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GREEN TRAVEL SPECIAL: 100+ GREAT IDEAS

OCTOBER 2010

ULTIMATE BALI GUIDE

ESSENTIAL, AUTHENTIC ISLAND EXPERIENCES

PALAWAN

Charting one of Asia’s last lost worlds

LONDON

Catch the East End’s new energy WESTERN CHEFS GO LOCAL IN SHANGHAI

LAOS

THE MYSTERY OF THE PLAIN OF JARS

SYDNEY STYLE THE NEW HIP HIDDEN SCENE Hooray for HOLLYWOOD! VINTAGE RELICS AND TREASURES

INSIDE DUBAI’S

ARMANI HOTEL

Plus:

60 TRAVEL WEBSITES YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW!

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

Tra v e l a n d L e i s u r e A s i a . c o m


(destinations)10.10 London 54, 144 Chiiori, Japan 52

Palawan 105 Dubai 136 Kenya 128

Bali 40, 118

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Asia Chiiori, Japan 52 China 40, 62, 70 Kolkata 82 Korea 48 Maldives 40, 46, 154

Bangkok 40 Cambodia 40, 50 Ko Kood, Thailand 87 Laos 40, 60, 94 Palawan 105 Singapore 54, 100

90

Pacific 110

60 Australia 54, 75 75

Europe Italy 90 40, 54 London 54, 144 Spain 40, 54

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Africa and the Middle East Dubai 136 Jerusalem 66 Kenya 128

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Americas Los Angeles 111 San Francisco 54

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

US ($1)

1.34

(HKD)

7.77

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(RP)

30.9

8,970

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3.12

(VND)

19,480

(MOP)

7.99

(P)

44.2

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6.41

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4,220

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8,150

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

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t r a v e la n dl e is u r e asia . c o m | v o l 0 4 | iss u e 1 0

(contents)10.10 >128 By donkey in the dunes in Lamu, Kenya.

118 Spirit of Bali On a culturally vibrant island where art meets artifice at almost every turn, how do you find a genuine sense of place? Peter Jon Lindberg goes looking for some of the island’s most authentic experiences. Photographed by Hugh Stewart Guide and map 127 8

128 Unchartered Kenya The Lamu Archipelago—four islands grazing Kenya’s northeastern coast—feels utterly and blissfully remote. Yet for centuries, Lamu was at the center of the trade map, drawing an influx of foreigners. By Shane Mitchell. Photographed by Monika Hoefler and Jens Schwarz Guide and map 135 136 Star of Dubai With his sky-high hotel on the

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Persian Gulf, Giorgio Armani has reached new heights. By Charles Gandee. Photographed by Thomas Loof 144 East End Rising Among the hardscrabble corridors of London’s East End, a new energy has taken hold, through trendsetting artists, chefs, designers and hoteliers. By Maria ShollenbargeR. Photographed by Christian Kerber Guide and map 153

m o n i k a h o e f l e r a n d j e n s sc h wa rz

117-144 Features


OCTOBER 2010

ULTIMATE BALI GUIDE

ESSENTIAL, AUTHENTIC ISLAND EXPERIENCES

PALAWAN

Charting one of Asia’s last lost worlds

LONDON

Catch the East End’s new energy WESTERN CHEFS GO LOCAL IN SHANGHAI

O C T O B E R 2 010

SYDNEY STYLE THE NEW HIP HIDDEN SCENE Hooray for HOLLYWOOD! VINTAGE RELICS AND TREASURES

INSIDE DUBAI’S

ARMANI HOTEL

Plus:

60 TRAVEL WEBSITES YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW!

10 Cover_Green FINALSML.indd 1

> 68

LAOS

THE MYSTERY OF THE PLAIN OF JARS

Cover

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

Tra v e l a n d L e i s u r e A s i a . c o m

15/09/2010 12:26

Photographed by Nat Prakobsantisuk. Model: Pamela Lima/Mode. Styling by Weechee. Make-up by Geraldine Loy. Hair by David Shaw. Assistant: Ekarat Ubonsri.

> 105

> 48

66 Museum Jerusalem’s remade Israel Museum. By David Kaufman 68 Obsessions Vending machines with a difference. By Katrina Brown Hunt 70 Restaurants Shanghai chefs. By Lauren Hilgers 75 Navigator Hip Sydney. By Anthony Dennis

39-75 Insider 39 Newsflash Swimming with dugongs, new heritage hotels, green iPad sleeves and more. 46 Expert Water, water everywhere. By Lili Tan 48 See it South Korea’s artful cargo containers. By Liang Xinyi 50 Preservation Khmer architecture. By Naomi Lindt 52 Detour Old-time Japan. By Tim Hornyak 54 Markets Global foodie finds to tickle your tastebuds. By Anya von Bremzen 60 Getaway Organic Laos. By Robyn Eckhardt 62 Adventure Hiking in China. By Craig Simon 10

87-111 81-85 Stylish Traveler T+L Journal 81 Icon The Nautica windbreaker. By Isaura Bolton 82 Spotlight Designs of Kolkata. By Tanvi Chheda 85 What’s In Your Bag? Eco-conscious Christina Dean. By Helen Dalley > 85

87 Resorts Can sustainability and luxury mix? Six Senses’ latest resort on Ko Kood sets out to prove the two can. By Jennifer Chen 94 Eyewitness Stone jars strewn across a stretch of northern Laos are under threat from unexploded ordnance. By Karen Coates 100 Dispatch Singapore’s embrace of casinos is a bet on the future of the city-state, writes Peter Myers 105 Outdoors The remote corners of Palawan are perfect for an escape, writes Katherine Jack 111 Shopping A starstruck Lynn Yaeger heads to Tinseltown in search of silver-screen relics.

c l o c k w i s e f r o m fa r l e f t : c o u r t e sy o f p l at o o n k u n s t h a l l e ; c o u r t e sy o f l e t ’ s p i z z a ; K at h e r i n e J a c k ; r e d d o g s t u d i o

12 Editor’s Note 16 Contributors­ 18 Letters 20 Best Deals 25 Strategies 34 Smart Traveler 154 My Favorite Place

2010 Green Issue • Bali • Laos • Japan • Thailand • China • South Korea • London • Best Travel Websites

Departments

TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA

(contents)10.10

GREEN TRAVEL SPECIAL: 100+ GREAT IDEAS


(editor’s note) 10.10 How “green” are you? I mean, really green? I ask this because when I started writing this editorial for our green-tinged issue , I asked myself the same question. My answer is “as when the idea was first proposed, but it’s a fascinating article detailing how huge freight containers are being recycled into eye-popping art structures in South Korea. Or “The House of the Flute” (page 52), which looks at a 300-year-old old mountain farmhouse in Shikoku, just outside Kyoto. This is an insightful story of loving restoration in itself; that the property includes great green activities—anyone for thatching?— and looks spectacular is a bonus. Finally, on the green theme, in our lead feature “Spirit of Bali” (page 118) T+L stalwart Peter Jon Lindberg revisits Bali to uncover authentic travel ideas and future plans, the latter including an organic “Wonka-esque” chocolate factory. Elsewhere in this packed issue, we tour the distinctly (I should imagine) non-green but incredibly impressive Armani Hotel Dubai located over several floors of the towering Burj-Khalifa in “Star of Dubai” (page 136). And best of all (for an expat Brit), “East End Rising” (page 144) looks at how this famous slice of London is being transformed by trendsetting artists, designers, chefs and hoteliers. And all without a reference to that most tired of Brit soaps, EastEnders.—m a t t l e p p a r d

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. 12

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tom hoops

green as I can be without interfering with my life too much.” Now, that doesn’t sound all that trendy or politically correct during a time when “going green” is increasingly foisted upon Southeast Asian consumers, occasionally quite hypocritically (how many travelrelated businesses claim green credentials, yet slip up by, say, serving shark-fin soup in their restaurants?). But for me, green is a balance between convenience and responsibility when I travel. One small example: I don’t leave the aircon and lights on when I’m not in my room. Also (despite various studies showing that many people don’t do this), I generally re-use towels and bathrobes when I can. But I don’t ensure that in-room freebies are locally sourced, or that a hotel re-uses water as a matter of policy... Anyway, what this meandering intro is leading to is that for this issue’s green content, we’ve steered away from vague, preachy generalities about reducing carbon footprints and the like, and more towards authentic, off-thebeaten track travel that has an eco-friendly factor. Take “Out of the Box” (page 48), for example. “Container architecture” is something I couldn’t really envisage


BANGKOK + DIM SUM + ARCHITECTURE + NIGHTLIFE + BLOGS + ISLANDS + BOUTIQUES NOODLES + STYLE + WINE + SPAS + HONG KONG + DESIGN + GALLERIES + SINGAPORE + HUA HIN + DRIVING + ONLINE BOOKING + LAKSA + FASHION + REVIEWS + GOLF + KHAO SOI BEER + DIVING + CLUBBING + HOT DEALS + tRAVEL NEWS + CRUISING + LAOS + BARS MUSIC + ART + ECOTOURISM + MALAYSIA + trekking + saigon + shopping + deals + BANGKOK

www.TravelandLeisureAsia.com

editor-in-chief art director deputy editor features editor senior DEsigner DEsigner ASSISTANT editor/Illustrator Assistant Editor

Matt Leppard James Nvathorn Unkong Christopher Kucway Lara Day Wannapha Nawayon Sirirat Prajakthip Wasinee Chantakorn Liang Xinyi

Regular contributors / photographers Cedric Arnold, Jennifer Chen, Robyn Eckhardt, Philipp Engelhorn, David Hagerman, Lauryn Ishak, Naomi Lindt, Jen Lin-Liu, Nat Prakobsantisuk, Adam Skolnick, Darren Soh, Daven Wu

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publishER director singapore / associate publisher DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER business development managers CONSULTANT, HONG KONG/MACAU chief financial officer production manager production group circulation MANAGER circulation assistant

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Robert Fernhout Lucas W. Krump Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Michael K. Hirsch Joey Kukielka Shea Stanley Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Supalak Krewsasaen Porames Chinwongs Yupadee Saebea

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Ed Kelly Mark V. Stanich Paul B. Francis Nancy Novogrod Jean-Paul Kyrillos Mark Orwoll Thomas D. Storms

travel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 4, Issue 10 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.

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(contributors) 10.10 Craig Simons | Writer The Assignment Covered our China hiking story (“Take a Hike,” page 62). Must-see China Beyond the usual suspects, China has great

mountains and forests. My favorite areas are western Sichuan and Yunnan, and Tibet. China Favorite The high energy and friendliness of the Chinese people. You’ll feel very welcomed in most places.  Don’t leave home without... Good books: Peter Hessler’s River Town or Jen Lin-Liu’s Serve The People. (Full disclosure: She’s my wife, but it’s a great book.) Latest Project I’m working on a book about China’s environmental footprint.

The Assignment Wrote about the Lamu Archipelago, a group of four islands off the Kenyan coast (“Uncharted Kenya,” page 128). Island Architecture 1,001 Arabian Nights meets Out of Africa. Food you’d fly back for Samaki wa kupaka (snapper in tamarind sauce) with coconut rice. Local Take I was amazed by how many people were willing to open their doors and welcome me into their lives. Advice for first-time visitors Respect the culture’s conservative dress and religious traditions. Bring it back Kenyan cotton kikoi sarongs in different striped weaves.

Jens Schwarz and Monika Hoefler | Photographers The Assignment Shot Lamu for “Uncharted Kenya.” The islands in three colors Blue. Sand. Green. Drink Up The Old Pal sundowner at Peponi Hotel’s bar. Lamu Souvenirs A hand-carved wooden bowl. Don’t Miss Sailing in a dhow, a traditional Arabian vessel, on the quiet sea. Travel Photography Tip Stay awhile before you start shooting. In your suitcase All kinds of adapters and suntan lotion. Your next destination Berlin, and maybe Lamu again this November for the

cultural festival. Naomi Lindt | Writer The Assignment Wrote about Phnom Penh (“Modernism, Reinvented,” page 50). Favorite preservation in Asia Penang. I love wandering

around Georgetown, home to the largest number of historic shophouses in Asia (and outstanding food!). New and trendy or old and restored I love interesting ways to achieve both. I admit I like modernday amenities with my history. In Cambodia, don’t miss... Peppercorn sauces and seafood in Kep, on the southern coast. Dream trip Right now, a girlfriend getaway to Bhutan is at the top of my list. Karen Coates | Writer The Assignment Wrote this month’s story on the Plain of Jars (“Mystery Plain,” page 94) Strangest explanation you’ve heard for the jars Giants used the jars as tea cups or aliens left their pods on earth. But

the explanation I like best comes from a little Lao kid I talked to at Site 3 who said, “I think they make them for the tourists.” Always travel with... Earplugs. Favorite place Laos ranks right up there. Current project I’m working on a global project related to food security issues as a fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. 16

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l e f t t o r i g h t , f r o m t o p : c r a i g s i m o n s ; c o u r t e s y o f c r a i g s i m o n s ; JAME S FI S HER ; M o n i k a H o e f l e r a n d J e n s S c h w a r z ( 2 ) ; c o u r t e s y o f M o n i k a H o e f l e r a n d J e n s S c h w a r z ; c o u r t e s y o f n a o m i l i n d t ; c o u r t e s y o f v a n n m o ly v a n n p r i v a t e c o l l e c t i o n ; j e r r y r e d f e r n ; c o u r t e s y o f k a r e n c o a t e s

Shane Mitchell | Special Correspondent


throughout Southeast Asia

(Letters)10.10 letter of the month

— m a rc

Indulge yourself Blogs Are More Fun

Great idea to cover food bloggers [“They Came. They Ate. They Blogged,” September 2010]. As timely as your magazine is, the Internet can always be faster, so it was a good thing to introduce some new faces into the foodie line up. I even laughed when I read that “Joel” from Manila prefers his anonymity in this look-at-me world of blogs and tweets. He and his advice are both refreshing. I hope you include more of these cuttingedge stories in future issues, it will only improve the quality of your own magazine. —m a ry

the world’s leading travel magazine www.TravelandLeisureAsia.com

Missing on the Menu Thanks, T+L SEA, for your 2010 food special issue in September. However, while the food stories were fabulous, where was the drink content? In previous years, you’ve given more space to wines, beers and the like. This issue seems to be very weighted towards food, with the only substantial drinkrelated content a wine tour of France. How about the best beers in Asia, for example? Also, it was a little odd to have an entire section, where your Strategies normally sits, devoted solely to Bangkok, in a food special issue.

)

c h ua , h o n g ko n g

r e y n o l d s , k ua l a lu m p u r

Speed over Beauty I was delighted to see your coverage of the Macau Grand Prix in August [“Give Me Speed”]. I think Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is perhaps the only travel magazine in which I can read about the thrills and spills of this great sport and then about Hong Kong’s freshest bars [“One Night in Hong Kong”] in the same issue. But as a male, the beauty and fashion content can be a little overwhelming at times. — pau l

so, singapore

Editor’s reply Thanks Paul. We are planning to ramp up our male-oriented content next year, with men’s fashion, grooming tips and more. In fact, we’ve just developed our 2011 editorial calendar, and you’re in for some pleasant surprises. Watch this space.

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.


SLIP

INTO SOMETHING

♥ 2010 Φουρ Σεασονσ Ηοτελσ Λιµιτεδ

UNFORGETTABLE.

Χονταχτ ψουρ τραϖελ χονσυλταντ, ϖισιτ ωωω.φουρσεασονσ.χοµ ορ χα λλ (65) 6232−5926. Φρο µ ω ι τηι ν ηο νγ κ ο νγ χα λλ (800) 96−8385.


(best deals) 10.10 deal of the month

Couples’ Getaway package at Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Resort & Spa (84-63/3555-888; anamandara-resort. com). What’s Included

Explore, discover and unwind with these exceptional experiences n CAMBODIA Epicurean Experience package at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor (855-63/963-888; raffles.com). What’s Included Daily breakfast; a half-day cooking class with lunch; dinner for two with a glass of wine each; a wine-cellar tour at Le Grand restaurant; and one-day entrance to the Angkor Wat complex. Cost From US$250 per night, two-night minimum, through December 30. Savings 15 percent. n MALAYSIA Stay 3 & Pay 2 package at Hotel Maya (603/2711-8866; hotelmaya.com.my) in Kuala Lumpur. What’s Included A stay in a Deluxe suite; daily breakfast; early check-in/late checkout; pressing of five garments; extra beds for two children below 12; Wi-Fi; and either roundtrip transfers, a one-hour spa package for two or a full-day Malacca tour for two. Cost RM700 per night, three-night minimum, through March 31, 2011. Savings 40 percent. n PHILIPPINES Art Experience package at the Mandarin Oriental Manila (63-2/750-8888; mandarinoriental.com/manila). What’s Included Daily breakfast; P1,000 restaurant or spa credit; Ayala Museum admission for two; and 20

discounts on purchases in select galleries. Cost From P7,000 per night, two-night minimum, through December 30. Savings 40 percent. n SINGAPORE Opening promotion at Wanderlust (65/63963322; wanderlusthotel.com) in Singapore. What’s Included Daily breakfast; Wi-Fi; and mini-bar soft drinks. Cost S$180 per night, through December 31. Savings Up to 50 percent. n THAILAND Opening Special Stay 3 Pay 2 package at the Kempinski Siam Hotel (66-2/162-9000; kempinski.com) in Bangkok. What’s Included A stay in a Deluxe room; in-room Wi-Fi; mini-bar soft drinks; movies on request; and a third night with two consecutive nights’ stay. Cost From Bt7,900 per night, three-night minimum, through October 31. Savings 62 percent. One + One package at Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique Hotel (66-53/302-898; puripunn.com) in Chiang Mai. What’s Included Two nights in a Puripunn Deluxe room; private check-in and check-out; daily breakfast; Wi-Fi; and discount vouchers at the Punna Café, Pool Lounge and Sala Spa. Cost From Bt8,532; through October 31. Savings 50 percent.

o ct o b e r 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

A stay in a Villa room; airport transfers; daily breakfast; daily yoga class; a couple’s body treatment at La Cochinchine Spa; and a couple’s cooking class and romantic dinner. Cost From US$84 per person per night, two-night minimum, through December 20. Savings 50 percent. At Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Resort & Spa.

F r o m t o p : R o r y D a n i e l ; c o u r t e sy o f A n a m a n d a r a v i l l a s d a l at r e s o r t & s pa

A room at Wanderlust.


*

s y a w l a s a t s e i Our f finish early

www.spain.info


Privilege knows no boundaries.

Carried by the 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


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We all need a break now and then. Now is the perfect time to get away from it all with Fine Hotels & Resorts Programme extending a special welcome to American Express Platinum Cardmembers. Fine Hotels & Resorts Programme is delighted to continue to offer you a variety of memorable experiences and a suite of exclusive benefits giving you access to over US$550 in valuable benefits* for a 2-night stay. Exclusive benefits include: • Room upgrade upon check-in (subject to availability) • Daily continental breakfast for two • 4pm late check-out • An additional privilege unique to each property, such as a complimentary afternoon tea or lunch or dinner for two, or US$100 credit towards food & beverage or

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All offers are subject to availability and valid till 31 December 2010 (unless otherwise stated). In order to receive Fine Hotels & Resorts, Banyan Tree, or Lebua State Tower partnership programme amenities and rates, reservations must be made through The Platinum Card Service and payment must be made using the American Express Platinum Card in the Platinum Cardmember's name. Room upgrade at check-in is based on availability. One special programme amenity per room, per stay. Not combinable with corporate or group contracted rates. Participating partners and programme benefits are subject to change without notice. *Based on double occupancy. Actual value varies by property, length and date of stay. For details of Fine Hotels & Resorts Program, please visit: americanexpress.com.sg/platinumfhr. ^Offer valid till 30 December 2010.

For details & reservations, please call The Platinum CARD® Service AT Singapore: +(65) 6392 1177 (option 1) HONG KONG: +(852) 2277 2233 Thailand: +(66) 2273 5599


(Strategies) 10.10

best of the web

illustratio n b y w asi n ee cha n takor n

T+L’s annual guide to the top 60 travel websites. Plus how to stay connected on the road, our favorite online personalities, members-only travel sites and new services that deliver local discounts to your virtual door. By tom samiljan

For timely trip ideas, itinerary advice and more, check out TravelandLeisureAsia.com.

W

here once travelers looked

to the Web simply for lastminute airfares or cut-rate hotel rooms, today the online possibilities are dizzying: you can access your itinerary on pretty much any device, from your laptop and BlackBerry to your iPad and television; immediately tap into the local scene

via l­ocation-based technology; or instantly share images and videos with 100 of your closest friends on social-networking sites. And, after more than two decades of free-for-all, DIY online booking, we finally have some serious quality filters: membership-only sites and personalized trip planning by professional travel agents are making sure your vacation doesn’t turn into some kind of Web-special, no-refund nightmare. During the past year, we’ve scoured travel websites looking for the best of the bunch, from tried-and-true classics to brand-new standouts that are revolutionizing the way we plan and take our trips. Here’s what topped our list. »

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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c o m

| o ct o b e r 2 0 1 0

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strategies | best

of the web

Top 60 Travel Websites  Search for flights KAYAK.COM 

T+L TIP Book your flight through the airline’s site if Kayak o ­ ffers you that ­option — it’ll save you a lot of hassle should you need help from the airline en route. App Android, ­BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone­.

CLICK FACTOR Unlike

RUNNER-UP

many booking sites, which often list fares that are no longer available, Kayak searches 200 sources in real time so you’ll find actual airfares (including all fees and taxes). The variety of customizable filters — airlines and carriers to frequent-flier consortia and arrival times — is unrivaled. You can also set up a daily fare alert and wait for the price to go down. New this year: the Explore feature, which offers a world-map view of fares, makes it easy to pick a destination. DRAWBACKS It isn’t always easy to find a range of fares, since Kayak only spits out what’s readily available in real time.

mobissimo.com.

Air Travel

 Find bargain fares in Europe MOMONDO new .COM  CLICK FACTOR

­Denmark-based Momondo pulls its information from more than 800 travel sites around the world, including low-cost, charter and regional airlines often ignored by the bigger sites. It’s particularly strong in Europe, where it regularly searches local sites such as ­Lastminute, Opodo and Thomas Cook, as well as all the regional airline sites. Fare comparison is easy, since results can be presented in a colorcoded calendar format

with different prices listed for each day. RUNNER-UP opodo.com.  Make sure you’re getting the cheapest flight YAPTA.com  CLICK FACTOR Every

travel-booking site from Orbitz and ­SideStep to Bing offers fare-tracking updates, but only Yapta does it for a specific flight at a specific time on a specific airline. So if you absolutely have to take the last nonstop flight out of Paris to New York City (that would be Air France 008 at 7:10 p.m., in case you were wondering), ­Yapta will send you an e-mail

as soon as the price goes down. If you’ve already booked and bought your ticket and the fare drops, the service will also let you know if you’re eligible for ­reimbursement or not. App iPhone. RUNNER-UP

bing.com/travel.

 Compare flights new

INSIDETRIP. COM 

CLICK FACTOR

­Insidetrip.com assigns a rating (1–100) to the overall desirability of a flight based on three hard-to-find-in-oneplace criteria: speed (overall travel time; o ­ ntime arrival ­percentage;

Sometimes it’s all about who you know. The travelers and Web entrepreneurs behind the five sites on the following pages share their passions — and insider knowledge — for destinations around the world. the travel curators

Jennifer and David Raezer their website

Compulsive (and compulsively informed) travelers, the Raezers are the masterminds behind the downloadable Approach Guides (available as PDF’s or for the iPad), which are filled with a university course–worth of history and insights for 62 destinations worldwide. Why we love it The Raezers share our desire for deep, well-researched information on the wonders of the world.

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bootom: christina j. dinozo

approachguides.com


the travel curators

Joshua Foer his website

atlasobscura.com A “Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities and Esoterica,” Atlas Obscura pays homage to offbeat destinations and fascinating minutiae. Why we love it Science writer Foer, who cofounded the site with pal Dylan Thuras, pays tribute to the quirky surprise finds around the world that make travel so memorable.

security-line waits), comfort (legroom; fullness of flight; age of aircraft) and ease (lost-bag rankings; connection time; departure gate location).  Make the most of your miles webflyer.com  CLICK FACTOR From

the skinny on which airlines are most likely to give you elite-status upgrades and the amount of miles you’ll get for a particular

flight to the conversion rate for transferring miles between programs, WebFlyer will help you earn and redeem your miles wisely. The network also offers mileagemanager. com, a US$15-per-year online service that tracks your various memberships and alerts you when miles are about to expire. DRAWBACK Because of a dated design, b ­ rowsing is a bit of a m ­ ultiplewindows chore. Plus the

site’s U.S. bias means programs covered aren’t yet comprehensive. RUNNERS-UP traxo. com, mileblaster.com.

reviews, too, so you can get specific feedback on, say, whether or not there’s a cupholder or if the noisy location near the galley is going to keep you awake. Also useful are the comparison charts with information on in-flight amenities (video screens; Wi-Fi; power outlets). DRAWBACK You can’t actually choose your seats from the site, though you can book a specific flight via ­TripAdvisor.

Green Websites

Below, three ecofriendly travel websites to bookmark. Wild Asia wildasia.org For all things green in Asia, this site can’t be beat. Geared toward anyone who cares about responsible tourism, conservation or wildlife, it’s packed to the brim with travel hints and tips, green job openings, inspiring personal stories and interactive forums. Highly recommended.

 Find your way around an airport IFLY.COM  CLICK FACTOR iFly is

 Pick the

right seat SEATGURU.COM  CLICK FACTOR On

­ eatGuru, you’ll find S 700-plus seat plans for nearly 100 airlines around the globe, with the best and worst seats color-coded in each section. Every flight is backed up by user

the Web’s most exhaustive guide to 679 airports — though many are in the U.S., 409 of them are international. Need to get those postcards postmarked before you get on the plane? iFly will tell you where the nearest ­airport mailbox is. It also provides

Eco Tour Directory ecotourdirectory.com Search for accredited eco-tours by country, pick up green travel tips and learn about how to offset your carbon footprint on this simply laid-out site. Entries for obscure destinations are thin on the ground, but you’ll find plenty to keep you busy here thanks to an extensive article archive, wildlife photography galleries and even an ethical online store.

»

sign up membership sites

World Travel & Tourism Council wttc.org Many of us suspect that traveling may not be the best thing for the environment — but what real damage can it do, and how do you keep that damage to a minimum? Get your info straight from the source here, including the latest research snippets, news updates and travel-friendly hints.

l i s a g r o ss

T+L picks the best of the new wave of websites that require you to join — often, for free — and take advantage of deep travel deals and discounts.—Va l e r i e St i v e r s - Isa kova indagare.com ➜ ADVICE + PLANNING

founderscard.com ➜ TRAVEL PERKS

vacationist.com ➜ LUXURY HOTELS

Powered by a team of journalists and travel experts, the site offers three membership levels: Basic (US$275) buys access to editorial content, user forums and benefits; Elite (US$450) allows you to customize your info; and a Connoisseur membership (US$1,275) gets you five hours of personalized itinerary creation with one of Indagare’s travel specialists.

To get in, you need to be recommended by a current member, of whom there are only 2,000, mostly entrepreneurs. For an annual fee of US$495, you’ll receive perks such as automatic Elite Status in Virgin Airlines’ Flying Club or a waived application fee and 50 percent off annual charges from Zipcar.

A T+L partnership with travelauction guru Luxury Link has deals on upscale hotels around the world. Recent sales at Mexico’s Villa Zihuatanejo and the Elounda Mare Hotel, in Greece, offered rooms for less than US$175, a 25 percent savings from listed rates. Membership, which you request via e-mail, is free, and the site posts two

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3 google services worth bookmarking

Ever ahead of the digital curve, Google offers great ways to help you travel faster and more easily. If you’ll be in Europe or North America and want to get a glimpse of what your temporary neighborhood looks like in satellite or panoramic color images, Google Maps lets you explore by entering the address (or a city or neighborhood name) and clicking on one of three settings: Satellite (zoomable overhead view); Street (fully navigable, 360-degree shots at ground level); or Earth (zoomable overhead perspective). Google Translate, meanwhile, can decode a menu, phrase or travel site within seconds (just enter a Web address or phrase or upload a document and wait for the translation). And finally, the new Google Voice gives you a free voiceover-Internet phone number that can receive calls forwarded from your cell, home and work numbers. You can even make international calls from your smart phone at rock-bottom rates — simply dial your Google number, press 2 and enter the phone

of the web information about today’s weather, average delay time, in-terminal restaurants and stores, parking, rental cars and wait times for security. DRAWBACKS Some listings are outdated and the maps are a little hard to read. App iPhone.

the travel curators

Nick Bumstead and Robin Dorian their website

findeatdrink.com This Web magazine asks foodworld luminaries — from Fergus Henderson to Kurt Gutenbrunner — where they eat and what inspires them. It packages the answers with useful listings and gorgeous slide shows. Why we love it Both Dorian and Bumstead really know how to get chefs to dish.

HOTELS  Find out what a hotel is really like TRIPADVISOR.COM  CLICK FACTOR With

more than 35 million user-generated ­reviews— featuring text, guestuploaded photos and percentage of positive recommendations —­ TripAdvisor is a great prebooking resource. A typical hotel profile has lots of options, i­ncluding reviews (sortable by date, r­ atings and even type of traveler), rates, ­information about other hotels in the same neighborhood and special discounts. Plus, the site recently partnered with fl ­ ipkey. com to add a section on vacation rentals. DRAWBACK Reviews may include the occasional hotelgenerated plant, but a profile system for each user makes such posts easier to filter out.

amenities, noise level and other criteria. It’ll also help you pick hotels for their proximity to train stations, subway stops and key ­locations — perfect for business travelers with earlymorning meetings. DRAWBACK While there’s a mix of international destinations, from Dubai to Denver, certain major cities, including Berlin, Shanghai and Tokyo, are still missing from Tripkick’s lineup.  Bid for your stay LUXURYLINK.COM  CLICK FACTOR T+L

­Vacationist.com partner ­Luxury Link tops other auction sites when it

RUNNERS-UP

travelpost.com.  Pick the perfect room TRIPKICK.COM  CLICK FACTOR Tripkick

scours hotel specs to help you select a room based on size, location, 28

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comes to the breadth and variety of properties, trip categories and package deals — for instance, you can score three nights at the W ­Barcelona for only ¤722 (normally priced at ¤1,682). Get even better deals with “mystery auctions” that start at a mere US$1 and rise in increments of US$1 (the only details provided are the country in which the deal is offered and some of the luxury amenities included). If the suspense of an auction is too much to handle, you can also buy set packages for US$1,500 or less.

T+L Tip The fine print varies on each deal — watch out for added fees, taxes and cancellation costs.

trip planning  Manage your vacation TRIPIT.COM  CLICK FACTOR After

you book a flight, hotel or car rental, just forward your confirmation e-mail to plans@tripit.com and the service will input the information into an online itinerary for you. The site also sends text or e-mail reminders to check in (which you can do from the site itself) and, for premium subscribers (US$69 per year), updates on any flight delays or gate changes. You can add restaurant reservations and other excursions to your itinerary and share your trip info with fellow travelers, LinkedIn contacts, Twitter

t o p : c o u r t e sy o f f i n d e at d r i n k . c o m

strategies | best


followers and Facebook friends. DRAWBACK If you change your flight or hotel reservation, you have to manually remove it from the site. App Android, ­BlackBerry and iPhone.

T+L pick

I am obsessed with EatingAsia (eatingasia.typepad. com) for its gorgeous photography and in-depth reporting (the story about the origin of the Vietnamese banh mi was a recent favorite).

RUNNERs-UP world

mate.com, tripcase.com.  Outsource your planning ZICASSO.COM  CLICK FACTOR Just

fill out an online questionnaire that briefly details the trip you’d like to go on — for example, to take a family of seven to ­Iguaçú Falls and ­Patagonia for a oneweek vacation — and within two business days you’ll get price quotes and sample itineraries from up to three travel companies (all vetted by Zicasso). Then simply contact the travel company you want to book with and fine-tune the trip via e-mail or phone. There’s

absolutely no obligation to purchase, and you can pay the travel company directly.

vacation

rentals  Find a luxury villa HOMEAWAY.COM  CLICK FACTOR The site has more than 230,000 properties, many of them high-end — some rentals are by owners, others by property managers. The reach is global, with listings available on six continents. What’s more, the site is covered by HomeAway’s Carefree Rental Guarantee up to

— Niloufar Motamed, T+L features director

the travel curators

Julia Chaplin her website

bot to m l e f t: h i l a ry wa l s h

gypset.com An outgrowth of Chaplin’s Assouline book Gypset Style, this blog reveals travel habits of glamorous internationalvagabond types, with an emphasis on under-the-radar hotels and places that embody affordable luxury. Why we love it Travel writer Chaplin has connections in every corner and a great sense of fashion, art and the next hot destination.

US$1,000 for free (additional coverage available for US$49). RUNNER-UP flipkey. com.

Deals are impressive: a recent search yielded ¥4,335 for a night in a large studio for two, with high-speed Wi-Fi and use of two bicycles, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. DRAWBACK Some hosts request non­refundable deposits, which are handled outside of AirBnB, so read reviews before you pay. T+L TIP Make sure you see lots of pictures and read reviews before you book — if you have a question, use the messaging system to get more information directly from a prospective host. App iPhone. RUNNER-UP craigslist. org

 Arrange a last-minute affordable rental AIRBNB.COM  new CLICK FACTOR

Not only do you get ­images, amenities lists, guest reviews and information about the hosts but AirBnB also provides a user-friendly search mechanism (cities, dates, property type) to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. At press time, AirBnB had apartments in 6,757 cities in 156 countries, with more being added every day. Since you’re paying by credit card, your payment doesn’t go to the hosts until 24 hours after you’ve checked in and approved of the space.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

 Swap for a stylish house LuxeHome new swap.com  CLICK FACTOR

A worldwide house-

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strategies | best

of the web

swapping site that’s aimed at the design set, Luxe Home Swap has everything from onebedroom apartments to sprawling houses. Looking for a twobedroom apartment next to the Tate Modern in London, or a chic designer loft in Hong Kong? No problem. How about a four-bedroom house in Lucca, Italy? For a membership fee of US$159, it could be yours for a week. T+L TIP A lot of the listings are second homes, so you don’t necessarily have to arrange a simultaneous swap.

T+L pick

cruises  Shop around for the right cruise CRUISECRITIC .COM  CLICK FACTOR

Whether you’re looking for a cruise that’s luxurious, romantic, tailored to families or fitness-­focused, this site will give you the download through comprehensive reviews by editorial contributors and more than 50,000 user-submitted critiques. You'll find extensive information about every cruise ship

that’s currently sailing — it even allows you to browse through cabin photos and deck plans before you book. You'll also get alerts on the latest deals and guides to the world’s ports. RUNNER-UP cruise reviews.com.

CAR Travel  Get free driving

directions MAPQUEST.COM  CLICK FACTOR It’s a

tough choice between MapQuest and Google Maps, but MapQuest

gets the edge — at least for its Europe and North America offerings — thanks to a recent redesign that makes it just a bit easier to use. The new all-in-one box lets you search not only by address but also by the name of the hotel, attraction or town. ­MapQuest offers loads of extra on-map l­istings — gas stations, lodging, ­restaurants and airports — all of which are easily activated by clicking on the icon at the top of the map. T+L TIP If you plan to make the same trip more than once, you can save routes in a My Maps folder.

I turn to nowness. com, from the LVMH group, for its daily stories on fashion, art, design, and travel. It delivers a jolt of glamour in the middle of my workday. —Irene Edwards,

T+L special projects editor

App iPhone. RUNNER-UP maps.

google.com.

Photos and Videos  Share your pics Flickr.com  CLICK FACTOR This

update Major Booking engines

30

EXPEDIA.COM

ORBITZ.COM

TRAVELOCITY.COM

Expedia’s Unpublished Rates feature offers discounts of up to 55 percent on more than 25,000 hotels worldwide. Key details are revealed to buyers, who get the name of a property upon booking. The site also launched Green Store, which helps eco-conscious users find hotels with sustainable practices.

The site's recently redesigned hotel search section has several new features: satellite and street-view images of properties; filters that search by types of amenities, review scores and chains; and an offshoot, adventurefinder.com, that helps users plan and book dude-ranch getaways, rafting trips in Costa Rica and more.

Along with hotel search results, users receive "top secret" listings for rooms that are up to 45 percent off regular rates at two- to four-star hotels. The site provides essential information (reader reviews; amenities; location; star ratings) on these mystery hotels — except the actual name, which it reveals upon booking.

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photo site from Yahoo showcases big, pretty pictures and has lots of useful features such as a map that automatically shows where your photos were taken and the capability to add keyword tags and comments about photos. A personalized home page displays photos chronologically in a “photostream” and allows you to create additional pages, such as “sets,” “galleries” and “favorites.” You can upload easily from Flickr to ­Facebook,

»


and there is an option to automatically notify your ­Facebook friends when you’ve updated Flickr. Plus, you can order prints from Flickr through Snapfish and choose to allow other users to print your photos. RUNNERs-UP picasa. com, smugmug.com.  Post your videos

of the web

you. You can also choose to have Vimeo updates appear in your Facebook news feed.  Create a photo and video blog posterous. new com  CLICK FACTOR

A supercool, brand-new, ridiculously easy option for blogging neophytes, Posterous lets you post

photos or videos without registering simply by e-mailing them to post@ posterous.com. The site will send you a URL by return e-mail, which you can then circulate to your friends, who also won’t need to register to view your post. If you opt to use the “autopost” function, the site will automatically upload photos directly to Facebook or Flickr, make posts into your Twitter updates, or paste them onto existing personal blogs.

resources  Find a local business YELP.COM  CLICK FACTOR The

original word-of-mouth user-­generated review site for everything from restaurants and spas to ATM’s, hardware stores and pharmacies now has more than 12 million write-ups to offer travelers. Though coverage outside of the U.S. is still a weak point – indeed, Yelp has yet to come to Asia – the past year has seen the launch of Yelp sites in ­Canada, France, Germany, ­Ireland and the U.K. — so, if you speak French, you can search and evaluate potential dinner options in Nice, ­Bordeaux or Paris. Watch this space. DRAWBACKS Since Yelp relies on user reviews, listings can be out of date. Be sure to call first. App iPhone.

vimeo.com 

 Learn (or brush up on) a language LIVEMOCHA. new COM 

CLICK FACTOR

Everyone’s a director on ­video-sharing site ­Vimeo, and a famous one at that. You ­create a profile — the basic version is free, but a more advanced option with unlimited albums costs US$60 per year — which features videos on your home page, plus comments from your friends and stats about

CLICK FACTOR

the travel curators

Phil Oh his website

streetpeeper.com Oh’s site is a colorful matrix of shots of stylish passersby discovered on the streets of both acknowledged fashion capitals and lesser-known style cities (Melbourne, Seoul, Jakarta, and even Tallinn, Estonia). Why we love it Oh has an eye for real people in far-flung destinations.

­ ivemocha combines L online lessons (flash cards, videos, m ­ ultiplechoice questions) with live conversation and lessons with native speakers. The entire process takes place online — make sure you have your ­Webcam, headphones, and mic ­working on your computer. More than 35 lang­uages, including Thai, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, ­Arabic, French, ­German, ­Hindi and Urdu (from US$9.95 a month). T+L TIP Sign up to teach English and you may earn free lessons of your own. RUNNER-UP

rosettastone.com. 32

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T+L pick

Artsjournal.com has the best daily summary of art and cultural coverage from around the world, from London’s vibrant theater scene to Beijing’s groundbreaking architecture. —Mario Mercado, T+L arts editor

 Share your trips with friends facebook.com  CLICK FACTOR The

social networking site has thousands of apps, but some of the best and most popular revolve around travel. Dopplr will post a map with your travel route on your Facebook wall (viewable only to those you designate). Meanwhile, Where I’ve Been — which shows all the places you’ve visited on a map that runs on your Facebook page — lets you compete with others for bragging rights on who’s traveled to the most places (as well as share tips). drawback Adjusting your privacy settings — who gets to see your trip information automatically — can be complicated. ✚

bottom: brand hersey

strategies | best


strategies | smart

traveler

Travel When There’s Trouble

Whether it’s demonstrations in Bangkok or protests in Tibet, reminders are plentiful that sometimes a holiday doesn’t go according to plan. JENNIFER CHEN offers some advice on what to do to avoid problems. Illustrated by Wasinee Chantakorn

T

he smoke plumes have long dissipated and the

medieval-looking bamboo barricades dismantled. But the aftershocks of the anti-government protests in Bangkok earlier this year are still being felt. For travelers, they served as a reminder that political events can, and do, affect us all. A quick survey of the past few years in Asia provides a sobering reminder of how unstable politics can quickly flare up—Burma’s pro-democracy protests in 2007, clashes in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009. And more recent violent demonstrations in Greece and the occasional riot in the Parisian suburbs underscore civil unrest is not confined to the developing world. This, however, is not to advocate cowering at home. Many of Asia’s most fascinating destinations are in countries that have turbulent modern histories. Below are steps you can take both before and during a trip to ensure your safety—and possibly salvage that holiday.

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1

Do your research The images of urban warfare in Bangkok might have shocked outside observers. But the turmoil wasn’t wholly unexpected. Unlike natural disasters, civil unrest is a subject travelers can really prepare for before a trip. Research is essential, and that means looking beyond the history and society sections of your guidebook. For instance, check if your holiday coincides with a sensitive anniversary—a possible issue in places like Tibet or Burma.

2

Stay informed If a situation is unfolding, follow the news from a variety of sources closely. This is probably the most important step you can take. Blogs and Twitter feeds from locals have quickly become useful tools in gauging what it’s like on the ground. Once at a destination, keep yourself informed. Often during political unrest in Asian cities, not every neighborhood is affected. Staying on top of the news will also help you figure out where it’s safe to venture.


3

Skip the hot spots Depending on the country, you can always simply bypass troubled areas. Phuket, where many carriers fly directly, wasn’t affected by the troubles in Bangkok. Similarly, Bali was untouched by the riots that rocked Jakarta in 1998. Call your travel agent or airline to see if you can change your plans. If something is happening, full-service carriers will offer refunds or ticket changes, depending on the ticket terms.

4

Check with your insurance Company If you have travel insurance, ask if they cover delays, cancellations and itinerary changes due to political turmoil. Not all do, though we found that AXA in Singapore and Hong Kong and Blue Cross Hong Kong carry clauses covering civil unrest. However, it’s essential to read the fine print: if you take out insurance after, say, a coup you might not be covered. Or if you decide to travel after your government has issued a warning, your claim might be denied. Getting the details ironed out before your trip will help prevent potential squabbles with your provider.

5

Read travel advisories Government advisories might seem overblown at times, but they’re worth paying attention to, especially in volatile situations. As an American, I usually weigh my own experience as a seasoned traveler in Asia against U.S. State Department advice, which usually errs, understandably, towards extreme caution. Registering with your embassy allows officials to contact you in emergencies, while keeping embassy numbers—and government hotline numbers— ensures that you can reach help. C

M

Y

CM

MY

CY

CMY

K

6

Remember the basics Having copies of your passport, emergency numbers and credit card information, leaving your itinerary with family or friends, keeping a secret stash of emergency cash—ordinary steps like these always come in handy, whatever the situation.

7

Stay away from protests With the advent of citizen journalism and the YouTube/ Twitter share-it-all mentality, amateurs and curious onlookers are flocking to protests. In tense situations, that’s never a good idea. Should the urge to attend a protest prove overwhelming, go during the day and make sure you’re back at your hotel by nightfall, when things tend to get nasty. Keep your wits about you and scope out escape routes. Also, carefully judge the crowd—if it seems belligerent, sticking to quiet observation is wiser than trying to engage in a debate. If you’re in a building, step back from the windows or balconies. ✚


A ROOM WITH A VIEW

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Now open and welcoming guests to 5-star indulgence. The new Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket is set directly on Karon Beach and no matter what your holiday wish, you will find it right here. An opulent room overlooking the sparkling ocean. A luxurious suite with your own sunken Jacuzzi and swimming pool on the terrace. A pool villa that will make a romantic retreat for two or a spacious venue for a family getaway. Your choice. Designed in classic Sino-Portuguese style, the resort is built around a landscaped water park with a lazy river and five swimming pools, and offers exciting facilities for couples, groups, families with kids, and everyone intent on pure pleasure. See our great opening offers. Visit us at www.centararesorts.com. T +66 (0) 2101 1234 F +66 (0) 2101 1235 E reservations@chr.co.th


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Marine Fantasy. The making of a picturesque coral reef in the Maldives <(page 46)

Mountain Escape. A secluded farmhouse in Japan lets you step back in time (page 52)>

Homegrown Eats. Shanghai’s top international chefs go local <(page 70)

+

• China’s most adventurous trails • South Korean container architecture • Sydney’s top addresses revealed

(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 ; c o u r t e s y o f a s i at i c m a r i n e . c o m ; c o u r t e s y o f F u lt o n P l a c e ; L e o C h e n / C h i n a S t o c k h o u s e ; t o r u m u r a m at s u

Farm Fresh. In Luang Prabang, a cooking school with a difference <(page 60)

Where to goWhat to eatWhere to StayWhat to buy

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insider

| newsflash escapes

What’s Cooking?

Shanxi, China

Andalusia, Spain

Patagonia, Chile

Burgundy, France

The Trip

Shanxi Food & Cultural Tour, RMB4,840 per person for three days; hiasgourmet.com.

Spanish Cucina Nueva Break, US$868 per person for five days; akvillas.com.

Tasting Chile, US$4,200 per person for four days; frontiersej.com

Burgundy: Cook’s Tour, US$3,177 per person for six days; thecooksatelier.com.

The Tour

Staying at the 19-room Jing’s Residence in the old walled city of Pingyao, explore the myriad culinary treasures of the northern province — known as China’s noodle heartland — and learn the secrets behind aged Shanxi vinegar.

An eight-person villa with a private chef is your base for outings to shop for prawns, cuttlefish and baby squid at Málaga’s historic food market and attend a tasting of Málaga Dulce, the region’s sweet fortified wine.

Top chefs — including Luca Gozzani, formerly of the Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri — prepare regionally inspired dishes as you sail the Moraleda Channel on the 28-person Atmosphere.

With chef and Slow Food devotee Marjorie Taylor, travelers visit a 16th-century biodynamic farm, learn charcuterie recipes with an artisan butcher and shop for gougères, a local pastry made with Gruyère.

what we love

A visit to the organic Gouda farm of Dutchman Marc de Ruiter, China’s only artisanal cheese maker, where you can sample flavors like cumin and herbes de Provence.

Villa chef David Palacios’s six-course dinner. Expect innovative dishes such as pan-fried quail with sweet-potato cream, fresh beans and crispy sage.

A helicopter trip from the Atmosphere to the shores of Lake Trebol, just southeast of Chiloé Island, for a picnic of spit-roasted lamb accompanied by citrusy pisco sours.

A stop at the vineyard of the renowned grand cru Romanée-Conti and the Château du Clos Vougeot, where wine was first made by Cistercian monks in the 12th century.

Hanoi Millennium If you have yet to experience Vietnam’s energetic capital, now is the time to go: this month marks Hanoi’s 1,000th anniversary, and there’s no better way to glimpse the city’s past, present and future than with a knowledgeable insider. We recommend Vietnam-based luxury travel operators Exotissimo, whose Celebrate 1,000 Years of Hanoi History tour (vietnam.exotissimo.com; four-day, three-night tours from US$821 per person) offers a century-by-century-vision of the city’s layered topography, and even includes accommodation in the historic wing of the illustrious 1901-built Sofitel Legend Metropole. 40

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on the radar

Hanoi Hoa Lo Prison

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f S h a n x i C u l i n a r y T o u r ( 2 ) ; © F l av i j u s / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; © M r a l l e n / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; © B o g d a n / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; c o u r t e s y o f e x o t i ss i m o

From China to Chile, here are four new culinary trips to excite your palate. By Ni na f e d r i z z i , nathali e J o r di and L A R A DAY


Spa Botanica @ The Sentosa Resort & Spa Tel +65 6275 0331 www.thesentosa.com

A Tropical Spa Like No Other


insider

| newsflash hotels

Below, three newly unveiled heritage properties in the region

SHANGHAI Following a US$73 million renovation, the legendary Fairmont Peace Hotel (20 Nanjing Rd. East; fairmont.com/peacehotel; 86-21/6321-6888; doubles from RMB2,600), originally The Cathay when it was built in 1929, has reopened on the Bund with 270 plush, modern rooms (think marble-clad hot tubs fronted by blu-ray-DVD–streaming LCD screens). An abundance of period details — copper balustrades, Art Deco lamps and, thrillingly, a rediscovered domed glass ceiling — recall the hotel’s swinging 1930’s heyday.

BANGKOK With just 17 rooms, the riverside Praya Palazzo (757/1 Somdej Prapinklao Soi 2, Bangyeekhan; 66-2/883-2998; prayapalazzo.com; doubles from Bt6,400), an Italian-styled mansion whose Palladian architecture dates from 1923, takes you back to a time when Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East. The beautifully restored interiors ooze character, with high ceilings, polished wooden floors and irresistibly elegant chaises longues. LUANG PRABANG Set to open this month, the 23-suite Alila Luang Prabang (Ban Mano, Old Prison Rd.; 856-71/ 260-777; alilahotels.com/luangprabang; doubles from US$170) melds existing French colonial structures, built between 1910 and 1920, with sleek contemporary lines in the unesco–listed town. Book into one of two corner pool suites, which feature an original tower and views of the surrounding mountains.

Cambodia’s Flavor Champions

Palm trees. Kampong Speu palm sugar, left. Kampot pepper on sale, below.

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What does a Cambodian pepper have in common with French champagne and Italian gorgonzola? Now, Kampot pepper enjoys geographical indication (GI) status, a registration that protects products’ one-of-a-kind, regional flavor and cultural traditions. Cultivated for centuries in the coastal province of Kampot, the delicately aromatic spice was prized by Parisian chefs during colonial times and has recently re-emerged on Cambodia’s revived culinary scene. Also recognized is Kampong Speu palm sugar, distilled from the sap of palm trees grown just outside of Phnom Penh. Cooked in huge, steaming vats to create a thick, caramel-hued syrup, it’s used to sweeten curries, soups and desserts, and to make wine. Both are widely available in the shops around Siem Reap’s old market.—n a o m i l i n d t

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a b o v e , f r o m t o p r i g h t : c o u r t e s y o f p r aya p a l a z z o ; c o u r t e s y o f A l i l a L u a n g P r a b a n g ; c o u r t e s y o f fa i r m o n t p e a c e h o t e l ( 2 ) b e l o w, f r o m t o p ; c o u r t e sy o f m a d a m s a c h i k o a n g k o r c o o o k i e s ( 2 ) ; c o u r t e sy o f s e n t e u r s d 'a n g k o r ( 2 )

Asia’s Historic Stays


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| newsflash

CULTUREWATCH

Our pick of contemporary Asian arts and culture, on view around the world

An installation by Ai Weiwei.

Fiona Tan’s Rise and Fall.

Jazzmandu, in Nepal.

Author William Dalrymple.

Jang Chang, right.

ART London Proof that Chinese contemporary art has lost none of its luster: this month, Beijing conceptualist Ai Weiwei becomes the first ever Asia-Pacific artist to occupy the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern (Oct. 12–May 2; tate.org.uk). Part of the crowd-pulling Unilever Series — whose memorable installations include Anish Kapoor’s sweeping Marsyas sculpture and Olafur Eliasson’s mesmeric The Weather Project — the show is set to be anything from provocative to awe-inspiring. Washington, D.C. Indonesia-born, Amsterdam-based multimedia artist Fiona Tan is known for her intimate video and photographic works exploring identity and dislocation. “Rise and Fall,” her first major U.S. show at the Smithsonian’s Freer & Sackler Galleries (asia.si.edu; through Jan. 16), plays on these themes, using double-screen projections to gently disrupt viewers’ notions of time and memory. Gwangju, South Korea Featuring more than 100 artists, the eighth Gwangju Biennale (through Nov. 7; 10000lives.org) delves into the role of the image in contemporary culture, from traditional portraits to electronic avatars. FILM Berlin The German capital’s hip Kreuzberg district is the perfect backdrop to Asian Hot Shots Berlin (Oct. 20–24; asianhotshotsfestival.com), a cuttingedge film and video-art festival specializing in Southeast Asian cinema. Its third edition puts the spotlight on

Singapore: don’t miss Glen Goie’s Blue Mansion, a send-down of the city-state’s hi-so set, and Ho Tzu Nyen’s Earth, an experimental collaboration with German electronic musicians. Pusan With a guest list featuring the likes of Oliver Stone and Juliette Binoche, the fifteenth Pusan International Film Festival (Oct. 7–15; piff.org) promises to deliver plenty of international star factor while highlighting Asia’s up-and-comers. MUSIC Nepal It’s hard to turn down an invite to a jazz party in the Himalayas. Jazzmandu (Oct. 29–Nov. 2; jazzmandu.org) is exactly that, with international musicians such as Brazil’s Capim Seco and Mumbai’s Adrian D’Souza Quartet, and Nepalese acts like free-wheeling ensemble Urjazz. Adventure specialists Smiling Albino (smilingalbino.com) offer festival-tailored trips from US$2,000 per person. LITERARY FESTIVALS Bali In its third edition, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (Oct. 6–10; ubudwritersfestival.com) promises yet another dazzling lineup of literary talent from Asia and abroad, including Louis de Bernières, Nam Le, Anne Enright, William Dalrymple, Tash Aw and Ma Jian. Maldives The famed Welsh book festival extends its global reach with the brand-new Hay Festival Maldives (Oct. 14–17; hayfestival.com). Look out for big names like Ian McEwan and Jung Chang alongside local luminaries Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed and Fathmath Nahula. —l.d.

Canvas Chic Eco-conscious iPad lovers, take note. Freitag’s new F23 iPad sleeve (freitag.ch; US$80) will look after the planet and your favorite handy gadget. Made from recycled truck tarpaulins, the sleeve is equal parts stylish and functional: we love their bright, bold colors and rugged feel, as well as the velvety fabric lining that protects screens from scratches and smudge marks. It’s even waterproof—don’t be surprised if the sleeve outlasts the product it was designed for.—l . x . 44

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tech

f r o m t o p : c o u r t e sy o f A i w e i w e i ; c o u r t e sy o f f i o n a ta n ; c o u r t e sy o f s m i l i n g a l b i n o ; c o u r t e sy o f u b u d w r i t e r s & r e a d e r s f e s t i va l ; c o u r t e s y o f h ay f e s t i va l m a l d i v e s ; c o u r t e s y o f f r e i ta g

a r t b e at


on the scene

Two Stars, Reborn

c lo c kw i s e f ro m to p l e f t: co u rt esy o f n a h m ; co u rt esy o f k e m p i n s k i ; co u rt esy o f n a h m

Clockwise from top left: Chef David Thompson, at Nahm; a frozen creation at Sraa Bua by Kiin Kiin; Nahm’s interior.

Not long ago, you had to fly to Europe to sample the world’s only two Michelin-starred Thai restaurants: Nahm, in London, and Kiin Kiin, in Copenhagen. Now that’s changed, with the chefs behind each making their long-awaited Bangkok debuts. Replacing Cy’an at the Metropolitan Bangkok, David Thompson’s Nahm (27 South Sathorn Rd.; metropolitan.bangkok.como.bz; 66/2625-3388; dinner for two Bt3,000) serves up the Australian chef ’s superb takes on regional Thai cuisine, using top-notch ingredients sourced from around the country (think coconuts from Chumpohn, in the south, and organic free-range chicken from Doi Kham, in the north). Don’t miss the blue-swimmer-crab curry with coconut and turmeric, splashed with the juice of southern limes. At the new Siam Kempinski, Sraa Bua by Kiin Kiin (991/9 Rama 1 Rd.; kempinskibangkok.com; 66-2/162-9000; five-course dinner for two Bt6,000) is set to showcase the modern Thai creations of Lertchai Treetawatchaiwong, a native of Bangkok’s Chinatown, and Danish partner Henrik Yde Andersen. Expect dishes like orchid salad with grilled beef and mint, and frozen red curry with lobster and green coriander seeds.–l.d.


insider

| the expert

Fin Friendly. Marine consultant and avid diver Charles Frew speaks with T+L about re-gluing coral in the Maldives, diving with sharks in Palau and his latest adventure: a year-long eco road trip. By LILI TAN

■ How do you reconstruct a coral reef? “The Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa in the Maldives was designed so that some of the water villas were situated on the reef. By the time they asked me to go to there to evaluate in July 2007, it was too late to try and move the villas back—they had already started digging. I set about regluing 200 coral columns, using aquarium-trade underwater epoxy. Where they hadn’t started building on the coral yet, I had to “translocate” it to an area with a similar depth, sunlight exposure, water clarity, current and marine life. Using excavators, I very carefully moved 150 tons of coral to a bay about a kilometer away. A year later, after they’d finished building, I moved the coral back in.”

maldives

■ Are you worried the Shangri-La reef will get damaged now that you’re not there? “Unfortunately, it already has: the day after the resort opened—I don’t want to label anyone as bad tourists, but—some mainland Chinese were walking on the coral. It was regenerating, and considering coral grows only two millimeters per year, it was just a bit alarming to see.”

Marine Dream Clockwise from top: Charles Frew; a hawksbill turtle in the Maldives; diving with black-tip reef sharks; snorkeling at the Shangri-La Villingili.

■ Best part of the experience? “When we finished all the coral restoration, the baby black-tip sharks came back and we knew our job was done. Sharks are at the top of the food chain, so they were happily feeding on fish in the reef and everything was in balance. Plus, the guests love seeing the little black tips coming.” ■ How did shark diving become a hobby? “My first ever dive with a shark was when in Indonesia in 1988. I was working at a dive center, and I got a phone call from these two Americans working on an oil rig saying they wanted to go shark diving. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I went to the local market and bought some chickens. We went out, cut up the chicken and threw it in the water. Nothing happened. We went for the dive anyway, and about 30 meters down a massive tiger shark came out of nowhere. I’ve never seen two guys swim so fast. Jaws struck fear into everyone, but the more you dive, the more you understand, play with them and see sharks in a friendlier way.”

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c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p : c o u r t e sy o f a s i at i c m a r i n e . c o m ( 2 ) ; M a r k u s G o r t z ; © Q l d i a n | D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; Co u rt esy o f S h a n g r i - L a V i l l i n g i l i

■ How does it look? “Some of it looks a bit artificial still because it hasn’t really grown yet. For one of the villas, I’ve created an underwater coral garden—it’s called “seascaping.” When you lie in the hammock there, you can see Nemos swimming in the reef right underneath you.”


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■ Where’s a good place to go shark diving? “Last year Palau designated their waters shark-free fishing. It was the first place in the world to do this. The government realized the tourism revenue they could get for diving, and shark diving in particular is just immense. There’s nothing worse than going to a dive site and having the guides say, “Oh, we used to have sharks,” or, “We can’t guarantee you’ll see them” because it’s overfished. Sharks can live for 50 to 70 years, but a shark’s fin is just a one-off thing.” ■ so you don’t eat shark’s-fin soup? “Absolutely not. Besides the fact that it kills sharks, it doesn’t do anything for you. There’s more nutrition in eating your own toenails. I’ve got friends who are adamant about having shark’s fin at their wedding, and I don’t want to lose friendships. I’ve given them shark’s-fin wedding cards available from various organizations that explain to guests why they’re not having shark’s fin. They can also donate the money from not having the shark’s fin to a certain cause.” ■ What other eco-conscious tendencies do you have? “I set off in May for a year, to drive in my diesel Hilux from Hong Kong to Portugal and stop along the way to talk to people about climate change… I’m not staying in any hotels—just a roof tent and solar panels.” ✚

Underwater Revival From top: Coral being translocated; a prime specimen; the picturesque results of seascaping.


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| see it

south korea

Out of the Box. Think

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Corrugated Designs From top: Ocean Scope overlooks Incheon’s waterfront; the containers combine observation space with galleries; inside Platoon Kunsthalle.

argo containers are known

more for their ruthless industrial efficiency than their core aesthetic value. But across South Korea, these corrugated-metal boxes— used for transporting freight or, at best, as temporary low-cost shelters in rural areas—are being recycled and re-envisioned as dynamic hubs for art, culture and design. An early entry was the iconic albeit short-lived Papertainer Museum, a breathtaking exhibition pavilion constructed in 2006 by Korean publisher Design House; made entirely of containers and paper columns that could be dismantled and reassembled, it signaled the start of a trend that today straddles creative, utilitarian and eco-friendly functions. Below, our pick of eye-popping structures.

■ OCEAN SCOPE Shipping containers on docklands are no surprise, but Korean designers Minsoo Lee and Keehyun Ahn of AnL Studio break the mold with Ocean Scope, a public observatory that uses these modular steel stacks as a key design element. Since its completion this February, the striking architecture is fast becoming a landmark of Incheon. Nestled by the futuristic waterfront of Songdo International 48

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City, the 91-square-meter structure features five containers in total: three, inclined at angles of 10, 30 and 50 degrees, respectively, have ascending stairwells that lead to panoramic vistas of the harbor below, while another two serve as exhibition spaces for art shows. The upshot? Not only does the building resonate powerfully with Incheon’s status as one of South Korea’s busiest ports, but it also offers spectacular views of the illuminated Incheon Bridge at night. 30-9 Songdo-dong (near Central Park), Yeonsu-gu, Incheon. ■ APAP OPEN SCHOOL Inaugurated in Anyang this July, the APAP Open School is the latest project by New York City’s lot-ek (pronounced low-tech), a firm legendary for transforming used industrial culture into innovative urban architecture. Perched on a hillside at the edge of the Anyang River, the bright yellow, logo-emblazoned structure doubles as an open art school and public exhibition center, and cuts a dramatic silhouette against the surrounding landscape of identical high-rise apartment blocks. Its base incorporates the existing Hakun Park pedestrian walkway and features a covered open-air amphitheater as well

f r o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f g i l- h w a n g c h a n g ; c o u r t e s y o f i n - h e k w o n ; c o u r t e s y o f p l a t o o n k u n s t h a l l e

containers are just for moving cargo? Not in Korea, where they’re adding an edgy, unconventional and artful dimension to urban landscapes. By LIANG XINYI


f r o m t o p : c o u r t e sy o f p l at o o n k u n s t h a l l e ; c o u r t e sy o f k u n s t h a l l e g wa n g j u ; c o u r t e sy o f a pa p o p e n s c h o o l

as a viewing platform that overlooks the river; the next level—eight interlocking containers that hover three meters above ground—is a flexible lecture and exhibition space that includes meeting rooms and artist studios, while an outdoor observatory deck lies suspended over the rooftop like a diving board. Hakun Park, 1585 Burim-dong Dongan-gu, Anyang, Kyunggi-do; 82-31/389-5400; apap.anyang.go.kr. ■ PLATOON KUNSTHALLE
 Inspired by Platoon Cultural Development’s flagship project in Berlin, Platoon Kunsthalle caused something of a stir when it opened its doors two years ago in Seoul’s Cheongdam district, an upscale neighborhood known mainly for its luxury brand shops, commercial galleries and sleek design houses. Twenty-eight cargo containers were piled together to form a three-story, 415-square-meter facility that houses an events hall, a library, artists’ studios, a restaurant and a rooftop bar, not to mention plenty of communal areas. Today, the space is a household name: its avant-garde design, industrial interiors and arty, underground vibe are one of Cheongdam’s main draws, and Seoul’s creative classes flock to its events, from DJ nights on Thursdays and Fridays to flea markets on the first Saturday night of each month, and exhibitions by street artists such as Tilman Porschuetz and VS Force. 97-22, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; 82-2/3447-1191; kunsthalle.com.

Tom Bueschemann. The 29 recyclable containers are stacked and arranged in the form of a quadratic cube, with the façade painted black for a slick, sophisticated look. The 1,019-squaremeter complex houses a concert stage, an art library and lounge areas, while a video wall—a linear alignment of 11 containers on the top floor—showcases video and multimedia art installations. As part of its opening celebrations until November 7, the center has joined forces with Swiss art group Etoy on a series of exhibitions that explore the relationship between information, art, memory, time and death in the digital age. Not to be missed. Central Plaza, Dong-gu, Gwangju City; 82-62/236-0730; kunsthalle-gwangju.com. ✚

Art Contained From top: Inside the raucous Platoon Kunsthalle; the sophisticated, dark look of Kunsthalle Gwangju; urban innovation at APAP Open School.

■ KUNSTHALLE GWANGJU 
 Gwangju, already known for its buzzy contemporary art biennales, saw its cultural scene revved up yet another notch with the launch of Kunsthalle Gwangju this August. A joint initiative developed by Platoon Cultural Development and the South Korean government, the project offers visitors a chance to interact with local and international artists, according to Platoon founders Christoph Frank and t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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| preservation

Modernism, Reinvented. A groundbreaking retrospective

in Phnom Penh sheds light on the little-known genius—and fraught legacy—of the father of New Khmer Architecture. By NAOMI LINDT

cambodia

Architecture Revealed Clockwise from above left: Molyvann’s indebtedness to Le Corbusier is evident in his National Sports Complex design; Independence Fountain, another Molyvann icon in Phnom Penh; Independence Monument; a bird’s-eye view of Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

in 1953, Cambodia experienced its most prolific cultural reawakening since the Angkorean era. Musicians performed psychedelic Khmer rock at wild parties, filmmakers produced dozens of pictures and architects forged a distinct Modernist style that blended Western design principles with Cambodian sensibilities. Called New Khmer Architecture, the movement was led by Vann Molyvann, a Parisian-schooled Le Corbusier disciple and the man behind Phnom Penh’s iconic Independence Monument, National Sports Complex (better known as the Olympic Stadium) and Chaktomuk Conference Hall. But in the years of turmoil that ensued, Molyvann, like many of Cambodia’s greatest minds, would fall into obscurity. On a visit to Cambodia in 2004, Bill Greaves stumbled upon Molyvann’s works. For the New York architect, it was love at first sight. “I was so astonished by the quality of his buildings,” he says. “They are so formally expressive, but in every shape or gesture, there’s a simple human need that’s being met—like the need for cool air, or shade, or a sense of the sublime. It’s a very moving juxtaposition.” So when he returned a few years later and learned that the buildings were being demolished to make way for shiny, foreign-built high-rises, Greaves took matters into his own hands. In 2008, he moved to Phnom Penh to launch the Van Molyvann Project (vannmolyvannproject.org), hoping to preserve the architect’s brilliance for future generations. 50

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For the past two years, assisted by teams of foreign and Cambodian volunteers, and funded by donations, grants and his own savings, Greaves has painstakingly documented 11 of Molyvann’s remaining structures, armed with little more than laser measures, pencils and paper. The team has created three-dimensional images of these buildings and constructed eight scale models, which are on view to the public this month at Phnom Penh’s French Cultural Center (218 St. 184, Phnom Penh; 855-23/213-124; ccf-cambodge. org) until October 23. Along with architectural drawings and historical photographs, this first-ever retrospective of Molyvann’s work will finally draw attention to the buildings’ plight—and hopefully increase their chance for survival. ✚ c o u r t e s y o f V a n n M o ly v a n n P r i v a t e C o l l e c t i o n ( 4 )

I

n the two decades following its independence


A KALEIDOSCOPE OF CULTURE AND HERITAGE BECKONS

Discover the many facets and rich cultures of our ethnic communities when you stay at Village Hotels & Residences. Located in the heart of Singapore始s diverse enclaves, our exclusive hotels and residences offer modern comforts with friendly and attentive service wherever you stay.


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| detour Communal Stays From left: Author Alex Kerr; Chiiori’s main room decked out in red pine; traditionally, nearby villages on the area’s steep hillsides scratched out a living growing hardy grains like millet, barley and soba.

japan

The House of the Flute. A lovingly restored mountain farmhouse

D

Shikoku, an island southwest of Kyoto, you’ll find a picturesque minka, or old-style, farmhouse. Perched atop a misty ravine, it looks like a hermit’s cottage in an Edo-period ink painting—though this isn’t the dwelling of a recluse, but of a team of ecotourism volunteers who welcome visitors. The thatched-roof home is called Chiiori, or House of the Flute. Constructed around 1720, it’s one of the oldest houses in the Iya Valley, a remote zigzag of ravines settled by samurai defeated in a civil war. Modernization left Iya behind, and when American Alex Kerr found the house in the 1970’s, it had been long abandoned. Kerr, author of the acclaimed memoir Lost Japan, has spent decades restoring it—the roof has been re-thatched, the cedar frame replaced, and electricity and a toilet added. But though the place now operates as a nonprofit organization, the house remains basically as it was when shoguns ruled Japan. “Chiiori is a place of magic. It has this grip on your soul,” says Kerr. “It’s finally become what I dreamed it would be—a beacon for people to appreciate nature, culture, heritage and architecture.” Guests can experience that magic themselves from Fridays to Tuesdays, when Chiiori welcomes up to seven visitors overnight. Expect to prepare your own meals with vegetarian

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eep in the mountains of

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ingredients like soba noodles, daikon (radishes) and organic rice, then dine by the sunken hearth and trade stories with other travelers under the ancient, cathedral-like rafters. At bedtime, futons are laid on the red-pine floor of the living room. After drinking in the morning mountain views—along with the delicious homemade bancha green tea—it’s easy to forget the outside world. Restful as it is, there’s plenty for visitors to do. Volunteer by cutting thatch in high mountain passes or working on nearby soba fields. You can also learn how to make soba noodles and straw waraji sandals (usually worn by Buddhist monks) or how to use mountain herbs in cooking. Hiking opportunities include tripping your way over footbridges fashioned from vines, or ascending 1,954-meter Mount Tsurugi. Inevitably, you’ll How to Get There descend to the modern world, but you won’t soon From Kyoto, a four-hour train or bus ride will take you to Oshima forget the House of the Tunnel (return tickets ¥22,000), Flute. NPO Chiiori Trust, about 5 kilometers downhill from 209 Tsurui, Higashi Iya, Chiiori, where staff can pick up guests for a ¥1,000 fee. For other Miyoshi City, Tokushima transport options, visit the Prefecture; 81-883/885-290; Chiiori website. chiiori.org; call for rates. ✚

f r o m l e f t: c o u r t e sy o f A l e x K e r r ; t o r u m u r a m at s u ( 2 )

in Japan will take you back in time 300 years. By TIM HORNYAK


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| eat Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, in San Francisco.

A Movable Feast. Looking for the world’s most authentic nibbles?

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noodles in Singapore, juicy döner in Istanbul or the best-dressed huaraches in Mexico City, markets are ideal places not just to shop—and to soak up local color—but also to eat. Somehow food just seems to taste better snagged from a kiosk or roving cart and eaten on a bench surrounded by a riot of produce. Read on for our favorite bites at the world’s most colorful mercados, marchés and bazaars.

Daniel Patterson’s Il Cane Rosso (Marketplace Shop #41; lunch for two US$25) has terrific fried-egg breakfast sandwiches and note-perfect salads. An outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee Co. (Ferry Bldg. Shop #7; coffee for two US$6) delivers exotic micro-roasts and ethereal Belgian waffles. On Saturdays, local chefs queue up at Primavera Tamales (snacks for two US$18) for organic-masa mole tamales doused with roasted tomato salsa. 1 Ferry Bldg., The Embarcadero; 1-415/983-8030; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com.

San Francisco | Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market With an unbeatable waterfront location, this is much more than a petting zoo for baby carrots and heirloom tomatoes. It’s also a lesson in sustainable agriculture, drawing some 80 Bay Area purveyors on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Even on non-farmers’ market days, the Ferry Building itself is chockablock with fabulous edibles, from briny Tomales Bay oysters from Hog Island to lavender-flavored chocolates from Recchiuti Confections. Best Bites Chef

London | Borough Market Crammed with stalls, pubs, shops and small restaurants, Borough Market is London’s grazing central. Come early on Thursday or Friday and avoid the Saturday crush. Best Bites At the outdoor grill operated by Brindisa (Middle Market; sandwiches for two £6.80), the smoky chorizo-andarugula sandwiches on crusty ciabatta rolls are well worth the wait. Or perhaps you’d rather indulge in seared scallops on a bacony bean-sprout stirfry from Shellseekers (Middle »

hether you’re after mouthwatering

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© D a v i d W a k e ly / w w w . d a v i d w a k e ly. c o m

ANYA VON BREMZEN finds 10 global markets where the eating is easy


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| eat

Market; scallops for two £9), whose owner dives for the scallops himself. For dessert, there’s rich St. Lucian chocolate from newcomer Rabot Estate (2 Stoney St.; dessert for two £5). 8 Southwark St.; 44-20/7407-1002; boroughmarket.org.uk. Madrid | Mercado de San Miguel Housed in a 1916 Beaux-Arts building, San Miguel market stood abandoned for years—until a renovation in 2009 gave it a new lease on life. Now it’s a lively neighborhood food destination with 33 shopping and dining stalls, plus a buzzing central café area. Best Bites Sherries drawn straight from barrels are accompanied by Andalusian olives and nuts roasted in a wood-burning oven at El Yantar del Ayer (#22–25; drinks and snacks for two €5.50). Pinkleton & Wine (#68–71; drinks for two €6.25) offers some two dozen sparkling wines by the glass—just right with the fines de claire oysters from bivalve and caviar purveyor Daniel Sorlut (#67; from €0.90 per oyster). Plaza de San Miguel; mercadodesanmiguel.es. Paris | Marché des Enfants Rouges Besides trading in colorful produce and lusty charcuterie, this petite marché in the Marais (one of the oldest in Paris) is the spot for an affordable meal assembled from the variety of ethnic prepared-food stands. Best Bites La Rotisserie 56

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Enfants Rouges (39 Rue de Bretagne; lunch for two €18) serves up crisp-skinned rotisserie Bresse chicken with potatoes and a glass of vin rouge, while Le Traiteur Marocain (56 Rue de Bretagne; lunch for two €20) is a must for its bracing spiced lamb-and-prune tagine and fluffy couscous royale. 39 Rue de Bretagne, Third Arr.; no phone.

Palermo, Italy | La Vucciria Markets don’t get more pungent and raucous than Palermo’s labyrinth of narrow passageways piled with produce. Feisty matrons haggle with vendors in thick Sicilian dialects for the best pomegranates or tangy Pantelleria capers. Best Bites Pane c’a meusa, the unexpectedly tasty spleen sandwich sold at almost every stall, is a Vucciria initiation rite, but the squeamish can opt for addictive panelle, puffy chickpea fritters. For a sit-down lunch, snag a balcony seat at the very un-Chinese Shanghai Trattoria (34 Vicolo Mezzani; lunch for two €28), known for its eggplant caponata, pasta con le sarde, and a raffish setting straight out of a mafia flick. Between Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Piazza San Domenico; no phone. Istanbul | Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) With more than 4,000 shops spread out over 65 covered streets, Istanbul’s 15th-century bazaar is the place to stock

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c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : © B o b W r i g h t : F l i c k r ; © E l e n a R o s t u n o va | D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; © A h m e d Es a / F l i c k r . c o m ; © J g a u n i o n / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m

Market Finds Clockwise from top left: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne; a profusion of fresh vegetables at Borough Market, in London; Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel is a gourmet’s paradise; Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar offers more than just food.


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| eat The Grand Bazaar, in Istanbul.

masa cakes) with toppings such as chorizo and carne asada. Migas Arnulfo (171 Mercado de Comidas; snacks for two M$50) is wildly popular for its sopa de migas, a restorative bread soup. Anillo de Circunvalación between General Anaya and Adolfo Gurrión; 52-55/5522-7250. São Paulo, Brazil | Mercado Municipal Paulistano Tangy olives, linguica sausages and salt cod (legacies of Portuguese rule) sit cheek by jowl with native tropical fruit and Amazonian chilies at this 1930’s market known for its cathedral-worthy stained-glass dioramas. Best Bites Eating a piled-sky-high mortadella sandwich is a market ritual; for the definitive version, try the crowded upstairs Hocca Bar (5 Mezanino; lunch for two BRL24), also known for its flaky pastel de bacalhau (salt-cod pastries). At Ki Peixe (Box 2/8; oysters for two BRL24), big, flat oysters are shucked to order for patrons while they wait for their fish to be cleaned. The chocolaty açai-berry shake is a standout at Banana Juice (22 Rua H; juices from BRL3.50). 306 Rua da Cantareira; 55-11/3313-3365; mercadomunicipal.com.br.

Mexico City | Mercado de la Merced Three dozen kinds of dried chilies and mole pastes? Pungent Oaxacan cheese, stacks of nopals, and the mingled scents of guavas and epazote? It’s all here at the gigantic Merced, which spans several city blocks and has more than 3,000 vendors from across Mexico. Best Bites Abraham (#24; snacks for two M$50) trades in delicious huaraches (griddled 58

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Singapore | Tiong Bahru Market Sure you’ll find all the Asian market essentials at this circular 1950’s building, but the real reason to visit is the second-floor hawker center with more than 80 mouthwatering stalls. Best Bites Char siu at the Roasted Pig Specialist (#02-38; snacks for two S$4) is a must. Follow with soft springy steamed rice cakes topped with fried preserved radish at the iconic Jian Bo Shui Kueh (#02-05; snacks for two S$2). Still hungry? A plate of slippery rice noodles loaded with Chinese sausage, eggs and fishcake nuggets at Fried Kway Teow (#02-11; snacks for two S$5.40) should do the trick. 30 Seng Poh Rd.; no phone. ✚

© Ahmet Ihsan Ariturk / Dreamstime.com

up on kilims and 24-karat bangles—the army of vendors needs to be fed, which explains the market’s delicious food finds. Best Bites Goldsmiths, rug lords and copperware kings pack into the homey Subasi (48 Çarsikapi Nuruosmaniye Caddesi; lunch for two €23) for white beans in tomato sauce and chicken stuffed with rice. To sample the ultimate meat wrap, grab a succulent döner at Dönerci Sahin Usta (Nuruosmaniye 7 Kiliçilar Sokak; lunch for two €9), near the Nuruosmaniye Gate. At the picturesque Cebeci Han caravansary, Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu (92 Iç Cebaci Han; kebabs for two €9) serves the city’s tastiest kebabs. Between Nuruosmaniye, Mercan and Beyazit; 90-212/519-1248; kapalicarsi.org.tr.

Melbourne | Queen Victoria Market Open since 1878, “Queen Vic” is an over-1,000-stall melting pot of Southeast Asian greens, Italian cheeses, kangaroo salami and Tasmanian scallops. A two-hour market tour (qvm.com.au; tours from A$32) includes chats with vendors and generous food samplings. Best Bites Perk up with an aromatic espresso at Coffea (521 Elizabeth St.; coffee for two A$6.50). Then try the bratwurst sandwich (spicy or mild) offered with five kinds of mustard at the beloved Bratwurst Shop (Shop 99/100, Dairy Produce Hall; sandwiches from A$6.50). Don’t miss the flaky multilayered börek filled with everything from spiced lamb to leeks at the Mezze Table (Shop 95/96, Dairy Produce Hall; snacks for two A$6.50). Fresh-squeezed passion-fruit juice from Market Juice (Shop 25, The Shed; juices for two A$3.20) is a perfect palate cleanser. 513 Elizabeth St.; 61-3/9320-5822; qvm.com.au.


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| quick getaway

A Taste of Laos. In the countryside near

Luang Prabang, discover a delicious culinary escape with a difference. By ROBYN ECKHARDT

V

laos

isitors to Laos’ former royal capital seeking a culinary experience with a conscience need look no further than Amantaka. Since early this year, the sumptuous Amanresorts outpost has partnered with Living Land, an organic farm just 20 minutes from the former royal capital, to offer cooking classes in a bucolic setting. Four years ago three Laotians, concerned about the overuse of chemicals in agriculture and the loss of arable land to slash-and-burn practices, set out to prove that well cared-for land can maintain its productivity indefinitely. Living Land is the result, with two hectares devoted to vegetables—rows of native mint and pakkat, or flowering mustard, alternating with introduced vegetables like beetroot and rhubarb—eight hectares of rice paddies, and flower and fish farms in the works. Fallow periods and crop rotation keep the land fertile, while on the farm, crops

Farm to Table From top: Amantaka head chef Phobpanya Pornsanae leads a cooking class at Living Land; the end results are reliably gourmet; harvesting ingredients from the farm.

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are nourished with organic compost and shielded from pests with natural insecticides made from ingredients such as tobacco and chilies. A community enterprise, Living Land employs people from ethnicminority villages and youngsters unable to find work in the tourist industry. For Amantaka, partnering with the farm was a no-brainer. “We place a high priority on community involvement,” explains General Manager Gary Tyson, “as well as on giving our guests the most genuine experience possible.” The hands-on classes, run by Amantaka’s head chef Phobpanya “Pob” Pornsanae, start with a tour of the farm. After gathering ingredients, students—who don’t need to be staying at the resort—head to a petite open-air timber pavilion set amid the vegetables, where they chop and stir dishes such as sour curry, green papaya salad and pork in coconut milk. “Traditional” is the buzzword: spice paste is ground in a mortar, soup cooked in a clay-pot set on a dao lou (charcoal-fired brazier), and sticky rice steamed in the cone-shaped basket called huat kao. For those seeking insight into local ingredients, a pre-class walk with the enthusiastic Pob through Talat Pa Kham, Luang Prabang’s buzzy morning market, is a must. After working up a sweat in the “kitchen,” students retire to a bananaand palm-tree–shaded sala fronted by a peaceful pond. Here, with a view of water buffalo wallowing in paddies stretching to the base of forest-carpeted hills, characteristic Aman luxury kicks in: the thoroughly Lao lunch is paired with a range of complementary wines. 55/3 Kingkitsarath Rd.; 856-71/860-333; amanresorts.com; private classes from US$103.50 per person, US$138 with market tour, including transport to and from Amantaka to Living Land farm. ✚ Photographed by David Hagerman


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| adventure

Fresh Air Clockwise from right: A temple on Mount Tai, one of China’s most sacred peaks; a cable car offers a shortcut to the top; Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, in Yunnan province.

Take a Hike. Intrepid travelers are seeking

out China’s outdoors and being rewarded with breathtaking rambles. Here, six top-tier trails, from day hikes to epic treks. By CRAIG SIMONS

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WARM-UPS | 1 DAY MOUNT TAI, SHANDONG One of China’s most important Taoist mountains, Mount Tai offers a head-on collision with China’s burgeoning outdoor culture. The 1,545-meter peak in China’s eastern Shandong province boasts a veritable Who’s Who of past visitors, including Confucius, several emperors and Mao Zedong. A

clockwise from left: Leo Chen/ ChinaStockhouse; Craig Simons (2)

china


f o r m t o p : C o u r t e s y o f T h o m a s G a lv e z ( 2 ) ; C r a i g S i m o n s

15-kilometer roundtrip from the base passes a dozen temples and provides a calf-muscle workout up 6,660 steps. After you catch your breath on top, check into a hotel and get up with the crowds to watch the sunrise; best of the bunch is the three-star mountaintop Shenqi Hotel (10 Taishan Tianjie, Tai’an; 86-538/822-3866; doubles from RMB1,000), which has a good restaurant, clean rooms and negotiable rates if you call in advance. Like China’s other holy peaks—Yellow, Hua and Emei mountains among them— the trail is crowded. But descend its back side for beautiful, less-traveled routes. T+L Tip The trailhead, at Hongmen Gate in Tai’an Town, is easily accessible from Beijing by train. The fastest is the D29, which leaves South Station at 7:47 a.m. daily and arrives in Tai’an before noon. LASHI HAI, YUNNAN For one of China’s most relaxed hikes, visit Lashi Hai, a lake in China’s southwestern Yunnan province that’s home to more than 70 species of migratory birds including hooded cranes, black storks and whooper swans. Winter is the best time to see birds, and visitors can add a few days in nearby Lijiang, a storybook town of cobblestone lanes and, these days, many tourists, at the base of the 5,596-meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. T+L Tip XinTuo Ecotourism (ecotourism.com.cn; day hikes from RMB400 including transport and guide) offers hikes and tours ranging from short excursions to weeklong trips, or take a 35-minute taxi ride from Lijiang and explore the lake on your own.

stretch of wall northwest of Beijing. Beijing Hikers (beijinghikers.com; hikes from RMB320) offers regular group trips and private tours to picturesque sections near Beijing. T+L Tip Some parts of the wall cut through military bases and other restricted zones, so be sure to check with a guidebook or local expert to plot your route. MOUNT KHAWAKARPO, YUNNAN Hikers can spend anywhere from a few days to more than a week on this Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage route in Yunnan. Starting by the Mekong River, the trail wraps around the 6,800-meter Mount Khawakarpo, the tallest peak in Yunnan, and crosses five major passes. With an altitude change of 2,700 meters, it transects forests, pristine alpine meadows and picture-perfect villages chock full of stupas and monasteries; lucky hikers spot Asiatic black bears and red pandas. A word of caution: pilgrimage trails aren’t marked, so non-Tibetan speakers should hire a guide. Try Khampa Caravan (khampacaravan.com; seven-day trips from RMB7,300 per person for groups of three), a Tibetan-run company based in Yunnan. T+L Tip Visit in spring or autumn, when you’ll be joined by many friendly Tibetans who follow the circuit in search of good karma. »

Land of Vistas From above: A hiker climbs the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, northwest of Beijing; the view from the Shenqi Hotel; the Confucian cemetery in Qufu, a town near Mount Tai’s base.

LEG STRETCHERS | 2-7 DAYS THE GREAT WALL Actually a series of walls and towers built across northern China over some 2,000 years, the Great Wall provides everything from great day hikes to week-long rambles. One of the best routes is a two-day trek along Jiankou, or the “Arrow Notch,” a 400-year-old t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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| adventure

Slice of Life Clockwise from below: Tibetan yak herders roam the valleys close to Mount Everest; hikers on Mount Tai; a gate at its summit; Yunnan’s landscape.

LONG MARCHES | 12-14 days MOUNT GONGA, SICHUAN This epic 12-day trek loops around the magnificent 7,500-meter Mount Gonga, the tallest mountain in Sichuan, offering views of a vertical drop bigger than Mount Everest’s. The trek crosses three passes—the highest rises to 4,600 meters—and takes hikers past glacial lakes and through virgin forests that protect wild boar and pheasants. Because the route follows unmarked trails, expert guides such as WildChina (wildchina.com; 12-day trips from US$4,920 per person) are strongly recommended. T+L Tip Dozens of rhododendron species flower in July and August, while autumn offers stunning colors and snow-clad peaks. MOUNT EVEREST KANGSHUNG FACE, TIBET If you want to see the big E without the Nepal crowds, here’s your ticket. This challenging two-week trek skirts Tibetan villages, crosses 5,000-meter passes and winds through one of the world’s highest-altitude forests. The trail starts where a two-lane highway from Lhasa to Nepal meets the Quomolangma National Nature Reserve (Quomolangma is the Tibetan name for Mount Everest). Highlights include killer views of Mount Everest from the 5,348-meter Langma Pass, scrambling over Everest’s Kangshung Glacier and camping in the shadow of Mount Makalu, the world’s fifth-tallest mountain. It’s possible to hike the route using Trekking in Tibet: A Traveler’s Guide by Gary McCue, but bring a compass—nomadic yak herders use hundreds of trails, and it’s easy to get lost. Several companies, including WildChina and Khampa Caravan, can arrange guided trips from around US$4,000 per person. T+L Tip The hike can be shortened by driving to Kharta, a small Tibetan village near the Nepalese border. ✚

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From Top: Craig Simons (3); Bottom: Leo Chen/ ChinaStockhouse

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| museum

Close-up Israel. Jerusalem’s

Israel Museum director James Snyder opens his little black book on the holy land. By david kaufman

israel

D

uring his 14 years at the Israel Museum,

James Snyder has helped shape the institution into the Middle East’s most important repository of biblical and modern art. Case in point: A restored 18th-century synagogue from Suriname is juxtaposed with new works by Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson. “The Israel Museum helps deliver a message about common heritage,” says Snyder. Here, some of his favorite local experiences.

ANTIQUES “At the Ottoman-era Jaffa Flea Market, in Tel Aviv, you can find remnants of Israel’s waves of immigration. I buy ­vintage items such as 1920’s light fixtures, and we always stop for lunch at Dr. Shakshuka (3 Beit Eshel St.; 972-57/944-4193; lunch for two 76ILS), for shakshuka (a ­Tunisian egg, tomato and red pepper stew) or the Old Man and the Sea (83 Kedem St.; 972-3/681-8699; lunch for two 115ILS), for grilled fish.”

FOOD MARKET “Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda (Jaffa Rd. and Agrippas St.) is where everyone goes for fruits and vegetables. It’s a melting pot of social and cultural commerce. For lunch I always order a chopped salad with feta, peppers, onions and olives, and a side of house-made hummus at Café Mizrachi (12 Shezif St.; 972-2/624-2105; lunch for two 76ILS).”

faces of the Middle East Clockwise from top: Director James Snyder in front of the Shrine of the Book, at the Israel Museum; hookahs in the market in Old Jaffa; the renovated Bronfman Archaeology Wing; Christian Quarter, Old City of Jerusalem.

Dinner with A view “Nataf is a settlement in a small valley outside of Jerusalem, near the Arab village of Abu Ghosh. At Rama’s Kitchen (Nataf; 972-2/570-0954; dinner for two 248ILS), everything is anchored around a taboon [stone oven]. I love the baked breads and fish.” SITE “The Church of the Redeemer (24 Muristan Rd.; 972-2/626-6800) is an 1898 Lutheran church near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. While the latter is dark and mysterious, the Redeemer is inspired by light.” HOTEL “I love to visit the ruins of Capernaum. I always check into Hotel Spa Mizpe Hayamim (Rosh Pina; 9724/699-4555; mizpe-hayamim.com; doubles from 1,530ILS), a resort and farm that supplies its restaurants.” SPICES “Nazareth is known for its Christian sites, but it’s also a vibrant Arab city. Stop at El Babour (HaBankim St.; 972-4/645-5596), a mill that’s been grinding grains and herbs for more than a century.” ✚

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c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p : ARIEL JEROZOLIM S K ; © A r i y / d r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; TIM HURLEY/ COURTE S Y OF THE I S RAEL MU S EUM , JERU S ALEM ; © M a r i a d u b o v / d r e a m s t i m e . c o m

arab cuisine “The large 13th-century Arab town of Umm al Fahm lies between Tel Aviv and Haifa. On the highway just across from the town’s entrance is Al Babor (Ein ­Ibrahim Junction; 972-4/611-0691; dinner for two 153ILS). Try the rice-stuffed roast leg of lamb.”


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| obsessions

pizza Forget to-go slices: Insert ¤4 into the Let’s Pizza machine (letspizza.it) in Italy’s Milan ­Malpensa, Milan Bergamo, ­Palermo or Trapani airports, choose your toppings (tomato, bacon, ham or veggies), and observe through the window as it kneads dough and bakes the pizza — all in less than three minutes.

On Sale Now: Everything. Oven-baked pizzas in Italy?

T

he world’s earliest vending

machine apparently dates back to the first century, when Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and engineer, devised a coin-operated contraption that would dispense holy water to Christians. Clearly this was a tough act to follow—and but for a blip here and there, no one really picked up on the idea until nearly 2,000 years later, when Industrial Age dispensers in

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the U.S. and U.K. started proffering postcards and gum for a penny a pop. Around 1900, the Automat—a Berlin-born restaurant made up entirely of machines that doled out 15-cent hamburgers and fresh pie slices to factory workers—was imported to Philadelphia. By 1912 this new coin-operated cafeteria had spread to New York and beyond. Though the old-school Automat met its fate with the rise of fast-food

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restaurants, the vending-machine concept has since gone global—and over the top. From fresh bread in Belgium and shoes in London to hot ramen in Japan, travelers now can get pretty much anything at the touch of a button. The technology has evolved from ornery push-and-pull knobs into computer screens and scanners that can verify your ID when you crave a cold can of Czech pilsner. In Japan— where robotics regularly commingles

co u rt esy o f l e t ’s p i zza

Gold bars in Abu Dhabi? The humble vending machine is getting a 21st-century makeover. Katrina Brown hunt puts in her two cents


gold bullion

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : C o u r t e s y o f GOLD t o g o ; c o u r t e s y o f q u i k s i l v e r ; c o u r t e s y o f b i k e d i s p e n s e r ; co u rt esy o f sa b m i l l e r ; Co u rt esy o f J e a n - M a rc Ro c h e r ; c h r i s k es l i n g e r/ t h e m a i n e lo b st e r ga m e ; co u rt esy o f ro l l as o l e

Afraid your currency will plunge while you’re abroad? Shore up your assets at a Gold to Go (gold-to-go.com) dispenser at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel or in the Frankfurt and Milan Bergamo airports. Pricing fluctuates according to markets — at press time, it was US$40 for a one-gram bar.

with kookiness—it’s estimated there’s one dispenser for every 23 citizens. On offer: liquor, toilet paper, underwear, umbrellas, men’s ties, fresh eggs—even pet beetles. In the conventional U.S.—where a short stack of quarters will still snag an old-school pink Ring Pop trapped in a plastic bubble—a new wave of mechanized commerce is also emerging. Miami’s Mondrian South Beach Hotel offers for purchase not only razors and sunscreen but also gold-plated handcuffs and vintage Mustangs by way of its machines. Don’t be surprised if the next time you’re at your ­favorite fishing pier, you stumble upon a bait dispenser (dragonfly larvae go for US$29.80 a can). It’s no surprise that vending machines are proliferating and diversifying in the digital era. For a generation of humanity brought up to think chatting and surfing are activities best undertaken on computers and smart phones, the automatic dispenser is comfortingly familiar, about as close to the depersonalized Internet shopping experience as it gets. Auto-retail offers predictability, instant gratification, an easily identifiable, prepackaged product that’s only a few coins or a swipe of the debit card away. And if that’s not candy for the modern soul, what is? ✚

swimsuits Packed it all but forgot your suit? Standard Hotels ­(standardhotels.com) have you (or at least your backside) ­covered: dispensers by the pools at the New York, Los Angeles and Miami ­properties furnish retro Quiksilver board shorts (US$75) and basic — if diminutive — black bikinis (US$88).

bicycles Eventually, someone in pedal-happy Holland was bound to invent the Bikedispenser (bikedispenser.com), currently found at ­Arnhem, Nijmegen, Delft, Duiven and other railway stations. It’s ¤12.5 for a 20-hour rental. When you’re done, just return your two-wheeler to the same spot.

shoes

beer

Targeting stiletto-clad ladies who can’t take (or dance) another step, England’s Rollasole (rollasole.com) offers up black and silver flats in small, medium and large, for just a few quid. The pink pods reside in nightclubs, train stations and airports around the U.K.

In 2007, the Czech Republic’s Pilsner Urquell brewery launched a reader that can scan ID’s — including U.S. passports — before issuing beer. Now of-age locals and tourists alike can pop open a cold Velkopopovický Kozel Light (¤1.20) at hostels, sports venues and, yes, even college dorms.

lobster

cosmic vibes

The Maine Lobster Game (lobstergame.com), found largely in restaurants on the Florida coast, resembles the old snag-a-stuffed-animal-with-a-claw ­challenge, except here the prize is a live lobster. Three dollars buys you 30 seconds to catch your crustacean — a bargain if you win.

Japan’s bounteous dipensers sell virtually everything, but we’re most charmed by the premonition-in-a-pouch Omikuji machines (outside temples nationwide). For ¥1, you’ll get one of 12 fortunes, possibly a great blessing, a near blessing, or — look both ways before crossing the street — a curse.

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| restaurants

china

Homegrown Cuisine Clockwise from left: A locally sourced salad at Downstairs; Madison’s dining room; chef Marc Johnson at Fulton Place; dessert at Table No. 1; chef David Laris, a locavore pioneer.

Made in China. Shanghai’s

■ MADISON Shanghai native Austin Hu is out to prove that when it comes to Western food, “made in China” can be a good thing. His restaurant Madison may have only opened in May, but the 30-year-old chef, who cut his gastronomic teeth in the kitchen of New York City’s famed Gramercy Tavern, is already at the forefront of Shanghai’s burgeoning locavore movement, with up to 95 percent of his ingredients locally sourced. Hu’s dedication to local produce is clear from Madison’s menu, from the selection of domestic beers—try the Sinkiang black beer from Xinjiang—to dishes such as bacon-wrapped Chinese sturgeon and mushroom ravioli with chrysanthemum greens. Guests tuck into Hu’s creations in the restaurant’s warm, modern dining room, which features dark wood, mirrored ceilings and a window to the kitchen—a view that goes both ways. “I like watching people and seeing how they react to the food,” says Hu. 70

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It’s no surprise, then, that he often emerges to chat with diners and discuss his latest finds, whether milk-fed veal from Beijing or a special breed of black-and-white “panda” pig from Zhejiang. 3rd floor, 18 Dongping Lu, between Wulumuqi Lu and Hengshan Lu; 86-21/6437-0136; dinner for two RMB700. ■ TABLE NO. 1 Table No. 1 occupies pride of place within the new, ultra-hip design hotel The Waterhouse at South Bund, but its real credentials lie in the kitchen: British executive chef Jason Atherton has worked under such locavore-inspired luminaries as Ferran Adrià, Marco Pierre White and, most recently, Gordon Ramsay at Maze and Maze Grill in London. Atherton’s background informs his modern European creations—local white crab with avocado and sweetcorn sorbet; poached regional prawns with giant elephant clams from the Pacific—expertly turned out by head chef »

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f URBN H o t e l s S h a n g h a i ; c o u r t e s y o f S i x S i x t y S t u d i o s ; c o u r t e s y o f F u l t o n P l a c e ; D e r r y c k M e n e r e ; c o u r t e s y o f URBN H o t e l s S h a n g h a i

cosmopolitan dining scene once relied on ingredients flown in from afar, but these days a wave of top international chefs is going local. By LAUREN HILGERS


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| restaurants

Farm Fresh Clockwise from top left: In the kitchen at Table No. 1; alfresco at the restaurant; chef Austin Hu, at Madison; Fulton Place’s modern European fare is made with local ingredients.

Scott Melvin and served in the restaurant’s cool, industrial-styled dining space courtesy of local design firm Neri & Hu (think high ceilings, gray brick and long communal tables in unvarnished wood). Of course, developing the dishes came with its share of challenges. “We had a tentative menu written when we got here,” says Melvin. “We went to the market for the first time and the whole thing was scrapped.” Then again, that only adds to the restaurant’s appeal, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. “It keeps you on your toes,” Melvin says. Ground floor, The Waterhouse at South Bund, 1–3 Maojiayuan Lu, near Zhongshan Nan Lu; 86-21/6080-2918; tableno-1.com; dinner for two RMB700. ■ FULTON PLACE Fulton Place opened this July in the heart of the French Concession, drawing a crowd of in-the-know foodies eager to sample American chef Marc Johnson’s casual fine-dining venture. A graduate of New York City’s Blue Hill, where fresh, local produce is paramount, Johnson worked as a sous chef at futuristic eatery Jade on 36, and now sees Fulton Place as an opportunity to get back to basics—even the interior is cozy and unpretentious, with Queen Anne wallpaper, leather banquettes and display cabinets filled with his own family memorabilia. The opening menu is simple, modern European, with the occasional Asian inflection—smoked yellowtail with panzanella, basil and tomato-whipped tofu; gingered watermelon served with mint

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granita and house-made yogurt. Naturally, it emphasizes local produce wherever possible. “It’s a matter of getting your hands dirty and playing around,” Johnson says. 1st floor, 570 Yongjia Lu, near Yueyang Lu; 86-21/3461-1775; fultonplace.cn; dinner for two RMB600. ■ DOWNSTAIRS Among the chefs exploring locally grown food in the city, David Laris is the ranking Shanghai veteran. Through his slew of acclaimed restaurants, including the Fat Olive and his eponymous dining room in Three on the Bund, he has been exploring what local farmers have to offer since he arrived here seven years ago. That’s exactly why the eco-chic URBN Hotel approached him to helm Downstairs, their sleek signature restaurant that serves up Western and Asian fare based on farm-fresh produce: dishes range from organic black pork with apple casserole to Thai fish cakes with spicy cucumber relish. “The whole premise of this place is to keep it simple,” Laris says, explaining his unfussy approach to the menu, which he says is 80 percent local. “There is definitely more available now than a year ago—more small growers, more people working with farms. With this sort of concept, it becomes about the ingredient.” Ground floor, URBN Hotel, 183 Jiaozhou Lu, near Beijing Lu; 86-21/5172-1300; dinner for two RMB450. ✚

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : D e r r y c k M e n e r e ( 2 ) ; C o u r t e s y o f As i a M e d i a ; c o u r t e s y o f F u l t o n P l a c e

insider


navigator | insider

Sydney, in Style. Beyond the picture-

perfect harbor of the Australian metropolis, there’s a hip, hidden and homegrown inner-city scene. Anthony dennis leads the way

australia

Trend Setters Right: Designs at the Josh Goot boutique, in Paddington. Below: Alaskan king crab salad from Sake, a new restaurant in the historic Rocks district.

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art outsize beach resort,

part culture capital, Sydney exemplifies the art of relaxed cosmopolitanism. It’s urbane but not pretentious; cuttingedge but not stressed-out. Now a handful of players is channeling that energy into new restaurants, hotels and boutiques in some oft-overlooked neighborhoods. Here, the local take. ■ SHOP The city’s fashionable heart is the corner of Oxford Street and Glenmore Photographed by petrina tinslay

Road, in ­Paddington, where some of the most exciting Australian designers are conveniently clustered. Kirrily Johnston (6 Glenmore Rd.; 61-2/93807775) exemplifies the laid-back down under aesthetic with her earthy-urban, feminine clothes (think billowy red skirts with high cinched waists), as does Josh Goot (104 Glenmore Rd.; 61-2/8399-0533), whose block-­printed tube and tunic dresses come in colors as bright as the Sydney sun. Inside Kit ­Willow’s chic, bi-level boutique, ­Willow (3A Glenmore Rd.; 61-2/9358-4477),

you’ll find flirty draped frocks in organza and tulle. Just up the block in the ornate, shop-filled Strand ­Arcade is Corner Shop (Strand Arcade, No. 80–81, 412–414 George St.; ­61-2/9221-1788), a Sydney stalwart known for its tightly edited ­international collections (Marc ­Jacobs, Isabel Marant and ­Benah). Men shouldn’t miss the downtown boutique of Brent Wilson (Galeries Victoria, No. RG25, 500 George St.; 61-2/9283-2339), with its updated classics, including easygoing suits, shirts and sweaters. For housewares, »

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| navigator head to Surry Hills. Planet Commonwealth (114 ­Commonwealth St.; 61-2/9211-5959) carries Ross Longmuir’s streamlined beds, tables and sofas, all made from Australian hardwoods (don’t worry, they’ll help with shipping). The lure at ­Koskela (Level 1, Imperial Slacks Bldg.; 61-2/ 9280-0999) is Aboriginal craftwork, such as the one-off lampshades traditionally woven with bush string.

Fresh Aussie Clockwise from right: The Sydney Heads, as seen from Manly Pavilion’s terrace; the sushi bar at Sake; seared beef onglet with cured egg and Parmesan at the six-month-old Manly Pavilion, on Manly Beach.

For more ideas on shopping in Asia, visit www.TravelandLeisureAsia.com

■ SCENE Though other areas are better known for barhopping, these days downtown is heating up after dark. The latest night-owl haven is Ivy (330 George St.; 61-2/9240-3000; drinks for two A$34), a multilevel complex with 18 bars, a ballroom and rooftop cabanas. Sydney’s coolest cultural commissar, actress Cate Blanchett, now directs the ­Sydney ­Theatre Company (Pier 4 ­Hickson Rd.; 61-2/9250-1777; ­sydneytheatre.com.au) along with her husband, Andrew Upton. Snag some tickets to a production at either the STC headquarters (a spectacularly converted wharf by the bridge) or at the Sydney Opera House (Bennelong Point; 61-2/9250-7111; sydneyoperahouse. com)—you may well catch Blanchett on stage. Post-show, grab a cocktail at the Opera House’s restaurant, ­Guillaume at Bennelong (61-2/9241-1999; drinks for two A$38), where the bar is surprisingly ­little-known and the harbor views are knockout. ■ EAT Manly, a less touristed beachside hangout than Bondi, is a ferry ride from downtown’s ­Circular Quay, but it’s worth the (quite lovely) trip to sample the exciting new Manly Pavilion (W. ­Esplanade; 61-2/9949-9011; dinner for two A$96), where the fresh ­Italian dishes (pan-fried whiting wrapped in lardo; pappardelle with wild-boar ragù) are as stunning as the ­Pacific vistas. Back in city center, celebrity chef Neil ­Perry recently opened R ­ ockpool Bar & Grill (66 ­Hunter St.; 61-2/8078-1900;

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co u rt esy o f l e t ’s p i zza

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Down-Under Modern From left: A deluxe room at Sydney’s sleek Diamant Hotel; porcelain lampshades at Surry Hills’ Planet Commonwealth; inside Kit Willow’s namesake Paddington boutique.

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f q u i k s i l v e r ; C o u r t e s y o f GOLD t o g o ; c o u r t e s y o f b i k e d i s p e n s e r ; c o u r t e s y o f s a b m i l l e r ; d i r e c t p h o t o . b z /A l a m y ; c h r i s k e s l i n g e r / t h e m a i n e l o b s t e r g a m e . c e n t e r : c o u r t e s y o f r o l l a s o l e

Cloth-bound travel set from Kikki.K.

dinner for two A$254) in a grand Art Deco building. The kitchen specializes in wood-fired grills and house-aged beef—plus, Perry’s sexy, restrained Spice Temple (10 Bligh St.; 61-2/80781888; dinner for two A$254) is right downstairs. At Marque (4/355 Crown St.; 61-2/9332-2225; dinner for two A$254), in nearby Surry Hills, Mark Best has been winning raves for creative concoctions like yellowfin tuna on French toast with foie gras butter. There’s a notable newcomer to the established culinary scene in the harborside Rocks district: Sake Restaurant & Bar (12 Argyle St.; 61-2/ 9259-5656; dinner for two A$113), where the young and well-heeled flock for superior sushi, sashimi and bite-size shrimp tempura that comes with a spicy cream sauce. ■ STAY Sydney’s latest design-driven digs, the 76-room Diamant Hotel (14 Kings Cross Rd.; 61-2/9295-8888; diamant.com.au;

doubles from A$158) is close to both ­Paddington and Surry Hills. Book a courtyard suite for night views of Sydney’s iconic skyline. Wedged between café-filled Potts Point and the city center, Blue ­Sydney (6 Cowper Wharf Rd.; 61-2/9331-9000; ­tajhotels. com; doubles from A$241) has 100 rooms located on a historic all-timber finger wharf that juts out into the harbor. Run by the same team as Ivy, the discreet, Modernist 31-room ­Establishment Hotel (5 Bridge St.; 61-2/9240-3000; ­merivale.com.au; doubles from A$314) is the city’s most exclusive boutique ­property—the celebs you spot are likely en route to its bi-level penthouses. For the same downtown convenience without the five-star extravagance (and prices), there’s the 41-story, Foster & ­Partners–designed Fraser Suites (488 Kent St.; 61-2/ 8823-8888; frasershospitality.com; doubles from A$175), with 201 understated, light-filled studios and a heated swimming pool. ✚

SYDNEY AIRPORT A recent A$563 million refurbishment of the international airport added a retinue of new shops, including the quintessentially Australian R.M. Williams (H12 and U15, T1, Intl.; 61-2/9313-4022), which makes superb leather boots for men and women, and the world’s first Lonely Planet store (F8, T1, Intl.; 61-2/8338-9852). Two l­ocavorefriendly Sydney resto-bars, Bambini Wine Room (G9, T1, Intl.; 61-2/9669-0751; drinks for two A$30) and Danks Street Depot (No. M16, T1, Intl.; 61-2/9669-0755; dinner for two A$62), have also established outposts in Terminal 1. At the separate Qantas Domestic Terminal, check out the slick, Scandinavian-style (but all-Aussie) designer stationery and gifts chain, Kikki.K (No. 63, Qantas Domestic Terminal; 61-2/9669-3100).

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Koh Lanta Krabi Thailand email: reservation@pimalai.com www.pimalai.com


Special Promotion

Hot Spots For Premier League Stars Premier League players talk about their favourite parts of Britain Arsenal player Andrei Arshavin spared no time covering off the city’s top attractions, despite his hectic Premier League schedule, “we took our children to the London Eye and went on open top buses. We also went to Madame Tussaud’s.” A big part of what really gives London its unique character is that, alongside evidence of its strong history and heritage, this 24-hour party city continues to be one of the most fast-moving, most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. “I love the hustle and bustle of London, all the comings and goings, all the taxis and people walking on the streets, I enjoy that,” says Tim Howard of Everton FC.

Countryside Breaks

A

s the new season of the Barclays Premier League picks up steam, we caught up with Premier League stars to talk about how much they love playing in Britain and what they like to do in their spare time.

Capital City Draws >> London attracts millions of people for its unparalleled heritage and bustling city scene, and Premier League stars are no exception. “I like living in London, I love it!” exclaims Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas in talking about his home city for the last 5 years, “you can do everything, people are really nice, and the culture is just amazing.” Indeed, London is full of history, heritage and culture with its 250 museums, 4 world heritage sites, and dozens of world class attractions. Fellow

>> When taking a break from busy schedules, long hours of training, and the intensity the Barclays Premier League season, Blackburn Rovers’ Ryan Nelsen unwinds in Britain’s serene countryside, “Whenever we get a few days off, we try and go and experience the country and have a look around and the stay in a stately home. I love the Lake District, the Northern Lake, York, and all around there. It’s very beautiful.” As England’s largest national park, the Lake District provides plenty of space for urban dwellers to take a quick break and recharge. Whether looking for a night out in the capital city, or seeking the tranquillity of the British countryside, these football stars definitely know how to “have a ball” off the pitch. www.visitbritain.com


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StylishTraveler C

Water-resistant polycotton Nautica jacket with concealed hood.

reated in 1983

to protect able-bodied sailors from the elements and updated in different colors each season, Nautica’s signature Catamaran jacket has become a staple from Marina del Rey, California, to Newport, Rhode Island— and for good reason. With a water-repellent poly-cotton shell, concealed hood and reverse-entry pockets, it’s as well-rigged as the finest fiberglass-hulled yacht. It’s also as fashionable as it is functional, equally appropriate for cruising the high seas or having drinks on the dock. —i s a u r a b o l t o n

coastal cool

In the worlds of sailing and style, the Nautica windbreaker never goes overboard. Photographed by Doug Rosa

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stylish traveler

india

| spotlight

Style Guru Clockwise from below: Sabyasachi on the runway; the label fuses traditional Indian textiles with contemporary cuts; Sabyasachi Mukherjee; New Market, in Kolkata; a bookseller on College Street.

Sabyasachi’s picks

Kolkata ● Bookshops on College Street “At any given point of the day you can stumble across a bargain or a steal, or virtually even a masterpiece.” ● Kalighat Kali Temple “I would call this an ancient site, but it is more of a religious site. Everyone talks of Benares but if you come to Kalighat you will find a world unlike any other.”

Fashion-forward Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee shares what he loves about Kolkata, his hometown, where he lives and works to this day. By TANVI CHHEDA

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olkata is a magical city where the old meets the new, where the dirty exists with the clean, where there is culture and crass, and at the same time there is perfect cohesion,” says Sabyasachi Mukherjee. “It was the capital of India during the days of the British Raj. It’s this combination of Eastern culture and British cultural mannerisms that I draw inspiration from.” A runway darling who is considered the future of Indian fashion, Sabyasachi— who prefers to go by his first name—employs (and ardently revives) indigenous textile traditions like block printing and bandhani, or tie-dye, presenting them in the context of modern silhouettes for his own eponymous label. A champion of handspun fabrics, his embellished tunics and vibrant bridal saris often feature natural fibers like khadi, a coarse cotton with a revolutionary past, and jute silk. Currently, he’s working with cotton muslin weavers from Murshidabad, in West Bengal. No wonder he typically describes his design philosophy as “personalized imperfection of the human hand.” “Clothes should just be an extension of one’s intellect,” he adds. It’s a fitting assessment for someone who lives and works in Kolkata, a culturally rich city with a decades-old artistic and literary heritage. ✚

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● The Fairlawn “The Fairlawn [13A, Sudder St.; 9133/2252-1510; fairlawnhotel.com; doubles from Rp2,550] is one of Kolkata’s quirkiest hotels, and is right in the center of the city. It is full of nostalgia and one needs to go there just to meet the owner, if not to stay.” ● New Market (Sir Stuart Hogg Market) “From cheap baubles to rich antique silks to the most beautiful silver jewelry, you can find it all.”

L e f t c o l u m n : c o u r t e s y o f s a b ya s a c h i m u k h e r j e e ( 3 ) . right column from top: © Jeremyrichards / dreamstime.com; © Dimaberkut / Dreamstime.com

KolkataUnveiled

● Mocambo “This restaurant, my favorite, reeks of the British Raj [25-B Park St.; 9133/2229-0095; dinner for two Rp950]. I can assure you that the waiters’ cummerbunds have not been changed in 40 years, the food menu has not changed and even the prices are quite static.”


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c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : R e d d o g s t u d i o ; c o u r t e s y o f L av e r a ; c o u r t e s y o f S h a n g h a i Ta n g ; c o u r t e s y o f s e a g e r ; c o u r t e s y o f Pa c h a c u t i ; c o u r t e s y o f EDUN ; c o u r t e s y o f a . d . o . ; c o u r t e s y o f a p p l e ; c o u r t e s y o f N u k ; c o u r t e s y o f h e a l t h g a t e ; c o u r t e s y o f j o h n h a r d y

Christina Dean’s Packing Tips The dynamic founder of Hong Kong– based EcoChic Fashions tells T+L how to pack with the planet in mind

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ones, inevitably means excess baggage. Just ask Christina Dean, the woman behind EcoChic Fashions, which for the past two years has brought environmentally sensitive couture to runways in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jakarta. “I’ve traveled with 30 pairs of high-heels, 16 wigs and 40 different eco-friendly outfits,” she admits. Dean also has to pack for her three young children, who frequently join her on trips. Here, she shares her green-travel must-haves. 1 “I use Lavera organic shampoo for all my personal care needs while traveling. I’ve taken wash-and-go to a new level: one bottle washes my hair, face, body and clothes.” 2 & 3 “When traveling with the kids I always take my Shanghai Tang travel purse and our huge Victorinox suitcase—it’s the biggest we could find in the shop.” 4 “A Pachacuti panama hat is great for keeping the sun at bay. The Fair Trade company is reviving traditional Ecuadorian artisan techniques such as hand weaving and dyeing with plants.” 5 & 6 Every eco queen needs a versatile green wardrobe. “My favorite piece of clothing at the moment is my Edun fair-trade dress, which I can wear to dinner or on the beach. I also love a.d.o. harem pants, particularly on long-haul flights—the generous cut makes them super-comfortable.” 7 “I  take my MacBook Pro with me everywhere; it’s like my second passport. It’s a 17-inch one and around five years old, so very heavy by today’s standards, but it’s my trusted confidant. 8 & 9 Nuk baby bottle & Nature’s One organic baby milk powder: “These bottles replicate breast feeding as closely as possible, and I always opt for organic milk.” 10 “For accessories, I love John Hardy’s Balinese-style jewelry, and how the brand offsets its carbon emissions by planting bamboo.— h e l e n da l l e y

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thailand

Building

Utopia Can sustainability and luxury mix? Six Sensesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; latest resort on Ko Kood sets out to prove the two can coexist. By JENNIFER CHEN. Photographed by

CHRISTOPHER WISE

Soneva Kiri aims to blend in. Inset: A green take on a tropical guest room. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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| resorts

Island Paradise Clockwise from top left: The resort is set on a remote island in southeastern Thailand; a guest with her “Friday”; original designs using natural materials and a sense of eco-consciousness cross paths at Soneva Kiri; boarding the private flight back to Bangkok.

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ur journey to Soneva Kiri starts in a windowless private waiting room at the Bangkok airport. Also in the room are our fellow travelers: a genial mother-anddaughter pair from Japan and the younger woman’s small daughter, who has pigtails, impossibly round cheeks and a placid countenance. Outside is a buffet table serving stale cake and a sickly sweet drink masquerading as orange juice. It’s not exactly the sort of scene you’d readily associate with a resort that is, with rates starting at nearly US$1,200 a night, one of Southeast Asia’s most expensive. The pace—and glam factor—pick up when we’re escorted to a van that whisks us to an eight-seat Cessna kitted out in polished wood and leather upholstery. Once we’re airborne, the co-pilot serves us drinks. Each seat comes with a copy of a hand-drawn map showing the flight path to our destination on the southeastern coast of Thailand, Ko Kood, which, despite its abundant natural beauty and its status as the country’s fourth largest island, has escaped the uncontrolled development evident elsewhere in Thailand—at least, so far. About an hour after take-off and we’re landing on a private strip on the tiny, barely inhabited island of Ko Mai-see that’s right across the water from Soneva Kiri. As we disembark onto the tarmac, surrounded by nothing more

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than dense jungle, my husband remarks that the setting seems suited for some clandestine meeting between rival drug lords or arms dealers. But instead of a bodyguard in mirrored sunglasses and an Italian suit, we’re met by Chompoo Kiewkarnka—a slight, soft-spoken Chiang Rai native dressed in pale linens who offers the first of many cold towels before escorting us to an electric golf buggy and ferrying us to an awaiting speedboat. Chompoo is our assigned butler, or in the parlance of Six Senses, the company behind the resort, our “Friday.” It’s actually the presence of Six Senses—rather than the promise of unfettered pampering, as embodied by Chompoo’s attentiveness—that brings me to Ko Kood. Known as a pioneer of environmentally conscious resorts,

A SLICE of your bill at Six Senses goes to carbon-offset programs such as building wind turbines in Tamil Nadu


Six Senses chose Soneva Kiri, which opened last November, as the staging ground for its most ambitious project to date: a prototype of a zero-emissions villa. Over the past four years, I’ve been covering the environment and travel in Asia, and it’s disheartening how little is still being done to preserve our corner of the planet. True, a growing number of hoteliers are developing a conscience. Some have set up social responsibility departments and announced plans to be certified by LEED or Green Globe— respected environmental building and operating standards from the United States and Australia. Some have also announced carbon-offset programs, though they’re sometimes criticized as get-out-jail-free cards. But many more hotels are guilty of wan attempts at addressing environmental concerns. I can’t count the number of times a hotel has trotted out its towel re-use cards—a measure most guests ignore—as proof of their eco credentials. Sensing a marketing opportunity, a few add

“eco” to their names. But question them closely and you’ll discover little evidence of any real action. And the greenwashing continues. One press release landed in my inbox touting “Asia’s first environmentally planned resort island”— with an international airport, a port and three golf courses. Worse yet are the resorts that clearly don’t give a damn. A weekend we’d spent at one modish beach resort was made miserable by the lack of natural light and ventilation, all thanks to the architect’s vision: Brutalist. And don’t get me started on leaky faucets, inefficient air conditioning and shoddy building materials that betray the owner’s plans to pull the whole thing down once land prices double. Not that holidaymakers should don hair shirts. Part of the fun of being on holiday is ordering room service and running a bath—the things you wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do at home. That’s where Six Senses comes in: they promise to deliver the comforts you’d expect when you pay more than a grand a night, but with less guilt. For the most part, they »

Eco Glam Clockwise from below left: Arriving at the resort; cooling down at the ice-cream bar; inside one of the resort’s circular-shaped villas; the beach always awaits on Ko Kood; a wine cellar with a difference; don’t miss the chance for some of Soneva Kiri’s ice cream.

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| resorts

Tropical Chic Clockwise from top left: Soneva Kiri blends into its surrounds; funky designs abound; a bath with a view like no other; the Eco Villa’s recycled-bottle shower; kicking back in paradise; while made of mostly natural materials, comfort isn’t a forgotten concept.

do a fairly good job of it, taking steps from the prosaic— setting water and electricity meters—to the more visible, like the flourishing organic gardens at their properties. Those high rates? A slice of your bill goes to carbon-offset programs such as building wind turbines in Tamil Nadu or replanting forests near Chiang Mai. There are, of course, contradictions and conundrums. Luxury entails consumption, be it the fossil fuels that run the air conditioner, the water in your bath, or that plate of cheeses flown in from France. Then there’s the private plane. But I’ll get back to that later.

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Eco Villa isn’t ready for habitation during our visit. There’s a problem with damp rising through the rammed earth floor and the filtration system in the pool isn’t working, causing the water to turn crimson. Those snags, Louis Thompson, Six Senses’ director of green building and sustainable landscaping who 90

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masterminded the project, are to be expected when you’re experimenting. “I would have done some things differently,” says the refreshingly forthright Englishman when I meet him a few months after our stay. That said, the clever solutions devised by Thompson are admirable, especially when you consider the strict parameters he was given. Almost all the building materials had to be sourced from the island, no concrete was allowed, and the villa had to be air conditioned, using renewable energy. The first requirement was easy, says Thompson, who spent nearly five years on the island working on the design and is earning a master’s in environmental architecture. Sandstone, driftwood, reclaimed wood and mud bricks were used in the construction. Old soda bottles served as glass bricks in the outside shower stall. (Just to raise the resort’s do-gooder profile, skilled Karen artisans from the north were brought in to help out.) Thompson even built a pottery kiln to make terracotta drainage pipes and spouts.


Avoiding concrete—considered villainous by die-hard eco warriors—ultimately proved impossible. A concrete layer eventually had to be added to solve the damp floor dilemma. But it was the energy-efficient air conditioning that vexed Thompson the most. If he’d had his way, he would have scrapped it entirely. “If you come to an exotic location and put your air conditioning on at 17 degrees so you can sleep under a duvet, does that make a lot of sense?” he asks. The villa’s circular shape—inspired by the ceremonial house of the Miwok tribe in California—allowed efficient air flow. Photovoltaic cells combine with a wind turbine to power the villa, including the low-consumption air-conditioning unit. Insulation was also a key component, so Thompson built 1-meter-thick walls, lined the ceiling with recycled newspaper, and designed a green roof using recycled egg cartons and local ferns. With its stout walls and unruly looking roof, the villa isn’t the loveliest structure. When we inspect it, Gary Henden, the laconic resort manager, says he can’t decide whether it looks like something out of a James Bond flick or the Teletubbies. I half-expect Bilbo Baggins to emerge, pipe in hand. The rest of the resort has plenty of green cred to spare. But what’s ultimately impresses is the spirit of invention. Most luxury beach resorts follow the same template: spa, check; beachside dining, check; infinity pool with Café del

Mar CD piped in, check. Here, the suits and bean counters let the designers run wild. The wooden deck that connects the main restaurant, observatory, library and boutique undulates. An outdoor movie theater, featuring an inflatable screen, shows classic films. Thompson also helped design a steel-and-rattan dining pod that’s hoisted into a eucalyptus tree on a hillside overlooking the sea (not for those with small bladders). I swiftly become a regular patron at the ice-cream parlor, where the servers know to start dishing up the hazelnut and dark chocolate gelati when they spot me 50 meters away. Most spectacular of all is the Den, a children’s playroom shaped like a manta ray that looks ready to launch off the hill it’s cantilevered to. Olav Bruin, an architect at the avant-garde Dutch firm 24H, created the bamboo »

Staying in a tented villa with an alfresco bathroom makes eminent sense in Ko Kood’s sultry CLIMATE

T+L TIP

The food is astonishingly good at the resort — look out for the strawberry–dark chocolate jam at breakfast and Sri Lankan curries at night. Make sure to book a table at Benz, a Thai restaurant that’s a romantic boat ride along the mangrove forests.

Soneva Kiri’s pool and bar. Inset: A macaroon awaits at the ice-cream bar. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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structure, which creaks gently with the wind. Inside, suspended rattan baskets provide hideaways, while the ray’s mouth serves as an outlook. It becomes an after-breakfast ritual for my husband and me to sneak into the chocolate room, scarf down a few handmade truffles concocted out of  a mix of imported and Thai-grown cacao, and then, giddy with sugar, scramble up the Den and launch ourselves down the slide. Six Senses’ Swiss Family Robinson look doesn’t suit every locale, but here it works seamlessly. Staying in a tented villa with an alfresco bathroom and sprawling outdoor lounge makes eminent sense in Ko Kood’s sultry climate. Unlike resorts that seal you in from nature, you’re constantly reminded of the outdoors. A late-night dash to the bathroom during a rainstorm might leave you a little wet, but I prefer it to fumbling for the light switch and the shock of bare feet on ice-cold marble. The rain also brings out frogs—not just one or two, but a whole chortling chorus of them. One sounds like a demented trombone and after a few attempts to scare him off, I lie awake in bed one night, defeated. After all, he was here first. Still, there are some nagging questions in my head. When it comes to saving the planet, wouldn’t it be better not to build at all? Even by creating the most environmentally sensitive resort possible, you’re still building where there was nothing but jungle before. By encouraging travelers

to journey to remote destinations, aren’t you paving the way for less scrupulous operators? We’ve seen this development trajectory too many times in Thailand: pristine beach, guest houses and backpackers, and before you know it, you have Patong. And the private plane? I pose these questions to Thompson, who tackles them straight on. Look, he says, you’re burning as much fossil fuel taking a car and boat to the island. That point I concede, but how about the wider implications of building Soneva Kiri? Ko Kood, he points out, was headed for development. “Anywhere you see a world-class beach someone’s going to rock up there at some point,” he argues. “So I’ve always explained it in the following way: What is better? Is it better for us to go there and do our best to make a sustainable resort or is it better for another company to do a less sustainable resort?” I don’t have a ready reply, but I’m still not sure what the right answer is. ✚

GUIDE TO ko kood WHEN TO GO Ko Kood sees a lot of rainfall, so avoid the rainy season between May and November. The weather is drier — and cooler — in December and January. WHERE TO STAY Soneva Kiri 110 Moo 4, Ko Kood; 66-39/619-800; sixsenses.com; suites from US$1,192.

Outdoor Diversions From left: Flying off to paradise in a far corner of Thailand; enjoying an evening out on the resort’s beach.

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laos

Mystery Plain

Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little known about the origins of the stone jars strewn across the bucolic landscape of northeastern Laosâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;aside from the fact that they are under threat from unexploded ordnance. By Karen J. Coates. Photographed by Jerry Redfern

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A young girl runs past a fence made of cluster-bomb casings, left. Marking off a contaminated area is painstaking work, below. Opposite: Some of the ancient jars near the remote Hmong village of Ban Pakeo.

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y introduction to the jars began in

the back of an old black Russian sedan, careening across the mud-slick tracks of northeastern Laos. It was the middle of monsoon season. The rain came down, the mud came up and I couldn’t see a thing through spattered windows. After more than an hour slipping and sliding through the countryside, we parked in a gaping puddle. My guide, a young man named Bounnyot, led me up a steep path to a vista overlooking green peaks and valleys, and dozens of enormous stone vessels taller than many a local. The jars marched straight across my line of sight. Up close, I saw tadpoles swimming in the pools of rainwater collected inside. Spiders stretched their webs across the stone. My guidebook had prepared me for an amazing sight but nothing this vast, serene or sublime. Then Bounnyot told me he learned from his grandfather that the jars were gigantic tuns, built to hold lao lao, the local mind-bending hooch. Really? Did Bounnyot believe that? “No,” he chuckled. “Well, maybe.” It’s a familiar tale to Julie Van Den Bergh, an archaeologist now based in Hong Kong who spent several years working for unesco and is currently preparing the Plain of Jars for status as a World Heritage Site. In fact, she hears this story all the time: an ancient king named Khun Cheung, victorious in battle, built these jars to hold his celebratory elixir. “I don’t have a problem with lao lao,” Van Den Bergh said. But science tells her these jars had greater purpose—as the funerary urns of an unknown ancient civilization.

So far, Julie Van Den Bergh has counted some 3,000 vessels scattered across 90 sites in the PROVINCE So far she has counted some 3,000 vessels scattered across 90 sites in Xieng Khouang province. There might be more. They’re huge. Each up to 3 meters tall and weighing several tons. Most are carved of sandstone or granite. Some are round, others angular. Dating between 1,500 and 2,500 years old, they’re incongruous. They’re bigger than beer barrels or bathtubs. But in the end they are simply, obviously, really big stone jars perched about a bucolic land. Van Den Bergh draws her analyses from Madeleine Colani, a French archaeologist who was first to study the jars in the 1930’s and gave the plain its name. When Colani excavated, she found jars containing beads and human remains. She also found a cave with burned bones and ash. She surmised the cave served as a crematorium, the jars as mortuary vessels and the fields on which they sit as ancient cemeteries. Colani speculated the sites sit at an important intersection of ancient trade routes stretching perhaps as » t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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Son Sanit told us that much of the local knowledge about the jars had vanished with the ELDERS

far as India and Vietnam. “What is a big civilization like that doing here?” Van Den Bergh mused. And where did it go? No one really knows, and it’s unlikely anyone will find out anytime soon.

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ince Colani studied this windswept terrain, there has been dramatic change on this plain. Between 1964 and 1973, in an offshoot of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military dumped more than 2 million tons of bombs across Laos. The Plain of Jars was hit particularly hard. Up to 30 percent of those bombs did not detonate on impact and today, millions of still volatile explosives are buried. These have killed or maimed more than 20,000 Laotians since the end of the war in 1975. That makes the Plain of Jars one of the world’s most dangerous archaeological sites. “Before you can do anything, it has to be cleared,” Van Den Bergh said. “There’s no way around it.” She means cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO). And for the first time in her life, she worked with a bomb clearance team here. Van Den Bergh took me to meet Stuart Broome,

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a bomb disposal expert then with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), contracted to remove UXO from several jar areas. They began with the three most frequently visited sites surrounding Phonsavanh, the provincial capital. I watched Broome’s team combing the land for explosives, angling its way up and down a narrow grid delineated by rope. Bomb clearance is painstaking work involving a variety of metal detectors. Every speck of earth must be searched, every signal investigated slowly, by hand. That’s how they found a 110-kilogram bomb at Site 2. A local legend attributes the dud to divine intervention: The bomb didn’t explode, villagers say, because it landed in a holy place beside a jar. Locals speak of a rich girl and a poor boy who fell in love long ago. The girl’s parents were unhappy with her choice in a mate, and they forbade her from seeing him. So she and the boy met at what is now Site 2, and each wished for a jar to mark that spot, with a tree between the jars to keep the two in eternal embrace. And that is precisely where the big bomb fell. That explosive, along with 210 others at seven sites, is now gone, thanks to MAG. But that’s a drop in


Local families make spoons from aluminum bombs in a small village near Site 3, opposite left. A group of Chinese tourists rests under the shade of a tree outside Phonsavanh, left. Life goes on among the jars, below.

the buckets of bombs that pummeled this province. “One of the main problems here is that tourists come unaware of how dangerous Xieng Khouang is,” Van Den Bergh said. When Broome meets tourists, he advises them to stick to the main paths and roads: “Don’t deviate.” As with other trips, the most effective thing visitors can do is to educate themselves about the problem and donate to MAG, Handicap International or one of the other groups that works with UXO victims. That was impossible advice for Van Den Bergh to heed. She had to crisscross the province, mapping jar sites, greeting locals, sitting for hours through village meetings held on hard wooden floors in homes on stilts. Mainly she was working to persuade villagers that the jars in their backyards were valuable—to science and tourism. Visitors would come to see the jars. That could mean a steady income. One day, I accompanied Van Den Bergh across uncleared land to a small village called Na Xaytong, an hour’s boneshaking drive from Phonsavanh. The villagers welcomed us with a feast of cabbage soup, boiled chicken, green-papaya salad, fried innards in duck blood and rounds of lao lao. Village women sat in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and chatting, while the men shared the local whiskey, a good excuse for avoiding a morning of farming in the sun.

Thinking the jars have healing powers, an elder named Chan Mootee told us the villagers pour water from them over the heads of sick children. At a village called Ban Xiengdi, near Site 3, I chatted with an elder named Son Sanit. He told us that much of the local knowledge about the jars had vanished with the elders before him. “The older people who knew about this history, they have already died,” he said. But, like Bounnyot, everyone he knew grew up hearing stories about the jars and lao lao. When a Lao person dies, it’s essential for the mourners to provide whiskey. “It’s the main thing in a funeral ceremony,” he said. “It’s the main thing of any ceremony.” Until then, he had never heard of other explanations for the jars. “Dead people were placed in the jars,” Van Den Bergh told them. “Then they were collected and placed in the ground…. Excavations around the jars have revealed bones. Burials.” “So you’ve found bones?” an elder named Then Phom My asked. Van Den Bergh said she hadn’t, but years earlier Colani had. That was news to the group. Listening, Son Sanit said he “half and half ” believed these stories about the stone jars. “Our parents never mentioned graves. They only mentioned lao lao.” » t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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An old Soviet-era school bus still runs as the main public transportation in rural Xieng Khouang, left. Children walk through the small Hmong village of Ban Pakeo in rural Xieng Khouang province in northeastern Laos, below.

Yet, since I first laid eyes on them, those mysterious jars have had a pull on my psyche. I’ve visited them four times now. Earlier this year, my most recent trip, I trekked to a distant jar site near a mountaintop Hmong village called Ban Pakeo, accessible only on foot. It was a steep, sticky three-hour climb through a spritzing rain, the clouds clinging to the trees. I sweated like a demon, but I felt great. The jar site sat in a serene forest of singing cicadas and flittering birds. Everything was mossy and damp from the rain. Orchids and trees grew straight through the stone, slowly eating away at centuries of history. Five years earlier, I had made my first trek to Ban Pakeo with Van Den Bergh and a mapping team. That day, coming from the opposite direction, we reached the mountaintop and passed suddenly from slash-and-burn fields into a dense forest. There, all around, were the giants we’d come to see. The team immediately set to work, marking jars and measuring their dimensions. But Van Den Bergh paused a moment. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” It’s the one assessment of the jars no one ever doubts or denies. Later in the village, we spoke with the chief. He told us he had arrived in Ban Pakeo 29 years before. “I saw the jars when I first came here.” He figured they were for making whiskey. “No one told me that story,” he said. “I thought that by myself.” ✚ 98

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GUIDE TO The plain of Jars GETTING THERE The Plain of Jars is accessible from Vientiane on Lao Airlines (laoairlines.com; US$160 roundtrip) or an all-day bus ride through some of the country’s most spectacular mountain scenery. One-way VIP bus tickets can be bought directly from a Lao bus station or travel agency for US$15–$20.

kip (about US$1.20) entrance fee at each. For a far more dynamic and educational experience, particularly if you visit outlying sites, hire a guide. Every guesthouse in town offers tour services; the local tourism office has guides well-trained in the history of the jars. Expect to pay about US$25–$50 a day for a guide, depending on the type of transportation hired. Shop around the many Phonsavanh travel WHERE TO STAY Auberge de la Plaine des Jarres agencies and guesthouses, which offer a range of individualized (aka the Phouphadeng) Each tour packages. room at this hilltop inn offers a small deck, wood-plank floors WHAT TO DO and a fireplace. The restaurant Mines Advisory Group offers good French and Lao The information center offers dishes and a small patio dining area affords some of the town���s historical background on best views. Ban Phonesavang, unexploded ordnance in Laos Muang Pek, Xieng Khouang; and some background on how 856-30/517-0282; plainedes visitors can help. A US$12 jarres.com; rooms from US$60. donation, for instance, will clear 10 square meters of contaminated land, while US$55 equals one GETTING AROUND week’s salary for a local UXO If you rent a motorcycle in town, technician. Thanon Laek 7, it’s possible to visit the three Phonsavanh; 856-21/252-004; main jar sites on your own, though you must pay a 10,000 maginternational.org/laopdr.


t+l journal | dispatch

singapore

Roll of the Dice

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ingaporeans are accustomed to their

skyline changing quickly. That’s the way things are in one of the world’s commercial hubs. But, no matter how many skyscrapers shoot up, the city–state still can’t shake the perception that it lacks the energy and depth of the world’s leading cities. Back in 2005, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that his country would soon have “that buzz that you get in London, Paris or New York.” Once casinos were permitted, the private sector didn’t wait long to cash in: a short five years on, two massive integrated-resort casinos are in full swing. First came Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in February, housing the region’s first Universal Studios theme park, which includes six hotels. Aimed at families, the fairground feel masks the real attraction here, a flamboyantly

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colored 24-hour casino packed with gamers. Only two months later, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s 855,000square-meter Marina Bay Sands (MBS) began opening some of its many doors. Rising from reclaimed land in the middle of town, MBS, with its three 55-story towers and 2,500 hotel rooms, takes a more grown-up approach to razzmatazz: high-end fashion brands, L.A.-style nightclubs, a state-of-the-art convention center catering to as many as 45,000 guests, Michelin-star restaurants and one of the most futuristic casinos on the planet. In June, the city held its collective breath for the opening of the US$5.7 billion Sands second phase. That’s when a cantilevered floating garden called the Sands SkyPark came online; capping the three towers 200 meters above ground level, this 340-meter-long structure that looks like a cricket wicket now dominates the crowded skyline.

C o u r t e s y o f m a r i n a b ay s a n d s ( 3 )

Singapore’s embrace of casinos is literally a bet on the future of the city–state, writes Peter Myers. Not everyone is happy about the move, but the odds are still out


A pool view with a difference at Marina Bay Sands. The casino floor at the resort, opposite. One of the resort’s dining options, right.

It’s a spectacle, but don’t expect Las Vegas pizzazz. Local punters EQUATE wagering with entertainment

Thanks to the largest private sector investment ever in Singapore, the city–state now competes with Macau in a region that has stolen the global gaming limelight. For its part, number crunchers at MBS, the world’s secondmost-expensive gambling complex after MGM Resorts’ CityCenter in Las Vegas, expect to recover the investment in the property within five years. Sands recouped its Macau investment in just one. More relevant still is the fact that Macau overtook Las Vegas’ annual gaming revenue figures in 2006 and hasn’t looked back.

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espite government sanctions, not everyone

is happy with the new paradigm. “The symbol of the new Singapore is the Esplanade and not the Marina Bay Sands,” the chairman of the National Heritage Board of Singapore, professor Tommy Koh, declared in a July speech. He was speaking of the durian-shaped arts and music hub now dwarfed by the nearby Sands. Unsurprisingly, religious groups such as the National Council of Churches are also less than enamored. Singapore’s way of celebrating culture is, critics say, to hold an exhibition, a festival or a culture week rather than setting about to laboriously develop a cultural scene. To many, the two integrated resorts are emblematic of a Singapore obsessed with superlatives. Will MBS be able to create a

destination like Vegas, where surprisingly only 14 percent of visitors come to gamble? Is there more to it than glitz? Marina Bay Sands’ president and CEO Thomas Arasi says that, though he understands creating an experiential quality takes time, “there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re the new pedestrian epicenter. We’re on the stage of Singapore.” Of course, only time will tell if MBS will become part of the city’s essential fabric, a place where a diverse crowd of joggers and museum visitors, foodies and shoppers, gamers and conventioneers will interact. Arasi has a goal of up to 80,000 visitors daily after opening, which he’d like to outperform, because, “quite frankly, I think we’ve got it going on here.” Eugene Tan, assistant professor of Law at Singapore Management University has been closely following local gaming developments. Integrated resorts, he says, signal that there is life after dark in Singapore. But Arasi concedes, “The government believes that it can pioneer a new type of casino gaming, one where it will reap the economic benefits but without the social ills.” I also asked Derek da Cunha, the author of Singapore Places Its Bets, which looks into the casinos’ impact on the nation, about this. “In a pragmatic society like Singapore, issues of morality generally take second place to economic considerations,” he told me. “In the restructuring of » t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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Swimming by the edge of the 146-meter infinity pool, you’re level with the top of the CITY’S tallest buildings

Singapore’s economy to one that is now increasingly services-oriented, casinos are viewed as a necessary evil.” Gaming remains a heavily regulated industry in Singapore. Casinos can only legally comprise up to 5 percent of a property. At MBS, the figure is 3 percent. Still, that includes four floors; 15,000 square meters; 600 tables where the minimum blackjack bet is S$25; and 1,500 slots. It’s a spectacle to behold, but visitors shouldn’t expect the pizzazz common to Las Vegas. Arasi tells me that local punters equate wagering with entertainment and don’t want to be distracted too much. With 300 tables and 1,000 slots, the casino exudes more energy, more theater. Whereas most casinos are windowless, clock-free zones detached from any outdoor reality, RWS reminds punters of the time, while letting them enjoy some fresh air in an attractive garden area. Upstairs on the VIP floors, though, where minimum bets are in the S$500 range and Chinese businessmen sit courted by nervous hosts, the sense of fun is replaced with something more intense. Genting has been operating casinos in Asia for 40 years, and it has a well-tuned database of the region’s high rollers. While requesting anonymity, equity researchers in Singapore at two investment banks confirmed that RWS’s net daily gaming revenue, approximately US$4.4 million, was around 20 percent greater than Sands. After four months of 102

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operations, US$87 million of winnings had been paid out to gamers at RWS. Of course, no one will reveal the amount of money wagered. Indeed, many local pundits have been surprised that fly-in-the-ointment casino entrance fees for Singaporeans and permanent residents (S$100 for a 24-hour period or S$2,000 for a full year) haven’t dented demand. Regional gamblers have been put off by strict regulations, which mean “high rollers” cannot operate with anonymity. Macau, by contrast, allows gamblers on casino-crawl junkets to play with no questions asked. By the end of June, estimates had three to four million visits to the two integrated resorts in their first few months of operation. The Singapore Tourism Board estimates visitor arrivals this year could reach 12.5 million, a 30 percent increase from 2009, thanks in part to the casinos. In July, visitor arrivals in Singapore topped the one million mark, the first time ever, with China, Malaysia and Hong Kong all accounting for marked increases. According to da Cunha, “All IR-related activities are expected to cumulatively translate into a further one percentage point added to Singapore’s GDP. In sum, that isn’t small potatoes.” At the Sentosa casino, I spoke to Goh Boon Hoe, 52. He had flown in from Jakarta for the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by what he found. Asked if he would prefer a Vegas-style casino, with busty waitresses serving


Singapore Bets From far left: Retail therapy at Marina Bay Sands; at Resorts World Sentosa; the observation deck at Marina Bay Sands.

f o r m fa r l e f t : C o u r t e s y o f m a r i n a b ay s a n d s ; C o u r t e s y o f © 2 0 0 9 R e s o r t s W o r l d at S e n t o s a ; C o u r t e s y o f m a r i n a b ay s a n d s

cocktails—a tad more buzz—he replied that it would be nice, but not necessary. It’s all about the gambling, Goh explained. “We’re Chinese,” he said. It’s in our blood!”

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Marina Bay Sands, it’s easy to overlook Resorts World, much disparagedas a tacky family destination. Architect Michael Graves has devised an astonishingly artificial-looking cluster of hotels, arcades and an outdoor “pleasure-dome” space across 49 hectares of reclaimed land on Sentosa. Artificiality is not a criticism; it’s what RWS is all about. Those looking for a more adult atmosphere might feel better catered for at MBS. I was bowled over by the sheer ostentation of the hotel; stride down its cathedral-size, long lobby, under the 16,100 steel rods that comprise Anthony Gormley’s polyhedral matrix, ­­Drift, and you’ll pass 83 three-meter-tall ceramic vessels (the artwork Rising Forest). From here, labyrinthine wandering along underground passageways brings you to the Shoppes, casino and convention space. Opulent duplex designer-good boutiques appear on either side, many of them enticingly new brands. “The SkyPark was about creating a five-star resort 200 meters in the air,” Tony McKee tells me. A director at engineering and project management company Beca, McKee oversaw the SkyPark’s construction. n all the excitement of the

The curved superstructure was assembled in segments on the ground, then lifted in pieces to create the platform for the gardens, pools deck, observation platform, 500 trees, and soon a nightclub and restaurant. Swimming by the edge of the 146-meter infinity pool, level with the top of the city’s tallest buildings, Singapore poses below. It’s too soon to know whether Singapore will regret this snap decision wager on gaming culture; whether it concludes that coach-loads of gamblers do not a dream destination make. But to say that the country has only reinforced itself as a land of surfaces is missing the point. This little island has always been creative at making itself relevant to the world. As a port or industrial center, a financial-services market or, now, a gaming hub. As for when we’ll see other consortiums opening new gaming operations, the Singapore Tourism Board’s Paul Tan will only confirm that the exclusivity period for the two casino licences last 10 years. Macau and Las Vegas, watch this space. ✚

Guide to SINGAPORE CASINOS Marina Bay Sands 10 Bayfront Ave.; 65/6688-8868; marina baysands.com; doubles from S$379.

Resorts World Sentosa 8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa Island; rwsentosa.com; 65/ 6577-8888; doubles from S$360.

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outdoors | t+l journal

A Forgotten World A simple boat trip around Palawanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s secluded islands, abandoned beaches and crystal-clear waters proves to be the perfect eco-escape, writes Katherine Jack

C h r i s K u c w ay

philippines

The coral-filled waters of Bacuit Bay.

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Tropic Wonder Clockwise from below: A meagre catch of the day; the waters around Palawan are crystal clear; kayaking the Small Lagoon.

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Tao Diwa, a local banca, I watch the bubbling seawater. Strong currents roil the surface. Our small group swims to shore in cool, refreshing water, then walks the length of an empty beach. Once we reach the far end of the sand, we wade back out, getting swept up in the current, which takes us back to the boat. Although I’ve been to the northern end of Palawan before, I have never reached these far-flung islands. Because of their remoteness, few ever do. When I gaze at bold-patterned reef fish in the turquoise shallows and stroll on beaches of white, powdery sand here, I feel like we’re the first outsiders to set eyes on these scenes. Our days are spent observing the gentle rhythm of life among fishing villages and, since our fourman crew is from these islands, I’m treated more as a guest than a tourist. Tao was founded in 2005 by Eddie Brock and Jack Foottit. Brock grew up in the Philippines’ mountainous Cordillera region but departed as a teenager to study in the UK. He stayed for a decade. But he would return home occasionally, accompanying friends to explore remote corners of the Philippines, and Foottit, who was then a 21-year-old architecture student, joined one of these excursions. On that trip, the two mapped out a business model for what would become their adventure-travel company. Today, Tao Philippines has four boats and offers expeditions around the 300 or so islands of the Bacuit Archipelago, Linapacan Strait and Calamianes. With such a natural wealth of islands, beaches and reefs to explore, there is no set route or itinerary. Our trip is four days long. “We have the basics—food, water and essentials for the sea and tanding on the deck of the


sleeping on the islands—but the essence of our journey is simplicity in its natural, organic form,” says Brock. “We leave after breakfast on the first day, and arrive before nightfall on the last. What happens in between is up to you.”

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El Nido—“the nest” in Spanish—perched on the edge of Bacuit Bay and famed for the edible birds’ nests that are gathered from rugged cliffs that ring the town. This is a small tourist hub with a range of places to stay, from simple backpackerstyle lodgings to the nearby luxury resorts on Miniloc and Lagen islands. The town’s narrow streets, lined with makeshift beach bars and restaurants, open onto a beachfront busy with tour boats. Contrast this with Bacuit’s tranquil seascapes, which are littered with towering limestone outcrops. As early as 1935 a small forest reserve was declared and, by 1991, a marine reserve covering a space almost as large as Hong Kong had been established to protect El Nido’s colorful diversity of coral reefs and aquatic life. That includes three species of sea turtles and rare dugongs that graze on beds of lush seagrass. When he visited to film his documentary Palawan, The Last Refuge, Jacques Cousteau described the region as the most beautiful place he had ever explored. Our first stop is Cadlao Island where Tao has its home, a collection of small bamboo huts with nipa palm roofs. Here we sit on a long beach of powdery sand and enjoy a picnic of fresh Spanish mackerel, mud crabs and squash in coconut milk, the first of many delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef. Once we set sail again, the weather is fine aside from a strong wind. It takes almost four hours by boat to reach our overnight destination, a tiny speck of an island called Daracouton off the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan. It’s nightfall by the time we arrive on Daracouton. Villagers guide us up the beach with lanterns to a simple cabana that has been prepared with crisp white bed linen and mosquito nets. After bathing outside in a large basin next to the village water pump, we sit down to a dinner of freshly caught snapper with only a sky full of stars above. Afterwards, I stay on the beach for a while and watch spear-fishermen hunting squid in the inky dark sea. A green glow from their lamps illuminates blurry figures in the water as they repeatedly dive and rise to the surface. Dawn arrives with the sound of cicadas and the smell of freshly brewed Benguet coffee from Brock’s mountainprovince home. We explore the island on foot in the cool of the morning, setting off amid a jumble of fishing boats and strolling down a gently winding beach, scrambling over » ur journey begins in

Island Life From top: There’s more color under the waves; a monitor lizard on a coconut tree; a fishing village near El Nido.

After bathing, we sit down to a dinner of fresh snapper with only a sky full of stars ABOVE

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I watch the children play, marveling at the SIMPLE beauty of rural Filipino life

Philippine Idyll From top: Another day on the beach for some local children; a collector and his prized hunt of two edible birds’ nests; Snake Island at low tide on Bacuit Bay.

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boulders the size of small houses. A couple of friendly dogs chase monitor lizards up the coconut trees. “I grew up in a very traditional Igorot family,” Brock tells me, “from the proudest culture in the Philippines. This gave me a sense of the importance of the island cultures when I came to Palawan.” Tourism, he says, should benefit both the traveler and the host. “We explore these remote islands relying on locals for supplies and shelter so we want to make sure that they profit equally.” By the time we return to the village, the sun is high and the day hot. Men and women are sorting through their seaweed harvest as children run about on the beach. Perched on the fine sand I watch the children play, marveling at the simple beauty of rural Filipino life. But there is a flipside: low incomes and little access to education and healthcare. He wants to make sure that Tao’s presence on the islands improves the lives of residents. The company employs 25 local staff and buys almost all of its expedition supplies— food, drinks and boat equipment—from the islanders. It also runs a series of projects for children providing day-care centers, teachers, school supplies and additional food. We set sail again to cross the sea between mainland Palawan and the island of Linapacan, stopping every now and then to explore empty beaches and snorkel over vibrant coral reefs. Occasionally, we come across fishermen. Palawan lies within a coral triangle that extends as far as the Solomon Islands and East Timor, an area with the highest marine biodiversity on the planet. El Nido alone is home to nearly 200 species of fish. But even with laws in place to protect the environment, it’s a continuing challenge. According to the WWF, one of the most pressing problems in Palawan is the use of cyanide in catching live fish for the growing demand from restaurants in Hong Kong and China. Used in small quantities, cyanide stuns fish temporarily making them easy to catch, even with bare hands. But it also destroys the surrounding corals. Foottit and Brock are keen to keep their environmental impact to a minimum. For starters, they have installed mooring buoys near islands and reefs that they visit regularly so there is no risk of anchor damage to corals and they have also enrolled their staff in the auxiliary coastguard to help patrol protected areas. The temporary cabanas where guests stay on the islands are made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, nipa and coco lumber. Guests wash as locals do: by the village well due to the scarcity of fresh water on these small islands. At a pearl farm on Linapacan Island, we dock the boat and make our way up a steep hillside through the jungle to a huge stone wall enmeshed in vines and trees roots. This is the lost Spanish fortress of Linapacan, a remnant of

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Palawan’s days as a colonial stronghold in the18th century. The interior of the fort, overgrown with trees, is carpeted with fallen leaves and it feels like we’re in a forgotten world as we rest in the shade beneath its sturdy walls looking out on a dazzling sea. We then cross the Linapacan Strait, an old Spanish trade route dividing the South China and the Sulu seas, to reach our final destination, Coron. The wind is up again but Brock and his crew aren’t shaken. Coron, home to the indigenous Tagbanua people and their eight sacred lakes, is a huge limestone outcrop, off-limits to visitors except for two lakes— Kayangan and Barracuda. Kayangan is renowned as the cleanest lake in the country and the caves on its steep cliffs are home to edible-nest swiftlets. The Tao Diwa leaves us at Kubo Sa Dagat, or “house on the sea,” a small resort positioned in the middle of a shallow bay close to Coron. The bay is rich in plankton. At night, any disturbance in the water creates sparkles of bioluminescence. We wake early to kayak through the mangroves. The area is home to 86 species of birds, the early morning air is filled with their calls. Yet we only catch tantalizing glimpses of color in the air and spend the rest of our last day snorkeling on a nearby Japanese shipwreck and relaxing in natural hot springs on the island. Tao designs each trip as a one-of-a-kind experience, one of discovery and adventure. “But our guests have to understand that what we offer is only 50 percent,” says Foottit. “The other half comes from their participation, enthusiasm and adventurous spirit.” Although this is true, it takes no effort at all to fall into rhythm with the spontaneity of life on the water. Days of jungle walks, village living and exploring coral reefs eventually roll into each other and all too soon are at an end. I will never forget the clear seas and the gentle isles full of smiling faces, where I am now longing to return. ✚

Clear Sailing From top: Banana pancakes for breakfast on the Tao Diwa; in the shade along a remote corner of Cadlao Island; navigating the corals in Palawan’s glassy waters.

Guide to palawan HOW TO GET THERE There are daily flights from Manila to El Nido with Island Transvoyager Inc. (islandtransvoyager.com) or to Coron with Air Philippines (airphilexpress.com) or Cebu Pacific Air (cebupacificair.com). WHAT TO DO Tao Philippines The company operates out of both El Nido and Coron during the dry season from November to May. A journey on the Tao Diwa costs P22,500 per day for up to six people. Four days or more are recommended to explore the islands between El Nido and Coron. taophilippines.com. 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 “Brunettes Only” dressing room at the Hollywood Museum, in Los Angeles, left. Below: Musician Daniel Estrada taking in the sights on Hollywood Boulevard. Bottom left: Ron Pratt’s booth of retro posters at the flea market.

u.s.a.

Hooray for Hollywood A starstruck Lynn Yaeger heads to Tinseltown in search of silver-screen relics and vintage treasures. In the end, she’s not disappointed. Photographed by Katie Shapiro

Everybody Comes to Hollywood “Are you Mr. Edmunds?” I ask the guy behind the counter at Larry Take Edmunds Bookshop, a paper-crammed emporium between Gene Autry’s one and Michael Curtiz’s stars on Hollywood Boulevard. “There hasn’t been a Mr. Edmunds for seventy years,” he replies drily. It’s my first day in Los Angeles, and I’m in town to hunt for movie memorabilia—the posters! The props! The glamorous fashions!—anything with a connection to our shared cinematic history. I want souvenirs that really evoke Hollywood’s past—items with a peerless provenance that also manage to be ineffably cool. And what better place to begin than this quirky landmark? »

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| shopping

It’s only my first day in town, but I feel like I have been here all my life. Maybe it’s because I hail from a moviebesotted family: Oscar night was like a religious holiday in our house; my 90-year-old dad still enjoys a spirited discussion about which is the better film, All About Eve or Sunset Blvd. To this day I spend far too much time devouring films with names like Our Dancing Daughters and Shadow of the Thin Man. Which is why I am having such a good time at Larry Edmunds, albeit minus Larry himself. The store, in business at various locations since 1938, is bursting with more than 20,000 entertainment-related books, mile-high stacks of yellowing fan mags and 3,000 or so movie posters. Two seconds inside and I am already coveting a 1964 French

Larry Edmunds is BURSTING with 3,000 or so movie posters Owner Ronald V. Borst at Hollywood Movie Posters, on Hollywood Boulevard. Left: The Walk of Fame near El Capitan Theatre.

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poster for Ann-Margret’s La Chatte au Fouet (Kitten with a Whip) for US$250. There are also a quarter-million photographs on hand, and tourists often come in looking for a special kind of souvenir—pictures of relatives who were minor players back in the day. And good luck to them: “We don’t have a crossreference,” the clerk tells me. “They’re by movie title.” Too daunted by this volume of pics, I content myself with a US$25 purchase of the December 1954 issue of Screen Stars magazine—Sandra Dee! Liz! Annette!—which I plan to peruse over lunch at the historic Pig ’N Whistle up the street (Judy Garland had her 15th birthday party there). But first, a stolen hour at the Hollywood Museum, in the former Max Factor building. The “Brunettes Only” dressing room is a riot of retro-chic; Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell is enthralling, if hardly cozy; but given the choice I’d rather loll in Roddy McDowall’s green-and-baby pink powder room, which is protected behind glass, like some sort of shrine to our collective Hollywood past, which I suppose it is. I love this museum but alas, no gift shop. I perk up when I notice a glorious Art Deco edifice across the street. This would be my one-stop destination if I were interested in shot glasses that say hollywood or music boxes trilling “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” But though I have a welldocumented weakness for cheap trinkets, I am looking for something a little more sophisticated. So I am overjoyed when I discover the delightfully ridiculous Bettie Page store (between the stars of Smilin’ Ed McConnell and Jack Benny)—one of those quirky businesses that could only pop up in a locale like this (actually, there are two other branches in Vegas and one in San Francisco, but never mind). You might think that the town would have shops offering styles made famous by icons like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn—but no, only Bettie Page, the cheerfully sexy dominatrix, has a boutique of her own. Behind its vintage storefront—surely these 1950’s vitrines once held authentic 1950’s ensembles—the interior features a boomerang table, a leopard rug and a passel of full-skirted printed shirtwaist dresses that are shockingly demure, considering Page’s line of work. The Midcentury mood at Bettie Page’s has me considering a Singapore Sling at Musso & Franks Grill across the street (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Greta Garbo used to tipple here, though maybe not together), but I’m eager to dip into the adorable Artisan’s Patio, a historic landmark at 6727 Hollywood Boulevard, home to artists’ ateliers almost a century ago and now a charming retail passageway marked by an ancient neon sign. Luckily, it’s Friday, which means that Ronald V. Borst, the proprietor of Hollywood Movie Posters, the last shop on the street, is in residence (the shop is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.) “I’ve been in this business forty-three years—I turned a boyhood hobby into a vocation,” Borst tells me. Since 1979


Bettie Page shopgirl Laura Brown. Left: Vintage brooches and belts at Decades Inc.

(Kramer vs. Kramer! Apocalypse Now!) he’s been ensconced in this sunny lair, where US$175 will get you a 36-by-91-centimeter poster for the 1940 drama Angels over Broadway. Though there is also plenty of ephemera from more recent films—Borst says that at the moment there is burgeoning interest in the Twilight series and he expects a surge for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies—it’s the more distant past that entrances him (and me). I experience a thrill when he tells me that, at one point, his shop was a screening room back in the 1940’s where film noir director Fritz Lang once introduced a movie. Wardrobe Department A single Bettie Page shirtwaist hardly constiTake tutes a new Hollywood wardrobe. So I go to two It’s a Wrap, a consignment store with an onlyin-L.A. conceit: the clothes have actually been worn on, or at least purchased for, a set. Each tag bears a code that refers to the item’s former life (uia for Up in the Air, for example). “It’s kind of awesome!” says the saleswoman, showing off a faux-garnet bangle bracelet that once graced someone’s arm on The Starter Wife. As at any vintage venue, you’ve got to dig for treasures: a rack of beaded dresses commissioned by Howie Mandel’s

Deal or No Deal are an inviting US$10 each; US$240 gets you an olive green gabardine suit with crystal detailing at the waist once sported by a diva on All My Children. Of course in L.A., as everywhere else, there is vintage and then there is vintage. If It’s a Wrap represents the total democratization of Hollywood fashion, Decades Inc. is the opposite: a place where celebrities buy or borrow high-end vintage gowns for red-carpet galas. “If you don’t like it, somebody from the Sex and the City cast wants to wear it!” Cameron Silver, the proprietor, is saying into the phone as I enter. When he hangs up he explains that he was talking to a far-flung customer who is being sent a Jean Patou by Christian Lacroix bubble dress; if she passes on it, Kristin Davis has first dibs. “Kristin’s a good friend. She wears a lot of vintage from us,” Silver tells me. “She wore Balmain couture from the sixties to the White House correspondents’ dinner—a real Jackie Kennedy feeling!” Silver, who is wearing pleated trousers and looks a bit like a 1940’s Hollywood player himself, tells me that it all started several years ago when early clients like Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger wanted something unique for premieres. “They all referenced another star in an effort to solidify a modern iconic style,” Silver explains, by which he means that when, say, Marisa Tomei selected a black-and-pink » t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a

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| shopping jackets available if that floats your boat. (Ouch! Sorry!) If you don’t want those, how about Angelina Jolie’s speargun from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, or maybe a pair of 5-meterhigh faux-Egyptian columns decorated with falcons, refugees from the sci-fi TV show Stargate SG-1? “We call it film art. Practically everything here is made by hand,” Alinger says, showing off Tobey Maguire’s Seabiscuit boxing gloves and Tom Cruise’s briefcase from Valkyrie. There’s something for every taste, even mine: if I had a home theater instead of a 12-inch TV, I’d be tempted to grace it with a model of Roger Rabbit’s head that was used as a scale reference for the actors (it’s the size of a human noggin, minus the ears) that I think is completely winning in its own right.

An entertainer outside the Rose Bowl Flea Market, in Pasadena.

Traina-Norell, she was echoing Audrey Hepburn appearing in Funny Face. That said, celebrities, like the rest of us, mostly just want to look gorgeous: “They’ll get the reference but it’s not really the selling point.” There’s nothing to prevent me—or anyone else—from buying the very same vintage gowns these stars wear, and as I sit on a python-covered pouf atop a 1940’s monkey-fur rug it’s easy to convince myself that I really need a flower-strewn, Mia Farrow–worthy Ossie Clark frock from the 1970’s. (Actually, maybe I do.) Giving Props You’d never guess that behind the bland Take warehouse door in Canoga Park a lion roars. three The horrifyingly life-like beast hails from Jumanji and now presides over a vast room of floor-to-ceiling movie memorabilia at the Prop Store. Brandon Alinger, the shop’s COO, tells me that his customers are mostly men, though when something such as Christina Ricci’s dresses from Sleepy Hollow or Keira Knightley’s Pirates of the Caribbean costumes surface, they sell out in a flash, despite the sometimes four-figure price tags. White Star Line plates and silverware from Titanic went pretty quickly, too, but there are still some blankets and life 114

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Flea-ing the City Where is that zippy 1930’s dance tune coming Take from? I’ve timed my flight back to New York four so I could spend my last day at the famous monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, where I am sure I will find, among the 2,500-plus stalls, the perfect examples of Hollywood ephemera. And after hours of looking at stunningly inexpensive Midcentury furniture and hectares of vintage clothes, my wish is granted. The music is wafting from booth B02, where Steven Ranger has a stock of movie memorabilia, much of it dating to the earliest years of Hollywood, when Pasadena provided the backdrop for Tom Mix westerns and D. W. Griffith extravaganzas. And here I find what is for me the ultimate Hollywood souvenir: a set of 12 delicate spoons, issued by Photoplay magazine and the Oneida silverware company in the 1920’s and decorated with portraits of silent-film stars and facsimiles of their autographs. I hesitate for a moment, but in the end I succumb: though a hot southern California sun is beating down, I have a vision of myself on a snowy New York night, curled up in front of a stack of DVD’s, deciding whether to stir my hot chocolate with Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford or Marion Davies. ✚

GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD SHOPPING Bettie Page 6650 Hollywood Blvd.; 1-323/461-4014; bettiepageclothing.com.

It’s A Wrap 1164 S. Robertson Blvd.; 1-310/246-1183; itsawraphollywood.com.

Decades Inc. 8214½ Melrose Ave.; 1-323/655-0223; decadesinc.com.

Larry Edmunds Bookshop 6644 Hollywood Blvd.; 1-323/463-3273; larryedmunds.com.

Hollywood Movie Posters 5 Hollywood Blvd.; 6727½ 8 1-323/463-1792.

Rose Bowl Flea Market 1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena; 1-323/560-7469; rgcshows.com; admission for two US$16.

Hollywood Museum 1660 N. Highland Ave.; 1-323/464-7776; thehollywoodmuseum.com; admission for two US$30.

Prop Store 9035 Eton Ave., Suite A, Canoga Park; 1-818/727-7829; propstore.com.


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118 Searching for the genuine side of BALI 128 KENYA where it’s blissfully remote 136 Design-side DUBAI reaches new heights 144 Along LONDON’s hardscrabble streets 117


Spirit of Bali

On a culturally vibrant island where art meets artifice at almost every turn, how do you find a genuine sense of place? On a return visit to Bali, Peter Jon Lindberg goes looking for some of the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most authentic experiences. Photographed by Hugh Stewart


Greeting guests at Baliâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Alila Villas Uluwatu resort, on the Bukit Peninsula. Opposite: A private pool pavilion at the resort.

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“And now we drink,”

said the priest. The holy water came from deep within the cave in which we knelt. The priest, or mangku, had collected it in a rusty bucket left under a dripping stalactite. The cave was discovered five centuries ago by the Javanese priest Nirartha, progenitor of Bali’s particular strain of Shaivite Hinduism. In my sarong, sash and headdress, I had nibbled the devotional rice, stuck a few grains on my forehead and solar plexus, assembled offerings, and prayed until my folded legs tingled on the cold cavern floor. The mangku rang a bell and asked for blessings upon my wife and me. He spoke Kawi, the ancient language of poets and priests, in the rapid-fire patter of an auctioneer. The only words I understood were “hotel” and “Alila.” Every Bali resort worth its hand-harvested salt has a slate of edifying cultural activities, but the Alila Villas Uluwatu goes several steps beyond. Filling a dense handbook, Alila’s roster of “Journeys” offers a more immersive experience than the average guest perhaps requires. Do you want to learn to play the gamelan? Practice djamoe medicine? Carve stone? Talk to the concierge. Our choice was a guided tour of the temples of the Bukit Peninsula, on Bali’s southern coast, highlighted by a visit to the cave-hidden Pura Goa Gong, “the gong temple,” so named for a miraculous stalagmite that resonates when struck. Alila calls this excursion the Journey of Enlightenment. Before setting out we were issued a lengthy information packet that included the invaluable tip, “Sun protection and mosquito repellent are recommended for Enlightenment.” But back to the water. My wife, Nilou, and I eyed the bucket nervously, thinking, as one would, about dysentery. A film of algae had formed across the top. But the water was blessed, we reminded ourselves, and couldn’t possibly hurt us. (I thought of the Ganges, where pilgrims brush their teeth downstream from women washing laundry with lye.) The mangku splashed a few drops on our heads, then lifted the ladle and administered the requisite dose. It tasted awful, like licking a battery. I suppose it was vaguely energizing. But it reeked to high heaven. As I struggled to swallow I considered that we might either reach enlightenment or die, or both. 120

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e did not die. not even a little. nor, alas,

did we achieve enlightenment. The holy water turned out to be benign, which was a relief and a disappointment. Instead of wrestling with giardia or epiphany, that night we enjoyed a transcendent meal at the Warung, the Alila’s Indonesian restaurant, whose tongue-tingling soto ayam (a chili-spiced chicken soup) was the best Balinese dish we had on the island. After dinner we reclined in our courtyard bale pavilion, gazing at a moonlit sea, with only the surf and the peep of geckos breaking the silence of our clifftop perch. The Alila’s clean lines and spare design—cool terrazzo and limestone offset with glowing hardwoods—made the resort even more of a retreat from the world outside its gates: an island overflowing with color and music and aromas and textures, a place that floods the senses. Like so many travelers, we’d come back to Bali to connect with its spectacularly vibrant culture, and to see how it has endured. For after the setbacks of the last decade, Bali is booming again. Tourist arrivals are shattering all records. The resort enclaves of Seminyak and Kuta are so crowded with new shops, hotels and restaurants that developers are reaching into unexploited corners of the island. Nilou and I had last visited six years ago, and in that time Bali appears to have discovered traffic: downtown Ubud was now mired in gridlock. The town was still buzzing from Julia Roberts’s recent visit for the filming of Eat Pray Love, which has turned a whole new generation on to Bali’s mystic charms. Of course Bali’s allure has always been about both spiritual pursuits and sybaritic pleasures—to the point that sybaritic pleasures are reframed as spiritual pursuits. Browse any five-star hotel directory: what we call “lounging by the pool” becomes in Bali “an opportunity to meditate”; a massage becomes a healing ritual; afternoon tea is recast as a ceremony; and a refreshing morning hike is nothing less than a pilgrimage. »


Bali, Naturally Clockwise from left: The pioneering village-style landscape design at Amandari, in Ubud; Bapak Sudarma, part of the room-service team at Amandari; a thatched-roof Amandari villa; nasi padang (braised chicken, potato cakes, and egg and cassava-leaf curry) at the resortâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s restaurant.


Children practice a traditional Balinese dance on the grounds of Hotel Tugu Bali, in Canggu.

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More than ever, the island’s resorts are making a priority of cultural relevance, promising unique entrée into Balinese art and architecture, music and dance, cuisine, traditional medicine, and social and religious life. The best hotels actually come close to providing it, granting guests a room with a view, but also a viewpoint: a compelling vantage on Bali itself. At the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan, near Ubud, one can spend the day with local farmers, learning firsthand about Bali’s ingenious subak irrigation system and even planting rice. The three resorts run by the Komaneka group—owned by the Neka family, whose patriarch founded Ubud’s Neka Art Museum—all showcase eclectic collections of contemporary Balinese art; the latest and most lavish property, Komaneka at Bisma, is a veritable gallery unto itself. These days one can have one’s karma cleansed, learn kite-making and Balinese dance, or be healed by a djamoe medicine man, often without leaving the premises. Along with cold towels and glasses of chilled juice, your hotel will bring Bali to you. It’s easy to be skeptical. Who looks to a hotel for a genuine cultural experience? Travelers have forever wrung their hands over The Authenticity Question, from Kona to Kathmandu—but particularly so in Bali, where tourism and tradition have had a long, strange, symbiotic relationship. (For a most incisive critique, seek out French anthropologist Michel Picard’s 1996 study, Bali: Cultural Tourism and Touristic Culture.) So this is not a novel complaint. But neither is it really a complaint at all. One of the great singularities of this island—and one of the great thrills of traveling here—is the thin line between the sacred and the mundane, between the genuine and the disingenuous. If such a line even exists.

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or a look at Bali’s next frontier, we ventured out to the southwestern coast, where Alila Hotels & Resorts opened its newest hotel on the island, the Alila Villas Soori. Set between green rice fields and a black-sand beach, the location is stunning, and if it feels a bit sleepy that’s precisely the intention. Seminyak’s trendy boutiques are just 40 minutes away—gods and traffic willing—yet this corner of Bali is still disarmingly quiet. (There’s a reason why many expats are relocating here.) The Soori’s trump card is its proximity to Tanah Lot, Bali’s most dramatically situated temple, poised on a rocky headland that becomes an island at high tide. At sunset the site is overrun by tour buses, but Alila guests can easily reach Tanah Lot in the morning before the crowds arrive. Sparsely populated the southwest may be, but like all of Bali it brims with activity. Biking down one rural lane we came upon an artisan village devoted to the making of terra-cotta roof tiles. The air was suffused with woodsmoke from makeshift kilns; every resident was coated in a layer of fine red dust. The village was inarguably poor, yet each house was surrounded by the most intricately hewn stone wall,

protecting the most gracefully realized temple and a shrine whose artfulness was breathtaking. This is where we have to talk about the sheer sensory overload of Bali. There is simply more stuff per square meter on this island than in the entirety of Hong Kong or Manhattan: carved Garuda statues and ornamental gates, kettle gongs and suling flutes, masks and totems and effigies shaded by parasols and wrapped in checkered poleng cloths. Nearly all of it is beautiful to behold. In the West we keep our art ensconced in museums, our idolatry sequestered in churches; in Bali, devotional arts and crafts are everywhere you look, spilling onto the sidewalk. Even the gutters are strewn with frangipani petals from yesterday’s canang, prayer offerings in banana-leaf baskets. Which is why Bali alternately enthralls and flummoxes foreign travelers. Without frames or labels to organize the visible world, a visitor is easily overwhelmed; at the end of the day your eyes—all three of them—are exhausted. Outside a temple you’ll stop to admire the singular grace of a Ganesh sculpture, then down the street you’ll pass a yard full of 200 identical ones for sale. And just as it’s difficult to tell whether that teak dining table is an antique or was simply left out in the rain for six weeks, so is it hard to delineate art from artifice. “But what’s real?” one’s inner skeptic cries. “What should I be looking at?” In Bali there is no easy answer, or the answer is, “Everything is real; look at everything.” “Look at everything” could be the motto of the Hotel Tugu Bali, located on a tranquil beach in Canggu, not far from Tanah Lot. Owned by Anhar Setjadibrata, a Javanese art collector, the 22-suite Tugu touts a connection to “the art, soul and romance of Indonesia.” Setjadibrata’s daughter Lucienne, who manages the hotel, explains that her father built the place after her mother demanded he “find someplace to store all this art and get it out of the house.” Certainly the Tugu feels more like a reliquary than a hotel. The public rooms are chockablock with Indonesian objets— stone carvings; shadow puppets; musical instruments—and every vertical surface sports a canvas or print or tapestry. It’s a fabulous place, in the true sense of the word: a vivid fantasia as rich as the tropical landscape, and just as uncontainable. Indeed, the Tugu is a microcosm of Bali itself: one wishes some magical docent would appear to explain it all.

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t Tanah Lot Temple, I struck up a conversation

with a French-Indonesian shaman who used to be a banker. Or maybe it was the reverse—I couldn’t keep track. He spoke in abstractions. The guy looked as if he not only lived outside the box but was no longer capable of even describing a box. For all I knew he was worth US$40 million. Bali is full of successful, formerly Type A businesspeople who moved here, saw the light and, as a friend put it, “let the island become them.” Even corporate hoteliers take on an » 123


Scenic Island From left: A sweep of black-sand beach at Alila Villas Soori; owners Ben and Blair Ripple pose with the local farmers and food producers at Big Tree Farms; a painting of the celestial nymph Apsara above a spa treatment pool at Hotel Tugu Bali; Lucienne Anhar, manager of Hotel Tugu Bali, located on Canggu Beach.

much of the green school’s curriculum is devoted to lessons in sustainability, be it growing spinach or recycling material

otherworldly quality after enough time in Bali. Liv Gussing, who ran Amandari for seven years until July, is the most serene hotel manager I’ve ever encountered, with a bearing best described as Zen like. John O’Sullivan, the ebullient Irishman in charge of Bali’s two Four Seasons resorts, has a parallel career as a sort of mystic-poet and calls himself “a Celtic spirit traveling the world in search of hiding relatives.” 124

Bali’s most famous entrepreneur-gone-native is John Hardy, the Canadian-born jewelry designer who has lived here for 35 years. Hardy sold his stake in his namesake brand in 2007; now he and his wife, Cynthia, devote their time and considerable wealth to a variety of do-good projects, from organic farming to promoting the use of bamboo as a renewable material for construction. Three years ago the Hardys created Bambu Indah (“beautiful bamboo”), an overnight retreat—let’s not call it a resort—on their rural property south of Ubud. Seven teak bungalows—built for 19th-century Javanese noblemen and transplanted by Hardy to Bali—perch on stilts above working rice paddies and vegetable gardens. Reflecting the Hardys’ good taste, guesthouses are decorated with antiques from their travels, from Moroccan carpets to Burmese lacquer bowls. Rain showers, copper sinks and high-tech Japanese toilets help justify the costly nightly rate. But rooms are less than bug- and snakeproof, and the unmanicured setting—the swimming pool is a pond—underscores that Bambu Indah is essentially a farm stay, immersing guests in the life of a Balinese farmer. (Or, for that matter, in the life of John Hardy.)


Quirky as Bambu Indah is, it pales next to the Hardys’ latest project: a private school outside Ubud built almost entirely of bamboo. Founded in 2008, the Green School is now home to 160 students—from preschoolers to high schoolers—a full 20 percent of whom are Indonesian children on scholarships. Much of the curriculum is devoted to lessons in sustainability, be it second-graders growing their own spinach or middle schoolers using recycled and natural materials to build their own clubhouse. The Hardys intend the school to be carbon-neutral; to that end, a vortex whirlpool harnesses energy from the river. At the center of the campus is one of the largest bamboo structures on the planet: a mesmerizing series of double helixes, soaring staircases and undulating rooflines, levitating three stories off the ground. Its shape recalls a giant lotus flower, or a UFO made of matchsticks. “We work hard to convince people we’re not just a hippie school in the jungle,” says admissions director Ben Macrory. “That said”—he points to a healing circle with a boulder-size quartz crystal at the center—“we’re also a hippie school in the jungle.”

The Green School has gained a following among Ubud’s expat community, which has always tilted left of center. Liv Gussing’s children were among the first enrollees, and Ben and Blair Ripple, owners of Big Tree Farms, send their daughter there. The Ripples are a remarkable pair: New York and Connecticut natives who moved to Bali 12 years ago, intent on reintroducing sustainable farming to an island that was often turning its back on traditional agricultural ways. I first met the Ripples in 2003, when they were farming a tiny plot on John Hardy’s estate; today, working in cooperation with local farmers around Bali and neighboring Java, they produce 100 different crops, from coffee to sea salt to coconut-palm sugar. (Ferran Adrià and Thomas Keller are among the chefs using Big Tree products.) That Ben and Blair are still in their early thirties is one more reason to admire or hate them, depending on how you feel about your own life trajectory. But they’re as charming as they are attractive, and blessed with contagious enthusiasm. Late one night over too many martinis at the Ubud watering hole Naughty Nuri’s, we listened raptly as Ben outlined plans for an organic chocolate factory—“Wonka-esque” was how he » 125


Musicians play rindiks at the Alila Villas Soori, in Tabanan.

described it—and the revival of Big Tree’s Firefly Dinners, farm-to-table banquets held occasionally in a torchlit jungle outside Ubud. By the end of the night Nilou and I were convinced we could make a go of organic farming ourselves. Bali does that to a person.

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Ubud is still a haven for the drawstring-pants crowd, with the requisite banana-pancake cafés, but if you confined yourself to the town’s perimeter you might imagine every visitor was rich and every hotel was a five-star. The humblest rural lane will lead to some discreetly luxurious, US$600-a-night resort—usually disguised to resemble an old Balinese village in its layout and landscaping, its architecture and iconography. The refined-rustic look is so pervasive it’s become the vernacular. But it was only in the past 20 years that high-end resorts began to convey a convincing sense of “Bali-ness.” The trend arguably started at Amandari, which opened in 1989 along the Ayung River Gorge outside Ubud. Each of the resort’s thatched-roof villas was set in its own stone-walled compound and laid out like a traditional Balinese house. Now as then, 126

owntown

pebbled pathways thread past lotus ponds and flower gardens; serpentine rice terraces cascade down the hillside to the river far below. The resort feels as secluded and exclusive as any, yet local residents continually pass through on a public footpath, baskets perched on heads, making their way to the riverbank they share with the resort. While Amandari’s design gracefully fuses indoors and out, there’s also a back-and-forth between the hotel and the village just next door. In 1989 this permeability was a novel idea: no longer was a hotel simply a mansion on the hill, but a part of the community. And the agenda shifted as well, from conjuring a fantasy to accessing reality. Two decades on, Amandari has some of the best cultural programs of any resort on the island—mainly because it’s been here long enough to cultivate lasting connections with the local inhabitants. The hotel sponsors a celebrated dance program for local children, who rehearse at Amandari daily after school for twice-weekly performances. But the highlight for Nilou and me was the cooking class, which began with an early morning trip to a nearby market. The drive out was impossibly pretty, passing mist-shrouded fields that seemed to sparkle in the sunrise, with only a flock of babbling ducks to


disturb the stillness. The market was extremely rustic—or, as they say in hotelspeak, “authentic”: a rabbit warren of muddy lanes and primitive stalls piled with chicken heads, snails and dried fish, attended by toothless women and no shortage of flies. Needless to say, we loved it. Nilou happily changed into her flip-flops and set off into the muck with a big straw basket and a shopping list. An hour later I had to tear her away from a spirited conversation with a shrimp-paste vendor. (That stuff was delicious.) Back in town we took our groceries to the family compound of Bapak Bawa, one of Amandari’s drivers. It was a lovely home—graced, like every Hindu household, by a modest temple in front, where we placed offerings of rice and flowers and incense. A wood-burning stove crackled in the kitchen, and we spent the rest of the morning sautéing fiddleheads, cooking duck curry, and stirring green-papaya soup and black-rice porridge, then enjoyed our seven-course feast on a breezy bale in back of the house that looked out on the Ayung River. It was our favorite day of the trip.

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ate on our final night, en route to the airport,

we rode in a taxi past Dreamland Beach. The darkness out the window provided much-needed rest for the eyes. Suddenly, out of the black appeared a 15-meter-high statue of Lord Vishnu astride the Garuda, bathed dramatically in spotlights. It was an incredible sight, its ornate majesty a testament to Bali’s artistry and abiding faith. Then, along the base, we noticed the sign: pecatu indah resort. The statue marked the entrance to a new golf-and-beach complex—built, as it happens, by Tommy Suharto, playboy son of the late Indonesian dictator. This Vishnu had been erected not by priests but by developers; it was, for all intents and purposes, a fake, albeit a convincing one. In that instant I recounted all the internal arguments I’d had about the real versus the unreal, the sacred versus the profane, and in that instant I realized they were all kind of pointless. “Very beautiful,” the taxi driver murmured as we slowed to admire the statue, and I had to agree. ✚

guide to bali WHERE TO STAY Alila Villas Soori Banjar Dukuh, Desa Kelating, Kerambitan, Tabanan; 62-361/894-6388; alilahotels.com; doubles from US$860.

WHERE TO EAT Café Bali French-colonial–style café with a relaxed European air. Jln. Oberoi Laksmana, Seminyak; 62-361/736-484; lunch for two US$30.

Alila Villas Uluwatu Jln. Belimbing Sari, Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu; 62-361/848-2166; alilahotels.com; doubles from US$1,080.

Firefly Dinner at Big Tree Farms Farm-to-table feasts in a torchlit jungle. See bigtreefarms. com/firefly-dinner-series for dates and locations; 62-361/ 461-978; dinner for two US$70.

Amandari Kedewatan, Ubud; 62-361/975-333; amanresorts. com; doubles from US$800. Bambu Indah Resort Banjar Baung, Desa Sayan, Gianyar; 62-361/977-922; bambuindah. com; doubles from US$160. Desa Seni Traditional village–style resort of thatched villas. 13 Jln. Subak Sari, Pantai Berawa, Canggu; 62-361/ 844-6392; desaseni.com; doubles from US$150. GREAT VALUE

m a p b y ya n i l ta c t u k

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan 62-361/977-577; fourseasons.com; doubles from US$460. Hotel Tugu Bali Jln. Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu Beach; 62-361/731-701; tuguhotels.com; doubles from US$270. Komaneka at Bisma Jln. Bisma, Ubud; 62-361/971-933; komaneka. com; doubles from US$275.

Ibu Oka Famous for its babi gulung (suckling pig); come early for the crispiest skin. Jln. Suweta, Ubud; 62-361/976-345; lunch for two Rp90,000. Mozaic Bali’s most ambitious restaurant, serving creative riffs on traditional dishes. Jln. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud; 62-361/975768; dinner for two US$160. Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Humble canteen with the best nasi ayam (chicken rice) in town. Jln. Kedewatan, Ubud; 62-361/ 974-795; lunch for two Rp72,000. Naughty Nuri’s Roadhouse bar and barbecue joint best known for its excellent martinis. Jln. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud; 62-361/977-547; drinks for two Rp63,000. The Warung Alila Villas Uluwatu; Jln. Belimbing Sari,

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Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu; 62-361/8480-2166; dinner for two US$120.

Jenggala Keramik Known for its modern and affordable ceramics from around the island. Jln. Uluwatu II; 62-361/703-312.

WHERE TO SHOP Bali Spirit Kafe Organic café selling indigenous foodstuffs, including local Big Tree Farms’ sea salt and spices. 44B Jln. Hanoman, Ubud; 62-361/970-992.

Threads of Life Textile gallery and emporium that supports local women’s weaving cooperatives. 24 Jln. Kajeng, Ubud; 62-361/972-187.

Gallery Macan Tidur Carries Balinese arts and crafts, including an extensive collection of weavings from the island. 10 Monkey Forest Rd., Ubud; 62-361/977-121.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO Green School Public tours of the 9-hectare eco-friendly campus are held on Mondays and Wednesdays. Jln. Raya Sibang Kaja, Banjar Saren, Abiansemal, Badung; 62-361/469-875; greenschool.org.

Icon Asian Arts Gallery One of the best spots on the island to find Balinese art and sculpture. 17 Jln. Oberoi, Seminyak; 62361/733-875.

Tanah Lot Temple Kediri, Tabanan; 62-361/880-361; tanahlot.net.

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Unchartered

Kenya

On the southeastern shore of Lamu Island, two men ride donkeys along the dunes outside Shela Village.


Today, the Lamu Archipelago—four islands grazing Kenya’s northeastern coast—feels utterly and blissfully remote. Yet for centuries, Lamu was at the very center of the trade map, drawing a steady influx of Arabs, Africans, Indians and Europeans. The result: a rich cultural and culinary mix that remains as beguiling as ever. By Shane Mitchell Photographed by Monika Hoefler and Jens Schwarz


Swahili Dreams Clockwise from left: A Kenyan family at the Lamu Museum, formerly a 19th-century Swahili residence; freshly caught fish; a Samburu watchman at Kizingoni Beach villas; outside the Lamu House hotel; the Peponi Hotel; a caftan at Aman boutique; the popular terrace bar and restaurant at the Peponi Hotel.


he call to prayer came before

dawn, and while normally this would not vex me—an inveterate early riser—the mosque was only two lanes away from my bedroom. In the sweltering heat before the Kusi monsoon rains arrived to cool the East African coast, I had just finally drifted off after a bout with insomnia. Deep in the night, a donkey had brayed forlornly in a nearby alley, contributing to my exhausted state. But when the loudspeaker crackled to life and the muezzin chanted his request to the faithful, I wearily pushed back my tangled sheets and mosquito netting, then climbed stone stairs to a rooftop balcony that caught the faint breeze stirring off Lamu Channel. A sleepless night was a small price to pay for the privilege of watching the equatorial sun rise, red as a torch, while elegantly thin Swahilis in long white robes hurried, their slippers slapping rhythmically on pounded-dirt paths, to attend to their first obligation of the day. For more than a thousand years, East Africa was a strategic stop on shipping routes linking the Arabian Peninsula, Europe and the Indian subcontinent. Gold, ivory, slaves and spices were exchanged in ports of call along a 480-kilometer stretch of what is now Kenya but which belonged at various times to Portugal, the Sultanate of Oman and the British Empire. This complicated history resulted in a rich layering of cultures, cuisines and languages: Portuguese sailors, Arab artisans, Gujarati merchants and British colonials all gravitated here to trade and farm. In Arabic, sahil means coast. It’s also the root word for Swahili, the coastal region’s predominant social group (whose language is officially called Kiswahili). The isolated Lamu archipelago, 240 kilometers north of Mombasa, is one of the best-preserved Swahili settlements. It consists of four main islands—Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu—with a total population of 70,000, many of whom make their living fishing along the protective reef and the mangrove forest that rims the back channels. More recently, Lamu has been discovered by a European coterie with a penchant for outpost chic. Princess Caroline of

Monaco, jewelry designer and former Yves Saint Laurent muse Carolyn Roumeguere, and London cosmetics guru Mary Greenwell have all spent time here. My friend Anna Trzebinski, the Nairobi-raised fashion designer, grew up vacationing in Lamu and has long praised its charms. “As a child I played all day on the beach, collecting sand dollars and watching turtles hatch, then eating samosas and crème caramel,” she reminisced recently. Earlier trips to East Africa had taken me into the tribal hinterlands, so the idea of practicing Kiswahili while lounging on a vanilla-sand beach and eating samosas sounded like an ideal way to drop out of my own restless world. “Pole, pole,” cautioned Nasser Hamden, steering a motor launch he had named Beyoncé into the current. We were on a morning ride to the market in Lamu Old Town, and as speedier boats whipped past, kicking up wakes that rocked our little wooden vessel, my patient young boatman repeated this phrase—Kiswahili for “take it slowly”—over and over. Hamden had picked up numerous nonpaying passengers: the louche “beach boys” who make an uneven living catering to the whims of tourists; mothers with babies; devout men in embroidered kofia caps. He dropped me off at the crumbling main pier, crowded with handcarts bearing sacks of basmati rice and cases of Stoney Tangawizi ginger soda. The earliest of four settlements on Lamu Island—dating to the 14th century—Lamu Old Town was named a unesco World Heritage Site in 2001, though it is by no means a static outdoor museum. Along high-walled lanes overgrown with jasmine, wealthy traders built stately houses of whitewashed coral stone, with inner courtyards and carved mahogany doors. Descendants continue their highly private lives behind these thick walls that shield them from the tropical sun. The streets of Old Town are generally too narrow to navigate except on foot, and there is only one car on the island, belonging to the district commissioner, who commutes the 1.5 kilometers between his house and office. » 131


“Mama! Do you want a ride on my dhow?” It’s the first I always heard from insistent touts while climbing up the mollusk-crusted jetty steps. They followed eagerly as I ducked through a crowd of women in swirling black chiffon and dodged beasts of burden hauling mangrove poles along the waterfront promenade. Brightly painted fishing boats tilted on their carved keels in the outgoing tide. My arrival in Lamu coincided with Maulidi, the spring celebration of Muhammad’s birth, honored locally with donkey sprints and dhow races. The festival was still five days away, but pilgrims were already packing guesthouses and restaurants. I wandered through Old Town’s main square, which is shaded by a giant fig tree. Behind the square loomed a mold-blackened fort, built in the early 1800’s, before Lamu was eclipsed by Mombasa. Having spent time in Kenya’s largest port city—a tumultuous place of honking buses, crooked merchants and dark corners—Lamu’s backwater status suited me just fine. Around the fort’s perimeter women proffered live chickens in woven baskets. Vendors set up impromptu stands to sell fruit cups and coffee. A lovely older man named Islam brewed the finest Arabica, ground and boiled on the spot in a big urn and poured into tiny porcelain cups. It was like sipping rocket fuel spiced with ginger and cardamom. Paired with hot mandazi, a yeasty fritter light as any beignet, Islam’s coffee became part of my morning routine. (And perhaps the root of my insomnia.) Small shops along the main thoroughfare stock everything from Zanzibar peppercorns and chewing tobacco to mobile phones and marine-engine parts. I paused at one displaying an encyclopedic selection of brightly patterned kanga cloth edged with amusing messages in Kiswahili: please stop teasing me or it takes two to make a marriage. Swahili women fashion these fabrics into sarongs and head coverings to wear at home, where they can shed the dark bui-bui veiling typically worn in public. A breed of short-haired cats with pointed ears, resembling their ancestors in Egyptian hieroglyphs, strayed everywhere. “The cats of Lamu are always satisfied,” a vendor said as he fed them scraps. One licked its paws while perched on a counter in the fish market. A historical museum, a donkey sanctuary and a couple of mediocre sculpture galleries are Old Town’s sole standard tourist amusements. It was only when I ventured out of the market area and into a labyrinth of backstreets that the place revealed itself. The pressing offers of touts and other professional opportunists faded away, but more children, their shyness overcome, ran up to me shouting greetings: “Jambo! Jambo!” Several mosques were marked solely by the pairs of slippers left at the entrance. Boys in skullcaps with large brooms swept dirt from the cool dark halls of their primary school. Young girls in headscarves carried home yellow plastic jugs filled with water from a well. At a fruit stand a woman kindly offered me some passion fruit, brown and pitted but tartly ripe and wonderfully fragrant inside. 132

(Swahilis have an exceedingly formal sense of hospitality.) Inside a sawdust-strewn workshop, men were carving ornate floral designs in panels for new front doors and the traditional ebony chairs called kiti cha mpingo. And at the very northern end of town, just before an unpainted bungalow owned and still used by the Leakeys, East Africa’s famous clan of anthropologists, I found a curious shack fashioned entirely from flotsam that turned out to be the studio of a craftsman who makes miniature dhows. By late afternoon I was flushed red in the face and parched. Returning to the promenade, I stopped at Olympic, a modest restaurant run by a hefty lady named Mama Fatuma, to taste her fluffy coconut rice with mango chutney. Infused with cinnamon, clove and cumin seed then simmered in fresh coconut milk, this Swahili dish proved positively addictive. Fatuma, who holds court at a table just outside the kitchen, explained that the chutney was specially made for the restaurant by a man in Mombasa. Fatuma’s son Abdul, a roly-poly toddler, was perched on a low windowsill eating an apple. Other children regarded his prize hungrily. When his mother wasn’t looking, Abdul mischievously made a break for the waterfront, chasing after his laughing friends. The kitchen came to a halt until he was recovered. In Old Town it’s possible to snack continuously rather than sit down in any one place for a meal. As the day faded, I grazed through darkened alleys where cooks set up glowing charcoal braziers to hawk roasted cashews, lentil-and-potato bhajias, lime-marinated beef skewers and cassava chips dusted with chili powder. Blending fried potatoes into an omelette called chips mai yai, one vendor told me, “When you cook pole pole, then the food is good.” The monsoon breezes that carried ships laden with cloves and peppercorns to the East African coast also brought multiethnic cooks who eventually created the sophisticated cuisine of Lamu—biryanis and curries, couscous and pasta—which is far more nuanced than the frugal nomadic diet of the interior. “What do you want to drink tonight?” Satan asked. I never found out his real name, but he certainly looked the part: hooded eyes, sardonic mouth, a Che Guevara beret on knotted Rasta locks. Satan presided over the rooftop bar at Petley’s Inn, a waterfront joint where voyeurs mingled with quasi-piratical locals. He poured me a Tusker Lager and cordially revived our discourse on vegetarian cafés and chutney vendors. But when a sloppy tourist tried to interject, the Nairobi street tough emerged. Satan glared at the man. “What the hell do you know about Swahili food?” he snapped. The drunk left me alone after that. Satan allowed some of the better behaved beach boys—the ones with neatly combed hair, cell phones and surf shorts— to mingle on sofas scattered by the windows above the promenade. Drinking sodas and trolling for customers who might make their dreams of a foreign visa come true, they »


Sailors ply the waters of the archipelago on a traditional wooden dhow.


African Isle Left: A vintage barbershop sign at Shela’s Aman boutique; a plunge pool at the Lamu House hotel.

reminded me of courtesans. Lamu would certainly be duller without their flirtatious banter. “Mama, I want to come, too!” one giggled as I said good night. It was unclear whether he wanted a ride in Hamden’s boat or a place in my bed. Like my bartender friend, I found these boys wickedly adorable. Five kilometers south of Old Town is Shela Village, which Swahilis have nicknamed “Little Europe” for reasons that became obvious. It’s nearer to the beach, so wealthy expats and the Nairobi elite tend to favor this sedate settlement. Some of the neocolonialists are responsible for a recent building spree of villas imitating earlier Swahili architecture, sometimes side-by-side with less ambitious but equally attractive banda bungalows of coconut-palm matting and varnished mangrove poles. (Across the channel from Lamu, a row of them dominates the dunes on Manda Island.) Shela also has several lovely Swahili-style guesthouses—converted 18th-century traders’ villas—austerely decorated with antiques and ceiling fans; garden fountains and shaded courtyards keep travelers cool. Compared to Lamu Old Town, insular Shela seemed deserted. Many of the grander villas belonging to overseas owners were shuttered for the low season. But a languorous day splashing in shallow water on the long wide beach fronting Lamu Bay was a salty restorative. Fishermen waded waist-deep with wide nets to catch shrimp in the current and dhows raised their triangular sails to skirt past the coral reef. After walking up and over sand hills back into the still village, I browsed the shelves at a little grocery store that sold hard sesame candies and striped Kenyan cotton kikoi: much cooler than jeans and more versatile than beach tunics. I purchased far too many, under the misguided rationale that the tasseled lengths of fabric could always be turned into pillows. Shela’s social hub is the Peponi Hotel. It has 24 guest rooms with mahogany beds and a gift shop displaying tempting gold jewelry by Nairobi designers. But expats gather here because the waterfront veranda bar is one of the better 134

places on the coast to find a decent cocktail, and Charles, the smiling head bartender, pours with a generous hand. His specialty is an Old Pal made with vodka, lime and bitters. The Peponi and Petley’s are worlds apart. Sipping South African Sauvignon Blanc on the low balustrade next to lapping waves, I behaved myself even when a sunburned Englishman in baby-pink slacks rudely barked at the patient Swahili waiter. The hotel’s co-owner Carol Korschen, a tall blonde in white linen, graciously checked on other guests who needed their sundowners refreshed and more plates of “bitings,” or appetizers. She urged me to sample salty seaweed and delicate cucumber pickles, specially made in a village on the other side of the island. And I fell in love with the grilled giant prawns in a searing piri-piri chili sauce best tempered with lime chutney, served on white linen in the hotel’s breezy dining room. As Lamu overflowed with Maulidi pilgrims, I deserted the island to avoid being stampeded by enthusiastic donkey riders, who were already doing practice sprints along Old Town’s flag-festooned promenade. With a swimsuit and some toiletries wrapped in a makeshift kikoi bundle, I hired a small powerboat to take me deeper into the archipelago. We traveled north on a canal between clusters of mangrove into Manda Bay, rounding Pate Island as numerous dhows headed the other way. I waved to the crews dressed in matching T-shirts for the upcoming competition. The captain, Ali, told me the red strings hanging from their masts were juju luck tokens. During the races some crews even throw live chickens overboard for additional good fortune. After two hours, the terrain we passed shifted from mangrove forest to dry hills and scrub: this was Kiwayu, the northernmost island in the archipelago, and the least developed—closer in character to the tribal mainland. The boat turned into a half-moon bay with a fishing village at one end and our destination, Kiwayu Safari Lodge, at the other,


nearer the reef. Under a fringe of coconut palms, the barefoot camp consists of little more than thatch huts and a main dining banda. My quarters contained a rope hammock, a bed and a discreet bath in an alcove. There were no windowpanes, no doors, no locks—simple, yet perfectly suited to the far-off setting. The lodge’s English manager, George Moorehead, often barters with tribesmen for wild honeycomb, gathered from prickly acacia trees, to serve at breakfast. When he heard how much I love the rich taste of the mud crabs that thrive in the mangroves, a meaty pair landed on my plate for lunch. “My father-in-law started this place,” he told me. “But I’ve taken it on. Can’t imagine going back to England now.”

I spent the afternoon paddling a kayak around the bay. Just beyond the reef break, clouds towered in the south. The staff told me they could smell the Kusi rains coming, though they were still weeks away. At dusk kanga pillows and palm mats were hauled onto the sand. Brass lanterns provided the only light for kilometers. Moorehead lent me a telescope that digitally identified constellations. I was delighted to locate Canopus, a navigation star beloved of ancient voyagers, only visible in the Southern Hemisphere; it was impossible to be lost under its bright influence. Conversation died. Rare are the places with so few distractions. Leaving the other guests, I walked to my hut and crawled under the mosquito netting. At last I fell asleep. ✚

guide to lamu

WHERE TO STAY GREAT Baitil Aman Guest VALUE House An 18th-century residence with eight fan-cooled guest rooms, an inner courtyard and a rooftop terrace where authentic Swahili dinners are served by lantern light. Shela Village; 254/713-576-669; baitilaman.com; doubles from US$180, including breakfast and transfers. Banana House Pleasant inn near the waterfront. Choose one of the three top-floor rooms with antique spindle beds and open terraces that catch the breeze off Lamu channel. Shela Village; 254/721-275-538; bananahouse-lamu.com; doubles from US$130. GREAT VALUE

Kizingoni Beach A collection of seven luxury villas on an 800meter stretch of beach. Each house is decorated with coastal African fabrics and art. Cooks versed in Swahili dishes prepare all meals. Kizingoni Beach, Lamu Island; 254/733-444-144; kizingonibeach.com; villas from US$8,200 for seven nights. Lamu House In two adjacent Swahili houses in the heart of Old Town, 10 guest rooms are handsomely decorated in traditional style. Lamu Old Town; 254/735874-428; lamuhouse.com; doubles from US$320. The Majlis A new 25-room resort of coral stone and hand-carved timber with two pools, two bars, a restaurant, and a trove of traditional East African and contemporary art. Manda Island; 254/204-441-164; themajlisresort. com; doubles from US$635, including meals. Peponi Hotel Peponi’s veranda is the watering hole for “Little Europe,” the jet-set crowd that comes here for generous gin and tonics and dishes of exceptional spicy prawns served with coconut rice. Shela Village; 254/208023-655; peponilamu.com; doubles from US$283.

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Kiwayu Island Pate Island ma

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GETTING THERE The Manda airstrip is served by daily flights from Nairobi on Air Kenya, Safarilink and Fly540. Most resorts and villa-rental agencies will arrange transfers from the airstrip to Lamu or other islands. Journeys by Design (1-212/568-7639; journeysby design.com) can customize its private East African safari itineraries to include the Lamu Archipelago, arranging dhow charters, ground transportation, local guides, translators and villa rentals.

Kiwayu Safari Lodge Delightfully rustic resort on an isolated beach with a total of 18 thatch bungalows. It takes two hours by launch to get here from the pier on Lamu Island, but the resort will arrange transport for its guests. 254/723-598-858; kiwayu.com; doubles from US$936.

Manda Island

Ind Lamu Island

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Olympic Mama Fatuma’s unpretentious café offers red snapper in tandoor sauce, fantastic lime pickle and biryani (usually reserved for special occasions in Swahili households). Lamu Town; 254/728-667-692. Petley’s Inn Convivial rooftop bar with a mix of locals, visitors and flirty “beach boys.” Lamu Town; 254/724-251-955. Pontoon Restaurant A floating grill bar moored off Manda Beach with great sunset views. Reachable by its own private launch. 254/727-734-945. Whispers Café Garden courtyard offering pastries, vegetable samosas, small snacks and daily seafood specials. Lamu Town; 254/722-611-282. WHERE TO SHOP Aman Best shop on the island for stylish clothing: Kenyan-made leather bags and belts; beaded

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WHEN TO GO September through March is the best time to visit Lamu, when high temperatures hover in the 30’s and the weather is fairly dry. April to July is the rainy season.

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leather sandals; soft linen slacks. Shela Village; 254/733-455-821. My Eye Gallery Attractive collection of modern African folk art and abstract paintings. Shela Village; 254/722-702-510. Sea Suq A small complex with boutiques carrying African jewelry, clothes and objets d’art. Shela Village; 254/722-209-490. Anna Trzebinski Furniture, kikoi robes and housewares from the Nairobi designer. Shela Village; 254/720-292-024. WHAT TO DO Lamu Museum Originally a 19th-century Swahili home, this museum contains rare artifacts related to the history and culture of the Lamu Archipelago. Lamu Old Town; 254/722-943-999. Tusitiri Dhow Hire this traditional sailboat with a uniformed crew for day or overnight cruises. Pickups from Lamu Old Town or Shela Village; from US$1,600; 254/722-521-740.

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With his sky-high hotel overlooking the Persian Gulf, fashion designer Giorgio Armani has reached new heights. Charles Gandee checks in for the opening. Photographed by Thomas Loof


Star of Dubai ★

The exterior of the 828-meter Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and home to the Armani Hotel Dubai. Opposite: The lobby of Armani Hotel Dubai.


Armani Revealed Clockwise from top left: Giorgio Armani at his new hotel in Dubai; a close-up of Burj Khalifa; Armani/ Ristorante; a hotel corridor; roasted lobster at Armani/ Ristorante; Armani Privé’s interior.

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I speed down Sheikh Zayed Road, a perilous 12-lane highway that slices through the heart of Dubai, the view is a surreal spectacle of outlandish skyscrapers, each of which tries to outdo the other in cash, flash and dash. It is a shameless show of unbridled ambition, a dizzying display of hubris and chutzpah that recalls the boomtown years of Miami and Manhattan, Houston and Las Vegas, Seoul and Shanghai. There is an unforgettable sequence of striking juxtapositions, of US$400,000 Rolls-Royce Phantoms cruising confidently along the highway past sweating construction workers in dirty blue coveralls, who wait in packs by the side of the road for the buses that take them deep into the desert each night to the camps they call home. Amid the visual cacophony, one tower stands high above the others—elegant, aloof, Oz-like. It is Burj Khalifa, and at 828 meters it is more than twice the height of the Empire State Building. Which, much to the glee of the powers that be in Dubai, makes it the tallest building in the world. One of the first tenants is the Armani Hotel Dubai, occupying the underground level through floor 8 and floors 38 and 39, and representing designer Giorgio Armani’s debut as a hotelier. s

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New Dubai Clockwise from top left: Burj Khalifa towers over Dubai; at the Armani/ Privé club; bustier cocktail dress from Armani’s Privé collection; the Armani Dubai Suite; chef Alessandro Salvatico at Armani/Ristorante.

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10,000 fireworks helped mark the topping off of the US$1.5 billion reflectiveglass tower designed by Adrian Smith of Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Originally named Burj Dubai, it was rechristened Burj Khalifa on opening night, in honor of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates and the emir of Abu Dhabi, the neighboring oil-rich emirate that came to Dubai’s 11th-hour rescue last November, when the emirate was unable to make payments for its US$59 billion debt. A decade of profligate spending and impossible-to-sustain development had finally undone Dubai, as the flashy emirate had very publicly treated itself to posh trinkets (CityCenter, Las Vegas, US$5.1 billion; Barneys New York, US$942 million; the Queen Elizabeth 2, US$100 million) and endless construction projects, including the US$20 billion development Downtown Dubai, home to the Burj Khalifa. The 200 hectares house a massive aquarium, an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, the US$12.1 million Dubai Mall, the world’s largest indoor gold souk, a 12-hectare man-made lake and, at the center of that lake, a kinetic US$218 million fountain that shoots water more than 150 meters into the air while lights flash and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli is heard singing an impassioned rendition of “Con te partirò.” It is being billed, in the hyperbolic spirit of Dubai, as “the most prestigious square kilometer on earth.” “Downtown Dubai is our flagship project,” says Mohamed Ali Alabbar, who is chairman of the » ome

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An Armani guest room. From far left: A server at Armani/ Mediterraneo; fruit jellies from Armani/Dolci on the first floor.

multibillion-dollar Dubai-based development company Emaar, which is responsible for the venture. “The jewel at the center of this neighborhood is Burj Khalifa, and Armani Hotel Dubai is a sterling value addition to the world’s tallest building.”

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earing khaki trousers, white tennis shoes and a navy-blue

T-shirt, a relaxed and tanned Giorgio Armani strolls into the hotel’s ballroom to meet the press. It is April 27, the long-awaited opening of the Armani Hotel Dubai, and the designer is flanked by Alabbar and his ever-present interpreter. (Armani does not speak English.) Though Alabbar was educated in the United States, like most traditional Emirati men he is wearing a kandura, a white, ankle-length cotton garment, and a guthra, a white head scarf held in place by a black rope called an egal. Armani confirms that when first approached by Alabbar to design a hotel, he declined. “Dubai was described as a Las Vegas in the desert,” says Armani, who was not interested. But Alabbar’s charm and perseverance (not to mention deep pockets) ultimately prevailed. After two years of wooing and negotiating, Armani signed a contract with Emaar—for 10 hotels, resorts and villas to be built over 10 years. “I wanted something not just for the present, but for beyond the present,” says Armani, who celebrated his 76th birthday in July. A reporter asks a question about the impact of the world financial crisis on the project. Alabbar is not only very cool but very crisp. “Cycles come and go,” he says, indulging in the luxury of the long view. “What you see here today is much better than what was originally designed,” he says, noting that at every stage of the project, the materials, furnishings and finishes for the hotel were all upgraded, as per the ever-evolving specifications of “Mr. Armani.” In short, no corners were cut during the five-year process. There were, however, delays. At one point, there was an on-site riot by dissatisfied construction workers, who did substantial physical damage. Then, shortly after it opened last February, At the Top, the observation deck on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, closed for two months. It seems a group of sightseers got stuck in one of the elevators for 45 minutes. No one quite knew why. Finally, in April, just as the Armani Hotel Dubai was set to open, airborne ash from a volcano in Iceland caused air traffic to grind to a halt. The opening was postponed a week.

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“What’s next?” one journalist wants to know, before we adjourn for a whirlwind tour of the hotel. Alabbar reports that an Armani Hotel is currently under construction in Milan, on Via Manzoni. This will be followed by the first Armani Resort, slated for Marrakesh. Then an Armani Residences/Villas, scheduled for the beach in Marassi, Egypt. Other destinations include New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai and London. Armani seems not a bit impressed by all the figures and facts being bandied about. But then, why would he be? According to Forbes, the designer’s net worth hovers at around US$5 billion. He employs 5,000 people, owns 13 factories and 25 restaurants, and has more than 500 stores around the world. And he also owns, in addition to his custom-designed yacht, an impressive portfolio of personal real estate: a pied-à-terre in Paris; a penthouse in New York; houses in St.-Tropez, Antigua and Italy (in Pantelleria, Broni, Forte dei Marmi and, of course, his Peter Marino–designed home base in Milan). As people familiar with Armani’s work know, the designer is a Modernist. Not a Modernist in the clichéd white-walls, chrome-and-black-leather-furniture sense of the word. But a Modernist with a penchant for streamlined furniture and restrained rooms. They all embody the rigorously understated elegance that is his signature. Armani came to the project with considerable experience in designing interiors and furniture. His Armani/Casa division now has more than 60 stores and outlets in 46 countries. Battalions of architects and designers under Armani’s watchful eye not only create the collections Armani/Casa introduces each season but also perform extensive design services for clients who want to live the complete Armani “lifestyle.”

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he first thing you see when you walk in the front door of the hotel are four

interlocking arches that rise almost 12 meters. Made of thick tubular steel with a bronze finish, the arches are inspired by regional architecture. They form the symbol for Armani Hotel Dubai, which has been incorporated into the base of the glass-topped tables found in every room. As I glimpse the hotel, it’s clear Armani is partial to the 1930’s—not only to Jean-Michel Frank but also to a certain period in designer Eileen Gray’s remarkable career. He likes macassar ebony and black lacquer, vellum and parchment. One wall is leather, another is fabric, another is wood. Here and there you can spot a Japanese influence, from tatami mats to sliding shoji-like screens. The palette is all beiges and grays, coffees and cappuccinos, deep olives and pale seafoam greens. At times there is a hint of Art Deco, in the way a corner of a sofa or chair is rounded, the way a curve of a vanity is resolved. But always there is rigor to thwart any nascent inclination toward excess. Like the curvaceous Burj Khalifa itself, the walls in the guestrooms curve and bend, move and slide to give access to the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the walk-in closet. In my suite, there is a dining table with four straightback chairs, and a dark-wood secretary inlaid with embossed black leather that looks a bit like shagreen. The dining area is separated from the living area by a chest-high bifold screen made of creamy fabric panels framed in ebonized wood. In the bathrooms, the floors are Eramos stone. In each living room and bedroom, oversize sliding panels, framed in bronze, open to reveal a flat-screen TV that doubles as a computer monitor, thanks to a wireless keyboard. Another oversize panel conceals a butler’s station with an espresso machine, a well-stocked refrigerator and drawers filled with Armani sweets. From the shampoo to the flatware, everything is stamped armani. Similarly, the flower arrangements in the guest rooms are the work of Armani/Fiori, which has a retail outpost in the lobby next to Armani/Dolci, which sells chocolates, jellies, sweets and spreads. Also in the lobby is Armani/Galleria, which offers haute couture accessories from the Armani Privé collection. In addition to the hotel’s 160 rooms and suites, which range from US$1,000 to US$10,000 a night, plus a 20 percent tax, there are 144 one- and two-bedroom apartments in Burj Khalifa designed and furnished by Armani and measuring 93 to 186 square meters. According to one report, the apartments sell for US$322 per square meter. The hotel also has eight in-house restaurants, all designed by Armani, along with a serene, 1,300-square-meter spa on the third floor, which opens to an outdoor swimming pool on the spa’s terrace. »

here and there you can spot a japanese influence, from tatami mats to sliding shoji-like screens. the palette is all deep olives and pale seafoam greens 141


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n the hospitality industry, state-of-the-art style rings hollow if it is not accompanied by

state-of-the-art service. So each guest at Armani Hotel Dubai is assigned what is called a “lifestyle manager,” someone who, in effect, acts as a full-time concierge and personal assistant. Before I even arrived in Dubai, my lifestyle manager contacted me by e-mail and telephone to make arrangements for transportation from the airport to the hotel, if I should want it—I did—and to apprise me of the numerous entertainment options in Dubai: from polo to downhill skiing, golf to watersports. She then followed up by having her supervisor, a senior lifestyle manager, greet me at the hotel entrance the moment I arrived from the airport in one of the hotel’s silver Range Rovers, escort me to my suite, explain the mechanized lighting, curtain and computer systems, and make sure I was taken care of. Would you like a wake-up call? Breakfast? What time? I hear the airline lost your luggage? If you give me the claim tickets, I will have your bags delivered to you tomorrow. Would you then like to have your clothes unpacked? Pressed? And so it goes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your lifestyle manager even has an assistant, who is up to the minute on your schedule, preferences and needs. Meaning that you are never without support, if you want it. Some 600 employees from around the globe were aggressively recruited and meticulously trained, according to Pierre Lang, the hotel’s executive assistant manager of rooms and residences. And they are all, naturally, dressed in Armani. Young, enthusiastic and cosmopolitan, and giving it their absolute all.

the quality of the materials and finishes and, just as important, the construction, can stand up to the closest scrutiny. armani provides a mix of images, a spectrum of visual and sensory souvenirs

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he last night of the press conference,

Armani flies in a catwalkful of gazelle-like models who show off his ethereal spring/summer 2010 Privé collection on a luminous runway installed in the hotel’s concourse-level ballroom. At show’s end, Armani appears on the catwalk wearing a midnight-blue three-button suit with a matching tie and walks toward the photographers, smiling and waving, until he reaches Alabbar. Armani pulls Alabbar up onto the runway, and the two men lead their 500-plus guests out onto the hotel’s expansive terrace to view a water, light and sound show put on by the Dubai Fountain. After that, it’s off to dinner in the hotel’s restaurants, followed by champagne at Armani/Privé, the bi-level club that has its own entrance on the ground floor of the tower. There is a resident DJ, and it is open to the public from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. It is not only prudent but also required to telephone ahead for a table reservation—although securing one of the seductively illuminated circular onyx-and-lacquer banquettes will set you back US$820. The party is calm but festive, celebratory but not crazy. On the one hand, no one seems bored or blasé. On the other hand, no one gets drunk and falls into the fountain. There is plenty to look at, to remember. And the hotel is a refined beauty. The quality of the materials and finishes and, just as important, the construction can stand up to the closest scrutiny. Armani provides a mix of images, a spectrum of visual and sensory souvenirs. In Dubai we are left with more than a custom-designed his/her perfume set, courtesy of “Mr. Armani.” For example, at the party that night, there is plenty of décolleté and diamonds, of course. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, there are plenty of Emirati women who chose the “national dress” option given on the invitation. They wear abayas and, on their heads, hijabs. Which does not mean they do not also carry bubble-gum-pink quilted Chanel purses or crocodile Birkin bags. In other words, the juxtapositions are instructive, pertinent, appropriate. A perfect fit, you might even say. ✚ Armani Hotel Dubai; 1 Emaar Blvd., Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 971-4/888-3888; armanihotels.com; doubles from US$1,000.

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A view of Burj Khalifa and Dubai at dusk.

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East End R i s i n g

Painted doors in Bethnal Green. Opposite: Outside the artisanal-food purveyor Verde & Co., in Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Spitalfields neighborhood.


Among the historic (and historically hardscrabble) corridors of Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s East End, a new energy has taken hold, marked by the efforts of trendsetting artists, designers, chefs and hoteliers. Maria Shollenbarger hits the streets. Photographed by Christian Kerber


There’s a story that circulates through the London art world about the gritty Hoxton/Shoreditch area in the mid 1990’s, when it was just beginning to be frequented by the YBA’s (Young British Artists).

A Spitalfields street, above. Right: Iwona Blazwick, director of East London’s 109-year-old Whitechapel Gallery.

Before the pioneering White Cube Gallery opened there in 2000 and things took off in earnest, Hoxton Square apparently had a planted brick border that served as both a literal and figurative divide between its west side—at the time home to the cutting-edge Lux art center and a handful of pioneering showrooms and bars—and the edgy, no-go east side. In the warmer months, the hedge flourished, conveniently obscuring the less glamorous aspects of Hoxton from the movers and shakers of the art, fashion and culture worlds who were venturing out to mix at the edge of acknowledged London civilization. “But in autumn, when the bush lost its leaves, all sorts of designer bags would be revealed in the branches,” recounts Iwona Blazwick, the stylish and formidably clever director of the Whitechapel Gallery, located just a few kilometers from the square. “The local kids would have nicked them from the people on the ‘right’ side, taken out what they wanted, and dumped them. That bush—that funny detritus—was a real metaphor for what was happening in the East End then.” What was happening, of course, was gentrification. In the past decade it has rolled inexorably east, powered by the freak money being made and spent here in this world financial capital, first into Spitalfields, then Hoxton, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, in the borough of Hackney, and finally to Whitechapel and Mile End, in Tower Hamlets. (In 2012, it will roll even farther east when the Olympics are held in Stratford.) These are the neighborhoods and boroughs that make up East London, a palimpsest whose rough-and-tumble history indelibly colors its contemporary identity. (Cockney—the quintessential East Ender—is a term said to date back to the 1300’s, when it was used to identify a person born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church, a few kilometers from Hoxton


Square). The area is profoundly defined in the minds of Londoners as home to the working classes, whether English or part of the centuries-old tidal push of immigrants— French Huguenots, Irish, Eastern Europeans and Russians, and latterly, South Asians. Their ebb and flow has sustained a vibrant tension between displacement and integration, poverty and aspiration, heritage and the threat of its obsolescence that endures in East London to this day. What’s changed in the past decade is that the immigrants in question have been as likely to hail from TriBeCa, or West Hollywood, or indeed the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (11-odd kilometers away on a map; light years distant, socially), as they have from, say, Bangladesh or Belarus. And the vibrant tension has taken on a new dimension, as early adopters, and the wealthy who inevitably follow them, have set up shop, bringing along all the attendant signifiers of their lifestyle—from expensive handcrafted furnishings to heirloom produce. Though it started some 20 years ago in Clerkenwell, just west of Hoxton, East London’s gentrification is still in its inception in other places. On the streets surrounding the Whitechapel Gallery, for instance, you might hear only a smattering of English amid the Bengali, and there are side lanes lined with joyless council housing or semidecrepit warehouses that, when you consider turning down them on a late-evening walk, all but scream out: not a good idea. But Blazwick cites high-profile figures on London’s cultural scene—directors of the English Heritage society and the Royal Academy— who have eschewed Marylebone and Chelsea to colonize the pockets of pristine Georgian houses behind her gallery as well as bourgeois moms and dads from Wimbledon who venture in for world-class exhibitions and Sunday lunch at the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, a tiny, exquisite wood-paneled canteen that, since opening last winter, has been one of the hotter seats in town. A similar dynamic is at work across much of the rest of London’s East End as blue-chip creative and cultural talents—hoteliers and chefs, art dealers and designers—have been steadily working themselves into the fabric of daily life. »

A passerby pauses before a store on Columbia Road in Bethnal Green, right. Below: Inside the cutting-edge menswear boutique Hostem, in Shoreditch.

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The vaulted lobby of Town Hall Hotel, housed in the former council chambers of Bethnal Green. Opposite: A vendor at the Columbia Road flower market.


In some cases, post-gentrification has arrived in regrettable ways: Hoxton Square and parts of Shoreditch on a Friday night are now awash in suburban twentysomethings with the same dual missions of twentysomethings everywhere: getting epically drunk and scoring. But on, say, a Tuesday afternoon, much of East London presents scenes of commerce and community that are dynamic and downright chic. A walk down Redchurch Street, in loud, busy Shoreditch, manifests this in its most concentrated, and current, state. Art exhibition spaces—Urban Angel; the Redchurch Street Gallery—mix with shops and creative firms housed in former convenience stores and warehouses. Fashionable apothecary Aesop made its debut here nine months ago in slick, scented surroundings; Labour & Wait, selling simply perfect household items, recently relocated after 10 years in Spitalfields to the old green-tiled pub at No. 85. And Hostem, a menswear store that opened in June, counts among its clients both fashion-forward gentlemen hailing from within the Square Mile (hedge-fund managers; derivatives analysts) and locals sporting the East London hipster uniform of sockless Outside the Dove Freehouse pub, in Bethnal Green.

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brogues, rolled denim, thick spectacles, whiskers and the occasional waistcoat. At the street’s westernmost end is Terence Conran’s Boundary, which comprises a proper French restaurant, a 17-room boutique hotel, and a rooftop bar and brasserie that was completely packed within about 10 minutes and has by all appearances remained that way (English weather permitting) since opening last year. From here the much larger terrace of Shoreditch House, in the top floors of the Biscuit Building across the street, can be seen. Opened in 2007 to cater to the influx of media companies setting up shop in the area, the Soho House group’s eastern outpost has a no-suits-or-ties clause in its dress code— smirk all you like, it’s strictly enforced—and as of February a new 26-room hotel, Shoreditch Rooms, that allows guests access to the club’s rooftop. The hotel rooms are small, wood-paneled and gratifyingly affordable; the Cowshed Spa downstairs proffers pedicures to customers in sleek white leather armchairs. Just around the corner is Pizza East, a sprawling pizzeria with an unreconstructed industrial interior and a menu of rustic antipasti and wafer-thin pizzas. Just a few blocks to the south is Brick Lane, a cacophonous artery connecting Shoreditch to Spitalfields and Whitechapel. It’s known, of course, for having London’s best (or at least its most prolific) Indian-food scene. But it has a history that’s illustrious enough to fill textbooks. Case in point: Jamme Masjid— the Great London Mosque—on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. It was consecrated in 1976 in an early Georgian house that, for the century prior, was the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. Before that, it had a Victorian life as a Methodist church; and in the early 1800’s, existed as a chapel to promote Christianity among a burgeoning Ashkenazi immigrant population—before which it was the Huguenot Neuve Eglise, built in 1743. Brick Lane’s brewing tradition also dates back centuries: the Old Truman Brewery here takes its name from a family who started making ales in the late 1600’s. Today, the brewery building is home to almost 200 independent creative companies. It’s connected to Brick Lane by a small pedestrian alley called Dray Walk, over which the


brewery towers, and along which the best of Brick Lane’s energy can be experienced: food stands peddle izakaya-style snacks, dosas, empanadas, kebabs and dolma, and eyewatering Goan curries. Small fashion traders with provocatively arcane names (Son of a Stag; A Butcher of Distinction; Public Beware Co.) enjoy fiercely loyal local followings. In and around Brick Lane are multiple markets, including the storied one in adjacent Spitalfields; Thursday, not Sunday, is the connoisseur’s day for antiques. A kilometer north lies Columbia Road, the grassroots opposite of Redchurch Street’s sleek canniness and Brick Lane’s hurly-burly edge. It’s in low-rise, charmingly shambolic Bethnal Green, and is home to London’s favorite flower market—a Sunday morning affair lent a surreal Dickensian air by vendors cajoling browsers with hyperbolic sales pitches delivered in semi-ironic Cockney accents. (The original Saturday market was moved to Sunday to cater to the area’s Russian and Eastern European Jewish traders.) People are packed tight as sardines among the stalls, bargaining for Dutch tulips and Kenyan lisianthus and English roses. The road itself is a sweet two-block stretch of early Victorian houses, traditional two-up, two-downs, many converted by their new owners into hobbyist shops with façades painted lurid shades of purple and green. Glitterati, for instance, keeps hours more or less according to the whims of its owners, a couple who are specialists, respectively, in vintage watches and Miriam Haskell costume jewelry. At the pint-size Café Columbia, open for 30-plus years and still the best place around to get a bagel, there’s a photo of Pete Doherty in his Babyshambles days affixed to the wall; comment on it to the stout sixtysomething owner, and she rolls her eyes heavenward as if to say: I knew that little geezer when, and “when” wasn’t pretty days for him either. Sunday mornings, croissants and fair-trade coffee are served in the courtyard of the Royal Oak, a pub with excellent food and an aggressively selfregulating clientele (the change in noise level and quality of gaze directed your way when you walk in tell you more or less instantly whether you should stay, or just turn around and go).

If it’s a Saturday, one should instead proceed beyond Columbia Road and along Goldsmiths Row past Regent’s Canal to Broadway Market. It’s mostly foodstuffs rather than flowers here, and to miss it on a sunny day would be to miss the best peoplewatching in town—equal parts farmers’ market and urban style show, with the cast of flaneurs and flaneuses sizing up organic Wiltshire Horn lamb and Excalibur plums while only slightly less overtly sizing up one another. Lining the road are cafés and pubs to please all aesthetics and palates: for the Francophiles, there’s shabby-chic L’Eau a la Bouche; for beer drinkers, the picturesque trellises and outdoor tables at the Dove Freehouse; for synapse-stimulating coffee and flapjacks, Climpson & Sons; for pie and mash and even jellied eels (don’t knock ’em till you try ’em), F. Cooke. “I still love [the scene at] Broadway Market,” says Pablo Flack, a co-owner of Bistrotheque, the Hackney restaurant cum–cabaret parlor opened in 2004. Flack and business partner David Waddington are, like Blazwick, elder statesmen of East London’s culture and »

Folk, a clothing store on Dray Walk, above. Below: Vintage furniture at the Brick Lane market.

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nightlife scene. In the late nineties and early noughties, Flack ran Shoreditch’s Bricklayers Arms, famously the watering hole favored by YBA’s, before Bistrotheque became a social nexus for the fashion designers and artists who’d put down roots in the area. He could easily decry the loss of authenticity, perceived or actual, that gentrification has wrought. But he’s dismissive of the naysayers: “I don’t subscribe to the ‘It was all better in the past’ mentality,” he says. “Shoreditch was a ghost town. Today there are great shops, restaurants, bars; some of the streets actually could be described as pretty now. And an awful lot of wealth has been created. There could— there should—be more places like Boundary, or Town Hall.” “Town Hall” is Town Hall Hotel & Apartments, an ambitious five-star establishment that opened just a few blocks away from Bistrotheque in May and is housed in the former Bethnal Green council chambers—a listed monolith that’s a hybrid of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The Singaporebased boutique hotelier Loh Lik Peng fell in love with (and signed a lease on) the site the first time he laid eyes on it, despite facing the monumental task of its restoration and the arguably equally daunting one of convincing

The listed Victorian building that holds Town Hall Hotel and the restaurant Viajante.

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the traveling classes that Cambridge Heath Road—east of Shoreditch, way east of the West End, and not exactly walking distance to the City—was the New Place to Be (at £296 a night, to boot). Certainly, the spaces have “labor of love” written all over them, with Loh and Paris-based architects Rare collaborating to meticulously restore original wood- and stonework, any new detailing carefully crafted to reference, if not replicate, the original elements. Furnishings are spare and clean-lined, a mixture of Midcentury reissues and new pieces designed by Rare principal Michel da Costa Gonçalves. Conspicuous luxury isn’t the order of the day here; one is meant to appreciate having 6-meter ceilings, Tasmanian oak–paneled walls and original casement windows (and thanks to Rare’s subtle ministrations, one probably will). Locals, meanwhile, are arriving to sample the fare on offer at Viajante, Town Hall’s restaurant, where chef Nuno Mendes is turning out consistently imaginative, delicious and seasonal food (despite London’s critics meting out only the thinnest, most begrudging praise, as is their bitchy wont). Loh, like many of those around him, is betting that East London has achieved critical mass of the best sort—an ideal balance of inviting and challenging, despite the occasional Hoxton Square–style lapse. And the move ever eastward continues: the 2012 Olympics are pulling development beyond Mile End to Stratford; Westfield Stratford City, an outpost of the massive Westfield mall, is slated to open shortly—a good or terrible sign, depending on whom you ask. Blazwick, for her part, is more cautiously positive. “When I say it’s cosmopolitan, I mean truly cosmopolitan,” she says. “There’s a mix of people and classes here you can’t erase. There’s still a great deal of public housing, for one thing. I think it will never be too gentrified, and conversely, will never again descend to a real ghetto.” This tension between the area’s storied past and its electric present ensures that East London (or parts of it, anyway) will remain a forcing ground for creativity. It’s a delicate balance that Blazwick roots for: “I, for one, hope we’ll maintain this tremendous dynamic—this fragile ecosystem.” ✚


guide to london’s east end

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WHITECHAPEL 300 meters

WHERE TO STAY Boundary 2–4 Boundary St.; 44-20/7729-1051; theboundary.co.uk; doubles from £143. GREAT VALUE

Shoreditch Rooms Ebor St.; 44-20/7739-5040; shoreditchrooms.com; doubles from £138. GREAT VALUE

Town Hall Hotel & Apartments 8 Patriot Square; 44-20/78710460; townhallhotel.com; doubles from £296. WHERE TO EAT Bistrotheque 23-27 Wadeson St.; 44-20/8983-7900; dinner for two £61. Café Columbia 138 Columbia Rd.; 44-20/7033-8764; breakfast for two £10. Climpson & Sons 67 Broadway Market; 44-20/7812-9829; breakfast for two £26. Dove Freehouse 24–28 Broadway Market; 44-20/7275-7617; lunch for two £32. F. Cooke 9 Broadway Market; 44-20/7254-6458; lunch for two £7. L’Eau a la Bouche 35–37 Broadway Market; 44-20/79230600; lunch for two £15. Pizza East 56 Shoreditch High St.; 44-20/7729-1888; dinner for two £23.

Rochelle Canteen Nose-to-tail gastronomy from Margot Henderson and her husband, Fergus. Rochelle School, Arnold Circus; 44-20/7729-5677; lunch for two £45. Royal Oak 73 Columbia Rd.; 44-20/7729-2220; dinner for two £44. St. John Bread & Wine Fergus Henderson’s simple foods prepared to unadorned perfection. 94–96 Commercial St.; 44-20/7251-0848; dinner for two £59.

Public Beware Co. 7 Dray Walk; 44-20/7770-6213. Rough Trade 91 Brick Lane; 44-20/7392-7788. Son of a Stag 91 Brick Lane; 44-20/7377-9800. Verde & Co. 40 Brushfield St.; 44-20/7247-1924. MARKETS Broadway Market From London Fields to Regent’s Canal; broadwaymarket.co.uk; Saturdays 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Viajante Town Hall Hotel; 44-20/ 7871-0460; dinner for two £97.

Columbia Road Shops & Flower Market columbiaroad.info; Sundays 8 a.m.–3 p.m.

Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room 77-82 Whitechapel High St.; 44-20/7522-7896; lunch for two £37.

Old Truman Brewery Different markets run from Friday through Sunday. 91 Brick Lane; trumanbrewery.com.

WHERE TO SHOP A Butcher of Distinction 11 Dray Walk; 44-20/7770-6111.

Spitalfields Market Various stalls and stores are open throughout the week. 16 Horner Square; visitspitalfields.com; 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily.

Aesop 5A Redchurch St.; 44-20/7613-3793. Folk 11 Dray Walk; 44-20/73752844. Glitterati 148 Columbia Rd.; no phone. Hostem 41–43 Redchurch St.; 44-20/7739-9733. Labour & Wait 85 Redchurch St.; 44-20/7729-6253.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO Jamme Masjid 59 Brick Lane; 44-20/7247-6052. Whitechapel Gallery 77–82 White chapel High St.; 4-20/75227888; whitechapelgallery.org. White Cube Gallery 48 Hoxton Square; 44-20/7930-5373; whitecube.com.

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(My Favorite Place)

papua new guinea

Fabien Cousteau, above. Left: Papua New Guinea offers plenty of marine life.

COUSTEAU’S TRAVEL TIPS

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I was four years old. The underwater world is truly my second home. Growing up, I was never pressured into the “family business” per se, but hearing both my grandfather’s and father’s stories, and living them in the flesh so to speak by going on expeditions with my family on my grandfather’s boats, Alcyone and Calypso, I was exposed early on to the unique beauty of our ocean planet, and it was impossible for me to turn away from its call. One of the things I am most grateful for is that my career is my passion—I will be doing this until my last breath—and it has given me the opportunity to travel to some of the most exotic, remote places and see the most amazing creatures on the planet. While it’s hard to pick just one, my favorite place would have to be Papua New Guinea. I went there for the first time when I was seven and really connected with the people, and was dazzled by the “underwater fireworks” display of life. Although there are some signs of human impact these days, it is still a liquid paradise that needs to be preserved. As travelers, we are faced with choices that impact the environment. Of course it is up to each of us whether the impact is positive or negative. To this I ask: Why would we not leave a place we visited and enjoyed in better shape than it was when we got there? It’s time for us to stop living on the planet and start living with the planet. ✚ have been diving since

Cousteau is an underwater filmmaker and oceanographer whose charity, Plant A Fish (plantafish. org), aims to restore and protect distressed water bodies and marine life. He will be at Soneva Fushi Six Senses in the Maldives from October 13–20, where he will be diving and dining with guests. 154

octo b e r 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

TOP DIVE SPOTS “Some of my favorite dive sites include Fiji, the Maldives and Palau. The Arctic Circle is fantastic for its serene beauty and unusual species, and I’m particularly fond of the Mediterranean coast of France, because it’s what I consider home.” HIGH-ALTITUDE ESCAPE “For those seeking an escape from the urban jungle, Nepal and Bhutan and their majestic flora and fauna will leave you feeling inspired and connected with our planet.” SAFARI ADVENTURE “I would highly recommend traveling to Tanzania if you’ve yet to experience a safari. The expeditions I’ve gone on there were some of the best.” BEST BIODIVERSITY “The Amazon basin offers lush, dense jungles and ecological richness, which I’ve found simply awe-inspiring.” WHALE SPOTTING “For whales, I’d say visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary [hawaiihumpback whale.noaa.gov] in Maui.”

f r o m l e f t : © Ta m m y 6 1 6 / i s t o c k p h o t o . c o m ; c o u r t e sy o f fa b i e n c o u s t e a u

Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of famed aquatic filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, tells LARA DAY about the fragile beauty of the world’s oceans



October 2010