly the most amazing place you’ve never heard of. Despite its proximity to major cities like Los Angeles, most people who travel to Baja and the Sea of Cortex rarely venture from the luxurious resorts of Cabo San Lucas, in the far south; if they do it’s on day tours searching for the grey whales which winter in the nutrient rich waters. But to really experience the Sea of Cortez, which famed French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau dubbed ‘the aquarium of the world’, you need to really leave the Peninsula in your wake. I’ve done exactly that, setting sail aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird, a ferry-turned-expedition ship operated in a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions, one of the world’s oldest expedition companies, which has been plying the waters of the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, since 1977, and the famed natural sciences magazine. The Sea Bird is the ideal vessel for exploring this remarkable destination; with a shallow draft, a flotilla of kayaks, a complement of guides and naturalists, and room for just 62 guests in 31 outside cabins, the sturdy little vessel allows a uniquely intimate encounter with this mesmerising landscape of deep waters and desert islands.


MEXICO As the sun hangs low in the sky, we depart from

jet liner. We trail slowly after them, the spray

the town of La Paz, the sound of Merengue

from their spouts lingering in the early morning

reaching out across the water from the bars that

sunshine like gold dust.

line the beach. I join my fellow guests, most of whom are from the US, at the ship’s bow as we

The Sea of Cortez is a truly unique marine

watch the sun slip behind a mountain range, the

environment, but it’s also one under threat.

resulting darkness quickly replaced by a plethora

The whales and dolphins draw thousands of

of stars.

visitors to the Baja coastline each year, and tourism, combined with fishing and increased

The action begins with dawn the next morning,

industrialization, has put immense pressure on

when expedition leader Larry Prussin rouses us

the Gulf of California and its marine life. Some

from sleep in time to watch a 700-strong pod of

of the Sea’s most iconic residents have been

common dolphins surround the ship. The dolphins

brought to the brink of extinction, including

ride the bow wave, leaping and surfing on the

hammerhead sharks, the endemic totoaba fish,

ship’s wake, completely in their element, as

prized in traditional Chinese medicine, and the

guests line the rails, cameras at the ready. As the

vaquita, the world’s most critically endangered

pod moves away, a pair of blue whales surfaces

marine mammal, whose numbers have been

nearby; the Sea of Cortex is home to the greatest

decimated by illegal gill nets.

variety of whales and dolphins in the world – over 30 species – and the blue whales, the largest

However, things are slowly changing for the better.

animals on the planet, depart their feeding

The people of Baja are increasingly recognizing

grounds in the eastern Pacific and explore the

the value that sustainable tourism and fishing

Sea’s nutrient-rich waters for a few weeks each

offers the region; legislation is protecting more

year. The tiny dorsal fins of the whales belie their

of the Sea of Cortez; and operators like Lindblad

magnitude; blue whales can grow to 30 meters

Expeditions-National Geographic are helping

in length and weigh as much as a commercial

shed light on the problems the Gulf of California


(clockwise from centre) brown pelicans at Isla San Marcos; one of the 110 cactus species; California sea lions at play; readying the kayaks

faces, while funding conservation initiatives that can help preserve this underwater wonderland for generations to come. Education is as much a part of a Lindblad-Expeditions National Geographic cruise as sightseeing. In addition to insightful lecturers and talks held in the ship’s bar, each day we climb into the Sea Bird’s fleet of zodiacs to explore desolately beautiful coastlines and to delve into Baja’s dramatic, desert islands. On Isla Santa Catalina, naturalist David Stephens points out some of Baja’s 110 species of cactus, 70 percent of which are endemic, as we hike up a dry arroyo in search of spiny tail iguanas, pinto chuckwallas, rattleless rattlesnakes, and ancient agave fermentation pits. During one of the regular photography walks I join Nat Geo-certified photo instructor Linda Burback to explore the former mining town of Santa Rosalia, tracing graceful pelicans as they skim across the waters of the harbor and perch in the ruins of the warehouses which once stored ore from the French-owned copper mine. A lazy afternoon exploring Isla San José’s breathtaking coastline ends with a beach barbeque and a lesson from my new American friends on how to prepare the perfect s’mores. A few days later I cruise the protected coastline of tiny San Pedro Mártir Island with naturalist Berit Solstad; here the air is alive with the calls of marine birds, from blue footed boobies and yellowfooted gulls, to eared grebes, graceful frigates and proud brown pelicans, all of which build their nests on the tiny pumice islet. San


MEXICO (from top) Santa Rosalía's Iglesia de Santa Bárbara church was designed by Gustave Eiffel; the El Bolero bakery; the Sea Bird at anchor

Pedro Mártir is home to 95 percent of the world’s population of elegant terns and Hermann’s gulls, the eggs of which were once used in the coveted pan dulce aquí pastries of Santa Rosalia’s El Bolero bakery. Following the coastline in our fleet of zodiacs, the air is alive with gossiping, swooping, soring, darting seabirds. High on a rocky crest, a mating pair of osprey keep a watchful eye on our progress and, underway again on the Sea Bird, we marvel at a pair of rarely-encountered long-finned pilot whales surfacing briefly before diving deep in search of dinner. There are opportunities to explore as a group, and chances to grab a paddle board or kayak and explore at your own speed. At Bahia Bonanza, an elegantly-curving bay of white sand and turquoise water on the island of Los Islotes I join a group of snorkelers guided by Mexican biochemist Carlos Navarro, who has an intimate knowledge of the Sea of Cortez, having studied it for much of his life. At Isla San Marcos, some guests snorkel at a hidden grotto, while others trace a dried riverbed inland, or take to the coast in zodiacs in search of brown footed boobies, pelicans, herons, egrets, and vibrant sally lightfoot crabs, before silently trailing a pair of graceful humpback whales as they meander past the ship. We finish our adventure on the Sea of Cortez in style, first by greeting the dawn from the zodiacs, capturing the ship through a natural hole in a fang of rock that just from the ocean, and then with a snorkeling expedition

aquatic wonderland will continue

with the sealions of the Espiritu

to thrill travellers for generations to

Santo Biosphere Reserve. It’s a


truly spectacular experience as the inquisitive, puppy-like sea lions show off, tumbling and swooping

Travel Essentials

through the water, inches from

American Airlines, a member of

snorkelers, trails of bubbles in their

oneworld, offers flights from Hong

wake, their whiskers dancing in the

Kong to Cabo San Lucas via Los


Angeles. Business class return from US$5,000;

Overfishing may have reduced

the number of sharks in the

Lindb l a d - E x p e d i t i o n s N a t i o n a l

Sea of Cortez, but fortunately


that’s allowed the populations of

Wilderness itinerary is priced from

whales, dolphins and sea lions to

US$6,190 per person twin share,

flourish. With a little help and the

inclusive of meals, accommodation and

efforts of companies like Lindblad

excursions, with departures in March


and April 2018.












A new luxury safari camp in the country’s west is the sign of things to come for one of Southern Africa’s most challenged destinations, discovers Nick Walton.


ZIMBABWE Zimbabwe isn’t on everyone’s safari radar – but it should be. Despite the corruption of the country’s government and the controversial decisions it makes (including the recent sale of baby elephants to zoos in China), safari tourism has a hugely beneficial impact on the people of this most troubled of southern African nations. The new US$150 million Victoria Falls Airport, which allows for greater connectivity and captures some of the tourism spend from neighbouring Zambia, and the opening of new safari camps like Matetsi, each of which comes with its own conservation initiatives and employment opportunities, heralds a new era for Zimbabwe, one that will not only help its people but also the wildlife many of us travel thousands of kilometres to see. “The private sector is vital to conservation


efforts, as well as the economy,” says my guide here are times on every safari when you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation. It might be tracking a female lion on the hunt, or a close encounter with a den of hyena cubs. There are also

moments when you let that breath out and become part of the scene unfolding around you, when you simply sit back, soak it in, and enjoy your role as a distant spectator of a spectacular wildlife show. Our moment with the elephants of Matetsi is just such an occasion. It’s late afternoon and the sun has transformed from white-hot to pink zinfandel, mellowing the landscape and casting the scattered clouds in scarlet. We’re on a broad plain fringed by shallow hills and light forests, a 20-minute drive from the beautiful, one-year-old andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge, the newest game camp to open in western Zimbabwe. A herd of half a dozen elephants is meandering its way from watering hole to watering hole. A pair of male lions watch on from a distance, the last rays of sunshine catching the gold of their sleek coats. The elephants stride with infinite grace, their slow, steady, resolute steps sending puffs of dust into the air. In their tracks Guinea fowl scurry, pecking and scratching at the soil like ill-tempered grounds keepers. After decades of political turmoil and economic freefall,

ZIMBABWE 67 Milton as we climb out of our covered long wheel

Hippos soak in the shallows of the Zambezi River, while African

base Land Rover, the elephants sauntering away

fish eagles soar high above, during an early morning guided cruise

into the growing dusk. “Sometimes it feels like

on the mighty waterway. Milton points out islands that shift with the

Harare is a very long way from the bush.” As we

rains, and in the distance, local fishermen in their dugout canoes

talk, our driver and tracker Trust sets up a card

skirt the powerful currents. A squadron of plump Egyptian geese

table and opens a cooler to reveal the essentials

swoop down and race past, just inches from the water.

of sunset on the African plains: gin, tonic water, lemon peel and ice. It’s the perfect way to bring

I’m especially enthralled by the birds that call the Matetsi home.

a little civility to such wild landscapes.

There are sleek western marsh harriers, and vibrant greater blue eared starlings, shy cape turtle doves, mesmerising lilac breasted

Located in a 50,000-hectare private concession

rollers, and bold, crimson breasted shrikes that stand out against

adjoining the Zambezi National Park that includes 15 kilometres of Zambezi River frontage, the Kerry van Leenhoff-designed andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge is the country’s first truly contemporary lodge and thus the modern face of the Zimbabwe safari experience. An open-facaded main lodge building boasts an elegant lounge and a restaurant with riverside dining under a canopy of mangosteen trees. My suite also looks out to the river, and features a cathedral-esque bathroom with soak tub and outdoor shower, chic furnishings, works by Zimbabwean-born artist Helen Teede, and a plunge pool that proves popular with resident baboon troops. It’s a world away from my preconceptions of Zimbabwe. Only 40 kilometres from the Unesco-listed Victoria Falls, the largest in Africa, Matetsi is well positioned for Zimbabwe’s new fortunes. Sold as two separate lodges of nine suites a piece (there’s also a standalone house that sleeps eight), Matetsi has everything you’re looking for in a safari. There are elephants, graceful giraffes, lumbering buffalo, and prides of lions. After our gin and tonics we spot hyena cubs with the Land Rover’s red-filtered spotlight, and need to look out for elephants passing through the camp on their way to the river as we retire for the night.

(clockwise from top left) a luxurious suite at Matetsi River Lodge; al fresco dining beside the Zambezi River; a young male lion roars; resident baboons by the pool; guides Milton and Trust



the golden grasses of the savannah. One afternoon, in the shade of acacia trees, we spy curious looking southern ground hornbills seeking shelter from the sun, their red bills a stark contrast to their coal black feathers. Of course, there’s plenty to do when you’re not on game drives or river cruises. Guests can grab a book and while away an afternoon on their suite’s terrace, from where it’s easy to spy gangs of warthogs trotting on the river banks. There’s also a blissfully cool lap pool and an extensive wine cellar hidden away beneath the main lodge, and a range of included excursions, including a tour to the Victoria Falls.

(from top) exploring Matetsi by dusk; an African fish eagle

One warm night Milton leads us to a riverside

zebra, elephants, giraffe, kudu and rare sable

clearing where the dinner tables are lit by hurricane

antelope, funding anti-poaching squads and drilling

lamps and the camp’s chefs are cooking up a feast

bore holes to bring life-giving water to the surface. It’s

on a coal barbeque. Under a breathtaking canopy of

hoped that camps like Matetsi will also breathe new

stars, and to the roaring of the river rapids, we wine

life into Zimbabwe’s struggling economy and in doing

and dine, although always with one eye to the edges

so, place the country firmly on the bucket lists of safari

of the clearing, least we become the main course.

goers, where it should be.

However, andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge is more than just another luxurious African retreat. Poaching still takes place in Zimbabwe (though guides are quick to blame neighbouring Zambia) as does illegal hunting and tourism is the only force that can curb the destruction. Matetsi owner John Gardiner and

Travel Essentials Fly: South African Airways fly from Hong Kong to Johannesburg and on to Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe.

safari gurus andBeyond, who manage the lodge,

Stay: andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge suite from US$705

have worked hard to draw back the game, including

per person per nighit, twin share.






With the launch of the Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru finally welcomes its own golden age of rail travel, discovers Nick Walton.


PERU (Clockwise from top left) The train's two bar cars are the centre of sociality aboard the Belmond Andean Explorer; descending towards Arequipa; a Double Bed cabin.


f I ever needed a panama hat, a linen suit, and perhaps even a carnation, this just might be the time. As I run my hands down the gleaming midnight blue and ivory coachwork of the new Belmond Andean Explorer train, the morning sun catching her brass accents as she sits at Cusco’s

dusty Wanchaq Station, a dance troupe begins striding its way through the Peruvian Marinera Norteña courting dance to a

trio of acoustic guitars, and the station master rings the bell for boarding as our adventure across the Peruvian Highlands begins. It’s a timeless scene that belongs to the beginning of every great rail journey, one filled with anticipation of the road ahead, a healthy dose of pageantry and promise, and a hint of the romance of life on the rails. It’s also a moment that’s taken a little longer to reach South America than other parts of the map. However, with the May launch of the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America’s first luxury overnight train, Peru can finally celebrate its own golden age of train travel, just in time for the world to fall in love with slow travel all over again. I join my fellow passengers in the train’s outdoor observation car, which is adjacent to the Observation Lounge, one of two bar cars, to sip silky pisco sours and soak up the crisp alpine air of the Incan capital as it wakes, the music slowly being replaced by the buzz of traffic, the calls of stallholders at morning markets, and the squealed greetings of children in vibrant woolen caps waiting at rail crossings. I love travelling by train, I always have, and clearly, I’m not alone. The night before, at Belmond’s breathtakingly-beautiful Hotel Monasterio, a former monastery dating from 1592, where I stayed for a night to acclimatise to the altitude of the world’s second highest plateau, I met some of my new travelling companions over drinks in the verdant courtyard. There’s a Cuban music executive from Miami travelling with his family; a couple from Britain ticking off the world’s greatest rail journeys from their bucket list; an Indian couple from New York treating their parents to a South American adventure; and a Swiss couple travelling with their adult children. The excitement in the air is palpable – many booked their train adventure more than 18


months ago, when Belmond, which operate some of the

twin picture windows, and a duo of arm chairs, in addition

world’s most iconic trains, including the Venice-Simplon

to moulded facades, gleaming Art Deco-inspired air vents,

Orient-Express, the Royal Scotsman, and the new Grand

fleur-de-lys marquetry, and vintage light switches that

Hibernian, first announced the new Peruvian project. Many

have survived to light another day. Sadly, the only thing

had already travelled on the Hiram Bingham, a Belmond

missing was the promised wifi, a point of some contention

day train launched in 1999 that travels between Cusco

with some social media-starved passengers.

and the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu, so expectations were high.

It’s from my cabin that I watch the light drain from the sky as we climb into the Andes, the last rays of golden

As we leave the suburbs behind the next morning and

light flickering above a horizon dominated by brooding,

delve into a series of deep rocky valleys, Andean condors

mountainous silhouettes, leaving behind a glowing,

soaring high above, I leave the observation car to explore

violet dusk. We chug to a stop at La Raya, at 14,250 feet

my new confines. The Belmond Andean Explorer is the

above sea level the highest point on the train’s two-night

newest incarnation of the Great South Pacific Express, a

700-kilometre-long Peruvian Highlands itinerary, one

Belmond train which ran between Sydney and Kuranda in

of four offered by Belmond. As guests leave the train,

Queensland from 1999 until 2003. The train was shipped

stretching their legs, and exploring the tiny, whitewashed

to Peru and reimagined by interior designer Inge Moore

chapel that stands beside the tracks, the train’s waiters,

of London’s Muza Lab, who retained many elements of

immaculate in white shirts and leather suspenders, serve

the original train, which was itself designed around the

mugs of piping hot almond milk, the steam from our

glamourous heyday of rail travel in Europe. Consequently,

excited conversation suspended like speech bubbles in

my 13sqm double bed cabin, one of 24 staterooms

the chilly evening air, the excited chatter echoing off the

catering to just 48 passengers, features a private ensuite,

valley walls.


PERU (Clockwise from top left) A Uros diety; climbing into the Andes; the Belmond Andean Explorer at Puno; exploring Lake Titicaca; dining plays a central role on the new train

Saracocha, and sun-kissed lunches backdropped by the three volcanic peaks which ring the White City of Arequipa, to indulgent wine-paired dinners that are packed with locally-sourced produce. Corvina a la plancha, seared seabass with Andean mint-scented broad beans; cara cara, a local citrus, poached with cardamom and thyme; and, for the intrepid, al dente alpaca tortellini, all grace the menu and are expertly matched with South American wines. The brilliant service of the Belmond Andean Explorer also extends well beyond the dining car; the crew is ever-attendant, ever-resplendent; a fortifying pisco sour, a pot of muña tea to relieve altitude sickness, or even an indulgent refill of your cabin’s personal oxygen tank is only ever a push of a button away. The next morning, I rise early and delve into the chilly air with the train’s silver-tongued excursion manager

“There’s nothing quite like being at the top of the world,” says train manager Christopher Mendoza as we marvel at the towering peaks that surround us. “Maybe it’s the air, maybe it’s the lack of air, but there’s just something magical about the Andes.” When it’s time to leave La Raya, we return en masse to the outdoor observation car again, enthrawled by the transition of day into night high in the Andes, fending off the night’s chilly fingers for as long as we can with a barrage of baby alpaca shawls and dirty martinis, before eventually retreating inside and making our way to dinner. It’s not just the vistas that capture imaginations on the Belmond Andean Explorer. The inspired cuisine of executive chef Diego Muñoz (of Astrid y Gastón fame) is packed with flavour, colour and innovation and runs the gamut from lingering breakfasts, served as the train rides the soaring ridges above Lake


Ari as he hosts a spectacular sunrise photo-op over the

Arequipa – some included in the tariff, some additional –

tranquil waters of Lake Titicaca. The Belmond Andean

help break up hours swaying and bouncing down Peru’s

Explorer had rumbled into the waterfront town of Puno

undulating tracks, and include a visit to the Incan ruins

as we slept, and now we’re perfectly positioned for a day

of Raqch’I, and in the desolate beauty of the National

out on the world’s highest navigable lake. Docked beside

Reserve of Aguada Blanca and Salinas, a chance to gaze

the train, the beautiful steamship SS Ollanta was the

upon the 7,000-year-old rock art of the Sumbay Caves.

largest vessel to ply Titicaca; built in the UK in 1929 and reassembled in Peru, there’s talk that Belmond intends

Under a blazing sun, we set off in a flotilla of local boats, first

to restore the vessel and employ her on the lake in the

paying a visit to the Uros people of Lake Titicaca, famed

coming years.

for their floating totora reed villages, before journeying on to the idyllic, Unesco-listed island of Taquile, renowned for

A clutch of excursions along the route between Cusco and

its pre-Incan terraces. We climb up stony paths from the


PERU (From top) the knitting men of Taquile; crisp service is a hallmark of Belmond trains

beach to meet some of the island’s 2,000 inhabitants and learn about their rich textile heritage. On the island, which follows strictly-controlled sustainable farming practices and has no transportation, motorised or other, knitting is exclusively performed by men, and is taught from a young age. Different woollen caps, different designs and different colours tell the story of the wearer, his family origins and his marital status. As elders perform traditional dances in a sun-kissed courtyard, we take a perch on vintage chairs that once graced the lounge car of the Great South Pacific Express, and dine on locally-grown quinoa and rainbow trout from the lake, the imposing glaciers of neighbouring Bolivia visible across the water. We return to the pier, sunburnt and sated, for afternoon tea, served in a restored warehouse, the train ready to depart only steps away, the sun already ducking behind the peaks that ring Puno. The next day, after another early wake up call, this time to capture the sunrise over Lake Saracocha, the train weaves its way along vertiginous ridges bathed in rich golden light, before diving into the dramatic landscape of the desert, the volcanos Misti and Chachani dominating the horizon. I’m sad to leave the train, sad to leave its gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) samba, the tranquility of my cabin, and the cool evening breeze of the observation car, but at Kilometer 93, a staging point in the middle of a volcanic desert populated by llamas and skittish, gingercoloured vicuùa, I leave with a handful of other guests. This point is closest to the highway to the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, and the Belmond Las Casitas which clings to its ancient pre-Incan terraces. However, I'm content in the knowledge that finally fellow lovers of slow travel can explore this unique destination as travellers have for generations, one stretch of track at a time.

Travel Essentials Fly American Airlines business class from Hong Kong to Lima (via Dallas) and on to Cusco from US$4,557 per person. Train: From US$1,800 per deluxe cabin, twin share, for the one-night Spirit of the Water itinerary and US$4,630 per deluxe cabin for the Peruvian Highlands itinerary, inclusive of meals, and beverages. Surcharges apply for some excursions.



Air Astana Hong Kong-Almaty Sometimes it takes a smaller airline without the baggage of a legacy carrier to really outshine the competitors. Air Astana is just such an airline, discovers Nick Walton. home (at night) the angled lie-flat bed can be problematic but for the westbound day time flight it’s perfect. Immaculately uniformed crew were quick to offer glasses of Tattinger Champagne, amenity kits by Christian Lacroix featuring Payot toiletries, and genuine smiles that made us feel like we were actually flying first class on a major carrier.


The Best Airline in Central and South Asia for five consecutive years, dining is also something Air Astana does very well. We were offered an amuse bouche of chicken rice paper rolls, which I matched with a Kapazahduhckoe beer from Kazakhstan. Lunch started with a trio of sweet chilli and lime marinated prawns with smoked Norwegian salmon, and John Dory mousseline with salmon roe and a balsamic reduction, which was fresh and succulent. This was followed by a choice of a fresh pear and roast pumpkin salad with feta cheese or roast zucchini and mint soup. Mains included chicken breast stuffed with roasted hazelnut and dried pear, with a potato and thyme gratin and a pink peppercorn sauce; grilled


You can be forgiven for having never heard of Air Astana, the national airline of Kazakhstan. Founded in 2002, the airline already has a coveted Skytrax four-star rating and is rapidly expanding its regional and international network both as the gateway to Kazakhstan and as a carrier that can link east and west as the ancient Silk Road once did.

Check In/The Lounge

Air Astana’s check in desks at Hong Kong International are in the much quieter Terminal 2 which is actually great as you fly through the process and security and are in the lounge shortly after. Air Astana’s business class passengers have access to Plaza Premium’s two lounges at HKIA and as we were departing from gate 61, I made for the lounge above gate 40, which was busy but a dedicated airline section was serene and well-staffed.

First Impressions

Service is a core component of the Air Astana experience and it’s immediately apparent, with smiling cabin crew not only welcoming passengers onboard but guiding them to their seats on the twoclass Boeing 757-200. While this is an older plane, it has been well maintained and each of the 16 business class seats (of which 12 were occupied) set in a 2-2 configuration is more than adequate for the sixhour flight between Hong Kong and Almaty. We departed on time, first flying east before circling northwest over China.

The Seat

I’m actually a fan of the Air Astana business class seat. Simplistic yet very comfortable, the 20-inch wide seat features AC connectivity, plenty of storage and a pitch of 50-inches. The only niggle is that when you fly

beef tenderloin with a tomato demi-glace sauce and parmesan arancini; soy and ginger baked Norwegian salmon and perch medallions with garlic lemon prawns and turmeric rice; and Hong Kong braised eggplant, with mushrooms and a spicy bean sauce. The beef was perfectly cooked and proportioned and was matched with the Palaja Colli gini Rosso suggested by the cabin crew from an impressive wine list. After a delay caused by turbulence, dessert was served and I opted for cheese and crackers and a well-made gin and tonic.


I’m not sure how they do it but Air Astana cabin crew make everything they do look easy, from a seamless meal service to helping stow heavy cabin luggage. Everything is done with foresight and intuition, clearly the results of effective training. I never needed to reach for the call button (and I can be quite fussy) as there was always at least one crew member in the cabin at any one moment, which is in itself impressive.


While Air Astana’s business class seats don’t have monitors, crew are quick to offer pre-loaded ipads and headphones though I opted to use my own of both.


Air Astana has impressed me before, and it’s done it again, with a winning combination of intuitive service, a business class product that’s big on human interaction, and brilliant dining at 40,000 feet.

Business class flights from Hong Kong to Almaty return from US$2,540.





Adding to these island charms are the convenient onward connections offered by SriLankan Airlines which covers a range of cities in the Middle East and Indian sub-continent which include Kerala and Tamil Nadu and popular tourist getaways such as the Seychelles and Maldives’ Male and Gan Island. Currently, the Airline serves four cities in China—Beijing, Shanghai, Canton and Kunming with a total of 15 weekly flights. From July this year, the Airline plans to operate daily flights to Canton. SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier for Sri Lanka and a member of the oneworld alliance, is an award-winning airline with a firm reputation as a global leader in service, comfort, safety, reliability, and punctuality.


n a progressive move to cater to the growing demand for air travel between Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, SriLankan Airlines, the National Carrier of Sri Lanka and a member of the oneworld alliance, has upgraded its services to five non-stop flights a week between the two destinations. The Airline has been serving Hong Kong since 1984, thereby facilitating business and leisure and also the Sri Lankan expatriates living in Hong Kong. This move comes into being as a part of the Airline’s expansion plans in the Far Eastern region which has become one of SriLankan’s focus markets. Along with enhanced connectivity, passengers will also have the opportunity of enjoying the trademark Sri Lankan hospitality, modern cabin comforts, wider variety of entertainment and a delectable array of on-board delicacies.

Launched in 1979, the airline's hub is located at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo providing convenient connections to its global network (including codeshare partners) of 101 destinations in 48 countries around the world. Its direct route map covers major cities across the Europe, Middle East, India, South East Asia and the Far East. The Airline operates an all Airbus fleet including a state-of-the-art A330-300 fleet on its medium and long haul operations. Awards include World’s Friendliest Cabin Staff by Skytrax, Best Full Service Airline- Asia by Future Travel Awards, APEX Award for Service Excellence, Best Airline in South Asia from Travel Trade Gazette, World’s Most Reliable Operator of Airbus A330s by Airbus Industrie, and the Etihad Global Excellence Award for Best Regional Caterer.

SriLankan Airlines , Country Manager Hong Kong, Mr. Thusitha Wickramasinghe said, “SriLankan Airlines is pleased to upgrade its connectivity between Colombo and Hong Kong through the introduction of non-stop flights, which will allow us to offer a wider choice and added convenience to our passengers. The Airline has identified APAC region as a prime component in its expansion strategy and we will continue to look for potential to consolidate our presence in the region.” Sri Lanka is a destination much sought after by travellers for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant wildlife and aquamarine beaches that surround the island. From the lush green landscapes to metropolitan cityscapes, the island offers something to any type of a traveler.'

Unit 2202B, Bank of East Asia Harbour View Centre, 56 Gloucester Road, Hong Kong Tel: + 852 2521 0825 24 hour Toll Free Line: +852 3051 2822 E-Mail: Web: Facebook: SriLankan Airlines Hong Kong Instagram: srilankan_airlines_hk




immigration forms, which were followed by drinks – in my case a Beefeater

The Qantas lounge at Hong Kong International Airport remains one of my

24 and tonic – and smoked almonds, served by tray, meaning no huge

favourite airline lounges in the world. Refined, contemporary, spacious

trolleys filling the aisle as crew prepared lie-flat beds with signature

and lit with tons of natural light, the lounge is reminiscent of a sleek

mattresses and duvets for passengers looking to sleep immediately.

hotel restaurant rather than a pit stop pre-flight. The bar makes a great dirty martini; the signature char siu pork and rice is addictive; there’s an


extensive hot and cold food presentation that’s heavy on fresh produce

As a medium-haul red eye flight, the menu was suitably light but packed

and healthy grains; and café and lounge style seating throughout. The

with flavour, with choices including a cheese plate; pumpkin soup with

only thing missing is a dress code - there were a few too many tank tops

pancetta and potato ravioli; eggplant and okra curry with yellow lentil

during my recent visit.

dhal; a grilled chicken ciabatta with harissa coleslaw and avocado; fried emperor crab with chilli and bamboo shoots; and a herb-crusted pork


cutlet with roasted potatoes and onion cream. The ciabatta was perfectly

I boarded the Qantas A330-300 aircraft from gate 22 and was greeted

proportioned and well-matched with a sauvignon blanc from Adelaide

by the same genuine welcome I got at the lounge (you’d be surprised

chosen by Rockpool Sydney's sommeliers. Dessert included a peach,

how rare they are these days). Crew were quick to dish out the goodies,

plum and raspberry cobbler and ice cream but I opted for cheese and

which included bottles of mineral water, glasses of Taittinger Cuvee


Prestige Brut champagne, amenity kits from a series of 16 new designs by Australian artists packed with ASPAR products, and chic sleeper suits


that make great PJs in winter.

If you’re a bit of a night owl like me you’ll love the selection of films and


enhanced Panasonic inflight entertainment system.

My window seat, 6K, is one of Qantas’ newest generation, Marc Newsondesigned Business Suites. With a 1-2-1 configuration, the A330’s business class cabin features 28 seats, each of which is dressed in charcoal leather and blonde wood, with fixed privacy screens, USB and AC ports that are easily accessed at shoulder level, a touch-screen monitor that auto-adjusts brightness based on ambiance light levels, and a control

television programmes, classic and new release, available through the

WHAT WE LOVED When made up properly, the lie-flat seat is pure bliss to sleep on and offers a brilliant night’s rest.


panel that includes Do Not Disturb and a ‘gate-to-gate recline’ settings.

Dinner took over an hour to begin, which is a long time for a relatively


Bring your own headphones if real noise-cancelling is your thing.

As usual, the service on my Qantas flight was intuitive and intelligent rather than the robotic service many airlines dish out. After takeoff, the inflight service manager personally greeted each guest as he handed out

short night flight, hence the number of passengers who skipped it entirely.

Qantas Hong Kong-Brisbane return in business class from HK$24,800 (US$3,175) per person.

LIFESTYLE The Man from Abruzzo

operetta CheF LuCa de berardinis

The Spyder’s Bite

audi r8 spyder v10 pLus

Designer vs Diner gough’s on gough

oMega’s newest aqua terra ModeLs SHANGHAI’S PLAZA 66 REOPENS





TheMan from Abruzzo


Heading up the kitchen at Hong Kong’s acclaimed Italian restaurant Operetta, one Michelin-starred Italian chef Luca de Berardinis shares with Isabelle Lui his thoughts on modern day Italian fare, the inspiration behind his exciting new menu, and the importance of respecting tradition. You were raised on a farm in Italy’s Abruzzo region; how did your upbringing influence your career?

What’s your favourite dish from the new menu?

Growing up on a farm with my parents and

It has to be the Pappardelle with lamb ragout,

grandparents, I developed a whole new

which reminds me of my hometown.

authentic Italian way.

decades. Now, we are back to the basics again as family style dining comes back in trend.

What role does fresh seasonal produce play in your menu? As someone who grew up on an ancestral

level of respect for farmers and for quality

How did you come up with your unique take on beef carpaccio?

farm, I think it’s vital to know where your

with best quality of fresh produce, and it’s my duty as a chef to use it to create the best

The Carpaccio di Carne Salada is a popular

each ingredient's seasonality. Italy’s cooking

cuisine I can. Quality ingredients are crucial

raw beef and salad dish in Italy; I want to

tradition is centered around seasonality and

produce. Farmers work hard to provide us

to great food.

serve something similar but with a twist in

Before your arrival at Operetta you worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Italy, including Ristorante Perbellini and Ristorante La Bastiglia. How does the new role compare?

flavour. Raw beef has a natural sweetness, which works well with citrus and earthy seasonings. We used Australian wagyu beef and seasoned it with orange and coffee, giving a nice balanced flavour to the raw beef.

produce comes from and to appreciate

the origins of the produce; different Italian regions are famed for specific ingredients and Italian chefs respect both the seasonality and the traditions of the ingredients they cook with.

What is the biggest challenge incorporating modern flare with tradition family fare?

establishments where I used to work, at

Where do you get inspiration for new dishes?

Operetta, we focus on innovative family-

Through books, eating around, trying out

to where it was developed and appropriate

style Italian cuisine that is also great value

new produce available in the market, and


for money, which allows me to develop a

carrying out cooking experiments to create

generations. You have to master the classic

menu catering to all kinds of consumers.

dishes with new ingredients while exploring

recipes before making changes to create a


new techniques.

modern take on these timeless dishes. At all

I’m finding it relaxing. Unlike the fine dining






How is Italian cuisine changing? Time has influenced Italian cuisine massively.

What can Hong Kong diners expect from Operetta’s new menu?






times it’s important to recognise and respect

shopping mall, we aim to offer an authentic Italian dining experience.

A traditional recipe always has a strong link

Family style eateries were everywhere 30

where classic dishes come from before you start experimenting.

Operetta’s new menu freshens Italian family

trend that sees diners go to fish restaurants

What ingredients experimenting with?

dining with comforting, generous dishes,

for fish and steakhouses for a decent piece

Horseradish from Trentino, in northern Italy,

ideal for sharing. There’s also a strong focus

of steak. Italian fine dining had also been

with smoked leek and Spanish-style pork

on house-made elements, which is the

very popular internationally in the past two


years ago and that has slowly evolved into a







an InJecTIon oF coLour and FLare InTo a corner oF cenTraL hong kong ThaT soreLy needs IT, gough’s on gough has Been one oF The mosT anTIcIpaTed neW resTauranTs To open In The cITy ThIs year. BuT Is IT aLL JusT hype? By NICK WALTON.

f you’re a fan of British interiors brand

displays his impressive technique and the

A winner for me was the Australian grass-fed

Timothy Oulton, the fact that it has

influences of his travels.

beef with porcini, shallots and potato, served in two ways (and as separate dishes). The first, a

opened a restaurant in Hong Kong will be of great interest. If you’ve never

Arriving just after our well-made and well-

braised short rib with tempura shallots is soul-

heard of the brand, your response

proportioned drinks – a Churchill Martini with

soothing and decadent, and literally melts in

might be a little more measured. Sure, the

Plymouth gin for me and the Bar Italia, with

the mouth, while the second, a medium rare

interiors of Gough’s on Gough are beautiful

Lairds 80 proof Applejack and Amaro Averna

fillet with mashed potatoes is certainly tasty

and fascinating in their eclecticism – there’s

for my companion – a trifecta of bite-sized

but also rather forgettable.

an aquarium populated by red-bellied piranha,

dishes kicks off the journey. The ‘beef pop

exquisite furniture that hints at a bygone era

shot’ is an intriguing take on the traditional

The last savoury dish, sustainable farmed

far more sophisticated and indulgent than

beef tartare, with silky beef and egg yolk

barramundi with oscietra caviar and a shellfish

today, and marble-topped tables wreathed

wrapped in a crepe and topped with beef heart

cream, is delicate and fresh and vibrant,

by leather banquettes the shade of Amedei

shavings. The P.B.C. (Potato Beans & Cheese)

and awakens somnolent palates in time for

Porcelana. But as the better half and I took our

is comfort food at its best, with gooey cheese


tiny table for two, wedged between a wall and

topping a baby baked potato, and is followed

a wall-of-noise (two young women fascinated

by the English Seaside, brown crab mousse

Our two desserts are highlights of the tasting

with others’ infidelities), I couldn’t shake off

layered on a crisp rice and squid ink cracker

menu: floral, fragrant and veracious, the

the feeling of being on a windowless train,

and served on stones set in a timber frame.

strawberries and cream, inspired by a British

entertained but ultimately confined. This is

So far so good.

summer, has just enough citrus undertone to cut through the sweetness of the strawberry

Hong Kong and no matter what you’re sitting on or who designed the chandeliers swaying

Rhodes’ time in Peru can be seen in the next

sorbet and the chunks of honeycomb; while

noiselessly above, space is the true luxury.

dish, baby purple corn with slices of avocado, a

the lychee dish is perfectly balanced with hints

sprinkle of kinawa, and a zesty leche de tigre

of spice from the gingerbread, soothed by the

Of course, you’re here for the food. Head

marinade. While the dish is visually appealing,


chef Arron Rhodes, formerly of Singapore’s

its flavours are not particularly unique and the

Restaurant Andre, Berkshire’s two-starred

plate's contents could fit in a dessert spoon.

Throughout the meal service is crisp and attentive, which is truly rare in Hong Kong,

The Vineyard at Stockcross, and Peru’s Central Restaurante, has created both tasting

The North Sea langoustine with sweet melon

and the wine parings by the sommelier were

and a la carte menus of modern British cuisine

and cauliflower couscous is a nice marriage

intelligent and whimsical. Whether the culinary


take their inspiration from United

that helps say goodbye to summer and hello

team will continue to play second fiddle to the

Kingdom classics with touches of Asia and

to Autumn. The fleshy langoustine contrasts

interiors, or chef Rhodes steps up and starts

Latin America. This fusion of cultures is best

nicely with the texture of the puffed rice

leaning away from the tried and tested remains

experienced with the eight-course tasting

beneath but overall the dish doesn’t have

to be seen.

menu (HK$998 per person or HK$1,428 with

the bitter-sweet punch we’d expect from the

wine pairing), a canvas on which Rhodes

tarragon mayo.


TOP TABLES Inspired by the adventures of Pulitzer-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, Hong Kong’s newest speakeasy, The

Old Man,

is the creation of three of the city’s leading mixologists. The pintsized Soho cocktail divan features a brilliantly simple menu of classic concoctions given a modern kick, with highlights including The Little Wax Puppy, a blend of beeswax-infused Michter’s small batch bourbon with eucalyptus honey and bitters; the Papa Doble, with pineapple sous-vide rum, pink grapefruit, lime, and maraschino sous-vide jalapeno; and The Sun Also Rises, with coconut oil fat-washed applejack, curry leaf-infused gin, sweet vermouth sous-vide pandan leaves and kaffir lime. They also do a mean Hemmingway Daiquiri.

From speakeasies in Hong Kong to eclectic tapas in Bangkok, these are the hottest tables in the region this season. Located at the heart of Hong Kong's vibrant Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood,

Second Street Comfort Food & Bar

has launched a new menu to coincide with its chic new interiors. A popular spot for after work drinks and weekend brunches among the precinct’s trendy residents, Second Street dishes up simple yet delectable comfort dishes designed to sooth the soul without bruising the wallet. Dishes to look out for include authentic Dutch bitter balls with slow-cooked beef ragout; housemade beef meatballs in a rich tomato basil sauce; and Mediterranean-styled baked whole sea bass, matched with a well-priced wine list of old and new world favourites. The most anticipated new opening for Harbour City this year,


is an intimate new addition to the Ocean Terminal

dining scene, serving delectable, modern takes on Europeaninfluenced Kappo ceremonial dishes using the finest imported ingredients. Be sure to grab a perch at the long bar table to watch chef Hideaki Matsuo of Osaka’s three Michelin-starred Kashiwaya and executive chef Agustin Balbi prepare elegant, intriguing dishes laced with touches of luxury and tradition. Kick off with the likes of fatty tuna and Polmard beef topped with Kristal caviar and served with rice crackers; and Kagoshima wagyu with Eringi mushrooms and baby turnips, with each dish presented on one of eight breathtaking settings, each with their own traditional waka poem.

TOP TABLES 87 Hidden away above Wellington Street in Central Hong Kong, cocktail destination bar Bitters and Sweets has been building up a cult-

like following since its opening a year ago, creating its own bitters, syrups and imaginative infusions. Its new menu, the fruits of those experimentations, features a stunning selection of both classic and contemporary tipples, matched with an assortment of gourmet bar snacks. New additions include the Snickers, an indulgent take on the classic candy bar, with peanut butter vodka, amaretto, Frangelico, and cocoa; Smokey the Pig, an Old Fashioned made with smoky bacon bourbon, maple syrup, and hickory smoke; and the White Negroni; a unique take on a timeless classic with tequila, Carpano Bianco vermouth, La Gentiane des Peres Chartreux, and St Germaine laced with maple wood smoke. A new happy hour includes free-flow options, while drinks can be paired with the likes of Parisian Polmard beef tartare; avocado rice paper spring rolls, and s’mores served in the skillet.

Explore the taste of Catalan fare at newly opened

Gaig Restaurant Singapore .

Tucked away in

the Lion City’s bustling Telok Ayer area, the restaurant by celebrated chef Carles Gaig features the traditional Spanish family dishes of the Michelin-starred Barcelona original, including a variety of tapas, paellas, and classic Catalan stews. Look out for the squid ink seafood fideu, a paella-like umami dish, with seafood and vermicelli noodles cooked in fish stock; and the shrimp all-i-pebre, with prawns cooked in a flavourful reduction made with almond, hazelnut, garlic and paprika, served with crusty bread.

The sister restaurant of Madrid’s El Rinconcito de Juan by chef Rubén González, Bangkok’s newest tapas bar El Tapeo delivers a new Spanish gastronomic experience to the Thai capital. Adopting a down-to-earth and authentic

approach to Spanish cuisine, the tabernas, a combination of bar and restaurant similar to Japanese Izakayas, offers an eclectic menu of Spain-inspired cocktails matched with traditional snacks, ranging from cold cuts and cheeses sourced from different regions across the Iberian Peninsula; Albóndigas de cerdo caseras, homemade meatballs made with minced pork, garlic and parsley, laced with homemade tomato sauce; and Paella de marisco, a classic soul-soothing dish with saffron, vegetables and fresh locally-sourced seafood.



Taking its name from the Leith Docks

One of the greatest things about rum

An exceptional whisky expression,

of Edinburgh, where the distillery

is that you can increasingly trace the

is housed, the newest Scottish gin

terroir and individual styles produced

kavaLan soList port singLe Cask strength singLe MaLt

sensation is Leith

gin, a uniquely

in different parts of the world. Rum

reunion 7 year

is the latest drop from the multi-award

herbaceous tipple and the first of

Nation’s brilliant

Gleann Mór Spirits’ geographical

agriCoLe is just such an opportunity

in April, this prized whisky is entirely

range. The new 100 percent grain spirit

– after all, when was the last time you

aged in a former port cask and bottled

gin boasts a total of ten botanicals,

were sipping rum from this remote

at a heady 59.4% ABV, in line with the

including licorice, ground nutmeg,

corner of the Indian Ocean? With an

rest of the Solist series of single cask

cinnamon bark, lime peel and orris

intense golden hue, and a warm, spicy

releases. Distilled from 100 percent

root. The result is a delicate and light

nose with hints of black tea, chamomile

malted barley, this very special dram

winning Taiwanese distillery. Released

spirit with a fresh, grassy nose with

and oak, this unique rum is rich and

features a nose rich in malt, with porty

touches of citrus and sweet juniper,

full bodied, making it idea for Autumn

notes and plenty of floral characters.

followed by a dry palate with hints

sipping. You’ll find touches of clove,

The perfect gift for that true whisky

of angelica root, and a refreshingly

orange peel, pepper, and aniseed, as

lover in your life, look out for fruit

clean finish that lends itself ideally

well as that wonderful, lush sugarcane

cake and tobacco as well as a perfect

to artisanal gin and tonics. Bottled at

sweetness that comes from a boutique

balance and a silky fine texture that

46% ABV this is a heady spirit for true

Agricole rum. Rum Nation also has

finishes with dark chocolate with a


selected rums from Barbados, Jamaica,

touch of ripe dark fruit sweetness.

Guadeloupe, Panama and Trinidad,


ensuring connoisseurs can broaden

their rum horizons.

From gins inspired by the sea to whiskies we’re serving this


Known for its award-winning whiskies, Japanese distillers Nikka

Another superb English craft gin to hit the market, Fishers

Gin, produced by

For the perfect addition to Autumn cocktails, Pinkster

Gin is an

has created the Coffey series of

Adnams’ Southwold distillery, incorporates

vodkas and gins, using 100 percent

once-forgotten English botanicals like

five botanicals, of which three

Coffey still distillate. Named for the

spignel and rock samphire into the

– juniper, raspberries and black

still’s inventor, Aeneas Coffey, this

traditional London dry gin style. The

peppercorn – are publicly known.

‘agreeably British gin’ made with

traditional two-column continuous

spirit captures the wild flavours of the

The fresh raspberries that give

still, imported from Scotland in 1963,

English coast thanks to wild fennel, bog

the gin its eye-catching pink hue

produces quality grain whiskies, and

myrtle and wild angelica, all of which are

are steeped in the triple distilled

retains more character compared to

either grown for or foraged by the gin’s

spirit and later infused in the gin,

more modern processes. Nikka Coffey Gin is characterised by

producers. With a distinctive caraway-

delivering a smooth, dry finish with

like nose thanks to the spignel, and

subtle touches of sweetness (the

its silky texture; made with traditional

a herbaceousness that lends itself to

raspberries left over are also used

botanicals accentuated by a burst of

modern gin and tonics (the distillers

to make the brand’s own jam). Ideal for tall gin cocktails, Pinkster

local flavour, including yuzu, kabosu,

recommend a sweet garnish to counter

amanatsu and shikuwasa, this unique

the savoury notes), this beautifully-

has a sweet profile with hints of

gin lends itself perfectly to gin-

crafted gin is presented in a stout, eye-

coriander and a jammy raspberry

laced highballs thanks to a delicate

catching bottle with a colourful net-like

note with a slightly spicy finish.

fruitiness and touches of Japanese

motif that echoes the origin story and the

sansho pepper.

sense of transcendence of this distinctly modern spirit.

WARMERS preserving tradition, here's the spirits season. By Nick Walton




The world’s first female Master Blender, Joy Spence forged a love for rum from a passion for chemistry. This year she celebrates her 20th year as master blender at Appleton Estate with the limited release Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend Rare Jamaica Rum (25 Years Old), a stunning compilation of the blending art. She speaks with Isabelle Lui about her love for rum, craft spirit trends, and the return of the classic rum cocktail. What inspired you to blend rums?

The 25-year-old rum is my favourite pot

same way you would a whiskey or a fine

When I was young, I fell in love with

still mark, which adds a whole different


chemistry but I never thought I would

dimension to the blend. The other rums

be making rum. I thought I'd probably

I used tend to form a subtle fruity note

work in an analytical lab doing various

in the blend along with a little spice. This

How should we enjoy a quality rum?

chemical experiments, but 35 years ago I

rum also has an amazing orange peel

Rums are great for cocktails; they can be

joined the company as the chief chemist

top note, wrapped with ginger and spice,

mixed with any ingredients because of

and started working with the previous

and finishes with warm vanilla, coffee,

their versatility, but premium aged rums

master blender. I discovered a whole

cocoa, butterscotch, and almond notes.

are best appreciated neat or in what we

new world of sensory analysis and was

It’s exceptionally smooth, creates depths

call ‘elegant cocktails’, which allow you

able to differentiate the aromas in rum as

and lingers on your tongue.

to appreciate the beautiful, complex

well as to blend the different types of rum to create various expressions.

There’s a range of spirits available, why should we choose rum?

flavours without masking with mixers.

How do you see the trend of handcrafted spirits evolving in Asia?

What cuisine best matches aged rum?





Aged rums go very well with Asian

Rum is the most versatile spirit in the






cuisine, especially if there’s a lot of

world. It’s capable of infinite variation in

personal touch in the blend. Consumers

ginger used. Anything spicy or fruity

terms of different smells, ages and body.

are now seeking uniqueness and a

complements well with rum, even Indian

It is suitable for any occasion: great for

different spirit, and handcrafted rums are

curry. Chocolate is a very good pairing

a nice party and great for a romantic

creating that niche.

ingredient for rum too.

How is the demand for premium rum changing?

Tell us a rum myth most people believe?

The premium aged rum category is

Most rum consumers believe that all

What made you choose the particular aged rums for your namesake blend?

growing. Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

white rums are unaged and that is not

has to create and define that category

true. There are aged white rums. When

because we introduced our first premium

you age a rum, it takes on the colour of

I chose 25 and 35-year-old rums to form

rums in the 1980s, when few rum

the barrel so it becomes a golden colour.

the heart and soul of the Joy Anniversary

producers offered premium aged rums.

But for an aged white rum, you remove

Blend. The 35-year-old rum was put

This particular category is educating

the colour using charcoal so the rum has

down the year I joined the company

consumers on the fact that rum can be

no colour but still has the flavour from

and has a very special meaning for me.

complex, sophisticated, and enjoyed the


setting, where you just sip and enjoy it neat, as you would a cognac or single malt whiskey.




Experience an unforgettable wedding and unbelievable honeymoon with Constance Hotels & Resorts


etting married represents one of the most important days in anyone’s life, so nailing every last detail is paramount. After celebrating with family and friends, newlyweds will be looking forward to a well-earned break, and what better way to start married life than with a beautiful honeymoon in a sun kissed paradise? With alluring coastlines ringed with soft white sand, crystalline water and year-round sunshine, the Indian Ocean boasts some of the world’s most romantic destinations. Indulge your dreams of a perfect wedding by arranging your nuptials with Constance Hotels & Resorts, which offers an outstanding array of romantically-inclined properties in the Maldives, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. Get wed at one of Constance seven dazzling Indian Ocean locations and you’ll receive a host of exclusive services that will ensure every last detail of the big day goes smoothly, from the bouquet to the banquet. In addition to a dedicated wedding planner overseeing your special day, brides and grooms to be will receive pre-wedding spa treatments and professional make-up to ensure they look their very best for the photos, another service that’s included as part of the comprehensive Constance wedding package.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION hand at Constance Halaveli? Situated in the exquisite surrounds of the North Ari Atoll, honeymooners can while away the day by taking a romantic dip in their private plunge pool, then stretching out in a beachside hammock with a cocktail in one hand, a bestseller in the other. Honeymooners can choose from one of 57 water villas, nine beach villas or eight double storey beach villas, each of which are equipped with their own private plunge pool and terrace or balcony. Unforgettable experiences fit for a honeymoon at Constance Halaveli include coming face to face with a whale shark or contemplating the astonishing atolls from a sea plane. Newlyweds staying at Constance Halaveli can also unwind at U Spa, where double treatment rooms mean couples can indulge in spa treatments in sync while admiring the stellar views over turquoise waters. Yoga fans looking for an inspirational experience, meanwhile, can arrange a sunrise meditation with the resort’s yoga master. Another equally exquisite slice of Maldivian magic awaits at Constance Moofushi, where one of the best

As for the big day itself, the ceremony can take place on the beach or inside one of the resort’s beautiful villas depending on the couple’s preference, while a celebratory lavish banquet, starlit dinner for two or in-villa intimate dining are also included. A pretty rose petal turndown and Champagne breakfast round out the wedding package, while the honeymoon packages are just as enticing. With the breathtaking scenery of the Indian Ocean as the backdrop, Constance Hotels offers luxurious villas and picturesque suites to the happy couple alongside sunset cruises, exclusive wine tastings, romantic dinners, couples massage and a Champagne breakfast, where newlyweds can raise a glass to their happiness. Renowned for its crystal clear waters and pristine white sand beaches, the Maldives has proved an extremely popular option for those who want to tie the knot in a tropical paradise then enjoy all the delights this tropical nation has to offer on their first holiday as husband and wife. What better way to start your life as Mr and Mrs than by waking up in newly wed luxury with a glass of champers in

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION diving sites in the world, the South Ari Atoll, is located. Grab a snorkel and swim alongside Hawksbill turtles and keep an eye out for napoleon fish as they weave in and out of the colourful coral, or take a sunset cruise in a traditional dhoni where you may see dolphins frolicking in the crystal clear waters. Set on its own secluded island on the South Ari, other highlights of a honeymooner’s stay may include trying their hand at hand reel bottom fishing by night to catch groupers and blue fin jacks. Guest can also get an authentic feel of local life by visiting the nearby fishing village of Himandoo, where there are also some shopping options for the happy couple to pick up some souvenirs of their trip. Those looking for a very special honeymoon experience, meanwhile, can book a Romantic Getaway trip from Constance Moofushi, where a dhoni transports couples to their very own deserted island for a day so they can walk hand in hand along their very own beach, or take a quiet dip with their beau in the isle’s pristine waters. Couples that are feeling undecided about which of these unique resorts is right for them needn’t worry, as Constance can arrange a wedding and honeymoon that incorporates both of these very special places in the Maldives. Looking for an excuse to return to Constance Halaveli or Constance Moofushi? Then come back and renew your vows in one of these stunning resorts located amid Maldivian paradise.



Ferdinand A. Porsche designed the original Aquatimer Ocean 2000 for IWC Schaffhausen back in 1982. With its avantgarde design, this extremely pressure-resistant diver’s watch was years ahead of its time. In celebration of the 35th birthday of this style icon, IWC has released a special limited-edition version with a thickness of just 14.5 millimetres. Limited to 350 watches, the Aquatimer Automatic 2000 Edition “35 Years Ocean 2000” (Ref. IW329101) is the thinnest deep-sea diver’s watch in IWC’s collection. Despite the minimal case height, the new model functions reliably on dives of up to 2,000 metres thanks to the new, improved shape of its titanium case. Design features such as the black dial, the white hands and indices coated with luminescent paint and the red tip of the seconds hand are inspired by the Ocean 2000, while the striking recessed grips on the rotating bezel and the lamellar-style rubber strap pay tribute to the Porsche original from 1982. A diver’s helmet for deep-sea divers is engraved on the back of the watch, reminding the owner each day of its extreme pressure-resistance of 200 bar.



Fifteen years after Omega created its first Aqua Terra collection of watches made for life on land and at sea, the Swiss watch brand has released a wide selection of new pieces for the Aqua Terra series, including 30 new additions to the ladies’ collection. Available in three sizes – 28mm, 34mm, and 38mm - the new ladies’ models feature classic Aqua Terra design DNA as well as some innovative twists, with Master Chronograph versions available for most models. The new additions, available in 14 colours, feature dials in mother-of-pearl, gloss or shimmer; new conical crowns; diamond indexes; and redesigned symmetrical cases that achieve a seamless integration with each piece’s feminine-styled bracelet. Each timepiece is also driven by the Master Chronometer calibre 8800/8801.



Time For

Innovation A timepiece for true connoisseurs, the new Patek Philippe Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G heralds the introduction of two new important innovations in the field of horological design. Sporty yet elegant, and limited to just 500 pieces world-wide, this unique timepiece features a new Spiromax balance spring made of Silinvar, the brand’s patented version of silicone, that features two terminal curves. The second inspiration is a compliant mechanism crafted in just 12 parts from conventional horological steel used to set the second time zone in time-zone watches, another industry first. Equipped with the calibre 324 S C FUS movement the Patek Philippe Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G is presented in white gold.


From wrinkle reducing creams to curve redefining lip pencils, these are the new essentials for your travel beauty regime. By Isabelle Lui

Chanel’s new Le Rouge Crayon De Couleur, a pencil that glides on your lips and emphasises the contours, has a soft and smooth texture, giving an indelible colour to your lips and an intense, satiny finish. Easy to use, your lips’ new best friend is available in 12 shades and comes in an elegant pen size that fits perfectly into a cosmetic kit or handbag.

A dual-textured lipstick formulated to create voluminous lips, the

Double Rouge from the Dior Rouge collection combines matte and metallic shades into one unique hue. The darker outer layer has a matte texture which outlines the curves of the lips, while the lighter metallic core produces shiny visual effects; the result is a puffy look created by two finely merged colours, making for a quick, easy finish to your makeup.

The Sisleÿa L’intégral Anti-âge Eye and Lip

Contour Cream is the latest skincare solution for women on the move. Combining Persian acacia and lindera extracts with yeast and soy protein complex, this cream soothes lines and re-energises skin to help fight signs of aging around eyes and lips. Its active ingredients include passion fruit extract, which combats puffiness of the eyes, and shea butter, which softens and moisturises skin.





Coinciding with the 155th anniversary of the birth of Austrian symbolist artist Gustav Klimt, Viennese jeweller Frey Wille has created the Frey Wille Hommage à Gustav Klimt collection. Featuring striking rings, pendants and earrings in fire enamel and 18-karat solid gold, the new range also includes a series of bold, vibrant bracelets, each taking its inspiration from the works of the acclaimed painter, including The Kiss, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

I , Hope II and Wasserschlangen.



BEST FRIEND Acclaimed Cape Town diamond merchant and boutique jewellery studio First Diamonds has created an exclusive new range: the African Earth Collection, a limited selection of unique pieces that celebrate the vivacious fancy-colour diamonds unearthed from African soils. As a ‘first-of-hand’ diamond merchant boasting decades of experience in the local and international diamond trade, First Diamonds has unique access to some of the finest gemquality diamonds discovered in South Africa and sourced direct from respected local diamond mines in strict accordance with the Kimberley Process. For the African Earth Collection, the jewellers chose to work with the remarkable array of fancy-colour diamonds, their auburn, yellow and gold hues echoing the rolling savannah grasslands, dramatic landscapes and dazzling sunshine of Africa. The collection includes this extraordinary ring, which features a single 4.6-carat fancy-colour stone surrounded by 72 perfectly matched diamonds, the glittering gems all encircled by white and yellow gold.





Pairing fine craftsmanship with a distinctively vintage look, the new 1926 Montblanc Heritage collection of leather goods takes its inspiration from today’s savvy traveller. For the first time, Montblanc has crafted a whole collection in vegetable tanned leather treated in the great Tuscan tradition to give each piece its rich dark brown ageing patina and worn-in charm. In contrast to the exterior, the bright red printed lining is inspired by the vibrant fabrics worn by the regal Maasai tribe. Beyond its name, the vintage attitude of the Heritage collection, which includes twenty bags, wallets and leather accessories, is reflected in every design detail, from the antique gold colour finishing of the metal fittings to the bridge and clasp closing systems. The collection has something for every world wanderer, from a retro-style Single Gusset Briefcase that features a two-buckle closure and adjustable shoulder strap, and a Document Case with zip, to a large Duffle Bag in rich brown leather with subtle detailing.

AUTO 105


SPYDER’S When Audi released the original R8 in 2006, it was a game changer for the road-ready sports car scene. The new Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus takes that legacy to the next level. By

Nick Walton.



ven perfection, it seems, can

demand (COD) system, which deactivates one

be enhanced. So it is with

cylinder bank at low to medium loads, as well

the new Audi R8 Spyder

as dual injection in the intake manifold and

V10 Plus, the fastest series-

combustion chambers. If the driver lets off the

production convertible model

accelerator at a speed of over 55 km/h, the

ever produced by the brand with the four rings.

engine disconnects from the drive and the new

Powered by an unmistakable 610 hp V10 mid-

R8 Spyder V10 Plus coasts at idle with minimal

engine, the Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus offers

fuel consumption; when it comes to a stop, a

intense driving performance, in part thanks to

start-stop system deactivates the engine entirely.

the extensive use of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer, although the exclusive ‘micrommata’

Behind the V10’s statistics is a seven-speed

green paint finish does give the V10 Plus a

S-tronic dual-clutch transmission with lightning-

Ginsu-sharp cutting-edge look.

fast action that sends power to the quattro drive system in the front axle via a cardan

The most powerful series-production engine

shaft. The car’s electro-hydraulically activated

from Audi, the V10 mid-engine outputs 449

multi-plate clutch is water-cooled for maximum

kW allowing the Plus model to sprint up to 100


km/h in 3.3 seconds. Coupled with lightningquick responsiveness and an awe-inspiring,

Management of the clutch is integrated in the

voluminous sound, the V10 mid-engine is an

Audi drive select dynamic driving system, which

object of fascination. Compared with the Audi

gives the driver a choice between comfort, auto,

R8 Spyder V10, the naturally aspirated 5.2

dynamic and individual modes. The standard

FSI engine features a 52 kW (70 hp) boost in

performance mode ‘dry’, ‘wet’ and ‘snow’

performance, and sometimes that’s all you need.

adapt the characteristics of the drive system and suspension to the friction coefficient of

You can get the most out of this green

the road, to ensure an exhilarating driving

monster thanks to ground-breaking efficiency

experience no matter the conditions. From

technologies, which include the cylinder on



TECHNOLOGY The new Canon EOS M100 camera is not only a stylish addition to your carry on, but is packed with features and cutting-edge technology. The successor to the EOS M10 interchangeable lens camera, the compact mirrorless EOS M100 is an easy-to-use yet powerful device, ideally suited to travellers looking to step up from smartphone photography. The EOS M100 camera is boosted by a powerful 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and the Canon DIGIC 7 processor, which is capable of rendering incredible details even when zoomed in on distant subjects or shooting in low-light scenarios. Packed with high-end features like Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which enables high-speed focusing, and video mode, novice and enthusiast photographers alike will appreciate the tremendous capabilities of the newest member of the EOS family.


BELIEVING From specialty smartphones to the latest in cutting edge digital SLRS, here are the tech essentials for your next journey. By Nick


Continuing the trend in 360-degree cameras, Kodak has released the Pixpro Orbit360 4K VR camera. With a dual camera set up, the new Orbit360 takes a leap in quality from previous Kodak models, with 4K resolution, two 20-megapixel CMOS sensors, and the ability to capture both 360-degree video and stills. Sporting a minimalist yet eye-catching design, the new Offering a distinctive smartphone experience, the

Orbit360 features a wifi connection for image transfer, including

new BlackBerry KEYone combines a sophisticated

almost real time social media posting, shared through the

design with a great camera and display, and other

Pixpro app, as well as Bluetooth connectivity for a remote that’s

state-of-the-art features, including the brand’s

sold separately. The Orbit360 features up to 128GB of internal

signature physical keyboard. Housed in an anodized

storage via microSD memory card slot.

aluminum frame with soft touch textured back, the KEYone is built to offer good looks and durability; the 4.5-inch display features scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass and paired with the physical keyboard, which responds to touch gestures, gives users a tactile and efficient smartphone experience. With an Adroid 7.1 operating system, the KEYone features BlackBerry Hub, which consolidates emails, texts and messages from social media accounts while also managing multiple email accounts without having to switch apps.


Ideally suited for selfie lovers, the new Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Series of Android smartphones feature high-quality, dual front-facing cameras and intuitive yet powerful image processing software that enables users to easily capture beautiful selfies and super-wide-angle ‘weefies’ on the go. An all-new SelfieMaster app lets users apply realtime beautification effects to selfies, videos, and live-streams, while the cameras' ‘beauty mode’ enables professional-quality adjustments, from skin softening and eye enhancement to facial-feature balancing. The flagship ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro has the world's most advanced selfie camera with a Sony IMX362 dual-pixel image sensor and an ASUS SuperPixel engine that enables users to capture brighter low-light selfies and astonishingly detailed 4K UHD selfie videos, thanks to a f/1.8 aperture lens.

For serious shooters looking for a camera system that can keep up with the action, Sony has released the new a9, its latest mirrorless SLR. Designed for speed, the new Sony a9 features the world’s first 24MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor and the ability to capture 20 frames a second, ensuring you never miss the most important moments of your next adventure abroad. Silent and vibration free at speeds of up to 1/32,000, the a9 boasts a 693-point focal plane phase detection AF system that tracks complex, erratic Take your travel experiences to the next level with

motion with higher accuracy than ever before, while the electronic

the new immersive 360-degree 5.7k VIRB 360

viewfinder functions with absolutely no blackout, giving the user a

camera from Garmin. A rugged and fully-spherical

seamless live view of their subject at all times. Dual SD card slots,

360-degree camera, the waterproof VIRB 360 is

an extended battery life, and ethernet port connectivity for fast

an easy-to-use camera that captures impressive

image transfer make this an essential system for true photography

high-quality video up to 5.7K/30fps, with four


built-in microphones to ensure everything sounds as good as it looks in any direction. Whether you’re kayaking down river rapids or mountain biking through rough terrain, the VIRB 360’s 4K Spherical Stabilization makes every video smooth and steady. Videos are easily uploaded for editing or sharing instantaneously, while built-in GPS and numerous other sensors provide users with customisable G-Metrix data overlays, featured during a captivating 360-degree augmented reality setting. With a rechargeable battery offering one hour of recording, the VIRB 360 is built to withstand overheating and wet conditions and can even take stitched-in-camera, 360-degree, 15-megapixel spherical photos for a new take on your favourite destinations.







as well as recognising the worldwide reputation of the Macau Grand Prix. In between or after races, spectators can head over to the Macao Food Festival at nearby Sai Van Lake Square and sample culinary delights from around the world.   Race fans can also take time away from the track to visit one of Macao’s many tourist attractions, including world heritage sites such as the Ruins of Saint Paul, beautiful Senado Square in the heart of the city or the pretty fishing village of Coloane, where a trip to Hac Sa beach is a must.   Getting to the Macau Grand Prix event is very straightforward, as the city is served by direct flights to Macau International Airport and can be accessed by land from neighbouring Chinese cities, and by air and sea from Hong Kong.   Ferries from Hong Kong to the Macao Peninsula depart approximately every 20 minutes with Turbojet Ferries from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal and the crossing takes around an hour. Passengers staying at the Cotai Strip, meanwhile, can take the Cotai Jet to the new ferry terminal in Taipa. If you want to arrive in style, then arrange a helicopter ride from the Shun Tak Centre in Hong Kong, which takes 16 minutes.   For ticket prices and more information: and   Kong Seng / Macao Ticketing Service Ticket reservation hotline Macau (853) 2855 5555 Hong Kong (852) 2380 5083 Website: Email:

ften likened to the Monaco F1 street circuit, Macau’s Guia track is the site of the Macau Grand Prix and typified by its tight corners and long straights. Former F1 world champions Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have both claimed victory round this adrenaline-fuelled track during their days as F3 racers, as did F1 drivers David Coulthard and Takuma Sato. The race has come a long way since the first Macau Grand Prix was held in 1954, when 15 entrants raced for victors’ laurels by doing 51 laps of the 3.9-mile long Guia circuit. Last year, 200 competitors took part in the seven races from 34 countries and the event was attended by almost 80,000 spectators.   This year’s event, to be held from 16-19 November, will see six exciting races take place around this challenging street circuit. In addition to the Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, the other big draws are SJM Macau GT Cup, the Suncity Group Macau Guia Race and the Suncity Group Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix. The line-up also includes the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup and the Suncity Group Chinese Racing Cup. This underscores the confidence the motorsport world governing body has in the organisational capabilities of Macao,



The 17th Macau Food Festival looks set to be the most delicious yet   A favourite event on the Macao calendar with local residents and visitors alike, the Macau Food Festival offers something for all palates. Roam the stalls and sample Asian, European, and authentic Macanese delicacies, from juicy pork chop buns to creamy egg tarts. Held from 10-26 November at Sai Van Lake Square, the festival is akin to a gourmet paradise, a place where visitors can sample a wide range of culinary delights in one place. To make the event even more special, there are also game booths, live music performances and a beer competition. The Macau Food Festival will be open from Monday to Thursday 5pm-11pm, and Friday to Sunday 3pm to 12pm.  


A highlight on the Asian sporting calendar, the Macao Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon has attracted large numbers of local and long-distance runners since its inception in 1981. Taking in the peninsula, Taipa and Coloane, this scenic race will be held on 3 December this year alongside the half marathon and a 5.5km mini marathon race. All races will begin at the Olympic Sport Centre Stadium in Taipa. The first Macao marathon attracted much attention: more than 400 athletes signed up to take part in the race, with participants ages ranging from 12 to 53.  Last year, over 1,400 athletes enrolled to take part in the marathon and the event now attracts some of the biggest names in long-distance running, including last year’s winners in the men’s event, Peter Kimeli Some from Kenya, who got round the course in an impressive time of two hours 12 minutes and 52 seconds. With a time of two hours 36 minutes and 16 seconds, Korea’s Ji Hyang Kim was victorious in the ladies’ event in 2016.   This year’s event looks set to attract its biggest number of sign-ups yet in all three races – and spectators will surely appreciate the chance to witness some the world’s finest runners as they push to the finish line.   For more information or to register for one of the three events, visit

GREAT OUTDOORS 111 For the ultimate travel companion, the Venturesafe

EXP45 anti-theft 45L carry-on travel pack by luggage security specialists Pacsafe is a savvy travel essential with a few hidden charms. In addition to its simplistic, contemporary looks, and its carry-on friendly capacity, the EXP45 is a workhorse of a backpack; wear it on your back thanks to rugged yet comfortable shoulder straps, or carry it as luggage thanks to a thick side handle, with the backpack straps secreted in a zippered compartment. There’s a front zippered compartment with two zippered mesh pockets for small items and a larger pocket for a tablet or 13-inch laptop; more mesh pockets in the cavernous interior; padded sternum and waist belts; and comfortable molded EVA backing with air flow channels. However, you buy a Pacsafe bag to foil thieves, and the EXP45 not only features puncture resistant ToughZip technology on external zippers; builtin lightweight eXomesh slashguard panels protecting the bag's front, bottom and sides; and interlocking zipper pulls; but an included stainless-steel locking cable allows you to secure your bag to poles, beams or fences via the proprietary Roobar locking system. From US$175.95;

What‘s better than a Swiss army knife, the most iconic of outdoor essentials? How about one that’s helping you do your part for the environment? Victorinox, makers of the iconic blades, has teamed up with fellow Swiss success story Nespresso to create the limited-edition Pioneer Nespresso, a knife made from a very special aluminium. The new pocket knife, limited to 750 pieces and presented in a warm caramel brown based on the coffee company’s Livanto blend, features a casing made from recycled Nespresso capsules – 24 pods per knife in fact – which are sourced from around the world thanks to partnerships with participating national postal services. The new pocket knife features a main blade, a can opener, two screwdrivers, a hole punch, a wire stripper and that oh-so-important bottle opener. Just be sure to pack it in your check in luggage. From US$55;








Introducing the brand’s new Serpenti 2017 Collection to the city’s trendsetters, Italian jeweller Bulgari recently hosted the Serpenti Night Party at its Landmark Chater flagship store in Hong Kong. The event offered guests a preview of the new collection, which combines classic style and Italian craftsmanship with modern touches, as models dressed in serpent-inspired 3D paper clothes presented an elegant, opulent selection of jewellery, watches, eyewear and handbags. Guests were sated with gourmet gelato and a choice of Italian cocktails, and included singer Andrew Pong, local actress Michelle Wai, and model Elsa Li.












1. Andrew Pong 2. Daniel Suek 3. Elsa Li 4. Lisa Lau 5. Michelle Wai 6. Nadia Harilela 7. Sarah Zhuang 8. Karen Lam 9. Angie Ng 10. Kyle Li, Hedwig Tam & Brian Chan 11. Ruby Wong & Snowy Choi 12. Jaime Ho Ku & Sean Lee Davies 13. Denise Ho & Nick Troedson 14. Julien-Loic Garin, Jacqueline Chow & Sébastien Hue 15. Jessi Chloe Chen & Justin Ng







LUXURY REDEFINED One of China’s leading property developers, Hang Lung Properties, recently celebrated the transformation of Shanghai’s Plaza 66 mall into the ‘Home to Luxury’, with worldfamous American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys performing at the refurbished venue’s cavernous atrium, marking a new era of luxury retail in the city. With some of the world’s most prestigious high-fashion brands showcasing their Autumn/Winter 2017 collections to the tones of the singer’s greatest hits, the starstudded party also welcomed Hong Kong actress Leanne Li; Chinese actor Cheney Chen; and celebrated art photographer David LaChapelle.

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Tao Liang Alicia Keys Cheney Chen Live Model Island at Plaza 66 Leanne Li Yo Yang The event venue is packed with premium guests 8. Ming Xi 9. Gogoboi 10. David LaChapelle



Photo credit: Navigator Films


CONTEMPORARY ART AFRICA The world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa has opened this month at V&A Waterfront mall in Cape Town, South Africa. Designed by acclaimed London-based Heatherwick Studio, the US$40 million institution was transformed from a historic grain silo complex into the continent’s largest museum to have opened in the past century. Featuring a cathedral-like atrium area sculpted from the original complex’s silos, the ninestorey museum comprises a total of 6,000sqm of exhibition space with 80 galleries. There is also a rooftop sculpture garden, state-of-the-art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, and a restaurant and bar. Look out for the Costume Institute, the Centre for Moving Image, and Art Education sections.

Jetsetter Autumn 2017