Page 1

August | September 2009

FREQUENT

Complete resource for the corporate Traveller

August | September 2009 MICA(P) 231/06/2009 KDN NO. PP(S) 1221/10/2009(028088)

The Rise of the

Transitional Manager The Sky’s the Limit for

SPace Tourism Environment, Check your Seafood

Special Feature

CHINA’s

MICE Market Amps Up Par 1 ty! !

KDN NO. PP(S) 1221/10/2009(028088) MICA(P) 231/06/2009

S R I N Get EV G Rea S dy f U A or T P P he Yea F O r’s O R Big R ges F E t

Boston v Hanoi v moscow v St.petersburg v the Maldives v Tokyo

Save the

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg Australia A$6.00 • China CNY51 • Hong Kong HK$40.00 India INR212 • Korea KRW56 • Malaysia RM9.10 New Zealand NZ$9.10 • Philippines P90 • Singapore S$6.00 Taiwan TWD170 • Thailand Bht130 • Vietnam US$6.00

VISIT...

Boston v Hanoi v moscow v St.Petersburg v The Maldives v Tokyo


contents AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2009

FEATURES 28 CHINA’S MEET (AND GREET)MARKET China’s MICE facilities, front and center

Kunlun Hotel (Lobby)

By Ruth Tan

GUIDELINES 06 Dreaming Green

Environmental problems around the world are giving birth to a more responsible tourism sector. Here’s a look-see at an example of a green initiative

10 Touring The Final Frontier

Running out of places to go to? Industry insiders and some brave individuals are looking to space for the next destination By Deepali Kumar

By Weiwen Lin

18 Fasten Your Seatbelts, Please

The world is going increasingly high-tech and yet, airplane crashes have been increasing of late. Here’s a look at how airlines are managing our safety By Michele Koh

08 The Business of Being Green Frequent Traveller talks to Dr. Lida Pet-Soede of the World Wildlife Fund on how Big Business can get in on the act of saving the environment By Terrie V. Gutierrez

14 Creative Leadership

With companies downsizing and rethinking strategies, one of the best way to ensure a business’ success is to take a long hard look at its most potent resource—its people. First of a three-part series

20 Hotel High-Tech

In the hospitality industry, the battle for supremacy has gone into a new arena: high-tech gadgetry and cyberspace By Teà Villamor

By Dietmar Kielnhofer

Frequent Traveller is published eight times a year by Eastern Publishing Pte Ltd; Web: www.frequenttraveller.com.sg; To subscribe, see page 63


FREQUENT

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

CORP HUB 22 Moving Up the Value Chain

The scandal over tainted milk and toxic toys may just be the impetus China needs to revitalise its exports

By Michele Koh

08

Protecting marine life for future generations

25 Thailand’s Dangling Sword of Damocles

A frank assessment of Thailand’s political troubles By Manali Pattnaik

54 Into the Deep Blue

Head to the Maldives and learn the art of doing nothing. You’ll thank us for it By Justine Moss

LIFESTYLE 58 Inspector Gadget, I Presume?

The latest travel gadgets to get you up to speed By Teà Villamor

DESTINATIONS 34 Tokyo Kaleidoscope

Tokyo has two faces: Its frenetic modern and garish side and its quiet Zen-like moods. Here’s the best of both worlds By Weiwen Lin

20

Hotels gone high-tech

62

Going somewhere? Take note of some tips

38 Becoming Streetwise in Hanoi To experience the essence of Hanoi, you need to get lost in its busy streets By Deepali Kumar

42 Dreaming Russia

A glimpse into the complex Russian soul through its principal cities

By Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

46 Boston Gets a Triple Bypass A new harbour front, fabulous hotels, and re-aligned parks and infrastructure makes for a revitalised city By Suna and Rusi Kanga

60 The Iceman Cometh

Award-winning ice show director Tony Mercer on working in the cold and breaking the ice By Manali Pattnaik

62 Travel Talk: The Best Travel Advice You Didn’t Know You Need By Teà Villamor

64 The Good Stuff 66 Posh Space 68 Perk Me Up 70 Gourmand’s Corner 74 Travel Deals 76 New Rooms 77 Bulletin Board 78 Flight Plan

SOJOURN

ON THE COVER F1 fever hits town!

REGULARS

Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

50 Formula for Success

04 My Say

A guide to all things F1 in Singapore—from what’s happening on the track and what’s brewing off track By Michael Franco

64

An elegant timepiece and more in Good Stuff

79 Diary of Events 80 New Sight & Experience


FREQUENT

mysay

Managing Director (Operations) Kenneth Tan

, Y G O L O N H TEC E H T D N A , HISTORY F POP KING O Michael Jackson followed me to Malacca over the weekend. I had gone to the historic old town with friends for a little rest, some history, and a dose of culture. The town was very well preserved; it had that lived-in look that showed that history for them is a living, breathing thing—a part of their everyday lives. In an effort to preserve old structures, some governments move the residents out of a historic district, thus rendering the area a ghost town, and thus stopping the flow of history. They don’t realise that for the past to become real, it has to have some sort of connection to the present and the future—thus it’s vital for the residents to remain where they are. The people are as much part of history as the structures. So it was in Malacca. The old quarter was alive with locals going about their business as they catered to the tourists. Inevitable that some houses would show wear and tear but it all added up to the charm and authenticity of the place. The patina of history seems more real when seen side by side with everyday living. And, it seemed natural somehow that the portable stereos in the trishaws, the colourful bicycle-and-sidecar contraptions that is the common mode of transportation in the old quarter, should be blaring Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” rather than a Malaysian folk song, for instance, which would have hammered home a point that didn't need hammering. The King of Pop is touted as one of the most influential personalities of the 20th century. He levelled the playing field for many artists of colour to be accepted by the mainstream Hollywood mythmaking machine. And in a way, paved the way for African drumbeats, Bollywood extravagansas, Korean telenovelas, Japanese horror-schlock to be accepted in Hollywood, and thus all over the world. He was a catalyst for many people. But not to belittle his considerable contribution to the world of music and pop culture, I think the real catalyst is technology. The technological advances of the last 40 years have done more to “level the playing field” for everyone. The need for electronics and parts has made many countries richer, and China a giant economic power (see p22); inroads into research and development have produced computers that help make travelling more convenient (see p20 and p28), may allow us to vacation in space (see p12), and even make us realise that we need to take care of our environment so it takes care of us (see p6 and p10). And of course, technology has made it possible for us to visit places like Tokyo (p34), itself a destination for the cutting-edge, cheer for the fastest in Singapore (p50), and even reflect on what a failed ideology could do to a country (see p42). We hope you like the issue as much as we loved producing it for you. As you read it, reflect on this: The Sony Walkman turned 30 last month. When it debuted in July 1979, it changed the world. In two weeks it sold more than 30,000 units and made Sony a household name. It revolutionised music, changed lifestyles, and started our obsession with all things convenient and compact. We can’t wait for the next paradigm shift.

Assistant Editor Terrie Gutierrez terriegutierrez@epl.com.sg Senior Editorial Assistant Sharina Shariff Editorial Assistant Amy Ho amyho@epl.com.sg Senior Art Director/Studio Manager Lawrence Lee Graphic Designers Zarina Johari Tristan de los Trinos Contributing Graphic Designers Katherine Ching Jef Pimentel Photographer Eric Chun Managing Director (Sales) Dan Tan Senior Regional Sales Director Connie Tung connietung@epl.com.sg Regional Manager Josephine Teo josephineteo@epl.com.sg Circulation Manager Foo Boon How Circulation Executives Emily Wang Elizabeth Heng Contributors Akuppa, Argenberg, Ale Bonvini, Eric Charlton, Michael Franco Cat Holloway, Wili Hybrid, Liza Ilarde, Rusi Kanga, Suna Kanga Dietmar Klienhofer, Michele Koh, Deepali Kumar, Weiwen Lin Malias, Matt Mangum, Mo Kaiwen, Justine Moss, Manali Pattnaik Kevin Poh, Robert Scoble, Ruth Tan, Traci Todd, Teà Villamor JLC Walker Thomas Won, Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam Published By EASTERN PUBLISHING PTE LTD (Co. Reg. No.: 200413351W) A fully-owned subsidiary of Eastern Holdings Ltd

EASTERN HOLDINGS LTD Executive Board Chairman Stephen Tay Group Executive Director Kenneth Tan Financial Controller Robbin Lim Head Office Eastern Holdings Ltd (Co. Reg. No.: 198105390C) EPL Building 1100 Lower Delta Road #04-01 Singapore 169206 Tel: (65) 6379 2888 Fax: (65) 6379 2803 E-mail: eastern@singnet.com.sg or FrequentTraveller@epl.com.sg Hong Kong Office: 28/F Soundwill Plaza 38 Russell Street Causeway Bay Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2575 8488 Fax: (852) 2836 5829 MICA (P) No. 231/06/2009 • ISSN: 0219-2071 • PP(S):1221/10/2009(028088)

To Subscribe please call our Hotline (65) 6379 2888 Visit our website at www.frequenttraveller.com.sg Printed by DMI Productions Pte Ltd Tel: (65) 6515 9761/3 • Fax: (65) 6515 9772 Distributed (Singapore) by Singapore Press Holdings Tel: (65) 6319 6319 • Fax: (65) 6842 2961

Assistant Editor

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduced in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, taping, etc – without the written consent of the publisher. Opinions expressed by contributors and advertisers are not necessarily those of the publisher and editor.

ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES: Japan: Mr Takagi M, Access Planning, Inc Kawamoto #2 Bldg, 2-20-17 Akasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, 107 Japan. Tel: (81-3) 5562-6961, Fax: (81-3) 5562-6971 Korea: Mr K Heinz Kim, Heinz Communications Inc, Room 816, Poongrim VIPtel, 404 Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-ku, Seoul 121-020, Korea. Tel: (82-2) 718-3281/3282, Fax: (82-2) 718-3283 Lao PDR: Mr Sebastien Duffillot, Kinnary Advertising Co Ltd, 10614 Chao Anou Road, PO Box 0952, Vientiane, Lao PDR. Tel/fax: (856-21) 222-152 United Arab Emirates: Mr Sabih Ahmad, BSA Consultants, Office Tower A1 Ghurair Centre PO Box 27632, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tel: (971-4) 2287-708, Fax: (971-4) 2212-350 United Kingdom: Ms Julie Hammond, Exchange Marketing, The Chislehurst Business Centre, 1 Bromley Lane, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6LH, UK. Tel: (44-181) 467-8884, Fax: (44-181) 467-5558


Special Advertising Section

Experience Luxurious Tranquility Head to Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort, China’s first five-star mountain resort and bask in the serene knowledge that you’re relaxing in one of the most peaceful places on earth A Tibetan-style warm welcome awaits you at the stunning Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort, located in the North Sichuan plateau, 1,800 metres above sea level. Majestic mountains and blue waters provide a magnificent backdrop to the resort. This unique property is near the White River Golden Monkey National Reserve and only 1.5 kilometres from the Jiuzhaigou National Park. Facing a mountain and bordering a river, Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort is a mountain fortress-like edifice of distinctive Tibetan design, boasting 482 graceful guestrooms, from which you can view snowcapped mountains and lush forests from your bedroom window during the day and a star-filled sky at night. With such magnificent beauty outside, guests are already assured of a great stay. There’s more: the 20 well-appointed superior and deluxe suites, Executive Floor as well as Presidential Suite make it possible for you to enjoy the famous landscape in any season, amidst the meticulous and attentive service of the resort. If you need to keep in touch with the office while you are here, our secretarial and business services are ready to help. The Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort is a great choice for your next meeting or event. Decorated in Tibetan style, the Grand Ballroom measures more than 1,000 sq.m. and can welcome up to 600 guests for a festival feast or 1,000 for a cocktail party. Our Jiuzhai Hall, Birch Room, and other multifunctional rooms can be combined into one in order to accommodate larger press conferences and banquets. The theatre and 10 meeting rooms, including the Snow Room and Tibetan Room, provide a variety of facilities for 10 to 400 people. Our friendly, professional staff will ensure your event with a great success. Take advantage of the hotel’s excellent facilities and surrounding countryside. Whatever your plans, you are assured of a fantastic stay—whether it’s working out at our fitness centre, a relaxing steam bath or massage, or a day of exploring planned by our knowledgeable concierge. To tempt your palate, enjoy our traditional Sichuan, Guangdong, and Huaiyang-style cuisine infused with Tibetan and Qiang ethnic flavours, as well as Continental dinner setmenus—all prepared for your delectation. From the landscape, to the rooms, from the facilities, to the cuisine—Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort ensures that you have a fabulous stay, feeling relaxed and at peace with great memories that will surely entice you to come back. We guarantee it.

Sheraton Jiuzhaigo Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan 623402, China; tel (86)(837) 773 9988; sheraton.com/jiuzhaigou


guidelines ecotourism

by Lin Weiwen | Photography by Lin Weiwen

Dreaming green Man’s ceaseless progress toward his own ideals of urbanisation has undermined a visual privilege his ancestors once enjoyed—that of a brilliantly clear night sky. For us city slickers, light pollution has made stargazing a difficult task. Geographically isolated from the rest of the world, New Zealand is one of the precious places on Earth where an unblemished view of the night sky is a common sight. One of the countr y’s best stargazing spots lies in Lake Tekapo, located in the South Island’s MacKenzie District. “Over there at Tekapo,” says Graeme Murray, director of Earth & Sky Observatory located on top of Lake Tekapo’s Mt. John, “it’s still a bit of a shock for some visitors, as the night sky is ver y beautiful, very pristine.” The observatory conducts

06 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

stargazing tours for visitors during the night; a popular attraction for those visiting the resort-town of Lake Tekapo. Yet, at a community meeting in 2003, the town realised that their observatory and lucid firmament may be affected by housing infrastructure development. Should light pollution from housing tarnish their night sky, the observatory— run by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Canterbury—would have to be shut down. That would be a sad curtain call for the r e n o w n e d o b s e r v a t o r y, established in 1965. Thus, to sustain the beauty of their night sky, the idea of creating a Starlight Reserve for the Lake Tekapo and the nearby Mt. Cook area was raised. “It would be the world’s first heritage national park in the sky,” enthuses Murray.

Sustainable tourism is gaining much currency these days, ensuring that a visited environment and its resources are viable in the long run. Usually, worked upon the land, the practice reached for the stars, literally, as stargazers called for a national park in the New Zealand night sky

The Mackenzie District Council set a new rule: When a house is built, all lighting must be pointed down. No light must be going up or aiming into the sky. “When you are on top of Mt. John at night, and you look down at Lake Tekapo, you’ll see a beautiful, soft orange glow from the town, with no bright lights coming up,” says Murray. “That’s a sustainable practice because you save electricity and you are responsible with your lighting.” “Initially, there was a bit of concern that this initiative might stop development, that you can’t build houses or hotels anymore,” he reveals. “But this actually might bring more development because as more people get to enjoy our unpolluted night sky, more houses will be built—but with their lights facing down.”

In 2007, Murray submitted to UNESCO a proposal for their World Heritage Starlight Reserve to be officially recognised. The idea drew many proponents, and was expected to get its stamp of endorsement this year, but the process, it seems, has taken a steeper path. “The process [to be officially recognised] is taking much longer than we thought,” he says. “We think the earliest it can happen is in 2011. Meanwhile, the government and local councils have come together to help us, so we have much more support now.” “We are doing our bit to make the night sky sustainable and enjoyable forever; we are doing this for our children’s children,” he says. “Don’t come up here and put your lights into the sky, or we’ll tell you to go away!” he quips, laughing.


Opposite PAGE: Stunning night sky at Lake Tekapo. THIS PAGE Clockwise, From Left: Volunteers practising sustainable development; A local in traditional Maori costrume; Protected wildlife

TRAVELLING MERCIES The myths about responsible travel

KIWI ECO CAUSES

Other examples of sustainable tourism in New Zealand

1. Responsible travel means sacrificing quality and luxurious accommodations. Not at all. Many hotels, resorts, lodges that have green practices are some of the most luxurious in the world. They combine nature and culture, while assuring that you’ll get all the pampering you need. 2. It’s expensive. Responsible tours and accommodations exist in a wide variety of price points, depending on the comfort, convenience, and amenities you want. 3. Responsible travel means going to out-of-the-way exotic locations. Not true. Yes, there are jungle adventures and exotic locales, but even travelling to a big city can be an example of responsible travelling. It’s the method, not the destinations that are important.

INDIGENOUS TRAILS The company offers eco-tours that encourage interaction between visitors and the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Money spent by visitors goes back to the villagers to support them commercially. It also runs youth volunteer programs, where the youths participate in turning bought over farmland into native forests, regenerating native forestry. www.itrails.co.nz ZEALANDIA: THE KARORI SANCTUARY EXPERIENCE Established in 1995, the Karori Sanctuary in Wellington is the world’s first fenced urban sanctuary. A 8.6km long, predatorproof fence encircles a forest, which has been reintroduced with endangered wildlife—like the kaka (a native parrot), and the tuatara (a reptile with prehistoric roots)—after pests have been eradicated within the fenced zone. The sanctuary aims to restore, as much as possible, the wildlife that had become extinct after humans arrived in New Zealand. It uses biodegradable cleaning products and recycled ice cream tubs for their bait stations. www.visitzealandia.com

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 07


guidelines responsiblebusiness

by terrie v. gutierrez | photography By Cat Holloway/wwf-Canon (coral reefs)

In The Business

Of Being

GREEN Dr. Lida Pet Soede, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Coral Triangle Network Initiative talks to us about how private business is the strongest driver for green initiatives and why you should think twice about eating that seafood

Fiji’s famous coral reefs

Last May in Manado, Indonesia, the governments of six countries that make up the Coral Triangle—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste—formally adopted one of the most comprehensive and specific plans for ocean conservation. The 10-year Regional Coral Triangle Plan of Action sets time-bound goals to address threats to the region’s marine resources. Covering some 2% of the world’s ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 75% of all known coral species, and is home to many species of fish due to the high coral diversity. Over 120 million people, mainly from these six nations, depend on these waters for their livelihood. The largest tuna fisheries that generate billions of dollars in income are from these regions. During BoatAsia ‘09, we talked with Dr. Lida Pet

08 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Soede about this and other green issues. Can you give us a backgrounder on the Coral Triangle Network Initiative? The Coral Triangle Initiative is WWF’s biggest priority worldwide on marine issues. That is because we have most of marine biodiversity right here in our doorstep. So in order to work on marine conservation and fisheries, this is where we have to be. How easy or how hard was it to work with these governments? What were the challenges that you encountered? Let’s not forget the ambitions of these governments is really more for economic development, they need to take care of their people, establish economic growth, provide livelihood and income. But when you think about how the Coral Triangle

Initiative was launched less than two years ago, and now they’ve signed an agreement, it seems like the process went very fast, but it was a long history of conservation planning… But I think the realisation that climate change will affect not just the reefs the divers enjoy but the very economy and livelihood of their peoples, this is what brought them together. Commitments from governments are critical because they provide the legal and policy platforms based upon which we can do something. But what we really think is the private sector will make a huge difference, because they can just make a decision, do things differently, and it will already have an effect. There are also major finance institutions behind this—Asian Development Bank in Manila saw this initiative as the platform for everything related to marine development

and sustainability in marine economies, livelihoods and commodities. And then there are global aid agencies—like the USAID—they see that poverty and all sorts of issues related to achieving the Millennium Development Goals are in this platform so it could be used for them as well, so the situation does look good, you know. For this, you’re talking to the governments as a whole, but what about the private sector? I would imagine you’d have to


What You Can Do Businessmen have especially large carbon footprints because they spend so much time travelling. Dr. Pet Soede suggests doing the following to Shrink Your Carbon FootpRint 1. Think twice about travelling. This is the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint. There are so many communication opportunities right now — I use Skype a lot to talk to my team all over the region. Oftentimes, if it’s external meetings, like with clients, you may have to. But for others, think twice. 2. If you really need to go, send out for a carbon-offset programme. Many of the airlines actually allow you to offset your carbon. They calculate where you’re going and then you pay a corresponding amount to offset carbon—something like $20 for quite a long trip, actually. These carbon offsets will actually be used for investments in clean fuel, technology developments, or conservation programmes.At WWF we offset our carbon footprint with Climate Friendly in Australia. They invest the money that comes in for reforestation and supporting research on clean fuel developments. If your airline does have a carbon offset programme, then go to Climate Friendly. It’s very easy. Just go online. 3. Take action, even in small ways. Ask the travel sector, “What type of technology are the airlines implementing to reduce fuel?” That’s going to significant. For instance, a lot of people participated in the recent Earth Hour. I heard it was 40% in Singapore. By doing that small thing, the energy that you saved was very significant. Hopefully, people will remember this and switch off the TV or the airconditioning and stuff like that. But what we’re also doing with it is showing decisionmakers in Copenhagen in December for the Climate Convention that so many people actually took action. It means that they care.

go company by company. Can you comment on this? If you see the marketing benefits of looking at the core plan of the region rather than individual countries or individual sites, we think they’re huge. Especially for the tourism and travel sector, the opportunities that the Coral Triangle Initiative provides for marketing to get people to come here again and again is humungous. So if a diver should say, “We dived at El Nido in the Philippines, where do we go from here?” And you know, the Philippines has a lot to offer but the experience you can get at looking at the Coral Triangle as a whole is something really interesting. So there are marketing benefits for the tourism and travel sectors. Looking at it the other way around, this is also a good opportunity for the tourism and travel sector to show that

they are responsible for their purchasing policies. For example and this is especially relevant to business travel: Singapore is a hub for conventions and seminars and expos and the connections from all over the world are just so easy here, but think about it: How much seafood is consumed in those venues, seminars, etc? If you choose your seafood right, you can actually be part of the solution rather than contribute to overfishing. What’s the strategy with working with the private sector? WWF always looks for critical mass and leaders. We like to find the champions and it’s always good if the champion is well recognised—has a good profile. For instance, for Climate Savers we worked with Coca-Cola, a very strong brand. The work that Coca-

Cola is doing to reduce its carbon footprint has to do with water consumption. They’re the biggest corporate user of fresh water. But while that’s not relevant to the Coral Triangle Initiative necessarily, if you get a champion and a strong voice like that to speak out and say, “We are going to change the way we run our business and we actually make money by it” other companies will follow. Aside from this, we work with associations. For example, the travel association PATA is very strong in this region and they have a whole department working on sustainable tourism. Working with them, and seeing how we can provide more information based upon which the members companies of PATA can change the way they construct their resorts or work their alternative energy sources, or their seafood policies, these are where is going to have significant impact. We’re working with Banyan Tree, which is a very recognised brand here in Asia as well. Any champions for the Coral Triangle Initiative? We’re very keen to work with the regional airlines. We’ve just established funding to do a seafood and tourism campaign in Singapore so hopefully we’re going be able to talk to Singapore Airlines. We’ve talked to Air Asia in Malaysia. Air Asia is very interested, but the relationship is new. With these companies, there are three ways we can work together: The easiest one is for them to give us money. That was how it was done in the past. They just give money to WWF and we try to clean up the world. It’s not the preferred way to do it, especially if you run a company where you can really reduce your own footprint, just like

changing the way you run your business. The second relatively easy relationship that we have with companies—and this is what we have with Air Asia right now—is to inform the consumers, to use the outreach and the PR and the marketing that they have. The third way of collaborating, and the most interesting is to look at their company and say, “Your footprint is very heavy on fresh water, like Coca-Cola, or with Air Asia, it’s heavy on fuel consumption” and then start working with them to set up a plan—a reasonable plan, with reasonable but ambitious milestones. These three ways of collaborating with corporations will serve as examples in Asia. But most of the relationships so far have been in the western world. You mentioned something earlier on seafood. Is there a seafood list that you’ve compiled on what’s not allowed to be consumed? Yes, there’s a list. We don’t really say forbidden. But we want people to be aware, especially now in times of economic insecurity. If we provide information for people to make the right choice, they will make a right choice. We’re not going to say that something is forbidden. We look at the positive side: Instead of this fish, why not this fish? It’s abundant, there are no environmental issues with it, this is how you can cook it. At the same time, we provide information on why certain fishes are in the red list. If people know these things, I think they’ll probably not eat them anymore. We have the seafood guide and seafood campaign in other countries. There’s going to be one in Singapore soon—hopefully in January or February.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 09


guidelines trend

Text by Deepali Kumar | Photographs by Space Adventures

TOURING THE

FINAL

FRONTIER Outer space is set to become yet another holiday destination in the next few years. Call it the getaway of the century or another form of extreme tourism, but already, there are people lining up to reach the stars

10 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN PHOTO: Will space travel soon be as ubiquitous as going on a road trip?; Google co-founder Sergey Brin floats in zero gravity; a centrifuge machine at the EVA training facility in Moscow

You are floating in a vacuum. It’s freezing cold outside and the chance of lethal radiation is extremely high. The contrast and sensory overload is overwhelming. There are no alcoholic drinks with little umbrellas in them and there is no beach. In fact, there is no earth at all. You’re actually thousands of feet up in the air with nothing between you and certain death but a sheet of metal. And yet, you’re having the time of your life. Welcome to space tourism, which may be the next big thing after cruises and spa weekends. Soon, for some people, a trip out of this world

will truly mean what it says. Seems incredible, Jetsonian, even? There is in fact a laundry list of possibilities on offer even today. The most popular and costeffective trip is a sub-orbital ride, offered both by Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures. Priced at US$200,000 and US$102,000 respectively, the companies hope to offer more competitive rates as the programmes take off. Both the companies plan to centre their operations at spaceports—Virgin Galactic’s spaceport is under construction in the Mojave Desert while Space Adventures propose to start their operations with two spaceports

based in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Space has mostly been the realm of astronauts who train almost all their professional lives for a chance to go up a space shuttle. Is it even possible for an ordinary tourist to fly into space 100 kilometres above earth? Both companies believe that a three-to-four day intensive training and flight preparation is all you need to take the final countdown—and of course, enough cash to finance the trip. While astronauts believe that nothing can truly prepare you for that first experience of space, close your eyes and imagine the

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 11


STAR TREKKING

Other offerings for leisure travellers Space diving Skydiving is so yesterday. Space diving is set to be the ultimate adrenalin sport of the future. Orbital Outfitters has been working on a project that will allow a human being to return to earth from an altitude of 60 km, 90 km or even more. Future parachutists are expected to reach a speed of 400km/hr and in one minute they will de-accelerate to 190 km/hr. For now the company is working out the logistics of getting the divers into space, creating a space suit that can withstand oven-level 240 degrees centigrade temperature and the complexities of transonic shock waves that the diver will experience while transiting through the sound barrier.

FROM TOP: Billioaire Charles Simonyi, the fifth space tourist, in a shuttle; Soyuz docked at the International Space Station; Proposed space port in Singapore

cobalt blue sky turning to mauve, indigo, and finally, black. Once the rocket motor is switched off you experience a silence unlike any you have heard before and then as you float out of your seat to the nearest window you experience the unfettered world without gravity and see your home far below you. It’s a romantic proposition and we can see why people are going for the idea.

Lost in Space? As with any new endeavour, there are critics. Many are leery of the idea; likening it to the push a few years ago of taking inexperienced tourists up Mt. Everest, a plan that ended horribly with quite a few casualties. Space tourism proponents, however, declare that this trip is as safe as taking your car. As more and more companies go into it, customers will have a choice on which

12 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Space hotels Galactic Suite, a private space tourism company, expects to place tourists on the other side of the last frontier by 2012. They promise a thrilling and transcendental experience at their Galactic Suite Space Resort. The visit, spread out over 18 weeks, involves training on a Caribbean island, the journey into space, and three-night accommodation in the orbital hotel. While in space, tourists will get a chance to orbit the earth 15 times every day and see 15 sunrises and sunsets. The bill for this is reported to be €3 million. Bigelow Aerospace, founded by a Las Vegas tycoon, also plans to set up a space hotel by 2015. The Bigelow project is attempting to get people into space in the most cost-effective way possible and has tied up with NASA to ensure this.

company he wants to try. Even in space, the rules of the market will still be in play. Even before environmentalists can raise a howl over the possible impact of this type of tourism on the environment, Virgin Galactic and Xcor Aerospace, builders of rocket engines and rocket aircrafts, point out that their programmes are environmentally benign. This might not be such a concern at the moment, with ticket prices still prohibitive. But when prices drop, for sure eco-warriors will be expressing their concerns. However, advocates of the industr y believe that a phenomenon known as the “over view effect”—where passengers see the earth from above and realise its fragility—will kick in and visitors will be driven even more to protect their planet. Former astronauts who have experienced this feeling are in

favour of people travelling into space for this reason. Critics also wonder how a short program can equip people to deal with the changes in gravity as the human body is only designed to live on a 1G level. Whatever the concerns may be Virgin Galactic reports that the list of its Founders—the first 100 to make the trip to space—is filled and you now only have the chance to be one of the first 1,000.

What’s Possible Today For those who cannot wait and would like a taste of space today there is a range of interesting experiences on offer. You can try zero gravity. The Zero G Corporation owned by Space Adventures offers you a chance to experience true weightlessness as though you were in space in a specially modified 727.

Starting at US$4,950 the experience at Cape Canaveral, Las Vegas and Titusville in the United States ends with a regravitation celebration. The zero G experience is a popular birthday party event and also used by companies to promote team building. In fact, with Ms Erin Finnegan and Mr Noah Fulmor tying the knot on a zero G flight thousands of feet over the Gulf of Mexico last June, space weddings are set to become more popular. Eri Matsui, a Japanese fashion designer has her finger on the pulse with her collection designed specifically for zero gravity environments. Others can take a trip to Moscow to watch a rocket blast off for the International Space Station and tour the Baiknour Cosmodrome, obser ving the pre-launch activities and watch astronauts train at the Yuri Gagarin Centre. Or try a


spacewalk in a neutral buoyancy training facility or an EVA training facility in Moscow. There is yet another way to reach space—have your cremated ashes scattered into the dark blue yonder. This was how the space community honoured Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury, by scattering his ashes among the stars. Space Services Inc., the Houston-based company that provides this service believes that by 2012, 10,000 such burials could be conducted. For only US$500, you can have your remains in a sub-orbital loop and for around US$1,500 you could place yourself in the low-Earth orbit where the chances of survival are higher. Finally, however, the spacecraft carrying your ashes would decay bringing it within the grasp of Earth’s gravitational pull and the ashes would be

consumed in a streak of fire through atmospheric friction. Now, plans are afoot for a deep space burial where a spacecraft coffin would orbit the earth like a comet for millions of years. Jean-Francois Clevory, a French astronaut dismisses all concerns of space debris. “I like the idea that we are born of stardust and, like stardust, will fall back to Earth,” he says.

Stardust-born From time immemorial man has looked up at the heavens and wondered about its mysteries. The next 15 years will see us setting new boundaries for ourselves. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “When you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.”

View from ISS


guidelines management

The idea of managing a company is evolving. Now, for an organisation to succeed, managers must empower employees to make decisions, manage their emotional satisfaction, and know how to creatively outsource

Creative

LEADERSHIP

by Dietmar Kielnhofer, PHD

14 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Because many organisations have decentralised, most company decisions are now made at the lowest level of hierarchy—in many companies, the employees can call the shots. This shows how far management evolution has come in the ongoing process of improving productivity. Managers are often measured by how effectively and efficiently they are able to achieve their organisational objectives. However, the traditional view of what managers are is changing. There has been a rethink of their identity and habits. Enter the rise of the transformational manager. For a company to succeed these days, managers must be courageous enough to relinquish some level of control and share power and authority to enable their direct reports to accomplish their assignments more effectively. Focus will shift increasingly to managers who feel comfortable working in multicultural environments that stress results whilst preserving team diversity and racial harmony. Classic examples are Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong that comprise a heterogeneous

society of Chinese, Indians, Malays, and Caucasian expatriates.

Rethinking the Old Style In an environment of mounting competition, increasing customer demands, changing technology, tight deadlines, budget constraints, and the pressure of bottomline performance, managers often become so task-driven that they tend to forget the importance of developing their employees, and above all, providing a superior level of service. Employees must be trained to improve their performance continuously through self-correction; they must learn to work independently. What is practiced in Japan under kaizen (constant improvements) made Toyota a world-class company and the envy of the American automobile industry. The differences manifest themselves in two discernable organisations: that of a marketing-driven company and an organisational-driven company. This is not meant to say that only two forms of company philosophies exist, however. We can perfectly attribute one, or several operational characteristics to either company—


THIS PAGE: Leadership by example is still the best way to manage people PHOTOS BY Traci Todd (opposite page), Ate Bonvini (left)

they are not mutually exclusive. When a company outperforms its competitors who have the same cuttingedge technology and R&D focus, we can say that it has succeeded in developing its employees to a higher degree of allegiance and commitment, which can only happen if managers allow employees to grow professionally and intellectually. Upper management must learn to empower employees to take action whenever they deem it necessary without seeking prior permission from their respective supervisors. This means that managers must remove as many barriers as possible to

enable their subordinates to act without restriction and fear. It’s a matter of learning to tr ust subordinates and supporting them with the necessar y experience, maturity, professional skill and track record to act and decide on their own. This is taken for granted in many western societies where management layers and barriers to decision-making are at a minimum but is still a sensitive subject in Asia where business owners often have a centralised view of where the final decision rests.

The Employer-Employee Exchange The relationship between employer and

employee is essentially an exchange. The employer provides rewards, salary, benefits and opportunities; the employee in return provides skills, specialised information, and time and performance commitment. This social contract, as I call it, is essentially a set of expectations. The employee expects results from the organisation that will satisfy his needs, in return for which he will expend some of his energy and talent. Similarly the organisation has its set of expectations and list of outcomes that it will honour for services rendered. What management must learn from this symbiotic relationship is that most individuals belong to more than one kind of organisation—they have multiple social contracts; loyalty and commitment is not exclusive. A contract that is not perceived identically by both parties becomes the source of dissatisfaction, conflict, or litigation. The macho management style of Albert Dunlop (a.k.a., Chainsaw Al or Rambo in Pinstripes) and Jack Welch (Neutron Jack) of the


80s and 90s is passé. What this millennium requires are managers who understand the emotional needs of their workforce—leaders who have an education in liberal arts and the humanities coupled with solid business acumen thus balancing a rational approach with emotional intelligence to problem-solving. Through their actions and behaviour they demonstrate a better understanding of what motivates employees; they manage with heart and soul as well as with their head. If managers could operate more freely this would result in a better bottomline and higher satisfaction. The rate and speed a company brings its products to the market will determine the long-term viability (and survival) of a company. Most of the work of the future will be performed by a pool of highly trained professionals without a direct link to the organisation. Their work responsibility will be outsourced and their allegiance will be with a different organisation. Companies have to renegotiate the social contract with their associates and

16 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

examine loyalty and ownership that will be based on a quid pro quo relationship. Thus, managers will assume a dual position—that of an inspirational and transformational leader as well as a managerial role in their respective functional discipline. In return they will be highly compensated and well-rewarded for their commitment. Compensation will be based on market share gains and long-term share value appreciation—five to ten years—instead of focusing on quarterly results. Ultimately, the long-term prosperity of a company becomes a central concern. Does this sound utopian?

The Outsourcing Exchange Classic examples are software and credit card companies in the west that have outsourced their (expensive) labourintensive operations to the Indian subcontinent. A good example of one such company is Infosys, the Bangalorebased IT services company who provides services to companies based in the USA and Europe. Hotel companies in Europe

and Australia are at the forefront in outsourcing functional expertise such as IT services, specialised maintenance contracts, security, housekeeping, cleaning and even catering services. It is quite common to have celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey and JeanGeorge Vongerichten associated with international hotel chains—all in order to reduce overheads, increase operating margins, and raise the profile and image of a hotel or restaurant. This symbiotic relationship becomes a win-win situation for both parties. Hotels concentrate on their core competency, selling rooms and catering facilities and maximising yield whilst keeping expenses at a minimum. In order to meet these new demands on managers, educational and training institutions will have to shift their focus from a one-dimensional educational system, to a differentiated, more specialised, field of education reflecting the increasing trend of conducting business in a flat world, to borrow a term coined by Thomas Friedman. Tr a d i t i o n a l l y, U S u n i v e r s i t i e s


CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE PAGE: Learning what motivates employees makes for effective management; juggling the needs of a workforce is crucial; setting goals and letting workers work for them the best they know how moves the company forward Photos BY: Wili Hybrid (opposite page); JLC Walker (top left), Mike Baird (bottom)

favoured a curriculum that teaches a multinational company approach to conducting business in different geographic locations. Whilst this model had its advantages in an environment that stresses “think global and act local,� it does not prepare executives for the rigour (and inevitably frustration) of conducting business in developing or emerging destinations. It is often said India is the service industry of the world and China is the manufacturing destination of the world. So how well do American business schools prepare their executives to live, lead, and conduct business in these flourishing economies? Unless leading universities adapt to the changing business paradigm they lose their reputation or become irrelevant. As a consequence the dominance of US business schools and MBA programs will wane unless teaching methodologies and the syllabus is redesigned to reflect the changing business climate and changing consumer trends.

Over 650 superbly appointed guestrooms, twelve fine dining outlets featuring worldwide cuisines and a special touch of Asian Hospitality promise that Hotel Kunlun is the ideal home away from home for business and leisure travelers alike.


guidelines airlines

by Michele Koh | Photography By Mo Kaiwen

In the last few months, stories of aircraft disasters have been popping up in the news often enough to make some of us uncomfortable at the thought of purchasing an air ticket. The most recent one was the crash of Air France flight 477 over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1. Before that, were several recent incidents: On March 22, several children were killed when a private plane crashed in Butte, Montana. In February, there were two crashes—Turkish Airline flight 1951 near Amsterdam, and Continental flight 3407 near Newark Airport. There was also the crash of US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River near midtown Manhattan on January 15. Luckily for the 155 people on board, there were no fatalities on that flight. Such news has brought on a sense of panic, which has a detrimental impact on the air travel industry and on business travel in general—as if the economic news isn’t enough to get everyone down. On June 9, the International Air Transport Association had its 65th annual trade meeting in Kuala Lumpur, and airline executives at the two-day conference described the state of the industry as the worst they had ever seen. The association’s members include airline chief executives from 226 airlines that account for more that 93% of international commercial air traffic. The association’s CEO announced that the industry would lose US$9 billion (B) this year, more

18 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

than double what was predicted just two months ago. Air New Zealand Ltd. CEO Rob Fyfe laments, “What makes this crisis different is the global nature of it. All regions of the world are being affected, and there is no place to hide.” British Air ways CEO Willie Walsh said of the gathering, “It’s certainly much more somber than anything I’ve ever experienced before.” In the last year, 20 carriers have stopped operations or filed for bankruptcy protection after being pummeled by high fuel costs, followed by a recession-induced travel slump, then an outbreak of swine flu. Now the Air France crash has further exacerbated an already dire situation.

One in 20,000 But is all this gloom and doom really warranted, or are media reports of air disasters simply fuelling a primal and irrational fear of “death by aeroplane”? Arnold Barnett, a statistical expert in aviation safety, researched the front pages of The New York Times and found some revealing data pointing to the role media plays in overexposing the public to air disaster stories, thus playing up the panic. The study revealed that there are “1.7 murder stories for every 1,000 homicides, 2.3 AIDS stories for every 1,000 AIDS deaths, .02 cancer stories for every 1,000 cancer deaths, and 138.2 plane crash stories for every 1,000 airplane deaths.” According to LiveScience.com,

fasten your seatbelt,

the chances of dying in a plane crash is one in 20,000, and according to a study by USA Today, it's 261 times safer to fly from New York to Los Angeles than to drive. Rationally speaking, statistics suggest you have a higher chance of dying from a health-related issue, suicide, falling down, an automobile accident, by natural disaster, electrocution or drowning than in a plane accident. Yet, Frank Gillingham, a Medical Director at HTH Travel Insurance says, “Business travelers avoid as many as six million flights a year due to fear of flying.”

Overcoming Flight Fear Boeing researchers found that 18.1% of American adults were

Thinking about a Lost-like scenario of your plane crashing every time you travel? Arm yourself with the facts to help you combat flight phobia

PLEASE


CRASH CONTROL Let’s say the unlikely happened and your plane crashed. Here’s what to do As proven by the masterful landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson, aeroplane crashes don’t automatically mean fatalities. In fact, according to the BBC, more than 90% of crash victims of the 568 planes that crashed between 1980 and 2000 survived. However, if these statistics still don’t calm you down, and your job requires frequent flying, perhaps knowing how to up your chances of survival in the event of an air disaster will make you feel more confident about taking to the air.

1. Wear the right clothes. When flying, it is best to wear natural rather than synthetic materials, as synthetic fibers are more sensitive to heat and can cause severe burns in the case of a fire onboard the aircraft. Leather-soled shoes are better than rubber soles, because rubber melt if exposed to heat. Wear layers. This can come in handy in trapping body heat and keeping you warm if you land in the sea. Long pants, long sleeves, and closed-toed shoes are best, as they will protect you from falling debris.

afraid of flying and another 12.6% experience anxiety when on a plane. A Newsweek poll found that half of adults who flew commercial airlines were fearful of flying at least sometimes. The fear of getting on a plane is a fairly common anxiety disorder and often associated with other phobias like panic attacks, fear of heights, or claustrophobia. Because of these fears, some people go to great lengths to arrange their professional and personal lives so as to avoid air travel as much as possible. In rare cases, the condition can have a severely debilitating effect on an individual, who might exhibit symptoms like palpitations,

2. Choose seats close to an emergency exit row, near the rear. The impact from a crash is lower in the back of the airplane since during a crash or emergency landing, the plane will typically go down nose first. 3. When boarding the aircraft, always count the number of rows between your seat and the nearest emergency exit. If the cabin fills with smoke, you won’t be able to see the exit, so by remembering how many seats away you are from the exit, you can feel your way to it.

sweating, rapid breathing, and nausea when on a plane. If you’re anxious about flying, or simple want to feel safer on board your flight, here are some tips that might be helpful: 1. Meditation and breathing exercises before takeoffs and landings can help calm you. Try this: Breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. The slow inhale-exhale slows blood flow and adrenalin. 2. Fly direct routes with no stopovers. Most accidents occur during takeoffs and landings, and that is also

4. Avoid excessive alcohol or sleeping pills as this could impede your ability to react in the event of an emergency.

8. Do not inflate your life vest until you are about to leave the cabin, as this will impede movement.

5. If there is a fire on board, keep your head as low as possible to avoid suffocation from the fumes. 6. When you make it out of the plane, get as far away as you can from the aircraft in case of an explosion. 7. Leave all your belongings behind.

when the fear flares up in most passengers. By flying a direct route, you reduce the number of takeoffs and landings, thus decreasing the risk of an accident and the fear associated with it. 3. Choose bigger, newer aircrafts. Because planes that seat more than 30 passengers were designed under the strictest regulations, a larger plane also offers better protection in the event of an accident. 4. Listen to pre-flight safety briefings so you know what to do in the event of an emergency. Know where all the emergency exits

Should you find yourself in a situation as unlikely as a plane crash, your biggest enemy will be panic, so the best thing you can do is to stay calm and get yourself to safety. But in light of the statistics, and airlines doubling up efforts in safety checks, we recommend you take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your flight.

are; keep your seatbelt fastened when the seatbelt sign is switched on. Though these safety measures sound like common sense, the temptation to ignore these procedures is always there, but adhering to them will help ease your fears. If you still feel jittery while preparing for your next flight, just remember that your risk of injury or death is 10 to 40 times greater in an automobile than in an airplane. Roger Blackman, a psychologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, puts our minds at ease when he says, “For most people, the most dangerous part of air travel is their trip by car to the airport.”

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 19


guidelines hoteltech

by tEÀ Villamor | photography By Starwood Hotels

The Internet has been a boon to the travel and hospitality industry. For example, it’s a rare hotel these days that doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi services in their public areas. And many offer free Internet as part of a standard room package. “I travel a lot so I appreciate a hotel that has free Internet,” says Marlon Sia, a IT specialist, whose job requires that be onsite his firm’s clients anywhere from a minimum of two weeks to four months. His view is shared by many business travellers and hotels are already in on the act, perhaps realising that cyberspace is indeed where the next battle is headed, especially since these days, most customers are more apt to be their own travel agents, customising their hotel stays and even vacations to suit their needs rather than rely on travel agents to tell them what’s best.

DIY Travel A recent study by Visa supports this. For Asia Pacific travellers, overseas trips begin with a visit to the Internet to plan their own itinerary, according to the Travel Smart Survey commissioned by Visa. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents seek travel tips to help them decide where to go mainly from the Internet (43%), travel agents (23%) or friends, relatives and colleagues (23%). “Travellers in Asia Pacific are becoming increasingly resourceful and are seeking infor mation about their destinations before they arrive,” says Brian McGrory, regional head for Debit Products of Visa. “In fact, we’ve found they spend an average of 14 weeks to plan their trip. Travellers are also making their own travel arrangements, from booking airlines tickets to

20 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

accommodation, using payment cards as their primary method of payment. The Internet really is a one-stop shop for travelers to plan ahead and websites such as Visa Great Breaks allow travelers to choose from a wide range of attractive offers to suit their needs and budgets.” Forty-three percent of respondents across the region consult the Internet for travel information, and respondents from Australia (57%) and New Zealand (54%) were found to be the most likely to use information resources found online. Respondents from Japan are equally likely to consult the Internet or friends and relatives (49% in each case).

Hotels are getting in on the act Because of the increasing dependency on the Internet and more and more people living and working via cyberspace, some hotel brands have gone one step further in providing the best online services they can give consumers. We’re not just talking of beefing up hotel audiovisual equipment in the rooms and meeting spaces, although most hotels are already doing this, but many brands are being more innovative. Star wood hotels, for example, have Link@Sheraton, a “virtual lobby lounge” where they can offer guests “Wi-Fi, computers, webcams and more” at many of the Sheraton properties. Put into play most recently at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur and Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort, “Link@ Sheraton experienced with Microsoft,” is just one example of where hotels are taking technology. This unique virtual and physical lobby lounge space enables guests to work, relax and remain connected

with friends and family during their travels. The Link@Sheraton is designed to serve the needs of guests who are social, successful individuals seeking to balance work and play while also sharing the travel experience with each other. “The Link is the heart of our new lobby, which we are redesigning to be a destination for guests. This unique lobby lounge offers travellers a convenient online experience and instant access to information for work, leisure and social networking. It is Sheraton’s way of inviting our guests to come out from their rooms and join the community in the lobby where they can catch up on work, email their family and friends or just sit back and relax,” says Vincent Ong, Brand Director for Sheraton (Asia Pacific). “This unique initiative, the first of its kind in the hospitality industry, will help our guests stay in touch with the city they are visiting as well as their home base, no matter where their travels take them.” The Link@Sheraton experience begins as guests make their way through the hotel lobby and enter a signature lounge area. The Link features multiple Internet-enabled workstations complete with free 24/7 Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, from where guests can surf the Internet, email loved ones, review local attractions and even send out electronic video postcards while relaxing with family, friends and business colleagues. To further deliver a distinctive technology enabled experience, Sheraton has partnered with Microsoft to provide Windows-based computer terminals and Internet access points as well as Microsoft peripheral products. “Our guests are intent

on making the most of their travels and we’re confident this new partnership with Microsoft will enable Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel to provide them with the products, services and tools to keep them connected to what matters most while on the road,” says Wolfgang Boettcher, General Manager, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. “The Link reflects Sheraton’s commitment to deliver popular, unique and unexpected offerings to our guests and is an exciting pillar of Sheraton’s comprehensive effort to further differentiate our iconic brand.” Other hotels like Royal Plaza on Scotts in Singapore are being innovative in different ways. The hotel has Wii stations that guests can use to enhance meetings—proving that games can be used for work as well. Similarly, because it caters to the younger, more Internetsavvy traveller, the Aloft chain of hotels have launched gaming into its hotel experience. The Aloft website, www. alofthotels.com/explore, features a range of interactive features like a guided insider’s tour of the hotel, maps and city guides for each location and engages visitors through a series of original, branded games that bring the Aloft experience to life. Aloft’s consumer online experience consists of: a virtual tour of the hotel—the look and feel of each area and its design features; destination map and city guides—browse a map of Aloft’s global A-list locations and check out local hot spots, restaurants, cultural and offthe-beaten-path destinations, as well as staff picks and special city guide content unique to the hotel gaming and trivia—guests can spin tunes as the Aloft DJ, try bartending, enjoy a game of


Hotel

HIGH Tech

In the hotel industry, the battle for supremacy has gone into a new arena: a strong presence in cyberspace and hightech gadgetry. Some examples of how the Internet is changing the way we travel

online billiards, or play travel trivia games on the site; Aloft Radio—preview a sampling of the hotel’s carefully curated and eclectic music with the special Aloft playlist. “Since Aloft’s groundbreaking virtual launch in cyberspace in partnership with Second Life, the brand has been leading the way in providing the most dynamic,

high-tech experience for our guests,” said Brian McGuinness, Starwood’s Senior Vice President, Specialty Select Brands. “With the new site we wanted to extend the same energy and vibrancy one finds at each Aloft property to our virtual home and provide a truly unique and memorable experience that resonates with the savvy, Gen Y traveler.”

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 21


corphub china text by Michele Koh | Photography by Eric Charlton, Kevin Poh, Robert Scoble, Thomas Won

UP

MOVING THE VALUE

CHAIN

The scandal over toxic toys and tainted milk in combination with a global recession might just be the incentive China needs to lift the quality and value of its exports

24 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


Manufacturing has played a big part in China’s phenomenal economic growth in the last 25 years, supplying goods in just about ever y industr y, from auto parts to sweatshirts. The low cost of getting products made in China’s factories have prompted multinationals to set up production bases across the country, which have created jobs and transformed China from a closed-market developing nation to one of the world’s most crucial economic powers. No doubt, the downturn has lead to a lowered demand for capital goods from the US, Europe and other countries in recession; but perhaps even without the gloomy spectre of the financial crisis, China’s export industry would still have taken a beating. Currently, China-made goods account for about 10% of the world’s total exports, putting it at par with Germany for the number one world exporter. But according to Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang, authors of Getting China and India Right, China’s days of high export growth might be ending. Should its export rate increase at its usual 25% per annum, then by 2010, China would be responsible for close to half of the goods in the global market. Gupta believes that “...such a situation is economically and politically impossible. For one thing, as China gets richer, its labor costs will increase, and the more labor-intensive processing trade will begin migrating to lower labor-cost countries such as India and Vietnam. For another, belief in free trade or not, other big economies will find it politically impossible to accept such a high level of dependence on imports from China.” Gupta

and Wang predict that the most likely scenario is that China’s exports will grow at a more modest rate of 10%.

Cost-Cutting Pitfalls Unfortunately, due to low labor and production costs, made-in-China products, have earned a reputation for being of substandard quality. In the last two years, problems with quality control and safety has put China in bad light and led to consumer boycotts of China-made goods. From toxic pet food, soybeans, seafood, poultry and milk, to lead-tainted toys, unsafe car tires, and toxic toothpaste, it seemed that poor regulatory measures were present in almost all sectors. A recent China Automobile Consumer Satisfaction survey showed that 77% of new owners of Chinamade cars reported problems, with 338 problems for every 100 vehicles. The report blamed automakers for cutting cost by using cheaper parts as the reason for the problems. Beijing dealt with these problems by promising to step up inspections and enforce more stringent quality and safety regulations. However, the gover nment has also suggested that the foreign media has blown the issue out of proportion. Experts believe that how seriously the government handles the problem is crucial to salvaging China’s reputation. The spate of safety regulation scandals could result in improvements a k i n t o J a p a n ’s “ quality revolution” of the 1960s. Rich Wong, a sales and marketing director for Thermos Fischer Scientific Inc., which sells equipment to analyse lead, cadmium, and other toxins in various products, says, “If the Chinese realise that they are losing business to India and


Main PAGE AND ABOVE: Cities like Hong Kong (left) and Shanghai (above) owe their growth to manufacturing. LEFT: A worker at a computer assembly line.

Vietnam, which can beat them on price even if not on quality, then the quality in China will start improving.”

Value-added Goods In 2008, the government inflated the yuan, which rose by 8.7% in Februar y that year. Even though it has since gone down, the inflation of the currency has upped the cost of living in China, pushing to factory workers to ask for higher wages. Recently, the government also passed labour laws that increased protection for workers. These measures, together with the cutting of tax rebates, have made factory owners rethink the “Do whatever we can to get it made as cheaply as possible” attitude. Andrew Rothman, a China strategist with investment firm CLSA, described these measures as “a deliberate policy to push manufacturing up the value chain.” Rothman says, “It is coming at the same time as rising raw material costs. What the Chinese government is saying is, ‘We don’t want to

26 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

be the world’s workshop for junk. We want to make highervalue stuff that creates more wealth and better jobs.’” Part of the government’s five-year plan includes investing more on science, technology, and innovation. Some of the key initiatives involve increasing in the research and developmentto-GDP ratio from about 1.3% in 2005 to 2.5% by 2020, and also implementing laws regarding intellectual-property rights. Much of China’s success now hinges on raising the quality of her products to match international standards. This will mean not only ensuring better health and safety regulations, but also producing more specialised, complex, high-end products than pet food and Tshirts. Some evidence of her move up the value chain can already be observed.

Niche Markets Entrepreneurs like Mr. Li Xian Shou are helping China move in this direction by creating niche markets. Li is the founder and

CEO of ReneSola, which makes silicon wafers used in solar panels. When Li launched his business in 2001, the company assembled solar panels, and his customers were mainly German and Japanese companies who made the wafers then sold the panels after they were assembled in China. However, the assembling of panels was the lowest-cost, lowest-value sector in the solar industry, and according to Li, assembling solar panels was a commodity business with plenty of competition within China. In 2005, Li took a risk and moved out of the solar panel business and into the solar wafer business. This sector is more lucrative, and now instead of competing with other Chinese companies, he is competing with German and Japanese companies where his cost advantage gives him a one up. His company also created a technology for using recycled wafers and other materials, which is helping him avert the shortage of polysilicon, the material from which the wafers

are made. Today, Li employs 33,000 people and ReneSola is one of the world’s top five suppliers of solar wafers. Gupta says that one of the most important roles that exports have played in China’s growth is the knowledge it has given the Chinese about largescale manufacturing. “The lar ge volume of processing trade has taught vast numbers of Chinese managers how to produce high-quality products for the world’s most demanding markets, how to build a responsive supply chain for customers located thousands of miles away, and how to efficiently manage production operations employing tens of thousands of workers at a single location. The spillover of this know-how into the rest of the economy has been one of the major factors in helping boost domestic productivity, the single biggest driver of China’s economic growth,” he says. Another important aspect of exporting value-added goods is branding and marketing. A product associated with a high level of prestige mean higher profit margins. There’s the rub. “It is very difficult to be a Chinese brand, no one in China believes in a Chinese brand,” says Mr. Feng Jun, founder of Aigo, a consumer electronics company who hopes of conquer the West with its digital electronics. For China to build brands with strong global allure, her businesses will need creative marketing strategies and good communication skills. The challenge for China is to produce goods that are not so readily available elsewhere, then think out of the box when it comes to selling them to the rest of world. But before she can champion her wares, her priorities should certainly be manufacturing integrity and quality control.


corphub thailand

text by Manali Pattnaik | Photography by argenburg, aoke thun, malias, matt mangum

Thailand’s

f O d r o w S angling D Damocles

The country’s turbulent politics-asusual scenario is doing more harm than good. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though. Here’s a situationer

From the land of white elephants, to crowded city streets filled with protesters in yellow (anti-Thaksin royalists) and red (pro-Thaksin), which finally led to the emergence of blue shirts (the new pro-government supporters), Thailand’s political scene is a kaleidoscope of colours that’s threatening to push the country over the edge. Despite being the only Southeast Asian country not to

have been colonised, the country seems rudderless right now. With these coloured factions clashing over differing ideologies, the lurking fear is that another coup is imminent. The cur rent political polarisation has proved to be rather expensive for a country with an already weak economy, where a large part of the population is composed of rural poor. The current crisis has

caused substantial damage, both in terms of lost investment and tourists. Patience is wearing out amongst the peace-loving and mild-mannered Thais.

The Distant Prospect of Political Harmony It all began with a military coup in September 2006 with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a CEO-styled leader, being ousted from power. Since then

Thailand’s political stability has been severely tested. Clashes continue between Thaksin’s People’s Power Party supporters (PPP) and his staunch opponents united under the umbrella of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). In 2007, interim elections held by the government resulted in the pro-Thaksin government coming to power. Believed to be a dummy government lead by

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 25


PREVIOUS PAGE: Major infrastructure development has eased Thailand’s infamous traffic woes. THIS PAGE: As Thais go about their daily activities, political players are duking it out for control

Thaksin’s brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, it was perceived to be fronting Thaksin during his period of exile. Anti-government protesters, the PAD, began street demonstrations in May 2008 against the new government and eventually seized power in August ‘08. Since then, clashes became common in the streets of Bangkok, resulting in the deaths of at least two people and the brief occupation of the Bangkok International airport by PAD

26 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

supporters. In early December 2008, a court ruling dissolved the ruling of PPP and other coalition parties and formed a government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that continues to battle protestors to this very day.

At a Price of Politics With no resolution in sight, the political standoff continues to threaten peace, democracy— and business. The persistent political turmoil has dealt a

severe blow to the business community, eroding investor and consumer confidence, stalling critical infrastructure growth, and hampering the country’s overall image. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book, Thailand boasted a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, and generally pro-investment policies, heralding it as one of East Asia’s best performers in 2002-04 with a 6% annual real gross domestic

product (GDP) growth. Over the past four years, the real GDP growth has been dwindling from 5.2% year-on-year in 2006 to 2.6% in 2008. And finally, forecasts for the economy have been revised even more negatively for 2009 to a less than encouraging shrinkage of -3% since 2008. The tussle between the antigovernment red shirts and the anti-Thaksin royalists in their yellow shirts has stalled much of the economic progress. Since the 2006 coup and the military takeover, exports, the country’s key economic driver, has witnessed a heavy decline. This was due to the governmentimposed capital controls, which brought forth changes to many business legislations and foreign investment rules. Although the rules have since been lifted, it has been hard for the government to woo back the investor community


due to the double whammy of the 2008 economic crisis and the lingering political chaos. Tourism, another major contributor to the Thai economy, has lost its charm, too. Although the beginning of the year showed some signs of stability, the country’s recent failure to host the ASEAN summit in April 2009 rekindled doubts yet again. The increasing civil unrest and the ongoing political uncertainty have dealt a fatal blow to Thailand’s image amongst its ASEAN brethren. Further reversal of sentiments was caused by the renewed political crisis and the imposition of the state of emergency in April, which impacted on visitor figures. With the H1N1 scare added to the mix, it’s safe to say that Thailand’s tourism sector is going to be down this year, expecting to slump by 20% to

11 million compared to the 2009 target set a year ago. Apart from the tourism decrease, economists cast severe doubts on the implementation of the recent economic stimulus package of THB116.7 billion (B) (US$3.3B) to revive the economy. The Asian Development bank and other international bodies, who pegged a 3% economic contraction earlier, are forecasting a 5% decline due to the continuing political strife.

A Long Road Ahead With the recent political turmoil in Thailand and the imminent scare of the pandemic flu, little can be expected of a country already in doldrums, unless strict measures and reforms are implemented. To return to a path of sustainable econmomic growth and address internal political conflicts, Thailand needs to

implement far-reaching regulatory changes, both in the business and political landscape. Although the year started off with some calm in the political front, the fact remains that the government is loosely held by a motley coalition comprising of members switching sides from the previous government. Further, the government has been marred with scandals like the army’s harsh treatment of the Rohingya boat people fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar, the first cabinet resignation over selling rotten fish to flood victims, etc. All this have dented Thailand’s international image. Looking at the bright side of things, analysts believe that the new government in spite of its deficiencies has a more probusiness outlook. Inititaives to fight the violation of international property rights, which impacts

Thailand’s attractiveness to foreign investors; the urge to lift Thailand out of the US Trade Representative’s Priority Watch List into the Watch List category; and a further relaxation of restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai lenders as part of an effort to boost foreign direct investment and improve competition in the local banking sector still evoke a sense of hope. Whether heralding a new leadership or the old powers’ ability to get a grip on the situation or the revered King Bhumibol’s plea, Thailand is truly at a crossroad. Salvation lies in the hands of the Thai people, who can attempt to cement the deep political polarisation that is tearing their peaceful nation apart, and unify to reduce the countr y’s vulnerability for the sake of broader political stability.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 27


Ta n Ru th By

Special Feature

MICE

China’ s Meet (And Greet) Market Market

The scoop on meetings facilities in the gateway cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, plus a glimpse of the MICE facilities in Penang

Renaissance meeting room

28 | Frequent traveller

Facade of The Renaissance


With the World Expo less than 300 days away, the most populous city in China is a veritable work-in-progress with buildings and roads taking shape at every turn. As the world’s eyes once again focus on the mainland, hotels in Shanghai, as well as Beijing and Guangzhou, are in fervent preparation for the expected influx of visitors—some 70 million are anticipated to come into Shanghai alone. Besides the spillover from the mega-event, Guangzhou is also hosting the Asian Games in November 2010. The lineup of activities has not let up since the Beijing Olympics, and the economic crisis hardly seems to check the pace. With so much at stake, the hotels are stepping up to the challenge of satisfying the sophisticated needs of meeting planners in the gateway cities. Location is definitely a paramount consideration for meeting planners and the Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park couldn’t have asked to be better placed, being the only hotel in the city directly linked to three metro lines at the Zhongshan Park Metro station. In fact with Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport just 15 minutes away, and a major shopping mall with over 1,000 retail outlets, dining options and a movie theatre adjacent to the hotel, convenience is a byword for this world’s tallest landmark

Peony Palace of Broadway Mansion

Renaissance property. The neighbouring British-style parkland also gives the property precious green lungs. Part of a 60-storey mixed-use complex, the hotel features 680 guestrooms across the top 35 floors with the lobby located on the 25th floor. Deluxe accommodation includes executive one-bedroom suites and the signature duplex suite. A duallevel executive lounge on the 58th and 59th floors offers panoramic city views, high-speed and wireless Internet access, concierge services and more. The hotel is designed with meetings in mind—a whole floor is purpose-built for this function. The meetings and MICE segment is very important in the hotel’s business strategy, looking to comprise 30-35% of room inventory and revenue according to hotel general manager, Meng Lo. Very much focussed on the meetings, MICE as well as the domestic market, Lo elaborates that the domestic market is not as affected by the current downturn, “(even) as individual business travel is being cut down, nevertheless internally and domestically, companies still have to keep the engine going because of the growth in China.” The dedicated conference floor on level 10 offers nine meeting rooms totalling more than 1,800 square metres of meeting space. Its pillar-less ballroom, the largest in the Puxi area, has a maximum seating capacity of 1,000 and can be divided into three sections. Covering an area of 1250 square metres, the grand ballroom is elegantly designed with warm wood panelling while intricate Chinese-motifs decorate the lofty six-metre high ceiling. A curved solid wood wall segregates the ballroom from the meeting area, creating a private foyer perfect for pre-dinner functions. The spacious area is ideal for international conferences and special events with unobstructed space that can be configured into three rooms for smaller events, offering great flexibility to event planners. Its capacity and versatility allows unfettered creativity. A side entrance by the foyer leads to an outdoor terrace complete with Romanesque fountains. This offers yet another unique venue for post-conference cocktail gatherings, elegant alfresco dinners or casual luncheons. All eight meeting rooms feature natural daylight, high-speed Internet and

advanced audiovisual services. An open-plan coffee bar provides meeting participants a casual, café-like atmosphere to relax and re-energise between sessions. Besides the requisite high-tech equipment and state-of-the-art audio visual systems which Lo considers the “basic hardware” for any international hotel, the general manager says an innovative marketing strategy to capture business was put in place in May with the launch of a dedicated meeting website www.marriottmeetings.com.cn for all Marriott hotels in China. This bilingual portal will greatly facilitate planning and online booking for both domestic and international MICE clients. Venues are not confined to the conference floor, however. A meeting room by the Zpark coffee lounge near the lobby makes impromptu meetings a breeze amidst the aroma of coffee. An additional upgraded meeting facility at the Executive Lounge is also available to serve executive floor guests. International companies headquartered in China are major clients with pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline recently holding training sessions in the hotel. Several events by multinational companies are in the pipeline. The hotel has also played host to top executives from Dell, IT&CM China and Shanghai European Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala dinner, Lo reveals. Counting down to World Expo, the Marriott group is in the process of being selected as one of the official hotels of the exposition. The extensive network and reach of the group provide travellers attending the event in 2010 an additional avenue for information and rooms reser vation and represents a win-win situation for all parties, says Lo. In line with the global trend toward s u s t a i n a b i l i t y a n d e n v i ro n m e n t a l conser vation, Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park is taking steps to cut down on water and paper wastage by doing away with tablecloths and using reusable bamboo coasters in all banquets and dining venues. However, the major step forward for Marriott’s Shanghai hotels is in energy conservation. Lo reveals, groundwork is being laid for a carbon-trading platform, which will be operational as soon as an agreement is reached with all parties. Switching from distinctive modernism to nostalgic classicism, Broadway Mansions


Special Feature

MICE Market

Kunlun International Conference Centre

Sofitel Wanda Beijing’s 27 m indoor pool

offers a different kind of luxury redolent with a sense of history and place. Built in 1934 by British merchants, this 70-year old doyen sits right on the Bund with the Garden Bridge just across the road. Fantastic location overlooking the Huangpu River and unique history make this property a choice venue for planners looking for something with a little more character. The hotel features 253 guestrooms ranging from 35 to 90 square metres, with its interior retaining much of the British classical decor. In-room technology has been updated with high-speed Internet access and 32-inch flat-screen LCD televisions for the comforts of modern travellers. Five meeting and banquet facilities covering over 1,000 square metres spread across the top 17th, 18th and 19th floors, offer a bird’s eye view of the best in the city. As the sun sets, the Bund and Pudong

30 | Frequent traveller

Lu Jiazui area provides an unforgettable backdrop to functions. Catering to the needs of small- to medium-sized events, meeting rooms are equipped with the latest multimedia audiovisual facilities, broadband Internet access, LCD projector and video conferencing system. The biggest in size, Xiang Palace, occupies 417 square metres and seats up to 300 persons, theatre-style or 280 persons for banquet. The hotel’s stately Peony Palace, reminiscent of a stateroom, is suitable for formal VIP meetings while an outdoor balcony on 17th floor offering ample opportunity for alfresco events.

BEIJING To maximise awareness of the Olympic legacy and enhance the capital city’s status as a world-class meetings and incentives destination, Beijing’s event calendar is

lined up with exhibitions, trade shows and conferences well into 2010. As an industry stalwart, Hotel Kunlun Beijing is well placed to benefit from this momentum. Kunlun Hotel boasts an International Conference Centre spanning 600 square metres, made up of a 540-square metre conference hall able to seat 328 people stadium-style, several smaller conference rooms, two VIP rooms and a coffee lounge. Equipped with state-of-the-art Philips digital network systems, high-speed Internet access, an advanced quality digital stereo control systems and simultaneous translation facilities, the hotel is more than capable of meeting the exacting demands of international conferences and meetings. An additional 15 function rooms and banquet facilities, including an 800-square metre ballroom makes the hotel ideal for almost any type of business or social function, including large-scale banquets. Selected facilities feature simultaneous translation systems as well as controlled lighting systems and movable platform stages to create the right ambience and settings for any event. “We are in the planning stages for upgrading our small and mid-sized meeting facilities, focussing on improving tech features such as faster wireless Internet connections, increasing the number of automated business conference equipment, among others,” says Yoshiko Kurotsu, Director of Communications. “Our newly renovated presidential suite also features a private, separate executive meeting room ideal for high-level meetings, and the hotel’s rear garden will soon house 10 separate glass-encased meeting rooms, which will provide a feeling of being outdoors while conducting private meetings or events,” she adds. The hotel is in a strategic location—on the banks of the scenic Liangma River, near embassies, and surrounded by prestigious shopping centres and clusters of office buildings. It is 10 kilometres from the city centre and 30 kilometres from the international airport, while Sanlitun and the International Exhibition Centre are within walking distance. Kunlun Hotel provides ver y comprehensive dining and leisure facilities on its extensive grounds. There are 13 restaurants and lounges serving a plethora of cuisines and beverages from around the


business hotels

31

gymnasium as well as Le Spa. A dining highlight is definitely the hotel’s signature Le Pré Lenôtre restaurant—a collaboration with legendar y French gastronomy House Lenôtre. The plush restaurant decked out with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, serves modern interpretations of classic French cuisine accompanied by an extensive range of French wines. Meeting, conference and incentive groups can choose from stylish function rooms ranging from 37 to 240 square metres all conveniently located on the same floor. Key attributes are a floor-to-ceiling glass wall for natural daylight and the flexibility to open up or divide the function rooms according to capacity requirements. Each is equipped with up-to-the-minute technology with free wireless Internet access provided throughout. The exquisite pillar-less grand ballroom with an area of 1,368 square metres, is accentuated with opulent crystal chandeliers and plush, Oriental-pattern carpeting. This modular space can be kept intact for large-scale events or partitioned into three rooms. An extensive 1,000-square metre foyer complements the ballroom. The fully soundproof facility has the most advanced equipment, including built-in projectors and cameras while a dedicated butler service is on hand to ensure that all runs smoothly. Employing Sofitel’s famous “Inspired Meetings” concept, the hotel tailors each meeting based on the client’s specific needs. From the request for proposal, the hotel’s Conventions Ambassadors will examine a client’s needs to provide a precise and complete solution tailored to this needs. An event manager is specifically assigned to each project so all requirements are effectively and efficiently met. Post-event follow-ups ensure customers’ satisfaction and smooth service delivery. Miah is confident of the hotel’s product: “With a brand new hotel and well-appointed facilities, we are able to answer most of the request from MICE organisers from mainland China.” All Sofitel Wanda’s guestrooms feature built-in LCD televisions in both the bedrooms and bathrooms. Club Rooms are fitted with electro-chromic windows that separate the bathroom and bedroom, changing from clear to frosted with a flick of a switch, providing a feeling of spaciousness while offering privacy.

Frequent traveller

world. A 24-hour café provides casual dining round-the-clock. Hotel guests can avail themselves of an array of entertainment facilities such as an outdoor tennis court, sauna club, indoor swimming pool, and fitness centre. Or engage in retail therapy at the hotel shops or nearby Lufthansa shopping centre. For sightseeing, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Beihai, Heavenly Temple, and Wangfujing district are mere 20-minutes drive away. The excellent business and leisure facilities complement 661 well-appointed guestrooms and suites. Following a five-year extensive renovation in 2007, the executive club floor has been totally reinvented with a personalised all-in-one concept combining a chic revolving restaurant and lounge—the only one of its kind in Beijing—private meeting spaces, deluxe accommodations and excellent services. Designed by world-renowned American firm Bilkey Llinas Design, each club floor room features a white marble bathroom with separate standing shower and large bathtub. Executive guests are welcomed with complimentary Champagne on arrival and enjoy free broadband Internet access in-room as well as wireless access in the club lounge. The hotel’s dedicated events team has kept abreast of the trends in MICE market and is an invaluable source of creative ideas. As the brand’s Asia Pacific flagship property, Sofitel Wanda Beijing’s proposition for the MICE market is unequivocal luxury. Constructed to meet China’s exacting Five-Star Platinum standards, the hotel boasts a bold interior design that blends the opulence of Tang Dynasty China with modern French style. “We are positioning the hotel in the luxury market in order to answer the strong demand in terms of quality venues. Our clients are demanding in terms of quality,” remarks director of sales Rubel Miah. The hotel provides fast access to the Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Railway Station. China International Exhibition Centre is also within easy reach. The deluxe establishment houses 417 luxury rooms with 43 suites, four restaurants, 10 conference rooms, a grand ballroom, and a full floor of leisure facilities with a 27-metre indoor swimming pool, health club and


Special Feature

MICE Market

Chimelong Hotel guest room

GUANGZHOU As the host city of the 16th Asian Games, Guangzhou is reshaping its infrastructure and environment in preparation for the big sporting event. The Asian Games Town, in fact, will be built in Panyu District, sharing the same locale as Chimelong Hotel, an exclusive five-star hotel set within China’s only safari park. Situated on 360 hectares of lush greenery, the property is the only one of its kind in China. Design and décor reflects the open space and utilises natural materials to create a relaxing environment that celebrates the great outdoors. In close proximity to five world-class theme parks—Chimelong Paradise, Xiangjiang Safari Park, Chimelong Water Park, Chimelong International Circus, and Guangzhou Crocodile Park, as well as a golf driving range—this unique property is a destination on its own. The hotel’s international convention and exhibition centre covers an area of 30,000 square metres and consists of a pillar-less ballroom with a 12-metre high ceiling and 39 fully flexible conference rooms. The ballroom can comfortably accommodate 3,000 people in a sit-down dinner. All the convention and conference facilities are outfitted with the latest audiovisual equipment and multimedia technology. A revolving stage is available to add an exciting spin to functions. Its immense space and partnership with the theme parks are Chimelong Hotel’s key competitive advantages, according to hotel general manager, Peter Ng. The property has

32 | Frequent traveller

The Garden Hotel Convention Hall

1,500 guestrooms. Each room is equipped with 37-inch LCD television, broadband and wireless Internet access and a spacious balcony overlooking beautifully landscaped gardens and large natural enclosures with captive white tigers and flamingos. The hotel is able to tap into the resources of the surrounding theme parks to produce special shows for theme parties, gala dinners and incentive groups, says the general manager. Selected as the headquarter facility by Guangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee, The Garden Hotel Guangzhou is an excellent venue for hosting world-class events. It is one of three hotels in China and the only national brand hotel in South China to receive the prestigious Platinum Five-Star Award issued by the China National Tourism Administration. The Garden Ballroom is one of the largest column-free meeting rooms in China. With magnificent decoration and grand crystal chandeliers, it is ideal for lavish 1,000-guest cocktail receptions or sumptuous 95-table banquets. The hotel also boasts 10 well-equipped versatile function rooms. Meeting rooms and ballroom come equipped with the latest audiovisual equipment, multimedia projector, moving simultaneous interpretation systems, wireless microphones and video recorder with 29-inch television. Its MICE clients are assured of personalised service, gracious hospitality and a professional meeting and banqueting team that will be on hand to ensure a successful event.

What makes the hotel stand out from its competitors? Its made-to-measure meeting programmes, special venues such as swimming pool podium and back garden, as well as the outstanding relationship with local sightseeing vendors. “As a national hotel with international know-how, we are continuously putting effort to improve our hardware and software in order to ensure our products are competitive as well as ‘value for money.’ Guest request is our priority and we handle this with flexibility,” says Cheng. The Garden Hotel’s convenient location in the hub of the prosperous business and entertainment district of Guangzhou is a big plus point. It is 35 kilometres from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, and within easy reach of the city’s main railway station, ferry terminals, and ports. Shuttles operate from the property to both the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and the railway station. Aside from the comprehensive meeting and convention facilities, the hotel’s wellappointed 828 guestrooms and suites are ready to answer the accommodation needs of MICE clients with 24-hour butler service and free in-room broadband Internet. A well-equipped business centre provides a wide range of services and facilities. In addition, the hotel has several restaurants and bars serving local and international cuisines and many recreational options including an outdoor swimming pool, tennis and squash courts and a relaxing spa.


Spotlight On Penang going on a historical tour with your group after your planning session makes for a different kinD of teambuilding exercise

The New York Times voted Penang as the second must-visit place out of 44 for 2009. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fascinating blend of cultures— Malay, Chinese, and Indian, among other races—religions, and food. The resulting mix has been fascinating visitors for years. Aside from the tourism aspect, Penang is also a popular MICE destination. The city has MICE facilities such as purposebuilt centres and indoor stadium that can accommodate a large number of people. Venues in the city include the Penang International Sports Arena (PISA) in Bayan Baru. Penang’s hotels also offer convenient and efficient services

catering to the MICE segment. One such hotel is Trader’s Hotel Penang. Located in historic George Town, this hotel has 443 well-appointed rooms and suites, has outstanding dining options and serves as an excellent base for exploring Penang. Guests of Traders Hotel can conveniently access prime commercial and shopping zones in the area. It’s also near the airport and the industrial zone. Penang International Airport and the Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone is only 15 minutes away. To make it more convenient for guests, the hotel has broadband facilities in all rooms and wireless Internet access in all outlets, public

areas, and meeting rooms. The hotel is the city’s main venue for conventions. The spacious Pinang Ballroom can hold up to 600 persons in a theatre setup. There are eight function rooms suited to smaller events and get-togethers. Aside from the connectivity, all conference and function rooms feature state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment—including teleconferencing. To cap your conference, host a theme party, which the hotel will gladly organise within the hotel or in one of the cities historic destinations such as the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Khoo Kongsi, Fort Cornwallis, Penang Hill, among others.

Miami Beach modern

fashionable

a great deal

Must Try - Seeing Is Believing....

FREE WIFI

33

HYDRO HOTEL PENANG Miami Beach, Batu Ferringhi 11100 Penang, Malaysia. t: +604 890 5999 f: +604 890 5100 e: res@hydrohotelpenang.com

www.thehydrohotels.com

Frequent traveller

for diners at Palms & Sea Lounge


destination‥tokyo photography by WEIWEN LIN

TOKYO Kaleidoscope Tokyo is not all about futuristic modernity. The Japanese capital city has its quaint side, too. Explore keenly and let the city shape its colourful, unpredictable plot for you, suggests WEIWEN LIN

34 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP, LEFT: Vendor grilling yakitori at Fukuhachi in Omolde Yokocho; sushi at Uogashi Nihon-ichi; kitschy socks for sale; Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa; Louis Vuitton flagship boutique is a must for LV fans; the busy traffic of Shinjuku; the crowds and colours of Shibuya Junction

The man with greying hair sitting next to me at the counter uttered: “Wu-ey…?” He was trying to pronounce my name. I gave him my name card to aid the phonetics, and he found my surname much easier to handle: “Ah…Lin-San?” He gave me his card, too: Masao Okamura, a teacher at an origami association. I was savouring my salt-sprinkled yakitori moriawase (five skewers of grilled meat for ¥700) in Fukuhachi, a yakitori shop, when Okamura started a conversation with me. The shop was tiny: a grill counter fronted by 10 stools, which were separated by a small space from the wall behind them. Customers entering rubbed their hips inadvertently against my back as they squeezed their way through, saying: “Sumimasen!” Excuse me! Yakitori names, from chicken innards to squids, were displayed on the wall. The cramped layout of Fukuhachi typifies many of the other yakitori shops and pubs nestling in the alley known as Omoide Yokocho. This narrow, smoky food alley—tucked near the West Exit of Shinjuku Station—has been around for

more than 60 years, a surviving example of Tokyo street-dining in the old days. I was charmed by its traditional personality. I found the food very affordable. The only problem was getting a seat in the packed shops, where regulars, like Okamura (who visits Fukuhachi thrice a week), exchange raucous banter with chefs. Some tourists, put off by the lack of English signs, walked past the shops, other brave ones stepped in and let their fingers do the talking. “My father opened this shop 65 years ago,” said 67-year old Hatsumi Muraoka, the owner. “And I have been working here for more than 40 years. I like my job. I get to chat with customers and hear their stories. I hope this alley would not change.” At first sight, Tokyo explodes with cuttingedge modernity, but it also clings to the traditional and nostalgic, such as Omoide Yokocho. The city is fascinating and fickle, a kaleidoscopic wonderland.

Kingdom of Indulgence Despite the sheer number of people at the labyrinthine Shinjuku Station—which

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 35


Don’t Get Lost In Translation

Some helpful tips to going around Tokyo

A train departs from Shinjuku station

When to Go: Spring (March-May) for the cherry blossoms and autumn (Sept-Nov) when the weather turns cooler. But avoid Golden Week (late April-May) and New Year (late Dec-early Jan), the two most important festivals in the Shinto calendar because the city closes down. Getting Around: Tokyo veterans know how hard it was to navigate the city before. As one resident said, “Even I get lost here.” But with the Japanese government’s push to attract

more foreign visitors, Tokyo is becoming easier to navigate. The transportation system is topnotch and a redesign of the subway map makes travelling less confusing. There are more English signages and the locals are always willing to help a lost traveller. That said, here are some things to keep in mind when going around this fascinating city on your own: • Many taxi drivers do not speak English. Get your hotel concierge to write down their address and your destination in Japanese so you can show

the taxi driver where you want to go. • Frequent visitors suggest writing down as many unique landmarks near where you intend to go. The Tokyo address system can be confusing. The buildings may be numbered according to when they were built, so #245 may be 10 blocks away from #246, for instance. • Buy a SUICA card for use on trains and buses. The card has a minimum value of Y2,000 which can be topped up.

Quirky billboard with Japanese pop star Takuya Kimura

is Tokyo’s busiest, serving at least two million passengers daily—courtesy was not compromised at the platforms: boarding passengers waited patiently beside the train doors for alighting passengers to get off before moving in; a trait which could also be seen at other stations. At night, Shinjuku is a pulsating, futuristic kingdom where indulgence is the overarching rule, its point announced by the rhythmic bursts of colours emanating from the dispersed army of neon boards. Establishments catering to the pleasures of the gut and more can be found in Shinjuku. Wander into its Kabukicho district, and you’ll spot some sleazy joints (even if you can’t read Japanese, the images on the neon signs are a hint) offering unnamed services with prices tagged to time limits. Strolling in Kabukicho alone, I got approached by a few touts, who actually weren’t persistent—they did not hassle me when I declined their offers. I’ve heard that their raunchy parlours sometimes ban gaijin (foreigners) from entering. Being Asian, I must have appeared Japanese to them. A man in a suit, showing me a catalogue of girls, asked me: “Oni-San, konya dou desuka? Sekushi kurabu wa dou? 8000 en.” Brother, how will your night be? How about a Sexy Club? 8000 yen. Another gestured to my camera around my neck and asked

36 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

if I wanted a “sekushi shatta chyansu” (sexy shutter chance) in his shop.

Shop, Fish, and Hog The icon of the kinetic shopping zone of Shibuya is Shibuya Junction, intersected by five pedestrian crossings. It’s the definitive location shoot in the city for many filmmakers, and it’s easy to see why. The spectacle at the junction mesmerised me: as the traffic lights turned amber, the crowds surrounding the junction inched closer to the bitumen. A tautness hung in the air, which expelled into a wave of energy as the Green Man flashed and the crowds surged across the crossings simultaneously. Pedestrians veered from their own crossing midway, flirting erratically to another. For a minute, organised chaos took over the junction, its rhythm representing the city’s heartbeat—irregular yet under control. Most foodie visitors to Tokyo make the de rigueur visit to Tsukiji fish market to enjoy breakfast at one of its sushi stalls. And they’d have to face long queues. But those looking to savour cheap and fresh sushi without heading to Bayside Tokyo (where Tsukiji is) can rely on Uogashi Nihon-Ichi, a standing sushi bar chain with outlets all over the city. The Uogashi Nihon-Ichi outlet I visited in Shibuya was simple: customers stood in front

of a bar, where different kinds of sashimi were displayed in a long refrigerated case. There was little embellished crockery: instead of a plate was a bamboo leaf, onto which sushi will be placed. Ordering was simply telling the chef which sushi I wanted. He made my orders a la minute, his fingers working deftly with the ingredients. I had only taken a few sips of my tea when my ordered sushi were placed gently on my leaf, creating a rather austere presentation. Each pair of sushi was priced between ¥100 and ¥200. Their sheer freshness meant they were top value for money—my tally for the evening was 11 pairs of sushi. Those that had me going for seconds were the katsuo (bonito) and the maguro (tuna). Tokyo’s department stores are hives of delights. Walk about their expansive floors packed with very polite staff, and you’d get a vivid look at the Japanese emphasis on quality customer service. On the top floors are the restaurants, which placate the hungry shoppers. Some of these eateries are household names, such as Maisen, located on the ninth floor of Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya. Maisen specialises in tonkatsu, a black Berkshire pork (renowned for its marbling) cutlet wrapped with egg and breadcrumbs. It was the best tonkatsu I ever ate: I had a tonkatsu set (¥2995) that came with rice and


miso soup. The breadcrumb-encrusted skin of the cutlet was generously thick and crispy, and the meat beneath was juicy. There was also a small jar of sweet plum sauce, which I could drench the meat with. I ended up ignoring my rice and finishing the meat first.

A Slower Pulse The smoke from the large incense pot danced frenetically, its cloudy trails fleeing untidily as human hands disturbed its ascent to nothingness. Hands wafted the smoke toward their bodies; some patted on their hearts, others, on their faces. Here in the grand Senso-ji temple (Japan’s oldest Buddhist temple, founded in 645), the incense pot was the focal attention of many visitors. Locals believe the smoke from the incense has curative abilities. Maeda, my former Japanese teacher who had returned to Tokyo, was rummaging her purse for a coin to offer as a donation. “I’m looking for a five yen,” she said. She found one, tossed it into the wooden coffer before the altar, and made her prayer. Why ¥5? I asked. She made me guess,

and I suddenly felt like a student in her class again. “Five yen is go en in Japanese, and its pronunciation is the same as another Japanese phrase that means ‘good relations.’ So tossing a five yen means asking for good relationships in life,” she explained. We walked around Asakusa, the old neighbourhood Senso-ji temple is located. In its heyday, Asakusa was a thriving entertainment district, and its present unpolished, old-world vibe now offers visitors a respite from the urban bustle of contemporary, shiny Tokyo. From a drink stall, we each bought a cup of amazake (¥200), a sweet alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. The warm liquid soothed my senses. We sat on creaky stools outside the stall, and let the heat from our cups please our hands in the unusually chilly spring weather. Here in this quaint neighbourhood, Tokyo felt subdued and cosy.

A Familiar Face On my last night in Tokyo, I visited Omoide Yokocho again. I had unatama don

(¥840), a bowl of rice with grilled unagi (eel) and a simmered egg at Unamaru, a shop specialising in unagi. The soft unagi almost melted in my mouth, and I clamoured for another order but thought I should save my appetite for some postdinner yakitori. So it was off to Fukuhachi again and Okamura, who smiled when he saw me. “Okamura-San,” I said, “Konbanwa!” “Ah, Lin-san! Kono mise ga suki deshou?” You like this shop, don’t you? He ordered a bottle of Kirin, filled my glass and then his own. Okamura was folding a serviette into an origami. After a few careful snips with a small pair of metal scissors, he unfolded the serviette into the form of a Kanji character. As I struggled to identify the word, he crushed the flimsy origami in his hands, as if he had spotted an unforgivable imperfection in his work. “Shippai desu!” he uttered. A failure! He chuckled, raising his glass toward mine. “Kanpai,” he said. It was a simple salute to the perfection of the moment.


destinationďƒ hanoi

Photography by Deepali Kumar

Becoming STREETWISE In Hanoi

The vibe of this Vietnamese city lies in its street life, discovered DEEPALI KUMAR who risked getting run over by scooters, got lost in its maze of streets, and ate pho by the roadside Capital cities are expected to have a certain personality—aggressive, fastpaced centres of intrigue and then there is Hanoi. Bursting with an old-fashioned charm, vulnerable, and laid back. I checked into my hotel late at night and ordered in a simple chicken soup. I was hoping the garlic and lemon grassinfused broth would help me with the jetlag that was sure to hit the next day. When my soup arrives I spy a set of goi cuon tucked next to the steaming bowl. I dip them in the little bowl of peanut sauce and wonder why these fresh spring rolls are not more popular then their fried, greasy counterparts. Skylines. They tell the stories of a city without you having to mingle with the crowds. When the sun hits the rooftops you get to see vignettes of a city rising out of deep slumber. No glitzy neon lights, no makeup to cover things up and sometimes you are lucky and you get to observe an intimate scene of a family getting ready for its busy day or a man enjoying his cuppa and the papers.

the large number of locals walking, exercising, and practicing their precise tai chi moves. Through the tall old trees around the lake I can see the mist slowly rising. By the time I finished my walk and settled on one of the comfortable benches lining the lake the mist has cleared completely and a magical dilapidated tower stands in the water. I turn around to the silver-haired toothless grannies sitting beside me to know more but the only language we share is the language of smiles. I open my guidebook and start reading an enchanting tale that goes far back to the 15th century. The Emperor Le Thai To was enjoying his momentous victor y against the

invading Ming Chinese with a leisurely sail on this very lake when a golden turtle appeared from the depths to reclaim the sacred sword, which had secured the victory. I see the same story enacted in the famed water puppet theatre that evening and as the surface of the water, which is the stage, shimmers I find myself believing this strange story as much as the Vietnamese do. But for now I have spotted a bright red arched bridge tucked in the northeast corner of the lake. Crossing the bridge I come to the small temple dedicated to Van Xuong, the God of Literature. As the smoke rises from over a hundred incense sticks stuck in the giant incense holder

Meandering and Memory When I wake up I rush across to the window and pull those heavy drapes aside. A pigeon flies off startled as I rest my eyes on exquisite colonial buildings interspersed with modern glass offices. Those colonial buildings that are now an integral part of Hanoi were built during the French occupation and I wonder if the people of Vietnam are able to enjoy their sheer architectural brilliance. I start off for a morning walk to Hoan Kiem Lake. I’ve heard this lake is the heart of Hanoi; still, I am surprised to see

38 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

ABOVE: Poetic Ngoc Song Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake RIGHT: A pho street vendor goes about her business


www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 39


Hitting Hanoi’s Hot Spots A short list to get you started When to Go August-November when the city’s French Colonial buildings and laid-back attitude seem more romantic Getting Around Going around on foot is an adventure of nerve and daring as scooters and motorbikes, Hanoi’s main modes of transportation choke the streets with seeming disregard of all traffic rules. Take a deep breath and do as the locals do: Step into the streaming traffic and magically watch as the two-wheelers avoid you as you cross the street. By bus: Not recommended as the bus routes can be confusing. If you want to try it, check www.hanoibus.com for bus routes. Monthly bus passes are also available.

FROM LEFT CLOCKWISE: The elegant facade of the Opera House is a reminder of Hanoi’s colonial past; Flower venor with her blooms; Incense whafts prayers to the heavens

By taxis and cyclos: The most convenient way of getting around. All taxis are metred but check that your taxi’s metre is on before setting out. For cyclos, negotiate with the driver for the fare before getting in to avoid hassle. A happy compromise: motorbike taxis, which can be found on street corners. By motorbike and bicycle: Hire a motorcycle or bike at one of the shops along Hang Bac Street. To use a motorcycle, you need a valid international driver’s licence and helmet. Where to Go Hoan Kiem Lake Join an early morning tai chi session on its banks before exploring the lovely Ngoc Son temple on the lake, which can be reached by a small red lacquered bridge. The Old Quarter with its maze of 36 Streets is also near the lake. Check out the amazing tunnel houses, which have very narrow frontage hiding very long rooms. Also visit what little remains of the “Hanoi Hilton” or Hoa Lo Prison, which figured prominently in the Vietnam War. Most of the prison has been destroyed to make way for office buildings. Have clothes made by the tailors and silk shops of Hang Gai and Hang Bong streets or those at the Dong Xuan Market. Also, check out the excellent shops on Hai Ba Trung Street. The Temple of Literature Beautifullly preserved from 1070, this is Vietnam’s first university. Quoc Tu Giam Street; tel (04) 843 3615/823 5601. Fine Arts Museum has exhibits of artworks from prehistory to the present day. 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc; tel (04) 733 2131; www.vnfineartsmuseum.org.vn Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, 57B Dinh Tien Hoang; tel (04) 824 9494; www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org Opera House, 1 Trang Tien;l tel (04) 933 0131 40 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

I marvel at the Huc (sunbeam) Bridge. This cheerful bridge has seen its people suffer the vagaries of war, watched them escape to other lands, creating one of the most painful memories of the Vietnam War—a nation of boat people.

A Slice of Street Life As I walk away from the lake, I find myself in 36 Streets or 36 Pho Phuong, one of the most beautiful areas of Hanoi—narrow streets and small shops with goods spilling out onto the pavement. In the olden days each street here used to represent one trade. So you could find a Basket Street, a Silk Street, a Paper Street and many other fascinating shops representing every guild. Today, the area is diluted by video rental shops and small tourist excursion outfits but when I find myself in the Lantern and Kite Street, its kaleidoscopic brilliance makes me reach for the nearest stool. A mangosteen seller quickly settles beside me and soon I’m taking in those intricate patterns as I suck on the tiny segments of this tart yet sweet fruit. I know Hanoi is full of sights to see but all I want to do is stroll down the

streets, peer at the shop windows, admire the art galleries and find a way to capture some of the ease and grace of this city in a little match box to take home with me. When I finally stop for lunch I order what everyone around me seems to be digging into. Grilled fish and a small clay cooker are brought at my table. Some oil, scallions and dill go in followed by the fish and as the pan sizzles I am reminded of the Song Hong (Red River) on whose banks Hanoi is set, snaking its way through the country. Cha Ca, that’s what I’ve just eaten and the small basket masks with strangely Russian faces that dot the restaurant’s walls seem to echo that back to me.

Traffic, Literature, Culture It’s evening and I am sitting in one of Hanoi’s warm cafes, too scared to step out and cross the road. The story I read about an expat lady who tried to cross the street, failed, returned to her hotel, packed her bags and left seems to ring true in the dusk with office workers streaming home. The swarm of scooters and motorcycles that are the city’s main modes of transportation is something I am not used to and though


there are zebra crossings one lane seems to be on all the time. I finally pick up courage and decide to blindly follow a lady who seems unperturbed by the two-wheelers whizzing past her. She does not look at the oncoming traffic, just steps into the road and walks across with steady steps. I try it myself at the next crossing and I find that the traffic moves around me. I’ve learnt something new and it’s with a new sense of confidence that I step into the haloed grounds of the Temple of Literature or Van Mieu Pagoda. This largest and most important temple of Hanoi used to hold examinations that allowed even peasants to rise to the position of mandarins. In the courtyard of the stelae I find the names of successful examination scholars engraved, most are worn out and some are missing but the stelae give an idea of how long, difficult and important those examinations must have been. The temple is deserted now but for a few tourists who happily photograph the Van Mieu Gate adorned with dragons.

There are no shows on at Hanoi’s number one landmark, the Opera House, while I am in the city but I settle down on the steps of this iconic building and admire the tree-lined avenues along which all kinds of food sellers are doing brisk business. Over at the Ca Fe stalls young men linger, inhaling the fragrance of extra strong coffee. When I peep into a huge shed I see ping pong tables lined up with sweaty players playing hard at the game. Someone catches me peering and I am welcomed in and offered a chair. The image of those shy smiling, courteous Vietnamese disappears as I watch these young men battle aggressively.

Halong Bay I have seen pictures and then some, so I didn’t believe that this World Heritage Site will have anything to surprise me but this archipelago of thousands of limestone pinnacles called karst, created through a complex process of erosion is stunning. As the guide explains how the many caves and caverns came to be formed I admire the Chinese junk I am sailing on. Halong stands

for descending dragon and an enormous beast is said to have careered into the sea creating this breathtakingly beautiful bay from the rocks as it struggled to survive in these clear, emerald waters. As we pass the islands of Coc, Cap De, Bo Cau and Vong Vieng I know I will be back to spend more time at Halong Bay. I had promised myself a fancy meal at Bobby Chin’s restaurant but the steaming bowls of a pho seller find me settling down on an extra short plastic stool and I dig into my aromatic bowl of pho as smartly dressed executives continue their business talk. I have just a couple of hours left in Hanoi. I have already bought some lacquerware and the traditional conical hat but I want something more. It’s with this in mind that I slip into a fish and vegetable market. Amongst herbs, prawns and crabs I look for something that will remind me of my holiday. That’s when a Vietnamese flower seller hands me a chrysanthemum. “Beautiful eyes,” she says—and I know that I am holding the essence of Hanoi in my hand. Special Advertising Section

Summer Family Fun The Moomin Families are coming for a visit this summer! In honour of the well-loved and adorable cartoon trolls from Finland, we’ve created an exclusive Moominthemed package for the whole family to enjoy.

For our Moomin Families Suite Package, stay in our Moominthemed superior one-bedroom suite for only HK$1,368 up. Kids can also enjoy in-room Moomin cartoon DVD for viewing. At the Promenade Restaurant, kids can

HAVE AN EXCITING SUMMER WITH THE MOOMIN FAMILIES AT HARBOUR PLAZA METROPOLIS! join the fun Moomin drawing competition and Weekend Moominmamma cooking class, while adults enjoy the specially prepared buffet of “Moomin hometown cuisine” of Finnish specialties and summer cocktails

by the poolside. For details, please e-mail rsvn.hpme@harbourplaza.com for reservations or go to http://fnb.hpme.harbour-plaza. com for buffet bookings. The package available from July 1- August 31, 2009. Terms and conditions apply


destination‡russia PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHARMILA MELISSA YOGALINGAM

RUSSIA CONJURES UP IMAGES OF THE KGB, political espionage and undercover spies, as well as dark and gloomy days where everything is in various shades of grey—from the buildings to the clothes. The reality, however, is vastly different. The true Russia has a deep, complex soul that begs to be discovered. After the breakup of the former USSR, Russia has regained some of its former glory, tarnished as it was from decades of misuse. In a famous radio interview, Winston Churchill once called this country, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The statesman may have uttered this remark 70 years ago, but it’s still true today. From a country that has been closed to the world due to state policies, Russia is just now opening up. It’s two principal cities Moscow and St.

Petersburg serve up a myriad of sights and experiences—cultural, historical, urban, and new—that the Russia today would be hardly recognisable to its forebears and yet, the modern incarnation retains the Russian soul—deep, capable of great feeling, and utterly beguiling.

CAPITAL SIGHTS Dome-shaped buildings, picturesque red brick houses and a skyline that is fast becoming as cosmopolitan as New York’s, Moscow is one of the cities where reemergence is taken seriously. True, there are still a lot of problems. Post-Communist Russia is still steeped in corruption and underworld activity—the Russian Mafia is one of the most powerful criminal syndicates in the world—yet the culture and history

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The colourful St. Basil’s Cathedral; The Red Square; Matrioshka dolls make good souvenirs;

42 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


DREAMING

RUSSIA Learning the complex Russian psyche is not possible without exploring its heart and soul—Moscow and St. Petersburg, as SHARMILA MELISSA YOGALINGAM learned

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 43


that defines this city as uniquely Russian are still intact.

THE HEART OF RUSSIA Moscow rose to prominence after the last ruling dynasty, the Romanovs, was ousted by the Communists. As such, many of the imperial structures in the city were converted into spaces for the Communist government. Imperial symbols were coopted into the new Communist order—two of these, iconic symbols of Russia. Red Square is arguably one of Moscow’s most recognisable landmarks, looming large in the public consciousness for much of the 20th century for the massive May Day parades, the queues to Lenin’s mausoleum, and later the concerts that happened here. Perhaps because of this, it can be a surprise to see that the actual square is smaller than it looks onscreen. Go around the square and feel a sense of connection to the turbulent history of this land. Between the expansive and chic GUM Department Store (pronounced Goom), for a long time Russia’s only ode to capitalist commercialism, the multicoloured and equally iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Kremlin, Red Square should be the requisite first stop to this city. The square separates the Kremlin from the historic merchant’s quarter. Historically, the square was meant to serve as Moscow’s central marketplace and was used for various proclamation ceremonies as well as coronations of the czars and since all roads out of the city radiate from this point, it is considered the central square of Russia—in more ways than one. For curiosity’s sake, visit Lenin’s mausoleum, which has seemingly been forgotten by time. Designed by Alexei Shchusev in 1924, Lenin’s resting place is a study in modernist simplicity. Built of red granite and black labradorite, it’s an elegant resting place for one of the 20th century’s most pivotal and divisive figures. From the tomb, explore the Kremlin, the official residence of the czars until 1917, when the Communist Revolution drove them out. This complex consists of numerous cathedrals, palaces and towers. You’d probably need a few hours to properly walk through all the properties and take in everything. It is definitely well worth the time, as this “city within a city” holds much of Russian history. The Kremlin is Russia’s refuge, a veritable

44 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

fortress that effectively links Russia’s imperial and Communist past to its vibrant present. The Kremlin’s rise from a hunting lodge for a prince in the 12th century to its present status as Russia’s symbol of power can be seen as a chronicle of Russian history. And, of course, you shouldn’t miss the multicoloured St. Basil’s Cathedral (or more properly, The Cathedral of the Intercession). Its popular name comes from a ragged 16th century Russian prophet who predicted the Moscow fire of 1547. The church’s multiple domes, spires, cupolas, arches, and towers in multicoloured hues have been fascinating visitors since its construction in the 1500s. The cathedral’s allure is best seen outside as its remarkable façade belies a plain interior. For some peace and quiet, pack a picnic basket and head to Kolomenskoye, the summer estate of the czars and where the white gothic 16th century church, the Church of the Ascension, is its main focus. Many Muscovites come here for a day out. However, finding an isolated spot in this huge garden would not be hard. Kolomenskoye is next to the Moscow River, where boats can take you for a cruise. Otherwise, there are fruit orchards and a honey farm to explore. If you’re lucky, you just might catch a performance on the grounds, done in full period costume and makeup.

THE IMPERIAL CROWN St. Petersburg used to be the imperial capital of Russia until 1918, when the Bolsheviks transferred the capital to Moscow and changed the name of this city to Leningrad, a name it held until 1991. Known as the more Russian “cousin” to Moscow, St. Petersburg is an ode to the reign of the czars, an evocative reminder of Russia’s magnificent past. In this city, history is a living thing. St. Petersburg is home to fascinating relics and art pieces and one of the best places to view these is at the Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace, the former palace of Catherine the Great, and which now houses one of the most massive collection of art and antiquities in the world. Russia has a turbulent and bloody history and nowhere is this truth borne out than in the magnificent structures of St. Petersburg, many of which have witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, monarchs, and governments. Take for instance the Palace Square.

Designed to follow in the tradition of Moscow’s Red Square, this was a focal point in Russia’s political struggles. One of the most notable was the famous Bloody Sunday in the early 20th century. Thousands of peasants and workers went on strike and had gathered at the square to petition Czar Nicholas II. The marching populace was met by imperial soldiers who opened fire at the crowd, killing hundreds of demonstrators. Historical accounts are still debating on the causes of the massacre but there can be no doubt that this incident indirectly led to the Russian Revolution that deposed the Romanovs. Or take for instance The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood. As iconic as Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral, this church was built at the site of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II in March 1881. Perhaps because it was the seat of imperial Russia, there are many monuments here that portray the struggle of the people against its rulers.

THE MODERN ST. PETERSBURG A visit to St. Petersburg is not complete without strolling down Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main avenue, now home to many chic establishments. Then as now, it is the commercial and religious centre of the city, what with many churches lining its length. In fact, so notable are the churches that the writer Alexandre Dumas once called St. Petersburg “the city of religious tolerance.” Just strolling down its length will take you past many of the city’s impressive structures including Kazan Cathedral, Dom Knigi Bookstore (which used to be the headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine company), and the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. A few streets away are the Arts Square and the Russian Museum, Gostiny Dvor, the city’s largest department store, the Russian National Library, and an impressive statue of Catherine the Great. Moscow and St. Petersburg form the backbone of Russia, and a visit to these cities will leave you enriched in the history and culture of this country. All of those spy and espionage novels that you read whilst you dreamt of a seedy and unfriendly Russia prove untrue as today, her cultural and heritage sites are steeped in the essence of Russian spirit and history that you will leave knowing that you’ve solved even a little bit of its mystery.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP, LEFT: The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built at the site of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II; A street in Moscow; A typical Soviet building; The Winter Palace, formerly Catherine the Great’s abode, is now part of the Hermitage Museum BELOW: Winter scene Cathedral Square, Moscow

The Russian Dossier

PERTINENT INFO TO GET YOU STARTED BEST TIME TO VISIT: Russia is most beautiful in winter, as it reveals more of its soul then. For those who want to brave the cold, it starts snowing in October until April. August-September is also a good time THINGS TO REMEMBER: Don’t drink the tap water or indulge in street food. If you’re travelling to St. Petersburg in the summer, bring insect repellent for mosquitoes. WHAT TO DO IN MOSCOW: Watch the ballet, Russia’s contribution to the arts. Two noteworthy festivals to check out are the Russian Contemporary Dance Festival and the Moscow Festival Ballet. Two other ballets worth watching in Moscow: Swan

Lake and The Nutcracker Suite. Swan Lake will be performed in the new stage of the Bolshoi Ballet in late September. www.bolshoi.ru/en/ Tour the Kremlin. Noteworthy sites here include The Arsenal, the State Kremlin Palace, The Tsar Canon and Bell, Cathedral Square, Ivan the Great Belltower, and Assumption Cathedral. WHAT TO DO IN ST. PETERSBURG: St. Petersburg offers more restaurants that serve typical Russian cuisine than Moscow, which has had its cuisine somewhat diluted by other cultures through the years. Try: Palkin, established 1874, it

is the oldest restaurant in the city. Despite its pricey menu (mains are about US$50 on average), it serves gastronomically delightful and authentic Russian fare. This is where the city’s elite comes to dine, so you’ll be in fine company. Try the mille-feuilles of sea scallops which comes served with salmon mousse, crayfish tail and red caviar drenched in truffle oil dressing or the Kamchatka crab served with avacado pulp and cream saffron sauce, for appetizers. They also serve the traditional Russian beetroot soup with veal, as well as sterlet sturgeon, turbot, guinea fowl, pheasant or venison as mains. 47 Nevsky Prospekt; tel +7 812 103 5371; www.palkin.ru

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 45


destination‥boston PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUSI KANGA

BOSTON Gets ATRIPLE BYPASS On a recent trip to Boston, SUNA and RUSI KANGA check out how a city passionate about history is reinventing itself

46 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


AMERICA’S OLDEST MEETING AND tourist city, Boston, is being energised by recently completed billion-dollar projects. New expressways, tunnels, bridges, hotels and harbourfront walks are improving the quality of life and economy of the city. “Boston was notorious for its clogged bumper-to-bumper traffic but travel is easier now. Many cross streets have been reconnected. It’s like the city has had a major bypass procedure that has opened up its lungs and eased circulation,” says a local. Travel time from Logan airport into the city now takes about 12 minutes through the newly built underground artery. The eight-to10 lane expressway replaces the demolished elevated expressway. The project has created over 300 acres of landscaped parks and restored open space in a major greening initiative involving the entire city.

CHANGING CITYSCAPE

Boston Harbor Hotel, the hotel with the “Gateway to Boston”

This year is the The Year of the Harbor, a massive, ongoing endeavour to clean and restore Boston’s shoreline. The new HarborWalk is a pleasurable and inviting attraction for visitors. The public walkway winds 44 miles past restored waterfront neighbourhoods, fine hotels, museums, parks, cafes and maritime industrial areas. Along the way, one passes the New England Aquarium and IMAX theatre, museums and several hotels. The new and unique urban harbour has seating spaces, boat ramps, exhibit areas, interpretive signage and other amenities to enjoy with a great water view. Visitor attractions caused by the completed Big Dig road project include a new island-park and a golf course. Spectacle Island, once a city dump, has been transformed into a 10-acre park, just minutes by boat from downtown Boston. Quarry Hills Golf Course in Quincy is a new 18-hole (soon to be 27-hole) course formed by capping a 450-acre area with eight million cubic yards of landfill from the roadwork. Yet another facility is Boston’s new 2,500-capacity House of Blues within a state-of-the-art location opposite the Green Monster Wall of Fenway Park, which opened with fanfare in February. The recently completed Rose Kennedy Greenway is yet another attractive development. The Greenway is a series of parks—North End Parks, Chinatown Park,

and Wharf District Parks—created along the path of the demolished Central Artery. The city’s historic Freedom Trail weaves through the North End Parks and the popular café district of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a tourist mecca boasting some 10 million visitors annually. The park has a path system, plazas with pergolas, water features and perennial flower gardens. A signature feature of the Chinatown Park is the distinctive chessboard pavement pattern by California artist May Sun, near the Chinatown Gate. Running through the centre is a “river” of stainless steel and coloured concrete depicting a map of Chinatown.

OLD BUILDINGS, NEW LIFE To keep pace with the infrastructure, there are new hotels with interesting concepts. Liberty Hotel is a much-talked-about luxury hotel carved out of an iconic 19th century jail, which closed in 1970. The hotel, creatively transformed to preserve Boston’s famous granite-style architecture, is on property leased from Massachusetts General Hospital (and thus near medical facilities). Lunching behind bars in fashionable CLINK restaurant, where cozy nooks offer “solitary” dining, we reflect on the restorers’ passionate commitment to authenticity while demonstrating a playful attitude. Scampo is for formal dining on legendary chef Lydia Shire’s global cuisine and Alibi is a highly popular nightlife destination where long queues form during weekends. A National Historic Landmark along Beacon Hill, Liberty Hotel has a gallery of historical images, 18 elegant guestrooms in the original section, and 280 rooms in a new tower. Copley Square Hotel is another classic infused with new life. Staying overnight offers us a sneak preview of caring service within a contemporary interior. The 117year-old historical gem, Boston’s second oldest hotel, re-opened months ago after a US$17 million re-invention. The four-star boutique hotel for savvy business and leisure travellers once welcomed jazz luminaries Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Rates are reasonable for the vibrant Back Bay location. Chandeliers and rich drapes in sophisticated colours give the suites a stylish look. In-room technology includes iPod docking stations, workstations with ergonomic chairs and complimentary Wi-Fi. Intuition Specialists assist guests

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 47


NEED TO KNOW with corporate or tourist information. The Minibar at ground level is a popular hangout with an inviting ambience and creative snacks—spinach and goat cheese pizza, roasted Portobello mushrooms, Kobe beef burgers, etc. Complimentary wine service is offered in the lobby between 5pm and 6 pm. The hotel is located across the road from Copley Place Shopping Galleries. A visit to the Mandarin Oriental Boston reveals a new gem on the luxury hotel scene. Poised on famous Boylston Street, the hotel’s gleaming art-studded spaces, chic bar, restaurants, spacious rooms and suites all hint of an oriental heritage. The grand 16,000-square-foot spa and fitness center has nine treatment rooms, complete with a cutting edge multi-sensory TechnoGym fitness center. Facilities include a 24-hour business centre, 9,000 square feet of meeting spaces and direct access to Prudential Center, a dynamic shopping destination. At signature restaurant Asana, the chic offerings include nasi goreng, curry, bento box and energising tonics with ginseng, ginger, and wolfberry. The businessman’s lunch, (US$19 two-course and $23 for three-course), reveals a taste of Chef Nicolas Boutin’s inspired cuisine. Excitingly designed M Bar & Lounge draws a stylish crowd. General Manager Susanne Hatje, who has held senior positions with the Mandarin group in Hong Kong, Hawaii and Munich, says, “It is exciting to live and work in this energetic American city, with its history, intellect and eclectic style.” BostonHarborHotel,alandmarkwaterfront hotel, is the city’s only independent grand hotel. All 230 guestrooms have been overhauled to mark its 21st birthday last year. With its dramatic archways and domed rotunda, the building is an architectural treasure at historic Rowes Wharf. One of the most photographed buildings in New England, the hotel is often referred to as the Gateway to the City of Boston. There is a clubby, Old Boston feel in the public areas where dark wood, priceless maps, and carpeting impart a dignified feel. The lobby is home to some of Norman B. Leventhal’s renowned collection of Boston harbour maps. The Mobil five-star rated hotel has a fine-tuned service culture that includes special treatment of guests with children. Meritage restaurant features wine and food by internationally acclaimed chef Daniel Bruce whose passion for pairing launched the Boston Wine Festival, the nation’s

48 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

INFO TO GUIDE YOU ON YOUR TRIP When to Go: Practically anytime. Boston adapts to the season. If you go in the spring visit the parks and greenways, like the new Rose Kennedy Greenway. In the summer, check out Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which has exciting things going on. Fall, it’s the walking trails, including the historic Freedom Trail, framed by the season’s bright colours characteristic of New England fall foliage. In winter, it’s the cobblestone pathways and romantic lamplit streets of Beacon Hill. Best Way to Explore: Walking—with your MP3 player. Download a free 1.2-mile audio tour from www.bostonharborwalk.com; or you can also go via water. Catch a water-taxi from several locations, www.citywatertaxi.com

Points of Interest Spectacle Island features a marina, visitor centre, café, a life-guarded swimming beach, and five miles of walking trails that lead to the crest of a 157foot high hill, offering panoramic views of the harbor and the city. Visitors welcome, dawn till dusk, May 1 to Labor Day. www.bostonislands.org House of Blues 15 Lansdowne Street, Boston, MA 02215; (888) 693 2583 (BLUE); www.houseofblues.com Faneuil Hall Marketplace Also known as Quincy Market, it is bordered by the financial district, the waterfront, the North End, Government Center and Haymarket. Open Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun noon-6pm; www. faneuilhallmarketplace.com

Boston Harbor Hotel 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA 02110; tel 617 439 7000; www.bhh.com Copley Square Hotel 47 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116; tel 617 536 9000; www.copleysquarehotel.com Fairmont Battery Wharf Harbor Hotel Three Battery Wharf, Boston, MA 02109; tel (800) 257-7544 (toll free); www.fairmont.com/ batterywharf Liberty Hotel 215 Charles Street, Boston MA 02114; tel 617 224 4000/617 224 4001 (fax); www.thelibertyhotel.com Mandarin Oriental Boston 776 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02199; tel +1 (617) 535 8888; www.mandarinoriental.com

longest-running (20 years) food-and-wine pairing event. At the recent festival dinner in January, Darioush wines from Napa Valley, California, were paired with pan-roasted black seabass, pistachio crusted black kale stuffed chicken breast, mint-rubbed lamb sirloin and more. Every year, as chef of the festival he pairs more than 200 dishes with wines from around the world. During the summer, the hotel is a lively oasis on the waterfront and there are free daily concerts, dances and films. Fairmont Battery Wharf, located on the historic North End waterfront, made its

debut last December. Set in a private enclave, the retreat has a quiet air of sophistication. The residential style was inspired by the waterfront location. Among works by local artists is a dramatic glass chandelier in an atrium depicting a school of fish by San Francisco artist Nikolas Weinstein. The property has 150 guestrooms featuring top-of-the-line technology. Suites facing the ocean are perfect for in-room parties. Sensing restaurant by Michelin three-star chef Guy Martin features seasonal New England ingredients prepared in an open kitchen. The signature Sensing Snacking


THIS SPREAD, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The brick Harborwalk skirting the newly opened Fairmont Battery Wharf; The lobby of the historic old jail of Liberty Hotel Boston; Chef’s Table with a kitchen view at Mandarin Oriental Boston; The MINIBAR at Copley Square is a popular hangout; Complimentary wine in the Copley Square Hotel lounge; spacious bedroom at the Mandarin Oriental

Platter is a fine presentation of six changing small bites such as artichoke soup shooter, duck foie gras, crème brulee, king crab in grapefruit jelly, cheese and sage maki sushi, etc. The spa and health club is scheduled to open in the second half of 2009, along with 104 private residences. A beautiful new section of the brick HarborWalk is open to public. Guests can commute by water taxi to Logan Airport, and other locations from the hotel. Hotels scheduled to open this year include W Hotel Theatre District, which will feature W’s signature bed, fully wired

technology and in-room Munchie Box, Bliss Spa, and more. Also joining the ranks of architectural landmarks being recycled into boutique hotels is the 120-room Ames Hotel by Morgans Hotel Group, scheduled to open this fall in a historic 1889 building in downtown Boston.

DAYTRIPS While Boston is known as America’s walking city, it is easily navigated by water, rail and coach transportation. From Logan International, one can take the recently introduced Silver Line train to the downtown

district or to the Amtrak South Station. From the bustling station, it is easy to do day trips to Portland (Maine), Providence (Rhode Island) or even New York City by high-speed rail. To visit the islands, there are ferries to Cape Cod, Salem or Quincy where one can transfer to high-speed ferry services going to scenic islands such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. By coach, there are shopping trips to Premium Outlets and gambling jaunts to Foxwood, MGM Grand and Mohegan Sun Casino. All of which are inviting ideas to wrap up a trip to Boston.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 49


sojournsingapore photography by paul-henri cahier courtesy of SIngapore Tourism Board

Formula For Success

It’s F1 season in Singapore and everyone’s revving up for the big race. What’s going on in the city? Aside from the excitement on the track, hotels and F&B establishments are getting in on the act with offerings too good to resist, says MICHAEL FRANCO In 1895 a man named Emile Levassor settled into his Panhard et Levassor automobile and “raced” across the French countr yside, travelling from Paris to Bourdeaux and back again in 48 hours. His average speed? Around 48.12 kilometres per hour. It might not sound like much by today’s standards, but it was enough to make him the winner in what is regarded as the world’s first-ever auto race. Since then, fascination with fast cars and high-octane competitions has steadily grown, reaching new heights with the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. As the world’s first-ever F1 night race, the event was as monumental to the sport of motor racing as was Levassor’s spin along his country’s roads over one hundred years ago. In fact, Formula One commentator Murray Walker said: “I have been going to Grands Prix since 1948 and have see many ‘first time’ events in countries all over the world, but I can honestly say that I had never before seen one that was so well organised and administered and, most importantly, such fun and had such a massive impact on the sport and the public.” Of course, a few things have changed since Levassor’s race. In last year’s event, the maximum speed reached was 298 kph by McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen. And, considering much of Levassor’s ride would have been driven on unlit country roads sans proper headlamps, the lighting system designed exclusively for Singapore’s race is impressive indeed. Created by Italian lighting specialists Valerio Maioli S.P.A., it consists of 108.4 km of power cables, 240 steel pylons, and 1,600 lights. Each 2,000-watt beacon is individually designed to light a specific section of the course and beam illumination through a

50 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

projection method designed to eliminate glare. The entire system is powered by 12 pairs of diesel generators that can back each other up, leaving nothing to chance.

Less Tech, More Action Interestingly, while Singapore’s 2008 Grand Prix may have been the pinnacle of technological advancement both in terms of cars and track, this year will see a slight scaling back of technology—implemented to make the action even more thrilling. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of Formula One, has ruled that cars in the 2009 circuit will need to be more paired down than in seasons past. Previously, fittings known as barge boards, winglets, turning vanes and chimneys have been use to help aerodynamically push the car downwards, increasing its performance. This year, these items are effectively outlawed because, while they help a vehicle manoeuvre to victory, they create a great deal of turbulence for cars behind them. This leads to less overtaking because it is simply unsafe for racers to get too close to one other. With these features removed, however, the action will be tighter and more dramatic than ever as drivers take greater risks zooming past each other. Additionally, cars will return to a type of tyre not used since 1999—slick tyres that have no grooves or patterns. These tyres allow the maximum amount of rubber to contact the track surface, providing for a 20% increase in mechanical grip and 110% increase in excitement.

Go Speed Racer In a leap forward technologically, the FIA has made a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) available to F1 teams for the first

time. This system takes the energy generated from braking and stores it in either a battery or mechanical flywheel. The driver will be allowed to use this energy—a la Speed Racer—by pressing a button for a boost of power which could catapult him past competitors. Of course, teams will need to weigh the benefits of the system against its impact on the car’s total weight. Slight modifications to the track are also planned. Turn 1, by the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was already a hot spot for overtaking in last year’s race. This year, the battles here should be even greater as the bend is being made slightly tighter and slower—which also makes it a great spot to get a good look at the cars. And the radius of turns 14 and 15, by the Fullerton Hotel and Esplanade Theatres respectively, is being increased, allowing drivers to accelerate earlier. They are now anticipated to be able to reach 280kph in sixth gear over the Esplanade Bridge.

Get Off Track So that’s the action on the track. What about around it? As Formula One is a worldwide event, it is fitting that entertainers from around the globe will be making appearances at the 2009 race. The United States will deliver growling gospel legend Mavis Staples as well as “I’m Every Woman” soul-superstar Chaka Khan. Additionally, a reunited Backstreet Boys (who had a dozen top 40 hits in their heyday) will fill the night air on the Padang with their old favourites as well as with their new, more mature sound. Pop-classical group Il Divo will also perform. From Senegal, the event will be graced by the angelic and Grammy-winning voice of Youssou N’Dour, a magnificent artist from Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential list.


Fast Facts 1. Schedule Practice: Friday, 25 September Qualifying Rounds: Saturday, 26 September Race: Sunday, 27 September 2. Info sources Tickets range from $38 for Friday walkabouts to $1,488 for Pit Grandstand seats. For more info, http://www.singaporegp.sg/. Also check www.inSing.com, Singtel’s new lifestyle portal for all things Singapore. The site has an extensive calendar that provides info on what to do everyday. It also has usergenerated reviews, exclusive content from a Singaporean perspective. The site already has over 11,000 restaurant listings, 6,000 of which are hawker stalls, and over 100,000 business listings. For F1, the site will have up-to-date race information, interviews with the drivers and teams, all the details about where to go for F1-themed entertainment, what to wear if you’re heading to F1 as well as an alternative guide to the F1—just in case some members of the family are not so keen on noisy fast cars. 3. Vital Stats Track length: 5.06 metres Race direction: anti-clockwise Number of laps: 61 Track width: 10-15m Track surface: Polymer modified binder that offers 20% more grip and five-year longer lifespan than normal road surfaces Number of turns: 13 left, 10 right Slowest corners: T3, T8, T13, T14 and T18 with speeds between 80-100kph Best overtaking opportunities: Turn 1 (Sheares), Turn 7 (Memorial), Turn 14 (Esplanade Drive) Race distance: 308.95km


Rivermaya will bring their rock-pop stylings from the Philippines, and from Hong Kong, Tan Hanjin will jazz things up. Singapore will of course also be represented with the bossa nova groove of Dawn Ho; the sultry, jazzy vocals of Alemay Fernandez; the thoughtful indie rock of Electrico; and the retro psychedelic rock sounds of The London Fog. Also, wandering the crowds will be a variety of carnival-like acts including the thundering drums of Wicked Aura Batucada, Strikeforce and the Australian visual arts group Slack Taxi. Ticket holders at all levels will have access to nearly all performances—a notable exception is Chaka Khan, whose show is reserved for those holding Zone 1 tickets in the main pit area.

Turbo-Charged City Marina Bay may be the main source of F1 fever but for sure, the excitement will radiate into the entire city. The Arts House will bring back its highly successful Asia On The Edge festival on 18-27 September. This lifestyle event spotlights Asian culture, cinema, music, arts, cuisine, fashion and more. Last year attracted over 15,000 visitors according to Colin Goh, General Manager of The Old Parliament House.

Other Vantage Points High End: For $468 on race day, you can access the Singapore Flyer complex, located within the race grounds and take the one included ride to give new meaning to high-flying action! Mid-Range: Book a table at Hai Ten Lo in the Pan Pacific or a stool at Axis Bar & Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental for a stylish way to take in the race. On The Cheap: For a completely free way to glimpse the action, get to the track early along Raffles Boulevard, St. Andrew’s Road, Raffles Avenue, or near the Anderson Bridge or Esplanade Theatres on the Bay.

52 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Orchard Road will be even more showy than usual thanks to an exhibit of the works of Brazilian neo-pop artist Romero Britto at an outdoor exhibition space at the new Ion Orchard on 25 September through 25 October. Britto is famed for combining elements of Cubism, Graffiti and Pop Art in his works. Also adding to the visual-arts buzz will be an outdoor exhibit on 15 September-9 October by Formula One photographer Paul-Henri Cahier who will be displaying his large format prints (120 x 180cm) including a selection from last year’s race. Commenting on the 2008 event, Cahier says that shooting at night posed its challenges but “adapting quickly is part of the game, and in the end it was vive la difference: dark backgrounds, cars shining from the reflections of the floodlights, the city of Singapore like a glittering Christmas tree as a backdrop, all of this contributed to unique photos that place Singapore in a special category.” Lastly, for a true taste of the Grand Prix lifestyle, those with bank accounts as big as an F1 grandstand will want to grab tickets for the Amber Lounge—an ultra high-end party that attracts the drivers, their entourages and anyone who can burn through cash as fast as the F1 cars burn through fuel.


Where To Stay

Visiting from out of town? Friends visiting from out of town? Want to pretend you’re from out of town? Then check out these hotels offering special F1 rates or packages Swissotel The Stamford Track-facing rooms $1,150++ per night Non-track facing rooms $950++ Includes special F1 amenities and parties; www.swissotel.com Fairmont Singapore Four-night package includes daily buffet breakfast, complimentary welcome amenities, complimentary access to Willow Stream Spa $4,600 all-inclusive; www.fairmont.com/Singapore Pan Pacific Orchard F1 Power Package includes daily buffet breakfast, unlimited Internet access, welcome drink and souvenir on arrival, invitation to Pan Pacific Orchard F1 cocktail reception, complimentary scheduled transfer to F1 track $564++ per night; www.panpacific.com Fullerton Hotel Package includes daily buffet breakfast, one bottle of champagne, complimentary mini bar (excluding alcohol), complimentary Internet access and entry to the hotel’s VIP Champagne and Cocktail Grand Prix Lounge on the 26th and 27th. $2,000 ++ per night; www.fullertonhotel.com Concorde Hotel Special room rates and package including free breakfast and Internet access. Deluxe room, $268-300++; Premier Club room $308-340++; www.concordehotel.com.sg Royal Plaza on Scotts Free breakfast, Internet access, gym usage, transfer to grandstand. $380++; www.royalplaza.com.sg Hotel 81 Best bargains in town for lodging during F1 season with rates from $90-200 all inclusive. www.hotel81.com.sg/archive/race2009.html Millennium & Copthorne Hotels 20% off best available rate on hotels’ websites. If proof of cheaper rate is presented, hotel will refund the difference. www.millenniumhotels.com.sg


sojournmaldives photography by www.rihiveli-maldives.com and www.kandooma-maldives.com

Into The

deep

JUSTINE MOSS lives the good life as she perfects the difficult art of lazing around in The Maldives

Before I visited The Maldives, it was very difficult to imagine just how beautiful those intense turquoise waters really were. Sure, I’ve seen some stunning pictures—postcards or otherwise—but my cynical side had me wondering whether it was a ploy by the country’s tourism board to beef up its appeal. I’ve since discovered that a postcard doesn’t do The Maldives justice. The waters really are that amazing colour and, if anything, the real thing is even better. The Maldives, consisting of 1,190 coral reef islands stretching 823km north to south and 130km east to west, form an archipelago of 26 natural atolls (groups of neighbouring coral islands) and are situated on the equator in the southwest of Sri Lanka. Interestingly, while its capital, Male, on its own island, and 200 others are inhabited, only 88 of them have been

Blue

adapted as exclusive resort islands. HPL Hotels and Resorts, which has interests in four resorts in the Maldives (two Four Seasons resorts, Kandooma, and Rihiveli), have been rather clever in ensuring that all four appeal to different segments of the tourism market, and are quite diverse in nature. I visited both Kandooma and Rihiveli, only separated by a short speedboat ride but worlds apart when it comes to ambience and experiences.

Island comfort Kandooma Maldives, named after the Kandoo tree (a relative of the mangrove with heart-shaped leaves) and found in sizeable quantities on its island, is situated around 40 minutes away from the airport by speedboat on the South Male Atoll. Its distance and position is perfect if you’re flying into the country in the wee small hours as it doesn’t require a stayover in the capital.

Kandooma opened in June 2008 and is relatively large at 13 hectares (36 acres) in area. Because of this there’s no feeling of overcrowding even though it’s home to 160 five-category villas, 20 water villas (which includes a Presidential Villa), a number of bars and dining areas, spa, kids club, dive and sports centres, a one kilometre walking and jogging track around the island, and its very own Radio Kandooma which consists of three radio channels and is broadcast live in the mornings. T h e v i l l a s a r e c o n t e m p o r a r y, constructed out of whitewashed timber, and have been designed to make good use of space and provide a number of creature comforts. The garden and beach villas come with a private living area on a mini terrace complete with daybed and hammock, while the seafront and duplex options are two storeys. Bedrooms are on the first floor and the


living area is on the ground floor in an open-style design on the sand, together with an outdoor shower to wash off the sea salt and an area to store your diving or snorkelling gear. Being a coffee lover I was delighted to spy a tin of Illy coffee and a plunger together with a citrus press and fresh oranges which are replenished daily, so early each morning I’d sit out on the balcony sipping a cup, listening to the waves lapping on the beach. There are many other amenities including a television with satellite channels and an iPod and MP3 docking station and player. Family villas are two duplex villas combined into one, while included in the ocean and island-view water villas are a bathtub, private sundeck and water hammock. There’s no shortage of things to do while on Kandooma with a whole range of activities to suit both couples and families, but of course this being The Maldives so many of them, naturally, centre on the blue waters and the beaches. If you’re into diving then do check out the large dive centre which caters to both advanced and novice divers. For non-divers I would recommend the snorkelling trips via boat, which are complimentary. The snorkelling sites are superb and there’s no shortage of

OPPOSITE PAGE: Diving is the best way to explore the neighbourhood THIS PAGE CLOCKWISE: Cocktails and conversation at The Deck; A duplex villa; a pre-dive check

fascinating marine life to get close to, and if you want to go for longer trips and learn more about the marine fish, Kandooma has its own resident marine biologist who will take you out for aqua safaris and dives. In addition to the usual water sports found at resorts—catamarans, windsurfing, fishing, surfing etc—there are also guided kayak safaris, picnic island trips, guided nature walks and sunset regattas to experience. The environmentally conscious will be interested to learn about Kandooma’s Reefscaping project whereby they are growing their own artificial live reef using specially designed coral trays. An unusual El Niño weather system back in 1998 caused sea temperatures to increase in The Maldives, and as a result many of the shallow coral reefs died. This regenerating process involves fragments of coral to be tied onto the structures so they can eventually grow into full reefs, and there is a guest sponsorship programme available. General Manager Andrew Drummond says that Kandooma is interested in developing the island as a surfing destination. “Our location on the edge of the atoll means that at least one third of our shoreline is unswimable and dangerous and number two we have some of the best dive spots

all around us.” He continues, “We took a profile of a diver and thought what he would want and built the resort around that person.” There are a number of dining outlets on the island, which cater to different cultural tastes. The breakfast buffet, situated in the main dining area “barnacle,” is excellent and well-stocked, and if you’re after a light-ish lunch instead of visiting the buffet again, do opt for the Poolside menu where you can choose from a selection of salads, sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas and so on. But the real find is The Kitchen, offering Thai-Mediterranean cuisine with a large emphasis on seafood. It’s tucked away from the main dining area looking out over the Kandooma channel. Here you can kick off your shoes and immerse them in the sand as you dine at the water’s edge—it’s really quite magical, though when you retrieve your shoes give them a gentle tap to make sure that one of the many tiny, cute hermit crabs hasn’t decided to take refuge there. Above The Kitchen is The Deck, a huge rooftop terrace with low tables, comfortable daybeds and beanbags. It’s a perfect place to sit and watch the sunset while sipping a couple of cocktails, and nibbling on tapas, before dinner.


CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT: Aerial view of Rihiveli; Gift shoppe; The spa

No shoes required In contrast, Rihiveli, a 20-minute speedboat ride away, is a whole different experience. Its tagline, “No news, no shoes” rings true from the moment you step onto the island, when a cloth bag is handed to you (for your shoes) and you know it’s time to switch off the Blackberry, clear your mind and totally chill. This island, thank goodness, is television and aircon-free and you feel you are completely getting away from it all. It’s magical, charming and small with only 48 sea-facing bungalows, but has superb pristine beaches, an excellent open bar in the middle of the island where a nightly tipple is recommended, a boutique, Balinese-style massage centre, and library. The restaurant is situated on stilts over the water where you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a communal-style seating arrangement. Meals are included in a full-board resort package, and with only one restaurant on the island, the

56 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

cuisine changes daily and is a superb mix of Maldivian, Mediterranean, and French quality produce. A real highlight though, is to put your name up for the daily seafood barbecue lunch at Sunrise Island; it’s hugely popular and places are limited to only 20 people, so signing up at breakfast time is a must. The island is about 300 metres away and can be reached by walking (waist-deep), swimming, kayaking or by dinghy. Rihiveli is also located on the South Atoll of The Maldives and is around one hour by speedboat from the airport. Due to the number of shallow reefs around the lagoon, no transfers are done at night, so your flight needs to touch down at Male airport before 5pm. One of the key features about Rihiveli, though, is its huge crystal-clear lagoon. Here you can swim and snorkel to your heart’s content and while there’s no coral reef directly in the lagoon, it’s possible to swim amongst some of the marine life. One day I spotted local tropical fish as well as a large inquisitive and

harmless manta ray that swam into shore to get a closer look. There is a dive centre and I would also recommend taking one, or both, of the snorkelling trips organised every day. In addition to the snorkelling, other complimentary activities include kayaking, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, dhoni sailing, water skiing and wakeboarding. If you want to go island-hopping, there are a number of excursions available as well as of course diving, night fishing and big game fishing for an extra charge. The island is popular with French tourists and is headed by a French GM, who together with a number of French and Maldivian staff ensures that your stay is a stress-free and relaxed one. If you’re after a chill-out and carefree break where you want to leave the troubles of the world and the current economic downturn behind, then Rihiveli is for you. It was very hard to leave this enchanting island, which I want to return to again and again, without shoes of course.


The Maldives Musts When to go: Best time to go would be November to April. Jan-Feb are peak months while May-Oct is off-season, although August is often busy with the northern hemisphere school holidays Where to Stay: Kandooma Kandooma Fushi, South Male Atoll, Republic of Maldives; tel +960 664 0511/664 0513 (fax); email info@kandooma-maldives.com, reservations@kandooma-maldives.com; www.kandooma-maldives Rihiveli Beach Resort, Maldives, Male South Atoll; tel +960 664 3731/664 1994/664-0052 (fax); email info@rihiveli-maldives.com; www.rihiveli-maldives.com

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Perfect way to spend the day— do nothing on the beach; Dinner is almost ready; The communal style restaurant; Dive centre

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 57


lifestyle techgadgets by TeÀ Villamor

INSPECTOR GADGET,

I Presume?

Technological trends and gadget innovations are changing the way we communicate, behave, and how we travel. Here’s an update and some products to make you drool

Samsung

N310 ne

tbooks

game consoles like the Sony Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii for group online games like Rock Band. “People have been investing in these screens for years, but very few of them are actually gamed up,” says Mark Anderson, chief executive of Strategic News Service, a newsletter circulated to C-level tech executives in an interview. Anderson has been spot-on with major tech trends. Last year, he said ultramobile PCs would make an appearance and that Apple would launch one. The MacBook Air launched last year. “So I think there will be a lot of spending by people to get extra entertainment mileage out of those screens at very low cost.”

Technology is changing so fast that the cycle of innovation tends to become shorter and shorter that if we don’t watch out, what we know and use may be obsolete in a year’s time. Where is all these high-tech headed? Here’s what’s on the horizon.

My TV is bigger than yours With technology becoming more sophisticated, gadgets have become even smaller and compact. But not when it comes to TV screens. Blame the economic crunch and the rise of sophisticated online games, but today’s TV screens are bigger, flatter, more high-definition than ever before. With consumer spending going down because of the crisis, more people are opting to stay at home and will look to newer ways of passing the time. Consumers will want to improve home entertainment systems instead of going out to eat, or watch a movie. This implies bigger and better TV screens to connect to video

58 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

my phone, My life Downloads are predicted to get even more popular as the newer and better smart phone models hit the market. Again, tight budgets will also fuel this change. For instance, Apple’s iPhone App Store on iTunes have many downloadable applications for free—and those that aren’t sell for $10 or less, which is very reasonable for the cash-strapped consumer. Content companies are rethinking their business strategies to take advantage of this. For instance, popular guide book company, Lonely Planet recently launched its city guides for use in the iPhone and iPod Touch. The guides are easy to use, interactive, personalised and fully searchable. This is a boon for travellers who only need to access their phones or iPods for their travel guides. “As the needs of our travellers have changed over the last 35 years, we’ve adapted our printed guidebook products accordingly, with new formats, series and destinations.

The iPhone heralds a new class of handheld devices with capabilities that enable a next generation guidebook,” says Chris Boden, Head of Wireless & Innovation at Lonely Planet. “We’ve tried to take advantage of the iPhone’s location awareness, vast data storage and simple user interface to re-imagine our city guidebook series to help travellers get to the heart of some of the world’s most exciting cities from the convenience of their hip pocket.” This isn’t the first foray of the travel guide into the digital arena. Lonely Planet’s Audio Phrasebooks were some of the first travel products available in the App Store and have generated over 300,000 downloads since their launch. “Following the success of our audio phrasebooks, we felt a locationbased version of our city guides was the obvious next step,” says Boden. Currently available in the App Store are city guides for London, New York, Melbourne, Dublin, Barcelona, Rome, Tokyo, Paris, Prague, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Bangkok, Madrid, Miami, Seoul, Dubai, Berlin, Cape Town, Singapore, and Mexico City—with the San Francisco city guide offered free for a limited time. The city guides have also been designed for use offline, so travellers can save money by avoiding international roaming charges. For Internet-savvy consumers, there’s a plethora of free or low-cost applications in the Internet for phones, like Research in Motion’s Blackberry or for specific operating platforms, be it Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Sony Ericsson, etc. “In terms of innovation and investment and purchase, phone applications are it for 2009,” says Anderson. “Apple started it and it’s going to move to other smartphones.”


THE GADGET BRIGADE

In the cloud Given the limited capacity of cellphones, they won’t be able to handle a lot of the new tasks being dreamed up by developers—at least, not yet. Online personal assistants or concierge services are also becoming the rage. Hotels have started exploring this trend by developing portals or sites that consumers could personalise to handle their needs (see “Hotel High-Tech” on p20) and some phone companies—like Nokia’s Vertu—and credit card companies like Visa and American Express already have online concierge services that are very consumer-specific. Mobile applications such as AroundMe on the iPhone are paving the way. These internet “assistants” are making use of what’s known in tech parlance as “the cloud” or “cloud computing”—basically, users pull out applications they need, example, word processing off the Internet when they need them, so full intallation of software is not necessary.

The demise of print? The rise of smart digital devices have fuelled intense speculation about the future of print media—most of which could be downloaded straight into your computer. Two years ago, Amazon did one better by introducing the Kindle, essentially a digital book. E-book devices are not new, they’ve been around for several years now. What Kindle does essentially is to parlay Amazon’s extensive collection of titles into a virtual personal library for its subscribers. Order a title using the Kindle and the book is stored into your device a few minutes later. Surprisingly, while the device has been gaining popularity, the momentum was slower than what Amazon and tech insiders predicted. It seems like there are more people who loved the tactile feeling of turning pages and holding an actual book in their hands than a digital version. Still, there’s much going for the Kindle. Smaller than a paperback and much thinner, it’s convenient to take anywhere since it can store your whole bookshelf. Recently, Amazon launched a newer version of the device, which they promise would make the experience of reading much more “real.”

The rise of netbooks Cloud computing as well as people’s penchant for convenience and even smaller gadgets have given rise to “netbooks”—essentially smaller and lightweight laptops—that Anderson says,

will become an important market segment. “If you’re looking for growth rates, the strongest will be in this category,” he says. “Everyone will have one. The only question is, what colour it is.” And it seems, he’s right on the money. Computer companies like HP have launched their versions of netbooks (or in HP’s case, called mini notebooks), which they market as second notebooks to be used for commuting or travelling. Netbooks are not new in the market. They are actually a rebranding of what used to be called ultra-portable computers or UPCs. Intel was the first to coin the word netbook last year. The first ones were produced by smaller tech companies like Asus, but now, virtually every computer company has a version of it. HP, for instance, just launched several in the market, all catering to different categories of users. Some like the HP 5101 are marketed for executives who need a fast, portable, and reliable machine to bring to client presentations. It comes in dark colours so it looks more professional for business executives. On the other hand, the HP Mini 110, is small, lightweight, and slim enough to fit most purses and briefcases, making them the ideal second laptop for women. Joining the bandwagon, electronics giant Samsung has also launched its series of netbooks. Called the N series, these netbooks, aside from the requisite Internet connectivity and ease of multimedia use (it has a 1.3 megapixel digital camera for videoconferencing) has a long battery life, and yes, comes in bright colours. All these cute laptops weigh in at under three lbs and are about an inch thick, with screens of around 10 inches or less. Given their size and portability, they are perfect for travellers and on-the-go people. They are built primarily for Internet surfing and electronic communications. While netbooks generally have about half as much memory, processing power and hard-drive space as a “normal” laptop, they are equipped with the very latest in Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G, and Bluetooth, making them ideal for those who need to be on the move all the time. Aside from the connectivity, what attracts most people to netbooks are their portability—these days, most people on the train or buses have one—and the affordable price, making them the ideal gadget to lug around. And yes, they come in delicious colours, so you can match them to your wardrobe if you want to.

A checklist of some of the gadgets we’re coveting

A cursory look at any urban dweller’s bag these days will reveal the following: a cellphone, a laptop, an organiser (pen and paper or digital), an mp3 player, and a camera—because these days, everyone is a voyeur…okay, observer. We love our gadgets, it’s obvious. Here’s a rundown of some toys we’d love to have: For the book nut or currentevents addict The Kindle is the perfect take-anywhere gadget. Can store all your reading material, with the improved tactile weight and feel of a book, without a book’s heft, this is the ultimate reading device. For the shutterbug Simple to use, the Sony Cybershot W Series camera takes the pointand-shoot one better with Face Detection, Smile Shutter, and Digital SteadyShot technologies. Designed for maximum comfort and ease of use, these cameras are only 18.7mm thin, has a 1/2.33-type Super HAD CCD sensor and up to 12.1 megapixel resolution, combined with 3x optical zoom and up to 18x Smart Zoom, enabling large format printing and higher-resolution images. Face Detection allows the cameras to easily detect up to eight faces in a scene and automatically adjusts focus, exposure and white balance, creating optimal capture settings for high quality photos. Digital SteadyShot reduces the effects of camera shake by recording two images in rapid succession and then superimposing the images to reduce the appearance of camera shake. This results in clear photos even under difficult shooting conditions.

For the always-on-the-go Two choices: the HP Mini 110, which packs a powerful personality punch! Comes in sleek colours, it weighs 1.06 kilos and is just over one-inch thick, it’s the lightest notebook in the HP Mini line and is small enough to slip into most purses, backpacks or briefcases. Equipped with a 10.1-inch display that’s perfect for information “snacking” and content consumption on-the-go, the new HP Mini 110 provides seamless access to key tools such as email, Web surfing, chat, music, photos and office tools. Best feature we like: stores more music, photos, and files with a 160 GB, 2.5-inch hard drive. Or try the Samsung N310 netbooks, which incorporate WiFi technology of MIMO b/g/n for users to easily access the Internet wirelessly. Ergonomically designed in robust casings for comfort and higher durability, the N Series also features large keyboards that are up to 97% of conventional keyboards for easier and faster typing. www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 59


lifestyle conversation

Text by Manali PatTnaik | Photography by Cinderella On Ice

THIS PAGE: A magical retelling of a classic. OPPOSITE PAGE: A relaxed Tony Mercer is taking theatre on ice into unexplored territory

the

ICEMAN Cometh Award-winning Tony Mercer, widely regarded as the world’s leading director and choreographer of theatreon-ice shows has packaged yet another spellbinding spectacle to mesmerise audiences around the world. This month, he brings Cinderella on Ice, an enthralling spectacle of colours, energy, gaudy costumes, and breathtaking choreography to The Esplanade. With his spectacular new production performed by The Imperial Ice Stars, he has added even greater theatricality to the performances and taken ice choreography to a new level, giving new meaning to “theatre on ice.”

The Mercer In a twist worthy of a movie, Tony got into

60 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

theatre full time after a serious football injury, derailing his dream of becoming a professional athlete. “Ever ything happens for a reason though life may not always make that clear to begin with,” he reflects about that pivotal moment. “If I hadn’t broken my leg playing football, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Never see things in a negative way and always take something out of the positive.” Since he started out 14 years ago, Tony has mounted highly successful shows such as The Sleeping Beauty on Ice, The Nutcracker on Ice, Cinderella on Ice, Barnum on Ice, Phantom of the Opera on Ice, Peter Pan on Ice and Carmen on Ice. His foray into showbusiness started with a job as a production rigger; he rapidly

progressed to lighting designer and began travelling the world, lighting shows while working as a tour manager and production manager for such international artists as The Three Degrees, Dionne Warwick, The Supremes, Elkie Brooks, Kool & The Gang among others. Loved by both children and adults alike, Tony’s ice theatre has a sense of timelessness—maybe because for him, he goes back to the root of the show, the talent. He’s notoriously nitpicky when it comes to choosing his cast. “Skating talent is a must and each person I audition has at least ten to twenty competition medals,” he says. Aside from the skating prowess, Tony has the uncanny knack of spotting that elusive quality in his


Somewhere between reality and a fairy tale exists Tony Mercer’s world—a beautiful fantasy on ice born out of imagination and relentless work cast, bringing forth performances that will wow the crowd. Whether by happenstance or design, Tony’s shows are masterpieces on ice—they’ve gone beyond what was previously done before. It could be because when he started out, he didn’t have any experience in putting on ice shows. In fact, not very many did. His inexperience enabled him to push the boundaries and revolutionise the genre. “With my choreography hat on, I tell the skaters what I want to see done on ice and after a few blank stares they start to see how things can work.” For Tony, complicated routines and set pieces are all there to enhance the story. Nothing is done just to show off. “If we did work out how many new moves we’ve created and name

them as the Axle or Bielmann have been named, there would probably be over 120 moves called ‘the Mercer,’” he says.

Behind the Scenes Putting together Cinderella on Ice required relentless ambition, a drive for perfection, and not a few tweaks—like the story for one. For Tony, it’s themes that matter. “The Cinderella story has been told in many different cultures over many centuries. I wanted to give our version a new setting while retaining the ingredients and emotions of this timeless story.” His reinterpretation of Cinderella takes place in Siberia. Cinderella, a humble chorus dancer is thrust into the spotlight as a prima ballerina and captivates the handsome Lord

Mayor’s son—the most eligible bachelor in town—with her graceful performance. Despite rival attempts by her ballerina stepsisters to steal his heart, engineered with true villainy by the stepmother, the local ballet mistress, true love triumphs thanks to the magical powers of the Gypsy Fortune Teller and Cinderella’s kindly father, the town’s Watchmaker. See? It’s different, yet it’s the same. Aside from a fresh take on the story, Cinderella on Ice required 20 months of intense rehearsals and grueling production work. Bringing a show of this scale in front of the audience, not only takes a lot of talented people literally sweating it out in the ice, but at a conceptual level, everything needs to be pieced together before putting it up on stage. A talented production team—the scenic designer, the costumes, the lighting, the composer—needs to be in sync and on the same wavelength. As well as one more crucial ingredient. “Perfection, perfection, perfection,” Tony hammers out the word. He’s a stickler for the word and strives for excellence every time. “If you don’t get it right the first time, you get it right the second.” Or maybe the third or fourth time—it’s a continuing process. And most times, the path to perfection is not easy—especially in the medium Tony uses. Working on ice can be tricky—as the cast and crew found out last year in Canberra when the ice was literally broken during opening night! “Everybody thinks The Imperial Ice Stars are incredible but of course there is an element of danger and injuries do happen,” says Tony. There are approximately 14 tonnes of ice onstage during a performance and hidden beneath the surface, over 10 miles of pipework and a few buckets of sweat, all at a working temperature of minus 15 degrees. One can liken the rink to a giant baking tray; only, the pastry in this instance is a 52ft x 52ft heavy-duty pool liner, over which will depend the fate of the cast performance as well as the spectacle of the show. Given the glitz and the complicated moves, it’s difficult to get a handle on his shows. Are they art or showbusiness? “Neither,” he is quick to parry. “Showbusiness covers a lot; art does not quite cover it either. We are so unique that we can’t be pigeonholed. We’re a theatre on ice.”

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 61


traveltalk

8 Have something to say? Send your vignettes or experiences to terriegutierrez@epl.com.sg

Text By teÀ Villamor | PHOTOGRAPHY BY LIZA ILARDE

The

Travel Advice You Didn’t Know You Need

Sometimes, some of the best travel advice isn’t always about the practical. Here are a few choice picks we’ve accumulated along the way Oh, you’re a travel writer…so do you get to travel a lot?” I always get asked this every time people find out what I do for a living. It never fails to amuse me. My standard reply is always, “Not as often as people think I do.” In the course of my job, I have found out that people tend to glamorise my profession. They think it’s all about having a latte at some small café in the Left Bank while people-watching the impossibly chic of Paris walk by while I write my story about, well, people-watching in Paris. Another question I get asked a lot: So where’s the best place to go to for a vacation? What am I, your travel agent? I go through immigration the same as everyone else, I’ve lost

62 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

my luggage once, I got randomchecked twice, and jetlagged so often that sometimes I feel that’s my natural state. Yes, I travel a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert at it. I don’t think anyone is an expert at travelling. That somehow defeats the whole purpose of going off somewhere. So in an effort to turn the tables, I always ask people I meet this question: What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever been given? Most of the advice I got are the practical sort—you know, travel light, bring a jacket, etc—but others are so bizarre that they reveal more about the person giving them than provide any sort of value to the advisee. In any case, here are some true (kind of), seemingly useless but might be useful travel advice:

1. First rule of travel: Something will always go wrong. 2. The number of things that will go wrong on a trip is inversely proportional to the planning. So, don’t plan your trip. 3. However, don’t blame anyone but yourself if you arrive in the middle of Ulanbaatar with no place to sleep because you wanted to be “spontaneous.” 4. Plan to get lost. It’s the best way to learn about a place—and about how you cope outside your comfort zone. 5. Always pack a spare set of clothes and toothbrush/toothpaste in your handcarry—you never know when your luggage will decide to explore Rome on its own when you were both supposed to be headed to Budapest.

20

BEST

Best

Travel Advice

12. Use local transportation—trishaw, tuk-tuk, ox cart, jeepney, rickety bus—at least once. It’s a good gauge of judging the local tempo. 13. Everyone should travel alone for leisure at least once. 14. Get out of the tourist ghetto by walking three blocks to another part of town. 15. Just because the locals eat there, is not a guarantee the food will be good.

6. It’s not the end of the world to go two days without a shower.

16. Don’t have time and money to go somewhere far? Explore parts of your city you haven’t been to or go on a road trip to the next town.

7. Tiger Balm or White Flower is the best all-around remedy for bumps, cuts, bruises, aches, and nausea.

17. Always bring a jacket and a swimsuit (or swim trunks)— you never know.

8. Always reserve one day of your trip for doing something random—you’ll remember it more than the rest of your trip.

18. Don’t put all your money in your wallet—put some in your bag, some in your pocket, etc—in case you get mugged or lose your bag. Just remember where everything is.

9. Send yourself a postcard from every place you’ve been to. 10. Forget the hotel minibar—stock up on snacks from the local store, which is also a good source of local eats. 11. Don’t touch the monkey. It will bite.

19. Bottled water in hand, not cool. Bottle of gin or vodka, a must-have. 20. Take a risk. When you’re back in your cubicle, you’ll regret not jumping off the edge of that cliff into the river below.


don’t

YES! I’d like to subscribe FREQUENT October 09

traveller from:

November 09

*Dr/Mr/Ms/Mdm/Mrs/:

Age:

*Identification No/FIN:

Travel... Get the News with Frequent Traveller!

Designation:

*Address: State:

Country:

*Tel:

Fax:

*E-mail:

AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2009

FREQUENT

COMPLETE RESOURCE FOR THE CORPORATE TRAVELLER

*Compulsory Field Please choose one:

The Rise of the

SINGAPORE 3 years (24 Issues) z S$86.40 (40% OFF, SAVE S$57.60) 2 years (16 Issues) z S$67.20 (30% OFF, SAVE S$28.80)

The Sky’s the Limit for

1 year (8 Issues) z S$38.40 (20% OFF, SAVE S$9.60)

August | September 2009 MICA(P) 231/06/2009 KDN NO. PP(S) 1221/10/2009(028088)

TRANSITIONAL MANAGER SPACE TOURISM

Save the

ENVIRONMENT, Check your Seafood

Special Feature

CHINA’s

MICE Market Amps Up

Please charge the amount of S$ to my

Mastercard

Visa

Amex

Card Holder’s Name:

!

R I N Get EV G Rea S dy f U A or T P P he Yea F O r’s O R Big R ges F E t Pa 1 rty !

BOSTON  HANOI  MOSCOW  ST.PETERSBURG  THE MALDIVES  TOKYO

OUTSIDE SINGAPORE (In Asia only) 3 years (24 Issues) z S$115.20 (40% OFF, SAVE S$76.80) 2 years (16 Issues) z S$89.60 (30% OFF, SAVE S$38.40) 1 year (8 Issues) z S$51.20 (20% OFF, SAVE S$12.80)

Australia A$6.00 • China CNY51 • Hong Kong HK$40.00 India INR212 • Korea KRW56 • Malaysia RM9.10 New Zealand NZ$9.10 • Philippines P90 • Singapore S$6.00 Taiwan TWD170 • Thailand Bht130 • Vietnam US$6.00

VISIT...

up

S

KDN NO. PP(S) 1221/10/2009(028088) MICA(P) 231/06/2009

6 7 E $ V A S S to

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

n o i t p i r Subsc

BOSTON  HANOI  MOSCOW  ST.PETERSBURG  THE MALDIVES  TOKYO

With A

NT FREQUE

FT JULY09 Cover 2ndBatch.indd 1

Note : Receipts will only be issued upon request. Please allow four to five weeks for delivery of the first issue.

Card No:

(Kindly refer to back of card)

Expiry Date: Enclosed is my cheque/bank draft for S$ made to: EASTERN PUBLISHING PTE LTD

7/24/09 9:34:12 AM

Subscribe Now!

Tel 65-6379 2888 | Fax 65-6379 2803 E-mail emilywang@epl.com.sg or visit www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Name/Signature Complete this coupon and mail or fax it to: EASTERN PUBLISHING PTE LTD The Circulation Department 1100 Lower Delta Road #04-01 Singapore 169206 Tel: 65-6379 2888 Fax: 65-6379 2804 E-mail: emilywang@epl.com.sg *(For countries outside Asia, kindly contact us for rates)*

Date

Note: All personal data will be treated with confidentiality.


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

LIGHTWEIGHT AND LOVING IT In our book, any piece of luggage that promises to be lightweight is automatically checked out. After all, with the travelling that we do, who needs a bag that will weigh you down more than necessary? Enter Tumi Light, the newest offering from luggage brand Tumi, which has always been a dependable source of luxurious and durable travel, business, lifestyle accessories. Noticeably lighter than similar designs, Tumi Light is a combination of ultra durable materials, innovative lightweight construction, and advanced technology. The combination makes for less structured, wheeled travel bags that are easy to carry, manoeuvre and lift. Tumi Light is

64 |

available in both the Alpha and Voyageur collections. Light and flexible, the Tumi Light Alpha is designed to be 40% lighter than similar designs, which may save you from excess baggage fees. It’s also constructed of a flexible frame that maintains its shape without adding weight, allowing for a compact fit into overhead compartments. The hardware is also light: handles are made of lightweight aircraft-grade aluminium and features smooth rolling in-line skate wheels. Tumi Light Alpha comes in two carry-on styles—the duffel and the regular carry-on— both of which weigh around seven lbs. More streamlined and softer, The Voyageur will also feature two styles of Tumi Light. The Avignon International 20” and Avignon Frequent Traveler 22” are 25% lighter than the traditional models. Weighing 6.6 and 7lbs, respectively, both Voyageur styles come in classic black, brown, and red as well as eggplant purple and a python print for this season. Available at the Tumi store, Raffles City Mall

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Meanwhile, Beja is the perfect companion for those who like to bring all their gadgets with them. Every bag has protective compartments for notebook and organiser, plus an iPod pocket and a detachable phone case. The checked lining and greased cowhide leather ensure that Beja is stylish while being supremely functional. Available at The Planet Traveller, Isetan Scotts, and CK Tangs. The green and silver Bree Punch is available exclusively at Isettan Scotts and CK Tangs.

THE COMEBACK Renowned German luggage brand Bree is back with two exciting lines—Punch and Beja. Based on the traditional German postman’s bag, the original Punch, made of tarpaulin—the same material used to protect tennis courts—transformed the entire market—and shaped Bree’s reputation. Punch has won all the major design prizes. Having established a presence in the leisure and business segments, Bree now adds a luggage collection to the segment.

FOR THE CORPORATE WARRIOR Leading luggage makers Briggs & Riley introduces its two collections—Baseline and @work. Designed and built for the frequent traveller, Baseline offers world-class endurance. Ingeniously designed and eminently stylish, it has One-TouchT Expandables rigid expansion system, which adds 30%

more packing space with just one touch, keeping contents protected. Its OutsiderR handle— the trolley handle is located outside the back of the luggage to ensure wrinkle-free flat packing. @work is built to be efficient and geared to be

a corporate warrior’s support system. It has a SpeedThruT pocket for quick storage and retrieval of documents and other essentials, making going through airport checkpoints a breeze. Its wheeled cases also have the OutsiderR handle feature. Available at The Planet Traveller and the Changi Airport


THE ACCESSORY An understated watch is always a good investment. From Ebel, known worldwide for its iconic two-tone models comes the Brasilia Mini line made of steel

and gold, with a streamlined rectangular case and distinctive H-shaped bracelets. For this model, red gold gets the spotlight, appearing on the bracelet in the central links and on the mother-of-pearl dial

SKIN POWER Add this to your toiletry kit: SK-II Signature Cream-In Foundation. Constant travelling on aeroplanes and staying in airconditioned conference rooms mean that the skin gets really dry. SK-II, which has been trusted by millions of Asian women for years, has new insights into skin care that it applied to its new Signature Series of products. The new cream foundation has an SPF 20 PA++ that nourishes skin throughout the day. It contains the same essence used in the

SK-II Skin Signature line that helps strengthen skin power. What we like about it? Seventyfive percent of the foundation is skincare cream, composed of Pitera, Signaline, and OliVityl, the first two of which are ingredients developed by SK-II. SK-II claims that regular use of this foundation over a threeweek period improves skin radiance and translucency and makes skin more hydrated. Available where SK-II products are sold.

through the logo, hands, and at 6 and 12 o’clock, and surrounding the diamond hour markers, the red gold accents add a touch of warmth to the luxury. Brasilia Mini is exclusively distributed by Sincere Watch Limited

LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

FOR THE JAVA JUNKIES Have your brew, and help out, too. Cafédirect, the UK’s largest 100% Fairtrade hot drinks company, brings its Espresso Ground Coffee to Singapore, the latest addition to the company’s growing presence in the hot drinks market in this region. The Cafédirect’s Espresso Ground Coffee has a velvety texture with a smooth aftertaste, and is dark and intense, perfect for those who love their coffee strong. Espresso Ground Coffee delivers a golden froth on top of each shot. The froth, known as the “crema” is a characteristic of the blend’s high quality and excellent dark roast. What makes the brew more enjoyable is the fact that Cafédirect has a close partnership with their grower partners and gives a fair price for the coffee beans harvested. The company also reinvests over

half its profits in the growers’ businesses and communities to help the growers produce more and better coffee. Espresso Ground Coffee (S$7.90), suitable for use in filter and espresso machines, is available at Cold Storage, Giant Hypermarket, Jason’s, Market Place and Fair Price Finest supermarkets.

YOUR PERSONAL MASSEUSE The rigours of travelling can be hard on the body. If you’re the type who loves a massage after a stress-filled day, then this gadget is for you. Massage specialist Osim takes the original power of uPapa Taiko-strength drum massage technology and reinvents it into the Osim uPapa Hug. Extremely convenient, the device is fast and effective, and gives deep tissue relief for aching muscles. Designed for more targeted contact, the uPapa Hug delivers powerful strokes

that penetrates deep into muscle layers to provide relief to aching neck, shoulders, and other areas. Best of all, it’s compact enough that you can pack it in your suitcase when you travel. At select distributors.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 65


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmand’s corner

The Empire Hotel & Country Club

Jerudong BG3122, Negara Brunei Darussalam; tel (673) 241 8888 email sales@theempirehotel.com; www.theempirehotel.com

Text By Justin Moss | Photography Courtesy Of The Empire Hotel & Country Club

It’s impossible not to notice the spectacular views across the South China Sea, which leap out at you the moment you set foot in the vast lobby of the Empire Hotel & Country Club in Brunei Darussalam. They’re sweeping and expansive, pretty much like most things at this pleasantly ostentatious resort such as its marble, gold, light, space and facilities. Featuring a superb country club, an 18-hole championship golf course, 532 guestrooms, which include suites and private villas with luxurious French and Italian furnishings, its 180 hectares makes it one of the world’s largest and most luxurious resorts. Italian marble is used throughout the hotel and there are gold fittings in the suites while many areas of the hotel sport a 21K golfplated finish. Its atrium though is quite spectacular—with a height of 53.22m from Level 1

66 |

to the roof apex it’s higher than a 12-storey building. A few days staying at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in Brunei Darussalam and you get a combination of six-star luxury in a private setting with so many indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy. So much so that it all seems too much of an effort to actually venture out to do a spot of sightseeing. The resort has won a slew of awards in its 10 years of operations, including “Asia’s Leading Golf Resort” and “Brunei’s Leading Hotel,” as well as one of Asia’s finest golf destinations. Its Jack Nicklausdesigned championship course is the crème de la crème of Brunei courses and has also been the venue of the Brunei Open, a fixture on the Asian Tour, since 2005. The front nine overlook the sea but are set high and back within the vegetation while the back nine holes—the

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

tougher of the two—are more or less on the same level as the sea. Facilities include a golf school with lessons by resident pro Ahmad Bateman, a proshop, driving range and the new Bunker Bistro restaurant.

Sports Galore There’s plenty to do aside from a round of golf, though, and the Country Club houses a number of other sports and recreational facilities, including airconditioned badminton and squash courts, floodlit tennis courts, an eight-lane 10-pin bowling centre, snooker and pool room, gymnasium and aerobics studio, indoor spa pool, sauna and plunge pool. There’s also an excellent spa, which offers a number of massage, body and facial treatments, and I can thoroughly recommend the Balinese massage which was 75 minutes of blissful restoration.

Beach and pool facilities include an 11,000sqm lagoon pool, which is ideal for a few laps, a 50m wet edge pool, free form pool, and E-kids club. For the adventurous, there’s also a range of water sports to try including jet skiing, sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, ocean kayaking, parasailing and diving.

Wine And Dine—And Movies, Too! Within the hotel and country club, there are a number of restaurants offering international and Asian cuisines including the Pantai, which serves up an excellent seafood buffet on the weekends, and Li Gong which offers a dim sum spread on Sundays. For a touch of entertainment, there’s the Empire Cinema which screens the latest releases from Hollywood and the region. However, due

to cultural reasons there are no bars serving alcohol anywhere in the Sultanate. The country does, however, have a generous duty free allowance for nonMuslim visitors and residents. If you do feel a need to drag yourself away from the resort, there are a number of city and eco-tours which can be arranged by Sunshine Borneo Tours and Travel, plus a fiveminute drive away from the resort is the Jerudong Park Playground, Brunei’s answer to Disneyland. It’s a 70-acre stateof-the-art theme park featuring a range of rides from carousels and dodgem cars to futuristic thrill rides and simulators. The Empire Hotel & Country Club is an ideal destination for those looking for a reasonably inexpensive alternative to the more popular close by holiday options of Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and is a superb place to unwind and chill out.


The Four Seasons Singapore 190 Orchard Boulevard, Singapore 248646; tel (65) 6734 1110 www.fourseasons.com

LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmand’s corner

Text By TeÀ VILLAMOR | Photography Courtesy Of Four Seasons

It’s always a good idea to revisit a classic. The Four Seasons Singapore opened its doors in 1994 and its high standards of luxury living, elegance, as well as a friendly and helpful staff quickly made it one of Singapore’s beloved hotels. Nestled in treelined Orchard Boulevard, the hotel has the best of both worlds: It has a residential feel to it even though one is staying at a highly efficient deluxe hotel and yet, one is only a short walk away from Singapore’s business, shopping, and entertainment enclaves. I always enter the hotel feeling like I’m in a grand and tasteful home. Adding to the feel of an opulent home is a treasure trove of more than a thousand Asian and international art pieces scattered throughout the public areas and the rooms, perfectly spotlighted for guests to chance upon while walking down the hallways or waiting for the elevator. Four Seasons Singapore recently finished its refurbish-

ment programme and it’s interesting to see the changes made to this elegant mainstay.

Muted Warmth All guest rooms and suites are now done in elegant textured wall fabrics with furnishing in complimentary earth tones like mocha, beige and ivory. Burgundy accents are added to provide contrast. The décor is a tasteful mix of European and Asian influences. One can see the Asian touches in the carpets’s plum blossom motifs, the Chinoiserie-inspired artwork and objets d’art as well as the furniture pieces. Designed for maximum comfort, each of the hotel’s rooms feature custom-designed beds, for which Four Seasons is known, spacious marble bathrooms, DVD/CD players, mp3 cables and high-speed Internet. Those travelling with kids can request board games, chidren’s books and magazines, and DVDs compliments of the hotel as well as baby toiletries,

cots, and extra rollaway beds for no extra charge. Room service even has popcorn and pizza to accompany movie-watching.

Business First As a hotel that caters primarily to high-end business travellers, the hotel has the amenities down pat. Its business centre and Residents’ Lounge has the works—from round-the-clock secretarial and multilingual translations services to business support services. Aside from the extensive range of the latest office, communication and audio-visual equipment, there’s also a fairly extensive library of reference materials, journals and periodicals. For business meetings and conferences, the hotel has 15,758 square feet of meeting space—divided into two ballrooms, two penthouse function rooms, and two fully appointed boardroom suites. The Four Seasons Ballroom caters up to 320 guests, while the Crescent Ballroom can seat

150 guests. Both have high ceilings and spacious foyers and look elegant for big-ticket events. In fact, the hotel is a favourite venue for wedding receptions because of the hotel’s unstintingly elegant ambience, which extends to all its meeting facilities. The penthouse function rooms each feature private outdoor patios and can accommodate 80 persons while the executive boardrooms are perfect for high-level executive meetings of up to 30 persons.

Dining And Leisure Two elegant restaurants— Jiang Nan Chun and OneNinety—cater to the palates of guests. A gourmet Chinese restaurant, Jiang Nan Chun serves delicious Cantonese cuisine prepared by talented master chefs. Come over for the traditional lunchtime dim sum spread, for which it is famous, or its extensive a la carte menu. Enjoy your meal amidst the restaurant’s tasteful Art Deco

look. One-Ninety is a bistro grill, specialising in the freshest products fired from its applewood grill. The selections are very well-edited and lunchtime diners who are in a hurry may prefer to dine from the appetiser and dessert buffet.

The Club One of the most impressive facilities of the hotel is The Club. Situated on two floors, The Club offers spa services as well as fitness options: Singapore’s first-ever two indoor airconditioned tennis courts, two more outdoor tennis courts, a lap pool, a high-tech gym, and spa treatment rooms. Spa services, however, are available only to guests, which is a pity as it is one of the best we’ve tried in the city. Considered one of the grande dames of Singapore hotels, the Four Seasons is perfect for those seeking to have it both—pampering amidst opulent surroundings yet efficient topnotch service.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 67


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

PAMPERING FIT FOR ROYALTY

Opulent private spa room in CHI The Spa Tokyo

Hot-stone massage

GET YOUR CHI FIX Heads up, spa aficionados! CHI, The Spa—the signature spa brand of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts—has been expanding lately. Two opened recently in the Asia Pacific: One in the newly opened Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa in the Philippines and another in the Tokyo hotel. Set amidst Boracay island’s world-famous white-sand beaches, CHI, The Spa stretches over 7,540 square metres, with nine spacious treatment villas overlooking the ocean and the lush tropical surroundings and a “floating”

68 |

yoga studio suspended over a serene natural pond. All villas incorporate the signature CHI “spa within a spa” concept and feature private treatment rooms, lounging areas, steam rooms, outdoor terazzo tubs. In addition to the CHI signature treatments, CHI, The Spa in Boracay offers indigenous therapies exclusive to this location highlighting local healing practices and ingredients, giving guests experiences distinct to the Philippines. Over in Shangri-La Tokyo, the new CHI, the Spa features

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

six spacious and tranquil private spa suites and an extensive spa menu consisting of signature CHI therapies as well as therapies exclusively available in Tokyo. “CHI will bring an entirely new spa concept to Japan, combining ancient therapeutic practices with the highest standards in design, service and delivery to make a visit to CHI a truly unforgettable experience,” says Wolfgang Krueger, general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo. www.shangrila.com

At Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket try Maharlika, a new massage, which originated in the Philippines and was favoured by the royal entourage of King Philip of Spain during the Spanish occupation of that country. The new massage therapy, adapted to modern practices by Maharlika specialist Victor Quemuel, relaxes body, mind, and spirit as well as relieves physical imbalances, improves blood circulation, eliminates toxins, and generally stimulates energy flow throughout the body.

The massage’s therapeutic effects is due to the gentle, subtle stimulation of the fascia, the connective tissue that weaves throughout the human body and supports all organs, bones, nerves, vessels, and muscles. Fascia is easily impacted by toxins or inflammation, which leads to muscle pain. Try the 120-minute all-encompassing Maharlika Face and Body Ritual. The 70-minute standard is also fabulous alternative and an abbreviated 45-minute session is a good intro to the wonders of Maharlika. www.sixsenses.com

Victor Quemuel, Maharlika specialist at Six Senses Destination SpaPhuket

Foot reflexology is also a popular treatment at Six Senses


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

TIME TO SHINE Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa opens a new level of indulgence—Shine Spa for Sheraton, which is housed in its own island. Signature treatments are influenced by local flavours and done in the spa’s six treatment rooms overlooking the Indian Ocean. There are separate relaxation pools for male and female guests, stream rooms, and a post-treatment relaxation room. The signature treatments

Pool at Sheraton Maldives

are specifically designed with local influences in mind while also highlighting modalities from locations along the Silk Route. For example, the Ocean Massage mimics the fluid and flowing motion of waves bringing relaxation and rejuvenation to the body and mind. The Silk Route Collection presents treatments from the Orient, Thailand, India, the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. www.starwood.com

GOOD KARMA Certified organic therapies, freshly brewed kelp rituals, teenager experiences, yoga to the sound of Café del Mar and “Martini and Manicure” hedonistic getaways—Karma Spas by Karma Resorts take you to the next level of holistic experiences. Newly opened in Bali with Thailand and India to follow, Karma Spa has treatments which are more like soulful encounters than the average rubdown. Karma therapists in Bali are trained by local healers and have all reached Level 2 Reiki initiation. All are undergoing a 12-month master programme

in Chinese medicine and health, yoga, nutrition, and meditation, among other things. Design-wise, Karma Spa at Karma Kandara is a cluster of cliff-hanging spa shacks overlooking the Indian Ocean. Some noteworthy facilities: An infrared glass-walled sauna overlooks the edge of a cliff, making for the ultimate hangover cure. Two Karma Spas in Bali— Karma Spa at Karma Kandara and one in Karma Resorts Jimbaran—as well as one in Koh Samui, Thailand provide travellers in the region with more options for decompressing.

Massage overlooking the ocean at Karma Spa

SUPERB SPA, HEAD SOUTH

Plunge pool at Twelve Apostles Hotel And Spa

If you find yourself in South Africa and in need of some serious pampering, check out Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town. Long an institution in this city, Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa has the best pampering this side of the world. Check out its Sanctuary Spa, which is cut out of the surrounding rocks.

Inside are hot and cold plunge pools, Capetown’s only Rasul chamber, a sauna and hydrotherapy bath. Opt to use any one of the seven treatment rooms or choose to be treated in a secluded open-air environment with a range of therapies using indigenous fynbos flora. www.12apostleshotel.com

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 69


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

Singapore’s culinary scene is a huge territory—from humble kopitiams and hawker stalls that serve tasty noodles, to haute French cuisine at the toniest establishment. In this city, it’s always a delight to sample novel tastes, dine in new restaurants, and just indulge in an atmosphere where good food is very much a way of life. In Singapore, one need not go around the world to sample different cuisines. Here, some of the establishments that tempted our tastebuds:

Astor Bar

HEARTY FRENCH PROVINCIAL N e w l y o p e n e d i n M a y, L’Entrepot Bistrot (“warehouse” in French) is a quaint eatery on Clarke Quay that serves regional French classics. The atmosphere is casual. Stay indoors for a cosy meal or dine al fresco by the river. The menu is affordable and food, undeniably good, as with all good French cooking. Nothing fancy here, no fusion, or unusual combinations. Here, the emphasis is on classic French fare. For starters, try the Poached Egg, served with button, cep, shimeiji, and shiitake mushrooms sautéed with shallots, butter, garlic, butter, olive oil. After this tasty start, try their version of French onion soup. Its arrival on the table will always elicit a few gasps as the Ementhal cheesetopped crouton over the bowl sets the tone for the rest of the meal. From here on in, one

70 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Clockwise From Top Left: Alfresco dining; Interior shot of L'Entrepot Bistrot; Poached Egg with button, cep,shimeiji and shiitake mushrooms; Lamb Shank served with Cajun spice-roasted swede—a must-try; serving is good enough for two.

should hear laughter and great conversation interspersed with silence, as you savour the excellent cuisine.The portions are good enough for two or more people, so it’s ideal for intimate dinners for two or a gathering of close friends.

3E, River Valley Road, #01-02, Clarke Quay, Singapore 179024 (it’s by the river, near the bungee jump); tel (65) 6337 5585; entrepot.bistrot@esmerada.com; www.esmirada.com. Hours: Lunch, 12pm-2pm; dinner, Sun-Tue 6pm-11pm (last order, 10:30pm); Wed-Thu 6pm-2am (last order, 10:30pm; finger food offered, 10:30pm-1am); Fri-Sat 6pm-2am (last order 11:30pm, finger food, 10:30pm-1am)


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

Clockwise From Top

WELL-LOVED CLASSIC CHINESE Established in 1976, Red House seafood restaurant is practically an institution in the Singaporean dining scene. Now on its 33rd year, and still going strong, the venerable institution offers a series of commemorative promotions at its second outlet at The Quayside. Named after the red bungalow, which housed the original establishment on Upper East Coast Road in 1976, the branch at The Quayside also serves its signature dishes that have made this restaurant such a classic. To whet your appetite, try the Trio Combination of Chef’s Signature Squid— barbecued sotong, crispy baby squid, and golden calamari strips. The barbecued sotong is accompanied by zesty chilli sauce (which actually goes with everything—just ask the wait staff for more), the battered golden calamari is tossed in salted egg yolk, chilli padi, curry leaves, and butter while the

crispy baby squid, a mainstay at any seafood resto, has a cruncy texture and is accompanied by sweet black sauce. Another appetiser to try is the Signature Creamy Custard Prawns—juicy tiger prawns are lightly battered, deep-friend, and coated with milk, butter, and kaffir leaves. This will have you ordering a second serving. And then, of course, there is the house specialty—Red House Chilli Crabs. Served in the classic Red House chilli stew—thick, sweetish, and spicy due to fresh red chilli, chilli padi, fresh tomatoes, and garlic—the big Sri Lankan crabs are a seafood lover’s dream dinner. Pair this with fried or steamed man tou (buns) to round out the meal. Also worth noting is the restaurant itself. A combination of tradition and modernity, the modern interiors—trendy grey with splashes of red—is well-

Red House at Robertson Quay; Spicy Seafood Combination

ventilated by two Big Ass Fans (yes, those are really what they’re called). Also try: Spicy seafood combination, a Thaiinspired dish featuring fresh cuttlefish, prawns, scallops, and garoupa slices in curry sauce. Also worth a visit are the monthly $33 Red House Specials, in which the restaurant offers a well-loved dish for every month of the year until December 2009. #01-13/14 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay Singapore 238252; tel (65) 6735 7666; www.redhouseseafood.com

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 71


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

A BRAZILIAN FEAST The pioneers of Brazilian churrascaria in Singapore and Southeast Asia are still at it. If you’re craving for succulent grilled meats that only the Brazilians know how to do, head to Fiesta Brasilia in United Square, which continues to offer mouthwatering Brazilian barbecued meat, but have also introduced a more extensive menu at affordable prices. Visitors are greeted with a larger-than-life painting of Brazil’s most famous landmark—a mural of Christ the

Singapore’s culinary scene is a huge territory—from humble kopitiams and hawker stalls that serve tasty noodles, to haute French cuisine at the toniest establishment. In this city, it’s always a delight to sample novel tastes, dine in new restaurants, and just indulge in an atmosphere where good food is very much a way of life. In Singapore, one need not go around the world to sample different cuisines. Here, some of the establishments that tempted our tastebuds:

Redeemer with arms opened, overlooking the city of Rio de Janiero. Grab a couple of caipirinhas at the bar near the entrance or choose from an extensive list of Old and New World wines from Latin America, Europe to New Zealand. Champagne, whiskey, and premium Brazilian coffees are available as well. The 100-seat restaurant with a cosy private dining room for 20 people is also the first churrascaria to boast an open concept kitchen, pasta bar, a vegetarian menu, and a la carte set menus for the busy business executive. Try the

Rodizio Buffet option for access to all meats, soup, the pasta and salad bar, desserts and ice creams. Also try: the Hot Stone a la carte menu, which features the delicious Frango Especial (chicken thigh, chipolata and chicken hearts) or the Brasil Frutos Do Mar (barbequed snow fish, buttered tiger prawns and spicy squid in a special marinade sauce). There are also a green menu for vegetarians and a family-friendly menu.

72 |

DRINKS IN NEW YORK The classic cocktail hour gets an early start and some surprising twists at the Astor Bar of The St. Regis Singapore. Dubbed Astor Time, consider this a stylish beginning to a fun evening

Lady Astor Time

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Almoco - Executive set lunch - Bife Special; Main dining room with the larger than life painting of Brazil's most famous landmark; Caipirinhas

#B1-15/16 United Square Singapore 307591; tel (65) 6250 0108; Hours: Lunch 11:30am-3pm daily, dinner 6-11pm daily

Astor Bar Astor Time Cocktails

Clockwise From Top Left

or a well-deserved ending to a hectic day. Sink into plush leather-bound armchairs and elegant surroundings as you savour classic cocktails like the martini, mai-tai, margarita, mojito, cosmopolitan, and feel the stress of the day melt away. Along with your cocktails, enjoy complimentary canapés and scrumptious finger sandwiches and appreciate the 10 original lithographs from the Toro Series by Pablo Picasso. For ladies with a sweet tooth, try Lady

Astor Time, a unique pairing of champagne and scrumptious St. Regis macaroons. Also try: the classic Bloody Mary, which was perfected at the legendary King Cole Bar at The St. Regis New York, as well as over 50 cocktail selections prepared by the bar’s expert mixologists.

Astor Time: 5-8pm daily; St. Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911; tel (65) 6506 6888; www.stregis.com


LIFESTYLE

good stuff posh space perk me up gourmands corner

MOONCAKE MADNESS Yes, it’s the Mid-Autumn Festival once again, and with it, delectable selections of mooncakes in all sorts of combinations. Now is your chance to taste old favourites and discover new ones. Some choices to get you started CREATIVE INDULGENCE For the baked selections, try the low-sugar Special Baked Mooncake with Macadamia Nuts and Sweet Potato Paste, perfect for those who are watching their diets and the Special Baked Mooncake with Yam Paste and Diced Salted Egg Yolk, which will make you hanker for more. For the snow skins, the chefs at the Marina Mandarin went to town with fruit-flavoured snowskins, sure to tempt your taste buds.We quite enjoyed the Mini Strawberry Snow Skin Mooncake with Cashew Nuts and Cranberry Paste.These as well as other flavours are available 31 August-3 October. 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, Singapore 039594; tel (65) 6845 1000; www.marina-mandarin.com.sg Clockwise From Top: Cova Tea Room; Mango Cream Cake; Pan-Roasted Cod with Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Mushrooms and Soya sauce; Crab Cake with Lemongrass

ITALIAN DECADENCE Imagine shopping the morning away in the boutiques of Milan and now you’re dying for an espresso. So you duck into a small café off the main boulevard for a much-needed shot of caffeine and some peoplewatching. That’s the ambience that Cova PasticceriaConfetteria at chi-chi Paragon Mall offers diners. The café, established in Milan in 1817, opened in Singapore last year and has since established itself as the place where the wellheeled go to get their java fix as well as a nibble or two of delicious pastries. Recently, the restaurant changed some items in its menu to lure in more of the lunch and

dinner crowd. The vibe is relaxed luxe, with well-stuffed chairs and ornate embellishments vying for attention with the mouthwatering cakes and pastries on display. The restaurant recently introduced new items in the menu and while well-loved classics are still very much in demand, we recommend some of the new dishes: We especially liked the crab cake with lemongrass capsicum and avocado sauce as well as the pan roasted cod. We were especially heartened to see that signature dishes like the ravioli as well as the cakes are still around. It’s the perfect place to have a long lunch followed by a leisurely

dessert and coffee. For dessert, try the best-selling Sacher or the lighter Mango Cream Cake. If you’re with a group, get one or two slices and share. Cova is the perfect place to spend a lazy weekend afternoon or to recoup after a tiring day going around the malls. Also try: For lunch, the Lamb Rack with Eggplant Carroza, artichoke salad, and coffee sauce. Their lunch and dinner set menus are also worth the price.

CLASSIC WITH A TWIST It’s classic with a twist at The Regent Singapore. Traditional flavours are combined with Italian and Japanese inspired ones to create one-of-a-kind creations. Try the Parma Ham with Assorted Nuts mooncake, inspired by the restaurant’s Italian restaurant, Basilico. The pastry is a savoury and crunchy delight combining 24-months cured Parma ham with pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, melon seeds, white sesame, and winter melon. Or if that’s too heavy for you, try the mini snowskins, the highlights of which include yuzu and yam paste. Other dainty snowskin varieties include The Regent’s Signature Black Sesame Paste with Melon Seeds, Green Tea with Yolk and Melon Seeds, favourite White Lotus Paste with Yolk and Melon Seeds, and bestseller, Durian Paste. All mooncakes are packaged in the hotel’s elegant and distinctive box. Available 2 Sept-4 Oct at The Regent Singapore’s outlets. For enquiries, (65) 6720 8000; foodbeverage.rsn@fourseasons.com

SPOILT FOR CHOICE At the Meritus Mandarin, there are 13 flavours to try. Making its debut this year is the premium Baked Mooncake with Shark’s Fin,Assorted Nuts and Barbecued Pork, a unique creation of sweet and salty flavours. Those with a sweet tooth will delight in the Snow Skin Mooncake with White Lotus Paste and Macadamia Nuts, Snow Skin Mooncake with White Lotus Paste and Double Yolk as well as the Snow Skin Mooncake with Green Tea Paste.These and many more are available on 25 August-3 October at the deli booth, Level 1, Meritus Mandarin. For orders or enquiries, call (65) 6831 6285/62 or email dine.tms@meritus-hotels.com

Paragon Shopping Centre, 290 Orchard Road #01-20A; tel (65) 6773 0777; Hours: Sun-Fri: 8am10pm, Sat: 8am-11pm

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 73


traveldeals

∗ Terms and conditions apply.

China: Meet and Deal For all your meeting needs, Crowne Plaza Shenzen’s Full Day Meeting Package gives you more value for money. For only RMB338/person/day for a minimum of 10 persons, you get: the use of a meeting room from 9am-5pm, two coffee/tea breaks with assorted snacks, a international buffet lunch at Café Zentro; a podium with floral arrangement; a reception table with floral arrangement; a flipchart and whiteboard with markers; central sound system with wireless microphones; table tent cards for attendees; writing pads and pencils; bottled local mineral water and mints. For enquiries, contact the Crowne Meetings Team at 0755-2693-6888 ext.8105

Malaysia: Sweet Suite Deal From January 1 to December 31, 2009, One World Hotel offers frequent travellers a really “suite deal.” For each room booking made for the hotel’s executive club deluxe or deluxe plus room on the Peridot Club floors, guest will be upgraded to a junior suite on a complimentary basis. Guests staying at the Peridot Club enjoy discreet and efficient check in and checkout by Club Pursers, exclusive use of the club lounge, welcome drinks and fruit trays, complimentary breakfast, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and complimentary pressing of one suit upon arrival. For enquiries or reservations, please call (603) 7681 1110 or e-mail reservations@oneworldhotel.com.my

China: Open for Business From now until 31 August 2009, celebrate the full opening of Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, with its Opening Offer room package at HK$1,180 with a HK$500 spa and restaurant spending credit. You may spend your credit on a visit to Melo Spa and enjoy 30% discount on body treatments; sample Japanese, home-styled Chinese, and Italian cuisine at Cafe’s interactive kitchens; savour authentic Cantonese and Northern Chinese specialties from the unique show kitchens at Sha Tin 18; or at Tin Tin Bar for its Happy Hour buy-one-get-one-free offer. For enquiries, please contact Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin on 3723 1234 or at hongkong.shatin@hyatt.com.

China: Summer Family Fun Harbour Plaza Metropolis joins hands with the famous Moomin Families of Finland to create an exciting Moomin Families Suite Package. On July 1-August 31, 2009, stay in our Moomin-themed superior one-bedroom suite for only HK$1,368++. Kids also get a Moomin cartoon DVD for viewing and books. At the Promenade Restaurant, kids can join the Moomin drawing competition and Weekend Moomin Mama cooking class, while adults enjoy the famous buffet at Promenade or summer cocktails at the poolside. For more information or reservations, e-mail rsvn.hpme@harbour-plaza.com or go to http://fnb.hpme.harbour-plaza.com (The Moomins are cartoon characters created by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jannson)

China: A Whole New Experience From now till 31 August 2009, try out Marco Polo Xiamen’s new Premier Rooms, Continental Club Rooms and Suites with a special offer of RMB798 and up. Be it the elegance of the room or the luxury of the suite, the hotel’s guest rooms spell comfort, elegance, and warmth. Every room is fully equipped with a complete range of facilities to cater to discerning travellers’ needs. The package includes buffet breakfast, in-room broadband access, afternoon tea, cocktails and all-day drink service at the Club Lounge, complimentary use of CCF boardroom for two hours daily, pressing of one suit, daily laundry allowance of RMB100, and many others. Guests booked at the package rate can enjoy a 50% discount off the rate for an extended weekend stay. For more info, www.marcopolohotels.com

74 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg


∗ Terms and conditions apply.

MALAYSIA: SWEET MEETS In Kuala Lumpur, choose among Impiana KLCC Hotel & Spa’s meeting packages. Full-Day Option 1 (RM 115++/person/day): welcoming coffee and tea with cookies and one snack; morning and afternoon break with coffee, tea, and five snacks; buffet lunch at Tonka Bean coffee house; complimentary use of meeting implements such as two tables, mics, etc. Full Day Option 2 (RM95++/person/day) has the same benefits but no lunch. Half-Day Option 1 (RM 105++/person/day): Same amenities as Full-Day Option 1, but with a choice of morning or afternoon tea, coffee, and snacks, depending on meeting time; Half-Day Option 2 (RM75++/person/day), same as Full-Day Option 2, but with a choice of morning or afternoon coffee/tea break and snacks. There is also an evening meeting package for those inclined. For more information, check www.kualalumpurhotels.impiana.com

Maldives: Early-Bird Special It’s a dream vacation waiting to happen. Starting August, Alila Villas Hadahaa has an opening special offer—stay four nights, pay only for three nights and get additional benefits: a welcome gift, daily breakfast, a complimentary Private Deck dining experience, and one signature Alila Hadahaa experience: a reef exploration, a cultural/historical trip, or a spa treatment. Alila Villas Hadahaa opens this month and has 14 villas on stilts over the water and 36 island villas, a dive centre, and a spa by Mandara. For more info, +960-682-8888 or email hadahaa@alilahotels.com; www.alilahotels.com

CHINA: EXECUTIVE PERKS Enjoy the perks you deserve without the high price tag. With the Executive Floor Room Package at Holiday Inn Lido Beijing, you get the comfort and convenience of the Executive Club Floor privileges of free broadband Internet, Club Lounge for breakfast and evening cocktails, one hour free Meeting room usage, as well as mini bar soft drinks and laundry allowances. Priced at RMB 1288 nett per night (RMB 999 nett on weekends), the package includes a buy-one-get-one-free voucher for our patio dinner buffet and a bottle of imported wine of the month, when dining in the hotel restaurants and bars. Promo valid until 31 December 2009. For more information, please call 86 10 6437 6688; or check http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/PEGCH

Thailand: Easy Meetings If you find yourself in Bangkok for a series of meetings, check out Sofitel Bangkok Silom’s Let’s Meet package, which includes accommodation in a Luxury room, breakfast and a full-day meeting package. For 4,350 baht, you get: the use of main meeting room from 8:30am-5:00pm, a LCD projector, an Internet line, audio visual equipment, plus a whiteboard complete with flipchart and markers, an international buffet lunch in Mistral restaurant or dim sum in Shanghai 38 restaurant. Available until August 30, 2009. For more info, www.sofitel.com

SINGAPORE: VALUE-FOR-MONEY MEETINGS Book a full- or half-day meeting at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore and get good value for money. Priced at S$80/person, the Full-Day Meeting package includes use of meeting room, 8am-5pm; coffee and tea service upon arrival of guests; morning and afternoon breaks of coffee, tea, and a choice of three bites; a Western or Chinese a la carte or buffet lunch. The Half-Day package at S$68/person entitles you to the above benefits with a choice of 8am-1pm or 1pm-5pm meeting slot. These packages also includes meeting implements like flipchart, whiteboard markers, etc as well as complimentary parking for 20% of the participants. Promo valid until 30 September 2009. For enquiries, pls call (65) 6831 7112 or check www.fourseasons/singapore

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 75


TRAVELNOTES

new rooms bulletins flight plan diary of events

New hotels are opening their doors to guests. Here are some that are ready – or almost ready - to provide second homes to them.

CROWNE PLAZA SUZHOU

HARBOUR PLAZA 8 DEGREES Scheduled to open mid-October 2009, Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees is near the Kai Tak Airport area and is close to Hong Kong’s shopping and entertainment areas, including MTR Hunghom Station, Kowloon Bay shopping, Kowloon City and the bustling district of Tsimshatsui, which you can explore on foot or via the hotel shuttle. Number of rooms: 702 guestrooms and suites, all with Internet access. Guests staying

on Executive Floors on the top three levels have full access to the Harbour Club Lounge, which features a daily complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, evening refreshments, and personalised concierge services. To cater to long-staying guests, 104 of the rooms and suites are equipped with kitchenette units. MICE facilities: Has a large banquet room (over 4,500 square feet) that can be divided into nine function rooms—

all of which are equipped with multi-function lighting and the latest audiovisual technology; also has a full-service business centre. Other draws: A unique lobby that draws inspiration from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Harbour Club Lounge, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, children’s pool, and a whirlpool amidst a lush landscape. www.harbour-plaza.com

WYNDHAM XIAMEN Located along the southeast coast of China, Xiamen is a key gateway city and a favoured destination for foreign investment. The city’s tourist attractions include Gulangyu Island also known as Piano Island, Nanputuo Temple, stores featuring local products and water tours of the many small islands along the coast. Number of rooms: 588 rooms with 161 suites, 216 non-smoking rooms, and 130 serviced apartments, ranging in size from 500 to 1,065 square feet (sq ft), all with views of the ocean or city skyline. The top

76 |

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Less than one hour drive from Shanghai, the hotel is ideally located in the Suzhou Industrial Park and set against the scenic backdrop of beautiful Jinji Lake. Minutes away from the Expo center, Suzhou Science and Arts Center and walking distance from Li Gongdi, Rainbow Walker, Times Square entertainment and shopping areas. Number of rooms: The hotel has 402 spacious and tastefully furnished guest rooms, overlooking either the lake or gardens. Dining options: Seven stylish restaurants, bars, and restaurants.

Function areas: It has 12 multi-function meeting rooms and a 1,066sq m pillar-less Crowne Ballroom with 800sq m pre-function area, designed to seat from 10 to as many as 1,000 guests in a variety of configurations. Other draws: State-ofthe-art fitness centre, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, and Tea Tree Spa and marina, guaranteed to leave you relaxed and recharged for your next working day. You’ll agree that in the storied city of Suzhou, the place to meet is at Crowne Plaza Suzhou.

five floors comprise the Wyndham Club, with 90 executive rooms, library, business services, meeting room and split-level lounge. MICE facilities: A 13,558sq ft, pillarless grand ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. The hotel has 11 additional meeting rooms for small- to medium-sized groups. Services include stateof-the-art meeting rooms, independent audio-visual facilities, Internet access and translation equipment. recreational options: Five food-and-beverage outlets offer international cuisine, including an all-day restaurant,

Japanese restaurant, Chinese restaurant, lobby lounge and the Wyndham Club lounge, which serves breakfast and drinks. Other draws: A 66-foot high waterfall, 23-foot tall lobby chandelier with 882 large crystal drops and 88 light bulbs; and the hotel’s front face, which has 460 energy-efficient lights that create a kaleidoscope of changing colours and designs at night. There is a 23-foot-high statue at the hotel’s entrance named the Goddess of Helping, representing an interpretation of the indigenous goddess of the sea, Mazu, considered to be a protector of East Asian fishermen and sailors.


TRAVELNOTES

new rooms bulletin board flight plans diary of events

MIELE CULINARY SCHOLARSHIPS Now Open For Applications This year, in addition to The Miele Guide, Asia’s first independent restaurant guide, Miele is jointly sponsoring two scholarships under The Miele Guide Culinary Scholarship Programme with At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy: the Miele-At-Sunrice Scholarship and the Miele-WSQ-AtSunrice Scholarship. The Miele-At-Sunrice Scholarship will be awarded to a citizen or permanent resident of one of the Asian countries

NEW LOOK FOR THE PENINSULA BOUTIQUE AT HKIA Peninsula Merchandising Limited and Nuance-Watson (HK) Limited jointly unveiled the brand-new look of The Peninsula Boutique at Hong Kong International Airport. Located on Level 6, East Hall airside, the shop has new fixtures and fittings including a 42” LCD TV, lightbox, upgraded shelves and lightings. Apart from selling The

Peninsula Chocolatier products, The Peninsula Tea and other signature items, the renovated shop will also carry gourmet items such as caviar and foie gras. These new products will further add to the luxury appeal of the boutique, matching the image positioning of the Hong Kong International Airport Level 6 East Hall and the ever-higher aspiration of airport customers.

From Left: At-Sunrice’s Christophe Megel; Tan Su-Lyn of Ate Media Pte Ltd; last year’s recipients Malcolm Lee Seow Meng and Lai Kit Yee; and Mario Miranda, managing director of Miele Pte ltd

grand opening oF THE LARGEST Customer contact centre in china Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. opened the largest dedicated hotel customer contact centre in China: Starwood Customer Contact Center in Guangzhou. “China has the largest pipeline of new Starwood hotels outside of North America and continues to be a key growth engine for Starwood,” said Michael English, Vice president, Customer Contact Centers & Electronics Distribution of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. “Therefore, it is timely that we set up a Customer Contact Center in

China not only to provide our hotels here with improved support but to better position ourselves to take good care of the needs of our customers and build up deep loyal relationship with them as well.”

evaluated in The Miele Guide 2009/2010 (except Singapore), and the Miele-WSQ-At-Sunrice scholarship will be awarded to a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. The scholarship recipients will have the chance to attend the WSQ Diploma in Culinary Arts (WSQ DCA) course at AtSunrice. Application forms for the scholarship are available at www.mieleguide.com from 1 July 2009. Applications will close on 31 August 2009.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts currently has eight customer contact centres globally, four in North America, one in Europe and three in Asia Pacific including Guangzhou, Singapore and Tokyo.

CX IMPLEMENTS SELF-PRINT BOARDING PASS Cathay Pacific Airways launched its Self-Print Boarding Pass service for departures from Singapore Changi Airport effective 18 June 2009. Passengers will be able to check in 48 hours in advance for all flights departing Singapore. This new service will allow passengers travelling on Cathay Pacific flights from Singapore Changi Airport, and who check in using the airline’s Online Check-In facility, to print their own boarding pass at home or in the office from a

regular printer. The Self-Print Boarding Pass is only available to passengers departing Singapore who are travelling point to point on Cathay Pacific flights. However, the following passengers can check in online but cannot print their own boarding passes: passengers with children, senior, and infant tickets, those on wheelchairs, unaccompanied minors who require special handling, and those who purchased tickets with ferry services. Check www. cathaypacific.com/sg for more details on the pass.

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 77


TRAVELNOTES

gourmand’s corner flight plans bulletin board diary of events

Check out the latest flight routes and services of the various airlines of the world.

AIRASIA HAS NEW ROUTE

Bantayan Island, Cebu

AirAsia recently announced new international flights from Hong Kong to Penang, marking the airline’s further expansion in the region. “Here at Tourism Malaysia we are confident that the additional direct flights between Hong Kong and Penang will further boost tourism between the two cities,” said Madame Zaliha Zainuddin, Director of Malaysia Tourism Promotion

Board-Hong Kong Office. “We realise that Hong Kong residents have been long amazed by the well-preserved Chinese and European culture in George Town, Penang due to its resemblance to Hong Kong in the 60s.” The Hong Kong route forms part of AirAsia’s strategy to establish Kuala Lumpur as a gateway to other Asia destinations, using its vast route network across Asia.

With the addition of George Town as an UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 2008, Penang has drawn endless attention through its attractions, heritage sites and has become known as a fast-growing industrial and trading centre. These additional flights will increase the city’s connectivity and cater to the ever-increasing traffic demands from inbound and outbound travellers.

TURKISH AIRLINES LAUNCHED NEW FLIGHT TO GOTEBORG

CHINA SOUTHERN AIRLINES LAUNCHES CHARTER SERVICES TO CEBU China Southern Airlines recently launched charter services to Cebu, Philippines from Guangzhou. Two weekly flights will service the route— departure, Monday and Thursday and return flights to Guangzhou every Tuesday and Friday. With some of the best beaches in the world, the Philippines attracts many Guangdong outbound tourists. GZL International Travel Services has initiated innovative itineraries with Cebu and Bohol as multi-destinations. It is reported that the sales so far is soaring.

Cebu along with adjacent Bohol island are tourist favourites with white-sand beaches and various attractions to lure in travellers. The direct channel to Cebu from Guangzhou now enables visitors to enjoy faster and more convenient trips to this region. The charter is also expected to help business travel between the two countries as Cebu has wellestablished MICE hardware and software for international events. The charter is expected to bring over 300 visitors every week.

MALAYSIA AIRLINES TO SUSPEND ROUTE Malaysia Airlines will suspend its thrice-weekly services from Kuala Lumpur to New York via Stockholm effective October 2009. The last flight from Kuala Lumpur to New York will be on 30 September while the last flight departing New York will be on 1 October and Stockholm

78 |

on 2 October 2009. Malaysia Airlines Commercial Director, Dato’ Rashid Khan said, “We have been serving New York since 1998 and Stockholm since 2004. We have decided to suspend the services as demand has dropped due to the global economic crisis.”

| www.frequenttraveller.com.sg

Turkish Airlines recently started a thrice-a-week flight to Goteborg, Sweden as part of the airline’s expansion plan.

Turkish Airlines said its new flight from Istanbul to Goteborg is the 116th international route of Turkish Airlines and the

second destination point in Sweden. As one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Turkish Airlines will fly from Istanbul to Goteborg on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The flights from Goteborg to Istanbul will operate on the same days as well. Expanding its flight network Turkish Airlines has already launched new flights to Mashad (Iran), Nairobi (Kenya), Dakar (Senegal), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Ufa (Russia), and Benghazi (Libya) from its Istanbul hub this year.

JETSTAR EXPANDS PERTH-BALI SERVICES Australia’s low fares airline Jetstar is to further expand its Perth short-haul international operations with the announced move to a daily service on the popular Perth-Denpasar (Bali)* route effective 13 August 2009. Jetstar currently operates four times weekly A320 low fare flying between Perth and Bali. The carrier’s international hub in Perth now supports direct services to Singapore (daily), Bali (four, moving to a daily service) and Jakarta (three times weekly) as part of its near-Asia international growth strategy.

The introduction of three additional weekly Perth-Bali return flights will also complement the recently announced daily “through” connections by Jetstar to Singapore via Denpasar (Bali) and Jakarta. These international through connections from Perth will offer even greater choice and full connectivity options for passengers travelling on to

Europe with Qantas via Singapore. As part of Jetstar Group changes, Jetstar Asia

will in the future operate the Perth-Jakarta-Singapore route, reverting to a two times weekly service also from 13 August 2009 with a like fleet of A320 aircraft. Jetstar Asia currently operates services from Singapore to 17 Asian holiday destinations with a fleet of A320 aircraft and similar onboard product offering. Jetstar will soon publish its future Perth-Jakarta-Singapore

twice weekly flight schedule.


09 09

SEPTEMBER

09

gourmand’s corner flight plans bulletin board diary of events

coaching sessions with Lynn Wallis, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Dance and Christopher Hampson, award-winning international choreographer, before competing in the semifinals and finals.

SINGAPORE: NATIONAL DAY CELEBRATION VARIOUS VENUES The country’s national holiday falls on a Monday, so expect things to heat up the Friday previous to the day itself. Amble down Orchard Road for a taste of what’s in store, catch the parade, visit one of the museums (entrance will be free), or check the various websites for activity listings.

10

28

(Until Sept 06) SINGAPORE: CINDERELLA ON ICE, ESPLANADE THEATRE A retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella, done with masterful ice-skating work, stunning sets, and innovative dance routines by the Imperial Ice Stars. This show is part of a 22-show, two-year world tour. Tickets available through all Sistic outlets (www.sistic.com.sg)

31

(Until Sept 13) SINGAPORE: A TRAVELER’S STORIES EXHIBITION 3rd FLOOR—HERMES, 541 ORCHARD ROAD, LIAT TOWERS An exhibition of Argentinian artist Luis Terán’s art installations of packed suitcases, bought all the way from Buenos Aires to Singapore. The art in transit transforms into an installation of carefully arranged suitcases and magazine pages perforated with tiny holes that filter light. A visual commentary on the allure and travails of travelling.

travelnotes

AUGUST

Images from www.cameramoda.it

18

(Until Sept 20) CaliFORNIA, USA: MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL MONTEREY FAIRGROUNDS The longest-running jazz festival in the world will have more than 500 artists perform on nine different stages during the three-day musical affair. Performers this year include Lizz Wright, Jonathan Batiste, Pete Seeger, and Soulive. For more info on the lineup and ticket prices, see www.montereyjazzfestival.org

NEW YORK, LONDON, MILAN, PARIS: FASHION WEEK SPRING/SUMMER 2010 For the fashion tribes and trendwatchers, fashion week commences in different parts of the globe: Sept 10-17, New York; Sept 18-22, London; Sep 23-30, Milan; Sept 30-Oct 8, Paris. Check websites for more details: New York (www.mbfashionweek. com), London (www.londonfashionweek.co.uk), Milan (www.cameramoda.it), Paris (www. modeaparis.com)

01

FRANCE: GRAPE HARVEST CHAMPAGNE-ARDENNE This annual grape harvest yields somewhere in the region of 340 million bottles of the world-famous fizz. Many producers organise celebratory harvest days, giving oenophiles the chance to tour the vineyards before sampling the all-important finished product. Most tours include informal Q&As where you can learn more about Champagne and some offer breakfast with the producers. Contact the Aube or Marne tourist boards for a complete list of the various harvest days throughout the month. Aube Tourist Board, tel +33 (0) 3 25 42 50 00; Marne Tourist Board, tel +33 (0) 3 26 68 37 52

25

(Until Sept 27) SINGAPORE: SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX Catch the only Formula 1 night race in whole circuit. For more details and ticket info, www.singaporegp.sg

28

(Until Sept 28) FRANCE: BARBIE AT THE MUSÉE DE LA POUPÉE Paris’ Musée de la Poupée marks the 50th anniversary of Mattel’s famous export with an exhibition of Barbies through the ages. The 500 dolls stand testament to changing fashions, from Sixties Barbie in her miniskirt to the Seventies disco diva. http://www.museedelapoupeeparis.com/tempo/ tempoen.html

03

(Until Sept 12) SINGAPORE: GENÉE INTERNATIONAL BALLET COMPETITION 2009, UNIVERSITY CULTURAL CENTRE Presented by Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) & National Arts Council (NAC), this 78-year old prestigious competition will be held in Singapore for the very first time. The annual ballet meet is the foremost platform in launching the professional careers of many young dancers in the international arena. Participants will spend five days in intensive

www.frequenttraveller.com.sg |

| 79


newsight+experience Text & Photography by LIZA ILARDE

Standing still is har

d work. A busker in

Madrid takes a soft

drink break.

Are you a camera bug?

Do you have a vignette that you’d want to share? Send in your photo that speaks “wow”, “amazing” and it might just be the New Sight + Experience for our October 09 issue. Send the hi-res image (300dpi, A4 size, TIFF/JPEG) to zarinajohari@epl.com.sg by Sept 13, 2009.


FT AugSep 2009  

Frequent Traveller

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you