SURF THE MALDIVES There’s life beyond the beach
HUA HIN ELITE
Thailand’s best-kept secret
24 HOURS: CANNES
New haunts on the French Riviera
Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver
Amazon uncovered Explore the Amazon by riverboat and get up close and personal with the rainforest
ON THE ROAD
The hottest new cars of 2012
The Hideaways Club’s Mike Balfour
Where to sleep in Seattle
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On the cover 40 Into Amazonia
The world’s mightiest river is best enjoyed from the comfort of a luxury cruiser, says Dorothy Waldman
Jason Leavy finds that between the surfing and other activities, there’s no longer time to sit on the beach
56 Hua Hin
The King’s Cup Elephant Polo is the height of the social calendar for Thailand’s jet set, says Caitlin Cheadle
62 Cannes: 24 Hours
Joe Mortimer sets out to find the hottest new hotels, bars and restaurants in Cannes
The honeymoon is over A holiday in the Maldives is no longer just for newlyweds - make your next visit an active one
80 In the news 20 Retrospective Rankin captures the spirit of Rolls-Royce
22 Europe ‘The World in 2012’ sets the scene for the next 12 months 24 Middle East & Africa LUX* Resorts resurfaces in Mauritius 28 Asia & Oceania Hong Kong showered in stars by Michelin 32 Americas The sky’s the limit for New York’s rooftop bar scene
36 Debut Hot hotels, chic boutiques and exclusive new resorts 38 Interview Hideaways Club founder Mike Balfour on his new venture
Insider 64 Diary Out and about this month? Don’t miss these events 66 Spend it Once-in-a-lifetime luxury travel experiences for 2012 70 Suite dreams Life is natural at Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver 72 On the road Sometimes we’d rather keep our feet on the ground 74 Trends New travel and tourism concepts making headlines 78 Connoisseur Mary Gostelow rests her head in Seattle 80 Album Marena y Sol founder Miriam Rahali shares her travel secrets 82 Final Word L.K. Bennett chairman Robert Bensoussan on brands dotwnews.com
Letter from the Editor So thiS iS it, 2012, the year the MayanS said would mark the end of the world as we know it. The Mayan prophets predicted that civilisation would come to an end on December 21, 2012, which still leaves us a full year to make the most of all that this wonderful world has to offer. We thought we’d start the year with a story about the mighty amazon, a destination that has captured the imagination of writers and poets for centuries, and these days claims many hours of office time as execs dream of its murky waters and steamy jungles. There’s really only one way to explore the Amazon, and that’s by boat. Our wandering Texan Dorothy Waldman set off on a seven-day voyage down the world’s largest natural basin from the Peruvian town of iquitos, spending her days exploring the river’s narrower tributaries on skiffs and enjoying picnics in the wilderness with monkeys and sloths as company. Our deputy editor Caitlin Cheadle joined a who’s who of Southeast Asian society – from royal dignitaries to international VIPs – at the King’s Cup elephant Polo in hua hin last year, the highlight of the sporting and social calendar for many in Thailand. As well as watching competitive pachyderms battle it out for the King’s Cup, the tournament involved a glamorous gala at the anantara hua hin resort and Spa, many an evening rendezvous in the Player’s Lounge and regular excursions to the town’s growing number of attractions. Hua Hin, it seems, is Thailand’s little secret – a town unscathed by mass tourism and home to golf courses, a floating market and vineyards that are gaining international recognition. Read more on page 56. Choice is something that every traveller craves, and yet resents when they have it, which is why the Maldives is still one of the world’s hottest destinations for once-in-a-lifetime holidays, but at the same time one of the most frustrating. The sheer volume of resorts scattered across the archipelago is overwhelming, and they all seem to be going the extra mile to offer something unique to their guests. In this issue, we sent Jason Leavy on a mission to try out Four Seasons’ two resorts in the Maldives. Sounds like an easy job. The catch? He wasn’t allowed to spend a minute lazing by the beach or pool. Instead he found himself learning to surf in the most unlikely place in the world, and spending time with a group of people committed to protecting the Maldives’ fragile coral reefs. His story is on page 48.
One place immune to the looming 2012 apocalypse was December’s international Luxury travel Market in Cannes, where major players in the premium travel business came together to take the pulse of the travel landscape. Stars of the luxury scene including Four Seasons founder isadore Sharp, Sir rocco Forte and Fairmont president Jennifer Fox spoke at the ILTM UltraTravel Forum, where they discussed the trends that would set the tone for what is shaping up to be a great year for luxury travel. As well as discovering some inspiring new companies with some great ideas for 2012, I took the chance to check out some of Cannes’ hottest venues, including the latest incarnation of legendary Cannes restaurant Felix and the brand new ultra-chic Five hotel and Spa, as well as some old favourites. There’s more on page 62. So whatever your outlook on 2012, there’s plenty of inspiration in the following pages to make what could be your last 12 months on earth the best yet. Or if you’re not taken in by the Mayan’s doomsday prediction, the start of a new year is a perfect excuse to celebrate the finer things in life, and what better way to start than planning your next trip. Bon voyage.
Joe Mortimer Editor email@example.com
Mayan legacy The South American people believed the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012.
Contributors January 2012, Issue 67
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As a native Texan who spent summers fishing and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, Dorothy Waldman has enjoyed most of the oceans and seas around the world. Minus her Stetson, she now travels and writes about exotic ports of call, architecture, lifestyle and business from her new home in Istanbul, where she loves life on the crossroads of Asia and Europe. After years of dreaming about cruising the Amazon, Dorothy couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. Read about her experiences on the world’s largest river on page 40.
Joe Mortimer has been addicted to travel since he got lost on the top of a volcano at the age of six. He didn’t know it at the time, but those few solitary minutes spent wandering around the crater were to ignite a fiery fondness for travel that has followed him ever since. Having just attended the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, where he managed to find time to explore some of the town’s chicest new hangouts (see 24 hours: Cannes on page 62), Joe has developed a passion for all things luxury and a penchant for pre-noon bubbly.
Publisher Anna Zhukov firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Editor Andy Round email@example.com Editor Joe Mortimer firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor Caitlin Cheadle email@example.com Online Editor Nicci Perides firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager Karla Toledo email@example.com Assistant Sales Manager Andrea Tsiachtsiri firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director Kris Karacinski email@example.com Advertising Art Director Fami Bakkar firstname.lastname@example.org Multimedia Executive Vandita Gaurang email@example.com United Kingdom Sales Representative David Hammond firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation department email@example.com Cover image Roberto A Sanchez - iStockphoto
Caitlin Cheadle left her native Vancouver three years ago after catching the travel bug while backpacking through Europe. Among the other high-society events that filled her 2011 diary was September’s King’s Cup Elephant Polo in Hua Hin, Thailand, where she discovered a quiet corner of the country that has escaped the radar of the of the backpacking crowd and remains the destination of choice for the Thai elite and foreign expats. Read what she thought about Southeast Asia’s answer to the French Riviera on page 56.
Andy Round works between the Middle East and Europe and somehow finds the time to look after three beautiful young children as well as writing for a number of international publications. He has worked as the editor of a daily newspaper in Malta, run a portfolio of magazines in Dubai and got lost looking for gorillas in Rwanda. Andy also has an eye for spotting the kind of travel trends that usually demand to be read out loud to colleagues at the beginning of each month – you can have a look on page 74.
International Commercial Representations Destinations of the World News’ network of international advertising sales and editorial representatives are based in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America. Destinations of the World News is published monthly by WNN Limited and distributed globally to the world’s premier airport lounges, our subscriber network and a select number of five-star hotels in the UAE. The title Destinations of the World News is a registered trademark and the publisher reserves all rights. All material in Destinations of the World News is compiled from sources believed to be reliable and articles reflect the personal opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the publisher. Destinations of the World News is not responsible for omissions or errors that result from misrepresentation of information to the publisher. Advertisers assume all liability for their advertising content. All rights of the owner and the producer of this conceptual development and artwork design are reserved. Neither this publication nor any part of it may be imitated, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of WNN Limited. Principal Offices WNN Limited, Reuters Building 1, Office 106, Dubai Media City, PO Box 500661, Dubai, UAE Tel +971 4 3910680 Fax +971 4 3910688 WNN limited, 31 Archbishop Kyprianou Street, 3036, PO Box 51234, zip 3503, Limassol, Cyprus To subscribe to Destinations of the World News at an annual rate of $99 visit the website at www.dotwnews.com and hit SUBSCRIBE. Images used in Destinations of the World News are provided by Gallo Images/Getty Images/Corbis/iStockphoto/ Photolibrary unless stated otherwise. DOTW News is printed by J G Cassoulides & Sons Ltd, Nicosia, Cyprus and Al Nisr Publishing, Dubai, UAE
his is one of the final three images to be unveiled in a year-long collaboration between RollsRoyce Motor Cars and renowned photographer Rankin. The commission of 100 photographs is inspired by the Spirit of Ecstasy, the icon that graces the hood of each Rolls-Royce vehicle and has for years, ever since Lord Montagu, founder of The Car Illustrated, commissioned artist Charles Sykes to sculpt a mascot for his 1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. For the collection of photographs, Rankin explored a number of different themes, using women from a range of cultures and chosen for their representation of grace, femininity and mystery. The images were displayed throughout November in the Rankin Gallery in Los Angeles, California.
The end of the world as we know it? This is the big one – the year that will see new world leaders come into power; the year when the eurozone and the US balance precariously on the edge of another recession; and a year that an ancient civilisation prophesied would mark the end of the world as we know it. Welcome to 2012. Always one step ahead of the rest of us, the good folks at The Economist have just published The World in 2012, the latest instalment of its annual publication that paints the big picture for the next 12 months and spells out the implications of major social and political changes set to make their mark on the world. On the political front, the American, Russian, Chinese, French and Mexican elections will deal out a new lineup of world leaders who will decide the fate of nations in the next 12 months, while the ongoing Arab Spring is still paving the way for democracy in parts of the world that have never known it. These changes, says John Andrews, deputy editor of The World in 2012, will affect everything from the cost of oil to consumer and confidence, and will play a crucial role in the evolution of the luxury travel business.
“Our number-crunching experts reckon that spending on travel will grow by more than six percent for leisure travellers and more than five percent for business travellers. Their explanation, and I quote, is that: ‘Although travellers may cut trips short, wanderlust will prove immune to patchy economic conditions.’ Fingers crossed,” said Andrews, speaking at the UltraTravel Forum at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes last month. “Moreover, thanks to smart use of social media, there could be a growth in travel by private jet, and not just for the zillionaires among us.”
One significant eventuality that the economist team didn’t predict was the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died from a heart attack last month. World leaders seem to be keeping their jitters at bay while the succession plays out, but the outcome could play a major role in shaping world politics this year. But when all is said and done, from the arts to science, business to the environment, and culture to sports, expectations and hopes could amount to nothing if the Mayan prediction that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012 holds true.
Photo: Marcel Jolibois
Five for ‘the Five’ in Cannes After a summer 2011 debut, the Five Hotel & Spa in Cannes has already earned its five-star rating, the most prestigious award in France’s hotel ranking system. ‘The Five’, as it has quickly become known, occupies Cannes’ original post office on the Rue Bivouac Napoleon, where Napoleon and his troops rested in the early 19th century. The hotel is entirely contemporary, but architects have preserved some of the Victorian expressionist style of the original building, both on the façade and within.
The fifth-floor restaurant SeaSens, created by Michelin-starred chefs Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, evokes the viewing gallery of the Eiffel Tower, with views of the Suquet district. The ultra-modern roof terrace was made with the Cannes Film Festival set in mind, with an infinity pool, bar lounge and day beds that make it resemble a Miami condo more than a typical Riviera rooftop. The hotel’s 45 rooms and suites include a 125 sq m Presidential Suite and terrace with stainless steel
Jacuzzi and views of the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Bon Voyages. Coming soon are a pastry boutique by award-winning chef Jerome de Oliveira and a Spa by Cinq Mondes. As well as being within a stone’s throw of the Palais des Festivals – home of the glamorous Cannes Film Festival – it is also just a few steps from the Rue d’Antibes, Cannes’ pedestrian artery. The Five also has its own luxury yacht for summer daytime cruises and evening cocktail parties.
The latest in luxury travel Hotel Amigo, Brussels (a Rocco Forte Hotel) has a Tintin suite, and two separate Tintin-themed bedrooms. These fantasy rooms were timed for the launch of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn , based on Tintin stories by Belgian writer Hergé, (Georges Prosper Remi 1907-1983). www.roccofortehotels.com Chanel’s twist-top perfume sprays – Chanel No. 5 and Coco Mademoiselle (pictured) - are ideal gifts for travelling women. Sold with two easy-switch refills, they evoke memories of the glamorous lifestyle of Coco Chanel. www.chanel.com Much appreciated by car-lovers is a trip with Turin-based Red Travel, owned by Andrea Levy (see his Red Travel: Toscana in Ferrari). You buy driving time, say a Ferrari 458 Italia, along a pre-planned route, perhaps including idyllic Castel Monastero near Siena (www.monastero.fortevillageresort.com). A support car carries suitcases and other clutter.. www.red-travel.com Want a personal shopper in Paris? Former stockbroker (he specialised in the Japan market) turned art historian Riad Kneife can take you searching for art, antiques or simply collectibles. He speaks fluent English.. www.kneife.com
Poles apart Last month marked the 100-year anniversary of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team’s discovery of the South Pole in December 1911. In this vintage image, Amunsden’s teammate Adolf Wisting poses next to the Norwegian flag. This month, a group of intrepid adventurers will embark on the South Pole Race as they attempt to walk 704km from the edge of Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole, arriving 100 years after Captain Robert Scott became the first Brit to reach the Pole on January 17, 1912.
The hottest restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland, is, literally, Grillmarkaourinn. Chefs Hrefna Rósa Saetran and Gudlaugur Frimannsson cook on clay ovens that soar, apparently, to a staggering 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,200F). www.grillmarkaourinn.is mAry gostelow
Middle East & Africa
lUX* – let the show begin there’s nothing like a fresh start, both for people and companies. That’s the thinking behind LUX* Island Resorts, the latest incarnation of Naïade Resorts Ltd, which operates luxury properties in some of the world’s top island getaways. The new brand was launched in December, promising a new take on luxury that offered something “simpler, fresher and more individual”. LUX* starts out with five premium resorts: three in Mauritius, one in the Maldives and one on Ile de La Reunion, all of which occupy stunning beachfront locations. The LUX* identity is based around the concept of ‘Island Light’, and pledges to deliver a “lighter, brighter and less complicated holiday experience” that offers its guests something extraordinary at every turn. LUX* seems to mean what it says, from the very cool iPhone Polaroid style photos on its website to the freshly-roasted organic coffee, retro ice-cream parlours, films on the beach and pop-up restaurants at its resorts, plus an integrated wellness programme called LUX* Me, which helps guests with fitness and nutritional programmes during their stay.
“Island Light is the summation of many different ingredients, which when experienced as a whole, are [an] alternative to the usual island holiday”
L’ITaLIen Par Don aLfonso - La MaMounia, Marrakech
The ‘caprese’ at L’Italien Par Don Alfonso at Hotel La Mamounia, Marrakech is unique. You get a large white Bernardaud plate bearing a white bowl in a silver cloche, a small white jug and a big green piece of crisp bread. The white bowl holds your stacked buffalo mozzarella soufflé, which the server skilfully cuts open with a spoon. The jug holds fresh tomato sauce, which the said server deftly pours into the soufflé. Hey presto, red, white and green, in a wow presentation offering maximum taste. Taste is also apparent in the ambience, created by legendary designer Jacques Garcia. Overhead are octagonal champagne-coloured silk lampshades. Banquettes are aubergine,
Chief execitive Paul Jones took over the company in 2010 and immediately recognised the need to redefine the luxury experience and do away with the standard trappings of a top-end resort. “I have spent 35 years designing, building, operating and managing resorts in exotic destinations around the world,” said Jones, who was part of the team behind the launch of the One&Only brand. “We are doing more than simply changing the name of the company or putting a new brand on our hotels. Island Light is the summation of many different ingredients, which when experienced as a whole, are a very powerful alternative to the usual island resort holiday.” The brand was launched at a three-day celebration at LUX* Le Morne in Mauritius, which featured international performers and guests flown in from all over the world. Over the next 12 months, award-winning designer Kelly Hoppen will redesign all the rooms, suites and villas at the five existing resorts to better reflect the identity of each property’s location. www.luxislandresorts.com
as are water glasses (on champagne table linens). Soft music floats through from the live 1930s-style band in the adjacent bar. Sorrento-based restaurateur Alfonso Iaccarino has two Italian chefs cooking here. You start by dipping homemade focaccia bites in his dark green olive oil. You might choose his signature spaghetti, with fresh tomatoes. You might finish with his limoncello, made with an astounding 27 lemons per litre of water (industry standard is only five lemons). You leave feeling good, and understand why such diverse guests as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Jessica Parker have enjoyed dining here. www.mamounia.com Mary Gostelow
Middle East & Africa
Sir Richard Branson’s exclusive hotel collection, Virgin Limited, has plans to open a new safari lodge in Kenya. The Kenya Safari Lodge will be home to 12 luxury safari tents that will sleep up to 24 guests at a time when it opens at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013. The camp will be situated within the Motorogi Conservancy in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, 240km due west of Nairobi.
Your bags, sir Emirates Airline continues to take the hassle out of travel for its customers with the introduction of a baggage delivery service for passengers arriving in Dubai. Emirates staff will collect and deliver up to four pieces of luggage to any address in Dubai, Ajman or Sharjah for just AED 200 (US$54.50), or anywhere in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah or Al Ain for AED 250 ($68).
The release last month of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, was a marketing coup for Dubai, where the film premiered. The fourth movie in the Mission Impossible series features hair-raising scenes filmed in and outside the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower – with star Tom Cruise dangling from the outside of the iconic building. The film also features scenes filmed in Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai International Financial Centre, and the historic Bastakiya district. 26
Photo: Ronald Codrai © ADACH
Virgin in Kenya
Two Humber Super Snipes crossing the Maqtaa in 1951 before the causeway connecting Abu Dhabi island to the mainland was built in 1952, opening for the first vehicle to cross on January 5, 1953. The image is part of the Roots of the Union exhibition featuring vintage images by British expatriate Ronald Codrai (1924-2000), which was organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage to celebrate the 40th National Day of the UAE. The collection was on display at the UAE Pavillion on Saadiyat Island, but has now been relocated to its permanent home in Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain. www.adach.ae
Italian design meets island escape Missoni is bringing its colourful designs to the Indian Ocean in the form of the Hotel Missoni Mauritius, the third collaboration between the Italian designer and Rezidor. The resort promises 80 luxury suites spread out along a 650-metre beach, all kitted out in signature Missoni colours, each with a covered outdoor ‘Varangue’, or living area. Signature touches from Missoni hotels in Edinburgh and Kuwait, including Cucina Italian restaurant and Choco Café coffee lounge, will be joined by a new lounge/bar concept, pool bar and all-day dining restaurant. The resort is set to open near the village of Baie du Cap, 40 minutes from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport and 50 minutes from Port Louis, in 2014. Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in Mauritius, where the tourism board was expecting to top the one million visitors per year mark in 2011 (they are still counting) and the government is currently investing in a new terminal at the airport to increase capacity for international airlines.
Legend reborn The hotel has stood on the banks of the Nile since 1899
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Asia & Oceania
Last month Singaporean company 3rd Planet was unveiled, an interactive virtual travel experience incorporating 3D CGI scenes with genuine sounds to replicate each destination’s environment. The first 3RD Planet destination to launch will be The Journey to Everest, a collaboration with Nepal Tourism Board that allows users to fly over Mount Everest, exploring the land and the culture along the way.
Hong Kong L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
China growing As China’s population continues to grow – now approaching 10 million – we seem to be hearing about a new city every week. This month it’s Foshan in China’s Guangdong Province, where Sofitel has just revealed plans to manage a hotel in what will soon be the city’s tallest building. The French luxury hotel group will manage a 325-room hotel and So SPA in the 236-metre tall Foshan Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center, the largest furniture exhibition mall in China, when it opens in 2014.
Masters of yoga
A year ago it was enough to offer guests sunrise yoga classes on the beach, but in the last 12 months, competition has forced hotels to up their game. Sitting pretty at the top in Malaysia is V Integrated Wellness at The Andaman in Langkawi, which has welcomed yoga master Ekraj Gajurel to the island. Gajurel mastered his art at the Prakash Yog-sewa Ashram in Rishikesh, India, the yoga capital of the world. Former pupils include Sting, the Prince of Jodhpur and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen. 28
Lung King Heen
THe latest edition of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012 is awash with stars and sumptuously garnished with new restaurants from previously unlisted districts of both cities. The ever-increasing number of restaurants in the guide is testament to Hong Kong’s growing prominence as one of Asia’s top gourmet destinations. The 2012 guide has awarded three Michelin stars, indicating ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’ to five establishments: one in Macau and four in Hong Kong. French contemporary restaurant L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Italian 8½ Otto e Mezzo by Umberto Bombana in Hong Kong have been upgraded from two to three stars, joining Vincent Thierry’s Caprice and Chan Yan Tak’s Lung King Heen as the highest ranked restaurants in the city. Robuchon a Galera remains the only three-starred restaurant in Macau. Two stars, indicating ‘excellent cooking, worth a detour’ have been awarded to 13 establishments – 10 in Hong Kong and three in Macau – six of which were upgraded from one star. But the biggest changes come in the one-star category, which now features 51 restaurants, 48 in Hong Kong and just three in Macau, with six restaurants making their first appearance in the guide. Michelin’s inspectors included new parts of each city that have never been featured, such as Kennedy Town and Sai Ying Pun in Hong Kong, and two new cuisine categories: Singaporean and Xinjiang. As well as the famous starred restaurants, the guide also features 59 ‘simple shop restaurants’, a category that includes basic noodle shops, congee eateries and Vietnamese food stalls. “Some of them have even been awarded stars, making them the most affordable starred restaurants in the world,” said Michelin. The 64 ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurants listed are defined as affordable with top quality cuisine, where a three-course meal (excluding drinks) costs less than HK$300 (US$38.55). The Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012 is available from US$24. www.michelin.com
Asia & Oceania
Taming the wilderness Future guests at upcoming Cicada Lodge in Australia’s Northern Territory will be among the first visitors to the oldest known indigenous rock art site in the world. The site, which developers say was being used by the Jawoyn people 40,000 years before the pyramids were being built, is only accessible by air and will be open exclusively to guests at the lodge. The 18-room wilderness lodge is a joint venture between the local Jawoyn people and Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), promising “an authentic Indigenous cultural and natural Australian wilderness experience of a lifetime” when it opens in late 2012. Cicade Lodge is located 300km south of Darwin on the banks of the Katherine River, perched on the escarpment overlooking the Nitmiluk Gorge. www.cicadalodge.com.au
Japan: down but not out Japan took a battering this year after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami put the country’s tourism industry into a downward spiral that continues today, but Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is determined to put the island nation back on the map as a premium destination for luxury travel. Starting with a new business jet terminal at Narita International Airport, authorities hope to reposition Japan as a must-visit destination for top-end travellers, focusing on four unique destinations: Kyoto, Okinawa, Kanazawa and Naoshima. The new business jet terminal will provide a dedicated space for private jet travellers to go through arrival formalities, with its own departure slot and parking apron, when it opens this spring.
Features will include private arrival desks, a helicopter shuttle service that will whisk passengers to central Tokyo in 20 minutes, and a web portal where visitors can book jet departure or arrival slots online.
New hotels including Ritz-Carlton properties in Kyoto (Feb 2014) and Okinawa (May 2012), a Four Seasons in Kyoto (Feb 2014) and an Aman resort in Tokyo (2014) are set to open over the next two years.
“Authorities hope to reposition Japan as a must-visit destination for top-end travellers, focusing on four destinations: Kyoto, Okinawa, Kanazawa and Naoshima” In addition, Kansai International Airport in Osaka and Chubu International Airport in Nagoya are now equipped to receive private jets 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, making Japan even more accessible for visitors arriving in their own aircraft.
The development of an environment for luxury travel would “provide a chance for new employment and activities for mid-size businesses and young designers and creators,” said Gota Otaka, director, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau.
Gansen Ji Temple, Kyoto
the month in numbers
The number of cottages in the newly-opened seaside Surin Phuket (formerly The Chedi Phuket). The property has undergone extensive renovations by the original architect, Paris-based Ed Tuttle.
The reduction in carbon emissions Etihad Airways has achieved in two Australia — Abu Dhabi routes, a goal reached by using routes that allowed the Airbus A340s to take advantage of prevailing jet streams.
The date of Thai Airways International’s first commercial passenger flight powered by biofuels, which flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Flight revenues went toward developing renewable energy in Thailand.
If you’re looking for a unique gift, or you’re just a huge fan or airplanes, check out MotoArt, which makes lighting fixtures, beds, desks and lamps out of recycled commercial and vintage airplane parts. Another option is Tierra Ideas, which turns aircraft seat-back covers and curtains from Delta Air Lines into business card holders, wallets, laptop covers and travel bags.
For the first time in nearly six years, the dancing Bellagio Fountains at Las Vegas’ 5-star Bellagio Hotel will have new songs added to their playlist, including Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by the Beatles and the Glenn Miller hit, In the Mood.
Little globetrotters Lonely Planet has just released the “Not for Parents” series of guidebooks for children, designed to introduce young travellers to iconic cities of the world including New York, London, Paris and Rome. The guides include entertaining stories, such as a tour through New York told from the perspective of alligators in the sewers.
Quick Pass Luggage Tags (US$14.50) are the same size as a regular luggage tag, but open out to reveal a foldable zippered pouch, perfect for storing the keys, watches, jewellery and cash that you fear leaving behind while going through strict airport security.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD IN
NYC THERE is a trend that’s sweeping Manhattan’s luxury hotels, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Just a few years ago you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of rooftop bars in Manhattan, but they’ve now begun to pop up all over town, offering thirsty (and trendy) visitors and residents a unique and exclusive place to mingle and take in the views. New Manhattan hotels that feature swanky rooftop bars include the Yotel (opened June 2011), the Mondrian SoHo (opened March 2011), Gansevoort Park (opened late 2010), the James (opened early 2011) and the Dream Downtown (opened June 2011). Some of these rooftop venues even have outdoor pools, such as SoHo House, whose pool was immortalised several years ago in an episode of HBO’s Sex and the City. Since then, the trend has taken off, and the result has been soaring profits for those who’ve chosen to invest in a rooftop venue. According to research recently conducted by real estate firm Jones Lange LaSalle, there are currently 35 Manhattan hotels with rooftop bars. While it might seem a risky venture considering the fact that most have to close during the winter, the research highlights that rooftop bars are a lucrative investment, with revenue for these spaces reaching up to US$120 per square foot per month in peak season, and profits of up to 50 percent. The brand-new Dream Downtown’s rooftop bar, PH-D, has been such a cash cow that they’ve now covered its roof to keep it open in the winter. No wonder, since their minimum spend on a Saturday night in summer is US$2,000 per table.
Rooftop at The Gansevoort
Jimmy at The James FOUR at Yotel
#theresalwaysunited Last flight w American. Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950’s find jobs as flight attendants. 30 Rock actor Alec Baldwin posts his less-than-flattering opinion of American Airlines’ flight attendants on Twitter after being kicked off a flight for refusing to switch off his mobile phone.
We are… very happy to be alive and very grateful to our rescuers. Rowers Tom Fancett and Tom Sauer, both 23, who were plucked out of the sea by luxury cruise liner Crystal Serenity about 500 miles southwest of the Canary Islands after their boat capsized on a journey to Barbados.
Checking in [via Facebook and Twitter] is a selfserving sort of activity and LA is a hotbed of self-centredness. Celebrities and people like that are all about broadcasting about their awesome lives. Nick O’Neill, founder of Holler.com, a location-based mobile planning and search app, comments on LAX topping the charts for the “most airport check-ins” on social media.
Timeless beauty Christie’s International auction house employees take bids on the telephone while spectators marvel at the treasures being displayed during the 78-lot auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s personal belongings in New York City. The collection, which included some of the late actress’ most stunning pieces of jewellery, most of which were gifts from her former husbands, also included her clothing, art works and even her Academy Award. The event was billed as the ‘world’s most expensive jewellery auction’; examples include a 50.6 carat pearl given to her by former husband Richard Burton, which sold for a record-breaking US$11.8 million.
Pop-up luxe: temporary eco chic A UNIQUE concept has emerged from innovative hotel group Design Hotels, to appeal to the younger generation of luxury traveller that has come of age in the social network era of instantaneous and temporary gratification. Papaya Playa is a temporary hotel project that opened last month on a 900 m stretch of beach in Tulum, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. The luxury hotel project will remain open only until May 5, 2012. The 99 cabanas are all ecologically sound and built with local materials, ranging from ‘crash pads’, which are basic wooden structures set within the jungle with sand or wooden flooring, to the Casa Kater, a private house with five bedrooms, an outdoor living room and a private bathroom with an outdoor shower. And if you think temporary accommodation means less-thanappealing amenities, think again.
KaterHolzig Restaurant & Bar, a branch of Berlin’s very popular Bar 25, will serve fresh, inventive cuisine prepared in a custom-built clay oven, while the Beach Shack by KaterHolzig will serve drinks and snacks on the beach. The Papaya Recording Studio will play host to performances by KaterHolzig’s international network of DJs and performing artists, and a natural amphitheatre on the beach will be the venue for outdoor parties – guests can even book it out for private functions. Pop-up hotels follow the recent phenomenon of pop-up restaurants that has emerged in high-density cities with hefty real estate prices. Cities like New York, London and Paris have been playing host to pop-up restaurants for years, with operations serving finedine cuisines in trendy temporary settings literally ‘popping up’ in some very unique addresses in recent years.
Pop-up luxe Design Hotels’ Papaya Playa is open until May, 2012
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles
Sainte Anne Resort & Spa A Beachcomber Hotel, Seychelles
Four Seasons Resort, Seychelles
Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa
Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa
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Maia Luxury Resort & Spa, MahĂŠ, Anse Louis
Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, USA
Situated within the Aqua Tower development near Lake Michigan and overlooking the Chicago River, the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicagoâ€™s rooms have been designed in two contemporary styles: Mansion House, with strong lines and timber and chrome finishes, and Naturally Cool, with contemporary flashes of colour among whites and wood finishings. Outside the rooms there are indoor and outdoor pools, steam room, indoor basketball court, and contemporary Italian restaurant Filini. Two floors of the hotel are dedicated to Business Class travellers, featuring a hospitality lounge with complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails. Luxe above Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel sits in the Aqua Tower
City chic Toronto welcomes a glamorous addition to its financial district
Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, Canada
Trump Hotel Collection expands its international presence with its first foray into Canada, the Trump Hotel & Tower Toronto, which sits in a prime location, soaring 900 feet above the cityâ€™s financial and entertainment districts. Guests will dine at new heights at STOCK restaurant on the 31st floor, with 36
stunning city views and an exclusive wine selection. The 261 guestrooms and suites are done up in a colour palette inspired by champagne and caviar, with flat-screen LCD TVs, WiFi and touchpanel lighting. Five expansive Trump Executive Suites occupy the 30th floor, and the Presidential Suite features two full bedrooms, soundproof media room and a private dining room.
Hot hotels | chic boutiques | exclusive resorts
Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Koh Phangan, Thailand
Located among towering coconut palms at the base of a mountain and bordering the white sands of Thong Nai Pan Noi beach, Anantara Rasananda resort’s 44 private pool suites and villas face the aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The nature-inspired décor, with wood and stone used throughout, is complemented by modern amenities like 32-inch flat screen TVs and WiFi. Guests will be able to enjoy Thai cuisine at Bistro@the Beach, and The Lounge bar features an extensive wine and cocktail list and fine cigars. Anantara spa’s open-air teak wood treatment suites and salas are the perfect place to enjoy a signature Anantara massage. Jumeirah Vittaveli Private pool suites are close to the beach
Jumeirah Grand Hotel via Veneto, Rome Rome, Italy
Located on the exclusive via Veneto in the heart of Rome with 122 rooms and suites featuring sleek wood furnishings, Murano glass chandeliers, black granite floors and travertine stairways, the public areas of the hotel are accented by an impressive art collection featuring oil paintings and
lithographs by Picasso, Miro, and Dali. Large marble bathtubs are accompanied by Bulgari amenities, and flatscreen TVs further brighten guestroom interiors. The Aqva City Spa, rooftop solarium, two fine-dining restaurants and an award-winning bar round out the property. Roman empire Jumeirah Grand Hotel via Veneto
Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives
Located a short 20-minute speedboat ride away from Male International Airport, the property features 91 villa-suites, each with its own private pool and ranging in size from 184 sq m to 800 sq m. Jumeirah Hotels’ signature spa, Talise, will offer special treatment programmes for families, and three restaurants serving cuisines such as Mediterranean and Asian will provide an elegant setting for dining, whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a family breakfast by the sea. The Sinbad Kids’ Club will keep the kids busy while the adults soak away their stresses on the beaches, and there are plenty of watersports on hand for family activities. dotwnews.com
interview mike balfour
Hideaway in the city
Interview: Joe Mortimer
The Hideaways Club founder Mike Balfour says his City Collection is a nobrainer for investors with an eye for the finer things in life INTERVIEW: Joe Mortimer
itting in a luxurious two-bedroom apartment in the world’s tallest building, it’s easy to be optimistic about things: life, wealth, the view. That is certainly a stance shared by at least 70 individuals who have bought shares in a new property fund created by Hideaways Club owner Mike Balfour, who has a history of making substantial returns from smart investments. In 1992, Balfour bought a small squash club in Bournemouth, which soon gave birth to the world’s largest chain of health clubs, Fitness First. Twenty years later, it seems he’s on to another winner. The Hideaways club started in 2006 as a private investment fund that gave its members the opportunity to own joint equity in a global property portfolio of 120 luxury villa properties in some of the most sought-after locations in the world. In July 2011 he launched the City Collection, which took the same model and dropped it into the urban environment. The fund currently comprises 16 properties from New York to Bangkok, but it will expand to 120 city-based two- and three-bedroom apartments in prime locations in the next five years. The model is simple – members can buy Premium or Associate membership in the fund, which gives them joint equity in the entire portfolio. Then for an annual fee of GBP 5,300 (US$8,313) or GBP 2,760 (US$4,329) for Associates, which is used to fund the operational costs of the venture, members are entitled to spend 23 nights in any of the properties in the fund (12 for Associate members). Membership is capped at 1,200 members, and the value of each share is recalculated each year according to the appreciation of the portfolio. If a member wants to leave, a new incoming member effectively buys him out for the current share value. As membership grows, so does the portfolio. It sounds almost too good to be true. Where did the idea come from? The inspiration was twofold. Eight years ago I bought a villa in Cape Town and I shared it with a friend. That arrangement has worked extremely well to this day. All my costs are half of what they would be if I owned it myself. Also I have a villa in Spain and all around me are villas that are closed for most of the year. Whenever people come to use their villa for the summer, it’s the same story: the boilers don’t work, the maid has disappeared, and the pool has gone green. They spend the whole holiday fixing the things that have gone wrong and leave with a bigger to-do list than when they arrived. I thought: there has got to be a better way.
Many of the destination clubs at the time were remnants of the old time-share industry, where members paid a lot of money and they got usage but they got no security and no share in the upside. I personally wouldn’t join this. So we devised a new model whereby the members would actually own the real estate, and we would operate it on their behalf. Aren’t people looking for investments that offer a high rate of return and low risk – a hardcore financial investment rather than something that has this element of personal indulgence? If you find one let me know! Also a lot of investments can be rather dull and boring, but this is a family lifestyle investment that guarantees you savings every year, as well as use of the product. People can’t get the returns on many investments and the risks are often very high, so they are looking for ways to improve their lifestyle as cost-effectively as possible. If you think about it, our apartment in New York is a penthouse in Times Square that cost us $2.9m. So the investor could either go and spend $2.9m buying one apartment in NYC on his own, or for $200,000, you buy an investment in the Hideaways Club, and you get to use and own a $2.9m apartment in New York, as well as 119 others around the world. You are getting the investment but you are also able to use all these wonderful apartments, with none of the hassle that goes with ownership. Is this increasingly what both elite travellers and second-home investors are looking for? I think so. From a personal point of view, I get tired of the hotel offerings. In the apartment, you have access to your own personal concierge to make arrangements, book theatre tickets, bring all the food and wines you want, and it really creates a higher service than you would get in a five-star hotel. And of course you have space. Even these days the suites aren’t that large in many hotels and here you have oversized apartments. This one is 160 square metres and many are even larger. In Kuala Lumpur it’s 250 square metres. I went to a five-star hotel two weekends ago. When I got there, not only did I have to ask for a DVD player to be brought to my room, it was plugged into a TV that was probably as old as the hotel. I thought, ‘Why am I paying to watch a TV of a lesser quality than the one I have at home or in a Hideaways Villa?’ That is the problem I have with five-star hotels these days.
So it’s appealing both in terms of travel and investment? Yes, and I think it’s an opportunity that’s very risk-averse. If your investment is GBP 120,000 ($186,000) and we will eventually have 120 apartments, your investment in every apartment is GBP 1,000 ($1,572). If something fell out of the Bangkok market, you only have a small stake in that apartment. It’s an incredibly risk-averse way of owning a property portfolio. You have to take your own view on the capital growth, but personally I think city apartments will grow strongly and there will be strong capital growth. Prime apartments in cities seem to hold their value extremely well, so it’s a nice property portfolio investment for the member to own. Describe a typical member. They are what I would call busy, time-short, successful people. They don’t want the hassle of owning property. You sit in Dubai and try to refurbish your apartment in London – that’s a big hassle. They want someone looking after them and they want a concierge service that makes their business so much more successful. Many of our members really do truly look at it as a family asset; an asset that they can share with their children, their adult children or their parents, brothers and sisters and friends. I think the whole concept of Hideaways Club is a new way that people can actually own and enjoy overseas property assets at a far smaller cost than owning just one villa. These days I think if there is any asset that you are going to use infrequently then frankly you are better off sharing it. All we are doing is what I did eight years ago with my friend in South Africa – buying something together and sharing the costs and enjoying it, but now there is a professional group that is managing and sorting it all out for you.
New York City
Any plans to branch out into jets, boats or any other kinds of asset? No. The private jet market is very much a business travel market and it really goes up and down with the economy enormously. As for boats – they lose money. We like the idea of a rock-solid asset that is probably going to grow in value. We are very happy to stay in properties, but what we can do is take this model and do it for all sorts of different prices. What we won’t do is one that competes with this one. Each one will be unique.
What happens if a member wants to sell their share? If you want to leave the club at any time it’s very flexible. You simply tell us you want to leave and we take the next incoming member, and we use those new membership funds to buy you out. You know exactly, to the penny, what you will get when you sell your share. But as I said, only three people have left the Villa Fund since we started and that’s a sign that members are happy with the product and consider it to be an asset they would like to keep in the family.
“You have to take your own view on the capital growth, but personally I think city apartments will grow strongly” It sounds almost too good to be true – what’s the catch? I bought a share in both of the funds and I use it. It is too good to be true. People say why did no one else think about it before, and the answer is – I don’t know. The business model is incredibly transparent – it’s the easiest thing in the world to work out what we do and how the whole thing works. There must be some risks? There are no financial risks because there is a lot of good governance in the whole scheme; it’s a recognised, experienced investor fund regulated under the FSC in Gibraltar. The only so-called negative is that only one person can play with the same toy at the same time, so you might not get exactly what you want, when you want it all the time. Generally you do and that is why all the members stay with us and why hardly anyone has left since we started the Villa Collection.
How is 2012 shaping up? We are very fortunate that we are in a buyer’s market and that has enabled us to buy properties at very good prices on behalf of our members. Because we are cash buyers we can effectively afford to wait until the right price comes along. It is a buyer’s market in most places in the world, and we are very well positioned to add great properties for the members. I don’t see that changing in the next 12 months either.
MEMBERSHIP Premium (full): GBP 120,000 ($186,000) Associate (half): GBP 65,000 ($100,000) Annual fee: GBP 5,300 ($8,214) for Premium members. GBP 2,760 ($4,280) for Associates Usage: 23 nights per year for Premium members or 12 nights for Associate members
Into Amazonia Exploring the Amazon River and rainforest by riverboat is a voyage through millennia of natural history WORDS: Dorothy Waldman
hether it is an Agatha Christie novel featuring a murder weapon laced with the serum from a poison dart frog or the Sean Connery movie Medicine Man, in which the protagonist is searching for a cure for cancer, literature and lore have long shrouded the Amazon River and the rainforest in an aura of mystery. Spanning two fifths of the South American continent, the Amazon sustains the largest ecosystem on earth. Recently named one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, it is home to multitudinous varieties of plants, birds, animals and insects, many of which have yet to be discovered by man. Although much of the rain forest has been compromised by deforestation, cattle farming and mineral exploration, we wanted to explore and experience the wonders of this unspoiled world in total comfort, but without harming it in any way. Although it is frequently associated with Brazil, only about 35 percent of the rainforest in that country remains intact. Peru on the other hand has preserved much of its forests and has been getting international support for its preservation for the past 40 years. With the goal of only leaving an impression on the people we met and taking with us only an increased knowledge and appreciation of one of the last true wildernesses, we joined an International Expeditions riverboat cruise on the Peruvian Amazon. The first decision you have to make is when to go – during the wet season (November to May) or the dry season (June to October). Since it rains for approximately 250 days a year, we knew it would be wet any time we visited, the difference being that during the wet season, rain and melting snow from the Andes cause the water level of the river to rise up to 40 feet above the dry season level. When the water is high, it is possible to travel by boat to areas that are unreachable during the dry season, but during the dry season it is easier to trek through the forests that are flooded at other times. We opted for the latter. We joined 13 other members of the group in Iquitos – the biggest city in the Peruvian Amazon. From there we were driven to the small port town of Nauta, where we boarded the La Amatista – a purpose-built Amazon cruiser with accommodation for up to 28 guests – from where we would depart a week later.
Water world The Amazon Basin drains an area of almost seven million square kilometres
“The pattern of floods, erosion and newly-formed land is part of the natural cycle of the Amazon Basin” The pace of our river journey was to be slow and sedate: we devoured the first of our nightly buffets of freshlyprepared dishes and local specialities on the first evening of the cruise, before setting off on a voyage into the mightiest river on the planet. On the second morning, we woke before dawn and boarded two shallowdraft skiffs that took us around a bend in the river into a narrow tributary. As the sun rose, bathing the sky in a spectacular show of pinks, gold and finally vibrant blue, we heard the sounds of the forest welcoming a new day. Propelled only by the movement of the water, we drifted silently as we watched a blue kingfisher dip into the water and catch his prey only three metres away. Monkeys playfully swung from branch to branch in trees that towered 100 feet above, while a sloth just hung there, not moving at all. While the ornithologists in the group were mesmerised by the flying herons, yellow-beak hawks, graceful storks and dozens of other species of birds, I was fascinated by the river’s edge.
Uprooted trees lay sprawled along the shore where the force of the rapidly moving water during the wet season had felled them. Fresh grasses and lily pads deceptively hid the shore that the same powerful forces had eroded. Looking up, I saw the high watermark from the last season’s flooding. Holes gaped in the exposed sand, resembling miniature cave dwellings, when in fact they were nests for catfish eggs. The day before we had passed some local river people who were floating a cache of 10,000 catfish to market, where the delicacy would provide a good portion of their meagre yearly income. Deep into the river’s tributary, our expert local guides secured the small boats to the water’s edge and distributed ice cold cloths and hot tea and coffee, along with a picnic breakfast (all our waste was carefully collected so as not to harm the environment). Then we had our first up-close-and-personal experience with the intriguing Amazon rainforest as we set off for a hike into the verdant forest.
TRULY INSPIRING 7 – 11 March 2012 · itb-berlin.com
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Star burst Brilliantly coloured bromeliads add contrast to the greens of the forest Nature’s song (above right) Majestic Macaws provide the soundtrack to life in the jungle
Jungle king Kingfishers are just one of the 3,000 bird species in the Amazon
The darkness beneath the dense canopy 200 feet above prevents most new growth on the forest floor, leaving the ground slippery from decaying foliage and residual moisture. Curtains of Tarzan vines drip downwards as skinny saplings strive to reach the light they need to survive. Brilliantly coloured bromeliads grow in great bunches far above, providing splashes of colour against the greens and browns that enveloped us. This is an old forest – one that has withstood the ravages of the yearly floods. Other areas do not fare as well, as the rushing waters not only knock down trees, but also wash away great quantities of the soil, only to deposit it further down the river, changing its course, sometimes even blocking the flow completely, thus creating lakes. The sandbars and islands that form as the silt is deposited soon sprout with new vegetation; either agricultural crops such as rice or peas, which are planted by the local river dwellers, or natural grasses and later trees that eventually grow into forests.
AmAzoN by NumberS 2/3 - amount of unfrozen fresh water on earth found within the Amazon Basin 40 feet – fluctuation in annual water level 1,100 – tributaries 17 – tributaries more than 1,000 miles long
25,000 – identified plant
20% - of the Earth’s oxygen comes from the Amazon 6,000 – islands 12 miles – widest point of the river in Peru
300 miles – width at the mouth in Brazil
1 hour – to fly across the mouth of the river 3,000 species of birds
The pattern of floods, erosion and newly-formed land is part of the natural cycle of the Amazon Basin that has existed for millennia and continues in spite of man’s impact. Even in the so-called dry season we had rain showers almost daily, but only one true torrential downpour. The reward for getting soaked through our rain ponchos was the phenomenal double rainbow that appeared. Each day we went on different expeditions in the skiffs to areas the riverboat could not navigate. We saw turtle nurseries where the eggs of endangered species were protected until they hatched and could be returned to their native habitat. There were also plenty of opportunities to meet with the local communities. We went to a river village where the chief had a generator that provided electricity for a television that the village gathered around to watch for a few hours each day. We also visited a school where the children received free education until the age of 13. There we met Daisy, the beautiful 15-monthold daughter of an equally beautiful 15-year-old mother and her 19-year-old husband. The community was in the process of building a thatch-roofed house for them, elevated on stilts to protect it when the waters rose. Because the oxygen in the water decreases during the dry season, fish come to the surface and are easy to catch. Armed with simple stick poles,
“Brilliantly coloured bromeliads grow in great bunches far above, providing splashes of colour against the greens and browns that enveloped us” we caught a plethora of piranhas, which took the bait almost as soon as we dipped our hooks into the water. The small red fish did not look like the vicious meat-eaters they are, until we saw the two rows of sharp teeth inside their mouths. That night for dinner, La Amatista’s onboard chef served our catch and, much to my surprise, it was rather good. Perhaps this is the law of the jungle – eat or be eaten. We ate every last bite. Towards the end of the journey we visited a medicine man, or shaman, who performed a cleansing ritual. I sat silently as he chanted and brushed my head and shoulders with branches from a special tree, while blowing a type of tobacco smoke on my face and head. I felt an aura of peace envelop me, in spite of my concern over inhaling his second-hand smoke. Whether it was from being on vacation or from the cleansing, I did feel good afterwards, although I was not transformed into a believer in his healing powers as the villagers and many city dwellers are.
January 2012 dotwnews.com
Amazon explorer Aqua Expeditions’ M/V Aria is a purpose-built luxury Amazon cruiser Room with a view (bottom) Enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your beds with Aqua Expeditions
Back on La Amatista, life was laidback and relaxed. Daily excursions were scheduled to avoid the hottest part of the day, providing downtime for an afternoon siesta. Some relaxed on the upper deck, spotting birds and waving at the river people we passed who were fishing, washing clothes and going about their normal activities, while others snoozed in the cabins. Upon our return from the day’s activities, our laundry would be neatly folded on our king-sized bed, next to fresh towels. Although the boat had a radio, the scattered telephone towers meant that we were cut off from the rest of the world much of the time, increasing the feeling of isolation and remoteness that makes this area feel so unspoiled and fascinating today. Even though we spent seven days on the river, we only discovered a fraction of the secrets it hides. It would take a lifetime to uncover them all, but if you want to see for yourself what has inspired centuries of writers and poets, hop on board and prepare for the journey of a lifetime.
The following companies provide luxury accommodation and superior guides for exploring the Amazon flowing through Peru. Aqua Expeditions M/V Aqua (24 guests): 7 nights from $5,950
M/V Aria (32 guests): 7 nights from $6,300
International Expeditions La Amatista (28 guests): 7 days from $3,898
National Geographic Tours Delfini (28 guests): 10 days from $5,590 All prices are per person, based on double occupancy, including meals, guides and cruise activities.
The myth of the
Forget the old stereotype of a tropical paradise where thereâ€™s nothing to do but sunbathe and snorkel. Whether itâ€™s surfing or experiencing a cutting-edge spa, the Maldives is ensuring guests are spoilt for choice. WORDS: Jason Leavy
Surf’s up – Maldives style Ditch the beach towel and learn to surf at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
“Lying on your board at the end of a lesson, with the marine life swimming below you and the sun blazing above, you suddenly understand those surfing addicts who talk about feeling at one with nature”
he explosion in popularity of the Maldives has brought with it a wealth of superlatives attempting to capture the allure of this Indian Ocean archipelago. ‘Dream destination’; ‘heaven on earth’; ‘paradise found’ – we’ve heard them all. And yet even this stunning holiday destination has its detractors. This significant minority have often claimed they have little interest in visiting the Maldives on the basis that if you’re not interested in sunbathing or diving, there’s ‘nothing to do’. In the past there was a degree of truth to this, however, recent developments are putting this one final objection to the sword once and for all. One of the hotel companies ensuring the guest experience is better than ever is Four Seasons. The company has two properties in the Maldives, Kuda Huraa and Landau Giraavaru. Both have their own distinct identities, but one element they share is that while they retain all the core ingredients of the stereotypical Maldives holiday, they’ve gone way beyond this in a bid to enhance the guest experience. The first shock when arriving at Kuda Huraa is when I discover it is home to a globally renowned surfing school. If I were in Hawaii, California or Australia, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, but my mental image of the Maldives was of the Indian Ocean looking like a millpond, rather than playing host to world-class surf.
A conversation with Tropicsurf instructor Chris Prewitt soon enlightens me. Chris is originally from Florida but after a couple of years chasing big waves on the North Shore of Oahu he moved to Australia, where he joined Tropicsurf, which has twice been voted Surf School of the Year. Tropicsurf set up its operation at Kuda Huraa in 2002 and has been catering to ‘luxury surfers’ ever since. Chris has the relaxed air and contagious enthusiasm of a man who is able to live out his passion every day. It is this, along with his 30 years of surfing experience, that makes him such an outstanding teacher. As Chris puts it: “Surfing to me is freedom. It’s a bit like medicine to me. If I don’t have it, I’m really missing it. One of my most memorable moments is my first trip to the Maldives, when I realised that this would become my new office. It is one of the only places in the world that is as good as the postcards. The natural beauty is second to none. There are not many places in the world where you can share your surf time with manta rays and turtles, all within arm’s reach. “The atolls in the Maldives are located in a prime position in the Indian Ocean to receive perfectly shaped swells from miles away. In addition to this many of our guests will spend 10 days on a trip and not see another surfer in the water. There are not many places in the world that this can happen anymore. It is truly a surfers’ paradise.”
As well as those guests who travel to the resort specifically to surf, Chris and his team also offer introductory sessions for novices in Kuda’s beautiful lagoon, and I can testify based on personal experience that it’s a captivating thrill regardless of skill level. Lying on your board at the end of a lesson, with the marine life swimming below you in the clear water and the sun blazing above, you suddenly understand those surfing addicts who talk about feeling at one with nature. It’s a spectacular setting and a truly immersive experience. A visit to Four Seasons’ other resort in the archipelago, Landau Giraavaru, reveals a groundbreaking initiative that not only provides an enthralling guest experience, but also plays a substantial part in protecting and preserving the unique environment of the Maldives. The team at the Marine Discovery Centre work tirelessly on sustainable projects ranging from sea turtle protection to building coral frames (artificial reefs). The centre is managed by Swede Patrik Svensson PhD, who has extensive experience in ecology and environmental biology. Svensson did his first-ever dive in the Maldives at the age of 13 and says, “It was exciting to be able to go back to the birthplace of my underwater experience. Our aim here is to help tourists to understand the importance of marine protection – the plight of turtles, sharks, dolphins, coral reefs and related ecosystems.
Surf’s up at Kuda Huraa The Maldives has perfect conditions for surfing
Land and sea Two-bedrrom suite at Four Seasons Landau Giraavaru
Finding Nemo Clownfish and other exotic sealife inhabit the reefs of the Maldives
“It is one of the only places in the world that is as good as the postcards. The natural beauty is second to none. There are not many places in the world where you can share your surf time with manta rays and turtles” “We offer a lot of environmental awareness on the simple things tourists can do to contribute. If a guest walks away with one or two eye-openers as to the fate of the ocean ecosystem and how they may be able to help or spread awareness to friends and family, I will be very happy.” To that end, the centre runs a number of nature-based guest experiences. There are guided tours of the centre itself, where you can learn more about the invaluable work that is being done, and during that there is the opportunity to participate in turtle feeding sessions. Visitors can also sponsor, adopt and name one of the resident turtles, and the team subsequently keeps them updated on the progress and growth of each turtle. They are also developing a website that guests can log into after they have left the resort, to see how their adopted ‘baby’ is thriving. In 2001, Four Seasons started working with Maldivian environmental consultancy Seamarc to improve coral cover around Kuda Huraa. This partnership has gone on to become one of the most successful projects of its kind in the world, Reefscapers (www.reefscapers.com). The project has transformed previously empty reef flats into thriving marine ecosystems and again, guests are invited to play an active part in this through building and sponsoring some of the coral frames. With many of the leading resorts adopting Four Seasons’ approach to a more holistic holiday experience, one suspects the biggest challenge facing future visitors will be having the time to squeeze in some of the more traditional pastimes – after all, who wants to just sunbathe when you could be surfing in one of the most spectacular environments on the planet, and who wants to just snorkel when you could be getting your elemental energies balanced? Whatever activities visitors eventually opt for, the one thing you can guarantee is that the small minority who have somehow resisted the lure of paradise now have no excuses left. n
Four Seasons Resort, Kuda Huraa
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Maldives South Male Atoll
Angsana Velavaru Maldives
W Retreat and Spa, Maldives
Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort & Spa
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Waldorf Astoria Maldives
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January 2012 dotwnews.com
From luxurious cruises to coral adoption programmes, these Maldives activities will get you off your sunlounger 1. Cruise the Maldives
Banyan Tree has been a long-term resident in the Maldives, with two wonderful resorts, but it’s the newly refurbished Banyan Tree Velaa that has our pulses racing. The 30-metre Turkish gullet is offering visitors to the Maldives adventures of a sea-faring kind. Choose from one to three nights aboard the magnificent vessel, and see the Maldives archipelago from a very different perspective while you enjoy champagne sunsets on deck or exclusive excursions to secluded spots. The yacht has six cabins that can sleep up to 12 guests – all fitted out in mahogany interiors, oversized beds, en-suite bathrooms, LCD TVs and magnificent ocean views. Time at sea will give you a chance to get to know the Maldivian marine life, but if you prefer your fish on a plate, your private chef will cook up whatever you catch during the day for dinner under the stars, or maybe you’d rather enjoy a picnic on a private island, or lunch on a sandbank. Deluxe cabins with all meals cost US$790 per night.
3. Adopt a coral reef
Protecting the coral reefs is a responsibility shared by everyone in the Maldives, residents and visitors alike, so the team at Anantara Kihavah Villas have gone the extra mile to engage guests in the conservation and regeneration of its reefs. Marine biologists have created an artificial reef made from iron a-frame in the middle of the resort’s overwater pool villas, to which they attach young coral. The Coral Adoption Programme allows guests to sponsor an entire frame, which they can “plant” themselves in the shallow waters of the lagoon with the help of the resident marine biologist. The frames are then moved to their permanent home among the pool villas. Each frame is registered and sponsors can view photos of their own personal coral reef and monitor its growth on the resort’s website, where new photos along with the names of the sponsors are uploaded every three months. Even if you don’t decide to sponsor your own coral frame, you can always view the fledgling corals from the resort’s underwater restaurant or wine cellar. Coral frames come in small (US$100), medium ($200) and large ($400) sizes.
5. Going underground
One thing the Maldives might have lacked in the past is nightlife (not that many of us who travel to paradise are there to party), but that all changed with the opening of W Maldives and its uber-trendy underground club 15BELOW. Situated 15 steps under the beach, the intimate club features private alcoves, expert mixologists and a resident DJ all year round, plus 95 different kinds of vodka. Entrance is for resort guests only, so there are no queues If that doesn’t spice up the Maldives’ nightlife then we’re not sure what will.
2. Powered by pedals
Think you can get away with spending all day lazing around in a hammock at Shangri-La Villingili? Well, yes you can if you like, but personally we’d recommend borrowing one of the hotel’s bicycles and exploring the 17-kilometre road that connects the five neighbouring islands for a unique opportunity to explore the island archipelago beyond the edges of your resort’s coral reef. The extensive network of pathways and bridges forms the longest road in the Maldives, passing through dense vegetation and traditional villages. Pack a picnic and hop on the short boat ride to a neighbouring island, then spend the day (or days) exploring at your own pace. Discover a slice of traditional Maldivian life as you pass coffee shops and market stalls, where you can chat to locals or just watch local life go by. If you prefer to be in the vegetation rather than below it, check into one of the resort’s Tree House Villas, which are elevated on stilts high in the jungle canopy, providing a monkey’seye-view of Villingili’s lagoon.
Some people complain that the Maldives is all about the beach. Well what about this: Soneva Fushi is not only the home of the ‘No shoes, no news’ concept – a policy that has been quoted in innumerable travel publications since the resort opened in 1995 – it is also home to the Maldives’ only fully operational observatory. That’s right: the lack of light pollution in the Maldives makes it a perfect place to gaze into the night sky and watch for your favourite constellations. Enter the latest addition to the original Maldivian hideaway resort – the Meade RCX400 telescope, located in a tower 12 metres above Soneva Fushi’s herb garden, high above the canopy of the jungle and far away from the soft lights of the resort. Soneva’s resident experts and the occasional visiting guest astronomer will point out the most famous constellations for visitors and give presentations on the stars. A reference library is stocked with books on the heavens, as well as a plasma screen TV linked to the telescope’s viewfinder, so everyone can share the experience together. Who would have thought science could be so much fun?
6. Ultimate chill-out
You’ve heard of overwater spas, you’ve heard of jungle spas and you’ve probably even heard of underwater spas. But have you ever heard of an ice cream spa? That’s the order of the day at Conrad Maldives, a chic new addition to the Maldives’ stellar lineup of resorts. Guests can choose from their favourite flavours – including peaches ’n’ cream, coconut cove, and papaya nectar – which are incorporated into treatments including the signature Super Sundae Supreme, a 75-minute body scrub and body massage (US$80).
Gentle giant Elephants are a beloved part of Hua Hinâ€™s charming culture
Hua Hin Explore
king Fit for a
The summer retreat for Thai royalty and Bangkok’s high society, Hua Hin is Southeast Asia’s answer to the French Riviera WORDS: Caitlin Cheadle
he very mention of a holiday in Thailand conjures up images of beautiful beaches, lush greenery and the intoxicating streets of Bangkok’s night markets. Unfortunately these days, travelling here also brings to mind large crowds of beer-guzzling backpackers, party-loving gapyear youths and package-holiday tour groups. Now I don’t want to misrepresent myself or Destinations of the World News; I’m a salt-ofthe-earth, toes-in-the-sand kind of traveller who has done her fair share of backpacking. But the older I get, the less patience I have for a certain breed of tourist; the kind who couldn’t care less about the land they are visiting and are mostly interested in trawling its bars at nighttime and frying themselves on the beach in the daytime. And let’s be honest, Thailand has a certain reputation for attracting exactly that type of tourist, in large droves. Thailand, thanks to the tourism boom and subsequent overdevelopment that began in the 1970s, has become a place where tranquillity and escapism are increasingly elusive, meaning it had been fairly low on my list of must-visit destinations. But when I received an invitation to attend the tenth annual King’s Cup elephant polo in Hua Hin, a place I’d never heard of before, I was curious. And when I asked around and found that none of my well-travelled friends had been to Hua Hin either, I was sold. Two weeks later I find myself in the back of Anantara Hua Hin’s carrier van, gazing out the window as we make the two-hour drive from
Bangkok International Airport along the bumpy, palm-fringed roads down to a small seaside resort town bordering the Gulf of Thailand. It was here in Hua Hin that King Rama VII built his summer palace in 1926, making it one of Thailand’s oldest resort towns, and one that only the elite could afford to visit. In other words, it was where the Thai high society came to holiday, and it still is today. Hua Hin is also where wealthy expats living in Bangkok have their holiday homes. There is a laid-back, sophisticated nature here that permeates everything, from downtown Hua Hin’s quaint bars and restaurants to its quiet, sandy beaches. The Spanish villa-style Royal Summer Palace still stands proudly among manicured gardens lining the beach, and it is still where members of the Thai royal family spend their holidays, giving Hua Hin a hint of imperial charm. “Hua Hin is to Bangkok what Deauville is to Paris – it is nice because it is still very Thai, but at the same time it plays host to a large group of tourists, but unlike Phuket or Koh Samui it is a nice mix of domestic and international,” says long-time expat and founder of the King’s Cup elephant polo Christopher Stafford, who hails from Sweden and now lives in Bangkok. “Hua Hin is an event town; the wealthy Thais all have weekend homes here – it is as much their destination as an international one, and so it also gets lots of support from Bangkokians,” he adds.
Hua Hin’s air of sophistication and high society community is no more apparent than during the King’s Cup, when an elite crowd of international jet-setters gathers for a week of polo matches and elegant social events. The King’s Cup has been attracting an increasingly high-profile crowd with each passing year. Professional polo players, athletes and members of European royalty were some of the participants and spectators at 2011’s event – they stay at the Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa along with everyone else, and you will often find them after a day on the pitch retiring in the Player’s Lounge, the colonial-style verandah bar that overlooks the pool and hosts a great live band every evening. In the daytime, the crowds gather at the nearby Hua Hin polo pitch, a 20-minute drive from the resort (shuttles leave every 30 minutes). The matches are held daily from 8am until 5pm, and the atmosphere in the VIP marquees that line the pitch, where guests sip cocktails and enjoy complimentary minimassages from Anantara’s skilled therapists, is one of camaraderie, tradition and jovial fun. It has an irresistible colonial charm that you can’t help but feel privileged to be a part of. I imagine it is similar to what Nice or Cannes must have felt like in the early 1900s. As Hua Hin’s reputation as a playground for Bangkok’s affluent Thai and expat communities has gained strength, luxury hotels have rushed in to fill the demand. While Hua Hin is not free of the slightly gaudy older resorts that plague most of Thailand’s tourists hotspots, in the past few years a healthy supply of new luxury properties have begun to grace its shores. “Hua Hin attracts all the urban professionals of Bangkok – it definitely has a more high-end finish and all the luxury brands are there in addition to local Thai-made design hotels,” says Stafford. As well as Anantara, there is the InterContinental Hua Hin Resort, the Hotel Sofitel Centara Grand Resort and Villas and Six Senses’ Evason Hua Hin. And along with this lineup of luxury accommodation is a selection of new attractions proving to be extremely popular with the elite travellers that flock here. The Hua Hin Hills Vineyard is located a halfhours’ drive from the town centre. Bright green rows of manicured grape vines that stretch out over the tropical landscape make a beautiful backdrop for the elegant Sala pavillion, designed by former Norman Foster architect Sylvia Soh. Visitors can learn about the wine-making process, participate in wine-tasting workshops,
Afternoon swim Chill out after a day on the greens at Banyan Village Resort & Golf Club
Hua Hin Explore
Tee time Banyan Village attracts golfers from all over the world
“The atmosphere has an irresistible colonial charm that you can’t help but feel privileged to be a part of. I imagine it is similar to what Nice or Cannes must have felt like in the early 1900s”
Teamwork Competitors battle it out at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo
Tropical retreat Escape to your own private villa at InterContinental Hua Hin
Evening rendezvous Sala Siam at Anantara Hua Hin is transformed into the player’s lounge during the polo
or sit down for a gourmet meal overlooking the vineyards at the wine bar and bistro. Guests can also tour the grounds by elephant, or head out on a mountain-biking adventure in the trails. The vineyard was built on a former elephant corral, and the sand/slate terrain and breezy weather conditions allow international grape varieties to grow in abundance, producing award-winning wines. The most distinctive is the Colombard, a light white wine that is somewhere between a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay. It pairs well with almost anything and is the perfect companion on a hot afternoon, something I learned as I enjoyed a four-course lunch on the Sala pavillion’s terrace. Drive a further 10 minutes from the vineyard and you will reach the Banyan Village Resort & Golf Club, a championship course surrounded by wild tropical forests. Awarded the ‘Best New Golf Course in Asia Pacific’ by Asian Golf magazine, Banyan Village has mastered the art of personalised service. Pulling up to the pavilion-style clubhouse, we are greeted outside
by liveried female caddies, all dressed in smart pastel yellow golf shirts, navy slacks and widebrimmed hats, bowing in unison as they chime, ‘Sawasdee Kha’. Hua Hin has also just welcomed its first floating market, the surprisingly upscale Sam Phan Nam Hua Hin, with wooden-plank pathways that guide visitors around a man-made lake, lined by kiosks selling clothing, toys, food, sweets, and souvenirs. There are scheduled daily performances by traditional Thai dancers on a floating stage in the centre of the lake, and a floating restaurant with basket boat kitchens feeds hungry shoppers. All of these attractions, I notice, are just as popular with Thais as they are with tourists. As well as Hua Hin’s other upscale attractions, the Anantara resort itself is a melee of social activity during the King’s Cup. The night before the final match, a crowd of elegantly dressed guests, consisting of polo players, sponsors, British military officers, Thai celebrities and socialites, congregate in the open-air lobby
Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa +66 (0) 3252 0250
InterContinental Hua Hin +66 (0) 3261 6999
Sofitel Centara Grand Resort and Villas +66 (0) 3251 2021
for the Black et Noir Soiree – the King’s Cup fund-raising gala dinner in support of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang. Veuve Clicquot is served while guests mingle on the terrace before a small fireworks show signals the start of a sit-down dinner, held in a marquee beside the beach. After dinner, an auction is held to raise money for the charity, before the dance floor gets underway, kicking off celebrations that often last until the early hours. On my final day in Hua Hin, I’m genuinely sad to leave, having met incredible people, taken amazing photos and experienced the town’s unique blend of humble Thai culture and sophisticated high society. I wonder aloud if Hua Hin is undergoing something of a renaissance from its 1920s glory days: “More and more so…it is regarded by most as a great place to be – it has a good community feel. Not too much sleaze and plenty of quality activities – culturally more in tune with Thailand than Phuket or Koh Samui,” says Stafford. This is all true, but Hua Hin doesn’t take itself too seriously. As I sit down for my final breakfast under the canopy of Anantara’s allday restaurant I’m told that several Blanc et Noir Soiree guests ended up jumping into the swimming pool at the end of the evening ‘to cool down’. And that’s what is so charming about Hua Hin – for all its tradition, it has retained a welcoming sense of carefree fun and community that allows you to switch off, unwind and relax. Many who have experienced Hua Hin end up returning. I truly hope it won’t be my last visit. n
NIGHT & DAY
Five Hotel & Spa
One day is all it takes to fall in love with Cannes’ chic boulevards, exquisite hotels and impeccable fine dining
Words: Joe Mortimer
09.00 Arrive at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport on the morning flight from Paris. Make sure you’re on the left-hand side of the aircraft for the best views over the Gulf of St. Tropez and the French Riviera. Have your hotel arrange a car for the short transfer from Nice to Cannes (from EUR 100 one-way). 10.00 Check into the Five Hotel & Spa (www.five-hotel-cannes.com, T: +334 63 36 05 05), Cannes’ newest boutique hotel, which was recently awarded its official fivestar status. Situated in the old post office, The Five is a designer haven created around the five continents and the five senses, with a focus on gastronomy and the spa. Enjoy a late breakfast at SeaSens restaurant up on the fifth floor and check out the views over Cannes’ old quarter. If it’s not too early for a sugar fix, try the signature dessert, Chocolate Waves – a delectable combination of chocolate mousse, praline, and hazelnut in a crisp outer shell. 11.00 Take a stroll down the Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes’ main strip and the home of most of the town’s designer brands. This is the place to make your presence in town known as you soak up the atmosphere and check out the competition. If you want to blend in with the locals, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable – Cannes’ residents are masters of the art of making gazing out to sea look stylish – or head to the marina and ogle the yachts for sale. 14.00 Felix has been a Cannes institution since 1953 and featured in the 1973 French movie La Bonne Année, but a recent multimillion dollar refurbishment and a new team of chefs have restored its reputation as one of
Five Hotel & Spa +33 463 36 0505 five-hotel-cannes.com
Hôtel Majestic Barrière +33 492 98 7700 lucienbarriere.com Baoli Palm Beach
the top restaurants on the Croisette (www. felix-cannes.com). The elegant new interiors are all made from natural materials, and the open kitchen allows diners to see what chef Nicolas Rondelli and his team are preparing behind the scenes. Try the scallops cooked with seasonal truffle, mashed Jerusalem artichokes and dry fruit chutney with truffles (from $54.50). In summertime, the open terrace is the perfect spot for people-watching and soaking up the Cote d’Azur sun. 16.00 After lunch, amble along the Rue d’Antibes – home to more designer brands, artisan cheese makers, local vintners and boutique chocolatiers – until you reach Le Suquet, Cannes’ old quarter. The steep cobbled streets and winding alleys aren’t ideal for those in heels, but the quaint backstreets and charming old buildings are worth the effort, and the views from the Notre Dame de l’Espérance church at the top are the best in Cannes – the perfect spot to watch the sun set. 19.00 Stop at one of the local restaurants or cafés on Rue St Antoine for a glass of wine and a snack on the way back down the hill.
21.00 Dinner has to be at La Petite Maison de Nicole at the Majestic Barriere (www. lucienbarriere.com), an intimate French restaurant in one of Cannes’ finest Palace hotels, serving typical Nice and Mediterranean cuisine. Opened in April 2010 under Bertrand Schmitt, chef des cuisines at “the Majestic”, as it is know by locals, the restaurant is named after Nicole Ruby, who opened the original Petite Maison in Nice. The chic interiors are brought to life with billowing drapes and black and white prints of movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, and the waiters wear pristine white jackets with “tous célèbres ici” – all celebrities here – printed on the back. 24.00 After dinner, there’s really only one place you need to see and be seen in Cannes, and that’s The Bâoli on Palm Beach (www. lebaoli.com). Founded by Christophe Caucino and Pierre-Antoine Navarro as a lounge/ restaurant/club, the Baoli transforms into Cannes’ glitziest club at midnight, when Hollywood superstars, creative artists and the international jet set fill its glitzy interior and palm-fringed pool deck until dawn. Recent star sightings include Sienna Miller, Giorgio Armani and Beyonce. ■
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Join us at our following events and don’t miss out on the opportunities they can offer you to develop in these regions:
- February , Istanbul, Turkey
A FOCUS ON EUROPE
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We offer world-class conferences aimed at bringing the industry together in first-class locations to deliver the very best educational programmes, outstanding networking opportunities and the most senior level professionals from all areas of the industry.
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Our events set the standard for the hotel community and have an impact on the complexion and direction of the industry.
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Join the industry’s most senior members It’s not just the number of people that attend that is important. What sets our events apart from the rest is the seniority of our delegates. CEOs of the major hotel chains bring their company’s senior executives and use our events as a platform from which to do business.
- March , Berlin, Germany
Kevin Underwood Vice President / Principal AECOM Design + Planning
“The Russia & CIS Hotel Investment Conference creates a forum in which professionals and officials can meet and achieve real results for the development of our industry in this challenging market.“ David J. Horne Director, Hospitality Department DTZ IMS
2 012 - April Dubai, UAE
September Venue to be confirmed
For further information of any of our events please contact Matthew Weihs, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1372 466209
25-27 October 2009
October CORINTHIA HOTEL ST PE TERSBURG , RUSSIA Venue to be confi rmed
Diary 01.12 New Year’s Day Parade
Jan 1, London, England
This traditional parade will be extra special this year, as it marks the first official event in London’s 2012 Olympic year as well as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year. The threehour parade will feature more than 10,000 performers from 20 countries, including marching bands, clowns, cheerleaders and acrobats, and is expected to draw in over half a million spectators as it winds its way along a two-mile route. The New Year’s Day Parade will be accompanied by special performances and concerts by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which will take place until January 3rd at London’s Cadogan Hall and St Augustine’s Church. www.londonparade.co.uk
Russian Old Christmas/New Year
Photo: Cathedral of Our Saviour on the Blood
Jan 7/Jan 14, Russia
What is becoming one of the most prestigious equestrian events in the world, CSI Basel, now in its third year, attracts international show jumpers from all over the world. The picturesque art and cultural hub of Basel in Switzerland will play host to a number of surrounding events, including performances by Basler Polizeimusik, official orchestra of the City of Basel, the Reitermusik Elgg traditional cavalry march and the Swiss Pipe Band Championships. www.csi-basel.ch/index.php
Photo: Paterson Robinson James Umarlon
Jan 12 - 15, Basel, Switzerland
Christmas comes but once a year, however if you just can’t get enough of the festive season, head to St. Petersburg or Moscow for a second helping. Russia now celebrates Christmas and New Year along with the rest of the western world in December, but according to the Eastern Orthodox Julian calendar, which was replaced by the modernday Gregorian calendar in 1918, Christmas falls on Jan 7, while New Year falls on Jan 14. Today, the holidays are referred to as ‘Old’ Christmas and ‘Old’ New Year, and are still widely celebrated in a lowkey fashion with traditional Russian feasts, New Year’s trees, and folk traditions like carol singing and fortune telling.
Chinese New Year
January 23, China
In China on January 22 (New Year’s Eve according to the Chinese lunar calendar), families and friends will gather for a reunion dinner, known as Chu Xi, and a fireworks show will end the night. The next morning, gifts and money wrapped in red ‘Lai-See’ packets are given to youngsters by their elders. This is also a time when families clean their houses to remove ill will and make room for prosperity in the new year. Festivities to ring in the Year of the Dragon will take place for the next two weeks, culminating in the Lantern Festival. In western cities with a significant Chinatown district, like San Francisco, adaptations in the form of parades, fireworks shows and the traditional present-giving are common.
Volvo Ocean Race
Jan 1 – 15, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The nine-month Volvo Ocean Race, one of the most demanding team sporting events in the world, which commenced in Alicante, Spain in October 2011, will make its Abu Dhabi port of call on the first day of the new year. The two-week event will take over the whole emirate, with a host of concerts taking place at various venues throughout, beginning with a performance by Coldplay on New Year’s Eve. A welcoming ceremony will then commence the next day, followed by in-port racing, city receptions, interactive race villages and great holiday packages on offer to explore the city and the surrounding desert. www.volvooceanraceabudhabi.com
Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition Jan 24 – 27, Dubai, UAE
The debut of this world-travelling exhibition will give watch collectors and art aficionados a glimpse into luxury watch brand Patek Philippe’s 172-year tradition of craftsmanship, including rare timepieces and artefacts showing influences from the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The Stern family, owners of Patek Philippe since 1932, developed the exhibition as a way to celebrate the artistry of fine watch-making throughout the years. www.patek.com dotwnews.com
Explore the Mekong If you yearn to explore Indochina but hate the thought of facing the crowds, there’s one solution that’s guaranteed to take the hassle out of exploring this part of the world. Heritage Line’s boutique river cruisers – the Jayavarman and the brand-new Jahan – operate seven-night itineraries up and down the mighty Mekong River, providing a more sedate way to discover the region. Start at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and enjoy a week sailing upstream towards Siem Reap, soaking in the atmosphere and joining excursions and activities such as tai chi lessons, visits to local communities and craft markets, or hikes to nearby monuments. The luxuriously appointed vessels have cabins to suit all budgets, including a 51 square metre suite stateroom on the new Jahan, which comes loaded with perks including daily breakfast, complimentary mini-bar, private candle-lit dinner, spa treatments and butler services. Cost: from US$7,742 for the premium suite stateroom, during high season. Rates include full board accommodation, all excursions and entrance fees. From: departures all year round. www.heritage-line.com
Heritage Line Discover the Mekong in style and comfort
The charm of Sharm Nestled on the picturesque coast of the Red Sea, Grand Rotana Resort and Spa Sharm el Sheikh is one of Egypt’s best-kept secrets. Home to one of the largest lagoon-style pools in the Middle East, a vast stretch of sandy beach, and more than 2,000 palm trees, the resort is ideally positioned for both couples and families alike. Check in for seven nights in 2012 and the world is your oyster – enjoy a week of indolent beach time with stunning views of nearby Tiran Island, visit the nearby water park, or simply enjoy some pampering at the Zen Spa – all for less than US$1,000. Alternatively, the warm waters of the Red Sea are a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, with diving, snorkelling, wind surfing and kite surfing all on offer. Whether you’re travelling with the family or just the two of you, there’s plenty for everyone. Cost: US$999 for seven nights in a room, based on two people sharing. Includes entry to Cleo Park Water Park, 20 percent off all dining and a one-hour stressrelief massage for two at Zen Spa. From: January 2012. Book: email@example.com www.rotana.com
Spend it Driving Ferraris in Florence, sailing in Southeast Asia and a home for your yacht in Abu Dhabi – 2012 is shaping up to be a year of necessary excess *All prices are subject to change. Please contact the listed companies for further information.
Grand Rotana Resort and Spa Home to one of the largest pools in the Middle East
Join the club The UK’s MSC Cruises came up with a novel way to cater to their premium customers when they introduced the MSC Yacht Club – an exclusive collection of suites on the foredeck of a regular cruise ship, for guests with a passion for the finer things in life. Currently only available on the MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida ships, the Yacht Club decks feature oversized suites ranging from 25.7953.1 square metres, with marble-topped bathrooms, LCD TVs, Nintendo Wii consoles and Egyptian cotton sheets, as well as exclusive pools, dedicated restaurants and bars, 24-hour butler service, health and wellness facilities (including the exclusive MSC Aurea SPA) and complimentary beverages in all dining venues and in-suite mini bar. This summer, the MSC Fantasia is inviting passengers on a seven-night Mediterranean tour starting and ending in Genoa, with port calls in Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Barcelona and Marseille. Cost: from GBP2,729 (US$4,226) for a Deluxe Suite in the Yacht Club deck, based on double occupancy. Includes full board and complimentary beverages. Early bookings can save up to GBP 1,000 (US$1,588). From: Sailings on April 1, 8, 15 and 22. www.msccruises.co.uk
There is a reason Italy is famed for its impeccable style. They just seem to do it better than most, and when it comes to building motorcars they are without rivals. You might be able to think of a better way to explore the Italian countryside than roaring around in a Ferrari, but we certainly can’t, which is why this offer stands out as one of the hottest itineraries for 2012. Make your way to beautiful Florence, where you’ll be introduced to your carriage – a choice of Ferrari 458, F430, FF and 599 models – and meet with your Red Travel liaison, who will be with you (at the end of a walkie-talkie) for the duration of your trip. You’ll spend the next five days touring the wonderful countryside of Florence and Tuscany behind the wheel of one of the world’s most prestigious cars, adding a bright streak of red to the stunning green countryside as you visit vineyards and country houses, or just pick a spot for a picnic under the warm Tuscan sunshine. A guide in a discreet support vehicle will lead the way at a comfortable distance, giving you (and everyone you pass) the impression that you are alone in the landscape. Cost: from EUR 17,400 (US$22,600), based on two people sharing one car and one double junior suite at a selection of five-star hotels. Fuel and flights are not included. From: year-round. Book: firstname.lastname@example.org www.red-travel.com
MSC Yacht Club Five-star facilities aboard MSC Fantasia
Set sail in paradise So you love Indonesia but you’ve been to Bali, you’ve clambered up the steps of Borobudur, and you’ve snorkelled the coral reefs of Lombok – what’s next? This is what. Bali Exotic Yacht Charter offers bespoke sailing itineraries around the Indonesian archipelago tailored to suit your every whim, from ornithological tours around the wilds of West Papua to an indolent cruise around the Dragon Islands between Bali and Komodo National Park. Enjoy the magic of an evening bonfire on a secluded beach, up-close encounters with Komodo dragons, sundowners on deck as the sun sinks into the Banda Sea, or a visit to the local markets of Samba – or anything else your imagination inspires. The company’s two luxuriously appointed yachts – the Tiger Blue and Mutiara Laut – cater to different sized groups, but both offer an authentic Indonesian sailing adventure, with a crew made up of local sailors and chefs and international guides, depending on your itinerary. Cost: all itineraries are custom-made, but a typical six-day voyage on Tiger Blue including fishing, water sports, hiking, diving, beach visits and bonfires, plus all meals, starts from around US$345 per day. Prices depend on season, number of guests, and itinerary. From: bespoke journeys. Book: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org www.tigerblue.info/www.mutiaralaut.com
Join the elite at Yas With ears still ringing from last November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, we were delighted to hear about these new rates for annual berths at the uber-chic Yas Marina. The cost of an annual berth during 2012 starts from a seriously competitive AED 16,455 (US$4,480) for an eight-metre vessel, plus a collection of exclusive benefits for yacht-owners. Members will be able to select a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend berth of their choice ahead of public release, enjoy VIP car access to Yas Marina during the event, two VIP tickets to one of the 2012 Yas Island Show Weekends, priority access and preferred rates at exclusive Yas Island venues, 24-hour concierge service and vessel provisioning by a lineup of neighbouring restaurants including Stars & Bars, Cipriani, Yas Viceroy Hotel and Al Masaood. New management company Camper and Nicholsons Marinas says it hopes to attract boat owners looking to combine their yachting lifestyle with a growing number of luxury attractions and experiences. Cost: from AED 16,455 (US$4,480) per year for an eight-metre vessel including a berth during the 2012 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. From: year-round. Book: email@example.com www.cnyasmarina.com/yas or www.yasisland.ae
View to sea Gaze across the water to the mountains of North Vancouver
Room with a view (left) The 1,000 sq ft Vista Suite has panoramic views of the Burrard Inlet Back to nature (centre) The hotelâ€™s rooftop herb garden is a popular choice for weddings Prime position (right) A downtown location means upscale shopping and dining are just steps away
Vancouver’s at-one-with-nature ethos is fully embraced by the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver, says Caitlin Cheadle
ancouver is a city that feels as though it’s been crafted so as not to disturb its pristine natural surroundings. Its downtown core is bordered by the frigid waters of the Burrard Inlet, which curls around the evergreen forests of Stanley Park and slices the city in two; the Lion’s Gate bridge connecting the mountains of North Vancouver to the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver. The Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver is ideally located to make the most of the views that surround the downtown business district, an ever-present supply of sailboats and red tankers breaking the ocean waters that are just steps from its entrance. The hotel lobby’s neutral palette of peach, gold and cream, with its marble floors and abstract paintings, is understated and elegant – and often filled with the melodies of the live pianist from the adjacent Herons lobby lounge, which maximises the view via floor-to-ceiling windows. The recently refurbished 1,000 sq ft Vista Suite on the hotel’s 5th floor also makes the most of its waterfront location. Its private terrace offers panoramic views of the ocean, mountains, and the skyscrapers of the surrounding financial district. Look down from your terrace and you’ll see the third-floor outdoor pool, surrounded by sunloungers. Next to the pool deck is an ocean-facing rooftop garden, in the middle of which sits a small cluster of bee colonies belonging to the hotel’s honey farm. This is used to make the Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver’s exquisite honey-infused Bees Knees chocolates, which are waiting for me on a welcome dish in my suite on arrival. On the other side of the pool deck overlooking the streets of downtown Vancouver is an immaculately groomed herb garden, which the bees no doubt make good use of. There are walking paths and benches to sit on, and the sweet scent of fresh herbs wafts past me with the ocean breeze as I spend an afternoon sunbathing by the pool. Back inside the suite, a living area/lounge with ocean-facing views is the perfect place to relax after a day spent sightseeing. Freshly-cut, artful flower arrangements sit on the lacquered coffee table and beside the plush sofa. The style is art deco, in soothing shades of burgundy, cream and black. Leading from the living area is a corridor, along which floor-to-ceiling windows offer more views and open out onto the terrace.
The bedroom houses a king-size bed topped with layers of deluxe linens and duvets. There are flat-screen TVs in the bedroom and living room, and the views continue all the way around the perimeter of the suite. Besides having one of the most scenic addresses in town, some of Vancouver’s best shopping and dining are steps away from the Fairmont Waterfront’s doors. The historical, Victorian-era industrial buildings and cobbled streets of Gastown are a short walk away; here you’ll find Vancouver’s newest and most eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and vintage and handmade clothing and jewellery boutiques.
“There are walking paths and benches to sit on, and the sweet scent of fresh herbs wafts past me with the ocean breeze as I spend an afternoon sunbathing by the pool” Also within walking distance is the upscale Robson Street shopping district, where you’ll find designer merchants like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, which enjoy prime locations at the ground level of the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the Waterfront’s sister property and one of the first hotels to open in the city. Vancouver is a city of foodies young and old, so there is no shortage of outstanding restaurants lining its waterfront and shopping districts. After a dinner of fresh Canadian crab and lobster washed down with a fabulous pinot grigio from one of BC’s vineyards, I wander back to the Fairmont Waterfront and have a nightcap on my terrace while I take in the glittering lights of the city and inhale the scent of fresh herbs mixed with the salty ocean air – a truly unique blend of city meets nature that perfectly embodies the essence of Vancouver. ■
The important bit Where: Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver Location: 900 Canada Place Way, Vancouver, BC, Canada Cost: US$977 per night www.fairmont.com/waterfront
ON THE ROAD “There is a real spirit and thrill to driving with the roof down, and in a car capable of these speeds, that is going to create a very dramatic and special experience” Ian Callum, director of design, Jaguar Cars
Jaguar XKR-S Jaguar’s new XKR-S Convertible Convertible is the fastest and most powerful
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged AJ-V8 GENIII petrol engine BHP: 543 0-100kph: 4.4 secs Top speed: 300kph (electronically limited) Emissions: 292g/km Origin: UK Cost: $139,000
open-topped GT Jaguar has ever made, and it’s guaranteed to make pedestrians say ‘ooooh’. Extensive aerodynamic engineering has created a car capable of achieving 300kph with the roof down, while still maintaining stability and comfort on the road. The front end reveals multiple air intakes and airflow channels, with a carbon fibre splitter that gives it an aggressive presence on the road, and from the side and rear it features silky smooth curves and elegant hand-stitched leather interiors.
FAST LANE TO FASHION
Bentley Continental GT V8
Although it’s not as powerful as its W12 big brother, Bentley’s new GT V8 will still make a lot of noise at the North American International Motor Show this month. The new engine delivers a whopping 500BHP, but at the same time promises 800km on a single tank of fuel, with a 40 percent improvement on fuel efficiency. The V8 range is set apart from its cousins by a chromed figure-of-eight exhaust pipe and a red enamel ‘B’ for Bentley logo on the black gloss matrix grille.
Photo: Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Germany
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 BHP: 500 0-100kph: <5 secs Top speed: >290kph Origin: UK Cost: TBC
Genesis Prada It was a marriage of
Engine: Tau 4.6litre V8 Origin: Seoul Cost: AED 220,000 (US$60,000)
car and fashion brand that was destined to bear beautiful children: the Genesis Prada is the result. The dashboard and upholstery are fitted out with Prada’s signature saffiano leather, while the door handles, radiator grille and emblem sport the same dark chrome as buckles on Prada bags.
Porsche Panamera GTS
Engine: 4.8-litre V6 BHP: 430 0-100kph: <4.5 sec Top speed: 288kph Fuel consumption: 10.9 l/100km Origin: Germany Cost: EUR 116,716 (US$152,300)
If you ever thought the Porsche Panamera lacked the sporty stance and oomph of the 911 Carrera…you were probably right. But hold onto your hats, Porsche is set to unveil the new Panamera GTS – that’s Gran Turismo Sport in Porsche language – in February. The GTS sits 10mm closer to the ground than its previous incarnations and features a naturally aspirated V8 engine capable of launching the beast to 288kph and unleashing a roar that makes its presence felt. A Sport Chrono package comes as standard.
FASHION has always existed in a realm just beyond my understanding. People I know seem to update their wardrobe – often with apparel that seems woefully inadequate for the task it was designed to do – faster than I fill up my car with fuel, and at considerably greater expense. And yet man’s desire to own and drive prestige automobiles and high-powered supercars that cost more than a small apartment has always made perfect sense to me. But last month, as I cruised up Cannes’ Boulevard de la Croissette in a Ferrari 458 with enough horses under the hood to launch us to Monaco in less than an hour, the explanation for this dichotomy of form and function became suddenly and abundantly clear. A combination of narrow roads, heavy traffic, speed limits and the presence of numerous welldressed pedestrians on this cold December morning meant that although the car could easily hit speeds in excess of 320kph, we were limited to little more than 60. And while the flashy setting on the steering wheel allowed my driver to configure the car for virtually all road and driving conditions, there was no option for “snail’s pace”, and the roar from the car’s three exhausts every time we changed down a gear didn’t quite have the impact you would hope for when being overtaken by a bus. Nevertheless, I was in Cannes – the home of excess all areas – so the fact that my ride was all about form and nothing to do with function on this particular journey did absolutely nothing to dampen the fact that I was riding around town in an eye-wateringly beautiful car, while most other people weren’t. So, I am a changed man. As far as I am concerned, nothing could make more sense than spending the equivalent of a first-class airfare from Dubai to New York on a nice hat, as long as the hat in question was worthy of pride and had the same ability to turn heads as a Ferrari 458. And a setting for all seasons. JOE MORTIMER
DESTINATION INSPIRATION Eco cooking in Helsinki
Luxury for lease
Destinations of the World News was in Helsinki recently, and we gnashed our teeth in frustration that we missed the latest culinary creation by Antto Melasniemi. The Finnish über chef, who is behind Helsinki’s Ateljé Finne and London’s famous HEL YES!, had just launched the Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen. As the name suggests it uses captured solar energy to heat up food (below). “Solar heat produces a completely different taste experience,” says Melasniemi, who then took the kitchen ‘on tour’ around Europe, chasing the sun. And why did we miss out on this tasty travel morsel? It rained. A lot. And the kitchen – which is run outside – only operates when it’s sunny.
The big problem for luxury jet and yacht owners is that most of the time they don’t have time for their favourite toy, and it ends up gathering dust and racking up hangar or moorage fees. Now, a new peer-to-peer website aims to connect the owners of jets, floating palaces, motorcycles and other luxury forms of transportation with people who want to rent something special. Qraft.com is the Californian company with the billionaire plan. It offers a wide variety of items for rent, from a 1970s cruise ship (just US$15,000 a day) to a Porsche 911 (only $500 a day). The company charges a three percent transaction fee as well as a 10 percent fee to cover insurance and marketing fees.
Photo: Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Germany
Happy as a butcher’s dog
An unlikely tourist attraction has just opened in Munich that will undoubtedly have pet travellers licking their lips with joy. Beutefuchs is basically a very, very high-class butcher for dogs. The foods are billed as ‘custom-made for canines’ and include organic meat from certified organic farms. Top dog choices (allegedly) include venison, duck and goose as well as more traditional beef or chicken. There’s plenty of staff to offer nutritional advice and a bunch of home delivery services that even the most pampered pooch would find hard to ignore. And the company swears that business is booming.
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Inflight biometric tests Cooking up a storm
The last time Destinations of the World News had to wait to be cleared through immigration was in Atlanta, Georgia. By the time we reached the biometric scanning thingy we had aged 50 years and were suffering from a deadly case of queue foot. So we were delighted to hear that Kuala Lumpur’s immigration gurus are trialing biometric tests on planes. No real details about whether those eye-reading things will be served up with dinner, but there was an absolute promise by immigration director general Datuk Alias Ahmad in The Star that “this will reduce congestion in KL International”. The first airline set to use the system will be Air Asia apparently, and the first terminal at KLIA to benefit will be the one handling low-cost carriers.
Fancy learning how to cook like a Parisian chef in a fancy restaurant? Of course you do. Cookery lessons are nothing new for gourmet travellers, but what is special about French concept Restolib’ is that you can learn to cook in some of the best kitchens in Paris. Basically, the company struck a deal with 10 capital restaurants that agreed they could use their kitchens when the restaurants were closed. So the restaurants get extra income and clients get to enjoy cookery courses, cocktail making and wine tasting sessions.
IN Acropolis now
In a bid to bring back high-spending culture tourists, the Greek government is pouring millions into its museums and monuments, many of which have been forced to close due to substantial spending cuts.
Brit of alright
Local perspective Who needs a guidebook in Iceland when the friendly locals can show you the way?
n this hyper-connected world there are a billion ways to learn about a place. But for every blog, tweet, Flikr photo and Google alert, nothing gets you under the skin of a city or a country with more surgical precision than a living, breathing local. With more updated knowledge than a herd of Lonely Planets or a flock of Rough Guides, locals are the new upgraded travel 2.0. In the past we cartwheeled for joy at the news of locals showing people around Brussels (for free), we danced on the ceiling when we got wind of ‘cook with a local’ (again, gratis), but the Inspired by Iceland website is the first time we’ve heard about an entire country welcoming travellers into their front room for a coffee and a nice sit-down. And that’s just one option. The concept behind IBI is that Icelandic people invite you to join them to do stuff. Like sheep-shearing, hiking, bouncing on moss, looking for fairies or listening to songs. For free. A big fat economic crisis-friendly nothing. When Destinations of the World News logged on to the site it was possible to enjoy a tour of an awardwinning vodka distillery, visit a farm for festive dancing and singing, look for Santa on the hillside, tour a few hot springs, see a concert by musician Olafur Arnalds, or listen to bedtime Icelandic stories told by professional actors (“we encourage you to wear pyjamas”). All free. Other activities included herring museum tours, sweater knitting courses or sea swimming. So what’s it all about then? Well, after a tourismscaring volcanic eruption and the fall-out dust of a monster economic crisis, Iceland was starting to haemorrhage visitors. In fact tourism numbers
plunged to 459,000 in the past two years, and for a country with a population of just 300,000 that was really not good news. The result? New ideas were needed, hence Inspired by Iceland. And it’s blindingly simple: you just sign up via Facebook and select from a list of experiences that appeal to you (and while you’re on the site you could also take 2.32 minutes out of your life to enjoy quite frankly the best viral advert we’ve ever seen to promote a country. And we’ve seen a lot). But we digress. Of course, knitting a nice jumper is not top of everyone’s bucket list, but we have to say that it’s a brilliant way to connect with real people rather than tour reps. We were particularly taken by an account from journalist Martin Hemming, who through IBI, found himself the only person to tune into a concert by Sigridur Eyrun Fridriksdottir. In her front room. ‘Sigga’, who dubs the children’s series Peppa Pig into Icelandic, is also an accomplished singer, and her accompanist Kristin recently performed in The Magic Flute. Wasn’t Sigga afraid of attracting a bunch of weirdos to her home? “Icelanders are a trusting, welcoming bunch,” she replied. “Anyway, by signing up via Facebook they can be vetted through the IBI office.” Apparently tourism gurus from Japan and Mexico are also interested in taking up the idea. What seems so wonderful is that great travel usually revolves around unique experiences rather than sightseeing. And the best experiences usually involve people from a completely different culture. So we salute Iceland, and we’re already warming up our knitting needles for a visit.
Our nichiest of the niches travel award this month goes to ‘Britain’s Architectural, Social and Political Legacy in India’ tour. Starting January 15, it’s led by Sir Roy Strong, the 76-yearold former director of London’s National Portrait Gallery. Price? US$8,000.
East is best
The modest and as yet internationally unknown suburb of Ilford in east London has seen the biggest increase in interest from travellers according to TripAdvisor. The reason? It’s close to the Olympic site.
OUT Off with her head
The Hartnoll Hotel in the UK has been forced to take down a stag’s head from the wall because of threats from animal welfare campaigners. “We don’t want the stag to become a symbol for anti-hunt protestors,” quoth the hotel.
Horns of a dilemma
All signs, maps and information relating to the whereabouts of rhinos in South Africa’s Kruger National Park have been removed, after six of the animals were found dead with their horns removed in a single week.
Actor acts up
30 Rock star Alec Baldwin was thrown off an American Airlines flight for not switching off his mobile phone. He later made a half-apology in a skit on US improv show Saturday Night Live. Other passengers were not so happy to be delayed.
Connoisseur An insider’s guide to the most luxurious hotels in the world
T Mary Gostelow
Lifestyle and luxury commentator
here are three unique hotels near Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. Kimpton Hotels’ 189-room Hotel Monaco Seattle is a brilliant conversion of the telephone exchange – choose it for playful experiences. You can, for example, borrow a goldfish in a bowl to keep you company, or mingle at nightly wine tastings in the residential-feel lobby. A dated paper on the front desk offers concierge suggestions, and there is a board where other guests have pinned up ideas on, say, the best pies at nearby Pike Place Market. General manager Tom Waithe is one of the funniest hoteliers ever and staying here is one continuous smile. Your room, say 1015 – ideal for families as it comes with two double beds – has colourful wallpaper and fittings, and the desk, with six electric sockets, can accommodate two laptops at once. Towel bathrobes are patterned as tigers or other wild animals, and slippers are replaced by bed socks with gripped soles. There is Washington State food in the adjacent, separately-run Sazerac, where a giant pizza oven is fuelled by cherry-wood logs. Stools by the open kitchen allow you to get close to the action, or sit in curtained booths, or more openly in the big restaurant (six freeform maroon chandeliers overhead are in the style of Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly). Favourite dishes include truffle bites, Yukon potato croquettes with truffle-infused aioli, and local tenderloin, in two sizes. After work, the queue waiting for tables might stretch out of the door to Fourth Avenue. www.monaco-seattle.com The 480-room Fairmont Olympic, the city’s grande dame (1924) has worked on youthfulness of experience, with GM Dennis Clark at the reins.
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
The two-floor classic lobby, with polished panelling and three crystal chandeliers, offers delicacies such as sourdough BLTs at their afternoon tea. Room 1128 is an Architectural Digest symphony of old gold, old rose and brass-handled antiquestyle furniture, with a solid four-post bed. Keep fit in a gym that opens at five in the morning, but be warned that the lap pool is only 30 inches deep at one end. A much better workout is taking one of the hotel’s superb BMW bicycles for ultrastrenuous climbs on the roads around, or along the miles-long cycle paths shoreside to Centennial Park and beyond. This works up an admirable appetite for oysters or fish and chips in Shuckers, or elaborate Northwest cuisine in the elegant Georgian Room. www.fairmont.com Manchester United players tweeted like crazy when they stayed at the 147-room Four Seasons Hotel Seattle. They, like me and GM Ilse Harley, loved the corner suites in the ‘01’ series, occupying the fourth to tenth floors. Suite 701’s all-glass walls look straight down to Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. Rooms are airy and light, with American ash wood, and stone-coloured walls and carpeting. Over 100 Pacific Northwest artworks include the lobby’s stone floor, designed to emulate a river bed, with adjacent walls of volcanic bricks. One of many working fires is a firebowl next to the fourth-floor terrace’s 12-metre infinity pool overlooking the water. Sit here year-round, feeling as if you are on a cruise ship. ART restaurant is run by chef Kevin Sears, himself an amateur painter. Daily-changing menus complement over 100 local wines by the glass, and many local cheeses. Enjoy the jewel-like chocolates laid out, piece-by-piece, in Fran Bigelow’s off-lobby designer store: Barack Obama especially likes her chocolate-covered caramels with smoked salt. www.fourseasons.com/seattle Fairmont Olympic
Put your hands together for a brand new hotel experience Angsana Laguna Phuket Now Open
More than an ideal holiday retreat, Angsana Laguna Phuket is also the perfect location to host business meetings. Take your discussions from expansive conference rooms to a sweeping championship golf course, giving you every reason to mix business with pleasure. With five versatile boardrooms and meeting rooms, and a ballroom that can accommodate 400 guests, Angsana Laguna Phuket is the ideal setting to make your business meeting a roaring success.
For reservations contact Angsana Laguna Phuket at +66 76 324 101, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit angsana.com for online bookings.
MiriaM rahali Founder, Marena y Sol luxury beachwear
ith a tagline that reads, ‘Marena y Sol: the perfect complement to the perfect escape’, we had to find out more about Miriam Rahali’s clothing line, which has attracted an international clientele of jet-setters and celebrities including Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Marena y Sol’s elegant caftans and tunics can be stashed in a suitcase without worry over their unpacked state, allowing any glamorous traveller an easy transition from poolside lounging to evening cocktails. And the vivacious young woman behind the label suits her creations to a tee. Miriam Rahali spent her childhood summers in Paris before moving to New York city at the age of 15 to study at Columbia University. By age 22 she had already completed her Master’s degree and moved to LA to work as Director of Education for the Victor Pineda Foundation. Miriam’s demanding schedule and an underlying passion for fashion lead to the creation of Marena y Sol, an easy solution to elegant dressing on the go. Here the entrepreneur shares her favourite escapes.
Aspen, Colorado I live between Newport Beach and Dubai, and each year I eagerly anticipate my trip to Aspen because I love escaping to a place where I can finally wear parkas and snow boots. The top-notch slopes, luxurious après-ski lodges and quaint shops nestled at the foothills of the mountains make this resort an absolute winter wonderland. I can’t imagine spending the holidays anywhere else.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
I’ve been vacationing in the South of France since childhood. While I love the glitz and the glamour of places like St. Tropez and Monte Carlo, I prefer to relax in the peaceful countryside. I’m a Kentucky girl at heart, and it’s nice to take a break from my hectic schedule to appreciate the basic things in life, like going to the garden and hand-picking fresh vegetables. Ah, the luxury of simplicity – it sometimes makes for the best holidays.
One of the most memorable holidays that I’ve ever taken was a sailing trip along Italy’s gorgeous Amalfi Coast. The cities and the islands reflect the Mediterranean landscape at its best – particularly stunning in places like Positano, Ravello, and Capri. Couple the impressive architectural and artistic works on display with great food and great friends, and you’ll get a holiday that’s hard to forget, with memories to last you a lifetime.
“Top-notch slopes, luxurious après-ski lodges and quaint shops nestled at the foothills of the mountains make this resort a winter wonderland”
Photo: Shanti Maurice
Hit the slopes Aspen’s sublime scenery and skiing make for a perfect winter escape
Chemin Grenier, Mauritius
Phang Nga, Thailand
For me, Buzios is to Rio what the Hamptons are to New York City. I love the energy in Rio (and of course New York), but it’s reassuring to know that I can break away from the hustle and bustle of city life and escape to a calm and tranquil haven. Here you have pristine beaches, great surf, and just like New York there is an abundance of beautiful people and good food – what more can you possibly ask for in a holiday?
When it comes to crowning the pearl of the Indian Ocean, I’m going to play good, better, best. My trip to the Seychelles was good; my trip to the Maldives was better; but my trip to Mauritius was the best. The landscape of the island is captivating. I remember thinking that I could be in the Amazon (mountainous terrain and waterfalls), or the South of France (pine-dotted coastal forests) or even in Sri Lanka (sugar cane and tea plantations).
I just came back from Phang Nga, and I’m still reeling. Thailand has always been one of my favourite countries to visit, but after this trip it has undeniably secured the number-one spot on my list. While sailing amongst the limestone rocks of the Andaman Sea I had a revelation: at the end of a holiday I usually feel relaxed, recharged, and ready to go home. At the end of my six days in Phang Nga, I felt relaxed, recharged, and ready to stay for another six months!
The making of a brand You have done a lot of rebranding including Lacoste, Burberry and recently, L.K. Bennett – how do you determine how to restructure a brand?
Robert Bensoussan Chairman, L.K. Bennett
When you start with brands that have a strong history, you try to take advantage of the important elements and make them more modern. Rebranding is basically using the things that have been there for a long time and finding a way to make them more modern, sexy and intelligent. L.K. Bennett started as a shoe company, which was known for the very sexy kitten heel. Over the years, with the creation of the clothing line, the company forgot it was a sexy shoe name. So we started to recreate a shoe collection and we reworked the heel, which is why we now have the clients and the celebrities that we have wearing the product. We have realigned the brand with its original DNA.
How have you adapted to recent changes in consumer spending?
What’s the spending attitude in Russia or China today?
We decided that we would never be able to fight on pricing with other brands. You will always find another brand that is less expensive than yours. So we tried to focus on the fact that people are buying things for investment, rather than just for fun, and what we’ve tried to do is improve the quality of our product and offer things that people can wear for a long time. This has had an impact on our margins, and so some of our clothing is more expensive, but at the end of the day you have a product that lasts. Luxury is not always the most expensive thing, but it’s something that people are proud to wear.
In China there is the emergence of a middle class that is spending like crazy. In China, like Russia, for a long time people have been afraid to express anything, and there is this kind of liberation now. I have the impression that in Europe we are going the other way. There is a mix of depression and uncertainty about the future – people don’t believe in the political elites anymore, and it’s quite frightening.
Do you think we are swinging back into a generation of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’? How will this affect the luxury market? When you look at the market in luxury, it all depends where you are coming from. Economies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe are thriving. The middle class wants more luxury product and there is a situation there that we saw 20 years ago, where people are ready to use credit to buy luxury products. In continental Europe and America, people are becoming more cautious, but the working professionals will still spend a little bit more on a product so it will look good and last a little longer.
You recently launched a new L.K. Bennett store in Dubai – is the city back on its feet? Last time I was there, about three years ago, I found it a bit depressing. My impression on this visit was that the Arab Spring has helped. A lot of people have brought their money from other parts of the Middle East to Dubai. I was surprised to see the restaurants so full and I sensed a lot of optimism. It might not be back to the level it was before, but it’s getting there.
What’s your favourite holiday spot? Mauritius, because there is very little time difference with Europe, so you have no jetlag and the people are very welcoming. When you travel to a luxury setting, you want people who are nice to you, a place where you can rest, and you want to have good weather – and hopefully not wake up at three in the morning because you are jetlagged.
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