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Contents MAY 2017
Fe a t u r e s 72
Be Charmed By Phuket’s New Outer Realm A new crop of resorts in Phuket like Keemala, with their exceptional focus on design and luxury, are setting the destination apart from its hackneyed image.
The Ultimate Dream List of Asia It’s our Asia issue, and we’re here again with jaw-dropping locations and less-trodden trails in the exotic and exciting destinations to see in the region.
Everyone to the Table Towns and villages throughout Israel are in the midst of a culinary renaissance that celebrates the region’s history and the diversity of its people.
Still or Sparkling? A group of artisan producers in France’s storied wine region is doing things the old-fashioned way—sans fizz—and turning a whole viticulture on its head.
Inside the glass doors at Keemala Phuket. On her: Shimmer lycra top, Hemant & Nandita; Striped dress with cascade neck, Hemant & Nandita; Platform shoes, AM.IT by Amit Aggarwal.
ON THE COVER At Keemala, Phuket, Thailand. Produced by Ruchira Bose. Photographed by Ashish Chawla. Styled by Dhwani Sharma (Styledrone by Dhwani). Model Jenny Rei is wearing a fishtail gown by Shantanu & Nikhil; butterfly earcuffs by Outhouse; lotus brooch by Itrana; handcuff by Itrana.
A S H I S H C H AW L A
Peace in the Valley High in the Peruvian Andes lies the Sacred Valley, the fertile paradise that gave rise to the Incan empire. And, even today, remains a place of almost divine communion between the land and its people.
A loyalty programme that loves you. For being you. Introducing World of Hyatt. Your loyalty programme that starts with understanding you â€” and connects you to the people, places and experiences at the heart of your world.
To learn more about a world of thoughtful rewards visit worldofhyatt.com or call 000 800 050 1234
A vegan’s guide to Asia; the fabulous world of Joan Smalls; Instagrammer Shawn Walters’ picture gallery; our favourite theatre personalities.
Porto Porto has an undeniable charm. Prachi Joshi finds out insider secrets to Portugal’s second city that has been voted 2017’s Best European Destination.
The 45 Best New Travel Apps We’ve combed through latest travel apps (and a few mobile websites) to determine which tools are the most useful for planning a trip, getting around, finding friends, and saving money.
In Every Issue 8 Editor’s Note 12 T+L Digital 130 Worth Flying For
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C LO C K WI SE : S Z E FE I WON G / AL A MY ; C O U R T E S Y O F A D V E N T U R E S B Y D I S N E Y; R YA N M A R T I S ; M E RT E N S N I J D E R S / G E T T Y I M AG ES
Genting Dream—the latest addition to Asia’s luxury cruise portfolio; Narendra Bhawan in Rajasthan is setting fresh travel goals; fashion designer Phillip Lim takes a culinary route in Cambodia.
Editor’s Note MAY 2017
you get annoyingly clichéd questions like: “So which is your favourite destination in the world?” People who know me, know that I’ve been a bit of a nomad and traveller long before I became editor of a travel magazine. Since the age of 4, to be precise. I’m also known to have combed the whole of Asia like a Japanese Zen gardener makes patterns in the sand. Methodically, and covering all of the area. I love this continent. It has some of the most remarkable natural sights, culture, food, shopping, heritage and people. Starting from the rugged horsemen riding the old silk route from Tajikistan to plum blossom and handmade udon noodles in Japan, it’s a feast for all the five senses. You can never be bored in Asia. And yet, very often I come across our readers who will tell me there’s nothing new in Asia. They’ll tell me, “When you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all.” Or “Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali… it’s all the same rice paddy fields.” I’ve even been challenged to suggest something that will interest a ‘been-there, done that’ set. My answer is our Asia A-List issue. We decided to unearth the new, intense, rare and incredible in Asia. The ‘A’ in A-List stands for AWESOME. It’s not one of those social-media-type claims. But to use a line I often see on social media, “You won’t believe what we found!” From the Avataar-like pods and nests of Keemala resort in Phuket (where we shot our cover), to watching blonde macaques in the hot springs of the Japanese Alps, to being amidst the volcanoes, geysers and brown bears in Kamchatka, Siberia, and sharing an incredibly simple but soul-satisfying meal with Buddhist nuns in Myanmar; these are just some of the memorable moments waiting for you in Asia. Fashion designer Phillip Lim visits Cambodia, the country his parents fled during the days of the Khmer Rouge, and shares his experiences of meandering through temples, cooking with locals and creating a new image of the land and its people. Scouting the new for cruise lovers, Riaan George goes aboard the spanking new Genting Dream and its oﬀ-beat experience oﬀerings. We bust another myth this issue: That vegans and vegetarians can’t have a great gourmet experience in Asia. Adriana Pope who has spent a considerable amount of her life on the continent suggests a trail of restaurants and cafes that serve actually tasty vegan fare. For any vegan, these should be the pages to pull out and keep. Beyond the enchanting Asia, we have Champagne, Israel, Peru, and a whole host of other destinations. We particularly enjoyed returning to an old-favourite of T+L readers: The Decoder. Where we create an easy-to-follow quick guide that tells you all the essential things you need to know to plan a trip to a destination, including suggestions from local insiders. Summer’s a great time to visit Porto, so just pull out the pages and set oﬀ. Happy travels, Ruchira
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i it MAY 2017
TR AVELANDLEISUREINDIA.IN FAMILY CRUISES YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE (TO BRAG ABOUT) For this year’s family holiday, bring out your sunhats, swim wear, and sunscreen—now’s the perfect time to plan a cruise with the family and bond at sea. travelandleisureindia.in/familycruises-your-kids-will-love
HAVE YOU TRIED THE WORLD’S STRONGEST COFFEE, BLACK INSOMNIA? Black Insomnia has been anointed the world’s strongest coffee. Having just one 6oz cup of it almost fulfils the recommended maximum intake. travelandleisureindia.in/black-insomniaworlds-strongest-coffee
ACCORHOTELS TO HAVE 55 HOTELS IN 26 INDIAN CITIES BY YEAR END AccorHotels currently operates 46 hotels in India. The number will go up to 55 with the addition of nine new hotels. travelandleisureindia.in/ accorhotels-55-hotels-26-indiacities-year-end
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A VEGAN’S GUIDE TO THE BEST EATS IN ASIA Thai-style Ice cream with salted peanuts.
Adriana Pope of Vegnomad.com dispels the myth that vegans and vegetarians can’t have fabulous gourmet experiences in Asia. Here are her top finds across our favourite destinations in the region. T R AV E L + L E I S U R E / M A R C H 2 0 1 7
o r et ss ort
Clockwise: Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate market, among many others, serves a tonne of freshly made dishes (raw and cooked) that are delicious and local—like this white radish and carrot salad.
WHERE TO EAT Food4Thought Restaurant This upscale patio cafe serves up the most incredible vegan wraps and salads in a comfortable garden setting. Big proponents of the ‘ugly food movement,’ Food4Thought is spearheading the movement by using local organic produce that have superficial blemishes and transforming them into gorgeous dishes. Make sure to try out their Burmese green tea leaf salad wrap with fried tofu as well as their glutenfree vegan brownies. Anchan Organic Revered for having the tastiest vegan curries in all of Chiang Mai, this family-run organic restaurant serves up mouth-watering dishes utilising only vegetables. From hand-picked mushroom salads to vegan smoothies made with exotic fruits,
Anchan’s vegan options will delight even the most skeptical carnivore. Try out their pumpkin or massaman curries for an authentic North Thailand experience. Pun Pun Organic Situated on the grounds of a 400-year-old temple and surrounded by ancient golden stupas, Pun Pun Organic Restaurant is one of the most unique
restaurants you will ever visit. This all vegetarian restaurant specialises in creating authentic, Northeastern Thai cuisine minus the meat. They offer plenty of vegan options which include Penang curry, pad see ew, green papaya salad, and their famous Thai-herb veggie sausages. No matter what you order, you’ll probably want to lick your plate clean—it’s that good!
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM
Vietnam. The word itself invokes imagery of palm-leaf conical hats, monks in orange frocks collecting alms, and a river of motorbikes streaming through narrow streets with horns blaring. Ho Chi Minh City may no longer be the capital of Vietnam, but this splendid city certainly never lost it’s charm! From it’s jaw-dropping French colonial architecture to its surprisingly complex cuisine, Ho Chi Minh City oﬀers a little bit of everything for both the history seeker and vegan foodie enthusiast. Recently recognised by PETA as one of Asia’s top ten most vegan-friendly cities, Ho Chi Minh City is fast becoming one of the most beloved travel destinations for 2017. Ho Chi Minh City, which is still referred to by the locals as Saigon, oﬀers vegans respite. With a large population practicing Buddhism, Saigon is filled with an extensive amount of vegan-friendly restaurants. From hand-made spring rolls filled with fresh Vietnamese herbs and tofu to colossal steaming hot pots filled with an unprecedented amount of mushrooms and local greens, the cities exciting culinary flavours are a force to be reckoned with.
C L O C K W I S E : J T B P H O T O / C O N T R I B U T O R / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; P H O T O C U I S I N E R M /A L A M Y; O S C A R E L I A S /A L A M Y
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Out of all the cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai is inarguably the most vegan-friendly city, hands down. With a plethora of vegan, organic and even raw restaurants to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options. Located in Northern Thailand and in close proximity to the Burmese, Chinese, and Laos borders, Chiang Mai’s unique culinary specialities are infused with the influence of the surrounding cultures. This mellow city boosts dozens of outdoor markets, hoards of healthy street food stalls, and a growing number of trendy coﬀee shops. One quick stroll through the lantern lit streets of this charming town and you’ll quickly realise why Chiang Mai is the ultimate vegan vacation spot just waiting to be explored by peace-seeking travellers.
T R AV E L + L E I S U R E / M AY 2 0 1 7
WHERE TO EAT
Bong Sung Vegetarian Food & Coffee Bong Sung is famous for their outstanding vegan hot pots which are comprised of fragrant broths, and are served alongside heaps of vegetables and vermicelli noodles. The menu offers a wide range of South Vietnamese
Straddling the Strait of Malacca, the picturesque island of Penang is the economic jewel of Malaysia. The centuries old Chinese-style storefronts littered with colourful lanterns swaying in the soft breeze, and quaint coﬀee shops are enough to make you contemplate settling down forever in this charming little town. Tropical fruit farms, organic farmers markets, and a burgeoning number of vegan-friendly restaurants make Penang a suitable choice for travelling vegans. Founded in 1786, the fetching downtown area of George Town is a melting pot of three diverse cultures which are Malay, Chinese, and Indian, and all live in a unique harmony. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a Buddhist pagoda, a Muslim mosque, and a Hindu temple all situated on the same street. However, religious tolerance is not their only glowing quality.
WHERE TO EAT Wholey Wonder This plant-based eatery and yoga studio is the perfect hangout to get your sweat on and then dig into a perfectly healthy meal. They specialise in raw cuisine and use only the best superfoods. From cold-pressed juices and natural smoothies to vegan pizza, this chilled out cafe has you covered! Enjoy a yoga class before treating yourself to a Pumpkin black bean burger
with a gluten free chocolate brownie for dessert. Cloud Dreaming Vegan Cake House This all vegan bakery offers gorgeous, freshly-baked cakes that are 100 per cent plant-based and made with with love. The owner Jing is passionate about creating amazing looking desserts that are free from additives. Besides their ravishing vegan cheesecakes and adorable green tea
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chocolate cake, they also have an adjoining cafe that cooks up tasty black charcoal bun vegan burgers. Sushi Kitchen Cafe This all-vegan, organic restaurant serves hand-rolled sushi. Rest assured that no fish or ocean friends were harmed in the making of these sushi rolls. Their all-vegan Japanese menu features fried rice, creative udon noodle soups, and herbal drinks.
regional specialities as well as freshly made fruit smoothies. They even serve their own homemade almond milk and gorgeously presented blooming teas served over an open fire. Tib Chay This Hue-style kitchen offers authentic North Vietnamese cuisine that just happens to be entirely plant-based. Try out their delicious Cuon Diep which are essentially vermicelli noodles and tofu wrapped in fresh mustard leaves that are served with a chunky peanut sauce. If you’re in the mood for some home-cooking, make sure to order the yellow curry packed with tender potatoes.
C L O C K W I S E : S A M U E L B R O W N N G / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; M A R T I N T U R Z A K /A L A M Y; R A S I K A B E N D R E / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; P H O T O C U I S I N E R M /A L A M Y; C O U R T E S Y O F C L O U D D R E A M I N G V E G A N C A K E H O U S E
Clockwise: Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, Vietnam; fresh Tuberose flowers in the market; a tomato and black olive tart; Cloud Dreaming Vegan Cake House; Vietnamese stir-fry noodles with mock meat.
Saigon Vegan A favourite amongst locals, Saigon Vegan excels at creating authentic Vietnamese dishes that are 100 per cent cruelty-free. From yellow curries made with coconut milk and taro (an exotic purple yam) to delicious stir-fries with mock meats—Saigon Vegan is an institution of affordable plant-based cuisine.
From above: Black bean burger with a salad of fresh vegetables; rice fields in Ubud, Asian; healthy Fried Rice, served at an eatery in Taiwan.
Taipei has officially become the number one veganfriendly city in Asia. Trendy coﬀee shops, 24-hour bookstores, beautifully absurd fashion, seriously good vegan bakeries, and retro neighbourhoods are just a few examples of how cool Taipei really is. Get ready to go to a music festival, explore modern art museums and stuﬀ your belly with tasty street food. You can even find artisanal vegan cheese by the plant-based company Moon Cheese. If that’s not enough, they even have their own vegan supermarket called iVegan Supermarket where you can find anything your little heart desires! If you’re craving authentic vegan Chinese food or you’re just a plain noodle fanatic, then Taipei is certainly calling your name.
WHERE TO EAT Fresh Bakery and Cafe Taipei Oh my, an all vegan bakery in Taipei… it’s almost too good to be true! This cruelty-free bakery makes all their vegan desserts without any eggs or milk. Their flawless looking cakes, pies and yam mooncakes are as adorable as they are tasty. Sporting a minimalist-style décor and boosting an ever growing menu, this bakery is a must-visit spot for vegans with a sweet tooth.
Vege Creek The concept of this restaurant is simple, yet genius. Hand-pick the vegetables you want to eat and the kitchen will create a custom dish from the ingredients you’ve selected. The atmosphere also follows a minimalist mentality in which everyone sits around a long table. Get to know your local Taiwanese veggies and make friends with locals and visitors along the way.
UBUD, BALI, INDONESIA
The faint sound of bells chiming, the smell of incense drifting in the air, monkeys swinging from branches, and the display of brightly coloured flowers in banana leaf oﬀerings—this is the wonderful and mystical world of Ubud, Bali. Ubud’s unabashed Balinese culture is gripping, enchanting, and downright hypnotising. Paradise on earth would be the most concise way to describe this miniature village that has grown to be one of the most vegan-friendly cities on earth. Discover raw vegan bakeries oﬀering beautiful desserts, to veganfriendly restaurants overlooking the soft green rice paddies. It is easy to find vegan options in Ubud.
WHERE TO EAT Alchemy If you’re into raw food, Alchemy is the place to be. They offer a raw vegan salad bar filled with unique toppings such as raw vegan pad thai and walnut taco meat. They also have a dessert case filled with vegan cheesecakes and chocolates. Make sure to try out their raw vegan pizza which is topped off with olives and sundried tomatoes. Sopa Warung This restaurant is famous for their delicious vegan Nasi Campur. Nasi campur is a traditional Balinese platter of food that is comprised of a scoop of rice accompanied by a multitude of different small
dishes. Choose your dishes from a display case of prepared vegan food which includes samosas, Balinese coconut curry, and green bean salad. 9 Warung For travellers looking for an authentic experience, 9 Warung is your go-to-spot for cheap vegan fare that cost less than US$2. This hippie den restaurant is frequented by both budget expats and hungry travellers looking for a healthy meal. Their all vegetarian Balinese buffet is available all day and offers a multitude of vegan options. These dishes include glazed tempeh, roasted pumpkin, tofu stirfries, and the most amazing vegan chocolate cakes. ▪
F R O M T O P : S H U T T E R S T O C K ; K I M P E T E R S E N /A L A M Y; S Z E F E I W O N G /A L A M Y
Ooh Cha Cha This cruelty-free cafe is actually the first all-vegan health bar in Taipei. Ooh Cha Cha is one of the most highly visited and talked about vegan restaurants in all of Taiwan. With alluring menu items such as their kelp noodle salad, vegan bacon cheeseburger, or their blue gogi smoothie— it’s no wonder why this place deserves a spot at the top of our list.
T R AV E L + L E I S U R E / A P R I L 2 0 1 7
My Fabulous World
For long distance travel, I need both comfort and style. I pair a Rag & Bone jeans with my boyfriend’s hoodie and Bose headphones. I always carry my Estée Lauder under eye serum and apply midflight for extra moisture.
The 28 28-year-old Puerto Rican who’s been featured featur on the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid models is a regular on the highes Victoria’s Secret runway and the face of Estée Lauder. On her recent visit to India for the launch of W Goa, she gave a peek into her travel style. TRAVEL GEAR
I always take my vvitamin pack that’s loaded with biotin, vitamin C, m moringa, and Probiotics. I lik like to travel with a book—right now I’m reading The Powe Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. VACATION RECAL RECALL
The last vacation I took was to Bora Bora w where I stayed at the St R Regis (stregisborabora.com). (stregisborabora.co The hotel’s Lagoon Restaurant had the most delicious truffle mashed ma potatoes that I still ccrave. THE ESSENTIALS
I’m an island girl and like holidaying at tropical tropica places
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close to the water. Nature calms me and refuels my soul; being outdoors and engaging in water sports gives me the adrenaline rush I need. WELLNESS FOLLOW UP
Never go to sleep with make-up on, it’ll clog your pores. After washing your face, try using witch hazel as an astringent. Always use a moisturiser; I apply a light one during the day and a heavier formula at night. THE QUIRKS
I have a thing for collecting money from the places that I’ve travelled and keep it in a beautiful Indian wood box.
Rag & Bone has a great selection of jeans and leather pants and Gianvito Rossi has very sexy and comfortable high heels. I also love Calvin Klein men’s crew neck shirts in white or grey.
C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: I M A G E B R O K E R /A L A M Y; H U G H T H R E L FA L L /A L A M Y; C O U R T E S Y O F E S T É E L A U D E R ; C O U R T E S Y O F G I A N V I T O R O S S I ; T I M U R E M E K / G E T T Y I M A G E S
Singapore Round Up If you’re in Singapore for the three-day Flamenco Festival this May, check into The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and up this culture trip with a stay at the heritage property. he Flamenco Festival will be in full swing between May 12 and 14 this month at the Godman Arts Centre where Elements, an original flamenco dance theatre production by Antonio Vargas will take centre stage. All eyes are on The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, the heritage hotel that for nearly a century had secured the service of Singapore’s General Post Office, the Exchange Reference Library, and the Singapore Club. The neoclassical landmark, now a luxury hotel, is being booked out fast because of its proximity to the festival venue. Choose from different Straits Club Rooms that start at US$478 per night to enjoy exclusive services. fullertonhotels.com
Flamenco dancers enjoy a dance.
TAKE A HERITAGE TOUR ►Unveil the history spanning the Fullerton building by taking an hour-long heritage tour of the property. Guests have exclusive access to the preserved corners within the hotel.
JADE serves authentic Cantonese cuisine in an elegant ambience; Italian rooftop bar and restaurant, The Lighthouse, occupies the spot where a beacon once guided mariners to safety. Now, it looks out to a gorgeous skyline and the Marina Bay. There’s TOWN offering power breakfasts, seafood gourmet dinners, high tea buffets, and Sunday Champagne Brunches.
SPECIAL FOR MUMS
Head to the Fullerton Spa for a 90-minute Asian Signature therapy and follow it up with some time at the steam, sauna, or infinity pool. This Mother’s Day, The Fullerton Hotel is also offering a 60-minute Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience or Intensive Muscle Release Massage at a special price for mummies in need of pampering (valid between May 1 and 31).
The Thinker statue by Auguste Rodin in Singapore.
GETS BETTER FOR INDIAN TRAVELLERS FULLERTON HOTELS HAS PARTNERED WITH SILKAIR INDIA THAT GIVES SINGAPORE-BOUND TRAVELLERS BOOKING BUSINESS CLASS FROM TRIVANDRUM, KOCHI, VISHAKHAPATNAM, COIMBATORE, AND HYDERABAD, A WHOLE SET OF BENEFITS. THE FULLERTON-SILKAIR INDIA PACKAGE OFFERS 25 PER CENT OFF ON STRAITS CLUB ROOMS AND SUITES, THE SAME ON FOOD BILLS AT THE FULLERTON HOTEL AND THE FULLERTON BAY HOTEL; 20 PER CENT DISCOUNT ON SPA TREATMENTS; 15 PER CENT OFF ON LIMOUSINE TRANSFERS; COMPLIMENTARY HANDY PHONES WITH UNLIMITED DATA AND INTERNATIONAL CALLS TO 15 COUNTRIES, AMONG OTHER FANTASTIC INCLUSIONS.
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►Request a map and expand the plan further to take a tour of the surrounding areas. At walkable distance are historical landmarks such as the Old Supreme Court and City Hall, the Merlion Park, and the Dalhousie Obelisk.
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WHERE EAST MEETS WEST IN ISRAEL Israel is a nation that has culinary influences from all around the world. Just like India, each region in Israel offers its own adapted regional cuisine which reach beyond the popular falafel sandwiches, shawarma or shakshuka to tantalize your taste buds, which is evident in the many food markets in the country that are popular among locals and tourists alike.
A short walk from Jerusalem’s city centre is the Mahane Yehuda market, which should be a must on every traveller’s list, along with all the historic sites that are not to be missed in the Old City. During the day this loud and colourful market is full of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats and breads, coffee shops and much more. In the evening, see this market transform into a lively yet unconventional night spot, with bars featuring specialty drinks and live music, most with outdoor seating that will allow you to appreciate the “street-art” gallery on the store shutters. The ambiance, lively people, captivating street art, exceptional food and drinks make Mahane Yehuda trendy and special. In Tel Aviv, you will find a blend of Asian and European influences in all aspects, beginning with food being sold in street stalls, shops and restaurants. Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) is open every day except on Saturdays, in observance of Shabbat, (the day of rest in Judaism). If you’re in the mood to bring a flare of Israeli food in to your kitchen visit the famous Levinsky Spice Market, where you will find a variety of fresh local cheese, breads and Mediterranean spices. Don’t be surprised to see Indian lentils and spices lining the shelves, so start up a conversation with the vendors
and you may walk away with some prized family recipes! For a more authentic experience within the smaller communities in Israel, visit the Druze villages in the Golan Heights region in the north of the country. Indulge in the cultural experiences through their version of pita bread or labaneh. Visit the town of Nazareth, for an authentic biblical meal or, what some locals call, the best knafeh (cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup). If you crave a fine dining experience, visit the many restaurants of world renowned chefs in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or the resort city of Eilat and savour their creative fusions. Award winning local wineries, are also a must visit and one can book a wine tour. If a wine tour isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy a sumptuous Mediterranean meal paired with a delicious wine at winery restaurants. Along with wines, Israel also boasts a strong beer culture, with local breweries offering up a wide variety of locally brewed IPAs (India Pale Ales), ciders and stouts, or the more conventional lagers and malts. So when you travel to Israel you are sure to have food experiences that will last a lifetime. Be-Te’avon (Good Appetite) and Enjoy! To know more about the cities, activities, adventures and unique offerings of Israel, visit: www.goisrael.com/in
We tested the latest travel-friendly innovations and sorted them for all kinds of itineraries. These are the essential products worth stowing in your suitcase. BY MELANIE LIEBERMAN
THE ROMANTIC ESCAPE Nannette de Gaspé’s reusable dry facial masks smooth and brighten skin with an innovative peptide-embedded fabric. A waterless formula means they’re mess-free, and since you don’t rinse, the active ingredients keep working for up to eight hours. US$120; nannettedegaspe.com
THE GROUP GETAWAY
THE LONG-HAUL FLIGHT
THE ROAD TRIP
In a market saturated with speakers, the UE Roll 2 takes top marks. It’s waterproof, weighs less than a pound, and at up to 85 decibels is far louder than its size would imply. Stream for nine hours without charging; a mini float and built-in bungee let you take it anywhere safely. US$100; ultimateears.com
Bose’s QuietControl 30 wireless headphones offer adjustable noise cancellation (turn it down for the PA, up for engine roar) to rival that of the overear classics in a slim, ultra-packable design. The neckband battery stays charged for up to 10 hours and prevents tangled wires. US$300; bose.com
Dashboard gadget Navdy takes GPS to the next level by projecting directions onto your view of the road ahead. The app lets you control music, accept calls, and send texts with a gesture or command. It installs with relative ease—tote it along to turn your budget rental into a smartcar. US$799; navdy.com
THE CITY EXCURSION
THE E CORPORATE C O R PORATE RETREAT COR
THE BACKCOUNTRY TREK
The analog aesthetic of the Hagen Connected hybrid smartwatch lets you go from gym to dinner without an accessory overhaul. It instantly adjusts to new time zones, tracks steps and sleep, and vibrates for VIP e-mails and texts. A traditional watch battery means no charging required. US$195; skagen.com
Handwritten notes can be quickly digitised with Moleskine’s new Smart Writing Set. A tiny ti camera in the aluminum pen uploads every mark on the page to an app for editing and sharing. Record audio while you write and it syncs to your notes for real-time playback. US$199; moleskine.com
The twin tw lenses of Nikon’s KeyMission 360 capstills and 4K video of your adventture immersive i tures—all automatically stitched together in-camera. It can also capture loops and time-lapse footage, and it’s shockproof, waterproof, and freezeproof to 14 degrees. US$500; nikonusa.com
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Use the hotel’s navigator that will give you access to a weekly curated list of the best hangouts and events in the city. The hotel also provides a grocery shopping service to guests.
A Blissful Stay ON THE BANKS OF LAKE POWAI, THE RENAISSANCE MUMBAI CONVENTION CENTRE HOTEL IS IDEAL FOR GETAWAYS FROM THE BUSTLING CITY—FOR BUSINESS AND PLEASURE.
magine a leisurely retreat to a hotel set amidst lush greenery, surrounded by 15 acres of verdant gardens and winding walkways. Stay in tranquil lake-view rooms; savour sumptuous Italian meals paired with the finest wines; treat yourself to indulgent spa treatments—the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel is just what you need for a relaxing holiday in the lap of nature. The recently-renovated hotel features 600 rooms and suites, offering panoramic views of the lake or the city. For utmost privacy and
luxury, book the swanky Tower Presidential Suite that gives access to the executive lounge. Epicureans will take delight in the hotel’s five dining venues that serve world cuisines, from Chinese and Italian to Mughlai and Continental. Don’t miss decadent desserts and freshly-baked breads at the in-house deli, Mumbai Express. Keep some time in your itinerary for a rejuvenating spa treatment. The newly-launched Quan Spa has an extensive spa menu—try one of the Ayurvedic massages or body wraps, or sign up for the Quan Special Signature treatment and pamper yourself silly.
From above: Fratelli Fresh restaurant; Superior Lake View guestroom at the hotel.
With 2,30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor convention spaces, including the largest banquet hall in the city, the hotel is a perfect venue for business conferences as well as weddings and social gatherings. Additionally, the hotel features 17 meeting rooms with state-of-the-art facilities such as high-speed internet and a fully-equipped business centre. A dedicated team will help you customise your events—the two inhouse expert initiatives, ‘Meetings Imagined’ and ‘Meetings, Services and Applications’ ensure that every event is organised meticulously.
For more information visit marriott.com
Shark watching in Tahiti
INSTAGRAMMER OF THE MONTH
California-based adventure photographer Shawn Walters says that his old travel photographs often remind him of how the air and the wind felt when he visited a place. The globetrotter has an incredible fanbase of 183K on Instagram at @lifeandmylens and his blog, lifeandmylens.com and is on the move for more than half the year. Back home, he finds time to connect with luxury tourism, hospitality, and tech brands for photography assignments. This issue, he shares some gorgeous pictures heâ€™s taken before he packs and leaves for Iceland.
Zebra spotting in Tanzania
FROM ABOVE: Tahiti is famous for the variety of shark species that roam its crystal waters; Tanzania is known to have exceptional luxury wildlife experiences. OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE:
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, USA, assumes a bluish tinge at dusk; cliff diving is a popular sport in Hawaii; the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska is a popular destination for extreme trekkers; a lioness snoozes on the branch of a tree in Tanzania.
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Driving past Mount Rushmore, USA
Cliff diving in Hawaii
Standing on the edge in Juneau, Alaska
Wildlife trailing in Tanzania TTRRAAVVEELL ++ LLEEIISSUURREE // M MAAYY 22001177
Clockwise: The outdoor infinity pool has a seating arrangement within it; the Court Martial Bar; Chef Akira Back begins the day at his restaurant.
Marriott in the Middle
JW Marriott Hotel South Beach is the brand’s first Singapore baby. You’ve never really ‘been there, done that’ in this town till you’ve checked in here.
ne of the prime requisites of unlocking a JW Marriott in a new destination is its location. Therefore, it came as no surprise when earlier this year, Marriott International decided to position itself in the heart of Singapore’s art and culture district of South Beach. Ironically, the proximity is everything in Singapore. Its districts for food, shopping, and heritage are like
independent islands. Take an easy 13-minute car ride to reach the melting pot for lifestyle choices in the Marina Bay district that includes cafes, bars and restaurants, or quick retail therapy. The hotel’s second claim to fame is its massive 634-room inventory in a tall, slender glass façade that sparkles up to a towering height and referred to as as an iconic landmark in the area. The design-led architecture
SMART ADD-ONS ► A ladies-only floor accessible by a special passkey; rooms attended by an all-women crew; furnished with amenities like a boyfriend shirt and facial steamer, among others, all in pink. ► The hotel’s Grand Ballroom, housed in a 1930’s Drill Hall, has a built-in LED wall 15 metres wide and 10 metres high. ► One of the infinity pools has a unique seating area in the water for relaxing after a swim.
NOM NOM! Try Chef Akira Back’s Grilled Alaskan King Crab at his Korean influenced Japanese restaurant.
► The concierge is called ‘The Concierge Library’ which functions round the clock to help you see the city better. ► An Activity Table near on the lobby level offers complimentary wine and cheese tasting sessions, coffee experiences, and a heritage tour of the hotel on request.
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fuses historic buildings and new constructions together, thanks to British architects Foster & Partners. Inside is furnished with a multimillion dollar collection of works and installations sourced from across the world. At first glance, you’ll agree they are prepared to harness every stage of evolution that might chance upon a modern hotel. Cast your eyes on the beautiful installations planted at
C L O C K W I S E : R O B E R T H A R D I N G /A L A M Y; C O U R T E S Y O F J W M A R R I O T T S O U T H B E A C H ( 2 ) ; S H U T T E R S T O C K . O P P O S I T E : C O U R T E S Y O F J W M A R R I O T T S O U T H B E A C H (4)
Clockwise: A view of the Marina Bay District; Tonic, the gin bar at JW Marriott South Beach; a deluxe room with a great view.
diﬀerent spots as you enter: the Gorilla, a scrap metal sculpture by Turner Prize winner Iain Nutting greets you at the entrance; a seven-metre video wall art installation by Korean artist Lee Lee Nam transfixes guests inside; further down the lobby stands the sculpture of Donna a Cavallo by reputed artist Fernando Botero and guest elevators have a custom RGB wallpaper featuring graffiti artwork by Milan-based art and design duo going by the name Carnovsky. Whether you’re staying at the JW Marriott or visiting for a few hours during transit, try one of the restaurants—the hotel has become a culinary destination for gourmands for the range of quality world
cuisines it oﬀers. Celebrity Chef Akira Back breaks the constitute of the ‘authentic’ at his eponymous fine dining restaurant by oﬀering subtle Korean accents to his Japanese dishes. The all-day dining restaurant called Beach Road Kitchen features dedicated areas for its oﬀerings: find the Seafood Room, the Pizza Oven, the Charcoal Grill, the Vertical Salad Bar, the Noodle Bar, and a Dessert Showcase, among others, each with live counters. Three concept bars have coaxed their way into the local Saturday night itinerary. The Court Martial Bar, named after the historical background of the building it’s housed in, specialises in barrel-aged classics like Negroni and Rum
Ol’ Fashioned. For something a little oﬀ-beat, try the ones that the bartenders have been experimenting with lately, like the Heritage Sling, a fresh take on the classic Singapore Sling. The Media Bar is a ‘go-local’ gastropub with the longest happy hours in Singapore running between 11am and 8pm; Tonic is a gin specialty bar that serves East Imperial tonic paired with some exclusive gins from around the world. As with other JW Marriott spas, the Spa by JW here will oﬀer a range of treatments, body scrubs and wraps when it opens in a few months. Fitness enthusiasts can take laps at one of the two outdoor infinity pools or hit the 24-hour fitness centre called Flow18. marriott.com —A.S.
WORLD OF THE MINI The next best thing to missing out on a spa appointment is an ‘express treatment’ for quick indulgences, like a 12-minute mini massage at the JW SPA!
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The Role Players
This month, we introduce actors, playwrights, and directors who are bringing a fresh perspective to the theatre industry in India— one play at a time.
ACTOR AND DIRECTOR>>
ADHAAR KHURANA Khurana has been involved in theatre since childhood because of his father, actor Akash Khurana, but he had imagined a career in forensic science. After he graduated, the recession hit Scotland, and as luck would have it, he joined his brother, Akarsh, who runs Mumbai’s notable theatre group, Akvarious Productions. And, the pieces fell together—after many fights. Recently, he’s directed and played a part in Some Times that is now streaming on HotStar. He admits that filming the play, instead of performing it for an audience, has been tough. “The thrill and joy of being on stage is just so different because you get to feed off the audience’s reactions.” WHAT’S NEXT? “I’ve just written and acted in Boygiri, a web series for Balaji’s digital platform ALT.” CLOSE TO HIM The character of Pammi Duggal in Some Times is closest to his personality. HANGOUTS Brewbot (brewbot.in) and The Daily Bar and Kitchen (Bandra; +91-22/3015-0828). TRAVEL BUCKET LIST The South Americas… Colombia, Chile, and Peru. CITIES THAT INSPIRE Bombay (not Mumbai), Budapest, and Rio de Janeiro. ON THE BOOKSHELF Indigo by Satyajit Ray. HE WOULD LOVE TO PLAY
“Borat or Deadpool because letting go of your inhibitions and doing crazy random things is the biggest challenge as an actor.” —APEKSHA BHATEJA
PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN MARTIS LOCATION COURTESY SU CASA, MUMBAI
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playing He is currently d in Ruskin Bon r t 3’ d Pa ‘A Special Bon ng and travelli in for ‘Stand Up’ the ys which he por tra g role of a rantin n. ia stand-up comed
Amazing packages starting at 23,000 plus taxes
tly Weiss is curren shooting for road Elementary, B list: k City, and Blac Redemption in New York.
ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT>>
NAREN WEISS Currently shooting for Blacklist: Redemption in New York, the IndianAmerican actor came into the spotlight four years ago for his role of Osama Bin Laden in Kamal Hasan’s Vishwaroopam. However, he believes that the character of Musa in Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (that he performed in grad school), is what changed his life— “I transitioned from an amateur to an artist.” Weiss is multilingual—he speaks Kodava (Coorg language), Tamil, English, Spanish, and Urdu; gives lessons in theatre and improv to kids; likes to write introspective drama pieces with a dash of societal turmoil. HOME RIGHT NOW “We had a picture in our house that said, ‘Home isn’t a place. It’s a feeling.’ My parents travel a lot, but I am lucky to have a home in Chennai.” LOCALLY FOREIGN Although he is half-Indian, he was considered a foreigner in Chennai, where he grew up. “I’d footboard on local buses and trains, and hang out at the tea carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and speak crass Tamil. It was a contradiction for others, for they saw a white kid roaming comfortably on the streets of Chennai.” FAVOURITE IN NYC A hookah establishment, Sahara East (184 and 1st Avenue; +1-212/353-9000), where he reviews lines and checks grades papers. INSPIRATION Actor Donald Glover because he does many things, and does them all well, he says. THREE THINGS HE CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT A notebook, a book, and music. WHERE TO NEXT? “I have a film
premiering in Beijing later this year. I will travel to Argentina and Bhutan as well.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY POOJA DEVARIYA
shy away ripathi doesn t ing his p from ootstrap oomey... l h sets. or eepa a illage d his team create dio terrace stu house on their ional help. without profess
ACTOR AND DIRECTOR>>
MOHIT TRIPATHI He has acted in Bollywood movies and assisted directors (like Ajay Bahl in BA Pass), but Mohit Tripathi is known best for his work in theatre. Having played parts in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Mahesh Dattani’s Final Solution, Tripathi made his directorial debut in 2004 with Reflections, a play by Mahesh Elkunchwar. The same year, he established the Renaisstance Theatre Society in Delhi, which has now
come to be recognised as a popular venue for his shows. “I don’t go out much, so we have created this studio where artists from different fields exchange ideas. We perform here and enjoy the evening with 50-60 people who come to watch us.” More recently, he has adapted Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms for a feature film with the title Peepal Jhoomey Morey Aangna that’s set in rural Uttar Pradesh. The movie is expected to be completed in the next two months. A TITLE FOR HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Entry to Exit or Curtain Call.
A PLAY HE IS MOST PROUD OF
Main Bhi Bachchan…Maalum.
“I improvised with the team and wrote this Bollywood musical comedy, where the audience gets to dance and sing with the actors.” CINEMA VS THEATRE “People are going back to the theatre due to the lack of stories, implausible censorship, and hullaballoo about stars in the movies. The young crowd, too, prefers intellectual content in plays. Now that big banners are getting involved and more festivals have started surfacing, I hope that theatre gets its due,” he says. DOWNTIME My Bar (mybardelhi.com) and terrace cafes in Paharganj. TRAVEL BUCKET LIST Kerala, Ladakh, and Kailash Mansarovar. —A.B.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANIL CHAWLA LOCATION COURTESY TOURIST JANPATH, NEW DELHI
e Pandit won th e in ellenc Mahindra Exc s in the Theatre Award gory Best Actor cate for his role in 0, .’ At 2 ‘The Inter view gest n he was the you ward. a recipient of the
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Trained at the Drama Centre London (University of the Arts London), Pandit has worked for all mediums—from BBC radio plays and theatre to commercials and short films. His most famous work, however, is Akvarious Productions’ play, The Interview (written by Siddharth Kumar), which has run for more than 100 shows in over 16 cities and won four awards at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards. Adapted for digital platforms in association with CinePlay, it is also available on HotStar. Currently, he is associated with the Jeff Goldberg Studio in Mumbai—the first and only method acting studio in the city. PEOPLE RECOGNISE HIM FROM The Interview, Baghdad Wedding, and Some Times. ON FILMING THE PLAY “We were on an extremely tight schedule, so a lot of it was one take, much like the theatre. The only difference was the lack of a live audience, which always influences the play for the better.” RECENT PROJECTS A play called CookieMachine, written by Jeff Goldberg. “I just finished shooting for my first feature titled The Hungry, which is a British co-production with an absolutely stellar cast and crew.” A MEMORABLE TRIP A family holiday in Santorini, Greece. A CITY THAT INSPIRES London. Everything is inspiring—its architecture, art galleries, theatres, and history. —A.B.
PHOTOGRAPH BY KURUSH M UMRIGAR LOCATION COURTESY THE STABLES, MUMBAI
From left: A guestroom at Discovery Primea, Manila; Kiyan restaurant at The Roseate New Delhi.
The trend of on-the-go travel planning is picking up around the world, Google has reported.
When Loyalty Pays
• 60 per cent smartphone
C O U RT ESY O F P R E F E R R E D H OT E LS & R ES O RTS
With a new app and member rate programme, Preferred Hotels & Resorts bids to give better access and services to its tech-savvy customers. f you are the one to make travel plans on the go, the new initiatives from Preferred Hotels & Resorts will come as a respite. The hospitality brand that represents more than 650 hotels across 85 countries has introduced an app and a member rate programme to give its customers better deals— directly on their smartphones.
profile, view stay history, and redeem reward points. And for AmEx cardholders, there is an American Express Checkout. Soon, the app will have a concierge chat service to help them correspond directly with hotels.
NEW IN STORE
THE 1.8 MILLION TRAVELLERS WHO HAVE ENROLLED WITH THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME, IPREFER, WIN POINTS ON BOOKINGS MADE WITH PREFERRED (10 POINTS FOR EVERY US$1 SPENT ON NET ROOM RESERVATIONS). THESE CAN THEN BE EXCHANGED FOR REWARD CERTIFICATES FOR FREE NIGHTS AS WELL AS ON-PROPERTY EXPERIENCES. MOREOVER, THERE ARE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS SUCH AS PRIORITY CHECK-IN/LATE CHECK-OUT, ROOM UPGRADES, AND COMPLIMENTARY INTERNET.
Built in collaboration with American Express, the newly-launched app iPrefer (available on iOS and Android) allows members to browse and book stays at more than 600 participating hotels worldwide and get access to exclusive offers and last-minute deals. You can also update your
With the new member rate programme, members can make savings of three per cent or higher when they book directly through iPrefer channels (app, Preferred website, and hotel websites). preferredhotels.com
users prefer using a mobile app rather than a desktop to manage their loyalty programme activities.
• 41 per cent prefer using an app to book their hotel accommodations.
HOW LOYALTY WORKS
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Clockwise: The River View Mezzanine Suite ; the lounge area overlooking the Lobby Bar; Chef Willin Low’s dishes look photogenic at Po.
Singapore’s vibrant Robertson Quay district finds a glamorous occupant in The Warehouse Hotel. We deconstruct its make. ou couldn’t imagine from the façade of The Warehouse Hotel that it was built in 1895. Along the Singapore River, this is a vision in bright white, sitting within a bubble of grey skyscrapers that mount the city skyline. At the time of its inception, the area was a hullabaloo of underground activities, secret societies and liquor distilleries, where the hotel filled in as a shabby stop for passengers on the sea trade route to the Straits of Malacca. While the scene on Robertson Quay today is charmingly diﬀerent, the restoration of The Warehouse provides for a swanky new venue for urban trotters to park themselves in the city. Thirty-seven rooms and suites split over six luxury categories were handheld to their opening this January by local award-winning design agency, Asylum, with double-high ceilings industrial chic interiors—a good break from the usual Singaporean brick and mortar creations. This is an inspiring change, a cue to what future independent hotels might look like, and yet, a strong sense of Singaporean essence seems to bind the four corners together. The hotel’s signature restaurant Po, derived from the word popo or grandmother in Mandarin, brings back the memory of what traditional home-cooked meals in the city were like. Chef-Partner and founder of Wild Rocket (one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), Willin Low, brings gastronomic delights like the popiah, charcoal-grilled Iberico satays, and Carabinero prawns and Konbu Mee. The Lobby Bar pins the hotel’s history like a map with its cocktail menu that flows into three themes, each representing the diﬀerent moods that this former godown assumed in the past three centuries—the Spice Trade of the 19th century, the Godown era of the twentieth, and the Warehouse Disco of the late 20th century with signatures like Barbarella, Singapore Sazerac, and Madame Butterfly. thewarehousehotel.com — ANWESHA SANYAL
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The River View Mezzanine is our favourite suite at the hotel; it’s a spacious corner spread over two levels on the top floor, held with original beams. The peaked ceiling, the reading library, and a clear view of the Singapore River take a brownie each. Conveniently placed, the Warehouse Hotel boasts proximity to the Clarke Quay, the Boat Quay, and the Orchard Road Shopping District.
C O U RTESY OF T HE WA RE H OU S E H OTE L
Bringing Up the Warehouse
S U P E R S T O C K /A L A M Y
ADASHINO NENBUTSU-JI TEMPLE JAPAN
In Arashiyama (a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto), this walkway close to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple is flanked on both sides by thick, imposing bamboo. As you stroll down this trail, the ethereal beauty of the greens, the soft light perforating from above, and the hush of the atmosphere make you one with nature. At the edge of this bamboo grove, around 8,000 stone Buddha statues jut out of ground; they are placed in the memory of those who died without kin. Every year in August, those souls are honoured during the two-day festival, SentĹ? Kuyo, when chanting monks and glittering candles add further mystique to the setting
VICTORIA HARBOUR HONG KONG
Cruise to Hong Kong’s islands on a junk boat—a traditional wooden Chinese fishing boat that now refers to any motorised sail. The old-style sail boats date back to the Han Dynasty and you may still find some fulfilling their purpose. But for all recreational intents, the junks have been given a new, lavish avatar, replete with modern luxuries. From bedrooms to sundecks, from private dinners to wild parties, from spas to water sports—you can have this quintessential experience in a way that’s fit for the 21st century.
PH G AV OITNO HCERLELDI EI TR /A L A M Y
ANGKOR WAT CAMBODIA From a distance, Angkor Wat transfixes you with its grandeur. On walking closer, the stone structure reveals intricate carvings and bas-relief decorations that depict mythological tales. It is a study in ingenious architectureâ€”the 500-acre complex consists towers, curved roofs, galleries, porches, and courtyards, all standing testimony to a time when Khmer kings flourished in the region. Part of the Angkor Archaeological Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II as the palatial home of Hindu Lord Vishnu. There were 3,00,000 workers and 6,000 elephants employed to construct it and even after 30 years, the complex was never finished. Later, it was converted into a Buddhist shrine and is still sacred to Buddhist monks, who are often seen here in their saffron robes, chanting and praying.
A Guide to
At the foothills of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden has been offering a melange of experiences to visitors for centuries—from thermal spas and nature trails to opera performances and art exhibitions. We give you an insight into the city and its famous attractions.
aden-Baden’s bathing tradition dates back to the Romans, who discovered the mineral springs 2,000 years ago and built the first thermal baths in town. For centuries, the rich and the famous have travelled to ‘Europe’s summer capital’ to improve their health, and the tradition continues to date.
The top spa favourites among celebrities and the royals are the traditional Friedrichsbad and the new-age Caracalla Spa. The Friedrichsbad opened in 1877 as the most modern bathing establishment in Europe. The historic spa combines Roman bathing culture with the Irish traditions of hot air bathing. Its 17-step ritual will leave you
refreshed and energised. Mark Twain, in a letter to his friend, described the experience as: “Here at the Friedrichsbad you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20...” The modern Caracalla Spa— with more than 4,000 square metre of bathing and wellness space— creates a soothing environment with hot and cold water pools,
TOP IT The Merkur Funicular Railway is Europe’s steepest and takes passengers to Merkur Mountain in just five minutes. You can also hike to the summit for spectacular views.
COURTESY OF BADEN-BADEN KUR & TOURISMUS GMBH
Clockwise: The view of the city centre and the Mount Merkur; thermal spas are a must-do; the famous Casino Baden-Baden. Opposite: The picturesque city is dotted with cafes, luxury brands, and boutiques.
DID YOU KNOW?
marble whirlpools, a steam bath, and waterfalls and water jets. Moreover, Baden-Baden is home to a host of wellness hotels and spas. These range from luxe five-star properties to romantic family-run boutiques. A few popular names include: The Villa Stéphanie, part of the Five-Star Superior Brenners Park-Hotel and Spa opened in 2015, is a mansion devoted to an individual’s spa experience, focusing on holistic health. The Radisson Blu Hotel Badischer Hof offers thermal water swimming pools; while guests at the Heliopark Bad Hotel zum Hirsch get direct
access to the curative water in some rooms and suites. Although the city has always been famous for its wellness retreats, it is fast becoming a frontrunner in cultural experiences. Plan a visit to the Festspielhaus, Europe’s second largest opera and concert hall, to watch opera and ballet, or attend a concert. Art lovers enjoy a visit to the Museum Frieder Burda, built by New York-based architect Richard Meier, that houses a private art collection. In the charming old town of Baden-Baden, there are numerous boutiques offering
luxury products, international labels, and local brands. Epicureans have the choice of Michelin-starred restaurants like the Brenners Park-Restaurant and Le Jardin de France as well as cosy taverns, offering traditional Badian cuisine. And, there's more. The Kurhaus Baden-Baden is home to Germany’s oldest casino, Casino Baden-Baden, where the magnificent arcades and staterooms resemble French palaces. The town’s proximity to the Black Forest provides an excellent opportunity to explore its natural heritage. Starting in Baden-Baden, the Black Forest Scenic Route (Schwarzwaldhochstraße) leads to historic sites and natural spectacles including the stunning views of the Rhine valley and the Vosges. At any time of the year, the Black Forest is a unique experience, but in summers, you can hike along the Panoramaweg, a 40-kilometre trail around Baden-Baden.
CHRISTMAS IS A SPECIAL TIME IN BADEN-BADEN. TRADITIONAL MARKETS POP UP IN THE CITY AND TWINKLING DECORATIONS TURN IT INTO FAIRYLAND. For more information, write to Baden-Baden Visitors and Convention Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.baden-baden.com.
The Legends of Orchha
The former capital of the mighty Bundela kingdom, Orchha has shied away from the spotlight that follows its popular neighbours Jhansi and Khajuraho. Tripoto blogger Bhawna Sati travels to the historic town to discover the secrets of a long-forgotten empire. Orchha, a small, riverside town on the border of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, is steeped in history. Founded in the 16th century by Maharaja Rudra Pratap, its magnificent palaces, palatial temples, and royal chhatris have made the town immortal. I started my tour with the much talked about aarti at the Ram Raja Mandir— one of the few places in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a king as well as a deity and is offered a
gun salute. There are many legends attached to it, but what fascinates the most is the scene in its courtyard where throngs of devotees and saffron-clad sadhus traverse the colourful bazaar. Just across the temple is the former residence of the Orchha kings, Raj Mahal. In the evening, a dramatic light and sound show on the façades of Raj Mahal and Jahangir Mahal is followed by a narration of the history of the town. We had a closer look
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at the Jahangir Mahal the next day. Built in the honour of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, it impresses with its size, the network of stairways and lobbies; and the panoramic view of the city from the top. For our last day, we had saved the famed chhatris of Orchha. A relaxed morning stroll by River Betwa is the best way to admire the cenotaphs constructed as funerary monuments of rulers, something that has kept their memories alive. ▪
You can either fly to Gwalior or take the train to Jhansi. From there, hire a cab to cover the rest of the distance (140 kms from Gwalior and 17 kms from Jhansi).
Betwa Retreat, a hotel run by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department offers 25 rooms and tents, gardens, a pool, and a restaurant. `2,590 upwards; mptourism.com
Orchha is known for dokra craft. Take back metal and wrought iron souvenirs for friends and family.
This article was first published on Tripoto.com.
C L O C K W I S E : D M I T R Y R U K H L E N K O -T R AV E L P H O T O S /A L A M Y; A I VA R M I K K O /A L A M Y; C O U R T E S Y O F M A D H YA P R A D E S H T O U R I S M
Clockwise: The chhatris in Orchha; the Jahangir Mahal; river rafting on River Betwa.
R OL A N D O D I A Z
Palm Court lounge on the Genting Dream.
a DREAM Fill the weekend slot on your Hong Kong itinerary with an off-beat experience on the Genting Dream, the latest addition to Asia’s luxury cruise portfolio. By Riaan Jacob George ong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is bathed in a soupcon of nostalgia. Two decades ago, you would have found Hong Kong’s iconic Kai Tak International Airport, famous (or infamous) for its precarious runway, jutting out into the harbour. The airport no longer exists; now a swanky cruise terminal stands in its place. I experience Kai Tak in a new way, minus the gleaming aluminium Jumbo Jets. The silhouette that does however dominate the waterfront is that of Genting Dream, an 18-deck behemoth, weighing 1,51,300 tonnes, which happens to be Asia’s hottest new luxury cruise. The first thing that strikes me is the hull art— indeed, there is such a thing. Conceptualised and designed by pop artist Jacky Tsai, the sides of the Genting Dream are splashed with an artwork titled Voyage of a Lover’s Dream. Depicting the mystical love story of a mermaid and an astronaut, the artpiece combines Chinese and
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western elements to become a multi-cultural outfit that flows onto the ship’s visage. The lighting on either side of the ship’s balcony are specially engineered to create an optical eﬀect at night when the ship is at sea. As I wait at the terminal to board the Genting Dream for my weekend escape, I get chatting with some fellow passengers, a group of Indians, who have added this cruise experience to their Hong Kong itinerary. This Genting Dream cruise is now bound for its twonight, weekend Hong Kong itinerary, a jackpot for people looking to add a new experience to their existing plans, something oﬀ the regular tourist path. On board, a 2,000-member-strong crew helps 3,400 passengers make an eﬀortless trip. The scale of the ship is impressive with 1,600 rooms, 70 per cent of which have private balconies. The rooms are replete with luxury amenities like custom Frette linen and concept bedding with Custom Comfort, hand-tufted eco-friendly mattresses, and an extensive pillow menu. For an exclusive stay, you can splurge on a suite in the ‘Dream Palace’ wing, which is the boutique wing of the ship—separated from the other cabins, it has its own privileges. You can feel the presence of an epicurean agenda almost as soon as you set sail: There are 35 restaurants and bars on the ship. The pièce de résistance is Australian star chef Mark Best’s first cruise restaurant, Bistro By Mark Best, that celebrates modern Australian cuisine. His kitchen sources the beef, lamb, and seafood directly from their producers in Australia. This restaurant overflows onto a 54-seater outdoor grill area. Nothing short of a floating integrated resort with numerous engagements for its guests, this is
From above: The Voyage of a Lover’s Dream artwork on the Genting Dream; an art gallery onboard. Opposite, clockwise: The Zouk Beach Club; the ship has over 35 restaurants and bars; the Johnnie Walker House on the ship.
The scale of the ship is impressive, with over 1,600 rooms, 70 per cent of which have private balconies. where Singapore’s mythical nightclub, Zouk has built its first marine outpost. The uniquely conceptualised space has two private party decks and also features an indoor dance club, a sports bar, a bowling alley, and an outdoor party deck. Besides this, the cruise is home to the world’s first Johnnie Walker House on a ship—a lounge-cum-bar-cum-installation space characterised by a life-sized statue of the brand’s famed mascot, the Striding Man, placed at the heart of the lounge. On one of the evenings, you can immerse yourself into whisky appreciation with whisky-paired dinners and cocktail-making sessions. As a wine lover, I find solace in Australian winemaker Penfolds’ exclusive ‘Wine Vault’. This wine bar stocks some of the finest vintages from his winery, including the Penfolds Bin 170 that celebrates the winemaker’s 170th anniversary. Inside the vault, the resident sommelier shows me the Aevum Imperial Service Ritual, a specially designed crystal serving vessel which is an art collaboration between Genting Dream and the famed Cristalleries Saint Louis from France. The trip lingers from one indulgence to another, each coaxing you for recognition. Book a 90-minute signature treatment at the massive Crystal Life Spa that features over 70 treatment thrones, 20 private treatment rooms, and a vitality pool. On your way out, get some retail therapy at the duty-free shopping space that houses brands like Burberry, Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Bulgari. Two-night Hong Kong Weekend Getaway Itinerary starts at HK$2,378 per person; dreamcruisline.com
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Narendra Bhawan, a house that the last Maharaja of Bikaner preferred to the palace, is as singular as the man who once called it home, discovers Meraj Shah.
C O U R T E S Y O F N A R E N D R A B H AWA N
he solitary hunting trophy—a stuﬀed leopard—at the Narendra Bhawan stands in a dark corner of the snooker room. Obscured from prominent display, the big cat strikes a discordant note…the late Maharaja Narendra Singh glances down disapprovingly from a lifelike portrait on the wall. The leopard won’t do. Not here. Not in his house. It’s a reasonable conjecture that the last king of Bikaner was no fan of taxidermy. He was an ace marksman—part of the job profile for a regent of a princely state in Rajasthan—but much preferred to track inanimate clay birds in trap and skeet with the muzzle. And in this sanctuary, which he chose to retreat into after taking leave of regal and family commitments, animals ruled the roost—hundreds of cows, dogs, and a host of other animals. An army of handlers and keepers were employed full-time to look after the quadruped denizens of the house, and the King himself only partook of his repast after all the animals (he apparently knew each one by name) had been fed. This veritable menagerie precipitated the need for simple, almost austere, living quarters. Relatively speaking that is: A vast estate in the middle of the city could never qualify as a spartan living, but as the abode of an erstwhile monarch, in Rajasthan— where royal patronage and the lineage of the erstwhile ruling family still have social sanction— Narendra Bhawan was a minimalist, almost ascetic manifestation of a king’s sensibilities. The most obvious trait of the late maharaja that persists in Narendra Bhawan—Bikaner’s newest heritage hotel—is a lack of ostentatiousness. It may not seem like much, but when compared to the hotels’ counterparts in Rajasthan, it is the one thing that genuinely sets it apart. To be fair, it’s not as if Narendra Bhawan doesn’t pander to the tropes of royalty and grandeur so pervasive in hotels of its ilk: You’ve got the ramparts, the colonial furniture, long colonnades on the roof, and immaculately turned out staﬀ in traditional attire that could get a walk-on part in a period film. But, there’s no ostentatiousness.
From above: Old world charm of the Narendra Bhawan; Victoria-era motif and English fl oral prints dominate the spaces. Opposite: Entrance to the Narendra Bhawan.
N E The first ingredient, in attempting to concoct a faux royal life in his house, is a pinch of narcissism— you’ll find your framed photograph sitting on the mantelpiece when you arrive. So before booking your stay, ensure that your profile picture on Facebook is one of your best, and in decent resolution.
“Narendra Singh ji was a very interesting man,” says Faisal Nafees, General Manager, after some contemplation. “And with this hotel we’ve tried to create a monument that represents his personality, life, and tastes. And not just from the relaxed stage of his life when he settled here, but from his youth when he travelled extensively around the world.” The late Narendra Singh had a special love for theatre—Moulin Rouge and Broadway shows in particular were staples on his itineraries. That’s no spiel: walk into the lobby, and at the very end sits the late Maharaja’s
The most obvious trait of the late maharaja that persists in Narendra Bhawan—Bikaner’s newest heritage hotel—is a lack of ostentatiousness. TTRRAAV VEEL L ++ L LEEI SI SUURREE / / MMAAY Y2 20 01 17 7
striking red upright piano—Édith, a tribute to the French chanteuse. I resist the urge to play a rendition of La vie en Rose, but imagine the monarch, sitting here in the evening, singing of love and angst. The interweaving traditional Rajasthani and Victorian-era motifs, symbols, upholstery, and architecture come together at Narendra Bhawan as seamlessly as these elements did in the lives of royals from princely states in colonial times. The 80-odd rooms, generously spaced out over six floors, diﬀer not just in space, but also thematically—again being based on a diﬀerent period in the late Maharaja’s life. There’s velvet upholstery, English floral prints, lots of big ornate mirrors, spring beds, and a thoughtful curation of objets d’art. What all of them—the Residence rooms, the Prince rooms, the Regimental rooms, India Rooms, and the Republic suites—share is unhindered space and guilt-free luxury. It’s easy to get ensconced in your well-appointed quarters and decline your hosts’ invitations to explore the city. That would be a mistake. Bikaner,
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From above: The hotel organises sundowners under the sky; the Prince Room at the Narendra Bhawan.
The fastest trains take seven hours to traverse from Delhi to Bikaner— the overnighter is the best option. For those flying in from other parts of the country, the closest airports are Jaipur and Jodhpur, from where it takes five to six hours to get to Bikaner by road.
with its genuine untrammelled vibe, is a great city to soak in Rajasthan’s pre-tourist-juggernaut character. The historical merchant houses in the old city, reminiscent of Fleet Street, are living, even if endangered, relics of a time when prosperous merchants plying their trade on the Silk Route built gorgeous mansions in the city. On the other end of the spectrum, the hotel will happily put together an evening experience out in the boondocks. There, in the flicker of oil-lit lamps, the dulcet notes of a manganiyar singer, and generously potent cocktails, you can lounge about at sunset, and watch the desert sky transform into a sea of stars. Back at the hotel, the Mad Hatter bakery (modelled on Alice’s adventures, a favourite literary wonderland of the late Maharaja) dishes out authentic puddings, pies, and toﬀees. If you do decide to stay in, grab your swimsuit in the evening and take the elevator all the way up to the breezy terrace. Settle into a corner of the infinity pool, and ask the khidmatdar for the cocktail of the day and to turn up the jazz. With the flat skyline of Bikaner stretching in front of you, contemplate on existential questions. Or, just enjoy your drink. The Narendra Bhawan makes its case in two very compelling ways: One, the quality of isolation that Bikaner aﬀords from the marauding hordes, and second, pets—you can get yours along. Animals will never be let down at the Narendra Bhawan. The Maharaja would have been very pleased. Residence and Prince Rooms available for `12,000 per night; narendrabhawan.com ▪
C O U R T E S Y O F N A R E N D R A B H AWA N
The interweaving traditional Rajasthani and Victorian-era motifs, symbols, upholstery, and architecture come together at Narendra Bhawan.
A Teachable Moment
On a cruise down the Danube with her teenage daughter, Isabel Vincent discovers the power of travel to open your mind—no matter your age.
COURTESY OF ADVENTURES BY DISNEY
The AmaViola docked in Passau, Germany.
ifteen minutes into our tour of Schönbrunn Palace, the Hapsburgs’ 1,000-plusroom summer retreat in Vienna, my 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, disconnected her Quietvox and, out of earshot of the tour guide, said, “They’re all just like the Kardashians.” The way she saw it, the social-climbing Napoleon married Austrian archduchess Marie-Louise in 1810 not so much to consolidate peace between France and Austria, but to bask in the rarefied atmosphere of the Hapsburg royal clan. For her, it was the equivalent of Blac Chyna having a child with Rob Kardashian. “Blac Chyna snuck her way into the family in order to get the Kardashian last name,” she explained. “Like Napoleon marrying Marie-Louise, who hated the French. He just wanted to get into an important family.” I have to admit that there was an odd—even brilliant—logic to what she was describing. We were on day five of our week-long Adventures by Disney Danube River cruise, which began in Vilshofen, Germany, and ended in Budapest—and Hannah was having the time of her life. She had already climbed to the top of castle ruins in Austria’s stunning Wachau Valley, sat in on a strudel-making course in Vienna, and attended a Lipizzaner horse performance at the city’s exclusive Spanish Riding School.
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Among the 110 people on our cruise, I met gay couples, families with small children, and single parents with their adult kids.
I marvelled at her energy, but more so at her sense of excitement. Hannah is a seen-it-all New York City high school senior who speaks five languages and spent her early childhood in Rio de Janeiro. I am a former foreign correspondent, and my ex-husband is a SerbianCanadian photographer who now lives in Belgrade. After Hannah was born, we travelled the world with her. She is amazingly cosmopolitan, and I worried that she would find a river cruise organised by the theme park’s tour operator lame and boring. And although Hannah politely refused to wear the Adventures by Disney lanyards studded with Mickey Mouse pins we were all given to mark each day’s excursion, she was engaged in a way I have never quite seen her. That’s in large part because
Adventures by Disney, which recently began chartering ships operated by AmaWaterways, doesn’t oﬀer a traditional river cruise. Most companies target an older clientele, and before I boarded our ship, the well-appointed, 82-cabin AmaViola, I must admit I had visions of shuffleboard and bridge. But among the 110 people on our cruise, I met gay couples, families with small children, and single parents with their adult kids. The vibe? Relaxed and welcoming. These family-focused cruises have proven to be so popular that Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways are oﬀering 15 sailings this year, on both the Danube and the Rhine. Like Hannah, I found myself completely captivated by the whole rivercruise experience, which unfolded like a series of mini-adventures day after day. Family activities included a slide deep into a salt mine in Salzburg and a backstage tour of a marionette theatre in Vienna. Adult excursions included wine tastings in Krems and tours of food and craft markets in Bratislava and Budapest. All were conducted in conjunction with local guides who had in-depth knowledge of their native towns. The ship’s crew was also well informed, which I noticed after Hannah started questioning them about everything from where to find the best café mélange to how much we should pay for taxis in our next port.
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In many ways, Hannah became the star of the AmaViola and its mostly Serbian staﬀ. They had never met a passenger who could speak their language, and I swelled with pride every time she ordered our lunch or dinner—multi-course aﬀairs that included beef consommé and Hungarian goulash as well as surprises like perfectly prepared pho—in their native tongue. Every night, as we retired to our warm little cabin with its windows overlooking the splendid cities on the shore, Hannah researched what we would do the following day. Armed with intelligence from Hannah’s new friends in the crew and suggestions from the Adventures by Disney tour guides, who encouraged us to go oﬀ the official grid of daily activities, we decided to take in the Albertina Museum in Vienna, where my daughter made a beeline for the indie galleries. “I love contemporary art,” she whispered as we made our way past paintings by Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol.
From above: Vienna’s Spanish Riding School, where passengers on the Adventures by Disney cruise can see a performance; the Benedictine Abbey of Melk, in Austria’s Wachau Valley. Opposite page: Vineyards in the Wachau.
During World War II, the House of Terror was the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazi Party. Today, the splendid Beaux-Arts structure, is a museum. Who knew? By the time the AmaViola docked in Budapest, the last port of call, Hannah’s requests were even more surprising: Could we go to the House of Terror on Andrássy Avenue? The House of Terror? During World War II, it was the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazi Party. Today, the splendid Beaux-Arts structure, which is tucked into a fashionable neighbourhood in central Budapest, is a museum. In February 1945, when the Soviets took political control of the country, they used the building to house dissidents. Hundreds were tortured in a network of underground cells that stretched over a city block. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who had saved tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution in Hungary, shared a cell here before he disappeared into a Soviet gulag. “The basement smells like death,” Hannah told me, as we took the tour. Although the exhibits were difficult to stomach, it was important that Hannah was now getting a close-up of what life was like for opponents of totalitarianism. After the House of Terror, we strolled down Andrássy Avenue before stopping at the chandelier-studded Alexandra Bookcafé, located on the second floor of the former Paris Department Store. We sipped steaming lattes and ordered an array of billowy Hungarian pastries. While she sampled each of the sweets, Hannah had another epiphany. “You know, Mom, I think I want to come back to a place like this to study,” she said. “History just feels so alive here!” That night, our last on the ship, I climbed to the upper deck as we sailed past the Hungarian Parliament, lit up in all its neo-Gothic splendour. I looked down at my phone as a text came in from my daughter, who was packing in our cabin below. “Thank you Mom for an adventure of a lifetime,” it said. Followed by three heart emojis. Seven-night cruises from US$4,349; adventuresbydisney.com
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Seeking Soul Food On a spontaneous trip to Cambodia last summer, fashion designer Phillip Lim developed a passion for cooking and a new outlook on life and work.
or designer Phillip Lim, Cambodia always seemed shrouded in secrecy. “My parents never talked to me about it,” he says. “I remember asking to go and they’d say, “Oh, no, you don’t want to do that.’ ” They’d spent a decade there before he was born, fleeing to Thailand as the Khmer Rouge took power, and their memories were painful ones, of a country embroiled in civil war. Still, friends said he’d love it, so when he decided on a whim to take his first true vacation in years, Siem Reap was an easy choice. With no firm plans beyond a hotel reservation, Lim spent his stay meandering through temples, cooking with locals, and soaking in the slower pace. Here, he shares a few favourite moments from the trip. — Lila Battis
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1. I fell in love with the cuisine in Cambodia. It was so simple, but delicious and refined. I just started cooking a few months ago. I used to joke that I was a professional takeout orderer, but I got to a point where I wanted to change my life. I stayed at Amansara (suites from US$1,290; aman.com) and asked to shadow a cook who could teach me to make my own meals. I learned in this open-air kitchen. We used charcoal instead of electricity. We’d leave these three clay vessels heating all day and rotate whatever dishes we were
cooking. 2. This is the beginning of a curry paste. You use ginger, turmeric, galangal, Kaffir lime, Thai chiles, and garlic, and pound it with a mortar and pestle. It’s the foundation for almost all Khmer food. 3. I hope to return and stay in one of these local houses—many of them have been in a single family for generations. This one, where I had the cooking lessons, overlooks Angkor Wat. It’s a traditional house, built on stilts. There’s no electricity, but it’s designed to circulate air constantly, and when monsoon season comes, the water runs underneath so there’s no flooding. It’s really beautiful. Cambodia has luxury, but to me the reason to go is to get in touch with what you want to be about.
COURTESY OF PHILLIP LIM
Everything in Cambodia is centred around food. That’s how the community comes together. I just wanted to be a part of it. 7
4. I didn’t tell my family I was going to Cambodia. My parents left so traumatised that they can’t speak about it, and they were so protective of me. But the day before I left, I got a package from my sister with photos of my parents at Angkor Wat. Talk about synchronicity. So I went there at the beginning of the trip. It was an amazing, spiritual experience. When I came home and told my parents where I’d been, they were happy I had made the decision on my own. They see both sides—what Cambodia gave them and what it took away—but I just saw the beauty and the potential, which was nice for them to hear. 5. Everything in Cambodia is centred around food. That’s how the community comes together. It was beautiful to see, and I just wanted to be a part of it. We
went to the market each day. These vegetables are all grown by local farmers—no pesticides, just straight from the backyard. 6. Every morning, a guide picked me up on a tuk-tuk to go see the sunrise from dilapidated forest temples. This temple, Banteay Kdei, is one of the few in the area that are still used in religious ceremonies. It was a special experience to witness the monks at prayer. I said a blessing in gratitude that I am able to travel, to get out of my comfort zone, and to see a place that held such personal significance to my family. 7. I made this lunch in the open-air kitchen. It’s shrimpand-pomelo salad; coconut-curry fish with Kaffir lime; lemongrass pork skewers; and pickled cucumber, carrots, and radish with chile-lime dressing. Anything we didn’t need got turned into something else. It has made me see ingredients in a different way. It’s like what I do at work with materials. Apply it to cooking and the sky’s the limit.
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The wall of Capela das Almas (Chapel of Santa Catarina) in Porto is decorated with azulejos.
Historic yet trendy, cultured yet bohemian, Porto has an undeniable charm. Prachi Joshi finds out insider secrets to Portugalâ€™s second city that has been voted 2017â€™s Best European Destination.
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Guide PO RTO
LAY OF THE LAND
Clockwise: The Dom Luís I Bridge; Sao Bento Church, Ribeira Brava; the bar at Pestana Vintage Porto.
RIBEIRA The oldest quarter of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with snaking alleys and multi-coloured historical buildings. BAIXA Downtown Porto, also the nightlife hub of the city. BOAVISTA A posh area with luxury retailers, chain hotels, and home to Parque da Cidade, Porto’s equivalent of Central Park. FOZ Trendy sea-front area with fashionable vintage shops, sea-facing bars, cafes, and restaurants. VILA NOVA DE GAIA Commonly known as Gaia, across the River Douro and connected to Porto by the Dom Luís I Bridge. GETTING AROUND
The blue-and-white STCP public buses are the best way of navigating Porto (though Ribeira and Baixa are better explored on foot). Porto Metro is another great alternative, though it does not serve all parts of the city yet.
HISTORIC AMBIENCE WITH A MODERN TOUCH Pestana Palácio do Freixo An 18th-century palace converted into a luxury hotel, complete with ornate interiors and French-styled gardens, the hotel has a prime riverfront location near the Freixo Bridge. The rooms, housed in a former warehouse next door, are spacious and comfortable. Breakfast is served in a bright, airy restaurant with restored 1850 frescoes on the ceiling. pestana.com
The Yeatman Hotel Mimicking the terraced vineyards of Douro Valley, The Yeatman’s suites and rooms are spread over different levels on the Gaia hillside, and all of them have a terrace or balcony overlooking the river. The two Michelin starred-restaurant, helmed by Chef Ricardo Costa, offers a contemporary Portuguese menu. Must-try: Grapebased spa treatments. the-yeatman-hotel.com
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Pestana Vintage Porto Occupying six historic buildings on the Ribeira riverfront, this is a trendy, design hotel. Choose a room overlooking the river for unparalleled views of the Dom Luís I Bridge, the hilltop Serra do Pilar Monastery, and the port caves of Gaia. The restaurant Rib, led by acclaimed chef Rui Martins, serves high-quality meat dishes paired with excellent local wines. pestana.com
Hotel Infante Sagres Located in downtown Baixa, it is an elegant palace converted into a luxury hotel. The rooms are contemporary with touches of antique elements, and the Royal Suite features original 19th-century furniture. Restaurante Book is housed in a former bookshop and retains the original décor, while the dishes have a distinct literary touch. hotelinfantesagres.pt
Porto River Aparthotel If you’re travelling with family, check into Porto River Apartments on the Ribeira riverfront. The historic 17th-century building is divided into 16 rooms—studios, one- or two-bedroom apartments, and a suite—all of which have river views. The spacious twobedroom apartment can accommodate up to six. portoriver.pt
C LO C K W I S E : JAC K M A L I PA N T R AV E L P H OTO G R A P H Y / A L A M Y ; H E M I S / A L A M Y ; C O U RT ESY O F T H E Y E AT M A N H OT E L
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C LO C K W I S E : P R AC H I J O S H I ; H E M I S / A L A M Y ; A L B E RTO M A N U E L U R O SA TO L E DA N O / G E T T Y I M AG ES
FIVE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE CITY OLD TOWN
Get lost in Ribeira’s maze of medieval alleys lined with ageing, pastel houses, and tiny tascas (taverns). Explore the shops on Rua das Flores, and then get a cup of coffee and people-watch on the Douro riverfront promenade as the Dom Luís I Bridge lights up at dusk.
The contemporary art museum showcases both Portuguese and international artists. The Modernist museum building designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Álvaro Siza Vieira blends seamlessly with the surrounding garden and parkland; don’t miss
a visit to the Art Deco ‘Pink Villa’. serralves.pt
SÃO BENTO TRAIN STATION
The impressive BeauxArts building is even more stunning on the inside, with its vestibule covered with magnificent azulejo (blue and white tile) panels depicting landscape scenes and important events in the history of Portugal.
Often listed as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, Livraria Lello’s most striking feature is its curving crimson staircase with a gilded design on the underside. The bookshop clocked more
than one million visitors last year, and now has an entry fee of €5 (adjusted against purchase). livrarialello.pt
DOURO RIVER CRUISE
The best way to see the pretty Douro riverfront is to get on a boat. The 50-minute cruise (with guided commentary) on board a traditional Rabelo boat goes right up to the mouth of the river, passing the colourful fishing village of Afurada. portoriver.pt
The Bolhão Market, dating back to 1850, is an unmissable experience. Come here for food stalls that serve fresh seafood, cheese, and local wines.
CAFÉ SOCIETY PLACES TO GET YOUR CAFFEINE FIX IN PORTO.
Majestic Café dates back to the 1920s and is beautifully done up in the Belle Époque style. Don’t miss the French toast drizzled with custard and dry fruits. cafemajestic.com Café Guarany opened in 1933, and was a favourite amongst writers and artists. cafeguarany.com Café Progresso is the oldest café in town (opened in 1899), and still serves strained coffee from an old drip coffee machine. cafeprogresso.net Tavi - Confeitaria da Foz has one of the most delectable pastry displays in the city. Try Bola de Berlim, a doughnut stuffed with egg yolk custard. tavi.pt
Clockwise: Café Guarany; the lobby of Sao Bento station is adorned with 20,000 tiles; take a leisurely stroll along River Douro.
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Guide PO RTO
VINTAGE PORTUGUESE FLAIR AND CHARM Feira da Ladra (Thieves Market) in Porto. Right: Shop for ceramics and Portuguese cork products in the city.
A VIDA PORTUGUESA A Vida Portuguesa on the first floor of a 19th-century fabric store is a great place to pick up Portuguese souvenirs—locally made Brito soaps in vintage packaging, colourful Bordallo Pinheiro tableware, woven bags from the north of Portugal, and more. Rua Galeria de Paris 20-1; +35122/202-2105 VISTA ALEGRE One of Portugal’s oldest and most famous porcelain brands, Vista Alegre’s flagship store has everything from the iconic blue-and-white azulejoinspired pieces to limitededition artist collaborations.
GASTRONOMICS A BITE INTO LOCAL FLAVOURS IN PORTO
The view from The Yeatman Restaurant. Right: Crispy suckling pig belly at the restaurant.
The Yeatman Restaurant The two Michelin-starred restaurant combines a panoramic view over River Douro with an inventive menu. Savour the huge range of seafood that Portugal has to offer, everything from cod to clams, and get a taste of Northern specialities like suckling pig, all presented with a contemporary style, and skilfully paired with regional wines. the-yeatmanhotel.com Chez Lapin Located in a 16th-century building on the Ribeira riverfront, Chez Lapin has been around for more than 70 years. This rustic restaurant offers traditional Portuguese dishes such as chorizo asado (sausage
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We are coveting the collectible chess set with hand-painted porcelain pieces. vistaalegre.com RETROSARIA DAS FLORES Step back in time and into your grandma’s parlour. This retro haberdashery sells a range of fabrics, pattern books, and yarn, plus there are regular workshops in embroidery, crochet, and felting. retrosariadasflores.com
flambéed at the table), bacalhau (salted cod cooked in a variety of ways), and grilled sardines. Rua dos Canastreiros 40-42; +35122/200-6418 Vinum Vinum’s light-filled terrace dining room overlooks River Douro. Feast on Portuguese dishes such as caldo verde (potato soup with kale and sausage), grilled alheira sausage made with game meat, and pears poached in port wine. vinumatgrahams.com Casa De Chá Da Boa Nova Portugal’s superstar chef Rui Paula’s Michelin-starred Restaurante DOP in Porto is a must-visit, but his other restaurant at Casa De Chá
(in Matosinhos, just 12 kilometres from Porto) will also impress. Set on a rocky outcrop with the Atlantic crashing at its doorstep, the restaurant (designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira) serves Paula’s interpretation of classic Portuguese cuisine. Rua da Boa Nova, 4450 Leça da Palmeira; +351-22/994-0066
C LO C K W I S E : M E RT E N S N I J D E R S / G E T T Y I M AG ES ; C R A F T A L A N K I N G / A L A M Y ; U R BA N B U Z Z / A L A M Y ; C O U RT ESY O F T H E Y E AT M A N H OT E L ( 2 )
T H E
Start your evening at Xico Queijo with tapas and sangrias. Located on Galeria de Paris, this bar is known for its lovely vibe and al fresco setting.
C LO C K W I S E : H E M I S / A L A M Y ; CA M I L L A WATS O N / G E T T Y I M AG ES ; K E N W E LS H / G E T T Y I M AG ES
FIND THE BEST PARTIES IN THE CITY Porto’s nightlife revolves around the three parallel streets collectively called Galerias de Paris in Baixa, though there are standalone bars elsewhere. The scene picks up only after 11 pm and most of the action is on the streets. FÉ WINE & CLUB A trendy club and bar in Downtown Baixa, FÉ plays a range of music, hosting everything from a fado night to DJ night and jazz. Apart from a large wine list, the bar also has an extensive gin collection. feporto.pt CASA DO LIVRO An old bookstore now transformed into a literarythemed café-bar, Casa Do Livro is a trendy place for a night out. The main room has a baby grand piano and
cosy nooks, while the back room pulsates with DJ beats. Galeria de Paris 85; +351-91/967-6969 BAR GALERIA DE PARIS One of the pioneering bars on the Porto nightclub scene, Galeria de Paris has a charming, albeit over-the-top, ambience with hundreds of vintage artefacts on display. But the drinks are potent and the atmosphere swinging, especially on the weekends. Galeria de Paris 67; +351-22/201-6218
Clockwise: Tapas bar Xico Queijo; grape-picking in the Douro valley; moliceiros (traditional boats) in Aveiro.
TRIPS OUT OF TOWN Douro Valley The majestic Douro Valley is dotted with quintas or country estates, which have beautiful terraced vineyards where the port grapes grow. Drive to Pinhão (130 kilometres from Porto) and stay at the upscale wine hotel, The Vintage House. vintagehousehotel.com Matosinhos The fishing town of Matosinhos is the dining room of Porto—this is where the Portuenses come to feast on fresh sardines, clams, barnacles, and bacalhau. Visit the Conservas Portugal Norte factory to see how a variety of fish is canned. The delightful B&B Casa Do Godinho is a good stay option. casagodinho.pt Aveiro-Ilhavo Seventy-five kilometres from Porto is the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro. The charming town is criss-crossed by a network of canals, which can be navigated on colourful moliceiro boats. In the neighbouring town of Ílhavo, visit the Vista Alegre Museum; the adjoining Montebelo Vista Alegre Ílhavo Hotel is a stunning design hotel. hotelmontebelovistaalegre.pt
HARD CLUB If you want to catch a concert or attend an EDM party, head to Hard Club in the city centre. The mixed-use venue has a cool terrace bar, and also hosts art exhibitions, cinema, and literature events. hard-club.com
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Guide PO RTO
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CITY INSIDERS
River Douro as seen from the Dom Luís I Bridge.
MANUEL DE SOUSA
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, LIVRARIA LELLO
EXECUTIVE CHEF, PESTANA PALÁCIO DO FREIXO
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MUSEU SERRALVES
A good thing about Porto is that it has both a large river and a great seafront. I particularly like walking along the seafront in Foz do Douro neighbourhood late in the evening to see the sunset. My other go-to spot is the Miradouro das Virtudes where you can see both the river and the sea. It has a great atmosphere in the evenings.
Try the Francesinha, Porto’s most famous sandwich, sort of like the Croque Monsieur. It’s a layered sandwich with ham, sausage, and steak or roast meat, covered with melted cheese and a thick tomato-based sauce, served with fried egg and French fries. Café Santiago is more famous for the francesinha, but I recommend Restaurante A Regaleira. We do a version at our restaurants as well.
After Serralves, I would recommend the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis. The Museum is set in a beautiful 18th-century palace, and has outstanding collections of art and antiquities—their collection of Japanese Namban Screens alone is excellent, as is their collection of Indo-Portuguese carvings, porcelain and Portuguese modern painting from the mid-19th century.
You can’t go to Porto and not sample port wine. Most of the cellars are located in Gaia and offer guided tours and tastings. Prior reservation is recommended.
Graham’s 1890 Lodge Graham’s Lodge commands a spectacular view of the Douro River and Porto. We recommend a tasting in the Vintage Room where you can sample their premium port selection. grahams-port.com
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Taylor’s Port Cellars In the historic Vila Nova de Gaia, Taylor’s newly refurbished 300-year-old cellar has an innovative museum space that takes you on an audio-visual tour of the history of port wine and its production. taylor.pt
Cálem Cellars Cálem Cellars has an innovative multimedia cask where you can learn more about port wine production. This is one of the few places in Porto where you can experience an evening of Fado. calem.pt
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T H E
hoosing the right app can be just as confusing as deciding where to stay or how to get there. So we’ve combed through dozens of the latest travel apps (and a few mobile websites) to determine which tools are the most useful for planning a trip, getting around, finding friends, and saving money along the way.*
FLYING 1 DEALRAY
The US$9.99 per month membersonly airfare tracker finds low-cost flight deals and sends notifications when it detects massive price drops, error fares, or flash sales. iOS only
Register your flight on this website up to two days before departure, and if it gets cancelled or delayed by four hours, book a new ticket on any airline. Fees start at US$19 for a one-way flight. getfreebird.com
Find ‘hidden city’ one-way tickets with a stopover where you get off the plane instead of continuing on to the destination on your ticket—they are often cheaper than a non-stop fare. *Unless noted, all apps are free and available for Android and iOS.
Illustrations by Michael Brandon Myers
By Christopher Tkaczyk and Shivani Vora
Upgrade 5 VELOCITY
DINING 4 GRAB
If you’ve only got a few minutes for a meal before boarding a flight, Grab will let you look at airport restaurant menus ahead of time, map them in the terminal, and in some locations order in advance and pick up your food on the way to the gate. The app currently serves 174 eateries at 17 airports in the US; by early 2017, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport will offer Grab’s mobile ordering at all of its 200 dining outlets.
This slick reservation app offers a highly curated collection of the hottest restaurants, such as Drunken Dragon, in Miami Beach, or Petty Cash, in Los Angeles. You can also use it to pay your bill or split it with your dining companions. Coming soon: popular nightlife spots in Aspen, Colorado, and Gstaad and Verbier, Switzerland.
HappyCow lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants in nearly 10,500 cities worldwide, from major cities like London (Book & Kitchen) and New York City (Blossom du Jour), to obscure places like Vatra Neamului, in Chişinău, Moldova. Each restaurant listing comes with a short description of the menu and user-generated reviews. US$3.99
NAVIGATE 7 COOL COUSIN
Collections of offthe-beaten-path recommendations from savvy residents in 14 destinations, such as a mixologist in London and an artist in Paris. Their suggestions aren’t ones you will find in a typical guidebook; expect hip new spots in emerging neighbourhoods.
Use the Offline Areas and Download features in Google Maps to save maps and directions to your phone.
For anyone missing the recently retired Maps feature on Instagram comes this new service that allows you to preview neighbourhoods with user-generated
Extra-long layover? Use this app to book a hotel room for a few hours to grab a shower, take a nap, or just freshen up after a red-eye. Dayuse offers hotel rooms for up to 75 per cent off regular nightly rates at 3,000 hotels around the world.
LODGING 10 CHATNBOOK
Call it Tinder for hotels. After you’ve entered your destination, dates,
and preferences (rating, free Wi-Fi, etc), the app (the Android version is still in beta)
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presents a series of property profiles with photos. Tap on the green thumbs-up or the red thumbs-down and you’ll later be contacted by the hotels you’ve ‘liked’ with their best rates.
Touting private rooms, fun communal spaces, and booze-fuelled events to bring together solo travellers, Hostelworld is the go-to app to book 33,000 hostels globally.
A cooler version of Airbnb? This
short-term-rental company has a handpicked list of coveted luxury apartments and homes in close to two dozen destinations, including Rio de Janeiro, Miami, and Milan. Guests can also use the app to access a 24/7 concierge to help with restaurant reservations, theater tickets, and tour bookings.
Similar to Hotel Tonight, the new app from the operator of Standard Hotels offers same-day stays at more than a dozen luxury hotels in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Austin,
photos. Want to check out an area before you book an Airbnb stay? With better photos than Google Maps, Streetography covers most major cities in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Russia, and Australia.
Plug in your destination and Walc will give you directions based on easy-tospot landmarks. A Pocket Mode feature gives step-by-step audio directions. Just plug in your earbuds, and you won’t have to constantly pull out your phone.
Review your carrier’s international plans. Turn off data roaming while overseas and disable GPS for seldom-used apps to save your battery.
Texas. Every day at 3 pm, the app unveils discounts for that evening. We recently saw rates of US$189 per night for the Standard Spa in Miami Beach and US$568 for a stay at New York’s 1 Hotel Central Park.
Use this app to get deep discounts on hotel rooms from people who have had to cancel their trips, and save 30 to 80 per cent. Likewise, if you’ve prepaid for a non-refundable room, you can sell your reservation on the app.
This browser-based customisable
search tool uses big-data analytics to comb through 37 million user reviews to determine the best places and neighbourhoods to stay in. Sort results by price or rating. triphappy.com
This vacationrental manager recently expanded to 15 states in the US. And it now also offers apartments and homes in Latin America, Italy, and Spain. Unlike VRBO or Airbnb, the properties are cleaned and managed by Vacasa, so you’re not dealing with the owner. vacasa.com
HEALTH & SAFETY
Alleviate jet lag and reset your sleep clock with the help of binaural beats—repetitive sounds that cultures around the world have relied on for centuries to create relaxed states of mind. Besides helping you sleep, the beats can
improve focus and attention, foster learning, and reduce anxiety, according to the app’s creators.
This locationsensitive personalsecurity app will provide a safety score reflecting health risks,
political uprisings, and environmental threats, and gives crowd-sourced information about thefts and assaults that have occured in the area.
20 MY PANDA
Founded in response to the 2015 Paris terror attacks, My Panda
US$160 transfer in a chauffeured Mercedes-Benz.
DRIVING 21 AUTOSLASH
With rates for car rentals fluctuating every day, it’s not easy to know if you got the cheapest price. AutoSlash asks you to input your car reservation details into its mobile site— an app is in the works for later this year— then tracks the rates for your dates and scouts competitor pricing, including coupons and discount codes. If a lower price for the same rental becomes available, you’ll be notified by e-mail and can rebook your reservation. autoslash.com
The new car sharing app from General Motors is taking on Zipcar as the most affordable shortterm-rental service on the market, starting at US$8 per hour for most vehicles and US$14 per hour for SUVs. The fleet features many Chevrolet brands, including the eco-friendly Volt. Every Maven vehicle is equipped with 24/7 OnStar assistance, remote start, Sirius XM radio, and Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto. It’s currently available in 10 cities in the US, with more coming.
Instead of taking your chances with an Uber after your flight lands, use Priceline-owned Rideways to book reliable airport transfers, taxi rides, trains, and buses in more than 500 cities worldwide. Just enter your trip details and the type of transportation you want, and the app presents you with several options; on a recent trip to Paris, we had the choice of taking two different buses to our hotel for US$5.30 each or splurging on a
Formerly known as RelayRides, the peer-to-peer app that lets you rent cars directly from their owners has received a big upgrade. Available to users in the US and Canada, Turo allows you to search for exactly the type of vehicle you want—often at prices lower than what the big rental agencies charge. We found a 2014 SUV for US$40 per day, while rates on Kayak were US$140 per day from Hertz and Avis. The company recently expanded into Europe.
Prebook affordable airport and other point-to-point transportation in a dozen metro areas across the United States. There are no surprises: travellers know in advance the total cost and who their driver will be— and can even request their favourite driver on future trips. Reliability and safety is a company hallmark: all drivers have had their DMV records checked.
tells you the level of security in the area via GPS. In some destinations, such as New York City and Los Angeles, there’s a feature for the fastest route to the nearest police station and the option to call local authorities with one tap.
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can put your phone or laptop at risk. Sign up for NordVPN (from US$5.75 per month) for your own virtual private network.
SMART MONEY 26 AIRHELP
Get paid for your cancelled, delayed, or overbooked flights. AirHelp goes to bat trying to help get disrupted travellers money for their woes: the average reimbursement is more than US$500 per claim, and the company takes a 25 per cent cut.
GAME 29 GEOGUESSR
This game for travel buffs will virtually drop you into a surprise location and then provide street-view photos to give you a clue about where you are. Play by yourself, or challenge friends. The app is free to download, but has optional in-app purchases.
Do you have extra space in your luggage? Consider subsidising your trip by selling it to a stranger looking to ship something. The app verifies the cargo and sender— and guarantees that you won’t be transporting anything illegal.
Great for group travel, PlanChat lets connected travellers construct their own itineraries. Add restaurants, activities, and sightseeing ideas, plus keep track of expenses. You can also use it to share photos and videos with the group.
PHOTOS 30 500PX
Looking for inspiration or ideas to spark your wanderlust? With better content than Instagram, this photo-sharing community showcases some of the world’s best photography. Each image comes with technical information, such as the type of camera used, shutter speed, and ISO.
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Upgrade 38 TRIP REPUBLIC
This aggregator offers one-stop shopping for trip planning—use it to search and book flights, hotels, and restaurants and to seek out top attractions. But, unlike most travel apps, which stop there, this one stands out because once a trip is selected, you can create an itinerary, update it, and
share it with fellow travellers.
Skylark pairs luxury hotels with premium- and economy-class flights to offer special rates on vacation packages. Deals are negotiated by travel agents, with savings of up to 50 per cent off published airfares and hotel rates. The US$400 annual
PLANNING 31 G SPOTTING
Yes, that’s what it’s called. The travel app from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop will help you find your pleasure zone with more than 25 destination guides curated by Goop editors, Paltrow, and her in-the-know friends. It’s geared primarily toward foodies, hipsters, art lovers, and travellers with kids. iOS only
Last fall, Airbnb launched its in-app Trips feature to offer specialised experiences to its guests. Want to take a sculpture class in London or a cooking class in Paris? Choose from a list of dozens of offerings hosted by locals, many with a social-impact bent, including an LGBTthemed bike ride in San Francisco and urban gardening in Los Angeles.
Savvy locals in more than 25 US cities share the lowdown on the best places to
eat, drink, shop, and party in their hometowns. Find the best Instagram spots in San Francisco, the best place to go rock climbing in Austin, Texas, romantic date spots in Chicago, and more. Additional US cities are coming later this year.
destination with classes on a variety of topics in more than 200 tongues. The subjects are broad and fun—gain insight on China’s ethnic groups, learn how to identify different kinds of spices in Polish, or pick up Pokémon terminology in French.
34 IRCTC RAIL CONNECT
36 TRAVEL+ LEISURE
For travellers in India, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation has facelifted its mobile app for railway and flight bookings. Download the app and you will be asked to set up a four-digit password that you will require each time you open it. Along with this security come more features and a userfriendly interface. You can use tatkal and premiumtatkal, check the status of your booking, and cancel tickets.
Learn more about the language and culture of your
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Our own app is filled with editor-curated hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and attractions in more than 65 destinations around the world. Use it to browse our recommendations, bookmark favourites, and build an itinerary. Make sure to download the guide for offline use if you’re travelling somewhere with spotty service.
37 SOLO TRAVELLER
If you’re hitting the road alone and looking to connect with like-minded people, use this app to plan sightseeing excursions, meals, and taxi shares with other travellers.
membership also includes a 24/7 concierge.
The metasearch travel site’s upgraded app lets you scour more than 700 sites at once to give you the lowest prices currently available for airfare and lodging, sometimes with better pricing results than Kayak or Momondo.
thoughtful list of three hotels in London but Lola also helped us book tickets to a sold-out West End show.
This travel agent and concierge rolled into one will construct a highly detailed itinerary for you that includes the best restaurants, sights, and events for your trip. Fees start at US$15 per day, and repeat customers can sign up for a flat-rate membership. iOS only
CONCIERGES 41 HELLO SCOUT
The concierge app used by boutique hotel companies Joie de Vivre, Viceroy, OLS, Waterford, and Provenance offers personalised service via in-app chat. Guests can use it to get insider tips and book restaurant reservations.
This chat-based app asks you to fill out a profile, then serves up customised hotel recommendations that you can use to book 2,75,000 properties worldwide. You can also message Lola’s team of 20 agents 24 hours a day. We not only got a
Use this app to get on-demand hairstyling and makeup application at five high-end New York City hotels. Sessions cost US$95 and up, and start as early as 6.30 am. Our stylist at the WestHouse Hotel left us with an immaculate blow-dry. iOS only
Dufl will house and launder an entirely separate travel wardrobe and ship it to your destination for a flat rate of US$99 for each round-trip, plus US$9.95 per month for storage.
PHUKET’S NEW OUTER REALM The dramatic and surreal Keemala resort
THE ULTIMATE DREAM LIST OF ASIA
Jaw-dropping locations and less-trodden trails
EVERYONE TO THE TABLE Israel’s culinary renaissance
STILL OR SPARKLING? Experience Champagne, sans fizz
PEACE IN THE VALLEY
A S H I S H C H AW L A
A divine communion in the Sacred Valley in Peru
In the day, the pathways around Keemala are a verdant green delight to the eyes. On her: Flower applique top, Olbees; Paper fabric skirt, Ilk; Imago ring, Outhouse.
On her: Flower applique top, Olbees; Paper fabric skirt, Ilk; Imago ring, Outhouse.
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In the day, the pathways around Keemala are a verdant green delight to the eyes. At night, the orchestra of nocturnal insects is incredible to the ears.
Be Charmed by
REALM PRODUCED BY
S T Y LING: DH WANI SHARMA (S T Y LEDRONE BY DH WANI) MODEL: JENN Y REI LOCATION: K EEMAL A, PHUK E T, THAIL AND
WHEN WE WERE LOCATION SCOUTING FOR OUR
COVER SHOOT FOR THE ASIA A-List issue, we wanted a place that was dramatic enough to prompt the question, “Wow, where’s that?” We wanted something that shows superlative design and luxury in a setting as familiar as Asia is to us. So that even when you hear the answer, it makes you ask incredulously, “Really?” Sometimes a clichéd destination will reinvent itself and surprise us. Phuket is a perfect example. A new crop of resorts like Keemala, with their exceptional focus on design and luxury, are setting the destination apart from its hackneyed image. We discovered a yoga cave secretly tucked behind a waterfall, exotic bird’s nest-like villas and treehouses each with a plunge pool that gives you a view over the rainforest canopy. We saw Keemala, and we knew immediately that we had found one of Asia’s most dramatic luxury properties. Over the last few years, Phuket had become known as a great value-for-money holiday for budget honeymooners, beachloving families, or large groups of sales managers brandishing bottles of beer while they’re in town on team-building or incentive-lead oﬀ-sites. Luxury travellers don’t mind spending an evening or two down in neighbourhoods like Patong or Karon, but for most part they’d rather enjoy more refined settings. Phuket’s older luxury properties were also beginning to look a little less appealing to the jaded jet-set. Enter a new slew of developments like Keemala. Making the northern parts of Phuket decidedly more chic and exciting. Opened in December 2015, Keemala was one of the most highly-anticipated hotel openings. The resort’s PR team had been tantalising travel journalists and industry members with morsels of renderings since mid 2015 that promised a ‘never-before-seen’ resort design and experience. Nestled on a slope amidst rainforests and just five minutes from Kamala beach, this member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World doesn’t disappoint at all. On our very first morning at the property, we stood setting up the shot at a vantage point, and we could see all the four diﬀerent types of villas rise along the hill before us. As the sky began to lighten, guests seemed to emerge from their villas out onto their private pool area. Even from this distance, it was clear that they were overwhelmed by their settings. They just couldn’t stop taking selfies and pictures of their villas. At a little above US$1,000
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A wooden footbridge connects once side of the property to another, right over a beautiful gorge and stream. On her: Satin shirt, Hemant & Nandita; Crinkle skirt, Ilk; Punk earcuffs, Itrana; Peep toe heels, Clarks.
A secret stairwell leads you from the restaurant down to the gym and gardens under the torch-like structures. On her: Checkered top, Zara; Checkered skirt, Zara; Imago earrings, Outhouse.
The ferns and verdant undergrowth across the resort reinforce its rainforest setting . On her: Turtle neck knit top, Vero Moda; Scalloped edge blouse, Fendi; Gold motif skirt, Fendi; Baroque earrings, Itrana; Lunar pearl ring, Itrana.
A crop of torch like structures are linked by passages and doors and serve as library, reading rooms and look out points at Keemala. On her: Shimmer lycra top, Hemant & Nandita; Striped dress with cascade neck, Hemant & Nandita; Platform shoes, AM.IT by Amit Aggarwal.
a night, these guests were clearly the sort who have stayed in luxury properties before. But even they seemed blown away. Keemala definitely isn’t for the rowdy bachelor partytype. Instead, it aims to create a magical and ‘other-worldly’ atmosphere for wellness and relaxation, but in the context of Phuket’s own culture and tradition. For this reason, the property is entirely made of materials sourced locally, the spa treatments, the food, and the philosophy is deeply rooted to Thai heritage. The owners believed they could oﬀer a higher and purer experience of the destination than what visitors have encountered in Phuket till now. Keemala’s design is born from a fictional story that embodies the spirit of ancient Phuket settlers. The fictional legend goes like this: once upon a time, in the days of the ancient maritime trade routes, an epic journey began merging eastern and western worlds. A caravan heading for China travelled together and the people formed a strong bond. While crossing the Indian Ocean, they encountered a major storm; the surviving ships were scattered in the roiling sea through the dark night. Once the storm passed, the battered caravan found itself adrift. With the guidance of skillful navigators, they followed the stars and landed on an island in the Andaman Sea known today as Phuket. Keemala and its grounds have been designed as an expansion of the surrounding landscape, making use of natural features such as grand old trees, streams, and waterfalls and integrating these into the overall design. The architecture of the four diﬀerent villa types reflects the skills and way of life of each of the diﬀerent fictional clans, and oﬀers guests 38 incredibly designed villas, each with their own individual pool and quite gloriously indulgent outdoor showers. Through the Clay Pool Cottages, the earthiness of the Pa-Ta-Pea clan is reflected, while the Tent Pool Villas have been designed to reflect the nomadic lifestyle of the KhonJorn tribe. The We-ha people worshipped the universe and chose to live suspended from trees so they could be closer to the sky—they have been represented by the Tree Pool Houses. Finally, the Bird’s Nest Pool Villas were inspired by the Rung-Nok community and symbolise their opulent way of life. Designed by a Thai firm called Architect Space, the majority of the building materials throughout the resort are natural, and resources found on site have been recycled. Wherever possible, the design is environmentally sustainable and the construction complements the surrounding ecosystem. The interriors were also designed by Thai talent Pisit Aongskultong from Pisud Design Company, who had the creative vision for the resort. The design focus for the landscaping utilises the concept of ‘life’ and ‘village’, and the existing topography and trees are still kept in their original condition. Many of the villas had to be designed in a way to incorporate these, so they didn’t have to be removed or cut down. Another unusal aspect of Keemala is that most of the vegetation here is made up of fruit trees. Outside our villas were trees laden with ripe chikoos, hanging over one of our villa pools were banana trees weighed down by massive bunches of half-ripe bananas. As you walk the pathways, or take the canopy walk over a suspended wooden bridge, you discover diﬀerent types of fruits, orchids, and herbs. Lemongrass near the spa, fresh basil near the clay pool cottages, vegetable gardens down near the resort pool, all emanating a rich bouquet of aromas. Many of the fresh TTRRAAVVEELL ++ LLEEIISSUURREE // M MAAYY 22001177
THIS PAGE: Secret pathways are a wonderful way to discover the flowers and fruit trees across Keemala.
On her: Dress with embroidered balloon sleeves, Siddartha Tytler; Papilio neckpiece, Outhouse; Dotted pumps, Clarks. OPPOSITE PAGE:
Enjoy a game of chess or try to follow the story depicted on the dazzlingly layed floor of the lobby at Keemala. On her: Embroidered mesh dress, Kartikeya; Instar gunmetal studs, Outhouse; Tie-up sandals, Zara.
The cocoon like spa rooms at the award winning Mala spa. On her: Chanderi dress with recycled disks, AM.IT by Amit Aggarwal; Scalloped hem blouse, AM.IT by Amit Aggarwal; Pearl choker, Outhouse; Pom-pom shoes, Zara.
By the pool in a Tree House pool villa. On her: Tie-up bikini set, H&M; Round frame sunglasses, Vero Moda; Copper ring, Itrana.
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COURTESY OF KEEMALA, PHUKET
THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE FOUR DIFFERENT VILLA TYPES REFLECTS THE SKILLS AND WAY OF LIFE OF EACH OF THE DIFFERENT FICTIONAL CLANS, AND OFFERS GUESTS 38 INCREDIBLY DESIGNED VILLAS, EACH WITH THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL POOL AND QUITE GLORIOUSLY INDULGENT OUTDOOR SHOWERS. Clockwise: The Tree House pool villas are two-level villas, the first level is the bedroom with a balcony, a curved staircase takes you down to the second level where there is a lounge and outdoor pool; the Bird’s Nest pool villas come with rock-edged pools that jut out from the side of the hill and offer amazing views of the sea; the Tree House pool villas from the outside.
ingredients can also be found incorporated into dishes at the resort’s restaurant. A big attraction for Indian visitors to Keemala is its Indian chef and extensive Indian menu. On our second day of shooting it began to pour, and being eager to show their talent in Indian cuisine, they rustled up brass bowls full of crisp onion bhajjias. Amidst the vegetable garden, we also met Keemala’s three resident water buﬀalos. If you’re taking a cooking class in this lovely setting, you can also learn about their daily routine and their significance to Thai culture. Born in the province of Phattalung in southern Thailand, the trio was rescued from the slaughterhouse and now make their permanent home at the resort. At Su-Tha restaurant, meals are served up inside an interior that echoes the theme of the four clans, although visually, you could mistake them for Maori patterns. Fabrics have been created to represent each tribe, and these have been used on the soft furnishings, produced by ethnic minority groups in Thailand under the Doi Tung Development Project, by the royal patronage of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Walls are crafted from wood, and feature elegant carvings and relief patterns. And when you have slept, swum, and eaten to your heart’s content, the team at Mala Spa is available with a range of treatments to help you de-stress and relax. Keemala also has a steady flow of visiting holistic practitioners who take up residency at certain times in the year. These gurus of wellness are present to conduct in-depth workshops designed for those who are looking to focus on inner wellbeing, and include sound healing, somato-experiencing and trauma release, traditional Chinese medicine, Mayan traditional massage, aromatherapy, vibrational attunement, and Maori traditional healing. No matter what villa option you choose, or the degustation or pampering, you can be certain of a remarkable and unforgettable stay. ▪ T R AV E L + L E I S U R E / M AY 2 0 1 7
Five Flower Lake during autumn, Jiuzhaigou National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Opposite: Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam.
A G E F O T O S T O C K / A L A M Y. O P P O S I T E : I M A G E B R O K E R /A L A M Y
Itâ€™s our Asia issue, and weâ€™re here again with jaw-dropping locations and
less-trodden trails in the exotic and exciting destinations to see in the region.
Places that are guaranteed to evoke a spirit of adventure and wanderlust,
and leave you bewitched by the natural beauty, cultural diversity, and one-of-a-kind experiences.
The Laotian Pho noodle soup differs from its Vietnamese cousin in the way the base stock is prepared. Opposite, clockwise: Japanese macaques lounge in the hot spring in winter; rear end of a caterpillar mimics a snake—spotted in Danum Valley, Borneo; a mother and calf Great Indian One horned Rhino cross a track in Kaziranga National Park; a Mekong cruise boat.
The cold Yudanaka, set in the snowy Japanese Alps are home to the Japanese Macaque. Known as snow monkeys, these adorable primates are right at home frolicking in the snow, and when they get a little cold, they just jump right into the hot springs to warm up. SEE THE ADORABLE SNOW MONKEYS IN THE
The cold climes of Yudanaka, set in the snowy Japanese Alps are home to the Japanese Macaque. Known as snow monkeys, these adorable primates are right at home frolicking in the snow, and when they get a little cold, they just jump right into the local hot springs to warm up. This gorgeous sight is a tourist drawcard, and while the monkeys are around year round, this is best experienced in the cooler months. The area around Yudanaka also oﬀers travellers hot springs, lovely ryokans, and even a small ski resort. SEE THE RHINOS AT
Kaziranga National Park
With over two-thirds of the world’s population of the one-horned or Indian rhinoceros, this is the major draw for conservation lovers to Kaziranga. Sightings are almost certain because of the high numbers. Located in Assam, the park has huge tracts of land covered in lush tall grasses, marshland and tropical forests, inhabited not only by the rhinos, but home also to tigers, elephants, wild water buﬀalo, and deer. It is also an important area for birdlife.
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AH P MO ATNOA CI M RAG E D EI TS / G E T T Y I M AG E S ; R I C H A R D G A R V E Y-W I L L I A M S /A L A M Y; AW L I M AG E S /G E T T Y I M AG E S ; R O S E M A RY H A R R I S /A L A M Y O P P O S I T E : S H U T T E R S TO C K
Matsuyama is known
across the country for
Onsen Honkan—a luxurious wooden bathhouse dating back to the 19 century—and visited by locals as well as tourists from around Japan. The distinctive architecture is steeped in tradition and includes the stunning castle th
Matsuyama-Jō, perched atop
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SEE THE TEMPLES OF
Angkor from the Air
The temples at Angkor, and particularly the world-renowned Angkor Wat, are a common bucket list feature. Seeing the temples at sunrise is an amazing experience as is travelling by tuk-tuk around the complex for some great photo opportunities, but nothing beats seeing them from a hot air balloon. Board a tethered balloon and head straight up for a bird’s-eye view of the ancient temples and a story you’ll be retelling for years to come. DISCOVER THE FOOD OF
While not famous for its cuisine like neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, the food in Laos is both delicious and unique. Get a taste of authentic Laotian food by joining the locals for dining experiences you’ll never forget. Try a cooking class surrounded by tropical greenery at one of Luang Prabang’s best restaurants, or join a local family in their home to try some of the traditional jaew dips. Surrounded by lush rice fields, learn to cook bamboo sticky rice in a bamboo hut, before a picnic at the refreshing Kuang Si Falls. VISIT A NUNNERY IN
Buddhism is an intrinsic part of the culture in Myanmar where it is practiced by nearly 90 per cent of the population. Visiting a monastery is a common activity for tourists to Myanmar, however for those looking to get oﬀ the beaten path, a visit to a local nunnery is a unique experience—meeting the nuns and sharing lunch is so heartwarming you’ll find yourself reflecting on it in future. MEET THE PEOPLE OF
PC HH ORTIOS C WRI LELDSI T O N /A L A M Y
Yunnan province in China
Matsuyama Castle during the Cherry Blossom season, Shikoku, Japan.
This is a side to China you would be surprised by. Ethnic minorities make up about a third of the population in Yunnan, with 26 diﬀerent groups giving the region exceptional diversity. Near the village of Xizhou, you can visit a local market, where you’ll find a Bai ethnic minority community going about their daily lives. The small town of Shigu is on the ‘tea and horse’ road, an ancient road traversed by caravans through dangerous hills and rivers across the roof of the world, where few tourists venture. Meet the Naxi people and listen to traditional music in Lijiang. Further on in Zhongdian, Tibetan families welcome you into their home for a cup of yak butter tea, giving you a chance to learn more about their life and culture. T TRRAAV VE EL L ++ L LE EI SI SUURRE E / / MMAAY Y2 20 01 17 7
SLEEP IN THE WORLD’S MOST LUXURIOUS TENTS IN
Yala, Sri Lanka
Take a walk on the wild side, and step into the protected jungle home of some of the rarest animals on the planet in Yala National Park. With one of the world’s most dense populations of the majestic leopard, this Sri Lankan premier ecotourism destination oﬀers the chance to experience the untamed wild. See glorious peacocks, mighty elephants, sloth bears, sambars and crocodiles. Prepare to be stunned by the varied ecosystem that shapes the home of the rich diversity of animals. Your journey will see you traverse rainforests that lead into grasslands, and wetlands that open up to sandy beaches. Hunt for signs of a lost civilisation and have a peek into the region’s brilliant past. Sithulpawwa, an ancient Buddhist monastery with a history of over 2,000 years—among many other temples—oﬀers insight into
the days of Sri Lankan kings and a thriving civilisation. Opening this October is the ultraluxurious ‘glamp’ stay called Wild Coast Tented Lodge by Resplendent Ceylon—the same hotel group that also created the incredible Cape Weligama property. SPEND A NIGHT CRUISING ON THE
Mekong Delta in Vietnam
Known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, the lush fields of the delta are crisscrossed with tributaries of the Mekong River. Travelling by boat here is the norm, with houses and markets floating alongside. Cruising the languid waters is a peaceful pastime, but spending the night afloat gives travellers the chance to experience the peace of this region in new ways. DIVE INTO THE EMERALD WATERS OF
Define your own path and be awed by Indonesian Papua’s incredible landscapes and the warmth of its diverse cultures. Dive- and eco-resorts are set amid lush tropical forest and some of the richest biodiversity found on Earth. The Raja Ampat islands are some of the most stunning in the world, with spectacularly clear turquoise seas and lush foliage that blanket the towering mountains. Delve beneath the depths of the crystal waters to get up close and personal
From above: The cocoon-like luxury tents at Wild Coast Tented Lodge, Yala, Sri Lanka. Opposite: Tourists take a boat ride in Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
THE KING KONG ITINERARY
If King Kong were not a figment of some moviemaker’s imagination, there’s a very good chance he’d have climbed out of the wilds of Vietnam, where producers of Kong: Skull Island filmed much of the soon-to-debut movie.
L O N E LY P L A N E T I M A G E S / G E T T Y I M A G E S . O P P O S I T E : W I L D C O A S T T E N T E D L O D G E ( 2 )
That’s why Exotic Voyages is leading a discovery tour of other-worldly settings in actual Vietnam where much of the movie was shot. “There are natural settings in Vietnam, off the beaten tourist path, that are as raw and unbelievable as King Kong himself,” said Andrew Carroll, global head of sales and marketing at Exotic Voyages. “That’s why the filmmakers came here. That’s why so many travellers come here.” Launched this month, the ten-day trip, ‘Kong’s Vietnam,’ ventures into the depth of Vietnam from Quang Binh Province to Halong Bay, where dramatic limestone karst mountains provide a primeval backdrop for Kong’s adventures. In Quang Binh, the exploration plumbs the massive caverns of Phong Nha and Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Indeed, the UNESCO World Heritage site claims some of the top caves in the world, holding records for the longest underground river, the highest and
longest cave, the broadest and most beautiful fine sand beaches within a cave, and the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. The 31-kilometre Paradise Cave is also the longest dry cave in Asia. Also in Quang Binh travellers will visit Nuoc Mooc stream for a picnic lunch, surrounded by dense tropical jungle and celestial limestone karsts.
spectacular waterways and the country’s unique limestone landscapes. The country’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, round out the agenda. Kong’s Vietnam is the latest installment in a series of packages that deliver travellers direct to the sites of their favourite movies. In September last year, Exotic Voyages launched ‘A Modern Take On Classic James Bond,’ inspired by the 1974 film and its locations in Thailand and Hong Kong.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay, another major shooting location for the film, is also on the itinerary. You can see the towering karsts and teal waters as King Kong would have—from high above. A scenic seaplane tour gives a bird’s eye view over the 1,600 isles and islands that pepper the Gulf of Tonkin, and an overnight cruise on the bay immerses visitors in its raw beauty.
Prices begin from US$2,055 for the 10-day trip, exclusive of flights, meals not mentioned in full itinerary and drinks during meals. The package is available from now till December 10th, 2018. For more details, visit exoticvoyages.com/kingkong-tour.
Another tour highlight is a traditional sampan boat ride deep into the Van Long Nature Reserve in Ninh Binh, an often overlooked destination on the Vietnam circuit. Ninh Binh features
If you would like to experience the world’s largest cave, Son Doong Cave, at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park you will have to book around one year in advance due to restrictions on the number of visitors.
with the majestic whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay Marine Park. Thanks to lively fishing activity by local fishermen, their presence is a daily occurrence all-year-round. FEEL LIKE A ROMANTIC KOREAN MOVIE STAR IN
Gyeongju, South Korea
Often referred to as ‘the museum without walls,’ this charming city will take you back in time and capture your imagination with its rich history. This coastal city in South Korea is one of the country’s oldest, with human settlement dating back to the prehistoric period. Once the ancient capital of the Silla dynasty, where it became a booming cosmopolitan city, today it oﬀers exploration of Silla-era architecture and has the largest number of palace ruins, temples, pagodas, and tombs in South Korea. The Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a beautiful example of ancient Korean artistry and home to many important relics. A stroll around the Gyeongju National Park will open your eyes to even more stunning architecture, museums and monuments, and meticulously curated gardens. Take the bullet train down from Seoul in just a few hours, and stay in the Hilton Gyeongju or the Park Hyatt in nearby Busan. TAKE A HELICOPTER RIDE OVER BEARS AND VOLCANOES IN
Situated in the Russian Far East, Kamchatka is a unique landscape where fire meets ice, alive with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and the world’s TTRRAAVVEELL ++ LLEEI S I SUURREE / / MMAAYY 22001 177
Japan’s oldest Onsen
Make a journey to the relatively remote island of Shikoku’s largest city to appreciate the beauty and intricacies of Japanese architecture, literary tradition and that for which it’s most famous— the oldest hot spring in Japan. Matsuyama is known across the country for Dōgo Onsen Honkan—a luxurious wooden bathhouse dating back to the 19th century—and visited by locals as well as tourist from around Japan. The distinctive architecture is steeped in tradition and includes the stunning castle Matsuyamajō, perched atop Mount Katsuyama. As the centrepiece of the city, a wander up through this trove of artefacts gives you a stunning view of the streets below and the distant harbour. For an extraordinary guest experience, stay at the brand new contemporary art museum-cum-luxury seven-suite Setouchi Aonagi hotel, designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando.
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C L O C K W I S E : PA K O R N L O PAT TA N A K I J /A L A M Y; PA S C A L M A N N A E R T S /A L A M Y; I M A G E S & S T O R I E S /A L A M Y
The country is known for its bustling, modern, fast-changing cities, but not for its natural experiences— although it’s home to 225 national parks. Some of the most spectacular are the mistshrouded Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, which played a role in inspiring the world of Pandora in James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar, the country’s only tropical natural reserve Xishuangbanna at the south end of Yunnan province, and Sichuan’s mountainous nature reserve, Jiuzhaigou, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau.
highest concentration of brown bears, which gather in droves on riverbanks during salmon spawning season, making quite an incredible site. Arriving by plane is the only practical way to reach this land of uninhabited wilderness, and exploring by helicopter is de rigeur. The Valley of the Geysers is perhaps the most wellknown part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Volcanoes of Kamchatka, and is made up of over 20 other-worldly geysers, bubbling and spitting out water. This 1,250-mile peninsula is a worthwhile visit for adventurers keen on trekking and exploring a region of primal beauty.
THE STUNNING FIVE FLOWER LAKE IN CHINA’S JIUZHALGOU NATURE RESERVE.
PCHLO O TCOK W C RI SEED: IPA T S C A L M A N N A E R T S /A L A M Y; S H U T T E R S TO C K ; I M AG E B R O K E R / A L A M Y
Clockwise: Five Flower Lake in Sichuan, China; a portrait of a Pamiri woman in front of her house in Bulunkul village, GBAO province, Tajikistan; yaks graze near Karakul lake in Pamir, Tajikistan; Khanom Buang, a sweet Thai snack also found at street vendors in Luang Prabang, Laos; a brown bear by the shore of a stream in Kamchatka, Russia; aerial view of the Danum Valley, Borneo.
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JAPAN’S DREAMY BEACHES YOU DIDN’T KNOW SUNAYAMA BEACH
Silk Road in Tajikistan
Sunayama Beach on Miyako island in Japan is known for its crystal clear blue water and coral lagoons with natural arch ways. Opposite, from top: Unusual rocky outcrops in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand; nuns walk for Alms in Bagan, Myanmar; the emerald green waters at Kuang Si Falls in Laos.
Take a journey along the ancient Silk Road as it twists and turns its way through the rich history and culture of this landlocked country. Dushanbe, its hazy capital city—encircled by an army of magnificent mountains—is a fast-growing metropolis. Visitors can be swept up by the hustle and bustle of the city’s shopping or nightlife or choose the life of blissful meandering through their wide, tree-lined avenues and botanical gardens. For those looking for more extreme nature-based adventures, Tajikistan does not disappoint. The strikingly serene Iskanderkul, a mineral-rich mountain lake of glacial origin, is a stunning example of the world’s bodies of water, as reflective and still as a mirror. Avid climbers and hikers should venture to what is referred to as The Roof of the World, as you trek through the exquisitely breathtaking slopes of the Pamir Mountains. TAKE A CANOPY WALK IN
Danum Valley, Malaysian Borneo
This ancient tropical forest in this extremely remote corner of Malaysian Borneo is almost completely cut oﬀ from the rest of the world and very few travellers ever make it to this valley. Those who wish to walk among the treetops are elevated up to 26m above the
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Japan has its very own sandbar that appears and disappears depending on the water tides. When it does appear, you’ll find Yurigahama Beach and your own piece of paradise.
This white curved beach with an impressive reef lies on Japan’s west coast and has become a mecca for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts.
HATENOHAMA CAY BEACH
This coral sand cay is popular with kite surfers and is a 30-minute flight from the Okinawa Main Island.
This uninhabited island sits 1,000km south of Tokyo in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Popular for diving and snorkelling, it’s also widely photographed for its incredible rock formation.
YONAHA MAEHAMA BEACH
This seven-kilometre white sand beach offers many marine sports including snorkelling, jet boating and parasailing.
One of the most photographed spots in Japan thanks to its beautiful scenery. Swimming is not allowed due to strong currents and jelly fish; however, glass bottomed boats over the coral reefs below are popular.
With a crescent shaped bay and shallow turquoise water, this tiny island also has preserved Japanese villages and traditional homes.
Found on Japan’s southernmost inhabited island, it’s all about blue ocean and white sand.
IPPEI NAOI/GET T YIMAGES
RIDE A HORSE ON THE ANCIENT
Known for its iconic arch-shaped rock formation, created by centuries of crashing waves cutting a natural gate into the coral wall, this is a typical Okinawa beach with white sand and blue water.
ground on a network of canopy walkways. Sabah’s strict conservation rules let wildlife reign supreme. Keep your eyes peeled as the forest’s extensive biodiversity means enormous opportunities to spot rare animals such as the clouded leopard, orangutan, and Asian elephant. Keen naturalists will be excited by its complex ecosystem, encountering cascading waterfalls, a variety of verdant foliage and—if you choose to do a private night walk—wild nocturnal creatures. FEEL THE ENERGY AT ONE OF
Asia’s oldest pagodas in Myanmar Since easing border restrictions and opening its doors to the world in 2012, Myanmar’s phenomenal hidden gems are slowly getting some attention. One of these is Mrauk U, now more easily accessible thanks to the new and comparatively appealing two-hour boat ride from Sittwe up the Kaladan River—the alternative to the seven-hour slow ferry. Mrauk U is one of the most important archaeological sites in Rakhine state, where you can witness some of the oldest pagodas in the country. Many of these have not been touched by restoration, allowing nature to adorn the structures with moss and foliage, giving it an air of long-gone days. Experience the true delights of the landscape after climbing up Mrauk U’s steep hills at sunrise; prepare to be blown away by the stunning view, as fog dances between the pagodas and the sprawling hills and marshes between. ENJOY THE GREAT
F R O M A B O V E : A I VA R M I K K O /A L A M Y; N I K W H E E L E R /A L A M Y; I S T O C K / G E T T Y I M A G E S
Outdoors in Taipei
Taipei has all the energy one would expect from an Asian capital city—its skyline defined by skyscrapers. This sprawling metropolis is the merging of the best of many worlds; a food connoisseur’s paradise, city slickers’ delight, history buff’s dream, and nature fanatic’s adventure. In essence, whatever you decide to look for, Taipei’s got you covered. In one day you can get your cultural fixes at the National Palace Museum or National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine, and embrace the outdoors through natural excursions found at the Yangmingshan National Park or Beitou Hot Spring. Marvel at Tai 101, once the tallest building in the world, as well as the panoramic views of the rest of the city from its 89th floor, and end the day sampling local treats as you explore the hive of activity that is the Shilin and Raohe Street Night Markets. Taipei also boasts some of the world’s finest hotels including the Mandarin Oriental and the W. ▪
k i c k i n g t h e b u c k e t l i s t I t ’s g r e a t t o h a v e t r a v e l g o a l s , b u t f o r t h e p e r i p a t e t i c writer PICO IYER— author of books like The Global Soul a n d Falling of f the Map — t h e r e
are better ways to discover the world.
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SH U TT E R STOC K
y spirited friend Alice was overjoyed when she and her husband, Scott, scored a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the hyper-exclusive, 10-seat Tokyo sushi bar inside a subway station that was featured in the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A concierge who had a special relationship with Jiro had actually walked Alice and Scott’s request over to the restaurant two months in advance. After my friends got oﬀ their flight from San Francisco, they reminded themselves that their 20-course feast would begin at 5:30 on the dot, and, in keeping with house rules, they would not be allowed to wear strong perfume, collarless shirts, or sandals. But lunch with colleagues the next day ran unexpectedly late and proved unexpectedly large. And 5:30pm was, of course, after midnight for their Californian stomachs. By the time they arrived, they already felt overstuﬀed, even as they were reminded that they had to complete their 20 courses in roughly 20 minutes—house rules again! As one dish after another arrived, Alice began, quite literally, to fear she’d throw up. Yes, they were awarded a printed souvenir menu and a snapshot with Jiro, three weeks before President Obama ate there. But by the time they returned to their hotel, US$600 poorer, sushi was no longer their favourite food. I was still chuckling over Alice’s hilarious account of her mishap when my wife reminded me about my visit to a gorgeous Moroccan resort I’d been dreaming of ever since its opening 15 years earlier. Not long after I’d been shown to my private, US$1,400-a-night villa—which came with a private pavilion, private swimming pool, and private fountain—the handle to my private gate clattered to the ground. Soon after, the electricity gave out across my mini-fiefdom—because of the private fountain, I was told. The second time this happened, at 4:16 am, the staﬀ declined even to answer my call. “You remember what the Dalai Lama says every time someone asks him why she hasn’t realised her dream of changing the world overnight?” asked my wife, who is Japanese and devoutly Buddhist to boot. “Yes,” I sighed. “ ‘Wrong dream!’ ” I get the idea of a bucket list, I really do. I was as inspired as anyone by the movie that popularised the term, in which Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman resolved to do everything they most wanted to do after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. We all need dreams—of ballooning over the temples of Bagan, in Myanmar, or airboating across an alligator-infested swamp, as a website specialising in bucket-list itineraries touts one of its adventures—to sustain us. Bucket lists provide a clarifying sense of direction. When my mother, recently widowed, turned 67, I started saving up to take her once every year to all the places she’d been dreaming of since she was a little girl. At Angkor Wat and Easter Island, in Syria and Jordan and St Petersburg, she came away exhilarated. But bucket lists fly in the face of the first two laws of travel:: that on any good trip our expectations will be upended, and
that most of us don’t know what to look for until we see it. One reason people love Paris, I suspect, is not the Louvre or Notre Dame, but that ‘forgotten’ backstreet café they can believe they’ve ‘discovered’ while getting lost on the way to the Eiﬀel Tower. And to me, the monumental stone heads of Easter Island could never be as impressive as the utterly unexpected replica moai that guard my health club in Japan. What really ravished me on the island was the sleepy Polynesian beauty of the main street, down which locals in pareos sashayed with a laidback ease I’d never witnessed in Tahiti. The whole point of travel, for me at least, is to have my sense of possibility expanded, to see every box in which I like to put things exploded—and to be reminded that life generally has plans for us much wiser than the ones we might have concocted ourselves. One of the main things bucket lists teach us is the folly of treating places and experiences as collectibles. I have friends, not hugely wealthy, who dream of visiting Dublin in hopes of seeing Bono, or of flying to eastern Tibet to meditate with a sage. But Bono has surely oﬀered us far more already in his constant interviews and concerts than he could ever do when surprised by a fan in his favourite pub. And the sage, if he’s the real thing, will surely tell anyone who asks that the whole point of meditation is that it can be practiced no less usefully in East Orange, New Jersey. Yes, there are worthy souls whose bucket lists involve working with the dispossessed in Haiti or building houses for the poor in the Philippines. But the fact remains that the third law of travel is that happiness is very often commotion recollected in tranquillity: Alice would never have come away with such a funny and memorable story of her visit to Jiro had everything gone according to plan. Monks in both East and West have always seen the wisdom of asking yourself what you most want to do if you have very little time left—and maybe such ideas can be inspirations, so long as you never count on realising them. I’ve been longing to visit Mount Athos, in northern Greece, ever since a school friend described his trip there 40 years ago, but I realise I’ll be no poorer if I never get there. One of the most indelible and exhilarating places I’ve seen in recent years was Little Rock, Arkansas—in part because I’d never dreamed of wanting to go there. After experiencing the irony on display in its museums, the kindness of the Zen students I met, and the wit of the Graham Greene–loving Harley riders I ran into on the main drag, I found myself urging friends to put Arkansas on their itineraries. Besides, wherever you disembark, you’ll soon learn that the curious and magnetic people you meet have dreams of their own—dreams of freedom and peace and the chance to see San Francisco. My bucket list thesee days consists mostly of empty space.
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T OW NS A N D V I L L AG E S T H ROUG HOU T ISR A EL A R E I N T H E M I DS T OF A C U L I N A RY R E N A I S S A NC E T H AT C E L E BR AT E S T H E R E G ION ’ S H I S T ORY A N D T H E DI V E R S I T Y OF I T S PE OPL E . SA K I K N A F O BR E A K S PI TA . Photographs by Sivan Askayo
The minaret of Al-Jazzār Mosque, in Akko, seen from the Efendi Hotel. Opposite: Whole fish baked in parchment paper with butter and herbs at Majda, in Ein Rafa.
THE MENU DE SC R I BE D THEM A S FA L A F E L BA L L S . THEY WERE
At least, they weren’t like any falafel balls I’d ever tasted, and I’ve tasted many. During my 30 SH A PE D years of visiting Israel, I have become something of an expert L I K E FA L A F E L on falafel, and I can tell you that it is a quintessentially humble food. For generations, the BA L L S . people of the Fertile Crescent have been dropping clumps BU T T H E Y of mashed chickpeas into vats of sizzling oil, and while the vary, they don’t vary W E R E recipes much. What you don’t expect, when you order falafel, is to NOT FA L A F E L bite into a rose-gold sphere of succulent shrimp dusted ever so BA L L S . lightly in panko. But that is what you get when you order the falafel at Majda, an acclaimed restaurant in the hills outside Jerusalem. My wife, Lila, and I spent a lovely afternoon on the terrace there last summer, taking the first of many bites on a trip across a country that is in the process of joyfully reinventing its cuisine. When I visited Israel as a kid in the 1980s, the food was nothing special. My dad grew up on a kibbutz where oranges grew in sprawling groves, but most of the fruit ended up in crates bound for Europe. In the dining hall, the orange farmers stirred orange-flavoured syrup into cups of seltzer. Before the tech boom, Israel had no restaurant culture to speak of. The only restaurant I can remember was a grill at a gas station where the no-nonsense servers slapped down steaks tough enough to patch a tire. By then Israeli Jews had developed an infatuation with Arab street food (falafel, hummus, cucumber-and-tomato salat) but hadn’t yet become hip to their neighbours’ more complex dishes, which weren’t commonly served outside the home, like shurbat freekeh, a soup of green wheat, and maqluba, a manylayered casserole of rice, eggplant, potatoes, cauliflower, and sometimes meat. Most Jews were still getting to know the land and what it oﬀered. How was a kibbutznik raised by Polish or Moroccan immigrants supposed to understand what to do with the plumes of sumac that grow wild in the Judean Hills? What did the children of the diaspora know about the mixture of local wild herbs called za’atar? A generation later, Israeli chefs receive glowing coverage in the world’s top food magazines. Most gastronomes worth
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their Maldon sea salt have heard of Meir Adoni, who helped put Tel Aviv on the international fine-dining map when he opened the celebrated Catit in 2002. Though Adoni closed it and its more playful sibling, Mizlala, last December to concentrate on opening his first New York City restaurant, Nur, he still has two other establishments in Tel Aviv, Blue Sky and Lumina. But while much has been written about Tel Aviv’s new culinary temples, the fine cooking of the countryside, where the ties to the land are strongest, is less well known. So when I took Lila to Israel for the first time, we planned a side excursion from Jerusalem to the desert in the south, then to the hills in the north, skirting the urban sprawl in the middle, eating wherever we went. Religion doesn’t interest Lila; I couldn’t see her getting excited about a hike up Masada. Fortunately, though, she is fond of the work of Yotam Ottolenghi, the pioneering Israeli-born chef whose 2011 cookbook Jerusalem contributed further to the surge of excitement over modern Israeli cuisine. Thanks to Ottolenghi’s brilliant and distinctive way with the multi-ethnic flavours of his native land, Lila associates Israel not just with God and the Conflict but also with the sultry appeal of smoked eggplant, mashed with a fork and bejewelled with pomegranate seeds. I promised her that there was more where that came from.
n Jerusalem, the sun burned hot and bright, and only the shady maze of the Old City oﬀered an escape. We walked the stone streets, fending oﬀ the shopkeepers with their stockpiles of oil lamps and wooden camels. At last it was time to eat. Rather than cede a few shekels to vendors hawking sesame-encrusted Jerusalem bagels (bigger holes, lighter dough), we left the commotion of the city behind. Olive and pine trees dotted the brown fields. We turned oﬀ the highway onto a narrow road and began our crawl through the Arab village of Ein Rafa. We got lost a few times, but eventually found it: Majda, a surf shack of a restaurant painted the same shade as the sky, with accents of pistachio green and pomegranate red. Ottolenghi had proclaimed it one of his favourite restaurants in Israel, which seemed to bode well. We sat in the leafy, overgrown garden, where wild herbs and flowers spiced the air and the mismatched tables were topped with salvaged mosaic tiles. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of branches. Majda’s husband-and-wife owners, Yaakov Barhum and Michal Baranes, are central to its appeal. Barhum is Muslim; Baranes is Jewish. Stories of thriving Arab-Israeli
Clockwise: Uri Jeremias, the chef-owner of the Akko restaurant Uri Buri, at a nearby shuk; the second-floor lobby at the Efendi Hotel; a spinach-and-citrus salad at Uri Buri; the seawall around Akko, which has stood for nearly three centuries.
The Negev desert near Carmey Avdat Farm, in southern Israel.
OU R SE RV E R A N NOU NC E D T H AT T H E R E WA S NO M E N U. THEN THE M A R AT HON BEG A N.
couples are so rare that if the restaurant served only schnitzel, it would be a remarkable place. Suffice it to say, the restaurant doesn’t serve schnitzel. We began with that surprising ‘falafel,’ then moved on to a flaky white fish crammed gills to tail with woody stalks of herbs. It arrived in a parcel of burnt parchment paper twisted at the ends, with a puﬀy white blossom for decoration. The cast-iron pan of peppery tomato sauce and fresh sardines was a fishy riﬀ on shakshuka, the beloved Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a vegetable ragoût. After the meal, we wandered into the kitchen, where Barhum greeted us with an easy smile, put down the bowl of harissa he was mixing, and told us about the origins of the restaurant. He and Baranes—who was juggling four or five pans on the stove—met some 30 years ago while working together at a guesthouse at a nearby kibbutz. They fell in love, and she moved to Ein Rafa to live with him. There, she began learning traditional cooking from his sisters and mother. Eventually, she started to channel their recipes into something new. The restaurant attracted a following in Israel, but its reputation didn’t explode until 2013, when Anthony Bourdain featured it on Parts Unknown. Majda is now famous in Israel both for what it serves and for what it symbolises, and Barhum seemed well aware of his role as an ambassador for cultural harmony both inside the kitchen and out. “When you look at history, Muslims, Jews, Christians always fighting—why?” he asked us. “Why not be gentle?”
he next day, we drove south into the Negev desert, through scrubby hills that gave way to stubbly wheat fields, which then turned to canyons slashing through barren expanses of rock. The grape vines appeared out of nowhere, tucked into a fold between two parched slopes. Hannah and Eyal Izrael, the founders of Carmey Avdat, built their vineyard 18 years ago on the remains of an ancient Nabatean settlement. Evidently, the Nabateans had figured out how to grow grapes there 1,500 years earlier: the land had been terraced to capture water from the flash floods that sweep across the desert in winter. We stayed in one of the guest huts, in a kind of glamping setup complete with pebble floors and a stone plunge pool just outside the door. Hopping between the pool and a hammock in the shade of a fig tree was a relaxing way to wait out the heat. When the immobilising sun finally began to sink behind the rocky outcrop overlooking the farm, we ventured down to the winery for a tasting. Most Americans’ ideas about Israeli wine don’t go beyond the syrupy stuﬀ you might knock back at Passover. But over the past two decades, acclaimed boutique vintners have sprung up throughout the country. A decade ago, Robert Parker, the high priest of wine critics, gave top marks to two Israeli wines, including the 2003 Yatir Forest, a red from a winery an hour north of Carmey Avdat. I’m no Robert Parker, but the Chenin Blanc from Shvo Vineyards
I had with dinner one night in Tel Aviv was light and floral and, all in all, pretty damn good. Though Carmey Avdat helped launch the wine trend in Israel, it isn’t at the level of some of the country’s newer labels. But it gets the job done. We grabbed a carafe and hiked up a sandy slope scattered with boulders and scrub grass that overlooked the vineyard. Previous travellers—Nabateans, bedouins—had scratched inscrutable symbols onto the stones. Night was approaching, and the desert, stretching as far as the eye could see, was turning gold.
t the shuk in Jerusalem, we had stocked up on snacks for the road trip: dried pineapple, saltysweet banana chips glazed with date juice, and dried hibiscus flowers, garnet-coloured and just tart enough to summon memories of the Sour Patch–fuelled road trips of our youth. Our route passed through the ruins of infrastructure built for much earlier road-trippers. We stopped to tour what was left of Avdat, a city founded in the third century BC by Nabatean incense traders passing through the Negev on camels. From there, we drove up the coast, past Tel Aviv, toward Habait Be’EinHud, a showcase of traditional Palestinian cooking in the Arab village of Ein Hawd, near Haifa. There are two things that are challenging about eating at Habait. The first is getting there. Google Maps guided us only as far as a town in the valley below. As the road thinned and the pines and cedars thickened, the nice lady in my phone instructed us to ‘take a right at missing name.’ Locals directed us to the restaurant, a two-storey block of concrete and glass with a sweeping view of the hills and the sparkling Mediterranean beyond. Our server, wearing a T-shirt that said #girlboss, announced that there was no menu. Then, the marathon began. First came cold salads and dips—hummus, baba ghanoush, pickled cauliflower and carrots and olives, tabbouleh that consisted almost entirely of parsley, spicy red mahoumarra. Then lentil soup, bright and complex, its broth so fresh I would not have been surprised to find the head of a chicken still blinking at the bottom of the bowl. I glanced at the bread basket and saw that our server had provided only a single pita. Naively, I asked for more. #Girlboss gave us a sideways look before retreating to the kitchen. I would soon understand why. The hot appetisers included cigars of rice rolled in vine leaves as delicate as nori and stuﬀed peppers bathed in tomato sauce. Then came the roast chicken with a dipping sauce of piney herbs. And the chunks of slow-cooked lamb snuggled against a golden cupola of rice. And the misshapen, nutty lamb cakes drowned in tahini-thickened gravy. By now, you can probably guess the second thing that is challenging about eating at Habait. “I think there is no more,” our server announced after we confessed that we were feeling full. T R AV E L + L E I S U R E / M AY 2 0 1 7
A few of the dishes at Habait, in Ein Hawd, including tabbouleh, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and mansaf (lamb with saffron rice).
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Oh, but there was. Despite her promise, she set down four more plates before finally leaving us. By the end of two hours, we had somehow vanquished most of 30 dishes. As we staggered out of the restaurant, an Israeli tour bus pulled up. Israelis—Jewish Israelis—love Arab cooking. Maybe it has something to do with a hunger for a certain kind of authenticity, a visceral connection to the land that the Jewish people only dreamed of during all those years in exile eating matzo ball soup. Whatever the reason, Ein Hawd has benefited from Habait’s popularity in at least one unexpected way. The village got connected to the electrical grid only 10 years ago, after an executive from the national power company came to the restaurant for lunch and learned that her amazing meal had been cooked on a stove powered by a generator.
e continued on to Akko, also known as Acre, an ancient walled city on the sea near the Lebanese border. The route followed the dips and curves of the Mediterranean coast before plunging into a tunnel bored through Mount Carmel, the ridge that lies just below Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. We stopped at a lively beach nestled in the hammock of shoreline between Haifa and Akko, where locals snacked on watermelon and puﬀed on hookahs. Sitting there, listening to the competing streams of techno surging from the sound systems of multiple cafés, we could see the medieval contours of Akko in the distance, the old clock tower and the pinegreen minaret rising above the rough stone houses and the famous seawall. The city is known for an unusual coming-ofage tradition: boys become men in the eyes of their friends by diving 30 feet from that wall into the sea. As we strolled along the top of the wall that evening, we saw a young man take a running leap and plunge headfirst into the waves. Come morning, fishmongers would set out plastic crates of their gleaming catch in the snaking stone alleyways of the shuk, and in the little dens built into the walls, hummus maestros would dole out bowls of the famous Akko version— chunky, with a topping of whole boiled chickpeas and minced parsley. Akko is what is known in Israel as a ‘mixed city,’ home to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. During the Crusades, it served as the main port for traders bearing goods bound for Jerusalem, and it retains the relatively openminded sensibility of port cities everywhere. That spirit of inclusivity is what inspired the chef Uri Jeremias to make it his home. “We should live together,” he explained after our meal, “because there is no other choice.” Jeremias, a Buddha with a Moses beard, had never worked in the food industry before opening Uri Buri in 1989. The restaurant has since become renowned for unpretentious seafood that defies categorisation, ethnic or otherwise. As Jeremias explained, “What the dishes have in common is that I like to eat them.” We agreed to let the kitchen choose our dishes, omakase-style. Each featured a surprising combination of the freshest ingredients,
simply prepared. We had the sense that Jeremias was toying with our assumptions about what Israeli food should be. How else to explain the flash-seared nuggets of tuna in a creamy sea of olive oil and yogurt? Who, but a trickster deity of the kitchen, would have looked at a plate of thinly sliced salmon, soy sauce pooling in the gentle folds, and thought, What this needs is a scoop of wasabi ice cream? In 2012, Jeremias opened a hotel near Uri Buri called the Efendi: 12 airy rooms in a painstakingly refurbished Ottoman palace. Nearby, he has an ice cream shop, Endomela. He took us there the morning after our dinner to sample flavours like cardamom and guava. I had never tried cardamom ice cream before, not in Israel, not anywhere, and like so many of the things I’d tasted on the trip, it made me think about how much the country’s cuisine had evolved since the days of orange syrup on my father’s kibbutz. Later, in the marble lobby of the Efendi, I asked Jeremias if he had changed his own cooking since opening Uri Buri back in that era. Frowning and placing his hands on his belly, he invoked an ancient Hebrew expression: “God forbid if not.”
THE DETAILS HOTELS Akkotel This 16-room boutique hotel is embedded within Akko’s old city wall. The rooftop café offers a superb view of the skyline and the Mediterranean. Doubles from US$200; akkotel.com Carmey Avdat Farm Built on the site of a 1,500-yearold Nabatean settlement on the historic spice route through the Negev desert, this working farm near Sde Boker includes a winery and six modest but comfortable cabins with stunning desert views. Doubles from US$174; carmeyavdat.com Efendi Hotel A hotel situated within a pair of renovated Ottoman-era mansions in Akko run by restaurateur Uri Jeremias. It has 12 rooms with preserved trompe l’oeil ceilings, a restored 400-year-old hammam, and a 900-year-old cellar turned wine bar. Doubles from US$330; efendi-hotel.co.il RESTAURANTS Endomela Jeremias’s ice cream shop in Akko, up the street from his restaurant,
Uri Buri, is a showcase for flavours native to Israel— including cardamom, rose water, and halvah. HaHagana St; +972-4/955-0481 Habait Be’EinHud Inside this hidden gem in Ein Hawd with sweeping views of the Mount Carmel range and the sea, there is no menu, only an endless parade of deliciously authentic Palestinian meze and meat dishes. US$31 per person; +972-5/380-94937 Majda This diminutive, unpretentious restaurant in Ein Rafa, in the hills outside Jerusalem, has earned an outsize reputation thanks to its playful way of turning regional staples—from falafel to kebabs—on their heads. Entrées US$21–US$35; majda.co.il Uri Buri The Uri is for owner Uri Jeremias, while the Buri is for fish. And fish—along with a choice of more than 80 Israeli wines—is what you’ll get at this spot in Akko overlooking theMediterranean. It’s prepared in creative ways that reflect the sensibilities of the chef. Entrées US$18– US$35; Ha-Hagana St; +972-4/955-2212
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A glass of champagne at the Marion-Bosser winery, in Hautvillers, France. Opposite: A vineyard near the village of Avize.
Wh a t wo u l d c h a m p a g n e b e w i t h o u t a l l t h e b u b b l e s ? A g r o u p o f a r t i s a n p r o d u c e r s i n F r a n c e ’s s t o r i e d w i n e r e g i o n i s d o i n g t h i n g s t h e o l d -f a s h i o n e d way— s a n s f i z z — a n d t u r n i n g a wh o l e v i t i c u l t u r e d e l i c i o u s ly o n i t s h e a d .
Adam Leith Gollner
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From left: Bresse chicken at Racine restaurant, in Reims; Elodie and Bernadette Marion tend their vines; a guest room at La Maison de Rhodes, in Troyes.
“I can’ t stand bubbles,” announced Cédric Bouchard, a scruffily handsome winemaker who looks more like an indie rocker than the producer of some of the most rarefied champagnes in the world. Bouchard talks quickly and has a lot to say—much of it expressed in a rural French version of skater slang. As we stood sampling his wines in the frigid cellars beneath his home in Landreville, in southern Champagne, he decreed the delicate pearlescence in one of his experimental cuvées to be “vachement monstre, quoi”—the Gallic equivalent of ‘totally gnarly.’ This was a good thing, bien sûr. Bubbles may be Bouchard’s pet peeve, but he’s been finding radical ways to discreetly incorporate them into his wines. His hallmark is a gently elegant spritziness, as opposed to the Perrier-level carbonation found in many commercial sparklers. “Big bubbles are way too present in most champagne,” Bouchard continued. “I hate it when you get a bottle with that expansive, nasty mousse. There is no other word for it: I detest bubbles.” Champagne, a vast region roughly an hour and a half east of Paris, has long been dominated by multinational luxury brands that sell industrially-made fizz. In fact, these big houses have cornered more than 70 per cent of the market, buying up grapes from vintners all over the region. Now a new generation of récoltantsmanipulants (the private farmers who cultivate and keep their own grapes) is rediscovering the area’s little-known heritage of still wines. Like Bouchard, these artisan producers are creating soulful, homegrown, and, yes, sometimes bubble-free champagnes that are increasingly in demand. Few people outside France have ever tried a sparkle-free wine from Champagne, but these still wines, known as Coteaux Champenois, aren’t hard to find locally. You can even buy them at the Autogrill rest stops on the highway that runs through the region. Unfortunately, they are rarely exported. So for wine lovers like me, part of the allure of visiting Champagne is the opportunity to sample these non-bubbly treasures.
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In the time it took me to finish half a glass of Bouchard’s rosé champagne, its eﬀervescence (which began as a very fine bead) had dissipated entirely. “That’s exactly it!” he explained, excitedly. “I like it when the bubbles are there at the beginning, in a subtle, silky way—and then, before you empty your glass, they vanish! This allows you to see that what you are drinking is truly a vin de Champagne: a wine from Champagne.” Bouchard is adamant that his wines, like all great ones, are capable of transmitting terroir and the nuance of individual vintages. This notion is in direct opposition to the way major brands standardise their wines, creating blends of diﬀerent years so that their non-vintage bottlings always taste identical. While some champagnes by the luxury brands
are excellent, this isn’t necessarily true of their entry-level oﬀerings, which account for the vast majority of champagne consumed around the world. Bouchard’s pursuit of finessed, less bubbly wines actually dates back to an earlier era of wine making in Champagne. In fact, Louis XIV’s favourite drink was non mousseux wine from Champagne. Bubbles were considered a fault in wines until the 18th century. The legend goes that Dom Pérignon, a monk at the St-Pierre d’Hautvillers abbey, invented sparkling champagne by accident. “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” he exclaimed. The truth is that Pérignon was actually more concerned with preventing bubbles from forming, as they tend to do in this cold climate. Champagne is a chilly place, even in springtime. Upon my arrival, I noticed that everybody was wearing scarves. The region’s famed underground cellars, so vast that you can ride trains through the labyrinthine tunnels, are frigid year-round. Champagne is, after all, the northern-most viticultural region in France. And according to Bouchard, a frosty cellar is one of the key factors in securing the ultralight bubbles he favours in his wines—alongside low-pressure bottling and not dosing it with added sugar. Bérêche et Fils, in the hamlet of Ludes, is a prime source for bubble-less Coteaux Champenois, as well as sparkling champagnes. “I want to showcase the fact that we make wine first and bubbles second—and to give people a sense of our terroir,” explained Raphaël Bérêche as he walked me through his family’s winery. Like Bouchard, Bérêche is one of the region’s
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St-Pierre dâ€™Hautvillers abbey.
younger vintners. Bérêche’s operation is bigger than Bouchard’s, but an emphasis on precision and purity can be seen in all of the family’s cuvées, from their various excellent sparklers to their red and white Coteaux Champenois. “The challenge is to prove that still wine deserves to be made again in Champagne,” he said. His red Coteaux Champenois is proof enough, as I discovered when he opened a bottle of his Ormes Rouge Les Montées. The wine is a refreshingly light-bodied Pinot Noir blend with notes of spices and strawberries. His white Coteaux Champenois is just as good, with more than a passing resemblance to white Burgundy. As we tasted, he showed me an old advertisement for his family’s 1928 and 1929 vintages, including ‘Vin Brut de Champagne non Mousseux.’ It was yet another reminder that still wines aren’t novelties here. That non-fizzy champagne has such a long, if largely forgotten, history is part of the reason this region is returning to its roots. The one snag with Coteaux Champenois is that it needs to be grown on the best, sunniest slopes—premium real estate. As a result, still wines can end up costing as much as high-end bubbly champagne. “There really isn’t a huge market for these still wines,” Bérêche admitted, “but that’s not the point. The point is to show what our landscape is capable of. Plus, like mousseux champagne, it’s really good with food.” Many of the restaurants in and around Reims, the region’s largest city, are now showcasing these still wines along with the traditional champagnes. The Michelin three-starred restaurant in the Assiette Champenoise hotel oﬀers more than 1,000 diﬀerent champagnes (with all levels of bubbliness) to pair with its particularly haute cuisine: truffles, langoustines, foie gras, and sea urchin. Rich food like this needs soaring acidity—which you find both in champagne and in Coteaux Champenois. Nearby, at Racine restaurant, where Japanese chef Kazuyuki Tanaka prepares refined, artful dishes, the sommelier recommended I try a glass of Mouzon Leroux’s L’Atavique champagne with the deconstructed flower-scallop-cucumber dish I was eating. The bottle’s label explained its philosophy: ‘Atavism: the
That non-f izzy champagne has s u c h a l o n g , i f l a r g e ly forgotten, history is part of the reason this region is returning to its roots.
reappearance, in a descendant, of characteristics that belonged to an ancestor.’ This was a champagne made with the very intention to keep alive the qualities of champagne from the past—and it paired spectacularly well with my meal. It was simultaneously old-fashioned and forward-thinking, as earthy as it was elevated. “I don’t oﬀer any of the grandes marques here,” explained Aline Serva, the stylish owner of L’Épicerie au Bon Manger, referring to the big brands of champagne. Her grocery store has several tables where you can sit and wash down smoked salmon, Basque charcuterie, and sustainably farmed caviar with a bottle of Coteaux Champenois from her well-curated selection. Serva also highlights a number of women-run Champagne domaines in her selections—a natural choice, since Champagne today has a strong female wine-making presence, including producers such as Marie-Noëlle Ledru, Marie-Courtin, and Marion-Bosser. Many young winemakers hang out at Aux Crieurs de Vin, in Troyes, which is an hour and a half south of Reims, not far from Bouchard’s vineyards. Once the region’s prosperous capital, Troyes has stayed delightfully stuck in time, filled with slanting, centuries-old, halftimbered houses, giving it the feel of a Shakespearean set. Aux Crieurs de Vin specialises in no-frills French-country cuisine in a historic building in the centre of town. The front section is a wine store where you can pick up a bottle of natural wine, like a Savart or a Jacques Lassaigne, to drink with your andouillette or roasted lamb in the back dining room. Vincent Laval, who makes wine under his father’s name, Georges Laval, is one of the region’s elder statesmen. His family has been growing grapes here since at least 1694, and his father is seen as a pioneer in organic viticulture. When I visited his winery in Cumières, a village not far from Dom Pérignon’s abbey, Laval, bearded and burly, greeted me. He was eager to show me the intricacies of making his various wines and champagnes. He pointed out two kinds of vine root systems planted on the walls of his cellar. On one side were vines that had been treated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Their roots were shallow, growing horizontally across the top of the soil. Next to them were vines grown organically, with roots that grew vertically, deep into the ground, in search of nutrients. “This method may produce more grapes,” he conceded, pointing at the shallow roots. “But these grapes,” he turned back to the organic roots, “have a more pronounced minerality, a greater aromatic complexity, a much stronger depth of flavour.” He oﬀered me some of that year’s vin clair, the freshly fermented wine destined to become champagne after undergoing the méthode champenoise to add bubbles. These still wines are diﬀerent from Coteaux Champenois in the sense that they aren’t a final product. They tasted luminous, with a haunting floral perfume, somewhere between jasmine blossoms and wild irises. Vin clair transmits the essence of Champagne’s TTRRAAVVEELL ++ LLEEI S I SUURREE / / MMAAYY 22001 177
Clockwise: A guest room at Hôtel Les Avisés, on the Selosse vineyard; a Gothic portal at Reims Cathedral; delicacies at L’Épicerie au Bon Manger; a picturesque street in Troyes.
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The wine shop at L’Épicerie au Bon Manger, in Reims.
The wine shop at L’Épicerie au Bon Manger, in Reims. Opposite: St.-Pierre d’Hautvillers abbey.
terroir, Laval explained. It’s a reminder that real champagne is an elemental thing, a gift of the soil tilled by actual craftspeople as opposed to a product necessarily destined to be marketed as a luxury good. As good as his vin clair was, Laval stressed that it was not a finished wine. “It is still taking its form,” he explained. “And it becomes even better with bubbles. After all, bubbles are what we are!” Laval makes small quantities of all his diﬀerent wines and champagnes—around 10,000 bottles a year, as compared with the 26 million bottles Moët & Chandon produces annually. And he makes his red Coteaux Champenois only in certain years. The one I was lucky enough to try had a lovely, slightly tannic, cherry-juice quality. Like Laval, Domaine Jacques Selosse is renowned for the rarity—and the quality—of its bottlings. This maison is run today by 60-something legend Anselme Selosse, a central figure in the viticultural revolution, whose wines fetch significant sums. Selosse makes a wide variety of champagne at his cellar in Avize. (It’s a family operation: his son, Guillaume, works with him at the winery while his wife, Corinne, helps run a small, elegant hotel inside the château.) A tasting here is an opportunity to experience everything that Champagne’s terroir is capable of—specific parcels, vintages, blends, and styles. Selosse surprised me by mentioning that he even makes a Coteaux Champenois, although he does it in such small batches that he ends up giving most of his bottles as gifts to friends and family. “Our whole aim is to highlight where our wines are made,” Selosse said. “What is champagne? It is a wine from Champagne. You need to be able to taste where it is from, which means it shouldn’t be insipid or neutral. When you get a sparkling wine made by a technician you can’t tell where it was made.” Selosse has the ability to explain Champagne’s complexities in simple terms. “The idea of terroir exists all over the whole planet,” he said as songbirds chirped in the background. “The United States, for example, has barbecue culture. I always tell Americans to think of barbecue as a way to explain what’s happening here in Champagne. Sunday barbecue has an ambience around it, a ceremonial aspect, a way of doing it. The sauces and the rubs and the methods of marinating or smoking diﬀer from state to state and from region to region and even from producer to producer. The same thing applies with champagne.” Although Selosse doesn’t sell Coteaux Champenois wines—he says they’d be too expensive—I was ecstatic to taste his red wine, the Lubie rouge, when I visited. As soon as I tried it, I could tell that it is what wine used to be in Champagne: a wine for kings. It had a sensationally floral bouquet: a combination of rose, raspberry, and lychee. It was a glimpse into the past, yet as I tasted it, I also felt like I could see a future in which bubble-less champagne could become as important as it once was. “A bubble is, in eﬀect, a defect—but what a remarkable defect it is,” Selosse pointed out. “It’s a fault that became an accessory. And now that accident is part of the texture of our wines. It’s an espuma in the mouth, like a pillow your taste buds recline on. It’s something that gives consistency. And really, we don’t have the choice: our identity is in the bubbles.” “But what about the fact that all champagnes used to be still wines?” I pressed him. “Centuries ago?” he retorted. “Nobody today knows what those wines were really like. The fact is, tradition is something that renews itself. Tradition does not mean being bound by the past. It simply means respecting those who came before, and knowing where you’re headed—while simultaneously living in the present.”
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HOTELS Hôtel Les Avisés A renovated 10-room château in the heart of the Côte des Blancs. Its restaurant serves traditional dishes and features an extensive wine list curated by legendary winemaker Anselme Selosse. Avize; doubles from US$268; selosse-lesavises.com La Maison de Rhodes This hotel is housed in a centuries-old architectural marvel and has a lovely medieval garden just a few blocks from the cathedral in Troyes. Doubles from US$224; maisonderhodes.com L’Assiette Champenoise This property on the outskirts of Reims is popular for its Michelin-threestarred restaurant. Tinqueux; doubles from US$199; assiettechampenoise.com RESTAURANTS Aux Crieurs de Vin A natural-wine bar known for its fantastic country cooking and store stocked with plenty of organic champagnes and other French varietals. If you see a bottle of Jacques Lassaigne’s white Coteaux Champenois, get it. Troyes; auxcrieursdevin.fr Glue Pot This pub is among the best places in the region to get classic bistro fare. Reims; prix fixe from US$13; fb.com/glue.pot La Gare This restaurant inside a former railway station in the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is run by wine-making estate Robert Moncuit. Its bistro cooking is as good as its blanc de blancs. Prix fixe US$28; lagarelemesnil.com L’Épicerie au Bon Manger Stock up on groceries and the finest artisanal champagnes after grabbing a bite to eat at Aline and Eric Serva’s store. Reims; aubonmanger.fr Racine To experience the full range of Kazuyuki Tanaka’s meticulously composed dishes, go for the US$100 ‘Daisuki’ tasting menu. Tasting menus from US$75; racine.re WINERIES Bérêche et Fils This family-owned company’s domaine in Ludes, in the Montagne de Reims region, can be visited on Fridays between 10.30 am and 4 pm by appointment. bereche.com Champagne Georges Laval This popular domaine sits on a tiny side street in Cumières. It produces only a limited number of bottles of Coteaux Champenois a year, so make sure to snag one while you’re there. georgeslaval.fr Champagne Marion-Bosser Situated next to Dom Pérignon’s abbey in Hautvillers, this domaine has a simple two-bedroom apartment available for rent by the night. champagnemarionbosser.fr Jacques Selosse To do a tasting here, guests must stay at the owner’s hotel, Les Avisés, and prebook a spot at one of Anselme Selosse’s VIP tastings, which cost US$32 per person and are held at 6 pm on Mondays and Thursdays and 11 am on Saturdays. selosse-lesavises.com
A STAR-STUDDED NIGHT Awards 2016
The 10th GeoSpa asiaSpa India Awards acknowledged the efforts of those who have contributed to the wellness industry in India. Held at The St Regis Mumbai in March, the awards felicitated stalwarts from the hospitality industry as well as celebrities Rekha, K.L. Rahul, Jaqueline Fernandez, Ekta Kapoor, Dino Morea, Sooraj Pancholi, Aditi Rao Hydari, Tisca Chopra and Sonali Bendre Behl, among others.
From left: Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar and Rekha
Parineeta Sethi and Jacqueline Fernandez
Ekta Kapoor and Kailash Surendranath
JioMags There's always more to read
Wolfgang Will and Nawaz Modi Singhania
Aditi Rao Hydari and Pankaj Arora
Gunjan Chawla and Bharat Ratanpal from JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
From left: Shibani Kashyap and Joaquin Quino McWhinney giving the award to Kuldeep Bhartee from ITC Hotels
Ananya Birla with Massimo Monti
Pratiti Rajpal receives the award on behalf of Park Hyatt Chennai from Aashish Gupta
NiQi Kundi with K.L. Rahul
From left: Rashmi Uday Singh, Kiran Bawa from IOSIS Wellness and Vivek Pareek
Team Conrad Pune
Ravish Kapoor with Farah Khan Ali
READER’S CHOICE AWARDS The Reader’s Choice awards are an integral part of GeoSpa asiaSpa India Awards. This year, the polls were conducted in collaboration with Jio. asiaSpa India is available on JioMags - India’s number 1 digital magazine app – and anyone who downloaded the magazine off this platform was eligible to participate in the poll. This led to a 300 per cent increase in the number of downloads of the magazine. Thousands of readers voted for their favourites in seven different categories.
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Shannon Creado of Anantara Hotels & Resorts
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Sheema Vohra and Christina Colney of Visit California
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Thepnarong Polngam of Thailand Tourism
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Aswini Krishna and Lubaina Sheerazi of Seychelles Tourism Board
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Vineet Bangera of Atkin Spence
JioMags There's always more to read
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Carl Vaz of Dubai Tourism
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Claudio Zemp of Switzerland Tourism
Jaydeep Adhikari and Dr. Taskeen Nadkar giving the award to Alejandro Leo and Betty Remedios of Grand Hyatt Goa
P E A C E in the
V A L
H IGH I N T H E PE RU V I A N A N DE S L I E S T H E SAC R E D VA L L E Y, T H E F E RT I L E PA R A DI SE T H AT G AV E R I SE TO T H E I NC A N E M PI R E A N D, E V E N TODAY, R E M A I NS A PL AC E OF A L MOST DI V I N E COM M U N ION BET W E E N T H E L A N D A N D I TS PEOPL E . by S T E P H A N I E D A N L E R
photographs by N I C K B A L L O N
Hiking the IncaÃ±an, the most demanding of the more than 20 Sacred Valley activities offered to guests by the new Explora Valle Sag grado resort.
L E Y
N OU R F I R ST N IG H T I N T H E S AC R E D VA L L E Y, W E B L A N K E T E D OU R S E LV E S I N D OW N A N D L E F T T H E W I N D OWS OP E N T O T H E C H I L L OF T H E A N DE S . N E A R DAW N , W E WOK E T O G OL D -F L E C K E D
F I NC H E S T R I L L I NG I N T H E F I E L D S . T H E S AC R E D VA L L E Y I S N ’ T S OM E W H E R E YOU G O T O S L E E P I N .
YOU G O T O WAT C H T H E WAY T H E L IG H T A N D
C L OU D S I N T E R AC T, T H E WAY DI F F E R E N T P E A K S
A R E S H A D OW E D, T H E N E X P O S E D.
My boyfriend, Matt, and I had come to this storied place in the mountains of Peru for a week. We were staying first at the Explora Valle Sagrado, a resort on an old corn plantation outside the village of Urquillos that is set up to help guests get outside and experience the area as fully as possible. Our first activity, at eight that morning, was an easy bike ride along the Urubamba River. After multiple cups of coﬀee and seconds on avocado toast and bowls of papaya, we met our guide, Luis, who made sure we were equipped. We could refill our water bottles with filtered water all over the property, he told us. At reception, there were snacks—cashews, almonds, dried mango, bitter dark chocolate, and ‘power balls’ (quinoa, honey, dates, amaranth) to scoop from overflowing bowls. We were encouraged to dip into the huge containers of pasty white sunblock—SPF 100. A bus took us to Taray, which sits just across the river from Pisac, a picturesque Andean village below a beautifully preserved Incan citadel with terraces that cascade down the mountain. From there, we pedalled for 20 relatively flat miles along a dirt trail. We rode past scenes of agrarian life that were so idyllic they almost looked staged: farmers working cornfields by hand or by donkey, women walking llamas. We passed crumbling manors and corrugated-steel sheds that were exquisitely juxtaposed against summits and glaciers. The sky was so broad, the panorama so dynamic, that we kept twisting around on our bikes to see more. Every time I finished an incline, I felt the elevation: a slight vertigo that caught me by surprise. On breaks, there was hot tea made from muña, an Andean herb similar to mint that is excellent for digestion and altitude sickness. When we finished the ride, we found a table set up with raw vegetables, avocado dip, and a bucket of water and beer. This was in a quiet plaza in Urquillos, less a town than a small outcropping of adobe buildings with terra-cottatiled roofs. We sat under a towering pisonay tree with scarlet-red
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blossoms. Luis told us that the pisonay was sacred to both the Incas and their descendants, the Quechua, who have inhabited the Andes for the past six centuries. Whenever the Spanish built a church, the Quechua planted a pisonay tree nearby. “For Pachamama,” Luis said, pouring beer onto the roots of the tree before drinking some himself. Pachamama, the benevolent fertility deity of Incan mythology, is the Mother Earth of the Andes. The Quechua perform this toast—called a challa—constantly. It’s just one of the many ways they act out their gratitude for their awe-inspiring natural surroundings.
have a long history of hiking and a fondness for the remote, and I still plan trips around walks. Matt must have recognised this immediately, because within a month of meeting he had me winter-camping in Death Valley. I shivered and grinned in a freezing rain, got up in the pitchblack to watch the sun rise over the salt flats. And while I do cherish time in a lounge chair reading and diving in to the cuisine of a place, the truth is that
The design of the Explora Valle Sagrado maximises guestsâ€™ experience of the surrounding mountains.
when I travel I’m often seeking some holier connection. A moment of quiet that will leave its mark on me. And that usually leads me outside. We had arrived the day before, from Los Angeles by way of Lima and Cuzco. Most visitors don’t stay in the Sacred Valley nearly as long as we planned to. More often, they spend a night on their way to Machu Picchu, going to Pisac and Chincero on a day trip to take a few photographs and buy textiles, skipping the ruins in the hills above Ollantaytambo, the multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the traditional farms and fields that still power this fertile centre of Andean civilisation. Recently, though, elegant properties like the Explora Valle Sagrado have begun catering to active travellers like us by oﬀering more intimate, less mediated ways to experience the region’s natural splendours. Everyone brings up altitude sickness when you tell them you’re visiting the Andes. Even the flight attendants warned us about it as the plane descended. But I only took it seriously with my first woozy step onto the tarmac in Cuzco, elevation 11,000 feet. “I think I have it,” I told Matt. “You barely slept,” he replied. “You don’t know what you have.” He was thoroughly energised, as usual. Whether I had it or not, I was definitely in better shape than the woman I saw in the airport bathroom leaning over the sink, heaving, her face drained of colour. Uneasily, I boarded the Explora charter shuttle. As it wound along the curvy mountain roads, I sipped from a canteen of chilled water I’d been given and studied an elegant hotel brochure, The Art of Travel, which asked pseudo-philosophical questions like, ¿Por qué exploramos? Matt, who speaks fluent Spanish, struck up a conversation with the man behind us. I heard the word arquitecto. “Architect of what?” I whispered. “The architect. Of all the Exploras.” The man was José Cruz Ovalle, who has worked for Explora since 1993, when the company opened its first property in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. He designs his buildings, he told Matt, to be in conversation with nature, to enhance and expand the outside rather than insulate guests from it. Explora applies the same ethic to the overall experience, oﬀering guests unique itineraries, or what it calls explorations, that often follow new trails or routes and access remote parts of the countryside. Our shuttle stopped high on a hill, allowing us to approach the hotel on foot. Bridges spanning terraces linked us to a low building down below where the lights were coming on. I tried to follow Cruz Ovalle and Matt’s conversation about the 15th-century cornfield the hotel sits beside. Corn was akin to gold for the Incas, Cruz Ovalle explained, and this heirloom variety of paraqay sara, a large, white-kernelled corn also called the ‘giant white maize of Cuzco,’ is still regarded as the best in Peru. The jade of the corn leaves was a colour I’d never seen before. Rimming the field were purple-flowering quinoa plants that twitched with birds. Jagged, snowcapped mountains loomed beyond. The sky was dusky, as if stained by the purple of the flowers.
hat evening set the pattern for our nights at the Explora Valle Sagrado. We ordered pisco sours at the bar, which came accompanied by endless trays of Andean bar snacks that I couldn’t stop eating: crunchy plantains, fava beans, corn kernels, some the size of tiny raindrops, some as fat as a knuckle. Then, in the lounge, a guide found us to sort out our explorations for the next day. What’s your activity level at home? How are you feeling? The hyperpersonalised interaction with an expert makes you feel like you can accomplish anything. Still, I had second thoughts when Matt announced what he wanted us to do the day after our bike ride: a hike called Incañan that is
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Salt evaporation ponds outside the town of Maras that date from Incan times.
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considered the pinnacle of all Explora activities. It is 11 miles long and climbs more than 3,000 feet, reaching an elevation above 15,000 feet. It features three distinct topographies, passing glaciers, remote Quechuan villages, and Mount Sawasiray, which soars to a majestic 19,088 feet. It is supposed to require three to four days of acclimation. We’d had one. Matt seemed not to care at all. “It’s against our policy,” our new guide, Bruno, said carefully. He was beloved by the English-speaking guests because he had perfected the language while living in New York City. “We can do it,” Matt said. “Well, you seem fit,” he said, “but, you know, I had these Americans earlier this month—just like you, city people—and we let them go after three days of acclimation. It took us almost ten hours on the trail and the lady was throwing up the whole time. I think she was fairly…unhappy.” Visions of myself a whitish green, vomiting in front of a group of strangers. Visions of rain and snow and wet socks. I turned to Matt. “No way. I do not want to be unhappy.” “We hike all the time,” he said. “It only goes up to fifteen thousand. You hiked fourteeners when you lived in Colorado.” “What is this ‘all the time’? And I was sixteen years old!” Bruno was amused. I grabbed the map. “Cinco Lagunas sounds pretty. Five lakes. Doesn’t that sound pretty?” I reviewed the options. “What’s comparable to Incañan?” “Nothing,” Bruno shrugged. “But there’s some nice hikes.” “Babe.” Matt was about to utter the phrase that is always the nail in my coffin when we travel together. “How many times are we going to get this opportunity?”
t was pouring rain when we got up in darkness at 5 am. It bent the quinoa plants, pounded the leaves of the corn. “Pouring,” I said, glaring, as we stuﬀed our backpacks. We met Bruno and another guide, Moises, as well as two fellow guests who would be joining us. Everyone wore head-to-toe rain gear. “Do you have pants?” Bruno asked about my SoulCycle leggings. “These are pants,” I said, gritting my teeth. It was a long drive to the trailhead, long enough that the rain stopped and the hills greened and I lost my morning angst. I began to feel a nauseated excitement, though it could have just been the altitude. I stubbornly took the lead as we hit the trail. It only took a few minutes in that bracing air before the muscle memory kicked in, and not just in my legs. It was an emotional muscle memory of going into a space where the only noise is wind. Already above the tree line, we climbed to a high alpine meadow laced with streams and carpeted with moss and petite wildflowers. Alpacas, llamas, and herding dogs dotted the valley floor, tended by women in bright-red woven skirts and bowler hats. We passed diminutive stone cottages with thatched roofs, shelters actively used by herding families. I saw stacks of dried animal dung that, Moises said, the Quechua use as fuel for cooking. Waste converted to energy: another way these people find harmony with their landscape.
W E PA S SE D S C E N E S OF AG R A R I A N L I F E T H AT W E R E S O I DY L L IC T H E Y A L MO ST L O OK E D STAG E D : FA R M E R S WOR K I NG C OR N F I E L D S BY H A N D OR BY D ON K E Y, WOM E N WA L K I NG L L A M A S .
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As I struggled with the ascent, Moises mentioned that the children who live in these houses hike an hour and a half each way to school. I noticed that rather than following a well-marked trail, we were ascending the contour lines of the hillside. All of the Explora guides had trained for at least five months prior to its opening, so Bruno and Moises knew every footstep of these mountains, in every kind of weather. They also knew when to oﬀer up the bag of coca leaves. Coca was a divine plant to the Incas, and even today, chewing coca leaves is a mark of the Quechua’s connection to the earth. The leaves are a cure for altitude sickness and a mild stimulant on par with a cup of coﬀee, but because they are also used to produce cocaine, they have long been controversial. A United Nations ban in the 1960s, since relaxed, outlawed their use, but they have remained an integral part of Quechuan culture. As a lover of all things bitter, I was happy to chew them as we hit the final, steepest section of the ascent. I was soon overcome by two realisations: The first was that I was feeling quite ill. My head hurt. I was nauseated. If I didn’t focus intensely on my breathing, my chest would tighten as if in panic. The second was that I was going to be the first up the mountain, even ahead of Bruno. Not because I’m proud, or particularly fit. I was just in a rhythm with my breath, my steps, my arms, the wind, and I wasn’t going to break it until I hit the pass. I had achieved both the sickness I feared and the meditative state I desired. I should have known they would come together. We could only celebrate at the top for a moment, toasting with muña tea in the fierce wind before heading into another valley and skirting turquoise glacial lakes, until we found a rocky outcropping large enough to shield us. Lunch—a velvety spinach soup, smoked trout, and quinoa salad—felt well-earned. We spent the rest of the day on the downhill, our knees aching. When we reached the hamlet of Cancha Cancha, we all splashed river water on our faces. Matt and the guides examined the onion-skin bark of the squat queuña trees. Only then did I see other hikers, walking past us in the opposite direction.
Clockwise: The reception area at the Explora Valle Sagrado; a Quechua woman follows the route of the Explora Valle Sagrado’s Incañan hike; beet gnocchi with Brazil-nut sauce and jamón serrano at the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a dish made from produce grown on the property’s organic farm.
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“They can’t be starting now,” I said to Bruno. The sun had already passed beyond a ridge. “Oh no, they are camping,” he said. Donkeys followed them, loaded with equipment. The guides, chewing coca leaves, called out to Bruno and Moises. “They do it in three days,” Bruno said, gesturing back at the pass we’d just conquered. “We do it in one. Because we’re badass.” I laughed, but he wasn’t joking. I looked back at the peak of Sawasiray, shrouded in a mist that moved like exhalations. I imagined what it must feel like to be as well-adapted as those highland children: the thin, pure air stabilising me, walking these mountains being an act as natural as breathing.
lthough the Incas never had a written language (which blew my mind when I found out), they are legendary for their myriad accomplishments prior to their culture’s swift and bloody collapse at the hands of Spanish conquistadors. At their peak, the Incas controlled a region twice the size of the Holy Roman Empire. Their engineering feats were unmatched by peers of their era. Their religious practices involved complex mummification and burial processes. Their knowledge of astronomy and agriculture allowed them to become brilliant farmers. It was this last skill we were headed to see evidence of. The van took us on narrow, rutted dirt roads to Moray, an Incan archaeological site above the town of Maras that consists of elaborate terraces in concentric circles. There is a more direct route in, but we entered above the ruins on a trail that started in a small village called Misminay, where children walked alongside us and giggled shyly before running back to their games. At first, Moray reminded me of an amphitheatre, making me think of the frequent comparisons between the Incas and the Romans. But Moray wasn’t built for sport. It is believed that the Incas’ goal was to create microclimates for growing crops, like coca leaves or tobacco, that weren’t adapted to the harsh conditions of the highlands above the Sacred Valley.
The interior patio at the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, in a traditional Andean farmhouse.
As we began hiking out of the ruins, another spectacular twilight descended and the mountains’ aura of mystery deepened. I was struck by how little we could know of a culture that didn’t write its own stories. For generations, the Quechua theorised about how Moray got its craterlike shape—our guide told us it was the result of an asteroid strike—though scientists have determined that it was caused by erosion. We have extensive, well-preserved evidence of the Incas, but much of it is inconclusive. The guides are the storytellers, the ones who tell us what might have been. On the way out of Moray, ours collected muña and cleaned up trash that had been left behind by other visitors. It didn’t feel showy or selfrighteous. It felt more like the challa to Pachamama—an expression of deep gratitude for the earth.
ollowing three adventurepacked days at the Explora Valle Sagrado, Matt and I headed across the Urubamba River to unwind at the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a two-year-old property from a company that has been a mainstay in Peruvian luxury travel for more than 40 years. It is in a traditional hacienda-style farmhouse with dark wood beams, tiled floors, and lots of colonial grandeur, with jaw-dropping views of multiple mountain ranges. It is furnished in Incan artifacts, worn-in leather, and vibrant textiles. The atmosphere of the rooms, the lounge, and the restaurant was relentlessly romantic. After checking in, we wrapped ourselves in blankets near the fire, with obligatory pisco sours, watched the sun move, and, for the first time since we had arrived in the Sacred Valley, did nothing. The hotel calls its dining concept ‘earth to table.’ Most of the vegetables on your plate are grown on a 10-acre organic farm that runs across the bottom of the property. Matt and I toured it one evening, recognising various herbs, walking fields of diﬀerent potatoes, which the farmers identify by their flowers. The farm is a reminder of why the valley has been called sacred for so long. Our guide told us that the fertility of this land was considered Pachamama’s greatest gift.
IL LU ST RAT I ON S BY HO L LY WA LES
The beans, corn, potatoes, quinoa, and amaranth that grow so well are what enabled the Incas to build their empire. There are 50 kinds of corn and nearly 4,000 kinds of potatoes indigenous to Peru. The struggle today is to protect this natural biodiversity. We feasted in a candlelit hall, the lights of the valley glowing through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The restaurant excelled at traditional dishes done expertly, like lomo saltado and pastel de choclo, a surprisingly light corn pie, layered with guinea-pig ragù. The ají de gallina, a creamy, spicy dish of rice, chicken, and cheese, was so satisfying I had it twice. The next day, two genial guides took us to a Quechuan weaving cooperative in Chincero (elevation 12,375 feet), which is known as the Rainbow City because the Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the rainbow. The guides pointed out adobe houses topped with ceramic bulls that were supposed to protect the inhabitants. Red plastic flags hanging in doorways signalled that chicha—a fermented alcoholic beverage made from corn—was available that day. The women of the collective showed us their natural ingredients, from soap made of grated yucca for washing alpaca wool to dyes made from herbs, berries, even bugs. A young weaver smashed a cochineal insect, a parasite that lives on cacti, into her palm to produce a bright red pigment, then spread it on her lips. “Inca lipstick,” she said, giggling. We hiked down from Chincero on one of the original sections of the Inca Trail, built in the 15th century, following ravines and small streams that feed into the Urubamba. It was our same swath of the valley, but we were seeing it from a new angle—and at this point, it did feel like it belonged to us. We had been there less than a week, but I knew that glacier under Sawasiray from multiple vantage points, and I knew when we hit a dirt road that we were almost to Urquillos and the gigantic pisonay tree. The Incas called these violet and jade mountains mystical because the gods remain in the earth, and no matter how modern voices might intrude, theirs are the cadences the Quechua still listen to, the ones that call the rest of us to explore.
You may notice your guide pouring his beer onto the ground before taking a sip. The toast is called a challa, and is an offering to Pachamama, the fertility deity from Incan mythology.
THE DETAILS GETTING THERE Visitors typically fly in to Cuzco by way of Lima. The valley’s southern edge is only eight miles from Cuzco, but many of its destinations, like Pisac and Urubamba, require a 30-minute to two-hour drive. Most Sacred Valley hotels arrange airport transfers, but you can also get there by rental car, taxi, or train. TOUR OPERATORS andBeyond The experiential travel specialist offers two seven-day Peruvian itineraries with in-depth visits to the Sacred Valley: a Peru Family Adventure, focusing on outdoor activities for the entire clan, and the Flavours of Peru, designed for epicurean travellers. The company can also create bespoke itineraries to cater to travellers’ specific interests. Itineraries from US$4,850; andbeyond.com Mountain Lodges of Peru This outfitter’s new Lares Adventure is a customisable five- or seven-day itinerary along the Sacred Valley’s Lares Trek, concluding at Machu Picchu. The journey includes hikes to Incan sites, visits to remote Andean communities, and more, with each night spent at a different luxury lodge along the way. Itineraries from US$2,400; mountainlodgesofperu.com
HOTELS Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado Set along the banks of the Urubamba River, this property consists of 11 suites, 10 rooms, and two villas nestled in verdant, terraced gardens. In addition to horseback riding, rafting, and guided tours of archaeological sites, visitors can also experience the region aboard the company’s luxury train, Belmond Hiram Bingham (US$560 per person for a roundtrip). Doubles from US$365; belmond.com Explora Valle Sagrado Located on a working corn plantation, this resort is designed to maximise the quiet and grandeur of the surrounding landscape. Guests can choose from among 26 different excursions to various Sacred Valley destinations. Doubles from US$1,950 per person for three nights, all-inclusive; explora.com Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba The newest hotel from one of Peru’s most venerable nature travel specialists. It consists of 12 rooms in the Casa Hacienda and 24 stand-alone luxury casitas on 100 acres surrounded by mountains. On the 10-acre organic plantation, guests can pick their own produce to be used in their meals. Doubles from US$462; inkaterra.com
Inkaterra La Casona Whether on your way to or from the Sacred Valley, you will want to spend a night or two in the imperial city of Cuzco, the historic capital of the Inca empire. This boutique hotel, in a lovingly restored 16th-century manor house on the Plazoleta Nazarenas, offers the finest accommodations in town. Doubles from US$418; inkaterra.com SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES The Sacred Valley is filled with important cultural sites. Ask your hotel or outfitter to assist you with visits to each. Moray An Incan site consisting of elaborate terraces in concentric circles. The structure is believed to have been formed to grow crops like coca and tobacco. Ollantaytambo Overlooking its namesake village, this fortress and temple ruin marks the site where Manco Inca, the Incan prince, repelled an attack by the Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro. Pisac The ancient Incan ruins here overlook the Urubamba River and house one of the rare intihuatanas, ritual stones used for astronomical observation. Salt Pans of Maras Thought to have been created by the Incas sometime in the 1400s, these salt pools are still in use today.
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Worth Flying For
THE WAVE in COYOTE BUTTES, ARIZONA Illustration by Josie Portillo
n desolate northern Arizona, hidden within the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliﬀs Wilderness, lies one of the world’s most inaccessible geological wonders: the Wave, an undulating rainbow of Navajo sandstone in shades of amber, copper, ocher, and umber, created by wind and water erosion over the course of millions of years. Because of the fragility of this Jurassic-age phenomenon, the US Bureau of Land Management limits access, issuing only 20 hiking permits each day. Hopeful visitors must apply via a monthly online lottery or in person at a daily drawing at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument visitors’ centre in nearby Kanab, Utah. After five years of unsuccessful attempts, I was finally picked through the online lottery. I approached beneath
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an overcast sky, walking through a landscape littered with desert oleander and flying disc and hedgehog cacti, all resplendent with pink, yellow, and white blossoms. The entrance to the Wave appeared as a slit high in the wall of a butte. As I got closer, the striations of the sediment unfolded like a tapestry. I entered the canyon cradle, which widened to reveal the Wave’s full majesty. During the final ascent, rain began to fall. Runoﬀ cascaded down the side of the cliﬀ, and almost instantly, the landscape changed colours before my eyes. The deep reds and oranges of the earth took on darker hues, creating what I thought impossible: an even more breathtaking display of natural beauty. For permit information, visit blm.gov/az paria. — CHRISTOPHER TKACZYK
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