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Exotic Places • Interesting People • Intelligent Travel


TIME FORGOT The Ancient Landscapes of the Kimberley



Remote River Cruising in Myanmar

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Sri Lanka’s Return

Europe’s Most Beautiful Waterway

The Whiskey Debate: Why Rye?

Sydney: Blessed by the Sun





ruising is, for many, a curious way to travel.

For those who have not tried it, or for those travellers who signed up with the wrong type of cruise, perceptions can be of a voyage to nowhere that never seems to end; a monotonous string of ports and buffet lines inhabited by the masses, lacking in the intimacy of a poolside sun lounge on terra firma. And if you have cruised – or spoken with former cruisers – you could be forgiven for these assumptions.


This issue, dedicated to the fastest growing travel segment in Asia, will hopefully change your mind. Because cruising comes in many different shapes and sizes, and caters to a cross-section of travellers – from empty nesters looking for soft adventure to families looking to bond – it’s all about knowing which cruise line to choose and which itinerary to book.

ART DIRECTOR Herbert Nunag

DEPUTY EDITOR Gayatri Bhaumik

In this issue, you’ll cruise well beyond the pale up Myanmar’s Chindwin River on the new Orient-Express Orcaella and see the challenges that face luxury travel operators in these emerging destinations. You’ll travel among the wild things in the Kimberley, one of Australia’s most remote and certainly most beautiful corners, with local icon Orion Expeditions, as they embark on a new chapter in their cruising history under the Lindblad banner. In Europe, we travel with all-inclusive river specialists Scenic Cruises on the iconic Danube, a river which has shaped the fortunes of the historic cities on its banks. You’ll also read about some of the ships which will be carrying passengers to new and exciting destinations in the year ahead in our Innovation at Sea feature. Of course there is plenty for non-cruisers in our winter issue; delve into the emerging destination that is Sri Lanka and lux it up at two stunning resorts by Aman, one of the first international hotel groups to realise the island’s potential. We also get a first glimpse at Cheval Blanc Randheli, the newest property by the LVMH group and one of the most anticipated openings of the year, explore the streets of Dublin for 24 hours, and check in at the boutique hotels of the Greek capital. In our regular Lifestyle section, read about the flower power culinary style of chef Bjoern Alexander Panek at the Mira Hong Kong, learn how American-style rye whiskey is on the up-and-up, travel the world with a craving for caviar, see what makes Maserati’s newest marque tick, and get the low down on the market’s best action cameras. Wherever you’re travelling, on land or sea, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season, and look forward to inspiring you even more in the year ahead.

TRAVEL INDUSTRY RELATIONSHIP DIRECTOR Tammy Fong BEIJING SALES MANAGER: Louis Chu SALES MANAGER Fatima Cameira JETSETTER is registered as a newspaper & periodical. JETSETTER is published by Channel One Communications JETSETTER is printed by Channel One Communications Suite 402-3, Hong Kong Trade Centre 161-167 Des Voeux Rd Central Hong Kong

Nick Walton


Managing Editor All rights Reserved: Copyright and distribution rights are reserved exclusively for Channel One Communications, their partners, associates and affiliates. All materials published remain the property of the publisher. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission. All information contained in this publication is from a reliable source. Channel One does not make any guarantees to the accuracy of the information contained.

Debra Meiburg

Crystal Leung

Master of Wine Debra Meiburg is a celebrated wine journalist, TV personality, wine educator and in-demand speaker. With a serious tongue for wine, but a little tongue-in-cheek, Debra is pleasing palates across Asia with her fresh take on the world of wine. In this issue, she reveals Santa’s little helper, Cabernet Franc.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Crystal Leung has a strong passion for travel, and loves to share her experiences with everyone. Not only has she worked in Australia and America, she has also delved into Western Europe on her own. In this issue, she gets the low down on the new craze in high-definition action cameras, perfect for adventurous spirits.

When on assignment, JETSETTER’s editorial team use Nikon professional cameras.

Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali Jl. Melasti, Banjar Kelod Ungasan, Bali 80364 Indonesia

for further informations please call +62 361 3007000 or visit

Banyan Tree Ungasan Resort - Bali











ROOM WITH A VIEW Into the Wild

24 HOURS... Dubliners for a Day

CRUISING EUROPE Cruising the Beautiful Blue Danube


KIMBERLEY The Land That Time Forgot

MYANMAR Into the Light










THE GUIDE – SYDNEY Blessed by the Sun






CHEF PROFILE Designs on a Plate


AUTO Room to Move



Edinburgh, Scotland December 29, 2013 – January 2, 2014 Celebrate New Year’s in Edinburgh with the spectacular three-day Hogmanay festival, featuring an illuminating Torchlight Procession through the historical old town, an epic street party, and the popular Concert in the Gardens, headlined by the Pet Shop Boys. Stay up to welcome the new year with a spectacular midnight firework display in front of beautiful Edinburgh Castle. Where to stay: Occupying three Georgian townhouses in the heart of Edinburgh’s new town, the Howard Hotel is an intimate, luxury hotel that’s the perfect base from which to explore the city.


January 22-26, 2014 Organised and managed by the Temple Bar Company, Temple Bar Tradfest is a five-day festival celebrating tradition Irish music and culture. With over 200 events held in a number of iconic buildings, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St Michan’s Church, and Dublin’s City Hall, the festival not only showcases a list of big names in the music industry, like Paul Brady and Seth Lakeman, but also provides opportunities for a host of upcoming talents. On the street, visitors will be entertained by varied street performances, face painting, and a series of workshops Where to stay: Located within walking distance of Grafton Street’s shopping district and some of the city’s most scenic spots, the 100-room Blooms Hotel offers a comfortable environment and unsurpassed service.

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL Adelaide, Australia

February 28 – March 16, 2014 One of the greatest arts events across the globe, the Adelaide Festival delights audiences with over 300 performances, including acclaimed theatre productions, amazing dance and music performances, and striking visual art displays. Featuring the epic Shakespeare-based theatre show Roman Tragedies, and the exclusive concert series by legendary musician John Zorn, the 17-day festival is the ultimate indulgence for art lovers around the world. Where to stay: Boasting luxurious accommodation and award-winning restaurants, the Intercontinental Adelaide enjoys the best location on the River Torrens, with access to the festival center and numerous exclusive boutiques.




January 25, 2014

January 31 – February 1, 2014

Join a great live show in The Meadow, the largest outdoor garden venue in Singapore. This year, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival promises to offer a mind-blowing music experience to visitors, with a stellar line-up of famous artists and emerging talents that everyone will fall for, including London trio Daughter, Scottish five-piece Frightened Rabbit, Melbourne-based singer James Keogh, and many more.

Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is the most important and anticipated festival on the Chinese calendar. To welcome the Year of the Horse, a spectacular night-time parade will be put on along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront on the first day, followed by a fantastic firework display on the second day. Be sure to arrive early to guarantee a spot to Victoria Harbour for the best views of the fireworks.

The Meadow, Singapore

Where to stay: Voted the world’s leading business hotel at the world travel awards, the Pan Pacific offers guests a luxurious, elegant home-away-fromhome overlooking the heart of Marina Bay.

Hong Kong

Where to stay: Good spot on Victoria Harbour, the Peninsula Hotel offers elegant, classic guest rooms with modern touches, complemented by state-of-the-art in-room amenities.


February 6 – 16, 2014 With some 300,000 tickets sold last year, the Berlin International Film Festival, dubbed the Berlinale, is the largest publicly attended international film event in the world, attracting a host of movie stars, celebrities and journalists from over 110 countries. Each year, up to 400 international and European premieres are shown in various sections of which twenty will compete for the acclaimed Golden and Silver Bears Awards. Where to stay: Only 200 metres from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof train station, the Intercity Hotel is a contemporary, stylish home-away-from-home situated in the middle of the capital, adjacent to the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate.



estled in the awe-inspiring landscapes of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, the newly opened Awasi Patagonia wilderness lodge offers intrepid travellers a chance to delve into one of the world’s most remote regions in style. Boasting just 12 luxury villas, Awasi Patagonia, the second property after sister lodge Awasi Atacama, is the park’s only property to offer personal guides and 4x4 vehicle access into this stunning corner of the world. Designed by acclaimed Chilean architect Felipe Assadi, each spacious villa features a rustic charm matched with vintage Patagonian shutters which reveal mesmerising views to the jagged peaks of Torres del Paine. Guests can spend their days stalking puma and hiking hidden mountain trails before returning to the Relais and Chateaux lodge for gourmet cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, and the chance to soak the evening away in private in-villa hot tubs, located beside wood-burning stoves. Award-winning specialist tour operator Scott Dunn has packages that include accommodation at the lodge and excursions into its surreal surroundings.

Into the






Visit one of the world’s least visited locales with an innovative new Indian adventure from Wild Photography Holidays. The Ladakh Expedition – Monasteries, Villages, Mountains and Festivals delves deep into the Himalayan mountain range and includes encounters with Changpo nomads, visits to Buddhist monasteries in Lamayuru and Thiksey, trekking around the brilliantly turquoise Pangong Lake, and a chance to cross the peaks at Warila and Khardungla, two of the world’s highest mountain passes. With departures in June and July 2014, the itinerary to India’s ‘Little Tibet’, one of the country’s most isolated corners, also includes the Korzok Gustor Festival and a visit to the Basgo Fort in Indian Kashmir. Not for the faint-hearted, the journey includes several nights in remote areas, including four nights in deluxe tented accommodation, as well as a chance to stay at small family-run inns. From GBP2,100 (US$3,411) per person, including 15 nights’ accommodation, selected meals and transport, airport transfers, domestic flights, and photographic tuition by pro shooter Martin Sammtleben.


ICY ADVENTURE Winter wanderers looking to experience some of the best predicted Northern Lights activities of the past 50 years will love the new Winter Wonderland tour from Taber Holidays. The new four-night escorted itinerary offers intrepid travellers the best of Iceland during the day as well as the night; starting and finishing in the capital, Reykjavik, it takes in the Geysir hot spring area, the Jökulsárlon Glacial Lagoon, and the magnificent Gulfoss Waterfall, as well as stops at infamous Eyjafjallajökull, which spectacularly erupted in 2010, bringing Europe’s air traffic to a screaming halt. After two nights in a country hotel near Vil in Southern Iceland, the perfect spot for Northern Lights viewing, thaw out with a soak in the renowned Blue Lagoon, with its mineral rich water and fine silica mud. From GBP998 (US$1,633) per person, including flights from London, accommodation with breakfast, and entrance fees.

BRAVING BRAZIL Specialist tour operator Bespoke Brazil has created a new expedition to the Kaxinawá tribes, who live in the remote west of the country. This exciting tenday itinerary is ideally suited for those looking to really get off the beaten track to an area few tourists visit; the Kaxinawá tribe, or Huni Kui, meaning True People, inhabit the Amazon forest close to the Peruvian border in the state of Acre, and the itinerary includes visits to seven villages along the Tarauacá and Jordão rivers. The Kaxinawá pride themselves on their strong cultural identity, while maintaining contact with the “white people” who they first encountered in the late nineteenth century. Still, much of their culture is secretive, including their knowledge of language, painting, art, and traditional medicine. After travelling by light plane and village boat, guests sleep in hammocks in the local homes of the Kaxinawá, with the tariff including air taxi flights, airport transfers, hotel and local home accommodation, meals, and activities. From GBP2,460 (US$4,040) per person.

LAKE LIVING Lake Baikal is not only one of the oldest, deepest, and largest lakes in the world, but it’s also undoubtedly Siberia’s most breathtaking natural landmark, and a new itinerary from 56th Parallel explores this stunning frozen landscape in depth with its new eight-night Walk on Water tour. Only a one hour commute from the city of Irkutsk, Lake Baikal is accessible from Listvyanka, a nearby village known for its traditional wood and stone architecture and Siberian baroque St. Nicholas Church. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Baikal continues to attract thousands of visitors to its shores all year round. However, winter is when Lake Baikal really comes alive: the lake’s surface transforms into a winter sports playground and the taiga wood surroundings are covered in a soft blanket of snow, setting a truly enchanted scene. The Walk on Water tour begins in Irkutsk, one of Siberia’s largest cities, famed for its beautiful paved streets and old cathedrals. Once in Baikal, travellers can 4WD to Olkhon, home to hidden cave systems, and visit the holy Buddhist stupa at Ogoy Island, the Taltst open-air museum, dedicated to Siberian culture, take a hovercraft across the ice to the pyramid-shaped cliffs of Peschanaya Bay, dog sled through the snow-dusted Taiga woods with a team of Siberian huskies, and go ice rafting on a piece of the lake crust, complete with mulled wine and a Siberian sauna at the end. From US$3,900 per person.



With itineraries to Algeria, the East Indies, and Papua New Guinea, Peregrine’s 2014 line up promises more expeditions to more remote locales than ever before. Specialising in travelling off the grid, from remote Tajikistan and reclusive North Korea, to one-of-a-kind experiences such as staying in the home of a Kazakh family while attending the Mongolian Eagle Festival, Peregrine will now offer a series of first time encounters, including a a road trip through the stunning mountain passes of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, a Dubai stopover that showcases the Arabian aspects of the city, and safaris in Selous, an unspoiled wilderness in Tanzania.


Twenty new trips have been added to Peregrine’s 2014 Europe programme, including small group tours exploring the Celtic culture, dramatic landscapes, and abundant wildlife of Scotland and Ireland, and the majestic natural beauty and cosmopolitan capitals of Scandinavia. New itineraries in Central America will explore the volcanoes of Nicaragua and the rainforests and birdlife of Panama, and a range of six new sailing itineraries in the Galapagos will offer a comfortable way to explore the islands aboard a luxury, twin hull catamaran.

Explore the splendour of Queensland’s Scenic Rim wilderness during the southern summer while indulging in luxury with a new four-day guided walk package from Spicers Retreats. Catering to a total of just ten guests, this exclusive guided walk will take guests on a journey of discovery through the Scenic Rim region two hour’s drive south-west of Brisbane; a stunning collection of mountains, ridges, escarpments, forests, and ancient volcanic plateaus set in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and surrounded by World Heritage-listed national parks. The adventure winds its way through the private 5,000 acre Spicers Peak Nature Refuge and Main Range National Park, where professional guides will match the route to lead the experienced hiker or casual ambler. By day, discover deep creek canyons, crystal clear water holes, sub-tropical rainforests, open fields, caves, and spectacular limestone cliffs under the guide of colourful bushman guide Russell ‘Jacko’ Jackson, and encounter plenty of local wildlife, from wallabies, to a myriad of birdlife. By night, sleep under the stars in luxurious safari-style tents at Spicers Canopy, which features an outdoor fire pit, hot showers, and a grand timber lodge with fireplace and open-plan kitchen, lounge, and dining areas. Packages start from AU$1,899 (US$1,727) per person.


Myanmar continues to shine as the “it” destination for 2014 and experiential travel company Brown + Hudson has crafted a special itinerary that explores the Mergui archipelago in the nation’s south, a sprinkling of tropical islands on the Andaman. Only opened to travellers in 1997, the archipelago is a tropical wilderness inhabited by the Moken people who believe a great flood separated the islands from the mainland millennia ago. Explore the islands with world champion free-diver and yoga instructor Sara Campbell, beginning in the Lampi National Park, a dedicated marine reserve where whitebellied sea eagles and Brahminy kites circle and dudongs feed on the sea grasses of the eastern islands. There will be a chance to bird watch in the evergreen forests and canoe through 100 year old mangroves. From there you’ll sail to Great Swinton Island, a world-class dive destination where you’ll practice both yoga and free diving, swimming unaided above forests of gorgonian sea fans and limestone overhangs. Alternatively, dive in Shark Cave just offshore, home to schools of grey reef sharks. You’ll do all of this with ease, thanks to a private charter yacht, perfect for exploring the archipelago’s 800 islands. The twin masted 98ft ketch combines stunning surrounds with lavish interiors, including wood-panel staterooms and marble lined ensuites. There is a private chef to keep your energy levels up and even jet skis for when you want to up the tempo. The six-day journey starts from GBP10,500 (US$17,260) per person, based on four people travelling.


Understated British Charm Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has entered the European market with the unveiling of Rosewood London, the city’s latest luxury hotel. Set in a central location just minutes from Covent Garden, the Royal Opera House, and a host of museums and galleries, the sophisticated property is housed in a Edwardian Belle Epoque building that dates from 1914. Designed by Tony Chi and Associates, the hotel boasts rich touches of lacquer, textured wood veneers, and sumptuous mirrors, and incorporates the original street frontage and dome, and the grand Pavonazzo marble staircase that extends through all seven storeys. Public areas are filled with artwork and books, while the restaurants, like the chic Mirror Room and refined Holborn Dining Room, serve a range of classic and contemporary British dishes. The 262 guest rooms and 44 suites are comfortable, elegant oases that capture the essence of stylish London residences. The top suite here is the Grand Manor House Wing; accessed by private elevator and its own street entrance, the 6,318sqft suite boasts six bedrooms, a dress chamber, library, dining room, and several sitting areas.

Nordic Chic

Regal Indian Indulgence Ritz-Carlton has made its first foray into India with the opening of its new hotel in Bangalore’s city centre. In the heart of India’s silicon valley, the 277 guest rooms boast rich tones of sienna, orange and gold, luxurious touches like plush featherbeds, goose-down pillows, and 400 thread-count Frette linen, and plenty of natural daylight through elegant Jaali screens. The prominent hotel features a design aesthetic that draws inspiration from the Mughal era and the Taj Mahal, and incorporates 1,280 pieces of contemporary art by prominent artists. Also on offer are seven fine-dining restaurants and venues overseen by Michelin-starred chef Anupam Banerjee, including the striking three-floor dim sum restaurant The Lantern, and Bang, the city’s highest rooftop bar. For those seeking respite, the hotel also incorporates The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA, a wellness oasis which specialises in Ayurvedic and internationallyacclaimed treatments, and houses 12 luxurious treatment rooms, as well as a Rossano Ferretti beauty salon. Exercise enthusiasts can work up a sweat at the state-of-the-art fitness centre, or the outdoor swimming pool, which is surrounded by a poolside lounge, private cabanas, and daybeds.

Breathing new life into what was formerly an abandoned inn near Iceland’s ‘Golden Circle,’ ION Luxury Adventure Hotel combines cutting-edge modern design with Iceland’s rugged, rustic landscape. Situated less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavik, perched on the slopes of Mount Hengill, an active volcano, ION’s design leans heavily on sustainable practices and pays tribute to the natural features of the landscape. Realised by design studio Minarc, each of the 45 guest rooms are an intriguing blend of concrete chic and earthy materials, softened by warm accents of locally-salvaged driftwood and lava. Outside the rooms, indulge in farm-fresh cuisine at the Silfra Restaurant and Bar, or take in incomparable vistas over late-night cocktails at the Northern Lights bar. For some Nordic rest and relaxation, book a treatment at the elegant Lava Spa, or take a dip in the 10-metre outdoor hot pool and savour the spectacular views of lava fields that run as far as the eye can see. ION, a Design Hotels Member, is perfectly placed to see the best of Iceland, including the Unesco-listed Thingvellir National Park, Thingvallavatn – the country’s largest lake – and Gullfoss waterfall, and guests can immerse themselves in the natural surrounds with activities like ice-climbing, glacier walks, and diving.


Maldives’ Ultimate Hideout The Maldives has gained an opulent new hideaway in the form of the recently opened Grand Sunset Residence at the One & Only Reethi Rah. The exceptionally spacious property occupies 2,000sqm of prime beachfront location and consists of two villas that cater for up to seven. The first has two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and separate dining and sitting areas; the master suite boasts an oversized king bed, a personal Smeg wine cellar bar, steam and rain showers, and access to the lagoon. The second one-bedroom villa features an ensuite with an oversized bathtub, indoor and outdoor showers, and a 26sqm verandah which offers a versatile exterior living space. Each room here is decked out with state-of-the-art technology, including Bang & Olufsen BeoCom5 telephones, iPads, and 55-inch LCD TVs with Bose surround-sound systems which run an all-new entertainment and information system. Both villas also share two luxury golf buggies to get around in, a private 50m pool with canopied day beds, a sunken fire pit, and shisha lounge, as well as a 24-hour villa host and personal chef. www.reethirah.

City-Slick Makeover New York City’s iconic St. Regis hotel has emerged from a comprehensive, multi-million dollar renovation at the hands of renowned interior design firm HDC, who also carried out a makeover of the St. Regis Florence. Ushering in a glamorous new era at one of Manhattan’s premier addresses, the transformation embraces the hotel’s design legacy while infusing a contemporary style. Fresh, sophisticated touches like large-format photographic art, vibrant fabrics, and bevelled mirrors are married with original architectural elements like Waterford crystal chandeliers and crown molding. The refreshed guest rooms feature chic, black lacquer painted doors, walls of textured fabrics, marble tiled entries, rich colour schemes, luxe leather details, custom furnishings, and state-of-the-art technology. The focal point for each guest room and suite will come from the hotel’s extensive art collection focusing on New York City photography by Janet Arsdale. Public spaces have also undergone some freshening up, most notably, the hotel’s historic King Cole Bar. The historic space has been expanded to become the King Cole Bar & Salon, incorporating an extensive lounge with a dramatic open fireplace as the centrepiece.

New Phuket Paradise Situated on a serene spot on picturesque Layan Beach, Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa is the latest Thai beach property by Anantara Resorts. Just 20 minutes from Phuket International Airport, and 35 minutes from the city centre, the new resort is a luxurious hideaway surrounded by lush landscapes, towering coconut trees, powdery sands, and azure waters. Each of the 77 suites and villas across nine categories offer contemporary interiors with local accents and the latest amenities, including iPod docking stations, Apple TV, fully-stocked wine cabinets and minibars, Nespresso machines, and a selection of books; the 47 villas also feature private pools and 24-hour butler service. A full complement of facilities are available on-site, so whether it’s the cooking school, the kids’ club, the Anantara Spa, the fitness centre, or the pletheora of restaurants, your vacation can be anything you wish. Rounding out the experience is a team of specialists, including a Wine Guru, a Salt Guru, an Olive Oil Guru, and a Slumber Guru, on hand to give you a thoroughly bespoke experience.


Chengdu’s M O D E R N G AT E WAY

One of the most anticipated openings in China this year, the Ritz-Carlton Chengdu has opened in the heart of the former Imperial capital, bringing new levels of luxury to one of the region’s most important economic gateways. Towering above Tianfu Square in the city’s cosmopolitan heart, the 353-room property features interior design inspired by traditional Chinese courtyard homes, with Oriental motifs skillfully blended into the contemporary luxury hotel. Treat yourself to one of the 113 Ritz-Carlton Club rooms or one of 55 opulent suites and enjoy access to the coveted Ritz-Carlton Club, which offers guests an exclusive concierge service, private check-in, and five delicious food and beverage services throughout the day within a stunning lounge boasting panoramic views of Chengdu. After a long day at the boardroom table, be sure to tempt your palate at Li Xuan Chinese restaurant, which blends Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines, and pamper yourself in the Hirsch Bedner Associatesdesigned Ritz-Carlton Spa, which draws inspiration from the historic Silk Road. Its ten treatment rooms include two couple’s suites and a luxurious heated jade stone bed.

INTRODUCING 29 Boutique, design-savvy, and distinctive, the new Mira Moon has opened, hidden away in the backstreets of Wan Chai in Hong Kong. The perfect urban haven for travellers tired of cookie-cutter hotels, the Design Hotels member features 91 guest rooms – including floors specifically for men and for women - an elegant lounge bar, and a secret garden cocktail divan. With a bold, fashion-forward design thanks to a partnership between designer Marcel Wanders and design company Yoo, guests will enjoy the references to the Chinese moon goddess and the Jade Rabbit, both of whom live on the moon in Chinese mythology. The design-savvy persona extends to the uniforms of staff, designed by Grace Choi, and the smooth beats played in the public spaces by DJ Helen Ting. In the signature Super Giant bar and restaurant, the culinary team creates unique Chinese-Spanish tapas, while guests can sample modern mixology with hints of the Orient in the open-air garden bar. Look out for playful furnishings and ornatelycarved wood panelling intertwined with Chinese artifacts. We especially love the innovative toiletries for him and her, bathroom mood lighting, and great minibar amenities by Grey Goose, though it’s still Hong Kong so remember space is at a premium.


Luxury Has a

New Home

Boasting three stand-alone villas and an opulent penthouse, the new Iniala Beach House, which opened on December 1, is the most luxurious retreat to launch on Natai Beach in a generation. Created by finance whizz-turned- philanthropist Mark Weingard and located just north of Phuket, Iniala Beach House combines luxurious interiors and a curated art collection with a stunning position on one of Thailand’s most undeveloped beaches. Iniala is your own retreat, complete with accommodation for 14, private spas in each villa, dedicated wellness and culinary teams, and opulent interiors by major names of the design world, from Brazilian brothers Humberto and Fernando Campana, to Spanish muse Jaime Hayon and Irish master furniture-maker Joseph Walsh. The three unique villas offer suites with direct beach access, spacious bathrooms with deep soak tubs, and private plunge pools. The Collector’s Villa even features a dining room for 25 and a private cinema, while the sublime Graham Lamb-designed Penthouse, located on the second floor of the main building, features tantalising views to the Andaman Sea. Iniala also includes Aziamendi, a signature restaurant that is open to non-guests, a comprehensive kid’s club, and a small army of butlers, drivers, housekeepers, and spa therapists on call and you can feel good while basking in luxury; as part of Weingard’s charity efforts, ten percent of all villa revenue goes to a charitable foundation set up in memory of his late wife and dedicated to helping the disadvantaged of the Kingdom. Complete hire from US$95,000 per week.

INTRODUCING 31 Time away from the world can be healthy for the soul, and a haven wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains known only by local surfers is just what the doctor ordered. Located just outside the surf and fishing mecca of Puerto Escondido, the new Hotel Escondido offers a modern take on the traditional Oaxacan beach hut, cultivating a sophisticated atmosphere with a cheerful, centrally located bar and an underground dance club that quite literally lives up to its name. Created by hoteliers Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha, each of the 16 bungalows features elements of local tradition and design, from palapa rooftops to tropical wooden floorboards. Simplistically luxurious, the Design Hotels member offers an escape from the rat race like no other; spend your mornings learning to surf with local experts, or snorkelling the lagoon, and the warmth of the afternoon in your private plunge pool or enjoying renowned Oaxacan cuisine from the hotel’s signature restaurant.



Beach Shack


Dubliners for the

9am Make your Irish home-away-from-home at The Clarence, a chic, elegant boutique hotel with serious rock-star cred: the property is owned by U2’s Bono and The Edge. Located in the heart of Dublin’s lively Temple Bar neighbourhood, on the banks of the River Liffey, you’ll have the perfect base from which to explore the city. Each of the hotel’s 50 rooms boasts a clean, unfussy design and comfortable furnishings, but for a real treat, book the Clarence Penthouse. A simple, unpretentious duplex, the penthouse boasts two master bedrooms with ensuites, a baby grand piano, a spiral staircase sheltered by a dramatic cupola, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic city views.

10am Wander down the road through Temple Bar and grab a delicious breakfast at Queen of Tarts (, a city favourite for a good start to the day. Then cross the river and soak in the sights and sounds until you reach the Dublin Writer’s Museum. Housed in a stunning, restored Georgian mansion once owned by John Jameson, founder of Jameson Whiskey, the museum is an exploration of Ireland’s literary history

and pays tribute to favourite literary sons (and daughters) with an eclectic collection of letters, portraits, and personal items once owned by the likes of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon one of the ‘lunchtime theatre’ performances the museum hosts.

1pm From the Writer’s Museum, check out the Dublin Tenement Experience at nearby 14 Henrietta Street. Built prior to 1748, the building at this address now houses a sobering museum dedicated to life during the ‘lockout’, the five months during 1913 where tens of thousands of workers battled for their rights. Stories of struggle and hardship are brought to life by real actors, providing an intense, interactive experience.

2pm You’ll want to revive your spirits after your visit at 14 Henrietta Street, so clear your head with a short walk over to The Church and indulge in a hearty lunch. Built in the 17th century, this was once St. Mary’s Church, which in 1761 witnessed the wedding of Arthur Guinness, founder of Ireland’s most

famous liquid export. Deconsecrated in 1986, the building went through several incarnations before it became The Church in 2007; over several floors, the building houses a bar, restaurant, nightclub, and beer garden. Make for the magnificent Main Bar for a sumptuous lunch – try The Church Beef & Guinness Stew – and a pint.

3pm Walk back across the river and over to St James’ Gate, where you can continue your “black velvet” experience with a visit to the behemoth, architecturally arresting Guinness Storehouse. Ireland’s premier attraction brings the Guinness story to life through a series of innovative displays and interactive experiences set over seven floors. Learn how to pour a pint of the black stuff, and on the way out, stop by the extensive gift store to pick up a souvenir.

6pm Step away from the popular Temple Bar district and duck into Hogan’s Bar for a pre-dinner tipple with serious local flavour. Situated on South Great George Street, Hogan’s was first established in the 90s as



The Irish capital is often overlooked in favour of other, more fashionable European capitals but a visit here reveals a city packed with personality and pizzaz in its landscaped parks, rich Georgian heritage, myriad cultural offerings, and energetic nightlife, discovers Gayatri Bhaumik.

a slick jazz bar. Since then, the venue has simplified its philosophy and become a choice watering hole. Grab a pint and stand around shooting the breeze with the friendly crowd of regulars. If you happen to stick around, the downstairs bar hosts DJ nights over the weekend. https://www.facebook. com/HogansBarDublin

7pm Take in a dose of nature as your stroll past St. Stephen’s Green on your way to dinner at Matt the Thresher. In a bright, stylish space of wood furnishing, pristine white touches, and open fires, head chef Stephen Caviston dishes up fresh Irish seafood and tender grilled meats. Whether you order the fish pie, the seafood platter, the bangers and mash, or the rib eye, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be in for a hearty, wholesome meal paired with an elegant, unpretentious setting.

9pm Finish your evening off with a visit to Vat House in Temple Bar, just a stone’s throw from your home base. Boasting the atmosphere and ambiance of a traditional Irish pub, with timber floors and elegant

brickwork, this pub features an extensive food menu, a long drinks list, and boisterous entertainment. Settle in for a few, indulge in one of the four whiskey tasting trays, and you may just find yourself stepping up to lead the live band – and gathered revelers – in a rousing rendition of Galway Girl. www.

9am Get an early start and brush off any lingering effects from the night before with a brisk, bracing dip in the frigid waters at the 40 Foot. Adored by generations of Dublin’s doggy paddlers, this swimming spot is often said to be the most famous in all Ireland. Situated at Sandycove, on the southern tip of Dublin Bay, the site was immortalised in the opening section of James Joyce’s seminal tome, Ulysses.

11am In Ireland, early house pubs were establishments granted special licenses to open at 7am and cater for shift workers and anyone else who needed early morning sustenance. Located on Capel street, a short walk up from the River Liffey, Slattery’s Bar is famous for its full Irish breakfast – called the Slattery’s Mighty Breakfast – which features bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, tomato, beans, fried egg, and toast, and should be accompanied with the recommended DoomBar Beer for the full effect. Softer options like toasted sandwiches and coffee are also available.

34 PAMPER Hands on Therapy With art a constant theme throughout the Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, the hotel’s beautiful spa, My Blend by Clarins, celebrates a different kind of art with a specially-created total face and body treatment: L’Art du Toucher (The Art of Touch), a brand new Clarins Signature Treatment, exclusive to the hotel. L’Art du Toucher brings together the very essence of Clarins Skincare for the most comprehensive and regenerating of experiences - a stunning three-step treatment for face and body. L’Art du Toucher has three steps, dedicated to three energetic touch techniques, to relax, revitalise, and regenerate, from head to toe: step one is the Balancing Touch, which creates a sense of trust with hands reassuringly placed on key areas of the face and body. This is followed by the Stimulating Touch, which is designed to encourage energy flow through the body and is inspired by the rhythmical movements of shen shiatsu. Finally, the Enveloping Touch uses an exclusive selection of Clarins products as the face is drained, hydrated, and sculpted. The spa’s Beauty Coach uses thumbs, palms, forearms, and elbows on the body to recuperate and release deep energies and relieve tension. The 90-minute treatment starts from US$254.

Traditions Reborn All Juiced Up Como Hotels and Resorts has created a signature range of juices for wellness bunnies visiting the brand’s Como Shambhala spas. The ten new beverages - all extractions and blends of fresh fruits and vegetables prepared by the glass using nutritious recipes developed by Como Shambhala dietician Eve Persak - will be available for all COMO guests worldwide from January. The juices provide therapeutic benefits which balance, stimulate, settle, nourish, or relieve certain systems within the body. The Berry Quencheris, for example, is an antioxidantrich smoothie of dark-colored berries to ward off free radicals and counteract the effects of aging and stress, while the Muscle Mylk beverage is a creamy mixture of coconut, banana, almond, and cocoa bean which refuels and accelerates postworkout recovery.

Nusa Dua Delight Bali’s newest wellness haven has opened at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua, offering spaophiles Indonesia’s first signature Westin spa experience. Located in a brand new wing of the resort, the Heavenly Spa by Westin is a nature-inspired sanctuary for total body, mind, and spirit renewal. It offers a nurturing menu that combines traditional spa services and ancient healing practices, conducted within 16 contemporary treatment rooms, and a luxury hair spa. Separate his and hers thermal facilities, which will include hydropools, salt-wall saunas and steam rooms, are a great way to start your wellness journey, while an inner relaxation lounge acts as a pre-and-post-treatment area with elixirs and SuperFoodsRX snacks. Other facilities exclusive to the Heavenly Spa include customised wet treatment facilities, including a chromatherapy shower, best matched with a unique clay infusion, designed specifically for the steam showers of the wet rooms.

Veli Spa at Kurumba has become the first spa of any resort island in the Maldives to use Dhivehi Beys treatments derived from traditional Maldivian medicine made from local herbs and ingredients. Healing remedies and secrets from Indian, Persian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan, and Chinese traders passing through the archipelago were developed using local herbal remedies, which were passed from one generation to the next to form the traditional medicines that Maldivian islanders rely on to this day. The new signature massage, Akarakara Theyo Dhemun, uses local herbs combined with coconut oil to alleviate arthritis, inflammation of joints, and muscle pain, while improving blood circulation. Alternatively, the Lansimoo Theyo Dhemun treatment is a back, neck, and shoulder massage that uses a hot poultice filled with a blend of Maldivian herbs to release nerve tightness and reduce migraines and muscle spasms. The blends are made on the resort with many of the herbs and ingredients grown on Kurumba.


One of the newest houses of wellness to open on the island of Bali, Taman Air Spa is a citadel of seclusion and serenity in the heart of the vibrant coastal community of Kuta, and is the ideal hideaway for post-retail therapy pampering. Its menu of tradition-inspired, herb-laced spa journeys, conducted in 12 luxurious spa suites, some complete with tranquil outdoor bales and private jacuzzis, guarantees to sweep spa goers off their feet. Be sure to opt for one of the four signature treatments; the Taman Air Royal Ritual combines a Balinese massage with essential oils and long, lingering

Air & Water

strokes; while the Herbal Healing treatment features a footbath and body cleansing using natural watercress cleansing milk, followed by a detoxifying massage with spicy oil and a crystal salt bath. Created especially for couples, the How Love Works is an intimate, full-body treatment that marries a footbath and dry massage with a body scrub and refreshing shower; while the Ocean Odyssey journey uses exclusive seaweed-based products rich with natural minerals, vital elements, and antioxidants. Ensure you fuel up with healthy spa cuisine at the innovative Bamboo CafĂŠ.


Added Benefits Early 2014 will see Air New Zealand launch a new, invitation-only Priority One loyalty program targeting the national carrier’s top spenders. The elite program will see eligible travellers welcomed with a personal invitation from chief executive officer Christopher Luxon. This is just one in a series of measures the airline is undertaking as part of a revamp of its Airpoints scheme. Other changes include additional upgrades for Gold members, an upgraded frequent flyer website, and the ability to view the number of Airpoints Dollars and status points that will be earned on a flight at the time of booking. These changes will precede a significant overhaul of the airline’s Auckland International Lounge, also scheduled for next year. The carrier was responsible for the new Star Alliance lounge that was unveiled in September at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of Los Angeles airport.

A Journey Unbroken Travellers between Paris and Barcelona now have a faster, more convenient way to travel between the two cities. From December 15, 2013, France’s TGV railway line will offer a direct ParisBarcelona train service that will call into Montpelier, Perpignan, Figueres, Vilfant, and Gioran en route. Although there are already high-speed rail services between Paris and Barcelona, passengers currently have to change trains in Figueres; this new direct service will not only be more convenient, but will also cut down travel time. The Paris-Barcelona service will be operated on double-decker Duplex trains that will depart from Paris’ Lyon station at 0715 and 1407, and will arrive at Barcelona’s Sants station just over six hours later at 1332 and 2032 respectively. There are also twice-daily services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, going from Barcelona to Paris. In the spring of 2014, services are scheduled to double, with one additional morning and afternoon train each.

Expanded Offerings Award-winning Dubai-based airline Emirates has launched its fourth daily service between Hong Kong and Dubai, giving travellers between the two cities greater flexibility when booking flights. Emirates flight EK387 will depart daily at 0705hrs and touchdown in Dubai at 1215hrs; the return leg, EK386, leaves Dubai at 1830hrs, and arrives in Hong Kong at 0534 the next morning. The flights will initially be operated on an Airbus A330-200, before being upgraded to a Boeing 777-300ER in 2014. The new service will allow travellers to connect seamlessly with over 70 destinations throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Customers travelling on to Europe will be able to take advantage of the airline’s open-jaw policy to return to Hong Kong from the European destination of their choice, allowing them to save time and money. This is the latest effort by Emirates to cater to Hong Kong-based travellers. Over the last two years, the airline has doubled its flight schedule, and now provides over 10,000 seats each week for passengers travelling between the two cities.


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

New Qantas Lounges Qantas has announced the opening of two stylish new airport lounges in 2014, in Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Slated to open in March, the new Qantas Hong Kong lounge will have yum cha trolleys with dumplings; buffet offerings similar to those in the Sydney and Melbourne lounges; and classics from Qantas consulting chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool and Spice Temple restaurants. Guests will also be able to enjoy panoramic views across the airport from a feature bar serving signature cocktails, wines, and spirits. Later in the year, Qantas will open a new lounge at Los Angeles airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. A collaboration between Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways, the elegant lounge will feature menus inspired by Asian flavours and local West Coast cuisine; a dining area with views into the kitchen serving fresh regional seafood; a wine bar with signature cocktails and bar snacks; and an internal circular fireplace.

Sky-high Sustenance Finnair business class passengers on long-haul flights will be able to enjoy two new signature menus created by well-known Finnish chefs Pekka Terävä and Tomi Björck. Both chefs will bring a fresh take to the airline’s business class cuisine, with Teräva serving dishes with classic Nordic flavours, and Björck offering a Finnish take on Asian cuisine. Terävä’s menu is heavily influenced by the purity of Finnish nature, and takes advantage of fresh ingredients such as seasonal vegetables, wild game, and fish, in dishes like the reindeer fillet with mushroom puree, oven-baked potatoes and organic barley. Inspired by Thai and Japanese food, Björck’s dishes are designed to reflect the passion in modern Asian cuisine, with creations like butternut squash dressed in Asian spices, and Japanese ramen noodles with spicy salmon. Both signature menus will be complemented with specially selected prize-winning wines.


Burma Beckons Award-winning river cruise line AmaWaterways will launch a new ship and river cruise programme on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River in November 2014. Two itineraries will be on offer: the 10-night Golden Treasures of Myanmar and the 14-night Hidden Wonders of Myanmar, both starting in the former capital of Yangon and including pre-cruise hotel accommodation in the city. The first departure, Hidden Wonders of Myanmar, is November 24, 2014. Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River is a new hotspot for river cruising, (read more in Into the Light, pg 56) and highlights of the AmaWaterways itineraries, which will be conducted on the new 56-passenger allsuite AmaPura, include the temple plains of Bagan, the ancient former capital Mandalay and royal cities like Inwa and Amarapura. The ship’s elegant public areas include a restaurant, main lounge and bar, gift shop, spa, refreshing pool and a sun deck perfect for lounging, enjoying a cool drink, or simply gazing out at the passing scenery.

New Ports for Silversea

Into the Arctic Night Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten will offer a one-of-a-kind itinerary during its special 12-day tour “Heart of the Norwegian Lapland” from March 25 to April 5, 2014. Combining elements of the classic voyage along Norway’s fjord-filled wintery coast with a land tour of the country’s northernmost province, Finnmark, the MS Midnatsol will journey north from the Hanseatic city of Bergen for six days, visiting Ålesund, Trondheim, the Lofoten Islands, and Tromoso, with time for an art nouveau walk in Ålesund; a visit to the Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral, Norway’s only Gothicstyle cathedral; a Viking feast in Stamsund; and a dog-sledding adventure with huskies in Tromsø. From here, the ship will veer off its usual coastal course and head toward Alta, circumnavigating the North Cape Plateau, enabling guests to see the northernmost point in Europe, weather permitting. In Alta, passengers disembark for a two-day land tour of the interior of Finnmark, include a visit to the Alta Museum, a tour of the impressive Sorrisniva Igloo hotel, which is built of ice and snow, a traditional Sámi meal, and an expedition to a winter camp in search of the Northern Lights. From US$2,999 per person;

Luxury line Silversea Cruises has released its itineraries for 2015, a worldwide schedule of 276 voyages, with the line’s eight ships visiting more than 700 destinations, including 21 new ports. These include Mallorca in Spain; Igoumenitsa in Greece; Santa Maria di Leuca in Italy; and Amasra, Turkey; as well as Haikou on Hainan; Hambantota in Sri Lanka; Savusavu in Fiji; Lifou Island in New Caledonia; and Bohol in the Philippines. The 2015 itineraries will also include Luanda, Angola, and Mahajanga, Madagascar as well as first-time calls to Norfolk, Virginia, and Morehead City, North Carolina in the US; and Falmouth, Jamaica. Expeditionary cruising continues to be a big part of the Silversea experience (read more in Innovation at Sea pg 48), and Silver Discoverer will explore the Pacific, including the remote Kiribati’s Nikumaroro Island, believed to be the final resting place of famed aviator Amelia Earhart. After a year’s absence, the exotic west coast of Africa is back on the schedule for Silver Explorer, joining the expedition ship’s everpopular cruises to Antarctica, South and Central America, the British Isles, Northern Canada, Greenland, and Arctic Norway. Silver Galapagos will continue to operate year-round voyages exploring the Galápagos Islands.


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

Ships’ Triumphant Return Two ships favoured by Quark Expeditions will return to the Arctic fleet in time for a bumper 2015 season. The M/V Sea Adventurer is currently part of Quark’s Antarctic fleet, and will undergo a refurbishment of cabin interiors before sailing the Arctic 2015 season. This ship is a customer favourite because of its intimate size and ample public space. With an A ice-class rating and an extended operational range, this 117-passenger ship is wellequipped to navigate some of the more ice-laden regions visited by some of Quark Expedition’s journeys and will operate eight itineraries in Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, the Canadian Arctic and the Northwest Passage in 2015. Originally designed to take on challenging ice conditions as a year-round Greenlandic ferry, the MV Ocean Nova (pictured) is a 1B ice-class vessel with a small draft that allows her to navigate in shallow waters and reach places larger ships are unable to access. With fewer than 100 passengers, Ocean Nova offers a unique and intimate experience to her passengers all while offering full private facilities and public spaces including a top deck observation lounge. She will operate 11 itineraries through Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen, the UK, and Norway in 2015.

Historic Northwest Passage One Ocean Expeditions is offering an exciting opportunity to travel through Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage on a special cruise to mark the 70th anniversary of the first ever single season transit of the legendary route. Travelling in comfort on board the ice-strengthened Akademik Ioffe between Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit, the celebratory 12-night voyage departs August 25, 2014 and retraces the deep-sea route followed by the RCMP St Roch in 1944 under the command of Staff Sergeant Henry Larsen. En route, passengers will have the opportunity to enjoy anniversary celebrations, interact with remote communities, visit historic locations such as atmospheric Beechey Island, where the Franklin expedition over-wintered before disappearing, and witness spectacular scenery and wildlife. During the voyage, there will be a real chance of seeing pods of beluga or bowhead whales, rafts of ringed, harp or bearded seals, and herds of walrus, all against a fabulous backdrop of stunning Arctic fjords, cliffs, and glaciers. From US$9,095 per person, twin share; www.


Ancient REVIVAL The ancient city of Athens has seen better days after its economic woes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy cutting-edge boutique hotels on your way to the islands of the Aegean, discovers Nick Walton


With only 133 guest and executive rooms and suites, Fresh Hotel, a member of Design Hotels, is a collage of colours, textures and tones; a place where conventions are confiscated and smashed upon entry and where the distinction between sophisticated guest and capable staff is blurred from afar and crystal clear where it matters. Designed as an urban sanctuary, catering to both business and leisure travellers, the minimalist furnishings and sleek, innovative choice of colours make it a pleasure to come home to after the bedlam of the city. However, a pretty façade is not enough to cut it in the competitive hotel scene; there needs to be restaurants and bars within that are as compelling as those outside. At Fresh, the Air Lounge, situated on the roof, is a great place to watch the stars (although most of the ‘stars’ in Athens’ sky are inbound flights) while the fresh ingredients featured on the nouveau Greek menu are all sourced from the nearby Central Markets. Lastly, the hotel’s spa and fitness centre is like slipping into a welcomed dream, with a range of treatments, sauna and Turkish bath rituals on call.

For those looking to escape the depression of the city centre, with its swarming crowds and notorious traffic, there is a very special little hotel that is turning heads with its inspiring design and quirky OTT persona. Funk, it seems, has a summer house in Athens. The Design Hotels member Semiramis Hotel throbs energy and colour in an otherwise white stucco street populated by proud upper class Athenians. The brain-child of local millionaire Dakis Joannou and designer Karim Rashid, Semiramis is unique in a city that has felt the economic pressure like nowhere else; think neon pink and green tinted balconies, complemented by burnt orange, limes, and even a flashy bling-bling golden “YES” lamp. Few designers have had the blank cheque offered to Rashid, who created everything from the wallpaper through to the cocktail napkins in his pursuit for techno-organic perfection. The results offer a je ne sais quoi that has you wanting to strip and strut from the highest balcony. Featuring 51 funktastic rooms, including four roof-top suites and five enviable poolside bungalows, furnishings scream I dream of Jeannie meets Thunderbirds with a splash of Philippe Stark’s audacity for good measure.

Also forged by Greek Cypriot art collector Dakis Joannou, Athen’s New Hotel is, like many of its Design Hotels brethren, a labour of love as well as a sensory journey for its guests. Formerly the Olympic Palace Hotel which dated from 1958, Joannou set about creating a destination in the ancient capital that could showcase not only his art but the artistic visions of his favourite artists. Interiors by Brazilian brothers Humberto and Fernando Campana incorporate many elements from the hotel’s previous incarnation, including chairs and doors, to create a property that excites and invigorates. With just 79 rooms and suites, each of which features contemporary touches and vivid art installations with distinctive Greek themes, the hotel is eclectic yet welcoming; three room catagories are themed with Greek elements, from the folklore of Karagiozis to the superstitious ‘evil eye’ to postcards from old Athens, while public spaces are decked out with modern furniture and sleek jagged mirrors for an eye-catching effect.



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


“There is a proximity to the experience; a sense that at any moment, around the next corner, charming hamlets, timeweathered fortresses or even hillside vineyards will appear.�



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

CRUISING EUROPE 45 bar and attentive bartenders, and to the top deck, the very best spot when cruising. With Scenic’s all-inclusive tariff, which includes everything from meals and drinks to excursions, butler service, and airport transfers, all you have to do is focus on enjoying your cruise. There is still time to explore timeless Budapest before the ship sails and we make our way on a Scenic excursion to the historic Castle Hill neighbourhood, where we walk with a guide down cobblestone streets in the shade of towering churches to the Fisherman’s Bastion, a lookout across the city. The river a belt of celadon cutting between the limestone buildings below. It’s a beautiful last view before we delve into the hillside with a visit to the Hospital in the Rock. Once an air raid shelter and active hospital during the German siege of Budapest, the Hospital in the Rock also treated citizens during the 1956 revolution before reverting to a nuclear bunker in 1958. Now a museum, complete with staged surgeries and ‘recovering troops’, its 10 kilometers of narrow lime-coloured corridors and cramped confines are a telling reminder of the hardships the city has faced in the past. Scenic Cruises specialises in excursions, so while we’re exploring the tunnels beneath Castle Hill other passengers are walking the city’s historic centre on guided tours or taking a dip in one of Budapest’s acclaimed natural thermal baths. We rejoin the ship in the late afternoon, setting sail for Vienna with a cocktail event as the sun slips below the peaks of Buda. River cruising is very different from cruising on the ocean. There is a proximity to the experience; a sense that at any moment, around the next bend, charming hamlets, time-weathered fortresses or even hillside vineyards will appear. Because of this, there aren’t conventional lecture session; instead, each guest uses a digital device that’s part MP3 player and part tour guide. Using GPS, the Scenic Tailormade device slips into a pocket and with headphones, gives real-time commentary along the route, whether you’re sitting on the top deck, in your sun lounge or even in bed. Tour guides can also use the device when leading excursions, meaning groups don’t have to yell their way across Europe. That night, I watch eagerly as we pass through out first river lock. We’re very fortunate; the recent floods played havoc with the system of locks on the Danube but by the time we make our way north, the congestion has cleared. It’s clear sailing into the towering concrete ‘chamber’, where we wait patiently, only feet away from another ship, as the water level beneath us rises to that of the river to the north. I watch from the ship’s top deck as the water level within the chamber inches towards the

46 CRUISING EUROPE slightly turbulent waters beyond. Eventually the river spills over into the chamber, the gates slipping into the depths to allow our passage onwards. We cruise through Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, early the next morning, passing under the city’s Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, known locally as the UFO because of the flying saucer-like restaurant atop its central pylon. Up river, we pause in the shadows of the medieval castle Burgruine Dürnstein, where King Richard was once imprisoned, so that passengers can make use of the ship’s electro-assisted bicycles and race along the riverfront.

the waterway into the old Danube, a man-made channel known as the New Danube, and another channel called the Donaukanal or Danube Canal. Because of this sophisticated flood prevention system, Vienna was spared much of the damaged caused by the recent floods. In Europe’s capital of culture, we stroll around the city’s New Palace and through the rose gardens of the Volksgarten before stopping for a Viennese coffee in the bustling Pestsäule pedestrian mall. Even with exceptional excursions along the route, Scenic’s itineraries always allow plenty of “you” time. That evening, as the

Arriving in Vienna, Austria, by noon, we board Scenic buses and backtrack across a picturesque landscape of yellow canola and towering wind farms. Other passengers are touring Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace or visiting the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lipizzaner Stallions, but Maggie and I choose the walking tour through Bratislava, another historic capital that’s enjoying a tourism renaissance. It’s a beautiful day in Bratislava, the midday sun gleaming off the golden halos of saints carved in stone at the entrance to the Old Quarter. High above, crowning a forested hill overlooking the Danube, the flags dance in the breeze atop the formidable Bratislava Castle. The city is increasingly geared towards European tourism, but on our weekend visit, the nightclubs and restaurants of the cobbled old quarter are shut and the sun warms the smooth stone facades of merchant homes and family chapels. Here and there tiny crown insignias on the ground depict the traditional procession route for royal weddings and at the centre of town, in a leafy square, a weekend market sells handknitted Christmas tree decorations and truffles the size of golf balls to church goers leaving mass at St Martin’s Cathedral. Maggie and I spend the afternoon back in Vienna making the most of the sun. The city has long tamed the Danube, splitting

prosperity up close. The mine has been worked for over 7,000 years and is now an interactive museum where tourists can dress in white overalls and brave the chilly air of the endless tunnels which run beneath the Dürrnberg Plateau, learning the value of salt in ancient times and how miners toiled in the depths so that the nobility might have their precious mineral. We visit Salzburg, Unesco-listed thanks to the preservation of its baroque architecture, on another guided walking tour, this one ending at St Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Central Europe and once a place of pilgrimage for high society plying the river. Today, Salzburg is better known as a backdrop to The Sound of Music than for its salt empire, and each year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit to sip coffee laced with Mozart chocolate liqueur (the composer was born here) and pose before the city’s iconic fountain. But Salzburg’s wealth came not just from the salt in its mountains but from the city’s proximity to the Danube, that vital highway north and south that made trade so practical.

sun sets behind the eye-catching KaiserJubiläums cathedral in Mexikoplatz, guests dress in their finery and depart the ship for the majestic Palais Liechtenstein, for a champagne reception amidst the Prince of Liechtenstein’s private art collection, before a private performance of ballet, opera, and classical music, including Strauss’ famed Blue Danube waltz. It’s a truly enchanting evening held within the gilded intimacy of a regal reception hall and a far cry from usual conceptions of cruising.

As clouds begin to gather on the high peaks in the distance, the river, and our schedule, calls to us and we return to the ship for a final meal – a delectable silver service Table La Rive degustation, matched with South African wines and served in the intimate Portobello’s restaurant. Through floor-toceiling windows, life on the river around us continues as the evening’s light fades across the water, the day ahead promising to tempt travellers with new, undiscovered destinations, just around the river bend.

It couldn’t be more of a contrast the next day as we take turns to slip down wooden slides worn smooth by the behinds of Austrian miners, deep within the mountains surrounding Salzburg. Scenic’s tour into the Hallein Salt Mine, also known as the Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, isn’t for the claustrophobic, but if you’re okay with close quarters, it’s a fascinating opportunity to see the origins of Salzburg’s name and

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS Getting There: Lufthansa offer direct flights from Hong Kong to Frankfurt and Munich, and an extensive network across Europe, including Budapest. Scenic Cruises’ fleet of space ship luxury river cruisers offer regular departures on the Danube from US$3,445 per person. http://


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INNOVATION As both river and open sea cruising increases in popularity, the world’s leading cruise lines continue to innovative with a raft of exciting new ships to tempt holiday makers from across the globe, discovers Nick Walton


aunched earlier this year, the Norwegian Breakaway is the first in a planned series of three Breakaway ships that are slightly smaller than other newer NCL ships but still pack plenty of entertainment. With 4,028 passengers and a New York theme, the Norwegian Breakaway is the largest ship to be based in the Big Apple and features the signature large scale entertainment of its sister ship Epic, including the Blue Man Group and Broadway show Rock of Ages. Sailing the Southern Caribbean, highlights of the new family-friendly ship include a massive sports complex, five waterslides, a rock-climbing wall, dedicated seafood restaurants by



Geoffrey Zakarian, adult-only deck spaces, and the luxurious Haven ship-within-a-ship space, complete with its own pool, butler service, and restaurant.

Another ship which launched this year is the Royal Princess, the first of Princess’ new two-ship class catering to 3,600 passengers. At 20 percent larger than the line’s largest ship, the award-winning Royal Princess features an innovative SeaWalk – a cantilevered glass-enclosed walkway that extends beyond the edge of the ship - as well as exciting new restaurants, an expanded atrium, the line’s largest top deck pool ever, and an enhanced Movies Under

the Stars screen. The ship’s Piazza, at 50 percent larger than previous Princess ships’ central atrium, will also feature new venues, from a seafood bar to a gelateria. Also look out for Princess Live, a television studio where the morning broadcast will be filmed each day in front of a live audience.

Joining its sister ships Le Boreal and L’Austral, the 264-passenger Le Soleal is the newest addition to the Compagnie du Ponant fleet. Debuting in the Arctic, the new boutique luxury cruise ship offers two restaurants – the signature Gastronomic Restaurant and the more casual Grill

NEW SHIPS 49 venues, a heated pool with swim-up bar, a massage and beauty salon, a fitness centre, and free internet and Infotainment in every stateroom. AmaSonata will travel the Danube and Rhine Rivers on seven itineraries, while AmaReina will be dedicated to the Enchanting Rhine sevennight itinerary. In addition, AmaPura, a 76-passenger river cruiser, will launch in Myanmar, with itineraries that capture the beauty and mystery of Asia’s most exciting new destination. Luxury cruise line Silversea, which has championed refined expeditionary cruising, launches its newest adventure ship Silver Discoverer in 2014. Catering to just 128 guests, the boutique cruise ship will explore more remote destinations from Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia to the Russian Far East, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. The small-sized ship, the eighth in Silversea’s fleet, will become part of the Silversea Expedition fleet, which already includes Silver Explorer and Silver Galapagos. Entering service in March, Silver Discoverer features extensive facilities on board, including 12 Zodiac boats; a swimming pool; a gym and beauty salon; a restaurant and pool grill; a lecture room for in-depth stories and briefings about the destinations, and a panoramic lounge. She weighs 5,218 tonnes, is 338 feet long, and 51 feet wide.

Restaurant – as well as sophisticated lounges, a modern theatre, and a comprehensive fitness centre. Certainly one of the more luxurious ships to be plying the remote waters of the Arctic, as well as the Adriatic and Asia, guests can enjoy the views of the Northwest Passage or Greenland from the balconies of their contemporary-styled stateroom, or from the many elegantly-appointed public spaces throughout the boutique ship.

A powerhouse in European river cruising, AmaWaterways launches two new ships in 2014, and will offer new excursions on Europe’s most popular rivers, as well as on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy. Next year the line launches AmaSonata and AmaReina, sister ships of the 164-passenger AmaPrima, on rivers in Europe. Both will feature twin balcony staterooms and suites, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations, complimentary fine wine and beer at lunch and dinner, multiple dining

Cruising the French West Indies, as well as the Panama Canal and Europe, the MV Tere Moana is the first ship in the Paul Gauguin Cruises line to venture away from its traditional French Polynesian cruising grounds. The line’s newest ship, the Tere Moana boasts sleek lines and luxurious accommodation for just 90 guests in 45 oceanview staterooms. Each cabin features king-sized beds donned with fine linens and feather-down duvets, as well as cutting-edge technology, complimentary minibars, and spacious bathrooms. With traces of Tahiti’s French heritage, the ship offers two elegant dining venues, both of which incorporate fresh, locally-sourced ingredients into their menus. After a long day exploring, retire to the ship’s Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm, which delivers signature spa treatments, or to the outdoor swimming pool and hot tub.


The Kimberley is home to some of Australia’s most stunning landscapes, unique, often misunderstood wildlife, and an outback spirit that continues to draw intrepid travellers from across the globe. Adventure cruise line and Kimberley icon Orion Expeditions allows travellers to explore deep into this ancient and mysterious land. Words and photography by Nick Walton

The Land

That Time Forgot

KIMBERLEY CRUISE 51 Exploring the King George Gorge by zodiac



’ve decided to call the shark Kenny. It’s as innocuous a name as I can dream up as I watch the giant predator slowly samba his way beneath the ship, only to pop out the other side and circle around for another pass. Kenny has been following us for the better part of two days, lazily dipping below the zodiacs as they launch from the stern of the MV Orion, his elegant curves easily spied through the crystal-clear water, cast in shadow thanks to a beating outback sun. The crew tell me he’s harmless, a nurse shark, but they can’t look me in the eye as they say it, and no one is volunteering to take a dip and pet our new-found friend. The Kimberley is a wild place filled with wild inhabitants, which is what makes it such a popular destination for adventure cruise passengers looking for captivating landscapes and the chance to commune with nature. It’s also a point of national pride for Australians, who make up the majority of the 90 passengers boarding the ship in Darwin. Aussies are justly proud of their beautiful backyard, and many who have cruised with Orion to the world’s farthest flung corners, return to the Kimberley coast time and time again. Of course, Australia has that allure for many people, so in addition to the locals, there are Canadians and Americans, a spattering of Europeans, a couple from Hong Kong, and a lone Japanese grandmother who has travelled with the Orion, which joins the Lindblad National Geographic line in March, four times before. This mix of interesting, well-travelled souls comes in handy as we kill the first two days and two nights at sea thanks to a rather ridiculous local law that means the Orion has to leave Australian waters at some stage during each Kimberley cruise – in this case with a 15-minute late night visit to the tip of East Timor. It also means we all have our sea legs by the time we return to the blazing red rock and open skies of the Kimberley and the first port of call on our 11 day itinerary, the once prosperous town of Wyndham. Here, the ship’s 90 passengers split; some take to the skies to fly over the acclaimed

Bungle Bungle Range, the distinctive beehive-shaped towers in the Purnululu National Park, while others bus past thundering road trains carrying iron ore to cruise the Ord River in search of fresh water crocodiles and birds of prey. My father Rob and I, travelling together for the first time in decades, opt for the river, clambering into high speed, open-sided tour boats to cruise part of the Ord’s 320-kilometre reach, towards Lake Argyle, a manmade body of water that irrigates vast tracks of surrounding farmland. The lake is tranquil and beautiful, the few clouds in the brilliantly blue sky joining grassy hillocks and red rock cliffs in a

“The Kimberley is a wild place filled with wild inhabitants, which is what makes it such a popular destination for adventure cruise passengers looking for captivating landscapes and the chance to commune with nature.” picture-perfect reflection on the water. We spy graceful egrets and rainbow bee eaters, square tailed kites, northern rosellas, and delicate azure kingfishers dancing through a canopy which arches over the river’s narrower tributaries. Some of the Ord’s estimated 25,000 fresh water crocodiles, smaller and more demure than their salt water cousins, bask on the river banks in the mid-day sunshine, while nearby, gangs of pelicans ensnare fish by creating tight rings before diving together like synchronised swimmers. The next day is a chance to explore the King George River and its famed falls. It’s our first time cruising in the ship’s fleet of zodiacs; each named for a different

constellation, the zodiacs are a vital component of the expeditionary cruise operation, and allow guests to reach far up rivers and land on deserted beaches. It’s early morning as we make our way up the gorge, red cliffs towering on either side, black lines on the ancient rock testament to some of the world’s highest tides. From the zodiacs, the keen-eyed expeditionary staff point out snowy white ospreys and shy rock wallabies. After a steep climb up a sheer rock face, we’re able to take in the staggering view from atop Australia’s most famous waterfall, and even though the falls are dry, we join gleaming water monitors in cooling our heels in pools of captured rain water. Back at the river, the ship’s maître’d, Clinton, emerges from behind a rocky crag and surprises us with chilled mimosas. Between shore excursions, guests soak in the outdoor jacuzzi, lunch on the back deck under a canopy of umbrellas, or attend lectures on local ecosystems, marine life, historic events from the region, and the Aboriginal people who call the Kimberley home. Each night, guests come together for a cocktail hour in the ship’s Leda Lounge and a fun-filled debrief on the adventures of the day followed by dinner, either in the main dining room or on the back deck under a starry sky. As comfortable as the ship is, with its elegantly appointed guest rooms – for true pampering you can’t go past the Owner’s Suite, with its separate living room and Juliette balcony – passengers come to the Kimberley to explore. Whether it’s the 40,000 year old Bradshaw Aboriginal art of Vansittart Bay, or scrambling through the fuselage of a wrecked WWII DC3 that crashed on a sprawling mudflat inhabited by millions of tiny scurrying orange and azure-coloured crabs, there is always adventure on offer. It’s an early start the next morning to make our zodiac run up the Hunter River with the low tide. There is also an option to fly by helicopter up to the Mitchell Falls, a fourtier fall which tumbles down from a high inland plateau, and we watch helicopters

(clockwise from top left) Reflections on the Ord River; a bird’s eye view from atop the King George Falls; birdlife, like pelicans, is in abundance across the Kimberley; coral ‘flowers’ from the Montgomery Reef; Orion at anchor in Vansittart Bay; the WWII DC-3 wreck



shuttle guests from a deserted beach near the ship. The Hunter is popular with expeditionary cruises because of the diversity of its wildlife; from our convoy of zodiacs, led by expedition leader Darrin Bennett, whose infectious passion for the Kimberley has been forged from years exploring the region, we catch glimpses of whistling kites and white-bellied sea eagles perched on large nests high up on the cliffs which form the gateway to the river. Further on, beneath dense mangrove forests, lazy crocodiles doze on the mud, basking in the early morning sun as white goshawks glide in the thermals above, looking for breakfast. It’s not just the fauna that’s wild in the Kimberley; some of the world’s most unique and awe-inspiring geological formations can also be found at the top of Western Australia, including the Montgomery Reef, located 20 kilometers off the coast of Doubtful Bay, and Talbot Bay’s Horizontal Waterfalls. We set out early under baby blue skies to explore the Reef, stopping briefly to watch a pod of humpbacks breeching nearby, their tails slapping at the calm waters of the bay. Then, like an alien craft, long submerged

and forgotten, the tide shifts and the reef begins to appear from the depths. The movement of the ten-metre tide means this expansive stone island quickly emerges from the seas as we venture up newly formed rivers between coral outcrops, torrents of water flooding from its flanks, turtles and reef sharks frolicking in the shallows at its fringes. Nearby, Clinton and his team camp on a sand bar and serve chilled bloody marys and warm sausage rolls. In Talbot Bay, the ship’s captain, Taillard Vincent, navigates through the islands and narrow channels of the Buccaneer Archipelago, home to the Horizontal Waterfalls. As the tides rise and fall, the pressure of water passing through three narrow gaps between inland seas increases, creating a towering rush of water dubbed a horizontal waterfall by David Attenborough. In fact, the flow becomes so strong that the ship’s French military-grade zodiacs can’t pass through, so guests roar through the gap, thumping down to the new water level on the high speed boats of a local tour operator. It’s an exhilarating ride as the boat lines up with the narrow gap before sprinting and bouncing its way up or down

the ‘waterfall’ and onto calmer seas. Back at the ship, Kenny makes another pass below as I step from zodiac to transom, while nearby a sea snake as thick as a fire hose tangos his way past, his yellow and black stripes blazing under the sun. The rock formations, the ancient landscape, and the Kimberley’s unique inhabitants are food for thought as we cool off on our last day in the ironically named Crocodile Creek, an idyllic pool fed by a natural spring that’s protected from its reptilian namesake by a series of embankments. Wreathed by vivid red Kimberley Rose trees, it makes for the perfect place for a final dip and the last of Clinton’s surprises; in this case margarita’s served from a bar perched on twin inflatable crocodiles. TRAVEL ESSENTIALS Fly Qantas from Hong Kong to Brisbane and on to Darwin or Broome. www.qantas. Orion (named National Geographic Orion from March) will next cruise the Kimberley in May, June, and July 2014. From US$7,965US$16,675 per person, twin share.


“The movement of the ten-metre tide means this expansive stone island quickly emerges from the seas as we venture up newly formed rivers between coral outcrops,torrents of water flooding from its flanks, turtles and reef sharks frolicking in the shallows at its fringes.�

(clockwise from far left) Zodiacs form up to explore the Hunter River; the Horizontal Falls; green turtles are abundant in the Kimberley; the Montgomery Reef emerges from the sea; an osprey goes for an early morning flight above the Hunter River.


Into the

Light Orient-Express’ new river cruiser Orcaella gives well-heeled explorers a chance to delve deeper into Myanmar than ever before. Words and photography by Nick Walton.




he laughter of the children cascades across the rice paddy fields and echoes off a wreathing ring of limestone cliffs, as if a pint-sized army is on the move. Their little heads eventually appear from among the tall rice reeds, nearby grazing water buffalo completely unfazed, as they run to the water’s edge, stop suddenly and stare, saucer-eyed, at our ship. I’m aboard OrientExpress’ new river cruise, Orcaella, plying the remote and rarely visited waters of the Chindwin River in northwest Myanmar, and we’ve caught a snag. It’s September and the rainy season is nearly over, but tropical deluges in the mountains to the north have set the Chindwin to a rushing, mustard-hued torrent dotted with debris. One sizable tree trunk has become entangled in our propeller, and the captain has no option but to tie up to a tree just beyond a tiny cluster of thatch homes perched beside the river, while the crew leap into the water and dislodge it. Of all the encounters on our 11-day river adventure, this epitomises the experience best; we’re able to stop beside a serene riverside village whose inhabitants have quite likely never seen westerners up close. But it’s

also the third delay of the day, on a long journey fraught with logistical and cultural calamities that truly illustrate the difficulties of introducing to new and unexplored locales the levels of luxury today’s jetset travellers demand.

among the silk looms of Mandalay or the ancient temples of Bagan and still be able to return for cocktails on deck at sunset.

The village children and I enjoy a period of gazing at one another across a muddy river bank. Some board a tiny canoe for a closer look as their fathers work with the crew to dislodge a log that’s more than two metres long. With frantic waving and laughter which echoes across the darkening landscape, the debris is unblocked and we’re on our way again, fighting against the Chindwin’s strong current, bound for the town of Homalin further north.

Many of the 30 odd passengers boarding the Orcaella in Mandalay five days earlier had already travelled on the Road to Mandalay and knew the Orient-Express brand well. There were French, and Americans, and Germans from the east and the west, as well as a Belgian couple and a bevy of Australians travelling as a family. Shorter and with a shallower draft that made it ideal for the fickle Chindwin River, Orcaella resembles a refrigerator floating on its back, but what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in intimacy, with only 25 cabins spread across three decks.

Orient-Express is no stranger to the rivers of Myanmar. The hotel and train company identified the thirst for new and remote destinations of its well-heeled clientele 17 years ago, launching the now iconic Road to Mandalay, a beautiful German river cruiser that now calls the Irrawaddy River home. Luxurious and intimate, the Road to Mandalay has been the first foray into Myanmar for many travellers, who, despite political instability and a nearly complete lack of infrastructure, wanted to walk

However, as we leave the berth at the former royal capital of Amarapura outside modern day Mandalay, and pass under the Ayeyarwady and Inwa Bridges on the Irrawaddy River, there are already a few grumbles from guests; for reasons never really explained, two of the three minibuses which picked passengers up at the airport skipped the lion’s share of the city tour. For passengers who had flown around the world to see Mandalay, comforted by an itinerary that promised a walk on the


famed U Bein Bridge, as well as visits to the revered Mahamuni Temple and Kuthadaw Pagoda, it’s a rough but forgivable start. However, the embers of discontent were ignited before we even set sail. As the sun dipped low behind the peaks of the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, home to Myanmar’s largest population of Indo-Chinese tigers, Captain Aung Nyein, a 42-year veteran of the river, slows Orcaella to a crawl and navigates the treacherous shifting sandbanks at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin. With the final rays of twilight we passed into the swollen river, with cocktails served on the upper sun deck and dinner prepared in the elegant dining room. Orcaella is more modern than her sister ship, with cabins that feature full height French doors allowing the warmth of the evening into the air conditioned confines of the ship. The dining room is dressed in warm, regal tones, with Asian art adorning walls and comfortable chairs lining the dining tables. On the upper level there is an elegant cocktail lounge and library, as well as an outdoor plunge pool lined by sun loungers forward, and another open air lounge and cocktail bar aft. However, there is a sense

60 MYANMAR that the ship was rushed into service, with talk of stuck drawers and loose electrical fittings. A light shade is missing from my bathroom mirror, the wires beneath the bulb remaining exposed until the second to last day of the cruise. After a morning waving to the fishermen sailing canoes on the river, their colourful sails a stark contrast to the green and brown belts of the flat landscape, we moor and take minibuses to the Thanboddhay Pagoda, which is crowded for a full moon celebration. It’s our first real chance to delve into the local culture, and gaggles of curious children follow us around the orange and cream-coloured shrine and through hallowed halls pockmarked with more than 500,000 tiny Buddha statues. There are others in the nearby fields of Bodhi Tataung, where more than 6,000 serene sculptures donated by the faithful, look towards a mesmerising 424-foot tall gilded Buddha on a nearby hilltop. Unfortunately, the itinerary didn’t allow for guests to actually climb up to the towering sage but only look at it from a distance, which caused more consternation on the ride back to the ship. There is more cross-cultural curiosity when we arrive with the dawn at the tiny village of Mokehtaw, walking on dykes between

flooded paddy fields to the community hall in time to witness five young boys undertake their shinbyu, or novitiation ceremony. It’s a real community affair and everyone has turned out to hear the abbot speak and to watch as the boys’ heads are shaved and they’re wrapped in brilliant crimson robes. Many boys in Myanmar spend a period as novices – in the country it can be a year, in the city as short as a week – and it’s a very proud occasion for families and for the whole village. The young boys, no older than ten, scratch their now bald heads and pluck at their new robes, loving all the attention. They follow us back across the paddy fields to our ‘fast boat’, a dragonfly of a ferry that transfers guests from the Orcaella, which must continue plodding against the current to keep schedule. Nothing happens fast on the Chindwin; most mornings are spent exploring riverside villages, the afternoons spent cruising. The itinerary includes eight days cruising north and only three south because of the current. Orcaella must tie up as the sun sets as there is no navigation on the river after dark, but even with our glacial pace, the weather changes as we inch north, the mellow warmth of the plains giving way to the mists of the mountains.

While some passengers love cruising, watching as tiny hamlets pass by, the mountains to the north drawing ever closer, I love the shore excursions, which are an opportunity to dive into the day to day life of the Chindwin and the communities clustered to its banks. The day after our log jams we’re in the lively markets of Kalewa, a trading gateway to India. It’s been raining through the night, a thick layer of mist settling over the river like whipped cream. The mud in the markets is ankle deep but the colour and activity make up for the weather. The Burmese are among the most welcoming people in the world; all along the river we have been greeted by singing, waving children, by shy fisherman who beam as we pass, and even here, in this lonely outpost near the Indian border, we’re greeted with betel but-stained smiles, and offerings of fruit and thick, hand-rolled cheroots. On another day we walk down water buffalo tracks to the teak village of Maukkadaw. This is where the towering teak trees that are felled in Myanmar’s thick jungle arrive at the river to be transported downstream. We pass a military patrol searching for poachers and pass massive piles of logs on our way to a local school where children in immaculately white uniforms, thick streaks


“It’s also the third delay of the day, on a long journey fraught with logistical and cultural calamities that truly illustrate the difficulties of introducing to new and unexplored locales the levels of luxury today’s jetset travellers demand.”


of thanaka clay decorating their faces, pose for photos, shrieking with laughter when they see themselves in the LCD screen. In Sitthaung, a tiny village of just 25 homes, we brave belting rain and walk to school with packs of laughing children, down paddy dykes, past stilted thatch homes and around ambivalent water buffalo. The Orcaella conducts charity drives along the river and on this cruise we have the humbling opportunity to introduce the first electric light bulbs to the tiny settlement. Beautiful children with dark, inquisitive eyes line the walls of the dark, single-room school as local militia leaders accept the solar panel donation, holding the light bulbs and posing with serious expressions.

we ride Chinese-made tuk-tuks into the countryside, to a colonial era mansion once owned by the Bombay Burmah Trading Company, and are greeted with glasses of champagne while the ship’s chef serves barbequed prawns and betel nut salad. The next day we travel in the back of forestry trucks to visit a working elephant camp and watch as the mahots wash the towering forest elephants in a nearby river.

In Homalin, the northern-most point of our itinerary, we watch Naga tribespeople in traditional headwear sing and sway to a timeless dance of the forest while we sip homemade rice wine from bamboo cups, children dressed in bright red, black, and yellow beads, feathers in their hair, at our feet. The singing has a beautiful, rhythmic quality and soon guests are up, joining the dancers. It’s a truly magnificent experience.

After plenty of rumblings along the way, there is a minor insurrection on the second to last day, when it’s announced that due to time constraints we’ll only be spending three hours in Bagan, a true highlight of Myanmar. The ship has struggled to keep up with the current; the logistics of boarding the fast ferry and the visits to the many villages, monasteries, and markets en route has bitten into our time at the ancient temple plains, and quickly the ship’s little lobby is packed with angry passengers. Hotel manager Win Min, a gentle spoken Burmese, calls a town hall-style meeting, and the itinerary is tweaked to allow earlier starts, quicker transfers, and more time in the temples. A mutiny is avoided.

The itinerary is long but features plenty of activities; in the market town of Mawleik

Despite a beautiful final day exploring the most famous temples of Bagan, including

Thatbyinnyu, Dhammayangyi, and the golddipped Shwezigon Pagoda, as well as a few of the ancient, crumbling, terracotta-hued stupas and the many lacquer workshops, moods have not improved much back on board. The general manager for the two Orient-Express ships arrives to host a cocktail party on the sun deck, only to be faced with an inquisition, with a few guests finally and loudly venting their frustration that the ship, the food, the wine list (now nearly depleted) and its always-eager-butpoorly-trained crew are not up to par with other Orient-Express experiences. This might be fair criticism for an internationally branded cruise that starts from nearly US$7,000 per person, and undoubtedly things will be tightened up in short order, but for me and many other passengers, the Orcaella offers a sensational and truly unique opportunity to play explorer in one of Asia’s most remote corners, and to do so in much more comfort than the pioneers that travelled the mighty Chindwin before me.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS Dragonair has direct flights between Hong Kong and Yangon. Orient-Express operate both the Orcaella and the Road to Mandalay on a range of river itineraries.


Keys One of the youngest Golden Key concierges in the city, Thibault Loupias of boutique Parisian hotel Bel-Ami, has his finger on the pulse of the City of Light, discovers Crystal Leung. IT’S 8 IN THE MORNING, WHERE CAN WE GET OUR COFFEE FIX? When I moved to Paris from Montauban, I had my first coffee at the Bonaparte Café, situated on the Saint-Germain-des-Pres square, near the Hotel Bel-Ami. Every day when I walk to the hotel, I’ll stop at this café, have a seat on the terrace, and enjoy the views of the Church St.Germain. IF WE’RE TIGHT FOR TIME, WHERE SHOULD WE START? I would suggest you lose yourself at Pompidou Center (home to the National Museum of Modern Art), a mix of original architecture and the best of modern art.

At the 6th floor, the Le Georges restaurant is a beautiful spot to have lunch on the terrace. IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT, WHERE ARE WE HEADED? Start off at Société in Saint-Germain-desPres, a modern restaurant popular with celebrities. Then, continue your evening at the Prescription Cocktail Club, one of the best mixology hubs in the world. If you want a cozier atmosphere, the Matignon, located on the avenue Matignon, is a secret and cheeky club created by Gilbert Costes. WE’RE LOOKING TO SAMPLE SOME FINE WINE, WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND? Our guests love going to La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, located in SaintGermain des Pres. This lounge bar offers you more than 300 wine labels, and is one of my favorite places to visit with friends.



HOW ABOUT AN UTTERLY ROMANTIC RESTAURANT? There is one spot situated near Hotel Bel-Ami called La Truffière, rated one star by the Michelin Guide. Set in a house dating from the 17th century, the intimate atmosphere of this hideaway is ideal for a romantic dinner. Also, an amazing threestar restaurant Le Pre Catelan, situated inside the Bois de Boulogne, is the place to be for a truly unforgettable Parisian dining experience. HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO PLAY CUPID AT THE BEL AMI? One of our guests asked me the best way to propose to his future wife. I reserved an incredible private cruise on the River Seine, booked a romantic restaurant with an amazing view of Paris, and decorated their guest room. I ordered a big bouquet of red roses, and wrote ‘Marry Me’ in petals on their bed. Of course, she said ‘Yes!’.


Luxury 2.0 Cheval Blanc Randheli, the second property by the LVMH Group, has opened in the Maldives and is set to redefine tropical luxury in one of the world’s most sought after destinations, discovers Nick Walton.


heval Blanc Randheli’s elegantly understated lounge at Male’s international airport is a space of cool, calm respite after the balmy bedlam of the arrivals hall, and a suitable first impression for one of the world’s most anticipated openings of the year. Cheerful, welcoming staff clad in the resort’s signature earthy grey and yellow tones, rope belts at their hips, dote on new arrivals to the lounge - its vaulted ceilings and hand-curated art collection a sign of things to come - before escorting them down a pier of humming red and yellow seaplanes to Cheval Blanc’s own leather-clad twin otter.

Cheval Blanc has taken this seaplane experience – a usually stiflingly-hot and cramped necessity to reach the remote atolls – to the next level with its own luxury seaplane. Decked out in the same signature colours, it caters to just nine guests instead of the usual 17. Staff dish out bottles of chilled water before the 40-minute flight to the Noonu Atoll (“cooling kits” and wireless headsets are still to come), and the result is more akin to a private jet journey rather than a noisy, sweat-inducing hardship, which is appropriate as Cheval Blanc’s guests will be among the increasing number of travellers arriving in the archipelago in their own aircraft. It’s a cloudless blue day, the sunlight shimmering off the brilliantly turquoise lagoon, when my wife Maggie and I arrive at the resort, where we’re met by Hanna, our Moroccan ‘experience alchemist’, who, with our majordome, a rather serious young Maldivian named Nasheed, is tasked with organising the many bespoke elements of our stay, from excursions to nearby islands, dive trips, and spa treatments, to candle lit dinners. Together, we wind our way through the main of five islands, thick jungle punctuated by towering coconut palms and thickets of bright tropical flowers obscuring the sprawling villas which perch on the beach or dangle their toes in the lagoon. With the affluent traveller in mind, Cheval Blanc Randheli’s 45 villas are far more than just rooms in which to lay your head; they’re decadent, sumptuous, intelligentlydesigned spaces that have a distinct residential feel to them, as if you’ve gained access to the private beachfront home of a world-class fashion designer. The brainchild of celebrated architect Jean-Michel Gathy, each villa seamlessly marries contemporary interiors – think leather-topped writing desks, hidden wine fridges, and plenty of timber tones - with its glorious surrounds. Our beachfront villa is cathedral-like, with soaring ceilings accentuated by thick rattan rafters, and towering slatted doors that create three unique spaces – a spacious living room that overlooks an

66 VILLA LIVING enviable wine cellar manned by sommelier Julien Laugier, but also has a private dining experience called La Table de Partage with bespoke menus for groups travelling together. Named for Château Cheval Blanc’s most sought after grand cru, 1947 serves up modern French cuisine using timeless technique.

expansive infinity pool, a master bedroom with a window ledge snug that’s perfect for afternoon cat naps, and a decadent bathroom that opens onto an outdoor shower the size of a squash court. There is also an expansive dressing room, a powder room for the transition between beach and villa, and a covered dining table out back, perfect for in-villa barbeques. Our villa also boasts an additional detached twin-share guest room that makes it ideal for families. Villas are well separated and are set far from the main path through the resort, ensuring absolute privacy; its takes us three days until we spy another guest on ‘our’ stretch of white powder sand.

When you’re not tantalising your tastebuds or hiding from the world in your sprawling villa, the yet-to-be-opened Cheval Blanc Spa, located on its own island, features just six sprawling spa villas, where luxurious treatments by Guerlain are conducted by a dedicated team of therapists. Many of those treatments can also be enjoyed in the privacy of your own villa, so after you’ve been poked and prodded into submission you won’t have to travel far to find a spot on the beach or lounge beside the pool.

If you can drag yourself from you villa – and many guests can’t resist the temptation to hibernate in these decadent surrounds – then Cheval Blanc Randheli continues to surprise. You don’t typically go to remote places for world-class cuisine – you’re there to escape, and sometimes seclusion comes at a culinary cost – but the LVMH resort has turned that concept on its head with a handful of truly world-class restaurants hidden away down painted corridors and behind towering coconut groves. Breakfast, lunch, and some dinners are served at White, an elegant space that blurs the lines between inside and out with plenty of glassed-off rooms, big French doors, and sea views. Each breakfast we enjoy here is a symphony of elegance and flavour, with crisp but friendly service, a fantastic diversity of dishes, and the option to sit indoors or in the garden. The weekly al fresco barbeques are not to be missed. Beyond, White Bar is another decidedly urban space, complete with lattice work on the walls, fluro pink zebra print lamps, chic white furniture, and double-height doors that open up to the resort’s main pool, with views across to the spa island. White Bar also boasts fantastic martinis served by some of the best bar staff in the Maldives. Then there are the eateries that work on a roster; a favourite of ours is Deelani, an intimate, open-sided restaurant located at the marina building at the end of a long pier which juts out into water the colour of mouthwash. Deelani serves up authentic

Cheval Blanc also boasts a comprehensive fitness centre with regular yoga sessions, entertaining spaces for both teens and tots, a watersports centre with kayaks and wind surfing instruction, an addictive golf simulator, twin tennis courts on a neighbouring island, and a modern dive centre that offers everything from introduction courses through to multidive day excursions to some of the best dive spots in the Noonu Atoll. www.

Maldivian dishes, grilled fish and meats, and innovative pizzas, and is our favourite for lunch. Diptyque – a translation of split personality – is a fun show kitchen, serving a Spanish degustation menu on one half and a Japanese tasting menu on the other. During our visit, Maggie and I take a perch at the kitchen counter to watch the culinary team create a 16-course Japanese menu that is a kaleidoscope of flavours and textures. Diners peer through the kitchen at each other as chefs prepare a delectable selection of gourmet bite-sized dishes while the sommelier laces the encounter with chilled verdejos and warm sakes. The pièce de résistance has to be Le 1947, a world-class fine-dining restaurant decked out with white walls and chandeliers that not only boasts a cigar divan and an


It's All in the

Details François Delahaye, chief operating officer of the Dorchester Collection and general manager of Paris’ famed Hôtel Plaza Athénée, was recently named Hotelier of the Year by international luxury travel network Virtuoso. He speaks to Gayatri Bhaumik about what makes a great hotel, and the evolution of hospitality. Were you always interested in hospitality? Yes. I studied hotel management at the Ecole Supérieure d’Hôtelerie in Switzerland, and have been in hospitality since 1971. I love what I do. I enjoy building relations with people, which is a crucial factor for working in hospitality.

What do you think it takes to be recognised as Hotelier of the Year? It’s always very gratifying to be acknowledged by hospitality professionals. I very much appreciate this distinction, of which I am very proud. As for what it takes, I think it’s essential to remain close to one’s team, and to empower individuals. Delegation and trust create a base from which employees can reliably work from to go the extra mile for our guests. Personally, I enjoy staying in touch with many guests, and a great many of them return year after year.

How important do you think F&B is to a hotel? Food and beverage play a key role in hotels. Restaurants and bars in hotels are landmarks which attract hotel guests, as well as a local clientèle. It’s important that these outlets are places to be seen at. To illustrate this, when we reopen Paris’ Hotel Plaza Athénée in Spring 2014, Alain Ducasse will oversee all the food and beverage offerings at the hotel. It’s an emblem of the quality we seek to showcase in our operations.

What are the most important things a hotel can do to improve the guest experience? It’s important to offer exceptional service to guests. Little things, like maintaining a high ratio of employees to guests, having passionate employees who embody the hotel’s values, and consistent training,

go a long way in improving the guest experience. Our staff are encouraged to constantly grow and evolve.

What do you look for when considering properties to acquire? We definitely look for great locations within the city, and hotels which have a rich heritage. For us, it’s important to maintain a coherent property portfolio by selecting hotels which have a similar heritage, key city locations, and an iconic status.

How have you seen the hotel industry evolve over the last 10 years? I think it underwent a revolution in the last 10 years. The processes and expertise have been rethought, and new concepts have emerged. These are almost all tied to innovation in technology. As far as luxury goes, we’ve had to cater to an increasingly demanding clientele who usually have little time to make the most of their stay. As such, the best spa and wellness offerings have become essential to hospitality. Architecturally, it’s become important to come up with creative concepts while retaining a sense of heritage

How is the role of the GM changing? The general manager is still a leader, but he has to rethink his role, especially in view of new technologies. He also should rethink his role in terms of how he relates to employees, in order to keep them engaged and motivated. Corporate responsibility has also become very important, and the GM needs to be able to lead his team in successfully implementing initiatives such as recycling, lowering energy consumption, and even philanthropy. One thing that remains essential is that in dealing with employees or guests, relations should be positive in outlook and intention.

MACAUtheReadies Year of

Macau is gearing up to celebrate Chinese New Year and welcome the Year of the Horse with a lavish, vibrant affair that will last ten days.

Special Promotion Section

to Welcome

the Horse

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ne of the most important and colourful festivals on the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year is a huge event celebrated by the majority of Macau’s population. As an emblem of joy as well as a symbol of virtue, truth, and sincerity, red is the colour predominantly associated with Chinese New Year celebrations. Macau, like most cities that celebrate the holiday, will be swamped with shades of red as everything from candies and cakes to decorations and clothing sports this special hue. There are many traditions associated with celebrating Chinese New Year, ranging from huge public displays to smaller, more personal customs. During the festive period, people greet each other with “Kung Hei Fat Choy” as a blessing of good wishes and fortunes; while as a way of conferring hopes of good luck and prosperity for the coming year, red envelopes containing money – referred to as Lai Si – are lavishly distributed to friends and relatives. Many also make annual pilgrimages to their favourite temples and make offerings to the deities in the hopes of getting into their good graces and ensuring themselves good fortune for the year ahead. By way of public acknowledgments of Chinese New Year, cities often host massive parties and parades with flamboyantly decorated floats, never-ending dragon and lion dances, and other entertainment, on streets generously bedecked with lanterns, flowers and other traditional decorations. The celebratory season usually culminates with spectacular firework shows that light up the night sky for hours on end. Festivities will kick off on January 23 with the Lunar New Year Market. Held at Tap Seac Square, the market will feature over 30 stalls selling festive gifts, flowers, and snacks. The market will have extended opening hours on January 30, when it will remain open until 2am. On the first two days of Chinese New Year, January 31 and February 1, the streets of Macau will come alive with dramatic dragon and lion dance performances, a parade, appearances by the 12 Chinese zodiac mascots, and deities distributing Lai Si

and souvenirs. They can be seen at various points throughout the Macau peninsula – catch them if you can! The parade for the celebration of the year of the Horse will be held on February 2 and 8. On February 2, the parade will begin at the Macau Science Centre and pass through the famous Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen before finishing at the Praça do Lago Sai Van, where there will be more performances. The evening will end with a stunning fireworks display that will start at 10pm. On February 8, the ninth day of Chinese New Year. This time round, cultural performances will be held at Rua do Mercado Municipal de Iao Hon. A much bigger parade of floats will take place in the evening; the parade will begin at 8pm, and last for two hours. This parade, catering more for locals, will begin at the Rua Norte do Patane and finish at the Mercado Municipal de Iao Hon, passing through a number of significant points along the way, including Avenida do Conselheiro Borja, Estrada do Arco, and Rua Quatro do Barrio da Areia Preta. All the floats used in the public parades will be on display so that visitors and locals can

have the chance for a closer look. Between February 2 and 8, the exhibition will be at the Praça do Lago Sai Van. After the final parade, the floats can be seen at the Praça do Tap Seac, where they will be on display between February 9 and 16. In between the public parades and celebrations, visitors and locals may want to celebrate in their own way, with firecrackers or temple visits of their own. On permission from Macau’s public security division, personal firework displays are allowed between January 30 and February 5 at the Avenida Dr. Sun Yat Sen and the Estrada Almirante Marques Esparterio. For temple visits, a favourite spot is the 16th century A-Ma temple, situated on the southwest top of Macau. One of the oldest and most famous temples in Macau, it has been a popular site to visit for hundreds of years. Traditionally, the best time to go is the eve of Chinese New Year. Also worth a visit is the Kun Iam Temple. One of the Macau’s Three Ancient temples, it features a colossal entrance and open courtyards. In 2014, visit Macau to welcome the Year of the Horse in style.



STANDARD Whether André Balazs is opening his

first Standard in Hollywood or his fifth in New York’s Bowery, he successfully redraws city maps, adding a new Main Street of downtown cool. By Augustine Sedgewick/ Photographs by Michael Halsband



tudy Chateau Marmont, The Mercer, or André Balazs’ Sunset Beach hideaway on Shelter Island, his contributions to architecture and design, and especially his Standard hotels, for they vibrate with the essential social energy of our time. Whenever and wherever they have opened, they have transformed neighbourhoods. They are not just places to stay, but places to be and do. His hotels are not nouns, they are verbs. The first Standard opened in Hollywood in 1999 and quickly became a clubhouse for California’s coolest kids. Outposts in downtown Los Angeles, in Miami Beach, and astride the High Line on Manhattan’s West Side followed at neat intervals. The fifth, rising above the onceblighted Bowery in Lower Manhattan, has transformed the Cooper Square Hotel into The Standard, East Village. One of the world’s most influential social impresarios, André Balazs is fundamentally in the business of transforming the past into the future. “History is absolutely vital to what we do,” he says. Most important, a sense of the history of the hotel as a social phenomenon shapes his vision of what a modern hotel should be. “In the early days of its existence, the hotel was a public space,” Balazs explains. “It was the centre of a community. We still focus on this traditional idea of the hotelier’s contribution to urban life.” His hotels are where the past stays the night on the way to the future. History at a more local level also shapes the creation of the individual hotels themselves. “Every project starts with the narrative,” he says. “What do you want the guests to experience? We always start off with a lot of research, and I find meaning in the backstory.”

There is no better example of Balazs’s attention to this kind of fine contextual detail than his first hotel in New York, The Mercer, which he opened in 1998. “SoHo was an artist’s district when we moved in there,” he says. “Of course, the most obvious thing would have been to put art in the hotel, so we didn’t do that. There’s no

“In the early days of its existence, the hotel was a public space. It was the center of a community. We still focus on this traditional idea of the hotelier’s contribution to urban life. I believe that a community can still be galvanized around a hotel, and our hotels try to do that.”

art in the hotel at all. But the building was an old industrial structure that had been used as lofts. We incorporated the history of the neighbourhood and the building into the hotel, but not in the most obvious ways.” In Miami, a relic of snowbird-andearlybird-special Florida was remade into The Standard Spa, Miami Beach, a year-round rejuvenation destination for the young and elegantly wasted, not the aged. The Standard, East Village occupies a building of a decidedly different vintage

(2008), but the 21-storey tower is no less an historical product of its New Gilded Age moment than those mid-century modernist monuments are products of theirs. And despite the building’s newness, Balazs is approaching it with the same holistic, comprehensive, groundup approach he brought to the others. The production of the physical space is only the first step in bringing a vision to life in hotel form. Balazs describes this initial step as the “creation of the physical stage on which the second part of the hotelier’s obligation plays out.” That second obligation, he explains, is “to create a culture. It’s amazing how difficult it is to create a culture without the right stage. At the same time, if you don’t have a culture, then the stage feels lifeless.” As well-known as he is for his buildings and their finishes, it is in this process of culture creation, this animation process, where Balazs really thrives, and where his properties ultimately distinguish themselves. His hotels are legendary nodes of social networks that envelop travellers and locals alike. All are drawn in by the energy of the stages he sets and bring their own energy to them in turn. It is the richness of this intersection of human possibilities that keeps Balazs himself energised and engaged after more than two decades of imagination, innovation, construction, and painstaking, almost sculptural creation. “The best thing about this business is the people,” he says. “I find it enormously satisfying to make people feel good. I am delighted by the good feelings that one can engender in other people. I love to hear people say, ‘I had an amazing weekend,’ or ‘I got married in your hotel.’ Life’s most dramatic moments happen in hotels. And it is a privilege to direct the stage on which life happens.”



Sri Lanka’s

New Dawn With its blend of culture, history, stunning scenery,

and exotic wildlife, Sri Lanka has always been an intriguing place, but it’s only recently emerged as a destination of choice. In the face of impending commercial development and swarms of tourists, Gayatri Bhaumik discovers why now is the best time to visit.



tumbling sleep deprived and bleary-eyed at 3am onto the brickred driveway at the entrance of Amanwella is perhaps not the best – or most graceful – way to make your first foray into Sri Lanka. But I’ve just driven four hours from the airport, after flying all day with screaming toddlers dashing all hope of some shut eye. I’m functioning on autopilot, just waiting to get to my room and collapse in a heap. Luckily, the well-trained staff at the luxurious resort are used to having jetlagged travellers stagger in at all hours and manage to extend an effortlessly warm welcome, despite the ungodly hour. “Ayubowan! We know you’re probably tired, so we’ll show you straight to your room and we can do the check-in formalities in the morning”. And with that, I stagger towards my room, cast a quick eye over the private pool, expansive marble bathroom, and spacious terrace, before gratefully falling into the immensely comfortable king-sized bed. I’m here to spend a few days ambling along Sri Lanka’s rugged south coast, a journey that will allow me to explore some of the best parts of Sri Lanka, while enjoying the beachfront chic of Amanwella in Tangalle and the colonial pomp of Amangalla in Galle. Known for establishing a presence in places long before they become cool, Aman Resorts has a history of developing properties in exotic, unexpected locales, and carefully integrating them with the surrounding area. With that legacy, it should come as no surprise that Aman entered the Sri Lankan market in 2005, making them one of the first luxury hoteliers in the country. With bases in two prime locations, and armed with the local experience and knowledge Aman has to offer, I’ve got a jump-start on my Sri Lankan expedition. My welcome to Amanwella is just a small taster of what to expect from a trip to this up-and-coming destination. The locals are generally a friendly, helpful bunch, and infrastructure is developing quickly, although it still has a ways to go. You may spend hours on the road getting from one place to another, but you’ll haggle goodnaturedly over the price of souvenirs, usually with a dash of humour, or at the very least, a smile.

SRI LANKA 77 Formerly a place for intrepid travellers, Sri Lanka is fast becoming a destination of choice for luxury lovers, honeymooners, weekenders, and everyone in between. Many travellers have been put off by the country’s history of turmoil and stories about the lack of infrastructure which makes travelling around Sri Lanka a real investment of time. But, as I was to discover, this vibrant destination combines a fascinating history, rich cultural heritage, spectacular landscapes, and a host of wildlife, amongst other things, and the perfect time to experience all of this is now, while it’s still possible to have an authentically Sri Lankan adventure without an overly touristy experience. Luckily for those willing to take the plunge now, huge investments in infrastructure mean this is becoming a much easier country to travel in. New highways are being built to shorten the distances between tourist strongholds like Galle, Tangalle, and Pasikudah; airport facilities are being improved – indeed, a new airport is slated to be opened soon – and access to steady electricity and water supply is being solidified. To cater to the growing number of luxury travellers, a large number of international hotel brands are scrambling to acquire land and property on the island; Starwood, Marriott, ShangriLa, and the Beach House Collection are all recent imports. Boasting just 30 suites, Amanwella is an intimate, expansive resort, and it’s easy to feel like you have the whole place to yourself. Wander around and it quickly becomes apparent why this is a favourite hideaway for celebrities and honeymooners. You could waste an entire day breakfasting on your terrace, enjoying the oceanfront views from the palm-tree-fringed Coconut Grove, lunching at the open-air Beach Club, and whiling away the afternoon in the spa. The atmosphere here is thoroughly restful, and with a personal butler on call and tuktuks ready to whisk you from one end of the resort to the other, why would you waste time worrying about anything? Sri Lanka shelters a fantastic array of wildlife, which includes everything from colourful birds and reptilian creepers to all manner of big cats and sea creatures. Mirissa Harbour and Weligama Bay, both easily accessible along the island’s south coast, are prime sites for spotting blue or sperm whales, and

dolphins – though you’d be well advised to visit between November and April, the best season to spot these water wanderers. But it’s on land that Sri Lanka’s wildlife really shines, and if you’re short on time, you’ll be hard pushed to decide which of the many national parks to visit. Yala, famous for leopard sightings, painted stork, and plenty of crocodiles, is one of the most popular. Both Aman properties are perfectly placed to access these wildlife sanctuaries, but I decide to visit Udawelawe, just an hour and a half northeast of Tangalle, and an easy drive from Amanwella.

“Formerly a place for intrepid travellers, Sri Lanka is fast becoming a destination of choice for luxury lovers, honeymooners, weekenders, and everyone in between.” A huge national park spanning some 30,800 hectares, Udawelawe is home to over 500 elephants, meaning this is the place to go for a guaranteed sighting of these majestic creatures. My safari begins when I jump onto the back of a purpose-built pick-up truck, one of several trucks and four-byfours in a convoy. With stunning blue skies above and the blazing sun beating on our backs, we drive off down a narrow dirt road, fringed on each side by dense, green vegetation. Within minutes, we pull up just a few metres away from a clearing and kill the engine. Just ahead, a mother and baby elephant are languidly plodding along, enjoying the heat of the afternoon sun. Every now and then, the mother nudges her baby with her trunk, as if to implore him to remember his manners. Soon, the pair ambles off into the jungle, and the safari continues, winding

past vast swathes of arid earth and muddy flats, and making brief stops along the way to examine the storks, crocodiles, macaws, and monkeys that make an appearance. On the banks of an huge lake, we watch two water buffalo tussle and lock horns, and get a little too close to a cheeky, inquisitive elephant playing in the water, who must’ve thought we looked parched as he decides to spray us with water. Later, a picnic of juice and sandwiches is set up on an elegant folding tray and chair overlooking one of the lakes, and just for a minute, you understand what David Livingstone must have experienced during his explorations into Africa. It’s this sense of another time, this ability to have a low-key, grassroots travel experience, that makes Sri Lanka such a wonderful place to visit, and one that needs to be experienced before hordes of tourists catch on. The next day, I settle in for a drive which will take me away from the tropical elegance of Amanwella and Tangalle, and on to the colonial grandeur of Amangalla and the Galle Fort. Going through the town of Tangalle gives just a glimpse of what Sri Lanka is like away from the luxurious havens many tourists flock to; the swarms of people milling around, the brightly-coloured traditional guesthouses lining the streets, and the street-side eateries boasting rice and curry exude an authentic vibe that will undoubtedly fade as more development comes through the area. During the just-over-two-hour drive, I experience more glimpses of the bustling culture and history that can be found in Sri Lanka. Dawdara Temple, an 850-year old Buddhist site, is heaving with crowds and elephants as it prepares to celebrate Poya - a monthly religious celebration which honours the full moon; in Weligama, stick fishermen hunt for tuna, mullet, prawns and crabs; nearby, Taprobane Island houses an elegant villa just off the shore which is a favourite location for weddings. Closer to Galle, I visit the Hundungoda Tea Estate, an experience which starts with – of course – tea and cake on the verandah of the Proprietor’s Bungalow, a humble abode nestled amid lush vegetation. Although the property produces tea, rubber, cinnamon, pepper and coconut, it’s famous for producing Virgin White Tea, the ancient

78 SRI LANKA The following morning, with no rain on the horizon, I visit Yatagala Temple, just a short 20-minute drive from Amangalla. One of the oldest in the region, Yatagala is a rarely visited – and thus quiet - 1,200-year old temple built under a ceiling of rock. A quick look around reveals this site has stayed true to its religious origins. The 1,000-year old meditation cave – carved into the rock – is still used by monks, and next to a ninemetre reclining statue of Buddha sits a small antechamber dedicated to Hindu gods.

brew of Chinese emperors. Hundungoda is the premier producer of Virgin White Tea, an achievement acknowledged by famed Parisian tea company Mariage Frères, who buy their stock of the coveted leaves from here. Soon, I’m driving through the imposing stone façade which are the walls of the ancient Galle Fort. Built by the Portuguese in 1588 and fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century, the Unesco-listed Galle Fort has long been a focal point for the town of Galle, and boasts a rich history and heritage. The heart of the fort is Amangalla, the dignified, colonial-era hotel that in its previous incarnations was the Dutch Governor’s mansion and the New Oriental Hotel. Now, it’s a bastion of elegance and grace that has earned fierce loyalty from guests. I meet one such guest, an elderly German gent travelling with his son, who tells me he’s been coming to the hotel since the 1960s. “It’s a really wonderful place, quiet and elegant,” he tells me. After a pause, he adds, “I once came here when Sting was staying here. It was a bit annoying because his team essentially took over the

whole place. I like it better when there are few guests.” Stories like these are deeply intertwined with the history of the hotel. With heavy rain dampening any desire to wander the fort, I spend most of the next day exploring Amangalla and all its offerings, and discover for myself what keeps people coming back. The elegant well-stocked library is an easy place in which to while away a few hours; the poolside cabanas are a great spot to lunch at; and the verandah is perfect for peoplewatching while enjoying a sumptuous afternoon tea. The real gem here however, is the spa. Simple and unfussy, Amangalla’s wellness offerings have become the stuff of legends. Although known for its ayurvedic rituals, the spa offers a range of treatments, including a traditional barber shop and beauty salon where wet shaves and manicures are carried out in original planter chairs overlooking the 200-year old gardens. Pre or post-treatment, guests can indulge in the baths - two private rooms reminiscent of the ancient roman baths which boast steam rooms, saunas, and hot and cold plunge pools.

That afternoon, back in Galle Fort and with the sun beating down, it’s finally time to explore the area and walk the ramparts. Once again, the Fort serves as a reminder of years gone by. The 18th century Dutch Reformed Church next to the hotel – the final resting place for many colonial-era visitors and residents – houses an organ that dates from 1760; the tiny Galle Library is a quaint throwback filled with old wooden cabinets and old, cloth-bound books; the Maritime Archaeology Museum pays tribute to Galle’s history as a port town; the weathered clock tower was cast in 1709; and even the High Court is housed in an old Dutch-style building. Back at the hotel, thoroughly drained from the afternoon’s explorations, I sink into a seat on the Amangalla verandah and gratefully refresh myself with a cold towel and icy ginger ale proffered by one of the staff. Leaving Galle in the pre-dawn hours, I can’t help but wonder how many people are going to have the chance to experience this charming destination in quite the same way I have. Sri Lanka has a wealth of experiences and adventures to offer travellers, but with its rapid development and an increasing number of tourists heading here, there’s little doubt that travelling here will soon be quite a different experience.

Travel Essentials Getting There: Sri Lankan Airlines flies direct to Colombo from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and via Bangkok from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. Where to Stay: Aman Resorts has two properties along Sri Lanka’s south coast. Amanwella is a boutique beachside resort, and Amangalla is a colonial-style hideaway.


Blessed by the Sun

THE GUIDE SYDNEY 81 Sydney’s spectacular harbour from the Four Seasons.

One of the most vibrant cities in Oceania, Sydney is famed for its laid-back lifestyle, its stunning beaches, and its awesome natural harbour, and the best time to visit is during the heart of summer when Sydneysiders come out to play.

82 THE GUIDE SYDNEY EAT A stylish and inviting innovation on the standard hotel restaurant, The Woods (+61 2 9250 3100; has a vibrant ambiance and a chic clientele as it serves up delectable breakfasts for guests, power lunches for the city’s black suit brigade, and intimate dinners for couples and groups. With beautifully balanced and presented dishes by chef Hamish Ingham, many laced with smoke from a library of smoking timbers, The Woods offers a signature ‘primitive luxury’ culinary experience; must-try dishes include the wood-grilled prawns with tahini yoghurt and sesame salt; the roast venison leg with grilled grapes, beetroot and spiced red wine; and the delicate ash-seasoned ocean trout with smoked trout roe and parsley salad. If you’re looking for fine-dining in Sydney you’re also spoilt for choice. Housed in the former gentleman’s department store that shares its name, Gowings Bar & Grill (+61 2 8262 0062; is a modern European brasserie with an edgy contemporary design. With an open kitchen and dark, super-sexy, deco-infused interiors wrapped around a central wine cage, Gowings’ executive chef Paul Easson serves up no fewer than 53 dishes; make the most of Australia’s sterling seafood with dishes like the yellowfin tartare with horseradish; or the hot spanner crab cakes with a zesty aioli, before moving on to Black Angus rib eye from Darling Downs or a Shiro- full blood Wagyu rump, a stupendous piece of meat that’s cooked to perfection over open fires. Just down the road, Glass (+612 9266 2000; is another iconic, must-visit eatery, where celebrated culinary talent Luke Mangan serves up delectable dishes in chic, organic interiors by Tony Chi. Expect crisp, intelligent service, intimate seating with views across to the Queen Victoria Building, and a stunning wine list that’s unashamedly bias towards Aussie drops. Start off with Sydney Rock oysters or the delicate tuna sashimi with ginger, eschallot, and Persian feta;

before moving on to the likes of roasted black kingfish with Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnuts; rare roasted venison with beets, figs and chocolate sauce; or the Riverina NSW grain-fed sirloin with spiced parsnip puree and preserved orange.

SLEEP If you’re into designer hotels with plenty of colour and attitude, head to QT Sydney (+61 2 8262 0062;, a member of Design Hotels and Sydney’s newest five-star house of slumber. The 200-room hotel features plenty of eye-

2 9253 9000; is a great spot for both leisure and business travellers looking to be in the heart of the city. Rooms are clean and modern and make the most of the stunning views, but there is nothing better than coming home after a day battling it out in the boardroom to a dip in the pool on the 31st floor, or cocktail hour in the city’s best – and most photographed - executive lounge. The Four Seasons Sydney (+61 2 9250 3100; remains the luxury benchmark in the city, and for good reason. Modern, spacious guest rooms

catching Gothic and Art Deco design accents as well as bold splashes of modernity. Rooms dazzle with colour and fun, marrying expansive work spaces, high speed internet, rain showers and soak tubs, with fun minibars stocked with everything from cocktail shakers to spare bow ties. Be sure to leave time for the new Kerstin Florian K-Lift Therapy in the award-winning spaQ; developed to produce immediate lifting and firming while reducing lines and wrinkles, it’s the perfect antidote to that long-haul flight.


With stunning views over the Sydney Opera House, the InterContinential Sydney (+61

Located in of Sydney’s

feature awesome views that capture the beauty of one of the world’s most remarkable natural harbours, and are married with world class service and cutting-edge technology. Treat yourself to one of the Full Harbour View Junior Suites to ensure you wake up to Sydney sights each morning, and be sure to leave time after hours for a tipple in the sophisticated Grain bar, home to specialist beers and biodynamic wines.

an unassuming corner CBD, the newly-opened


from Circular Quay. Sydney’s elders cut the price of liquor licenses a few years back, allowing a raft of innovative spaces to open, including new sensation Tio’s Cerveceria (+61 2 9999 9999;, a decidedly urban, Latin-leaning tequila bar with an extensive beer selection and a loyal following among Surry Hills’ trendsetters. Head here for a tipple before you graze your way through Surry Hills’ top eateries and keep a look out for crafty tequila-laced cocktails from Jeremy Blackmore and Alex Dowd, as well as spicy popcorn bar snacks.


The Barber Shop (+61 2 9299 9699; www. combines a traditional barbershop with Sydney’s hottest new cocktail divan. Arrive early for a trim and hot towel shave from Rowan Faulkner, a former Toni & Guy instructor, before stepping through into the industrial chic cocktail bar, where Sydney hospitality icon Mike Enright, manager Will Oxenham, and their bar team whip up innovative renditions of British classics; there are more than 28 gins on offer for classic gin and tonics (it’s also home to Australia’s only Plymouth Gin tap) while other drops to try include the Blood & Bandages, a heady concoction of morrello-infused mezcal, cherry brandy

and orange; and the Fleet Street, with gin, Chartreuse, lemon and bitters. For tipples in the sun, you can’t go past the new look Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel (+61 2 9337 5444; http://watsonsbayhotel. One of the city’s most iconic watering holes, the classy pub has just emerged from an AU$2 million renovation that includes a new Beach Club. With views down the harbour to the city, a menu by executive chef John Pye laced with local favourites, and a cocktail list that’s perfect for sipping under the sun, there is no better place for a spot of people watching on a warm weekend day. Reach the pub via ferry

For the ultimate urban camping experience, book yourself in for the Roar & Snore at Sydney’s acclaimed Taronga Zoo (+61 2 9969 2777; Located in leafy, ritzy Mosman, an easy ferry ride from the city centre, Taronga Zoo is one of the world’s best, and the innovative Roar & Snore experience allows visitors a chance to encounter the zoo’s residents like never before, with accommodation in spacious tents with mesmerising harbour views, and an itinerary of nocturnal tours through some of the zoo’s leading enclosures. Get a new perspective on the city with a seaplane tour from Sydney Seaplanes (+61 2 9388 1978; Operating from Australia’s first international ‘airport’, Rose Bay, where flying boats once departed for the US and Pacific, the company offers a wide range of unique sightseeing and fly and dine packages that include gourmet meals at iconic eateries outside the city, from the Berowra Waters Inn to Jonah’s Restaurant at Palm Beach. You can even add wine tours or a round of golf in the Hunter Valley to your seaplane itinerary. Finally, if you don’t scare easily, delve into Sydney’s most historic neighbourhood, The Rocks, with Sydney Ghost Tours (+61 2 9241 1283; Cruise the dark city streets in a classic hearse and hear true stories of murder, suicide, executions, and hauntings through the cobblestone lanes and dark corners of downtown Sydney on nightly two hour tours that are guaranteed to leave a chill in the air.


a Luxury Sojourn

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uangzhou is teeming with life. A truly original organic southern Chinese city that has come a long way in such a short time. Guangzhou offers a truly wide range of superb top class five star hotels. There is an electric energy to Guangzhou that for many embodies ideas of what a rapidly developing Chinese city should be. Buildings often seem to spill out of their restrictive plots to find a little extra space above the equally amazing streets, boutiques are filled with the latest luxury consumer goods. This is one of China’s most prosperous cities, and the people here move at a pace suggesting they are chasing after the opportunities that China’s growth is bringing. Guangzhou feels like a more organic version of Hong Kong ¨C stripped of self consciousness and replaced with extra energy. The old Guangzhou has a long trading history, dating from its time as a post on the Maritime Silk Road. And with Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of 1979, Guangzhou was a trailblazer in the new capitalist world. The ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of the locals is the key factor that makes the city so wonderfully animated. Guangzhou has interesting temples and a fascinating excavated ancient tomb, It’s a city you experience rather than trudge around from one designated point of interest to another. Highlights of Guangzhou include a cruise along the Pearl River, with lights and neon blazing on both banks, and the tranquil vestige of the colonial era ¨C Shamian Island. But the real treasure of the city is the life in its streets and the activity in its alleys: a stimulating mixture of color, sound and movement. Visitors are often intoxicated and exhilarated by the electricity in the streets. Guangzhou has character. It’s one of those cities that you can sense as a living, breathing organism all of its own. At a minimum, you could get a feel for Guangzhou and see the major attractions in two full days. But it’s better to allow three or four days to experience it properly. If the city does cast a spell on you, you will wish you had more days to explore it.

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trategically located within the new central business district in the southern part of the city, Langham Place, Guangzhou is ideal for leisure and business travellers. Designed by award-winning architects from Aedas, the hotel is an architectural icon and is destined to become a city landmark. The design of the exterior evokes an image of unfolding wings. Inside, contemporary artworks by local and international artists tastefully adorn guestrooms and public spaces. Situated in a prime location, the hotel is a two-minute stroll from the China Import and Export Fair Complex, home to the renowned annual Canton Fair. Nearby is the shopping and commercial hub of Tian He, which is only 10 minutes away. The Langham Place makes arriving and departing a breeze with easy access to the Xingangdong Metro Station, as well as the Guangzhou South High-Speed Railway Station—which offers express services to Hong Kong—and the Guangzhou International Airport. The new Langham Place, Guangzhou is the eighth hotel in Mainland China for the Langham Hospitality Group, and the twentieth in its global portfolio. The group consists of a family of hospitality brands which include hotels, serviced apartments, restaurants, and spas located across four continents. The Langham Hospitality Group has 30 other hotel projects that are currently confirmed or already in development around China, Asia, India, the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The opulent Langham Place, Guangzhou has 500 guestrooms and suites over 22 floors. Ranging in size from the 42sqm (452sqft) Superior Place rooms to the 260sqm (2,798sqft) Penthouse, each room is tastefully furnished in a contemporary style, featuring clean lines and muted tones. Rooms feature soundproof floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Pearl River and Guangzhou skyline, as well as fully stocked minibars; 42-inch LCD TVs, iPod docking, and expansive marble bathrooms with bathtubs and overhead showers. The most prized accommodation offered here is undoubtedly The Penthouse. Situated on the top floor of the hotel, this opulent suite contains an elegantly-appointed bedroom, a spacious living room, a fully-equipped kitchenette, and a dining area for six. All guests staying on the executive floors will have access to Club L, the hotel’s exclusive executive lounge. They will be able


to enjoy round the clock services, including complimentary breakfast, snacks, canapés, afternoon tea, and use of the boardroom. The lounge also features an alfresco terrace, which is the perfect position from which to take in spectacular panoramic views of the city. The new hotel is also set to be a gourmet destination, where locals and visitors can gather to experience a wide array of innovative dining options. The highlight here is Ming Court, the fine-dining Cantonese restaurant which is the sister restaurant to its Michelin-starred namesake restaurant at Langham Place, Hong Kong. Guests can also enjoy flame-grilled seafood and steak at Alfresco, or all-day dining at The Open Kitchen, which serves buffet and a la carte specialties. At the open-air Sky Bar, visitors will enjoy panoramic city views paired with refreshing handcrafted cocktails and exclusive seasonal drinks. Portal is an innovative venue which combines a lounge and a business centre, offering refreshments and secretarial services. Aside from luxurious accommodation and sumptuous dining options, Langham Place, Guangzhou also offers a host of other facilities to seal its reputation as a truly complete hotel. The serene Chuan Spa features six treatment rooms, including two couples’ suites, as well as signature relaxation spaces, the Contemplation Lounge and Dream Room. As with all Chuan Spas, treatments here incorporate the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, and are carried out in a tranquil, relaxing atmosphere. Also on site are steam and sauna rooms to complete the blissful experience. For guests who want to keep up with their exercise regimen, Pulse is the hotel’s fully-equipped 24-hour fitness centre. Consisting of a separate gym and cardio studio, the centre is equipped with a variety of cardio machines. Most of which are fitted with audio-visual systems for more enjoyable workouts. For a bit of variety, guest can take a plunge into the 20-metre heated indoor pool which sits under a spectacular glass roof, or play a few rounds of golf at Peak Park, an outdoor mini-golf course. Featuring architectural novelty, opulent accommodation, delectable dining options and a comprehensive range of facilities, Langham Place, Guangzhou is a home away from home in this lovely city in southern China..

638 Xingang East Road, Haizhu District, Guangzhou, 510335, China Tel : +86 20 8916 3388 | Fax : +86 20 8916 3333 |



A bastion of elegance and convenience, the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou has everything you need for a comfortable city sojourn


ocated in the heart of Tianhe, Guangzhou’s new central business district, the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou is a luxurious, cutting-edge house of slumber that’s a refuse from one of China’s busiest cities. Guests are welcomed to this architecturally arresting hotel, designed by US-based firm Remedios Siembieda, at the 22nd floor ‘Sky Lobby’. The slick, South China-inspired space is an inviting introduction to the hotel and boasts stunning views of the Pearl River New City. The Grand Hyatt Guangzhou boasts 350 guest rooms, the interiors of which have been rendered with a careful, restrained hand that has combined simple lines and colours with the most luxurious materials and textures. The focal point of the rooms are bathroom islands which include separate soak tubs and rain showers. Luxurious in-room amenities include iPod docking stations, LCD flatscreen televisions, cable and satellite channels, minibars, and complimentary wifi. Guests staying in Club rooms and suites also have access to the hotel’s executive lounge. Set on the 20th floor, The Grand Club offers express check-in services, complimentary breakfast, evening cocktails, and all-day refreshments.

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As well as opulent accommodation, the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou offers a full complement of facilities so that whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find right here. Gourmands will be spoilt for choice with the hotel’s wide range of dining options. Set over two floors, the hotel’s signature restaurant, The Penthouse, serves authentic Cantonese cuisine in 13 contemporary, stylish private dining suites. Boasting panoramic views of the new CBD, G is a chic space dishing up the best seafood and meats grilled in woodfire ovens in the captivating show kitchen. For the indecisive, the Market Café features eight live kitchen stations creating made-to-order international dishes. The city’s best spot for sundowner cocktails, the G Bar is well-known for its wide selection of wines and champagne, served up in suspended lounge seating areas that are perfect for intimate tête-a-têtes. For those in need of a little rest and relaxation, look no further than the Grand

Hyatt Guangzhou’s O Spa. Sprawled over the hotel’s 23rd and 24th floor, this tranquil haven boasts views of the Pearl River New City and Baiyun Mountain, and features a design aesthetic of clean, contemporary lines punctuated with authentic Chinese touches. The comprehensive treatment menu offers a range of indulgent massages, facials, body wraps, and scrubs which have been created using the four Chinese concepts of Mei, Qi, Yun, and Qing. Treatments are carried out in one of the four single or two couples’ suites, and use luxurious products by awardwinning skincare brand Aromatherapy Associates. Each treatment begins with the O Spa ‘welcome touch,’ a rhythmic massage designed to soothe the mind and body prior to the spa treatment. Through 2014, the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou is offering an exclusive family retreat package, designed to allow you to spend quality time with your nearest and dearest. Valid for weekends and public holidays, the family

retreat package includes accommodation in a Grand Room; daily buffet breakfast at The Market Café for two adults and one child; a welcome fruit basket; two welcome drinks at G Bar; and one daily signature dish at G Restaurant for lunch. Whether you’re here for business or fun, with friends or family, the Grand Hyatt Guangzhou has everything necessary to be a true home-away-from-home.

Grand Hyatt Guangzhou 12 Zhujiang W. Rd, Pearl River New City, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510623, P.R.C. Telephone: +86 20 8396 1234

O r i e n ta l

Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou has opened its doors in this busy southern Chinese city,


he latest addition to Guangzhou’s hotel lineup is the luxurious Mandarin Oriental. Boasting superior guest rooms, extensive facilities, and one of the best addresses in the city, Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou is set to be a destination of choice for visitors and locals alike. Located in Guangzhou’s Tianhe central business district, Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou sits atop the behemoth TaiKoo Hui centre, a mixed-used development of shops, offices, and entertainment venues that is directly linked to the hotel. From this prime position in the centre of the city, guests can enjoy immediate access to the Shipaiqiao metro station, and are just 10 minutes from the Guangzhou East Station which offers high-speed train services to Hong Kong. The hotel’s 233 guest rooms and 30 suites are stylish oases that offer weary travellers respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, and with areas starting from 60sqm, they also hold the distinction of being the most spacious rooms in the city. Designed by Tony Chi and Associates, each luxuriouslyappointed guest room features a contemporary design aesthetic with rich fabrics, sleek wood finishes, and warm muted tones. The rooms are decked out with oversized work desks, goose down bedding, high-definition LCD televisions, exclusive minibars, large walk-in closets, and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer spectacular views of the city skyline, the TaiKoo Hui rooftop garden, or the hotel’s swimming pool. The spa-inspired bathrooms are separated into designated wet and dry areas with twin vanity units, large circular bathtubs, and standalone rainforest showers. Food and drink is taken seriously at Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou, which features no less than five sumptuous

wining and dining outlets. The standout, however, is Jiang, the hotel’s elegant Cantonese restaurant. Helmed by culinary ingénue Chef Fei, the restaurant serves classic Cantonese dishes with a modern twist, many of which can be had with bespoke tea or wine pairings, and offers eight chic private dining rooms for intimate celebrations. The hotel’s signature restaurant is Ebony, a fine-dining grill where fresh prime cuts and seafood are prepared in an open kitchen, while for afternoon teas, the elegant Taikoo Lounge, serves a range of artisanal teas with decadent desserts from The Mandarin Cake Shop. In the evenings, guests can adjourn to The Loft Bar for limited edition whiskies and cigars. The hotel has a strong focus on wellness and features a chic spa, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and a 25-metre outdoor pool. Check into the award-winning Spa at Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou for a healing retreat from city life. The serene space boasts nine treatment rooms, including two couples’ suites and a lavish VIP suite; extensive heat and water facilities like steam rooms, saunas, and vitality pools; and a private sundeck with outdoor massage pavilions. The spa’s extensive menu has a range of wellness, massage, and beauty treatments, all of which are carried out by experienced therapists. Each spa visit begins with an in-depth consultation and a Tian Quan session, a Chinese bathing ritual which relieves stress, soothes muscle pain, increases blood circulation, and helps prepare the body and mind for your chosen spa treatment. Offering well-appointed accommodation, an array of dining options, and comprehensive wellness offerings at one of Guangzhou’s most idyllic locations, the Mandarin Oriential Guangzhou is the perfect choice for travellers, gourmands, spa aficionados, and everyone in between.

Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou • 389 Tianhe Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510620, China Telephone: +86 20 3808 8888 • Website:

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E l e g a n c e

offering spacious, tasteful accommodation, a wellness retreat, and a host of dining options.

Guangzhou's A Glorious Garden

Perfectly suited for business travellers to China’s thriving southern capital, the Garden hotel Guangzhou marries traditional Chinese hospitality with contemporary refinement.

n expansive platinum five-star hotel in the heart of Guangzhou, The Garden Hotel Guangzhou is the flagship property of the Lingnan Group, one of China’s largest tourism companies. Ideally located in the centre of the city’s bustling business and entertainment district, the hotel offers guests easy access to the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, as well as major train stations and the Taojin station of Guangzhou Metro Line 5. The spacious hotel boasts 828 exquisite guest rooms, ranging from the 32sqm Superior Room to the 346sqm Presidential Suite. Each guest space has been meticulously designed with the closest attention to detail and feature elegant, clean lines, tasteful furnishings and neutral tones. In-room amenities include LCD televisions, mini-bar, complimentary Internet and newspapers; some rooms also come with separate living spaces. The top suite here is the regal Presidential Suite, situated on the hotel’s 27th floor and boasting captivating city

Special Promotion Section views. Rendered with a design aesthetic reminiscent of the palatial Louis the 14th style, the dramatic suite oozes French splendor, with dramatic drapes at the windows, plush furnishings and plenty of gold-tinted flourishes around the room. In the bathroom, guests in the Presidential Suite can soak in an oversized Jacuzzi and enjoy the space offered by the double vanity. When it comes to wining and dining at The Garden Hotel Guangzhou, guests are thoroughly spoiled for choice, with an extensive array of international restaurants and bars. At The Carousel Restaurant on the hotel’s 30th floor, diners can feast on international seafood buffet with a backdrop of breathtaking city views. Sumptuous French and Continental cuisine is served up at The Connoisseur, amid magnificently regal surroundings; while authentic Japanese fare, including sushi and teppanyaki, is presented at the traditional Furusato Japanese Restaurant. For casual dining, guests and visitors can sample simple snacks and treats at The Cascade Cafe and The Delicatessen. Of course, the hotel’s dining options wouldn’t be complete without local offerings, and The Garden Hotel Guangzhou features two superlative Chinese restaurants. Serving a range of authentic Cantonese snacks and dishes, Lai Wan Market is a local dining experience reminiscent of traditional Chinese food markets; The Peach Blossom is the property’s fine-dining Chinese restaurant offering a plethora of award-winning specialties. The Garden Hotel Guangzhou also houses three very different bars, each of which provides a unique experience. The Lotus Pond is a laid-back watering hole set in garden surrounds, where guests can enjoy a cool drink while enjoying live music and views of the splendid man-made waterfall. For those seeking a casual, cozy nook in which to enjoy a tipple, look no further than the Tavern Bar, an English-style pub featuring rich wood paneling, seats upholstered in velvet and smoked glass booth separators. Offering a little more refinement, wine aficionados will revel in the elegant surrounds, extensive drinks lists and professional knowledge at Bodegas Sanbert, the hotel’s distinctive Spanish wine cellar. Complementing the accommodation and dining options is a comprehensive variety of facilities, making The Garden Hotel

Guangzhou a very well-rounded property. Catering to fitness enthusiasts looking to keep up with their exercise regimes can make use of the hotel’s outdoor pool, fully-equipped 24-hour gym, steam and sauna rooms, golf simulator and tennis and squash courts. For those looking for a less strenuous way to unwind, the hotel also houses a luxurious Angsana Spa. Sprawled over 760sqm, the tranquil oasis features 13 rooms, and a menu offering a range of treatments that combine eastern and western techniques and using all natural local ingredients. To ensure a thoroughly restful experience, spa goers enjoy 30 minutes of relaxation prior to treatments, where they are treated to a soothing foot massage and tea. For guests looking for last minute gift ideas, the hotel also incorporates a shopping arcade with some of the best brands around, including Ashworth, Aquascutumn and Gieves & Hawkes. Offering opulent accommodation, extensive dining options and a varied assortment of facilities in one of the city’s best locations, The Garden Hotel Guangzhou is the obvious choice for a stay in this Southern Chinese city. 368 Huanshi Dong Lu, Guangzhou, China; +86 20 8333 8989;


Business as Usual

Despite announcing a luxurious new first class product this year, national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia maintains the highest standards in its Executive Class cabin, finds Nick Walton on a recent flight from Jakarta. BACKGROUND Garuda Indonesia, once the fear of travel agents and insurance companies, has reinvented itself over the past few years, and the product on its fleet of modern A330 aircraft is indicative of an international award-winning airline with something to prove. The introduction next year of a luxurious new first class – a requirement for consideration as a Skytrax five star airline – is further testament to Garuda’s ambitions. CHECK IN The airline is a little behind the times and still doesn’t have online check-in, so I checked in for my flight from Padang on Sumatra to Hong Kong via Jakarta at Padang’s tiny but neat little airport, where Garuda’s staff were welcoming and cheerful despite the very early hour. A dedicated lane for Executive Class passengers was available but not necessary, and boarding passes for both flights were presented quickly and efficiently.

THE PLANE Garuda presently operates 10 Airbus A330200 aircraft, each of which caters to 36 passengers in the airline’s most modern Executive Class in a 2-2-2 configuration. The Airbus operates between Jakarta and Hong Kong on selected departures, and alternates with one of the new Boeing 737800 Next Generation aircraft. Our aircraft was boarded quickly and efficiently with a separate gateway for Executive Class passengers. IN FLIGHT The flight departed on time (the first to do so out of four flights in a week) and I quickly settled into the modern lie-flat Executive Class seat, which boasts a 74-inch pitch, plenty of leg room, in-seat power, a personal reading lamp, and a large personal screen. Hot towels, glasses of chilled champagne, and simple amenity kits were handed out, featuring socks, eyeshades, a toothbrush, and L’Occitane lip balm, which

isn’t at all bad for a day flight of only five hours. Throughout the flight, staff were smiling, welcoming, and genuinely eager to please, proving that for airlines looking to change their image, technology can only go so far, and people power will prove an even stronger draw card. DINING Garuda Indonesia serves a simple yet elegant meal on its afternoon flight to Hong Kong including a duck and potato salad, followed by an option of baked chicken with apricot sauce; mini tumpeng Garuda, a rendition of the traditional Indonesian rice dish; and five spice beef. A simple choice of wines and local beers accompanies Executive Class meals. ENTERTAINMENT Garuda’s in-seat magazine Colours has been revitalised by magazine group Agency Fish into a comprehensive and up-todate read, and coupled with a movies-ondemand system that rivals some of the best in the region (and represents a significant investment on the airline’s part), passengers are well entertained on long haul flights.

l i fe sty l e ART IMITATING NATURE Cartier's Mastery of Floral Marquetry THE FLOWER KING Chef Bjoern Alexander Panek WHY RYE? The New Whiskey Debate

Caviar Dreams

Singapore’s Top Bites Top Action Cameras


Caviar Dreams

An indulgent delicacy, caviar has long been associated with luxury and wealth, and the rarest –Beluga caviar from the Caspian sea – commands thousands of dollars a pound on the open market. But its hefty price tag hasn’t stopped people getting creative with the little pearls of luxury, discovers Gayatri Bhaumik.



or the ultimate caviar experience, the only place to go is the Caviar Bar & Restaurant at the historic Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg. Bask in stunning, regal interiors from another, more glamorous era, and order up the signature dish – the Egg in Egg. What you’ll get – along with white glove service – is three eggshells filled with truffle-infused scrambled eggs, topped with precisely five grams of beluga, oscietra, and salmon caviar respectively. If that doesn’t sate your caviar appetite, indulge in the Caviar Bar Cocktail – 15 grams of each caviar, served from the restaurant’s caviar trolley, and accompanied by the traditional Russian condiments: blinis, sour cream, and chopped eggs. Head south to Singapore, where you can experience an obscenely luxurious caviarbased cocktail at the Axis Bar and Lounge at the Lion City’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. With a price tag which far outstrips that of your regular concoction, it’s no surprise that the Caviar Motini uses only the finest ingredients – black vodka, dry vermouth, lime juice, and olives stuffed with Beluga caviar. Ensuring you get bang for your buck, the tipple is dished up with a side: 30 grams of the finest Iranian Beluga caviar, complete with all the traditional condiments.

Over in the Big Apple, check into the Spa at the Ritz Carlton New York Central Park, an oasis tucked into the southeast corner of the city’s favourite green belt, to treat your skin to caviar’s hidden healing powers. Overseen by luxury skincare brand La Prairie, the spa offers an incredibly indulgent 150-minute ritual that uses the brand’s exquisite Skin Caviar Luxe creams. You’ll start with a relaxing hour-long Caviar Massage, which will leave your skin thoroughly nourished and energised, before being treated to a decadent Caviar Firming Facial and the Caviar Intensive Eye Lift Treatment. Your skin will be transformed with superior products featuring unprecedented concentrations of caviar extracts and unique sea proteins, leaving it lifted and illuminated. The sweetest caviar fix can be had in Miami, at Serendipity 3 (there are other locations throughout the US, including New York and Las Vegas), but you’ll have to plan ahead as 48 hours notice is required if you want to indulge in the Golden Opulence, once listed as the world’s most expensive sundae by the Guinness Book of World Records. A base of five scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream and Madagascar vanilla bites covered in 23-carat edible gold leaf is drizzled with Amedei Porcelana – the world’s most expensive chocolate – and covered with chunks of Chuao chocolate from Venezuela. The whole thing is suffused with candied fruits from Paris, gold-covered almonds, chocolate truffles, and marzipan. Topped with a tiny bowl of Grand Passion Caviar, infused with passionfruit, orange, and Armagnac, the sweet treat is served in a Baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet, and eaten with an 18-carat gold spoon. The ultimate in caviar luxury will set you back an even US$1,000.

98 CHEF PROFILE Chef Bjoern Alexander Panek has apprenticed with three-Michelin star chefs Joachim Wissler and Thomas Keller, solidified his cooking techniques at several highlyacclaimed restaurants in Europe, and plied his trade at the world-famous Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. Now, he brings his creative culinary take to Whisk, the contemporary European restaurant at The Mira, Hong Kong. He talks to Gayatri Bhaumik about what he’s learnt, what inspires him, and the use of seafood, unique fresh herbs, and edible flowers in his dishes.

DESIGNS on a Plate


flair and twist has truly inspired me to cook with my heart and soul as a chef. A truly talented chef is someone who can perfectly merge culinary techniques with creativity to showcase the best side of the ingredients used. The passion they have for cooking has set an example for all of us in the industry, as has the way they lead teams to orchestrate a seamless theatrical dining experience. The teamwork and passion they have are the things that have inspired me the most.

How has your round-theworld restaurant experience influenced your culinary style?

How did you become involved with cooking and culinary endeavours? The passion for cooking certainly runs in my family. Growing up with my grandmother and having been inspired by her authentic home cooking built a solid base for me as a young chef. It was, however, my dream at the time to build a career in other areas I have passion for. This was the reason I chose to further my studies in fine art and history, despite opposition from my family. Letting go of those dreams was the turning point which allowed my true passion for gastronomy to grow. I fell in love with cooking and developed the desire to become a chef while working as a bartender and kitchen helper, where I watched the chef orchestrating culinary art through his cooking and detailed plating. He ensured every dish was prepared with flair, and that each gastronomic masterpiece was a feast for the eyes.

What did you take away from your experiences working with celebrity chefs Joachim Wissler and Thomas Keller? The way they marry the finest of ingredients to deliver the perfect plate with

As well as working with international culinary talents, travelling and visiting all the best restaurants has been a culinary journey to remember; I took away the memories and the local flavours, and carry them as a part of me as a chef. I am truly mesmerised by the culinary magic of marrying ingredients with gastronomic techniques that allows me to create dishes that touch the senses and bring back unforgettable memories and emotions with every bite.

What inspired your love of using seafood, fresh herbs, and edible flowers in your dishes? The greatest joy I have is to be able to surprise guests with experiences that are beyond their imagination. The use of seafood, fresh herbs, and edible flowers are the perfect way to create dishes that amaze guests – which makes the time we spend on designing and creating these delicious treats well worth it. Serving it on its own allows the freshness and sweetness of seafood to be properly showcases; seafood is a delicate, flavourful ingredient best handled with culinary techniques with finesse and flair. Magic happens when fresh herbs and edible flowers are infused into ingredients; they really make the perfect dish. The smell and taste of herbs elevate the flavours of dishes – although a pinch of parsley goes a long way.

What inspires you?

to hiking to get in touch with nature and its natural processes.

How do art and design influence your cooking? Like an architect, I draw before I begin creating a dish. Inspired by art and design, I often apply a sense of structure and design to my dishes to accentuate their aesthetics, whilst layering the flavours with for complexity.

Do you have a signature dish? No. As a chef, the pursuit of perfection is a lifelong journey, so I thrive on the journey of creating a new dish. The constant evolution is essential. I do have favourites, though! From my recent menu, my favourite dish was the “Grain-fed Angus with Black Quinoa and Dried Mushrooms”, and I hope diners enjoyed this dish as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Is there one moment in your culinary career that stands out? The experience of working at a twoMichelin starred restaurant in Munich was probably one of my favourite career moments. Driving to the fresh market to handpick the freshest ingredients at 6am, and working alongside the team until 1am every night, was physically challenging but spiritually rewarding. Chef Hans Hass was my mentor at the time, and I was deeply touched by his kindness and generosity in sharing his knowledge with each of us.

Have you learned any important culinary lessons in your 20 years in the industry? I once had dinner with friends at our friend’s restaurant in Shanghai. After the meal, one of our party commented on the food. When I asked whether it was rude for him to be commenting on our fellow chef’s food, he replied, “I must do this! He’s my friend and I want him to be better!” It took me awhile to understand his words of wisdom, but I realised later that every comment is valuable, as they all help you perfect your dishes. This was definitely one of the most important culinary lessons in my career.

I draw inspiration from everything, from reading art books and travelling the world,


Why Rye? As winter arrives, you’ll want to reach for heartwarming cocktails and spirits that set your soul aglow – and none are enjoying the renaissance of rye whisky, finds Nick Walton.

Cocktails like the Manhattan are increasingly being made with their original spirit, rye whisky


n the US, and increasingly spilling over to the watering holes of Asia, rye whisky is enjoying a buoyant renaissance as this less sweet, spicier cousin to bourbon finally receives the recognition many believe it deserves. Not to be confused with Canadian whisky, which is often referred to as “rye” whisky even when it contains none of the grain (although a number of excellent ryes are produced in Canada, including Whistle Pig and Masterson’s), true American rye whisky must, by law, contain at least 51 percent rye mash, must be distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% ABV), and must be aged in new oak barrels, much like conventional bourbon. Age the spirit for longer than two years and you have yourself a ‘straight’ rye whisky. The distinction between rye and bourbon, which has seen market growth across the luxury spirit sector in past years, is the spicy fruity notes imparted by the rye grain. Bourbon, which is distilled using corn, is noticeably sweeter and fuller bodied, leading to a different drinking experience. It’s this spice that’s forging a family of classic cocktail renditions. First made by Irish and Scottish migrants in the US as far back as the 1700s, rye was the staple of northern US states like Pennsylvania and Maryland (George Washington was a fan and distilled his own ryelaced hooch), while bourbon’s sweeter notes proved popular across the southern states. Prohibition knocked the wind out of the rye campaign and many bartenders started replacing rye with bourbon in classic cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. Today, a renaissance towards authentic classic cocktails, coinciding coincidentally with the 80th anniversary of prohibition’s repeal, has bartenders and distillers revisiting America’s original impetuous spirit, and innovating on rye classics. “I enjoy making cocktails with rye because its bold, spicy character stands up well to mixing,” says Brooks Reitz, bartender at The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina. “It’s not as soft and round as bourbon,” he says. “Think of it like the difference between the sweet flavour of wheat bread, compared to the bold flavor of rye bread.” There are a number of great rye whiskies to look out for next time you’re passing through the US (or some of the larger duty free precincts). One is R 1 (pronounced rye one), a distinctly modern Kentucky straight rye whiskey produced by Beam Global Spirits. This rye whiskey is quite different from the traditional rye in that it is lighter and sweeter, but retains that spicy snap that’s turning bartender’s heads. Another great rye drop is Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, which is aged for 13 years. This rye is often regarded as one of the finest ryes in the world, and is rare to find on the market due to its very low production and supply so if you see it up for grabs be sure to do your wet bar a favour this season and put your hand in your wallet.


Jubilation Libations An exciting new gin to come out of the heart of Australia’s cocktail revolution, the Melbourne Gin Company gin has been designed specifically to be the perfect martini spirit. Made by winemakers turned distillers, this fascinating small batch spirit features both classic botanicals like angelica root, orris, and cassia bark, and more exotic additions, including grapefruit peel and rosemary from Gembrook Hill Vineyard in Victoria, macadamia, sandlewood, honey lemon myrtle, and locally sourced organic navel oranges. Each botanical is distilled separately using a copper pot baine-marie alembic still, and then blended to a recipe reminiscent of the winemaking tradition. Unlike many commercial gins, the spirit is not chill filtered so look for the slightly cloudy ‘louche’ effect of the oils interacting when you mix up a festive Silver Bullet. www.

For an eye-catching gift for any would-be home mixologist, ultrapremium DQ Vodka is not only a pure Swedish spirit made from 100 percent winter wheat, but also one which comes in a design-savvy blue glass canister that’s sure to turn heads at New Year’s parties. Made by one of the finest glass makers in Europe, and topped with satin chrome, this unique decanter is the perfect presentation for a smooth, elegant spirit that’s ideal for special occasions. Made in a multiple column continuous still, using reverse osmosis water from Malmköping, a Swedish water reserve, the results are pure enough for the spirit not to have to go through additional filtration. Soft and velvety, DQ is perfectly suited on its own or chilled with a twist. www.

For a vodka that has plenty of character, look out for OYO Vodka. Named for the original title of the Ohio River Valley, O-Why-O, this smooth, full-bodied vodka from Middle West Spirits in Ohio is made using soft red winter wheat that lends a soothing, velvety finish, ideal for martinis. Distilled using a combination of old world traditions and cutting-edge technology, this is a great vodka for whisky lovers looking for more complexity than your average white spirit, with aromas of vanilla and caramel and a little spice on the nose, followed by a honey and mineral driven finish that’s vibrant and enticing. Look out for this unique vodka across the mid-west and east coast cities of the US, and try it in a range of suitable autumn concoctions, including the gimlet.

Another vodka targeting connoisseurs is Karlsson’s Gold Vodka’s new Batch 2009, the latest addition to the single-varietal, single-batch range. With a total of 12 Swedish solist potatoes (which sell for US$100 per pound) in each bottle, the newest limitededition ‘vintage’ vodka is made solely from the 2009 harvest, using soloist potato from the Cape Bjäre region of southern Sweden, one of seven virgin potato varieties used in Karlsson’s Gold Vodka. Distilled just once to honour the ingredients’ unique characteristics, Karlsson’s Gold Vodka is the world’s first based on terrior, with a different batch of spirit produced year to year, to ensure each release is a testament to the conditions of the season past. Limited to just 1,980 bottles, each of which is numbered and signed by master distiller Börje Karlsson, look out for this unique vodka in fine spirit stores in London and major US capitals.


From small batch gins from Downunder, to glow-in-the-dark party spirits from the Big Apple, here’s what we’re filling our Santa sacks with this season. By Nick Walton

The ideal Christmas gift for any spirits fan, the new triple malt from John Walker & Sons commemorates Sir Alexander Walker’s vision and enduring entrepreneurial spirit. The John Walker & Sons Odyssey is a unique triple malt inspired by epic journeys of adventure, creativity, and perseverance. The result of a careful blending process of three hand-selected single malt whiskies by master blender Jim Beveridge, the Odyssey boasts dark golden tones with hints of honey, berry fruits, and caramel. The palate is full-bodied and inviting – from the freshness of citrus fruits to the richness of berries, from the smoothness of honey to the creaminess of caramel - while the finish is mellow, lingering, and smoky. Of course the Oddssey is presented in an exquisitely crafted crystal-grade glass decanter with rich casing crafted from the finest polished metals and natural timber with no attention to detail spared, making it the perfect home bar centrepiece.

Another eye-catching bottle for your home bar, or as a unique end of year gift, Zing Vodka is made in Rochester, New York, from a blend of corn and wheat before being quadruple-distilled and subjected to rigorous filtration to ensure essential purity. But what you won’t find with other spirits is the inclusion of great LED technology which illuminates the bottle with just one touch. There are lights in the base of the blazing blue tower-like bottle, while the unique hexagonalshaped bottle features high end chrome accents to ensure guests know you’re serving a truly luxurious product. A red velvet flavoured variety is also available.

If you’re planning on going somewhere warm this Christmas, take the tropics with you with Panama’s Caña Brava rum. Made with local sugar cane grown in the rich volcanic soil of the Herrera region and then filtered and aged three years in a combination of new un-charred American oak and used American whisky barrels, The 86 Co’s Caña Brava rum lends itself to all sorts of tropical cocktails, from daiquiris to Cubre libres, and mojitos. Caña Brava rum is a very clean and fresh blancostyle rum with notes of sugar cane and citrus supported by flavours from the oak. There is a balanced nose of fresh cut green grass with honey, coconut and molasses, while on the palate, it’s smooth and clean with plenty of lovely citrus and oak notes offering a touch of vanilla, cacao butter, and dark chocolate.

A vodka which has quickly built up a loyal drinkership among the world’s top bars and is increasingly finding its way behind home wet bars, Potocki Vodka is already your bartender’s best friend, and rightly so. This Polish vodka has it all; a rich history filled with battlefield victories and preserved lineage, reflected in the coat of arms logo on the newly designed bottle; an artisanal production process; and the best possible ingredients to create an impossibly smooth and pure spirit. Made with locally-sourced superior rye, the resulting mash is only distilled twice, to avoid stripping the alcohol of its character. www.

104 WINE


Little Helper C

abernet Franc is mainly known to wine buffs as one of the five legally permitted grape varieties grown in the famed Bordeaux region of France. On its own, Cabernet Franc produces wines that are less tannic and less saturated in colour than the more famous Cabernet Sauvignon, but these wines rarely get the same attention as Santa Sauvignon. Too often, Cabernet Franc’s sleigh is laden with disparaging descriptors such as green pepper, ‘vegetal’ or ‘stemmy’, which at times is fair judgment. However, green characteristics emerge in many red grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, whenever grown in excessively cool climates, under indifferent conditions or when over-cropped. Good quality Cabernet Franc does emanate a slight herbal note, but definitely not an off-putting green pepper or green asparagus aroma. The best Cabernet Franc wines – and there are many instances of Cabernet Franc leading Santa’s sleigh – are distinctive and complex. Cabernet Franc is grown throughout Bordeaux and particularly in the Médoc district, home to famous properties such as Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild, where it comprises about 15 percent of a typical vineyard. On the opposite side of the river, on the so-called Bordeaux Right Bank, which is further inland, Cabernet Franc thrives in St. Emilion’s cooler, moister soils. The most famous Cabernet Franc-based wine in the world is St. Emilion’s Cheval Blanc, where Santa’s littler helper is not so little, making up around 65 percent of the blend. Cabernet Franc also thrives in northern France’s Loire Valley, where the chilly air accentuates the variety’s desirable lead pencil and herbal aromas, with the finest examples being produced on the slopes around the village of Chinon. These wines, though of modest colour, are well-structured and have excellent aging potential. Loire Cabernet Franc is rarely oak-aged, and is of lighter weight than jolly old St Nick, which means it pairs better with holiday poultry, fish and charcuterie. Cabernet Franc thrives better than Cabernet Sauvignon in cool vineyards because it buds and forms grapes earlier. By budding earlier, it is able to take advantage of a long, cool growing season, becoming far riper, and therefore less harshly tannic, before the winter chill sets in. If you fancy a quick kiss from Santa’s Little Helper – the charming drop, not Homer Simpson’ dog – seek out Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, St. Emilion or Pomerol in Bordeaux, chilly upstate New York, Italy’s Veneto region, or even Shaanxi, China. Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

The real Santa’s Littler Helper this festive season is Cabernet Franc grapes, assisting its big sister Cabernet Sauvignon to bring joy to the wine world, heralds Master of Wine Debra Meiburg.

Beach House Iruveli

AT BEACH HOUSE, DREAMS COME TRUE Today we have immersed ourselves in rich culture, uncovering deep layers of artisanal, artistic and culinary tradition. We have listened to ancient stories shared by warm local people, entranced in the magic of their world. We have been lavished with visionary service, have tasted exceptional cuisine, have explored land and sea, and been soothed by intuitive touch. And in perfect harmony, we have laughed, dancing across gentle sands warmed in celebration, as the beat of the bodu beru plays on. Here, at Beach House, we experienced the extraordinary. We invite you to do the same.

Beach House Iruveli, A Maldivian Sun | Beach House Pasikudah, A Sri Lankan Sun – opening 2014


Culinary Dome-ination


n a city where every square foot is prized and utilised by restaurateurs; where shoulders are nudged and conversations shared thanks to tables a wafer’s width apart, arriving at the new 10,000sqft Le Dôme de Cristal in Central’s Galleria mall is a refreshing change. Anyone who had visited the previous nightclub tenant Cloud 9 will recall the cavernous domed space atop the luxury retail precinct, the atrium below ensuring that any restaurateur need first defy gravity before piling together the tables. A far cry from Cloud 9’s crowded dance floor, the new champagne-themed restaurant – a first for Cristal - is decked out in contemporary cream, charcoal grey, and gold accents chosen by architect Steven Leung, allowing the natural light from floorto-ceiling windows to accentuate the hues during lunch service, and the lights of the city to dazzle during dinner. An oculus eye at the centre of the dome allows further natural light in. Like entering some hidden enclave, arriving guests enter via a winding staircase or private elevator from the Galleria mall below up to the restaurant level, passing a comprehensive wine library of more than 200 labels, as well as Louis Roederer vintages encased in glass on the way to their table. Le Dôme de Cristal has three distinctive spaces; to one side is a refined

Hong Kong’s new Le Dôme de Cristal returns unhurried luxury to Central’s culinary scene, finds Nick Walton.

The best way to complement the characteristics of Louis Roederer’s fine drops is with the tasting menu, which matches several dishes with a range of champagnes, including Louis Roederer NV and the acclaimed Louis Roederer Cristal 2005. The tasting menu starts off with a four-piece oyster platter with Ostra Regal, Gillardeau, Ecaille D’Argent, and White Pearl, followed by a yellowfin tuna and scallop carpaccio with salmon roe; Sicilian red shrimp linguini with a zesty cherry tomato sauce and Imperial caviar; and redcurrant glazed Canadian pork rack with an apple and rhubarb chutney.

oyster and champagne bar; across the abyss are wide booth tables, and beyond there is an extensive outdoor terrace with a dedicated cocktail list and snacks menu, perfect for after dinner tipples. The handful of coveted counter seats at the oyster bar are perfect for power lunches on the go, or for guests who like to watch their oysters – from Australian coffin bay and Franklin Harbour, to French Pinky No. 1 and Belon - being shucked. There is also a selection of caviars on offer, matched with vintage Cristal. But if you’re settling in for an intimate lunch or a dinner to impress you can’t go past the booths.

Highlights of the dinner menu include blue lobster salad with celery root and green apple; pan-seared Monkfish with mushrooms, chestnuts and cannellini beans; and the pan-seared A5 Miyazaki beef tenderloin with seared foie gras and a truffle sauce, matched with choice drops from the wine list, including a 1997 Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Blanchot’; a 2006 Romanee Saint Vivant from the Domaine de La Romanee Conti; and the 1990 Chateau D’Yquem from Bordeaux, through to a complete collection of Louis Roederer champagnes, including the 1990 Cristal. Le Dôme de Cristal, 3/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2116 4688,


HIGH FASHION MEETS HIGH TEA The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong has teamed up with Graff Diamonds to create the “Most Fabulous High Tea in the World”, a sumptuous meal celebrating the finer things in life. Hazelnut nougat, Tahitian vanilla financier, and a 2002 Dom Pérignon vintage champagne gelee give a sweet touch to a high tea inspired by two of Graff’s most famous diamonds, Delaire Sunrise and The Graff Pink, and created by executive chef Peter Find. The tea also includes Osetra caviar smoked salmon rose, and bottles of chilled 2004 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut and 1998 Chauteau d’yquem Sauterne, as well as a selection of premium coffee and loose leaf tea, presented on Vera Wang chinaware, Christofle silverware, and Baccarat glassware. During the tea, a ‘treasure trunk’ of beautiful Graff jewelry and luxury watch collections, together with a wide range of the finest quality diamond rings and precious gemstone rings, is showcased in a private viewing. The “Most Fabulous High Tea in the World” is priced at HK$10,880 for two people.

KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE In a welcome step away from celebraityendorsed restaurants and overlycomplicated concepts, La Vache has opened in the heart of Hong Kong as the city’s latest classic Parisian bistro. Hidden away on lower Peel Street, the neon-clad Black Sheep Restaurants eatery does just one appetiser and one main – a green leaf salad followed by steak frites – in a beautiful ode to the French capital’s Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. Perfect for carnivores looking for elegant simplicity, the steak frites are priced at HK$258 per person and are served with generous pots of La Vache‘s special béarnaise sauce amidst dark and sexy interiors including worn red-leather banquettes, oak wall panelling and brass fixtures. The 12-seat bar is a great spot to enjoy a pre-steak tipple, including the house Manhattan or a glass from La Vache’s carefully curated list of Old World wines, including the restaurant’s own blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Mouvèdre and Cabernet-Sauvignon made specially to pair with steak. Don’t get any ideas about leaving hungry, as the restaurant’s dessert cart boasts an array of traditional French pastries such as Oeufs à la Neige, meringues floating in crème anglaise, and Mille Feuille, layers of puff pastry and cream.

Winter Tempters From warm Bangkok evenings at the city's newest hotspot to homely fare in the heart of Hong Kong, here are the region's top tables this season.

KU DÉ TA ARRIVES IN BANGKOK One of Asia’s best known entertainment and lifestyle brands has opened in Thailand’s city of angels, promising sophisticated cocktails, tailored menus, and stunning city views from the 40th floor. Located atop the Sathorn Square Building, Ku Dé Ta Bangkok is spread across two floors and features three innovative restaurants: Signature’s modern interpretation on Asian flavours; Izakaya’s Japanese robatayaki charcoal grill, and the Grill’s progressive update on the western steakhouse. Each venue is supported by select wine lists, carefully curated by an award-winning sommelier. Complementing these dining outlets, Ku Dé Ta Bangkok also features seven distinct themed bars, with each drink experience carefully crafted by the Nordic Bar Syndicate, and lists featuring both international classics and unique signature drinks. Look out for the Club Lounge and Members Club, which have been meticulously crafted with multi-level platforms and seating banquettes, Thailand’s first Madrix lighting system, and sound by Marquis’ ultra-high performance club system.


SPLIT PERSONALITY Hidden away below Wyndham Street in Hong Kong, Zafran is Hong Kong’s newest tapas hotspot, offering mouthwatering modern Spanish cuisine by day, and a chic cocktail lounge accessed by a ‘secret garden façade’ by night. Based on the Spanish tapas y musica bars of Barcelona and Madrid, Zafran is split into three distinct spaces – a main dining room, an elegant bar, and a late night lounge. The main dining space features high ceilings and large windows, accentuated by wood panelling and exposed brick walls, which allow the space to evolve through the day. Open for business lunches and intimate dinners – our favourite perch is in the ‘tapas lounge’ with its open kitchen and Tom Dixon-designed lighting fixtures – diners are serenaded by resident DJs. The tapas menu includes both traditional and modern dishes, from salt cod fritters; tomato bread and Arbequina extra virgin olive oil; and Gambas ajillo garlic chili prawns; through to roasted Salamanca pork face; lamb rack with garlic puree and onions; cod with Txangurro and cuttlefish tagliatelle; and Zafran’s signature 24-hour boneless ox-tail. Zafran’s Afro Latin soundtrack continues into the night with the addition of tech, house, and hip hop. For celebratory dinners, book the 20 person private dining room, and for intimate nights on the town, call ahead for one of the coveted six person private booths, the perfect place from which to sample Hong Kong’s largest selection of cavas, as well as an innovative cocktail and sangria list.

GRAND REOPENING Groundbreaking Sydney restaurant Bentley has left its Surry Hills home for stylish new digs in the city centre. Bentley’s grand dining room at the historic Radisson Blu hotel will give owners chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrand the chance to further innovative on an exciting culinary reputation developed over the past eight years. Head chef Aiden Stevens will oversee a new menu delivering cutting edge a la carte dining, including a raw and cured section and Bentley’s signature house made cured meats, as well as mains grilled over charcoal. The bar area for up to 30 drinkers and diners features an impressive marble and stone bar top and stool seating, with its own more casual menu including charred beef tartare and a Bentley sandwich. The 80-seat dining room also features a private dining and event space for up to 40 people, while Hildebrandt, one of Australia’s most awarded sommeliers, has created a wine list featuring almost 700 labels.

CULINARY STAPLES Another exciting new opening in central Hong Kong is Fish & Meat, the latest innovation by Maximal Concepts. The 3,5000sqft brainchild of culinary director Malcolm Wood and head chef Russell Doctrove, Fish & Meat is centred on honest cooking using the freshest ingredients possible. With a rustic décor and a menu laced with dishes designed to share, the restaurant carries on the success of sibling eateries Blue Butcher and Brickhouse, with signature dishes including soft duck egg raviolo with ricotta cream, burnt sage butter and pecorino; fresh roasted New Zealand langoustines with charred Sicilian lemon aioli; and whole roasted Italian sea bass with fennel and romesco sauce. Also look out for the likes of Peter’s Farm Dutch veal chop ‘Milanese’, with parsley panko, vine tomatoes and chopped arugula, perfect for sharing. Match your homely meal with inventive cocktails like the Farm House Jam, with Ice Fox vodka, thyme-infused blueberry jam, and dry Prosecco; or the Pepperoncini, a spicy cocktail made with Ice Fox vodka, Lillet blanc, jalapeño and cucumber.

Indian Ocean Indulgence

Special Promotion Section Nestled into picturesque settings across the Indian Ocean, the Constance Hotels & Resorts properties in the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Mauritius are indulgent hideaways that offer a wealth of luxurious accommodation, fine-dining experiences, and exciting activities. But the opulent resorts also boast sumptuous wellness offerings that are among the best in the world. Constance Halaveli Maldives Perched on stilts above turquoise waters, the treatment pavilions of the Spa de Constance allow guests to savour complete serenity while indulging in a range of signature treatments. Using customblended, organic oils, scrubs, and wraps by Ila, these treatments are designed to relax and rejuvenate. Also onsite is the Valmont Spa, which offers a full complement of treatments from the exclusive Swiss skincare brand. Whether you choose spa, beauty, or hair treatments, or want a oneon-one yoga or personal training session, Constance Halaveli caters to your every wellness need.

Constance Moofushi Maldives Boasting six single rooms and two double treatment rooms, all of which hover above the tranquil waters of the resort’s lagoon, Constance Moofushi’s luxurious Spa de Constance offers a host of treatments inspired by ancient techniques from around the world. Revive yourself with a personalised spa package, which can include hot stone, aromatherapy, Swedish, or Thai massages. The spa also features a secluded yoga pavilion, the perfect place to distress. For a truly relaxing experience, book one of the individual yoga sessions which focus on meditation, stretching, and breathing to sooth the mind, body and soul.

Constance Le Prince Maurice Mauritius Set in a tranquil corner of the gardens at Le Prince Maurice is the elegant Spa de Constance. After enjoying a welcome drink made of local fruits and spices, you can indulge in your choice of treatment, be it massages, facials, wraps, beauty rituals, or a combination of all these. The spa also boats a range of treatments by French skincare brand Sisley, and footcare and posture assessments by podiatrist Brice Nicham. Rounding out the wellness offerings are a comprehensive series of fitness classes which include outdoor yoga and tai chi, and indoor Power Plate, toning, and cardio sessions.

Constance Lemuria Seychelles

Constance Belle Mare Plage Mauritius

Constance Lemuria, one of the group’s Seychellois properties, features two lavish destination spas. At the signature Spa de Constance, indulge in a range of global treatments, including Balinese or Thai massages, the restorative Golfer’s Tonic, Ayurvedic rituals, and Creole-inspired wellness therapies. The Shiseido Spa soothes the body and mind with signature treatments from the legendary Japanese skincare brand; try the Japanese Beauty Paradise, an indulgent two-hour ritual which includes a Japanese foot bath, invigorating back scrub, a back, neck, and shoulders massage, and a Qi facial. For the active, a series of complimentary fitness classes are available, which include aerobics and yoga.

Boasting two sumptuous spas, Constance Belle Mare Plage is the ultimate Mauritian wellness destination. Set amid swaying palm trees, the Shiseido Spa is an oasis offering treatments based on the brand’s Qi method. Try the Journey of Relaxation, which combines a relaxing body massage with a hydro-nourishing facial. The property’s Spa de Constance features holistic treatments inspired by the elements, where therapists blend ancient traditions with the latest techniques. Try the couple’s Zen Ritual, a 105-minute ritual featuring a Kreol body scrub, a nourishing body wrap, and a ylang ylang massage.

Constance Ephelia Seychelles Restore body and mind at Constance Ephelia. Nestled into the property’s tropical gardens are two opulent wellness retreats where the healing traditions of east and west collide. The property’s Spa de Constance features a comprehensive treatment menu, as well as 11 single rooms, one double room, two facial treatment rooms, a hair salon, and a beauty bar. Secluded in a private garden, the Shiseido Spa boasts 3 dedicated treatment rooms with designated scrub areas and Japanese baths, where the brand’s signature treatments are carried out. After your treatment, relax in the steam room, dry heat sauna, steam room, thermal pool, or Jacuzzi.


Taming the

Ephemeral In celebration of the ephemeral beauty of flowers, and in order to preserve their beauty for eternity, luxury jeweller Cartier has taken up a new craft in watchmaking: floral marquetry, which adorns and enlivens the dial of the latest Ballon Bleu de Cartier 42mm watch.


imited to just 20 pieces, the new Ballon Bleu de Cartier is at the crossroads of two artisanal crafts: one, never before seen in watchmaking, immortalises flowers and their vulnerable beauty; the other, that of the jeweller, enhances the dial’s precious nature. When combined, a kind of alchemy occurs, resulting in an explosion of colour, from the blue and orangey-yellow of the plumage, and the deep black of the beak, to the emerald green of the eye and the sparkling white diamonds of the dial and crown. Such delicate beauty is created from a multitude of minute operations that follow one after the other: the flower petals are gathered and coloured; each petal is then stuck onto a thin piece of wood and cut into the desired shape using a marquetry saw. Thus transformed, they become feathers and plumage, a precious, noble material that is vibrant, sensual, and fragile, with a volume and texture that contrast with the shine of the onyx beak and emerald eye. The grey and black feathers surrounding the eye are created one by one with miniature painting. Several hours of marquetry and stone-setting work are required for the dial of this creation to come into being. The resulting timepiece boasts a 42mm case in rhodium-plated 18-carat white gold, set with 124 round diamonds totalling 1.80 carats, an elegantly fluted crown set with a blue sapphire cabochon, and a dial in rhodium-plated 18-carat white gold and 18-carat pink gold with floral marquetry and onyx, emerald eye, parrot motif. The white semimatte alligator skin bracelet is further offset by an 18mm double adjustable folding buckle in rhodium-plated 18-carat white gold, set with 43 diamonds and totalling 0.42 carats.


THE FACE OF A GENTLEMAN Three new timepieces marry the elegance of luxury chorography with the masculinity of the contemporary gentleman.

Perfect for any gentleman, Roger Dubuis has created a new addition to the acclaimed Excalibur collection. The only brand with a full catalog of movements certified from Poinçon de Genève, Roger Dubuis’ elegant and eye-catching Excalibur 36 Steel and Diamond in Blue combines high-end technology and innovative design for an immediate and unmistakable look. The 36mm case emphasises the shape as well as curves of a timeless timepiece, while the dial is satin-brushed in a sunburst pattern and finished with a semimatte varnish or a rhodium-coating. On May 24th 1962, Lt Commander Scott Carpenter orbited the earth three times aboard the Aurora 7 capsule. On his wrist was a Navitimer featuring a 24-hour graduation serving to distinguish day from night – an absolute necessity in space. This space conquering pioneer joined the Breitling collections under the name Cosmonaute. Fifty years after its first flight, the Navitimer Cosmonaute is pursuing its odyssey in a new and highly original version featuring a case in black steel created using a highly resistant carbon-based coating. Black dials and counters are enhanced by luminescent indications and small red hands, while the Manufacture Breitling Caliber B02 movement features two key characteristics true to the original model: a manual winding system and a 24-hour display. The engraved caseback bears the official Aurora 7 mission insignia on a limited release of 1,000 numbered pieces.

In both form and function, IWC Schaffhausen’s Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” closely follows the brand’s classic pilot’s watches, featuring clean, strong lines and distinctive masculine accents. With this special edition, limited to 1,000 pieces, the Swiss watch manufacturer is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the popular story “The Little Prince”, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The stainless steel back is engraved with an image of the little prince standing on his tiny asteroid with his scarf blowing in the wind.


SEASONAL SE From beautiful beach bags to sleek ear candy, tempt yourself with our favourite new treasures in time for winter wanderings.

Defy the winter and embrace the summer sun with this vibrant beach bag from Emilio Pucci’s 2014 resort collection. Creative director Peter Dundas has filled his latest collection with bold, empowering colours, including the watermelon pink weave of this day-tripper, the ideal companion for market exploration or lazy days sun worshipping.

Stay connected through the festive period with the new Vertu Constellation smartphone. Handmade in England and combining top quality materials and state-of-the-art technology, the new Vertu Constellation, which runs Android Jelly Bean, is sleek and understated and features a sapphire crystal glass façade, a 4.3-inch 720p high-definition screen beneath, a case made from grade 5 titanium, and a calf leather backing available in cappuccino, black, orange, mocha, or raspberry.

Wherever the journey takes you, you’ll be ready for departure with this sleek, elegant travel wallet by boutique Hong Kong brand loveforbags. The wallet’s colourful zip-around compartment comfortably fits everything from credit cards, itineraries, and tickets to lounge passes and passports, whilst the handy inside zipper pocket is perfect for keeping foreign coins and notes in one easy-to-reach spot - an absolute “must have” for today’s independent world traveller. HK$998 (US$ 129)



Die-hard photographers looking for a full frame camera in a compact and stylish design will love the new Nikon Df. The powerful new digital camera combines a unique, timeless design with cutting-edge technology, including mechanical dials for key features like exposure and ISO sensitivity, a full-frame 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, and the EXPEED 3 image processor of Nikon’s larger DSLRs but in a smaller, more manageable design. The only drawback is it doesn’t take video. From HK$22,000 (US$2,837)

Never miss a beat with the new Philips CitiScape Foldie over-ear headphones. With excellent noise isolation and a foldable design to make them travel-friendly, a wireless Bluetooth connection frees you up when you’re on the go while the handcrafted headband takes its inspiration from urban bike handle bars for an eye-catching look that’s as practical as it is stylish.

Catch eyes on and off the street with this new burnt orange enamel bangle from Kipling. Part of the brand’s new More Than Bags collection, which also includes leather and silicone bracelets in a wealth of colours, this elegant orange and gold piece is both refined and playful.



As CEO of The Experience Company, Julien Yung Mameaux has travelled the world building relationships with some of the biggest names in wine, whisky, golf, wellness and art. Now, he’s channeling those relationships into creating exclusive bespoke experiences for those wanting more than the cattle-hearding tour experience. Gayatri Bhaumik speaks to Julien about the rising popularity of experiential travel.

What impact has the downturn in the European economy had on Asian travellers?

What makes things like wine, whisky, golf, and wellness such compelling reasons to travel? It is about authentic and innovative experiences with people, activities, and places you love. Sightseeing and following the beaten track are not what today’s advanced travellers want. Affluent individuals want to experience things they like in other places – there are no geographical boundaries. When you travel with The Experience Company, you go behind the scenes, you meet unique personalities and you get an insider view that no one else has.

What makes whisky or wine tourism so popular? There’s a combination of unique factors that make fine wine and spirits tourism so popular. First, it’s much more experiential than many other types of travel. Gone are the days of simple tastings – such tourism, especially as offered by The Experience Company, is now more engaging than ever: abseiling into underground Champagne cellars, blending workshops with an Australian winemaker, festive nights inside the Glenlivet Single Malt distillery are all examples of the experiential quality this type of tourism can offer.

In the current economic environment, people in France, Italy or Spain are increasingly welcoming. The Experience Company has a multicultural team that liaises closely with direct counterparts in Europe. Thanks to those privileged networks, our European partners go the extra mile to make our customers happier than they could imagine.

the content of the trip themselves. Our team combines the know-how of travel and tourism with professional knowledge in wine, golf, spas, and other themes. We also offer exclusive access and serives, thanks to our extensive partnerships. everyone can be received by the owner of a Grand Cru Classe at his chateau, book a lastminute tee time at St Andrews, or enjoy a private flamenco performance over Spanish vineyards!

Why the focus on winery spas?

Why do you think people choose specialised travel like wine trips, over more generic travel?

Winery spas have unique features that can’t be found anywhere else. The environment and landscape are absolutely incredible; you’re in the heart of nature, with endless fields and vineyards. In addition, winery spas offer a fusion of elements that contribute to well-being – the sounds and atmosphere of the venue, the fine-dining and pairing menus, and even the treatments, are all in harmony with each other. Of course, science has also proven that fruit-based therapies have an exceptional benefit to the skin, body, and soul; many provide exceptional grape treatments like wine baths, seeds and skin beauty massages, or vine-leaf rejuvenation masks, that offer all the nutrients and vitamins that modern travellers need.

Elite travellers have very specific aspirations that must be understood: time is of the essence, quality is critical, and the trip must be “valuable” in some way. Usually, generic travel cannot meet these demands, with uncertainty in schedules, places, and the trip’s return on investment in time and money, for example. The Experience Company understands this, which is why we offer specialised travel that is directly relevant to people’s favourite pastimes, interests and passions. There is an increasing demand for trips where you can fully enjoy yourself and at the same time, deepen your appreciation and reward yourself or your inner circle.

What sort of special features do you offer that travellers can't get from anywhere else? Expertise is not a given for many tour companies, especially when it comes to

The Experience Company crafts each journey according to personal preferences. Meet them over a glass of wine to discuss your next holiday. The Experience Company, +852 2179 3307,,


The Private Collection’s TROLLEY DUFFEL BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC allows photographers to escape into the wild in convenience and style. Featuring a slide-out trolley handle and built-in wheels, the case allows world wanderers to travel comfortably with all their precious camera equipment. Made with high-quality suede and canvas, the bag is part of a vintageinspired collection that boasts an iconic Nat Geo aluminium magnetic buckle, and removable padded sleeves that easily cater to a 13-inch laptop as well as a DSLR camera with lens attached.

You’ve spent thousands on the best cameras and lenses with which to

Using Protection

capture those precious travel moments. Protect them from the elements and the rough and tumble of travel with these new camera cases. by Johnny Ng

Designed for adventure travel, LOWEPRO’s newest FLIPSIDE SPORT 20L AW camera bag features a highly protective design for all sorts of extreme weather and environments. Guaranteed to protect your camera gear from rain, snow, dust, and sand, the bag is made of 210 D triple-ripstop nylon with polyurethane coating to improve durability. The main compartment has room for two DSLRs, two lenses and a small laptop, with external attachment points for tripods, trekking poles or even ice axes. It also features a highly adjustable camera compartment which allows additional customisation.

KATA’s new 3N1-33 DL SLING BACKPACK is a highly convenient three-in-one camera bag with a modern, flexible design. A recreation of an iconic sling bag, the 3N1-33 features a unique buckling system, which allows the wearer to change the bag from backpack to sling in seconds. Another feature is the special memory divider for tiny accessories like cables and memory cards. The spacious main compartment contains a divider system, with spaces for a DSLR with a battery pack and long lens. A sizable laptop of up to 15.4 inches can also fit in the attached padded holder.


Chowing Down in the

Lion City


t might be called Hainanese Chicken Rice, but this mouth-watering dish of steamed chicken served atop rice braised in chicken stock has long since won the hearts of locals, who often call it the national dish. Try it at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, which has two locations on the island and don’t forget to pair it with the delightfully spicy chili sauce and tangy dark soy sauce. Chili crabs are synonymous with Singapore; usually made with mud crabs stir-fried in a tomato and chili based sauce, they can

be done more than a dozen ways – black pepper, salted egg yolk, cheese-baked – but should always be enjoyed with gusto and a complete disregard for dignity. Jumbo Seafood has earned a reputation for dishing up the best crabs in town, so head to their flagship location at the popular East Coast Food Centre for your fill. www. You might mistake fish head curry for being an Indian dish, but this is one of the few authentic, home-grown Singaporean dishes. Created 30 years ago by a local Indian restaurateur to curry favour with Chinese customers, the dish features whole heads of red snapper swimming in a Kerala-style curry with assorted vegetables. Look past the eyes and make a bee-line for the tender cheeks at Samy’s Curry, located in the popular dining enclave of

Singapore sports a well-earned reputation as a foodie haven. Here are our picks for can’t-miss food experiences in the Lion City. Dempsey Hill. Where else but in Singapore can you sit down to a buffet breakfast with orangutans? The daily Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife at Singapore Zoo features a lavish buffet of Western, Indian, Malay, and Chinese breakfast dishes under the watchful eyes of orangutans enjoying their fruit selection. The Long Bar in Singapore’s iconic Raffles Hotel is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, reputedly invented around 1914 by then-resident bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Recipes differ wildly, but the generally agreed-upon ingredients include gin, brandy, grenadine, and fresh juice. Find a perch at the Long Bar and order yours ‘shaken, not stirred’, the way the original cocktail was made. singapore



Skin Soothers The cool winter air can be intensely drying for our skin, and travelling over the holidays compounds the problem of dehydration. To quickly restore moisture and keep skin in top form this season, we’ve tracked down some of the most effective new hydrating products around.

Sometimes, a heavy duty moisturiser just isn’t enough to fight the toll winter takes on our skin. To the rescue is the new Hydraphase Intense Masque by La Roche-Posay. Containing a high concentration of La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water – a natural anti-oxidant – this velvety, fresh gel nourishes the skin with hydrating ingredients and restores it its natural suppleness and softness. Apply a generous layer, allow 10 minutes for absorption, then gently tissue off any excess to reveal refreshed, glowing skin. For those with dehydrated, sensitive skin, this is a god-send.

The latest product from Estée Lauder, the Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II is a dual-function product that effectively replenishes the skin while fighting the signs of aging. A smooth serum that also capitalises on the skin’s night-time healing powers, the product contains the brand’s exclusive ChronoluxCB technology to promote the natural synchronisation of the skin’s nocturnal repair process. The other active ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which locks in moisture and creates the optimal conditions for the skin’s rejuvenation. Use consistently for smoother, younger, more hydrated skin.

It’s while we’re sleeping that our skin is primed to reap the benefits of everything we apply, and Vichy Laboratoires has harnessed the efficacy of nocturnal rejuvenation with its recently-released Aqualia Thermal Night Spa. Designed to mimic the restorative spa treatments available at Vichy Spas, the light, creamy gel employs hyaluronic acid and Aquabioryl to encourage cellular recuperation. The dual-use product can be used once or twice a week as a hydrating mask, or nightly as a thin moisturiser. Either way, you’ll be left with thoroughly replenished, babysmooth skin.

Special Promotion Section

Romance in



romantic retreat on the island of the gods, The Viceroy Bali is an intimate, luxurious haven that’s the perfect choice for couples looking to get away from it all. Situated on a ridge overlooking the lush Valley of the Kings, the resort is an oasis of opulence and privacy just outside Ubud. With just 25 villas, The Viceroy Bali is a quiet escape perfectly suited to allowing couples to rekindle the flames of romance. The wellappointed accommodation is divided into five room categories, ranging from the one bedroom, 150sqm Garden Villas through to the 2 bedroom, 400sqm Viceroy Villa. No matter which style of accommodation you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll find an elegant, comfortable home away from home. Each villa comes with stunning valley views, private pools, large bedrooms and sitting areas, flat-screen televisions with full satellite service, iPod docking stations, coffee machines with Illy coffee and a selection of tea, and marble bathrooms with twin vanities, separate showers and baths, and natural, island-produced amenities. Continue the amorous adventure with an intimate dinner at the resort’s finedining CasCades restaurant. Consistently rated one of Indonesia’s best restaurants,

CasCades serves up sumptuous dishes beautifully accompanied by a refined atmosphere and the breathtaking backdrop of the Petanu River Gorge. Overseen by chef Jeremie Ducrot, the menu here uses only the best fresh ingredients in dishes that combine touches cuisines from France, Japan, Thailand and of course, Bali. The sumptuous food is paired with an extensive wine list that features over 160 quality wines from around the world. Spend some quality time together by indulging in a little couples’ therapy at the resort’s serene Lembah Spa. Offering spectacular views over the Petanu River Valley, the spa boasts a comprehensive array of therapeutic body treatments, each of which have been developed by a certified Swiss therapist, and combine Western knowledge with traditional Balinese wellness techniques. Choose from massages, body treatments, facials, hair ‘baths’, manicures, pedicures, and reflexology. The full-service spa features a beautician room, a hair treatment room, single and double massage rooms, a steam room, a cold plunge pool, a sixty-eight jet therapeutic Jacuzzi, and outdoor relaxation decks. For couples needing to relax and recharge, The Viceroy Bali is the one-stop choice.

The ultimate destination for those en amour, The Viceroy Bali is an idyllic resort that combines sumptuous accommodation, fine-dining, and a relaxing spa.

122 AUTO

ROOM TO MOVE Italian marque Maserati does what it does best with the launch of the 2014 Ghibli, a seductive fourdoor sports executive saloon built for a new generation of drivers, discovers Nick Walton.


aunched to coincide with the brand’s 100th anniversary, the newest incarnation of the Ghibli, unveiled at the recent Shanghai Motor Show, breaks new ground for the company. With its sportier character, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the addition of a new Q4 all-wheel drive system, the new model will appeal to emerging Asian markets looking for a seamless marriage between performance and elegance, sophistication and safety. The Ghibli is a unique combination of style, sporty handling and comfort, designed to reinstill the occasion of driving. Maserati has drawn on all its experience in the manufacturing of GT cars to create a model that’s at once unique, eye-catching, and extraordinary. Maserati is presently experiencing huge growth globally, with China now the brand’s second largest commercial reality on the planet. The new Ghibli has been designed to boost demand and help the brand reach its goal of 50,000 cars a year. In many ways

Maserati has reinvented itself over the past few years; the addition of turbocharged and diesel engines, the Levante SUV, and now the smaller, sportier Ghibli, with its balance of power and finesse, has allowed the iconic Italian brand new footholds in markets like China and India. Smaller than the quattroporte on which it’s based, the Ghibli still packs a punch; available in two twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engines designed by Schumacher-era Ferrari F1 engine guru Paolo Martinelli and built by Ferrari, the standard configuration will offer a competitive 345 horsepower, with 404 raging stallions under the hood of the S model (a diesel will also be introduced), which can hit 100km/hr in 4.5 seconds.

But it’s not all brawn; the Ghibli’s design is a delight to the eyes with its emphasis on sporty glamour and, just like the first Ghibli launched back in 1967, designed by the young Giorgetto Giugiaro, it captivates. The front is dominated by the distinctive Maserati radiator grille with concave vertical fillets, inspired by the GranTurismo and the A6 GCS Berlinetta, and now more rectangular and narrow at the top, complementing aggressive front headlights, which make skilful use of LEDs. Safety also plays an important role and the new Maserati Ghibli has already been awarded two internationallyrecognised ratings for passive safety.

Special Promotion Section

LOVE is in the AIR Set on pristine cliffs offering panoramic ocean views, the Banyan Tree Ungasan, on Bali's south coast, is an intimate, romantic property that's the perfect hideaway for starry-eyed couples.


oasting 73 opulent, private villas – each with its own pool – the the Banyan Tree Ungasan is just 35 minutes from Ngurah Rai International Airport, and an easy distance from nearby local attractions like Uluwatu Temple and the beaches of Nusa Dua. Its quiet, elegant atmosphere also makes the Banyan Tree Ungasan the perfect choice for your wedding day. The luxurious resort offers three wedding packages – the Banyan Tree Infinity Wedding, the Banyan Tree Enchanted Wedding, and the Banyan Tree Eternity Wedding – that fit all styles and budgets. So whether you’re after a fancy event with all your nearest and dearest or an intimate celebration with just your inner circle, you’ll be able to work with one of the resort’s Occasion Consultants to create the

romance-charged, fairytale wedding of your dreams. Soon, couples will also be able to exchange vows on the property’s clifftop wedding venue, a modern, sophisticated, pyramidlike structure with elegant glass doors, seamless windows, and live, flowering vines. The new wedding chapel caters to intimate ceremonies of up to 30 guests, with spectacular vistas of the Indian Ocean as a backdrop. This romantic resort also offers a range of other facilities and activities to stoke the flames of passion. Enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the three on-site restaurants; indulge in a couples’ treatment at the spa; or take a yoga class together. A series of yoga classes are available, each

specifically designed to meet certain needs. The integrated yoga and meditation classes are a basic introduction to the activity and focus on promoting harmony between thoughts, words and deeds. A holistic wellness experience is provided through the ‘yoga for complete wellness classes’, which teach everyday techniques that combine traditional yoga postures with breathing patterns and meditation. Whether you’re here for a couples’ getaway or celebrating your wedding day, the Banyan Tree Ungasan is the ultimate destination for romance. Jalan Melasti, Banjar Kelod, Ungasan, Bali, Indonesia, Tel: +62 361 300 7000; Email:,





This year, New York’s Museum of Art and Design celebrates the 50th anniversary of the birth of the American Studio Glass movement with Playing with Fire: 50 Years of Contemporary Glass, a showcase of more than 100 works of glass from the collection, as well as promised gifts, and additional contemporary works on loan. Ever since 1962, when a legendary workshop led by renowned glass artist Harvey Littleton demonstrated the potential of glassblowing as a medium available to individual artists, artists and designers have continually pushed the material in new directions and used the complex, fragile, and highly versatile nature of the material to create an astonishing diversity of works. The exhibition, open until August 25, 2014, takes a comprehensive look at the breadth of innovative processes and artistry in contemporary glass, from pieces by early adaptors such as Dale Chihuly to installations by Israeli designer Ayala Serfaty. Also included are works by artists and designers not commonly known for their work in glass, such as James Turrell, Donald Lipski, and Ettore Sottsass. A selection of video work will be exhibited, including “Glass Helmet” by Bohyun Yoon, as well as a number of special installations, including Peter Bynum’s “Untitled No. 202”—a wall-mounted triptych made up of thin layers of painted glass mounted on lightboxes.

comes into full bloom

Special Promotional Section


The sun rose on Lily Jet Hong Kong in 2012 when Lily Jet extended its aviation services to the international arena offering an array of professional services including flight operations, aircraft charter, aircraft maintenance management, aircraft acquisition and consultation.


ith its headquarters in Hong Kong, still very much the Asian hub of finance, Lily Jet Hong Kong is perfectly poised to provide professional aircraft management for prestige business jet owners and premium international corporate clients. Since their inauguration, Lily Jet China has exceeded expectations and in 2009 were awarded ‘Air Operator’s Certificate’ by The Civil Aviation Administration of China. Currently, Lily Jet operates a fleet of Bombardier and Gulfstream aircraft including Challenger 604, 605, Challenger 850, Global Express and Gulfstream G200 aircraft. With its highly qualified flight crews who undergo frequent rigorous training and stringent proficiency checks as well as experienced professional personnel who possess corporate or commercial airline experience, Lily Jet strives to

deliver world-class business aircraft services that discerning international customers demand. Our uniqueness is epitomized by an array of services which aim to surpass our clients expectations in professional aviation operations, these include: • The unique combination of international and China business aviation expertise • Manage and operate aircraft under multi-national jurisdiction • Provide charter service on demand • Exclusive and personalized cabin service • Dedicated licensed engineer • 24-hour service readiness • Commitment to service excellence and dispatch reliability • High standard of safety and compliance to international recognized standard.

Aircraft Management • Flight operations • Flight crew management • 24-hour flight planning, dispatch following • Flight permits and ground handling arrangement • Cabin service and catering • Safety management and quality assurance Maintenance Management • Maintenance scheduling • Mandatory regulatory compliance • Airworthiness directive compliance • AOG maintenance support • Oversee aircraft condition and grooming Aviation Consulting • Aircraft delivery service • Asset acquisition consultation • Pre-buy technical appraisal • Specifications consultation

Business Enquiry: Tel: +852 3968 7900 Fax: +852 2877 0905 Email: For charter: Address: Suite 2904, Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong


Spearheading the run of wearable and mountable cameras, GoPro has unveiled the HERO3+, an innovative action camera perfect for adrenalinefuelled activities. With an improved lens for higher image quality and a new video mode, SuperView, for wide-angle perspectives, the HERO3+ features a 20 percent smaller and lighter design, and 30 percent longer battery life than previous models. Combined with the use of the Go Pro apps, you can also enjoy a four times faster wi-fi transfer rate when transferring photos and videos to your mobile device or computer.

Ready for

Pursuing a new level of image quality, Sony has created the new HDR-AS30V action camera for sports enthusiasts. The slim design helps reduce friction from wind and water when you’re cycling or jet-skiing, and provides an ultra-compact point-of-view shooting solution. Offering a wide variety of recording modes, ranging from full HD (1920x1080 60p/50p) for fastmoving action and STD HD (1280x720 30p/25p), to SD VGA (640x480 30p/25p) and two slow motion modes, the camera even has a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor which can capture more light for stunning images. Share your images with family and friends via the built-in wi-fi.

Action With one of these cutting-edge action cameras mounted on your bike, helmets, dive suit or snowboard, you’ll be able to capture the most thrilling moments on and off the road, discovers Crystal Leung.

Canadian action sports company 636 Distributing Inc has launched a new wide-angle sports camera dubbed the WASPcam, which caters to both professional and amateur photographers. It delivers high-definition quality with a choice of settings, all of which are available in ultra wide and wide field of view modes. Thanks to the built-in wi-fi, you can turn your smartphone into a handy WASPcam wireless remote and video viewing screen after downloading the exclusive WASPcam’s ActionCam! app.

TECHNOLOGY 127 JVC Kenwood has introduced the JVC GC-XA2 Adixxion action camera, featuring a ‘Born Tough’ quad-proof design that’s waterproof, shockproof, dust-proof, and freezeproof. The camera boasts 1920x1080 60p/50p full HD video recording and 1280x720 high-speed recording at 120fps/100fps for excellent slow-motion playback. Compared to previous models, this upgraded version has a brighter and wider-angle optical lens, improved image stabilisation, a higher-resolution LCD monitor, and a higher-resolution sensor. The four built-in visual effects will definitely spice up your videos as well as your hero shots.

Pyle has introduced the Hi-Speed HD Camera, which comes with a waterproof case and multiple mounts and clips, allowing you to attach the compact camera to bike handlebars, helmets, and snorkel masks. Boasting 12 megapixels and CMOS image sensor technology, the camera produces high-speed, high-quality video, capturing 120 frames per second. You can also snap pictures and record video using the wi-fi remote control, and re-live your heart-pumping moments through a 2.5inch LCD touch screen, which features a four times zoom and invertible screen display.

Designed for filming the most action-packed moments, the new Camileo X-Sports sportscam by Toshiba can be attached to a helmet, surfboard, or the back of a bike with a flat clip and adhesive mounts. This camera can withstand a drop from 1.5 metres, and is water resistant up to 60 metres when housed in a waterproof case. It features a full HD 1080p resolution and films at up to 60 frames per second, a high performance 12MP CMOS sensor, and an ultra-wide-angle lens to capture the full picture. Even better, you can wear the hands-free remote control on your wrist so you don’t have to take your eye off the track or waves.


Destinations Discovered

Travel was once a very time-consuming proposition, involving long train trips or days on the road. But this slower style of travel afforded voyagers a better sense of place. In this issue, we discover three journeys which have gone back to basics to really get under the skin of their destinations.

Slow Train to Guantanamo • Peter Millar • Arcadia Books At the tail end of Fidel Casto’s reign, award-winning journalist Peter Millar travelled the length of Cuba on its crippled, antiquated railways system. Beginning in the often romanticised capital of Havana, Millar journeys through the country’s heartland on his way towards the much-maligned Guantanamo naval base and detention camp. Along the way, he finds himself grappling with Cuba’s quirky idiosyncrasies – like the confusing currency, inexplicable train schedules, and colourful characters – as he strives to get a handle on modern Cuba. Many travel accounts are just that, but Millar infuses the recounting of his journey with political back-stories (explaining the enduring reverence of Che Guevara) and historical context (the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs incident) that gives the reader not just a sense of the country, but of how it came to be this way. Being a journalist, Millar picks up on the little details that many might miss, skillfully weaving these into his narrative, along with witty quips (“In most of the world it seems history is condemned to repeat itself, in Cuba it would appear to be actively encouraged.”) and the occasional pop culture reference (“If I really were James Bond I would have quipped, as I boarded the ferry, ‘That was a close shave.’”) The end result is a riveting read which not only takes the reader along on the journey, but provides a frank look at one of the two remaining Communist states.

The Train in Spain • Christopher Howse • Bloomsbury Howse opens his book with the sentence, “This is a book about Spain, not about trains,” an opening that succinctly captures the essence of the book. Divided into 10 chapters which see Howse embark on the 10 great railway journeys through Spain, the book reads as a detailed exploration into the variety of modern Spain – the habits, the people, the landscape, the streets, and of course, the food and drink. In his travels from the Pyrenees mountains, through the wilds of Extremadura, and the deserts of the south, Howse goes off the beaten path, eschewing many tourist hotspots – like Marbella and Madrid – in favour of less visited but infinitely more interesting things like the ancient hilltop city of Cuenca and the architectural splendour of the cathedrals of Tudela and Tortosa. Not surprising, given that Howse possesses a mind that thinks to reference such disparate subjects as the 18th Duchess of Alba, a story by Cervantes, and Manu Chao within the space of a few pages. Curiously, the author omits the first-person voice usually favoured by travel writers; but what the narrative lacks in personal expression it makes up for in rich descriptions and historical context. The Train in Spain doesn’t feel like a travel account, but rather more like an informative backgrounder of Spain, although this doesn’t diminish its value by any amount.

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari Paul Theroux • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Famed travel writer Paul Theroux has long had a fascination with trains and Africa, and his latest tome combines these two loves in what turns out to be a good-bad-and-ugly account of his travels. The aim of the journey was to hit the African road, travelling – despite the title, only periodically by train – up the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa, from South Africa, through Namibia and Botswana, and into Angola. Yet from the start, the journey is one of disillusionment; as he travels by bus, car, and train, Theroux sees exploitation, poverty, racism, disorganisation, and the death of three companions, before being forced to cut his losses, leaving the journey unfinished. Rather than blithely glorifying what he sees – a crutch of many travel writers – he has written an honest, confronting look at the challenges facing these countries. What’s striking is the intensely personal tone of the writing, often bleak and despondent, which gives readers huge insight, not just into Africa, but into Theroux’s mentality. At one point, Theroux, 70 at the time, remarks, “As I grow older, the consolations of home take on a deeper meaning,” and later, morbidly describes how, “hating the trip, I let out a ghastly laugh when I thought of anyone saying over my battered corpse, “He died doing what he loved.”” Not a light read by any stretch of the imagination, but a powerful look into a little understood continent, and the human psyche.

y l F e m o C e M h t i W


Ever had a last-minute whim for something special but couldn’t quite get round to making it happen? Or wanted to do something that seemed too distant to be true? Now, the thrill of soaring into blue skies on a helicopter trip between Hong Kong and Macau is just a few seconds away with Sky Shuttle’s convenient online booking service. Whether it is business or pleasure, tourists and businessmen alike can enjoy this exhilarating experience. The easy-to-navigate online booking process takes the pain and strain out of the normal booking scenario, confirming your reservation in seconds.




Sky Shuttle Helicopters currently operates 54 flights a day, with flights departing every 30 minutes between Macau and Hong Kong, and 12 fights a day between Macau and Shenzhen. Each flight takes a mere 15 minutes! The online service is already proving to be a major asset for travelers. “We are finding that this service is proving popular with our regular customers as well as from overseas tourists and leisure flyers,” a Sky Shuttle spokesperson said. Being the largest commercial helicopter operator in the Pearl River Delta region, Sky Shuttle offers speedy and comfortable daily cross-boundary shuttle services with its fleet of AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters. The AW139 offers unparalleled levels of safety and passenger comfort. Its generously spacious cabin caters for up to 12 passengers and has large view-windows, which are a popular feature with tourists. The helicopter also boasts a low interior noise level, while the cabin configuration not only gives passengers the opportunity to chat in-flight, but also has wide and roomy, individually-contoured leather seats. A variety of special packages and tailor-made exclusive charter services are also on offer for travellers that want something just a little more special. For executives and jet-setters with time constraints making international air travel connections, Sky Shuttle strives to reduce travel time by a considerable margin by utilising its international airport commute services. Getting to the helipad is also easy and convenient. The Sky Shuttle Heliport is based at the Hong Kong - Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, which is a multi-modal transport hub in the heart of the Hong Kong business district. The Macau heliport is at the Macau Ferry Terminal of the Outer Harbour, close to all the territory’s major attractions, including resort hotels, restaurants and shops. Passengers are advised to be at the terminal 30 minutes before their flight time, in order to complete immigration formalities and reach the comfortable and relaxing Sky Shuttle lounge before departure.

Certainly, an experience to remember and enjoy!

Profile for Jetsetter

Jetsetter Winter 2013  

JETSETTER is a high-quality, perfect-bound, glossy travel and lifestyle magazine distributed on a quarterly basis and created for establishe...

Jetsetter Winter 2013  

JETSETTER is a high-quality, perfect-bound, glossy travel and lifestyle magazine distributed on a quarterly basis and created for establishe...