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FEBRUAURY 2014

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT

MAGAZINE

The Beautiful

Blue Danube

Cruising Europe’s Aqua Highway

Pure Paradise

Our Beach Guide to the Seychelles

Fashion Forward Hotels Singapore's Top Bites


Publisher’s Letter

Welcome… To the latest issue of Explorer, the eco-friendly digital travel magazine dedicated to real adventurers. To get you dreaming of where 2014 can take you, we’ve come up with a range of travel experiences that are sure to tempt you to book a flight and pack your bags. Start by meandering down the Danube, Europe’s legendary waterway, and take the time to soak in the sights and sounds of Europe’s culture and history-packed cities like Budapest, Salzburg, Vienna, and Bratislava. Next up, take a break under the sun as you explore some of the best and most exclusive beaches in the Seychelles, and discover for yourself why it’s the perfect honeymoon destination. If fashionable breaks are more your style, jetset across the world sampling the numerous hotels that have been given a stylish touch by some of the biggest names in fashion, including Versace and Karl Largerfeld. Rounding out the issue, we invite you to tempt your taste-buds in Singapore with some of the Lion City’s best-loved food experiences, and discover how Garuda Indonesia in undergoing a makeover in order to make its mark on the aviation industry. Whichever part of the world you find yourself in this season, we hope Explorer remains your comprehensive digital guide to everything the world has to offer. Happy Travels!

David Leung

Publisher Explorer Magazine

Contributors

Jeff Groberman is probably best known as one of the originators of the infamous Canadian seventies radio series, Dr. Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show. In the eighties he became a producer on CKVU’s Vancouver Show, where he still hasn’t lived down refusing to let John Lennon appear on the show. He now writes screenplays nobody reads and travels to weird, wonderful and dangerous places around the world. He lives in Surrey, BC, Canada.

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Nick Walton is a Hong Kongbased travel journalist with 14 years’ experience, including two years as the travel editor for the South China Morning Post. When he’s not travelling the world, camera in hand, he is exploring the markets and beaches of his adopted home.

Stephen Allington was born in Hong Kong and schooled in the UK but maintains a passion for travelling the globe and isn’t averse to sampling the finer things in life. In this issue he sums up the world’s best fashion designer hotels.

An avid traveller always looking out for her next adventure, Gayatri Bhaumik took her first flight at 10 days old and has hasn’t looked back since. After 12 years in Bangkok and seven in Melbourne, she is now based in Hong Kong where she makes use of her many globetrotting adventures and interest in writing for titles like Jetsetter, Explorer and Elite Traveler’s Asia edition.


Villa Sungai THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN A secret to be discovered, hidden deep in the heart of the authentic Bali. Floating above a river, beneath a towering canopy of rainforest, Sungai has everything you expect from the finest hotels..but with exclusivity. Here time stands still..... pavilions perfumed with tuberoses, a magical eighteen metre horizon pool spilling into the valley, palms and frangipanis, khaki and whitewash, and sleek and sexy white on white. It’s hard to believe that this piece of paradise is only a short drive from the bustle of Legian and Seminyak. Welcome to Villa Sungai.

T: +61(0)410324535

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www.bali-villasungai.com

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www.baliluxuryvillacollection.com


WORLD IN PICS

The iconic Australian train The Ghan celebrates ten years of traversing the nations ‘red centre’ between Adelaide and Darwin this year. Credit: Great Southern Railway

A river cruise passes an ancient castle on the Danube River, which saw the highest flood waters on record last year. Credit: Nick Walton

What a

Wonderful World Dawn creeps across misty peaks on the island of Sri Lanka, dubbed one of the hottest travel destinations for 2014.

Tourists explore the ancient hutong neighbourhoods of the Chinese capital. During the summer months the eclectic collection of restaurants and boutiques housed in the courtyard communities are a major tourism draw card. Credit: Nick Walton

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Children plans in the shallows of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. As the once isolated nation opens its doors to tourism, river cruise operators are launching new vessels on this important waterway. Credit: Nick Walton

Voluntourism is on the rise globally as travellers look to get involved with the communities that make destinations so special. Credit: Hands Up Holidays

From romantic reefs to the waterways of Europe, the world is waiting to be discovered. The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, is the traditional residence of the Dalai Lama. Now, it’s a museum and a UNESCO-listed site. Credit: Aurora Expeditions

Part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Heart Reef is a composition of coral that has naturally formed the shape of a heart. Inaccessible due to its protected status, the reef has provided the backdrop for many in-flight marriage proposals. Credit: Sunsail www.explorer-magazine.com 5


WHAT’S HAPPENING

Rio Carnival Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 28 – March 4, 2014

2014 is a big year for Brazil, and kicking it off is one of the biggest annual parties in the world. Rio’s legendary carnival sees Brazil’s best samba schools strut their stuff in front of a huge international audience. Be prepared for a crush of sound, colour, and flamboyant costumes as you party alongside over two million other revellers. www.rio-carnival.net

Adelaide Festival 2014 Adelaide, Australia 28 February – 16 March, 2014

A celebration of all things art, the Adelaide Festival thrills audiences with over 300 performances, including theatre productions, dance and music shows, and striking visual art displays. This year, the 17-day festival features ‘Roman Tragedies’, a show which draws from the epic works of Shakespeare, ‘The Armstrong Lie’, a documentary about disgraced athlete Lance Armstrong, and a concert series by John Zorn. www.adelaidefestival.com.au

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Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong March 28 – 30 March, 2014

Arguably the most important sporting event in Hong Kong – or indeed, Southeast Asia - the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens will see thousands of fans from across the globe descend on the Hong Kong Stadium in Happy Valley to watch 28 teams battle it out for the top spot and prize money. Expect a party-like atmosphere, crazy costumes, and plenty of fun.

Java Jazz Festival 2014 Jakarta, Indonesia February 28 – March 1, 2014

Held at the Jakarta International Expo centre, this festival is an annual showcase of international and local jazz acts. 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the event, so to celebrate in style, this year’s line- up includes notable names in jazz, including Jamie Cullum, Natalie Cole, India Arie, Jonathan Butler, and the James Taylor Quartet. A must for any Jakarta-bound traveller. www.javajazzfestival.com


Berlin International Film Festival 2014 Berlin, Germany February 6 – 16, 2014

Bailey’s Stardust National Portrait Gallery, London, UK February 6 – June 1, 2014

BNP Paribas Showdown Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA March 3, 2014

Marlborough Food & Wine Festival 2014 Brancott Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand February 8, 2014

Called the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival is among the biggest film festivals in the world, attracting international movie stars, celebrities and journalists, as well as the movie-loving public, from over 110 countries. This year’s highlights include George Clooney’s latest tour de force, The Monuments Men, and a digitally-restored version of Robert Wiene’s 1920 classic, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). www.berlinale.de

Since 2008, the BNP Paribas Showdown has served as the kick-off to the North American tennis season. The one-night-only event sees several tennis greats battle it out for the Billie Jean King Cup, named in honour of the legendary female tennis champ. This year’s showdown will pit the Bryan brothers against John and Patrick McEnroe, while the evening’s highlight will see 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray take on Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic. www.thegarden.com

London’s National Portrait Gallery will host a landmark exhibition of portraits by one of the world’s most distinctive photographers, David Bailey. Through a collection of over 250 images, visitors will get to explore the wide range of subjects Bailey has captured through his lens over the course of his career, including writers, actors, musicians, and models. Most notable are his portraits of model Kate Moss and artist Francis Bacon. www.npg.org.uk

New Zealand’s original and longest-running wine festival is back to enthrall oenophiles and gourmands with a full day of world-class wines and sumptuous local produce in one of the region’s oldest vineyards. Wine-lovers will be treated to seminars by leading winemakers, while the Culinary Pavilion will host celebrity chefs and cooking demonstrations for foodies. www.marlboroughwinefestival.co.nz www.explorer-magazine.com 7


NEWS

Disney Delight

Travelling Smart Identity theft is a legitimate concern while on the road, but the new Pacsafe RFID Tech 100 Wallet is specifically designed to thwart wouldbe information thieves. With many passports and credit cards sporting RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, it’s become increasingly easy for identity thieves to use handheld scanners to steal your details. Addressing this concern, travel accessories brand Lightweight Traveller has created a range of RFID-blocking accessories to keep your information safe, including its innovative new wallet. Part of the Pacsafe accessories line, which also carries sleeves, bags, locks, and tags, the wallet has been designed with state-of-the-art material that blocks transmissions. The compact, light wallet is easy to carry, and has a smart, zippered pocket for cash as an extra deterrent to pickpockets. www.lwtraveller.com

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The Middle East is set for a lively interlude as everyone’s favourite Disney characters come to life in a spectacular musical show called Disney Live! Between February 26 and March 2 at Du Forum on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and an array of other beloved Disney characters will star in an exciting concert show designed to thrill and excite audiences young and old. Acrobatics, flying carpets, and magical transformations will feature Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie performing to hip hop beats; and underwater adventures will see Ariel, Sebastian and their nautical friends grooving to reggae; while a good old fashioned rodeo-style boogie will be led by Woody, Buzz, Jessie and other Toy Story characters. In all, more than 25 Disney characters will star in a musical extravaganza that’s guaranteed to be fun for the whole family. www.visitabudhabi.ae


A Taste of Umbria Cultural experiences are always a plus when it comes to family holidays, and the resplendent Chiesa del Carmine, set in the stunning Umbrian countryside of Italy, offers a range of fun activities that will captivate the entire family. Allowing guests a taste of authentic Italian life, Chiesa del Carmine is an 11th century church with an adjacent 18th century farmhouse which provides chic accommodation for up to 14 guests. A spacious kitchen allows kids to help prepare dinner with ingredients they’ve selected from the organic vegetable garden, while in the centrally-located living room, parents can kick back with a glass of local wine, while kids are kept entertained with satellite TV, an extensive DVD and book collection, and art supplies. During the day, go hunting for truffle and wild asparagus; take a class in pizza and pasta making; island hop on Lake Trasimeno; or visit the Casa Del Cioccolate (the Perugina chocolate factory), the alpaca farm in Casa San Gabriel, or the medieval city of Gubbio. For families wanted to spend some restful quality time together, the property also features a child-friendly pool which boasts views of the valley and the Apennine mountains. www.chiesadelcarime.com

Baby Got Bag The sheer amount of baby paraphernalia that needs to be carted around comes as a rude shock to many new parents, who suddenly realise they practically need a suitcase for all the things they need every time they leave the house. To the rescue is Samui, a diaper bag by PacaPod that contains easy-pack pods that shrink to create more space for baby gear, and are bundled in a practical bucket bag that weighs just .56kgs. The Samui takes PacaPod’s signature 3-in-1 baby organisation system to another level with a new flat-pack feeder, changer pods and mats, all in super lightweight materials and playful prints. The cavernous bag combines city chic with a highly-organised interior that features smooth microfibre and faux leather trim; lightweight hardware; an over-the-shoulder carry handle; a top-loading section; a flat-pack changer and feeder pod; and a padded change mat. Perfect for the fashionista mum on the move. The Samui will be available from February for GBP60 (US$99). www.pacapod.com

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NEWS

Eco-Friendly Family Fun Award-winning responsible luxury tour operator Hands Up Holiday has released its 2014 family-focused itineraries, giving families the opportunity to travel and bond, while also doing good and giving back. These trips are all tailor-made, and are ideal for families looking to learn about and interact with other cultures. Hands Up Holidays strives to make a difference in disadvantaged communities or in environment and wildlife conservation efforts. All accommodations are eco-conscious and employ environmentally-friendly measure like recycling, grey water usage, solar energy, and sustainable materials. For 2014, families can help build playgrounds in Hawaii; assist at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica; renovate schools and medical clinics in Bhutan; build houses in Brazil or Cambodia; or help a Berber community improve its infrastructure in Morocco. With a Hands Up Holiday adventure, families can bond while contributing to a good cause, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime grassroots travel experience. www.handsupholidays.com

A Year for Challenges Adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel is challenging would-be adventurers to step outside their comfort zone in 2014 by taking on a travel challenge that tests their body, expands their mind, and engages their senses. Work off the holiday pounds by trekking Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, walking the Inca Trail, or hiking to Everest Base Camp. Consider the world around you by visiting the galleries of Italy, exploring the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, discovering the mystical pyramids of Egypt, breaking language barriers in Russia, or joining the army of Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China. Immerse yourself in local cultures at India’s Holi festival, tasting the street food cuisine of Malaysia, smelling the spicy aromas of Moroccan souks, or listening to the dynamic Latin beats of Cuba. Also on offer are big, once-in-a-lifetime adventures that are true journeys; snorkel with sharks in the Galapagos islands, zip-line over the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica, or get up close to tigers, rhinos, and leopards in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park. www.intrepidtravel.com.au

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The Real Jurassic Park The ArtScience Museum at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands is kicking off 2014 by brining the Jurassic Age alive with its latest exhibition, Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction. On display until July 27, this is the biggest dinosaur exhibition ever held in southeast Asia. Occupying over 3,700 sqm, this first-of-itskind exhibition features more than 400 fossils and models, as well as over 50 original artworks. Curated by paleontologist Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich, the showcase combines four separate exhibitions from around the world, including the American Museum of Natural History, the San Juan National Science Museum, SCI! Expo at Monash University, and the works of artist Peter Trusler. Following a chronological layout, visitors will go back more than 600 million years to learn the unique story of the dinosaur, and gain an understanding of how these majestic creatures evolved, adapted, and eventually became extinct. The interactive journey takes paleontology enthusiasts through the Precambrian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous ages, and features some of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever discovered. Highlights include an 18-metre long Apatosaurus, a 17.6-metre long Lessemsaurus, a two-billion year old rock, and a new Adeopapposaurus fossil that was discovered in Argentina just months ago. www.marinabaysands. com/Singapore-Museum/dinosaurs/

Cuisine at Sea Oceania Cruises has unveiled its new 2014 curriculum for the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board the mid-sized luxury cruise ships Marina and Riviera. More than 20 different classes are offered, ranging from regional cuisines to secrets of homemade pasta, with each session expanding guests’ knowledge and appreciation of local flavours. The multimillion-dollar, ground-breaking culinary centres feature individual work stations with induction cooktops – a first at sea – and have been a favourite onboard amenity since their debut. Each class appeals to a wide range of tastes and incorporates regional cultures and cuisines. Depending on the itinerary, classes can range from 45 minutes to three hours and cater to all levels of aptitude, from beginner to master-chef. The culinary experience is also brought ashore with market tours where guests shop for local ingredients with Chef Kelly. Themes of the new 2014 classes include French Classics (May 5), Italian Family Table (June 1), Viva España (September 1) and Magical Morocco (September 24). A series of technical classes are also on offer, ranging from Pasta from A to Z (May 15) to Mastering Fish (May 22). www.oceaniacruises.com

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CRUISING EUROPE

Cruising

the Beautiful

Despite the recent flooding of the Danube, the worst in recorded history, the beauty of this vital waterway and the ancient cities on its banks, continue to draw visitors from across the globe, with many choosing lines like Scenic Cruises to get a true sense of life on the river, discovers Nick Walton.

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Blue Danube

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he black marks on the stonework of the cathedral-like parliament building in Budapest are higher than I can reach; only weeks before my visit the waters of the Danube, a vital artery which winds and washes its way through this ancient capital, burst its banks and left grubby fingerprints on the city’s most iconic building. But it’s not the first time the Danube has shown its temperament, and city council workers rebuilding walls and scrubbing the black stains from the stonework of the seat of government know it won’t be the last. That’s what makes travelling central Europe by river so fascinating; it’s a chance to see how the mighty waterways of Europe, like the Danube, have shaped and influenced the landscapes around them, how they have forged economies and civilisations on their banks, and how man has worked to protect himself from the rivers’ temperaments. For travellers, rivers also boast more than their fair share of mystery, and many before us have been tempted by what might lie beyond the next river bend. Budapest, where my Danube journey begins, is a great example. The river waltzes its way through the centre of this beautiful city, bringing the traditional two halves – Buda, to the west, and Pest, to the east – together as one. On either side of the Danube, high embankments are testament to the city’s efforts to control the waterway, but nevertheless, many of Budapest’s most lovely and important buildings, from the gothic towers of the Hungarian Parliament, the largest building in the country, to the historic Buda Castle, are within stone’s throw of the swirling waters. My wife Maggie and I continue past the parliament and its cleanup crews, walking down stone arcades punctuated with bronze busts of city elders past, through vibrant gardens, and over the famous Chain Bridge towards our ship, the Scenic Pearl, a slender, modern river cruiser berthed only a short walk from the centre of the city. No one does Europe’s rivers quite like Scenic Cruises. Its fleet of state-of-the-art ‘space ships’ are some of the youngest cruising the Danube, offering new levels of luxury on the water and enhanced exploration on terra firma. Our stateroom could have been teleported straight from a modern boutique hotel; there is a queen sized bed dressed in luxury linens, plenty of storage space, a complimentary minibar, a spacious bathroom www.explorer-magazine.com 13


CRUISING EUROPE

(for a ship), a flat-screen television and high-speed internet, and my personal favourite, a spacious balcony that becomes a glass-encased sun lounge with the press of a button. The modern elegance continues to public spaces like the Panorama Lounge, with its full-height windows, marble bar and attentive bartenders, and to the top deck, the very best spot when cruising. With Scenic’s all-inclusive tariff, which includes everything from meals and drinks to excursions, butler service and airport transfers, all you have to do is focus on enjoying your cruise. There is still time to explore timeless Budapest before the ship sails, and we make our way on a Scenic excursion to the historic Castle Hill neighbourhood, where we walk with a guide down cobblestone streets in the shade of towering churches to the Fisherman’s Bastion, a look out across the city, the river a belt of celadon cutting between the limestone buildings. It’s a beautiful last view before we delve into the hill below with a visit to the Hospital in the Rock. Once an air raid shelter and active hospital during the German siege of Budapest, the Hospital in the Rock also treated citizens during the 1956 revolution before reverting to a nuclear bunker in 1958. Now a museum, complete with staged surgeries and ‘recovering troops’, its 10 kilometres of narrow, lime-coloured corridors and cramped confines are a telling reminder of the hardships the city has faced in the past. Scenic Cruises specialise in excursions, so while we’re exploring the tunnels beneath Castle Hill, other passengers are walking the city’s historic city centre on guided tours or taking a dip in one of Budapest’s acclaimed natural thermal baths. We rejoin the ship in the late afternoon, setting sail for Vienna with a cocktail event as the sun slips below the peaks of Buda.

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River cruising is very different from cruising on the ocean. There is a proximity to the experience; a sense that at any moment, around the next bend, charming hamlets, timeweathered fortress, or even hillside vineyards will appear. Because of this, there aren’t conventional lecture sessions; instead each guest uses a digital device that’s part MP3 player and part tour guide. Using GPS, the Scenic Tailormade device slips into a pocket, and with headphones gives real time commentary along the route, whether you’re sitting on the top deck, in your sun lounge, or even in bed. Tour guides can also use the device when leading excursions, meaning groups don’t have to yell their way across Europe. That night, I watch eagerly as we pass through out first river lock. We’re very fortunate; the recent floods played havoc with the system of locks on the Danube but by the time we make our way north, the congestion has cleared and it’s clear sailing into the towering concrete ‘chamber’, where we wait patiently, only feet away from another ship, as the water level beneath us rises to that of the river to the north. I watch from the ship’s top deck as the water level within the chamber inches towards the slightly turbulent waters beyond. Eventually, the river spills over into the chamber, the gates slipping into the depths to allow our passage onwards. We cruise through Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, early the next morning, passing under the city’s Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, known locally as the UFO because of the flying saucer-like restaurant atop its central pylon. Up river, we pause in the shadows of the medieval castle Burgruine Dürnstein, where King Richard was once imprisoned, so that passengers can make use of the ship’s electro-assisted bicycles and rise along the riverfront.


Arriving in Vienna, Austria, by noon, we board Scenic buses and backtrack across a picturesque landscape of yellow canola and towering wind mills. Other passengers are touring Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace or visiting the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lipizzaner stallions, but Maggie and I choose the walking tour through Bratislava, another historic capital that’s enjoying a tourism renaissance. It’s a beautiful day in Bratislava, the midday sun gleaming off the golden halos of saints carved in stone at the entrance to the Old Quarter. High above, crowning a forested hill overlooking the Danube, the flags dance in the breeze atop the formidable Bratislava Castle. The city is increasingly geared towards European tourism, but on our weekend visit, the nightclubs and restaurants of the cobbled old quarter are shut, and the sun warms the smooth stone facades of merchant homes and family chapels. Here and there, tiny crown insignias on the ground depict the traditional procession route for royal weddings, and at the centre of town, in a leafy square, a weekend market sells hand-knitted Christmas tree decorations and truffles the size of golf balls to church goers leaving mass at St Martin’s Cathedral. Maggie and I spend the afternoon back in Vienna making the most of the sun. The city has long tamed the Danube, splitting the waterway into the old Danube, a man-made channel known as the New Danube, and another channel called the Donaukanal or Danube Canal. Because of this sophisticated flood prevention system, Vienna was spared much of the damaged caused by the recent floods. In Europe’s capital of culture, we stroll around the city’s New Palace and through the rose gardens of the Volksgarten before stopping for a Viennese coffee in the bustling Pestsäule pedestrian mall. Even with exceptional excursions along the route, Scenic’s itineraries always allow plenty of “you” time. That evening, as the sun sets behind the eye catching KaiserJubiläums cathedral in Mexikoplatz, guests dress in their finery and depart the ship for the majestic Palais Liechtenstein, for a champagne reception amidst the Prince of Liechtenstein’s private art collection, before a private performance of ballet, opera and classical music, including Strauss’ famed Blue Danube waltz. It’s a truly enchanting evening held within the gilded intimacy of a regal reception hall and a far cry from usual conceptions of cruising.

depths so that the nobility might have their precious mineral. We visit Salzburg, Unesco-listed thanks to the preservation of its baroque architecture, on another guided walking tour, this one ending at St Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Central Europe, and once a place of pilgrimage for high society plying the river. Today, Salzburg is better known as a backdrop to The Sound of Music than for its salt empire, and each year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit to sip coffee laced with Mozart chocolate liqueur (the composer was born here) and pose before the city’s iconic fountain. But Salzburg’s wealth came not just from the salt in its mountains but from the city’s proximity to the Danube, that vital highway north and south that made trade so practical. As clouds begin to gather on the high peaks in the distance, the river, and our schedule, calls to us and we return to the ship for a final meal – a delectable silver service Table La Rive degustation, matched with South African wines and served in the intimate Portobello’s restaurant. Through floor-to-ceiling windows life on the river around us continues as the evening’s light fades across the water, the day ahead promising to tempt travellers with new, undiscovered destinations, just around the river bend. Travel Essentials Getting There: Lufthansa offer direct flights from Hong Kong to Frankfurt and Munich, and an extensive network across Europe, including Budapest. www.lufthansa.com Scenic Cruises’ fleet of space ship luxury river cruisers offer regular departures on the Danube from US$3,445 per person. http://us.scenictours.com/

It couldn’t be more of a contrast the next day as we take turns to slip down wooden slides worn smooth by the behinds of Austrian miners, deep within the mountains surrounding Salzburg. Scenic’s tour into the Hallein Salt Mine, also known as the Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, isn’t for the claustrophobic, but if you’re okay with close quarters it’s a fascinating opportunity to see the origins of Salzburg’s name and prosperity up close. The mine has been worked for over 7,000 years, and is now an interactive museum where tourists can dress in white overalls and brave the chilly air of the endless tunnels which run beneath the Dürrnberg Plateau, learning the value of salt in ancient times and how miners toiled in the www.explorer-magazine.com 15


TOP BITES

Chowing Down in the Lion City

Singapore sports a well-earned reputation as a foodie haven. Here are our picks for can’t-miss food experiences in the Lion City.

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t might be called Hainanese Chicken Rice, but this mouth-watering dish of steamed chicken served atop rice braised in chicken stock has long since won the hearts of locals, who often call it the national dish. Try it at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, which has two locations on the island, and don’t forget to pair it with the delightfully spicy chili sauce and tangy black sauce. www.tiantianchickenrice.com Chili crabs are synonymous with Singapore; usually made with mud crabs stir-fried in a tomato and chili based sauce, they can be done more than a dozen ways – black pepper, salted egg yolk, cheese-baked – but should always be enjoyed with gusto and a complete disregard for dignity. Jumbo Seafood has earned a reputation for dishing up the best crabs in town, so head to their flagship location at the popular East Coast Food Centre for your fill. www.jumboseafood.com.sg You might mistake fish head curry for being an Indian dish, but this is one of the few authentic, home-grown Singaporean dishes. Created 30 years ago by a local Indian restaurateur to curry favour with Chinese customers, the dish features whole heads of red snapper swimming in a Kerala-style curry with assorted vegetables. Look past the eyes and make a bee-line for the tender cheeks at Samy’s Curry, located in the popular dining enclave of Dempsey Hill. www.samyscurry.com Where else but in Singapore can you sit down to a buffet breakfast with orangutans? The daily Jungle Breakfast with

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Wildlife at Singapore Zoo features a lavish buffet of Western, Indian, Malay, and Chinese breakfast dishes under the watchful eyes of orangutans enjoying their fruit selection. www.zoo.com.sg The Long Bar in Singapore’s iconic Raffles Hotel is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, reputedly invented around 1914 by then-resident bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Recipes differ wildly, but the generally agreed-upon ingredients include gin, brandy, grenadine, and fresh juice. Find a perch at the Long Bar and order yours ‘shaken, not stirred’, the way the original cocktail was made. www.raffles.com/singapore


AIRLINES

Business as Usual Despite announcing a luxurious new First Class product this year, national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia maintains the highest standards in its Executive Class cabin, finds Nick Walton on a recent flight from Jakarta.

Background

In Flight

Garuda Indonesia, once the fear of travel agents and insurance companies, has reinvented itself over the past few years, and the product on its fleet of modern A330 aircraft is indicative of an international award-winning airline with something to prove. The introduction next year of a luxurious new First Class – a requirement for consideration as a Skytrax five-star airline – is further testament to Garuda’s ambitions.

The flight departed on time (the first to do so out of four flights in a week) and I quickly settled into the modern lie-flat Executive Class seat, which boasts a 74-inch pitch, plenty of leg room, in-seat power, a personal reading lamp, and a large personal screen. Hot towels, glasses of chilled champagne, and simple amenity kits featuring socks, eyeshades, toothbrush/ toothpaste, a comb, and surprisingly upmarket L’Occitane lip balm, which isn’t at all bad for a day flight of only five hours. Throughout the flight, staff were smiling, welcoming, and genuinely eager to please, proving that for airlines looking to change their image, technology can only go so far, and people power will prove an even stronger draw card.

Check In The airline is a little behind the times and still doesn’t have an online check in, so I checked in for my flight from Padang on Sumatra to Hong Kong via Jakarta at Padang’s tiny but neat little airport, where Garuda’s staff were welcoming and cheerful despite the very early hour. A dedicated lane for Executive Class passengers was available but not necessary, and boarding passes for both flights were presented quickly and efficiently.

The Plane Garuda presently operates 10 Airbus A320-200 aircraft, each of which caters to 36 passengers in the airline’s most modern Executive Class in a 2-2-2 configuration. The airbus operates between Jakarta and Hong Kong on selected departure and alternates with one of the new Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft. The aircraft was boarded quickly and efficiently with a separate gateway for Executive Class passengers.

Dining Garuda Indonesia serves a simple yet elegant meal on its afternoon flight to Hong Kong including a duck and potato salad, followed by an option of baked chicken with apricot sauce; mini tumpeng Garuda, a rendition of the traditional Indonesian rice dish; and five spice beef. A simple choice of wines and local beers accompanies Executive Class meals.

Entertainment Garuda’s in-seat magazine, Colours, has been revitalised by magazine group Agency Fish into a comprehensive and upto-date read, and coupled with a movies on demand system that rivals some of the best in the region (and represents a significant investment on the airline’s part), passengers are well entertained on long haul flights. www.explorer-magazine.com 17


SEYCHELLES

Under the Seychelles Sun

Famed for its powder white sand and azure lagoons, the Seychelles is the ultimate escape for beach bunnies from Asia, finds Crystal Leung.

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Family Fun Located five kilometres from the Seychellois capital of Victoria, Beau Vallon is one of the most popular resort beaches on Mahé Island. Without strong currents, rocks or corals underfoot, the peaceful, turquoise water is not only a safe playground for children, but a paradise for parasailing, snorkelling, and diving, all under lifeguard supervision. Take an afternoon nap on the gorgeous crescent of powdery white sand, under the shade of an indigenous takamaka tree, and make sure to stay for the mesmerising sunset behind Silhouette Island. If you’d like to stay closer to home, check in at the nearby Constance Ephelia Resort, home to four stunning beaches, including its own acclaimed North Beach, and only a few minutes from Beau Vallon. http://epheliaresort.constancehotels.com

Surfers’ Paradise One of the most pristine beaches on Mahé Island, Anse Intendance attracts thousands of surfers every year with its towering waves, which can reach extraordinary heights during the southeast trade winds. If surfing is not your thing, just soaking up the sun on this strip of glistening white sand, sipping local Takamaka rum cocktails, and enjoying the stunning sunset will keep you occupied for the whole day. Be sure to book a room at the nearby Banyan Tree Resort for a restful slumber after a day under the Seychellois sun. www.banyantree.com

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SEYCHELLES

An Idyllic Retreat

Framed by granite boulders and wreathed by lush vegetation, Anse Lazio on Praslin Island is often called the most idyllic beach in the Seychelles. It is an ideal destination for families to picnic on the stretch of silvery, soft sand, swim in the calm, shallow water, or snorkel in the sheltered cove. Couples can enjoy a romantic dinner under the star-studded sky, while the bay remains popular with yachties tying up in time for sunset. The beachfront Le Chevalier restaurant recently emerged from renovation and offers a tropic-inspired lunch menu. Alternatively, stay at the nearby Raffles Praslin for dedicated beach transfers and a butler-served champagne dinner on the sand. www.raffles.com

Picture Perfect

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Situated in the north of La Digue Island, Anse Source d’Argent captivates photographers and film-makers every year, as they try to capture the spectacular vista of shimming waters and dazzling white sands framed by naturally sculpted granite boulders and a stunning lagoon packed with plenty of intriguing, rainbow-coloured fish. The waters of the beach may be too shallow for snorkelling, but it’s still a perfect spot for sun worshipping, and one of the most visited beaches in the islands. You can indulge your taste-buds in the nearby restaurant, Lanbousir, with a tender grilled fish or a banana pancake, or sample local Creole dishes like fruitbat curry. www.ladigue.sc


A Regal Sanctuary Famous for being the honeymoon destination of Prince William and Kate Middleton, North Island is one of the 42 inner islands of the Seychelles, with three stunning beaches dedicated to just 20 guests. At the western point, the romantic West Beach Bar overlooks picturesque West Beach and is the perfect spot from which to enjoy the last rays of sun. Treating yourself to an exotic, thirst-quenching cocktail while lying on rubycoloured cushions and gazing up at the velvet, star-studded sky as your butler sets up a candlelit dinner is the best way to wind down your day. www.north-island.com

Hidden Oasis

Tucked away on the western tip of Praslin, Anse Georgette is a secret heaven unknown to most. Relax in unsurpassed privacy in this secluded cove while listening to the crashing waves and the palm trees rustling in the breeze, and enjoy the stunning vista of crystal-clear waters meeting cloudless azure sky. To access this exclusive strip of sand, you have to travel by taxi boat, or hike in. Alternatively, stay at the acclaimed Constance Lemuria Resort, which offers guest transfers from suite to beach. http://lemuriaresort. constancehotels.com

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AFRICA

The Man & Canadian world-wanderer Jeff Groberman tests sanity and civility on a Kenyan safari.

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the Monkeys M

y first impressions of being on safari in Africa is that it’s a lot like camping in your backyard- except for the lions, elephants, hyenas, jackals, and baboons. And it’s not a garden snake and slugs you have to worry about stepping on, but green mambos and cobras. Other than that, it’s more or less the same. On the plus side, the backyard hammock has been replaced with a luxurious “tent”, each of which is attached directly to its own full bathroom. Getting to Africa is fairly simple. You hop on a plane, and in a few short hours (actually, 24 long hours from Toronto) you land at Jomo Kenyatta International airport in the bustling city of Nairobi. You don’t realise that you’re really in another world until you transfer to the smaller regional airport to catch a charter to the safari camps. There is a legend that there is a secret place in Africa where elephants go to die. I don’t know if that legend is true; but Wilson Airport is definitely the place where old airplanes go to die. My charter flight to Fig Tree Camp was in a beat-up Dash 6 dating back to the late 1960s! The frightening thing was that it wasn’t the oldest plane I saw flying. There were several DC3’s older than me flying out of the airport that day. At the end of the runway were several derelict planes and helicopters left to serve as spare parts as well as warnings to the relics still flying what would happen to them if they gave up the ghost.

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AFRICA

My charter was fully booked with a mixture of missionaries, consultants, government workers and a few other tourists. The Dash 6 has four engines, unfortunately on that particular day only three of them were working. We were asked to deplane while they salvaged some parts off one of the planes at the end of the runway. When we re-boarded, the pilot told us he was reasonably certain that the problem was corrected and not to be overly concerned if the engine suddenly sputtered or changed pitch during our trip. The Dash 6 staggered down the runway like a grocery cart with a bad wheel and eventually lurched into the air. Since it was a Canadian aircraft built around the time Trudeau was elected, I felt honour-bound to sing its praises and shut up. Satao Camp consists of about a dozen quite luxurious “tents” complete with full bathrooms. There was no need to walk out of the tent after dark; in fact, we were told never to venture out after dark. If we wanted to go somewhere, we should signal with our flashlight and an armed guard would be sent to escort us. Upon arriving, we were given an orientation session by Bobby, the Swiss camp manager. Bobby had a last name, but he claimed it was unpronounceable. (I did not get off to a good start with Bobby when I kept shouting out “Rumpelstiltskin!”). Bobby was flanked by six very tall Masai tribesmen in full native regalia. Bobby explained there would be three “animal drives” a day: one at daybreak, one in the afternoon, and one at sunset. Seeing only about a half dozen tribesmen, I asked where the rest of the beaters were. “Why on earth would we need beaters?” Bobby asked “You know,” I stated. “To form a big line to chant and beat on sticks and drive the animals to where we could see them. I saw it in a movie once.” Bobby gave me a look that I later recognised as the one he reserves for errant Baboons.

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He pointed to the Land Rovers and said “These are your guides and drivers. They drive you to the animals!” My status in Bobby’s eyes did not improve after my first night alone in a tent on the African savannah in what Satao Camp now refers to as “”Jeff’s Unfortunate White Leech Incident”. My first night sleeping alone in a tent listening to the animals only a few feet away was, to say the least, a bit scary. The staff pulled the mosquito netting around my bed and closed the front flaps of my tent, basically locking me inside. When the lights went out it was as dark as the inside of a cow. I woke up around 3:30am, feeling something on my leg. I reached down and felt this worm like thing firmly attached to the inside of my calf. Needless to say I was a bit noisy about it. My screams woke up the Japanese girls in the tent next to me and they joined in. This, of course, woke up other tents which joined in the chorus– and well, you get the picture. The staff came running with flashlights and rifles. By that time, I had found a flashlight and had a chance to examine the “leech”, which turned out to be a gummed price tag that had somehow got rolled up and affixed itself to my calf. We didn’t need to burn it off, but Bobby suggested keeping the “leech” and burning me off of it instead. To get revenge he assigned me to a vehicle with two bored French couples who seemed totally oblivious to the game drives. They just sat in the back of the vehicle, drinking wine and talking to each other at the top of their lungs. No matter what we saw, they displayed Gallic indifference: “Look!” I shouted. “There’s an elephant!” Nothing “Over there! Two lions mating!” Nothing. “Look! Coming out of the trees - A Tyrannosaurs Rex!!!!! A bored shrug.


They have only one rule where ever you travel in Kenya. Under any circumstance “Don’t ever feed the monkeys!” So you know, of course, what I had to do. When Bobby was looking the other way at breakfast, I smuggled a bun back to my tent. What damage could one small hunk of bread do? I went out on my little veranda in front of the tent and put a piece on the railing. Suddenly the whole African savannah emptied of monkeys – they were all on my veranda! They were very cute and nicely behaved until the bun was gone. Then they turned into a very angry, demanding mob that refused to believe I was out of bread. They demanded more. They got hostile and chased me back into my tent. After a while they left, so I went out on my veranda again, and instantly they were back. They’d posted sentries so every time I unzipped the tent flap they were there waiting. During the night, they left me a reminder of what happens to Canadian tourists who don’t meet their demands - a mountain of monkey poo by the tent door. So learn from my mistake: don’t feed the monkeys. On the last day, William, my Masai guide, and I stood on a small hill overlooking over the vast African Savannah. “What is Canada like?” William asked. “Our prairies look very much like this.” I told him. ”Mostly flat with gentle rolling hills.” “Are there lions in Canada?” William asked. “No.” I said. William thought this over for a bit then turned to me. “I don’t think I could live somewhere where there weren’t lions.” He said sadly. “I know how you feel.” I replied. “I don’t think I can live somewhere where there isn’t cable.” Where to stay: Satao Camp offers family friendly tented accommodation: www.sataocamp.com

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FASHION HOTELS

Couture Club From the whimsical styles of Versace to the classic lines of Giorgio Armani, the spirit of fashion has crossed over to the world of hospitality, as top designs leave their touch on hotels across the globe, discovers Stephen Allington.

Located within the towering 828-metre Burj Khalifa building, which dominates the Dubai skyline, the exquisite ARMANI HOTEL DUBAI is a showcase of Giorgio Armani’s distinctive, sophisticated style. Design of the 160 lavish guest rooms and signature suites, eight innovative restaurants (including a brand of Peck, Armani’s favourite Milanese deli) and the exclusive Armani Spa has been meticulously overseen by the Italian fashion guru. Whether you’re staying in a spacious Armani Deluxe Room, or slumming it in the 390sqm one-of-akind Armani Dubai Suite, you’ll enjoy the life of a celebrity designer thanks to a range of selected items from the Armani Casa home range and the personalised attention of a dedicted Lifestyle Manager. www.armanihotels.com

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After an extensive two-year restoration and renovation, a 250-year old colonial mansion in the heart of Cartagena’s Old Town has been brought back to life as the TCHERASSI HOTEL AND SPA. With just seven unique guest rooms designed by local fashionista Silvia Tcherass, the fourstorey mansion is an exclusive oasis for discerning travellers. Tcherassi’s influence can be seen everywhere, from the private label ‘his and her’ bathrobes, to the staff uniforms, inspired by the traditional Colombian folk dance ‘Cumbia’, to the custom amenities made with the brand’s own fragrance. Custom, private label Egyptian cotton linens adorn equally customised mattresses, whilst modern features such as a 42-inch plasma television and full-size working desk come as standard. For a truly engrossing stay, opt for the Gazar Suite; spread over three levels it houses an elegant staircase winding up to a private rooftop pool and sun deck decorated with hand-picked outdoor furniture. www.tcherassihotels.com Hidden away in the heart of Paris, LE BELLE CHASSE is a retreat for aesthetes. Custommade, the property stands facing Paris’ Louvre museum and is wreathed by French ministries and foreign embassies. Spread across two buildings, Christian Lacroix has stamped his mark on all 34 stylish rooms, which have been created according to seven decorative themes. Throughout, the property blends 19th century antiques and flashes of neo-classical architecture with contemporary furniture and a register of dark woods, brocade fabrics and ceramic. The cozy lobbybar overlooking the private garden is an ideal space to catch up with other like-minded guests, and ogle at specially commissioned artworks. www.lebellechasse.com

Nestled between the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Gold Coast Broadwater, PALAZZO VERSACE is one of Australia’s premier destination resorts. Two hundred light-filled guest rooms and suites feature timeless Italian architecture and craftsmanship, tastefully decorated with bespoke Versace furnishings, luxurious fabrics, signature crystal and chinaware, and bespoke bathroom amenities positioned around a dual spa bath. If you can secure the top floor of one of the three bedroom condominiums on offer, you’ll be rewarded with a private rooftop spa pool, and a barbecue for hosting famous Aussie cookouts with friends. Three world-class restaurants include an extraordinary gastronomic encounter at the signature Vanitas eatery, where chef Martin Glutz’s team serve Asian inspired degustation menus. www.palazzoversace.com.au www.explorer-magazine.com 27


FASHION HOTELS

A stone’s throw from the picturesque Spanish Steps, directly above the Ferragamo fashion store in the heart of Rome, PORTRAIT SUITES reflect the splendor the famed Italian fashion house, and of Rome in the 1950s. The hotel has dedicated each of the 14 suites to a grand personality of the era, and each resplendent space features photographs of Salvatore Ferragamo and his famous friends, including Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich, alongside timeless images and sketches of Rome by the great Magnum photographers. Opt for the Via Condotti Suite and enjoy breakfasts on the stunning terrace overlooking the eternal city, before setting out on a tailor-made itinerary led by art historians and archaeologists associated with the property. www.lungarnocollection.com

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Conceived and designed by Wilbert Das, the former creative director of powerhouse Italian fashion label Diesel, UXUA CASA HOTEL, meaning ‘wonderful’ in the native Pataxo Indian language of Brazil, is nestled in the jungle coastline of Bahia. With all ten individual casas village houses, the emphasis is on rustic luxury, with recycled materials and local craftsmanship blending this indulgent hideaway seamlessly with its surroundings. Outdoor dining areas and open-air bathrooms complement private plunge pools and jacuzzis in soothing the weary soul, while Uxua’s restaurants take advantage of beachfront locations, serving organically-sourced Bahian fusion cuisine characterised by fresh, local seafood. At the end of the day the Praia Bar, fashioned out of old fishing boats, is the perfect spot for a nightcap. www.uxua.com

Decadently dressed in the distinctive style of Kark Largerfeld, ALMA SCHLOSSHOTEL is a luxurious castle hotel that dominates the chic neighbourhood of Grunewald, offering an oasis of tranquility and a throwback to a bygone era. Restored to its former glory under the artistic direction of Chanel’s world-famous fashion designer, the lounge begs you to recline in decadent velvets, whilst the hotel’s 53 rooms and suites – designed in conjunction with London’s Ezra Attia and Julian Reed – afford guests elegantly traditional comfort, that has been combined with modern touches like large flat-screen televisions, wifi connectivity, Tivoli radios and Apple iMacs. Specially designed by Karl Lagerfeld, the Grunewald Suite boasts custom upholstered furniture and a lavish bathroom with French-style artisan ceramics and Bulgari toiletries. Indulge in some of Berlin’s finest fare at the property’s gourmet Vivaldi restaurant, serving classical French cuisine, before unwinding in the vast garden, anchored by a magnificent fountain under soaring, ancient trees. www.schlosshotelberlin.com www.explorer-magazine.com 29


READER’S REPORT

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A gentle sojourn up the Chindwin River in Northern Myanmar brings plenty of opportunities to reflect upon the disgruntled attitudes of fellow passengers, in stark contrast to the happy-go-lucky perspective of the locals, finds Philippa Walton.

The Road

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READER’S REPORT

I

was thoroughly excited when my son Nick asked me to be his ‘plus one’ on a 12-day cruise through Myanmar, meandering from Mandalay up as far as Homalin in the north, and returning via Bagan aboard Orient-Express’ newly launched Orcaella river cruiser. It was a chance to spend on a 12-day cruise with my adult son, sharing daily meals and accommodation, something we had not done for at least ten years. Our slow travel itinerary up the river was all mapped out for us and there was no need to think of meals or logistics. ‘I would be treated like a queen,’ Nick assured me, having cruised with Orient-Express in Myanmar before. Myanmar is still a very untouched country, and after our departure from the outskirts of Mandalay, we quickly slipped back in time to a slower, simpler pace of life – ship life suited us perfectly. We were not travelling in the high season but in August, the rainy season, and the Chindwin River was swollen with a torrent of rain water coming down from higher country to the north, so our travel north was sluggish. Along our journey up the swollen river, we stopped regularly and were greeted by friendly, warm-hearted people, many with a ready smile. Locals were fascinated by the sight of the ship, the largest plying the Chindwin, and by outsiders this far up the river, and swarmed to the river banks whenever we came near. The villagers along the Chindwin’s banks live simple lives with very few possessions, subsisting in close proximity with their livestock. Kitchens consist of an open fire and a wok, while farming is still being carried out in the most primitive fashion, with farmers driving water buffalo and wooden ploughs. Many of the villages had no source of electricity. However, even with these limited means it was apparent how happy and healthy the local people are. There are no signs of stress here, a marked contrast to many of our fellow passengers, who seemed to find fault with everything. From day one there were complaints about the itinerary not being kept to and food that was too spicy. Where was the French chef they expected and the cheeses for breakfast? Why was there not more of their favourite French wine? This carried on daily with various outbursts from the peevish passengers, much of it unwarranted. On our second to last night, a near mutiny was just averted with a change to plans that would allow for a full afternoon in Bagan and a viewing of the two thousand temples there at sunset. The contrast was striking. Here were approximately thirty well off travellers on a cruise with the good fortune to appreciate another culture and a different way of life, completely unable to rise to the challenge of embracing a different way of living. Instead, they wished to preserve their cultural distinctiveness instead of trying anything new. Furthermore, they showed a lack of tolerance for a lovely, gentle-natured people who tried their hardest to accommodate their every need and instead spent their time selfabsorbed and self-centred. Needless to say, the trip for me was amazing, 12 luxurious, lazy, stress-free days filled with wonderful food, new friendships made and that wonderful time alone with my son, who I had the pleasure to see interacting with a diverse group of people and fully able to hold his own as an enlightened, tolerant and accepting human being.

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Explorer February 2014