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Produced in Dubai Production City


Spring Awakening

The season sorted: be it beach, city or countryside, we know just the place to send you

One Destination


Enjoy an ideal staycation for the entire family and enjoy a world of luxury and comfort at any of our two beachfront hotels, JA Palm Tree Court or JA Beach Hotel conveniently located only 15 minutes away from Dubai. Relax by one of the 4 pools and on the 800m private beach or experience the thrill of over 30 exciting activities such as horse riding, golf, water sports and many more.

For bookings or more information, please call +971 4 814 5800 or email

Discover a Revolutionary Beauty Line! Renew for the journey ahead.

We have something new and exciting for you. Behold the mind-blowing, anti-aging and hydrating facial treatments by an innovative Korean product line, which uses Diamonds. Yes, you read that right! Diamonds are known for their ability to deliver ingredients to the deepest layers of your skin. Want to know the best part? You get to go home with your own box of exquisite products after each treatment. For more information or to make a booking please call +971 4 414 6754.

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai | Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE |

Welcome note

Spring has arrived and if you need a little nudge in the right direction, our comprehensive guide to where to travel this season (p26) provides all the inspiration you need to book your next adventure.

Managing Director Victoria Thatcher Editorial Director John Thatcher General Manager David Wade Managing Editor Faye Bartle Content Writer Habiba Azab

From the most coveted springtime experiences on the planet (such as catching the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, whale feeding in Alaska and seeing Damask roses in bloom at Al Jabal Al Akhdar), to going off-grid or heading deep into the countryside, our top picks are sure to recharge you before the long hot summer strikes. Also in this issue, we invite you to take a closer look at Bangkok through the eyes of our welltrodden travel writer Lara Brunt (p64). In her four-page feature, she shines a light on why this dynamic city is the most popular place in the world – gilded palaces, rooftop terraces and intoxicating markets included. If you've an eye out for a deal, have a flick through our exclusive reader offers (p78), which rounds up a selection of great value weekend escapes, and will tempt you with fantastic holidays as far-flung as Japan and Ireland. Happy travels, Faye Bartle


Editorial Assistant Julianne Tolentino

Find out how you can win a stay at Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai on p83

Art Director Kerri Bennett Senior Designer Hiral Kapadia


Getty Images and Phocal Media

Tel: 00971 4 364 2876 Fax: 00971 4 369 7494


Travelling solo, dressing the part and checking in later are among the factors that could boost your chances of a free flight upgrade, p22


The Republic of Seychelles comprises 115 islands, p48


Bangkok has been crowned the most popular place on the planet for the last three years, attracting more than 20 million annual visitors, p64

The cherry blossoms in Kyoto are so fleeting that the Japan Meteorological Agency issues an annual forecast to predict the dates the buds will bloom, p29

Production Manager Muthu Kumar

Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in World Traveller.


At Hatta Wadi hub, you can try your hand at lots of adventurous activities, including axe throwing, p14


Senior Advertising Manager Mia Cachero

Photography credits:


COVER IMAGE Santani Wellness Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka

Find us at‌ ONLINE FACEBOOK @worldtravellermagazine INSTAGRAM @dnataworldtraveller TWITTER @WT_Magazine 3

Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara

Contents March 2019



regulars 8





This month's go-to places include the stunning island of Sicily and 'cowboy country', Houston

The region is having an art attack – what to see at Louvre Abu Dhabi; Art Dubai, and Bahrain's ArtBAB. Plus, starry glamping spots

dnata Travel's product manager Julia Broome shares her insider secrets, including what you can do to boost your upgrade chances

Spring is in the air and our total guide to where to travel this season takes in everywhere from vibrant cities to remote escapes

You won't have to venture far to find a room with a twist this month - head down to Deira for a Bollywoodthemed boudoir











Tokyo is an assault on the senses, but beneath the madness lies serenity - if you know where to find it...

Each Indian Ocean island has its charm, but none is quite as charming as Seychelles, argues Ed Grenby

Polar-bear spotting in Canada tends to require the safety of a hulking 4WD, so what happens when you're on foot?





weekends 62


Dubai's latest go-to hotpsot is a gourmand's dream destination





Lara Brunt heads to Thailand's buzzing, colourful capital

Feel in need of a break? We have four more good reasons to book a weekend escape

It's time we sent you packing. Choose your next adventure from our exclusive offers




Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Self-Portrait with Shaded Eyes. 1634. Oil on panel, New York, The Leiden Collection. Image courtesy of The Leiden Collection, New York

Exhibition 14 Feb - 18 May 2019

REMBRANDT, VERMEER & THE DUTCH GOLDEN AGE Enjoy a day at Louvre Abu Dhabi and see this unmissable exhibition of Dutch masterpieces. Exhibition entry included in your museum admission ticket. AED 63, children under 13 free. Only 60 minutes from Dubai and 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi Airport.



Emily Williams, dnata Travel’s resident globetrotter, reveals the places that are trending this month


Known for its lively markets, namely Jemaa el-Fna (the central souk), Marrakech is a delightful place to visit for some retail therapy. Gaining popularity are Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, which frame Marrakech and offer spectacular hiking opportunities to some of the most remote villages in North Africa. Embark on one of the popular trails in the springtime, while the weather is mild. Highlights 1 Admire Koutoubia Mosque and its famous minaret, which has become a symbol of Marrakech. 2 Visit the Yves Saint Laurent Museum for a deeper insight into the work of the legendary fashion designer. 3 Be pampered at a hammam, with a traditional black soap scrub.




Known as the heart of Asia, Taiwan is becoming increasingly popular as a travel destination due to its epic landscapes (think beautiful mountains and natural springs), dynamic cities, delicious street food, and year-round calendar of festivals. Its capital, Taipei, is an excellent base from which to explore. This exciting city is famous for its night markets, and is home to one of the tallest buildings in the world, Taipei 101. HIGHLIGHTS 1 Head to Yangmingshan National Park, home to the famous hot springs. 2 Catch an art house movie at SPOT-Taipei Film House. 3 Head to Hello Kitty Kitchen And Dining on Jinshan North Road for the cutest snacks. 9


It’s rodeo time in Houston – what better time to visit the most populous city in southern USA? Until mid-March, twenty championship rodeo competitions will take place at the city’s NRG Park, concluded with entertainment from music superstars. Also, don’t miss Space Center Houston for a close-up look at NASA and the US Space Programme. It takes 16hr 35mins to get there direct on Emirates, but it's worth it. HIGHLIGHTS 1 Head to the city’s largest waterpark, SplashTown, for 40-acres of wet and wild fun. 2 Soak up the carnival-like atmosphere at Kemah Boardwalk, which is a hive of restaurants, shops, and entertainment. 3 Sit down to a breakfast of Southern style wings and waffles – The Breakfast Klub in Midtown has a dedicated following.




In spring, the weather is perfect here, with almond trees blossoming on the island. Witness the natural wonder of Mount Etna while travelling along the stunning Italian coast to one of its most picturesque hilltop towns, Taormina. Stay and experience classic Sicilian glamour at the Belmond Grand Timeo Hotel, which is close to the beach with views of Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greek theatre. Flydubai goes non-stop from Dubai to Catania. HIGHLIGHTS 1 Sicily is rich in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Syracuse, which is brimming with archaeological wonders. 2 Visit the Santa Venera al Pozzo thermal baths, where waters arrive from Etna’s sulphureous base. 3 Indulge in traditional pastries prepared with ricotta cheese and almond paste. 11

Globetrotter MARCH

Be informed, be inspired, be there

DON’T BURST THE BUBBLE You can go glamping in the Maldives thanks to the luxury Beach Bubble tent at Finolhu. Situated on a secluded stretch of sandbank, the inflatable tent is available exclusively for a one night only experience under the stars. At sunset, take the short stroll to the bubble where a beach barbecue awaits. After dinner, tuck up and catch some zzz’s so you can be up in time to see the sunrise and have breakfast by the water’s edge. 13


SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS Get back to nature at these other great glamping set-ups around the world…

HATTA Trailer treasure This outdoorsy Dubai enclave has had a trendy makeover by Meraas to lure adventure seekers, complete with cosy lodges and vintage trailers to bed down in along the bank of Hatta Dam. After a restful night’s sleep, get active by setting off on a mountain bike, going zorbing, ziplining, or whizzing down the shoots at the water jump park – you can even test your skills at axe throwing. It’s all part of the Hatta Wadi Hub experience ( MALDIVES Welcome to the jungle Do the Maldives, safari-style, by staying in the Jungle Tented Villas at Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi. In this secluded spot, you can brave the wilderness from your rustic abode, albeit with a few little luxuries on hand, including an outdoor rain shower and roll-top tub. The atoll is a 50-minute seaplane ride from Malé International Airport. PORTUGAL Carmo’s Boutique Hotel Discover the traditions, cultural heritage, and distinct architecture of the beautiful Minho region of Portugal at this boutique hideaway, which is nestled in the hills of Ponte de Lima, the oldest town in the country. Ditch the more traditional rooms in favour of the Portuguese Colonial style luxury tent experiences and you're sure to feel at one with the beautiful countryside. The property is just 40 minutes from Porto. 14

Whatever your vision of the perfect vacation – be it a fun family beach holiday, honeymoon romance or just relaxing in beachfront exclusivity – Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort offers a uniquely luxurious escape, inspired by Thai exoticism and the heartbeat of Dubai. Unwind in an enchanting Beach Pool Villa, with your very own private infinity pool. Soak up tranquil Arabian Gulf views from your Over Water Villa. Step straight from your room into the crystal clear waters of our 10,000 square metre lagoon pools. Culinary journeys excite with a melange of mouthwatering flavours. The prestigious sanctuary of Anantara Spa rejuvenates and renews, from a range of inspirational treatments, to indulgent rituals in the Turkish Hammam.



GLOBETROTTER InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland Louvre Abu Dhabi

ON OUR RADAR Holiday like Rami Malek, who rates Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum due to its “tranquility and peace”. The actor is the newest ambassador for Mandarin Oriental’s global ad campaign “He’s a Fan/She’s a Fan”.


ADD TO ITINERARY STAY... SHANGHAI Nicknamed ‘the earthscraper’, the subterranean InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland in Sheshan has been built directly into the side wall of a quarry that was decommissioned for over a decade. Just two floors are above ground while 16 stretch below the surface, with the lowest two submerged inside an hypnotic aquarium. RESERVE... BANGKOK Set on the riverbank of the Chao Phray, the ultra-luxurious, all-suite Capella Bangkok, opening in Q2, is courting tastemakers with its signature restaurant by Michelin-starred chef

Mauro Colagreco and Asian spa therapies. Chill at The Capella Living Room, which brings the neighbourhood vibe to life with its hip line-up of local artisans, music and culinary events. WAIT FOR IT... DUBAI You’ll have to hold tight until September, but when JA Lake View Hotel opens, it’ll make JA The Resort in Jebel Ali Dubai’s largest experience resort. Adding a further 348 rooms and suites to the 128-acre holiday haven, it promises restaurant concepts driven by Michelin-star chefs, three outdoor swimming pools and a rooftop bar with views of the golf course and the sea.

Travelling can take a toll on your complexion, but you can guard against changes in climate, pollutants, and other skin stressors with the Aesop Dubai kit, Dhs275, created especially for city hoppers.

Be inspired by The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai (1-9 March), which has an engaging line-up of sessions, including the Happy Ever After talk devoted to crafting fairy-tale endings. Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer in Monaco boasts the highest number of Michelin stars of any resort in Europe. The title was clinched thanks to a star recently awarded to Le Grill (headed by Chef Franck Cerutti), bringing the resort’s total number to seven. We’re loving the collab between TUMI and fatherdaughter duo Lenny and Zoë Kravitz, which was shot in the Bahamas. “It was amazing to travel to the other side of the island for my first time to see where my family originated from and to pay respect to our elders and those who came before us,” says Zoë. 17


The Coco Chanel Suite, Ritz Paris

Stylish stays Passionate about luxury labels? We shine a light on some of the most fashionable hotels around… FLORENCE

Rocco Forte, Hotel Savoy x Emilio Pucci Strut across the historic Piazza della Repubblica and into the world of Florentine fashion house Emilio Pucci at Rocco Forte, Hotel Savoy, which features choice touches throughout the lobby and restaurant area, including statement black and fuchsia cushions, velvet flower print armchairs and a hand tufted rug featuring the iconic Lamborghini print from the Emilio Pucci Archives. The Maison has also produced an exclusive scarf for the property, which is encased in glass 18

table tops in the terrace restaurant, and available to buy at the shop. DUBAI

Palazzo Versace Dubai x Donatella Versace With its interiors showcasing the Versace lifestyle, Palazzo Versace Dubai epitomises grandeur and luxury in every inch of its spacious rooms and suites. The artistic direction of Donatella Versace is evident throughout, with the Medusa head, the Greek key and the house’s legendary prints prominent – something that’s captured especially well in the twobedroom duplex Imperial Suites.

who lived at Ritz Paris for more than 30 years and decorated her very own suite. Today, you can revel in the grace and refinement championed by the French fashion designer by staying at The Coco Chanel Suite, which reflects her love for Asian lacquer, gilded mirrors and pairing black with white.


Ritz Paris x Coco Chanel “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous,” according to Coco Chanel,

Rocco Forte, Hotel Savoy


MUST-SHOP Shopping in Singapore isn’t confined to Orchard Road and Marina Bay. You'll find shopping malls and markets all around, offering a mixture of international and local brands, as well as must-have keepsakes. Vivo City at Harbourfront and Bugis Junction are also popular shopping spots, and that's not forgetting the hip Haji Lane. With an efficient and reliable public transport system of buses, trains and taxis, you can easily hop from one shopping location to another in minutes.

PASSION PASSPORT Discover the fabric of Singapore with these fresh experiences curated for a memorable holiday Famous for its striking attractions, mouth-watering culinary scene, stellar shopping and immersive tours and experiences, dynamic Singapore has something for everyone. MUST-SEE From the iconic Marina Bay Sands with its dreamy infinity pool overlooking the city skyline, to the award-winning Gardens by the Bay, and the myriad attractions on Sentosa (including Southeast Asia’s first and only Universal Studios), you'll never be bored here. More top attractions to visit include the S.E.A. Aquarium, home to more than 100,000 marine animals, Madame Tussauds for its life-like waxworks, and the suspended bridge over the trees at the Tree Top Walk.

MUST-DO What better way to enjoy a destination than to experience it how the locals do? Join one of the Passion Tours, which have been especially curated to offer a memorable, cultural experience. From exploring vibrant Chinatown, to eating your way around Little India, discovering the ethnic Kampong Glam neighbourhood, and much-loved heritage area Katong, you can immerse yourself in the colourful, aromatic DNA of these precincts. Don’t miss the food tours, which'll help you understand why Singapore is known as foodie's paradise and there are lots of museums and art galleries to check out too.

MUST-EAT Eating is a passion among Singaporeans and you won't go hungry, with delicious bites available in every corner of the island state, come day or night. Indeed, Singapore is a melting pot of many cultures, resulting in a cuisine that melds flavours, textures, aromas and spices from Asia and beyond. Halal and vegetarian food is easy to find. Flit between affordable hawker centre food stalls to fine dining restaurants – you'll find Michelin-star food at both.

Find out more at 19



Standing tall in the heart of Dubai Marina, featuring incomparable panoramic views of the city, combine the best of all worlds with luxurious accommodation, three contemporary dining destinations and a blissful caravanserai-inspired, Saray Spa.



Art aficionados have another reason to travel this month, as the region lifts the lid on a number of exciting events and acquisitions

Rembrandt van Rijn. Head of a young man, with clasped hands: Study of the Figure of Christ, ca. 1648-56. Oil and oak panel. 25.5 x 20.1 cm. © Louvre Abu Dhabi / Photo by Seeing Things – Ismail Noor

Psst! Over in Bahrain, ArtBAB 2019 (Art Bahrain Across Borders) is taking place from 6-10 March at Bahrain Exhibitions & Convention Centre, shining a light on the kingdom’s contemporary art scene.

If you’re a fan of the artistic movement of the Dutch Golden Age, you’ll be eager to see the new Rembrandt acquisition at Louvre Abu Dhabi. The rare masterpiece, Head of a Young Man, is one of the finest examples of Rembrandt’s seven surviving oil sketches from the Face of Jesus group, and marks the first work by the Dutch Master known to have been acquired for a public collection in the Gulf region. It’ll be displayed permanently at the museum following its inclusion in the exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from The Leiden Collection and the Musée du Louvre, which is taking place until 18 May.

Base – by Valentin Korzhov

Gilded masterpiece


Featuring more than 90 galleries from 41 countries, Art Dubai is back (20-23 March) with a brand-new structure, giving you greater access to artists and galleries from non-Western geographies SEE. There are four main sections: Contemporary, Modern, Residents, and the new gallery Bawwaba. The latter features 10 solo presentations addressing themes of global migration, socioeconomic structures and identity.

SHARE. Get involved in the programme of talks – a highlight is the Modern Symposium’s 60-minute masterclasses mapping out the cultural shifts and trends instigated by Baghdad, Beirut, Dakar and Lahore in the 20th century.

STAY. Join the creative set staying at the four hotels on-site at Madinat Jumeirah. From the family-friendly Jumeirah Mina A’Salam to the Arabian styled Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf summerhouses, you won’t have to suffer for your art.

Chourouk Hriech, Exhibition view "De quoi ce monde est-il le miroir?", 2017. Courtesy: ©Nicolas Giraud-Cacc, courtesy of the artist Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou

Art Dubai Modern Symposium 2018, courtesy of Photo Solutions

Gulf Arabian Suite, Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf 21


The Knowledge HOW TO...

Upgrade your travel experience Julia Broome, product manager at dnata Travel, gives us the inside track on some of the most frequently asked questions about travel If I book trip at the last minute, am I likely to get a better deal? It depends on how flexible you’re willing to be. Availability will always naturally be pressed closer to the time of travel and popular resorts, flights and tours, for instance, more likely to be occupied. Overall, it’s typically more cost effective to book in advance. If you are flexible, you may be able to secure a last-minute deal to more of an off-the-beaten-track destination. Instead of travelling to France, for example, try an up-and-coming destination in Eastern Europe. Or you could travel at an off-peak time.

Is there anything I can do to boost my chance of a flight upgrade without having to pay for it? Joining frequent flyer programmes is the best way. Each airline has a different upgrade process, however, for the majority, passengers that reach the highest tier of the loyalty programme are more likely to be upgraded if the flight is overbooked. Seasoned travellers and members of such programmes will know that dressing appropriately, and checking in later, can sometimes provide a better opportunity for an upgrade, depending on availability. Travelling solo and without excessive luggage can also work in your favour, but nothing is ever guaranteed.

If I want a room upgrade, is it best to negotiate before I arrive or once I’m there? Join hotel brand loyalty programmes to experience additional benefits during your stay including potential room upgrades. If you have a particular room or suite in mind, it’s always best to book in advance. You are less likely to be upgraded if you have booked 22

Emirates airline Zero-gravity position in the Boeing 77 First Class Suites

the lowest tier of room, or if you are looking to stay for a significant period of time.

What are the key times of year to keep an eye open for the best holiday deals? Hotels and airlines can have sales at any time of year. In the lead up to public holidays, long weekends and school breaks, we will start to promote our best deals in advance so always look out for this. If you’re able to be flexible, we’d recommend booking your holiday at off-peak times or the days directly before or after these holidays commence.

When I’m booking through a travel agent, are the prices I see negotiable? You have to be able to be flexible. Cheaper sale airfares are restricted to certain dates, for example. One of the

best reasons to book via a travel agent is that they can help you to customise your trip to achieve the best price possible. If you are open to taking a travel agent’s advice, they have the knowledge and skills to find you the best prices depending on variables such as times, locations, flight duration, group versus smaller tours and the like, so can find the best solution for you.

Can I get a better price for paying in full at time of booking? Some hotels and resorts offer the ability to pay a deposit and then the full amount at the time of departure. When accommodation or airlines have special rates on, you typically have to pay in full at the time of booking, but you can benefit from cheaper rates. Hotels can offer cheaper prices on a nonrefundable basis so again it all depends on how set you are on your chosen holiday or how flexible you want to be.


Bundle of fun Luring thrill seekers and beach bunnies alike, discover this thrill-a-minute coastal retreat in Fujairah


estled between the Hajar Mountains and the glistening Indian Ocean, the family-friendly Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah provides a scenic setting for a fun-filled weekend away. Currently, there are some great deals to be had on family staycations, with children under 12 staying for free in their parent's room, and rates inclusive of breakfast. Choose a sea-facing room for serene views. You can dine around at the resort's nine restaurants, each of which will take you on a culinary journey to a different part of the world. Highlights include the recently rejuvenated seafood restaurant Gonu, located on the beachfront, where you can taste the fresh catch of the day while lapping up the barefoot vibe. Alternatively, Views Restaurant lays out a suitsall themed buffet every evening. Thrill seekers will be pleased to know that this is the perfect place to unleash your adventurous side. Step up to the Al Aqah Challenge, the first ever obstacle rope course on the East Coast, where you can test your skills at ziplining, climbing and abseiling. Little ones can hit up the Le Méridien Family Club, where they can take part in fun activities under the watchful eye of childcare professionals. And when it's time to relax, you can drift into a deep and peaceful state of meditative bliss in Spa Al Aqah’s oasis of calm. To find out more, call +971 9 244 9000 or visit 23


THE FAIRER ESCAPE Reconnect with the leading ladies in your life on a pampering spa break, or at a girls' brunch, at selected Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts in Dubai



* For up to two ladies per group, once per stay

Strong, wise and ever-deserving of a pampering break away, women are in the spotlight this month with International Women’s Day falling on 8 March. To mark the occasion, Jumeirah has dreamt up a divine Women’s Escape package, which invites you on a revitalising stay and spa escape, with lots of added extras for females in the party. Whether you want to spend some quality time with your best friend, or embark on a multi-generational break away with your nearest and dearest, this relaxing holiday package is sure to bring you closer together. There are five hotels participating: Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam. Whichever property you choose to stay at, you’ll be treated to the same great benefits, including a welcome glass of bubbly with chocolate and strawberries for every female guest. With daily breakfast included, you'll be all set to take advantage of unlimited access to the two-kilometre-long private beach, Wild Wadi Waterpark, and state-of-

Rise and shine to views of Burj Al Arab

Ladies Who Brunch

the-art facilities at Talise Fitness. Plus, female guests can wave goodbye to tension thanks to the 60-minute Swedish massage at the awardwinning Talise Spa*. And with late check-out until 2pm, you won’t be in a rush to leave. The offer is valid until 19 December 2019, simply use the code JWOMEN upon booking. To find out more, visit

Grab your girlfriends and head to the recently renovated Jumeirah Beach Hotel, where there's a brand-new bubbly brunch especially for women. Tuck into the buffet brimming with seafood, oysters, sushi and sashimi, before heading to the full roast lunch station for a traditional dinner with all the trimmings, or feasting on homemade dim sum, pizza and pasta. There’s also a gluten-free section and dedicated vegan kitchen serving dishes cooked to order, as well as healthy superfood juices. If you want to bring the kids along, they’ll have plenty to entertain them at the supervised children’s area. Even better, you can drop your other half at the Husband Creche in Kitchen Connection where they’ll be occupied with drinks on tap, delicious bites, a library of newspapers and magazines, and table football. Glitter make-up artists bring a festival vibe and there's a photobooth for snapping some take-home memories. Carry on the party by using your voucher for an additional drink or glass of fizz at Uptown Bar or Beach Lounge, enjoyed to sunset views of Burj Al Arab. Ladies Who Brunch takes place at Kitchen Connection, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, every Friday from 1-4pm. Dhs415 for the soft drink package, with a free upgrade to the bubbles package for ladies.

Wave goodbye to tension at Talise Spa 25

These pages: Dancers at the Rio Carnival



Where to do

SPRING Spring is in the air, the season of renewal, the perfect time to get away and recharge before the long hot summer strikes. We’ve got the lowdown on how to do it, any way you like it‌ 27

in the city

New York The Big Apple’s weather can be extreme, with bone-chilling winters and scorching-hot summers, which means spring is the sweet spot. Catch the acclaimed Warhol retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art (until March 31), and explore the brand-new Hudson Yards neighbourhood, which this month opens its first shops, restaurants and cultural attractions on Manhattan’s west side. In May, the new Statue of Liberty Museum opens on Liberty Island, with multimedia displays and 28

iconic artefacts including Lady Liberty’s original torch. WHERE TO STAY: The Edition has 273 sophisticated rooms – the best overlook the Empire State Building – and a Michelin-starred restaurant by Jason Atherton.

Paris Paris is always a good idea, especially in springtime. As cherry blossoms and chestnuts start to bloom, make the most of the city’s glorious gardens and then park yourself at a pavement café to sip café crème and people-watch. After you’ve done the big-name sights, explore lesser-known

locales such as the 11th arrondissement. Check out L’Atelier des Lumières – the city’s first digital museum of fine art – and refuel at the Michelin-starred Septime (reservations essential) or the seafood-focused Clamato next door. WHERE TO STAY: Near the Champs-Élysées, the 40-room La Réserve is a fashion editor favourite with a luxurious spa and two-Michelin-star restaurant, Le Gabriel.

Copenhagen As Copenhagen wakes from its winter hibernation, you’ll discover a city that’s

equal parts Scandi cool and storybook charm. To get a feel for Denmark’s capital, take a canal boat tour past must-see sights including the Amalienborg Palace and Little Mermaid statue. But to experience the city like the locals do, hire a bike and whizz around on two wheels. Design fans should make a beeline for the Denmark Design Museum, while foodies can savour the seasonal seafood menu at Noma. WHERE TO STAY: Near the royal palace, Hotel Skt. Annae has 145 rooms in neutral tones, as well as a buzzy Italian restaurant.


Amsterdam Home to gable-lined canals and treasure-packed museums, the Dutch capital is a popular city break destination yearround. Come springtime, Amsterdam bursts into bloom during tulip season, which can last until early May, while the annual King’s Day celebrations take place on April 27. Pack some orange threads and join the crowds for one of Europe’s biggest street parties, with live music and markets. Art lovers, meanwhile, should pre-book tickets online for fast-track entry to the world-famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. WHERE TO STAY: In the hip Noord neighbourhood, Sir Adam Hotel has 108 rooms, a gourmet burger joint and a fun rock n' roll vibe.

Ljubljana It may be small in size, but Slovenia's charming capital makes a big impression. At this time of year, café tables start to spill onto the car-free streets of the

Opposite: View from Central Park, New York This page, from top to bottom:Paris, Amsterdam

Old Town, while locals stroll along the leafy banks of the Ljubljanica River which flows through the city. Take the funicular to the 16thcentury castle that hovers above the city, resplendent with Baroque architecture, then head to the Museum Quarter to browse the exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art. WHERE TO STAY: In the Old Town, Vander has 20 cool and contemporary

rooms, along with a rooftop pool and trendy Slovenian restaurant.


Rio de Janeiro

Cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Japan

Rio’s rainforest-meets-beach scenery and samba-fuelled spirit make it a bucket-list destination. If you don’t mind the crowds, visit the Marvellous City in March for Carnival, the biggest weeklong party in the world. Samba dancers parade in exotic costumes, while drum beats ring out from every corner of the city and revellers boogie at exuberant blocos (street parties). The post-party weather remains warm, so you can spend your days lazing on Copacabana beach, hiking up Sugarloaf Mountain, and exploring the city’s world-class museums, including the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Museum of Contemporary Art. WHERE TO STAY: In upmarket Ipanema, the 91-room Hotel Fasano features a mid-century aesthetic, rooftop infinity pool and contemporary seafood restaurant.

During this time of the year, blush-hued posies plunge from the trees to make pools of pink on the normally spotless roads of Kyoto. Springtime in this city (once the capital of Japan) is synonymous with Hanami (flower viewing), the centuriesold tradition of enjoying the blooming cherry trees, resplendent in pink. Though Kyoto is the country's most popular destination for flowerwatchers, cherry trees blossom across Japan, starting in the south and moving northward. Yet the bloom is shortlived, typically lasting a just a couple of weeks. As such, the Japan Meteorological Agency issues an annual forecast to predict the dates that the buds will bloom. JT 29



Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi



On one remarkable island, where flocks of flamingos wade in a mangrove lagoon and a coalition of cheetahs roam the land, are three equally remarkable resorts comprising Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island. Each sets a slow pace you'll succumb to in an instant. One of the most unique (and remote) resorts in the world, the multiaward-winning Amangiri neighbours the largest Native American reservation in the US, from where it blends into some 600 acres of raw beauty in Utah's 'red rock' landscape of canyons, mountains, rapids and desert. A legendary resort hidden within the sweeping sand dunes of a wildlife rich conservation reserve, at Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa you can switch off beneath a nightly show of stars after a day spent watching the graceful Arabia oryx saunter passed your infinity pool. An easy escape from the bustling big city that never fails to enchant. Backdropped by the World Heritagelisted Greater Blue Mountains, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley invites guests to explore their spectacular surrounds (on bike or horseback) which are alive with native animals, before seeing sunset from their soaking tub.


Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley




Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

A TOUCH OF ARABIA Explore Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection, a Marriott luxury lifestyle hotel located right in the heart of the world-famous Jumeirah Beach. An “exactly like nothing else� experience offers the best of both worlds for business and leisure travelers. The resort features 14 themed restaurants and bars, meeting venues and extensive recreation facilities with an immaculate private beach and spa. Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection Al Falea Street, Jumeirah Beach | Dubai, UAE | T. +971 4 399 5000 | F. +971 4 399 4547


by the water

The Maldives With white-sand beaches and balmy temperatures averaging 28.5°C yearround, the scattered isles of the Maldives make an idyllic getaway at any time of year. But the spring shoulder season brings fewer crowds (bar the Easter break, of course) so you’ll have no trouble finding a secluded patch of sand to work on your tan. Conditions are also perfect 32

for snorkelling and diving among coral reefs, while whale shark sightings are all but guaranteed in the South Ari Atoll. WHERE TO STAY: On a powdery, postage-stamp sized island, JA Manafaru packs in idyllic experiences and fine dining to boot.

Bali As the rainy season comes to an end and the mercury stays high, spring is a great

time to visit Bali. Head to the south coast for palmfringed beaches, pumping surf breaks and hip beach clubs, then find your zen in the lush highlands of Ubud, home to wellness retreats, terraced rice fields and Tomb Raider-style temples. This month, join thousands of yogis from across the globe for workshops and world music at Ubud’s annual Bali Spirit Festival (March 24-31). WHERE TO STAY: Overlooking

Echo Beach in the island's south, the Como Uma Canggu resort boasts a swanky spa, buzzing beach club and huge lagoon pool.

Udaipur On the shores of Lake Pichola, Rajasthan’s most romantic city seduces travellers with its magnificent palaces, whitewashed havelis and maze of tightly winding streets. Summer is scorching, but low season brings hot

Opposite: JA Manafaru This page, from top to bottom: COMO Uma Canggu; Taj Lake Palace

weather and fewer crowds, so you can explore the sights at your own pace. Cruise the shimmering lake, admire the peacock mosaics at the City Palace, and catch a nightly screening at a rooftop café of James Bond’s Octopussy, filmed here in the eighties. WHERE TO STAY: With 83 opulent rooms and roundthe-clock butlers, Taj Lake Palace is an all-white marble dream that seemingly floats on the lake.

Ibiza Before the midsummer madness ensues, the White Island feels like a tranquil slice of paradise. With clear skies and temperatures nudging 20°C in April and May, Ibiza’s pine-clad hills are perfect for hiking and mountain biking – although it's tempting to spend your days lazing on crowd-free beaches and swimming in remote rocky coves. Dine among locals in quaint villages such as Santa Gertrudis and Es Cubells, and shop for unique handicrafts in arty Sant Carles de Peralta and Sant Rafel de sa Creu.


19th-century farmhouse near Santa Gertrudis, the boutique Cas Gasi has just 12 rooms, plus a spa, yoga deck and outdoor pool.

Ohrid In the newly named Republic of North Macedonia, this picturesque town on the edge of Lake Ohrid is the country’s most popular tourist destination. Outside of July and August, Ohrid is still, somehow, an undiscovered idyll of cobblestone streets, medieaval buildings and lakeside cafés. Wander around the Old Town, sunbathe at rocky beaches

and visit the Fortress of Tsar Samoil for the best lake views. Just out of town, Galicica National Park, situated on Mount Galicica, is a biodiversity hotspot dotted with hiking trails. WHERE TO STAY: With gorgeous lake views, the four-star Park Lakeside Hotel has an outdoor pool and 49 modern rooms and apartments.

Sydney March may signal the start of spring in the northern hemisphere, but it’s autumn Down Under. Daytime temperatures hover in the low 20s and the harbour city’s relaxed outdoors lifestyle is still in full swing. Stroll along the spectacular clifftop coastal trail from Bondi to Bronte – keep your eyes peeled for migrating humpbacks in May – and pack your glad rags for the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, the city’s biggest horse-racing festival held over six weeks in March and April. WHERE TO STAY: The 200-room QT Sydney has highly Instagrammable interiors and a so-called Director of Chaos to help craft unique experiences.

NATURAL SPRING #2 Whale feeding at Glacier Bay, Alaska During the spring, humpback whales travel to the 5,000-squarekilometre Glacier Bay National Park, on the southern tip of Alaska. And they do so for one reason; food. Back from their fast from winter season, these colossal mammals will feed here for the entire summer to fill their empty stomachs. Serving as a humpback whale sanctuary, the mammals benefit from Glacier Bay's strict protection, which has resulted in a steady rise in the number of whales spotted every year. Along with the chance to see these serene mammals up close, springtime at Glacier Bay bestows spectacular scenery (most of the snow has melted, allowing the green of the mountains to peek through) and a chance to see the aurora borealis. JT 33


on the move


Venice Simplon-Orient-Express


The alien-like landscape of Turkey's Cappadocia region is among the world's most dramatic - all distinctive cone-shaped rock formations lovingly christened 'fairy chimneys' and Bronze-age homes carved into cave walls. For a view of it that is equally wondrous, book a balloon ride, best taken as the sun rises to illuminate all below. Nothing represents the style and glamour of a bygone era of travel quite like a train. And no train does it quite like the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which made its first journey from Paris to Venice back in 1883. You can take the same trip in April, departing springtime Paris and arriving next day in the City of Water. Take the strain out of travel this season by cruising your way across the Mediterranean aboard the flagship Costa Diadema. You'll fly in for a night in Barcelona (spend it dining at the restaurant Disfrutar) before seven nights at sea and stop-offs in the likes of Civitavecchia, your gateway to Rome and its myriad ancient wonders. Swathes of bright and blooming wildflowers (and a merciful lack of fellow visitors) make driving the Amalfi Coast an absolute joy in spring, winding around cliff-hugging roads that bestow astonishing views.


Balloons over Cappadocia




Gaudi's Casa Batllรณ in Barcelona

Amalfi Coast

in the country

Gidleigh Park, England Hidden in a peaceful valley on the edge of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, this postcard-perfect country house hotel features Tudorstyle architecture and classic English interiors (antique furniture, wood panelling, stone fireplaces). The 24 individually-decorated rooms come with giant marshmallow beds and roll-top baths, while a two-bedroom thatchedroof cottage overlooks the croquet lawn. There’s a tennis court, bowling green and 18-hole putting course, but most guests 36

come here for the Michelinstarred restaurant. The menu features traditional, pareddown British dishes, such as salt-aged beef with potato terrine and cauliflower purée, with seasonal ingredients often sourced from the hotel’s own vegetable garden.

Montali Country House, Italy High on a hilltop in Umbria with views of Lake Trasimeno, Montali is a rustic country house hotel with a difference: Brazilian-born chef Malu Musacchio serves purely

vegetarian cuisine. Sublime dishes such as ravioli with truffle and saffron risotto will convert even the most devout meat-eater, while soft balls of mozzarella drizzled with olive oil equals Italian simplicity at its best. Nestled among an olive grove, the converted farmhouse has nine comfortable rooms with traditional stone walls and tiled floors. Days are best spent lazing by the sun-dappled pool, with occasional sorties to nearby Perugia, Assisi and Siena.

Villa La Coste, France Surrounded by 600 acres

of rolling vineyards, pine forests and lavender fields in Provence, this contemporary hotel features artworks by the likes of Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei. There are 28 villa-style suites with all-white interiors, cleanlined furniture and marble bathrooms; 10 come with private pools, while all have muslin-draped four-poster beds and private terraces offering bucolic valley views. Once you’ve settled in, head to the sleek spa for salt scrub exfoliations, mud massages and frankincense facials. All three restaurants serve organic produce from the

SPRING BREAK Opposite: Gidleigh Park This page, from top to bottom: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai; Santani Wellness Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka

garden, but the highlight is the Argentinian restaurant by star chef Francis Mallman.

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Thailand For those who prefer lush countryside and elephant sanctuaries to swaying palm trees and coral reefs, this tranquil resort in northern Thailand ticks all the boxes. Dotted among the rice fields are 64 pitched-roof pavilions and 12 pool villas, along with all the five-star facilities you’d expect, including a nirvana-inducing spa and resident yogi. The signature restaurant serves lesserknown local dishes such as crispy catfish with tangerine, while the acclaimed cooking school is a must for gourmands. But what really sets this resort apart are the individually-tailored experiences, from planting rice with local farmers to art classes with a watercolourist.

Santani Wellness Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka On a former tea plantation

near Kandy, Santani is Sri Lanka’s first dedicated wellness resort. The 20 hillside villas are deliberately minimalist – think polished concrete floors, floor-toceiling windows and teak beds draped in mosquito netting – to promote rest and relaxation. There’s a similarly stripped-back aesthetic in the spa, with a thermal salt pool, cedarwood sauna and open-air treatment rooms. There’s

an Ayurvedic doctor on hand to diagnose your dosha, daily yoga, and meditation classes, plus hiking trails through lush rice fields. The dress code for dinner is ‘barefoot’ and the customised cuisine – ranging from cleansing to ketogenic – is healthy and delicious.

Castell Son Claret, Spain Set on a rambling private estate in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains, Castell Son Claret is Mallorca’s most exceptional hideaway. There are just 38 neutral-hued rooms spread throughout the 18th-century manor house and former stables; some boast private pools and all have sun-trap terraces. Active travellers can fill their days with tennis and hiking, while sybarites will love the blue-tiled pool and subterranean spa. Meanwhile, Zaranda is the only the two-star Michelin restaurant in the Balearics.

NATURAL SPRING #3 Damask roses on Al Jabal Al Akhdar Peaking at 2,500 metres above sea level, Oman's Al Jabal Al Akhdar (commonly known as Green Mountain) is where one of the world’s oldest roses adds colour to rugged mountain terrain. Indeed, from the end of March through April, scores of the dusty pink damask roses mask the mountain range, infusing the air with their fragrance. Stay at Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar Resort at this time of year and you can fully immerse yourself in this seasonal highlight by meeting the local families who continue the centuries-old tradition of making rose water from the damask bounty. JT 37


Full of promise For a quintessential Arabian desert adventure, look no further than this luxurious resort nestled deep within Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter


rains of golden sand dance across the dunes, arabesque music fills the air and the flickering flames of the campfire lend a magical glow to the Bedouin style dinner setting. What may sound like an Arabian dream is delivered on a golden platter to travellers who journey to Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, a resort that’s sure to earn a place on your wish list due to its unique blend of Arabian heritage, culture and luxury. Located in the majestic Empty Quarter (the largest uninterrupted sand mass in the world), it feels a million miles away from the capital, yet is just a two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi’s Western region (Al Gharbia). If you’re feeling flash, however, you can zip there via helicopter in 50 minutes flat. Emerging like a mirage amid the dunes, this fortress-like resort offers relaxation and


adventure in equal measure. Rooms feature hand-crafted furnishings made by local artisans that evoke the spirit of Bedouin culture. Stunning desert views come as standard, so you feel fully immersed in your surroundings at all times. There’s so much more to do than gaze at the shifting sands, however, thanks to the extensive line-up of experiences that make the most of the landscape’s rugged beauty. From traversing the dunes atop a camel to zooming over the sand in a four-wheel drive and learning more about the region’s fascinating heritage during the falcon and saluki show, your passion for adventure will be fired up here. There’s ample opportunity to try something new, from off-roading at your own pace on a fat bike to renting a sandboard (it's Arabia’s answer to snowboarding), and taking the

kids on an educational walk to learn more about local fauna. After a day of activity, Anantara Spa calls you to unwind with a soothing treatment. A highlight is the Moroccan hammam, although the desert fusion massage combining hot stone and Liwa sand massage techniques is something out of the ordinary. Dining against a desert backdrop never gets old. For the most Instagrammable views, head to The Sunset Lounge for drinks. Next, make your way to Al Falaj for a traditional dining experience. Get comfortable on the floor cushions and let the hypnotic sound of the qanun unwind the mind as you tuck into delicious Middle Eastern grills under a blanket of stars.

To find out more, call +971 2 886 2088 or visit

Deluxe Twin Room with balcony

Al Falaj restaurant

Villa with private pool

Moroccan hammam 39

ESCAPE TO EUROPE THIS SPRING Make the most of the season with a holiday package to Europe. With our city break offers, experience the delights of Madrid, Milan, Geneva, Vienna, Paris or London. Take in the culture, shop for the latest fashion or indulge in some of the world’s best cuisine.

Book at call 800 DNATA (36282) or speak to us in-store Download our app

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Postcards Stories from journeys far and wide


Constance Ephelia, Mahé, Seychelles



The rush of Tokyo is bewitching, but often bewildering. When you hit overload, retreat to its quiet corners, says former resident Alicia Miller. Then you’ll see the city like a local: electric and serene, in equal measure


These pages, from left: LAOS All quiet as a lone taxi crosses the Ginza intersection: the sky-high spa at Aman Tokyo 43

n the shadows the whitecloaked master works slowly, rhythmically – painstakingly executing his ritual with reverence. His tools are basic, but no matter. He has done it all before, a thousand times over, cloistered in this tiny, dimly lit room — creamwalled, fringed in polished wood, bare, but not unfriendly. Seated in a semicircle around his workspace is a hushed audience of eight — myself included. Entranced, we feel like intruders on his sacred task. No-one dares disturb Gen Yamamoto as he toils. After 10 minutes of tap-tap-tapping and swishswish-swishing in the darkness, he’s ready. He reaches across the gleaming wooden bar and presents me with the precious fruit of his labour: a juicy pear cocktail. It’s a taste of nature’s simplicity in this manic, modern megacity. In Tokyo, many things are not what they seem. Contradictions are rife: the sky-scraping, technicolour tangle of the transport-hub Shinjuku is futuristic — with robot-themed eateries and lavish department stores — yet locals prefer to flock to old-school, cash-only ramen joints in ramshackle alleyways. Service in shops is endlessly polite, yet there’s nothing courteous about the metro: no sharp elbow on the planet is more eviscerating than the one served up on the Yamanote Line come rush hour. Most contradictory of all is that, for all the city’s chaotic, unrelenting backdrop of swallow-you-whole neon glitz, thronging masses and brash consumerism, you can find serenity. And in the most unexpected of places. It is the clash of rampant and placid that makes Tokyo, well, Tokyo. Home to more than 13 million people, to the uninitiated the city is an uncharted ocean, a mercurial monolith. But dig deeper, and you’ll find an ancient, sedate side waiting to be discovered. Escaping the crowds is easy, if you know where to look — and necessary, I realised on this return visit, in order to preserve your sanity. I lived in Tokyo during my party-loving early 20s and I couldn’t get enough of its flashy scene. Returning 10 years later, it’s a different story: I found myself overwhelmed by its brash vastness. 44

These pages, clockwise from above: Women wearing kimonos walk through lit paper lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine; Mount Fuji backdrops the Tokyo skyline; a traditional tiny restaurant in 'memory lane'; street art in electronics shopping district Akihabara



On my first morning, the crush of Shibuya, the trendy shopping district, left me breathless. At the famed Shibuya crossing, the illuminated, advert-flooded intersection — Piccadilly Circus on steroids — crowds scurried like ants across zebra crossings. Every direction provided a fresh assault: hole-in-thewall katsu curry bars, their plastic food displays pulling weary-eyed tourists into dingy basements; CD emporiums pumping out syrupy J-pop tunes; queues snaking from $2 sushi joints; purplehaired girls chattering outside malls. Of course, in Tokyo, the gaudy chaos is a ‘sight’ in itself — so, despite the hectic scene, I progressed. Rubbing the jet lag from my eyes, I wove through the thicket, heading north past lanes lined with shoe shops and towering homeware stores. I passed through the vintage boutiques of rammed, pedestrianised Cat Street; I perused the bizarre anime merchandise at bewildering megashop Kiddy Land. Before long I was in Harajuku, Tokyo’s teen-fashion epicentre, and bravely turned left onto Takeshita Street. Whatever madness had come before, it had nothing on this: hundreds, no thousands, of kids, a tidal wave rushing into discount sunglasses shops and out of cat cafés. Music was blaring from every direction; cloudlike puffs of rainbow cotton candy and bags of chocolate-smothered crisps were passed around by the dozen. And then, as if it wasn’t squeezy enough, along came a matsuri – a traditional Japanese festival procession. Where men and women in traditional happi coats bounced a golden shrine through the crowd, chanting excitedly. Once I reached the end of the street — it was just 400m, but it took more than an hour — I siphoned myself off from the human tide. I could have carried on with the flow, bound for the famed Meiji shrine, a grand series of wooden buildings in a sprawling nearby park. But experience told me that today — a Saturday — any sliver of tranquillity would be shattered by camera-clicking hordes and ooh-aahing tourists. I wasn’t 22 anymore, and rather than more insanity, what I needed was a break. I fixed a quick plan: after a 20-minute zip on the metro, I stepped out from Gokokuji station, in central Tokyo’s 45


northwest. I strode towards the 17thcentury Gokoku-ji building, directly ahead, passed under its grand red gate and was plunged into another world. Apart from a handful of grey-haired local ladies shuffling up the stone steps, there was no-one around. I had visited this place a decade before, at the time thinking the low-key vibe was rather dull. But now, I seized the silence, wandering past statues and vast wooden structures that had survived WWII bombings, padding through a room festooned in ornate gold decorations, and switching off to the rustle of a gnarled pine tree. Scores of cats prowled eerily around gravestones, my only company until a monk momentarily darted by, his robes flicking behind him. The whole serene scene was a different Tokyo, one I could now fully appreciate — and, impatient as I was to soak it up, it was a full, contemplative hour before, placidly, I stumbled out. I was a relative skip from crazy Shibuya — but there were no skyscrapers, few shops and hardly any people. Instead, wandering south towards the undulating Kanda River, I saw little houses framed with flower pots, and tiny noodle bars with makeshift signs. Had it not been for the luminous vending machines glimmering at every corner, I would have thought I’d gone back in time. Eventually, a thin alley led me past a clutch of art museums, before spitting me out on the leafy riverfront walkway. And there, cut from a creamy wall, was a tile-roofed entranceway to Chinzanso Garden. I’d forgotten how verdant Tokyo can be. From Imperial Palace parks to regal Hamarikyu gardens, little landscaped patchworks of green provide figurativeand literal breaths of fresh air among the cityscape’s suffocating intensity. Inside Chinzanso, among twisted trees and winding paths, I discovered craggy stone carvings, a pond fed by tinkling waterfalls, red tori shrine gates with a string of prayer notes fluttering in the breeze. Glamorous Japanese newlyweds, taking a pause from their wedding festivities in the nearby hotel, posed for pictures in front of blooms. I climbed



uphill to a three-storey wooden pagoda, a creaky, half-century-old witness to the city’s transformation. In the distance rose a contrasting clutch of new buildings — the frenetic concrete city pushing against this lush green pocket. For now, at least, it couldn’t quite reach us. As evening descends in Tokyo, you feel the city revving up — doubling its electric energy to fever pitch. Below the rainbow signs blinking in the darkness, waves of identikit office workers rush from office to bar in a messy jumble; at 6pm, the city collectively loosens its tie in smoky yakitori grill bars. But up in my hotel, the Aman Tokyo, I felt none of it. It was my second day, and I had spent it huddled under an umbrella, exploring clogged Ginza — the ritzy designer-shopping area by Tokyo station. It was exhaustingly busy, especially in the rain; but a short walk and a zippy, 34-floor elevator ride had catapulted me far above the insanity. Tokyo is famous for its soaring buildings, but they do more than provide much-needed extra living space — they’re veritable floating oases above the city’s earthly rush. Up here, seen from the hotel spa, the buzzing traffic looked like toy models, the tower-block lights like flickering stars. In Aman’s dark-slate infinity pool in the sky, lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, I could paddle in peace, recouping my energy. I could laze on fluffy loungers and sip nutty, roasted hojicha tea, watching the mesmerising show unfold below. It was so very peaceful... Dare I say, after a while, a tad too peaceful. Because, however much Ginza’s earlier crowds had tired me out, I didn’t feel quite ready to hole up for the night.

Credit: Alicia Miller/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine/News Licensing


Maybe it was just fond old memories beckoning me to play. In any case, the pull of the Tokyo night felt too strong. I soon found myself emerging from Akihabara station, in the city’s weird, wonderful electronics district. Lights throbbed; adverts for gaming arcades covered every facade. Electronics megashops such as Bic Camera — selling everything from cult action figures to rice cookers — encircled the station; ‘maid’ cafés jostled with warren-like DVD shops. I stepped into quirky, only-inJapan superstore Don Quijote in search of souvenirs. It was packed. I persevered through endless floors briming with fake horse heads and peculiar beauty products, emerging with a cutprice haul of my favourite Japanese sweets and facial sheet masks infused with green tea. The clock hands were inching towards 11pm — these days my usual bedtime — but the frenzied mob spurred me onwards. Tokyo’s not ready to call it a night, so why should I? I elbowed my way through the crowds to a karaoke bar, where I met an old Japanese friend for a nostalgic singalong. As we were guided to our private room, the din from outside became increasingly muffled. Curling up in our cosy, cushy space — that Tokyo chaotic-calm contradiction again — we ordered pizzas. Sheltered from the mayhem outside, microphones in hand, song catalogues in our laps, we drank and sang dramatic, cheesy power ballads — Bonnie Tyler, Bryan Adams, you name it — until we were hoarse, and very late became very early. Over the next two days, further glimmers of my twentysomething self were teased out by Tokyo’s frenetic energy — I was falling back in love. But whenever my stamina wavered, a moment of peace was always waiting. Behind crowd-crammed Senso-ji temple, a stop on every tourist’s hit list, I discovered sleepy shopping arcades with kitchenware shops and old-school hotpot eateries. After braving frantic Odaiba, a Disneyesque mallscape with a replica of the Statue of Liberty, I caught my breath on a relaxed riverboat ride. On my final night, I booked myself into a swish restaurant, Sushi Kokoro. After a busy day museum-hopping, tranquillity here was practically guaranteed: intimate

This page: Garden Lounge at Aman Tokyo

omakase (chef’s choice) sushi spots such as this are famous for being respectfully hushed, as diners watch chefs prepare artful courses in awed silence. At 7pm, I pushed open the door and my chef-host, Oba-san, welcomed me with a polite smile. I joined seven other guests — together we filled the counter restaurant — and began the noiseless gourmet parade. We greeted a goblet of silky salmon roe with silent nods of approval. A blushing pink prawn was met with a shy ‘arigato’ (thank you). But the drinks were flowing, and somewhere between the gleaming silver mackerel and the creamy sea urchin, a Japanese salaryman next to me turned, practising his English with a simple ‘Where are you from?’

A switch had been flipped, and the raucous descent began. Soon, all nine of us — Oba-san included — were doubled-up with giggles, wolfing down nigiri with cries of delight. Group photos were snapped, email addresses were swapped, and as we finished our meal with a simple flourish — a handful of sweet grapes — we decided to carry down the road. As we tottered out of the restaurant, Tokyo was, for once, cloaked in midnight silence. But only for a moment. Because that rare, sleepy stillness was suddenly shattered — by the sound of my own crackling laughter. Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit 47


Paradise doesn’t have to be deathly dull. Alongside the Seychelles’ perfect beaches, Ed Grenby finds giant tortoises, edible bats and a local party scene



These pages: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island


’m pretty sure George & Amal — headed to the same tiny Seychellois island as me — didn’t do it this way, aboard a ferry where holidaymakers and commuters and cargo share deckspace (as well as sick bags). But more fool the Clooneys and their helicopters, because this was exactly why I’d come to the Seychelles. True, I could live without the nauseous shipmates, but hanging out with islanders? Gawping gobsmacked at vast green mountains? Ambushing my tastebuds with crazy Creole cuisine? These — not to mention the humming towns and fascinatingly weird plant and animal life — were the reasons I’d given Mauritius and the Maldives a miss this year and dropped in on their Indian Ocean neighbours instead. See, the Seychelles has all the screensaver good looks and endlessly exquisite sandy shores of its brochure rivals, but with more. While the Maldives has nothing but pancake-flat microislets staffed by international automata, with little to do but stare at the sea or argue with your loved one, the Seychelles archipelago is a beach paradise with an actual country attached. (The main landmass is Mahé, and there’s 114 more once you’re done with that one.) Previously, the price you paid for all that was universally indifferent, shoulder shrugging service. But a bunch of new hotel openings has taken the pain out of paradise. And, for the moment at least, it’s still thrillingly exotic. Take my first stop, the Four Seasons resort on Desroches Island, a half-hour’s flight from Mahé. Here, instead of some desultory strip of sand and an ersatz ‘village’ on stilts, you get a proper island: 14km of fringing beach wound like wrapping paper around chunks of virgin forest, a village of traditional Tobleroneshaped Creole houses, a settler cemetery, a serious conservation centre — and, of course, a nice high-end hotel. Here, between massages performed with a giant ostrich egg (now that could have gone wrong in less expert hands) and 49


sipping drinks perched halfway up a lighthouse, I loaded up the basket of my villa’s bicycle with a picnic of limezest-dusted smoked salmon bagels from the deli and set off to explore. With secluded bays and vibrant snorkel spots mapped out all round the island, it wasn’t hard to find my own perfect stretch of driftwoodstrewn sand. And unlike those slightly self-conscious, private sandbank experiences in the Maldives, this was real privacy: no conveyor belt of couples queueing up for my spot, no surreptitious staff hovering behind me. Even better, the Seychelles does shade: instead of a spindly palm or two, gorgeous thick jade-green jungle has your back here. Fragrant lantern trees, flowering dogwoods, native mulberry, velvetseed.... Then there are the beasts (Sundberg’s day gecko, amberwing emperor dragonfly, marbled mantis) and the birds (wading whimbrel, tropical shearwater, firetruck-red fody), not to mention the prehistoric monsters. Roaming free-range across Desroches’s interior are 160-odd giant tortoises: cute as cubs, but disconcertingly, agelessly primordial, too, as if Jim Henson got the Jurassic Park gig. I’m introduced to George, 120 years old and the size of a go-kart, but with the khaki colouring and armourplating and (once he sees food) slow, crushing, single-minded unstoppability of a tank. He was wrinkly and twinkly and genial-looking, but there was something in the coolly reptilian eyes of his companion, Naughty Lulu, that made me want to get out of her way before I found out how she came by the name. The island’s size comes in handy come nightfall, as well. Try escaping from the lights of your resort in the Maldives and you end up neck-deep in the ocean. But here, you can slip away unnoticed under some of the world’s darkest — and so most star-spattered — skies. I wandered up to the island’s airstrip, with its 360-degree horizons and 4,000 hectares of inky black above, and saw a true, uncountable infinity of heavenly bodies. Mars glared an angry hot red on one side of the firmament, Venus sheened a cool clear liquid-mercury 50


on the other; and between them, a creamy, full-fat Milky Way was smeared across the sky as thick as the good stuff at the neck of a bottle of gold-top. The darkness has drama in the Seychelles. Bats wheel overhead, waves crash noisily on those millenniasmoothed granite boulders that bookend the beaches, and (unlike Mauritius or the Maldives) people go out. I crashed a couple of the impromptu parties that pop up around the bigger islands’ beaches and parking lots: barbecue smells effervesced into the warm night air along with the seggae, a blend of trad sega and modern reggae, and just the most tropical-sounding music you’ll ever hear. Even the resort islands have a bit of life to them. On my next one, Six Senses Zil Pasyon, guests cheerily pilfer the local rum from mini casks in the (dis)honesty bar. Zil Pasyon has adventures on tap, too. One morning I canoe to the next islet along. Another, I hike a path, ducking beneath umbrella-sized spider webs (I felt very Indiana Jones, but the critters are harmless) to a secret beach, big enough for just two. And on a third, I snorkelled early, right off the beach, and saw an eagle ray soaring through the water, serene as a seraph, then a turtle, just as benignly beatific, fading in and out of sight like a dream. Unsure what ancient wisdom the visitation was trying to impart, I interpreted it as ‘Have the scrambled-eggs-with- crab for breakfast’.

Most guests get between the Seychelles’ outer-island resorts by helicopter, and that’s certainly the quickest and most glamorous way to do it (though you may not feel quite so Clooney when they weigh you before take-off). I loved the views from up there — the water’s neon blues glow even brighter from above — but I loved chuffing about by boat and bus, too, for a taste of island life you wouldn’t get in a month of Maldives. I saw impish schoolkids gambolling through their break-time games on the beaches beside their classrooms (who needs playgrounds?), picnicking families pulling cars over en route to siphon crystal water from roadside natural springs (who needs Evian?), and bantering fishmongers selling the morning’s catch off upended crates at street corners, the fish so fresh and many-coloured you’d think they were for the aquarium, not the plate. At Port Glaud, I got a bit damp myself. Here, just metres from a luxury resort in Mahé’s northwest corner, is a 1km path that winds through a hamlet (and shortcuts through someone’s back garden, for which privilege he’ll charge you $2 odd) to the Sauzier Waterfall. It’s pretty rather than dramatic, but at its base is a deep, cool, green natural pool, utterly irresistible, where I whooped and wallowed alongside a bunch of local lads until my fingertips wrinkled. That resort, Constance Ephelia, sprawls across two delectable bays, a handful of thickly forested hills and a mangrove swamp, so to tick off a few more items in my ‘I-Don’t-Spy’ book of things you wouldn’t expect on an Indian Ocean holiday I zipline through those forests and kayak through those mangroves, scrumping milky-sweet cocoplums as I go. I also spent a day in the capital (which is more than I’ve managed in eight trips to Mauritius and the Maldives). Victoria has a real working fruit and fish market (you can tell it’s not for tourists because it’s early and it smells), named after one Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke (who seems, idiosyncratically, to have been named after himself). There’s the Botanical Gardens, too, where


This page, clockwise from top left: The Lighthouse Lounge; a staff member at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island; Constance Ephelia from above; a fruit seller at Victoria Market; and a spa therapist at Constance Ephelia 51


you can feed giant tortoises; and the Natural History Museum, where a dusty roomful of pickled mini sharks stare forlornly from their formaldehyde. It’s not just museums that are cheap in the Seychelles, either. You can get a decent beachside hotel for $150 a night, and a lovely one for $200 (my favourite is Mahé’s Anse Soleil Beachcomber). And — take that, Maldives! — there are plenty of self-catering options. (You won’t be spoilt for choice in the supermarkets if you go that route, mind, but there are good Creole restaurants all over. Do order: octopus curry, a fizz bomb of spicy-juicy fusion flavours. Don’t order: fruitbat — a gamey-but-boney, grit-your-teeth-soyou-can-say-you’ve-done-it affair.) In fact, with every beach a beauty round these parts, the main difference between the Seychelles’ megabuck 52

resorts and its mom-&-pop guest houses is privacy. The resort that hosted George & Amal’s honeymoon — and Kate & Wills’s — is North Island, and they came because every one of the 11 villas sits in its own hectare or two of gardens, secreted among an island-wide jungle. (The discretion extends to the staff. Whenever I try to draw anyone into sharing even the tiniest detail about those other guests, I’m told firmly ‘I won’t tell you about their stay, and I won’t tell anyone about yours either’.) North Island is the most understatedly indulgent place I’ve ever stayed — it wears its luxury as lightly as a linen shirt — but it’s not the five showers in each villa, or the supernaturally good service, or the personally tailored menus and drinks list drawn up for each guest, that get me. It’s that I essentially have all this


to myself: 200 hectares divided by a maximum of around 22 guests equals never having to share your sunset. So, every evening I barefoot a few paces across the sherbet-soft sand for the (full multi-sensory) show. Waves shush, their dayglo ultramarine mellowing to mere aquamarine; the early-evening breeze on my forearms tempers the late-afternoon warmth


Credit: Ed Grenby/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine/News Licensing

These pages, clockwise from left: Chef offers up a plate of sushi; North Island; invilla BBQ set up at North Island

on my face; the scent of woodsmoke and herbs and chargrilled langoustines drifts down from the barbecue; the citric zing of grapefruit washes over my tongue; and I watch the sun, blazing defiant, incandescent orange as it slowly drowns on the watery horizon, bleeding pink into the sky behind it. But, turning back inland towards the mountains and the bats and the people and the food and the waterfalls and the tortoises, I’m aware that, in the Seychelles, the life-changingly beautiful beaches and #inspirationalquote sunsets aren’t even half the story. Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit 53

Come summer, Canada’s polar bears get playful. Skip the bus tour, sign up to walk with the white giants, and you’ll get close enough to gatecrash, says James Draven




op,’ splutters the feeble report from guide Andy MacPherson’s pistol. I was hoping for something a little more dramatic: we’re standing not 20m from a 250kg polar bear (yes, 250kg). Her head down, eyes fixed on mine, she’s in a predatory trance as she lifts her muzzle and sniffs the air for my scent. Such a scene may be what my mother feared, when I told her I was going to subarctic Canada to walk with polar bears. Family and friends kept repeating the word ‘walk’ back at me with incredulity. Andy pulls the trigger twice more with similarly pitiful results: ‘Pop-pop.’ The minor commotion is not enough to deter a curious bear, but at least it’s drawn focus away from me: Andy has valiantly put himself on the menu. It’s only now though, as he regards his gun with a disdainful glower, that I realise there’s something wrong with his ammunition: he’s fired three duds in a row. Terrible timing for a weapon to malfunction. With remarkable sang-froid, he smoothly reloads his gun from a fresh box of rounds, while our taciturn, indigenous Cree guide, Albert ‘Butch’ Saunders, silently surveys the scene, the very definition of composure. I calm myself with the thought that Churchill Wild, my tour operator, has been organising polar-bear walking safaris for 22 years without incident. This is the first time in more than five years that Andy, veteran guide, has even needed to fire a banger deterrent from his starter pistol. Perhaps his ammo, having sat idle for so long in his pocket, has passed its sell-by date… It’s been a long journey to reach the shores of Lake Hudson. Nanuk Lodge, our cosy wilderness retreat in northern Manitoba, is remote. I’ve taken four flights, going via Toronto and Winnipeg, stopping over at the end of the third leg for a night in Churchill, Canada’s famous polar-bear town, where the crack of special shotgun shells, designed to scare off inquisitive bears, can be heard in the streets at night. They’re such frequent visitors to town that Churchill even has a team of ‘bear cops’, the conservation officers of the Polar Bear Alert Program, and the world’s only polar-bear holding facility — locals call it ‘bear jail’. For most tourists this is the end of the line, and many flock here for vehicle-based polar bear tours each winter. But my journey doesn’t end here. I’ve gone one step further to meet these iconic animals on their own turf: in the height of summer, the green shores of Hudson Bay are so busy with the giants, it’s known as ‘the polar-bear waiting room’. So, on the fourth and final stage of my journey, I fly out of Churchill and over Wapusk National Park down to Nanuk Lodge, in one of the tiny tin-can propeller planes that ply this route. The vast expanse of grassland green and samphire reds below contrasts with the blues and turquoise of Hudson Bay. Beluga whales splash in the water, while caribous and wolves 55


roam the plains. This sunny, frost-free scene is not the kind of place you expect to see polar bears, but see them you do: bright-white against the verdant spread of nature, hundreds can be spotted dozing. You can’t miss them. It’s not the only reason to be here in August. Sure, come winter, this polychromatic panorama transforms into snow-bleached tundra, and the azure bay freezes over. It’s then that — after a long summer stranded on land — thousands of hungry polar bears finally step out onto the ice shelf over the water to hunt seals, and gorge themselves on blubber. This is when most tourists arrive in their droves. But what visitors don’t appreciate is that bears are at their most aggressive and elusive at this time of year; witnesses are seeing only one side to the polar bear. And during winter, visitors only get to see polar bears from articulated tundra buggies — gargantuan, enclosed tour vehicles that roll out of Churchill, while people try to snap photos through windows over their neighbour’s shoulder. Against the lush backdrop of Hudson Bay’s subarctic summer I get an altogether more intimate insight into the lives of these fluffy white bears. There’s a reason they call this ‘their waiting room’: with full tummies from a winter season of hunting, this is where they loll and laze in the undergrowth, occasionally poking a nose above the wild flowers, whiling away long days in slumber until the bay freezes again. This is why, during my stay at Nanuk, we can approach bears on foot — even enormous males with the power to pulverise us. Perhaps more thrilling still, we sneak up on mothers cuddling their cubs. In each case, when they see us creeping up on them, they either take a few hesitant steps towards us — to investigate the strange creatures with telescopic noses that click and whirr and whisper — before fleeing the scene; or they roll over and nurse their cubs, stretching out among tall grasses and pawing the air. Sometimes they simply go back to sleep. The summer is a wonderful time to see these creatures up close, when they’re in a seasonal slump — like grandad after 56

lunch. It’s a rare privilege to be able to stand on the same ground with them. If you want to picture how this once-in-a-lifetime experience actually unfolds, imagine a safari, just a few notches lower on the thermometer. Everything about the experience — from the short-hop flights in light aircraft, to the 4WDs used to traverse sparse plains, dense underbrush, river crossings and swamplands — is redolent of a Kenyan lion-hunt. And because it’s summer, our vehicles are completely open to the elements. Even the weather has its own chilly charm. A dawn safari reveals dew-bejewelled spiders’ webs and steam rising from lakes with ethereal beauty; at night, the diaphanous drapes of the Aurora Borealis ripple through the sky. The season offers up encounters you could only dream of at other times of year. Polar bears, I soon realise, are easily startled and, back at my accommodation, I even scare one off myself. Big Momma, a well-fed female bear, has been hanging around Nanuk Lodge all summer. She can easily be seen approaching through the panoramic lounge windows, and guests all bring their cameras to the table, poised to dash to the terrace to take pictures. One such lunchtime, on her daily lolloping constitutional around the perimeter, Big Momma emerges from behind an outbuilding to find me waiting with my camera on the other side of the fence, just a metre or so away. The majestic matriarch dwarfs me, but the shock of seeing a human sparks a comedic double-take, and I’m bemused to watch her run away. The bear that prompts Andy to get his gun, however, isn’t budging, and remains undeterred. I remember the advice Rose, a tour rep who lives in Churchill, gave me a few nights before. If confronted with a bear, a) make yourself look big, b) don’t turn your back on it, and c) move away slowly. ‘Try to get into any building or car,’ Rose told me. Nobody locks anything in Churchill, because they wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of an escape route. ‘I couldn’t even tell you where the keys to my house are. I’ll go on a two-week vacation and leave my front door unlocked,’ she swears.

Opening pages: A polar bear swimming in Hudson Bay This page: Melting ice blocks line the rocky pathway 57

CANADA This page: A tundra buggy ferries passengers looking for polar bears at sunset in Cape Churchill Opposite: A polar bear rests up

We’re pretty far from Churchill now though, so — puffing up my chest and looking as big as I can — I glance over my shoulder at our purpose-built polar exploration vehicle: a hulking 4WD powerhouse, with huge wheels and seats bolted to it. Staff have dubbed it ‘the rhino’. Unfortunately, it has neither doors nor roof, so won’t provide much protection from a 2.5m (8ft!) bear. Andy usually discourages them from approaching us simply by talking, or clicking a couple of rocks together — methods that I’ve already seen him use — but his chatter goes unheeded this time. Butch remains mute. His grandfather once advised him, ‘Don’t tell the white man all our secrets at once,’ and the tight-lipped guide has apparently taken this lesson to heart. In fact, I’m also relishing the opportunity to study this polar bear up close. Her unique physiology — slightly webbed toes and musculature across her chest designed for swimming — defines her species as the world’s only marine bear. Even as she stalks us 58

she still looks utterly adorable, but I realise the situation has escalated when Butch, whose hawk-eyed tracking has hitherto been silent, bursts into life and launches a few stones towards the bear. They explode like waterbombs in the puddles around her and she retreats, momentarily startled, before fear turns to annoyance and she’s back. Butch jumps into the rhino and aggressively revs the engine, making the vehicle lurch forward. After his ballistic assault on the polar bear, though, she barely breaks stride at the racket, and as soon as he kills the motor her attention is again fixed solely on us. Bang! At last, a projectile rockets

from the barrel of Andy’s pistol. The low-powered round arcs through the air and bursts just by our polar bear’s brow. It even makes my ears ring where I’m standing, so our poor bear must be deafened and, with a thunderclap that enshrouds her head in a cloud of smoke, she finally flees. As Andy bins his spent cartridges and pours us coffee from a flask, I spy Butch’s redundant shotgun sat idle in the rhino, and note the absence of a pistol on his hip. ‘Sure, I have one,’ he smiles over the brim of his mug, and produces a gun from a leatherette case. ‘The company gave it to me years ago when I first joined.’ ‘When did you last have to use it?’ I ask him. He smirks in a way that silently betrays millennia of untold landlore (maybe he just thinks I’m an idiot) and replies: ‘Never.’ Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit

Credit: James Draven/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine/News Licensing


Credit: Andrew Eames/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing

This page: Soft, colourful corals around Lizard Island 59 Your passport to the Middle East's first fully bookable travel inspiration website

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Weekends Staycations and short-haul escapes

MALDIVES MEETS DA DONG What’s a stay at a private island resort without a meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef? Indian Ocean favourite, JA Manafaru, has teamed up with chef Dong Zhenxiang (aka Da Dong), to offer an exclusive pop-up dining experience at White Orchid. The culinary maestro, who founded the Michelin-starred Da Dong Roast Duck restaurant concept in Beijing, combines his signature dishes with Maldivian flavours for a stand-out dining experience, served throughout the year. 61


Reasons to go back to…


Dubai’s latest foodie destination on Palm Jumeirah is upping the ante with a new wave of hot happenings that are sure to whet the appetite Hawker hotspot Immerse yourself in the sights, tastes and aromas of Asia’s late-night markets at the newlyopened Asian District. Dubai’s largest Asian food market, the split-level hub has eight restaurants, each with a distinct theme. Take your pick from the live cooking stations offering freshly-made sushi, noodles, ramen, teppanyaki, dim sum, dumplings and more. You'll chow down to a backing track of livestock sounds, motorbikes, car horns and bicycle bells, with quirky performers, such as sumo wrestlers and actors playing mahjong, bringing the concept to life.

Star power Rue Royale is causing a stir on Dubai’s dining scene, luring gourmands to taste fine French cuisine in an unlicensed setting. It’s the brainchild of two-Michelinstar chef Mathieu Viannay, the culinary mastermind behind the century-old La Mère Brazier in Lyon, which has welcomed numerous high-profile guests through its doors. Rue Royale takes inspiration from its French sibling, serving a selection of La Mère Brazier signature dishes, alongside new creations that nod to the culinary heritage of the Middle East. The best way to experience it is at the chef’s table. 62

Asian District

Brunch with a view Seafood fans can soak up the sea air while chilling to a Balearic Islands soundtrack at the all-new The View brunch at Seafood Kitchen. Taking place every Friday from noon to 4pm, you can taste a delicious array of seafood specialities while sipping on free-flowing drinks. Menu highlights include red snapper ceviche, Spanish seafood paella and a piled-high platter of clams, mussels, soft-shell crab, prawns and char-grilled, locally-sourced fish. Yum.

Sun King mocktail, Rue Royale

long weekend the



Get set to explore one of Asia’s most dynamic cities, where you'll discover gilded palaces, rooftop terraces and intoxicating markets


For the past three years, Bangkok has been crowned the most popular place on the planet, attracting more than 20 million visitors. Sprawling, steamy and often smoggy, the Thai capital radiates an infectious energy. The city was founded in 1782 on the Chao Phraya River by the Chakri royal dynasty, which is still in place today. On the eastern riverbank, the Old City is home to must-see sights such as the Grand Palace, while nearby Chinatown is a colourful and chaotic maze. Along the river, Bangrak is the centre of the ever-evolving Creative District, with hip restaurants and grand riverside hotels. Elsewhere, Silom serves as the financial district by day and buzzing nightlife destination by night; Siam is the main shopping district; while the sois from Sukhumvit Road offer bountiful shops and eateries. Read on for our curated list of the best luxury hotels, talked-about restaurants and only-inBangkok experiences…

HEAVENLY HOTELS From family-friendly resorts to boutique boltholes, here are the best places to stay Opened last year in the Siam shopping district, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok has 171 rooms ranging from spacious to sprawling. There are five restaurants and lounges, while the 16thfloor infinity pool boasts Instagram-ready views over the city. In the same neighbourhood, the resort-like Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok has 401 rooms and four saltwater pools set amid landscaped gardens. Foodies will love the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, while families will appreciate the complimentary kids’ club. Tucked away in acres of gardens and lotus ponds near Silom’s Lumpini Park, The Sukhothai Bangkok has 210 rooms outfitted with silks, teakwood and

muted earthy colours. Chill out by the rooftop infinity pool or in the spa, and don’t miss the fabulous Sunday brunch. In tranquil grounds by the river, The Siam is an Art Deco-inspired gem with 29 antique-filled suites and 10 private pool villas. Lounge by the infinity pool or fill your days with cooking

classes, spa treatments, Muay Thai boxing sessions or sunset cruises aboard an historic rice barge. In the heart of Chinatown, Baan 2459 ( is a romantic heritage hotel which offers just four rooms. Each one is unique; plump for Room Two with its own private entrance, four-poster bed and clawfoot bath. Then there's the storied, riverside Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, forever ranked among the world's best.

Opposite page: Lady selling fruit from her boat at Floating Market This page, from top: Chao Phraya river flows through the city; The Sukhothai, Bangkok

sizzling street food Hit the streets to find some of the city’s most mouth-watering Thai food Despite recent attempts by city authorities to rid the pavements of food carts and stalls, Bangkok’s street food scene remains thrillingly vibrant. Septuagenarian chef, JAY FAI, is the undisputed queen; her eponymous shophouse in Rattanakosin became the first and only Thai street-food spot to receive a star in Bangkok’s inaugural Michelin guide in 2018. Patient foodies won’t mind the long wait for her famous crab omelettes and crab curries. Close by, THIP SAMAI is widely considered to serve the city’s best pad thai. In Chinatown; Yaowarat Road and the surrounding sois are street-food central, with plastic tables set up from around 5pm 'til late. Keep your eyes peeled for GUAY JUB OUAN POCHANA, T&K SEAFOOD and LIM LAO NGOW. 65

top of the shops Tailor on Ten For made-to-measure and bespoke gents tailoring, head to this little slice of Savile Row in Sukhumvit. The in-house tailors can create shirts and suits using high-quality Asian and European fabrics, plus the prices are fixed so no haggling is needed. Warehouse 30 This former WWII artillery warehouse in the Bangrak district has been transformed into the city’s coolest mixed-use space. Browse the stores selling locally designed fashion, homewares and accessories, and refuel at the excellent café. TheWarehouse30 Lhong 1919 On the opposite side of the river, this cluster of restored 19th-century warehouses features beautifully-preserved Chinese murals and a dozen boutiques selling homewares, clothing and leather goods. Stay for lunch or dinner at the hip Nai Harng restaurant.

ALL-STAR DINING Bangkok has long been street-food nirvana, but you’ll also find plenty of Michelin-starred establishments shaking things up Gaa Opposite Gaggan – regularly named Asia’s best restaurant – you’ll find the lesshyped but equally impressive Gaa. Chef Garima Arora, a former Noma and Gaggan alumnus, serves a 10or 14-course tasting menu inspired by her Indian background, Thai ingredients and Nordic philosophies, with dishes like duck doughnut and liquid banana bread.

Paste Located in the upmarket Gaysorn Village mall, husband-and-wife team Bee Satongun and Jason Bailey draw inspiration from centuries-old royal Thai cuisine to create bold, colourful dishes made for sharing. Highlights include slow-roasted goat curry and pickled chive root salad with lobster and morel mushrooms.


Saawaan Housed in a converted shophouse with moody dark walls and floor-toceiling windows, chef Aom Pongmorn serves a seasonal 10-course tasting menu with tea or grape pairings. From the first amuse bouche – kai luk koey (poached egg in tamarind sauce) – to the final pumpkin pudding, the dishes will surprise and delight.

If you’re in town on the weekend, take a 25-minute cab ride from downtown to Taling Chan floating market. Stroll along the floating dock as vendors serve up freshly cooked specialities such as hoy tort (fried oyster omelette) from moored boats. Then climb aboard a longtail boat and cruise the nearby canals. Make Chatuchak weekend market your next stop. The teeming market is divided into 27 sections and has more than 10,000 stalls, so download Nancy Chandler’s comprehensive map ( to pinpoint the areas you’re interested in. Best buys include traditional textiles and handmade leather goods. After dark, head to hipster-rich Rot Fai night market in Ratchada (there’s also a larger sister market on the eastern edges of the city). Shop for vintage fashion and kitschy curios and tuck into street food from converted VW vans strung with fairy lights.



Opposite page, from top: Saawaan; Warehouse 30 This page, from top: Oriental Spa; Mahanakhon SkyWalk


If a spa day is top of your wishlist, here are three of the best places to get pampered ORIENTAL SPA Housed in a century-old teak house, the Mandarin Oriental’s spa is reached by boat across the river from the main hotel. There are 15 treatment rooms, including a handful with hot tubs, and menu of traditional Thai and modern Western treatments. PANPURI ORGANIC SPAThis all-white spa at the Park Hyatt specialises in anti-ageing facials and hot oil massages from Thailand's leading organic skincare brand. There’s a second spa with five Japanese-style thermal pools at Gaysorn Village mall. THE PENINSULA SPA In a colonial-style building overlooking the Chao Phraya, this three-storey spa offers a full range of treatments, from a two-hour Thai massage to a hi-tech Second Skin facial using 3D-printed hyaluronic strips.

ask a local

Words: Lara Brunt

Somrak Sila, co-founder of WTF Café & Gallery (, shares her insider tips for Bangkok “Soul Food Mahanakorn ( is my favourite restaurant. It serves consistently great Thai food in a simple dining space – the pomelo salad with chilli jam and popcorn tiger prawns is a must-try. Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, Loy La Long Hotel ( is a tiny hidden gem in the grounds of a temple and a top spot for a quiet sunset drink. A few doors down from my own café and gallery, Studio Lam ( is perfect for those who love an intimate club with incredibly diverse music. And don’t leave Bangkok without buying some Tiger Balm – it’ll fix all of your problems!”

HEADY HEIGHTS Enjoy sensational sunsets and sky-high views atop some of the city’s tallest towers. When the golden hour approaches, those in the know head skyward to one of the city’s many rooftop terraces. Join them at the newly opened Mahanakhon SkyWalk (kingpowermahanakhon., a two-tiered observation deck 314 metres above the busy streets of Silom, complete with a glass floor section and Bangkok’s highest rooftop bar. Meanwhile, the aptly-named Vertigo ( pairs upscale al fresco dining – think smoked Wagyu carpaccio topped with crayfish and caviar – with

spectacular views from 61 floors above the city. Before you sit down for dinner, drop by Moon Bar next door for sundowners. Across the river, ThreeSixty (www3. sits atop the Millennium Hilton Bangkok. Listen to live jazz while taking in the unfettered panorama of the city skyline and filling up your Instagram feed. 67



Immersed in nature

Swap the concrete jungle for the great outdoors by exploring these stunning natural attractions

Photo: Abu Dhabi Mangroves


The mangroves. A mega eco asset, the capital’s Mangrove National Park is a biodiversity hotspot, with lush mangrove forests, salt marshes, mudflats and algal communities to discover. In addition to its tropical vibe, the mangroves act as a natural windbreak, and guard against tidal surges, while the body of water helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara offers guided kayaking tours for guests. You’ll likely spot herons, foxes and turtles as you paddle and, if you’re really lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. It may be famous for its pink flamingos, but there’s much more to these wetlands than pretty pink birds. More than 250 avian species, 37 plant species and a variety of



dragonflies and damselflies call the five-squarekilometre landscape home. Break out the binoculars and explore on foot, or join one of the tours hosted by local nature fan and photographer Sultan Karrani (see Al Ain Oasis. Rewind some 4,000 years to when the people who lived here started taming the desert and you’ll get an idea of the historic significance of this sprawling oasis. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, it is shaped by a complex shared water supply based on wells and falaj (the UAE’s traditional irrigation system), and you can wander through it under the shade of myriad date palms. Make it an educational experience by learning more about efforts to preserve the delicate ecosystem, and showcase traditional farming methods, at the Eco-Centre.


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Dukes Dubai THE ROOMS & SUITES Offering the best of British hospitality in the UAE, Dukes Dubai has all the ingredients for a fun-filled holiday. Choose a Junior Suite and you’ll get access to the Executive Lounge, which comes with a host of benefits, including early check-in (and late check-out, so you can stretch your stay to the max). If you want to stay for longer, the tastefully furnished hotel apartments are just the ticket.

THE FOOD Tuck into hearty classics with a twist at Great British Restaurant (GBR) or taste a North Indian palette of flavours at Khyber. Just be sure to keep Friday afternoons free for the DUKESY Family Brunch, which takes place at West 14th Steakhouse from 1pm-4pm. Grab a seat al fresco and tuck into tasty food from the live cooking stations while the children get stuck into the self-serve buffet.

THE ACTIVITIES Make the most of the private beach access, take a refreshing dip in the infinity pool and navigate the lazy river on a pool float. Next, have a personal training session at the gym, unwind with a yoga class by the indoor pool, and book the kids in for a swimming lesson*. Little ones can run off steam at DUKESY Kids Club (for ages 5 to 12), where they can get creative with arts and crafts and more.

To find out more, call +971 4 455 1111 or visit 70

* Bookings for activities are subject to availability

With its Palm Jumeirah address and distinct British character, Dukes Dubai reigns supreme



Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa Take time out at this luxurious desert resort that'll whisk you away on an Arabian adventure ROOMS & SUITES A 45-minute drive from central Dubai, Bab Al Shams has been designed in harmony with the surroundings, and its 115 rooms and suites make the most of the Arabian styled setting. Book a Terrace Room for views of the golden dunes or the lush Palm Grove. Ideal for families, the Deluxe Suite is the largest room, with ample space for two adults and two children.

THE FOOD The focus this month is firmly on brunch. The picnic style 360 Nature Brunch, on Saturdays, invites you to settle on blanket on the grass and tuck into a hamper of delicious treats. The Garden Brunch, every Friday, indulges foodies with an extensive buffet and livecooking stations offering global cuisine. Kids' entertainment and supervised play areas make these brunches fun for all.

THE ACTIVITIES Mums can take advantage of the special Mother's Day spa packages available this month (on weekdays only), which are designed to offer respite and adventure in equal measure. The 'relaxed' package includes a Balinese massage while the 'active' package offers you a choice of archery, fat biking or cycling. Plus, each includes a leisurely lunch and access to the swimming pool.

To find out more, call +971 4 809 6100 or visit 72

YOUR ULTIMATE DESERT ESCAPE.. Nestled among the dunes, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is the world’s favourite choice for dream desert getaways. This oasis of tranquility combines rustic charm with top-tier hospitality and luxury to bring to life an authentic desert experience. BOOK DIRECT & SAVE BAB AL SHAMS DESERT RESORT & SPA Dubai,United Arab Emirates +971 4 809 6100 /babalshamshotel





The St. Regis Abu Dhabi Located at the vibrant heart of the city, opulence abounds at this five-star royal retreat ROOMS & SUITES Soar up high in the clouds at the world’s highest suspended Abu Dhabi Suite, with two-floors of jawdropping grandeur – a cinema, spa and private elevator are just some of the highlights. If the budget doesn't quite stretch to this, enjoy the 36 Hour Escape staycation offering a Superior King Sea View Room with breakfast for two at The Terrace on the Corniche.

THE FOOD Not for the faint of heart, those with a head for heights can experience a Helipad Sunset Supper, 255 metres in the air, with a spread of exquisite dining delights to spice up the evening. Alternatively, keep it simple at Villa Toscana, where the interiors are reminiscent of Italian summer vibes, and the food speaks a tale of ancient culinary traditions.

THE ACTIVITIES For weary travellers, Remède Spa's 75-min Jet-Lag Recovery treatment is the perfect fix for travel fatigue. Bask in the comfort of stimulating back and foot massages, accompanied by a hydrating, bespoke facial as your body’s internal clock adjusts. Afterwards, you can chill at Nation Riviera Beach Club, which boasts its own private stretch of sand.

To find out more, call +971 2 694 4444 or visit 74

Abu Dhabi’s Finest Urban Resort The St. Regis Abu Dhabi soars to new heights of splendour and service beyond expectation. Located at the vibrant heart of Abu Dhabi with a 200 metre stretch of pristine beach, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf which is home to the Nation Riviera Beach Club at the finest address in the city.

Š2019 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, St. Regis and their logos are the trademarks of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates.

The St. Regis Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates t. +971 2 694 4444

Stay exquisite at more than 40 St. Regis hotels and resorts worldwide. @stregishotels


Jumeirah Emirates Towers

Jumeirah Creekside Hotel


Bisected by the Dubai Creek and offering a duo of unique experiences, make your next city break a Jumeirah Creekside Hotel or Jumeirah Emirates Towers occasion


ontemporary art-styled luxury minutes from the city’s heritage heartland, or a lifestyle destination with architectural prominence on the doorstep of Dubai’s retail and entertainment scene, this duo of five-star Jumeirah hotels are tailor made city break destinations. Five minutes’ drive from Dubai International Airport places you in the soaring sunlit atrium of Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, with its commanding views of Dubai Creek. Recognised as much for its living art gallery spaces as for its historic waterway vistas, and views of the golf club, it’s the perfect city base for those looking to get a feel for Dubai’s rich past. Get a sense of the city from the comfort of a spacious Club Room, your haven of calm after a day spent wandering the lanes of the nearby Gold Souk and Spice Souk, or after a sunset stroll along the banks of Dubai Creek.

The view from Jumeirah Creekside Hotel


Premium Deluxe Bedroom, Jumeirah Emirates Towers

Post-exploration downtime also comes in the form of an eclectic collection of restaurants and lounges, including the gorgeous rooftop setting of Cu-Ba, whose cantilevered pool with its sleek glass floor dramatically extends out over the building façade. A prominent design presence at the head of Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ reputation for sky-high hospitality is grounded across 56 floors of leisure, dining and relaxation focused space that includes award-winning grill restaurant The Rib Room and blissful Talise Spa with its flotation pool and oxygen bar. The stylish accommodation includes the Chopard Ladiesonly floor complete with all-female staff, bespoke amenities and walk-in shower with separate marble tub. Linger at your leisure, but with a clutch of galleries and wealth of on-trend eateries housed within the DIFC district, located adjacent to the hotel, and the record-breaking attractions of Downtown Dubai a few minutes drive away, there’s added incentive to explore the area. To find out more, visit

HAPPINESS KNOWING THIS WILL LAST FOREVER Save up to 25% when you book your next holiday at Jumeirah Emirates Towers or Jumeirah Creekside Hotel inclusive of daily complimentary breakfast, spa and dining offers. Unwind and enjoy exclusive privileges including complimentary WiFi unlimited entry to Wild Wadi Waterpark™, Talise Fitness and Jumeirah’s pristine private beach. *Terms and conditions apply



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Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai


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THROUGH THE LENS Orrido di Ponte Alto, Trento, Italy "I wasn't familiar with the Trentino region in Northern Italy before visiting, but within minutes of arriving its hidden mix of dramatic mountains, mirror-like lakes and charming scenery had me hooked. Sandwiched between idyllic small towns, it doesn't boast the huge crowds like Venice or Florence can muster – something that came in handy as our guide ushered our small group into this dramatic gorge. Standing behind the sheer power of the cascading waterfall is something I'll never forget. As the crashing flow deafened me, I was left completely in awe of nature's beauty."

Photographer, Daniel James Clarke, loves to travel because "it's the best classroom we can enter, it’s full of voices and diversity you’ll never find in any school." @danflyingsolo;

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A luxurious stay at Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai Situated a stone's throw from Burj Khalifa, this hip and happening property offers a sense of place with its expansive guestrooms featuring indigenous accents. You could be in with the chance of winning a one night stay in a Deluxe Room for two guests (inclusive of breakfast and Wi-Fi), with dinner for two in Bleu Blanc, where you'll be treated to a three-course set menu with soft drinks. To find out more and to enter, visit (terms & conditions apply).

TRAVEL INSPO AT YOUR FINGERTIPS Let our travel news and round-ups, available to read on our website, inspire your next trip…


The Knowledge. Read our handy how-tos, from getting to grips with travel insurance to helping kids beat jet lag, and more.


Staycations. Take a peek inside these top hotels and resorts on your doorstep and then book your next mini break!


Insider Guides. Check out our in-the-know travel edits of some of the most popular holiday destinations on our radar. 83


Suite dreams Our monthly finish with a flourish, delving into a suite that has a character and style all of its own

The Bollywood Suite Aloft City Centre Deira

Get your Shah Rukh Khan on inside this vibrant suite, which will immerse you in the Hindi film scene with its collection of movie memorabilia, in-room cinema screen streaming Bollywood blockbusters and built-in vending machine dispensing snacks. Teamed with a stellar view of the Dubai skyline, it's sure to give you a taste of the A-list lifestyle. The Bollywood Suite is one of four cinema themed suites at the property.


Ronald Codrai © Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi

‫ أبوظبي‬- ‫رونالد كودراي © دائرة الثقافة والسياحة‬

ABU DHABI’S LEGACY AND HISTORY. Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi. It includes the city’s first permanent structure, a coral and sea stone watch tower built to protect the settlement of Abu Dhabi established on the island in the 1760s. Qasr Al Hosn became home to the ruling family, a seat of government, and it now stands as our nation’s living monument, telling the story of Abu Dhabi and its people.

Book your experience at


Inspiration. Expertly crafted. Comprising two iconic towers, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, the world’s tallest 5-star hotel, is centrally located beside the Dubai Water Canal and offers a spectrum of facilities and services for a seamless experience. The hotel features: 1,608 luxurious guest rooms and suites, over 15 award-winning restaurants and lounges, Saray Spa featuring traditional hammams, a Dead Sea Floatation Pool and 17 treatment rooms, state-of-the-art health club and fitness facilities, as well as 8,000 sqm of spectacular meeting spaces.

JW Marriott® Marquis® Hotel Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE | T +971.4.414.0000 |

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