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TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA

FINEST WINE BARS IN

HONG KONG

>ART IN CHINA > SIX NEW

VINTAGE VIETNAM V

NAMES SHOPPING

JANUARY 2010 Travel tips • Gadgets • Airport guides • Burma • Beijing • Hong Kong • Vietnam • Provence • Indonesia • English pubs

275*

SECRET ADDRESSES, HIDDEN FINDS, TRICKS, INSIDER TIPS & MORE!

GADGETS TO GO

16 MUST-HAVE TRAVEL TOYS

JANUARY 201 0

+

ULTIMATE ITALY FOOD GUIDE

Tr a v e l a n d L e i s u r e A s i a . c o m SINGAPORE SG$7.90 ● HONG KONG HK$43 THAILAND THB175 ● INDONESIA IDR50,000 MALAYSIA MYR17● VIETNAM VND85,000 MACAU MOP44 ● PHILIPPINES PHP240 BURMA MMK35 ● CAMBODIA KHR22,000 BRUNEI BND7.90 ● LAOS LAK52,000


Privilege knows no boundaries.

Carried by the Global Elite, the world over.

By invitation only. For expression of interest, please call Singapore: + (65) 6295 6293 Hong Kong: + (852) 2277 2233 Thailand: + (66) 2273 5445


EXCLUSIVELY FOR AMERICAN EXPRESS® PLATINUM CARDMEMBERS FANTASTIC WINTER — ENJOY A COMPLIMENTARY THIRD NIGHT

Planning a winter escape? Explore history’s treasures, shop in magnificent cities or soak up the sun with a Fantastic Winter offer that gives you the chance to recharge exactly as you wish, while enjoying the delightful luxuries and unparalleled service that are the hallmarks of Mandarin Oriental. This winter, from 15 December 2009–15 March 2010, stay two or more consecutive nights and receive a complimentary night at any of the participating hotels when you pay with your American Express® Platinum Card.* As a Platinum Cardmember, you can also enjoy an upgrade at the time of check-in (subject to availability), daily breakfast, guaranteed late check-out up to 4pm and special amenities at our properties worldwide.

PARTICIPATING HOTELS ASIA PACIFIC Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai; Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong; The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong; The Excelsior, Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta; Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur; Grand Lapa, Macau; Mandarin Oriental, Manila; Mandarin Oriental, Sanya; Mandarin Oriental, Singapore; Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo EUROPE Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona; Mandarin Oriental, Geneva; Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London; Mandarin Oriental, Munich; Mandarin Oriental, Prague THE AMERICAS Elbow Beach, Bermuda; Mandarin Oriental, Boston; Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas; Mandarin Oriental, Miami; Mandarin Oriental, New York; Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya, Mexico; Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco; Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC

* Terms & Conditions Complimentary night offer when staying two or more consecutive nights is valid for travel between 15 December 2009, and 15 March 2010. Offer is subject to availability and blackout dates may apply. Contact participating hotels for more details. Guests must stay at least two consecutive paid nights to receive the complimentary third night. A stay is considered to be consecutive nights at the same hotel. Only one complimentary night is available per stay. Available room categories vary according to each participating property. Cancellation policy depends on the participating hotel. Contact the individual hotel for full details. Offer is not valid for group bookings for 10 rooms or above. Offer cannot be exchanged for cash or used with any other promotions, special offers or privileges. The Platinum benefits apply to all participating hotels except the Excelsior, Hong Kong.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE ABOVE EXCLUSIVE OFFERS OR TO MAKE A BOOKING, CALL THE PLATINUM CARD® SERVICE: SINGAPORE: +(65) 6392 1177 (option 1) HONG KONG: +(852) 2277 2233 THAILAND: +(66) 2 273 5599


(Destinations)01.10 Provence 132 Montana 124 Italy 114

Burma 94 Komodo Island 84

Australia 106

World Weather This Month -40oF -20oF -40oC

0 oF

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Issue Index Macau 18 Saigon 44 Siem Reap 42, 63 Singapore 18, 41, 47

Tokyo 18, 53

Italy 114 London 32 Provence 132

AUSTRALIA Australia 106 Sydney 18, 33

ASIA Beijing 69 Sichuan 142

THE AMERICAS Los Angeles 79 Montana 124 Vancouver 34

EUROPE England 74

Currency Converter Singapore Hong Kong Thailand Indonesia Malaysia Vietnam Macau Philippines Burma Cambodia Brunei Laos US ($1)

(SGD)

(HKD)

(BT)

(RP)

(RM)

(VND)

1.38

7.75

33.1

9,425

3.37

18,481

(MOP)

(P)

(MMK)

(KHR)

(BND)

(LAK)

7.98

46.2

6.41

4,145

1.38

8,455

Source: www.xe.com (exchange rates at press time).

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J A N UA RY 2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

M A P BY E T H A N CO R N E L L

SOUTHEAST ASIA Bali 18, 41, 52 Bangkok 18, 41 Burma 94 Hong Kong 31, 40, 41, 43, 50 Hsinchu, Taiwan 59 Ipoh, Malaysia 42 Komodo Island 84


T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M | V O L 0 4 | I S S U E 0 1

(Contents)01.10

>124 By snowshoe through a Montana forest.

94

Against the Flow Taking a slow boat through Burma is a great introduction to a troubled land. By ANDREW BURKE. Photographed by PHILIPP ENGELHORN

106 The Ultimate Australian Wine Tour In a country with more than 60 6

wine-producing areas, where do you begin? BRUCE SCHOENFELD aims to find out. Photographed by HUGH STEWART. GUIDES 109, 110, 113 AND MAP 108 114 Ultimate Italy From Rome to Piedmount, ANYA VON BREMZEN takes a tasting tour of the country’s artisanal offerings, compiling a list of the best of everything. Photographed by SIMON WATSON. GUIDE AND MAP 123

J A N UA RY 2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

124 A Winter’s Tale Braving the cold, taming horses and feasting on comfort food, GARY SHTEYNGART enjoys a winter lodge in Montana. Photographed by ANDREA FAZZARI 132 At Home in Provence Fifty years after his family set down roots in the region, LUKE BARR finds the pleasures of the south of France have not diminished. Photographed by MAX KIM-BEE. GUIDE AND MAP 141

A N D R E A FA Z Z A R I

93-132 Features


FINEST WINE BARS IN

HONG KONG

(Contents)01.10

>ART IN CHINA > SIX NEW

VINTAGE VIETNAM V

NAMES SHOPPING

JANUARY 2010

275*

SECRET ADDRESSES, HIDDEN FINDS, TRICKS, INSIDER TIPS & MORE!

GADGETS TO GO

16 MUST-HAVE TRAVEL TOYS

Departments

+

> 59

ULTIMATE ITALY FOOD GUIDE

Tr a v e l a n d L e i s u r e A s i a . c o m SINGAPORE SG$7.90 O HONG KONG HK$43 THAILAND THB175 OINDONESIA IDR50,000 MALAYSIA MYR17O VIETNAM VND85,000 MACAU MOP44 O PHILIPPINES PHP240 BURMA MMK35 O CAMBODIA KHR22,000 BRUNEI BND7.90 O LAOS LAK52,000

Cover C

10 Editor’s Note 14 Contributors 16 Letters 18 Best Deals 20 Ask T+L 25 Strategies 142 My Favorite Place

This month’s cover Model: Dana Douglas/Trump; styled by Catherine Crate. Shot on location at the the pool at Rockhouse, in Jamaica. Swimsuit by Lacoste.

> 84

39-59 Insider 40 Newsflash A small street in Hong Kong, Asia’s hottest restaurant openings and more. 44 Shopping Saigon’s secondhand treasure trove. BY NANA CHEN 47 Address Book Singapore loosens up to welcome the pink dollar. BY DAVEN WU 50 Drink Hong Kong wine bars that are worth more than a tipple. BY LARA DAY 52 See It Tribal art hits new heights in Bali. BY JENNIFER CHEN 53 Eat A delectable tour of food-obsessed Tokyo. BY SHANE MITCHELL 8

56 Bring It Back Quirky souvenirs that you shouldn’t overlook. BY ERIK TORKELLS 58 Where to Go Next More Angkor-era wonders in Ko Ker, Cambodia. BY ROBYN ECKHARDT 59 Quick Getaway Off to the coast for a perfect weekend in Taiwan. BY ROBYN ECKHARDT

63-64 Stylish Traveler 69-88 T+L Journal

63 Spotlight Global fashion comes to Cambodia’s capital. BY NAOMI LINDT 64 Reflections A question of chasing beauty on your travels. BY GUY TREBAY > 63

69 The Arts A is for Art. B is for Banned. C is for China. LILI TAN highlights the work of six Chinese artists. 74 Food Touring English pubs to find the most authentic Scotch eggs and fish-and-chips. BY ADAM SACHS 79 Driving Looking for traces of L.A.’s rock ‘n’ roll past. BY MICHAEL FRANK 84 Adventure In Komodo National Park, ADAM SKOLNICK faces up to dragons and lives to tell the tale. 88 Opinion With more hotels and restaurants adopting music as a branding device, PETER JON LINDBERG sounds off on their choices.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M FA R L E F T : L A U R Y N I S H A K ; D AV I D H A G E R M A N ; L A U R Y N I S H A K ; J O H N M C D E R M O T T

> 47


(Editor’s Note) 01.10

I

AM BREAKING WITH TRADITION A LITTLE HERE, BY STARTING THIS

Editor’s Note talking about a non-Asian story we’re running this issue: “Quest: English Pubs” (page 74). I am, of course, British (by way of Scottish and Irish ancestry), and English pubs are a subject close to my heart, especially at this time of year, when crackling log fires cause damp clothing to quietly steam. This intelligent—and nostalgic for me—story really does focus in on the authentic experience: no theme pubs or cookie-cutter franchises here. We also reveal the secret addresses of Tokyo’s top-class eateries (don’t ever say that Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is not globally cosmopolitan) and guide you through the emerging world of Chinese art (“China’s New Guard,” page 69). Personally, as a repressed gadget obsessive (I still don’t own a smart phone, but I love to play with them), I was intrigued by our gadget guide (“Strategies,” page 25). To me, the most useful device is the one with multiple phone adapters, MP3 player and GPS system. My problem is that small, expensive, life-vital products like this tend to go walkabout in taxis, pubs, restaurants, trains.... There are also two humorous think-pieces in this issue that I’d like to draw your attention to: “Chasing Beauty” (page 64) and “Stop the Music” (page 88). The first is a tongue-in-cheek look at what may drive a lot of travel, although I would think it an advantage, not a reason (if you read it, you’ll know), and I assume it applies to women as well as men. The second is all about that perennial thorn in most of our sides: piped music. Funnily enough, the station mentioned in the story also plays out of cable TV in Thailand. And no January note would be complete without me saying, on behalf of the whole team, Happy New Year. This year will be full of about your travels on www.TravelandLeisureAsia.com.—MATT LEPPARD TRAVEL + L EISURE EDITORS, WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE THE INDUSTRY’S MOST RELIABLE SOURCES. WHILE ON ASSIGNMENT, THEY TRAVEL INCOGNITO WHENEVER POSSIBLE AND DO NOT TAKE PRESS TRIPS OR ACCEPT FREE TRAVEL OF ANY KIND.

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J A N UA RY

2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

C H E N P O VA N O N T

surprises for you, our readers, so prepare to be amazed, and don’t forget to blog


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ART DIRECTOR CREATIVE CONSULTANT FEATURES EDITORS SENIOR DESIGNER EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Matt Leppard Anjan Das Fah Sakharet Jennifer Chen Chris Kucway Wannapha Nawayon Wasinee Chantakorn

REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGRAPHERS Paul Ehrlich (editor-at-large), Brent Madison, Adam Skolnick, Robyn Eckhardt, Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, Lara Day, Naomi Lindt, Cedric Arnold, Steve McCurry, Peter Steinhauer, Nat Prakobsantisuk, Graham Uden, Darren Soh

AD

CHAIRMAN PRESIDENT PUBLISHING DIRECTOR

PUBLISHER DIRECTOR SINGAPORE / ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS CONSULTANT, HONG KONG/MACAU CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PRODUCTION MANAGER PRODUCTION GROUP CIRCULATION MANAGER

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj

Robert Fernhout Lucas W. Krump Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Michael K. Hirsch Kin Kamarulzaman Shea Stanley Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Supalak Krewsasaen Porames Chinwongs

AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION PRESIDENT/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR VICE PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, STRATEGIC INSIGHTS, MARKETING & SALES EXECUTIVE EDITOR, INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL ADVERTISING DIGITAL ASSET MANAGER

Ed Kelly Mark V. Stanich Paul B. Francis Nancy Novogrod Jean-Paul Kyrillos Cara S. David Mark Orwoll Thomas D. Storms Madelyn A. Roberts Marc Abdeldaim

TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA VOL. 4, ISSUE 1 Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, Room 1205-06, 12/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2851-6963; Fax: +852 2851-1933; under license from American Express Publishing Corporation, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: +66 2 204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (+66 2 368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (+66 2 291-7575). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy.

This edition is published by permission of AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. Reproduction in whole or in part without the consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. © Media Transasia Thailand Ltd. in respect of the published edition.

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CO M I N G N E XT ISS UE In partnership with Tourism Australia, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia presents...

Only in Oz! SPECIAL

60 Uniquely Aussie Experiences

C O U R T E S Y O F AY R E S R O C K R E S O R T

+

Drift off over the world’s largest reef Climb the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge See living fossils in Tasmania Go city ballooning in Canberra ...and much, much more SOUTHEAST ASIA

ISSUE OUT FEBRUARY 1, OR SUBSCRIBE NOW BY VISITING WWW.TRAVELANDLEISUREASIA.COM


(Contributors) 01.10 HILIPP ENGELHORN |

P

PHOTOGRAPHER

THE ASSIGNMENT Shooting

From top: Bagan’s Shwezigon Paya; snapper Philipp Engelhorn.

ANYA VON BREMZEN |

GARY SHTEYNGART | WRITER

DAVEN WU | WRITER THE

WRITER THE ASSIGNMENT

Wrote about the Resort at Paws Up, in snowy Montana (“A Winter’s Tale,” page 124). PAWS UP IN THREE WORDS Mmm, elk jerky.

ASSIGNMENT

MOST EXTRAVAGANT

far the gay community has come. When the government discusses the topic, you know you’re no longer in Kansas, Toto.

Roaming Italy for the country’s best eats (“Ultimate Italy,” page 114). BEST ITALIAN CITY FOR FOOD The countryside— Italian cuisine is decidedly anti-urban. BEST CITY FOR FOOD IN THE WORLD Tokyo, hands down, including Italian food. YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Bottarga, Spanish anchovies and Cantonese XO sauce. YOUR LAST MEAL ON EARTH WOULD BE Mom’s borscht,

of course.

THE ASSIGNMENT

FEATURE Bathrooms that

can fit an entire symphony orchestra. VISIT THE LODGE IF YOU LOVE…

Red meat and raging rivers. YOUR PRAYER WHILE SNOWMOBILING If you let me live, Lord, I’ll never pollute the environment again.

Searching out gay-friendly Singapore (“Out and about in Singapore,” page 47). BIGGEST SURPRISE IN WRITING THE STORY How

GAY SINGAPORE IN THREE WORDS Young, energetic, uninhibited. SINGAPORE ISN’T BORING BECAUSE… All that street food will keep you fully occupied.

A BOV E , F RO M TO P : P H I L I P P E N G E L H O R N ; CO U RT ESY O F P H I L I P P E N G E L H O R N . B E L O W, F R O M FA R L E F T : K AT I E D U N N ; C O U R T E S Y O F G A R Y S H T E Y N G A R T ; C O U R T E S Y O F D AV E N W U

the ferry journey in Burma (“Against the Flow,” page 94). MOST MEMORABLE PART OF THE TRIP The boat’s open kitchen is the perfect spot for the trip where you can sit in your picture. WHY OTHERS SHOULD MAKE THIS JOURNEY Traveling to Burma as an independent tourist lets the locals know that the outside world cares. DON’T LEAVE BURMA WITHOUT… Having tea or coffee in a teahouse. You will not be alone, you meet locals who are honored to sit and chat with you. PHOTO TIP Wander off the boat when it docks, but do not miss the departure.


(Letters)01.10 ONE HAPPENING

Changes in one small Beijing neighborhood reflect transformations taking place across the city, writes JEN LIN-LIU, and also in the country. Photographed by DARREN SOH

Young Chinese enjoying some shade along Nan Luogu Xiang.

LETTER OF THE MONTH Changing China

What a strange take on Beijing [“One Happening Hutong,” November 2009], a city that was in the global spotlight last year. With all the reports of empty sports venues in the Chinese capital, it was good to read about how Beijing is changing on a more common level. This is a story, not just of a street, but of a new generation and the pull it’s having on old ways. —SARAH

J O H N S TO N , S H A N G H A I

The Joy of Travel I grew up hearing a grandfather hum “Slow Boat to China” and I always wondered if there was indeed such a thing or possibility. Traveling through the course of Southeast Asia, I found that a lot of the adventures of Kipling and Maugham had been commercially spun into hotel franchises. A few years further on, I read your feature “By Boat into Borneo” [October 2009] and realized the fantasies I had of drifting luxuriously through Asia amid tea

plantations and rain forests are indeed possible and plausible. Not only was it an informative and fascinating read, it was also an insight into the current joys of travel. In it, Colin Hinshelwood writes, “Indigenous faces stare at us at small villages. Some produce mobile phones and snap photos of us—a sharp reminder of the present.” I think that, in a world where photographer and subject can easily trade places, where we constantly grow in fascination with the otherness of others, your magazine proves yet again that the magic of travel can be transformative for both locals and visitors. Keep up the great work—the Best Deals section is a genuine find. —JULES

DAC A NAY , M A N I L A

Surly Situations I’ve always wondered why we put up with rude waiters and other types of servers, but thought I was the only one. So it was great to come across your article on this topic [“Unhappy to Serve You,” November 2009]. I can even hear the waiter at the Chinese restaurant in the story—I think anyone who’s been in that situation will laugh out loud when they read it. Give us more of these stories. — G AU R AV

ROY , BA N G KO K

CORRECTION: In our November 2009 Strategies guide to travel photography, we incorrectly labeled the Canon EOS 500D as the Canon EOS Rebel T1I, which is how the camera is named in the U.S. In Southeast Asia, it is the Canon EOS 500D. We regret the error.

E-MAIL T+L SEND YOUR LETTERS TO EDITOR @ TRAVELANDLEISURESEA.COM AND LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON RECENT STORIES OR NEW PLACES TO VISIT. LETTERS CHOSEN MAY BE EDITED FOR CLARITY AND SPACE. THE LETTER OF THE MONTH RECEIVES A FREE ONE-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION TO TRAVEL + LEISURE ( SOUTHEAST ASIA ONLY). READER OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN LETTERS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF TRAVEL + LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA, MEDIA TRANSASIA LTD., OR AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING.


(Best Deals) 01.10 DEAL OF THE MONTH

Exclusive to T+L SEA readers, the Organic Cultural Yoga Escape at Desa Seni (62-361/8446392; desaseni.com) on Bali. What’s Included A four-day stay in a

A room at The Hill Villas, on Bali.

Deluxe Village House; daily breakfast; roundtrip airport transfers;

Get a start on your New Year’s resolutions with these escapes

daily yoga; a private

■ INDONESIA Wellness package at The Hill Villas (62361/847-8888; thehillvillas.com) on Bali. What’s Included A four-day stay in a one-bedroom villa; daily breakfast; a lunch and dinner; a onehour reflexology session; a three-hour spa package; a 90-minute yoga session in your villa; free Wi-Fi; and round-trip airport transfers. Cost US$950, through March 31. Savings 40 percent.

Internet access. Cost From Y56,595 per night, through March 31. Savings Up to 32 percent.

the organic restaurant;

■ MACAU French Magnifique package at the Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 (853/8861-7312; sofitel. com). What’s Included A one-night stay in a Luxury room; dinner buffet for two; HK$200 credit upon presentation of a pair of roundtrip ferry or air tickets; and buy one get one drink free at the lobby lounge. Cost HK$1,618 (Sunday to Thursday, an extra HK$300 applies to Friday and Saturday), through January 31. Savings 42 percent.

massage or reflexology

■ JAPAN Winter Escapes package at The Peninsula Tokyo (81-3/6270-2888; peninsula.com). What’s Included A choice of one value-added benefit: either a room upgrade or Y10,000 hotel credit or a welcome gift; breakfast for two; and complimentary Wi-Fi and wireless broadband 18

■ SINGAPORE BBB package at the Royal Plaza on Scotts (65/6737-7966; royalplaza.com.sg). What’s Included Accommodation in a deluxe room and breakfast, broadband and beverage bar. Cost S$288 (blackout dates apply), through December 31. Savings 45 percent. ■ THAILAND Soft-opening Special at LUXX XL (66-2/6841111; staywithluxx.com) in Bangkok. What’s Included Accommodation in a Studio room and daily breakfast. Cost Bt2,800 per night, through March 31. Savings Up to 50 percent.

J A N UA RY 2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

es and three dinners at a choice of a one-hour session; and a full-day island tour. Cost US$540 per person or US$715 for two, through June 30. Savings 30 percent. Desa Seni, a peaceful resort on Bali.

F RO M TO P : CO U RT ESY O F T H E H I L L V I L L AS ; CO U RT ESY O F D ESA S E N I

■ AUSTRALIA Sydney Romantic Getaway at the Swissôtel Sydney (61-2/9238-8888; swissotelsydney.com.au). What’s Included A one-night stay in a Classic room; in-room breakfast with sparkling wine; chocolate-dipped strawberries and sparkling wine on arrival; dinner for two in Jpb Restaurant; and late check-out until 2 P.M. Cost A$469 per night, through December 29. Savings 20 percent.

yoga lesson; two lunch-


Q: I NEED A FEW WEEKS OFF TO GET AWAY FROM WORK. CAN YOU SUGGEST A DREAM TREK FOR ME IN ASIA? —CINDY LIU, SINGAPORE

A:

We were just thinking the same thing. Fortunately, this part of the world has no shortage of lengthy “trips of a lifetime.” Bangkokbased Smiling Albino (smilingalbino.com) offers a 34-day trek around the fabled Mount Kailash in Tibet, with prices starting at US$6,950 per person. If climbing Everest is more your thing, Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com) has 20-day treks to base camp, through rhododendron forests and past raging rivers, and with experienced sherpas, all for US$5,590 per person.

(Ask T+L) 01.10

Which Asian airlines offer economy seats with more legroom and how costly are these seats? —OTIS CHUNG, HONG KONG

A general rule of thumb has premiumeconomy seats costing 35 percent more than economy seats. To varying degrees, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, EVA Air, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Thai Airways all offer premium-economy cabins. That means it’s best to check with each carrier before you book your ticket, as some of these cabins exist only on a handful of routes. As of this month, Cathay Pacific offers passengers a chance to purchase seats with extra legroom for US$25 or 5,000 Asia Miles on flights to mainland China and other regional destinations. This follows Cathay’s decision to sell extra-legroom seats on long-haul flights for US$100 or 20,000 Asia Miles per sector. Those in the airline’s Marco Polo Club, silver level or higher, continue to enjoy this option free of charge. The catch? There are only two to four such seats available per flight on a first-come, first-served basis. Where can I get up-to-the-minute exchange rates?

Both xe.com, which has constantly changing rates that follow the live markets, and oanda.com offer hundreds of currencies for conversion. Oanda.com isn’t as up to the minute but does offer exchange rates on 164 of the world’s currencies.

E-MAIL T+L SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO EDITOR @ TRAVELANDLEISURESEA.COM. QUESTIONS CHOSEN FOR PUBLICATION MAY BE EDITED FOR CLARITY AND SPACE.

I L L U S T R AT E D BY WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N

—SAM SMITHSON, KUALA LUMPUR


Special Feature

SIAM’S CAPITAL IN FOCUS

B

ANGKOK IS A CITY OF contrasts: vivid sunsets, modern cityscapes and ancient temples, so capture every memory in pin-sharp perfection—even at twilight—with the Cyber-shot TX1 by Sony. Bangkok is a strikingly beautiful city, especially at this time of the year. In the cooler months, the sunsets wash the sky with pastel blues and pinks, while the sun splashes red stains across the vast canvas of the sky. It’s a time of year—and a city—that particularly attracts tourists eager to catch this magical blend of Eastern charm and Western chic. But the glorious sunsets, landscape shots and exquisite twilight scenes do present photographers with a number of challenges. Visiting the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), set along the banks

BANGKOK IS A CITY OF CONTRASTS: VIVID SUNSETS, MODERN CITYSCAPES AND ANCIENT TEMPLES, SO CAPTURE EVERY MEMORY IN PIN-SHARP PERFECTION—EVEN AT TWILIGHT—WITH THE CYBER-SHOT TX1 BY SONY

of the mighty Chao Phraya River, as the sun goes down or rises—a tourism mustsee—means low light levels, and capturing the panoramic views can be next to impossible with conventional cameras. Similar problems present themselves in the city center, whether one is dining at one of the sky-high eateries that Bangkok is famous for, or visiting China Town just as the neon lights start to blaze against the cerulean skies. Meantime, in Bangkok’s many beautiful green spaces (and there are more than most tourists realize, like Suan Sirikit, just down the road from Asoke BTS station, and Suan Luang Rama 9, near the Seacon Square shopping mall), there are spectacular views of the city’s spiky skyline contrasted with the peace and quiet of the parks and the lakes they contain.

This is why the Cyber-shot TX1 by Sony comes highly recommended for all travelers, in all situations. With its revolutionary 1/2.4-type “Exmor R” CMOS sensor—which features a backilluminated structure that maximizes and efficiently utilizes the amount of light received—it is twice as sensitive as conventional CMOS sensors. This means a dramatic reduction in “noise,” so photographers can enjoy cleaner and higher-definition images when shooting in dark environments, like the night markets, temples, or sunsets in Bangkok. In fact, with the Handheld Twilight mode, images have 50% less noise because the highsensitivity CMOS sensor allows the camera to superimpose six frames to create a single optimized image. The result? Four times more clarity than


conventional cameras with Handheld Twilight mode. And given the visual wealth that Bangkok boasts, the Cyber-shot TX1 by Sony also features Sweep Panorama mode. All you have to do is sweep your camera horizontally to create stunning landscape shots, like cityscapes or parks, or vertically to capture tall objects like the tallest building in Bangkok—Baiyoke Tower in Pratunam district. Photos are taken at high speed and automatically assembled to create a single, breathtaking panoramic picture. The great thing about the Cybershot TX1 by Sony is that in a city that never slows down, the 10 frames per second, high-speed continuous shooting will also blow photographers away. Catching fast action or a moving subject, like a wily, wiry Muay Thai boxer at Lumpini Stadium is a cinch. Any trip to Bangkok would not be complete without the memories that photos capture. But for this traveling writer, my perfect travel companion to Bangkok and beyond is always now the Cyber-shot TX1 by Sony. It allows me to go beyond convention and capture what my eyes really perceive, and my heart truly sees.

With the Cyber-shot TX1’s 10 frame per second mode, you can take fast-action photos, like these at Siam Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) station in Bangkok. You can even select the best picture you like. The BTS is one of the cheapest, fastest coolest ways to get around Bangkok.

This classy camera is the world’s first digital compact camera with a backilluminated “Exmor R” CMOS Sensor. Chic and sleek, it is also the world’s slimmest compact camera with this sensor in its 14.1mm camera body.


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Strategies Best New Travel

Gadgets Want to make your next business trip a breeze? We bring you cutting-edge tech devices, from the latest smart phones to the newest netbooks, e-readers and more. PLUS: A sneak peek at what’s on the horizon. By ADAM BAER. Photographed by JAMES WOJCIK

BLACKBERRY TOUR

The new Tour has quicker Web browsing, international dialing, and a built-in GPS chip. It’s also our favorite phone for business e-mail because of the evenly spaced keyboard and top-notch text-messaging options.

T-MOBILE MYTOUCH

Hopefully landing in Asia soon, T-Mobile’s latest iPhone competitor (known as “the Google Phone”) is a touchscreen mobile using Google’s Android operating system. Its virtual keyboard is a bit unwieldy for drafting a quick business update, but it works well for dashing off a short e-mail.

IPHONE 3GS

In the smart-phone category, nothing tops the touch-screen iPhone when it comes to entertainment. But the newest model has also become a go-to device for business travelers, thanks to its wide array of travel apps. apple.com.

SMART PHONES PALM PRE

This model combines the best features of the iPhone and BlackBerry with an intuitive interface and a slide-down keyboard. Currently unavailable in Asia, the Web is abuzz with launch rumors in the region.

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| travel solutions NETBOOKS

SONY VAIO W

The matte surface of Sony’s 10-inch model makes it more comfortable to type on than most netbooks, but the tiny keyboard is better for smaller hands. Best feature Although the steeper price point may not appeal to the budget-conscious, the Vaio’s high-resolution glossy screen is excellent — perfect for people who work with digital images and video. sonystyle.com.

TOSHIBA NB200

Shiny hinges, powder-coated finish: descriptions of Toshiba’s 10-inch NB200 read like ad copy for a luxury car. But they fit. Despite its affordability, it feels more expensive than other netbooks, with extremely responsive keys and a glossy frame. Best feature The ninehour battery that will outlast red-eye flights — it’s as powerful and efficient as they come. laptops.toshiba.com.

ASUS EEE 1008HA

Asus — one of the first companies to release a small, inexpensive netbook with its famous Eee models — calls this 10-inch version Seashell. It comes with a superslim LED screen and nicely concealed connection ports as well as 10 complimentary gigabytes of online backup storage. Best feature At just 2.5 centimeters thick, the Asus Eee is the skinniest of our picks. eeepc.asus.com.

HP MINI 110

There’s more to consider than the floral surface design of this 10-inch netbook with an impressive antiglare LED display screen. The battery lasts almost four hours and lifts the device into a more ergonomic position, for easier typing. Best feature Full-size keys, uncommon on netbooks, especially for a computer with such a low price tag. hp.com.

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LENOVO IDEAPAD S12

ON THE HORIZON If you like the iPhone, you’re in for a nice surprise come late spring: Apple is rumored to be releasing a 10-inch, travel-friendly Mac tablet. With a curved back and large touch screen (there’s no physical keyboard), it looks like the iPhone’s big brother and functions in much the same way. • Sony, meanwhile, is investing in repopularizing

3-D technology, and its new Vaio laptops will offer sharper ways to view 3-D videos and movies. • Get ready for more superslim devices with energysaving screens and longer-life batteries that you can charge on electrical pads rather than with cords — a host of tech makers, from Powermat to Duracell, have them in the works.

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Although Lenovo’s sturdy white laptop is not technically a netbook (it has a full-size keyboard, hefty 1.6 kilogram weight, and 12-inch screen), it’s still compact enough to compete in the category. Best feature Business travelers in particular will benefit from the inclusion of an ExpressCard slot, which allows for 3G wireless, Firewire and extra USB ports, meaning you’ll be able to do work you’d otherwise accomplish only at the office. lenovo.com.


AMAZON KINDLE II

The forerunner in its category, the Kindle has the capacity to store up to 1,500 files, including magazines, newspapers and audio tracks. The thin and light Kindle performs wireless downloads quickly, surfs the Internet, plays audiobooks, and has an easy-to-read six-inch screen. Caveat Sure, the keyboard buttons could be easier to use when typing a search term or a note, but this is a minor complaint given that it’s the only e-reader on our list with a keyboard. amazon.com/kindle.

SONY READER TOUCH EDITION

Sony ups the ante on the Kindle with this six-inch touch screen that reads the most common file formats, lets you turn pages with the swipe of a finger, and can access more than 1 million public titles through Google. It’s ideal for people who want to make e-book reading a tactile experience. Caveats The device only stores 350 books (you can purchase separate memory cards to hold more) and doesn’t download from the Web wirelessly — although Sony Reader Daily Edition does. sonystyle.com.

FOXIT ESLICK

This affordable e-reader has a six-inch screen, the same storage capacity as the Sony reader, and a built-in MP3 player for audiobook and podcast fans. Caveat The eSlick only reads PDF and text formats (no Sony or Amazon titles), so it’s best for execs who need a dedicated document reader. foxitsoftware.com.

COOL-ER

An option for the less serious e-lit consumer, the Cool-er is fun and affordable, though less fully loaded than our other picks. Like the eSlick, it only reads PDF’s, but does come with an MP3 player. We like its versatility: You can switch from portrait to landscape mode using the directional pad, which is located on one side. Caveat The device lacks Wi-Fi and a keyboard, and the screen isn’t as clear as other readers. coolreaders.com.

E-BOOK READERS

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ON THE HORIZON Though it won’t be long before we’re reading e-books on our smart phones, the e-reader category continues to expand. IREX has just released the DR800SG, a white eight-inch e-reader that works in conjunction with Barnes and Noble’s e-bookstore and Verizon’s 3G network for faster downloads

anywhere in the world. • This month, Plastic Logic will launch its own Barnes and Noble– compatible e-reader, this one letter-size and with a touch screen. • Microsoft is reportedly working on a color touchscreen version, code-named the Courier, which is expected to be introduced in late 2010.

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| travel solutions MOPHIE JUICE PACK AIR

Always leave your iPhone charger at home when you need it most? The Mophie Juice Pack — the world’s thinnest iPhone case — happens to double as an extended battery — with 4 1/2 hours of 3G talk time, 20 hours of audio play time and six hours of video life. mophie.com.

BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 15

Previous versions of Bose’s ubiquitous noise-canceling headphones may have left a lot to be desired, since they failed to cancel out all surrounding noise. But this new, richly balanced set really quiets an airplane’s clamor, thanks to sound-sensing microphones located on both the outside and inside of its ear cups. bose.com.

BELKIN MINI SURGE PROTECTOR

Here’s the newest solution for setting up a mobile office in a hotel room that has just one available wall outlet. This three-plug surge protector, which could fit in an evening clutch, comes with two USB ports for charging a mobile phone or MP3 player. belkin.com.

IOMEGA EGO BLACKBELT 500GB

Wrapped inside a thick black rubber shell, this durable and portable hard drive functions without external power. Its storage capability exceeds that of most laptops (up to 500GB), and if you run out of space, you can get online backup free. go.iomega.com.

SUPER TALENT PICO B 16GB

This water-resistant key-chain drive — it’s retractable and smaller than a postage stamp — comes with 16GB of reliable memory, quick download speeds and a lifetime warranty. supertalent.com.

ACCESSORIES

CALLPOD FUELTANK DUO

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Hard to find outside Hong Kong, the new Fueltank Duo has adapters for nearly every mobile phone, camera, MP3 player and GPS navigation system on the market. Even better, it allows you to charge two gadgets at once.

ON THE HORIZON: TRAVEL GEAR Perhaps the biggest news in 2010 will be the launch of the new Android smart phones, including a model from Archos, a leading manufacturer of portable media equipment and iPod alternatives. The phone is expected to make its debut late next year with a thin, four-inch touch screen, an easy-to-use interface, and video capability. • This year may also be the time to invest in a new camera, whether

it’s the pro-level Leica X1, which delivers the power of a digital SLR in a compact size, or Sony’s less expensive 2010 Cyber-shot TX1, which lets you scan its lens across a wide area for up to 10 seconds to get one panoramic photo. • Expect a flurry of portable devices (with new travel apps) that take advantage of social media programs: the recently launched pint-size

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Twitterpeek allows you to update your status and connect with others wherever you are. • There are also better navigation systems: Out this month are TomTom’s iPhone-GPS system car kits (limited to the U.S. and Europe for now) and Garmin’s nuLink data connection, which merges Google and white pages searching abilities with real-time airline, traffic and weather updates.


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BEYOND THE GATES

A quiet moment at Heathrow.

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C O U R T E SY O F H E AT H R O W I N T E R N AT I O N A L A I R P O R T

How to get the most out of international airports in HONG KONG, LONDON, SYDNEY and VANCOUVER, with insider tips on the best dining when on the run, where to shop before you board your ight and even how to relax


Hong Kong’s airy main terminal.

HONG KONG ■ EAT + DRINK Café Deco This spacious, blond wood–accented dining room with live jazz overlooks the sea. Chefs turn out Pan-Asian and Western dishes such as tandoori lamb and pizza with prosciutto and black truffles. Terminal 1, level 7 (beyond security); 852/3118-2208; dinner for two HK$295.

F RO M TO P : RO B E RT F E R N H O U T; CO U RT ESY O F A I R P O RT AU T H O R I T Y H O N G KO N G

King’s Palace Congee & Noodle

Chinese comfort foods are at their best here: congee with chicken, scallions and fried tofu; wonton soup with scallops; barbecued pork; and choi sum. Terminal 1, level 7 (beyond security); 852/2385-9969; lunch for two HK$270. Saint Honore Cake Shop The Hong Kong bakery chain built its reputation on oval-shaped egg tarts, but it sells other fresh-baked desserts, such as strawberry-topped cream cake. Terminal 2, level 3, shop 117; 852/3197-9333; pastries for two HK$60. ■ SHOP Muji To Go Japan’s stylish-yetfunctional travel accessories shop stocks wrinkle-free shirts, sleek digital alarm clocks and foldable cardboard speakers. Terminal 1, level 6, near Gate 61 (beyond security); 852/2261-0711; muji.com.hk. The Peninsula Boutique Recently renovated, this gourmet chocolate shop also sells delicacies such as bean paste–

filled moon cakes and spicy XO sauce, made by Peninsula Hotels. Terminal 1, level 6 (beyond security); 852/2186-6646; peninsulaboutique.com. Shanghai Tang At this airport outpost of the classic luxury brand, you’ll find Chinese coin cuff links, brightly colored cheongsams and accessories such as silk-covered photo albums. Terminal 1, level 7 (beyond security); 852/2261-0318; shanghaitang.com. ■ SEE+DO SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course On-site instructors are available for technique brushups at this nine-hole golf course. 20 Sky City Rd. E. (near Terminal 2); 852/3760-6688; nine-eagles. com. 4-D Extreme Screen The largest 4-D projection screen in Asia—a 360-seat theater where movies come not

only with 3-D glasses but also with wind and fog—happens to be at the airport. Terminal 2, level 6, shop 59; 852/3559-1070; mclcinema.com. Regal Airport Hotel and Om Spa Airport hotels should always be this good: this 12-floor property houses an indoor and outdoor pool complex open to the public (HK$150 per day), and Om Spa on the third level. 9 Cheong Tat Rd. (connected to Terminal 1); 852/2286-8888; regalhotel.com. Hong Kong Transit Tour Connecting passengers can take a round-trip bus tour in less than five hours: the shortest itinerary includes a Star Ferry ride across Victoria Harbour. Commercial Services Counter B-13; 852/2739-3828; vigorholding.com; tours from $26. — J E N N I F E R F L O W E R S

TERMINAL 1, LEVEL 7

TERMINAL 2, LEVEL 6 TERMINAL 1, LEVEL 6

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The always bustling Heathrow.

LONDON HEATHROW ■ SHOP Harrods Each of Heathrow’s terminals has a Harrods outlet, but only in T5 can you find 1,000 square meters of travel-related merchandise, including a luxury luggage section and a personalshopping service. Terminal 5 (beyond security); 44-20/8283-6194. Mappin & Webb These British silversmiths are renowned for carrying fine jewelry, as well as for creating regal flatware and cutlery. Terminals 3 and 5 (beyond security); 44-20/8759-6696. Paul Smith Globe You’ll find plenty of the designer’s smartly tailored pieces, but you’ll also discover antique travel objects such as vintage globes and limited-edition cameras. Terminal 5 (beyond security); 44-20/8283-7066.

menu). Terminal 5 (beyond security); 4420/8283-6122; dinner for two £26. Wagamama The London-based noodle specialists got creative for their first airport restaurant. Breakfast ranges from coconut porridge to yakisoba (noodles) with eggs. Terminal 5 (beyond security); 44-20/82836186; lunch for two £19.

Lag facial. Terminal 5 (beyond security); 44-20/8283-6387. Heathrow Academy During the construction of T5, archaeologists excavated more than 80,000 artifacts, including a hand axe circa 3,000 B.C. and a wooden bowl from the Middle Bronze Age. Newall Rd., next to the Renaissance Hotel; 44-20/8745-6655.

■ SEE + DO Art at British Airways

■ STAY Yotel Inspired by Japanese

Galleries For its six new lounges, BA

capsule hotels, the 32-room Yotel has the amenities of a high-end property (handmade organic mattresses; rain showers). Terminal 4 (beyond security); 44-20/7100-1100; yotel.com; doubles from £36 for four hours or £78 per night.

commissioned site-specific pieces from Oona Culley, Troika and other British artists. Terminal 5 (beyond security). Be Relax Spa The menu at this super-sleek spa covers everything from a 10-minute express manicure to an hour-long Anti Jet

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beloved Italian mini chain you can sit for a three-course meal or buy stuffed homemade focaccia from the shop. Terminal 5; 44-20/8283-6213; dinner for two £48. Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar Classics here include traditional caviar service with toasted blini and crème fraîche. Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5 (beyond security); 44-20/8750-5542; dinner for two £78. Gordon Ramsay Plane Food Britain’s bad-boy chef does fine dining to suit all travelers’ needs, whether you have a layover (Suffolk pork belly, perhaps) or are on the fly (see the Plane Picnic to-go 32

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■ EAT + DRINK Carluccio’s At this


The modern gateway to Australia, far left; arriving in Sydney.

F RO M R I G H T: CO U RT ESY O F SY D N EY A I R P O RT; JA M ES M O RGA N

SYDNEY ■ EAT + DRINK Bar Coluzzi This casual restaurant started as an outpost of Darlinghurst’s iconic Italian café. It’s the perfect spot for a “flat white” and a chicken and avocado sandwich. Terminal 1; 61-2/9114-6558; lunch for two A$19. Harry’s Café de Wheels It may not be the healthiest snack food, but it surely is the tastiest here: a meat pie from the legendary Harry’s, a local takeout joint that began in 1938 as a food truck. Terminal 2 (beyond security); 61-2/9317-5592; lunch for two A$11. Jyona Beli One of the latest additions to the airport’s revamped food court is this Nepalese restaurant, which serves traditional spicy curries, including a beef aalu curry cooked with diced potatoes and lamb mula. Terminal 1 (beyond security); 61-2/9669-5782; dinner for two A$21. Oporto Hands down, the best fast food in Sydney Airport is Oporto’s Portuguese chicken Bondi burger in a piri-piri sauce or a lemon-and-herb sauce. Terminal 1 (beyond security); 61-2/8339-0133; dinner for two A$21. Volare The real reason to come to this trattoria is the beer garden/sundeck right beside the runways. Terminal 1; drinks for two A$27.

or T-shirts from homegrown labels Billabong, Quiksilver and Mambo. Terminals 1 and 2 (beyond security); beachculture. com.au. Purely Merino Australia is renowned for its sheepskin products, and this boutique is the spot to stock up on the country’s coziest exports: hats, gloves, and Ugg boots and slippers. Terminal 1 (beyond security); purelymerino.com. R. M. Williams Want to continue the Man from Snowy River fantasy at home? You’ll need a rabbit-fur Akubra hat, craftsman’s boots and an all-weather jacket from this legendary outfitter. Terminal 1 (beyond security); rmwilliams.com.au.

■ SEE + DO Rainbow Serpent If you didn’t visit Sydney’s Aboriginal art galleries, swing by Rainbow Serpent, which showcases local work, from original paintings and sculptures to didgeridoos and carved boomerangs. Terminal 1 (beyond security); rainbowserpent.com.au. Tourist Refund Scheme International travelers who have spent A$300 in one store while in Australia are entitled to a TRS refund of the goods and services tax (about 10 percent). Be sure to have your receipt and the purchased items with you to present at the desk. It takes a few minutes to process. Terminal 1; customs.gov.au. —A M Y FA R L E Y

TERMINAL 1

International Departures

■ SHOP Beach Culture Sure, they’re Brazilian, but Havaianas may very well be Australia’s signature footwear. Pick up a pair here, along with board shorts, bikinis

International Arrivals

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Vancouver’s comfortable international airport.

VANCOUVER

■ SHOP Gifts of the Raven Browse for leather goods and carved wood and stone figurines by native artists at this museum-like arts-and-crafts boutique. Departures, level 3; 1-604/231-3731. Great Canadian Book Company Novels by Canadian authors, as well as Vancouver-themed coffee-table books, make this a great alternative to your run-of-the-mill airport bookstore. Departures, level 3; 1-604/303-3073. Vancouver Marketplace This gourmet shop is chockablock with Canadian delicacies: Thomas Haas chocolates, 34

local salmon and maple syrup. Departures, level 3; 1-604/231-3731. ■ SEE + DO Absolute Spa Services here range from 45-minute anti-swelling treatments to hour-long facials. Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, Departures, level 3, and U.S. Departures, level 3 (beyond security); 1-604/248-2772. Plaza Premium Lounge It doesn’t matter which airline you’re flying—anyone can pay the C$34 entry fee to this new lounge. The space is equipped with comfy armchairs and

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free Wi-Fi. Departures, level 3 (beyond security); 1-604/276-6688. Vancouver Aquarium Displays In the Departures area, you’ll find a tank with some 850 marine plants and animals. Departures, level 3, and Arrivals, level 4 (beyond security).—A L I S O N G O R A N TRAVEL + LEISURE STORE If you’re flying domestically, stop by our new boutique, which carries Tumi and Samsonite luggage, as well as other travel-related products. Domestic Terminal, level 3.

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3 JETSIDE BAR 4 GIFTS OF THE RAVEN 5 GREAT CANADIAN BOOK COMPANY

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■ EAT + DRINK Globe@YVR A bowl of this cozy restaurant’s mascarponeand-mushroom ravioli can make a layover here seem almost pleasurable. Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, Departures, level 3; 1-604/248-3281; dinner for two C$145. Hanami Japanese Restaurant Besides sashimi and sushi rolls, dishes include yakisoba noodles accompanied by a selection of Japanese sakes. Departures, level 3; 1-604/821-9932; lunch for two C$38. Jetside Bar Stone fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows set the scene. The menu? Dressed-up comfort classics such as a braised-pork sandwich with smoked Gouda. Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, Departures, level 3; 1-604/248-3281; dinner for two C$127.


Accessible Angkor. A little-known temple in Cambodia <(page 58)

Weekend Away. A break from Taipei in Hsinchu <(page 59)

Japanese Menus. Playing out a food obsession in Tokyo <(page 53)

+

• Asia’s hottest new restaurants • Shopping the streets of Saigon • The quirkiest souvenirs around

(Insider) Photo credit by tktktk

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T : D AV I D H A G E R M A N ( 2 ) ; J U N TA K A G I ; L A R A D AY ; L A U R Y N I S H A A K

Hip and Pink. Singapore opens up to the gay community (page 47)>

Where to GoWhat to EatWhere to StayWhat to Buy

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Yiu Wa Street, Hong Kong A block away from Times Square, this short stretch boasts funky boutiques by day, and sleek lounges by night. Here, 10 must-hit spots. By LILI TAN. Photographed by LARA DAY

Shoes at DYOS; the exclusive b.a.r.; Valerie Wine Bar; Pink Martini’s racks; Marshmallow, the street’s sweetest boutique, from left.

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Drinks at Sonyiuwa; bags and blazers at Walk-In Closet; Yiu Wa St.; outside Statement, from left.

1. Marshmallow

Creamsicle-striped walls grace the street’s sweetest boutique, which stocks designer threads from Japan. Look out for cult labels like ahcahcum and Tsumori Chisato. Recent highlights include an oversized jersey tee with Bambi silkscreen, printed green shift and cropped turquoise sweater with pinwheel appliqués. Shop G05, ground floor, Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2836-6367. 2. Pink Martini

If Coco Chanel had a punk lil’ sis, then this would be her closet. Look for the neon pink martini in the window, as well as the school-girl blazer with beaded emblem and ruffled miniskirts once you’re inside. Shop 02, ground floor, Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2574-1498; pinkmartini.com.hk. 3/4. The Wardrobe/Walk-In Closet

These sister stores have slightly different personalities: Walk-In Closet is the trendier of the two, selling cocktail dresses like a silk yellow and grey colorblock mini by Centimetre. The Wardrobe airs on the blazers-and-cardigans side, with a nice selection of ballet flats to match. The Wardrobe: 26 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2891-3688; Walk-In Closet: Shop 5, ground floor, Workingview 40

Commercial Bldg, 15–21 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2838-1163. 5. DYOS

Opened this past summer by self-taught designer Winnie Fong, Design Your Own Shoes custom cobbler shop is already a must-visit for shoe fiends. Rework the hot pink lace-up “Joy” heels in a nude or black satin for a more versatile pair, or create your own from scratch. 1st floor, 33 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2204-3043; dyos.hk. 6. Oldies

On a tight budget? The HK$180 T-shirts and printed polyester dresses probably make this easy-to-miss spot one of the least-expensive vintage stores in Hong Kong. Check out the selection of leather bomber jackets. 1st floor, 28 Yiu Wa St.; 852/255-8775. 7. Sonyiuwa

Ignore the Grey Goose branding on the doors—Sonyiuwa has an outdoor terrace and one of the best cocktail menus on the block, including several saketini and Long Island iced tea variations. Salt addicts should try the Salty Samurai, a sake and grapefruit juice concoction. 30 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2591-5500; drinks for two HK$180.

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8. b.a.r.

Small, dark and exclusive, this whiskey bar lures Japanese businessmen and other aficionados with more than 100 labels. Connoisseurs can choose from a variety of Japanese single malts, smooth enough to rival Scottish ones. 27th floor, Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2892-2080; www.executivebarcom-hk.blogspot.com. 9. Valerie Wine Bar

Despite its name, the street’s most crowded spot only offers a couple of vintages by the glass. Stick to the respectable cocktail menu, unless you’re with someone who shares the same taste in pricey bottles. Then sit back in the grey chairs, set against pink screens, and enjoy the lively scene. 33 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2803-5318; drinks for two HK$200. 10. Statement

With its sage and white tiled walls, warm wood floors and beige leather chairs, Statement offers serenity amid all the action. The focus here is on champagnes, including Dom Pérignon and Krug Grand Cuvée; popular snacks such as Parma ham pizza and pasta alla vongole are on the menu for pairing. 10 Yiu Wa St.; 852/2834-0044; drinks for two HK$180.


E AT

Where to Eat Now The hottest restaurant openings in Asia, from Bangkok to Bali. By JENNIFER CHEN THE SEAFOOD BAR BANGKOK Restaurateur Billy Marinelli of the buzzing Oyster Bar hits a home run with his sophomore effort. For starters, it’s bigger, with an oyster bar and private dining room. There’s also a larger kitchen, allowing executive chef Brad Brochardt to concoct a more ambitious menu. Oysters remain a forte, but make room for mains like the meaty grilled marlin with tabbouleh and roasted red pepper purée. The chowder is thick with littleneck clams. 41 Somerset Lake Place, Soi 16, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/663-8863; seafoodbar.info; dinner for two with wine Bt2,500.

F R O M T O P : WA S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N ; C H R I S T O P H E R L E G G E T; C O U R T E SY O F W H I S K ; C O U R T E SY O F K R I S H

SARDINE BALI Super-fresh seafood plays the starring role, with the menu changing daily depending on the catch, though the stunning setting amid a rice field threatens to steal the show. Vegetables, meanwhile, are sourced from the owners’ organic farm up north, while the open-air, bamboo structure sheltering the eatery further burnishes its green credentials. No. 21 Jln. Petitenget, Kerobokan; 62-361/738-202; sardinebali. com; dinner for two Rp500,000. WHISK HONG KONG After conquering Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai with his refined, heavily French influenced fare, Justin Quek debuts in Hong Kong at the revamped Mira Hotel. The ultra-mod décor belies a straightforward menu that emphasizes top-notch ingredients. Must-haves include the roasted crackling suckling pig and the ethereal apple tart. If you’re on a budget, opt for the HK$550 five-course set dinner. 5th floor, The Mira Hong Kong, 118 Nathan Rd.; 852/2315-5999; themirahotel.com; dinner for two with wine HK$2,000. KRISH SINGAPORE Owner and namesake Nikhil Krishan clocked in hours as a chef at Melbourne’s acclaimed Vue de Monde, and at this casual-chic eatery housed in a handsome black-and-white colonial bungalow, he seeks to marry his French training with the South Asian flavors of his youth. Samosas are stuffed with roasted eggplant and served with basil-spiked aioli; succulent pork belly gets the tikka treatment. 9 Rochester Park, Singapore; 65/6779-4644; krish.com.sg; dinner for two with drinks S$120.


insider

| newsflash RE SORT

SPRING AWAKENING

Pewter, Rei Reimagined Pewter maker Royal Selangor pushes the design envelope with its new collection by Hong Kong designer Freeman Lau. In stores now until the end of February, the Five Elements series features bamboo-inspired pendants and tableware, including a monogrammed tea set composed of wood, bone china and pewter—the perfect gift for tea lovers on Chinese New Year. Look out for more cutting-edge collaborations in the future.

Experts ranging from nutritionists to traditional practitioners are on hand to guide guests through programs that combine fitness, nutrition and the healing arts. Twenty-five spacious villas decorated in modern Malay style ensure well-cosseted stays. Meanwhile, the spectacular setting — a pristine valley blessed with natural hot springs and rain forest–cloaked limestone karsts — guarantees a memorably rejuvenating experience.

Lost Angkor BOOK

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Photographer John McDermott began documenting Angkor Wat in the mid 1990’s, but it was around 2000 when his project gained urgency. That’s when he grasped that tourism—which was starting to take off—would change the nature of the site forever. Elegy (Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei, US$75) is a collection of McDermott’s elegant, sepia-toned photographs of the iconic temples, taken from 1995 to the present day. Strikingly, many of the images are unpeopled—a rare sight these days as nearly 1 million tourists continue to stream into Siem Reap. “Trying to get the major monuments without people is impossible except at the extremes of the day,” explains the American lensman. All the more reason, then, to add Elegy to your library.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F R O YA L S E L A N G O R ; C O U R T E S Y O F B A N J A R A N H O T S P R I N G S R E T R E AT ( 3 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F J O H N M C D E R M O T T ( 2 )

STYLE

The stakes are rising in Asia’s spa scene with the just-opened Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat (No. 1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3, Ipoh; 60-5/210-7777; thebanjaran. com; three-day packages from US$900) — Malaysia’s first wellness resort. Located in northern Perak state about two hours from Kuala Lumpur, the seven-hectare retreat draws deeply from the country’s multicultural heritage — Malay, Chinese and India — to offer an extensive list of treatments.


Guerrilla Art

ART

F RO M TO P ; CO U RT ESY O F M I S C H M AS C H GA L L E RY; CO U RT ESY O F BO R D E R S CO N T E M P O RA RY A RT

Mischmasch Gallery, above. Below: No Borders Contemporary Art.

Independent, avant-garde art spaces are spicing up Hong Kong’s burgeoning art scene. Self-styled “tech artist” Teddy Lo, who specializes in LED lighting, has opened I/O, or Input/Output (Ground floor, Tung Yiu Commercial Building, 31A Wyndham St., Central; 852/3105-1127; inputoutput.tv/cms), a tiny space devoted to new media. Running this month is “I/O Futures,” a show dedicated to the work of young Hong Kong art school graduates. Alice Zhang is the woman behind Mischmasch Gallery (Unit B, 22nd floor, Tern Center Tower 1, 237 Queens Rd. Central, Sheung Wan; 852/25281471; mischmaschgallery.com), where members of the eponymous online artists’ community (mischmaschonline.com) show their work. Currently on is “Inscapes,” an exhibition of abstract landscape paintings. Situated above Hollywood Road is No Borders Contemporary Art (39 Aberdeen St., Central; 852/2157-6003; nobordersart.com), a bright, open space dedicated to slick-looking street art. Up this month is “Qing Hua Pop”—a show by Dorothy Tang, a young Chinese artist and designer.—L A R A DAY


insider

| shopping

Saigon Secondhand. Vietnam’s largest city is a VIETNAM

treasure trove of vintage finds—from antique Rolexes to Art Deco furniture. Story and photographs by NANA CHEN ■ VINTAGE WATCHES Along fashionable Dong Khoi Street stand a few shops offering classic timepieces left behind by French colonialists and American soldiers. One of Saigon’s leading luxury watch purveyors, TicTac (72 Dong Khoi St., District 1; 84-8/829-3519) is run by a family of watchmakers, who’ve started selling off their personal cache. Call ahead to make an appointment to view the collection, which includes exquisite pieces by Bulova, Rolex and Patek Philippe from the early 1900’s that run between US$500 and US$8,000. Many of the watches still have papers of authenticity (warranties are offered for those that don’t), while in-house watchmakers can provide repairs and maintenance. Across the road is Thai Hien (151 Dong Khoi St., District 1; 84-8/825-0526), a small stand where you’ll find Hamilton and Gruen timepieces for men and women alongside antique pens. Down the block is Minh Quy (No. 103 Dong Khoi, District 1; 84-8/822-2907), a slim corridor of a shop with perhaps the most extensive selection of antique watches from Baume & Mercier, Vacheron Constantin and Raymond Weil.

■ ANTIQUE STREET Formerly called Rue Rheim by the French, Le Cong Kieu Street earned its reputation as an antique marketplace in the 1980’s, when merchants would drive in truckloads of antiques collected from the countryside. With around 50 shops packed to the gills, you’d need an expert’s eye to spot what’s of real value. Still, it’s worth a browse, if only to pick up a cheap souvenir. On the corner, Buu (1 Le Cong Kieu St., District 1; 84/903-726-958) is filled with copper and bronze sculptures, glazed pots and wall carvings from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. Old coins make unusual—and portable—mementoes; you’ll find a selection at Quoc Tuan (26 Le Cong Kieu, District 1; 84-8/821-3340), which also stocks vintage cameras and postcards. Looking to redecorate? Tuan Nga Deco Shop (15B Le Cong Kieu St., District 1; 84-8/821-6865) tempts with Art Deco cabinets made of teak, mahogany and rosewood that are easy to disassemble. The shop can arrange shipping. For that finishing touch, step into Phuong Thuy Shop (58 Le Cong Kieu St., Distict 1; 84-8/821-3133) for hand-blown antique French lamps. ✚

Antique Hunt From left: A watch from Minh Quay, in Saigon; a jumble of “antiques” at Le Cong Kieu, a.k.a. Antique Street; customers examine the wares at Minh Quay.

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SOUTHEAST ASIA

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address book | insider

SINGAPORE

Out and About in Singapore. As the once-buttoned up city loosens up, more gay-friendly establishments have opened. Here, hotels, restaurants and more where the pink dollar is welcomed. By DAVEN WU

LAURYN ISHAK (3)

N

Bright Lights Clockwise from top left: Supperclub Singapore; the New Urban Male Store at Wheelock; Mistevious and staff at Supperclub Singapore.

OT LONG AGO, THERE WERE ONLY TWO OVERTLY GAY THINGS ABOUT

Singapore: the drag queen Kumar and the transvestites that gathered on Bugis Street. Kumar is still strutting the stage, but she’s no longer a lone act as the gay community slowly makes its way into the mainstream. Over at the über-chic Supperclub, the blond Mistevious works the floor, and come weekends, the Chinatown bars heave with men. Across town, Far East Plaza throngs with girls who like girls, while the Tiong Bahru neighborhood has become a magnet for house-proud gay yuppies. Increased tolerance comes despite the fact that gay sex is still a crime in Singapore, though in late 2007, the legislation came up for repeal. The ferocious debate— conducted online, in the papers and on television—was, for a normally prim and conservative Singapore, unprecedented. In the end, the legislation stayed, though the prime minister took pains to assure that the prohibition would not be actively enforced: “[Gays] are our kith and kin. We shouldn’t make it harder than it already is for them to grow up and live in a society where they are different from most Singaporeans.” For the gay community, the debate has been cathartic. Stuart Koe, the CEO of Fridae.com, Asia’s largest gay and lesbian social networking site, says that the government has finally acknowledged that it values the contributions of its 250,000 strong gay and lesbian community. “Discussion on homosexuality has always been considered taboo, but this debate opened the floodgates,” he says. “All these positive outcomes were unexpected.” Here, we pick the city’s best gay-friendly spots: » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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| address book

On the Map Clockwise from left: Willin Low, owner of Relish restaurant; tarts at PS Café at Palais; Style:Nordic enjoys a cult following; poolside at the St. Regis.

STAY Gay-friendly hotels range from five-star stalwarts like the Mandarin Oriental (5 Raffles Ave.; 65/6338-0066; mandarinoriental.com; doubles from S$369), St. Regis (29 Tanglin Rd; 65/6506-6888; starwoodhotels.com; doubles from S$360), Ritz-Carlton Millenia (7 Raffles Ave.; 65/6337-8888; ritzcarlton.com; doubles from S$380) and the Norman Foster– designed Capella (1 The Knolls, Sentosa; 65/6377-8888; capellasingapore.com; doubles from S$550) to boutique joints like Hotel 1929 (50 Keong Saik Rd.; 65/6347-1929; hotel1929.com; doubles from S$149) and Scarlet (33 Erskine Rd.; 65/6511-3333; thescarlethotel.com; S$320). Also on the scene is the comfortably affordable (and well-located) Link Hotel (50 Tiong Bahru Rd.; 65/6622-8585; linkhotel. com.sg; doubles from S$144).

EAT Gay-owned, or gay-friendly, eateries are increasingly common. With the rainbow flag still a rare sighting, the give-away is usually the crowd. 48

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For a delicious pre-dance nasi padang feast, head to AS Marina Malay Muslim Authentic Food (Stall 2, 23 Peck Seah St.), a no-frills Chinatown stall run by Amy Tashiana, a former Boom Boom Room dancer, and her “sister” AS Marina. A few blocks away, Maxwell Food Centre (corner of South Bridge Rd. and Maxwell Rd.) is a favored spot for a late-night supper after tipples and dancing at the nearby clubs. Come Sunday, the place to be is still PS Café at Palais (Level 2, Palais Shopping Centre, 390 Orchard Rd; 65/9834-8232; lunch for two S$70) for its wagyu burgers and towering chocolate cakes. In the increasingly hip and pink Tiong Bahru quarter, champers is popping at the return (after a brief hiatus) of Cheah Sun Kee Eating House (#01-72, Block 57 Eng Hoon St; 65/9848-9938; dinner for two S$30) where the sweet-and-sour pork is easily the best in town. Relish (#02-01 Cluny Court, 50 Bukit Timah Rd; 65/6763-1547; burgers for two S$60) boasts juicy burgers, an attractively buff crowd and even cuter waiters, while the Sapphic set adores the tiny Mag’s Wine Kitchen (86 Circular Rd; 65/6438-3836; dinner for two with wine S$120) for its seasonal European menu and standout tea-smoked duck with grape reduction. By the river, Le Bistrot (#01-03, 2 Stadium Walk; 65/6447-0018; dinner for two with wine S$120) fixes up an elegant, simple

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T : L A U R Y N I S H A K ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F S T Y L E : N O R D I C ; C O U R T E S Y O F S T. R E G I S

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CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT: LAURYN ISHAK (3); DARREN SOH

pre-show dinner of steak frites and terrine of pork tenderloin and prunes.

ever-reinventing mega-club Zouk (17 Jiak Kim St.; 65/6738-2988; zoukclub.com) on Wednesday nights.

PLAY

SHOP

The ever-fabulous drag queen Kumar divides her time between TV shows, the stage and riotous live acts at 3 Monkeys (276 Holland Ave., 65/6469-1338; tickets S$20). The pretender to the throne is the vivacious, blonde Mistevious; catch her at Supperclub (Level 2 Odeon Towers, 331 North Bridge Rd.; 65/6334-4080; entry S$25 before 12 A.M.). Toca Me (95 Club St.; 65/9450-0141; drinks for two S$24) lures a loyal lesbian following to its cozily intimate, if sparely furnished, lounge. Similarly, 15 Minutes (Blk D, #01-01 LaSalle College of the Arts, 1 McNally St.; 65/6333-5915; drinks for two S$22) is popular with the Sapphic crowd for its amateur live bands and open-mike nights. For the boys, Does Your Mother Know? (41 Neil Rd.; 65/6224-3965; drinks for two S$28) provides a low-key setting for strong drinks and good-natured gossip, before heading round the corner to the decidedly more full-on Taboo (65 Neil Rd.; 65/6225-6256; drinks for two S$24) and Tantric (78 Neil Rd.; 65/6423-9232; drinks for two S$24). The balcony at Backstage Bar (13A Trengganu St.; 65/6227-1712; drinks for two S$28) overlooking Chinatown’s busy alleys is a perennial pick, as are Zirca (Block C, The Cannery, Clarke Quay; 65/6235-2292; drinks for two S$24) on Sunday nights; the newly minted Rewind (21 Tanjong Pagar Rd., 01-05; 65/6534-9287; drinks for two S$28) on Friday and Saturday nights; not to mention the

For quirky girly gift ideas, Trolley (20 Amoy St.; 65/6220-2554) is a must-visit. At Style:Nordic (39 Ann Siang Rd.; 65/6423-9114),the gregarious Jonas Ericsson does a brisk trade with his stock of cult favorite Nudie jeans and beautifully designed Scandinavian tableware. For Khmer and Chinese antiques and furniture with a chinoiserie bent, make a beeline for Christopher Noto (137/139 Tanglin Rd., Tudor Court; 65/6835-9435). On the sartorial front, both New Urban Male (#02-17 Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Rd.; 65/6738-7954) and SportsmenAsia (#03-36 Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd.; 65/6327-4088) proudly flaunt their stock of figure-hugging tees, underwear and all round fun party gear. A large gay clientele flocks to multilabel boutique Dresscode: (#01-07 The Cathay, 2 Handy Rd.; 65/6732-4606), while Club 21 (#01-02 Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Blvd.; 65/6235-0753) brings in the older, more cash rich pink set with a to-the-minute edit of Commes des Garçons and Dries van Noten. ✚

Heading Out Clockwise from left: Trolley and its girly gifts; the low-key Does Your Mother Know?; Wild Rocket Burger at Relish; the stylish Capella.


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| drink

HONG KONG

Vintage Hunting in Hong Kong. As the city vies to become a wine center, bars devoted to the grape are multiplying. Here are four to start. Story and photographs by LARA DAY By The Glass Clockwise from top left: At the Bacar Wine Brasserie; a pour at Tastings Wine Bar; SML’s wine-dispensing system.

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■ BACAR WINE BRASSERIE Situated just off Hollywood Road at the bottom of the Mid-Levels escalator, this cheerful spot is a favorite among the after-work crowd thanks to its tasty tapas and comprehensive wine list, which offers more than 20 wines by the glass. Select a perch at the bar and watch the street life from the open façade. Whites tend towards antipodean reliability, with wines like New Zealand’s Tin Pot Sauvignon Blanc 2008 available at HK$66 a glass. Reds are more international and equally good value—try a glass of Bouchard Aine & Fils Pinot Noir for just HK$62 and match it with beef tenderloin cubes bathed in chili and garlic. Ground floor, Wing Lee Building, 2 Shelley St., SoHo; 852/2521-8322. ■ SML It’s all about the freedom of choice at the Press Room Group’s trendy canteen-style dining room. Diners mix ‘n’ match dishes that come in small, medium and large sizes, so it only stands to reason that the venue’s buzzy wine-bar—which opens onto a spacious outdoor terrace—pours wines in similar portions with the help of an Enomatic wine-dispensing system. You can either buy a prepaid card and work your way through the 18 wines in the automatic dispensers, or let the friendly waiters serve up your selections from the full menu of 38 vintages. Much of the appeal here is the downright


Worthwhile Pours Clockwise from below: The evening rush at SML; stylish interiors at Tastings Wine Bar; a quiet corner at Wine Bar by Paul’s Kitchen.

WINE AUCTIONS IN HONG KONG

proletariat approach: wines are poured into tumblers. In keeping with the place’s ethos, keep things low-key with a crisp glass of Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2008 for HK$48, or drop HK$1,280 for a millennial Château Lagrange. The choice is yours. 11th floor, Times Square, 1 Matheson St., Causeway Bay; 852/2577-3444. ■ TASTINGS WINE BAR Wine-lovers flock to this subterranean bar tucked in an alleyway removed from the frenzy of Central’s main streets. Swathed in blue light, Tastings features a gleaming wall of ultra– high-tech Enomatic wine dispensers, which pour individual portions of wine—in full-glass, half-glass and “tasting” (25-milliliter) measures— while preventing oxidization. The wine list stretches to 160 vintages from across the globe, ranging from the moderately priced to the breathtakingly expensive. With 40 on tap at any one time, rare high-end bottles are within reach of those without expense accounts: a taste of the sumptuous 2003 Opus One costs a mere HK$144—hardly cheap, but a relative steal given the HK$3,168 price tag on a bottle. Pair the vintages

with the delicious nibbles offered here, including duck-mousse pâté and decadent cheese and prosciutto platters. Basement, Yuen Yick Building, 27–29 Wellington St., Central; 852/2523-6282; tastings.hk. ■ WINE BAR BY PAUL’S KITCHEN Don’t be put off by the lackluster décor—the all-you-can-drink Happy Hour, which gives punters access to endless quantities of nine types of wine for a cool HK$100, is the best deal in town. (Add another HK$60 and you get unlimited tapas as well.) The wines are both affordable and thoughtfully chosen, showcasing a range of both Old and New World wines, with some more unusual locations thrown in for interest (think Lebanon, China and, yes, Hong Kong). If you’re too late to take advantage of the deal, choose glasses or bottles from the two wine menus: a value-centric Wine Lovers list and a steeper Connoisseurs list, which offers higher-end vintages. Ground floor, 16 Gough St., Central, 852/2851-8515. ✚

Since the government abolished the city’s wine tariff in 2008, wine merchants and auction companies have been pouring in. This past October, Hong Kong became the world’s top wine market thanks to record sales at high-profile auctions. If you’re keen to bid on that rare Chateau Petrus, Acker Merrall & Condit (ackerwines.com), a New York–based wine auction company, will be holding auctions on January 30, March 27 and May 29. Venerable auction house Bonhams is also planning to hold a wine auction in May, though as of press time the date has not been set yet. Log onto their website (bonhams.com) for updates.—J.C.

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| see it

Tribal Traditions. A pair of galleries in Bali showcases extraordinary textiles, jewelry and artifacts from throughout Indonesia’s archipelago. By JENNIFER CHEN AMERICAN TRANSPLANT IN Bali, can recall precisely the piece that ignited her long-abiding passion for Indonesia’s textiles. Describing the somber, dark-hued ulos, a ceremonial cloth from the Batak people in Sumatra, she says, “It wasn’t ornate. It wasn’t elaborate. But it just invoked a feeling of awe in the way a Rothko does.” That’s a fitting comparison, especially given the former marketing director’s background in art history—and the emotional power and richness of Indonesia’s woven traditions. Textiles play a strong role in many Southeast Asian cultures, but perhaps nowhere more so than Indonesia, where a single cloth can denote its wearer’s ethnicity, community and sometimes, caste. For Johnston, her fascination translated into Macan Tidur, a gallery in Ubud showcasing the textile arts and other handicrafts of Java, Bali, Sumatra and the country’s more far-flung islands. Since its opening 14 years ago, she and her Italian partner Bruno Piazza have developed an extensive network of sources—ranging from a boar hunter in Sumatra to palace insiders in the country’s remaining sultanates—to help them track down heirloom textiles and artifacts. Johnston and Piazza tap into that network for their new 200-square-meter gallery in Seminyak, ICON Asian Arts. While Macan Tidur is “a treasure trove” chockablock with discoveries from their trips in the field, their second venture presents spectacular rarities such as royal gold torque from Flores in a museum-like setting. Also on offer are tribal artworks, jewelry, and of course, textiles, including 17th- and 18th-century pieces that fetch prices as high as US$15,000. Don’t be deterred by the high price tags—regular exhibitions offer mere admirers an excuse to drop by and experience first-hand the allure of Indonesia’s folk arts. Macan Tidur: At Puri Muwa Palace, Upper Monkey Forest Rd., Ubud; 62-361/977-121; macantidur.com; and ICON Asian Arts: No. 17 Jln. Oberoi, Seminyak; 62-361/733-875. ✚

S Folk Arts From top: Gallerist Susi Johnston; a gold pendant from Sumba; a Balinese textile; Bruno Piazza; a Javanese kris board; inside ICON Asian Arts.

ON VIEW NOW Running until January 19 is “The Back of Beyond: Javanese Village Masterpieces,” an exhibition devoted to the collection of David Smith and James Tirtaprodjo, who have been acquiring 18thand 19th-century Javanese artifacts and artworks for the past 20 years. The show coincides with the release of Javanese Furniture and Folk Arts (Editions Didier Millet), a handsome volume devoted to the collection.

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FROM TOP: ALESSANDRO LUPPI; BRUNO PIAZZA (2); ALESSANDRO LUPPI; CHARLIE BACKUS; FRANCESCO ARENA

INDONESIA


eat | insider Chef Fumio Kondo at his namesake tempura restaurant, in the Ginza neighborhood.

JAPAN

The True Tastes of Tokyo. From sushi and yakitori to tempura and sake, T+L delivers a deďŹ nitive guide to a food-obsessed cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most authentic specialties. By SHANE MITCHELL

Photographed by JUN TAKAGI

T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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| eat GINZA PERFECT KAISEKI A highly ritualized, multicourse meal of “small bites,” kaiseki has evolved through the centuries as an offshoot of the Buddhist tea ceremony. Chef Yoshiaki Takahashi practices this culinary art at Kanetanaka-an, one of four Kanetanaka restaurants. This informal branch is hidden on the second floor of an office building. Request a seat at the varnished pine counter to watch him assemble an exquisite progression of seasonal dishes: chewy tofu skin with pale pink sea urchin; delicate shrimp cake adrift in Matsutake mushroom broth. Takahashi also serves sakes in pottery cups he glazes himself. 7-6-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3289-8822; dinner for two Y29,000. GINZA TEMPLE OF TEMPURA The nine-floor ride in a claustrophobic, battered elevator is well worth it: The doors open to Kondo, a Zen-calm dining room of muted tans and blond cedar presided over by fry master Fumio Kondo, who is revered for his secret-recipe batter. The chef dips a series of fresh vegetables and fish into polished bronze woks filled with roiling sesame oil; unblemished stalks of asparagus, fresh ginger buds, whole pink shrimp and tiny goby fish all get the hot flash. One seasonal specialty is smoky shiitake mushrooms, farm-raised on cedar logs. For a finale, ask for the shredded carrot, inspired by a spun-sugar dome the chef tasted at one of Pierre Hermé’s patisseries in Paris. 9th floor, Sakaguchi Bldg., 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 81-3/5568-0923; dinner for two Y16,000.

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Tokyo Tables From top: The entrance at Ryuzushi, in the Tsukiji fish market; shrimp and vegetables prepped for tempura at Kondo; Kondo waitresses; sushi and sashimi at Ryuzushi.

GINZA SAKE CENTRAL Around the corner from Hermès and Chanel, Sake Shop Fukumitsuya contains an informal bar that showcases fermented rice from the Fukumitsuya brewery, which was founded in 1625. The menu lists dozens of premium sakes and mirins, including several rare or aged vintages, served by the glass. Fruity Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo tastes like a fizzy Chablis, and Nipponia Nippon Daiginjo resembles rosé. On the snack menu, try pickled seafood or sake-kazu ice cream, made with residue from sake-brewing. 5-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3569-2291; drinks for two Y1,400. MINAMI-AOYAMA TOP YAKITORI Sequestered on a side street between the edgy fashion districts of Harajuku and Aoyama, Torimasa, a tiny, cheerful yakitori restaurant, provides welcome relief for famished shoppers roaming nearby Omotesando Hills. Free-range Nagoya Cochin chicken, a tender breed, is the specialty here. The set menu pairs miso soup and donburi—rice topped

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with five bamboo skewers of white or dark meat that are drizzled with tare sauce (made with mirin, sake and soy) and grilled over natural charcoal. Garnish with scallions, searing-hot Japanese green peppers or wasabi paste. The tsukune, or chicken meatballs, are best accompanied by cold Kirin beer. Yamakawa Bldg., 3-13-2 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; 81-3/3405-4515; lunch for two Y1,800. NAKA-MEGURO BEST TASTING MENU Bauhaus meets bushido at Ogata’s Higashi-yama restaurant, where everything from the impeccable seafood concoctions to the décor is the product of a rigorously creative mind. The fatty-salmon salad drizzled with yuzu sauce is edible haiku. And Ogata puts a mod spin on the space, with a noirish lounge and an airy dining loft. He revives traditional craft techniques for his stunning table settings—curvaceous bronze soy-sauce ewers; glazed lotus-petal bowls; pewter chopstick stands—that emphasize the artistry of the set course menu. 1-21-25 Higashiyama, Naka-Meguro, Meguro-ku; 81-3/5720-1300; dinner for two Y18,000. TSUKIJI THE FRESHEST FISH Surrounding the vast maze of refrigerated stalls in the centrally located Tsukiji fish market are simple spots that cater to off-duty fishmongers, still wearing their indigo overalls and insulated rubber boots. By 7 A.M. the auctions cease and some of the freshest catch winds up at Ryuzushi, a tiny diner with tiled walls and swivel stools facing a narrow slate-and-marble counter. Leave the menu up to the sushi chef, who has the inside track on tasty raw ingredients: red clam, mackerel, eel, sea urchin and toro. 5-2-1 Tsukiji fish market, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3541-9517; open 6:30 A.M. to 2 P.M.; breakfast for two Y4,500.

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Ryuzushi, Tsukiji Fish Market

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YAKUMO CLASSIC DESSERTS Japan’s traditional meal-ending confections, collectively known as wagashi, still have a passionate fan base. Often made with red-bean paste, sugar and mochi, the treats were once a favored gift exchanged by samurai. The most sculptural form, namagashi, resembles cherry blossoms, fall foliage, ripe plums or chestnut shells. Another version, rakugan, is usually pressed into wooden molds to create bite-size sweets, examples of which are on display at Higashiya, designer Shinichiro Ogata’s updated tearoom in Yakumo, in the Meguro neighborhood. At an equally sleek branch in Nishi-Azabu, snacks with inventive shapes and flavorings such as blueberry, macadamia and brandy jelly offset bitter green tea. 3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro-ku; 81-3/5731-1620; and 3-16-28 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku; 81-3/5786-0024; wagashi for two Y3,600. ✚

Classic Cuisine From top: Outside Kondo; Japanese potatoes with pork at Higashi-yama, in Naka-Meguro; the dining room at Higashi-yama.

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| bring it back

Everyday Unsouvenirs. Embraced by locals—and overlooked by most travelers—these ordinary items, according to ERIK TORKELLS, are the ultimate keepsakes

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1 Furikake, a Japanese seaweed-and-sesame-seed condiment. 2 Germany’s Kaufmanns baby cream (also good for the hands). 3 A handheld gardening scythe from Japan. 4 Chocolate-scented postage stamps found in France. 5 Empanada makers from Uruguay. 6 Italian premixed Campari Soda. 7 An onion holder purchased in Rome. 8 An Italian Bialetti espresso maker.

HEN I FIRST STARTED TRAVELING, I WAS DELIGHTED by refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, embroidered patches, and snow globes—all the usual giftshop kitsch. At some point, however, it struck me as a shortcut, celebrating a destination’s clichés rather than the place itself. So I moved up to items that were unavailable on every other corner and, ideally, handmade. I felt good about supporting craftspeople, and the objects had more personal resonance. Though when I got them home, many of them turned into dust-catching clutter—one-of-a-kind clutter, but still. Moreover, I questioned their authenticity. I make every effort to eat at restaurants frequented by locals. Why would I shop for souvenirs in stores where residents never tread? Now, I hunt for what I call “unsouvenirs.” The word souvenir is Middle French for “remembering,” and unsouvenirs, despite the prefix, must also be able to trigger a memory. But they’re different from souvenirs in that they capture the essence of a place not simply because they were purchased there, but because—this is the important part—

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locals actually use them. That’s the best definition for cultural authenticity that I can come up with. While I prefer that my unsouvenirs originate in the destination (“made in China” is only appealing if you’re in China), I don’t mind if they come from a factory. Few of us can claim that we incorporate many handmade items into our day-to-day lives. I just visited Rome for the first time—ridiculous, I know— and I was surprised by how rife with kitsch the historic center is. Rare is the block that doesn’t have a store selling I ROME T-shirts. My customs form, in contrast, looked as if I had run errands on a Saturday afternoon. I bought a plastic container designed to hold the unsliced part of an onion, premixed Campari and soda in Art Deco bottles, a package of assorted paper from an art-supply shop, Elmex toothpaste, and a lip balm called HerpeSun. They’ll remind me of Rome every time I use them (though I haven’t yet been brave enough to whip out the lip balm in public). Certain kinds of stores are more reliable for unsouvenirs. Supermarkets and pharmacies are always interesting. Photographed by DAVIES + STARR


Cookware purveyors are also a consistently rich source: you might score Bialetti espresso pots from coffee-crazy Italy or elegant woven place mats from understated Sweden. At a Japanese hardware store you could come upon a miniature scythe-style weeder; or you might spot a cowbell and collar in northern Italy. (Part of the fun is repurposing: that bell could be a doorbell.) Stationery shops, whether you’re in Greece or Indonesia, tend to have schoolkids’ notebooks, which make for quirky journals back home. Also worth a look are stores that sell hobby or restaurant supplies, sporting goods, garden equipment, bike gear…. “You have to get off the map,” agrees the queen of unsouvenirs, Alisa Grifo, co-owner of Kiosk, a store in New York’s SoHo that stocks workaday objects from around the world (usually one country at a time, displayed in four-tosix-month “exhibitions”), all acquired during Grifo’s peripatetic travels. Highlights from Germany included egg cups, a pencil sharpener and a doorstop; from Hong Kong, a mailbox, green twine and a calculator. Individually, the items are idiosyncratic and well designed; gathered together, they convey the spirit of a country, in both their utility and their aesthetics. (To see what I mean, visit kioskkiosk.com.) I assumed that Grifo had the same wander-and-hope strategy that I do, but she and her husband and co-owner Marco Romeny actually do a ton of prep work. They research each destination, reading up on the history, culture, museums, food, crafts, anything. And they network like mad: “We ask ourselves, ‘Who do we know from there? Who has relatives there?’ ” Most important, they’re usually in a country for two to six weeks, which means they stay—and shop—in residential neighborhoods. Just as the ideal unsouvenir reflects locals’ daily existence, the best way to shop for unsouvenirs is by practicing a bit of cultural immersion—in other words, when in Rome, shop as the Romans do. As Grifo and I chatted, I bragged about my onion container, which I consider a symbol of my victory in touristclogged Rome. If any other American traveler brought home a plastic onion this year, I’ll eat mine—washed down with more than one bottle of Campari Soda. Grifo’s eyes lit up. “That’s brilliant,” she said. “How does it open? Can you send me a photo?” Maybe someday Kiosk will tackle Italy, and my little onion holder will be part of the exhibition. That would be fantastic—as long as we all remember who found it first. ✚ Erik Torkells is an editor at tripadvisor.com and the founder of tribecacitizen.com.

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9 A Mexican whisk. 10 A student notebook from Greece. 11 Wright’s Traditional Soap, an English favorite. 12 A lunch tin, or tiffin, from India. 13 Rosti melamine cooking spoons from the Netherlands. 14 A large bamboo paintbrush from China. 15 Vellutata notebooks from the art-supply store Ditta G. Poggi, in Rome. 16 Bliw, a Swedish dish soap.

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| where to go next Prasat Thom, one of the temples at Koh Ker, below; Prasat Pram, right.

CAMBODIA

Koh Ker, Cambodia. An untouched temple complex reveals more wonders of the Angkor empire. Get there before the crowds. By ROBYN ECKHARDT. Photographed by DAVID HAGERMAN

HOW TO GET THERE Koh Ker is a two-hour ride by car from Siem Reap; expect to pay US$80– US$100 round-trip. Look out for the Community Heritage Patrol — a squad of tan-uniformed young people who assist visitors and help deter looters. They’re part of a sustainable-tourism initiative that includes ox-drawn cart tours. On the way back, stop at Beng Menglea, a beautiful 12th-century temple with atmospheric galleries and a library, as well as a wooden walkway that enables visitors to view the complex from above.

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ANGKOR EMPIRE, FEW travelers venture beyond Siem Reap. Minefields and lack of road access have been the main culprits, but those issues are being slowly rectified. Still, many of these sites remain untouched by mass tourism. Take Koh Ker, a mostly unrestored temple complex 120 kilometers north of Angkor Wat that served as the kingdom’s capital from A.D. 928–944. Though a road linking it with Beng Menglea, another temple site 67 kilometers south, was completed several years ago, a visit last year was largely undisturbed by other tourists. (Land mines are still a danger, so take care not to venture off the paths.) Of the 40 structures spread over 35 square kilometers, the most striking is Prasat Kraham, or the Red Temple, so named for its maroon-hued bricks. Lofty stone archways, galleries and intricate carvings rival any of those found at that other, more famous site. A causeway leads to 35-meter high Prasat Thom, a seven-tiered pyramid that sits in the center of an empty field. Also not to be missed is Prasat Pram, located near the complex’s entrance, made up of five red-brick towers, some of which are photogenically wrapped in webs of thick, gnarled roots—much like Ta Prohm, but without the hordes. ✚

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J A N UA RY 2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M


quick getaway | insider

Windy City. Taiwan’s version of Silicon Valley, the coastal town of Hsinchu is home to historic architecture, bustling markets and terrific food—the perfect weekend break from Taipei. By ROBYN ECKHARDT

TAIWAN

Going Coastal Clockwise from top: Hip hop at East Gate; at Dolci Ricordi Gelato; a shock of style; all eyes on seafood.

Photographed by DAVID HAGERMAN

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insider

| quick getaway Quick Trip Clockwise from left: Small dishes at Patriot’s House Snacks; East Gate alight; the welcome at Café Ant; a street devoted to the terminally cute.

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Tastes of Taiwan From left: An Italian scoop; strolling along Wenchang Road; some local fashion.

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R E F L E C T I O N S

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StylishTraveler Clockwise from far left: Elizabeth Kiester; her Phnom Penh shop; a funky display; inside the shop; a carry-all; color is key here.

Fashion Nomad. A former magazine

editor from New York brings her funky, globe-trotting aesthetic to Cambodia’s capital. By NAOMI LINDT

FROM LEFT: JOHN MCDERMOTT; © NICOLAS AXELROD / ASIAMOTION (5)

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HE TRAVEL BUG BIT

Elizabeth Kiester at an early age. As a child growing i up in i New N York Y City, her mother nicknamed the former fashion editor “Wanderlust,” which she later had tattooed on her forearm as an adult. After stints at magazines like Jane, Marie Claire and Mademoiselle, and a recent gig as the jet-setting global creative director of LeSportsac, Kiester has revived her childhood moniker—this time it’s the name of her fashion-forward boutiques in Cambodia. Kiester first came to Cambodia in April 2008 as a volunteer, and quickly fell for Siem Reap’s bohemian vibe. “People were making things happen in art and fashion, people like me, who wanted a second chance at life,” says the blue-eyed, onyx-haired, bronzed 44-yearold. “Something inside clicked, like a light switch, and everything I wanted to do became illuminated.” What she wanted to do was run a store. Five months after moving to Cambodia, Kiester set up shop in an abandoned, French colonial, brick house near Siem Reap’s Old Market, filling it with airy cotton dresses of her own design, quirky-chic housewares and funky

CAMBODIA

jewelry. The red-and-white shop has since become a must-visit stop for fashion-savvy expats, locals and travelers, and this past fall, Kiester followed up with a second shop on Phnom Penh’s trendy Street 240. Kiester’s versatile creations draw from her packing philosophy: “Wherever I was headed, I reached for dresses and layering, again and again. Everything needed to be easy care, easy to wear, take me anywhere.” On the racks, you’ll find styles ranging from cap-sleeved shifts to billowy spaghetti-strap dresses to djellaba-inspired tops, all of which can be worn alone, over leggings or jeans, or under a cardigan. Inspired by childhood memories of Marimekko and Dick Bruna, Kiester favors fabrics with strong, graphic prints making the boutiques riotous with color. It’s a tribute, she says, to the eye-popping scenery in Cambodia. “I really want my stores to be evocative and emotional,” she says. “Color drives an internal experience, reminds you of something, makes you want to be something. When things around you are vibrant, you become vibrant.” Alley West, Siem Reap; 855-63/965980 and 21 Street 240, Phnom Penh; 855-23/221-982; wanderlustcambodia.com. ✚

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| reflections

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CHASING BEAUTY While he’s the first to appreciate a great museum or a fine meal when he travels, GUY TREBAY does admit to also hoping the locals will be, well, hot

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OT LONG AGO, I ARRIVED

at the conclusion that an important and too-littleappreciated dimension of travel is the pursuit of beauty. By beauty I do not mean Hagia Sophia, or Bernini’s baldachin in St. Peter’s or the azure Aegean off the shores of Hydra. I mean beauty in the sense of Bo Derek in the movie 10. That artifact of schlock cinema and male chauvinism formalized both a superficial ratings system and a slightly embarrassing but nonetheless core truth of tourism. Naturally, we all hope when we are away to find fine hotels and good food and clement weather and merry encounters with charming locals. But we also, secretly, want the strangers in the places we visit to give us something good to look at. If not flat-out beautiful, we want them to be comely or stylish or to have something about them to please that most promiscuous of our organs, the eye. At any rate, that’s what my eyes desire. This approach may seem politically incorrect, at its worst, and baldly superficial, but getting to know inner beauty requires intimacy. And intimacy takes time to develop, and travelers generally have little time to spare. Thus snap judgments are rendered and, not rarely, they become historical truth. Throughout his comprehensive and fantastically gory narratives of hard-won kingdoms and bloody battles, the Greek historian Herodotus seldom missed a chance to lay on the juicy descriptions of hot-bodied locals. If he unconsciously favored those who were beautiful, like the fabled Amazons, I myself do so fully aware that it is an ignorant vice to be guarded against at any cost. But then I land in a new place, another airport—Aimé Césaire International,

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON / MAGNUM PHOTOS

stylish traveler


on the Caribbean island of Martinique, say—and instantly fall into old ways. I do know, of course, that the palms are swaying, the ocean breezes caressing and the limitless shield of blue sky is a postcard of infinity. But I scarcely notice the vistas in new places because the first things I look for on my sightseeing rounds are the finest examples from the local gene pool. In Martinique, for example, the high cheekbones and attenuated limbs of the best-looking locals are, it seems to me, set off by a distinctly Gallic flair for style and the kind of upright carriage that modeling schools once taught by making young women balance books on their heads as they took their long strides. I fall in love (or not) with a place through its people, and that act is useful in taking the edge off a reality no honest traveler can avoid: a lot of the planet is monotonous and dull. I fall in love, as the novelist Robert Stone did on a pothead bus tour, with the startlingly handsome citizens of a place like Salt Lake City—the most beautiful people in America, as Stone wrote in Prime Green, his memoir of the 1960’s. (If, as he added, “Nordics are what you like.”) Since I don’t favor a type or a gender when it comes to the consumption of beauty, I fall in love equally with the Dravidian men of South India, lean and with eyes set deep in their skulls; with the Scandinavians, who tend to rank at the top of most lists of the world’s comeliest, their sturdy, even-featured faces incontestably lovely if occasionally stolid and bland; and with the Brazilians, whose history of racial interbreeding, encouraged by the Portuguese to suppress slave uprisings and enshrined in national integration programs of the 1930’s, led to Europe and Africa converging through a matrix of Indian DNA, with the supermodel Gisele Bündchen as the end result. This love is strictly platonic. You’d have to be a fool or a criminal to follow the lead of beauty hunters like Flaubert or Gauguin, who traveled with the idea of gratifying organs other than the optic ones and with fairly predictable results. Instead, I come alive in the solitary act of observing other humans, of keeping an eye out for examples of beauty going about its daily affairs. There is something to learn from how cultures view themselves, from noting the various ways that beauty is valued, presented, and, yes, assessed. It is a psychic corrective, for instance, to embrace in Hawaii the deep-rooted cultural affection for humans of ample form; to explore, in strictly observant Muslim countries, your own unease with religious restrictions that nevertheless direct one’s unconscious attention to what is seen—to eyes and hands, to the choreography of fragile measured gestures. It is a commonplace that the grittier scenes from travel jolt one into sharpened awareness, that they tilt one’s consciousness. It is less often noted how beauty does the same. But all this is a fancy way of avoiding a confession: I like to watch. ✚


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T+L Journal FOOD 74 DRIVING 79 ADVENTURE 84 OPINION 88

Zhang Jian Hua’s exhibit of laborers and peasants.

CHINA

China’s New Guard

A is for Art. B is for Banned. C is for China. LILI TAN highlights Chinese artists making brilliant scenes—literally—on the international stage. Photographed by DARREN SOH T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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| the arts

Above, from left: Read what you will into Zhang O’s work; Wang Zhong’s spooky look at underground churches. Opposite, from left: A bare prison cell by Jiang Chong Wu; Wu Xiao Jun, who is inspired by the Gobi Desert, in front of his installation.

CHINESE ARTISTS DOES NOT begin in Beijing. Or even China for that matter. It starts on a sunny August morning, just days before the inaugural 798 Beijing Biennale, in an industrial section of Brooklyn turned hipster wasteland. Around the corner from a quaint kitchen supply shop, just off a stop on the L train, metal fences and cracked sidewalks line the avenue. Newly erected glass-and-concrete condos stand awkwardly next to old brownstones and modest houses clad from gutter to ground in unflattering horizontal siding. In a two-story, fir-striped version of the latter lives Zhang O, the lone female artist in this selected group. She and her husband Peter Garfield, a teacher at The New School and School of Visual Arts in New York City and an artist as well, occupy the back portion. Upstairs, Zhang shows me one of her photographs entitled “Poverty is Not Socialism,” after a quote from Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese leader whose reforms in the 1980’s led to China’s opening up and economic revival. “EVER THING IS SHIT” reads the Chinglish T-shirt in the

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HIS STORY ABOUT

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photo. A pre-adolescent girl who hails from Henan province, in eastern China, wears the shirt and holds onto the strap of an “I y China” satchel. Zhang found her in Guangzhou when the girl was in town visiting her mother, who works as a trash picker, and asked her to stand—irony intended—in front of a luxury building constructed by a development firm rumored to have made its fortune by selling weapons. “We have money now but everything else is lost, our souls and basic values of being Chinese,” Zhang says. “Nobody cares about life; they care about their way of living—rich and convenient.” She goes on to explain that the phrase “EVER THING IS SHIT” refers to marginalized people, like the girl’s trash-picker mother. However disappointed Zhang seems about her home country’s shifting ideals, there are still elements of optimism in her work. “I asked the girl to smile in order to show that there is a positive future,” she says. In Beijing, Zhang’s photography appeared in an international exhibition entitled “Transitional Aesthetics,” which was part of the inaugural 798 Beijing Biennale 2009 held this past August and September in the 798 Art Zone.


Each artist is notable for his or her combination of social awareness and artistic INNOVATION Formerly an East German–designed factory that produced electronics in the northeast of Beijing, it was abandoned by the late 1990’s, allowing artists and galleries to fill the cavernous, industrial spaces. Now, it’s a main tourist attraction in the capital city. The biennale brought together the works of more than 100 artists to China’s capital. It was organized without funding from the government or backing of a major museum, and two-thirds of the participating artists were international. The show proved a success, with Zhang among the artists who managed to stand out. Marc Hungerbühler, the biennale’s curatorial director says: “O is an interesting blend of intelligence and visual wit.

She comes across as playful and pleasing, warm and funny, but her statements are critical and sometimes razor sharp.” Hungerbühler and Zhu Qi, the biennale’s artistic director and also a prominent critic for Art Map magazine, also speak about five other artists from the biennale who are likely to emerge or, for more mid-career artists, create an opportunity to be included in other international exhibitions. Each is notable for his or her combination of social awareness and artistic innovation. “These artists managed to reflect the spiritual status of certain groups of people in China and tried new things in terms of language and technique of expression,” Zhu says. Hungerbühler describes this group of young and mid-career Chinese artists as “confident,” citing their uninhibited approach in their mediums and ability to embed controversial content shallow enough to avoid opposition but deep enough to get across their artistic imperative. “They understand and test the political impact of their art,” he says. For the past decade Chinese contemporary art has exploded in popularity, thrusting the likes of Zhang » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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Clockwise from top left: Outside the 789 Biennale in Beijing; Wang Zhong blending into his creepy-looking mannequin church goers; Wu Xiajun’s exhibition in a very stark building; Zhang Jianhua says he draws inspiration from the fringes of society.

Xiaogang, Yue Menjin and others who are considered “Cynical Realists,” artists who concentrate on socio-political issues since the Cultural Revolution, into the spotlight. In 2007, Zhang Xiaogang’s auction sales totaled US$56 million, according to Artprice.com, placing him among the top 10 best-selling living artists at auction, behind only Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst. Since the cooling of the Chinese art market, thanks to the global recession, a new variety of artists have had the opportunity to surface. One of these is Sun Ping who, Hungerbühler explains, is a previously overlooked veteran artist. Sun’s biennale pieces, which show his range, from calligraphy to photography to stone carving, were provocative. The two sanctioned mixed media pieces from his series entitled “I Don’t Know” (the entire series was not exhibited for fear of censorship) feature a masked prostitute squatting and painting Taoist proverbs with a brush clenched with her privates. “I was thinking more and more about the Taoist wisdom of Nothing, so I was amazed, shocked and delighted when I saw this demimonde and her extraordinary ‘body calligraphy’ in an 72

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erotic show. I met her and we became best friends,” Sun recounts. “I thought that if I played with this—the fact that people usually consider eroticism ribaldry and associate calligraphy with elegance—I could create a work of art that could blast away all that crap about what is considered lowly or superior, vulgar or refined, ugly or beautiful.” Not surprisingly, Sun’s earlier works include a series called “Wet Dream,” featuring semen-stained bed sheets. Jiang Chongwu, an installation artist, also courts controversy, creating a piece that revolves around his friend Zhang Jiafeng, who was arrested in 1965 for a speech criticizing Mao. “Open, Smile” consists of two videos, one of a happy Zhang Jiafeng today and the other of a jovial prison guard, in a space designed after the single cell Zhang was confined to for 19 months. “I wanted to remind people that extremely limited space and human smiles can exist at the same time,” says Jiang. Hungerbühler and Zhu both chose Jiang as a Chinese artist to watch for his “precision in formal ingenuity and strong combination of new language and contextual undercurrents,” says Hungerbühler.


IN THEIR SHOES

Four Chinese artists tell T+L where they go to get inspired QJin Yangping: Jiuxi, Hangzhou “One of my favorite places is the ancient post road here. It makes me feel as if I’m breathing in the same air from a few hundred years ago.” QJiang Chongwu: Green Island, Taiwan “Green Island Prison, which was notorious for confining political prisoners, was my inspiration for ‘Open, Smile.’ It’s now a tourist attraction, and they’ve even built the Green Island Human Rights Culture Park outside the prison walls. It made me think about why the wonderful nature and the

injustice and ugly side of human nature were put together.” QWu Xiaojun: Taihu Lake, Jiangsu Province & the Gobi Desert “For me, inspiration comes from the uncertainty which can’t be explicated. Both of these places are like dark clouds in my deepest memories. I could never wave them away.” QZhang O: Pearl River, Guangzhou “I like to stand on the bank and look out onto the water. I grew up by the river — even my first date was there.”

Other Zhu picks include Zhang Jianhua, a sculptor who addresses the social issues of laborers and peasants living on the outskirts of China’s thriving cities; Jin Yangping, who describes his craft as “hand-drawn experimental animation,” or paintings made to look like video; and Wang Zhong, an installation artist who built a church. Zhang Jianhua, who hails from Henan, the same province the young girl in Zhang O’s photo is from, draws inspiration from his experience living at the fringes of society. “I have been to many messy, dirty, seamy places where intellectuals are not willing to go,” he says. Zhang’s sculptures are life-size or larger, made from casting fiberglass in clay molds. The peasant statues stand staring blankly into space and coal miners’ faces are marked with agony and exhaustion. Jin also seeks to uncover the spiritual alienation of marginalized people in China. His six-minute, hand-drawn animated film “features the inner changes underwent by a female laborer when she goes from working for a publicly owned to a privately owned toy factory,” Jin says. Different objects that feature throughout the film—including a 1970’s

panda-drum toy signifying the laborer’s reluctance to leave the socialist collective—are metaphors for conflicts arising from capitalist private ownership, Jin explains, adding that he hopes people would see the contradictions existing in today’s China. The film ends with the worker committing suicide because of the pressures from her new life. The last artist, Wang, created the most dramatic piece: “House Church,” a 32-square-meter replica of residential living room turned religious worship ground. When he was a teacher at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing, one of Wang’s students, a devout Christian, invited him to her home, which she had turned into an underground church. Forty people were crowded into the living room, which only had room for four rows of chairs. “It was very crowded yet cozy—everyone’s eyes were full of kindness. Most of the people there were far away from their hometowns and stayed in the big city to make a living or to follow their dreams,” Wang says. “I thought about my friends and colleagues who didn’t have faith, and I came up with the idea that I wanted them to play the devout Christians in ‘House Church.’” Each mannequin in the scene is modeled after Wang’s classmates, students and friends, including poet Zhou Sese, writer Dan Yu, and even biennale artistic director and art critic Zhu Qi. Wang painted the mannequins’ skins stark white, suggesting his faithless friends are impressionable blank slates. That’s something you could say about the artists themselves. They’ve traversed their vast country, the world even, absorbing the cultures around them and drawing inspiration from varied places. And at the biennale, visitors were able to focus their presentations, their various viewpoints and experiences, within a framework. The biennale also reaffirmed the country’s emergence as a contemporary art powerhouse. “When artists converge in specific locations, they co-direct a new strategy and new development crucial to the experience of shaping contemporary art,” Hungerbühler says. “I also believe that China is a critical place for Western artists to reconfigure, reinvent and redefine artistic language.” Above all, the show revealed that Chinese contemporary art is on the verge of significant change. As the commercial side of Chinese art has slowed, the breathing room allows artists to pull social, political and environmental issues into their art-making process—hopefully leading to profound art. However, meaningful art does not necessarily constitute good art. Hungerbühler warns: “The challenge is not to exercise adaptive and additive methodology—I call this the ‘cut and paste’ generation because information technology and travel allows the rapid dissemination of ideas and artists to be inside each others’ heads—but to anchor the art in the specific culture it originated from. This is the enormous test for the evolving generation of Chinese artists.”  T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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Quest:

English Pubs

Looking for the most authentic Scotch eggs and ďŹ sh-and-chips? So was the peripatetic ADAM SACHS. Read on for his thoroughly mouthwatering journey through London and beyond. Photographed by JAMES WADDELL

ENGLAND

A pork pie with a pint of ale at the Fox & Anchor, a Victorian pub in Clerkenwell, London.

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STEPHEN Harris serves at his seaside pub on the pebbly Kent coast. Maybe you’re familiar with it, even if you’ve never heard of Harris or tiny Seasalter, an hour-and-a-half drive southeast of London, where his pub, the Sportsman, stands on a green hump of reedy marshland. It’s called The Canterbury Tales. In his pre-pub life, Harris lived in London and worked in finance. A self-diagnosed “restaurant nerd” and obsessive home cook, he finally chucked city life for cooking. “We’re not the archetypal village pub,” Harris says. “You can imagine bikers on bank holiday getting into a fight here. We’re kind of weird, but it means my interpretation can be a bit more free.” Harris’s idea was to make dishes that tasted every bit as good as those served at the Michelin-starred restaurants he admired in London, but stripped of the needless frump and finery. “You have to feel an area when you cook,” Harris says. “Just up the road there are pigs and lambs, and the estuary has every kind of shellfish. It’s what the French call cuisine de terroir.” As if to neutralize the French foodie-talk, pork scratchings are set on the table. Fried pork skin: the most basic pub snack. But these are elevated scratchings. Crisp, salty, sticky—an elegant précis of porkness.

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HERE’S A STORY BEHIND THE CURED HAM

The pigs come from Monkshill Farm, a kilometer away. Not long after taking over the Sportsman, Harris started collecting water from the salt marsh and making his own fleur de sel. Following the logic of the ingredients, he cured legs of pork in his salt and hung them in his beer cellar. One day an archaeologist friend stopped by and looked in on his hams. “He said, ‘You do realize that the monks did this here nearly a thousand years ago?’” Harris says. “Turns out Monkshill was run by monks. All of the land we use today was owned by the kitchens of Canterbury Cathedral.” The faithful have been making their way to nearby Canterbury since Thomas Becket was murdered there in 1170. Chaucer wrote his tales about those early pilgrims. But for the church, the pressing question was how to feed everyone. The only answer: preserve what was plentiful. So it was that the monks put Seasalter pigs in barrels of sea salt, prefiguring Stephen Harris’s homecoming by 800 years. Harris and his hams are part of a more recent story, too: the long liberation of British cuisine from its own tortured past. It’s as if the salt-air breezes have blown all the mustiness out of the kitchen. What remains is graceful, harmonious. A dish he calls “rock pool” has cockles, crabmeat and candy-sweet clams in a dashi-like broth made with scavenged seaweed. “It’s like a walk on the shore,” Harris says. “The narrative behind our food is: Look out the window.” I looked out the window. Sheep, grazing silently, beach »

Coastal Flavors Clockwise from below left: Chef Stephen Harris of the Sportsman, in Seasalter, 100 kilometers east of London; the understated barroom at the Sportsman; the pub’s “rockpool” dish, filled with local mussels, oysters and crab; the kitchen’s simple garden.

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Bed and Breakfast Clockwise from above left: The daily-specials board and the raw-bar selection at the Fox & Anchor; the Victorian pub’s narrow interior; a plate of the Fox & Anchor’s simple but delicious fish-and-chips; the Market Suite, one of six guest rooms at the inn upstairs.

shacks at their backs. Now on the plate, the same milk-fed lamb. A pale pink chop, a hunk of crisped shoulder confit. And broad beans, new and electric green. But I could only really think about the lamb, easily the best I’ve ever eaten. There was a deep, salty, warming mellowness about it that was hard to place. “The grasses they feed on were seabed not long ago,” says Harris’s brother Phil. “And fifty years from now the sea will probably take us back.” BRITAIN lost its way,” Fergus Henderson says when I go to see him at his restaurant St. John, around the corner from London’s Smithfield Market. Housed in a whitewashed old smokehouse, St. John couldn’t be called a gastropub. But Henderson is a canonized figure on the revitalized British restaurant scene. The spirit of his “nose to tail” approach—respectful of place and seasons, rigorously unfussy, unapologetically British—hovers over many of the best pub kitchens. There was a point, Henderson says, when British chefs had to literally post a Beefeater outside to signal their intention to serve their own food. That’s all changed now. Britons seem to have come to terms with the existence of something called British cuisine. The better news is that some of the most satisfying stuff is coming, not out of high temples of gastronomy, but from that indigenous treasure, the lowly pub. I was curious to know what other good things were being made in pub kitchens all over England. Hoping

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to learn—and eat—more, I asked Henderson and others who’d know best. What did they look for in a pub? “In an ideal world,” Henderson says, “I’d love to be able to walk into a pub and shout, ‘Landlord, bring me beans and bacon and a bottle of your finest Burgundy!’ Someone says that in a G. K. Chesterton book. I fear the look on the landlord’s face might just say, ‘Get the fuck out of here!’” Tom Parker Bowles is a food writer (and stepson of the future king) who chronicles his countrymen’s tastes in a new book called Full English. He pointed me to a George Orwell essay about the perfect pub that never was, a made-up place called the Moon Under Water, where it was always quiet enough to talk, lunch cost three shillings, and the barmaids called you dear. In the real world, Parker Bowles likes a pub that “sticks to local beer and booze-blotting food done well. Bacon sandwiches. Keen’s cheddar with homemade pickle. Scotch eggs.” Ah, the Scotch egg. Fried snack-orb of the British Isles. An egg, set in a snooker ball of sausage meat, breaded and deep-fried. Like sex, it’s either going to be great or it will go down very badly. There is no middle ground. For more beer and enlightenment—and a little dinner along the way—I arrange to meet Jay Rayner, the food critic for the Observer. Rayner is the author of The Man Who Ate the World and is currently a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Rayner suggests the Harwood Arms, a gastropub in Fulham. On the way there, we talk about Fergus Henderson’s influence on English cooking. I mention what I


took to be his welcome embrace of an older way of eating. “It’s not a return,” Rayner corrects me. “It’s a healthy reinvention of something that never quite existed.” Orwell liked his pubs grounded with the “solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century.” The Harwood Arms has none of that. Though the specials board is full of wild game, the interior is gently lit, almost feminine in tone. What it does have is Scotch eggs. That night I sleep above a pub. “Hops & chops, cuvées & duvets” is the overly cute motto of the otherwise note-perfect Fox & Anchor, a Victorian pub in Clerkenwell that’s recently been given a face-lift by the folks from the boutique Malmaison hotel. They saved it from becoming a curry house, retooling the bar and adding six modern bedrooms upstairs with claw-foot bathtubs and artful black-and-white photos of nearby Smithfield Market. The next night, the house’s frosted-glass and mahogany doors are open and an after-work crowd spills happily out onto Charterhouse Street. There is a last-call feel in the air, though the sun has barely gone down. Brits drink like dogs eat, which is to say with no concept of a future. Friends come by for dinner, and we are shown to one of the Fox’s interior candlelit “snugs,” the wood-paneled quintessence of pub coziness. The menu feels snug, too, safe and familiar. There are pies, Maldon oysters, a carving

trolley. Fish-and-chips is, thankfully, nothing more: cod in a batter made with beer, held fast by a dense, darkly green mooring of mushy peas. The food at the Fox isn’t a “take” on anything, no unfortunate modern interpretations or radical rethinks. For all its enthusiastic ampersands and fresh scrub, the Fox & Anchor speaks in the literal vernacular of the pub, and we in our snug are happy to hear it. ROM LONDON, I EMBARK ON A GPS-ENABLED pub-crawl. Wanting to eat Lancashire hot pot in Lancashire, I dial up the coordinates for Mitton. There, Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft run a gigantic, bustling pub called the Three Fishes. Packed with families, the place operates as a kind of living museum of the culinary bounty of the region. The menu is oversize, too, and features a map of local purveyors carrying the legend regional food heroes. Peter Ascroft, I learn, is the farmer behind my Ascroft’s Cauliflower Fritters. In my driving and eating daze, I imagine a league of locavore superheroes protecting the Ribble Valley from the homogenizing forces of Marks & Spencers’ Gastropub brand pub dinners. Thank you, Cauliflower Man! Heading northwest now, I set my sights on Yorkshire pudding in Yorkshire and follow the curving country roads to Sunday lunch at the Star Inn, in Harome. To one side is a »

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Pub Fare Clockwise from top left: Pouring a pint of Black Dog ale at the Hinds Head, Heston Blumenthal’s pub to the west of London in Bray; the Hinds Head’s potted shrimps; Hind Head’s homey but comfortable dining room; a quail Scotch egg, standard fare in most British pubs.

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restaurant with a flashy, modern dining room and a Michelin star, but what I’m looking for is next door, nearly hidden beneath the thatch: a tiny pub room that feels carved out of the trunk of a very old tree. Here is everything you’d want in a picture-book country pub: low beamed ceilings; indulgent, smiling barmaids; a fire; sketches of cricket players and judges on the wall; and, served all day, Yorkshire pudding with roast beef cut thick as a Penguin paperback. Back toward London, I stop for the night in Clipsham, where the Olive Branch pub has rooms to rent in a little yellow house across the street. Here, too, the menu is predicated on local ingredients; the wood floors and stone walls have a familiar feeling; and the fish pie, Grasmere farm sausages and toffee pudding are all as stabilizing and comforting as the warm bath waiting across the street.

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HERE ARE NOT MANY CHEFS WHO CAN SUCCESSFULLY

weave together stray facts regarding the birth of molecular gastronomy, Walt Disney, the intimate glands of a musk deer, King Charles II’s taste for ambergris, and Errol Flynn’s bar tab into a coherent answer to a question about pub grub. Then again, Heston Blumenthal’s reputation as the mad genius of British cooking is such that you half expect him to spritz liquid nitrogen into his pot of morning tea or pull a live pheasant from behind your ear. Blumenthal is the famously experimental chef of the Fat Duck, his Michelin three-starred restaurant in Bray, a tidy village 48 kilometers west of London. I go to Bray to eat at Blumenthal’s very different restaurant down the street from his avant-garde flagship. The Hinds Head is what you see when you close your eyes and picture the words: Traditional. Village. Pub. A low-slung Tudor building, it resembles so perfectly the Platonic ideal of a pub that at first you worry it might be putting you on. Is there, I ask, a danger that the place might seem too perfect, a theme park imitation? Actually, Blumenthal has heard that Walt Disney visited the Hinds Head and liked it so much he modeled the “English pub” at Disneyland on it. Will the Scotch egg be fashioned of foams and fairy dust?

Here is everything you’d want in a country pub: low-beamed ceilings, smiling barmaids, a fire, sketches of cricket players on the wall and ROAST BEEF Happily, no. The Hinds Head is as it seems—just better. Here, the oxtail-and-kidney pie is made with meat that’s been cooked sous-vide for 16 hours. It’s hard to describe exactly how rich, how immensely meaty, how gooey and impressive this little pie is. Blumenthal and Co. aren’t just throwing better ingredients and new technology at old standbys. Collaborating with historians at the kitchens of Hampton Court Palace, they’re going back to original sources. “There’s a selfishness behind all this for me,” Blumenthal says of the research and experimentation. He talks about the potted shrimps he developed with his team of historians. Bound with a mash of fish, it’s based on the “shrimp cake” recipe of an Essex woman from the 1800’s. None of this is mentioned on the menu, of course. It’s behind the scenes, channeled into the food. “If I get really excited about something, there’s just that kind of uncontrollable giddiness, and it’s important to keep that.” So what do Blumenthal’s method and his madness bring to humble pub food? Order a bowl of simple chips at the Hinds Head bar and you’ll see. A dozen or so amber-colored, triple-cooked, thick-but-not-too-thick wedges, glassy outside, mashy inside, each one a kind of lesson in what a chip should be. At the Fat Duck, Blumenthal does his culinary pyrotechnics. Here, instead, is magical realism, everything a heightened version of itself. Letter writers, begin your campaigns. There aren’t any fries better than these. ✚

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LONDON Anchor & Hope Archetypal example of the London gastropub: gutsy, straightforward English food — rib steak; potted shrimps — served without pretension. Menu changes daily — or, more often, as things run out. Go early to avoid tears. 36 The Cut, Waterloo; 44-20/79289898; dinner for two £43. Fox & Anchor 115 Charterhouse

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St., Clerkenwell; 44-20/ 7250-1300; dinner for two £40. Harwood Arms Walham Grove, Fulham; 44-20/7386-1847; dinner for two £46. St. John 26 St. John St., Clerkenwell; 44-20/7251-0848; dinner for two £67. OUTSIDE LONDON Hinds Head High St., Bray, Berkshire; 44-16/2862-6151; dinner for two £69.

Olive Branch Main St., Clipsham, Rutland; 44-1780/410-355; dinner for two £64. Sportsman Faversham Rd., Seasalter, Kent; 44-1227/273-370; dinner for two £64. Star Inn High St., Harome, North Yorkshire; 44-1439/770-397; dinner for two £79. Three Fishes Mitton Rd., Mitton, Lancashire; 44-12/5482-6888; dinner for two £43.

M A P B Y YA N I L TA C T U K

GUIDE TO ENGLISH PUBS


t+l journal

| driving

Customers at the Canyon Country Store, in Laurel Canyon.

U.S.A.

Canyon High On a tour through the twisting canyons of Los Angeles, along tiny streets and hidden, shady folds, MICHAEL FRANK looks for traces of the area’s rock ‘n’ roll past, and discovers its cool bohemian culture lives on. Photographed by KATIE SHAPIRO T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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DAY 1 MY FIRST STOP WAS THE CANYON COUNTRY STORE, ON Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the most tangible relic of the area’s musical heyday. The Country Store is a neighborhood institution and a purveyor of surprisingly good wines and delicious custom-made deli sandwiches. Resolutely ungentrified by Tommy Bina, who has owned the place since 1982, the red-brick building still packs a flower-power punch in its psychedelic murals, bougainvillea-splashed patio and palimpsest of a bulletin

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HEN I WAS GROWING UP IN THE 1960’S, Laurel Canyon was simply “the canyon.” It was where my brothers and I climbed steep streets on our bikes and built forts in the eucalyptus-scented hills. Sure, some of our classmates’ parents were becoming known as artists—Ed Kienholz and Carole King—but it was only later that I came to understand that the canyon was undergoing a burst of creativity that would someday be likened to San Francisco’s Haight in the 1950’s or, with some exaggeration, Paris in the 1920’s. A place of great natural beauty, central in Los Angeles though also hidden and highly quirky, the canyon attracted such now-legendary rockers as Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall (“Blues from Laurel Canyon”), Mama Cass, Graham Nash (“Our House”) and Joni Mitchell, who lived, loved, partied, composed and sang their hearts out in cottages and bungalows in the snaky streets off Kirkwood and Lookout. That era may have ended when canyon ladies like Mitchell came “wrapped in songs and gypsy shawls” and found true love with shaggy, starry-eyed guitarists, but the canyon retains a special unbuttoned magic. And on a recent visit from New York City I spent a few days driving through Laurel and its nearby canyon cousins. I limited my explorations to the terrain between Mulholland Drive to the north and Sunset Boulevard to the south. These roads set the parameters of the canyons, which are, geologically speaking, former streambeds that cut through the Santa Monica Mountains, the camel’s hump that divides the city from the valley. Though I drove maybe 48

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Road Trip Refuge Clockwise from above left: Sandy Gendel at Pace restaurant; Pace’s cedar-planked salmon; the reservoir in Franklin Canyon Park; the park; Case Study House 21, by architect Pierre Koenig (standing by the stereo), in 1958; the house’s interior reflecting pool, in 1956. Opposite: Outside the Canyon Country Store; Mulholland Drive.

board from which, in the same afternoon, I could have enrolled in a reflexology class and found my pet gainful employment (“We are looking for a talented parrot or any other kind of bird to sign to a recording contract.”—The Laurel Canyon Animal Company). Bina is an enthusiastic cicerone to all things canyonesque: he pointed across the way to a house, now hiding under some bad horizontal siding from the 1980’s, where Morrison wrote “Love Street” (“There’s this store where the creatures meet/I wonder what they do in there…”). Afterward, in the store’s basement, he showed me the former apartment where Mama Cass (of the Mamas & the Papas) briefly lived upon

first coming to L.A. When Bina converted the apartment into more wine storage several years back he found Cass’s flute, whose worn case he touches with the kind of reverence that guides in other settings might gesture at, say, Proust’s evening cape or Chekhov’s pen. Sharing the building with the Canyon Country Store is Pace, as in “peace” (or: “Peace, man!”), a restaurant in the space that during the 1960’s housed Café Galleria, which hosted open-mike nights for canyon habitués. In a room hung with black-and-white photos of the musicians, I dined on the establishment’s most popular dish, cedar-planked salmon; it was by far the best meal of the drive. »

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California Canyon Hideouts Above, left to right: The Virginia Robinson Gardens, in Beverly Hills; the property’s pool pavilion; the garden’s estate mansion. Opposite, left to right: A lemonade stand on Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon; in Beverly Glen, a plate of grilled artichokes and margherita pizza at Fabrocini restaurant; the restaurant’s interior.

Earlier, while Bina and I were downstairs in his store, he drew my attention to the brick building’s river-rock foundation, a clue to a different piece of the canyon’s story. In old L.A., the area was undeveloped countryside; remote and rugged, it was first reached in any organized fashion in 1913, when Charles Spencer Mann built a trackless trolley (it ran on electric cables) that brought hunters and hikers up from Sunset Boulevard. A development known as Mann’s Bungalow Land provided cottages for these early weekenders, and the first (wooden) country store, its foundation bolstered with rocks harvested from the then-open streambed, sold them provisions. The rest is real estate—and therefore Angeleno—history.

DAY 2 SINCE DRIVING BY HOUSES IN LOS ANGELES IS THE equivalent of making the rounds of museums and monuments in other cities, I decided to begin my morning by passing by some of the canyon’s more notable addresses. Continuing a couple of kilometers up to Lookout Mountain Avenue, I glanced to my right at the ruins of a mansion where Houdini is said to have been summoned with séances by his grief-stricken wife; then I turned uphill and drove past the site of Mann’s roadhouse tavern, which not long after it was built in 1916 was bought by silent-screen star Tom Mix and, in 1968, was briefly but memorably rented by Zappa. With a 24-meter living room, a bowling alley and an enchanted garden, this oversize log cabin “raged as a rock-and-roll salon and Dionysian playground,” as Michael Walker, the canyon’s chronicler, sums it up in Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, his book on the era. The scene moved on, the house burned 82

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down, but the place retains a charge: The bones of its garden, still discernible from the street, tell you that Something Happened Here. On Wonderland Avenue, I went looking for No. 8945, the largely subterranean seven-story bunker-like building that, from 1947 to 1969, housed Lookout Mountain Studios, the top-secret movie studio behind 6,500 documentaries chronicling the U.S. government’s nuclear-weapons testing program. Seeing an older man raking leaves at the front gate, I pulled over and asked him what went on today in those now privately owned, and still gargantuan, more than 9,000 square meters. “People live here,” he answered. Could he tell me who? “No,” he said. “It’s not permitted.” All right, then. Onward to the top of the hill, where views open up to the jam-packed bowl of L.A. with, on a clear day, a ribbon of ocean hovering on the horizon. Appian Way—a rare flat street at the summit—took me to Lookout, and Lookout back to Wonderland (it’s all about loops here) and Wonderland to Wonderland Park, where I stopped to view Pierre Koenig’s 1958 Case Study House No. 21, at No. 9038. A glass and post-and-beam jewel that stands in its own framework of reflecting pools, this house is the Modernist canyon at its most utopian (and pricey: Wright auction house sold the property three years ago for US$3.2 million).

DAY 3 THE NEXT MORNING I RESUMED MY DRIVE ON MULHOLLAND, that serpentine byway flanked by hide-and-seek views of the spreading valley to the north and tucked-away city to the south. I headed west to Franklin Canyon, one of the most unusual parks in a major city: 245 hectares of bucolic National Park Service land whose centerpiece is two bodies


of water that ducks, turtles and bullfrogs now call home. I parked here and, for several dreamlike hours, unaware of my urban surroundings, hiked along trails lined with California oaks, sticky monkey flowers, poppies and sage. After heading south into Beverly Hills, I found my way to the Virginia Robinson Gardens, the 2.5-hectare former estate of the heirs to the J. W. Robinson department-store empire that has been open to the public (by appointment) since 1982. If, after somehow falling into a California version of a Rip Van Winkle sleep, I had awakened in this splendor and been challenged to locate it, I would have answered Tuscany. The 1911 Mediterranean-style house, the blooming terraced gardens, the palm grove, the bubbling fountains, the terra-cotta statues—Gilded Age glory intact and immaculately tended at the edge of Beverly Hills. Lunch was a tasty grilled artichoke and pizza at Fabrocini’s, in nearby Beverly Glen Canyon, which at one time was home to a Native American village and, later, part of Francisco

Sepulveda’s ranch; yes, where mountain lions once patrolled the hills, today there is a shopping center. After I ate, I had a somewhat disjointed window-shopping experience: leather-bound sets of Dickens on offer two doors down from D&G dresses for children, each of which commanded more than my daughter’s entire annual wardrobe. My final stop was at St. Pierre Road (No. 414), where I pulled over to peer through the fence at the empty swimming pool and abandoned home that Johnny Weissmuller built out of his Tarzan fortune. More moat, really, than pool, the 91-meter-long snake of scabbing blue plaster and broken tile seemed like a perfect commentary on the fragility of fame. A B-minus movie star with an A-plus pool, a decaying mansion in a leaf-darkened canyon, a lone driver swinging by to think a few thoughts on the power of time: it felt like the subject of an unwritten pop song, an ode to the mysteries of the canyons. Guitar, anyone? ✚

GUIDE TO L.A.’S CANYONS WHERE TO STAY Beverly Hills Hotel 9641 W. Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; 1-310/276-2251; beverlyhillshotel. com; doubles from US$505. GREAT Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel 1285 VALUE Ventura Blvd., Century City; 1-818/287-6445; slhotel.com; doubles from US$134. WHERE TO EAT Canyon Country Store 2108 Laurel Canyon Blvd.; 1-323/654-8091; lunch for two US$20.

Fabrocini’s 2960 Beverly Glen Circle; 1-310/475-7404; lunch for two US$40. Pace 2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd.; 1-323/654-8583; dinner for two US$90. WHAT TO DO Franklin Canyon Park 2600 Franklin Canyon Dr., Beverly Hills; 1-310/858-7272; visit lamountains.com for park information, including hiking trails and tours. Virginia Robinson Gardens 1008 Elden Way, Beverly Hills; 1-310/276-5367 for reservations.

WHAT TO READ AND WATCH Atomic Filmmakers: Hollywood’s Secret Film Studio directed by Peter Kuran. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simo —and the Journey of Generation by Sheila Weller (Atria Books). Laurel Canyon directed by Lisa Cholodenko, with Frances McDormand and Christian Bale. Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker (Faber & Faber).

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Respect the Beasts On a somewhat stylish visit to Indonesiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Komodo National Park, ADAM SKOLNICK comes face to face with dragons and lives to tell the tale. Photographed by LAURYN ISHAK

INDONESIA

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N A SWELTERING MORNING CONDO Subagyo, 46, and I hack through thick brush to reach a red clay trail. We follow it as it winds beneath huge tamarind trees dangling with python-thick vines that disappear into undergrowth of wild basil. Streams trickle through the forest harmonizing with a chorus of crickets, cycads, frogs and cockatoos. The air is heavy and moist. Sweat trickles down Condo’s hairless dome as the worn trail rises onto a plateau blanketed in knee-high savannah. Pulau Komodo, the larger of the two main islands that make up Komodo National Park—the other being Rinca—isn’t always this lush. Most of the year it’s sun-dried to an almost crisp golden brown. Now, during the December–March wet season, it’s as green as Switzerland. It’s then we hear a distinct, low, disconcerting grunt. Condo freezes. “You hear that?” he asks with a gleam in his eye. “We found one!” His focus narrows and becomes fixed on a lump in the grass not 7 meters away. I see it for the first time: the world’s largest lizard, a distant relative of the dinosaurs, the mythic Komodo dragon. In seconds I start snapping photos like a wonder-drunk neophyte. The creature is a magnificent 3 meters long and, according to Condo, weighs close to 70 kilograms, a relatively large male. His bumpy back is stained red from the cool earth, his muscular tail ridged with razor sharp scales and his long yellow tongue forked at the tip. His eyes burn into us as he leans forward. Then his tongue recoils, he relaxes back into his grass bed and seems to smile. At which point I turn and ask Condo to take my photograph with the dragon over my left shoulder. As he snaps the picture, the dragon huffs again with an exhalation so powerful I jump. And I remember that these lizards can run close to 20 kilometers per hour, about twice as fast as I can on a good day. I turn slowly, sheepishly and glimpse that primordial smile once more. Note to self: respect the beasts. When making the misguided decision to turn your back on a wild dragon, it’s best to have Condo at your side. The late Steve Irwin knew that when he came to Komodo in 1999 to film an episode of the Crocodile Hunter. One memorable scene was shot on the top of a mountain. Fourteen dragons huddled around goat and buffalo carcasses, tearing bloody flesh with their powerful jaws. “Steve got down on his hands and knees, shoulder to shoulder with the dragons,” Condo recalls as we continue our hike. “He was growling and pretending to eat alongside them.” Condo stops and considers his brush with fame, and says, “I think he was crazy, but a very nice guy.” »

O

Rare Beasts From top: Hiking on Rinca Island; the national park is well signposted. Opposite: Two Komodo dragons lurk in the shadows.

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| adventure The deep channels around Rinca and Komodo islands, left. Komodo dragons regulate their body temperature in the sun and shade, right.

I EMERGE FROM THE SWEATY PURGATORY THAT is the baggage-claim area at Labuanbajo airport, I’m swallowed by a swirl of touts eager to charter cars or motorbike taxis and book tours to nearby Komodo National Park. At the edge of it all is the pudgy, ever-smiling Condo, who, though we’d never met, I recognize instinctively. “We have two boats,” he explains as we drive down the serpentine road that leads from the airport to Labuanbajo’s stunning bay harbor. “Our brand new luxury yacht is 40 meters long. It has hot showers, air-con, two sun decks and a plasma television. It’s very nice.” “Nothing wrong with luxury,” I think as I imagine sprawling out in the sun sipping gin and tonics and nodding to the dragons as we steam by. “But we won’t use that one,” Condo continues. “We will take my other boat, which is still very good. It used to belong to Aman resorts.” Sure. Fine. No problem. Although Indonesia has long been my favorite destination and Bali has been my second home since 2004, I’d never visited the epic Komodo National Park. I hadn’t glimpsed the dragons. I hadn’t dropped into the world-renowned coral reefs. I was ready for an adventure. Besides if the worst I can do was an old Aman cruiser, I figure comfort won’t be an issue. Then I see the boat. Think convalescent cargo hauler. Its wood flanks are somewhere between chipped and disintegrating, the windows in the captain’s cabin are cracked, the oily deck is narrow, stuffed with supplies and dive gear, and crawling with various representatives of the insect kingdom. It may have once been a crew boat for

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Aman resorts, but that was a lifetime ago. I’m not impressed. But once we begin cruising out to sea, where the hulking frames of Rinca and Komodo dominate the horizon, nature begins to work on me. The ship carves the water smoothly. The breeze cools me out. I am ready for the journey. Besides, I’m not going to complain about the lack of creature comforts to Condo. The son of a colonel in Suharto’s special forces, he left Purwakarta, his tiny central Java hometown, penniless and on foot, when he was 19. For six months he walked, hitched, squatted and sailed all the way to Flores where he got a job as a ranger in Komodo National Park in 1982. Then, as now, the young, jagged islands were empty, save two stilted fishing villages home to less than 1,000 people. The steep, layered mountains, forests and mangroves have always been the domain of birds, deer, wild boar, buffalo and about 3,000 Komodo dragons. At first, Condo cooked meals, cleaned cabins and guided tourists along park trails on both Komodo and Rinca. In the early days of Komodo tourism, rangers often fed goat carcasses to dragons so tourists could glimpse them. Condo was the man who delivered the meat. Not an enviable job when you consider that the dragon’s saliva is spiced with septic bacteria. Even a superficial bite can lead to a fatal infection. Which is why it is off-putting to see fresh bloodstains on the walls and windows of Rinca’s national park office in Loh Buaya, a small ranger camp where a dozen dragons come to sniff and scarf kitchen scraps daily. “The attack happened a few days ago,” says Abdul Kadir, 25, the ranger who is “protecting” us from the dragons with nothing but a long forked staff. “He was doing paperwork in his office, and the animal went for his legs under the desk.”


Gashed and bleeding, the ranger scrambled to the top of a bookcase and screamed for help, which eventually arrived. “He’s still in the hospital, but he will probably survive,” Kadir tells me. But even with fresh evidence of mortal danger, watching dragons eat leftovers wasn’t what I had in mind, so Condo and I re-board the Millennium Falconand sail on to Komodo. As we draw close, Komodo’s eastern peninsula spreads out like so many fingers, fringed with a succession of pink sand beaches thanks to an abundance of red coral. The mountains rise jagged, sheltering wooded canyons where female dragons nest and lay their eggs in thick mud banks. But Condo’s attention is fixed on the glassy sea, and a rapidly growing pod of dolphins that begin leaping, breaching, drafting and playing just off our bow. Always an avid snorkeler, Condo left the park service in 1987 and began exploring these tempestuous waters. The convergence of the warmer Flores Sea and the cooler Selat Sumba (Sumba Strait) translates into strong currents and cold up-swellings, which creates a rich plankton soup that feeds an astonishing diversity of marine life. Mantas and whales, including blue whales, are drawn here to feed during their annual migration from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while dolphins and schools of sharks are also common. By 1994 Condo was working as a dive instructor, a marine biologist with the Nature Conservancy (he monitored fish and coral populations around Komodo), and a local fixer for Discovery Channel shoots in the national park. In 1996 he opened CN Dive, the second oldest and still the only Indonesian-owned dive shop in Labuanbajo. “I think I

GUIDE TO KOMODO WHEN TO GO From April to November, Komodo and Rinca islands receive next to no rainfall, and it’s also a period of low humidity and high temperatures. Komodo dragons mate in July and August, and the females nest from September to November, making sightings more rare. WHAT TO DO CN Dive Jln. Yos Sudarso, Labuanbajo; 62-385/41159; live aboards are available for US$120 per person per day, with a two-person minimum. Komodo National Park The park is well set up for visitors to both Komodo and Rinca islands, and its website is particularly good. It’s cash only for the day passes. gokomodo.org; one- to three-day

passes cost US$15 plus Rp40,000 in entrance fees per person.

Remains of the slayed: Water buffalo bones on Rinca Island.

The mountains rise jagged, sheltering wooden canyons where female dragons nest in THICK mud banks

discovered over half the dive sites charted in Komodo,” he says. “But I’ve actually dove over 300 sites. Some we never charted because we didn’t want to expose them.” After communing with the dolphins for the better part of an hour, Condo and I drop into the reef just off Pantai Mereh, or Red Beach. We soar with the light current over vibrant red coral reefs teeming with thousands of fish, 30 meters beneath the surface. When we surface at sunset the sky bled from blue to gold to pink, and thousands of enormous, screeching fruit bats (a.k.a. flying foxes) emerge from the mangroves and take off into the darkening sky. At sunrise the next morning we are underwater again. This time we drop into Batu Bolong, a pinnacle crusted in Technicolor coral. Here is my Willy Wonka moment. There are cartoonish sea fans and sad fish faces, a blue-eyed octopus, a slithering sea snake, a giant hawksbill turtle and five reef sharks. Two hours later we are swimming with a school of grey and white-tip reef sharks at Taka Toko, or Castle Rock. The current is so strong we have to cling to the reef while watching two massive grey sharks and a dozen white tips feed on clouds of tropical fish. Yes, the diving is spectacular—and it becomes even more so when I sink into a manta soup and glide alongside 10 magnificent manta rays later that afternoon—but I still haven’t seen a dragon in the wild. Which is how we come to be hiking through a remote corner of Pulau Komodo. We’ve spotted three wild dragons and the remains of a dragon nest by the time we reach a small white cross sprouting from a rock pile on a grassy hilltop. “We call this place Bukit Rudolph,” says Condo. “It’s a memorial to Rudolph Von Reding, a 79-year-old who disappeared on Komodo in 1974.” That’s nearly 10 years prior to Condo’s arrival as a scrawny 20-year-old, long before Komodo National Park was on the tourist radar and serviced by daily flights from Bali. In the valley below, orioles and cockatoos flit about the forest canopy, which bleeds into a black-water estuary and filters through thick mangroves to the endless blue sea. We can just make out the silhouettes of two buffalo half-submerged in a tidal lagoon as the sun burns. Somewhere, Rudolph is smiling. Condo certainly is. After soaking it all in, he turns to me, wipes his brow and says, “Now you know why I love Komodo.”  T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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Stop the Music

I

F YOU’RE LIKE ME, YOU’LL AGREE THERE’S NOTHING

so dispiriting as finding yourself in the lavishly appointed dining room of a luxury resort, flute of Prosecco in hand, about to embark on a nine-course tasting menu—when, from somewhere up on the ceiling, in wafts the opening verse of “Lady in Red.” Maybe I’m oversensitive, but it felt like a dentist’s drill aimed squarely at my skull. I loathed Chris de Burgh’s 1986 original; going cheek-to-cheek with this florid instrumental version was infinitely worse. From that point on the meal became an afterthought, while the god-awful soundtrack consumed all my attention. An orchestral arrangement of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” came and

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gave without mercy. Mantovani’s rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” only made me wish I were. They say music has the perceived effect of slowing down time. In this case it made time grind to an agonizing halt. By dessert (rhubarb tart and six violins playing “Against All Odds”) my thoughts were with Manuel Noriega, holed up in that embassy, besieged by the likes of Rick Astley. When I finally escaped to my room, I savored the silence like never before. At breakfast the next morning, however, it was a whole new vibe. Jazz drifted through the room like sunlight glistening off the china. The warble of Chet Baker’s trumpet put me in a perky mood. Everything seemed brighter, crisper,

© PICSFIVE / DREAMSTIME.COM

Can’t get that song out of your head? With more hotels, restaurants and retailers adopting music as a branding device, PETER JON LINDBERG sounds off on how their choices speak volumes (literally)


cooler. Two meals, two play lists, two wildly different impressions of the very same table.

S

OME PEOPLE ARE IRKED BY BAD LIGHTING,

excessive AC, the reek of European men’s cologne. I’m hopelessly particular about music. Background soundtracks can make or break my impression of a place—and these days every place has one, from wine bars to Williams-Sonoma. Too often it’s employed with alarming incompetence. I’m not talking about loud music in public spaces. I’m talking about bad music in public spaces. If the right song playing at the right restaurant functions like a rave review posted in the window, the wrong music is like a violation notice from the Board of Health: DO NOT APPROACH. BACK SLOWLY AWAY. Most people, I’m told, hardly notice background music, which I guess is the point. But like a dog tuned to the shrillest frequencies, I seem to register only the most grating aural wallpaper, the Célines and Enriques and Mariahs (she of the voice like a dog whistle). I’ve walked out of otherwise appealing shops that elect to blare Maroon 5. I’ve hung up on reservations lines that put me on hold to “Groovy Kind of Love.” I bring earplugs on planes to block out not the roar of the engines but the insipid pabulum of the boarding music. In certain environments songs are presumed to help people relax. They generally have the opposite effect. Spas still insist on playing what my piano teacher liked to call “newage” (“rhymes with sewage”). This sounds innocuous enough for the first two minutes, but after an hour ties your nerves into knots faster than any therapist can undo them. Airports play soaring ballads that are supposed to make you feel like you’re flying; they make me feel like stabbing someone with a piccolo. Resorts pump their newage right into the pool via underwater speakers, leaving you no hope of escape. Even hospitals get it unfathomably wrong. A friend of mine went in for an MRI and had to endure not only her own claustrophobia but also the clinic’s cheesy piped-in sound track—45 minutes of continuous soft hits to the head.

T

HE INFURIATING THING ABOUT BACKGROUND MUSIC

is not that it’s unavoidable; it’s that it screws with the natural order of things, elevating the blandest drivel (“Lady in Red”) to the status of a timeless classic—or, worse, sullying timeless classics (“Eleanor Rigby”) by playing them alongside the drivel. It would be revealing to compile an alternative history of Western music, focused solely on Songs Played in Hotel Lobbies and Cruise-Ship Corridors Through the Ages. You’d document a bizarro parallel universe, one where Michael McDonald is more popular than Led Zeppelin and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons trumps everything by Mozart. The Eagles would be more revered than Dylan; Jamiroquai

bigger than Springsteen. And at the top of the pyramid, with her Nagel-print cheekbones, would sit Sade. The quintessential background record of any era, Sade’s “Smooth Operator” (1984) was also the perfect theme for its time: languid, sexy, and reeking of money. This explains why it’s been playing in yacht clubs and business-class lounges since the Reagan administration, despite being a patently ridiculous song (not least for the sax solo). Its popularity highlights a key ingredient of the genre: If you’re going to make sultry, anodyne lounge music, it helps to sing with an accent. Sade’s own inflections—she rhymes Key Lah-go with Chicago—were indeterminate (French? Latin? Nigerian? Who could tell?), yet indisputably cosmopolitan. An even better tactic for background success? Don’t sing in English at all. Whether it’s Serge Gainsbourg wooing Jane Birkin or Cesaria Evora lamenting her saudade, foreign-language songs are believed to lend any venue an air of sophistication. They’re easy to listen to and easy not to listen to, since the lyrics make no sense. Where would your local tapas bar be without the Gipsy Kings, the Buena

Not knowing Portuguese, I used to think Brazilian MUSIC the most romantic of all. I’ve since learned that every song is about football

Vista Social Club (the Gipsy Kings of the 90’s), and Amadou & Mariam (the Gipsy Kings of the 00’s)? Then there’s Brazilian music, which has supplanted reggae as the global sound track for chillaxing. From Bali to Bodrum, every high-end sandal emporium and beachfront sushi bar seems to play the same 12 songs by the same six Brazilian singers—particularly Bebel Gilberto, the Brazilian Sade. The samba is as ubiquitous as the caipirinha. (Don’t get me wrong, I adore Brazilian music, even after 3,500 listens. Not knowing Portuguese, I used to think it the most romantic music of all. I’ve since learned that every song is about football. But I love it no less.) If you think I take this all too seriously, talk to Daniel Barenboim. The Argentine conductor has spoken out vehemently against the creep of background music into every corner of public life, calling it “as disturbing [as] the most despicable aspect of pornography.” Others agree. A London-based group called Pipedown is waging a vigorous campaign against canned music; in 2002 they staged a demonstration outside Selfridges department store. Two » T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A

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years earlier, a bill was introduced in the British House of Commons proposing a ban on recorded music in civic spaces. (It didn’t pass.) Citizens have to reclaim “the right not to listen to music,” argue Alan Bradshaw and Morris B. Holbrook in their (very funny) 2008 treatise “Must We Have Muzak Wherever We Go?” Comparing background music to secondhand smoke and acid rain, the economists claim it promotes “a culture of non-listening.” More troubling to the authors is the insidious manipulation at work by marketing and retail puppeteers who don’t play music so much as deploy it. Studies have shown that sad songs can actually boost greeting-card sales; that slow songs inspire shoppers to spend more time in supermarkets; and that classical music spurs diners to order more expensive bottles of wine. Background music is as old as recording itself—though, unlike the recording industry, it shows no sign of going away. It found its apotheosis in Muzak, created in 1934 and still heard in 400,000 locations worldwide. Other services have expanded on the Muzak model, including the Austin, Texas– based DMX, which sends its 106 satellite channels out to Cheesecake Factories and Gold’s Gyms across the United States, reaching 80 million defenseless listeners. DMX’s themed playlists range from Malt-Shop Oldies and Riviera Discothèque to Italian Bistro Blend, which sounds like a coffee and seems to perform the same function. (“Give me a nonfat ‘Volare’ with a double shot of Prima!”) DMX, it turns out, was responsible for the turgid dinner mix I’d heard at the resort. This was Channel 22, Beautiful Instrumentals. Then again, the Chet Baker mix I’d enjoyed over breakfast was also a DMX stream: Straight-Ahead Jazz. Perhaps they weren’t wholly evil after all. Later I spoke to the resort’s GM and gently suggested that he reconsider the dinner music. He made no promises, though the phrase “melon scooper in my eardrum” was, I thought, fairly convincing. Still, one man’s Mantovani is another man’s Mingus. Who’s to say the regular clientele won’t prefer Beautiful Instrumentals to Straight-Ahead Jazz? This is the fundamental problem with music in public spaces. Not everyone has an opinion about the proper temperature of the salmon or the aesthetic merit of that floral arrangement. But everyone has an opinion about music. There’s no accounting for taste, especially that of your customers. No wonder so many places farm their music out to professionals. My friend Jeremy Abrams is one of those professionals. His consulting company, Audiostiles, devises playlists for Thomas Keller’s restaurants and Four Seasons Hotels, among other clients. The service is as much about branding as it is about entertainment. As Abrams explains on his website, “Décor, accessories, and clothes all create image, persona, and mood…. Music now does the same.” A 90

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I spoke to the resort’s GM and suggested he reconsider the dinner music. The PHRASE ‘melon scooper in my eardrum’ was convincing

well-chosen “soundscape” also says, “Trust us, we’re hip. Even if we didn’t program this iPod.”

T

HE IDEA THAT PIPED -IN MUSIC COULD ACTUALLY BE

hip is a relatively new one. Perhaps I’m just getting old and out of touch, but lately I’ve been hearing songs I like in the Container Store. Eight times out of 10 they still subject you to James Blunt, but just when you’re ready to hang a noose around that Elfa closet rod, along comes Arcade Fire to set everything right. The sea change, for me, came on a recent flight. It’s been my experience that music, like food, is best avoided on passenger jets. So imagine my surprise at enjoying boarding music—even writing down the names of songs to buy later: M. Ward’s “For Beginners,” Jeremy Messersmith’s cover of the Replacements’ “Skyway.” When was the last time you discovered great music on an airplane? For the most part, though, the song remains the same. Three hours later I was in the airport waiting out a layover when my ears pricked up at a familiar line: “Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago.../Across the north and south to Key Lah-go....” It suddenly struck me that I’ve heard “Smooth Operator” more times than I’ve heard “Born to Run,” more often than I’ve listened to NPR’s All Things Considered, maybe more than I ever heard my own grandmother speak. It’s not as if I chose to; I never owned the recording (and if I did I wouldn’t tell anyone). Yet at that particular moment, I confess, it was the ideal sound track. The lazy spirals of saxophone melted the stress of the commute away. The epic line at security didn’t loom as large. I had considered popping a Xanax, but no longer felt the need. ✚

© J AY E M / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M

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SIMON WATSON

A nostalgic trip DOWN the Irrawaddy Discovering Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wine REGIONS TAKE a mouthwatering food tour of Italy Braving a Montana WINTER in comfort The charming pleasures of PROVENCE 93


TAKING A SLOW BOAT DOWN THE IRRAWADDY FROM MANDALAY TO BAGAN, WRITES ANDREW BURKE, IS DEFINITELY A TRIP TINGED WITH NOSTALGIA BUT ALSO TURNS OUT TO BE A MEMORABLE INTRODUCTION TO A TROUBLED LAND. PHOTOGRAPHED BY PHILIPP ENGELHORN


U Beinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bridge stretches across the shallow Taungthaman Lake.


Burmese Days Clockwise from above left: One of Baganâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s many Buddha images, mostly dating back to the 12th century; on the crowded Mandalay-Bagan ferry run, food for sale at a stopover; outside of Mandalay, a monk meditates at Pahtodawgyi; all of the basics at Mandalayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s food market.


Irrawaddy Dreams Clockwise from above left: A Burmese boy in traditional dress at Mahamuni Paya in Mandalay; Sandumani Paya is called “The world’s biggest book” because its stupas are covered with Buddhist inscriptions; street performers in Mandalay; the base of Mingun Paya, cracked by an 1838 earthquake.


Tilumelum Temple in Bagan. Opposite: In Mandalay, classic Burmese puppets.


The Temple of Edfu, outside Luxor.

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GUIDE TO IRRAWADDY CRUISING

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Wonders of Bagan Above: The three-tiered, gilded zedi at Baganâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Shwezigon Paya became a prototype for others built in the country. Below: Well-preserved murals and fine ornamental work throughout the temple are two hallmarks of Sulamani Phato on Baganâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s central plain. The temple dates back to the 12th century.

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THE U L T I M AT E AU S T R A L I A N WINE TOUR

In a country with more than 60 wine-producing areas, where do

you begin?

BRUCE SCHOENFELD

embarks on a coast-to-coast

jo u r ne y t o un c ove r t h e h i dde n r e g i o ns y o u should know

about—and where to stay, eat and t aste whe n you’re t he re

Photographed by HUGH STEWART 00

M O N TH 2 0 0 8| T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E . C O M


Mark Haisma, of the wine-making team at Yarra Yering, 48 kilometers east of Melbourne. Opposite: Shiraz and Tempranillo grapes at Samuelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gorge, in McLaren Vale, near Adelaide. T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E

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C O M

|MO NT H 2008

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AUSTRALIA IS VAST: GRANDLY, IMPOSINGLY, CONTINENTALLY VAST. That should be no surprise to anyone who has ever spun a globe, but it never hit home for me until I crossed it from ocean to ocean and back again, flying and driving nearly 9,600 kilometers in search of the best wines and most interesting wine regions the country offers. The well-trod paths lead to the Barossa, Hunter and Clare valleys, but Australia’s wine-producing areas are incredibly varied—which makes sense when you realize that the whole of Western Europe’s viticultural landscape, from Crete to Champagne, could fit inside it. Looking back now, my most memorable experiences were in remote but accessible corners, where the scale is too modest for tour buses. I met winemakers in wet suits riding waves off Margaret River’s Prevelly Beach, ate kangaroo steak at McLaren Vale’s raucous Victory Hotel and sipped Darjeeling at Yarra Valley’s Giant Steps, a winery that serves as its town’s community center. I drank wines that rivaled the world’s best, and ate meals to match. The regions I’ve uncovered range from dry to lush to beachfront. In them I found winemakers with oversize personalities eager to show me their vineyards—and have me try wines I’d never find anywhere else. If you’re in Perth, Adelaide or Melbourne, these make perfect side trips and are certainly worthy destinations on their own. Read on to learn about the best of Australia—uncorked.

MARGARET RIVER SURF ‘N’ TURF Margaret River is a surf town, Venice Beach without the silicone. Its one-street commercial district, at the far end of a deliriously dull 270-kilometer drive from Perth, in Australia’s southwestern corner, features shops with mildly offensive names like Wet Dreams and other manifestations of surfing culture. But woven into this Beach Boys song is a thriving wine scene. Leaving Prevelly one day, I spotted a van advertising WINE FOR DUDES, a local tour company that seemed to epitomize the place. “A lot of people in the industry surf,” says Nigel Harvey, who cooks sophisticated meals at the Restaurant at Voyager Estate, a Cape Dutch mansion of a winery by the Indian Ocean. “Then they come to work and create this amazing stuff.” It took me about five minutes in Margaret River to realize that I’d never seen a wine region like it. I could spend the morning tasting and the afternoon lolling at the beach, with no shortage of enticing restaurants to visit at night. But what makes this thin stretch of coastline a mandatory destination is »

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Map illustrated by MICHAEL A. HILL


MARGARET RIVER GETTING THERE The world’s most remote finewine region is a 3 1/2-hour drive south of Perth. WHERE TO STAY Cape Lodge A 22-room retreat on a secluded vineyard surrounded by forest. 3341 Caves Rd., Yallingup; 61-8/9755-6311; slh.com; doubles from A$462. Constellation Apartments 139– 141 Bussell Hwy., Margaret River; 61-8/9385-5611; constellationapts. com; doubles from A$525, twonight minimum. WHERE TO EAT Cape Wine Bar Chorizo, beef cheeks and other wine-friendly bites served by cheery surfers. 239 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough; 61-8/9756-7650; dinner for two A$100. Food Farmacy 32-36 Dunn Bay Rd., Dunsborough; 61-8/9759-1877; dinner for two A$129. Leeuwin Estate Stevens Rd., Margaret River; 61-8/9759-0000; lunch for two A$124. WHERE TO TASTE Cullen Wines Estate Lot 4323 Caves Rd., Wilyabrup, Margaret River; 61-8/9755-5656; cullenwines.com.au. Howard Park Rising-star producer in a picturesque setting. Must-try: 2007 Leston Cabernet Sauvignon. Miamup Rd., Cowaramup; 61-8/9756-5200; howardparkwines.com.au. Vasse Felix Powerful, stylish wines — and some locals believe that Aaron Carr is the most consistent chef in the area. Caves Rd. and Harmans Rd. S., Cowaramup; 61-8/9756-5000; vassefelix.com.au; lunch for two A$113. Voyager Estate Must-try: 2006 Chardonnay. 41 Stevens Rd., Margaret River; 61-8/9757-6354; voyagerestate.com.au.

Surfers at Yallingup Beach, in Margaret River, Western Australia.

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MCLAREN VALLEY GETTING THERE A 40-minute drive from Adelaide, at the edge of the suburbs. WHERE TO STAY McLaren Ridge Log Cabins Wellsituated cottages with vineyard views. Whitings Rd., McLaren Vale; 61-8/8383-0504; mclarenridge. com; doubles from A$215. Medina Grand Adelaide Treasury The best choice in downtown Adelaide. 2 Flinders St., Adelaide; 61-8/8112-0000; medina.com.au; doubles from A$167. WHERE TO EAT D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant Osborn Rd., McLaren Vale; 61-8/8329-4888; lunch for two A$114. Fino 8 Hill St., Willunga; 61-8/8556-4488; lunch for two A$105. Victory Hotel Main South Rd., Sellicks Beach; 61-8/8556-3083; dinner for two A$97. WHERE TO TASTE Coriole Vineyards Eat a civilized cold lunch plate, then let the tasting-room staff lead you through a range of wines, from accomplished to profound. Must-try: 2006 Dancing Fig Shiraz Mourvedre. Chaffeys Rd., McLaren Vale; 61-8/8323-8305; coriole.com. Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Must-try: 2005 Block 6 Shiraz. Kays Rd., McLaren Vale; 61-8/8323-8201; kaybrothersamerywines.com. Samuel’s Gorge Cellars Lot 10, Chaffeys Rd., McLaren Vale; 618/8323-8651; gorge.com.au.

the wines themselves, Chardonnays and Rieslings but also cool-weather Cabernets. As it turns out, many of the same elements that make for good surfing—brisk ocean breezes, a mild climate—and the silty soil that comes with any oceanfront create wines that are measured, minerally, and packed with complex flavors. Back in 1965, an agronomist concluded that Margaret River’s struggling dairy farms might be sitting on the country’s finest land for wine grapes. The locals took him at his word and established an industry. “They used to say, ‘Why are those funny people putting sticks in the ground?’ ” says Cullen Wines Estate’s winemaker Vanya Cullen, whose parents founded the property in 1971. These days, the winery’s top releases are world-class, particularly the vibrant Diana Madeline Cabernet-based blend. At the estate’s tasting room with Cullen—who now makes wine biodynamically, gauging the progress of the grapes by the schedule of the tides—I recognized the flavors of black olive and forest floor that almost always lead to the Old World, but a rush of bright fruit brought me right back to Australia. Then I went to Leeuwin Estate, which has an entirely different feel. Owner Denis Horgan arrived from Perth in the 1950’s to surf. He invested in land, and set down roots with Robert Mondavi as his mentor. I’d drunk his sleek and lemony Chardonnays, which have been called Australia’s best. But I wasn’t prepared for the winery, which reminded me of a modern country house; it overlooked a bright green lawn used for cricket matches and concerts by the likes of Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias and the London Philharmonic. Or for the gallery, which houses some 100 paintings and sculptures that have appeared on Leeuwin’s Art Series wines since 1980. Or the lunch—briny local oysters, a parfait of foie gras and quail egg, kingfish sashimi, then French and Australian cheeses—that was served to me on the winery’s terrace. My dinner at an outdoor pedestrian mall in Dunsborough, a half-hour to the north, had a more intellectual appeal. Food Farmacy’s Simon Beaton announces his iconoclastic approach to life by wearing a single long sideburn down his boyish face. He favors main ingredients made in multiple versions, such as “scallops five ways” and “venison fillet, venison liver, venison sausage.” Far from gimmicks, these are as intricate as Brueghel’s, tiny masterpieces in which each element has been painstakingly rendered. That night, I returned to Margaret River’s Constellation Apartments: twin penthouses with huge terraces, iPod docks, gas fireplaces and kitchens stocked with an array of local wines, including the delicate Vasse Felix Chardonnay I drank with the omelette I made the next morning. Later, I spent a night in Yallingup at a wellness retreat surrounded by old-growth jarrah trees. Words like vortex and nourishing were used unabashedly, and a member of the Wardandi Tribe was available to perform a didgeridoo meditation. In the morning, I went for a swim. The ocean wasn’t surfing-worthy but driving back I felt like a local: relaxed, refreshed, and ready to report to work and make wine.

MCLAREN VALE HOT DAYS, COOL WINES Set on Australia’s southern coast a brief drive from Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a prototypical wine region. Its gentle slopes are so densely covered with plantings that, strolling from one vineyard directly into the next one morning, I felt like Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer. Rows of hills shield the valley from the gusts whipping north from Antarctica, and summer days can have that Huck ‘n’ Jim, nap-under-a-tree feel. The temptation exists to make full-throttle wines; one McLaren winemaker I met proudly referred to his own Shirazes as “Baby Barossas.” » 110


Taste of Australia Top row from left: Lamb shoulder and moussaka at Vasse Felix winery, in Margaret River; Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine at Vasse Felix; the pool at Moondance Lodge, in Margaret River. Bottom row from left: Vines covered to deter kangaroos, in McLaren Vale, a wine region near Adelaide; at Samuel’s Gorge Cellars, also in McLaren Vale; Samuel’s Gorge winemaker Nairn Webb in the winery’s tasting room.

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Wine and Dine From left: Sharon Romeo and David Swain at Fino, outside Adelaide; the understated town of Willunga, near Adelaide, is typical of Australia’s wine regions; Giant Steps winery, in the Melbourne suburb of Healesville, where the must-try is a 2008 Sexton Vineyards Pinot Noir.

Yet hidden among the leafy hillsides are also some of the crispest, gentlest wines on the continent. “We tread the hard road,” says winemaker Stephen Pannell, who does it perhaps better than anyone else. I met Pannell at the Victory Hotel, a glorified Australian roadside pub that has everyone from winemakers to rugby revelers spilling onto the lawn holding a drink. The food—schnitzels and soft-shell crabs; cockles with spaghetti—is amazingly diverse, and the cellar includes not only all the renowned local bottlings but also plenty of classified growth Bordeaux. D’Arenberg, the region’s best-known winery, is manned by a fully outfitted crew of eager enthusiasts. Nevertheless, try to visit when Chester Osborn, the fourth-generation proprietor, is on the grounds, because he may take you around himself. Osborn is one of the great ambassadors of Australian wine, and one of the industry’s great characters. With his flowing blond curls and flower-print shirts, he’s not hard to spot in a crowd. He’s currently launching a clothing line and writing a science-fiction novel about a future in which dogs rule the world, and his winery is an extension of his quirky, inviting personality. While managing his other interests, Osborn introduced several dozen of the winery’s colorfully named wines onto the world stage, from the Footbolt Shiraz and the threegrape Stump Jump red to the limited-release Dead Arm Shiraz. I’ve had them around the globe, but never so enjoyably as on the terrace of d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, while eating braised duck with kimchi and pickled cherries. For his next act, Osborn is planning a tasting room con112

structed to look like an unsolved Rubik’s Cube; the model could itself stand as a work of art. I wish he’d included guest quarters, for hotel options in the area remain limited. I stayed at McLaren Ridge Log Cabins, a few kilometers away, and enjoyed my cottage with a panoramic view beside a paddock full of braying alpacas. I wish, too, that I’d had another bottle of Osborn’s wine at hand to pair with the chilli-and-squid pie I feasted on outside the storefront Pik-a-Pie Bakery south of the town of McLaren Vale early one morning. The pie, a local specialty, was flaky and crunchy, a tour de force of the genre, but even denser than Victory’s kangaroo steak. It cried out for the sweet fruit and hardy structure of a d’Arenberg Ironstone Pressings or Coppermine Road. “Bring a bottle next time,” the man behind the counter told me, and I don’t think he was kidding.

YARRA VALLEY GIANT STEPS, MEASURED LEAPS As soon as I walked into Giant Steps, outside Melbourne, I smelled coffee, which is not something that’s ever happened to me in a winery. The vast building, which resembles a huge wooden crate, serves as a combination front porch and town square for local residents. They sip tea, drink coffee imported from five countries and eat freshly baked pastries while checking e-mail. Then a lunchtime crowd arrives for pizza, or single-pot entrées like steamed snapper with gai lan in a lemongrass broth. Regulars come for handmade chocolates,


beers from Spain, Yorkshire, Bavaria and throughout Australia, or any of a dozen house-matured cheeses. You can also buy wine, of course, from Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander—notably a Chardonnay that tastes like nectarines and the slightest touch of cream—and plenty of people do. They just don’t think of it as anything exalted, which is the point. “We want it to feel like you’ve come to a friend’s winery,” says owner Phil Sexton. “We get people saying it’s too noisy. Listen, it’s deliberately noisy. The idea is to democratize. Change the model.” In the Yarra, Sexton has found the right place to democratize wine. The region is just a short drive from the city, and its gentle landscape invites casual tourists. There are no major architectural achievements here, and no rarefied terroirs that foment cultish devotion among wine geeks. As I drove country lanes lined with stringybark gums, I was reminded of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is about finding beauty in understatement and imperfection. Healesville itself is pleasant but not quaint, and hardly twee, as wine towns from St. Helena to Stellenbosch have tended to become. The Healesville Hotel, which houses the town’s best restaurant, is a seven-room reclamation project without en suite toilets. Yarra wines, too, are replete with wabi-sabi. Even the largest producer, De Bortoli, strives for wines that taste of their place rather than their grape. “My goal is to lose varietal characteristic altogether,” says owner-winemaker Stephen Webber. That means he’d prefer that I couldn’t tell his Viognier from his Sauvignon Blanc. I could, but barely. Both had soaked up enough sun to get where they needed to go, but were equally at home beside roasted skate, which is how I had them, alfresco, at De Bortoli’s Italian restaurant, Locale, which looked big-city formal but turned out to be as casual as everywhere else I’d been. Vocal and opinionated, Webber is fueled by an urge to discuss, debate and revisit that seems utterly at odds with the prevailing “No worries, mate” attitude. It’s all worries with Webber—Will his Shiraz get too ripe? Will I eat at the right restaurants in Sydney?—but ruminated over with such passion that it’s hard not to take to him immediately. I knew Bailey Carrodus would be another story. Famously prickly, he was approaching 80 when I met him (he has since died) and had little time to educate visitors. His Yarra Yering ranks among my favorite Australian wineries, but I waited until my final morning in the area before driving up a dirt path and finding him standing at the end of it, bundled in a barn jacket despite the summer warmth. Carrodus’s life and the modern vinous history of the Yarra are basically equivalent. Into the 1900’s, the valley had made wines that were highly regarded. Then the industry vanished. Carrodus had studied botany, but decided to try wine making. His debut vintage, the 1973, marked the Yarra’s first commercial wines since the early 1920’s. He wasn’t certain how various grapes might take to the area’s soil, so he retained flexibility by calling his Cabernet blend Dry Red Wine No. 1 and his Shiraz Dry Red Wine No. 2. Those generic names have remained, as have the overtly plain labels, and a production style that is profoundly amateurish, in the finest sense. When I visited, he was still doing some of the wine-making (though Mark Haisma now does much of the work) and manning the austere tasting room. After some grumbling, he set out a sampling of remarkable wines. Soon after, he told me he had work to do, in a tone that wasn’t without warmth but made clear my time with him was up. “Close the door when you leave,” he said. I glanced up several sips later and realized that half an hour had passed. I couldn’t believe I was alone in the tasting room, that the world wasn’t beating a path to its door. As I took a whiff of Chardonnay and noted the late-arriving presence of honeysuckle, I heard some noise outside. I feared my idyllic time was ending but soon it was quiet again. I turned my attention to the Pinot Noir. 

YARRA VALLEY GETTING THERE Fly to Melbourne, then drive an hour east from the airport. WHERE TO STAY Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa Modern two-story compound with an ambitious restaurant. Melba Hwy. and Gulf Rd., Yarra Glen; 61-3/9730-0700; balgownieestate.com.au; doubles from A$252. Chateau Yering Suites at this Provençal-style inn have huge wraparound decks. 42 Melba Hwy., Yering; 61-3/9237-3333; chateauyering.com.au; doubles from A$586. WHERE TO EAT Locale De Bortoli Wines, 58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixon’s Creek; 613/5965-2271; lunch for two A$120. Healesville Hotel Accomplished country food, such as venison with a chocolate sauce or pepperseared kingfish with sourdough panzanella. 256 Maroondah Hwy., Healesville; 61-3/5962-4002; dinner for two A$143. WHERE TO TASTE Balgownie Estate Melba Hwy. and Gulf Rd., Yarra Glen; 61-3/97300700; balgownieestate.com.au. Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander Must-try: 2008 Sexton Vineyards Pinot Noir. 336 Maroondah Hwy., Healesville; 61-3/5962-6111. TarraWarra Estate Graceful wines in a glorious setting, with an adjacent art gallery/museum. 311 Healesville–Yarra Glen Rd., Yarra Glen; 61-3/5962-3311; tarrawarra.com.au. Yarra Yering Must-try: 2005 Dry Red No. 3. 4 Briarty Rd., Gruyere; 61-3/5962-9267; yarrayering.com.

Bruce Schoenfeld is Travel + Leisure’s (U.S.) wine and spirits editor. 113


ULTIMATE ZIGZAGGING FROM ROME TO PIEDMONT, ANYA VON BREMZEN TAKES A TASTING TOUR OF THE COUNTRY’S ARTISANAL OFFERINGS, COMPILING A HIT LIST OF THE BEST PIZZA, PASTA, GELATO, CHOCOLATE AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR. PHOTOGRAPHED BY SIMON WATSON

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Group dining at Al Convento, in the Amalfi Coast village of Cetara. Opposite: Al Convento’s fresh local tomatoes.


Campanian formaggi at La Tradizione, a shop in Vico Equense, above left. Right: The alfresco scene along Largo Marina, in Cetara.

At

At the rental-car return in Milan’s Malpensa airport, I take a last pensive sniff of our Fiat Panda. Someone should bottle the scent and call it Aroma Artigianale. The top notes are of roasted hazelnuts—the vaunted Piedmontese nocciole delle Langhe in the crumbly cookies eaten just an hour ago. The base notes: Amalfi lemons we’d picked off trees in Campania. In between is a faded porcine bouquet, mingling the expensive muskiness of three-year-old culatello ham from Emilia-Romagna with the garlicky ping of a porchetta sandwich from a weekend market in Umbria.

Ah, Umbria! Where we drizzled truffled honey on slices of young pecorino at Tartufi Bianconi, a wonderful truffle shop near Città di Castello. “Quit hallucinating!” says Barry, my fidanzato. “Figure out how to get the robiola cheese through customs!” We had embarked on a glutton’s grand tour of the boot—armed with a list, amassed with the diligent aid of top Italian chefs and critics, of the country’s best food (and booze) artisans. Our itinerary would take us from Rome to Campania, through a brief porchetta detour to Umbria, farther north through pig-happy Emilia-Romagna, and on to wine-soaked Piedmont. Trattorias and fine-dining temples would figure in. But the main idea was to break bread with pizzaioli, salumai and pasticcieri, with cheesemakers, oil producers, vintners and chocolatiers. A fetish for ingredients in the bel paese has, of course, long been celebrated, but now a new spirit is thriving all over the country. For every mom-and-pop farm there’s a young pomodoro grower with a Ph.D. in botany. Along with village bakers, we met chocolate makers obsessed with rare cacao beans and next-generation pizzaioli schooled in yeast biochemistry. Virtually every producer was a passionate preservationist on a mission to resurrect an heirloom pig—or a grape, or a goat cheese. The Piedmontese raw-milk Robiola di Roccaverano now swaddled deep in my suitcase was one such goat cheese. The road to it led from Rome. »

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Tomato, potato and mozzarella pies at Pizzarium, in Romeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Prati neighborhood.

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OUR TIME’S ALMOST UP IN ROME. BUT WE CAN’T LEAVE WITHOUT PAYING RESPECTS TO THE CHEWY PIZZA BIANCA BY THE CAMPO DE FIORI? “UNO DROGA” IS HOW ONE CUSTOMER PRAISES THE PIZZA

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The kitchen staff at Osteria Francescana, in Modena. Opposite, clockwise from top left: Livia Iaccarino at her farm on the Sorrentine Peninsula; swordfish and bresaola-and-apple panini from Bar Schiavoni, in Modena; the view from Hotel Capo la Gala, in Vico Equense; grilled tonno at Al Convento, in Cetara.

PIZZA, BEER AND GELATO IN ROME

Off the plane from New York City, we fight jet lag with a gelato-thon at Gelateria dei Gracchi, in Prati. We have 24 hours in the Eternal City to taste our short list, dictated to me by the editors of the popular Gambero Rosso guide to wine and food. Gracchi looks spare—clinical even. But a just-delivered crate of wild strawberries fragrantly reassures us. So does Gracchi’s pistachio gelato, considered Rome’s best. It’s alive with the flavor of fresh-roasted Bronte nuts from the slopes of Mount Etna. The gelatiere, Alberto Manassei, is a Neoclassicist whose fruit flavors follow the seasons and whose chocolate-and-rum frozen sensation draws on pure fondant. Farther on into Prati, away from the Vatican, celebrity pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci reinvents pizza al taglio—rectangular Roman pizza sold by weight—at the tiny Pizzarium. To dough fanatics, this cramped shop is the Sistine Chapel of yeast. Yeast, as in the wild stuff from 200-year-old sourdough starters that the eccentric Bonci collects from old ladies in Calabrian villages. Subversively fluffy by Roman standards, with an intimation of sourness, his dough is kneaded from a “cuvée” of flours stone-ground by Piedmontese miller Mulino Marino. We wait for new pizza trays. Out comes spicy coppa sausage with blood orange, then hyper-Roman old-fashioned tomatoey tripe, cleaned over three days. Bonci’s signature pizza con le patate—hand-crushed, dense-fleshed Abruzzo spuds with a hint of vanilla—is a canny trompe l’oeil. Where does the dough end and the topping begin? Bonci has found a soul mate in Leonardo Di Vincenzo, with whom he co-owns the yeast-centric Bir & Fud, in Trastevere. With a doctorate in biochemistry, the 33-year-old Di Vincenzo could be a poster boy for the new Italian artisan—discoursing on lactobacilli as easily as he rates obscure monastic Belgian brews. Four years ago his small-batch Birra del Borgo ignited Rome’s craft-beer craze. At Bir & Fud, Di Vincenzo’s brews are matched with Bonci’s dough-centric dishes—crostini, bruschetta, round Neapolitan pies. Following Bonci, young Italian bakers have gone crazy for sourdough leavening. Lievito naturale—passed down from the owner’s family—is what raises the buttery cream-filled cornetti at Cristalli di Zucchero to stratospheres above all other breakfast pastries in town. For years sweet-toothed Romans trekked to the owners’ original pasticceria in the outlying Monteverde district. The new branch is barely a truffle toss from the Campidoglio, and inside, jewel-like pastries marry French techniques with local ingredients. Our time’s almost up in Rome. But how can we leave without paying respects to the chewy pizza bianca at Antico Forno

Rosioli, by the Campo de Fiori? “Una droga” is how one customer praises this pizza, its distinctive crust formed when the 2-meter oblongs of dough rest under a glazing of olive oil. We chew it on the two-hour train ride to Naples the next day. PASTA, TOMATOES AND ANCHOVIES IN CAMPANIA

“Enzo Coccia!” roared Bonci when I asked who’s the greatest pizzaiolo in Naples. And so here we are in the tony Posillipo quarter at Pizzeria La Notizia, where il grande Coccia bakes his featherlight pies. Perfection, so he explains to us, relies on the complicated calibration of a mere trace of yeast, a 10- to 14hour fermentation at room temperature, and extra-loose dough. Ninety seconds in an 435-degree-Celsius oak-and beech-fueled inferno, and the pies practically levitate onto the table, attractively blistered and honeycombed with tiny air bubbles—as essential to pizza greatness as marbling is to Kobe beef. The toppings are scant and expressive: bitter greens, smoked buffalo provala, a burst of Vesuvian pomodorini. A pizza bianca with a schmear of lard, basil and pecorino is Coccia’s tribute to the pre-tomato age. The next day we hit the road, pressing south past Vesuvius, emerging an hour later at Vico Equense, a picturesque town on the Sorrentine Peninsula. At La Tradizione, product curators Annamaria Cuomo and Salvatore Da Gennaro have assembled a wonderland of Campanian foodstuffs: San Marzano tomatoes handpicked in the Vesuvian soil; ricotta smoked over juniper; and the sack-shaped local cow’s-milk cheese provolone del Monaco, which Salvatore ages in caves and grottoes. The Da Gennaros take us in hand. First, spongy limoncello-soaked baby babas at Gelateria Latteria Gabriele, which Cuomo’s family owns. Then lunch at ’E Curti, an osteria in the shadow of Vesuvius, where super-mamma Angela Ceriello cooks regional soul food and her son Enzo » 119


Torta Barozzi at Pasticceria Gollini in Vignola, in Emilia-Romagna, left. Right: Alessandro Bertoni, owner of Mon Café, in Modena.

D’Alessandro produces nucillo, a potent walnut digestivo. His is so terroir-driven, the slender bottles specify the exact sites where the nuts were picked. I mention Gragnano. Presto: Salvatore whisks us off to the sunblasted town where pastas were once hung to dry along the main street. For dinner, the Da Gennaros drive us along a bit of hairpin Amalfi Coast road to Cetara. This is probably the last of the Amalfi villages to fully retain its salty traditional air and livelihood from anchovies—particularly their amber liquid byproduct, colatura. Pasquale Torrente, owner of Al Convento restaurant, describes colatura-making with a semi-pagan glee: the fishing under a spring moon, the curing in barrels with chestnuts or lemons. The essence that seeps out of the salted fish is pure distillate of sea—added by expensive dropfuls to pastas such as Al Convento’s al dente Gragnano spaghetti. Campania’s boom owes thanks to Livia and Alfonso Iaccarino, of the Michelin two-starred Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Naples. The Iaccarinos—who also consult at the excellent restaurant at Le Sirenuse, in Positano—pioneered the organic kitchen garden in Europe almost three decades ago. They’re producers, too—of ethereal olive oils and limoncello with three times the average of infused citrus. Tumbling into the Mediterranean at the steep far tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula, their farm, Le Peracciole, was scrappy bare land when they bought it in 1990; turning it fertile has been an ongoing obsession. Livia drives us over, negotiating switchbacks with the sea down below. Then we wander past olive trees and artichoke thistles, into a world of Amalfi lemons dangling from trellises. We gape at chalky-gray Capri, rising across from us in the twilight. “Gee, I’d buy here, too,” gulps Barry as Livia picks greens for a salad. 120

TUSCANY: CHEESE, CHOCOLATE, CHICKENS AND PIGS

After five hours battling trucks north from Campania, we rendezvous with Paolo Parisi, prince of eggs and pigs, at a traffic circle off the autostrada near Florence. Revered by Italy’s snobbiest foodies for his prodotti, Parisi was one of the early crusaders to save Tuscany’s now-celebrated black Cinta Senese pigs. A formidable gastro-snob himself—burly and dapper in sunglasses designed by his photographer pal Oliviero Toscani—he proclaims that Fattoria Corzano e Paterno, where we’re headed, makes Tuscany’s most exclusive, sought-after cheeses. Sixteen kilometers south of Florence we chug up a dirt road through the Renaissance cypresses of green Tuscan hills. The Fattoria was developed by the late Swiss architect Wendel Gelpke. His estate, which also produces excellent Chiantis and olive oils, is a vision from an Italy-besotted expat’s fantasy; its herd of Sardinian sheep graze on property once in the Machiavelli family. Cheesemaker Antonia Ballarin and her apprentice Sibilla Gelpke (Oxford grad; middle name Rapunzel) introduce us to their remarkable cheeses. Barry’s wild for the Erbolino, a young pecorino shot through with green peperoncini and saffron. I’m nuts about the dairy’s signature bucio di rospo, decadently oozy but somehow not rich. Parisi votes for the subtle, soft marzolino. “It’s Tuscany’s mozzarella,” he says. “But only these ladies know how to make it.” Fantasy over. More autostrada. Another dirt road, finally, near Pisa. We jounce past someone’s palazzo onto farmland surrounding Parisi’s own farm, Azienda Le Macchie. Down a steep hillside, his pedigreed black oinkers munch pine nuts and chestnuts. Each animal gets three blissful years of roaming wild—then is reincarnated as blissful prosciutto crudo, »


A FORMIDABLE GASTRO SNOB, PAOLO PARISI PROCLAIMS THAT FATTORIA CORZANO E PATERNO, WHERE WE’RE HEADED, MAKES TUSCANY’S MOST EXCLUSIVE CHEESES

Evening in Sant’Agata sui due Golfi, on the Sorrentine Peninsula.

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prosciutto cotto, coppa, salami, lardo, guanciale. As Parisi slices these up in his rusticated high-ceilinged kitchen, my allegiance to Spain’s jamon ibérico wavers with each glistening pinkish curl. “I’m poaching some eggs,” he announces next, recounting how a few years ago, bored just being Signor Cinta Senese, he began a search for the egg equivalent of a great Burgundy wine. The quest led him to feed goat’s milk to Livornese hens. The grateful birds rewarded him with the truly aristocratic eggs we are tasting, with a lean compact yolk and a pronounced almondy taste. Dessert? A trek into Pisa, to de Bondt chocolate shop by the Arno. Paul de Bondt, congenial, long-haired and Dutch, was one of the original leaders of Tuscany’s cioccolate artigianale movement, blending exotic fine cacao beans long before the Pisa-Pistoia-Florence triangle became branded as “Tuscan Chocolate Valley.” De Bondt’s perfectly calibrated confections are as sleek and restrained as the geometric packaging by his artist wife, Cecilia Iacobelli. “I wanted to make chocolate

WE SAVOR SWEET SATINY PETALS OF CULATELLO, THE KING OF PROSCIUTTO, AGED FOR 36 MONTHS NEAR PARMA

attractive to men,” he explains. “Women too,” adds Barry, watching me polish off pralines and truffles flavored with citrus and herbs, with arbutus honey from Alto Adige’s Mieli Thun, and with piquant peperoncini produced by the good brothers of Monasterio Siloe in Grosetto. Before crashing for the night at the rustic agriturismo on Parisi’s estate, we conclude the day’s road trip within a road trip with a piatto di carbonara a crudo under one of his fig trees. Parisi whips the sauce up from his eggs and raw nuggets of Cinta Senese guanciale cured on a conveyor belt orbiting a burning brazier. That whiskey-like inflection? “Brava!” Parisi nods. “We extinguish the brazier with peat.” Peaty pork jowl, almondy eggs, English dairy dames, monastic chilli-spiked chocolate—was this the most extraordinary food day of our lives? Or was it the next day, when we talked beef with Dario Cecchini and sniffed out a world— licorice, citrus, tobacco—in slow twirlings of fabled Avignonesi vin santo on the winery’s property overlooking the Sienese hills. The meats for our lunch are cooked in a rotisserie of special design. The designer? One Leonardo de Vinci. PROSCIUTTO AND PARMIGIANO IN EMILIA-ROMAGNA

After passing through Tuscany’s classic hills we head north into the rich flat plains of Emilia-Romagna, land of rosy pro122

sciuttos and vast circumferences of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Of aged aceto balsamico and pastas crafted from eggy sfoglie (sheets) thin enough to read through (ideally). All this awaits us in Modena, the affluent ducal town revered by Italian gastronauts. Our guide is Massimo Bottura, a chef who marries sensuous Slow Food preservationism with futuristic invention at the Michelin two-starred Osteria Francescana. I can’t wait to visit his favorite food artisans. One of them, Giancarlo Rubaldi, presides over Bar Schiavoni, in Modena’s exquisite covered market. Oblivious to the huge lines, Rubaldi meticulously assembles our lunch. To start, an artwork of bread, smoked swordfish and baby tomatoes, with pistachio for crunch. Then, an inspired panino of duck breast with pistachio, raisins and syrupy balsamic vinegar. An hour later we’re in the Apennine mountains south of Modena, watching Parmesan wheels bob in brine baths at Caseificio Rosola di Zocca, Bottura’s favorite dairy. “Belle, no? ” he says, beaming at the Bianca Modenese cows in the shed. When the cheesemaker ceremonially splits open an 36-kilogram, 2½-year-old wheel, we all eat rolling our eyes like Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Expert tasters say that a great Parmesan should have a “brothy,” nutmeg-tinged scent. I say—pure umami. I say “pure elixir” back near Modena, at the museum attached to the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale consortium, in Spilamberto. Ferociously artisanal and endlessly complex, cask-aged balsamico tradizionale is to the supermarket version what a Ferrari (another Modenese export) is to a Hyundai. Except aceto production is as slow as a Testa Rossa is fast. Skill, microclimate and pazienza…molta pazienza, intones Luca Gozzoli, the consortium’s gran maestro. At dinner that night at Francescana, we savor muskysweet satiny petals of culatello, the king of prosciutto, aged for 36 months in the foggy lowlands near Parma by Massimo Spigaroli. Then toothsome dime-size tortellini, bathed in the rich, velvety cream from Caseificio Rosola. Bottura is wolfing down the same dish near his kitchen door. WINE, GOAT CHEESE AND MORE GELATO IN PIEDMONT

“No more dairy or pork fat—just vino!” Barry yawps as we battle traffic on the autostrada heading northwest. It so happens our next destination is Piedmont. To most this means Big B’s: Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Us? We come to chase the elusive grail of Timorasso. Timo-wha? The answer lies in the vine-patched compact hills of the Colli Tortonesi area in southern Piedmont. Here, a maverick winemaker named Walter Massa has resurrected an ancient, indigenous white grape: Timorasso. Vigneti Massa, his farm, presents so humdrum a face we initially drive right past. Obscure still to many international grape geeks, Massa’s wines have earned multiple tre bicchieri, the highest distinction from Gambero Rosso. He takes us to a trattoria up in the hills and plies us with Colli Tortonesi delicacies: salame nobile made with


fancy parts of the hogs elsewhere reserved for prosciutto; Montebore, an intriguing cow- and sheep’s-milk cheese. And then we drink Timorasso. Imagine the spicy-floral-mineral charm of a Riesling trapped in a creamy powerful body of a noble white Burgundy. “Bellissimo! ” Barry exhales. And suddenly we’re saying sad arrivederci to our aromatic Fiat at Malpensa. On the plane I ponder the red-wine stains in my notebook. Ah yes…from the dinner given by Roberto and Patrizia Damonte of Malvira winery, in the Langhe region, which produces delightfully earthy Roero Nebbiolos. A little starstruck by the Piedmontese wine royalty—Barbaresco baron Bruno Rocca and Barolo queen Chiara Boschis—I overtwirled some of their austere, elegantly finessed wines.

More Piedmontese memories pulse back. The creamy, pungent mysteries of that Robiola di Roccaverano goat cheese aged by master affineur Gian Domenico Negro of Arbiora. “Don’t forget Davide Palluda’s conserves,” Barry says. How could I? The talented chef at All’Enoteca restaurant, in the small Langhe town of Canale, not far from Alba, packs duck, rabbit and guinea fowl into olive oil and waits three years until they achieve the plush concentration of a confit (crazy-good!). My last memory reprises our trip’s first taste—gelato. Us among a riot of schoolchildren, spooning smooth frozen stuff from paper cups at Agrigelatera San Pé. “Agri” because this gelateria doubles as a dairy farm, manure smell and all. The latte for the gelato? Pumped from cows that very morning, of course. 

GUIDE TO ITALY AUSTRIA

SWITZERLAND

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Milan

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LAZIO CAMPANIA Naples

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Don Alfonso 1890 11/13 Corso Sant’Agata, Sant’Agata sui due Golfi; 39-081/878-0026; dinner for two ¤250. ’E Curti 6 Via Padre Michele Abete, Sant’ Anastasia; 39-081/897-2821; lunch for two ¤61. Gelateria Latteria Gabriele 1 Corso Umberto, Vico Equense; 39-081/879-8744; gelato for two ¤4. La Tradizione 969 Via R. Bosco, Vico Equense; 39-081/802-8437. Pizzeria La Notizia 53/55 Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Naples; 39-081/714-2155; pizza for two ¤10. TUSCANY

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ROME WHERE TO STAY Hotel Mediterraneo 15 Via Cavour; 39-06/ 481-4798; romehotelmediterraneo.it; doubles from ¤160. WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Antico Forno Roscioli 34 Via dei Chiavari; 39-06/686-4045. Bir & Fud 23 Via Benedetta; 39-06/589-4016; dinner for two ¤43. Cristalli di Zucchero 88 Via di San Teodoro; 39-06/6992-0945; pastries for two ¤6. Gelateria dei Gracchi 272 Via dei Gracchi, 39-06/321-6668; gelato for two ¤4. Pizzarium 3 Via della Meloria; 39-06/ 3974-5416; pizza for two ¤8.

M A P B Y YA N I L TA C T U K

CAMPANIA WHERE TO STAY GREAT Hotel Capo la Gala 8 Via Luigi Serio, VALUE Vico Equense; 39-081/801-5757; hotelcapolagala.com; doubles from ¤250. WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Al Convento 16 Piazza San Francesco, Cetara; 39-089/261-039; dinner for two ¤58.

WHERE TO STAY Azienda le Macchie 1 Via delle Macchie, Usigliano di Lari; 39-058/768-5327; paoloparisi.it; doubles from ¤206, three-night minimum in high season. Villa Vistarenni loc Vistarenni, Gaiole in Chianti; 39-057/773-8476; villavisarenni.com; doubles from ¤125. WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Antica Macelleria Cecchini 11 R Via XX Luglio, Panzano; 39-055/852-020. Avignonesi’s Fattoria Le Capezzine Valiano di Montepulciano; 39-057/872-4304; avignonesi.it. de Bondt 5 Lungarno Pacinotti, Pisa; 39-050/316-0073. Fattoria Corzano e Paterno 10 Via Paterno, San Pancrazio; 39-055/824-8179; corzanoepaterno.it; by appointment. Gelateria di Piazza 4 Piazza della Cisterna, San Gimignano; 39-057/794-2244; gelato for two ¤4. UMBRIA WHERE TO STAY Palazzo Terranova loc Ronti, Morra; 39-075/857-0083; palazzoterranova.com; doubles from ¤305.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Norcineria La Sfiziosa Porchetta at Città di Castello market. 39-075/857-4507. Tartufi Bianconi 21 S. Stefano del Piano, Badiali; 39-075/851-1591; tartubiaconi.it. EMILIA-ROMAGNA WHERE TO STAY Hotel Real Fini San Francesco 48 Rua dei Frati Minori, Modena; 39-059/205-7511; hotelsfrancesco.it; doubles from ¤287. WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Bar Schiavoni 13 Via Albinelli, Modena; 39-059/243-073; panini for two ¤7.5. Caseificio Rosola di Zocca 1083 Via Rosola, Zocca; 39-059/987-115; caseificiorosola.it. La Consorteria e Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena 28 Via Roncati, Spilamberto; 39-059/781-614; museodelbalsamicotradizionale.org. Mon Café 128 Corso Canalchiaro, Modena; 39-059/ 223-257; coffee and pastries for two ¤4.50. Osteria Francescana 22 Via Stella, Modena; 39-059/210-118; dinner for two ¤170. Pasticceria Gollini 1 Piazza Garibaldi, Vignola; 39-059/771-079. PIEDMONT WHERE TO STAY Villa Tiboldi Luxury agriturismo amid the grand wines of the Alba region. 127 Case Sparse Tiboldi, Canale; 39-0173/970-388; villatiboldi.it; doubles from ¤100. GREAT VALUE

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Agrigelateria San Pé 29/A Cascina San Pietro, Poirino; 39-011/945-2651; gelato for two ¤3.40. All’Enoteca 57 Via Roma, Canale; 39-0173/95-857; dinner for two ¤150. Vigneti Massa 10 Piazza G. Capsoni, Monleale; 39-013/180-302.

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A Winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ta l e Braving the snow and cold, taming snowmobiles and horses, signing up for elaborate massages, and feasting on comfort food, GARY SHTEYNGART enjoys the quintessential winter lodge experience in Montana. Photographed by ANDREA FAZZARI


The Bunyan Bug cabin at the Resort at Paws Up, in Greenough, Montana. The cabins are all named after fly-fishing flies. Opposite: Two of the many horses on the property.


7 DAY 1 A Wi-Fi Signal Runs Through It TWO EASTERNERS—MY GIRLFRIEND E. AND I—ARRIVE AT THE MISSOULA, Montana airport to the tableau of a stuffed mountain lion eating a stuffed mountain goat above the baggage carousel. The goat is gasping for its life; the pouncing lion looks insatiable. Meanwhile, a roughly hewn man in a Stetson and duster (many Montanans helpfully reinforce a visitor’s image of their state) calls out to another one, “Bill Cowley, you old sea dog! I haven’t seen you since the navy!” “Cut. That’s a wrap,” I want to say to the phantom cameraman filming this Coen brothers western. We have landed somewhere at the edge of the United States to experience a high-end, very mediated encounter with nature at a place called the Resort at Paws Up. In the adventuring industry, E. and I are what are called Soft Adventurers. Literally, we are soft. We don’t exercise more than necessary to remain alive. We both failed the President’s Council on Physical Fitness test under the Reagan administration, an exam that included five difficult activities such as the one-mile run, the right-angle push-up and the partial curl-up (not partial enough). In a mirror image of the president’s fitness test, we have decided to submit ourselves to five winter activities that we would never imagine doing without a professional staff of coddlers: the lunatic sport of snowmobiling, the debilitating art of snowshoeing, riding on top of a horse, shooting things with a gun, standing ass-deep in a frozen river waiting for the trout to bite. All this will be done underneath Montana’s famously big sky, to the accompaniment of excellent food, a Tolstoy-size wine list and every creature comfort the Soft Adventurer needs to feel loved in the face of nature’s cruel indifference. Even E.’s dog, Bill, a feisty Jack Russell terrier with no sense of limits, has come to submit himself to an intensive doggie massage at the hands of a professional. Yawning from the plane ride, we pull up to a Paws Up Big Timber cabin, a nearly 140-square-meter spread towering over 1.6 private hectares of land. The houses are named after fly-fishing flies—the Frog Knobbler, Glimmer Stone, the Bunyan Bug and our very own Pan Fish Popper, with the hot tub gurgling away on the front porch. Inside, the décor is Ponderosa modern: from the photos of cowboys learning the ropes to the cowhide rugs, couches big enough to seat the cast of Bonanza, and the Last Best Bed™ (more on the constant trademarking later), which, like an SUV,can be reached with the aid of a stepladder. Lurking amid this Brobdingnagian setup is a kind of induced homeliness. Nothing has been spared—from the satellite TV to the heated floors in the bathroom to the all-important Wi-Fi signal, which I try to catch with my temperamental iPhone. In advance of tomorrow’s snowmobiling adventure, I read, with interest, the “Wisconsin Snowmobiles Fatality Summary—2007/2008 Season” and several online articles such as “Why There Are So Many Michigan Snowmobile » 126

Way Out West Clockwise from above: Fly-fishing in the Blackfoot River; a bison burger with a side of salt-and-vinegar fries at Pomp, the Paws Up restaurant; Mike Doud, the Saddle Club manager; one of two bedrooms in the Pan Fish Popper cabin; every dog has his massage; the living room of the Royal Coachman cabin. Center: Garnet, a ghost town near the resort.


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T+L PICKS: 5 MORE WINTER LODGES

THE LODGE AT DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH, COLORADO At the updated 2,000-hectare ranch just 105 kilometers from Denver, kids can go candlepin bowling and play billiards while parents unwind in the new earth-toned Ranch Creek Spa, built from reclaimed pine and rockslide stones. Nordic ski trails cater to all levels — even the family dog can join — and movies play nightly in the intimate 37-seat theater. Tabernash, Colo.; devilsthum branch.com; doubles from US$245.

TRIPLE TRIPLE TRIP LE C CREEK REEK RE EK RANCH, MONTANA Triple Creek is a service-driven, adults-only property located in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. The 243-hectare landscape has 23 plush log cabins, each outfitted with cozy touches like wood-burning fireplaces, hot tubs and locally woven woolens. Itineraries are tailored to guests’ interests and can include dinners at the chef’s table, wine tastings, and helicopter tours. Darby, Mont.; 1-406/821-4600; triplecreekranch.com; doubles from US$650, all-inclusive.

SNAKE RIVER LODGE & SPA, WYOMING

FAIRMONT JASPER EM EMERALD EMER ERAL ALD D LAKE LAKE PARK LODGE, LODGE, BRITISH ALBERTA COLUMBIA

While most adventure lodges are four-seasonfocused, Snake River was built with the winter season in mind. The property is located at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, with more than 1,000 hectares of skiing terrain on two mountains; guests have access to a private, heated walkway that leads to the resort’s new tram. They can get a massage, try water treatments, or heal tired toes at the five-story Avanyu spa. Teton Village, Wyo.; rockresorts.com; doubles from US$225.

With nine restaurants, on-site shopping, a full-service spa, and a menu of activities that is exhausting just to look at (including ice-walking on a frozen river), the Fairmont Jasper Park is the equivalent of an adventure theme park. Of the 441 rooms, the historic cabins are worth the splurge, including a replica of the six-bedroom Outlook, which once housed Queen Elizabeth. Jasper, Alberta; 1-780/852-3301; fairmont.com; doubles from C$299.

GREAT VALUE

Fatalities?” (yes, pray tell, why?) and “Montana Avalanche Victim Survives an 8-Hour Burial.” Throughout the night, I can hear E. quaking and mumbling next to me as she dreams about flying off a mountain. Outside, the deathly darkness of a rural night; inside, two figures twisting and turning across their monstrous, hovering bed with its 300-thread-count linens and badger-size pillows. Only Bill the Dog will know the sleep of the righteous.

DAY 2 It Begins I HAVE TO SAY I REALLY LIKE THE BATHROOM. THE SLATE WALLS and glass-box showers are fine, but what sets me at ease is the picture-window view of the resort’s ubiquitous ponderosa pines, their roots blanketed by the year’s last snow and over the horizon, the loaded grandeur of a nearby mountain range. According to Larry Lipson, one of the owners, the bathroom is “big enough to put a horse in.” He is not being figurative. 128

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Set on an island that is encircled by mountain peaks, the 24-cabin lodge is as remote today as it was when it was built in 1902. Guests do not have easy access to TV’s or the Internet, and most rooms are outfitted with balconies overlooking the water. Wildlife spotting is the activity of choice, along with iceskating and marshmallow roasts by romantic lakeside fire pits. Field, B.C.; 1-250/343-6321; crmr.com; doubles from C$207 a night for a minimum three-night stay.—STACEY BRUGEMAN GREAT VALUE

“This could be our last meal together,” we tell each other over breakfast before commencing our snowmobile appointment. The morning grub is exceptional: a grilled vanilla huckleberry coffee cake topped with caramelized bananas and finished with preserved huckleberries alongside fresh eggs and slabs of flaky ham. Over at the Wilderness Outpost Center, a nice young man named Jake Hansen dresses us in warm overcoats and snaps on helmets and safety goggles. Asked what’s it like to pilot a snowmobile, he says, “It’s somewhere between riding a bike and driving a car.” Since I can do neither, I let E. take the first turn at the throttle. “Okay, if you start to tip over,” Hansen tells us, “you want to just slide off the vehicle. You don’t want to stick your leg out.” The sleek machine starts to tremble beneath us. We promptly tip over. I stick my leg out. Several tries later, all four limbs miraculously still attached to my torso, we are slowly rumbling uphill, my safety glasses fogging up with fear as every bump sends us jolting into the frozen air, our lips coated with fresh snow. We ascend 1,200 meters. As the »

F R O M L E F T : C O U R T E S Y O F D E V I L’ S T H U M B R A N C H / P E R R Y J O H N S O N ; C O U R T E S Y O F T R I P L E C R E E K R A N C H ; R O B E R T M I L L E R ; C O U R T E SY O F FA I R M O N T H O T E L S A N D R E S O R T S ; C O U R T E SY O F C A N A D I A N R O C KY M O U N TA I N R E S O R T S

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Snowshoeing among the ponderosa pines on the Sunset Loop trail.

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A LOCAL named Heath Roy—Stetson, craggy mountain features, EASY MANNER

—introduces us to our guns. I’m starting to feel like ELMER FUDD on a bad day

A ranch staff member with a calf.

pines flash past us, falling away into a white abyss, I try to focus on the unimpeachable beauty of the mountain range through which we are hurtling, a beauty this environmentally unkosher machine is probably destroying, but instead the particulars of the snowmobile “Fatality Summary” present themselves. “Victim…went off a steep embankment [like the one just to our left]…and struck several trees.” Victim “went airborne 7 to 10 meters into a [pine?] tree.” And taken from another snowmobile advisory website: “Many [emphasis mine] cases of decapitation have occurred.” Several hours and just as many lorazepam pills later, I start to feel better. I’ve been in dangerous parts of the world before, have been threatened with large knives and kidnapping and I’ve found that sooner or later my body gets tired of the constant exposure to stress and a surprisingly blissful feeling descends. Decapitation? Sure. Anything to relax. We pull into the well-preserved and oddly bucolic Garnet ghost town, a collection of timber cabins that, according to our guide, at the turn of the last century housed 1,000 miners, 13 bars and one very busy jail. Surrounded by the hypnotically simple architecture and the remnants of our country’s over-the-top frontier history, we snack on Paws Up gourmet turkey sandwiches and shiver in the midday cold. After lunch, it’s my turn to drive. The last time I operated a motor vehicle was as a college sophomore, a cross-country trip that nearly ended when an Oldsmobile I was driving collided with one of Alabama’s Shoney’s franchises. This time around, after a few errant swipes at a snowbank, I begin to warm to the machine beneath me. It becomes evident that the snowmobile operates on the same principle as the American economy—you’ve got to rev it up something crazy, or the whole thing will just stall and flip over. The faster you go, the easier it gets, the more you’ll think you’re in control. Soon we’re floating along the mountain ridges within a noxious cloud of gas, beneath us the sharp outlines of an endless constellation of trees, above us a sky so frighteningly clear and blue that it feels like a riff on eternity. And for a brief moment, I allow myself to actually enjoy the ride. 130

Back in our Big Timber cabin with the CNN blaring and the Wi-Fi pumping, I pick up my copy of the indispensable 1,160-page Montana anthology The Last Best Place; along with Big Sky Country, this is one of the state’s favorite nicknames. The owners of Paws Up, the Lipson family, have riled the heck out of the state’s governor and residents by trying to trademark “The Last Best Place” (they also own the trademarks to “The Last Best Bed” and “The Last Best Beef ”). The legal fight continues, and hasn’t exactly made them popular in these parts, but no matter: we settle into the Last Best Hot Tub (trademark pending?) on our front porch and let the soft latewinter snow coat our tired faces.

DAY 3 Bill the Dog Gets a Special Treat THE DAMAGE FROM YESTERDAY’S SNOWMOBILING ADVENTURE: throbbing pain in buttocks (from prolonged tension), throbbing pain in biceps (from nervously gripping throttle, E.’s waist), general back pain (unexplained). After another superb breakfast, this one of granola-studded griddle cakes and the big fat taste of pork-turkey sausage, we head off for another day of what the promotional material refers to as “Roughing It Redefined.™” The first challenge: snowshoeing. Walking through the half-melted snow, our guide points out sagebrush, wolf lichen and pellet-like droppings from deer. We watch a girl gang of white-tailed deer streaming across the woods. The sight of these fit, glorious creatures and of a red-tailed hawk floating on the wind angers me: Here I am, my feet tied to some kind of gigantic piece of ergonomic plastic and this stunning bird is lifted up into the heavens, his strong wings buffeted by temperate gusts. It’s time for some well-earned Soft Adventurer comfort. Over at the spa center, using hot black river rocks and wet towels, a masseur restores my urban dignity in the face of nature’s subtle contempt. Wild lemon and eucalyptus clear my


wind-beaten passages—I wake up from the massage with my mind cleansed of doubt, my body free of pain. In another room, a woman named Andrea Hren is rubbing Bill the Dog along both sides of his furry spine. “I’m getting all the little meaty parts and the thighs,” she says as Bill’s ears settle back. “Can we get that tail going?” Andrea says, but Bill is too sedated to wag, his brown eyes staring placidly ahead, all dreams of chasing black squirrels vanquished, replaced with a deep understanding of some canine-headed god. We dine at Pomp. The chef does especially well with meat— the bison is full of unexpected juice and char—and the wine list offers some fine Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. The appetizer of lobster bisque with a lobster corn dog is sweet and just a little tawdry, like a cheap date in Vegas, where the chef earned his culinary stripes. At Tank, Pomp’s adjoining bar, we play chess beneath a moose head, listening to the amiable bartender discuss his favorite part of the mountain lion— the haunches—over an endless stream of Hawaiian music.

DAY 4 Let Me See Your Game Face THE WEATHER DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IT WANTS TO BE TODAY: snow, fog, drizzle, teasing bursts of sunshine. We put on hip waders and head down to the Blackfoot River. We learn the terminology: casting upstream; strike indicator; nymph fishing; Georgia Brown Stone fly. We learn to keep our elbows close to our bodies, to “pretend there’s a Bible there” and then not to drop it. We catch nothing. But standing on a rock surrounded by the snowbanked river, feeling its rhythms, the strength of the wind, the sting of ice against your fingers, the little crabs of pain running up and down your casting arms, there’s a quiet beauty to the endless repetition. There is the hope that something will come your way, will bite, but in the end you come to accept that you are just a biped in rubber waders standing in the middle of endless creation as snow falls dispassionately all around you and the fish go their own way. We eat a rejuvenating lunch of tender buffalo burgers and salt-and-vinegar fries, and then it’s time to shoot some sporting clays. A local named Heath Roy—Stetson; craggy mountain features; easy manner—takes us to the proving grounds and introduces us to our very first guns. Never having held a firearm before, I’m starting to feel like Elmer Fudd on a bad day. But we are set at ease by a family from Alabama, a middleaged internist and his two sons, one a freshly minted Birmingham physics teacher, the other a red-haired little spark plug. The doctor proudly tells us that he gave his youngest his first gun when he turned five, to which I can only reply, “Oh.” I pick up the weapon and Roy gives me some last-minute advice: “Pretend there’s a pair of knees hangin’ off that skeet. Shoot the knees.” The recoil punches a pale yellow bruise into

my chest, but I hit the target and the clay explodes like a minor firecracker. E. does “real good” too, while the young physics teacher barely misses a clay. Soon, Roy is referring to me by the first syllable of my name—“Let me see your game face, Gar!”—and his patient advice on following through helps me hit a low-flying, groundskimming rabbit. By the end of our appointed hour, I just want to shoot everything in sight. Slowly but indubitably, Paws Up is making a man out of me. On the ride back to the resort, the doctor ruffles the thick red mane of his youngest. “I appreciate your good manners, boy,” he says. As a newly minted sharpshooter I smile and nod my head, wondering why my New York daddy never says things like that.

DAY 5 The Last Best Horse IT IS TIME TO SUBDUE OUR FINAL FEAR. I’VE NEVER BEEN ATOP AN equine, and E.’s experience with riding involved a runaway horse sprinting down a hill and nearly killing her. With that in mind, the Paws Up staff has provided her with one of the resort’s tamest, smartest quarter horses, the amazing Guy, who tends to follow slowly behind his best friend, a Norwegian mountain horse with a beautiful black star on his forehead. I am given the slightly mediocre Fifty, with his chestnut complexion and propensity to snort at the world around him like some willful teenager. Not being experienced in these things, I use my dog language: “Good boy, Fifty. Good boy. Who’s a good boy? You are!” The animal ignores me, gets distracted by a passing deer, and then charges up a hill like there’s not 64 kilos of quivering man atop him. While E.’s Guy carefully gauges the terrain, Fifty and I fall right through the melting snow, the horse’s belly grazing the ice. After half an hour of riding the beast I feel somewhat beleaguered. But E. has conquered her fear of horses. On our last morning, while I’m still reeling from shotgunrecoil chest pain and horse prostate, a herd of elk comes running out, stage left, to fill our bedroom’s picture window with their elegant prancing, to complete the vista of snow and pine. Twenty elk does are in the thrall of a young buck, an alpha male who marches them around the clearing in back of our cabin and then whisks them off into the woods. Outside, we pass the one-room schoolhouse where four boys, ages 4 to 12, are taught by one full-time teacher and a teacher’s aide. The schoolhouse was there before the Lipsons bought the property, and now it sits oddly amid the luxurious accommodations, with its diminutive red bell tower, kid-size basketball court, and the humble cars of its small staff. That’s the final piece of Montana I take back home with me to New York, a city where the sky knows its place, where it broods over our civilization, and where we pay it no heed.  131


At Home in Provence

Reine Claude e plums at the Place rmers’ market Richelme farmers’ market, in Aix Aix. Inset: A 1959 picnic outside Aix, with the author’s father, John Barr (standing), grandmother Norah Barr (far right) and great-aunt M.F.K. Fisher (center). Opposite: The courtyard at Le Mas des Lauriers, the farmhouse the author’s family rented on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence.

A R C H I VA L I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A U T H O R

Fifty years after his family — including his great-aunt, celebrated writer M.F.K. Fisher — set down roots in Aix-en-Provence, LUKE BARR finds the pleasures of the south of France have diminished not one bit: the colorful farmers’ markets, the streetside cafes, the long and lazy outdoor lunches. Photographed by MAX KIM-BEE


Group dining at Al Convento, in the Amalfi Coast village of Cetara. Opposite: Al Convento’s fresh local tomatoes.


W Guyot pears, above, and a vegetable stand, below, at Place Richelme. Inset: The author’s family returning to the United States from France aboard the Vesuvio, in 1955. Opposite: The Four Dolphins fountain, just off the Cours Mirabeau, in Aix.

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E SHOPPED MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT IN Provence—we shopped for croissants, baguettes, newspapers and cigarettes, for tomatoes, peaches, string beans, strawberries, eggplants, mushrooms and lettuce. We shopped for legs of lamb and chickens, for cubes of beef for stew, and for pork sausages. We shopped for butter and milk and cheese, and for honey and cases of wine and Badoit mineral water. We shopped for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then we started over again. For basic provisions, we went into the village—our house was in tiny Puyricard, on the outskirts of Aix. The town had an old stone church next to the post office, three bakeries, a little Casino supermarket, a butcher and a sup café with wi vaguely unfriendly, pastisdrinking drinkin middle-aged men, the kind that can be found in every t French Frenc village. Sometimes they played playe pétanque. I never did figure out which bakery had the best croissants, bak and it didn’t matter, they were all good. We bought them eight or 10 at a time: not too ei big, b buttery but not overly rich, satisfyingly crunchy but r still tender and elastic inside. At the newsstand we’d pick up the International Herald Tribune and In L’Équipe, the sports tabloid. We got to know the mom, pop supermarket and who did their best to and son who ran the supermarke help find what we needed, with mixed success (dried red-pepper flakes? “…Non,” came the reply, heads shaking sadly). The butcher was hip, in his thirties but his close-cropped hair already going gray. His lamb chops were incredible. And so it was that we developed a routine, a rhythm, a kind of easygoing daily schedule, loosely correlated to hunger and appetite. The main event was the farmers’ market in downtown Aix. On the Place Richelme, under the shade of a canopy of tall plane trees, this was a farmers’ market to end all farmers’ markets. Not that it was very big, or particularly fancy, but it was idyllic; the market was busy from early morning until just after lunch, full of sturdy matrons pulling two-wheeled carts and parents pushing strollers, the hustle and flow of commerce. The vegetables were beautiful—densely colored peppers, eggplants and tomatoes, fresh garlic, yellow string »


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Toujours Provence Clockwise from above: Croissants at the Banette Puyricard, in Puyricard; cafés along the Cours Mirabeau, in Aix; a view of the Église St.-Jean de Malte from Aix’s Rue Cardinale; currants and blueberries at the Aix farmers’ market; the restaurant terrace at L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle, 45 minutes from Aix; the pool at Le Mas des Lauriers, in Puyricard; M.F.K. Fisher on the Cours with her daughters and a family friend, in 1955; raw-milk cheeses at the farmers’ market; a waiter stacks chairs on the Cours; harborside in Cassis, a 40-minute drive south of Aix. Inset: The author’s father (far right), with his brother and cousins, hanging laundry at the Château du Tholonet, 1955.

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beans—and the fruits were even more beautiful—small, sweet strawberries, baskets of red currants, figs and apricots, all sorts of peaches, nectarines, plums and melons. One man sold goat cheeses, aged to different vintages, and honey; another had hams and salami, including a heavy and rectangular aged lonzo from Corsica. We sliced our pieces thin, so it would last longer.

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PLACE Richelme: I inherited a love for it, indeed, for Aix itself. My father lived here when he was a kid in 1959: my grandmother Norah Barr brought her three sons and rented a house not far from her sister, M.F.K. Fisher, who had rented a place just outside Aix with her two daughters. I grew up hearing about this epic trip, and an earlier one in 1954— from my father and uncles, mostly, about the boat ride from California down through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic; about learning French in school in Switzerland and then moving to France for the other half of the year, attending the same lycée Paul Cézanne had; about how my dad, at age 13, was able to distinguish the white wines of Switzerland by town of origin; about how they all rode around on Solex motorbikes and read Tintin comics. M.F. by this point was a well-established writer, and she recorded the trip in subsequent years—in 1964 in Map of Another Town, for example, a book about Aix. She described the “green light” that filtered through the plane trees above the market at Place Richelme in an essay for The New Yorker in 1966: “Perhaps some fortunate fish have known it, but for human beings it is rare to float at the bottom of the deeps and yet breathe with rapture the smells of all the living things spread out to sell in the pure, filtered, moving air.” Rereading her today, it’s often striking how little has changed. Fifty years later, the market is precisely as she described it, minus the “ducklings bright-eyed in their crates” and other livestock. Then again, in many other ways Aix has also changed completely—and so what if it has? I’m not going to pretend to be nostalgic about 1959—hell, I was born in 1968. But on this trip I was accompanied by my father and my grandmother, and I did want to see the city through their eyes—however momentarily, in whatever glancing, refracted way, to have a visceral sense of a past that lives on embedded in the present. But the strange thing is that’s not what happened at all. Or at least not the only thing. HAVE EVERY REASON TO LOVE THE MARKET IN THE

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HE HOUSE WE RENTED CAME WITH A RABBIT, AND OF

course the kids loved him. He was plump and brown, and lived in a rather elegant wood-andstone–framed cage underneath the fig tree. We fed him carrots, and joked about eating him for dinner. Our bedrooms were on the second floor of the 300-yearold mas, a solidly constructed stone building covered in vines and with terra-cotta–tiled floors. The kitchen was simple and

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spare, and had a long, zinc-topped table at its center and a door that opened out onto the graveled courtyard. In the morning I would walk out, say hello to the rabbit, and sit on one of the rickety chairs at the rickety wood-slat table, or on a creaking canvas lounge chair under the enormous plane tree, and drink my coffee. Who was driving into town, and how many baguettes did we need? In addition to my grandmother and father, our group included my wife and daughter, and my childhood friend Adrian and his wife and son. The kids were both four, and spent half the time in the pool. We also had a stream of friends passing through—on the way back to Zurich from Spain, or on the way to Paris, or on vacation from New York. Our visitors stayed in the guest cottage, an adorable, slightly dilapidated little house out in the garden. The grounds were magnificent—sprawling lawns; olive, apple, plum, fig and unruly cypress trees; lavender and rosemary bushes all over—the lavender positively thrumming with bees—white and dark pink laurel, grapevines and potted lemon trees; a pétanque court, a ping-pong table, a fabulous and overgrown herb garden—dry, fragrant thyme and sage, basil, lemon verbena and three varieties of rosemary—a pristine pool and a pool house with a chimneyed charcoal grill and a large dining table. We ate all our meals outside, carrying the heavy glasses, dishes and silverware to the table in shallow wicker baskets. We ate tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, vinegar and chopped fresh herbs at every opportunity. We grilled many lamb chops, marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic, and made potato gratins with Gruyère cheese, and gnocchi with butter and sage, and my grandmother’s awe-inspiring ratatouille. Some combination of the dry heat and the easy back-andforth from inside to outside—the screen-less doors and windows were always open, with warm breezes, children and the occasional grasshopper making their way in and out of the house—reminded me of California. My grandmother’s house in Sonoma, the house I grew up loving, had a similarly overgrown and carelessly beautiful garden, a row of tall poplar trees, a scruffy lawn, and flower and vegetable plantings overlooking the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean. Inside were cats and a dog, threadbare Oriental carpets, a large kitchen and endless evening bridge games. M.F.’s house in Glen Ellen was a little more formal, a thick-walled palazzo set back from the road overlooking a field of grapevines, but both of them epitomized for me a sort of genteel, unpretentious, and yet highly sophisticated California style. I always knew, of course, that our California life back home had a Provençal flavor, in the dishes my grandmother and great-aunt cooked, in the art hung on their walls. But it wasn’t until I arrived that I really understood how much of my family’s aesthetic and cultural DNA had its roots right here, in Aix. »


Slice of Life Clockwise from above: Chez Thomé restaurant, in Le Tholonet, just outside Aix; Julia Child’s kitchen as preserved at her house in Plascassier, now a te, cooking school; Chez Thomé’s assiette mixte, with warm cheese and foie gras; a view of Mont Ste.-Victoire. Opposite: A 1950’s n, postcard from the author’s family collection, depicting the Château du Tholonet.

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A

IX IS A UNIVERSITY TOWN AND FORMER PROVINCIAL

capital, built around Roman baths and numerous churches. It has narrow cobblestoned streets leading through various plazas, and it’s built on a slope. And so the town seems to carry you gently but persuasively down the hill and toward its center, at least when you enter, as we did, from the north side, which was where the road from Puyricard deposited us. The streets were lined with clothing stores, cafés, gift shops and patisseries. One day my wife and I stopped to buy some Provençal dishes to replace the ones my grandmother bought back in the 50’s and 60’s and which I still used (they ended up in my kitchen a few years back), even though they were chipped and quite possibly full of lead, i.e., poisonous. The dishes at Soulèo Provence were almost identical to the ones we had, beautiful medium yellows and dark greens, and the salesman assured me that they did indeed at one time have “the maximum amount of lead,” but no longer. We bought as many plates and bowls as seemed reasonable to carry. As I say, the town pulls you toward its heart, its grand central street, the Cours Mirabeau. With two tall rows of plane trees and a series of fountains and cafés, it makes you slow down and exhale. M.F. described the Cours this way: “It is a manmade miracle, perhaps indescribable, compounded of stone and water and trees, and to the fortunate it is one of the world’s chosen spots for their own sentient growth.” I’m not sure I experienced “sentient growth,” but I wholeheartedly agree. We ate dinner at Les Deux Garçons, the famous (and these days quite touristy) café on the Cours, a place M.F. spent hours watching the comings and goings, and never a place one came for the food, but rather for the ambience, as my grandmother pointed out. My daughter ordered a hamburger, and was of course dismayed when it failed to arrive with a bun. She soon managed to polish it off, however. Not far away, on a quiet street just off the Cours, we paid a visit—we paid our respects, I want to say—to the fountain of the Four Dolphins. This fountain was my grandmother and M.F.’s favorite, my father and his brothers and cousins’ favorite: our family favorite, in other words. As advertised, the fountain consisted of four stone dolphins, smiling and cheerful but each with a slightly different expression, spouting thin streams of water into the basin below. “This fountain is great,” said my father definitively, expressing neither a strictly aesthetic judgment nor simple, unbridled enthusiasm, but rather something more transcendent, a serious claim of affection, and one that he wanted us to share. (And which we did.) He remembered the Four Dolphins so well from when he was 13, and here it was, 50 years later, and still wonderful. But of course, some things do not survive, some things become unrecognizable. A few blocks away was the Hôtel Roi René, where we now thought we’d go for an after-dinner drink before heading back to the house. The Roi René was once the hotel in Aix, the epitome of elegance and so forth,

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CASSIS ITSELF WAS CHARMING IN THE WAY THAT ONLY A FISHING VILLAGE CAN BE

the place where M.F. had stayed for weeks at a time in the early 50’s, where she and my grandmother and the kids would check in every so often for a weekend in the late 50’s, to take hot baths and order room service, and where my father remembers a sprawling suite with a balcony overlooking the Boulevard du Roi René, and watching the Tour de France whiz by below. As we walked in we were confronted with a beige-and-pink color scheme and a collection of hyperbanal corporate furniture. The place had none of the glamour my dad and grandmother remembered—not an iota. My father looked puzzled, studying the angles of the walls and wondering if the original hotel had been torn down and completely rebuilt. No, he and my grandmother decided, but significant structural changes had been made at some point or other. We were directed to a table with a view of the inner courtyard. “Well, too bad,” my grandmother said. Yup, I said. But we might as well have a drink, right? Sure, everyone agreed. We looked around for a few minutes at the perfectly pleasant and yet perfectly uninspiring hotel lobby. After a while, no waiter had appeared. Well, I said, I guess we may as well leave, right? Everyone agreed, and we quickly departed.

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HERE WAS PLENTY OF TIME, OVER THE COURSE OF A lazy two weeks in July, for a few road trips. One day we drove to Cassis, about 40 minutes away on the Mediterranean. We wanted to swim on a beach, in the waves and among the sandy crowds. The coastline here was nothing if not dramatic, the drive down into town a series of steep switchbacks, the blue expanse of the ocean floating in the mid-distance like a dream. The town itself was charming and picturesque in the way that only a fishing village can be— with narrow streets and dockside restaurants, cliffs looming in the background and a blazing sun overhead. We sprang for the €15-a-day chaise longues, and watched the kids splash around in the surf. Every 45 minutes or so I would dive into the water to cool off, floating on my back and staring at the sky. Another day, we made our way to L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle, a small country inn and restaurant owned by Alain Ducasse, for a long afternoon lunch. La Celle is a tiny village about 45 minutes from Aix, and the inn incorporates a


former Benedictine abbey, a 12th-century building that extends on one side of a back courtyard, where tables are set on the terrace under large canvas umbrellas. We ordered prix fixe tasting menus in the absolutely serene garden: artichoke hearts and mushroom ravioli, red mullet with tomato, basil and balsamic reduction, veal loin roasted with sage, and so on. A far less elaborate meal awaited us at La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s one-time house in Plascassier, 150 kilometers east of Aix. This was the vacation house Julia built on Simone Beck’s family estate in 1962, a place where she cooked and entertained. Today it’s home to Cooking with Friends in France, a culinary immersion program run by Kathie Alex, a former student of Beck’s. The kitchen is as Julia left it, with the outlines of her utensils stenciled on the Peg-Board wall. We sat with Alex on the terrace eating salade niçoise next to a small olive tree, looking out over the craggy landscape. My grandmother and M.F. had been here in 1970, a moment when the entire American culinary establishment seems to have arrived en masse in the immediate area—in addition to the Childs, James Beard, Bert Greene, Richard Olney, Judith and Evan Jones, all cooking, eating and writing. They were pioneers of taste, but also of having taste and “the art of eating,” bringing European recipes to an American audience.

I

PROVENCE: THE SOUND OF IT UNDER the wheels of the car in the potholed driveway, the expanse of it around our house, on the paths to the guest cottage and herb garden and swimming pool. There’s something pleasantly austere about Provençal gravel—it has a calm, cooling effect, setting off the wild and abundant vegetation and the hot sun. At the restaurant Chez Thomé, tables were placed on gravel underneath the shade of the trees. This LOVED THE GRAVEL IN

casual country place is another family favorite, up there with the Four Dolphins. We walked across the gravel to our table as cicadas chirped in the nearby fields. When my grandmother and great-aunt lived here in ’59, they both rented houses near Aix, M.F. along the Route du Tholonet, a winding road heading east out of town toward Le Tholonet. On the drive here, we’d tried in vain to spot the driveway to L’Harmas, the farmhouse she’d rented. It didn’t matter—the road offered its own stunning dramas, curving through dry green hills and thickets of trees, Ste.-Victoire intimidating and stern in the distance. This is what’s known as the Route Cézanne, and it still looks like one of his paintings. Coming into the center of town, we passed by the imposing Château du Tholonet, where M.F. had rented an apartment above the stables in the mid 50’s, and my grandmother and her sons had visited. Describing her mealtime routines, M.F. wrote: “There was always that little rich decadent tin of lark pâté in the cupboard if I grew bored, or we could stroll down past the great ponds under the plane trees to the deft, friendly welcome of the Restaurant Thomé and eat a grilled pullet or a trout meunière, and an orange baked à la norvégienne. As for us, we ordered green salads with red currants, a bit of foie gras, warm cheese with a red pepper–and-garlic rémoulade, rabbit with a dried-fruit reduction and risotto aux fruits de mer. I hesitate to write so hyperbolically, but I must say that it was a perfect lunch: perfect. Sitting under the trees in this unspeakably beautiful courtyard, at an informal table with my family and friends, I felt a connection to this place, and to Aix, that went beyond my own immediate experiences. I had come to find Aix, and found it was already in me, or to quote M.F. describing her arrival here years ago, “I was once more in my own place, an invader of what was already mine.” ✚

GUIDE TO AIX-EN-PROVENCE WHERE TO STAY 28 à Aix An intimate hotel in the city center. 28 Rue du 4 Septembre, Aix; 33-4/42-54-82-01; 28aaix.com; doubles from ¤200. La Pauline A B&B on 8 hectares of gardens. Les Pinchinats, 280 Chemin de la Fontaine des Tuiles, Aix; 33-4/42-17-02-60; www.lapauline.fr; doubles from ¤150.

M A P B Y YA N I L TA C T U K

GREAT VALUE

HOUSE AND VILLA RENTALS For longer stays and family groups, house rentals around Provence are always an affordable option. Here and Abroad (610/228-4984; hereandabroad.com) owner Fabienne Perpiglia specializes in the Aix area, with some properties in other Provençal towns, and offers excellent, personalized service. Homes Away (homesaway.com) and

the U.K.-based Sanctuary Retreats (44-12/4254-7902; sanctuaryretreats. com) both manage well-appointed rental properties in the area. WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Chez Thomé 74 Ave. Louis Destrem, Le Tholonet; 33-4/42-66-90-43; dinner for two ¤43. Les Deux Garçons 53 Cours Mirabeau, Aix; 33-4/42-26-00-51; dinner for two ¤50. L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle 10 Place du Général de Gaulle, La Celle; 33-4/98-05-14-14; dinner for two ¤71. WHERE TO SHOP Aix Farmers’ Market Place Richelme; 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. daily. Aix Flower Market Place de l’Hôtel de Ville; Tues., Thurs. and Sat., 8 A.M. to 1 P.M.

N100

Paris

Avignon

FRANCE

A7

Le Tholonet Mont Ste.-Victoire

Puyricard Aix-en-Provence

Plascassier A8

A8

La Celle Marseilles

M

N

ed

Cassis

ite

rran

A57 A50

ean Sea 0

16 km

Soulèo Provence Traditional French tableware. 6 bis Rue Aude, Aix; 33-4/42-93-04-54. COOKING SCHOOL Cooking with Friends in France One-week culinary-immersion programs. Plascassier; cookingwithfriends.com; six-day programs from US$2,450 per person.

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(My Favorite Place) Novelist Dai Sijie. Yading village, right.

CHINA

Acclaimed novelist and filmmaker Dai Sijie tells MELANIE LEE that he’s found utopia in the Yading Mountains of Sichuan, China untouched paradises left in China and Yading Mountains is one. I have visited this place a few times for an upcoming film project. Every time I come here, I feel like James Hilton’s book, Lost Horizon, has come to life. The beauty doesn’t seem of this world; it is absolutely breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like walking among the clouds and gasping for breath at 3,500 meters. It requires considerable effort to get to Yading. I usually take a two-day bus ride from Chengdu to Daocheng, a county in Sichuan province, where I will do a stopover. From there, it is about 100 kilometers to Yading Mountains. The Daocheng residents are Tibetan Buddhists and they regard Yading as a holy and sacred site where the fate of the world is decreed. They believe that if they make a spiritual pilgrimage of trekking around Yading’s

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three mountains once, all their sins and the sins of their ancestors will be atoned for. Although luxury accommodation is available for travelers going to Yading, I prefer to stay with the locals in their small huts. Sometimes, I help them out in their fields. They often prepare tsampa for me, a Tibetan staple dish consisting of roasted barley flour mixed with yak butter. Nature seems to be a lot more intense in Yading. The grass is extra green, the skies are extra blue, the clouds are extra white and even the grazing yaks have extra shaggy hair! It’s as if I’m in a dream—whatever I see here can never be found anywhere else. Throughout human history, men have always been in search of Shangri-La, this elusive heaven on earth. I’m glad that I have found my personal Shangri-La. ✚ Dai Sijie’s latest novel translated in English, Once on a Moonless Night, is now available.

J A N UA RY 2 0 1 0 | T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M

DAI’S YADING FAVORITES ● Five Color Lake “The waters magically change color and reflect all shades of blue and green.” ● Milk Lake “You will get to see a most magnificent view of glaciers and snowcapped mountains from here.”

Chong Gu Temple “You will better understand Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual connection with Yading.”

FROM LEFT: DARREN SOH; © FISHERSS / DREAMSTIME.COM

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HERE ARE ONLY A FEW


January 2010  

January 2010

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