Page 1

THE WORLD’S LEADING TRAVEL MAGAZINE

SOUTHEAST ASIA

18

JOURNEYS WHERE YOU CAN GIVE BACK

PLAN AHEAD

Samui

IN SEARCH OF PARADISE

CHINA

Shenzhen goes out and gets creative

Get the most out of your travel agent

MELBOURNE A CITY FOR PAGE TURNERS

TravelandLeisureAsia.com

NOVEMBER 2011

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

ONCE MORE WITH SEOUL THE CITY WITH A PASSION FOR FASHION

CHIC AND CHEERFUL CAMBODIA


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Hotel highlights for your next getaway: Asia Pacific & Australia • BLUE Sydney – A Taj Hotel (Sydney, Australia) • Hotel Okura, Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan) • Santiburi Beach Resort, Golf & Spa (Koh Samui, Thailand) • The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam (Hoi An/Quang Nam Province) Africa, Europe & Middle East • Carlton Hotel St. Moritz (St. Moritz, Switzerland) • Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey) • Hotel Fouquet's Barriere (Paris, France) • Milestone Hotel (London, UK) North & South America • Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club (Miami, USA) • Hotel Emiliano (Sao Paulo, Brazil) • Hôtel Le St-James (Montreal, Canada) • The Setai Fifth Avenue (New York, USA)

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contents november 2011 volume 05 : issue 11

features 104 Can this be paradise? Uncharted beaches, ramshackle bungalows—that was then. Returning to Thailand’s Koh Samui nearly 20 years after his first visit, peter jon lindberg encounters high-style villas and all the trappings of the island of the moment. photographed by andrea fazzari. guide 112

a n d r e a fa z z a r i

114 A little bit of Seoul The plucky capital of South Korea is quickly claiming the spotlight as Asia’s Style Central. With the help of some plugged-in denizens, lynn yaeger discovers the fashion-forward stops you’ll want to know in this sprawling metropolis. photographed by morgan & owens. guide and map 120

104

Night falls at the W Retreat—Koh Samui.

122 The New Russia Moscow is the city of billionaires of bombast and grandiosity. It’s also home to a new generation of intellectuals, cool bars and excellent restaurants. by gary shteyngart. photographed by cedric angeles. guide 130

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 9


contents

november 2011 volume 05 : issue 11

T+L SOUTHEAST ASIA

THE WORLD’S LEADING TRAVEL MAGAZINE

KOH SAMUI / MOSCOW / SEOUL / GLOBAL VISION AWARDS / HUE / TRAVEL AGENTS / PHNOM PENH

SOUTHEAST ASIA

18

JOURNEYS WHERE YOU CAN GIVE BACK

PLAN AHEAD

Samui

IN SEARCH OF PARADISE

CHINA

Shenzhen goes out and gets creative

Get the most out of your travel agent

MELBOURNE A CITY FOR PAGE TURNERS

N OVEMBER 2011

TravelandLeisureAsia.com

NOVEMBER 2011

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

11 Nov Cover FINAL.indd 1

ONCE MORE WITH SEOUL

THE CITY WITH A PASSION FOR FASHION

CHIC AND CHEERFUL CAMBODIA 12/10/2011 16:43

On the cover

At YL Residence No. 17. Photographed by Nat Prakobsantisuk. Model: Raiane Marques Maderin. Styling by Kontee Pamaranond. Make-up by Kamol Chatrasen. Hair by Pongsiri Pornpijaipark. Assistant: Ekarat Ubonsri.

special section

80 52

80 2011 Global Vision Awards Travel is often about what you take away from a place but the best journeys should also enrich the destinations you travel through. The winners of the 2011 Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards—selected by our expert panel of judges—do just that. plus 18 trips that allow you to experience the winners.

Luxe Guides for families, a highend hill station and more.

insider 43 Hotels Phnom Penh welcomes a host of boutique properties. by naomi lindt 49 EAT A chef’s tour of his Vietnamese hometown. by lara day 52 Detour Shenzhen steps up as one of China’s creative capitals. by christopher dewolf 10 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

i l l u s t r at e d b y G r a c Ì a L a m . c h r i s to p h e r d e w o l f

39 newsflash 31 A Jaipur gem, KL’s hottest tables,


contents

november 2011 volume 05 : issue 11

92 96 58 Maps A new breed of creative city guides uncovers Asia’s best-kept local secrets. by naomi lindt 63 Road Trip Five countries, three days, one epic European drive. by maria shollenbarger 68 On the Ground Crafting the ultimate New York City itinerary with tips from Facebook followers. by heather smith macisaac

stylish traveler

68

73 Icon The peacoat gets an update. by darrell hartman

journal 87 Arts Everywhere he goes in Melbourne, benjamin law discovers a city in love with words. photographed by jesse marlow 92 Design What does the city of the future look like? karrie jacobs gets a good look. 96 Getaway Off in a far corner of China, gabrielle jaffe encounters a people who are as distinct as the desert is dry. She also sees a fascinating way of life fast disappearing. photographed by philipp engelhorn

76 Expert Designer Inès de la Fressange and her Paris shopping tips. by alexandra marshall

100 Reflections Travel has the power to transform people in an instant. guy trebay looks at the moments that matter.

78 Gift Ideas 10 stylish Indian products with global appeal. by ashdeen z. lilaowala

departments 14 In this issue 16 Editor’s note 20 Contributors 22 Mail 24 Best Deals 28 Ask T+L 38 Digital Traveler 40 Smart Traveler

12 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

78

132 Last Look

c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : g e e r t va n d e r w i j k ; p h i l i p p e n g e l h o r n ; a n s h u m a n s e n ; d a r r e l l h a r t m a n . i l l u s t r at e d b y B r e t t A f f r u n t i

73


in this issue

Moscow 122

New York 68

Seoul 114 Shenzhen 52 Con Dao 80, 132 Chettinad, India 80

Melbourne 87

trip ideas

DESTINATIONS

travel tip

Asia Chettinad, India 80 India 31, 78 Moganshan, China 32 Sanya 24 Seoul 34, 116 Shenzhen 52

Shanghai 58 Xinjiang, China 96

Adventure

96

Arts and Culture

36, 52, 87

Australia, New Zealand and The Pacific Melbourne 87

City

68, 92, 122

Driving

63

Environment

80

Europe Austria 63 Belgium 63 Germany 63 Italy 63 London 28 Luxembourg 63 Moscow 122 The Netherlands 92 Paris 76

Fashion

73, 76

Food

36, 49

Hotels + Resorts

31, 32, 43, 104, 132

Shopping

34, 38, 78, 114

Travel Tips

24, 28, 40, 58

The Americas New York City 68

Featured Destination

Seoul

Anyone wanting to get an inside glimpse of the South Korean capital can book a walking tour of the city through the Insa-dong Info Center (82-2/737-7890). There are 11 different walks covering everything from the historical side of the city to its modern face, each lasting 3½ hours and offered twice daily. (For more on Seoul, see page 114).

14 NOVEMber 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

morgan & owens (3)

Southeast Asia Cambodia 35 Con Dao 80, 132 Hanoi 58 Hoi An 24 Hong Kong 35, 58 Hue 49 Koh Samui 24, 104 Kuala Lumpur 36 Malacca 24, 28 Phnom Penh 43 Raja Ampat 80 Singapore 58, 80


editor’s note where to find me )) chrisk@mediatransasia.com

Mark on your Calendar

Wh at a r e w e l o o k i n g f o r w h e n w e t r av e l ? T h e r e a r e a s m a n y a n sw e r s t o t h at q u e ry a s t h e r e a r e t h r e e - d ay b r e a k s a r o u n d Southeast Asia. Yet one thing we always encounter, inevitable as soon as we step off the plane, is change. Once you’ve been traveling long enough, no place on the planet is what it used to be, a common enough idea, but a tired one, too. Whenever someone tells me that a getaway isn’t what it was, say, 10 years ago, the first thing that springs to mind is neither is he, and neither am I. Hopefully, we travel to grow rather than to sink into clichés about the past. A great example of that in this month’s issue is Peter Jon Lindberg’s approach to Koh Samui (“Could This Be Paradise?” page 104), where he retraces a journey made 18 years earlier. As the title suggests, it’s really a search for an idyllic place and his conclusion is well worth waiting for. Change is definitely on the menu in Shenzhen, not long ago merely a modern cowboy town across the border from Hong Kong, now a must-visit if you’re in search of the artistic

side of China. Writer Christopher DeWolf was pleasantly surprised at the turn the city has taken and, after reading his report (“Next Stop: Shenzhen,” page 52), I think you will be too. For a glimpse at expanding your personal horizons, look no further than the 2011 Global Vision Awards (page 80), which include several familiar stops in this region. Count Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and Vietnam’s Con Dao among them, both destinations we’ve featured recently. Con Dao, incidentally, makes an encore appearance as our Last Look (page 134) this month. A few final thoughts about change come across loud and clear in Guy Trebay’s reflections on the power of travel (“The Global Nomad,” page 100). “The great beauty of travel,” he writes, “is that it forces you to leave the keyboard, glance up from the PDA and get out of the house and into the world.” Definitely words to live, and travel, by.— christopher kucway

THAILAND One resort to watch out for this month is Naka Island, on Koh Naka Yai, Phang Nga Bay. Given the locale, the new property has all the appearance of a genuine getaway— and it’s just a fiveminute speedboat ride from Phuket. 66-76/371-400; starwoodhotels.com. SINGAPORE From Nov. 3 to 26, check out the Singapore edition of the Design Film Festival 2011 (designfilmfestival. com). The wideranging event will show documentary films spotlighting leading names in design, from fashion to art to architecture. Look out for the profiles of two cult Japanese couturiers: Jun Takahashi and Yohji Yamamoto. INDONESIA This month also sees the start of the Jogja Biennale (biennalejogja.com), in Yogyakarta, which lasts until Jan. 8, 2012. Equatorial countries are the focus: the first shows feature Indian and Indonesian art.

travel + leisure 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.

16 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com


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

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

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

chairman president publishing director

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

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj

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

american express publishing corporation President/Chief Executive Officer Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Senior Vice President/Editorial Director Vice President/Publisher, Travel + Leisure U.S. Executive Editor, International Publishing Director, International

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

travel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 5, Issue 11 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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As you reflect on a day of warm welcomes and enriching experiences you are embraced by a feeling of calm. This is a place where your soul is revived and your senses enlivened. There’s something familiar about the way the light reflects on the ocean that stirs memories of home. The Pacific’s like that. At every Pan Pacific you’ll discover the best that this diverse and distinctive region has to offer. Panoramic landscapes and a serenity inspired by nature. From Bali to Whistler, at Pan Pacific, every enriching experience has that unique Pacific touch.

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gary shteyngart writer

benjamin law writer

Assignment “The New Russia” (page 122). Favorite Childhood Memory of Russia Hugging the pedestal of an enormous statue of Lenin outside our apartment building. Moscow Now Vs. Moscow Then There seems to be less dill in soups, salads and main courses. Yay! The City in Three Sounds “Bozhe moi!” (oh my God); car swerving; “Nyet!” Underrated Souvenir Valerian root. It’s Russian for anxiety relief. In Russia, you’ll look like a tourist if… You smile. Buy the Book Super Sad True Love Story (Random House), my newest novel, is out in paperback.

Assignment Wrote “Paperback City” (page 87). Fiction or nonfiction Horrible question. What is this, Sophie’s Choice? Don’t make me choose. Real book or electronic reader Usually, I prefer the corpse of a tree. It smells great. But I’ve been traveling with 10 kilos of books, so I caved and bought an e-reader. Melbourne at its best In the last gasps of summer. Chilly mornings get you out of bed, followed by all-day sunshine. Favorite Australian book I’ll give you three: Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Sonya Hartnett’s Butterfly and The Boat by Nam Le. Next big project My collection of real-life stories about gay and lesbian life in Asia, Gaysia (Black Inc. Books), is being released in 2012.

christopher dewolf writer Assignment Wrote and photographed “Next Stop: Shenzhen” (page 52). Is Shenzhen of this planet Certainly, if you were traveling in a time machine. The change is extraordinary. Don’t trust maps because they might lead you to a neighborhood that no longer exists. Weirdest encounter Emerging onto a street with a view of the Eiffel Tower with fireworks going off. Is Shenzhen second fiddle to Hong Kong Not anymore. Shenzhen is green and spacious and amorphous; Hong Kong is intense and culturally distinct. Next stop Taipei. I miss the street food, the cafés and the quiet back streets where you can get lost for days.

TO P , F ROM LE F T : J E F F MOR G AN ; c o u r t e s y o f c h r i s t o ph e r d e w o l f ; c o u r t e s y o f b e n j a m i n l a w BOTTOM , F ROM LE F T : CEDRIC AN G ELES ; c h r i s t o ph e r d e w o l f ; j e s s e m a r l o w

contributors


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Plan your City Break at over 145 resorts — Dong Fang Hotel, Guangzhou, China Parkyard Hotel Shanghai, Shanghai, China — Regal International East Asia Hotel, Shanghai, China — EAST, Hong Kong — Harbour Grand Hong Kong, Hong Kong The Suryaa New Delhi, New Delhi, India — Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan Royal Park Hotel, Tokyo, Japan — Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, Yokohama, Japan Royal Plaza on Scotts, Singapore — The Landmark Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand myhotel Chelsea, London, United Kingdom — The Kitano New York, USA, and more.


mail

Letter of the month

Your story about Asian innovators [“Asia’s New Green Pioneers,” October 2011] was a great read, and also quite inspirational. I can’t say I really want to meet architect Arthur Huang if he’s wearing his old college T-shirt, but his attitude about things lasting is a good one. Not one I necessarily agree with: just look at all our electronic gadgets, most of which seem to expire within five years. I’ve never given up

on a mobile phone or notebook, not until it no longer functions, but even then I feel guilty about parting with it. Given that we travelers are the ones who are usually wired with the latest in high-tech, perhaps you should do a story about what to do with them when we no longer need them. I’m almost forgetting the work of Deschen Yeshi in fashion and Illac Diaz and his bottle lights. Thanks for their stories. —adam rathers, hong kong

The Knead to Know

Designs on Asia

In your October issue, the list of best spas was great to read but can you do something more in-depth on spas? This is Asia after all, and I imagine many of your readers here know the difference between a great spa and a run-of-the-mill rub. —anton lee, singapore

I always thought that Asian design was making its mark around the world, a story that isn’t told very often in this region, so it was good to come across your recent Paris story [“The Asia Effect,” October 2011]. That said, you really need to cover this trend more often in Asia. Just look at Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, to name a few, where homegrown design is finally getting the kudos it deserves. —judith cheow, kuala lumpur

Intrigued by Innovation

Editor’s Reply We will be featuring the region’s spas and spa destinations more extensively in our February 2012 issue.

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.


bestdeals

budget-friendly tips for your travel planning

AFFORDABLE ASIAN TRIPS

deal of the month s n a p

The Nam Hai, Vietnam.

Fleur de Chine Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

FAMILY GETAWAY VIETNAM Kids On Us package at The Nam Hai (84-510/394-0000; thenamhai.com) in Hoi An. What’s Included A three-night

stay in a One-Bedroom Hotel Villa for the price of two; daily buffet breakfast; complimentary meals for kids dining with parents; daily Kids Club programs; Internet; non-alcoholic mini-bar; and shuttle service to Hoi An Heritage Town. Cost US$600 per night, two adults and two kids under 10 years old, through December 20. Saving 40 percent.

RUSTIC RETREATS

CHINA One-for-One Opening Special at naked Stables Private Reserve (86-21/6431-

8901; nakedretreats.cn) in Moganshan. What’s Included A two-night stay in an Earth Hut or Tree Top Villa for the price of one; and daily breakfast. Cost From RMB2,600 (RM1,300 per night), double, through December 31. Savings 50 percent. TAIWAN Festival Vacation package at Fleur de Chine Sun Moon Lake (886-49/285-

6788; fleurdechinehotel.com) in Nantou. What’s Included A stay in a Mountain View room; round-trip transfers between Taichung High-Speed Railway Station and the resort; buffet breakfast; and one buffet dinner at Crimson or Chinese set dinner at Jade Luminous. Cost NT$4,550 24 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Naked Stables Private Reserve, China.

per person, double, through November 30. Savings 30 percent.

BY THE SEA

CHINA Debut Offer at St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort (86-898/8855-5555;

stregis.com/sanyayalongbay) in Hainan. What’s Included A three-night stay in a Sea View room for the price of two; roundtrip airport transfers; daily breakfast; one daily lunch or dinner with “Sanya Mary” cocktails; and one 60-minute Iridiam Spa treatment with an additional night’s stay. Cost From RMB4,388 per night, double, through March 31, 2012. Savings 35 percent. THAILAND Opening Offer at Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa (66-77/960-888; lemeridien.com/kohsamui). What’s Included

THAILAND Cape Panwa Plus package at Cape Panwa Hotel (66-76/3911235; capepanwa.com) in Phuket. What’s Included Accommodation in a Junior Suite, with complimentary upgrade to Cape Suite (upon availability); welcome drinks (cocktail, wine or beer); and daily breakfast for two at Café Andaman. Cost From Bt4,080 per night, double, through end of November. Savings 50 percent.

A stay in a Verandah Suite, with free upgrade to Terrace Suite (if available); and breakfast. Cost From Bt4,399 per night, double, through March 31, 2012. Savings 20 percent.

URBAN BREAK

MALAYSIA Satkara Spa package at Casa del Rio, Melaka (60-6/289-6888; casadelriomelaka.com). What’s Included A two-night

stay in a Deluxe room; daily breakfast; one 90-minute spa session; and Internet. Cost From RM992 (RM496 per night), double, through December 31. Savings 30 percent.

Cape Panwa Hotel, Thailand.

c l o c kw i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f Th e N a m H a i ; c o u r t e s y o f F l e u r d e Ch i n e S u n m o o n L a k e ; c o u r t e s y o f N a k e d S ta b l e s P r i vat e R e s e r v e ; c o u r t e s y o f C a p e Pa n wa H o t e l

i t


askt+l Limits on carry-on liquids are still going strong.

Malacca’s Majestic Hotel offers walking tours of the town.

Booking the London Olympics.

Can you recommend a good historical walking tour in Malacca? —Tomas Schlick, Kuala Lumpur The Majestic Hotel (60-3/2783-1000; majesticmalacca.com; tours are free for hotel guests), itself a historic address, offers walking tours through 16th-century Malacca, with journeys that take in the Stadhuys, the Victoria Fountain and St. Paul’s Church. Importantly, the walks also provide a detailed look at the town’s back alleys, which contain Chinese, Thai, Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. The walks start at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and last approximately two hours.

a: The global ban on carrying liquids

onto your flight isn’t likely to be relaxed anytime soon, though the issue is under constant discussion. As with scanners and body searches prior to boarding, the ban is just one of those hurdles we have to overcome when we travel. What may be surprising is how many passengers continue to ignore the limitations. One report out of the U.K. estimates that as much as £143 million worth of liquid products have been discarded by passengers flying out of the country in the past year. That works out to an average of £6.50 per passenger. Most common were drinks, but sunscreen and perfume bumped up the value of this estimate exponentially.

Q: How can I get tickets to the London Olympics next year? —Larry Cheung, Hong Kong a: Tickets to many events have already been spoken for in earlier lotteries, but event organizers say that more are expected to go on sale this winter. So keep an ear open and you will be able to apply for them via the Internet. Online, visit the London 2012 Spectator Journey Planner (travel. london2012.com) and click on “About Tickets.” There you will find updated information on ticket sales and how to avoid bogus ducats. what’s your travel question?

» E-mail us at

editor@travelandleisuresea.com

» Post queries at

Facebook.com/TravelLeisureAsia

» Follow us on Twitter at

@TravLeisureAsia (Questions may be edited for clarity and space.)

c l o c k w i s e F R O M t o p LE F T : C o u r t e s y o f YTL h o t e l s ; © N a g y - b a g o ly I l o n a / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; © M a r t i n I s a a c / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m

Q: Is there any chance the ban on carrying liquids on board flights is going to end? —May Chan, Singapore


newsflash your global guide to what’s happening right now...

boutique gem A Luxury suite at the new Devi Ratn. Below, from left: Devi Ratn’s design was inspired by cut gemstones; dining alfresco at the property; inside a guest bathroom.

check-in

jewel of india

On the outskirts of Rajasthan’s Pink City, a stunning new resort takes its cues from Jaipur’s gem-cutting heritage gem-cutting capital of India, while the zigzag motif of the black-and-white terrazzo floors is a nod to local lehriya fabrics. Along the walls are lenticular prints of trees and peacocks, a modern, animated interpretation of the miniature watercolor paintings typical of the region. Come lunch, dig into fig and cream-filled kebabs with spiced pineapple chutney or ginger- and coconut-flavored prawns under the metallic gold-colored arches of the hotel’s Vajra restaurant. Or book a sweet lime and holy basil–infused aromatherapy massage at the 1,860-squaremeter L’Occitane spa.—tanvi chheda

COURTES Y O F D e v i R e s o r t s ( 4 )

Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar Observatory, an 18th-century sculpture garden of massive astronomical instruments, informs the shape of things at Devi Ratn (deviresorts.in; doubles from US$350), the second hotel by Devi Resorts’ Anupam Poddar and his mother, Lekha. Just as the astoundingly precise observatory, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1728, was far ahead of its time, so too is the bold architecture of this newly opened resort situated just outside Rajasthan’s Pink City—think a planetariumlike circular bar and a lattice-clad lobby. Jewel-toned rooms, 60 in total, pay homage to Jaipur’s status as the

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 31


newsflash walk this block

cool in copenhagen Once-gritty Jægersborggade, a cobblestoned thoroughfare in the Nørrebro district, has been transformed by locals selling everything from house-made candy to flea-market treasures. b y g r a c e b a s t i d a s

N

3 6 5

4

MOUNTAIN HIGH

Next time you’re in China’s financial capital, head to the hills for a relaxing escape

32 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

130 ft (40 m)

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gg or sb

r ge Jæ

2 Coffee ­ ollective brews C a clean cuppa using directtrade beans from the developing world that are hand-roasted on site. Learn DIY techniques during one of its monthly courses. No. 10; 45/6015-1525; coffee for two €4.

3 ­Mademoistella owner Stella ­Malfilatre scours flea markets outside of town for vintage women’s clothes such as 1960’s-style knitted vests and embroidered hippie blouses from the seventies. No. 52; 45/5357-5996.

2 1

5 Chef Christian F. Puglisi, another Noma alum, recently opened the basement restaurant Relæ, with two menus— one vegetarian, the other for omnivores—that focus on seasonal ingredients. No. 41; 45/3696-6609; dinner for two €112.

4 Former pop icon Charlotte Vigel (a.k.a. Tiggy) and friend Tina Ipsen (above) opened ­Karamelleríet, where they produce hard and soft caramels in many flavors (licorice, mint, cinnamon) in an oldfashioned copper pot. No. 36; 45/7023-7777.

6 The ­multimedia gallery CMYK Kld is decorated floorto-ceiling with works by emerging Danish artists— all available as affordable prints. There’s also a tiny stage for local performers. No. 51; 45/2162-9563.

Just a two-hour drive from frenetic Shanghai, the tranquil, bamboo-forested mountain of Moganshan offers a breath of fresh air from the big city. Now, thanks to Naked Stables Private Resort, it also boasts a touch of luxury. A step up from Naked Home Village, a charming but rustic cluster of converted Moganshan farmhouses open to guests, this new addition to South African Grant Horsfeld’s cheekily designated Naked Retreats has 121 sleek rooms designed using sustainable building methods (rammed-earth walls; recycled timber frames)—book one of the 30 two-story Tree Top villas, featuring outdoor Jacuzzis and commanding views over the valley below. True to its name, the property operates a stable of 20 horses, perfect for exploring nearby mountain trails. An added plus for nature lovers: behind the scenes, it’s on track to become Asia’s first Platinum LEED– certified resort. nakedretreats.cn; doubles from RMB2,600.— carol tse

CO P EN H A G EN , CLOC K W ISE F ROM TO P RI G H T : P - A J ö r g e n s e n / C o u r t e s y o f R e l Æ ( 2 ) ; G RACE BASTIDAS ; C o u r t e s y o f k a r a m e l l e r i e t ; G RACE BASTIDAS ( 4 ) ; P e t e r H a r r y/ www . i d e n t i t y z o o m . d k . d e t o u r : c o u r t e s y o f n a k e d r e t r e a t s

1 Arrive early at the compact café ­Meyers Bageri, owned by a co-founder of Noma (S. ­Pellegrino’s best restaurant in the world for 2011). The pumpkinseed rye bread and cinnamon buns made with organic Nordic flour often sell out by 9 a.m. No. 9; 45/3918-6900; breakfast for two €11.


newsflash beauty

making waves Four new products inspired by the sea. b y c h r i s t i n e a j u d u a

louis vuitton chic SINGAPORE The Lion City’s newest architectural icon isn’t a museum or a hotel, but a shop: the first Louis Vuitton Island Maison (above), in Marina Bay Sands. Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the four-story glass-and-steel structure on the Marina Bay waterfront resembles a floating ship—but as the name hints, its spirit is closer to an island (access is via jetty, boat or underground tunnel lined with contemporary art). Destination shopping, anyone? Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Ave #B2-36; 65/6788-3888. SEOUL More news from the French fashion house: After decades of spurning offers from the likes of Heathrow, Changi and Charles de Gaulle, Louis Vuitton has picked Seoul’s Incheon in which to open its first airport store. Given the location, it’s no surprise that the 550-square-meter shop highlights the label’s travel accessories, not least its coveted leather luggage, men’s and women’s shoes, sunglasses and jewelry. Incheon International Airport Passenger Terminal, between Gates 27 and 28; 82-2/2185-8200.— d a ve n w u

books

pages to pack

Four autumn releases on our reading list. b y s a r a h k h a n

• If You’re ... a City-Dwelling Nature Lover Read … High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky by Joshua David and Robert Hammond (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Because … This account by the founders of the nonprofit responsible for the groundbreaking reclamation project chronicles the struggles and successes that led to the realization of what was deemed a far-fetched dream—and resulted in a new Manhattan landmark. • If You’re ... a Gastronaut Read ... The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik (Alfred A. Knopf) Because ... Gopnik takes a philosophical approach to food on his quest to understand the world’s gastronomic obsessions. From tracing the origins

34 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

An Isla Das Rocas scrub by Red Flower will soften your

skin with botanical oils and sea salts from the islands off Brazil’s southern coast.

of the restaurant as we know it back to mid-19th-century France to describing revolutionary approaches to culinary arts at Spain’s recently shuttered El Bulli, no dish is left unscraped in this witty treatise. • If You’re … a Treasure Hunter Read … The Grand Bazaar Istanbul by Serdar Gülgün (Assouline) Because … You’ll lose yourself in the sumptuous pages of this glossy tome, which spotlights can’t-miss boutiques at one of the world’s liveliest markets. • If You’re … a Fiction Fiend Read … Noon by Aatish Taseer (Faber & Faber) Because … Given his unique pedigree— raised in Delhi by an Indian mother and estranged from his father, a Pakistani political figure assassinated earlier this year— Taseer’s novel offers an insider’s perspective on the realities of high-society India and Pakistan.

La Prairie produces nutrient-rich

sea plants for its antiaging Advanced Marine Biology line, including a moisturizer for the face, eyes and neck.

Meant to evoke the essence of a Maldivian beach, this Linnea’s Lights soy-wax candle has hints of cardamom, mandarin and salty air.

CLOC K W ISE F ROM TO P RI G H T : LARS K LOVE ( 3 ) ; COURTES Y O F LINNEA ’ S LI G H TS ; LARS K LOVE ; c o u r t e s y o f l o u i s v u i t t o n

shopping

This Giorgio Armani motherof-pearl eye palette—created by the brand’s couture jewelry designers—doubles as an all-over illuminator.


newsflash guides

THE family luxe

ANGKOR SPIN Exploring Asia with tots in tow just got easier—and more stylish—with the launch of Little Luxe, a new set of family-geared guides from the pithy, famously opinionated Luxe City Guides. The first destination: Hong Kong, created in partnership with website Little Steps Asia. Like its parent guides, Little Luxe Hong Kong fits in your pocket and folds open to reveal a handpicked selection of the city’s best spots. Where’s next for families on the move? A Singapore guide debuts this month, while Bali and Bangkok are in the pipeline. HK$80; luxecityguides.com.— liang xinyi

This month, 15 Cambodian and 23 international contemporary artists are spinning their creative wheels at the first Angkor Art Explo (Oct. 29–Nov. 19; angkorartexplo.com), a groundbreaking three-part contemporary arts festival incorporating a 175kilometer jaunt from Battambang to Siem Reap by “art-cycle,” or mobile bicycle installation. Cofounded by artists Loven Ramos and Jam Ramjattan, the event kicks off with a public party and a week of exhibitions, performances

restaurants

WHERE TO EAT NOW IN KUALA LUMPUR

T+L picks three cosmopolitan restaurants that are turning heads in Malaysia’s capital

capital cuisine From left: Bistro à Table chef-owner Isadora Chai, at her restaurant; the dining room at Ploy restaurant; Tsukiji-fresh sashimi at Hanare.

36 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Bistro à Table Sydneytrained chef-owner Isadora Chai calls her restaurant a “humble hole-in-the-wall”—but while the stark flooring and beech-wood chairs might be understated, Chai’s creative, ever-evolving French-inspired menu is anything but. Start off with the French onion soup with ice cream, followed by the Australian wagyu rib-eye with horseradish cream. Finish with the Pakistani mango pavlova. T+L Tip Wine lovers, rejoice: the restaurant’s BYOB policy offers corkage at just RM30 a bottle. 6 Jln. 17/54 Petaling Jaya; 60-3/7931- 2831; bistroatable. com; dinner for two RM200.

Ploy New Age fusion sums up both the design scheme and the menu here. The interiors dazzle—shimmery cushions; honeycomb-shaped lighting; a groovy mirrored bar counter—and the dishes shine with flavor. Try the spicy salmon pizza—salmon slivers and chili atop a crispy open-plan tortilla smothered with guacamole. T+L Tip At sunset, order a lemongrass-infused lychee martini and mingle with the city’s advertising types. G-2 WORK@Clearwater Jln. Changkat Semantan Damansara Heights; 60-3/2095-0999; ploywithyourfood.com; dinner for two RM150.

Hanare The go-to destination of choice for Kuala Lumpur’s Japanese expat community seeking authentic flavors of home, this minimalist dining room tucked away in the upscale Intermark building serves sashimi flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market three times a week. The omakase menu is perfect for sampling the best seasonal produce. T+L Tip The central location and minimalist setting makes it an ideal spot to host a business dinner. Ground floor, The Intermark, 182 Jln. Tun Razak; 60-3/2164-2133; hanare.com.my; dinner for two RM400. —bruno lee

C l o c kw i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f l i t t l e l u x e ; c o u r t e s y o f M a r i k a C o n s t a n t i n o ; www . c u m i d a n c i k i . c o m ; c o u r t e s y o f p l o y ; c o u r t e s y o f B i s t r o a T a b l e

ART

and screenings across Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city. Next comes the festival’s “art journey project”: a four-day bike ride to bring art to the masses (from Nov. 5). Riding their art-cycles, artists will pedal to Siem Reap, stopping en route at pagodas, markets and schools to create impromptu exhibitions and installations. They then arrive in Siem Reap at the height of the Bonn Om Touk water festival (Nov. 12) for a week of exhibitions and workshops, plus a sevenvenue art walk, in the runup to the opening of the renowned Angkor Photo Festival (Nov. 19–26; photographyforchange.net). —gemma price


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.


traveler

websites, apps, tech gear, e-advice and more

Trend of the Month

a month, you’ll get a nifty box filled with travel-size samples of the latest beauty products (from Ahava, Kiehl’s, Nars—you name it), all selected by the site’s editors or a curator such as Cynthia ­Rowley. You can also purchase full-size versions and bespoke travel kits on the site. Still in beta, Google’s boutiques. com includes personalized e-­boutiques created by stylesetters around the world—so you can shop to dress like British actress Carey Mulligan or even your favorite French fashion blogger. Want to show off your own je ne sais quoi? Set up a store on the site for your selections. If you’re looking to do some armchair antiquing or to get a bit of decorating inspiration, head to One Kings Lane. The home décor and furnishings site’s Tastemaker Tag Sales offer discounts of up to 70 percent on, say, Hollywood legend Tony Duquette’s global finds or Slow Food icon Alice Waters’s favorite kitchen tools. For her Container Sales, One Kings Lane cofounder Susan Feldman travels to all corners of the earth with high-profile interior designers (think Kathryn Ireland in ­Marrakesh) to source housewares.— christine a judua

innovator Pavia Rosati

(E-)shopping made easy

T+L Picks: resources for the road

1

Protect your MP3 player and convert it into a portable sound system with iMainGo 2 (imaingo.com), which is compatible with any music playback device that has a headphone jack.

2

3

Track down the Away from home with hippest urban hot no immediate access spots using video, to power outlets? photos and audio The i.Sound Portable guides with the Cool Power Max battery Cities app (iPhone), (isound.net) lets you currently available for charge up to five Berlin, London, New USB-powered devices York, Paris and Rome. simultaneously.

38 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

4

Instead of bringing an empty suitcase for souvenirs, download the free MyRegistry app (Android, iPhone). It will scan the bar codes of items you like and show you where to buy them online.

who she is Splitting her time between New York and London, with an Italian passport to boot, ­Rosati—who was the ­executive editor of ­DailyCandy for nearly a decade—has always been a go-to person for travel tips. “I once planned a honeymoon in Greece for my intern’s brother’s best friend’s cousin, whom I never even met!” she says—fodder for her recent venture. her big idea The new website Fathom (fathomaway.com) compiles vintage-style e-­postcards—​complete with personalized snapshots—from celebrities, trendsetters, and regular folk in the know. The result is a lively, opinionated travel blog with a fun, retro feel. “We’re all for edited, user-generated content,” Rosati says. Up next? A mobile app with guides for everywhere from Buenos Aires to Beirut, plus an online boutique that’s meant to be “a one-stop shop for all your travel needs.”

Illustrated by Leif Parsons

f r o m LE F T : COURTES Y O F IMAIN G O ; COURTES Y O F t e n e u e s ; COURTES Y O F DREAM G EAR ; COURTES Y O F M Y RE G ISTR Y ; b e n s c h o t t

The cluttered realm of e-commerce is becoming a little more refined thanks to a new breed of websites that deliver the goods with a highly selective approach. By asking tastemakers to step in as guest curators, they give insider, and often exclusive, access to items from around the world. Ahalife.com lets you buy one unique item daily from international designers. Whether it’s a ­cotton pestemal (hammam towel) made by local artisans in Buldan, Turkey, or a tribal-chic necklace from London-based jeweler Fiona Paxton, everything is chosen by notable travelers such as Daniel Boulud or Petra Nemcova. Become a Birchbox member and, for US$10


smarttraveler

the ins and outs of modern travel

RETURN OF THE MIDDLEMAN With the onslaught of booking websites and social travel networks, the idea of using a tour operator or travel agent might seem antiquated. But don’t write them off Just yet. BY JENNIFER CHEN

40 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

First, a disclosure: the only time I ever planned a trip through a tour operator was because I was forced to. We were off to Bhutan, which requires foreigners to go through a travel agent to obtain a visa. In order to qualify for a visa, you must have a pre-paid booking for a tour. Basically, there’s no getting around a travel professional. It was a mixed experience. The owner of the tour company patiently answered questions from my husband and me, and provided sound advice. Once there, the driver expertly negotiated the winding mountain roads. Our youthful guide, however, became mildly alarmed whenever we deviated from our “program,” and shadowed us everywhere. “We’d like to have a romantic dinner,” my husband once said as a subtle hint. “What time would you like me to join you?” our guide replied. Clumsily intrusive guides aside, I came away from that holiday convinced that you can plan almost any trip yourself, especially with all the travel resources now found online. There are, of course, caveats: you need time, patience and computer savviness. Being able to distinguish fake reviews, websites that promise too much and deals that sound too good is also useful—as is being generally well traveled. And when things don’t go according to plan, an ability to improvise or just cope is essential. There have been occasions, however, when I did wish a travel professional was on hand. Like the time I came down with epic food poisoning at a remote lodge in Madagascar with no ready access to a doctor, a pharmacy or even transportation. Or the time the booking agent at Orbitz told me that I would be charged an extra US$422 for changing a flight that originally cost US$354. Or all those times when that hotel room that looked so lovely on the website turned out to be smaller and dingier than it had appeared online. In other words, travel agents and tour operators still have their uses. For starters, there’s the matter Illustration by Wasinee Chantakorn


of convenience. Internet research is a slog, with plenty of dead-ends. “Taking wrong turns is fine and fun for backpackers or travelers with time on their hands,” argues Hamish Keith, the chief operating officer for the Exotissimo Travel Group, a well-established tour operator in Southeast Asia. “But for busy professionals or families, travel time is far too important to risk experimenting with or getting wrong.” Going against conventional wisdom, travel agents often turn up better airfare deals than booking websites. A good travel agent can help you navigate the fine print—increasingly important as airlines introduce more fare restrictions—and tell you which airline has the cheapest ticket. Travel agents are also plugged into fare changes and any specials an airline might be offering, and they can snag discounts on hotels and tours for large groups. Tour operators also possess firsthand knowledge about a destination. A reliable tour operator will have people on the ground, as well as staff who travel regularly to the destinations they

tout. Ultimately, it’s their job to protect you from the hazards of deceptively good-looking websites. “What is portrayed in websites is not always the reality, so by speaking first hand about destinations we offer our clients peace of mind,” Keith notes. Reliable tour operators can also step in when sticky situations arise. Simon Cameron, the managing director of Singapore-based Lightfoot Travel, recalls clients who were set to go to a skiing holiday to Niseko when the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan last March. “Understandably, they were unwilling to travel to Japan,” he says. With just 24 hours notice, Lightfoot secured a refund and booked them on a flight to Switzerland, where a chalet was waiting. “So they could leave on their skiing holiday right on schedule,” Cameron says. Salvaging a holiday? That’s worth having a middleman. ✚ Get the guide for more ideas and recommendations on how to plan your next trip in southeast asia, please visit travelandleisureasia.com

FEO 0040-11 OASIA_Travel+Leisure_(iso39L)_NOV 2011_PDF+FTP Size:203.2x133.35Hmm


insider

destinations trends restaurants + more

CAMBODIAN CHIC. From silk-

clad hideaways to futuristic business hotels, Phnom Penh is welcoming a host of new boutique properties that are high on style and light on the wallet. By Naomi Lindt

n CIRCA 51

urban oases

The pool at Circa 51. Right: LeBiz ushers in a new breed of business hotel to Phnom Penh.

Photographed by Cedric Arnold

Phnom Penh saw its last heyday in the 1960’s, an era of captivating design and style. It’s no wonder then that this 50-year-old villa turned boutique stay is oozing with good karma. Run by Pakistani–Australian couple Majid Wazir and Yvette Height, and their friendly Labrador, Max, Circa 51 has eight stylish rooms with wooden floors, woven rattan beds and desks made of flecked sugar-palm wood. Splashes of color—tangerine-hued silk curtains, lime green cushions, baby blue–tiled baths—lend the place a cheerful feel without distracting from its original Modernist architecture. Breakfast is served on a terrace overlooking the bamboo-fringed pool, with thoughtful options like homemade yogurt and » travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 43


insider hotels

local jams. 155 St. 51; 855-12/585-714; circa51.com; doubles from US$56. n THE VILLA PARADISO

Down the block from Circa 51 in a columned, regal mansion converted from a private home, the Villa Paradiso offers travelers a quiet, refined place to stay in the city center. Each of the 15 spacious guest quarters has its own whimsical theme centered on art and travel; the Music room has a gauzy four-poster bed flanked by bedside lamps fashioned from traditional Khmer musical instruments, while the Island transports guests to the beach with a thatched roof ceiling, sky blue walls and a rope hammock (there are two real beds, too). The property’s originality is matched with five-star amenities: a small business center, a fullservice spa and an open-air restaurant facing the pool. 27 St. 222; 855-23/213-720; thevillaparadiso.com; doubles from US$65. n LEBIZ

stylish retreats

Clockwise from top left: Inside LeBiz; relaxing poolside at the Villa Paradiso; style meets whimsy in the hotel’s Music room, one of 15 modern guest rooms.

44 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

It makes sense that Phnom Penh’s first designdriven business hotel has been a hit among young professionals since opening last year—after all, it’s run by a successful young entrepreneur himself, Cambodian Kean Kim Leang. From the blueand-green-lit glass façade to the soaring, pillarpunctuated reception, Lebiz is futuristic in feel. The 27 rooms are unfussy and largely unadorned, but imbued with character, with bare white walls, white terrazzo floors and wood-and-concrete platform beds backed by blown-up photographs of random images such as a stack of stones or a dandelion. There’s also a spacious work desk »


insider hotels and business-friendly touches like iPod docks and bedside adaptors that allow guests to use the 42inch flat panel TV’s as computer monitors. Relax at Lime restaurant and bar, where signature cocktails like the Lebiz (gin, strawberry, basil, passion fruit) are mixed alongside a graffiti wall mural painted by a local artist. 79F St. 128; 855-23/998-608; lebizhotel.com; doubles from US$88. n THE 240

capital designs

Clockwise from top left: The 240, on Phnom Penh’s hip Street 240; a room at the hotel; the Villa Paradiso’s plush interiors.

hotel spotlight for more ideas and recommendations on the best places to stay in southeast asia and beyond, go to travelandleisureasia.com

46 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

The first hotel to join Street 240’s cluster of restaurants, bars and shops, The 240 boasts one of the city’s most desirable locations and is just five minutes by foot from the Royal Palace. Hidden above a charming veganfriendly eatery and an art gallery, the property’s 10 sunny rooms have a clean, modern, upbeat appeal: think white walls, charcoal gray tile floors and sugar-palm-wood platform beds, offset by wall murals and colorful silk throw pillows and bed runners in lime green, hot pink and azure. The four superior rooms offer terraces for a tranquil nightcap; two even have their own mini-plunge pool. Speaking of pools—though there isn’t one onsite, guests can use the pool at sister property The Pavilion, a five-minute walk away. 83 St. 240; 855-23/218-450; the240.asia; doubles from US$45. n The 252

The Swiss-French owner of The 252, Stephane Combre, hired Tendance Khmère, a Parisian-based home décor shop, to design the 19-room property, which sits on a quiet street near the city center. Each of the building’s four floors has its own color scheme—sky blue, plum, pale green, salmon pink—with accent walls and exquisite, handcrafted silk bedding to match. The look is contemporary chic: beds, desks, closets and daybeds are built of unfinished concrete, while rectangular, custommade light boxes encased in organza and papier mache netting provide ambient lighting. If you can tear yourself away from the infinity pool and its private, fabric-draped salas, head to Street 278 and check out Tendance Khmère’s shop there so you can bring some of The 252’s FrenchCambodian chic home. 19 St. 252; 855-23/998-252; the-252.com; doubles from US$45. ✚


insider eat Hue’s Imperial Citadel. Right: Chef La Thua An. Inset: Foie gras and green papaya salad, features on chef An’s new menu at restaurant Le Parfum.

RETURN OF THE CHEF. After three decades away,

a hue native returns to his roots to reimagine the flavors of home. he takes t+L on a food tour of the former imperial capital. By Lara Day

CHEF AN’S NEW MENU This month, chef La Thua An introduces his new menu at Le Parfum (la-residence-hue. com; dinner for two US$100). Sample local dishes like bun bo Hue alongside startlingly inventive creations: think pan-fried foie gras paired with piquant green papaya salad and sweet tamarind sauce, and zesty jicama salad atop Vietnamesecoffee-crusted white fish.

B

oyish, slim and with a playful glint in his eye, La Thua An looks like any other local in Vietnam’s old imperial capital. But when he speaks Vietnamese, people prick their ears: he has an old Hue accent. “People are always surprised to hear me,” says the 37-year-old Hue native, who at age four migrated with his Chinese-Vietnamese parents to New Caledonia, where he spoke Vietnamese at home. Over time, he rose as a chef, excelling in French cuisine at top New Caledonia hotels such as Le Méridien and the Hilton Bora Bora Nui, and then, from 2007, helming the kitchen at Vietnam’s Princess d’Annam Resort & Spa. This March—after more than 30 years away—he finally returned to his hometown, as executive chef at the five-star La Résidence Hotel & Spa (la-residence-hue.com), a former colonial governor’s residence turned boutique hotel on the banks of the Perfume River. His first challenge? To revitalize the menu of Le Parfum, La Résidence’s French–Viet fine dining restaurant, drawing on firsthand research into Hue’s authentic flavors. Here, he brings T+L to the spots that inspired his new menu.

Photographed by Aaron Joel Santos

BA DO At Ba Do, a family-run restaurant that recently

relocated to an airy two-story house, chef An sits down at a simple wooden table and orders a selection of typical Hue snacks. “Hue cuisine has two main flavors: salty and spicy,” he says. “Madam Do, the owner, was the first person to put all the local and traditional snacks on the same menu.” A plate arrives bearing a pile of banana-leaf-wrapped nem chua, fermented pork sausage blended with roasted rice powder, nuoc mam (fish sauce) reduction and a hint of sugar—“just imagine the flavor,” he says. The firm, highly textured sausage is invigoratingly sour, salty and sweet, not least when it’s matched with cloves of spicy raw garlic. Next comes a tray of banh beo, chewy rice cakes steamed in petite, shallow dishes and topped with crunchy pork crackling and shavings of twice-dried boiled shrimp. “This is how I used to eat it when I was a kid,” he says, tracing the inside lip of the dish with a long metal spoon; he adds a dose of chili-spiked nuoc mam and laps it up. He also orders banh nam, parcels of steamed rice and tapioca flour with shrimp, onion and shallots wrapped in a local leaf known as la dong—they’re not unlike » travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 49


insider eat Chinese zongzi, but lighter and softer. Since none of the snacks are heavy, there’s still room for banh ram it, a decadent Hue delicacy that comprises a deep-fried sticky-rice dumpling topped with a parcel of steamed shrimp in rice flour. Dipped in the spicy nuoc mam, it’s at once savory, crunchy and intensely chewy, with the melting quality of a doughnut. “People are always talking about Hue’s imperial cuisine, but this is what locals eat everyday,” says An. “It’s hard to know exactly what’s imperial and not. For now, I just say it’s from Hue.” GA BUI TRE

ADDRESS BOOK Ba Do 8 Nguyen Binh Khiem St.; 8454/3541182; lunch for two VND200,000. Ga Bui Tre 164 Ly Nam De; 84-54/3539482; dinner for two VND160,000.

Taking a cab past bustling Dong Ba Market, the source for many of the ingredients at Le Parfum, An looks out on his hometown. “Things are changing,” he says. “Tastes are changing, people are changing.” Of course, in Hue, a tranquil, laid-back city of 950,000 people that still retains its old character— crumbling temples; French colonial architecture—that change takes place at a gentle pace. Away from the city center, down a potholed lane lined with palm trees and freshbamboo vendors, the cab reaches a spot next to a flowing stream. This is Ga Bui Tre, where a gabled corrugated-metal roof frames a raucous scene of locals crouched on low red stools, drinking amber Bia Huda and digging into hearty ga nuong bi—chicken cooked in a plastic bag, a democratic version of sous vide cooking. To An, it represents Hue’s capacity for adaptation and ingenuity when it comes to food. “This is a newer dish,” he says.

Huyen Anh 52/1 Kim Long St.; 84-54/352-5655; lunch for two VND120,000. Hoang Anh 140 Kim Long St.; 84-54/3519-375; VND120,000. Bun Cam Don’t leave Hue without trying its most iconic dish, bun bo Hue, a flavorful beef broth with noodles, meat and fresh herbs. Stop here for breakfast. 8 Tran Cao Van St.; VND40,000 per bowl.

50 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

“I haven’t seen this in Hanoi and Saigon, only Hue. But the technique is French.” A woman in a colorful ao ba ba produces the cooked bird—pan-fried first, then placed in a bag and slow-poached in oil. She takes it apart with scissors at a side table. “Eating chicken from Hue, the texture is tougher because it’s free range,” An says, digging into the moist, flavorful meat, accompanied by sticky rice cooked in stock, platters of crushed peanuts and sugar, and bowls of salt, pepper and chili. There’s also a large steaming bowl of the soup, feet, intestines and all. “You’ve paid for the chicken, so you get all of it,” he says with a grin. HUYEN ANH AND HOANG ANH

An’s final stop for the night is an open-air restaurant down a narrow alleyway, Huyen Anh, that he claims does the best grilled pork in Hue—sadly, though, the dishes are sold out. “You need to arrive before six, otherwise it’s gone,” he says. Just around the corner is Hoang Anh, a hole-in-the-wall that serves the same specialties. The bun thit nuong, a salad of smoky grilled pork, sliced banana blossoms, shredded green papaya, sweet-sour nuoc mam, and sprigs of fresh cilantro and bracingly fresh mint, on a fluffy bed of rice noodles, is simple, fresh and delicious. “It’s important to me to come back here and learn the flavors I’ve grown up with,” says the chef, tucking into a final taste of banh cuon thit nuong, fresh spring rolls with grilled pork and herbs. “My training is in French cuisine, but for Vietnamese food, my heart and experience and background is from Hue.” ✚ taste of hue Clockwise from below: Banh beo at Ba Do restaurant, in Hue, Vietnam; chef La Thua An in his kitchen at La Résidence Hotel & Spa; bun thit nuong at Huyen Anh.


insider detour new city rising

Clockwise from top: Shenzhen’s OCT-Loft is home to unexpected art; at the He Xiangning Art Museum; relaxing at Old Heaven, a bohemian café.

NEXT STOP: SHENZHEN. Just north of Hong Kong, this thriving

city on the Pearl River Delta is stepping up as one of China’s creative capitals. story and photographs by Christopher DeWolf

I

t took New York a century for SoHo to evolve from industrial area to art colony to lifestyle shopping destination. But in Shenzhen, China’s time-warp metropolis, farm fields have given way to a city of 10 million in just 20 years. If, in the past, visitors ventured from Hong Kong to Shenzhen for a cheap massage and a knock-off handbag, today they’re just as likely to be lured by its booming art and design scene. Read on to explore the OCT-Loft creative district, a hub for the city’s burgeoning cultural movement. »

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insider detour ART

GETTING THERE

creative corners

Clockwise from top: Artwork at the He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen; concept store Little Thing; the Loft Shop; an installation at OCAT, the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal.

You can fly directly to Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. Carriers include SilkAir (silkair.com), Air Asia (airasia.com) and China Southern Airlines (csair.com/en). From Hong Kong, a train or ferry journey will take between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on waiting times at the border. Mornings are best for avoiding the crowds.

BY RAIL

Take the Hong Kong MTR East Rail Line to Lo Wu. Cross the border into Shenzhen, then ride the Shenzhen Metro Luobao Line to Qiaocheng East station, Exit A. OCT Loft is a five-minute walk north on Enping Road.

BY FERRY

From Sheung Wan’s Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal or Tsim Sha Tsui’s Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, take a ferry to Shekou, in western Shenzhen. There, hop on the metro’s Shekou Line to Qiaocheng North station, Exit B. OCT Loft is a fiveminute walk south on Xiangshan East Street.

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The Overseas Chinese Town Eastern Industrial District was born in 1985 as a model industrial zone with plenty of greenery. Twenty years later, the factories moved to the suburbs, leaving prime loft space up for grabs. Rebranded as OCT-Loft, the district’s first star attraction was the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, better known as OCAT, which opened in 2005. These days, its 3,000-squaremeter exhibition hall plays host to regular shows by avant-garde Chinese artists like Shu Qun and Wang Jianwei. Be sure to check out the architecture-themed exhibitions in OCAT’s new secondary gallery, a five-minute walk north. OCAT has also attracted a crop of commercial art spaces, including J&Z Gallery, one of Shenzhen’s few commercial galleries specializing in contemporary art. Close by, the likable A-Lift features works by young Hong Kong artists and designers such as Yiu Chu Tung, whose ethereal drawings are on show this month through December 14. Slightly further afield, a 20-minute journey by foot takes you to two pillars of Shenzhen’s art scene. The government-run He Xiangning Art Museum made waves when it was the first Chinese stop for a major Picasso exhibition in 2005, ahead of Beijing and Shanghai; since then, it has established itself as one of China’s leading art museums. Next door, the OCT Art & Design Gallery showcases thought-provoking design installations in a building whose polygonal façade bears no small resemblance to Beijing’s famed Water Cube. Look out for exhibitions from the Shenzhen–Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture (szhkbiennale.org), held here and at OCAT, from next month through February 10.


hidden finds

Clockwise from top left: On the go outside OCAT; My Noodles, owned by Hong Kong designer Kenneth Ko; Loft Shop’s edgy wares.

ADDRESS BOOK OCT-Loft Enping Rd., Nanshan district. • OCAT 86-755/26915100; ocat.com.cn. • A-Lift No. 116, Block A4; 86-755/8271-9826; a-lift.hk.

EAT AND DRINK

SHOP

“Take your pleasures seriously,” renowned designer Charles Eames once said. OCT-Loft certainly lives up to that spirit: good design makes for seriously fun shopping. Start by getting yourself some wheels at O2, where you can rent stylish cruiser bikes for RMB10 per hour. Before you go, though, don’t forget to poke through the tiny shop’s collection of leather notebooks, quirky toys and ironic “Made in China” ashtrays. Next, head up to the Loft Shop, which sells its own line of OCT-Loft–themed mugs and notebooks, alongside Lamy pens, Issey Miyake watches and other products that match the store’s colorful, streamlined aesthetic. Similar in sensibility is Emoi, a Shenzhen-based lifestyle store whose minimalist homeware, bags and clothing are spreading across China. At the opposite end of the style spectrum is Little Thing, a new concept store run by the Chinese zakka magazine of the same name. The look here is twee and whimsical, with old typewriters and vintage vacuum flasks next to handcrafted dolls, clothes and jewelry. Also handcrafted are the beautiful teapots and cups at Tao Yan, which are made from unusual material like Taiwanese rock mud, said to improve the taste of water and tea.

Thanks to its serene atmosphere, open spaces and abundant greenery, OCT-Loft is the perfect evening antidote to Shenzhen’s tacky nightclubs and rowdy bars. Nightlife revolves around Idutang, a bar, restaurant and music venue with a bamboo-shrouded terrace and spacious interior. Order a Weihenstephaner wheat beer and take in one of the folk, jazz and indie rock shows that take place here every weekend. Old Heaven offers an even more intriguing experience. Despite a modern setting in the newly renovated north half of OCT-Loft, the bookstore, music shop, café and bar feels like the kind of well-aged bohemian hideaway you would expect to find in the backstreets of Madrid. Browse through the high-minded selection of literature and academic texts before taking a seat in an old sofa, where you can enjoy a cocktail and fantastic music culled from the shop’s collection of vinyl records (think Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré and Beijing indie-rockers Carsick Cars). But before you drink, dig into a hearty meal at My Noodles, Hong Kong designer Kenneth Ko’s inviting, rustic-chic dumpling and noodle joint. The handmade Shanghai-style dan dan mian is rich and spicy; pair it with cold appetizers like the garlic eggplant and crunchy cloud ear mushrooms. ✚

• J&Z Gallery No. 101, Block F1; 86-755/86337224. • Loft Shop Nos. 117–118, Block A4; 86-755/86148700; imloftshop.com • Emoi Block E5; 86-755/3308-6698; emoi.com. • Little Thing No. 113, Block A4; 86-755/22201070; littlething.cn. • Tao Yan No. 101, Block A2; 86-755/8623-2267; teaston.com. • Idutang Block F3; 86-755/8609-5352, idutang.com; drinks for two RMB90. • Old Heaven No. 120, Block A5; 86-755/86148090; drinks for two RMB70. • My Noodles No. 104– 108, Block F1; 86-755/8610-2584; dinner for two RMB80. • O2 3 Enping Rd., next to Shenzhen LOFT Youth Hostel, Nanshan district; 86-159/1417-6375; o2box.net. He Xiangning Art Museum 9013 Shennan Ave., Nanshan district; 86-755/26604540; hxnart.com. OCT Art & Design Gallery 9009 Shennan Ave., Nanshan district; 86-755/3399-3222; oct-and.com.

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SPECIAL PROMOTION

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Set against the all-natural backdrop of the Maldives, the newly opened NIYAMA heats up the equatorial getaway more than ever. Designed by award-winning premium luxury group Per AQUUM, the resort is like no other found in the Maldives. Combine the tranquility of the islands with a resort that demands a sense of discovery and an injection of fun. That’s what you’ll discover at NIYAMA, a 40-minute seaplane flight from Male. Aside from the unparalleled beauty of the Maldives, there’s

a contemporary and vibrant resort to discover. SLUMBER Whether it’s the spacious decks in the Beach Studios, the fiber-optic-lit pools in Deluxe Beach Studios or a Beach Pavilion with 24-hour butler service, the pleasing surprises never end at NIYAMA. In all, there are 87 Studios and Pavilions at the resort. Water Pavilions with private pools are available with one or two bedrooms complete with private Thakuru.


SPECIAL PROMOTION

MAIN IMAGE: Beach at NIYAMA. FROM FAR LEFT: Water Studio exterior, Beach Studio with Private Pool, Relaxing at NIYAMA, Bathroom of Beach Studio with Private Pool, Exterior of a Beach Studio with Private Pool.

PLAY How does the world’s first underwater music club sound? At Subsix you can find out firsthand as the tech-savvy club hosts guest artists from around the world. For something a bit more sensually stimulating but just as fun, head to the 24-hour-a-day LIME Spa and its appropriately named juice bar, Quench. Arriving in the wee hours of the morning, then why not indulge yourself with a jet-lag massage? For the

more energetic, PUMP is a 24-hour gym that will keep your heart pumping at a maximum beat, though PADI dive courses, an ongoing coral rehabilitation project and a small fleet of traditional yet luxurious Maldivian dhonis are available for anyone wanting to go sailing. When the day demands something more sedate, let your inner child surface with the help of remote-control vehicles, Nintendo, Wii or a movie night.

INDULGE Tempting the other senses is Deli In. Each of NIYAMA’s studios and pavilions is fitted, not with a mere mini-bar, but with a fridge stocked brimming with gourmet cheeses, cold cuts, olives and wines, the perfect menu for between meal snacks or your own designer dinner. Out and about, a modern-day campsite called Tribal has a menu influenced by the diverse cuisines of Africa, South America and, yes, Asia. And you can choose from hot-rock grills, Asado

grills and even open fires. The resort’s signature restaurant and lounge, Edge, fills out the dining options. Round out each day at Fahrenheit, a rooftop bar that has to be seen to be believed each sunset.

FOR BOOKINGS Please call NIYAMA at 960/676-2828; e-mail at reservations@niyama.com; or visit www.niyama.com


insider maps

off the grid

From left: An A la Carte city map; map makers Yuan Yao and Jan Gerber; Asakusa, Tokyo: at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

A LA CARTE’S FAVORITE HAUNTS

• SHANGHAI Check out the People’s Park (36 Renmin Ave., Huangpu) on Saturdays, which turns into a marriage market where parents try to find a mate for their children. At Fuxing Park’s (109 Yandang Rd., Luwan) free weekend concerts, retired musicians play folk music.

savvy, in-the-know locals are creating handy maps that uncover their cities’ hidden gems, from savory street eats to the best in fashion and design. By Naomi Lindt

A LA CARTE MAPS

During a yearlong, round-the-world trip, Swiss-Chinese entrepreneur Yuan Yao found that conventional guidebooks and tourist maps just didn’t do the trick. “Most are outdated, impersonal and unpractical, or too informative, especially if there are 100 little numbers splattered all over them,” the 26-year-old says. “City maps are often unhandy, financed with paid advertising and made of cheap material.” So she and best friend Jan Gerber, a fellow global traveler, created A la Carte Maps (€8.90 each; alacartemaps.com), an artist-designed series of “highly opinionated” guidebooks-meet-maps that compile locals’ knowledge for 15 major cities around the world, including Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore; four more, including Beijing, are in the works. Content is generated by long-time residents—writers, entrepreneurs, actors, lawyers—or “people who truly breathe and embrace the spirit of the city,” Yao says. In addition to shops, restaurants and key sights, the maps feature quirky tips like “coolest seasonal activities” (think Art Basel Miami) and a “tour de chocolate cake” in Shanghai. There’s also an online database with more than 100 extra listings. »

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• TOKYO Don’t miss the fabulous bar and pastry shop at the Park Hyatt (3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku; tokyo.park.hyatt.com; doubles from ¥41,650) and a stroll through Asakusa for a feel of old Tokyo. • HONG KONG Have your fortune told at Wong Tai Sin Temple (2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin) and sample fried oysters and clams in Bowrington Street.

c lo c kw i s e f r o m to p l e f t: co u rt e sy o f a l a c a rt e ( 2 ) ; © M i k e K w o k / D r e a m s t i m e . c o m ; c o u r t e s y o f p a r k h ya t t t o k y o

THE NEW CARTOGRAPHERS. across asia,

• SINGAPORE Hit stall no. 43 at East Coast Lagoon Food Village (1220 East Coast Parkway; chili crab for two S$30) for the best chili crab. Then go vintage shopping at Ann Siang Hill.


insider maps

XIN CHAO’S FAVORITE HAUNTS

• HANOI For lunch, try Quan An Ngon (18 Phan Boi Chau; 84-4/3942-8162; ngonhanoi.com.vn; lunch for two VND200,000): “traditional food, always crowded, quite cheap, absolutely delicious,” the duo says. Or stop at casual-chic French bistro La Badiane (10 Nam Ngu; 84-4/3942-4509; labadiane.hanoi.sitew. com; lunch for two VND570,000)—“try the beef steak.” Reunification Park comes alive early evening with and salsa dance classes.

hanoi flair Clockwise from top left:

Julie Torreton (left) and Isabelle Der Hagopian; Xin Chao! Map of Hanoi; French fare at La Badiane; the map cover; at Quan An Ngon; outside the restaurant.

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With its harrowing traffic and chaotic street life, Hanoi can be daunting for even the most seasoned traveler. Enter Xin Chao! Map of Hanoi (US$15.95; nancychandler.net), a colorful map created by two longtime expat friends and neighbors, Julie Torreton and Isabelle Der Hagopian. The duo rode motorbikes around the bustling city to discover its charms, jotting down everything from their favorite shops and markets to monuments, parks and trees. As word spread of the pair’s coveted tips, they decided to launch their own annotated street map. The guide covers 10 of Hanoi’s main districts, offering transport advice, food descriptions, walking tours, hidden temples and historical info, including legends of the city’s emperors and heroes. Look out for a new edition in mid-2012, published by Nancy Chandler of Bangkok map fame. »

c lo c kw i s e f r o m to p l e f t: co u rt e sy o f x i n c h ao ! m a p o f h a n o i ( 2 ) ; co u rt e sy o f l a b a d i a n e ; co u rt e sy o f n a n cy c h a n d l e r g r a p h i c s ; A a r o n J o e l Sa n to s ( 2 )

XIN CHAO! MAP OF HANOI


insider maps CREATIVE CITY HONG KONG

SPOTLIGHT: MAPS TO DOWNLOAD Planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur or Shanghai? These specialized maps are available online for free KUALA LUMPUR The ARCH Earth Guide highlights KL’s heritage buildings, many of which can be viewed during self-guided walking tours outlined in an accompanying map. The 47 buildings span unusual architectural styles, like the iconic, Moghul-inspired Sultan Abdul Samad Building and lesser-known gems, like the Victorian Fountain, which is covered in Art Nouveau tiles. Available at the 123-year-old Central Market. earthguide.com.my.

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style central Clockwise

from above: Louise Wong, co-founder of Creative City Hong Kong; the map highlights Hong Kong design; The Pawn, in Wan Chai; the Monocle shop, on St. Francis Yard.

Creative City’s favorite haunts

• HONG KONG See an exhibition at the former Central Police Station (Pottinger St., SoHo), followed by sunset drinks at The Pawn (62 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai; 852/2866-3444; thepawn.com. hk; drinks for two HK$160)— try and grab a seat on the balcony. Head to the Star Street area: check out carefully curated design paradise Kapok (5 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai; 852/25499254; ka-pok.com), the new Monocle shop (1–4 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai; 852/28042323) for extravagant hipsterchic bags and gadgets, and vintage retailer Flea + Cents (36–44 Queen’s Rd. E., Wan Chai; 852/2528-0808; fleancents.com).

SHANGHAI For the latest in Shanghai’s everchanging creative scene, pick up Shanghai Detour’s duo of free maps. Launched two years ago by Berliner artophile Eike Stratmann, and updated every other month, the Art Map details the city’s best international galleries, private collections and independent art spaces. The Fashion Map, launched this year, is the first to provide an authoritative guide to around 50 of Shanghai’s chicest boutiques, designers and showrooms. shanghai-detour.org.

a b o v e c l o c k w i s e f r o m to p : c o u r t e s y o f c r e at i v e c i t y h o n g k o n g ( 2 ) ; c o u r t e s y o f t h e paw n h o n g k o n g ; c o u r t e s y o f m o n o c l e h o n g ko n g . b ot to m f r o m fa r l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f e a r t h g u i d e . c o m . m y ; c o u r t e s y o f s h a n g h a i d e to u r ( 2 )

This visually enticing, user-friendly map sets out to prove that Hong Kong is much more than a brand-name paradise—it’s also home to galleries, design shops and intriguing places off the tourist trail. “We wanted to produce an easily accessible but intelligently designed, well-informed map that better represented Hong Kong’s creative side,” says Louise Wong, a former journalist, who developed Creative City Hong Kong (HK$28; creativecity.hk) with Danielle Huthart, founder of design consultancy Whitespace. One side homes in on six districts, with recommended places to “Stash,” “Savour” and “See”; the flipside points users to public art, heritage sites and cool architecture. Folks in fashion, design, architecture, writing and art provided input for the more than 150 picks. “These people represent what a melting pot the city is and how inspiring it is,” Wong says. ✚


insider Road trip Place du Grand Sabron, Brussels

europe on overdrive.

five countries, three days, one epic drive: Maria Shollenbarger takes the wheel N

germany

belgium Brussels E411

luxembourg

Koblenz

Luxembourg

Berlin

Germany

E44 E31

Frankfurt

Mainz

E45

E42 Würzburg

Brussels

Ingolstadt

Rhine

Belgium

Vienna Austria

Munich

Innsbruck

france italy

Wattens

Brenner Pass Sw i t z e r l a n d

Rome

Lake Garda Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 0

E41

Nuremberg

161 km

Illustrated by Brett Affrunti

i ta ly Modena

au s t r i a

Trento Verona Mantua Bologna E35

Florence

DAY ONE

Brussels to Frankfurt 547 kms Before hitting the road, head to Place du Grand Sablon for a breakfast of—what else?—Belgian waffles. Angle for a table at Au Vieux Saint-Martin (38 Place du Grand Sablon; 32-2/​512-6476; waffles for two €22), which serves some of the tastiest in town. Leave central Brussels and take the E411 highway going southeast. After about 45 minutes, you’ll enter the Belgian Ardennes—which look almost as pristinely wooded and unpopulated as they did decades ago. At the city of ­Luxembourg, pull off to stretch your legs at the I. M. Pei–designed Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (3 Park Dräi Eechelen; 011-352/453-7851; mudam.lu)

and have a snack at the café. Sated, head northeast into Germany across the hilly state of Rhineland-Palatinate on E44. At Koblenz, take E31 south, then E42 east, following the Rhine toward the city of Mainz, in German wine country. Push on to Frankfurt, and check in to the GREAT VALUE Gerbermühle (105 Gerbermühlstrasse; 49-69/​ 6897-7790; gerber​muehle. de; doubles from €157). Butter-yellow ­Gemütlichkeit on the outside, the small hotel (13 rooms; five suites) is all style on the inside. Sip an aperitif in the hotel’s Tower Bar, then venture out to the Westend-Süd for dinner at Gargantua (Park Gallery, 3 An der Welle; 49-29/720-718; dinner for two €75), where chef Andrea Torresan mixes French and German influences in dishes such as pike perch on lentils

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insider Road trip Gerbermühle hotel, Frankfurt

with ­champagne-mustard sauce and potatoes.

DAY TWO

Frankfurt to Munich 402 kms In the morning, fuel up at the hotel’s hearty (and complimentary) breakfast. Feel free to linger a bit: today’s drive is about 162 kilometers shorter than yesterday’s. Start on E41 south toward Würzburg, keeping an eye out for the castles and churches that cluster in the surrounding towns. Follow E45 south to Nuremberg (about halfway to ­Munich), and turn off to see one of those majestic buildings up close: the ­Imperial Castle (13 Auf der Burg; 49-911/244-6590), where the Holy Roman Emperors stayed from 1050 to 1571. Hop back on E45; from here on out, the highway widens to eight lanes. Fly past ­Ingolstadt, and soon all signs point to Munich, where you’ve booked a room at the centrally located Cortiina Hotel (8 Ledererstrasse; 49-89/​242-2490; cortiina. com; doubles from €190), one of the best deals in town, with first-class service to boot. Drop off your bags and grab a taxi to the Alte Pinakothek (27 Barer Str.; 49-89/​2380-5216), which holds a vast collection of European masterpieces by ­Dürer, da Vinci and Rubens. Then to dinner: Stroll over to Maximilian­strasse—one of the city’s four royal

avenues—and snag a table at Brenner (15 Maximilianstrasse; 49-89/​ 452-2880; dinner for two €75), a perennially popular and cavernous northern Italian restaurant.

DAY THREE

Munich to Florence 724 kms

You’ve got an eight-hour trip ahead of you, so wake early and order a traditional German breakfast spread straight to your room. Head south on E45, and within half an hour, Bavarian pastorals give way to staggering ­Alpine peaks. You’ll go through ­Wattens, ­Austria, home to ­Swarovski ­Crystal Worlds (kristall​ welten.​swarovski.com), a grandiose homage to the Brenner Pass, between Austria and Italy

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brand, where you’ll find one of the world’s largest Swarovski stores. At ­Innsbruck, the road swings to Brenner Pass—which is 30 minutes of curves and tunnels, cutting through beautiful ­Tyrolean peaks. On the other side? Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region. For miles, the towns—­ carrying dual Italian and German names—cling to precipitous, terraced slopes and hide in the shadows of cliff faces. About an hour and a half beyond the pass, you’ll arrive in Trento, where, in the surrounding hills, some of northern Italy’s top wines are produced. You’re almost halfway there, so reward yourself with a lunch of porcini risotto from Locanda Margon (Via ­Margone di Ravina; 39-0461/349-401; lunch for two €37), which is helmed by chef ­Alfio ­Grezzi. Settle in again on E45; the peaks gradually mellow back into hilly terrain, sloping down to Lake G ­ arda, with ­Verona at its wide base. From here, the driving is smooth and fast through rich agricultural flatlands; you pass Mantua, Modena, and finally, Bologna, where you switch to E35 south. It’s a winding four-lane joyride through steep hills, until a final crest

Brenner, Munich

brings you in sight of the Arno River valley—and Florence, with the ­Duomo just visible on the horizon. Don’t get too comfortable at the refined Hotel Lungarno (14 ­Borgo San J ­ acopo; 39-055/27261; ­lungarno​ collection.com; doubles from €220), owned by the Ferragamo clan. Give up those wheels and walk across the Ponte ­Vecchio into the city center to start exploring. ✚


insider on the ground

real-time nyc.

Our reporter’s mission: to craft the ultimate travel itinerary in three of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods. How she did it? Her own street-smart research, as well as tips supplied by T+L’s Facebook followers. here are the results. By HEATHER smith MACISAAC

9:02 a.m.

DAY 1

Chel s ea

W. 3

0t

Av e.

hS t.

th Ni

W. 2

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3rd

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th Se ve n

3:16 p.m.

7 High Line Architecture and urban planning that makes you feel relaxed, inspired, oxygenated and taller than a giraffe. Democratic, sophisticated and wholesome, it does New Yorkers proud. 

6:45 p.m.

8 Standard Grill Make your way south on the High Line with reviving sustenance here as your goal. 

12:35 p.m.

5 Le Grainne Café A suggestion from a Facebook user. The menu is resolutely French over-easy: crêpes, onion soup, croque monsieur, French toast. Best for brunch or lunch.

2:07 p.m.

6 Printed Matter Everything is by artists—i.e., provocative to pretentious. The place to find ephemera that would never see the light of day in anything but a nonprofit bookstore.

ADDRESS BOOK

1 Dream Downtown 355 W. 16th St.; 1-212/229-2559; dream​ downtown.com; doubles from US$395. 2 Cookshop 156 10th Ave.; 1-212/924-4440; breakfast for two US$38. 3 Kiehl’s 400 W. 14th St.; 1-212/337-0406. 4 Stone Street Coffee Company 132 Ninth Ave.; 1-646/559-1671; coffee for two US$8. 5 Le Grainne Café 183 Ninth Ave.; 1-646/486-3000; lunch for two US$30. 6 Printed Matter 195 10th Ave.; 1-212/925-0325. 7 High Line Gansevoort St. to W. 30th St. 8 Standard Grill 848 Washington St.; 1-212/645-4100; dinner for two US$100. 9 Bathtub Gin 132 Ninth Ave.; 1-646/559-1671; drinks for two US$20.

h e at h e r S m i t h m a c i s a a c

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4 Stone Street Coffee Company Linger long enough to chat with the friendly barista and he may give you a daytime peek at what lies behind a discreet door: the Bathtub Gin speakeasy-style bar. 

hA ve .

10

11th Ave .

7

3 Kiehl’s Beauty and skin-care emporium with a devoted following. Look for the free photo booth: one wall is papered with insta-portraits, another with neon.

11:56 a.m.

9 4

ton

9 Bathtub Gin No, the cocktails aren’t exclusively gin-based, though there is a copper bathtub in the bar—filled with patrons more often than liquor. One Facebook comment: “A true gem of a place with no attitude.”

11:20 a.m.

Wa shi ng

9:00 p.m.

2 Cookshop “My favorite neighborhood resto,” one Facebook user wrote. Order the “Cookshop breakfast”: fried eggs with sausage, bacon, grits and a buttermilk biscuit. 

Hig

Even though it’s gotten enough press to be tagged the “Hype Line,” there’s no disputing the High Line’s magnetic pull. Not surprisingly, it drew a great deal of attention on Twitter and Facebook. The crowd is diverse—the densest and most interesting mix of locals and out-of-towners anywhere in the city. After phase two of the project extended the park to West 10th Street this past June, once-forlorn byways have come alive with shops, restaurants, hotels and pop-ups of all stripes, from food carts to roller rinks.

10:08 a.m.

1 Dream Downtown Wake up at Vikram Chatwal’s newest NYC property, whose design scheme has an almost dizzying number of circles, bubbles and holes. 


insider on the ground 10:24 a.m.

11:00 a.m.

2 La Colombe Torrefaction Ceramic Deruta cups and saucers to rival the latte art. Here, coffee is coffee, not a flavored confection—and one size fits all. 

9:45 a.m.

1 Mondrian SoHo Stay here for a great location, plus a lobby that calls to mind a slick version of Dr. Seuss and an entrance arbor that “looks like a secret garden,” as one user wrote. 

W .H

3, 4, 5, 6 Intersection of Howard and Crosby streets Haute shopping crossroads, with boutiques de Vera, Michele Varian, Amaridian and Opening Ceremony supplying endless sensory stimulation. 

ou

St .

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th S t. abe

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7 Parm/Torrisi Italian Specialties More than justified the online praise. Oh, what chicken parm, prosciut’ and mortadell’; so good you’ll want to hit Parm for lunch and head next door to Torrisi for dinner. 

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11 Imperial No. Nine Greenhouse turned crystal palace: the ultimate housekeeping challenge. Good for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. 

Pr

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7:27 p.m.

sto n

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4:36 p.m.

10 Jay Kos Everything is dandy at Kos’s haberdashery. Where else can you find a shopkeeper who’s been known to cook for customers while they try on suede bucks in candy colors? 

DAY 2

s oho/ nol ita

First came the loft buildings, then the art galleries; now, chain stores and high-end designer shops. Such is the turn of events in SoHo, to the increasing advantage of the neighborhood at its eastern edge, Nolita, where old tenement buildings now house storefronts. (On Facebook, Nolita was the shopping destination of choice.) The streets here—­Mulberry, Mott, Elizabeth—are busy in a different sense, filled less with consumers than with explorers eager to uncover boutiques with charm and serious personality.

3:04 p.m.

8 Market NYC The high brick wall of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is the backdrop for stalls of artisan goods. Look for leather and wool totes from Grey56 and delicate gold chains by Guenevere Rodriguez.

ADDRESS BOOK

1 Mondrian SoHo 9 Crosby St.; 1-212/389-1000; mondriansoho. com; doubles from US$495. 2 La Colombe Torrefaction 270 Lafayette St.; 1-212/625-1717; coffee for two US$9. 3 De Vera 1 Crosby St.; 1-212/​625-0838. 4 Michele Varian 27 Howard St.; 1-212/343-0033. 5 ­Amaridian 31 Howard St.; 1-917/463-3719. 6 Opening Ceremony 35 Howard St.; 1-212/219-2688. 7 Parm/ Torrisi Italian Specialties 248–250 Mulberry St.; 1-212/965-0955; lunch for two US$40; dinner for two US$100. 8 Market NYC 248 Mulberry St.; themarket​nyc.com; open Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.– 7 p.m. 9 Thomas Sires 243 Elizabeth St.; 1-646/692-4472. 10 Jay Kos 293 Mott St.; 1-212/319-2770. 11 Imperial No. Nine Mondrian SoHo; drinks for two US$22.

h e at h e r s m i t h m a c i s a a c

5:22 p.m.

9 Thomas Sires Other shops should take a cue from this space packed with bright gifts and artful houselabel women’s wear. Bonus: spacious dressing rooms. 


DAY 3

wi ll i a ms b urg , B rookly n

Our Facebook fans agree: this is well worth a day trip from Manhattan. In fact, Manhattanites now have become the outer-borough seekers—although in addition to the bridge and subway, they have the option of taking a ferry that deposits them right at Williamsburg’s western edge. In the shadow of the characterless, glassy high-rises lining the waterfront, the Smorgasburg food market is a weekly gathering of young vendors producing foodstuffs made the traditional way. Old meets new meets old again: it’s the aesthetic currently dominating the neighborhood, influencing everything from fashion to facial hair.

10:36 a.m.

2 Bakeri Storefront with a massive counter and female bakers dressed, Rosie the Riveter–style, in coveralls and kerchiefs.

12:41 p.m.

3 Whiskey Shop Tiny, vertical space with, count ’em, 99 kinds of whiskey stacked to the rafters.

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6 Brook Farm General Store Behind a nondescript façade, vintage and new housewares with retro appeal—all true to the store’s utilitarian-chic vibe. Even the name of the resident beagle is right on: Nutmeg. 

Like us on Facebook.com/TravelLeisureAsia Follow us on Twitter at @TravLeisureAsia

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7 Marlow & Daughters Artisan butcher shop where sausages are crafted daily up front and gourmet dog food is made in-house (US$6 a pint!).

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8 Marlow & Sons East Coast oysters, creamy pâté and brick chicken so flavorful and succulent you could eat it every day. This is “last meal” material. 

c l o c k w i s e f r o m to p l e f t : h e at h e r S m i t h m a c i s a a c ( 2 ) ; D a n i e l K r i e g e r ; h e at h e r Smith macisaac (2); Mark Peterson/Redux

In Williamsburg, even detergent bottles can become fodder for art. Spotted on Berry Street between N. Fifth and N. Sixth Streets.

12:15 p.m.

1 Smorgasburg “Lowbrow, delicious, belly-filling delights” was one person’s Facebook comment. Come hungry to see newbies hawking jams, jerky and java at open-air tables alongside chefs who’ve cooked at Craft and Fatty Crab. In its outdoor location through Nov. 19. 

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4 Isa The talent here lies not only in the kitchen but also in the design. If you want to know where the curve is headed, follow the folks who brought you Manhattan’s Freemans and Peels restaurants. 

3:13 p.m.

5 Golden Calf Owner Natalie Vichnevsky has an eye for color and form and an obvious sense of humor. You’re sure to find a gift among her collection of furniture and accessories. 

ADDRESS BOOK

1 Smorgasburg 27 N. Sixth St.; brooklyn​ flea.com; open Saturdays only. 2 Bakeri 150 Wythe Ave.; 1-718/388-8037; pastries for two US$10. 3 Whiskey Shop 44 Berry St.; 1-718/384-7467. 4 Isa 348 Wythe Ave.; 1-347/689-3594; lunch for two US$75. 5 Golden Calf 319 Wythe Ave.; 1-718/​ 302-8800. 6 Brook Farm General Store 75 S. Sixth St.; 1-718/388-8642. 7 Marlow & Daughters 95 Broadway; 1-718/3885700. 8 Marlow & Sons 81 Broadway; 1-718/384-1441; dinner for two US$100.

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 71


stylish traveler

[st ]

Wool-blend Authentic peacoat with fleece and satin lining, by Sterlingwear of Boston.

icon

shipshape

After more than 40 years, the maker of the U.S. Navy peacoat is creating gear for civilians, too. By Darrell Hartman

Seafaring has changed a lot over the past two centuries, but sartorially, not so much. Consider the peacoat—that double-breasted buffer against the elements and the ­ever-​shifting tides of fashion, worn by Dutch sailors as early as the late 18th century. Now, Sterlingwear of Boston, which has been producing the U.S. Navy’s standardissue jacket since 1968, is also launching a line for the non-enlisted. With its authentic details—durable melton wool, slash pockets, six foul-anchor buttons and an oversize Photographed by Charles Masters

collar to shield your face (whether you’re contemplating the fjords or a simple winter walk)—it’s about as close as you can get to the real thing. And given the current vogue for ­military-inspired clothing, Sterlingwear is spinning out more variations on the peacoat than ever, from a fashionforward cropped version in houndstooth plaid to a belted women’s look with epaulets. One design comes with a full satin lining, as opposed to the traditional part-fleece, in case you’re looking for a bit of extra flair. ✚ travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 73


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[st] expert her SHOPPING PICKS

T+L taps French model, designer and author inÈs de la fressange for her paris shopping tips. By Alexandra Marshall

from paris  with style  There aren’t many women who can say that they are a national emblem of femininity. Inès de la Fressange is one. She was the face of the Marianne statue—an official symbol of France found in the country’s city halls—throughout the 1990’s, and her name has been synonymous with chic since the 1980’s, when she first became a muse to designer Karl ­Lagerfeld at Chanel. Since then, having opened a namesake fashion and lifestyle boutique on Paris’s impossibly upscale Avenue Montaigne and, along with designer Bruno Frisoni, relaunched the renowned footwear and accessories house Roger Vivier (a shoe from the current collection is pictured below), you could say that she wrote the book on French style. Literally: most recently, with the help of journalist Sophie Gachet, she penned and illustrated her very own collection of sartorial wisdoms, Parisian Chic: A Style Guide (Flammarion), filled with lighthearted tips for dressing, shopping and living à la parisienne. Growing up in ­Normandy, de la Fressange dreamed of the City of Light, where she could haunt the flea markets and the Galeries Lafayette. “I was a fashion maniac,” she says, “and this was where I wanted to be.” Forty-odd years after arriving, her tastes may have changed, but her love of Paris has not. ✚ 76 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Chez Sarah She makes a beeline for Sarah Rozenbaum’s collection of vintage clothing and accessories at Les Puces de St.-Ouen flea market. “You always see the assistants to big-name designers here. She has fantastic things.” 18 Rue Jules Vallès, St.-Ouen; 336/08-01-80-89.

Simone With affordable ­ women’s pieces from below-the-radar ­labels, this tiny store “is perfect for when you need a dress but your bank says otherwise.” 1 Rue St.-­ Simon, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-22-81-40. Soeur “It’s supposed to be for my daughters, but I’ve found great blazers there for myself,” she says of the label from the ­Brion sisters, one of whom was a designer at Bonpoint. 88 Rue Bonaparte, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/46-34-19-33.

Merci A hip three-level fashion and lifestyle boutique in the Marais district, Merci sells everything from limited-edition designer tees to books and coffee. “I love its shabby-chic style.” 111 Blvd. Beaumarchais, Third Arr.; 33-1/ 42-77-00-33.

Ragtime The vintage couture shop’s circa-1930 silkchiffon dresses don’t come cheap, “but you’d pay much more at any designer store.” 23 Rue de l’Echaudé, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/ 56-24-00-36. Monoprix Like many of her fellow Parisiennes, de la Fressange regularly browses the men’s department of the chain for Liberty print shirts and colorful cashmere V-necks “that would be ridiculous on my boyfriend, but are great on me.” Various locations; ­monoprix.fr. Serge Lutens The cult French perfumer’s Palais Royal boutique carries exclusive scents and will engrave bottles with initials or a name. Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, 142 Galerie de Valois, First Arr.; 33-1/4927-09-09.

clockw i se from top left : © Ines de la F ressange ; © paolo rovers i ; courtesy of bon march é ; courtesy of merc i ; ben j am i n carbel / courtesy of che z sarah ; courtesy of serge lutens ; courtesy of roger v i v i er ; © Ines de la F ressange

Le Bon Marché “The second floor has Maje and Sandro—­ little-known brands that are really easy to wear.” 24 Rue de Sèvres, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/44-39-80-00.


[st] bring it back

1

With neon-hued linings and bold orange accents, these vibrant handcrafted mini-trunks meld exuberance with sophistication. suman@sotomoto.in.

2

Xylem Papercraft’s hand-painted Bollywood poster album and sketchbook, crafted from recycled and handmade paper, are a show-stealing memento. xylempapercraft.com.

3

Bright and eclectic, these hand-embroidered kantha quilts from the Kantha Shop hail from the villages of West Bengal. kkantha.com.

Made in india there’s more to souvenir shopping in india than Pashminas and incense. T+L highlights 10 imaginative local products with global appeal. by ashdeen Z. Lilaowala

4

5

Indian truck and wall art inspired this funky weekend bag and toilet pouch, by French designers Emeline Grasset and Iris Strill. purple-jungle.com.

78 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Sanjay Jarg’s vivid designer wraps, made with handwoven chanderi fabrics and cotton-and-silk borders, will liven up any outfit. raw mangodesign@ gmail.com.

Photographed by Anshuman Sen


6

Striking and colorful, this graphic art tray by design collective Play Clan channels the best of modern India. theplayclan.com.

7

Courtesy of New Delhi’s ZAZA Home & Space, old tin boxes get a new lease of life as quirky domed lanterns— perfect for outdoors. 91-11/2923-5076.

8

Stainless steel doesn’t get any more cheerful: these cups and jugs from ZAZA Home & Space feature hand-painted floral motifs. 91-11/2923-5076.

9

Blending Persian, Chinese and Indian influences, Parsi embroidery is the highlight of this contemporary silk stole from the Parzor Foundation. unescoparzor.com.

10

India’s ancient craft traditions are kept alive thanks to stylish hand-woven bamboo mats by GreenEarth. greenearthindia.com.

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 79


t r avel+L eisure S p ecial 2 01 1 J u d ges José Andrés Chef and owner of ThinkFoodGroup

bonnie burnham President and CEO of the World Monuments Fund

Lauren Bush Cofounder, creative director, and CEO of FEED Projects and chairman of the board for the FEED Foundation

2011

global

vision awards

Travel is often about what you take away from a place. but the best journeys should also enrich the destinations you travel through. The winners of the 2011 travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards—selected by our expert panel of judges—do just that. plus 18 trips that allow you to experience the winners.

Megan EPler wood Executive director of the Planeterra ­Foundation and founder of the International Ecotourism Society

Premal shah President of microfinance website kiva.org

dr. Joseph stiglitz Nobel Prize–winning economist and cochair of Columbia University’s Committee on Global Thought

Kate stohr and cameron sinclair Founders of the nonprofit design collective Architecture for Humanity

Edited by amy farley, Nina fedrizzi and nikki goldstein. Reported by lisa cheng, darrell hartman, stirling kelso and lindsey olander.

Illustrated by Gracìa Lam


the winners

sustainability s u s ta i n a b l e d e s i g n

sfo Terminal 2

f r o m t h e j u ry

san fr ancisco

As the only LEED Gold–registered t­ erminal in the United States, San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2 sets a bold benchmark for airport sustainability—without compromising style or utility. The Genslerdesigned gates have multifunctional green amenities: hydration stations enable fliers to fill water bottles from dedicated faucets; gateside restaurants serve regional, organic food; and the baggage-claim area, which looks like a piece of kinetic art, is part of an innovative ventilation system.

TA K E T H E TRIP Don’t miss SFO T2’s artwork, including Janet Echelman’s dramatic colored nets, which hang over the “recompose” area. flysfo.com.

FROM TOP : PABLO DE LOY ; COURTESY OF LUFTHANSA

E co t r av e l

nature air costa rica

Nature Air isn’t satisfied with merely being the world’s first carbon-neutral airline: by 2021, the company hopes to be “carbonpositive,” actually taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. While the carrier is sourcing locally produced biofuels and using biodiesel to power its ground operations, the centerpiece of Nature Air’s efforts is its ongoing purchase of carbon credits, which offer funds to Costa ­Rican landowners who have agreed to conserve the tropical forests of the Osa ­Peninsula. It’s a corporate ethos that addresses global concerns by investing in local communities.

TA K E T H E TRIP Nature Air can fly you to the

tropical forests on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica and create a customized tour of the region. 506/ 2549-7575; naturevacations.com.

José Andrés, chef

It’s important to see big industry leaders like Lufthansa looking at their operations and making advances that others can follow.

e n v i r o n m e n ta l i n n ovat i o n

Lufthansa G er man y

Environmentalism isn’t an ethos usually associated with major airlines, but Lufthansa has made admirable strides to lower both its own and the industry’s CO2 emissions. It was the first carrier to test biofuel in normal flight operations—paving the way for other airlines— and has greened everything from its enginecleaning routine to cabin equipment, resulting in a full 23 percent emissions reduction. Meanwhile, Lufthansa’s HelpAlliance aid organization has raised almost US$7.7 million for health and education in Africa, South America and Asia.

TA K E T H E TRIP Lufthansa’s Frankfurt Airport fleet is significantly reducing noise pollution with new mufflers. verantwortung.lufthansa.com.

g r e e n l u x u ry King Pacific Lodge, a Rosewood Resort

British Columbia, Canada

This 17-room floating wilderness lodge on B.C.’s remote northern coast made headlines in 2006 for its role in establishing protection for the 85,000-square-kilometer Great Bear Rainforest, which surrounds the property. But King Pacific is also going green with improved efficiencies: filtration facilities that use glacial river water, a river-hydro plant and solar panels to reduce energy use, and a food and beverage program based on locally sourced ingredients. To top it off, the company has committed to halving its carbon footprint by the end of 2012.

TA K E T H E TRIP Wildlife tours in the Great

Bear Rainforest provide rare glimpses of the white ­Kermode bear. 1-604/987-5452; kingpacificlodge. com; from US$4,800 per person, all-inclusive. travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 81


T +L Glo bal V is i on Awa rds 2 01 1

the winners

f r o m t h e j u ry

conservation

f r o m t h e j u ry

LAND MANAGEMENT

Manyara Ranch Tanz ania

connecting wildlife conservation with community development, as manyara does, is both admirable and effective.

TAKE THE TRIP Ride alongside giraffes and zebras on one of Manyara Ranch’s horseback trips. 255-27/254-5284; manyararanch.com; doubles from US$1,240, all-inclusive. e n v i r o n m e n ta l s t e wa r d s h i p

Inkaterra Lima , P eru In its 36 years, this Peruvian company has evolved from a small rainforest inn serving scientists to a world-renowned luxury eco-lodge brand. The cornerstones of its environmental accomplishments are the creation of the 170-square-kilometer Reserva Amazonica and, more recently, a 9,700-square-kilometer protected marine area in the Mancora region. Inkaterra is involved in dozens of conservation projects, including the monitoring of butterflies, endangered bears and native orchids.

TAKE THE TRIP View hummingbirds and colorful tanagers on a bird walk at the ­Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. 511/610-0400; inkaterra.com; doubles from US$249.

marine protection

Misool Eco Resort Raja A mpat, I ndonesia

In a small, pristine corner of the Indonesian archipelago, the 11-cottage Misool Eco Resort has assumed an enormous responsibility: protecting one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions. Founded in 2005 by a group of divers and conservationists, Misool first formed a 427-square-kilometer haven for marine life. In 2010, Misool extended the area to 1,200 square kilometers, successfully petitioning the government to create a shark and ray sanctuary in the Raja Ampat islands—the first of its kind in Indonesia.

TAKE THE TRIP Javanese artisans created Misool’s cottages. 62-816/471-0033; misoolecoresort.com; from US$371 per person, double, all-inclusive, seven-night minimum. 82 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Bonnie Burnham, president and CEO, World Monuments Fund

Misool’s advocacy efforts on behalf of marine life truly go beyond the call of duty for an eco-resort.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT : c o u r t e s y o f f e e d ; COURTESY OF BONNIE BURNHAM ; COURTESY OF MISOOL ECO RESORT ; COURTESY OF MANYARA RANCH CONSERVANCY

Lauren Bush, humanitarian

The 141-square-kilometer Manyara Ranch Conservancy, on Tanzania’s northern border, serves as an important wildlife corridor in a country whose population has increased by 230 percent in just 40 years. Through partnerships with conservation organizations, Manyara is working to restore the region’s habitat and make wildlife protection a profitable enterprise for the resident Masai community. Manyara’s luxury tented camp expands the mission, offering guests game-viewing opportunities that generate revenue for the conservancy while securing a future for the area it shelters.


the winners

development

f r o m t h e j u ry

co m m u n i t y b u i l d i n g

Rancho La Puerta T ecate , M e xico For a decade, this destination spa’s Fundación La Puerta has been a major force in transforming the once-polluted Tecate River into a point of pride for a city on the rise. It also helped build an 11-hectare urban park that includes a plaza, a sports field and an environmental center that holds workshops for both children and adults. The impact of these classes has been profound: one foundation-supported group has developed a successful recycling business and has turned a riverside garbage dump into a community garden that now grows produce for local taco trucks.

TAKE THE TRIP A stay at Rancho La Puerta can include morning hikes, aromatic hydrotherapy at the spa and Mexican cooking lessons at the resort’s own culinary school. 858/764-5500; rancholapuerta.com; doubles from US$445, seven-day minimum.

co r p o r at e i n n ovat i o n

FROM TOP : COURTESY OF MEGAN EPLER WOOD ; ADAM WISEMAN

Austin Lehman Adventures Bi l lings , M ontana What to do with 120 used bikes in need of replacement? The lazy might trash them, and the thoughtful might donate them, but Austin Lehman owner Dave Austin did something else entirely. He brought them to Ngoma, Namibia—where the company operates a luxury wildlife tour—and helped locals turn them into a rental and repair business, cleverly housing it in the bikes’ shipping container. The shop became self-sufficient within 10 months, inspiring Austin to create the nonprofit Wheels of Change. The benefits are significant: 10 million bikes are discarded annually in the United States, and each can give someone in the developing world vital access to water, schools, jobs and medical facilities.

TA K E T H E TRIP Cyclists on Austin Lehman’s Namibia Family Adventure and new Kenya Adventure trips can visit bike shops set up by Wheels of Change. austinlehman.com.

l o c a l o u t r e ac h

Journeys Within t ruc k ee , ca l ifo r nia /asia

A boutique tour company with a big heart, Journeys Within has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to the Southeast Asian communities it travels through, supporting a series of programs (university scholarships; language classes; clean-water initiatives; microfinance funds) in Cambodia, Laos and Burma. In Cambodia, it sent 70 students to university in exchange for five to 10 hours a week of service on a Journeys Within–sponsored project. The microfinance arm, which offers low-interest loans to budding entrepreneurs, has changed lives—its 95 percent payback rate is a clear testament to its success.

Megan Epler Wood, director, Planeterra Foundation

Rancho La Puerta’s vision and use of environmental planning is a model for Latin America.

TA K E T H E TRIP Discover Siem Reap during Journeys Within’s six-day Only on a Beaten Track trip, where you can hike to ancient temples and visit a working silk farm. 66-2/631-0384; journeys-within.com; from US$1,100 per person, double. travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 83


T +L Glo bal V is i on Awa rds 2 01 1 the winners

leadership e d u c at i o n i n i t i at i v e

Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Singapo r e

In certain corners of the world where tourism is a huge economic engine, a job in the hospitality industry can transform a life. In 2007, the luxury hotel and resort company Banyan Tree launched Seedlings, a brand-wide initiative to support the academic and personal development of disadvantaged youths. The program offers six years of one-on-one mentoring for kids ages 12 to 18—a longterm undertaking that includes college scholarships and paid internships for students interested in hospitality. Operating across 11 hotels with 46 mentors, Seedlings invests countless hours and dollars into providing a comprehensive, no-cost education for those who need it.

TA K E T H E TRIP Thatched-roof villas at the Banyan Tree Bintan resort, in Indonesia, feature private decks with outdoor bathtubs, just steps away from the South China Sea. 62-770/693-100; banyantree.com; doubles from US$550.

f r o m t h e j u ry

co r p o r at e g r e e n i n g

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants U nited S tAtes Not all eco-minded hotels need to shout their green credentials from their bee-keeping, produceyielding rooftops. Case in point: Kimpton Hotels, which has maintained rigorous environmental standards since its inception 30 years ago. With its EarthCare program, Kimpton created a mandatory checklist of more than 100 eco-friendly practices for its 52 properties, including the use of in-room recycling bins, LED exit signs, water-efficient plumbing and recycled toilet paper—all subtle, savvy touches with quantifiable impact. According to the company’s calculations, Kimpton’s 10 Bay Area properties alone save 75 million liters of water a year, and installing CFL bulbs in those 2,181 guest rooms has removed approximately 1.5 million kilograms of carbon dioxide annually.

Six Senses is a holistic example of a company that’s committed to conservation, preservation and green living.

TA K E T H E TRI p Kimpton’s Ink48, set in a former Manhattan printing house, employs an in-house forager who sources ingredients from regional farms for the hotel’s Print restaurant. 1-212/757-0088; ink48.com; doubles from US$359.

footprint reduction

Six Senses Resorts & Spas asia Few luxury hotel groups have approached carbon reduction as enthusiastically as Six Senses. The resort and spa company uses a comprehensive carbon calculator to measure not just the footprint of all 14 properties but also guests’ air-travel emissions. By offsetting energy consumption with contributions to its own Carbon Sense Fund, Six Senses aims to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2020—and it’s well on its way. From 2009 to 2010, the company’s total emissions decreased by 6 percent; the company’s Maldives flagship resort, Soneva Fushi, is on track to fully decarbonize by 2013.

TA K E T H E TRIP Built to mimic the sloping dunes of Vietnam’s Dat Doc Beach, all 50 open-air villas at Six Senses Con Dao are cooled using natural ventilation. 84-64/383-1222; sixsenses.com; doubles from US$685.

g r a s s r o o t s o u t r e ac h

PuntaCana Resort & Club Dominican Republic Conceived as an ecological reserve and hotel 42 years ago, Puntacana has grown into a sprawling, 6,000-hectare development encompassing a hotel, private villas, an airport and a marina. But the organization is just as good at building foundations as facilities. Its Ecological Foundation set up a 600-hectare reserve that now serves as a research base for universities and a sanctuary for endangered species. Meanwhile, the Puntacana Foundation has vastly improved the quality of life in the local working-class town of Veron, establishing a permanent health clinic that services 15,000 patients annually, a bilingual school with a vibrant scholarship program, and a polytechnic school—the only high school in Veron to offer free education.

TA K E T H E TRIP PADI-certified pros from the Puntacana Aquatic Center lead Caribbean reef dives to spot manatees and nurse sharks. 1-809/959-2262; puntacana.com; doubles from US$96. 84 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

FROM t o p : COURTESY OF PREMAL SHAH ; A n t o n i n a G e r n / C o u r t e s y o f S i x S e n s e s

Premal Shah, founder, kiva.org


f r o m t h e j u ry

Joseph Stiglitz, economist

So often, old houses in India fall into decay due to the country’s complicated inheritance laws—Bangala is an inspiration for what could be.

the winners

preservation a r t i s a n r e v i va l

Waan Aelõñ in Majel (WAM) the M a r sha l l I sl ands The traditional Marshallese outrigger canoe was once considered among the finest sailing vessels in the world, until modern boats arrived and canoe construction became a dying art form. But thanks to the foresight of an American boat enthusiast and a few remaining experts, WAM emerged with hopes to revive the craft—and inspire a new generation. The program provides life-skills training and instruction in canoe-building to local youth, offering them marketable expertise in a place where more than 70 percent of young people are without jobs.

TAKE THE TRIP The WAM Visitors Center, on Majuro Island, lets travelers tour the workshops and sail in a canoe. wamprogram.org. h e r i tag e s i t e

FROM TOP : COURTESY OF J OSEPH STIGLIT Z ; CAMERON SINCLAIR ; F r a n c i n e D a v e t a

the bangala C hettinad, I ndia This 25-room heritage hotel, housed in a historic 1916 bungalow, sparked the cultural revitalization of Chettinad, a once-rich region of Tamil Nadu known for its opulent family estates. Most of these 18th- and 19th-century houses were on their way to ruin when, in 1999, the Meyyappan family converted the Bangala into a hotel that showcases the region’s heritage, from architecture and cuisine to artisan crafts. Bangala’s success has resulted in the creation of four additional heritage hotels in the region—proof that a single, dedicated act can have lasting ramifications.

TAKE THE TRIP Learn how to make traditional Chettinad dishes such as tamarind crab curry and chicken-​pepper fry at the Bangala’s cooking demonstrations. 91-44/2493-4851; thebangala.com; doubles from US$137, including breakfast. h i s t o r i c r e s t o r at i o n

Arou Temple Project Bandiaga r a , M a l i With its high walls and spiked turrets, the otherworldly mud-brick Arou Temple has been the focal point of the Bandiagara escarpment—a cliffside collection of 20 villages in central Mali—for more than 600 years. In recent decades, drought forced the Dogon people to abandon their traditional homes, and the Arou Temple began to crumble. Since 2005, Mission Culturelle de Bandiagara’s Arou Temple Project has worked to restore the temple and encourage repopulation—by constructing wells, planting trees, creating footpaths and even establishing a craftsman village—while also renewing the Dogon’s pride in their cultural heritage.

TA K E T H E TRIP Saga Tours’ two-week journey through Mali includes visits to Timbuktu, fishing outposts along the Niger River, and Dogon villages near Bandiagara. 223/6673-1631; sagatours.com; US$2,967 per person, double.

u r b a n r e n e wa l

Kate Stohr and Cameron Sinclair, founders, Architecture for Humanity

Conservatorio’s approach— using tourism to revitalize an innercity historic district—is so rarely done and so often needed.

Conservatorio S.A. Panama Cit y, Panama

When a real estate team set out to restore the National Music Conservatory in Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo, they didn’t expect to convert the long-neglected neighborhood into a bona fide tourist destination. But that’s exactly what happened. As Conservatorio continued renovating the neighborhood’s buildings, it also developed a handful of boutique hotels, subsidized spaces for arts organizations and a reputation for prioritizing local needs.

TA K E T H E TRIP Conservatorio S.A.’s new project, the American Trade Hotel—a former hangout for the Hijos Pródigos street gang—will open next year. conservatoriosa.com; doubles from US$220. ✚ travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 85


journal

travel topics in depth, vivid visuals and more

So many titles and time to read them.

Paperback City Everywhere he goes in Melbourne, Benjamini Law discovers a city in love with words.i Some blame the weather, others the lack ofi iconic sights, but it just might be that this isi a place that loves all things creative.i photographed by jesse marlowi

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journal arts

coffee and stacks

Right: Journal, a comfortable café and eatery; customers browsing books before they buy.

E

very Thursday at lunchtime, something unusual happens in Melbourne. As the clock zeroes in on noon, a couple of hundred locals simultaneously rush away from their desks, as if possessed. They grab their takeaway lunches, fasttrack their coffee orders and race down to the Wheeler Centre on Little Lonsdale Street, a 150-yearold building in the heart of the city that has been renovated into a slick modern hall. Wanting to know what the rush is, I race alongside them. Sushi rolls and miso soup in one hand, a thermos of tea in the other, I make sure I get a seat. Inside, I strike up conversations with complete strangers in anticipation of what we’re about to witness. The crowd’s international too: the person talking to me is a Chinese-Malaysian woman who says it’s her first time here. “So good, isn’t it?” she says before anything happens. “It’s so important what’s happening today.” What’s gotten everyone so excited isn’t a performance or a rock gig, but—of all things, a lecture. Everyone might be hungry for lunch, but we’re also craving ideas. Some people have brought notepads. This might be a nerdy city, but it’s a badge that locals wear with pride. Melbourne is the kind of place where people go out of their way to wear spectacles. It helps that the Wheeler Centre’s weekly Soapbox lectures are provocative and fun. Previous topics have included: Why Becoming an Atheist Made me a Writer; In Defence of Trash Fiction; The Case for

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reading material

Gay Marriage; and The Case Against Monogamy. Today’s topic is Are Women Finally Taking Over the World? The speaker is Kate O’Reilly—a respected business consultant and feminist advocate—who presents a solid argument that the glass ceiling is far from shattered. Alongside the expected business types, there are also university students, retirees and brighteyed feminists—both female and male—all captivated and engaged. When she finishes her talk, everyone applauds before shouting out questions. What other city invites all and sundry  to bring their lunch and see some of the nation’s best minds speak for free? Afterward, I sneak backstage to meet with Michael Williams, the Wheeler Centre’s head of programming. Melbourne, Williams tells me, has always been a bookish city. Its people love nothing more than a passionate debate about ideas like feminism, food, economics, social justice, politics and sex. “This city has a great tradition of nutters standing on soapboxes shouting out at any passerby what they think. And we also have a nice, long tradition of smart people working out what they think about a complex range of topics. Why not engage with them face-to-face?” The Wheeler Centre was established in 2008, the same year unesco crowned Melbourne a world City of Literature. It was the second city to score the honor after Edinburgh, and is still only one of five places worldwide to have been bestowed that title. (Dublin, Iowa City and Reykjavík are the others, if you’re counting.) Like those cities, Melbourne has carved out a reputation for transforming the usually private, solo act of reading into a year-long calendar of public

festivals, readings, discussions, book clubs and even zine fairs. They say Melbourne is a city fuelled by coffee and words. You rarely see people without a takeaway coffee, just as it’s hard to spot someone without a newspaper or book. After downing a soy latte at Breadwell—one of Melbourne’s famously hidden laneway cafés that serves its wares on antique china—I hail a tram that takes me 10 minutes up the road. Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, much to the envy of other Australian cities that dismantled their light-rail networks decades ago. Today, most of the passengers have their face buried in a paperback. In my carriage alone, I spot Stephanie Meyer, Charles Dickens, some obscure French philosopher and The Spare Room, a novel by Melbourne writer Helen Garner. Watching everyone read reminds me of something Williams told me at the Wheeler Centre. “You sit on the tram, and you’ll get the person who’s reading some obscure bit of Russian literature. And then there’s a person reading a vampire novel they can’t put down. And you know what? In their enthusiasm for what they’re reading, they’re more alike than they are different.” I hop off the tram and walk over to Readings in Carlton, one of six outlets in Melbourne’s largest independent bookshop chain. Inside the Carlton shop, young mothers, university students, emerging literary starlets and politicians alike browse through towering shelves of cookbooks, travel diaries, children’s books, novels, business books and biographies. There are also stacks of Melbourne-edited literary journals—The Lifted Brow, Overland, Meanjin, Voiceworks—produced in »

From far left: Melbourne flaunts its love of letters; inside Rendezvous bookshop; a discussion at the Wheeler Centre.

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journal arts

Bookish looks

Clockwise from below: A bookstore with romance in the air; Breadwell café; strolling through Centre Place; titles at the Kill City bookstore.

volumes rarely seen outside of this city. People here write as much as they read. Readings managing director Mark Rubbo says there is one good reason why Melbourne always seems to have its collective head permanently lodged in a book. “It’s possibly the weather,” he says, chuckling. “In Sydney, you’ve got the harbor and all the hedonistic delights. In Brisbane, you’ve got the balmy weather.” What else is there to do during Melbourne winters, besides turn up the heater, get under the blankets and read? Williams from the Wheeler Centre agrees. “We don’t have the beaches; we don’t have the harbor. We have cold winters. So we have people inside cafés and bars reading or arguing with each other about ideas and feverishly writing in notebooks: that cliché of the black-wearing Melbourne denizen. It’s a good environment for that creative energy.” After picking up the latest issue of The Lifted Brow—printed like a traditional newspaper, packed with fiction and comics and posters—I retrace my steps and head to the State Library of Victoria. The building looks like a cross between a city hall and the Roman Pantheon: it’s massive, taking up an entire block. A public sculpture—the corner of a library building, swallowed into the ground as if a sinkhole had opened up—cheerily greets visitors at the steps. Inside the library, it looks as you’d expect: students huddled into corrals studying, but there 90 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

are surprises around the corner. It’s difficult to think of another public library in the world where a cavernous room is dedicated solely to interactive video games. For bibliophiles, though, it’s the famous domed reading room that is the draw. Whether you’re religious or not, stepping into the La Trobe Reading Room for the first time is akin to a spiritual experience, as though you’re entering a temple from a lost civilization. The La Trobe Reading Room (formerly known as, simply, The Domed Reading Room) is close to a century old, covers 1,000 square meters and is encased in a 35-meter dome that houses several levels of the library. On the ground floor, eight long extended tables—where people are free to read and study—grows out of the central dais like a giant wooden spider made entirely of silky oak timber. People have become so smitten with the room that it’s been the location of more than one wedding.  I understand why. In Mr. Tulk, the café attached to the State Library, I share a pot of lemongrass tea with Steve Grimwade, the affable director of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Grimwade has seen the local literary scene develop into something that encompasses both highbrow literary events to drunken, rowdy and grassroots reading events in pubs that involve people smashing watermelons into their faces. Grimwade loves it: the elegant and the anarchic, the proper and the weird. His festival likes to mix


Kill City (crime, in case you couldn’t guess), Minotaur (sci-fi and fantasy) and Book Grocer (for discounted books). I finish up the day at Journal, a café and eatery attached to Melbourne’s city library. It’s where I always end up when I find myself in Melbourne, because it’s homey and snug and welcoming. Diners here don’t sit by themselves, but instead are perched shoulder-to-shoulder around large oval tables, eating bruschetta, sipping the soup of the day and—as always—downing an endless number of espressos and lattes. As expected, several people have their noses buried in books. However, I notice the diner seated next to me is a young, heavily tattooed hipster in skinny jeans and an ironic haircut who’s captivated by his iPad. When I sneak a glance at the app he’s using, I see he’s reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Typical Melbourne. ✚

things up. This year’s Melbourne Writers Festival saw literary heavyweight Jonathan Franzen give the keynote address, while previous years’ draws have included literary enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis and Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). People queued around the block for those sold-out events. The buzz in Melbourne is such that people are already talking about next year’s gathering. This year, the festival also produced a free  24-page graphic novel newspaper—think along the lines of an adult’s comic book—and distributed them on Melbourne’s public transport. People on their daily commute suddenly found themselves reading about the festival, entranced by the cartoons and illustrations. “Graphic novels are an art form that breaks down the idea of what writing is, or what a writers festival should be,” Grimwade says. “People forget comedians are writers. Songwriters and filmmakers, too. Everyone forgets: in the beginning is the word.” In an era when major international book chains are going bankrupt and people talk about the death of the book, it’s surprising that independent bookshops not only survive in Melbourne, but thrive. It’s difficult to walk down a street without encountering another bookshop, then another, then another. As well as the general stores like Readings, there are specialist bookshops with great names, like Rendezvous (specializing in romance),

Melbourne’s To Read List SEE AND DO Melbourne Writers Festival The 2012 festival takes place August 24 to September 2. mwf.com.au.

Second Edition 215 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern; 61-3/9509-5241; brotherhoodbooks.org.au.

State Library of Victoria 328 Swanston St.; 61-3/86647000; slv.vic.gov.au.

READ: LOCAL JOURNALS The Lifted Brow theliftedbrow.com

DRINK Journal 253 Flinders Lane; 61-3/9650-4399; coffee for two A$7.

Meanjin meanjin.com.au

Mr. Tulk 328 Swanston St; 61-3/8660-5700; coffee for two A$7. Breadwell 135 Flinders Lane; 61-3/9650 8544; coffee for two A$7. SHOP Readings 309 Lygon St, Carlton; various locations; 61-3/9341-7730; readings. com.au. Book Grocer 464 Collins Street; various locations around Melbourne; 613/9336-0364; bookgrocer. libro.com.au. Kill City 119 Swanston St.; 613/9663-3741; killcity.com.au. Minotaur Rendezvous 121 Elizabeth St.; 61-3/96705414; minotaur.com.au. Rendezvous 359A Lonsdale St.; 61-3/9600-3466; rendezvousbooks.com.

Overland web.overland. org.au Voiceworks expressmedia. org.au/voiceworks MELBOURNE: LITERARY TOUCHSTONES Monkey Grip, Helen Garner (1977) Helen Garner is one of Melbourne’s living literary treasures. Monkey Grip is the novel that started her career, a portrait of drugladen 1970’s inner suburban Melbourne. The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas (2008) Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a controversial novel about a parent who slaps a child who is not his own, told from the perspective of eight Melbourne characters. Melbourne, Sophie Cunningham (2011) Beautifully personal reflections on the city, folded into Melbourne’s history of public catastrophe and private ideas.

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journal design

the city of tomorrow WHAT Does the metropolis of the future LOOK LIKE? KArrie Jacobs pays a visit TO ALMERE—THE Netherlands’ YOUNGEST urban center—FOR A GLIMPSE OF THINGS TO COME.

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c l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : G e e r t va n d e r W i j k ; R o r y H y d e ; C o u r t e s y o f A r j e n W i e r s m a ; I wa n B a a n ( 2 ) ; R o r y H y d e

futuristic skyline Clockwise from left: Villa Overgooi residences in the Overgooi neighborhood; Silverline housing, on Weerwater lake; the KlokHUIS center for children’s education on sustainable living; a housing complex in Almere Centre; the lobby at the sanaa-designed De Kunstlinie theater, in Almere; a view of the Almere city center from Weerwater lake. Center: The House of Hauman-Commandeur residences, in Almere Poort.


W

hile sipping a French rosé on the rooftop dining deck of a discount department store, I come face-to-face with the future. I’m in ­Almere, in the Netherlands, about half an hour by train from Amsterdam. It’s a city of 190,000 founded in the 1970’s on land reclaimed from the bottom of the sea. By 2030, it’s projected to nearly double in size, to 350,000. I’m looking out across Almere’s newest city center; cars are relegated to underground roadways, weirdly angled pedestrian corridors separate overtly edgy buildings and bicyclists own the surface roads. This instant downtown was master-planned in the 1990’s by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and completed a few years ago. The V&D department store’s roof is planted with a meadow and the rooftops of all the adjacent retail buildings support clusters of cheerful modern town houses complete with more greenery. From where I’m sitting, Almere looks so much like today’s idea of how we’d like our cities to someday be—dense, architecturally engaging, humane and eco-thoughtful—that is, almost a cartoon. Granted the phrase “city of the future” still conjures up an image that’s a cross between Dubai and Shanghai’s Pudong, a shimmering composition of the world’s tallest

towers—but that vision is on its way out. Prior to my arrival in Almere, I had numerous conversations with the experts, all of whom describe future cities as places that will be complex, subtle and strangely hard to picture. They describe goals more social than technological; sustainability is suddenly sexier than having a Bilbao-style monument. “The cities that will be most prosperous and predominant in the future will be connected,” predicts New York–based developer Jonathan Rose, renowned for his progressive approach to affordable housing. Like pretty much everyone else, Rose is talking about things such as data, airports and high-speed rails. Alex S ­ teffen, the freewheeling futurist who founded Worldchanging, a clearinghouse for sustainability strategies, sees the future in cities that are “less autodependent,” like Copenhagen, or known for their intensive approach to carbon reduction, such as Freiberg, G ­ ermany, center of the ultralow-­energy “passive house” movement. ­Technology designer Adam Greenfield, of ­Urbanscale, envisions a future that involves layering apps and networks on top of existing urban infrastructure. He points to London’s bike-sharing program, popularly known as Boris Bikes, as a technologically advanced transportation system that dramatically updates a historic city. All this talk about sustainability and connectivity bodes well for the world’s cities, but it is less clear where to find the future in more concrete form. Some of the »

Roos Aldershoff

Ketelhuis houses in Almere Buiten, the city’s northernmost district.

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Great urban plans are supposed to allow, and even encourage, the unplanned and the unplannable

world’s most hyped concept ­cities don’t yet deliver on their promises. Masdar City, under way in Abu ­Dhabi, has been promoted as an ambitious demonstration of life after petroleum, master-planned by L ­ ondon’s Foster & Partners. It’s currently a construction site, projected to have a population of 50,000 by 2025. The automated pod cars that were supposed to be the city’s ­Jetsons-esque means of transportation are reportedly a dud, due to be phased out. Farther east, Songdo ­International Business District, a 15-minute drive from Korea’s Incheon airport, is a high-rise business hub that was intensively wired by Cisco ­Systems. Songdo IBD might be a terrific place to hold a ­meeting, but it isn’t much of a draw for the traveler. Almere, on the other hand, is quietly spectacular. For one thing, the Dutch are world-class planners, and because the land on which Almere is built was a blank slate, every aspect of the city was a conscious human invention. It’s all planned. “Every detail, every tree, every street,” notes Adri Duivesteijn, the city’s deputy mayor and alderman in charge of sustainable special planning. In the 1970’s, when the original Almere plan was drawn up, urban density was regarded as a problem, so Almere is “polynuclear,” with multiple population centers buffered by copious amounts of greenery. New neighborhoods—like the Koolhaas downtown—continue to be built, each one incorporating the most au courant concept of the future. As a destination, Almere has a couple of things going for it: it has incredible architecture, not just in the ­Koolhaas section but in odd residential enclaves. In a cluster of experimental houses from the early 1980’s called De Fantasie, I’m surprised to stumble on a building I’d always loved but have never seen in person, architect Jan Benthem’s 1982 Hardglas house, a simple, prefabricated glass structure that was a good 20 years ahead of its time.

building from scratch From far left: Outside the Apollo, a

hotel perched on stilts; inside the modern Villa Overgooi residences; De Kunstlinie theater. Above: Almere’s city center.

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f r o m f a r l e f t : P e d r o K o k ; c o u r t e s y o f NEXT a r c h i t e c t s ; R o r y H y d e . t o p : G e e r t va n d e r W i j k

journal design


FROM TOP : G a l e I n t e r n a t i o n a l ; C o u r t e s y o f G a l e I n t e r n a t i o n a l / KPF ; C o u r t e sy o f h e n n i n g l a r s e n a r c h i t e c t s ; C o u r t e sy o f F o s t e r + Pa r t n e r s

Also, this city has bike lanes like Los Angeles has freeways. While Songdo’s planners boast of 22 kilometers of bike lanes, Almere has 459. As I tour the city on two wheels, I keep encountering pieces of the future, like Sun Island, the world’s fourth-largest solar array. A ­Teletubby-ish red building I pedal past turns out to be a heat-transfer station that, when completed, will ­efficiently warm 11,000 residences in Almere Poort. Nearby, a newly constructed row of houses, topped by the longest solar array I’ve ever seen, is part of the district’s collection of 500 solar-powered or low-energy passive houses. The Almere I see from my bicycle could be the most progressive city on the planet. After a while, however, I do begin to suspect something is missing. The place is too quiet. For instance, I stay at the A ­ pollo, a hotel on stilts. Designed by a terrific English architect, Will Alsop, with sleekly practical modern rooms and a flashy restaurant and bar, Salada ­Samba, it should, by rights, be a hive of activity, but mostly the Apollo is a­ ­convenient stopover for bus tours. A popular café at the base of one of the most structurally adventurous buildings downtown, a twisty, perforated metal thing called Lakeside, turns out to be an outpost of a Dutch chain. I can’t put my finger on the nature of the problem until I drop in at Museum De Paviljoens, an experimentalart institution on the fringes of the city center, housed in a pair of industrial­-looking structures, leftovers from the Documenta art fair in Kassel, Germany. This quirky institution would be a point of pride for most small cities. But Macha Roesink, the museum’s hyper-articulate director, says the city fathers are endlessly trying to phase her museum out in favor of the still unbuilt and unprogrammed lakeside museum that Koolhaas had included in his vision. Granted, Roesink is something of a provocateur—she erected a 183-meter-long fence on the property so local graffiti artists would have a place to work— and the art she displays tends to be conceptual. “They call what we do ‘difficult art,’ ” she says with a sigh. But the main issue is that her museum—­officially temporary—was not part of the grand scheme. The way cities, real cities, work is that plans are a template upon which entirely unexpected things occur. Did the commissioners who, in 1811, drew up Manhattan’s grid have the foresight to pencil in the Empire State Building, Lincoln Center, or trucks selling waffles and tacos? No, they did not. Great urban plans, then, are supposed to set up a situation that allows for, and even encourages, the unplanned and the unplannable. Will Almere become a real city? It may be on its way. The city’s next 20 years and 60,000 households are being storyboarded by the Rotterdam-based architecture firm mvrdv. Over coffee, a young architect from the firm, Klaas ­Hoffman, tells me about a concept he calls “Almere Free.”

This new scheme would add residents to the largely rural, far-eastern edge of the city, specifically those willing to generate their own power and grow their own food. In essence, it would create an urban neighborhood zoned for agriculture and alternative energy. “We would like to see something unorganized and accidental,” Hoffman says. Then he shows me painstaking calculations for the proper quantity of food and energy production per household. When I point out the contradiction, Hoffman offers an explanation that tells you all you need to know about future cities in general and Almere in particular: “It’s free in that— within the rules—anything should be possible.” ✚

future cities across the globe here, A snapshot of four innovative new urban centers. Songdo, south Korea A green, high-tech business district, near Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, built on land reclaimed from the sea. Projected population: 65,000 Projected completion: 2016

Meixi Lake, China A sequel to Songdo by the same master planner, Kohn ­Pedersen Fox, this high-rise eco-city filters the rainwater that feeds its central, man-made lake. Projected population: 180,000 Projected completion: 2020 Masdar city, Abu Dhabi Financed by oil money, this desert city is intended as a zero-carbon model for life after petroleum. Projected population: 50,000 Projected completion: 2025

IJBurg, Amsterdam Welcome to Global Warming Village. A cluster of 75 floating houses in this new neighborhood is an innovative approach to diminishing land supply and rising sea levels. Projected population: 45,000 Projected completion: 2020

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 95


journal getaway

West of the Far East Off in a far corner of China, Gabrielle Jaffe encounters a people who are as distinct as the desert is dry. She also sees a fascinating way of life fast disappearing. Photographed by Philipp Engelhorn another kingdom Clockwise from top: A local boy sports a hat made out of goat skin; the bustle of Kashgar’s colorful market; erecting a yurt is a group effort.

96 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

I

f I told you there was a place in China where the people have green eyes and reddish blond hair, you’d probably think of expats in Beijing and Shanghai. In actual fact, this place lies more than 3,200 kilometers to the west in Xinjiang, a region that has an indigenous population, Uighurs, who are genetically closer to Europeans than Asians. That’s where I’ve just arrived and I feel like I’ve landed in another country. Instead of verdant hills and rice paddies, I find an epic landscape of jagged mountains, sweeping deserts and oases. Instead of pagodas and temples, I come across mosques and minarets in a region that only became a part of China in 1759. Their passports say they’re Chinese, but culturally the Muslim Uighur have more in common with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, which all border Xinjiang to the west.


My first day I spend exploring Kashgar, key to the province’s history. I visit the old town, a crowded labyrinth of 500-year-old, ochre-colored, mud-brick houses whose architecture is instantly recognizable as Islamic to anyone who has seen the casbahs of North Africa and the Middle East. Some of the main streets open views of distant snowcapped mountains on the border with Pakistan, but most of the alleyways between the houses are so narrow that I can imagine Aladdin leaping from rooftop to rooftop. A child in billowing harem pants and a pillbox hat does scamper past, kicking up dust as he goes, and I begin to feel like I’ve been swept into One Thousand and One Nights. Most of the local men wear either a rounded white skull-cap—the kind favored by Muslims throughout the world—or a embroidered, green, four-point hat that is typical of Uighurs here. Most of the women wear headscarves, veils and the occasional full-length black burqa. Not everyone though has headgear. Our guide Abdul, for one, sports a slick black moustache instead of a long beard and doesn’t wear a hat because he counts himself as a “modern man,” although he still yearns to visit Mecca. As we stroll around the old town, his voice betrays a sadness. “Until a few years ago, half of Kashgar’s residents lived here.” In 2009, the Chinese government pronounced the old town structurally unsound. Many of the houses—up to 85 percent—have been or are being torn down. The demolition of old Kashgar has stirred up controversy and Abdul is clearly uncomfortable talking

about it. “The government says it is worried about earthquakes. But why is it doing this now? Many people think there are other reasons.” What Abdul is hinting at but will not say is that many Uighur believe their traditional way of life is being targeted. The city has certainly seen great changes and there could be more to come if the authorities get their way. In May 2010, Kashgar was designated a Special Economic Zone, an area to be developed. For now, untouched enclaves remain. There are still streets where artisans work by »

A child in billowing harem pants scampers past, kicking up dust as he goes, and I feel like I’ve been swept into One Thousand and One Nights

old ways From top: A boy and his owl, which was caught by an eagle; warming up around a meal; hunting with an eagle in the winter on the flat, arid expanse of the region.

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 97


journal getaway hand as they have for millennia: the baker scoops out flatbread from his tandoor oven. An instrument maker carves a seven-stringed rawap, an exquisite sitar-like instrument. And the coppersmith continues to hammer out pots fresh from the furnace. It’s as if nobody told them that Kashgar is becoming the new Shenzhen.

M

y last day in Kashgar is spent in the livestock market—legendary for being one of the world’s largest, oldest and most chaotic. Sheep, goats, cows, horses and camels line up as far as the eye can see, their frantic movements producing clouds of dust around them. I dodge past the animals and

join one of the hundred haggling sessions going on that day. With all the bleating, neighing, braying and wheezing going on in the background, it’s difficult to hear the hagglers at first, all the more so since they begin the negotiations with mostly silent nods and hand gestures. But soon the debate heats up and an agreement is struck. Later, I visit the Sunday market—which, despite its name, is open daily—and find that this covered emporium is not aimed exclusively at local clientele. Some stalls chase the tourist dollar with their offerings of cheap, machinemade scarves and carpets. Today Kashgar seems untouched by globalized trade. A thousand years ago the town was at the very center of it. As a last-chance refueling station before traders headed west along perilous mountain passes to Pakistan and beyond, Kashgar was a vital stop on the Silk Road. Today, leaving Kashgar and its mountain views behind, I instead head eastwards into an equally hostile environment: the Taklamakan, a desert so notoriously large and barren that its name translates as “go in and you will never come out.” We drive three hours into this empty landscape, where signs of life are few. The road begins to crumble. I’m about to ask Abdul if he’ll recite a Muslim prayer for travelers for us when there’s a dramatic switch in the landscape. Suddenly yellow nothingness becomes the lively green of an oasis, an abrupt transformation. We have arrived in Hotan, a spot mentioned in Marco Polo’s

In the Taklamakan the dunes rise more than 500 meters. Within minutes of setting off, I drop down into a valley and lose sight of the road a far corner

Clockwise from above: The man to see when in need of a fedora in Kashgar; a friendly and colorful welcome; the vast sweep of the Taklamakan, ships of the desert included.


Travels. Beyond the trees and fields of its surrounding suburbs, most of the city consists of high-rises. There is, however, something that remains almost unchanged since Marco Polo’s day. Back then, Hotan was famous for its fine fabrics and today it continues to be an important center of sericulture, producing more than 150 million meters of silk each year. Although there are some mechanized factories, most of the production in this town of 350,000 is done by hand. I visit the small Atlas Silk Workshop and learn how this magical material is made. In an open courtyard, I see large vats full of the remains of silk worms that have been boiled so the cocoons can be unraveled into long silk threads. Next to the vats, a woman squats on the floor operating a spinning wheel. Inside the workshop stand six large wooden looms. I watch in wonder as a 75-year-old flings a shuttlecock from side to side between the threads at lightening speed. We’re impressed. “It’s easy. I’ve been doing this since I was fourteen.” He then holds up the shuttlecock for us to examine, and with a winning toothless grin, informs us, “This is older than I am. It’s been passed down in my family for 263 years.” In Kashgar and Hotan, I’ve ogled traders and artisans. Now it’s time to experience Silk Road for myself. We follow the road deeper into the desert and meet a man waiting with a train of camels. In some parts of the Taklamakan the dunes soar more than 500 meters into the sky. The biggest I see on our two-hour trek are 100 meters, imposing enough. Within minutes of setting off, I drop down into the valley between two dunes and lose sight of the road. It’s late afternoon and it’s 25 degrees Celsius. The sun is masked slightly by a sand haze. Within this sea of yellow, it is easy to fantasize about Marco Polo—that is until my twohumped steed stops to go to the toilet. My Silk Road reverie is soon restored when we set up camp under the stars and enjoy the warm desert breeze. From here, travelers made the grueling journey across the rest of the Taklamakan, traversing by camel a 300,000-square-kilometer expanse of shifting sands and few oases until they reached western Xinjiang. We take the easy route and fly to Urumqi. This modern city’s history barely stretches back beyond the 19th century when Beijing decided it should become Xinjiang’s provincial capital. In the last decade the population mushroomed as the Chinese government improved transport links in the hope of extracting Xinjiang’s rich natural resources. Waves of Han Chinese came from the east to seek their fortune and today they account for three quarters of the city’s 2.6 million residents. In Kashgar and Hotan the streets signs are written in Uighur, a script that resembles Arabic. Here, you’ll see mostly Chinese characters.

If you’ve come to Urumqi for ancient culture, you’ve come to the wrong place. But the provincial capital serves as a good base to explore northeastern Xinjiang. Two hours to the southeast the mud-brick ruins of Jiaohe city perch on top a high bluff in the middle of two rivers. At the back of the city are stupas and temples where faint outlines of images of Buddha are still visible. Jiaohe is a fascinating glimpse into a period long before Islam came to the region. Fought over by local tribes for 1,500 years, Jiaohe was eventually given up in the 13th-century for the surrounding plains of Turpan. Turpan still flourishes today. It shouldn’t though. This is one of the hottest, driest places on earth and by rights should be uninhabitable. Yet somehow trellises abundant with grapes line its streets. Looking north to the snowy peaks of the Tianshan mountain range gives a clue to unraveling the mystery of how the locals have made the desert bloom here. Around the same time as they built Jiaohe, they dug a series of wells at the base of these mountains to collect winter rainwater and melted snows in the summer. A network of hundreds of canals, built underground to prevent evaporation, collected water from the wells. Covering more than 5,000 kilometers, these karez would be an impressive enough engineering feat for that fact alone. That’s before you consider that the irrigation system continues today to provide Turpan with enough water to grow and export over a thousand tons of grapes every year. Yet energy—coal, oil, renewable—is now the region’s main export. Driving back to Urumqi the fields are pinned into place with wind turbines. Otherwise, things are as they have been for millennia. ✚

GUIDE TO XINJIANG GETTING THERE From Shanghai, China Southern Airlines has one-way tickets to Urumqi for RMB831, while Hainan Airlines has one-way fares from Beijing to the city for RMB1,535. In either case, book online at ctrip.com. A new train line opened up between Hotan and Kashgar in June this year, but, as yet, there is only a nine-hour slow train available (tickets from RMB115). A local tour operator such as Wild China (wildchina.com)will arrange everything from transport, guides to camel treks to desert camping. STAY Kashi Tianyuan International Hotel The hotel’s renovated, comfortable rooms and location make it a winner.

Kashgar’s old town, the Sunday market and Id Kah mosque are all within walking distance. 8 Renmin E. Rd.; 86-998/280-2222; double rooms from RMB450. Zhejiang Grand Hotel This is Hotan’s midrange option with neat, clean rooms. In the evening wander to the nearby city walls and the south side of the public square where you can pick up delicious Uighur street food. 75 Beijing W. Rd.; 86-903/202-9999; double rooms from RMB225. Sheraton Urumqi The hotel has a spa and rooms with fabulous mountain views. 669 Youhao N. Rd.; 86991/699-9999; sheraton. com; double rooms from RMB1,280.

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journal reflections

the global nomad

Travel has the power to transform people in an instant. Guy Trebay looks at why we go, the moments that matter and his own insatiable wanderlust. Photographed by Lars Klove

100 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

I

n a bitter winter landscape, white in every direction, two travelers go haring along in an unheated Soviet automobile. Snowy fields stretch to the pale horizon, blurring the boundary between earth and sky. Flocks of swifts, scared up by the vehicle, wheel around looking like gravel flung into the air. The year is 1989, and in the hinterlands of Romania, in that season of revolution, the rural landscape remains so unmarked by modernity that, but for the car, we might easily have strayed back a century in time. Crossing the border from Hungary into a country where, days before, an oppressive regime had been toppled suddenly, a photographer and I were heading for the Carpathian Mountains in search of Laszlo Tokes, dissident protestant minister and unlikely ­fomenter of a movement to end the reign of Nicolae ­Ceausescu, Romaniaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s infamous dictator.


We managed to slip past armored checkpoints and discover this man who would help change history, where the Romanian army had not, hidden away in a remote mountain village of timber houses and churches with onion domes. I scarcely recall the story I wrote, which had no notable effect on world events. What I do remember from that day, with uncanny clarity, is the stubble fields, the pewter sky, the wheezing sound of the crummy car that was the only vehicle Budapest rental agencies would risk sending across the border. And in that memory is contained a specific truth of travel, its power to impress on memory the places we’ve been, leaving there a record more indelible than any image captured with an electronic tablet or camera lens. On that trip, small alterations were triggered in my sense of the world, as I believe they are on every journey we undertake. Lately, this aspect of travel seems all but forgotten. With an entirely different sense of expectations and heartier appetites for wonder, earlier travelers packed their bags expecting to find strangeness in the wide world. They set out on Grand Tours, great explorations, overland treks and thrilling adventures, often with the specific goal of opening, if not actually blowing, their minds. When in the 18th century the indomitable traveler Eliza Fay first embarked on a voyage across the globe, an ordinary woman of no great beauty, connections or means, she was stoked by an intrepid nature and insatiable curiosity. Making her way to Calcutta from Dover, Fay traveled by carriage, sedan chair, sailing ship, ferry and felucca; on the backs of horses, asses, mules or camels; and often enough on foot. She put up with hardships, fevers, tempers, bad roads, “boisterous” weather, tossing gales, shifty innkeepers and bedbugs in order, it seems, to experience life from an unaccustomed vantage. She passed her wonderment along to the readers of her letters, chatty, shrewd and hilarious documents rediscovered in the early 20th century by E. M. Forster and still in print even now. Literature is rich in people like Eliza Fay, voyagers who set out with the forthright expectation that by altering circumstance one might reasonably expect an improvement in general perception, people for whom the traveler’s usual murk of misunderstanding alternated with stark flashes of human recognition, tourists whose unstated aim in leaving home was to experience firsthand the chaos, intrusions and glories of the world.

Those goals seem a bit creaky now, vaguely incongruous with an age when people appear most intent on miniaturizing the planet, shrinking things down to one’s own size. The impulse to document every gesture, update global position, tweet random thoughts, become mayor on Foursquare or post iPhone evidence of one’s existence on a Super Wall is a far cry from the obligation earlier travelers felt to report back on the doge’s procession, the throng of retainers accompanying the king of Sardinia on his daily constitutional, the customs of ­“Hindoo” ladies on the rare occasions when they left the cloister of purdah and went out on the town. What seems lacking from the current welter of digital communications is a sense of people using travel in the oldest of ways: to escape. The great beauty of travel, after all, is that it forces you to leave the keyboard, glance up from the PDA and get out of the house and into the world. It is only when you stop wielding handheld devices as shields or weapons, when you pocket the electronic third eye, that it is possible to have a good look around.

S

ometimes in the limbo of a long-haul flight, I will remove my passport from my inside jacket pocket and squint at the obscure entry and exit stamps, the faded records of my peregrinations. There is one cylinder stamp in purple ink, marked on paper palely patterned with a repeat of the ­Liberty Bell. The mark documents the notnotable fact that on December 6, 2004, I entered Sri Lanka via the capital of Colombo and that on December 25 I exited by the same port. The date stamps in themselves reveal little of interest. Yet for me they trigger an intense recollection of the flat, fierce sun of an Indian Ocean winter; of long shadows falling on the parade ground by the jetty in Colombo; of a sacred temple elephant grabbing

»

What seems lacking in the current welter of digital communications is a sense of people using travel in the oldest of ways: to escape

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 101


journal reflections with its trunk a great stalk of bananas I’d brought in offering; of a slow drive past oceanfront villages in the early hours of a cool morning en route to the walled fort at Galle. That particular day I stopped at a turtle hatchery near Kosgoda. Wandering along sandy paths among cement tanks, I paused to observe the small scrambling ovals of turtle hatchlings: olive ridleys, hawksbills, greens and leatherbacks. Protected from fishermen, mongooses and avian marauders, the hatchlings would be brought to the sea at roughly four days old, and under safe cover of darkness released into the water, there to commence the pelagic migrations the species has pursued for close to 200 million years. That morning I found myself moved in ways I have seldom been in any place of worship anywhere around the world. I felt vaguely awestruck in the presence of these indomitable wanderers. The weather was fine, the sea mild, the sky an intense Rickett’s blue.

Destiny always seems close when we travel, and to the manageable nuisances we face, others arise to remind you that none of us can outrun fate I departed Sri Lanka on ­Christmas aboard a plane filled with barefoot female pilgrims heading for the birthplace of Buddhism in distant Bihar, India. In a little under 24 hours the placid scene I’d left on the beach at ­Kosgoda would slowly reverse itself, the sea drawing back toward its depths, then surging in again to consume the coastline, hungrily sucking up rail tracks, palm groves, asphalt roads, the hotel and oceanfront room I’d checked out of just a day earlier. The ­turtle hatchery, too, was all but erased and a New York acquaintance of mine was, like many of the 34,000 Sri Lankans unknown to me, swallowed up by the tsunami and never seen again. Destiny always seems close when we travel, and to the manageable nuisances a wanderer faces—­ pickpockets, sunstroke, Montezuma’s Revenge—­ others arise to remind us that none of us can outrun fate. Yet, as Fay’s letters make clear, the perils of the 102 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

journey are offset by that of staying put and missing out on the world’s enchantments, its wondrousness and unfailing oddity. It is certainly no accident that the profession I chose has provided me with a pretext for satisfying a nomadic longing to know what lies over the next hill. A vagrant spirit the German Romantics termed wanderlust in me finds a less poetic though sharper and possibly more useful variant in the modern ­German word Fernweh, a word that translates roughly as an aching for distance. That longing to be away once led me, in the days before monks gave their lives to incite a Saffron ­Revolution there, to the zigzag boardwalk span of U Bein Bridge, in rural Burma. Spanning mudflats and shallow grass verges where farmers graze their cattle, the 1.2-kilometer-long bridge is ramshackle, a poetic structure allegedly built from the teak boards of ­ruined temples. Mist off the lake wreathed the scene that day, and at several points along the span turbaned women sat with caged songbirds alongside them. As at many temples in Asia, the birds are sold to visitors or passersby as a kind of karmic barter. Free one and gain points toward the next incarnation. In one bamboo cage crouched a young owl, head swiveling, wings flaring anxiously against the bars. The crone who’d caught it wanted US$20 to liberate the owl, and my guide—warm, intelligent, a sympathetic and genial government employee who was almost certainly a spy—made clear to me the circularity of the bargain. “If the owl is set free, she will only capture another,” this man said, speaking in terms that may have been a veiled reference to Burma’s repressive government. I reached into my wallet, found the currency, paid the woman, and then watched as she unlatched the door and tipped the bird awkwardly from the confines of the cage. In the anxious seconds it took for the owl to get its bearings I stood around in case its hesitation guaranteed fulfillment of the guide’s prediction. Dazed and still, the bird perched there on the splintered boards until I nudged it with a toe. “Perhaps it is injured,” said the guide, and in roughly the time it took for him to utter the sentence, the bird shot off like a little avian rocket. I followed it with my eyes as far as the tree canopy, and then it was lost from view. Even now, the image of that bird’s flight to freedom remains fixed in a traveler’s memory. ✚


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can this be A local resident near Chaweng Beach, in Koh Samui. Clockwise from left: At Kamalaya, a wellness retreat on the island’s southern coast; cleaning fish in Baan Hua Thanon, the “Muslim Village;” the view from a Spa Pool Villa at the Banyan Tree Samui. Opposite, clockwise from top left: Banyan Tree’s villas; banana leaves; cooks at Bang Po Seafood, the island’s best Thai restaurant; tropical fruit for breakfast (including rambutan, mangosteen and dragonfruit) at the Banyan Tree.


uncharted beaches, ramshackle bungalowsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that was then. returning to Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Koh Samui nearly 20 years after his first visit, peter jon lindberg encounters high-style villas, tourist-filled streets and all the trappings of a newly anointed island of the moment. P hotographed b y A ndrea F azzar i

paradise?


s Looking out on the Gulf of Thailand from the main pool at the Banyan Tree Samui.


s

Some look in the Caribbean. Some search the South Pacific. Others are convinced they’ll find it in the Maldives. Some believe it’s off the coast of Brazil. Or perhaps the Seychelles—could it be hiding in the Seychelles? Me, I’ve focused my search on that cerulean-and-green expanse between Indonesia and Indochina, where mangosteens thrive and bamboo is the building material of choice. I’ve combed the coastlines of the Andaman, Java and South China seas, hunting for that elusive tropical paradise. Eighteen years ago, for one brief moment, I thought I’d found it. It was the dawn of the Glow Stick Era: late 1993. I was blazing my way across Thailand—Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Bangkok to the beach. The question was: which beach? There were so many options, each with its own profile. Kayakers went to Ao Phang Nga, snorkelers to Koh Phi Phi. Hat Phra Nang was for cliff-divers; Koh Chang drew the nature freaks. Phuket was firmly in the hands of keg-standing lunkheads. Then there was Koh Pha Ngan. If you wanted to skip a rope that was on fire at a Full Moon Party, Pha Ngan was your place. Alas, the moon was already on the wane as I rode down from Bangkok to the coast—and besides, I was too old to skip rope. So I wound up on a boat to Koh Samui. Koh Samui had no profile, no real personality to speak of. But it was by all accounts extremely pretty, with a jungledraped interior fringed by long, sandy beaches. From the ferry it appeared as a dollop of brilliant green, frosted with creamy white, afloat in a bowl of sapphire blue. I found a ­family-run guesthouse on Chaweng Beach and stayed for a week, hardly straying from the path between my bungalow and the sand. It was no hotbed of culture—but then, most travelers would have already had their dose of that up north. Samui was their beautiful reward: a relatively blank slate, defined as much by what it lacked (glow sticks; lunkheads) as by what it had (killer snorkeling; boat trips to a nearby marine park). Who needed flaming jump ropes? Who needed “personality”? Samui was easy as a summer’s day. It already drew plenty of tourists—yet on Chaweng Beach in 1993, the incoming tide still seemed like a trickle.

t

he earliest modern-day visitors had arrived just a quarter-century before, in the late sixties—“the First Backpackers,” everyone calls them, as if they were talking about the Pilgrims or Lewis & Clark. Given the landscape they encountered, the comparison wasn’t so far off: Samui back then was still remarkably primitive. Roads were rough, where they ran at all. The island’s main trade was in coconuts. There were no proper hotels; those early ­vagabond explorers simply flopped down in hammocks on the beach.

As word spread and more travelers arrived, hammocks were replaced by 60-baht guesthouses, which in turn gave way to Bt300 mini-hotels. An airport opened in 1989, and soon mini-hotels made room for maxi-resorts. Despite occasional tensions between locals and tourists—like when some German nudists were chased off a beach by a stick-wielding Thai mob— Samui proved, on the whole, an accommodating host. In 1993, Samui had about 560,000 annual visitors. Today that figure has nearly doubled: almost a million people a year, packed onto an island only 21 kilometers wide. Scores of hotels now cover the landscape, with increasing numbers on the luxury end. Samui’s top-tier resorts—the Banyan Tree, the W Retreat and the Four Seasons—rank among the finest in Southeast Asia. InterContinental, Le Méridien and Park Hyatt will soon join the crowd. The island’s evolution might be termed unlikely if it didn’t seem, in hindsight, entirely obvious, maybe even preordained. From day one, Samui was blessed with great bones and a sunny disposition. That it would be plucked from obscurity—like some future supermodel from a remote rural village—was, perhaps, inevitable. What was not obvious was how dramatic its transformation would be.

t

hese days the average visitor stays only three nights on Koh Samui, and will spend most of his time on the grounds of his resort, lounging at the pool or on the beach, eating mangoes, indulging in the occasional massage and otherwise not doing very much at all. Fortunately, Samui has some outstanding new places at which to do (or not do) just that. The Banyan Tree occupies a secluded peninsula on the southeast coast, between Chaweng and Lamai Beach. Its 88 villas are scattered along terraced hillsides that tumble down to a private cove; the highest sit 23 stories above the water. Buggies zip guests up and down vertiginous paths to the beach, the spa and the resort’s three restaurants (don’t even consider walking home from breakfast). Each villa has its own infinity pool—­lapping at your bedroom door—with views over the lush terrain, the small beach and the water beyond. There’s much to love about the Banyan Tree: like waking to a Gulf of Thailand dawn and walking 10 paces from your bed straight into the pool. Or the easy confidence of your butler—one for each villa—who ­a rranges everything from a half-caf latte to a diving excursion. Or the way the gardeners momentarily stop grooming banana plants or scything back undergrowth and instead smile broadly as you pass. And, not least, the superb spa—where my indefatigable therapist Ms. Wan fixed me a chilled lemongrass tea, then went at my back like a sheet of packing bubbles. Best Thai massage I’ve had in years. » travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 107


samui's new breed embrace But the real surprise was the W Retreat–Koh Samui, on the island’s northern coast. I had not been, up to now, a W fan; I found their cheekiness too programmed and their branding overinsistent. (Why slap a logo on every surface, from the throw pillows to the apples?) Name-dropping aside, the W Retreat won me over. The setting is terrific—on an arrowshaped headland with a beach along both sides, one facing sunrise and the other sunset; across the bay rises the hazy purple outline of Koh Pha Ngan. One wonders how this breezy plot wasn’t snapped up years ago. The suites—­particularly the Ocean Front Haven villas—are spacious and cleverly laid out, with intuitive tech that works, a living area that’s livable and an expansive plunge pool. Freestanding stone tubs and outdoor showers are a plus, as are fire-­engine-red Illy espresso makers. The bright, mod, youthful vibe carries through to the public areas, where funky amoeba chairs and an outsize Connect 4 game play right into the W target demo. After dark the whole property is lit in glow-stick hues of lime green and raspberry, and although I’m typically skeptical of any hotel that thinks it’s a nightclub, the W’s lobby- and beach-bar scenes stayed on the right side of lively, and the music was not bad at all. Both properties show a marked shift in style. Until very recently, Thai resorts made nods to indigenous architecture and design: witness the Four Seasons, built only five years ago, 108 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

with its pitched roofs, sala pavilions and frangipani-shrouded prayer ­houses, the embodiment of hotel-as-­temple. Samui’s newer breed—the Banyan Tree and the W, as well as the Conrad, ­Hansar and Gurich ­resorts—embrace the more secular, urbane-contemporary aesthetic of ­Singapore and Hong Kong. Their design draws not from the past but from some idealized, pan-Asian future, where there’s no Thai silk in sight. What they lack in local character they make up for in comfort. No wonder few guests go anywhere else. But if people don’t leave the premises, are the hotels truly bringing their guests to Samui, and bringing Samui to their guests? Resorts here are increasingly removed from island life, secreted in private jungles and coves like tropical Brigadoons. The result is that there are now two Koh Samuis: the private and the public, the luxe and the local. And it’s not clear how—or even if—they fit together.

a

more ambitious visitor might venture beyond his hotel gates to see what homegrown charms Samui has to offer. He could take in a kickboxing match or browse the stalls at a night market. He might check out Baan Hua Thanon, a.k.a. “the Muslim Village,” with its traditional wooden storefronts and racks of fish drying


Staff at the Four Seasons readying a villa. Left: Khoei jii (a shrimp-andcrabmeat spread served in a roasted coconut shell), octopus salad, sea-urchin–and-mango salad, crab with turmeric, and deep-fried snapper from Bang Po Seafood. Opposite from left: Mr. Thakoe, owner of Bang Po Seafood; a hammock at the W Retreat–Koh Samui.

the secular and urbane in the sun. He could visit Nathon’s mid-19th-century Buddhist temple, then wander among the nearby Chinese shop-houses, where cobblers sell shoes made of lizard, stingray or cobra skin. More likely, he’ll wind up on Chaweng, Samui’s popular beach, where I’d stayed in 1993. Were he to stroll no farther inland than the tide, he might imagine Chaweng to be quite lovely indeed. But if he strayed past the sand he’d see what unbridled tourist development can do to a place, and why any right-­minded person would flee from here as quickly as possible. Chaweng Beach Road is an exhaust-choked corridor of tacky souvenir shops and cut-rate tailors. (Should you wish, a store called Chaweng Armani will fashion you a Bt7,500 tuxedo overnight.) After dark the strip gives over to rowdy pubs, thumping discos and go-go bars—a wretched hive of scum and villainy where “lady boxing” is the primary cultural entertainment. If there be paradise on earth, it isn’t this, it isn’t this. “If I could, I’d bring every guest in here by private boat,” said the general manager of one luxury resort, located not far from Chaweng. “The road from the airport to our hotel is just so ugly—people are disappointed before they even check in.” Such is the flip side of Samui’s success. Where once only hippie backpackers roamed, now come British lager louts, ­Brazilian ravers, Russian horndogs, ­Korean honeymooners, ­Australian retirees, Swedish families, ­Indian moguls, Taiwan-

ese spa junkies and Israeli scuba freaks. They come from all corners of the earth, from all age groups and social milieus. The problem is that each tribal set arrives with its own wish list, and its own competing notion of what a tropical paradise should be. Paradise for this guy might mean DJ’s and bottle service; paradise for that guy is anywhere those things aren’t. On her side of paradise: detox smoothies and qigong by the pool. On his side: Jäger shots at a bar made out of ice. This side: fresh dragonfruit and a ­pillow menu. That side: rolling yourself down a hill inside a giant plastic ball. Some people think paradise requires monkeys—but maybe you don’t like monkeys. Maybe you once got chased by a coconut-tossing ­macaque.

f

or me paradise has to involve good food, by which I mean genuine local cooking, not fussy conceptual cuisine. I’ve spent a lot of time on the beaches of Southeast Asia, where too many restaurants dish out fancy ingredients on plates that resemble Dale Chihuly installations. I’ve endured enough foie-gras satay, ­Wagyu-papaya salads and ­langoustines served in martini glasses to know that you seldom leave such places feeling good about your meal or your soul. Alas, Samui does a brisk business in ­Wagyu and foie gras, and has more than its share of “creative-contemporary” » travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 109


restaurants. (One is actually named Orgasmic.) Meanwhile, authentic southern Thai food is frustratingly hard to come by. But I did find a gem of a place on Bang Po Beach, on Samui’s northeastern coast. Bang Po Seafood is a family-run shack with tables in the sand, a sweet and gracious staff, and an extensive menu of (and I quote) “seasonal local food,” which here means a spicy mango salad laced with sea urchin; tiny baby octopus stir-fried with a pungent drop or two of fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chilies; and a ­t urmeric-dusted red snapper, deep-fried to golden crispy goodness. Every table also gets unlimited helpings of khoei jii, a most ingenious local snack, made by pressing shrimp paste, crabmeat, coconut, garlic, shallots and chili into a thick, savory-sweet spread, smearing it inside a dried coconut husk, then roasting said husk over a flame. It comes with a crudité plate of sliced cucumbers and long beans with which to scrape up the paste. Seriously? Most delicious thing I ate on the island. From my table I watched Thai families stroll along the tranquil beach while brightly colored long-tail boats sputtered across the water like buzzing insects. A few hundred yards

offshore, fishermen walked along a dormant reef, waist-deep, hunting for squid. This, at last, was the Samui I’d been dreaming of, the one I’d remembered from 1993. If only places like Bang Po ­Beach were still the norm.

t

he more changes I encountered on Samui, the more I kept thinking of another island in the Gulf of Thailand, similar in geography, size and physical beauty, but poised at the opposite end of the continuum, its career just beginning instead of halfway along. Phu Quoc, ­Vietnam—440 kilometers east of Koh Samui—was a rustic frontier land, with 142 square kilometers of primeval forest ringed by a few modest villages and lovely stretches of sand. On the beach, stray cows outnumbered sunbathers. Phu Quoc’s market town was comically sleepy—you expected a tumbleweed to roll across the intersection. There was a small airport, but the majority of visitors—­ backpackers, mostly—came to Phu Quoc by ferry. Any of this sound familiar? That somnolent Neverland inspired a lot of feelings, not least the urge to protect it. Phu Quoc was like that fledgling

Bang po seafood is a shack

Green curry with chicken and eggplant at the Kamalaya resort’s Amrita restaurant. A Four Seasons staff member with a heliconia, right. Opposite: Chaweng Beach Road, Koh Samui’s touristy main drag, in a rare quiet hour.


band you were lucky enough to catch in some half-empty club, still a bit sloppy but bursting with promise. (Koh Samui in 2011 was the same band playing a sold-out hockey arena, the crowd shouting along to songs that once only you knew.) But hold up. Step back. Let’s not pro­ject some antediluvian fantasy onto an island that didn’t even have reliable electricity. Phu Quoc had one decent hotel, but no great resorts. It still doesn’t. Restaurants were scarce, as was refrigeration. Yes, the island was unspoiled, but it was also sort of uninteresting; beyond the market and a handful of fish-sauce distilleries, Phu Quoc had few sights and attractions, such that you could drive for kilometers along the coast and actually start to feel, well, bored, for lack of anything else to do, see, eat, buy, indulge in or avoid. And those roads were atrocious: dusty red tracks of pothole-riddled laterite. I recall a bone-rattling ride from the airport to my hotel—in a stifling, sweat-reeking relic of a van, my eyes and lungs filling up with road dust—and remember thinking to myself, This is gonna be a long week. Flash-forward five years, and I’m whisked to the Banyan Tree Samui in a sparkling air-con Mercedes, chilly as a eucalyptus-scented towel, with gamelan music pinging out of the

MP3 player—a veritable spa on wheels. Few, honestly, could argue with that. So what was it about Koh Samui now that vexed me, even in the cosseting arms of a five-star resort? Why did it no longer feel like the paradise I remembered from 18 years ago—when Phu Quoc, for all its limitations, sort of did? The difference, I think, has to do with the “blank slate” I described earlier. Like Phu Quoc today, Koh Samui in 1993 had been more or less an empty canvas, in terms of both its tourist profile and its indigenous life. It was never, as I said, a bastion of culture. Nor did most travelers need it to be. Indeed, that empty canvas was sort of refreshing, like a deserted beach. Yet as more and more visitors washed ashore, Samui’s blank slate made it all the more susceptible to outside influence. In contrast to, say, Bali—whose vibrant local traditions have always defined the traveler’s experience, rather than vice versa—Samui made few demands, culturally speaking, and allowed visitors to define it as their own. This is the issue with a tropical paradise: we need a there there. Today’s traveler wants a convincing reason to fly 24 hours to the other side of the planet—and sand and surf alone aren’t it. Paradise can’t float untethered in a nameless sea; »

with tables on the sand


paradise can't float concrete, genuine, rooted it has to feel concrete, genuine, rooted in a culture and a locale. The New Samui has a great many things—arguably too many— but a strong sense of place is not one of them. On the New Samui you can sip South African ­Chardonnay to the beat of a samba remix while Japanese couples peruse the English menu and order smoked-salmon pizza, and SkyNews shows the weekend forecast for Minneapolis. You can do a lot of things on Samui, having a perfectly good time, and rarely be reminded you’re in Thailand.

a

s the east coast fills up with ever more sprawling hotels and villa developments, some locals and expats are fleeing for Samui’s rugged southwestern shore. Here it’s a whole different island: slower-paced, more traditional—in a word, more Thai. The fishing village of Baan Taling Ngam has even acquired a burgeoning little bohemian community, one that gathers at the Five Islands Gallery & Café, secretly tucked inside an 80-year-old wooden house. Not surprisingly, developers have followed them here. Nikki Beach, a Miami-style club-resort, has arrived just up the coast and a Conrad hotel opened earlier this autumn. ­InterContinental will soon relaunch the opulent Baan Taling Ngam resort (formerly run by Le Royal Méridien). By the time the 90-villa Park Hyatt sets up here in a few years, Samui’s “Virgin Coast” may look an awful lot like the other side of the island. Until then, it’s a fine place to escape the crowds. I spent a peaceful afternoon at the Five Islands Café, sipping strong coffee and sampling house-made ice creams, then drove up the coast to watch the sunset from a near-deserted beach. I lingered late into the evening, savoring the tropical calm. Squid boats began to appear on the darkening horizon, their bow lights glittering like stars. On the hillside behind me, a dog barked, then all went quiet again—until, from somewhere up the shore, came another, noisier sound: the pulsing electro-beat of the Black-Eyed Peas. Even here, it seemed, the world was rushing in. So I gathered up my flip-flops and walked back to my car, thinking it unlikely that a so-called island paradise could exist in this day and age, what with the thousand rival factions descending on each contender around the globe, all clamoring for a piece. But who knows? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was still out there somewhere—perhaps not so far from where I stood. Maybe in Koh Lanta. ✚

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guide to KOh SAMUI when to go Winter (mid-December to March) and summer (July to September) are Samui’s peak seasons, when the weather is mostly dry and daytime temperatures hover around 26 degrees Celsius. Autumn is rainy, and spring is considered the hot season, with brief showers. Getting there Bangkok Airways (bangkokair. com) offers daily flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Phuket and Singapore. Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) also flies from Bangkok and Silk Air (silkair.com) recently started service from Singapore. STAY Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa 99/9 Bophut Bay; 66-77/4283009; anantara.com; doubles from Bt4,080. Banyan Tree Samui 99/9 Moo 4, Maret; 66-77/915-333; banyantree.com; doubles from Bt25,600. Four Seasons Koh Samui 219 Moo 5, Angthong; 66-77/243000; fourseasons.com; doubles from Bt19,500. GREAT VALUE Kamalaya Samui’s top wellness retreat sits on 3.6 hectares of gorgeously lush and tranquil southern coast. 102/9 Moo 3, Laem Set Rd., Na-Muang; 66-77/429-800; kamalaya.com; doubles from Bt6,500.

Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa 146/24 Moo 4, Lamai; 66-77/960-888; starwoodhotels. com; doubles from Bt4,300. Scent Hotel 58/1 Moo 4, Bangrak Beach; 66-77/962-198; thescent​ hotel.com; doubles from Bt9,800. Six Senses Samui The ecoelegant choice, with strong green credentials and a dramatic clifftop setting. 9/10 Moo 5, Baan Plai Laem, Bophut; 66-77/245678; sixsenses.com; doubles from Bt11,000.

W Retreat–Koh Samui 4/1 Moo 1, Tambol, Maenam; 66-77/915999; whotels.com; doubles from Bt13,300. EAT Amrita Refined Thai cooking; stirring ocean and jungle views. Kamalaya (see Stay section); dinner for two Bt2,800. Bang Po Seafood (a.k.a. Thakoe Seafood) 92/3 Moo 6, Tambon, Mae Nam; 66-77/​420-010; lunch for two Bt900. Dining on the Rocks Ambitious, creations served on cliff-top pavilions. Six Senses (see Stay section); dinner for two Bt4,100. Five Islands Gallery & Café Fresh-squeezed juices, coffee and ice cream in a historic Chinese house. 34 Moo 3, Tambon Taling Ngam; 66-77/​415360; coffee for two Bt210. Namu Japanese-Thai fusion done right, with beachside seating to boot. W Retreat (see Stay section); dinner for two Bt2,200. Nathon Night Market A collection of Thai street-food vendors near the old ferry pier on Samui’s western coast. Sea Road, Nathon. Open daily 4 p.m.–midnight. Sa Bieng Lae Seafood Restaurant Rustic, rowdy local favorite specializing in curried baby octopus and spicy seafood salad. 438/82 Moo 1, Tambon Maret; 66-77/233-083; dinner for two Bt1,200. Saffron Hilltop vistas, creative cocktails and modern takes on Thai classics such as salty-sweet tiger prawns in a tamarind sauce. Banyan Tree (see Stay section); dinner for two Bt4,100. SEE and DO Ang Thong National Marine Park A 42-island archipelago off Samui’s northwestern coast with striking rock formations and diverse wildlife. Ask your concierge to advise on boat tours.


untethered. it has to feel in a culture and a locale

Evening falls on the W Retreatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lobby bar.


A little bit of

Seoul

The plucky capital of South Korea is quickly claiming the spotlight as Asiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Style Central. With the help of some plugged-in denizens, LYNN YAEGER discovers the fashion-forward destinations youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll want to know in this sprawling metropolis. P hotographed by Morgan & Owen s


Striking a pose in Seoul’s Garosugil, a shopping street filled with South Korean designer boutiques. Opposite: Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Ivory Double Necklace sculpture at Boon the Shop, in Cheongdam-dong.


F

orty years ago we were still wearing traditional ­Korean clothes! These days it’s a Uniqlo T-shirt and a Chanel jacket with a Fendi bag. Seoul has become a very, very trendy city, and everything is changing so fast,” fashion designer Demi Choonmoo Park tells me as we sit in her showroom in ­Apgujeong-dong, surrounded by racks of her abstract, architectural creations. Park, who has fingernails painted black and sports a modified mid-period Liza Minnelli hairdo, has been a famous avant-garde designer in South Korea since the early 1990’s. It’s my first day in Seoul, and she is explaining the local mores to me, ably translated by her 30-year-old son and business associate Mo Choi, snug in a black tee and dark Tom Ford sunglasses. They decide to take me on a quick tour of their neighborhood before we settle in for lunch at Grano, a fashionable Italian restaurant (Italian food is everywhere in Seoul, I will soon learn) with a Beverly Hills–worthy outdoor patio. In fact, Mo describes the neighborhood as Los Angeles (the terrain; the wild mix of building styles; the valet parking) meets Tokyo (long, treelined shopping boulevards; an insatiable appetite for designer labels). First impressions, based on an evening spent staring out the 21st-floor windows of my room at the Park Hyatt, itself a design triumph by the Japanese firm Super Potato: Seoul is silvery and soaring rather than conventionally pretty. But what it lacks in a unifying aesthetic it makes up for with a spectacular commitment to what’s next in art and ­architecture. Evidence that this is Seoul’s moment? Everyone from ­Phillip Lim to Tory Burch can’t seem to open gigantic, ambitiously designed outposts fast enough; Prada collaborated with Rem ­Koolhaas’s OMA to create their Prada ­Transformer, a 20-meterhigh steel structure that drew an international coterie of gawkers at its debut in 2009; and perhaps most telling of all, Rain, the floppy-haired Korean pop phenomenon and style icon, recently topped a Time readers’ poll of the 100 most influential people in the world. Some observers have compared Seoul’s obsession with highend products, fueled by new money and a burgeoning uppermiddle class, to the Japanese hunger for cool consumer goods, dubbing Seoul the new Tokyo. And Seoul does indeed boast a staggering 9 million–plus citizens (spread over 610 square kilometers), many of whom appear to be on a continual prowl for Rodarte and the Row. But the city strikes me as also having much in common with Beijing or Shanghai, where the voracious desire for style has an almost liberating character, as if old rules about how one must dress and act are being thrown off in favor of a new way of living, a quest for self-determination cloaked in leather trousers and glitter cardigans. (This yearning for freedom, sartorial and

116 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

otherwise, not incidentally can also encompass a struggle for expanded civil liberties and a larger role in society for women— but that is another, far more complicated story.)

I have long been fascinated by the far-ranging

effects that a powerful, seemingly irrational love of getting and spending can have on a formerly hidebound culture, so I am deeply curious about this new, much-talked-about Seoul. I can barely contain my excitement as Mo and his mom lead me down streets bereft of pedestrians—something else in common with L.A.—but filled with shops crammed with ersatz Birkins rendered in a riot of colors. Here, stores with names like W Concept Red offer Korean interpretations of British schoolbags and chopped-off gray sweatshirts with pearl-buttoned epaulets and a street nicknamed Rodeo Drive is home to a popular holein-the-wall where ballet flats sell for W23,000 a pair. After lunch, we head to the store-choked neighborhood of Cheongdam-dong and Boon the Shop, a boutique so glorious that it literally makes me catch my breath. (This sharp intake of oxygen will occur often in Seoul, where the stunning array of goods allows even the least distinguished merchandise to seem suddenly desperately desirable.) “It’s Boon the Shop—you know—like Felix the Cat,” Kyungho Ian Kwon, the store’s creative director, explains, giving me a quick tour. Margiela and Libertine; Gareth Pugh and ­Vionnet— all are displayed around an atrium dripping with a vast sculpture by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel called, suitably, Ivory Double Necklace. “This store is not about Chanel and Dior, not about what other people wear,” Kwon says, and, indeed, in an area he dubs “Confident Day Life” I see a Marni coat that is elegant despite seeming to have been made of woven straw. Kwon, resplendent in slightly floppy Rick Owens corduroys, a Chrome Hearts chain looped around his neck, takes me on a short stroll to visit Boon the Shop Men’s Store, on the way passing the Seoul branch of Chrome Hearts, a sexy/goth extravaganza so massive and seductive that, he informs me, Japanese shoppers regularly make pilgrimages there. In Boon’s men’s store I admire a faux-leopard backpack enhanced with mirrored tiles by MCM, the German accessories house that was recently bought by a South Korean company and is experiencing a spectacularly successful second life. Kwon and I hop in a taxi—cabs are plentiful and cheap, a good thing in a town that is so spread out—and go to Dosan Park, a long street anchored by Hermès and Rick Owens. (Owens, »


Nightfall near Hongik University. Clockwise from left: The view onto Rose Bakery, inside the Comme des Garçons boutique in Hannam-dong; hat shopping at Mogool millinery; archival objets on display at Hermès.


A diamond-andwhite-sapphire pendant by Minetani that was inspired by military dog tags. Below: Mee boutique, in Mapo-gu;

Latah Berkoh rapids xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxxxx.

for some unfathomable reason, put a larger-than-life statue of himself in his Paris store. Here, at least, it’s only a bust.) Any assumption that one Hermès is like every other is dashed when you arrive at the store’s lower level, where a mesmerizing display of archival Hermès pieces—riding crops and clocks; gleaming boots and silver cups—is arranged in Joseph Cornellesque tableaux and hidden in the windows of treelike columns. (So haunting are these arrangements that, in my ­fevered, jet-lagged state I will dream about them that night.) The writing on the walls may be in Korean, but the objects speak the universal language of ­desire. Dosan Park is the Madison Avenue of Seoul, if that street were lined with architectural experiments. Kwon describes the shops here as being “like matchboxes thrown together.” At the Ann Demeulemeester store, for example, the exterior is covered in grass. You descend a steep stone staircase between two mossy walls to Tom Greyhound Downstairs, an underground recess awash in beaded Ashish minidresses from London and clear Perspex wing-tip shoes. At Daily Projects, a Ping-Pong table greets you at the entrance (which is on the second floor); inside, there are purses shaped like giant silver lips.

At this point, even the least astute shopper

will have noticed that Seoul consumers have an obsession with the finest and most rarefied of European and American labels. But did you really travel all this way to purchase Céline and Chloé at even high prices, albeit displayed to magnificent effect? In search of homegrown brands, I head for Garosugil, which Kwon assures me is delightfully trendy and full of Korean boutiques. As with every other destination I will seek out during my time in Seoul, I arrive by car (I am not inclined to master the metro on such a short trip, though it is by reputation excellent) and have to hand the taxi driver a slip of paper with my destination written on it in Korean. This system has distinct drawbacks: if you are headed for, say, the Hyundai department store and decide halfway there that you’d rather hit Supernormal, you have no way of conveying that fact to the driver. Because Kwon has insisted that everyone on Garosugil will speak English (“You’ll be fine!” he says), I am surprised by what I find. Perhaps something about me is deeply ­intimidating, but for whatever reason, no one in any shop will utter a word of my native tongue, and in some places they even refuse to hand over a business card. This total lack of communication does not prevent me from enjoying Garosugil, a fun area of outdoor cafés, vintage shops and street vendors selling everything from hippie jewelry to pastel-colored soaps shaped like bunnies. No one speaks a drop of English at the chic shirt shop Victoria Bay, despite the fact that scrawled on the wall is: “In the traditional sewing technique of dress shirts we are making for women, we are doing our best to make the best shirts.” And indeed the blouses, soft and floppy and with interesting twists and details, are lovely. At Les Choix de Caramel there are champagne-­colored tanks with beaded necklines; at Mogool millinery, a blue-and-white-dotted hat, halfway between an


oversize baseball cap and a cloche, is around W149,000. Behind a ­restaurant ­courtyard I discover the resale shop ILMO, where that rarest of birds, ­Azzedine Alaïa on sale, is spotted—it’s not ­Korean, but at 50 percent off, a sleeveless maroon skating dress is too good to pass up. (Or is it? It is still around W2.3 million.) Any number of boutiques offer what appears to be this season’s version of ­South Korean national dress—a frock with a cotton knit top and a long tulle tutu skirt—usually for less than W115,000. This item shows up in abundance at the unfortunately named Sophie Powderrooms Paris (a moniker that nevertheless pales in comparison to the faintly disgusting, completely nutty Z.I.T. by Zoom in THE). Though I am told this neighborhood is even cooler at night— and a lot of the stores are open until 10 p.m., another plus for the acquisition-minded—I am back at the Park Hyatt by eight, delirious with jet lag but nevertheless greatly anticipating the day ahead. On Saturday, I meet Michael Reyes and his partner, Aidan Cowling, at the stone fountain outside Shinsegae, one of the only department store buildings still standing from the prewar period. The pair, both in their late twenties, came from Toronto to teach English for a few years. “There was nothing for us in Canada,” Reyes, an aspiring arts writer who has a black stud in each ear, tells me as we set out to explore the jewelry department. I fall in love with an W9.1 million pendant by the South Korean house Minetani, a combination of diamonds and white sapphires arrayed in a floral plaque reminiscent of early Cartier. The spectacular elegance of this necklace stands in stark contrast to our next adventure: a stroll through the gaudy, densely packed Myeong-dong, a pedestrian shopping area where the occasional car nevertheless barrels through and threatens your life. It’s an exuberant streetscape bursting with kids and laden with tables groaning with faux Fendis and pretend Pradas. Suddenly, Cowling asks a guy in a ­Garfield costume for directions—it seems there’s a cat café nearby, a quintessentially South Korean institution the boys think I need to see. It’s on the fourth floor of a building, and I am satisfied to merely peer through the glass at this place, where you can bring your feline friend to frolic with other animals while you sip a coffee. (There are also dog cafés, Cowling tells me, and they are a lot more frantic.) Then he confesses that his own favorite ironic watering holes are the uniquely South ­Korean restaurants known as Ann House, whose whimsical cottage décor is said to evoke Victorian-era dollhouses crossed with Anne of Green Gables. (It turns out that the novel’s plucky orphan heroine, “red­headed Anne,” as she is called here, has an enduring popularity in South Korea to rival that of Jerry ­Lewis’s in France.) Alas, there’s no Ann House nearby, so we head to Samcheong-dong gil, a boulevard near the Gyeongbokgung palace, where we visit a shop called Korean Traditional Folk Dress Museum that is not a museum at all, but will customcreate and ship to you a traditional hanbok, ­Korea’s high-waisted, spun-silk version of the kimono. Elegant wood cabinets bearing bolts of every conceivable hue and heft of silk line the

shop, and a photo of Hillary ­Clinton adorns one wall. But this old-­fashioned place is an anomaly in ­Sagan-dong. Far more typical is a shop like MenuNsauce, where a bright orange cotton dress is around W458,000, or Z. I. Gallery, from the South Korean actress Zia Kim, which this season has apple-green silk coats with orange trim and muslin ­blouses that close with tiny beaded buttons. Reyes and Cowling favor an exhaustive if exhausting pace, so we visit a rough-hewn spot called Korea Paper, in the ­Insadong neighborhood, where sheaves straight off the bark are for sale, as far from cool South Korea as you can get but somehow cooler still for it. Our next stop is the supremely ratty

am i nuts, or are a lot of these pairs dressed alike? but fascinating Dongmyo folk flea market, near the brand-new Zaha Hadid–­designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, whose bright roof is ultra-green in both senses of the word. At the outdoor market, antique ink brushes decorated with jade and turquoise are an insanely cheap W11,400 (I buy a bunch for gifts, but as of this writing have not been able to part with any of them). Cowling wants to show me Cheonggyecheon Stream, a sunken-riverbed version of ­Manhattan’s High Line, where couples stroll. Am I nuts, or are a lot of these pairs dressed alike? The fellows laugh and tell me that, yes, this is a supremely South Korean phenomenon—for people in love to dress like twins, and it even has a name: “couple-look.” I want to go to the famous Dongdaemun night market, which, as I understand it, is really rocking at 2 a.m. Though it’s only nine, the market (actually a series of huge, warehouse-­like malls crammed with everything from shoes to suitcases, camisoles to coats) is hopping. Here among the super­cheap clothes I select my own version of Seoul’s tulle tutu with, fortunately, a drawstring waist (clothing here runs small), that costs around W62,000, from a booth called ­Primus.

“You’ve picked a hot spot!” says Mun-Soo Kwon

when we meet on ­Sunday at the Rose Bakery in the awe-inspiring Comme des Garçons store in Hannam-dong, Seoul’s newest rediscovered neighborhood, which has been described as the equivalent of Manhattan’s ­Meatpacking District five years ago. (To wit, across from Comme, a building that houses a firm called Dada Associates has a pink pig on its roof.) Kwon lived in the United States and worked for a number of designers; now he’s come home to start his own line. Today he is impossibly handsome in ­Comme diaper trousers and a cutaway jacket. » travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 119


The Comme store (seven floors connected by five tunnels) is just in front of the Leeum, the Samsung Art Museum, whose three buildings have been designed by ­Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem ­Koolhaas. But there’s no time to enter this renowned temple of contemporary art! Instead we taxi back for lunch at the Galleria, Seoul’s answer to Bergdorf Goodman. Though we have trouble finding it, Kwon insists that I must see Space Mue, and he is right. A vast screen on the wall imprints fleeting pixels on a beige Lanvin coat; a cardigan from the British cult brand Marcus Lupfer sports gold sequined lobsters on its pockets. On my last day in Seoul, I am finally being treated to a Korean luncheon courtesy of Kuho Jung, whose line, Hexa by Kuho, I had the pleasure of seeing at the Park Avenue Armory during New York Fashion Week. Mr. Kuho, as everyone calls him, is carrying an electric-green schoolbag that he bought in Hong Kong and has thick nerd-chic spectacles. He lived in New York City, and we reminisce about Manhattan in the 1990’s. I know that Mr. Kuho wants to take me to 10 Corso Como, and it has required all my strength to avoid entering this temple of mercantile delights earlier in my trip. At last lunch is over and we are ready to pass through the store’s polka-dotted ­portals. I have been to the ­Milan flagship but this...well...this is something else. The all-white interior is the perfect backdrop for merchandise both obvious and less familiar—Kuho’s clothes are here, including an abbreviated jacket with a thick rubber back belt. I am besotted by a series of vintage purses by a design-

Seoul address book STAY Park Hyatt Seoul 995-14 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/2016-1234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from W340,000. eat Ann House 3-367 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; 82-2/335-0656. shop Ann Demeulemeester 650-14 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/3442-2570.

Insadong Folk Flea Market

Hyundai 429 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/547-2233.

Mapo-Gu Dongdaemun

ILMO 535-13 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/515-0970.

Myeong-dong

S e o u l

Korean Traditional Folk Dress Museum 74 Sagan-dong, Jongro-gu; 82-2/734-9477.

Boon the Shop Men’s Store 599 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/ 542-8896.

Maison Hermès Dosan Park 630-26 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/542-6622.

Chrome Hearts 82-6 Cheongdamdong; 82-2/3443-0055.

Market M 328-27 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; 82-2/337-4769.

Comme des Garçons 739-1 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu; 82-2/749-1153.

Mee 330-14 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; 82-2/324-7662. MenuNsauce 70 Palpan-dong, Jongro-gu; 82-2/723-2777. Mogool 545-10 1F Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/3445-6264. Rick Owens 651 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/516-2217.

120 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Apgujeong-Dong Garosugil

Hannam-Dong

Korea Paper 101 Pagoda Building, Insadong, Jongro-gu; 82-2/7341881. Les Choix de Caramel Garosugil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/545-9244.

Dylan Ryu Atelier Suite 202, 56-9 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-1/2260-4960.

N

Galleria 515 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/3449-4114.

Boon the Shop 82-3 Cheongdamdong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/5423864.

Daily Projects 1-24 Cheongdamdong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/32184075.

er called Dylan Ryu, who finds Chanel and Dior bags in Paris and ­London, then embellishes them with ribbons and badges. Kuho and I drive over to Mapo-gu, an area near Hongik University with a bevy of small shops specializing in leather and jeans to serve the student population. It’s a low-rise quarter, far from the glassy towers that define Seoul. We visit Market M, a store famous for its simple wooden furniture. At Mee, the rough-hewn cement entrance gives way to a plethora of plaid trousers and oversize argyle pullovers. When it’s time for a break, I shyly suggest an Ann House—I’d love to see one before I leave, I say, and am astonished that Kuho has never heard of it. But ­persistence—and help from a smart phone—locates a branch right in the heart of this ­unlikely hipster neighborhood. Ann House turns out to be a study in saccharine perched on the second floor of an office building. “We call this ­Princess Style,” Kuho tells me. All the other patrons are teenage girls; we sit on pink-and-white floral sofas and eat sugary cakes in our own little room, where a pink Mickey Mouse fan buzzes on the table and illumination is provided by a chandelier dripping with purple plastic crystals. As we gaze out the window at the passing scene—young lovers exuberantly dressed in couplelook—Kuho muses that places like this are fast disappearing in a changing landscape of ­upwardly mobile, sleek Seoul. “Every time I walk down a familiar street, there are new stores, new restaurants I’ve never seen before,” he says. “You go away for a few weeks, and Seoul completely changes.” ✚

Han River

0

Dosan Park

Cheongdam-Dong

1 km

Shinsegae 52-50 Chungmuro 1-ga, Jung-gu; 82-2/310-5384.

dong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/30181010.

Sophie Powderrooms Paris Garosugil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnamgu; 82-2/518-3645.

Tom Greyhound Downstairs B1 650-14 Sinsa-dong, Gangnamgu; 82-2/3442-3696.

Space Mue 93-6 Cheongdamdong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/ 541-3633.

Victoria Bay 546-1 Sinsa-dong, ­ angnam-gu; 82-2/547-0420. G

Supernormal 80-1 Cheongdamdong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/ 511-0991. 10 Corso Como 79 Cheongdam-

W Concept Red 159 Samseongdong, Gangnam-gu; 82-2/5658477. Z. I. Gallery 177-18 Gahoe-dong, Jongno-gu; 82-2/739-1241.


Lanvin, Balenciaga and Céline on display at Space Mue, a gallery-like boutique in Seoul’s Cheongdam-dong.


The New

Russia


The staff at Snob magazine. Opposite: The domes of St. Basilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cathedral, in Red Square.

Moscow is the city of billionaires, of bombast and grandiosity, but it is also home to an emerging generation of freethinking intellectuals, self-consciously cool bars and excellent restaurants. ga ry s hte y n ga r t reports. Photographed by c e d r i c a n g e le s


O

over the years I have made a healthy living making fun of Russia’s over-the-top elites in novels, short stories and articles, some of which have appeared between the covers of this magazine. I’ve spent many words describing heavyset men in Adidas tracksuits, overripe women tottering beneath wedding cakes of hair and a nation’s general misuse of leather goods. Born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R., in 1972, I have been coming back almost every year since my late twenties to poke fun at my birthplace. But I come back for a different reason as well. I believe we travel not just out of curiosity, but also for selfish reasons. We travel to find out where we come from and who we are, those little shards of identity that fall out of a stall in a Hong Kong market or float up with Proustian clarity from the bottom of a Hungarian goulash. But for

one of Russia’s tallest (two-plus meters) and more progressive oligarchs and the 32nd-richest man in the world. Prokhorov has been critical of Vladimir Putin’s apparent quest to become Russia’s President/Prime Minister for Life and the country’s sham democracy, but his criticism has been strategic and intermittent—he is unlikely to spend his next 10 years in a frozen labor camp like fellow oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who didn’t quite know when to shut up. His billions have given Snob a nice frisson of controversy, but the magazine and the endless social networks it has sparked through its well-trafficked website are more than just a billionaire’s whim. It is an attempt to bring together a strange new animal: the liberal global Russian who is fond of her voluminous culture, her beautiful language, her doting parents and the pleasant cast of her cheekbones, but doesn’t

those of us from somewhere else, it’s not just clarity we seek; a part of us wants to rewrite history. If Russia can become a normal country, then maybe my past can be normalized, too. It’s a hopeless and romantic task, but then again you don’t get to choose where you’re born, which language your parents speak to you when they soothe your first cut with iodine and Mishka the Clumsy Bear chocolate candy, and which wooden ladle they use to stir your summer borscht. My quest for normalcy leads me to a magazine with the unlikely name of Snob, an international Russian-language glossy that’s lavishly funded by the mineral wealth of Mikhail ­Prokhorov. (Full disclosure: Snob translated and published the first chapter of my most recent novel.) For those who haven’t seen him breakfasting alongside Jay-Z and New York’s Mayor Michael ­Bloomberg, ­Prokhorov is

look like she just held up a Neiman Marcus at gunpoint. To me, the DHL delivery of my Snob is a happy part of the month where my crazy fantasies of having been born in an increasingly normalized part of the world are stoked by its card-stock cover and measured tones. Can Russian excess and Western reason exist in the same magazine? Can they exist in the same city? I head to Moscow to find out.

124 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

A

s I fly into Moscow from Rome, the new world order is clear: middle-class Italians gesticulating up a storm in economy, slick Muscovites up front, chatting in hip, sullen tones over their iPads, their luggage bearing tags from Rome’s Hotel Hassler. I’ve never seen a man in his thirties pout so effectively with his designer lips when told


of the absence of his favorite wine. We are circling one of Moscow’s main airports for a while; the rumor I hear is that some high government official is landing and hence we mere mortals are delayed. Whether rumor or reality, this, too, is Russia. Once landed, I take an express train to this megacity’s center and try to get a cab to my hotel. The driver wants a thousand rubles for the 10-minute ride. When I protest he says, “A thousand rubles? Young man, that’s not even money anymore!” A few hours later a Snob staffer tells me she could rent out her fairly average ­Moscow apartment and live a full life in New York City from the proceeds. As of this year, Moscow has more billionaires than any other city in the world, leaving New York, London and Hong Kong far behind. The pain and humiliation of not being a billionaire is a part of every interaction here. If I had never left as a child and

Moscow’s media elite, home not just to Snob but to the influential Kommersant daily, not to mention oligarch-funded Internet ventures such as Digital October, and an endless array of clubs and restaurants with names like Progressive Daddy and Belka: The First Non-Smoking Bar. Day and night, swarms of artsy young people hum along with boundless Wi-Fi energy. As my friend and Snob’s deputy editor, Masha Gessen, told me, gesturing at the Red October buildings around us: “If they want to bomb all of enlightened Moscow, it would be very easy.” Somehow I didn’t need to ask who they were. The new post-bling wave of globalized ­Russians—another friend talked of flying to Berlin for a day to see a play by a Québécois playwright—is not universally beloved. Back in New York, just a week before my trip, a ­Russian-speaking woman

then bought a part of some ferrousmetal enterprise at a rigged auction during the Yeltsin era, I wouldn’t be bargaining over a thousand ruble cab ride. The center of the Snob universe is the former Red October (Krasniy Oktyabr) chocolate factory on the Bersenevskaya Embankment of the Moscow River. A red-brick fixture of central Moscow for more than a century, this enormous complex, crisscrossed by walkways that bring to mind the industrial glamour of New York’s Meatpacking District, once perfumed this gritty city with its sweet chocolaty smells. Today it is at the heart of

stopped me as I was crossing Fifth Avenue to ask: “You’re not a part of that Snob crew, are you?” During a visit to Rome, a ­Russian author tells me: “They are just provocateurs.” Back at the chocolate factory, I book a room in the new Red Zarya (Dawn) hotel within the factory complex. Checking in to my spacious new suite, decorated with old Russian hygienic posters, I realize: I’m staying within the factory walls where my beloved Mishka the Clumsy Bear candy was made! For a child growing up in a nation where even sugar cubes from Havana could mean a treat for a five-year-old, Mishka occupied the upper echelon of sweets. I used to save the blue wrappers showing goofy brown bears scaling a tree, sniffing out their chocolate essence whenever I felt sad. The Red Zarya is perfectly indicative of contemporary Moscow: a loftlike boutique hotel with Soviet service. »

CITY SCENES From far

left: A tiny vehicle at the All-Russian Exhibition Center; outdoor advertising; the lawn at Strelka, a bar and restaurant; the former Red October chocolate factory, now a center of cultural activity; diners at Strelka; Soviet-era apartment buildings along Novy Arbat.

travelandleisureasia.com | november 2011 125


An archivist holds a portrait from the “Moscow Stories” exhibition at the Lumière Brothers Center of Photography, in the Red October complex. Opposite: The Art Akademiya restaurant and bar, nearby.


NEW LOCAL FLAVOR North Korean dishes at Koryo restaurant. Opposite: Chef Valentino Bontempi of Bontempi restaurant.

Proceeds from Bar strelka help fund an institute for media and design (­ Sample conversation: “Do you have a map of the city?” “No.”) At one point my clothes come back from the laundry soaking wet along with a very honest explanation: “We couldn’t locate a dryer.” And yet, this is the place to be. The Red October factory is just a five-minute walk from the Kremlin, and occupies a strategic stretch of the westernmost part of Bolotny Island, an unexpected sliver of cool within the Moscow River. The first place I go is Bar Strelka. Proceeds from this bar-restaurant help fund the brilliant new Strelka ­Institute for ­Media, ­A rchitecture & Design, and the amphitheater adjoining the bar is packed in the summer with lectures by the likes of Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, a champion of quality housing for the poor. Aravena’s presence within sight of ­Moscow’s Ostozhenka Street, one of the most obscene pockets of wealth in the world, provides a hopeful contrast. Strelka is a big win for Moscow’s architectural and lifestyle prospects (Rem Koolhaas delivered the institute’s inaugural speech). Glass and metal and, most importantly, wood—wood in all its glorious, Russian abundance—are at work here. Strelka alone goes far in negating the hectares of faux–Art Nouveau Moscow built by its recently fired mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who had an 18-year tenure that turned the already-wounded cityscape into a drunk peasant’s idea of modernity. From Strelka’s roof bar you can see the excesses of the past in ­Luzhkov’s pet architect Zurab Tsereteli’s statue of ­Peter the Great in a toga astride a life-size frigate, a 100-meter-high exercise in reducing the great bloody czar to a minor Disney character. “We shouldn’t knock Peter down,” the husband of one Snob staffer tells me when I gleefully propose doing just that. “We can’t keep knocking things down and rebuilding.” He’s right: Towering over the Strelka rooftop is the ­Cathedral of Christ the Savior, knocked down by Stalin (and turned into a swimming pool for much of the Soviet era) and recently rebuilt by Turkish 128 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

contractors, a marble-and-granite giant, referred to in its first 19th-century incarnation as “The Samovar.” Sipping Strelka’s sublime Moscow Beauty cocktail, with its fresh cranberry juice, Grey Goose and a dash of Sprite, I look east to the Stalin-era House on the Embankment. If one building in Moscow could talk—or, rather, howl—it would be this one. Stalin’s scientists and artists lived and died here during his fickle reign (plaques commemorate former residents such as aircraft designer Artyom Mikoyan, the M in the “MiG” fighter jet). Peeking through a window I am shocked to see a portrait of Stalin in full battle regalia gracing one living room. It couldn’t be! But then again, something needs to counter the massive Mercedes-Benz hood ornament currently affixed to the building’s roof. “How Do We Get Rid of the U.S.S.R.?” an article in a recent issue of Snob asks its readers, with one responding, “Why would we get rid of who we are?” ­Strelka’s lemonpoached chicken with fennel purée, sautéed greens and new potatoes sure tastes like one way out. The dish’s simplicity stands in contrast to the oversauced, insecure ­Moscow dishes of the last decade, recalling my grandmother’s chicken bouillon, if Grandma knew from fennel. Amid the laptop crowd in Strelka’s downstairs bar, which houses a baby grand and is swaddled in optimistic plant life, I feel as normal as I’ve felt in Russia in two decades. This could be London or Chicago or Berlin, or any other place where the government doesn’t control the television channels. And who cares if Strelka’s chef happens to be British? Next door to the Brits, Bontempi features the chef Valentino ­Bontempi hollering Italian into his open kitchen or smoking outside as the sun lights up the golden dome of Christ the Savior. I have the bruschetta with olive-andanchovy tapenade: it’s tarted up with butter in a nod to local tastes, but the powerful Russian bread is an improvement over the ­Tuscan variety (Bontempi sources a great deal of his


ingredients from local Moscow markets). There’s an oregano-and-rabbit ravioli that would not be derided in his native Brescia, and a civilized glass of ­Chardonnay for under RUB485. For another dose of progress, I head down the embankment to the nearby Art Akademiya, nearly 280 square meters of art, booze and decent food “in the style of New York’s SoHo.” Risotto? Check. Sea bass? Check. Full sushi menu? Check. Plush, cracked-leather couches, scuffed ceilings, outsize nudes, indifferent service? Check, check, check, check! In the risotto-mad capital of the Russians, the dish comes heavy with porcini and oddly reminiscent of the “white” mushrooms in sour cream our parents made for us. Art Akademiya’s self-proclaimed “largest bar-stand in Europe” may be a tad excessive, but a painting composed solely of the words relativism is dialectics for idiots instructs me not to judge (or is it the other way around?).

A

courtyard away from Art ­A kademiya, the airy, exposed-brick Snob offices deep within the Red October factory are peopled by good-looking content-providing and editing types. Masha’s office has a well-used bottle of Jack Daniels and a skylight aglow with tenuous June sun. Downstairs, workmen are hammering away on a new Snob social club for its local and international members. Masha has grown up in both Russia and the United States, and her fixed-gear bike would be coveted in certain parts of Brooklyn. She wears one excellent earring and all black. The father of Daria, her partner, mistakes us for brother and sister. “Do all Jews look the same to you?” she kids him. For the next few days, the poor, dear man will call her every few hours to apologize. Indeed, when it comes to multiculturalism post-Soviet-style, Snob easily takes the allUnion prize for ethnic diversity. Jews, Georgians, Armenians and people of all sexual orientations form its staff—a nationalist’s nightmare in a city with a clear pecking order (“Nannies come from Moldova, and workers come from ­Tajikistan,” I am told matter-of-factly). Another interesting fact is that unlike the rest of Russia’s diminishing population, Team Snob is heavily pregnant. As I arrive, one editor is rushed out to the rod dom (literally, “birthing house”). People with means are still going around having children, and the Snob editorial staff introduces me to another interesting feature of ­Moscow’s creative elite: the rise of the Russian house-husband, with his advanced degree in some irrelevant humanistic field, who can grill a spectacular mutton kebab while wearing a Snoopy hoodie. “Is this Russia’s missing middle class?” I ask Masha. “This is the weirdo class,” she tells me. The attractions of the Red ­October factory have not gone unnoticed by Moscow’s less bohemian, high-heeled residents, and when the summer sun sets the Weirdo Class is wont to actually get off Marshy Island and head to a downtown place like Kvartira 44. After three days without a drop

of vodka—my first relatively sober 72 hours in Russia—we start following up many shots with grenka (dark rye toast) covered with cheese and garlic, and the best old standard for vodka drinking: herring with potatoes. As the night goes on the table thickens with people, my ancestral name of Igor is invoked, and the Russian summer feels golden. As the conversation gets more ribald—a tale of a Naples bathroom that really shouldn’t be repeated—I realize I’m in bizarre world: a mirror image of New York, only with more Armenians. No wonder older Russian women stop me in the middle of Fifth ­Avenue to complain about these people. Delicatessen is truly off the beaten path (“Thanks for finding us” is one of its slogans). Inside a courtyard, next to a highway, past some guy with a goat asking for loose change— the charms of this place make it worth the trip. A friendly owner with long hair and a waxed mustache. A bar that can mix up just about anything, including an “Old-Fashioned Prohibition Style” with great complexity and verve. And there’s another Moscow rarity: the woman sitting one table over from us weighs more than 36 kilos. Another excellent example of the New Moscow is the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. Set in a leafy ­Soviet neighborhood, the spacious 1920’s ­Konstantin »


Melnikov–­designed bus depot has been turned into a major art center by Daria Zhukova, girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, the multinational oligarch and owner of the ­Chelsea ­Football Club. Garage features shows by the likes of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and, recently, an amazing color light show by James Turrell. There’s art therapy for kids on weekends and a packed restaurant. Back on the island, near the Red October complex, the Lumière ­Brothers gallery has outstanding exhibitions, most recently a collection of photographs chronicling Moscow from 1900 to 1960, such as Leonid Lazarev’s Echoes of ­Childhood (1957), the iconic photo of a boy running down a Moscow street in front of a series of trucks spraying water, with hints of both danger and excitement.

H

ow do we get rid of the u.s.s.r.? The problem is that our pasts are so interlinked with 70 years of ­Soviet rule that even the “Old-Fashioned ­Prohibition Style” is just a drop in the bucket. After six days of savoring ­Moscow’s heady progress, I take a trip back to the U.S.S.R. in its most full-bodied remnant: the All-Russia ­Exhibition ­Center. Here, the clock never ticked past ­December 26, 1991, when the Soviet Union ­officially dissolved. It lives on in the heroically monumental 25-metertall Worker and Collective Woman statue and the Fountain of the Friendship of the Peoples, with its gold-plated Belarusian and Tajik maidens worshipping a giant wheat sheaf. Later, I take the metro to a quiet working-class neighborhood down the street from what look like the cooling towers of a nuclear reactor to Koryo, the first North Korean restaurant in ­Moscow, and possibly anywhere else. Here, in a lowceilinged dining room graced by murals depicting Korean maidens floating over cliffs while playing lutes and suggestively grasping wild ginseng roots, the Soviet Union, circa 1951, lives on in a television feed directly from the land of Kim Jong Il. There are accordion competitions, a soldier wooing peasant girls with a tap dance, the earnest whine and screech of a woman in traditional hanbok dress praising the Dear Leader—all of it played on an ideologically suspect

Sony television set. ­Russia’s abundant supplies of cabbage and buckwheat help out in the kitchen. The kimchi is fresh and spicy as hell, and the Pyongyang naengmyeon—­buckwheat noodles in an icy broth of meat, egg, vinegar and mustard— are excellent. As I prepare to leave, I grab a copy of a North ­Korean magazine translated into ­Russian, which includes some ­important advice for future ­restaurateurs from Kim Jong Il himself: “Before a dish can be placed on a menu, one must first gather its ingredients.”

O

r to quote The Animals: “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.” It’s the tune I’m humming to myself as Masha drives me over to her lovely dacha in the little hamlet of Nikul’skoe, north of Moscow. We leave behind the southwestern sunset colors of Moscow’s pollution. Here the air is clean and smells of dew and grilled kebab. We spend the first night chatting about the Stalin era until 3 a.m. while drinking Gewürztraminer and demolishing a Camembert. Breakfast begins at 10 a.m. with a discussion of ­Russia’s doddering economic reforms and ingrained corruption, a black cat asleep on the high-tech Italian stove. Even here in idyllic circumstances and with the stinkiest of French cheeses on the table, Stalin, and Putin, cast a shadow. As I’ve mentioned before, reproduction is rife among this crew. The kids, and many will be gathered throughout the weekend, have mistaken me for a middle-aged Harry Potter (the Russian letter for H is sometimes pronounced as a G, hence “Garry Potter”). I disappoint tremendously, but they still invite me to an intense game of foosball, where the kids represent Russia and I defend ­America’s honor. “Don’t cheer for ­Russia,” one sweet kid says as her friend kicks my ass. “You buy all your clothes at an American store.” After the game, a kid comes up to hug me for no reason whatsoever (“You’re prickly,” she says, “like a porcupine”) and I remember just how well well-born children are loved in this country, and have always been, even as the country itself has repeatedly burned to the ground around them. A good Russian childhood. It’s what I’ll always miss. ✚

guide to Moscow STAY

7-495/771-7446; dinner

Koryo 11 Ul. Ordzhonikidze,

Garage Center for Contemporary

Hotel Baltschug Kempinski

for two RUB1,880.

Bldg. 9; 7-965/138-8299;

Culture 19A Obraztsova Ul.;

dinner for two RUB940.

7-495/645-0520; garageccc.com.

Kvartira 44 24/8 Ul. Malaya

House on the Embankment 20/2

Yakimanka; 7-499/238-8234;

Bersenevskaya Nab.; no phone.

dinner for two RUB2,200.

Lumière Brothers Center of

1 Baltschug Ul.; 7-495/287-2000; kempinski.com; doubles from RUB14,900. GREAT VALUE Red Zarya

3/10 Bersenevskiy Pereulok; 7-495/980-4774; red-zarya.ru; doubles from RUB6,750.

Bar Strelka 14 Bersenevskaya Nab., Building 5; 7-495/225-8888; dinner for two RUB3,100. Bontempi 12 Bersenevskaya Nab., Bldg. 1; 7-495/223-1387; dinner for two RUB3,900.

see and do All-Russian Exhibition Center

Photography 3 Bolotnaya Nab.; 7-495/228-9878; lumiere.ru. Strelka Institute of Media,

Delicatessen 20 Sadovaya-

110 Prospekt Mira; 7-495/544-

eat and Drink

Karetnaya Ul., Building 2;

3400; vvcentre.ru.

Art Akademiya

7-495/699-3952; dinner

Cathedral of Christ the ­Savior

5A; 7-495/771-7437;

6 Bersenevskaya Nab., Building 3;

for two RUB2,500.

15 Volkhonka Ul.; xxc.ru.

strelkainstitute.com.

130 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com

Architecture & Design 14 Bersenevskaya Nab., Bldg.


The restaurant at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, in the Maryina Roshcha district.


lastlook

Con Dao, Vietnam “I spent the better half of a week on Con Dao, one of the more memorable trips I’ve taken in Vietnam. The island—once notorious for its brutal and imposing prisons—is now a lesser-known beach paradise. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been, and one of the country’s best-kept secrets. This shot was taken early one morning at a private villa at the Six Senses resort, with the sun breaking through, burning off the storm clouds. For me, the photograph strikes that perfect chord—waking up in the morning in your own little island paradise and stepping outside to this view, and having the pathway to lead you right out to the water. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to wake up to go to work. Con Dao is a world away from the rest of Vietnam. I get a lot of assignments in the middle of nowhere, and I love the adventure that goes along with it. But I also really love mattresses like clouds, landscaped gardens, ocean breezes, and the gentle lull and hush of the waves providing a perfect soundtrack to the whole thing. You’d have to be crazy to find fault with that.” ✚ p h o t o g r a p h e r a a r o n j o e l s a n tos • interviewed by christopher kucway 132 november 2011 | travelandleisureasia.com


November 2011  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia November 2011

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