explorer AUGUST 2011
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT?
Painting the Town Red in Hong Kong
New ‘Gramping’ Holidays
Laucala Fiji’s Secret Island
Six Senses Yao Noi s The Latest Travel Gadgets
AUGUST 2011 Welcome to Explorer…. Hello and welcome to another exciting issue of Explorer, the bi-monthly digital and enviromentally friendly travel magazine for avid travellers.
We’re all over the world with this latest issue, from Sacremento in the US to Yao Noi in Thailand. We explore the private paradise that is Laucala Island in Fiji and we go in search of Hong Kong’s best martini. In Australia we cruise New South Wales’ Grand Pacific Drive and check out one of South Australia’s most stunning wildlife lodges. We also have all the travel news and tips as well as great gadgets that will help avid travellers whislt on the road. Happy Travels. David Leung Publisher
Coming Up The best festivals and events happening around the world
8 News All the latest updates from the world’s four corners
16 Laucala An untouched paradise in the South Pacific, Laucala is how the other half live 20 Martini Madness Famed for its nightlife, Hong Kong’s cocktail culture is leading t he pack in Asia 26 Southern Ocean Lodge Hidden away on Australia’s Galapagos, Southern Ocean Lodge combines the best of local produce with luxury accommodation and stunning scenery 28 Reader’s Report Simone Pitts finds her own slice of paradise on the Thai island of Yao Noi
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WHAT’S COMING UP
From youth rock to Korean superstar, here are
ImpulsTraz JULY 14 – AUGUST 14, VIENNA, AUSTRIA A five week mass dance festival attended by dancers and choreographers the world over.
Raksha Bandhan AUGUST 13, INDIA Celebrated every year on ‘Shravan Purnima’ (Full Moon Day of the Hindu month of Shravan), the auspicious day of Rakhi is celebrated by sisters, who wake up in the morning and visit their brothers to perform the rituals of Rakhi, including tying of sacred threads on their brothers’ wrist.
Sziget Festival AUGUST 10 - 15, 2011, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY A massive young festival featuring rock and roll, world music, dance performances and arts exhibitions.
V Festival AUGUST 20 -21, 2011, CHELMSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM One of the UK’s largest music festivals. This year headliner acts include The Beat Monkeys, DJ Fresh, Good Vibrations and Dash.
the events people are travelling for this season.
Arts Taipei AUGUST 26-29, TAIPEI, TAIWAN A key showcase of both traditional and contemporary Asian art in one of the region’s funkiest capitals.
Hong Kong International Art & Antiques Fair OCTOBER 3-7, 2011, HONG KONG CONVENTION CENTRE, HONG KONG A showcase of some of the region’s best antiques and collectables, and a major draw card for collectors from across the globe.
Electric Picnic SEPTEMBER 2-4, 2011, STRADBALLY, IRELAND A massive musical event famed as much for its events off the stage (including naked weddings) as on. This year look out for the likes of Massive Attack, The Frames and The Waterboys.
16 Busan International Film Festival OCTOBER 6-14, 2011, BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA Widely regarded as one of the most important film festivals for the thriving Asian movie scene, expect to see plenty of celebs hitting the red carpets. th
THE WORLD IN PHOTOS Children watch polar bears swim at the Lincoln Park Zoo Credit: Chicago Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Another day ends as the sun pales on Paris’Notre Dame Cathedral Credit: Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
AND...SMILE From cruising Europe’s rivers to the idyllic islands of the South Pacific, Explorer travels the world through the camera lens.
The world saw its last space shuttle launch with the recent final mission of NASA’s space shuttle mission from the Kennedy Space Centre Credit: Florida Space Coast
The Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, makes for the perfect day trip by car during the fall Credit: Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau
Dawn breaks over the millpond waters of a Norwegian fjord Credit: Hurtigruten
A Scandinavian fishermen checks the weather without having to brave the cold Credit: Hurtigruten
Children play in water spouting from the digital faces of Chicagoâ€™s Crown Fountain Credit: Chicago Convention & Visitors Bureau
The luxurious hideaway of Dolphin Island in Fiji recently re-opened after a multimillion dollar renovation. The island is home to just four guest rooms Credit: Dolphin Island
TRAVEL Tales From family friendly hotels in the world’s top tropical locales, to the essential gadgets you need when on the road, Explorer has all you need to know before setting off on your next big trip.
Sublime Samui Blessed with the most breathtaking sunsets on the idyllic Thai island of Koh Samui, the Conrad Koh Samui is set to redefine the ‘luxury resort lifestyle’ with its opening at the end of summer. The five-star resort introduces the brand’s world-class dining and signature spa, along with bespoke concierge services, at an exceptional location with its own secluded private beach on the south-west tip of the island at Phang Ka. Amid 25 acres of lush coconut plantation, it features 80 free-standing pool villas of one and two bedrooms, complete with spa-style bathrooms, infinity pools,
private balconies and cutting-edge technology, on a dramatic hillside with spectacular views over the ‘Five Islands’ and ‘Angthong National Park’. The villas feature a contemporary Thai-style décor, tropical hardwood floors and Thai silk furnishings, local artworks and unique artefacts. Amenities extend to personal espresso machines and gourmet mini-bars as well as state-of-the-art technology including LCD flat-screen satellite TVs, iPod docks, CD/DVD players, wired and wireless high-speed internet and secure virtual private networks. www.conradkohsamui.com
Venice of the East Anantara, the luxury Thai resort company, is now offering visitors to the Thai capital a unique way of exploring the city’s maze of waterways in style, with Anantara Cruises. With Anantara Cruises, guests see for themselves how Thailand’s waterways are the country’s lifelines, and why Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is one of the most famous and significant. Locals living on its banks maintain an authentic lifestyle, creating vivid snapshots of a bygone age in between glittering temples like the Temple of Dawn, landmarks of regal heritage such as the Grand Palace and Royal Barges Boathouse, as well as striking bridges and monumental buildings which reflect the capital’s dynamic evolution over the past 20 years. Two one hundred year old rice barges, “Anantara Song’ and ‘Anantara Dream’, have been painstakingly rebuilt from teak and restored to their present splendor to cushion the appeal of a real Thai adventure. Guests will make themselves at home on the river for overnight excursions that blend quintessential old world charm, modern comforts and truly personalised service, choosing between vessels and itineraries designed with discerning traveller needs in mind. www.bangkok-cruises.anantara.com
Culinary Cruise Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has created three additional voyages this year featuring the exclusive “Relais & Châteaux L’École des Chefs” interactive cooking school. Silversea enjoys the privilege of featuring the only Relais & Châteaux L’École des Chefs cooking school at sea, an innovative program offering guests a special culinary curriculum, including hands-on instruction, and entertaining events hosted by Silversea culinary trainer David Bilsland, who presents a program developed in collaboration with Jacques Thorel, the owner of L’Auberge Bretonne and a consulting Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux. The cruises offering this innovative cooking school are based in Europe and Asia. In Northern Europe Silver Cloud will depart Copenhagen on July 30 for a 17-day cruise to Alesund, Geiranger, Helleysilt, Lofoten, Tromso, Honningsvag (North Cape), Murmansk, Archangel (overnight visit), Hammerfest and Kristiansund. IN Asia Silver Shadow will depart Incheo (Seoul) on September 23 for a 12-day cruise to Hong Kong, with calls in Qingdao, Shanghai, Jiangyin, Nanjing and Xiamen, before departing on October 5 for a 12-day cruise to Singapore via Chan May, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Ko Samui, and Kuantan. www.silversea.com
London Calling Travellers bound for the British capital will love London on a Plate, a new delectable onestop iPhone app guide to London’s food culture. With restaurant reviews, an extensive shopping guide, recipes from chefs from Mark Hix to Fergus Henderson, and even advice on dressing for dinner, this guide embraces every aspect of food culture. And you won’t only find the guide useful on the streets of London; one of the key purposes of the new guide is to provide the home cook with recipes from some of London’s finest chefs, including John Torode, Fergus Henderson, Anna Hansen, Mark Hix, Peter Gordon and Sam and Sam Clark. Curated by Charmain Ponnuthurai, author of ‘Midnight Feasts’ and an alumnus of London recipe vault ‘Books for Cooks’ (a Portobello Road institution started by Two Fat Ladies’ Clarissa Dickson-Wright), this app is regularly updated and advertising-free. www.onaplateapp.com
On the Rails The iconic Rocky Mountaineer train company has released its 2012 brochure, which includes two new initiatives. SilverLeaf Service will offer an expanded itinerary on the company’s flagship route, First Passage to the West, next season, while the Rocky Mountaineer will introduce the new Coastal Passage route between Seattle, Washington state and Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2012, SilverLeaf Service will be available on all First Passage to the West departures between Vancouver and Banff/Calgary in Alberta. This new and third level of service, launched during the 2011 season, offers travellers the option to upgrade from traditional RedLeaf Service. Onboard the partially domed SilverLeaf coach, guests are given exceptional views of the stunning scenery and the ability to move around and interact with other guests. Also in 2012, Rocky Mountaineer will launch Coastal Passage. This new rail journey will connect Seattle, one of the world’s most popular cruise ports, to Vancouver, BC and the Canadian Rockies, complementing the company’s existing four journeys. www.rockymountaineer.com
Mickey Goes Live Mickey Mouse and his band of friends, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy will be performing in a music mash-up of mega proportions when Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival tours Singapore from September 7, for a limited season at the Grand Theater. Concert goers will hear greatest hits from the blockbuster movies, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Disney/ Pixar’s Toy Story remixed to rock, pop, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and country, among other jams. Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival, featuring an all star line-up of more than 25 Disney characters, begins with audiences watching a state-of-the-art video projection of the frenzy backstage which spills onto the stage as Mickey welcomes guests to his concert tour. Soon after, they will be transported to a new world of hip hop beats, dizzying acrobatics, flying carpets and magical transformations with Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie. Underwater is where the crowd will meet up with Ariel, Sebastian and their nautical pals to groove to the reggae rhythm. Family and friends will stomp to the beat as Woody, Buzz and Jessie teach them how to boogie rodeostyle. Anyone can be a member of the band as giant-sized balloons fall from the ceiling in one scene and then in the next, Disney characters are dancing in the aisles. www.marinabaysands.com
TRAVEL NEWS Food for Thought The new Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport will host a new summer art exhibition of contemporary impressions on the 2000-year old Chinese tradition of landscape painting. The only hotel in the Chinese capital with its own 24-hour Art Gallery, the hotel is showcasing the latest works by six exciting young artists on the outdoor theme representing the origins of Chinese art. Headlining the three-month exhibition is Wan Taifeng, brightening up China’s traditional landscapes and architecture in bold colours of summery baby pinks and blues. Artist Zhou Zhitao examines classical Shanshui (Mountains and Water), the most traditional of all Chinese painting styles, while popular young artist Cheng Yi exhibits his cool, calm ‘Likeness of Water’ series of buildings reflected in water while Fan Jia’s impressions of vast open skies with fragile branches and weeds held by human hands, roots and branches growing from a tower are in more contemporary style with a single message: when left alone, earth, nature and the landscape will conquer all. beijingairport. www.langhamplacehotels.com
Savvy Sofitel The Sofitel So Bangkok, scheduled to open in late 2011, will be Bangkok’s first truly urban design hotel, the product of a masterful collaboration between some of Thailand’s best known architect and designers, according to hotel group Accor. Located on a prime location on the corner of North Sathorn and Rama IV roads, overlooking Lumpini Park, Sofitel So Bangkok promises to be a masterpiece collaboration by acclaimed Thai architect and five celebrated Thai designers who have established themselves both locally and internationally. The hotel’s architecture is the work of Smith Obayawat, managing director of OBA and a leading figure in the Association of Siamese Architects. Taking full advantage of the site, he has created an angled building so that, like a treasured hard cover book with both covers equally intricate, the hotel presents facades on both major roads. As creative as the architecture is the interior design, with Sofitel So Bangkok offering themed accommodation created around the Five Elements of water, earth, wood, metal, and fire. www.sofitel.com
Whale of a Time Eighty years after his death, one of the most famous whales in Australian history will be reincarnated in the waters of Eden’s Twofold Bay on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales. ‘Old Tom’ the killer whale will be joined by some of Eden’s ‘whalemen’ as they reappear to tell the unique story of how they worked together in days gone by, as part of the Eden Whale Festival over the weekend of October 29-30. The first night of the festival will feature an exciting laser light and sound show in the port of Snug Cove, highlighting the role the killer whales played in the town’s economy and history. The Festival coincides with high season on the ‘humpback highway’, the annual southward migration of the humpback whales, from the warm northern waters where they give birth, to their home in the Southern Ocean. The waters off Eden are a popular playground for these wonderful animals. Now hunted by tourists armed with cameras rather than harpoons, they stop here to feed before heading out into Bass Strait, attracted by the whirlpool-like mixing of the southern and northern currents which brings their food to the surface. While killer whales are obviously the feature creatures (visitors should ensure they book a whale watching cruise in advance), the Festival will also include popular activities such as the street parade, the model ship display, the capstan pull and carnival rides, but there are also plans for seafood cooking demonstrations, a kayak event, a fun run, bike ride, dragon boat display, hot rod show and vintage car display – and a mobility scooter obstacle course! www.sapphirecoast.com.au
FIVE REASONS TO VISIT....
Sacramento, California Summer has finally arrived in Californiaâ€™s capital city and you can help celebrate the season with a slew of exhibits, events and activities for all the family.
“Summer of Impressionism” The Crocker Art Museum presents a series of exhibitions this summer showcasing the journey of Impressionism from France to the U.S. With a strong emphasis on landscape paintings, the exhibitions collectively feature works by renowned French and American artists alongside masterpieces of California Impressionism. You can also check out the gallery’s newly opened US$100 million expansion. www.crockerartmuseum.org
2010 California Hall of Fame at the California Museum The 2010 inductees are: Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, filmmaker James Cameron, Silicon Valley visionary investor John Doerr, father of modern banking A.P. Giannini, country music legend Merle Haggard, author and activist
Anne Lamott, former Secretary of State George Shultz, historian Dr. Kevin Starr, businessman and philanthropist Levi Strauss, screen and music icon Barbra Streisand, artist Wayne Thiebaud, comedienne Betty White, tennis champion Serena Williams, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The 2010 inductees join 51 California Hall of Fame inductees who have made great achievements in science, philanthropy, sports, business, entertainment, literature, fitness, technology, activism and politics. www.californiamuseum.org
158th Annual California State Fair (July 14 – 31, 2011) ‘The Fun Just Got Bigger!’ is this year’s State Fair theme and Poppy, the State Fair mascot, has been scouring the California landscape identifying big and amazing attractions for the public to enjoy at this annual summer event. Exciting new exhibits include “Big Bugs” “Rock-U” and “Kangaroo Joey’s Big Adventure”. 100 Golden Deals - The Ultimate Coupon Book - contains 100 coupons that can
save State Fair visitors as much as US$3,000 over the course of this year’s 18-day fair. www.bigfun.org
Gold Rush Days (September 2 - 5, 2011) Experience a step back in time as living history characters re-enact the Gold Rush era in Old Sacramento. The streets are closed to automobiles and then covered with dirt, while horse and carriages are the modes of transportation and period costumes prevail. Learn the ways of early ancestry life from diverse nationalities as entertainment, food, drink, arts and crafts demonstrations make for a great family outing. www.sacramentogoldrushdays.com
California Capital Air Show (September 10 -11, 2011) Audiences will be captivated by the Patriots Jet Team debuting their new six jet performance, the explosive live 3-D museum, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and a thrilling array of military jet demonstrations, world-renowned aerobatic performances, wing-walking pirates and warbirds! www.californiacapitalairshow.com.
HAVE YOU TRIED
Where as once upon a time parents avoided taking grandparents along on vacation, more and more families are realizing that “gramping” or holidays with grandparents can be fun and fulfilling.
Gramping in the Forest The Rise in Multigenerational Holidays It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for many families, the new trend in gramping (which is already established in many Asian countries) is a win-win situation. Grandparents get to spend precious time with the children (and spoil them rotten!) while parents can enjoy a little more time to themselves without worrying about the cost of childcare. Forest Holidays offers year-round short breaks and holidays in log cabins and tree houses in seven woodland locations across the UK. Nature is at the very heart of Forest Holidays’ ethos and all sites operate exclusively within The Forestry Commission Estate. Forest Holidays provides the perfect set up for families of all ages to spend quality time together, whether at play in the forest, hanging out in the luxury of a comfortable cabin or splashing around in the hot-tub at 14
the end of the day. So what’s a forest holiday? It’s a luxurious cabin or treehouse in the middle of beautiful woodland. There are plenty of activities to keep even the most adventurous family busy and the emphasis is on enjoying what the magical natural environment has to offer. The forest itself is a children’s paradise to explore. Each site also has its own Forest Ranger, who can plan a programme of forest activities great for all ages, including Forest Survival which shows you how to build a shelter in the jungle; and Botany, where you can find out about the plants, including which ones are safe to eat. There is also the chance to go on a Night Vision trek through the forest using state-of-the-art night vision equipment to spy on nocturnal creatures, such as owls, bats and moths. The more active can enjoy a number
of high-adrenaline activities including rock climbing and kayaking, while miles of cycle and walking trails can be explored at a more leisurely pace. And of course the beautifullyconstructed cabins come with all mod-cons including flatscreen TV and DVD, with Wii consoles and outdoor hot tubs available in the higher spec cabins. Spacious three and four bedroom cabins could house the whole family, and some locations even have a separate, but adjoining Treehouse, ideal for mum and dad to have some time alone (if the little ones don’t take it over first!) while the grandparents and kids stay in the main cabin. Or you could request two cabins next door to each other if you fancy having a little more room to stretch out in. Whichever you choose, you’ll find ‘gramping’ is one holiday trend that looks set to continue. www.forestholidays.co.uk
Locations Deerpark in Cornwall, Keldy in North Yorkshire, Cropton in North Yorkshire, Argyll in Scotland, Strathyre in Scotland, Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire (opening in October 2011). Prices Cabins range from 2 or 3 bedroom Copper Beach via 2 or 3 bedroom Silver Birch to deluxe 1, 2 or 3 bedroom Golden Oak. Golden Oak Plus are 4 or
5 bedroom cabins and treehouses. Midweek breaks are from Monday to Friday and weekend breaks are from Friday to Monday. Copper Beech from: Midweek £133, Weekend £146, Week £272 Silver Birch from: Midweek £158, Weekend £177, Week £331 Golden Oak from: Midweek £178, Weekend £192, Week £352 Golden Oak Plus from: Midweek £370, Weekend £399, Week £730
RESERVATION BY APPLICATION Explorer Magazine hides from the world on an idyllic Fijian island where every whim has been anticipated.
very now and then, a place comes along that gets the butterflies in your stomach salsa dancing with anticipation. It’s a place that’s well thought out – not a cookie cutter in sight – and intelligent in its design. Its a place that marries stunning vistas and a postcard-perfect locale with modern technology and a health swig of innovation. And it’s the kind of place that, once found, you can be forgiven for being reluctant to pass on to anyone but your inner circle – those who would truly appreciate such a hidden gem. Once such spot is Lacala Island. Owned and in the most part conceptualized by Dietrich Mateschitz, billionaire owner of Red Bull, Laucala (pronounced lo-thar-la) is in the north of the Fiji Islands, an archipelago nation in the South Pacific. Far removed from the beachfront resorts of Vitu Levu, the main island, these picturesque but distant isles once offered little but crops of copra and respite for local fishermen. Now, they’re the epicentre of Fiji’s new ultra luxury boom (an underwater resort is under construction further up the chain), and Laucala, which reopened in August after a post-tropical cyclone clean up, is the region’s lavish poster boy. And with good reason. Mateschitz is pretty careful about who he lets in (or even fly over or sail around) his slice of paradise, and his guests are often just as wary about their privacy (even Google Earth is beer-goggled over the island). Reservation is upon
EXOTIC HIDEAWAYS application and access is via the resort’s own twin-prop Beechcraft King Air plane (unless you, like many of Laucala’s well-to-do guests, happen to have your own), which, after an hour’s flight, lands on a modern day/ night air strip. Guests can even be cleared by Fijian immigration in situ, their itineraries and identities kept tightly under wraps. A fleet of gleaming black Land Rovers ferry the newly arrived directly to their villa; the closest thing to a reception desk on the entire island would be the long bar in the beautifully recreated Plantation House. Accompanied by manager/host/gatekeeper Maja Kilgore, who, with husband Thomas, rules over the island with a European efficiency, we pass between rows of coconut palms, past a tiny boutique and around a main pool that winds and ducks its way river-like under bridges and around boulders, coming to rest on the sandy shores of the Beach Bar’s man-made lagoon. Our villa, number six, is a thing of castaway dreams. The living room, poolside sala, master bedroom and outdoor bathroom branch away from the entrance like arms embracing the white sandy beach and azure seas before them. An inviting plunge pool lies at the villa’s centre. As you can probably tell, Laucala isn’t your average resort. No expense has been spared, no desire unanticipated. With just 25 villas strewn across the island’s southern coast, there are three ‘penthouses’ – the Overwater Villa, the Peninsula Villa and the island’s crowning glory, Hilltop – as well as Plateau Residences on the gentle slopes of the hinterland, and Plantation Villas down by the beach. Every villa has its own persona and despite the outdoor showers (emphasis on the plural), a deep outdoor bath tub fashioned from volcanic granite, and the natural ‘on holiday’ urges of the sun deck, there is little in the way of strategically placed shrubbery and lockable gates, simply because there’s no need. The space between villas is ample and the space between occupied hideaways always considerable, thanks to a little pre-planning by the house keeping department and plenty of thought given by London architect Stephen Albert. In fact the whole resort only takes up ten percent of the 1,200-hectare island. We set off in the morning in one of the island’s souped-up golf carts for a behind the scenes tour with a difference. Laucala is as self-sufficient as is practical (it’s not exactly an eco resort but it’s doing its part) and crossing through thick native jungle, we enter The Farm. Laucala produces everything from its own pork and beef, through to chicken and quails eggs, bath bombs and coconut oils, lettuce leaves and sparkling water. There is an emphasis on organic produce, energy efficiency and sustainability that you wouldn’t expect from such a lavish retreat. As the sun grows tired in the sky, my partner Maggie and I make our way down manicured paths to the Rock Bar, one of the island’s five dining venues. It’s a long (by golf cart standards), steep climb up to the solitary cliff-face watering hole, but one that’s well worth the effort. We’re greeted by flaming torches and ice cold martinis – where ever you go on Laucala, the staff seem to be able to anticipate your arrive with perfection – and settle in for a stunning Fijian sunset of peach and violet plumes. Rock Bar is a popular spot, and even if they never discover the fine dining and walk-in wine cellar of the Plantation House, the Mediterranean tapas of the Pool Bar, the seafood grill at the Beach Bar or the Asian delicacies of Seagrass Restaurant, guests always discover the Rock Bar. Dinner is almost ready by the time we cross the darkened island back to our villa, a team of chefs preparing a barbequed feast on a beachfront lit but blazing torches. At a table dressed in crispy linen, and to the chorus of the waves crashing against the beach mere metres away, we’re served massive scallops, lobster and prawns, fresh
from the grill, and white wine from New Zealand. With desert served we are left to enjoy a sky blanketed in stars, as if we were the only two people in the Pacific – not the kind of experience easily found in heavilypopulated Asian cities. We wake early the next morning to a breakfast laid out on the beachfront dining table. I don’t know if it’s the sunshine and smog-free air, or if I’ve just been living in a gray-toned existence, but every colour seems intensified in Fiji; I’ve never seen a fruit salad so bright, sand so sparkling and an ocean so inviting. Breakfast and the early morning sun welcomes us to linger longer but there are things to do- the island is certainly not short of activities and a clock in the back of my head keeps counting down towards our flight home. Within an hour we’re on Laucala’s custom-built dive boat heading out to one of the nearby reefs with a whole team of cherry dive instructors all to ourselves. As Maggie snorkels of with her aquatic minders my instructor and I dive deep, following a mesmerizingly colourful coral wall towards the sea bed, where we find shoals of trevally, goat fish and a handful of inquisitive white tipped reef sharks, who glide effortlessly through the current. Unlike those coral reefs located near populated areas, Laucala’s is vivid and intense in its hues, and I follow my instructor as he floats with the current, silently pointing out coral plumes, shy silvery fish and flower-like blossoms which, with a finger’s touch, quickly retreat into the rock. It’s an exhilarating way to start the day. I spend my afternoon playing golf with fellow kiwi Tony Christie. The resort’s 18-hole championship course was designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd and is refreshingly more challenging than your average resort course. Of course, playing golf with a pro is like going to the
beach with the All Blacks, either way you’re going to come in last, but its a great experience none the less and my game benefited from his one-on-one tutelage. The course winds beautifully through the island’s natural valleys, and is dotted with ancient trees (Mateschitz loves his trees and Laucala is blissfully bathed in green). Lunch is served at a cliff top half way house, complete with butler service and a few cold Vonu Pure, a new beer made from Fijian rain water. Maggie and I circumnavigate the island by jetski in the late afternoon, passing cliffs pounded by the surf and preserved mangrove forests which help reduce erosion, before setting out for a sunset cruise on the resort’s luxurious day cruiser. As the sun sets behind Taveuni, another island in the northern chain, we’re plied with champagne and sashimi before a ridiculously romantic vista from the vessel’s foredeck. The day, and our Laucala stay, finishes with dinner and glasses of rose champagne at the Seagrass restaurant. Located at the southeastern tip of the resort, the timber-clad eatery epitomising the best of Fijian al fresco dining, with dishes like kokonda – fresh fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk – off set by fiery Asian curries. There is cliff side dining, welcoming deck chairs for post-dinner star gazing and a wine list as long as your arm. On the drive ‘home’, down moonlit paths between coconut palm silhouettes, we contemplate setting an alarm for our early morning flight back to Nadi, but decide that with the ‘airport’ only two minutes from our villa, the pilot will forgive us for lingering just that little bit longer. Villas start from US$3,800 per night up to US$35,000 for Hilltop. www.laucala.com. www.airpacific.com www.explorer-magazine.com
PAINTING THE TOWN RED
Martini Madness in Hong Kong The martini, such a sexy symbol of sophistication, and where better in Asia to find the perfect concoction then in Hong Kong, one of the region’s emerging mixology meccas.
ever has the world witnessed such a potent symbol of sophistication, elegance and power as the Martini. And yet to many people, especially those with lifetime memberships to the ‘Ale Club’, exactly what constitutes a martini is still unknown. We all recognize it as the Dutch courage that kept James Bond spying, the delicate if not potent cocktail of celebrities in years gone by, and possibly the deciding factor in so many political decisions as it was sipped from Westminster to the White House. But its potency lies not only in its juniper extraction, but also in its timeliness, as a symbol that has survived while so many have fallen to the ranks of nostalgia. MINGLE Arguably one of the best cocktail bars in the city, and one of the least known outside cocktail circles, this chic Wellington Street watering hole is the domain of Prajit and Prajol, two Nepalese brothers who together are a dominating force in the city’s mixology circles. Their cocktail list is always changing, always evolving, but the martini is a cocktail CAFE GREY BAR
that’s close to the hearts of both brothers and you’re guaranteed your silver bullets to be crisp, clean and very well made. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, you can’t go past the Mongkok Mule, created by Hong Kong mixology icon Matt Radalj, who regularly innovates with the ‘PJ brothers’. Essentially a vodka-based Moscow mule, it’s made using King’s Ginger by Berry Bros & Rudd, as well as lychee, and is served in a noodle cup with two chopstick-like straws. (The Eden, 148 Wellington Street, Central, Tel: +852 2851 0303) CAFE GREY BAR Even if you’re not staying at the sophisticated boutique house Upper House, located in the heart of Admiralty, you can still go and check out the bar’s stunning cocktails, semi private booths and awesome views. Book ahead to get a lofty perch with vistas to match and be sure to try the likes of their innovative signature martini, the Southside, with Hendricks gin, lime, mint and cucumber. If you’re feeling peckish, this spot has one of the best bar menus in town. Upper
House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Tel: +852 2918 1838, www.upperhouse.com HYDE Another LKF periphery opening is Hyde, a two-story club that plays on the Jekyll & Hyde idea with sophistication and elegance, if not a bit too much pretension. Located on thriving Lyndhurst Tower, there is a dark club downstairs, with a spacious dance floor and semi-private lounge suites to the sides, and a lounge dubbed Loft upstairs, with a distinctly industrial warehouse-conversion feel, a couple of pool tables and an outdoor terrace. Although later in the night Hyde gets so packed that asking for a cocktail would be taste-bud Russian Roulette, earlier in the evening try one of their martinis using bold American boutique gin Aviation, or their fruity Breda Blackout, with Red Bull, Passoa and ambon liqueur, if you can wrestle your way past the human wall of bouncers at street level. (2/F & 3/F, Lyndhurst Tower, 1 Lyndhurst Tce, Central, Tel: +852 2522 2186, www.hyde.hk. HYDE
PAINTING THE TOWN RED
SUGAR Not far away in Tai Koo Shing, one of the city’s best rooftop bars can be found at Upper House’s sister property East. Located on the 34th floor, with a unique perspective of one of the world’s most famous harbour, Sugar has already made a name for itself among cocktail circles, with signature mixes including the Espresso-tini, with Stolichaya vodka, Galliano, dark crème de cacao and Ristretto espresso, the perfect drop on which to start your night. 29 Tai Koo Shing Rd, Island East, Tai Koo Shing, Tel: +852 3968 3968, www.east-hongkong.com. LE BOUDOIR One of life’s little pleasures is finding a spot like Le Boudoir before the masses and if you’re looking for a silver bullet with a bite, this is the place. Creep down the dimly-lit and very unassuming staircase from Wyndham Street in Central, and discover Hong Kong’s very own absinthe-esque potion parlor. Decked out like a Louis IV cat house, com-
plete with gilded picture frames, Burgundy wall paper and thick velvet bar stools, the emphasis of head bartender Max Traverse’s cocktail menu is on unique spirits, a bit of cocktail heritage and a consistent tribute to the classics. Le Boudior’s signature cocktails include a gin martini using Berry Bros & Rudd’s new No. 3 Gin and a dash of bitters. Other concoctions to look out for include the Lucky Star, with Appleton Vx rum, sugar and absinthe; the Devil’s Rocks, with Jim Bean, fresh ginger, and Jerry Thomas’ bitters; and the Wyndham Delight, a tall cocktail packed with Zubrowka vodka, amaretto, fresh lime, cloudy apple juice, vanilla syrup and mint. Basement, 65 Wyndham Street, Central Tel: +852 2530 3870. SHORE Another hot spot to open recently in Hong Kong, dedicated to those that like their martinis with red met and al fresco seating is Shore. The two level venue features a chic dining room upstairs serving aged beef from
the world’s four corners and sustainable seafood, as well as an underwater-themed lounge downstairs. But it’s the spacious VIP cabanas on the 1,800sqm terrace that has most people pushing and shoving; get a spot here and you can settle in to sample the extensive cocktail menu, which features classics like Manhattans, and Gibsons, as well as some more urban concoctions like the Star Night and fruity Ten Minute Martini. Some things are worth waiting for. 3rd and 4th floor, L Place, 139 Queen’s Road, Central, Tel: +852 2915 1638. LILY In the tradition of great Prohibition-era speak easy bars, Lily, the upper half persona of Lily & Bloom, which opened recently in the LKF Tower, is a smooth blend of industrial chic and 1930s spunk. Look out for the Blind Pig, a secret cigar room, and a host of really well made cocktails (as long as you get in before 9pm, when things tend to slow a little). Grab one of the dark and sexy leather booths or for an
HUSH up-close-and-personal perspective grab a stool at the bar and look out for the traditional James Bond Vespa cocktail with both vodka and gin, as well as Lillet. Shaken, not stirred. 6/F & 7/F, LKF Tower 33 Wyndham Street, Tel: +852 2810 6166 RAYNE Another uber-sexy night spot to open recently is Rayne, a chic, open-faced cocktail nook that’s already popular with the crowds of black suited after-fivers. It has a great location, in the middle of all the action where Lan Kwai Fong meets Wyndham, and while it’s got semi-al fresco seating and a good looking clientele that draw you in, it’s the sensual interiors, created by Nude Designs, and innovative cocktails, including some great contemporary martinis by well-known mixologist Alexandre Chatte, that have you staying well beyond your bed time. With a backdrop of Afro-Latin house tracks and a wine list that’s as long as your arm, Rayne is blessedly unpretentious and is bound to become an anchor for the new look Wyndham district. G/F, Shop F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central, Tel: +852 2840-2955.
HUSH Hidden away on Glenealy Street, away from the throngs of club goers, Hush has all the makings of a private club, including memberships that start at HK$5,000 and include finger print scanner entry. Fortunately, this sassy, modern little watering hole is open to more than just rich kids with their parent’s credit card. Expect a break from tradition; there’s a Playstation corner complete with dual consoles and a flat screen television, contemporary interiors featuring chrome, glass and faux furs, an outdoor patio lit by tea candles, and some of the city’s best made molecular cocktails, including a grilled lemon margarita and an Early Grey Tea martini. It’s a bar where experimentation is everything, where combinations sometimes seem outlandish, and where you’re as likely to eat your Mai Tai as drink it. 2 Glenealy, Central, Tel: +852 2537 2281, www.hush.hk.
As many cell phone producers catch up on Apple’s lead, Samsung’s newest smartphone, the GALAXY SII, offers a host of userfriendly features for busy business travellers. The Galaxy SII comes with a 4.3-inch ‘super AMOLED plus’ display that offers enhanced readability, as well as a slimmer design and better batter consumption. The powerful dual core processor means lightening fast performance, quicker multi-tasking and snappier streaming, while the innovative 3D TouchWiz system adds a futuristic user interface to any smartphone user experience. www.samsung.com
Nikon’s newest digital SLR, the NIKON D5100, offers a user-friendly interface combined with professional performance. With a 16.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor and an EXPEED 2 digital image processor, expect crisp, clear digital images. A three-inch variable-angle LCD makes filming in 1080p easy and a new special effects mode means you can have fun with your images before you even download them to your computer. www.nikon.com
Gadgetsfor the World Traveller All the gadgets you need to be active and comfortable on the road
Looking for a compact camera that gaurantees top quality travel pics? The new LEICA V-LUX 30 offers a 16x optical zoom range for everything from wide to telephoto angle images and its extremely precise aspherical lenses enable an enormous range of focal lengths for video as well as still pictures. A new burst mode allows 10 frames to be captures in the blink of an eye, great for sports events, while the 3D image capture mode allows for fun and innovative images on the run. www.leica.com
Combining a powerful 16mp backside-illuminated sensor which records at 1080p, a user friendly pistol grip configuration and the benefit of an all waterproof exterior make Panasonic’s snappy little HX-WA10 one of the best camcorders of the year. The new sensor allows for better recording in low light, all of which can be played back on the 2.6-inch LCD screen. Live facial recognition and Panasonic’s auto iA processing system also helps ensure great footage at all times. www.panasonic.com
Sennheiser, one of the leaders in headphone technology, has released the MM 550 TRAVEL, offering an unsurpassed sound experience thanks to extra large ear cups, active noise cancellation and SRS Lab’s new SRS Wow HD technology. These wireless beauties come with NoiseGuard 2.0 and the TalkThrough system which allows conversation at the press of a button. Alternatively plug in to airline systems with the included cable and adapter and keep fully powered with the USB charge cable. www.sennheiser.com
Gaming remains a popular past time for children of all ages. The much anticipated PLAYSTATION VITA hand held gaming console is sure to be a winner with long-haul travellers. With a slightly larger format than the previous PSP, and a better construction, key features include powerful OLED touch screens front and back which add a vibrancy to gaming, front and rare cameras, Wi-Fi capability and an advanced Augmented reality technology that means players blend their physical world with that of the game. A host of new games are already on the market designed to bring out the best the Vita has to offer. www.playstation.com www.explorer-magazine.com
Southern Jewel Located on Tasmania’s ruggedly beautiful east coast, Saffire, Pure Tasmania’s newest luxury lodge, opens this month, offering a truly lavish Down Under experience. Located overlooking the stunning Freycinet Peninsula, home to the internationally-acclaimed Wineglass Bay, and with views across to the Hazard Mountains, Saffire promises a truly unique and luxurious encounter with nature. Saffire itself overlooks the wide expanses of Great Oyster Bay, where migrating whales and dolphins come to play; calamari and squid in-season spawn in the rocky outcrops; local farms produce fresh, succulent oysters in some of the world’s cleanest waters; and fishing boats and trawlers bring in their daily catch of crayfish, scallops and deep sea fish. Designed by award-winning Tasmanian architects Morris Nunn and Associates, the lodge takes its inspiration from the colours of the peninsula, including the pink granite of the Hazard Mountains, of which each of the 20 suites has views, the white of the sandy beaches below, the sapphire blue of the bay’s pristine waters, and the grey-green of the native bushland which wreaths Saffire. This is complimented by the use of timber, stone and leather, to give an authentic, tactile experience. All suites (Deluxe, Luxury and Premium categories) are luxuriously appointed and are designed with the utmost privacy in mind. Furnishings an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary, including locally made timber pieces alongside mid-century classics such as chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames and Herman Miller. Deluxe Suites are 80smq and feature king-sized beds, LCD televi-
sions with DVD players, iPod stations and Wi-Fi, as well as a courtyard or deck with outdoor seating and a double shower and bath. Luxury suites weigh in at 96sqm, while Premium suites are 140sqm and include private plunge pools, espresso machines, kitchen suites, and a dining room. Rates (Deluxe with dinner from US$1,300 per night, twin share) include breakfast, lunch, complimentary mini bar (there are also cocktails each evening from 6pm), a 60-minute spa treatment to get you on your way to relaxationville, internet and Saffire activities, including With Tasmania’s reputation for quality produce, it’s little wonder that dining also plays an important role at Saffire, with the Palate restaurant offering multi-course degustation menus matched with local wines. Alternatively, guests can consult the chef for a masterful interpretation of their favourite dish, or choose from the seasonal a la carte menu, crafted by executive chef Hugh Whitehouse. And such stunning landscapes would surely be wasted without a bit of pamper and contemplation. The Spa Saffire features three treatment rooms overlooking reflective pools, and boasts rituals created by celebrity facialist Marionne De Candia. Discovering local ecosystems on a quad bike excursion, visits to local mussel and oyster farms, walks around Wineglass Bay, mountain biking to Cape Tourville, and cooking classes with chef Whitehouse. www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
Regular Explorer reader Simone Pitts find peace for the whole family at Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand.
The Island of Peace www.explorer-magazine.com
his is a story for all those who want to escape the sometimes hectic and fast paced city life, for a long and hassle-free weekend of peace and relaxation on a tropical island, yet don’t want to spend half the journey on airplanes and in airports waiting for connecting flights. We took a direct flight with Dragonair from Hong Kong to Phuket (3.5 hours), were picked up by hotel staff at the airport and driven without delay to the marina, where we stepped on to a comfortable speedboat that was already waiting for us and were soon zooming over to the island of Yao Noi. The boat trip itself is a great start to your holidays since it offers stunning views of the limestone island formations that rise out of the clear blue Andaman Sea and were made famous by movies like The Beach and The Man with The Golden Gun. Officially the rainy season, we travelled at a time (early June) when not many other people seemed to have felt the desire to visit the island and the Six Senses resort on it, which made the experience for us even more calm and serene. Having always had a preference for smaller, rather than bigger hotels, the Six Senses suited us really well. And the weather was just perfect; maybe even a little bit too hot, but occasional rain showers brought some cooling and for the photography lovers also beautiful cloud formations that made wonderful pictures. We travelled with three families; in total six adults and five children aged between 4 and 7. The absence of a big common pool or a kids club was not much of a concern since we moved into three detached and very spacious villas, each of them with their own private pool, comfortable outdoor sofas for the adults to hang out on, direct access to a private white sandy beach and stunning views of the deep blue sea. Since the hotel grounds are ample, with the villas hidden within lots of intense green tropical vegetation and hidden from the views of potential by-passers, the whole resort gives off an atmosphere of complete privacy and seclusion. The villas themselves are set up such that they invite nature as much as possible. They are equipped with an outdoor shower, and a spacious bathroom, completely open, with only wooden shutters that we kept open most of the time so that we could enjoy the amazing view of the ocean. For those who are wondering about mosquito bites it should be noted that the sleeping area was separated from the open bathroom structure by a glass sliding door that kept every creature that you don’t want to see crawling over your bed at bay. Nevertheless during rainy season it is advisable to be well equipped with mosquito spray. Having searched for a secluded get away we found this perfect spot and we felt so comfortable that we admittedly never left the resort, although a visit to nearby local villages sounded tempting. In addition to chilling out in and outside the pool, in the ocean and on the beach, we filled our time with doing some batik painting offered
by the hotel with the kids, going for little sea kayak trips along the coast or across to the next bay and catching small fish and crabs with a dip net and a bucket at the landing stage. The hotel staff, who helped the kids catch some fish, being a bit more skilful with the dip net, showed endless patience and also took pleasure in observing how excited our big city kids were about a tiny little fish. Despite being an upscale hotel the Six Senses staff was overall very child friendly and accommodating, helping with the kids wherever they could. The “hotel wildlife” is another aspect to point out. Interesting enough I was more amazed by the animals on land than in the ocean. We found that there was a surprisingly small fish population in the shallow waters; the most exotic fish we came across on our kayak trips were some flying fish. However there are some interesting diving spots within the range of an hour’s boat ride which a few of us enjoyed.
Instead we saw a huge monitor lizard disappearing into the dense bushes in the garden within the compounds of our villa, a variety of other fairly big lizards swimming right off the coast and in the pond below one of the restaurants, beautiful hornbills gliding through the sky, small lizards and geckos of all kinds and colours and all kinds of funny looking caterpillars and beetles. As far as eating goes, there is also no need to leave the hotel grounds. Two restaurants in beautiful open air settings offer a big variety of Thai food as well as a western style menu. Amongst us six adults we have tried most Thai dishes and were never disappointed. Breakfast was served in the same setting; due to the heat the buffet which covered everything you can wish for, was set up in French bakery style little shops. At the end of our four day stay we agreed that we had a very relaxing time and we were all able to wind down a bit from the fast pace life in Hong Kong and would love to come back again.
Hello and welcome to another exciting issue of Explorer, the bi-monthly digital and enviromentally friendly travel magazine for avid travell...