Special: Family Travel TipS For aSia
Dream Isle langkawi and iTS creaTure comForTS
live music in manila STriking The perFecT noTe
tokyo brunei hawaii tasmania
prescriptions for the perfect medical trip ISSN 1906-0823 54
Singapore S$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
9 771906 082018 TravelandLeisureAsia.com
EXCLUSIVE traVEL OFFErS FOr aMErICaN EXPrESS PLatINUM rESErVE CrEDIt CarDMEMBErS ENjOy a COMPLIMENtary NIght at MaNDarIN OrIENtaL hOtELS
FanTasTiC summer. One mOre exCepTiOnal nighT. This summer, we invite you to take your time and have an extra day in your dream destination with our Fantastic Summer offer. Be it an idyllic retreat or urban vacation - take your pick from Mandarin Oriental’s legendary hotels and resorts around the world for a little more spa-pampering, beach-going, city-shopping or culture-exploring. Exclusive privileges for Platinum reserve Credit Cardmembers: • Complimentary* third or fourth night at participating Mandarin Oriental Hotels worldwide • For booking from 1 May 2012 to 31 August 2012 • For stays from 25 June 2012 to 3 September 2012 • Visit www.mandarinoriental.com/americanexpress for the full list of participating hotels
hotel highlights Complimentary third night • Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok • Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong • The Landmark, Hong Kong • Mandarin Oriental, Manila • Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo • Mandarin Oriental, New York Complimentary fourth night • Mandarin Oriental, Macau • Mandarin Oriental, Sanya • Mandarin Oriental, Singapore • Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona • Mandarin Oriental, Boston • Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas • Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Term and Conditions
* To enjoy this offer, full payment must be made with the American Express® Platinum Reserve Credit Card. Offer is valid for booking from 1 May 2012 to 31 August 2012 and stays from 25 June 2012 to 3 September 2012. Offer is valid for new reservations only. Offer is subject to availability and blackout dates may apply. Cardmembers must stay at least two or three consecutive paid nights to receive the complimentary night. A stay is considered to be consecutive nights at the same hotel. Cardmembers may book up to a maximum of three rooms per stay for the complimentary night offer, and must be part of the travelling party. Only one complimentary night is available per room, per stay. Advance booking is required and offer is valid only by quoting the promotional code “American Express Fantastic Summer”. Available room categories vary according to each participating property. Cancellation policy depends on the participating hotel. Contact the individual hotel for full details. Offer is non-transferable and non encashable. Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotions, offers or privileges. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group reserves the right to change the terms and conditions at any time without prior notice. Information is correct at the time of publishing.
For reservations, please visit www.mandarinoriental.com/americanexpress or call 6222 4722 and quote “american Express Fantastic Summer”.
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contents may 2012 volume 06 : issue 05
102 Legends of Langkawi Although rich in folklore, forests and the finest in creature comforts, Malaysia’s northernmost island in the Andaman Sea is often overlooked. For the discerning traveler, that’s all the more reason to go. by melanie lee. photographed by darren soh. guide and map 109
110 a Modern odyssey How do you bring the ancient Mediterranean to life? Follow in the footsteps of a 3,000-year-old hero. daniel mendelsohn traces
the path of Odysseus on a cruise from Troy to Sicily and finds some remarkable parallels with Homer’s epic. Amorous nymphs not included. photographed by andrea wyner 118 Hawaii’s next wave There’s a fresh breeze blowing through the islands, as a generation of upstart chefs, artisans, farmers and food lovers takes Hawaiian cuisine back to its roots—and into a bold new future. peter jon lindberg checks in on the growing movement. photographed by coral von zumalt. guide 125
travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 9
may 2012 volume 06 : issue 05 t+l southeast asia
Special: Family Travel TipS For aSia
family travel / langkawi / medical tourism / brunei / hawaii / chinese tea / new orleans
Dream Isle langkawi and iTS creaTure comForTS
live music in manila STriking The perFecT noTe
m ay 2012
tokyo brunei hawaii tasmania
05Cover MAY FINAL.indd 1
prescriptions for the perfect medical trip ISSN 1906-0823 54
Singapore S$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
9 771906 082018 TravelandLeisureAsia.com
On the cOver
lounging at the spa at the Four seasons resort langkawi. Photographed by Pete seaward.
61 speciaL section Family Travel From breezy bike trips to your teen's first day at the spa, T+L offers ideas for your next family vacation. PLUS: wesley hsu on why we travel with kids.
29 Dining in the dark, Muji’s new flagship and what’s new in our favorite cities around the world.
insider 35 Music From jumping jazz joints to hipster hangouts, duncan forgan explores Manila’s live music scene. 38 cHeck-in On Sri Lanka’s southern coast, a secluded jungle resort offers an escape for nature lovers. by jennifer chen 40 food getaways So you’re looking for that next great eating journey. Here are five itineraries guaranteed to satisfy your hunger.
35 38 10 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
50 neigHborHood A new hotel helps to revive a long-ignored stretch of New York City. by peter jon lindberg
f r o m to p : K e n n y B r au n ; co u rt e sy o f co n r a d B a l i ; f r a n c i s co G u e r r e r o ; l au ry n i s h a K
may 2012 volume 06 : issue 05
stylish traveler 71 icon Whether you’re looking to carry in-flight essentials or farmers’ market finds, these roomy leather bags score major points for both form and function. photographed by john lawton
87 72 spotLigHt DJ and club owner Joel Lai sets the groove at Hong Kong’s Drop. by mark lean 74 History What started as a tiny shop in Rome is now a top Italian export, with hotels and jewels that dazzle. by mimi lombardo
journal 87 drinks Tea is the most popular drink on earth (besides water) and is a window into disparate cultures. Deep inside China, bruce schoenfeld finds the source of oolong, and shows us how to taste the world in a cup. photographed by philipp engelhorn 92 adventure The sultanate of Brunei may seem like a sedate place, but in Ulu Temburong National Park, richard hermes discovers a forest full of riotous
12 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
noise and abundant life just a short trip from the capital. 96 obsessions Just outside New Orleans, thomas beller finds a Vietnamese-American community, flawless pho and Emeril’s secret obsession. photographed by cedric angeles
departments 14 in tHis issue 16 editor’s note 21 contributors 22 MaiL 24 best deaLs 26 ask t+L 77 strategies 84 sMart traveLer 126 Last Look
c l o c K w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c e d r i c a n G e l e s ; s a m o va r ; j o h n l aw t o n
54 wHere to go next Tasmania’s native bounty makes it the next great getaway for foodobsessed travelers. by jay cheshes. photographed by earl carter
ENTER A DIFFERENT WORLD
+44 (0)20 7730 1234 harrods.com
in this issue
new orleans 96
Langkawi 102 Hawaii 118
SOutheASt ASIA Bali 30, 64 Bangkok 24, 29 Brunei 92 Chiang mai 66 Hong Kong 30, 72 langkawi 102 manila 35 Phuket 126 singapore 77 Thailand 24, 64, 77 vietnam 64, 67 ASIA China 24, 64, 87 sri lanka 38 Tokyo 40
AuStrAlIA sydney 30 Tasmania 54
eurOpe Barcelona 30 France 40 The mediterranean 110 rome 40 the AmerIcAS Buenos aires 40 Hawaii 118 montreal 30 new orleans 96 new york City 50 san Francisco 30 Texas 40 AfrIcA AnD the mIDDle eASt mauritius 64
Beaches + islands
71, 72, 74
29, 40, 54, 87, 96, 118
Hotels + resorts
travel tip: hawaii
oahu may be Hawaii’s most family-friendly island. the Kualoa ranch (kualoa.com) offers horseback riding, a petting zoo and a “movie sites tour” that includes locations for Jurassic Park. and at the dole Plantation’s Pineapple Garden maze, the world’s largest, you can wander through 3,963 meters of paths made from hibiscus, heliconia and, of course, pineapple. (For more on Hawaii, see page 118).
14 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
c o r a l v o n z u m wa lt ( 3 )
editor’s note wHere to find Me )) email@example.com )) @CKucway on Twitter
YOung AnD WOrlDlY
In this day and at their age, I’m amazed by the kids I see traveling. As a child, our family’s annual vacation was punctuated by my cries of “are we there yet?” from the back seat, while today’s kids appear as if they were born to travel. Earbuds plugged into iPads—forget about those disposable airline earphones—ignoring in-flight movies they have already seen four times, these tikes know how to fly. Admittedly, I was into my third decade before I even left the ground, though I’ve been making up for lost air miles ever since. And how. That said, I’m not convinced I could keep up with 10-year-old Robert Cerise, who sails with three generations of his family in Daniel Mendelsohn’s “A Modern Odyssey” (page 110), tracing the footsteps of Homer (no, not Simpson!). I will not elaborate on his brief, brilliant take on a trip that traces the route of the literary classic, but suffice it to say you’ll want to make the same journey after reading the article. At the very least, it will inspire you to travel. As well as that great story about a story, in this issue you’ll find our annual and all-too-
brief look at family vacations (“Family Trips Made Fun,” page 61). It includes a compilation of—no joke here—kid-specific spa treatments. You may think a trip to the spa will rub your offspring the wrong way, but what nine-yearold could resist a chocolate body wrap? Definitely not one belonging to what Wesley Hsu calls the “Invincible Travel Family” in his essay about why we travel with children. His humorous take on the answer, one that most parents will find mirrors their own travels, is funny because it is largely true. Rounding out the section are kid-friendly activities for your next visit to Chiang Mai, including a stop at an elephant park. We call them kid-friendly, but actually they apply to any age group. Just ask my mother who, on her first trip to the north of Thailand, found her inner child when she embarked on an elephant trek. Not once did she ask if she was there yet; she knew enough simply to enjoy the journey. I can say that I’ve learnt that much at least.— c h r i s t o p h e r ku c way
kid stuff there’s no shortage of advice when it comes to traveling with children around southeast asia, but seattle-based david robert Hogg encapsulates much of this info on one site (mylittlenomads. com). Father of two boys, he offers advice on everything from sunblock (buy it at home or be prepared to spend a small fortune) to what clothes to leave at home (everything but the basics if you’re into shopping for your kids) to specific journeys like a train trip the length of vietnam. voLunteer trips if your offspring are a bit older—in their teens for instance— then a volunteer vacation might arouse their interest. Planned well, it will definitely make them see their travels from a different point of view. there are many options— check out globalservicecorps. org for starters—but most require an adult, which means the trip is something you’ll do together.
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 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
ediTor-in-CHieF arT direCTor FeaTures ediTors senior designer designer assisTanT ediTorâ€”digiTal
christopher Kucway james nvathorn unkong richard hermes mrigaa sethi wannapha nawayon chotika sopitarchasak wasinee chantakorn
regular ConTriBuTors / PHoTograPHers cedric arnold, jennifer chen, robyn eckhardt, tom hoops, philipp engelhorn, david hagerman, lauryn ishak, naomi lindt, jen lin-liu, Brent madison, 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
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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
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ed Kelly mark v. stanich paul B. francis nancy novogrod jean-paul Kyrillos mark orwoll thomas d. storms
Travel+leisure souTHeasT asia vol. 6, issue 5 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 2 368-2942â€“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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with a French dictionary and a metro schedule I came home with saucisson and an eye for Neo-Impressionism Real travel changes us. New places and new experiences reveal new ways of looking at the world. Summit Hotels & Resorts is like your own global concierge, offering real travelers unique access to the luxury and adventure of culture. Visit SummitHotels.com/tlsea2 and begin to see
ÂŠ2012 Preferred hotel grouP
The world. Wide open.
hotel franĂ§ois 1er
t o p, f r o m l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f d u n c a n f o r G a n ; c o u r t e s y o f d a r r e n s o h ; n i c o l e l a m o t t e B o t t o m , f r o m l e f t : f r a n c i s c o G u e r r e r o ; d a r r e n s o h ; c o r a l v o n z u m wa lt
duncan forgan writer
coral von zumwalt photographer
assignMent “live in manila,” (page 35). favorite fiLipino band asin, a 1970’s political folk-rock act. their lyrics were sharp and they showed a huge amount of respect for indigenous Filipino tribal music traditions. Most MeMorabLe concert elvis costello and the attractions at Glasgow Barrowland in 1995. there was no compromise to the mainstream. He started with “i Want you,” which is a six-minute ode to obsessiveness. that sums him up. best book about Music Nico, Songs They Never Play on the Radio by James young, the keyboardist in nico’s band, about her final years as a washed-up junkie in manchester. By turns gothic, shocking and absolutely hilarious. if you were in a fiLipino cover band you’d Like to pLay… the spoons.
assignMent “Hawaii’s next Wave” (page 118). treasured Hawaii MeMory When we were shooting at ma’o organic Farms, the 30 or so students and interns who were working there started to sing and dance while rinsing and prepping the vegetables they’d picked earlier that morning. it felt like Glee had come to Hawaii. tropicaL fLavor you can’t resist the guys at madre chocolate turned me on to lychees. they are really delicious. expert advice don’t be afraid to mess up the plate when shooting food. sometimes, taking a convincing bite from the dish can give a shot the touch of reality you’re looking for.
darren soh photographer assignMent “legends of langkawi” (page 102). best MoMent in Langkawi looking out to the andaman sea from the skybridge. that top-of-the-world feeling is unbeatable. if i weren’t a pHotograpHer… i’d most definitely be an architect. i'm a little bit of a control freak, almost ocd about some things, and the precision of architecture appeals. goaL for 2012 Publish my book project SS24: The Last Train, about the ex-malaysian railways commuter line that ran daily from singapore's tanjong Pagar station to K.l. for 80 years until it was discontinued in 2011.
hot topics, rave reviews and sound advice
Letter of tHe MontH muScle In mAnIlA
That photograph of Anton Lopez and his “pint-sized posse” [“Breaking the Mold in Manila,” March 2012] is almost too cute. Makes me miss my own posse of little cousins back home. Beyond that, it was great to read about the creative side of the Philippine capital too. I always knew Manila had a taste for style, even if it doesn’t always show it. Next time I’m there, I will definitely use the story as a guide and I’ll let you know of any new finds. — adrian rodriguez, hong kong
DeSIgnS On ASIA
As an interior designer I look forward to your annual style awards [March 2012] every year, and this year was no different. The one disappointment I had, though, was that this year there were no Asian entries, aside from the global brand Issey Miyake. Surely there must be more designs around this region worth looking at? —lilly sturgess, singapore
is amazing what Adrian Zecha accomplished with The Strand, it’s not enough, and more colonial history in the city should be preserved to a high standard. It would also be a bonus to know how we, as readers of your magazine, could contribute to preserving Rangoon’s history and help its citizens in the process if there is any way at all. —thorsten dresdner, bangkok InSIDer KnOWleDge
A StrOll thrOugh rAngOOn
It was great to read about the plight of Rangoon’s old buildings [“Legacy in Limbo,” March 2012] and the challenge of preserving them. Now that this long-isolated country is finally opening up to the outside world, the focus should be on Burma’s history as well as the plight of its people. While it
I always ask locals what they think is special about their city, so I was pleased to see you do the same [“The Cool Hunters,” March 2012]. I think you could easily make this a monthly feature, particularly in cities that are difficult to explore— such as Bangkok or Jakarta—for first timers. —jona chen, hong kong
e-mAIl t+l send your letters to email@example.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.
22 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
OKURA BELIEVES IN PERFORMING EACH AND EVERY MOMENT WITH THE SPIRIT OF ‘WA’ (HARMONY). IN MAY 2012, COME SHARE OUR CULTURE. www. o k u r a ba ng ko k .com 57 WI R E LE S S ROAD, BA N G KO K 1 0 3 3 0 , T H A I L A N D
budget-friendly tips for your travel planning
affordable asian trips DEAL Of THE MONTH s n a p i t
royal orchid sheraton Hotel & Towers.
thAIlAnD Paradise Discovered package at PHI PHI ISLAND VILLAGE RESORT AND SPA (6675/628-900; ppisland.com). WHAT’S INCLUDED
Jungle tent, amanwana.
thAIlAnD Summer Family package at REST DETAIL HOTEL HUA HIN (66-32/547-733; restdetailhotel.com). WHAT’S INCLUDED A two-
A two-night stay in a Superior bungalow; daily buffet breakfast; a 90-minute Wana Signature massage for two; one Thai set lunch for two per stay and 20 percent off additional spa treatments. COST Bt17,550, double, through October 31. SAVINGS Over 25 percent.
night stay for two adults and two children under 12 sharing the same room; daily breakfast buffet; one private cooking class for the family, including lunch; complimentary Wi-Fi; 50 percent off all spa treatments. COST From Bt11,500 (Bt5,750 per night), through May 31. SAVINGS 25 percent.
A two-night stay in a Deluxe room; daily breakfast for two adults (kids under 12 eat free); free high speed Internet; daily RMB100 minibar credit; RMB400 spa credit per person. COST RMB2,760 (RMB1,380 per night), double, through October 31. SAVINGS 28 percent.
(66-2/266-0123; sheraton.com/bangkok) in Bangkok. WHAT’S INCLUDED A stay on the Towers’ level; continental breakfast; afternoon tea; cocktail hours; access to Towers Lounge; Bt1,000 hotel credit per room per night; Internet access in Towers Lounge. COST Bt6,700, double, two-night minimum, through October 31. SAVINGS 13 percent.
chInA Westin Reconnect package at THE WESTIN XIAN (86-29/6568-6568; starwoodhotels.com). WHAT’S INCLUDED
InDOneSIA Amanwana Nature Escape package at AMANWANA (62-37/122-233;
amanwana.com), which is east of Bali. WHAT’S INCLUDED A three-night stay in a Jungle tent; all meals; guided excursion to limestone waterfalls and jungle pools; a one-hour massage at seaside Jungle Cove; a beach dive. COST US$3,210, double. SAVINGS 15 percent. 24 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
thAIlAnD Towers and More package at ROYAL ORCHID SHERATON HOTEL & TOWERS
INDONESIA Grand Opening Special package at The Keraton at The Plaza (62-21/5068-0000; starwoodhotels.com) in Jakarta. What’s Included A stay in a Grand Deluxe room; breakfast buffet; complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel; 24hour butler service; double Starpoints for Starwood Preferred Guest members. Cost US$299 per night, double, until July 31. Savings 45 percent.
chInA Spring Luxury package at THE ASTOR HOTEL TIANJIN (86-22/2331-1688; luxurycollection.com). WHAT’S INCLUDED
A stay in a Grande Deluxe room; daily breakfast; in-room high-speed Internet access; RMB200 credit towards hotel services. COST RMB1,280, double, per night. SAVINGS 21 percent.
The grand deluxe room, The Keraton at The Plaza.
c l o c K w i s e f r o m to p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f r e s t d e ta i l ; c o u r t e s y o f s h e r ato n ; c o u r t e s y o f a m a n wa n a ; c o u r t e s y o f s ta r w o o d h ot e l s
The pool at rest detail Hotel, Hua Hin.
askt+l more in-flight iPad time may be on the horizon...
...while mobile phones remain off-limits during takeoff.
Have iPad or iPhone and baby? you can still travel.
my wife and i both travel a lot for work, and now we have a new baby. how can we make it easier? —daniel doutriax, BanGKoK
Q: wHat are tHe cHances i’LL ever be abLe to use My ipad during takeoff? —patricK sieow, sinGapore A: Don’t get your hopes up quite yet,
but there is encouraging news from the U.S. and its Federal Aviation Admistration (FAA), which, for the first time in six years, has finally agreed to look into the matter of using electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. There’s no word on when this study will be completed, but it’s more complicated than it might first appear. In order to challenge the current policy in the U.S., an airline must test each type of device separately on each model of aircraft it flies. That means
one round of testing for the iPad 2 for instance, and another for the latest iPad. Devices such as laptops and tablets may still need to be stowed for takeoff and landing, and there’s another major caveat: the review will not include mobile phones. So, even in the best-case scenario, it looks like there will still be a market for in-flight magazines and newspapers in the foreseeable future. wHat’s your traveL question?
» e-mail us at
» post queries at
» follow us on twitter at
@travleisureasia (Questions may be edited for clarity and space.)
clocKWise From toP leFt: courtesy oF aPPle.com; © ruslan dasHinsKy; © dell / dreamstime.com; © PesKymonKey / istocKPHoto.com
When it comes to changing diapers you’re on your own, but new, skype-enabled baby monitoring technology like the Home & away video Monitor by the First years can give you peace of mind while traveling by allowing you to connect to real time video from the crib. the Lorex smart baby Monitor even offers infrared night vision and the ability to use multiple cameras on one feed. What happens if you’re traveling with the baby but forgot the monitor? With the best baby Monitor app (US$2.99 from iTunes), you can turn two apple ios devices (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) into transmitter and receiver, so you can see your baby, talk to her, get a wake-up call when she becomes active and even play a lullaby in hopes of a few extra minutes of snoozing time for mom and dad.
SOM E LEG ENDS JUST GE T BET T ER … When you arrive at InterContinental’s newest resort on Koh Samui you’ll know why it’s been listed in the New York Times No. 1 Best Seller ‘1,000 Places to See Before You Die’. Escape to the finest sunset views on the island and experience how the legend of Baan Taling Ngam just gets better with InterContinental.
Do you live an InterContinental life?
For more information or to make a reservation, please call +66 (0) 7742 9100 or visit samui.intercontinental.com
I n over 170 locati o n s a c ro s s th e g lo b e i ncludi n g BA LI • B O R A B O R A • F I J I • H UA H I N 00 montH 2010 | travelandleisureasia.com
newsflash your global guide to what’s happening right now...
A NoT-So-VISUAL FEAST after a handful of dine-in-the-dark nights, the thai capital
BlInD DInIng From top: Ascott Sathorn; DID's low-lit bar; the lobby entrance to the restaurant; DID staff.
courtesy oF dine in tHe darK (4)
gets a permanent establishment dedicated to the experience
Designed to heighten the sensual experience of eating (and perhaps to humble the complacent diner), dine-in-the-dark nights started in Europe in the late 90’s and have since spread to the U.S. and to Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok, where the Pullman hotel has organized such evenings annually. Earlier this year, however, did — dine in the dark became Asia’s first permanent restaurant to serve customers entirely in the dark. Located on the second floor of Ascott Sathorn, in Bangkok’s busy business district, DID—Dine in the Dark is staffed by the visually impaired who lead you to your table, serve you a surprise three-course meal (that means a choice of meat, seafood or vegetarian) comprised of Thai and international dishes and even guide you when you lose your way around your plate. There are two seatings every night—6:30-8:30 p.m. and 8:30-11 p.m. Don’t forget to look out for sample plates of what you ate on our way out. Ascott Sathorn, 187 S. Sathorn Rd.; 66-2/6766676; didexperience.com; dinner for two from Bt1,500. —mr iga a s et hi travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 29
sweet bali high
Temple visits and lulur body scrubs are some of the must-dos on Bali. Now you can add eating chocolate to that list. Big Tree Farms (bigtreefarms.com)—which collaborates with Balinese artisans to create products such as lychee-blossom honey and local sea salt—unveiled “the world’s most sustainable chocolate factory.” You can take cooking classes, watch the bean-to-bar process and sample confections sweetened with coconut palm sugars.—andy isaacson update
NEWS FRoM ARoUND ThE GLoBE From hotel openings to cultural happenings, we've got the latest in five buzzing cities
sTay primero primera
sTay the Jervois
sTay inn at the presidio
sTay darling Hotel & spa A waterfront
eaT fábrica Moritz barcelona Tapas
restaurant set in an old beer factory and remade by architect Jean Nouvel. 34-93/ 426-0050; dinner for two €42. do Museu d’idees i invents de barcelona A two-
story showcase for wacky inventions such as a mop with a microphone. mibamuseum.com. —suza n n e wa l e s
Christian Liaigre– designed suites with full kitchens accessed by private elevators. thejervois.com; suites from HK$2,213. eaT yardbird A tiny, no-
reservations izakaya known for its beak-totail yakitori chicken skewers. 852/25479273; dinner for two HK$1,010. do saamlung Edgy
gallery hosting a solo exhibition of mixed-media works by Chinese artist Jiang Zhi. saamlung. com; opens mid-May. —j e n n i fe r c h e n
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A 1912 Beaux-Arts masterpiece fresh from a C$198 million redo. ritzcarlton.com; doubles from C$421.
eaT restaurant Le filet
Serves Canadian Maritime oysters, house-cured gravlax and rock crab risotto. 1-514/360-6060; dinner for two C$75. do Montreal
International Jazz Festival Stars (James Taylor) and up-andcomers (the Barr Brothers) perform at this year’s 33rd annual event. montrealjazzfest. com; June 28–July 7. —a m y fa r ley
A 1903 brick building turned 22-room inn with Golden Gate Bridge views. innatthepresidio.com; doubles from US$195. eaT central kitchen
Another hit from the folks behind Flour & Water, with an open kitchen. 1-415/8267004; dinner for two US$100. do “barbary coast and beyond” at san francisco symphony Concerts
with music from the Gold Rush through 1915. sfsymphony.org; May 10–12.—ja im e g illin
spot with eucalyptusscented pool. thedarling.com.au; doubles from A$417. eaT neild avenue
A converted warehouse serving Greek, Middle Eastern and Italian dishes, plus local wine. 61-2/8353-4400; dinner for two A$145. do blue at brett whiteley studio A
rare glimpse inside the late painter’s love of Sydney Harbour. 61-2/9225-1881; Sat. and Sun. only; through July 7.—f r a nces hib ba r d
m a r t i n w e s t l a K e ; i l l u s t r at i o n B y j u l i a r ot h m a n
Stylish boutique hotel in a tucked-away bourgeois barrio alto. primeroprimera.com; doubles from €194.
your BooK in 20 words or less A
courtesy oF JoHn KricH (2)
AN INTREPID FooDIE Author of ten books and long-time reporter for the Asian Wall Street Journal (and a T+L contributor), John Krich has been traveling around Asia for over 30 years. His new book A Fork in Asia’s Road (Marshall Cavendish) gathers 50 food essays about his experiences eating around the continent. Here we speak to him about his most memorable adventures.
literate guide to the rare finds and truths that reflect new trends in the world’s most foodconscious continent. ForTuiTous Food enCounTer The Hung Yu in Taipei was recommended for its superb lobster and fatty pork but turned out to be the leading breeding ground of the country’s pro-independence movement. one THing you will never eaT Camel’s paw in Beijing’s Mongolian restaurants. Even after three hours of boiling, it’s a bit rubbery—and who knows where that camel stepped? worsT BouT oF Food Poisoning Honestly, in a decade of sampling every sort of street food, I never once got sick, though once, in ’76, a hospital in Afghanistan used a large tree twig to find and remove a tapeworm I’d gotten from bad dal in Amritsar. BesT gems The Five Sisters’ stall on the Mekong in Vientiane serves all the flavors of Southeast Asia in one amazing papaya salad. The world’s best biryani is in Kerala’s Mattancherry, but for pure joy, Da Dong’s Peking duck served with sugar, garlic, radish, cucumber and scallions is hard to surpass.—MS
Relax and enjoy all the comforts of a spacious Premier Executive room or a two bedroom apartment for the family. Guest facilities include swimming pool, tropical garden, Sompoton Spa, Kids Club and a selection of restaurants. Prince Hotel & Residence Kuala Lumpur is conveniently located in the Bukit Bintang hub for shopping, dining and entertainment, only a short stroll to the Pavilion and KLCC Suria shopping malls. Make your booking now on
Oasis in the city
From left: Muji's unmistakable storefront; stocked shelves at Muji; minimalist home wares.
“No-brand” Muji’s pared-down take on life’s essential products is well loved throughout Asia, as well as in London and New York City. Now the original store, first founded in 1983 in Tokyo’s chic Aoyama district, has reopened as found Muji, a museum-like shop of traditional home wares. Product designer and Found Muji curator Naoto Fukasawa’s unerring eye for nostalgic crafts like Japanese folk art figurines, enamelware crockery from France, woven stools from Thailand and metal pots from India, is keeping alive skills in danger of being forgotten, with the brand visiting and directly supporting small scale craftspeople. The rolling collection changes frequently, so repeat visits are quite rewarding. 5-5-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (on Aoyama-dori); muji. net/foundmuji
courtesy oF Found muJi (3)
on the go
chAIN REAcTIoN Fast food gets a bad rap—but these international favorites get our vote. austraLia
Chocolateria san Churro
A Spanish-inspired sweets shop known for churros and extra-rich chocolate for dipping. braziL giraffas
The juicy flame-grilled picanha (top sirloin) at this steak-centric joint is a must.
ANYThING BUT oLIVE
More and more exotic oils are popping up every day, making it easy to sample terroirs from around the world. Here, five that topped our taste test. by marguerite a. suozzi austria
l e F t : s a m K a P l a n ; r i G H t : i l l u s t r at i o n B y J u l i a r o t H m a n
Locals have long sworn by this nutritional extra virgin variety. It’s extracted from a green-and-orange pumpkin native to the Styrian region. Austria’s Finest, Naturally; austrianpumpkinoil.com; 250 ml for US$16.99.
Fresh and fruity (with hints of green olive), it’s ideal for cooking at very high temperatures. The ripe pulp is cold-pressed and bottled in Chile, one of the world’s biggest avocado exporters. TerraMater; terramater. cl; 250 ml for US$16.49.
The floral-tasting product isn’t just for beauty miracles; it’s also said to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The endangered tree is endemic only to a unesco-protected biosphere reserve in Morocco. Argand’Or; argandor.com; 250 ml for US$27.90.
caLifornia 3 Pistachio Traditional 150-year-old French techniques are used to make the sweet and creamy oil. Thanks to its dry climate, California is ground zero for this plump tree nut. La Tourangelle; latourangelle.com; 250 ml for US$19.99.
Created from roasted nuts, it manages to be both intensely buttery and light. The family-owned mill in Iguerande, Burgundy—which is open to the public—has made small batches since 1878. J. Leblanc; huile-leblanc.com; 250 ml for US$25.95.
Sleek bakery with readymade sandwiches such as hamand-cheese baguettes. itaLy
Casual pizzerias across the boot, serving Maruzzella (olives, anchovies, and mozzarella). pHiLippines Jollibee
The spicy Chickenjoy (chili-coated fried chicken) at the American-style takeaway has us hooked. russia
At this crêpe snack counter, get the blini and red caviar, of course. taiwan
din Tai Fung
Upscale dim sum mecca where the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are addictive. —Ja m ie F eldm a r travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 33
destinations trends restaurants + more
From left: warming up at saguijo; local indie band Turbo goth at saguijo.
LIVE IN MANILA. from jumpinG jazz joints
to hipster hanGouts, duncan forgan explores the chaotic capital’s music scene
keep coming back to Manila, simply no place like Manila,” sing classic Filipino band Hotdog in the 1970’s homage to their hometown, and when it comes to live music in Southeast Asia they certainly know the score. With its urban sprawl, appalling traffic and lack of a real focal point—the walled Spanish city of Intramuros aside— Manila is not the most instantly beguiling of Asian cities. Despite its shortcomings, however, the city doesn’t lack in energy and its music
Photographed by Francisco Guerrero
scene is fuelled with a youthful passion and verve that has fostered some of the region’s most compelling performers. Here are a few of the top spots for live music in the city.
cousins Angelo and Chris Carlos as a means of providing an outlet for bands and musicians playing original music, it has become the city’s most famous venue for catching up on alternative acts. Famed acts including Pedicab and Up Dharma Down built their reputation within its walls, while music industry A&R personnel are among the faces in the crowd on a regular basis. Artwork, murals and instruments bedeck the walls while the beerswigging patrons rock a dressed-down look. t+L tip Be sure to check out the upstairs Theo Gallery, which provides a showcase for emerging Filipino artists. 7612 Guijo St., Makati City; 63-2/897-8629; saguijo.com; drinks for two from P120. B-SIDe
London had the Marquee, New York had CBGB and Manila has SaGuijo. Put simply, if you are a fledging outfit with a nose for fame, a gig at SaGuijo probably means you have already made it on the Pinoy music scene or are just about to. Opened in 2004 by
Achingly cool and imbued with a degree of kookiness—the cocktails are served Mad Hatter-style in white ceramic teapots, for example—B-Side is currently the city’s hipster hangout of choice. International DJs such as Scottish deep funk legend Keb Darge and Californian psychedelic » travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 35
insider music hip-hop maestro Nobody have played here, and the venue often features Manila’s more questing electronic artists and turntablists. Celebrity patrons have been known to get their groove on here, but there’s nothing pretentious about the vibe. The homely interior—comfy sofas with plumped up cushions and tasteful low lighting—gives it the feel of an oversized living room, making it the perfect place for an intimate shindig. t+L tip The venue hosts weekly reggae nights on Sundays where Jamaican sounds are served up alongside Caribbean fare. 7274 Malugay St., Makati City; 63-2/403-5650; drinks for two from P400.
patrons of the much-loved Penguin. One aspect that has changed is the interior. Whereas the old Penguin was resplendent in bright colors, the new version favors a starker approach with white walls accented by photographs and paintings. Shows range in style from rock, reggae and world to folk and jazz, while the ebullient crowd comprises of locals and visiting foreigners. Other attractions include poetry readings, one-act plays and film screenings. t+L tip There’s an emphasis on live reggae so if you are a Rasta fan this is the place to visit. 9815 Kamagong Street, Makati City; 63917/897-0210; drinks for two from P300. 19 eASt
It has undergone both a name change—it was the Penguin Café—and a change in ownership, but the leftfield ethos remains. There’s a hint of mystery about Blackbird Makati, exemplified by its lack of obvious signage and location down a warren of narrow one-way streets. Inside it is mostly a case of “as you were” with the varied programming keeping a scattershot approach familiar to
So smitten is Wowee Posadas, the founder of 19 East, by the magic of amplified noise that he spared no expense in kitting his venue out with a state of the art sound system regarded by many as the finest in the Philippines. The result speaks for itself, with top Pinoy performers from across the musical spectrum flocking to the venue in the south of the city to strut their stuff. You’ll find performers from every conceivable genre here. Major Pinoy stars such as singersongwriter Nyoy Volante and Bamboo have appeared, as have top-name visiting artists including Oran
Coltrane, the son of jazz legend John Coltrane. The acts takes place in the main hall, while an outdoor seafood restaurant by the waters of Laguna de Bay provides respite, if required, from the wall of sound. t+L tip The tiger prawns in lemon butter are a specialty. Kilometer 19, East Service Road, Sucat, Mutinlupa City; 63-2/837-6903; 19east.com; drinks for two from P150. SKArlet jAzz KItchen
This bar appropriates the blues vibe without compromising on authentic touches, successfully combining elements of a jazzy speakeasy, downhome blues den and underground rock-and-roll club. The décor draws on old-school influences too, with thick velvet curtains behind the stage and brassy red lighting framing the performers. The music policy is wildly eclectic—everything from ska and punk to Latin—but the main focus is on jazz, unsurprising given that the bar is the brainchild of acclaimed singer Skarlet. Monday night is big band night where a packed audience shake off the start-of the-week blues with some serious swing. t+L tip Call ahead to make reservations as this joint tends to get pretty crammed most nights. 43-B Scout Ybardaloza Street, Quezon City; 63-2/412-7572; drinks for two from P360. ✚
lIve AnD lOungIng From left: Pop art and comfy couches
at B-side; a whimsical mural adorns Blackbird makati; a live act gets things going at skarlet Jazz Kitchen.
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green getAWAY Clockwise from left: The Tamarind suite; the living Pavilion lounge and library; one of the property’s many colorful walls; its secluded pool area.
cEYLoN RETREAT. on sri lanKa’s southern coast, a secluded junGle resort offers an escape for nature lovers. by Jennifer cHen
or the first-time visitor, finding Kahanda Kanda can pose a challenge. First, you need to persuade a rickshaw driver from the nearby historic town of Galle to go for a reasonable fare. (Sri Lanka’s re-emergence as a travel hotspot has driven up prices alarmingly.) The 25-minute ride takes you through dusty towns of curry shops and gem dealers, swerving past the occasional cow or goat, and then past villages surrounded by rice fields. Finally, you plunge deeper into the jungle before climbing up a steep hill ringed by rows of tea plants. You stop in front of a long flight of stairs, where Pubudu Udara, the resort’s unflappable manager, stands at the ready. The five-hectare resort is slowly revealed in stages. An ochre-hued wall runs along the spine of the hill, hiding some of the propoerty's eight suites. Another wall, painted mulberry, separates the pool from the remaining guest rooms, while a lotus-filled pond fills the space between the lounge and dining pavilion. George Cooper, Kahanda Kanda’s owner and an interior designer, says the result is
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deliberate. “If you walk into a garden and you see it in one fell swoop, your brain doesn't compute it all because it’s such a wide-angle position,” he says. “So if you compartmentalize… you can appreciate it more.” Cooper and his architect Bruce FellSmith, a former partner at Australian firm Kerry Hill, also deployed other tricks to encourage guests to look outwards onto nature. Slightly angled windows are cut into the first wall; neither the lounge nor dining room has walls. Guests can spot monkeys and a dozen bird species, including peacocks, parakeets and flycatchers, from their terraces. Originally intended to be a private getaway for Cooper, Kahanda Kanda feels like the estate of a peripatetic friend with exquisite taste. Suites are individually designed, each filled with antiques, rugs and textiles picked up from his travels: an ikat-patterned robe from Central Asia, kilims from Turkey, Indian bedspreads, a four-poster bed from southern France. The resort also has a fine restaurant: Cooper sent his chefs to Thailand for training, but do try the crab curry, a local favorite. Sign up for a bike ride through the rice paddies, a whale-watching expedition or a tour of a tea estate; the beach is a half-hour drive away. But Kahanda Kanda invites indolence, so don’t feel guilty if you spend the afternoon by the pool. Angulugaha; 94-91/228-6717; kahandakanda.com; suites from US$380. ✚ Photographed by Lauryn Ishak
5 ULTIMATE FooDIE GETAWAYS. so you’re|
f r o m to p : j u n ta K a G i ; K e n n y B r a u n
looKinG for that next Great eatinG odyssey.| Keep readinG for five itineraries Guaranteed to| satisfy your hunGer—Be it a BarBecue quest in| texas or a michelin-worthy pilGrimaGe in france|
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A PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL MEMORIES ARE MADE FOR YOU.
Because they are. From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel like a better you. Even your little ones. From Balinese dancing to cooking lessons, they’ll be immeasurably inspired by the gracious local culture. Because at Conrad, we know that family holidays are about spending time together, making connections and ultimately creating a bond that’s lasting and real.
1 japan tokyo pub crawl step into one of tokyo’s countless izakaya— small bars with eclectic menus—and you’ll get an instant taste of the city’s unpolished, alluring nightlife, not to mention some of its most delicious food. start in frenetic shibuya at en (11F Toei Plaza, 1-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku; dinner for two ¥6,600), which has an extensive english menu. the small plates such as lotus-root kimpira and blackpepper chicken keep droves of salarymen and hipsters alike
coming back for more. For an only-in-tokyo experience, visit shibuya’s nonbei yokocho (drunkard’s alley), along the train tracks, a warren of alleyways marked with glowing red lanterns. there are dozens of food-and-drink counters, but we love energetic ms. tama and her Korean- and moroccan-inspired dishes at kibi (1-25-9 Nonbei Yokocho, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku; dinner for two ¥8,250). a 15-minute walk away, the izakaya goes
upscale at Maru (B1 Aoyama KT Building, 5-50-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; dinner for two ¥9,900), whose chef-owner Keiji mori was trained in haute kaiseki cuisine. try his Wagyu beef and silky, house-made tofu. For an adventure, head to shinjuku for kabuto (1-2-11 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; snacks for two ¥3,300), which has for the past 64 years served only eel���and every part of it—chargrilled on skewers. a course of seven sticks
is called hito-tori, and that’s what everyone orders. nearby is kanae (3-12-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; dinner for two ¥8,250), a nostalgic favorite with a long sake list, tender pork-stuffed cabbage rolls and fried fugu (blowfish). in nogizaka, uoshin (9-6-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku; dinner for two ¥8,250) is a rare izakaya with a sushi counter, but the shioyaki (salt-grilled) fish may be the best seafood you’ve ever eaten. —mark robinson
where to splurge Japanese cuisine is elevated to an art form in the city’s best kaiseki and sushi restaurants. Below, two dining experiences that top our list. kanda chef Hiroyuki Kanda uses only the finest ingredients in his multicourse kaiseki dinners, which can include wakame seaweed and delicate preparations of Wagyu beef. 3-6-34 Motoazabu, Minato-ku; dinner for two ¥33,000.
not all izakaya have english menus. here’s our secret weapon: jibbigo (US$4.99), a downloadable, speech-to-speech voice translator app for your smart phone.
dining near shinjuku station.
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j a m e s h a r d y / a lt o p r e s s / p h o t o a lt o / a f p. c o m
sushiso Masa in a seven-seat dining room, sushi master masakatsu oka reveals the complexity of fish and shellfish using dozens of cuts and techniques—without repeating a single flavor or texture. B1, 4-1-15 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku; dinner for two ¥37,000.
rome’s Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood, left. Below: Pizza al taglio at Pizzarium.
f r o m l e f t: © j u e r G e n s c h o n n o p / i sto c K p h oto s .co m ; andrea wyner
2 italy dolce vita in rome We love the eternal city’s Berninis and Borrominis, but we’re even more smitten with roma’s pastas and pecorinos. our ultimate food day? Buon giorno! the breakfast cornetto— usually a plain dunk-intocaffè matter—reaches exalted heights at cristalli di zucchero (88 Via di San Teodoro; breakfast for two €4.50), right by the Bocca della verità. the light-as-air pastry is filled with cherry jam or cream, and the cappuccino is perfection. Hop the metro to the cipro stop, and hurry, please—the feathery pizza romana sells out in a flash at dime-size pizzarium (43 Via della
Meloria; pizza for two €19). try the now-classic potato-topped pizza di patate—plus the exceptional fig-andcured-pork combo. refire your appetite with a stroll through the handsome Prati district. then head on over to L’arcangelo (59 Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli; lunch for two €90) for sublime baccalà, roast lamb and the definitive gnocchi all’amatriciana— knowing that every ingredient is fanatically sourced. Back in the centro storico’s former Jewish ghetto, time stands still (and so does the queue) at pasticceria boccione (1 Via del Portico
D’Ottavia; pastries for two €5), ruled by the brusque matriarchs of the limentani clan. What is this plump flatbread with pine nuts and candied fruit? “Jewish pizza!” barks one of the dames from behind the counter. supper is at campo de’ Fiori’s salumeria-vineria roscioli (21 Via dei Giubbonari; dinner for two €106), folded inside a chic deli. start with smoked fish and puntarelle salad with anchovy dressing. next, toothsome tonarelli cacio e pepe made with three types of pecorino and malaysian pepper. our buona notte: a fondue of dark amedei chocolate. —anya von bremzen
rome-based food writer elizabeth minchilli (elizabethminchilliinrome. com) leads private walking tours of the city’s most delicious neighborhoods.
rome’s best gelato time for a sweet diversion. in Prati, gelateria dei gracchi (272 Via dei Gracchi) has gained buzz as one of italy’s best for its ingredient obsession. For more than a century, crowds have lined up at giolitti (40 Via Uffici del Vicario), near the Pantheon, for seasonal fruit flavors, while the innovative fatamorgana (9 Via Lago di Lesina) has surprising combos such as pimento-chocolate and celery-lime.
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insider eat Pork ribs at salt lick Bar-B-Que, outside town, left. Below: Beloved austin pit stop Franklin Barbecue. Bottom: Pit master aaron Franklin in action.
smoky ribs, fork-tender brisket, big texan skies. What are you waiting for? Here, a barbecue tour de force—with austin as your base. day 1 start 49 kilometers northeast of austin at opie’s bbq (9504 E. Texas Hwy. 71, Spicewood; lunch for two US$20), where the famous sweet-andspicy baby back ribs require more than a few paper towels. if that’s breakfast, lunch is an
hour away, at cooper’s old time pit bar-b-que (604 W. Young St., Llano; lunch for two US$30). order the signature five-centimeter-thick pork chop and brisket directly from the pit. take a scenic hike up enchanted rock, then forge on to Fredricksburg for a dinner of pork in peach barbecue sauce at sugar & smoke (249 E. Main St.; dinner for two US$35). call it a night with a slice of coconut cream pie.
secret’s in the sauce
day 2 south of luckenbach, Maywald’s sisterdale smokehouse (1123 FM 1376, Sisterdale; lunch for two US$25) is open every other weekend—arrive at noon for crisp smoked chicken and cuts of tender beef. Milt’s pit bbq (905 N. Old Hwy. 81, Kyle; lunch for two US$20) is near razor-back ranch road 32—nicknamed “devil’s Backbone”—and serves brisket with a midnightblack crust. From there, it’s a quick ride to salt
Lick bar-b-que (18001 FM 1826, Driftwood; dinner for two US$32), known for its brisket and beef ribs, served on oak-shaded patio tables. day 3 line up at 10 a.m. with the other ’cue worshippers at austin’s franklin barbecue (900 E. 11th St.; lunch for two US$17), run by
trailblazing pit master aaron Franklin. His tipsy texan sandwich, with chopped beef and sausage, deserves the hype. But save room for stiles switch (6610 N. Lamar, Austin; dinner for two US$25), where the pork links are flawless and the banana pudding is as authentic as it gets. — daniel vaughn
book a room at austin’s saint cecilia (hotelSaintcecilia.com; doUbleS from US$275), a music-inspired retreat in a former victorian manse, created by hip hotelier liz lambert.
devoted BBQ fans in texas carry coolers for their leftovers—a challenge for those making their pilgrimage from afar. you can still bring some of that lone star flavor back: cooper’s old time Pit Bar-B-Que sells jars of its secretrecipe sauces and rubs—as well as some of the best beef jerky in texas. salt lick Bar-B-Que peddles its original and jalapeño sauces and its own rubs and salsas. if you love opie’s sweet-and-spicy sauce, buy a bottle at the counter. Bonus: cooper’s and salt lick sell their creations online.
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c l o c K w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f t h e s a lt l i c K B a r - B - q u e ; n i c h o l a s m c w h i r t e r ; j o dy h o r to n
3 u.s.a. texas bbq drive
4 argentina buenos aires feast argentina’s grass-fed beef and inky malbecs go together like perfect tango partners. Here, the steps to memorable eating (and drinking) in three Buenos aires neighborhoods. recoLeta taste how malbecs vary by region at marble-clad vinoteca (Palacio Duhau, 1661 Avda. Alvear; tastings for two US$120). sommelier Fabio masdeu matches labels from his 7,000-bottle cellar with cheeses made in the nearby town of suipacha. a five-minute stroll away, your introduction to traditional argentinean cuisine awaits at fervor (1519 Posadas; dinner for two US$70).
order the classic asado de tira, crosscut ribs dry-aged for 35 days. paLerMo at the limestone-clad tasting room of Patagonian winery bodega del fin del Mundo (5673 Honduras; tastings for two US$45), flights follow a single varietal through several vintages; pair them with enticing tapas such as beef carpaccio with capers. a few blocks south at La cabrera (5099 Cabrera; dinner for two US$60), waiters in berets serve gargantuan side dishes—squash; andean potatoes—along with cuts of sizzling beef grilled with rosemary and thyme.
san teLMo year-old wine store and cantina aldo’s (372 Moreno; 54-11/5291-2380; tastings for two US$40) is staffed with no fewer than nine sommeliers. Join a thursday tasting of wines exclusive to aldo’s, such as sonvida cabernet sauvignon 2009 from altamira winemaker alejandro vigil. then head to plaza-lined calle defensa to La brigada (465 Estados Unidos; dinner for two US$60). owner Hugo echavarrieta buys the freerange, alfalfa-fed beef from the Pampa Húmeda region himself: ask which cut is the day’s tastiest, and he’ll grill it to perfection. —colin barraclough
bringing wine home Forget shipping wine back. in the u.s., an import license is needed for even a single bottle. instead, ask an expert to pack your treasures and check them along with your luggage. Wine shop 0800vino (0800-vino. com) delivers day or night, anywhere in the city, within the hour, while recoleta’s grand cru (grand cru.com.ar) wraps bottles in polystyrene confetti to limit shake. claim the 15 percent tax rebate upon departure from argentina, and check how much alcohol you are allowed at home as well as what any additional duties are per bottle.
j av i e r p i e r i n i
stay in recoleta at the new 30-room mio (miobUenoSaireS.com; doUbleS from US$270), owned by the catena winemaking family—mini-bars are stocked with standout regional bottles. Fervor restaurant, in the city’s leafy recoleta neighborhood.
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worth the detour two other michelin pilgrimages, from Paris-based travel company purple truffle (purpletruffle.com).
basque region at Les frères ibarboure table et Hostellerie (Bidart; dinner for two €158; doubles from €143), a father-and-son team is known as standard setters of Basque cuisine. try their succulent Kintoa pig.
5 france michelin blowout driving north from montpellier, the scenery shifts dramatically as the road veers upward through the cool air of the massif central, passing lush dairy farms and rolling landscapes. at the end of a long, vertical driveway, jutting out of the top of the hill, a modern glass structure seems to float over the surrounding valleys. bras (Rte. de L’Aubrac, Laguiole; dinner for two €181; doubles from €268) is set on a high plateau surrounded by nothing but the green hills of the aubrac. there are many ways to reach this spot, all of them long. all of them tiring. and all
46 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
of them, as the michelin Guide is prone to saying, worth the journey. the michelin Guide was created in 1900 to introduce France to the French, to direct them along a new web of roads and to les bonne tables in far-flung regions. While today’s red Guide can feel like a tired old guard promoting fuddy-duddy favorites—outside of europe, you might hardly glance at it—it still makes perfect sense in the country where it started. France is a destination that rewards the long-distance traveler, the seeker of regional dishes and talented chefs in remote areas. and if
there’s a place worth driving six or 12 or a hundred hours just for dinner, it would be the michelin three-starred Bras, run by sébastien Bras and his wife, véronique. this is a restaurant worth building a whole itinerary around: beautiful food in a beautiful location that is exactly like nowhere else
in the world. the cooking is confident, precise, delightful and surprising. you ask about a sauce of fennel that is outrageously good. How? the secret, véronique Bras says, is that her father-in-law, michel, woke up at 4 a.m. to pick the fennel for lunch and will pick more before dinner. — adam sachs
viamichelin.com lists restaurants by location, cuisine and price range, and provides mapping tools with suggested detours along the way.
courtesy of Bras - laGuiole
Haute-savoie region Fresh from receiving its third michelin star, flocons de sel (Megève; dinner for two €196; doubles from €256) highlights local terroir (wild mushrooms; squab). stay in the restaurant’s sixroom chalet.
michelin three-starred Bras, in laguiole, France.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN MAGNIFICENCE
For a cultural immersion in an ancient Sultanate, discover Bruneiâ€™s strong Malay, Islamic and Royal traditions that effortlessly blend heritage and piety with outward looking modernity, tolerance and genuine hospitality. Magnificent gilded Mosques, majestic architecture , richly endowed museums and picturesque water villages of houses on stilts dot Bandar Seri Begawan, the lovely capital of friendly Brunei Darussalam, the prosperous, safe and placid oil rich Kingdom nestled on the northern shores of the huge island of Borneo. Culture and tradition is complemented by pristine nature, with easily accessible lush primary jungles teeming with life covering most of the country. In Brunei one can also enjoy world class golf, diving and business events, from remote jungle lodges to palatial resort accommodation, allowing discerning travelers wholesome vacation experiences at good value for money. Nature, heritage, opulenceâ€ŚDiscover Brunei, the Green Heart of Borneo.
BRUNEI TOURISM Jalan Menteri Besar Bandar Seri Begawan BB3910 BRUNEI DARUSSALAM Tel : + 673 - 238 28 22 / Fax : + 673 - 238 28 24 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
insider neiGhBorhood hotel helps to revive a lonG-iGnored stretch of new yorK city. by peter Jon Lindberg
onsidering its position at the heart of Manhattan—as central as central gets—it’s a bit odd that the area between 26th and 30th Streets, Park Avenue and Broadway didn’t, until recently, even have a name. But for decades there wasn’t much there: just a wasteland of dingy wholesalers and shops selling hair extensions and counterfeit perfume. The tide began to turn with the 2009 arrival of the Ace Hotel, whose restaurants and lobby bar were soon luring trendy downtowners to its obscure patch of Broadway. Other pioneers followed. Yet if urban renewal has a tipping point, the just-opened NoMad Hotel is it. Named for the neighborhood’s newfound acronym (NOrth of MADison Square Park), the 168-room property is a collaboration of Andrew Zobler, developer of the Ace, and Will Guidara and Daniel Humm, the duo behind Eleven Madison Park, the best restaurant in New York City at the moment. Occupying a 1903 Beaux-Arts tower on Broadway at 28th Street, the NoMad feels like the ancestral home of some raffish, fabulously wealthy bohemian, with elegantly burnished interiors (courtesy of Hôtel Costes designer Jacques Garcia) and an air of unbuttoned privilege. Food and drink take center stage: in a series of intimate dining rooms and lounges surrounding a light-flooded atrium, Chef Humm offers a more rustic and affordable take on the French-inspired cuisine he’s famous for, including whole-roasted chicken from the open-hearth oven. There’s also a rooftop terrace; a leather-paneled bar seemingly teleported from 1872—complete with outsize mahogany elephants; and, of course, a burgeoning foodie playground just outside the NoMad’s doors. ✚ city cLassics
For more Guides to uP and cominG neiGHBorHoods in maJor cities, visit travelandleisureasia.com.
50 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
ave. of the americas
MAD FoR NoMAD. a new
nOmAD hOtel 1170 Broadway; 1-212/796-1500; thenomadhotel.com; doubles from US$395.
BAr BASQue Nuevo spanish tapas and a lively bar scene draw the under-35 set to the eventi hotel. 839 Ave. of the Americas; 1-646/600-7150; dinner for two US$90.
hIll cOuntrY chIcKen an offshoot of the great Hill country BBQ, with some of the crunchiest, juiciest fried chicken in town. 1123 Broadway; lunch for two US$25.
eAtAlY mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s italian food megaplex has a new cooking school and a rooftop brewery and restaurant. 200 Fifth Ave; 1-212/229-2560; eatalyny.com.
IlIlI refined middle eastern food, served in a gleaming jewel box of a room. 236 Fifth Ave.; 1-212/683-2929; dinner for two US$110.
SD26 expense-account italian stalwart san domenico trades central Park south for more relaxed digs on madison square Park. 19 E. 26th St.; 1-212/265-5959; dinner for two US$140.
lA mAr ceBIcherIA peruAnA chef Gastón acurio finally brings his renowned Peruvian seafood to nyc. 11 Madison Ave.; 1-212/6123388; dinner for two US$150.
madison square Park
a Bro ShAKe ShAcK original location of danny meyer’s bar-raising burger stand: still-epic lines, still worth the wait. 1133 Broadway; 1-212/8896600; Shackburger and fries US$15.
eleven mADISOn pArK stellar service, rigorously inventive cooking, and an overriding sense of fun: haute cuisine has never felt this youthful or vital. 11 Madison Ave.; 1-212/889-0905; four-course tasting menu for two US$148.
the hurrIcAne cluB upscale tiki lounge with oceans of rattan and lacquer, a white-coral fireplace and throwback tropical libations. 360 Park Ave. S.; 1-212/9517111; drinks for two US$26.
c l o c K w i s e f r o m to p l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f B a r B a s q u e ; n i c o l e f r a n z e n ; B at t m a n s t u d i o s / c o u r t e s y o f i l i l i ; c o u r t e s y o f t h e h u r r i c a n e c l u B ; c o u r t e s y o f e l e v e n m a d i s o n pa r K ; c o u r t e s y f o wa l ly G o B e t z / f l i c K r . c o m / f l i c K r . c o m ; c l ay w i l l i a m s ; c o u r t e s y o f t h e n o m a d h ot e l ; c l ay w i l l i a m s ; c o u r t e s y o f s d 2 6 ; n o a h f e c K s / c o u r t e s y o f l a m a r c e B i c h e r i a p e r u a n a
Fifth ave. ave.
jOhn DOrY OYSter BAr the trendsetting ace Hotel houses one of the city’s top raw bars. 20 W. 29th St.; 1-212/792-9000; dinner for two US$100.
travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 51
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SUBSCRIBE NOW FOR A CHANCE TO wiN A 3 NigHT sTAy AT THE wEsTiN LANgkAwi Set in an idyllic natural retreat of the island, adorned with an exclusive beach front location up to 500 metres, The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa is strategically located with breath taking views of the Andaman sea. Your renewal experience starts in the morning with the signature SuperFoodsRx™ breakfast. You will be ensured of a revitalizing and extravagant breakfast where all nutritious dishes are paired with generous flows of sparkling wines. At night, soak up the serene atmosphere from Breeze, a great place to unwind with signature martinis and live entertainment music.
Take a refreshing dip or top up some tan at any of the four unique pools which allows you to enjoy some precious moment of serenity. Or, maintain your workout regimen even when you are on vacation in the Westin WORKOUT®, which provides state-of-the-art facilities. Spoil yourself at the award winning Heavenly Spa by Westin - a perfect sanctuary for pampering and rejuvenation. At The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, you are sure to leave feeling better than when you arrived.
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insider where to Go next
hoMEGRoWN AUSTRALIA. tasmania’s
native Bounty—Bruny island oysters; sea lettuce straiGht from the shore—maKes it the next Great Getaway for foodoBsessed travelers. by Jay cHesHes
ustralia’s southernmost state, known for its wild beauty, has long been a supplier of some of the country’s finest ingredients harvested from land and sea. But recently, the remote and rugged island has become a playground for young, food-mad chefs hailing from Sydney and Melbourne who are striving to keep the remarkable bounty closer to home by heading up restaurants, cafés and pubs centered around its capital, Hobart. The result? This rough-around-the-edges city with a real pioneer vibe is suddenly brimming with good things to eat. »
The always-packed garagistes, a wineand-small-plates bar in Hobart, Tasmania.
54 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
Photographed by Earl Carter
Returning of a Family fer Limited of Getaway Offer! Time to plan for a trip! If you have not recently had the opportunity of spending some valuable time with your family, here is a great opportunity to do so. When you visit Pimalai from March - May 2012 you will be entitled to bring your children (age up to 16) for free! Yes, your children may sleep and enjoy a healthy breakfast at no extra cost! And will also receive round trip transfer FREE from Krabi airport! This applies according to the normal occupancy allowed in each accommodation category, for example, one bedroom category allow 2 person occupancy with 1 extra person. So, if the extra person is a child, the benefit will apply. Same apply for the 2 & 3 bedrooms categories. Two bedrooms allow occupancy at 4 persons with 2 extra person. Three bedrooms allow occupancy at 6 persons with 3 extra persons. Don’t you think it is family bonding time? So book now and enjoy the benefits of this limited great offer!
Koh Lanta • Krabi • Thailand
99 Moo 5, Ba Kan Tiang Beach, Koh Lanta, Krabi 81150, Thailand e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: +66 2 320 5500 f: +66 2 320 5503
insider where to Go next
the DISh On tASmAnIA
Clockwise from right: a John olsen ceiling mural welcomes diners to the source; garagistes’ st. Helens and Bruny island oysters; hapuku fish with dune spinach from the stackings.
stackings at peppermint bay, where up-and-
the culturAl tABle
While the year-old subterranean Museum of Old & New Art—set in an industrial suburb—may be the big news around Hobart these days, chef Philippe Leban’s glass-wrapped pavilion restaurant upstairs has made plenty of headlines of its own. Leban, Brittany-born and Sydney-raised, left behind the brasserie Hamilton House in cosmopolitan Shanghai to open the source restaurant, where he creates the region’s most refined dishes. Views across the Derwent River provide the backdrop for Leban’s takes on local ingredients, such as tender and pink roast rabbit or miniature oysters from Adams Bay, served with picked spanner crab meat and Pedro Ximénez sherry gelée. Leban also grows his own herbs and lettuce (and soon, he hopes, fruit) in the restaurant’s garden. 655 Main Rd., Berriedale; 61-3/6277-9904; dinner for two A$154. t+L tip Before leaving, pick up a few bottles of Moorilla wine, made on site by young Canadian vintner Conor van der Reest. The winery, Tasmania’s oldest, now produces dynamic cuvées, complete with art-themed labels on every bottle. the SuBurBAn lunch SpOt
Thirty minutes down the coast from Hobart is a gastro-temple of soaring metal and glass called the 56 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
coming chef David Moyle—a recent arrival from Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel, in Melbourne— enthusiastically embraces today’s foraging zeitgeist. His three- and five-course lunch menus are improvised daily, highlighting whatever is at its absolute peak. A meal might incorporate sea lettuce that Moyle himself plucked from the shoreline and wild garlic gathered from the side of the road. There’s pigeon—roasted whole on the bone—from one neighbor and tart Kentish Red cherries from the trees of another. 3435 Channel Hwy., Woodbridge; 61-3/6267-4088; lunch for two A$134. t+L tip Don’t bother renting a car. The restaurant can pick up guests in Hobart in a 75-foot catamaran, which gets you to Peppermint Bay in 50 minutes, just in time for lunch. the urBAn WIne BAr
In an airy loft space with exposed beams and scuffed brick, a kitchen brigade in black T-shirts works behind a long dining bar. Looking around, you could be in New York or London—but garagistes is pushing the envelope here in Hobart, which might explain why it’s been so steadily packed since its opening almost two years ago. A haunch of ham and other artisanal salumi hang in a showcase cooler; the international list of all-natural wines touts “wild reds” and “opulent whites”; and the modern wooden furniture is handmade by area
sweet envy owner and pastry chef alistair wise, left. Below: Crisp blood sausage and pickled egg from new sydney Hotel.
craftsmen. Chef Luke Burgess, a former food and travel photographer, prepares complex—and obsessively local—small plates. The miniature carrots, served skin-on with saffron cream and wild olives, are in the ground just hours before they show up on your plate. And the house-cured Wagyu brisket—which melts on the tongue—comes from cattle grass-fed on a small island off northwestern Tassie. “It’s not revolutionary. Chez Panisse did this stuff forty years ago,” Burgess says, a bit too modestly. But did they do it in a converted Volkswagen garage? 103 Murray St., Hobart; 613/6231-0558; dinner for two A$113. t+L tip If you can’t snag a seat, wait it out at Sidecar, a cozy annex bar that Burgess and his partners opened to help ease the nightly bottleneck at Garagistes.
Klaa Clements was just 25 when he came back from a cooking stint in Melbourne and took charge of the kitchen at new sydney Hotel. “He’d been drinking here since he was 18,” says Alistair Derham, the former barkeep who bought the working-class pub—which dates back to 1835—a few years ago. Today, the place is still crowded with regulars nursing pints of Guinness, but across from the beer signs and dinged license plates, a blackboard reveals a 21st-century menu. There’s Spanish-style blood sausage with red-onion aioli, crisp goat shoulder with chickpeas, pumpkin and watercress and lamb breast with almonds and mint. Sometimes you’ll find local game (opossum and wallaby) and, in winter, bowls of risotto with shaved Tasmanian truffles. 87 Bathurst St., Hobart; 61-3/6234-4516; dinner for two A$86. t+L tip Try one of the infused beers, such as the spiced porter with ginger and chiles. They’re made with the region’s first “hopinator,” an oddball brewing contraption. the SWeet ShOp
If there’s one vexing problem with Alistair Wise’s diminutive spot, sweet envy, it’s the “What do I order?” paralysis it inspires as you walk in the door. Before you can decide between the salted caramels, French nougat, chocolate bonbons and tuiles, a young salesgirl may dare you to take the “cupcake » travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 57
insider where to Go next
a Common ground, founded by former food critic matthew evans, left. Far left: eggs en cocotte from Pigeon Hole Café.
challenge,” eyeing one of the peanut-butter-frosted and jelly-filled monsters. It’s free if you devour it in 60 seconds or less. “This is so much more fun than fine dining,” says Wise, a Tasmanian native—and former pastry chef at Gordon Ramsay at the London, in New York—who returned home to raise a family (his three-year-old, Matilda, has the run of the store). He uses fresh fruit to concoct Willy Wonka–esque sorbet and ice cream flavors such as Guinness with blackberry and white beer with peach. 341 Elizabeth St., North Hobart; 61-3/62348805; dessert for two A$31. t+L tip Keep an eye out for Wise’s soon-to-launch ice cream truck, a 1964 Commer Karrier he restored himself. the cOmmISSArY
If there’s a poster boy for Tasmania’s new food pilgrims, Matthew Evans is certainly it. In 2005, he retired from his position as a restaurant critic for the Sydney Morning Herald and moved to Tasmania, determined to learn farming. His Green Acres–style experiment, chronicled in books and on the Australian reality show Gourmet Farmer, gave rise last year to Evans’s tiny shop a common ground, near Hobart’s waterfront. Every square inch of shelf 58 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
and floor space is devoted to made-in-Tasmania products—pickled walnuts, bespoke chocolate bars, truffled honey and even local saffron and olive oil. Handmade sausages and rillettes (some from pigs Evans reared himself ) sit alongside cheeses from Bruny Island Cheese Company, which is owned by Nick Haddow, a friend and partner in the store. Sample the Raw Milk C2, an intense variety of cheese that store manager Sheona McLetchie describes as a “French mountain cheese that made mad love to a cheddar.” Shop 3, Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart; 61-4/2937-0192; picnic provisions for two A$104. t+L tip The shop hosts long-table lunches in the countryside (from a paddock to a potato field), where diners are often joined by the very farmers who grew the food being served that day. the All-DAY cAfé
Breakfast at this adorable bolt-hole—stuffed with flea-market furniture, fresh-baked bread and pristine produce—means crusty sourdough, baked eggs with jamón serrano, spinach, and soused onions and a macchiato as expertly made as any in Rome. Although set on a quiet residential stretch in West Hobart, pigeon Hole café attracts a young, rakish crowd, who spend long hours here lost in thick books and laptops, fueled on caffeine and sweet treats. Jay Patey, a young transplant from Queensland who founded the café with the barista Emma Choraziak, pops out of the tiny kitchen to examine a neighbor’s stash of fruit—peaches, lemons and plums—which he might turn into jam or filling for the impossibly flaky crostate. 93 Goulburn St., West Hobart; 61-3/6236-9306; breakfast for two A$31. t+L tip Patey’s famous hazelnut meringues are only available on Saturdays. Arrive early—they sell out fast. ✚
SplaSh o ut o n yo ur n e x t fa m i ly h oli d ay Our resorts are a whole lot of fun, whether you enjoy thrilling water slides, huge free-form pools,��� meandering lazy rivers or simply sunbathing poolside, Centara has three grand oceanfront resorts each designed around a water park that leads directly to the beach. Choose to stay active with water sports and beach games or to unwind at our sumptuous spa while youngsters and teens enjoy Kids Club facilities. And when it’s time to dine, there is something for everyone. Welcome to our water-world. Discover more at www.centararesorts.com
CENTARA HOTELS & RESORTS 999/99 Rama 1, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand T : +66 (0) 2 101 1234 • F : +66 (0) 2 101 1235 • E : email@example.com •
© n e u sto c K / i sto c K p h oto.co m
Family Trips Made Fun
From Breezy BiKe rides to your teen’s First day ati tHe sPa, t+l oFFers 11 ideas For your next vacation.i pLus: Wesley Hsu on WHy We travel WitH Kidsi
travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 61
Whose Trip is it Anyway? GloBe-trottinG dad wesLey Hsu asKs| tHe diFFicult Question oF WHy We| travel WitH Kids—and iF We sHould| even try. His ansWers may surPrise you| 62 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
t typically happens to us on the beach. My wife and I will be trying for the umpteenth time to apply sunscreen to our fouryear-old’s face, while digging sand out of our one-year-old’s mouth—when we see them, the Invincible Travel Family, emerging from the brush, all smiles and no sweat: two fit parents and three uncomplaining children, the youngest of whom is a newborn who never cries, happily strapped in a chair mounted to his father’s alpine backpack. Inevitably, they are speaking French. My wife and I marvel hatefully at these super-people, before glancing at each other with the same unspoken question: How do they do it? How do they scale karst bluffs with less effort than it takes us to order lunch? Why do their lily-white children never get sunburned? Where do they get that fabulous backpack? We can’t even find our toddler a proper hat—not that he’d wear it. We think of ourselves as skilled travelers, and these people are shattering that self-image with their superior capabilities. It’s not supposed to be like this for us, Big Picture parents who fully endorse all the heartwarming aphorisms that gush about the benefits of a life of travel. Our children hold dual passports and I’m hoping that by the time they reach age 18, “higher education” will be no more than an app that can be downloaded directly to their iBrains so they can blow their college funds on a Gap Decade exploring the lonely corners of planet Earth. But when I boast that my fouryear-old son has already been to Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney and Bali, what I am really saying is that I have been to Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney and Bali and missed about 95 percent of what makes those places interesting, because I was traveling with kids. Small children are terrible travel partners. There, I said it. Infants are immobile and mostly asleep, and older Illustrated by Wasinee Chantakorn
kids can be managed or at least bribed. But children from age one to seven are basically loud, sociopathic parasites who regard foreign countries as scary, uncomfortable places where all their routines have been disrupted in the name of some kind of enrichment they cannot comprehend. And while those genuinely transcendent, meticulously Instagrammed moments of whalesighting/first snowfall/overpriced helicopter ride do provide some payoff, they rarely balance out the misery that made them possible. At least not for us. Maybe I’m just not such a Big Picture guy after all. So why do we do it? This is a question that we all tend to avoid, not just in travel but in regard to most of our decisions—the decision to have kids in the first place, but I digress — and yet answering the question of “why are we doing this?” not only firms up our sense of purpose, but in the case of travel, provides some direction for doing it better. Broadly speaking, the rationale for family travel falls under five categories:
BecAuSe We hAve nO chOIce.
Family reunions, holiday gatherings, pilgrimages to dying relatives. Fair enough. Your destination has already been chosen, so all you need are travel tips for how to do it efficiently. I have two: A) Google “travel children tips” B) Never try and get so much as a cookie past Australian airport customs. Those people are humorless.
exciting, but it’s a mistake to assume that your child automatically wants to leave home, even for activities that match his or her known interests. If your travel plans are really about teaching your children to travel, make sure they’re ready first. If they’re not, don’t despair—you may just need to step back and introduce the idea of travel as a concept in a context that fits a child’s perspective. If you’re planning your child’s first major vacation soon, instead of just telling them about it, why not rehearse it? Take “playcations” from one room of the house to another: all it takes is some child-sized luggage, dining chairs arranged in a row to be an “airplane,” and a sofa-cushion “hotel.” My son hates disruption but he loves airplanes, so we made a dozen Sunday trips on the express train to the airport and back before his first long flight. Staring at planes so fueled his desire to get on one that he didn’t mind getting up at 4 a.m. on our departure day.
fOr theIr enrIchment. Also known as “the excuse our dads used to justify camping trips in the freezing rain and grumpy road trips to lifeless historical monuments.” Raise your hand if you feel remotely enriched by any of that. On the flip side, you probably do remember a trip or two from childhood that provided a lasting image or, if you’re lucky, a lifechanging experience. The best way to predict what kind of experiences will inspire rather than bore your children is to totally remove yourself from the question first. Raising kids means waging a lifetime battle against our own prejudices, which are especially hard to resist when making travel plans. Trying to duplicate your favorite childhood vacation with your own kids is bound for failure, as is aiming above their heads with too-advanced cultural experiences. If I took my son to Venice, and then the Venetian Hotel in Vegas, he’d prefer the hotel because it is air-conditioned. On the other hand, he’s totally ready for the Phu Wian »
If I took my son to Venice, and then the Venetian Hotel in Vegas, he’d prefer the hotel because it is air-conditioned
tO teAch them A lOve Of trAvel frOm An eArlY Age.
Classic trap. Learning to travel is not like learning languages, where early immersion is crucial. In fact, children are psychologically wired to find comfort in routine. While for us, a vacation is a refreshing break from our repetitive lives, for most small children a vacation is a frightening departure from the only structure they have in a capricious universe. Yes, it can also be travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 63
BecAuSe mY SpOuSe AnD I lOve trAvelIng AnD refuSe tO WAIt 16 YeArS tO StArt DOIng SO AgAIn.
Welcome to the awkward territory of honesty. Of course you feel this way. For starters, you’re reading this magazine. Somewhere in a cabinet you’ve got albums of photos from the pre-child, pre-digital camera age of your youth, photos in which you’ve got more hair, less girth and a face that naively believes that this carry-on-bag-only, hike-to-MaccuPichu lifestyle is going to last forever. The best solution for you is to isolate what specific aspect of travel brought you the most reliable joy, and build child-friendly trips around it by sacrificing everything else. My wife and I love food above most other things, so our vacations aim for places with kitchens. We happily trade sightseeing for fresh markets and homemade breakfasts with local ingredients.
BecAuSe We’re cOmpetIng WIth Our frIenDS WhO hAve SImIlAr-AgeD chIlDren AnD trAvel hAppIlY tO trenDY lOcAtIOnS We hAven’t Been tO, AnD We refuSe tO cOnceDe thAt theIr lIveS Are even SlIghtlY mOre cOSmOpOlItAn, WellrOunDeD AnD envIABle thAn OurS. In the age of social media, it’s
no longer enough just to live a life. You now have to curate your lifestyle as a 24-hour media campaign of images, links and status updates to blast at your social graph in an unrelenting stream of evidence that your life is better than theirs. Don’t 64 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
think this is you? Take this simple test: The coolest couple you know returns from vacation and raves about the place they went. Are you now A) more likely to go there, because it’s been peer reviewed, or B) less likely to go because you want to go somewhere they haven’t been yet so you can have something original to rave about yourself? Be honest. If you answered B, you’re at high risk to make bad choices about family travel, because you’ll probably force your kids to hike a mountain just for the chance to Instagram a group photo from the top. You need to take a close look at the families you are competing with, and remind yourself that for every idyllic photo of themselves wandering Bali rice fields or rafting the Colorado River posted to Facebook, they are enduring a helltrial of red-eye economy class flights, sleepless crowded-hotelroom nights and screaming fits in restaurants. Not because they are bad families, but because they are real families, as real as yours, and like you, they just might be traveling for the wrong reasons. Unless, of course, the family is French. ✚
treAtS AnD retreAtS a young guest at Conrad Bali, left. above: Flotation Pool by Chen si. opposite, clockwise from top: at Conrad's Jiwa spa; at one&only le saint geran; at Four seasons Koh samui; the pool at one&only le saint geran; victoria spa, victoria Phan Thiet Beach resort & spa.
hile the usual manicures and pedicures have been cropping up on kidthemed spa menus since the conrad Bali kicked off the trend in 2004, the offerings are becoming more sophisticated, and spa treatments for young people are a legitimate way for families to spend quality luxury time together. For kids, it’s a rare chance to participate in a grown up activity. “some haven’t really had a massage before and either love it or hate it, and lots seem to enjoy having a mini facial, especially if mom is next to them having one too,” says Joyce samachetty, spa manager at the one&only le saint Geran, mauritius. and parents in turn may enjoy the chance to indulge their kids with a healthy activity, watching them learn about looking after themselves. “after experiencing a treatment in a spa an alarm goes off,” according to samchetty, “and the child will be conscious of the benefits of
f r o m to p : co u rt e sy o f s o f i t e l G ua n G z h o u ; co u rt e sy o f co n r a d B a l i
Dinosaur Museum in Khon Kaen, Thailand because he absolutely adores Bangkok’s dinosaur museum despite the fact that it’s the saddest, lowest-budget dinosaur museum in the world.
Treatments for Teens and Tots
c l o c K w i s e f r o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f c o n r a d B a l i ; o n e & o n ly l e s a i n t G e r a n ; c o u r t e s y o f f o u r s e a s o n s h o t e l s a n d r e s o r t s ; o n e & o n ly l e s a i n t G e r a n ; c o u r t e s y o f v i c t o r i a h o t e l p h a n t h i e t
noW more tHan ever, luxury sPas include tHeraPies For tHe WHole| Family, little ones included. catHarine nicoL investiGates some oPtions|
pampering their body.” Here are some luxury spas that offer treatments for the whole family. ➔ InDOneSIA the conrad bali accepts children ages five and up in Jiwa spa’s Balinese rooms, where grass roofs soar above massage beds covered with batik throws. their indulgence menu covers youngsters with children’s therapies (from us$27) including a 30-minute mini back massage, foot bath and mask, manicure or pedicure. they also cater to older children through teen spirit (150 minutes, us$152), which starts with a sea salt body scrub, followed by a splash around in a blue lagoon bath and an oxygenating facial. conradbali.com. ➔ thAIlAnD Kids will love walking through the greenery of the jungle along the wooden boardwalk to their spa villa at the four seasons koh samui. in the calming room surrounded by windows, French doors open to a terrace that lets in sounds of the jungle. the natural samui coconut oil massage (60
minutes, Bt3,000) uses local coconut oil, but most fun is the supple Body, Focused mind massage (90 minutes, Bt4,000), where kids get to mix their own massage oil before their back, shoulder and leg massage. fourseasons.com/kohsamui. ➔ chInA at the Hotel sofitel guangzhou sunrich’s so spa, turn to the magnifique Kids menu (for fiveto 12-year-olds) developed by ytsara using products adapted for young skin. angel Bliss (60 minutes, rmB480) is a gentle back-of-body massage, while mommy & me (60 minutes, rmB880) treats mom (or dad) with a red rice body scrub while the child is covered in a chocolate wrap. Both then share a fun bath before a soothing body massage. sofitel.com. ➔ mAurItIuS the spa at one&only Le saint geran offers treatments to guests and their six- to 16-year-olds. Walk through the hushed amberand-gold—hued interiors, overlooking the spa pool, into a cool treatment room or to the Garden
Pavilion surrounded by venetian screens. For older children there are several choices, such as the thirsty skin Hydrator Facial (50 minutes, rs1,500) or the unwind and nourish head, neck and shoulder massage (25 minutes, rs1,000). For little wannabe divas there’s the salon’s sunshine shimmer hair wash, treatment and head massage (20 minutes, rs1,000). oneandonly.com. ➔ vIetnAm set right on the beach, the dark wood bungalows with grass-fringed roofs at the boutique victoria phan thiet beach resort & spa’s victoria spa open up to the sound of the waves and the soft sea breeze. inside, the perfect treatment for kids after a day playing in the sun is sunkiss Baby (45 minutes, vnd625,000), a wrap packed with aloe vera and cooling cucumber, followed by a gentle massage. there’s also the manigirly and Pedilady (both vnd310,000), designed to make your teen feel like a grown-up, complete with pastel polish with a sparkly shine. victoriahotels-asia.com. ✚ travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 65
a streetside handicraft shop in Changkian. left: a young tourist at the shop.
Chiang Mai for Children six activities for tHe faMiLy in tHaiLand’s nortHern center. story and pHotograpHs by Marisa MarcHiteLLi
pet An elephAnt
Spend a day as a volunteer feeding, bathing and learning about the plight of elephants in Southeast Asia. Take your kids north to Mae Taeng, where the elephant nature park, a sprawling 70-hectare rescue and rehabilitation center skirted by a river, is home to 35 free-roaming elephants saved from abuse and street begging. Longer stays are also possible in their rustic A-frame bungalows boasting expansive views of the property. 66-5/327-2855; elephantnaturepark.org; donations starting from Bt2,500.
66 may 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
flY thrOugh the fOreSt
For children as young as five years old, the flight of the gibbon’s recently extended, 3.5 kilometer-long zipline course offers soaring 100-meter-high, 800-meter-long views above the jungle floor. As you glide between canopies or rappel down sides of centuries-old strangler fig trees, you might catch a glimpse of one of the original gibbons released at this reserve and its newborn baby. There’s also the option of an overnight homestay with local villagers. 66-5/3010660; treetopasia.com; starting at Bt3,299.
zOOm thrOugh tOWn
There’s no better way to convince your kids to take in the historic sights than a segway tour. After a 15-minute safety talk and test drive, glide through Chiang Mai’s old city center, cruising in and out of temples, monuments and markets. Choose from a one- or twohour tour with periodic stops for photo ops and coffee breaks. Ages 12 and up will enjoy the tour the most, and you must weigh at least 40 kilograms to properly balance on the device. 665/301-0660-3; segwaygibbon.com; starting at Bt1,399 per person. Photographed by Marisa Marchitelli
Be A fArm hAnD
Learn about green building, biodiversity and seed saving, hands on, at the panya project. This 4-hectare organic farm, set in the Mae Tang valley, offers permaculture design courses as well as the option to stay and experience sustainable ways of living. Daily activities include farm work every morning, followed by communally prepared lunches. You can also roam the expansive food forest, boasting some 40 species of fruit trees, to the “natural” sauna in a mud brick house. 66-87/181-8821; panyaproject.org; one-week minimum stay starts at Bt2,000.
cOOK YOur OWn lunch Mandarin oriental dhara dhevi
offers two half-day classes daily where you and your family can concoct 3-course central or northern Thai meals in a Lanna-style teak pavilion. The morning class even includes a market tour with the chef. The resort boasts a new organic farm on-site where you can handpick key ingredients. If you’re on the north side of town, four seasons resort has a cooking school set atop a hill, peering down into a valley filled with rice
fields. With daily regionally themed menus, you get an hour’s added bonus: the art of Thai vegetable carving. Oriental Culinary Academy 66-5/3888888; half-day courses starting at Bt5,500 per person. Cooking School at Four Seasons Resort 66-5/329-8181; starting at Bt6,000 per person.
clImB A mOuntAIn
Here’s a day-trip with a bit of everything: head to the doi suthep temple first thing in the morning to beat the sweltering heat and hordes of tourists. Pass hill-tribe coffee plantations on the slopes and sample a fresh local brew at any of the rustic shops along the road. At the serene doi pui campground, you can pitch a tent for the night or take a modest onekilometer hike through the pine forest. While there are many trails along this mountain range, they don’t connect with each other so driving up to this seemingly private spot is your best option. End the day at changkian village, an authentic Hmong community where you can shoot a crossbow and arrow for 10 baht or try your hand at grinding rice flour, hill tribe style. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Huay Kaew Road, Suthep; 66-5/ 321-0244. ✚
SplAShIng Out Clockwise from top: mae Tang's elephant nature Park; a cooking class at mandarin oriental dhara dhevi; Flight of the gibbon; touring temples by segway; the Panya Project organic farm.
travelandleisureasia.com | may 2012 67
family travel Tien river traffic. right, from above: a Cai lay nature walk; cycling in sinh Balo.
Squeals On Wheels
vietnam’s verdant rice BoWl, WitH its lanes, WaterWays and villaGes, oFFers stimulatinG enricHment For younG cyclists, Just Hours From saiGon. by duncan forgan
➔ fOr lIttle tOm SAWYerS at a gLance two days, one night; 7 kilometers; overnight stay in cai Be. trip HigHLigHts the first day involves a cycling trip, and the second day is mostly spent cruising the waterways on a luxury wooden sampan. Kids can meet local families, snare live fish the mekong delta way and climb trees in an orchard to grab
fresh guava or jackfruit. great for anyone over five. if they can handle the overnight stay, younger children can also participate as there’s very little actual cycling involved. exotissimo.com; US$168 per child aged 5-10, US$210 per adult.
➔ the full meKOng mOntY at a gLance three days, two nights;
average of 35 kilometers per day; overnight stays in cai Be and can tho. trip HigHLigHts the length of the trip might appear intimidating, but it allows for leisurely exploration of bucolic back roads. visit can tho’s famous floating market, a coconut candy factory and colorful Khmer temples. there’s a lot of cycling, but it is balanced by restorative periods aboard boats, while frequent stops at orchards and sleepy roadside drink stalls offer opportunities to pick fruit and enjoy icy glasses of freshly pressed nuoc mia (sugarcane juice). great for older teenagers who can handle the distances. sinhbalo.com; US$230 per child aged 5-10; US$285 per adult. ✚
c l o c K w i s e f r o m to p l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f B u f fa l o to u r s ; co u rt e sy o f e xot i ss i m o ; co u rt e sy o f s i n h B a lo
➔ A ShOrt, ShArp BlASt at a gLance one day; 40 kilometers. trip HigHLigHts the cycling starts one hour outside saigon, and the first encounter with the mekong at the city of my tho is awe-inspiring— the river is 1.5 kilometers wide and teeming with traffic as it meanders through town. youngsters will enjoy the ride in a horse-drawn cart to Ben truc orchard while a boat trip exploring four islets on the tien river (a mekong tributary) is another draw. great for teenagers. despite the short duration, there’s considerable biking involved, which may be too much for younger children. buffalotours.com; US$120 per child aged 5-12, US$160 per adult.
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TOTE LE MONDE Whether Youâ€™re looking to carrY in-Flight essentials or Flea market Finds, these roomY leather bags score major points For both Form and Function. StyLed By MiMi LoMBardo
From top: calf-skin leather color-blocked shopper, Bally; perforated italian-leather bag, MZ Wallace; embossed leather carryall, Louis Vuitton; leather top-stitched carryall, CH Carolina Herrera; pebbled leather bucket tote, HermĂ¨s; grained leather shoulder bag, Jennifer Haley.
Photographed by John Lawton
travelandleisure.com december travelandleisureasia.com | maY2011 201200 71
dressy and dancing Clockwise
from far left: Rolex Daytona; Joel Lai in his travel attire; headphones by Audio Technica; Ray Ban Wayfarers.
rougH-andready to go Commes des garçons Jacket i actually own it in two different colors. the fabric is very wrinkly, so it’s great for traveling because i don’t have to worry about how i toss or fold it.
rolex daytona i’m really rough with mine. it’s quite scratched, but i like it. dsquared travel Bag my bag contains my laptop, and all of my music is stored there. When i’m sitting on the plane, i prepare my music for the upcoming gig. nowadays, djs rarely spin vinyl so instead of sorting discs, we have to sort the tracks according to tempo and style and group them together. audio technica my favorite headphones are audio technica. they're for professional audio engineers. Sunglasses i bring sunglasses when i travel, classic ray bans that are reflective, like the glasses that i'm wearing.
72 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
style-savvy dJ and Club owner Joel lai sets the groove—and the rules—in one of asia’s hottest nightspots
n a city as transient as Hong Kong, clubs come and go in a matter of months. One notable exception has been Drop, a tucked-away, after-hours bar and club located beneath the Central Escalators, whose velvet rope—and cachet—have been intact for 12 years since its opening. In this retro cream-cushioned, wood-and-glass paneled space, coowner and DJ Joel Lai maintains a wellcrafted music policy that swerves from licks of deep house to tribal beats through to funky and tech house. As the former resident DJ of scenesetting Club 97, Lai began making a name for himself in post-handover
Hong Kong, often spinning alongside international DJs like Roger Sanchez, Sasha, and Dimitri from Paris. “So many clubs around the world these days follow the pack, sticking to commercial sounds,” he says. “But at Drop, we have always been about dance music with originality, the classics. If we feel like it, we aren’t averse to playing tracks by 2 Unlimited. This is what has kept us going all these years.” For now, his plans include developing the Drop franchise, and expanding his eight-year old noodle shop chain, Katong Laksa, which serves Singaporean noodles. He’s cooking on both ideas slowly.—m a r k l e a n
C o u r t e s y o f r o l e x ; C a r m e n C h a n ; C o u r t e s y o f a u d i o t e C h n i C a ; n a pat r av e e wat
dsquared Sneakers When i’m running around on my travels, sneakers are practical. dress shoes would be strange.
C l o C k w i s e f r o m to p l e f t : C o u r t e s y o f h ot e l i C o n ; C a r m e n C h a n ; © p i n d i yat h 1 0 0 / d r e a m s t i m e . C o m ; C a r m e n C h a n ( 2 )
Lai’S Hong Kong SHeK o & Big WaVe Bay “driving to shek o or big Wave bay is the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. there are no high rises, just lots of sunshine and fresh air.”
g green, HoteL iCon “i love the iC modern interiors, and it’s a great spot to have a casual, unpretentious meal. the spaghetti and the desserts here are particularly good.” Green, Hotel Icon; 17 Science Museum Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon; 852/34001100; hotel-icon.com.
tWg teaS “With its amazing selection of earl grey teas, this is where i go to unwind. it’s my latest refuge in central during busy afternoons. 10221023, 1/F Tower One, IFC Mall, 1 Harbour View St., Central; 852/2796-2828; twgtea.com.
ten JaKu & SuSHi Kuu “For a quick, tasty snack nothing beats freshly prepared sushi and sashimi. my favorite spots are ten jaku (3/F Circle Tower, 28 Tang Lung St., Causeway Bay; 852/2833-5337), and Sushi Kuu (1/F, Wellington Place, 2-8 Wellington Street, Central; 852/ 29710180) for the grilled tuna head.”
drop “music’s always my major consideration when it comes to clubbing. this means the tunes at drop.” Basement, On Lok Mansion, 39-43 Hollywood Rd., Central; 852/25439230; drophk.com
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THE HOUSE THAT BULGARI BUILT What started as a tinY shop in rome is noW a top italian export, With hotels and jeWels that continue to dazzle. By MiMi LoMBardo
tHe idoL elizabeth taylor said bulgari’s shop was a highlight of filming Cleopatra in rome—so much so that richard burton remarked: “the only word elizabeth knows in italian is bulgari.” From top: stopping by the flagship in 1967; wearing bulgari emerald-anddiamond earrings in 1959. tHe JeWeLry authentic antique greek and roman coins have been a hallmark since heir nicola bulgari first started mounting his collection on gold in the 1960’s.
tHe Bag snakeskin leather purse embellished with gold chains and replica coins.
tHe StarS maggie gyllenhaal in bulgari sapphires and diamonds at the international rome Film Festival.
tHe BaCKStory though the brand was originally launched in 1884, sotirio bulgari opened this shop on rome’s via dei condotti in 1905; it still stands today.
tHe aMenitieS bulgari hotels stock their own delicately scented green-tea bath products.
74 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
C lo C kw i s e f r o m to p l e f t: l e v i b r ow n ; Co u rt e sy o f b u lg a r i ( 7 )
tHe HoteLS the company’s third property, bulgari hotel & residences, london (bulgari hotels.com; rates not available at press time), opens june 12.
StrategieS travel smarter
asia’s Other Tourism Boom the best hospitals, surgery speCializations by Country, what to Consider before booking and a whole lot more on mediCal tourism in asia
C o u r t e s y o f p a r k way p a n ta i g r o u p
by naomi lindt
Though economies may be shrinking worldwide, the demand for health-care services abroad has never been stronger. Medical tourism is seeing millions of people around the globe cross borders to receive treatments ranging from simple annual physicals to lifesaving heart surgery. Official numbers are difficult to pin down, but estimates suggest that more than three million patients travel for health care every year, Illustrated by MCKIBILLO
creating a market worth some US$40 billion and growing by approximately 30 percent annually. And Asia, with its leading hospitals, clinics, doctors, technologies and affordable costs, is at the forefront of this trend. Dr. David Vequist is the founder and director of the Center for Medical Tourism Research in the U.S., the world’s first academic center to study the industry. “We’ve seen that people are willing to travel
farther for better quality, more intensive procedures and procedures that are not available locally, when famous clinicians or hospitals that have great reputations are linked to well-known tourist destinations,” he says. For shorter trips, the center’s research shows that the most common treatment is dental work, which accounts for at least a third of all medical trips around the world. Surgeries—orthopedic, cardiac, oncological—and cosmetic » travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 77
strategies Medical tourisM
world-class care Clockwise
T+l Tips for Medical Tourists 1. Check independent sources like medicaltourism.com and allmedicaltourism.com. 2. Consider a reputable medical tourism facilitator—a travel agency for medical tourists. You’ll pay more, but save time on planning. 3. Ask for a doctor’s CV and how many times he or she has performed a particular treatment. 4. Request a description of prices and services. Check for doctor’s fees, follow-up appointments, hospital stays, food, etc. Factor in follow-up care, potential travel restrictions and unexpected questions or emergencies. 5. Consider other travel costs, visa fees, travel insurance, hotels and even transportation.
78 May 2012 | travelandleisureasia.coM
procedures comprise another significant chunk of the market. According to international patient flows, Asia accounts for more than 70 percent of the total medical tourism market and more than 60 percent of revenue, with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and India leading the pack. In addition to the region’s reputation for excellent institutions, Western-trained specialists and investment in cutting-edge technologies, there’s also the hospitality aspect—hospitals in places like Singapore and Thailand often resemble the best hotels, with luxurious private rooms, white-gloved concierges and even Starbucks room service—and the tourism angle, which can play a key factor when deciding to go abroad. Why not toss in a week in Phuket if you’ve come so far to
begin with? What’s more, medical travelers to Asia can often choose from a host of supplemental restorative programs, with an abundance of spas, massage, Ayurvedic treatments and traditional Chinese medicine to help them get some muchneeded rest and relaxation after their other procedures. “Based on information that is currently available, Asia seems to be the largest market for inbound medical tourism, serving as a place for not only other Asians seeking better value in healthcare (this includes price, quality and access), but also Africans, Middle Easterners, Europeans and people from the Americas,” explains Dr. Vequist. “Asia will probably continue for some time to be a catalyst for increasing amounts of medical travel and tourism.” »
c l o c k w i s e f r o M t o p l e f t : c o u r t e s y o f M e d i c a l t o u r i s M a s s o c i at i o n ; c o u r t e s y o f p a r k way p a n ta i G r o u p ; c o u r t e s y o f M e d i c a l to u r i s M a s s o c i at i o n ; c o u r t e s y o f r a f f l e s h o s p i ta l ; c o u r e s y o f B u M r u n G r a d h o s p i ta l
from top left: The cafeteria at FV Hospital, Saigon; rehab facility at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore; David G. Vequist, Director of the Center for Medical Tourism Research; at Raffles Hospital, Singapore; Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok.
strategies mediCal tourism In 2010, Thailand welcomed as many as 1.2 million foreigners seeking medical treatments. Singapore, known for specialized treatments—cancer, stem cell therapies, cardiology—is considered to be the most sophisticated destination, with roughly 30 first-class medical institutions. High-profile political figures and celebs from the Asia and the Middle East have been treated in the city-state, which soon hopes to treat a million foreign patients a year. Thailand became known as the region’s first medicaltourism destination in the 1970’s, but has since expanded its expertise across all disciplines and markets itself as both a health and tourist destination. Malaysia is a go-to spot for cosmetic surgery, orthopedic expertise and health screenings. Procedures in Kuala Lumpur and Penang are approximately 30 percent cheaper than in Singapore, an advantage Malaysia intends to take advantage of. India, which offers the region’s least-expensive care, specializes in orthopedic and cardiac surgeries, boasts robust technological expertise and has the advantage of the region’s highest-level English language skills, while also offering significant choices in the way of surrogacy options. South Korea’s beloved K-Pop stars—many of whom have had procedures—have burnished that country’s cosmetic surgery industry, with fans traveling from places like Vietnam to look like their idols. And with its cutting-edge technologies—like Asia’s only proton beam therapy for cancer—Korea is becoming northeast Asia’s medical hub. The Korea Health Industry Development Institute predicts that 300,000 travelers will visit the country seeking medical treatment by 2015, up from 8,000 in 2007. So what’s driving this massive influx of medical tourists? Josef Woodman, CEO and founder of Patients Beyond Borders, a go-to source for planning medical trips, points out that more than 3.2 billion people will enter the middle class in the next three decades. “For Asia, the demand is driven primarily by the vast numbers of consumers entering the middle class and seeking access to quality health care,” he says. “This is particularly true in countries like Indonesia, China and Cambodia, which are experiencing rapid economic growth, yet their health-care infrastructure lags behind. Places like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan offer better care.” Meanwhile, many governments recognize the potential for lucrative growth in their health care and tourism industries. Dr. Vequist cites some examples: India offers medical tourism visas and tax-free agreements for investments in hospitals; the Philippines has economic zones for medical tourism; and Korea has a 24/7 hotline for medical tourists that have questions or complaints. Plus, research on new pharmaceuticals, technologies and procedures has grown as medical tourists arrive. 80 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
paTienT service From top: Tanglin suite at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore; a consultation at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok; in-patient care at Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok.
f r o m t o p : C o u r t e s y o f p a r k way p a n ta i g r o u p ; C o u r t e s y o f b u m r u n g r a d h o s p i ta l ; C o u r t e s y o f s a m i t i v e J
tHe top pLayerS
CHooSing your deStination
But where to go? According to Woodman, that depends on the procedure required, geographic convenience and travel and cultural preferences: a patient from mainland China is more likely to head to Taiwan or Singapore, while someone from Indonesia or the Middle East will likely prefer Malaysia. Japanese patients usually head to Korea. Jonathan Edelheid, CEO of the Medical Tourism Association, an independent group that educates patients on procedures available overseas, says, “Tourism plays a big role, and our surveys have shown that almost 90 percent of patients and their companions engage in tourism and see a country they otherwise would not have been able to see.” But before you book a root canal followed by a week in Penang, make sure the facility you’re considering is up to par. Check if it has received Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation, which demonstrates a commitment to safety and quality of patient care. JCI accredited institutions—more than 400 of them in 50 countries—have undergone intensive external evaluations and complied with international expectations of systems and processes necessary to support high quality and safe patient care. “When selecting a hospital or health care center, it is imperative that patients do intensive research both online and off-line,” says JCI’s Dr. Paul Chang, Managing Director, Asia Pacific. “The easiest way, of course, is to look if the hospital has received any international accreditations, such as JCI. Such hospitals should be able to satisfy the expectations from most international patients. Some hospitals may have also received accreditation from their national organizations but you should scrutinize their standards and criteria.” Research related statistics on your institution, such as its performance in national rankings and any affiliations it may have with esteemed universities or medical centers. Some hospitals will publish data on all their surgeries and procedures as well as the success and complications rates. With billions of more dollars expected to boost the industry, it’s an exciting time to be a medical tourist. Dr. Vequist predicts that, as consumers gain greater power, providers will be more transparent with their processes and outcomes. And, as new research on pharmaceuticals, medical devices/technologies and procedures are performed in developing economies, residents from more developed countries will increasingly travel abroad to test out the latest and greatest advances. Meanwhile, Woodman predicts that as medical packages become more popular (see sidebar on page 82), purchase of treatments will become more “consumerized”, with more companies tying medical offers into travel packages. In short, it seems those seeking the very best in health care, coupled with a trip of a lifetime, are in store for some very enticing journeys. ✚
A DIFFERENT KIND OF LUXURY
Winding through the jungle-covered hills, breathtaking rainforests and delightful villages of South-East Asia, the Eastern & Oriental Express is a luxury train experience unlike any other in the world. Lavishly appointed cabins, with impeccable detailing, have been designed to meet the highly individual tastes of the most discerning traveller; while refined touches, such as personal 24-hour steward service and dramatic open-air observation deck, all add to the feeling of glamour and style. Your romantic adventure continues with fine dining in our restaurant car, before you retire to the legendary piano bar to share enchanting tales of trishaw riding in Penang and cruising the Kwai Yai River – all unique memories to last a lifetime. Experience the golden age of travel aboard one of our Classic Journeys. Our opulent 2 and 3 night excursions between Singapore and Bangkok offer unforgettable adventures that will sustain a lifetime’s conversation For more information or to make a booking please contact our reservations centre directly on +65 6395 0678, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org quoting code ‘TL’. Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – Laos orient-express.com/e&o ‘Like’ us on Facebook and stay up to date www.facebook.com/easternorientalexpress
strategies mediCal tourism sUrgery cOsTs By cOUnTry Usa
lasiK (both eyes)
us$354 sourCe: mediCal tourism assoCiation
TOp desTinaTiOns FOr Medical TOUrisTs phuket, bangkok international dental center, bumrungrad international hospital, phuket international hospital, samitivej sukhumvit hospital
ranked by the World health organization as asia’s best health system and sixth best in the world, singapore is considered the region’s premier destination for medical tourism. cardiovascular, neurology and spine, fertility, orthopedic, stem-cell research, oncology
no. of JCi-accredited hospitals
national healthcare group, parkway group healthcare, raffles medical group, singapore health services
oasia hotel, st. regis singapore, the regent, intercontinental singapore, grand hyatt singapore
90-day medical visa, us$55
malaysia has made a push to attract medical tourists over the last few years and is now a lower-cost alternative to singapore, offering facilities at the level of thailand and india. most facilities are in k.l. with a few in penang.
cardiovascular, cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, health screenings
no. of JCi-accredited hospitals
gleneagles medical centres (kl, penang); nci cancer hospital; pantai medical centre; subang jaya medical centre
holiday villas hotels klcc (2013); somerset ampang kuala lumpur; grand dorsett subang hotel; g hotel penang
90 days free; can apply for 6 months
thailand’s medical services are respected across disciplines while its spa and tourism options are world-class. there are jci certified facilities around the country, but most are in bangkok.
cross disciplines, but known for dental, cosmetic and gender reassignment
no. of JCi-accredited hospitals
bangkok hospital group medical center, bangkok dental group, bangkok hospital
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ariyasomvilla, Furama xclusive sukhumvit, j.W. marriott bangkok, oakwood residence thonglor, le meridien phuket
60-day medical visa, us$40
sOUTH KOrea Background
there’s much more here than the 200-plus plastic surgery clinics, with an impressive array of state-of-the-art facilities. the country hosts asia’s only proton beam therapy center for treating cancer.
cardiovascular, neurology and spine, orthopedics, oncology, cosmetic procedures
no. of JCi-accredited hospitals
cheongshim international medical center; jaseng hospital of oriental medicine; severance hospital; Wooridul spine hospital
grand hilton seoul; park hyatt seoul; lotte hotel seoul
english.visitkorea.or.kr; medicalkorea.or.kr; khidi.or.kr
90-day visa, us$40
all doctors have a strong command of english, as do most people, making communication and travel easy in the country. medical tourists tend to head to bangalore, chennai, delhi and mumbai. procedures are often the most affordable in the region.
cardiovascular, neurology and spine, orthopedics, oncology, hip replacement and resurfacing
no. of JCi-accredited hospitals
artemis health institute, escorts heart institute and research centre, indraprastha apollo hospital, max super specialty hospital
Hotels catering to medical tourists
Fortune park lake city, mumbai; hotel centrum, new delhi; taj Fisherman's cove, chennai; leela palace bangalore
6 month medical visa, us$120
here are a thousand things to do at our island hideaway. Or nothing at all.
At The Racha, the island is your playground. For starters, the five-star Racha Dive Center provides personalized scuba instruction and trips to the Andaman Sea’s most beautiful sites. Energetic guests may choose to kayak, snorkel the island’s famed house reefs, learn Thai boxing, attend yoga class, ride ATVs or hike the island. For those preferring serenity, guests might wish to stroll the resort’s twenty-acre grounds, swim in three ozonated pools, peruse the library, or indulge in treatments at the famed Anumba Spa. Or simply watch the world go by. www.theracha.com
P R I VAT E
Cooking and batik painting classes are offered to guests who wish to take thai culture home with them.
A menber of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
85 luxurious villas • 3 ozonated pools (excluding private ones) • 3 signature dining establishments & Bar • world-acclaimed anumba spa • club del mar for chilling personalized sea and land experiences • to-die-for-views complimentary. tel: 66 76 355 455 fax: 66 76 355 637 email: email@example.com
the inS and outS of modern travel
Malaria wHere yOU MigHT nOT expecT iT
“If you want zero risk of malaria, there are some very nice places in Canada,” says Dr. Alan Magill, former president of the International Society of Travel Medicine. Beyond sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon Basin, there are many places where you might be surprised to encounter malaria, including much of Southeast Asia. Also worth noting: the antimalarial medication that your travel medicine specialist prescribes will depend on where you’re traveling. To find a specialist near you, visit istm.org. yOU MigHT Be aT greaTer risK
most travelers are aware of malaria’s dangers, but MarK orWoLL learns that you may be more susCeptible than you think. here, what you need to know to stay healthy away from home.
“Once you’re infected, you’re going to get sick if you don’t have immunity,” Magill says. But even with treatment, the disease affects some travelers more severely. “Children and people with suppressed immune systems, including pregnant women and those who are 60 and above, are also more susceptible. deeT can save yOUr liFe
Forget the anti-Deet bias of the 1990’s. Nothing is better at repelling mosquitoes than this chemical, which the CDC has deemed safe and effective for use by adults. Also consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin repellent. TiMe is OF THe essence
David Riordan had been an expedition leader for six years before a bout with malaria in West Africa almost killed him. “My brain felt as if it would explode. My elbows hurt, my knees, my hips. It was painful even to sit up,” he recalls. Riordan’s near-fatal mistake? He stopped taking his malaria medicine for a brief time, to avoid building up a tolerance. “Very bad idea,” he says. Fortunately, thanks to prompt medical care, he recovered. Malaria kills more than a million people every year. Presidents and popes—and even George Clooney— have all suffered from its debilitating effects. Though most travelers know to take antimalarial medication in high-risk zones, there’s more to preventing the disease than just swallowing a pill. 84 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
Riordan nearly died despite getting medical help quickly. I asked Dr. Magill what would happen if I got the disease and sweated it out for 10 days before coming to see him. “You’d be dead,” he said succinctly. Waiting even a few days is extraordinarily dangerous. For anyone venturing to a high-risk destination, the threat of malaria is very real indeed. “Of all the things that one would do to prepare for travel,” Magill says, “avoiding malaria should be at the top of the list.” ✚
get tHe guide For more ideas and recommendations on hoW to plan Your next trip in southeast asia, please visit travelandleisureasia.com
Illustration by Wasinee Chantakorn
travel topicS in depth, vivid viSualS and more
the most popular drink on earth (besides Water) is a WindoW into disparate cultures, From japan to morocco to england. deep inside china, BruCe SCHoenFeLd Finds the source oF his beloved oolong, and shoWs us hoW to taste the World in a cup. pHotograpHed By pHiLipp engeLHorn
Accessories at Xi Qiu Ming Cha; terraced slopes in China, above.
the travelerâ€™s guide to tea travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 87
Clockwise from top left: Along the Nine Bends River, in Wuyishan; Samovar’s spread of teas and desserts; tea utensils at Yan Shang Tea Company’s teahouse, in Wuyishan; a sampling of the 30 or so varieties of tea on offer at Samovar Tea Lounge, in San Francisco.
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tea world, the only grower to be awarded a citation by the government for innovation in a traditional art. I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to learn from him, or even how we’d communicate. Nevertheless, I booked a ticket that night.
ea is the most frequently consumed beverage around the world other than water. It’s also a cultural icon with innumerable local variations. There are postprandial mint teas poured with a flourish in North Africa, milky concoctions served with scones and jam on British afternoons, energizing matés brewed in the Andes, sweet teas sipped at lunches in Savannah, Georgia. In the Middle East, serving tea to a stranger is a gesture of hospitality. In Japan, it has a formal ceremony. And the aroma of a tea can bring back a memory as surely as a photograph. Not long ago in most American households, tea carried about the same importance as mayonnaise: everyone kept some around, but rarely gave it a thought. The idea of visiting a shop specializing in tea, let alone making a pilgrimage to the source of a particular variety, would have seemed bizarre. But like beer, coffee and chocolate before it, tea has leapfrogged from near-commodity status to something close to a fetish. There’s loose tea, tea bags made of silk and shaped like pyramids, teas that look like they came off the set of Indiana Jones. Tearooms and boutiques have sprung up. Specialty websites flourish, selling esoteric
C l o C k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t : a l e x fa r n u m ( 2 ) ; p h i l i p p e n g e l h o r n ; s a m o va r
’m a tea obsessive. I carry bags of loose tea on business trips and judge restaurants by the breadth of their selection. I know the names of specific gardens in Darjeeling, India, and age cakes of Puerh in my wine cellar. Still, I never thought I’d be tramping through rows of Camellia sinensis atop a mountain in southeastern China, beside one of the world’s master tea growers. It took me two flights from Hong Kong, and two days of waiting for Liu Guo Ying to lead me on a 90-minutelong hike—up a slope that would be steep to a mountain goat—to tea gardens that few outsiders have ever seen. I was there in search of the terroir of my favorite tea, just as I’ve flown around the world to see vineyards and meet winemakers so I can better understand my favorite wines. The journey started at a tearoom in a strip mall in Tucson, Arizona, where I tasted a da hong pao, a type of oolong, that altered my tea-drinking life. In the same way that Montrachet is a particular kind of Burgundy from a specific vineyard in France, da hong pao comes from a single source: the stony slopes of Wuyi Mountain. It’s rare, expensive, and frequently counterfeited, but this one was authentic. It had the sweet balsamic flavors of grilled peach. And it kept getting better—richer and rounder with every cup. By the time I’d finished the pot, I’d formulated a mission. I’d fly to China to meet Liu, the man who, I was told, had grown this extraordinary tea. Liu is a rock star in the Chinese
to p l e f t: Co u rt e sy o f s e v e n C u p s . b ot to m m i d d l e : s Cot t s u C h m a n
varieties to a coterie of devotees. A flurry of new brands has appeared on grocery shelves, bearing designations such as organic, fair-trade and single-source. From Celestial Seasonings hippie, tea has gone Williamsburg hipster. Teas fall into one of two categories. Many are blended with other ingredients, such as orange blossoms or sakura cherry petals. Others are pure Camellia sinensis; as with wine, their characteristics are largely determined by where and how they’re grown, not what they’re combined with. The ones I like best, like da hong pao, taste as if the place they’re from is the only place they could ever be from. Until recently, the millennia-old Chinese tea industry was tightly shuttered, even more than the country as a whole. Tea regions were mostly closed to foreigners. Lately, though, an outward-looking China has been marketing its cultural patrimony, and tourism to tea-growing areas is encouraged. So when I arrived in Wuyishan, a city of 224,000, for the sole purpose of drinking tea, Liu understood. He met me at the airport, then drove a long way up a narrow road to a restaurant that resembled a south Texas barbecue shack. There were rickety wooden sheds connected by planks in the overgrown grass, not your usual setting for a Rabelaisian feast. But that’s what we were served. We had venison with celery root, tiny river shrimp stir-fried with chives, duck soup with ginger, bowls of shimmering noodles. The only thing missing was tea. I kept expecting to see a pot materialize, as at every Chinese restaurant back home,
but it never did. Finally, I asked if it was possible to have some oolong, since that’s why I’d come so far. Liu’s daughter, who was serving as my interpreter, didn’t even inquire. In Wuyishan, tea is not served after meals at restaurants but at special teahouses, and we were miles down a dark road from nowhere. “You’ll have some tomorrow,” she said with a smile. “Everything will be okay.” I went back to my hotel room and dreamed of tea.
uyishan is framed by a range of mountainous spikes and spires. Vistas are breathtakingly beautiful, not in the misty, water-colored way that I expected from China, but rugged, dramatic, all angles and no curves. Walking its streets, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could have been in Burgundy or Chianti, with tea in place of wine. There were tea shops on every block, sometimes four or five in a row. Large metal teapots sat atop buildings, announcing them as tea factories. Even though I didn’t speak the language and couldn’t grasp the customs, I felt like I fit in perfectly. At home, in the world of coffee drinkers, I constantly have to explain my intense interest in tea, but in Wuyishan it seemed like the entire population could tell a Pu-erh from a Lapsang souchong at a glance. Even the teas at my hotel’s ample breakfast buffet were distinctive. Outside my window, Wuyi Mountain looked like a pile of rocks balanced by a child. When I looked up, I expected »
a glOBal drinK
Clockwise from top left: A porcelain cup for sale at Seven Cups, in Tucson, Arizona; da hong pao leaves at Yan Shang; the Zhi Zhi An nunnery, in Wuyi Park; Yan Shang Tea Company’s teahouse; steeping chamomile tea at the Park Hyatt Washington, D.C.; a worker on a tea plantation in Wuyishan.
journal drink Four teaS to Buy noW robert rex-Waller, the tea sommelier at the park Hyatt Washington, d.C., offers his picks from around the world.
CHINA 1978 Vintage pu-erH One of few teas sold by vintage, it “still has the flavors that the original tea masters intended.” US$35 for 5 grams; rareteacellar.com.
to see it tumbling down. I wanted to hike to Liu’s gardens, but Liu is more than just a tea VIP. He’s a hardworking farmer, a businessman. He had things to do. Instead, a young tea master named Wu Jianming proposed a drive to Tongmu Village, an hour away. Black tea was invented there during the Ming dynasty, in the 1600’s, but these days Tongmu is known best for Lapsang souchong, which is produced in triple-decked wooden factories. Wet branches are set afire at the bottom and smoke wafts up to leaves drying on a slatted floor above. The tea has a reputation as a powerhouse, but Wu’s are rendered as delicately as possible. When I sipped one and rolled the flavors around, it had the finesse of a violin concerto. “My generation was the first that has traveled extensively inside China,” said Wu, who is 31. Visiting Yunnan and Anxi, he learned techniques for firing and processing tea that his predecessors would only have heard about, and brought them home. We sat beside a golden statue of Buddha in his office across from the factory and sipped one remarkable tea after another, including his jin jun mei. Made from the buds of the plants rather than the leaves, it has only existed since 2007 and is nearly impossible to get outside of China. It tasted of chocolate and plums and roses.
inally Liu arrived at my hotel. We drove to Wuyi Mountain, then walked under a ceremonial arch. We passed a nunnery and a golden temple glistening in the sunshine. Then we started up the hill. We passed painstakingly maintained tea gardens with leaves and small white flowers, but authentic da hong pao, Liu explained, comes from the top of the mountain. He pointed in a direction that seemed almost straight upward. We proceeded higher, up steep paths, staircases cut into the rock, even the sheer side of a boulder. I was panting,
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TAIWAN 2010 dragon’S Fog The “perfect example of a Taiwanese oolong,” bright green and milder than the Wuyishan version. US$20 for 25 grams; sevencups.com.
JAPAN Genmai Cha This green tea with popped rice kernels and roasted barley is “exquisitely balanced.” US$22 for 99 grams; tealeaves.com.
but Liu, a heavy smoker, flitted like a gazelle. We arrived at the top and turned left along the crest, then emerged into a clearing. Liu spread his arms. “Da hong pao,” he announced. It looked unprepossessing, just a field of shrubs in stony soil, but I knew that somehow it was unique in the world. I quizzed Liu about hours of sunlight, about wind exposure. He listened patiently, but my line of inquiry baffled him. It was the mindset of a Westerner, a wine-drinker, a factseeker. Da hong pao tastes the way it does, he said, because it’s da hong pao. To him that was explanation enough. That afternoon we sat at a hand-carved tea table in his studio on Baihwa Road and drank cup after cup. I recognized it as the tea I’d had in Tucson, but fresher and brighter, with more smoke, more notes of grilled peaches, more power. It was da hong pao transmitted in high definition. I’ve rarely drunk anything better. Which leads me to the last thing I learned in Wuyishan. Unlike wine, which is a finished product in the bottle, the taste of tea depends on the skill of who’s brewing it. The temperature of the water, the ratio of water to tea, the length of time that the tea is infused—all have an enormous impact on what ends up in the cup. I’ve known for years that preparing tea incorrectly—steeping a delicate green in scalding water, for example—can greatly detract from my enjoyment of it. But I never realized that the way you brew a tea can actually make it better. Liu is not only a master tea producer but a skilled tea maker, an art in itself. Though I might have Liu’s tea again, I’d probably never have it like this. With each infusion, it became nuttier, woodsier, more interesting. When I stood up, I felt as addled as if I’d been slugging whiskey, yet my mind had a remarkable clarity. It was a sensation unlike any I’d experienced. I asked if that was a feature of da hong pao and Liu grinned. “That,” he said, “is tea.” ✚
lars klove (4)
INDIA CtC aSSaM Harney & Sons “really understands Indian tea,” Rex-Waller says; this Assam has a rich amber color and chocolate notes. From US$4.50 for 114 grams.; harney.com.
journal adventure An aerial view over Ulu Temburong National Park.
f you read the Borneo Bulletin, “The Independent Newspaper in Brunei Darussalam,” you’ll be forgiven for assuming that Brunei is a quiet place. On the day that I arrive in the tiny sultanate, the news includes the wedding of Noty Boy, who might be the world’s most cherubiclooking “Hip Hop and R&B artiste.” There is a story about a campaign to issue police warnings at the mall to any Muslim men caught shopping instead of praying on Friday and, highlighted on the front page below the fold, a
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“Mammoth 100KG Kelupis Unveiled At Food Festival.” I have no idea what a kelupis is, but it sounds exciting, like something that belongs in a natural history museum. The photo shows a two-meter-long object wrapped in leaves. Is it a big-game fish? It turns out to be a pile of glutinous rice. During my stay in Brunei, I learn three things about my preconceived notion that the “Abode of Peace” is a quiet place: 1) It’s true about Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital where three-fourths of Brunei’s 400,000 residents live, 2) the locals like it that way and 3) in another, important way it
borneo’s tiny sultanate may seem like a sedate plaCe, but in ulu temburong national park, riCHard HerMeS disCovers a forest full of riotous noise and abundant life Just a short trip from the Capital
f r o m to p : Co u rt e sy o f b r u n e i to u r i s m ; © s m e l l m e / d r e a m st i m e .Co m ; Ja n s h i m ; Co u rt e sy o f b r u n e i to u r i s m
is absolutely not true. Out in the wide swaths of primary rainforest that cover 76 percent of this country, including the Ulu Temburong National Park, where I set out on a three-day trek to the top of a densely forested hill called Bukit Lutut, it is anything but quiet. With more than 3,600 species of plants supporting nearly 500 species of birds and thousands of species of insects—including many thousands that are as-yet unidentified—it is a riot of tropical sound: raucous in its way, and teeming with life. The irony of Brunei is that the survival of all that life was made possible by petroleum. By the time the British protectorate struck oil in 1929 it had lost so much land to its Malaysian neighbors that it was on the verge of extinction. Now it is one of the world’s richest countries per capita, and its oil wealth has allowed it to leave undisturbed some of the best, most accessible rainforest in the world. One of the most striking things about Bandar Seri Begawan is just how close nature comes to the city. The 45-minute commuter boat ride to Temburong district—an exclave separated from the
jUngle naTiOn From top:
The Canopy Walkway at Ulu Temburong National Park; a male proboscis monkey; the giant forest ant; looking for monkeys in the mangroves.
emerging into an ocean estuary with mountains in the distance, i think: i would fly to Brunei just to take this boat ride rest of Brunei by Sarawak’s annexation of Limbang in 1890— runs almost hourly, and for some people it is routine. Yet I find it exhilarating that in less than two minutes after leaving the main pier and passing Kampong Ayer, the “Water Village” of houses on stilts, we are immersed in a dense mangrove forest, gliding smoothly over calm water at high speed. We bank at such a sharp angle that I expect my window on the side of the boat to touch the water. Emerging into an ocean estuary with mountains in the distance, I think: I would fly to Brunei just to take this boat ride. But it is only a preamble of course, and in a matter of minutes from landing in Bangar we arrive at the Iban village of Sumbiling Lama where an outfit called Borneo Guide has partnered with the locals to provide basic accommodation » travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 93
journal adventure By THe waTer From far left: A temuai, a traditional long boat; Kampong Ayer under Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan; part of the Canopy Walkway.
in what they call an “Eco Village.” This is one of Brunei’s key advantages: whereas deforestation in Borneo has ensured that almost all other primary forests are far from an urban center, in Brunei it’s like going out to the backyard. My guides—two villagers, Apai and Mangat, and Gary, a “city boy” from B.S.B.—and I don on our hiking shoes, which for the locals are thin low-cut plastic slip-ons whose chief virtue, as far as I can tell, is that they can’t get soaked. Which is important, I realize, as my guides navigate the Motong River en route to the starting point of our trek. Periodically they jump out of our bright green temuai, or long boat, to push it through shallow waters. For a moment when I plunge my hiking shoes into the brisk water to run alongside them, I think that I, too, should have worn rubber booties, but the truth is that the river feels good, as does the camaraderie of navigating the boat, a team effort with one man standing crouched on the bow eyeing the water levels, another behind him pushing off with a long stick and a third in the rear working the motor. Vegetation hugs the river, giant ferns and the flat oval leaves of the simpor tree letting in patches of smoky light. It feels almost cinematic. According to Apai, Bukit Lutut, or “Knee Hill,” is so named because it used to be so steep that it forced climbers to their knees. Fortunately for me, centuries have changed the shape of the mountain, so Bukit Lutut no longer requires genuflection to reach its summit of 400 meters above sea level, though there are parts of the trail that approach 90 degrees. We hike until we are soaked with sweat from head to toe, including Apai, who at 65 seems 94 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
tireless despite (or perhaps because of ) his cigarettes and two-liter bottle of soda he uses as an energy drink. The hike is a trial, but not unreasonably so. Because of the palpable heat, the loamy smell of the forest floor and that pulsing wall of forest sound, it is a full-throttle sensory experience. Apai distinguished himself as a young jungle scout for an elite company of British commandos and Nepalese Gurkhas during the Brunei Rebellion in 1962, part of the IndonesiaMalaysia confrontation. Still muscular, he wears an armygreen T-shirt and camouflage shorts and hat. Halfway up the mountain on our first day, he stops at a place where, he points out, there are none of the monumentally tall trees found on the rest of the mountain. There was fierce fighting at this spot, he tells me, miming ear-splitting noise and thunderous explosions. The Indonesians shelled the ridge, he says, but his team held their ground. Apai was awarded for his service. In my proudest moment of the trip, Apai stops and asks what I do for a living. When I say that I am an editor, he looks perplexed. “He’s tough,” he says to Gary, lopping off a branch with his machete. “He should be in the army.” But I am clearly not tough. Dizzy from exertion, I can feel blood pumping in my ears, and it seems like the ambient sounds of the forest are not only getting louder, but are pulsing. Some of the sounds are like a cackle, others an alarm or siren, and it is hard to believe they come from
Jan shim (3)
vegetation hugs the river, giant ferns letting in patches of smoky light. it feels almost cinematic
cicadas, as Apai assures me. There’s a moment late in the afternoon when the cicadas get so loud and sharp at a certain pitch that I have the impulse to cover my ears, the way I might if I were standing by Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok and an ambulance added its wail to the traffic.
’m not one to get excited by lists, and I never understood what felt like the taxonomy cults of diving and birding, but here I have to mention what we encounter in the forest. There are proboscis monkeys in mangroves, the lone male, his bulbous nose hanging like a fuzzy fruit, chivalrously waiting by the water until his harem of females and their children settle for the night into the crooks of high branches, safe from the saltwater crocodiles below. Macaques romp by the river. Gibbons launch themselves through the air between branches that shake like my acrophobic heart in its chest, just watching them. We see hornbills, both rhinoceros and black, gliding heavily and honking their megaphone calls; a bright green vine snake frozen at eye level on the edge of the trail; forest ants as big as your thumb; a giant black millipede. There are grasshoppers shimmering with the reflective spectrum of an oil slick; skin-nibbling “spa” fish under a waterfall; small lizards with wings; ubiquitous wild boar tracks; porcupine dens; and mushrooms, some covered with a mound of clear gel and others glowing in the dark. The first morning on Bukit Lutut, in a state of half-sleep, I dream of a cacophony of song. I am encircled by a crowd of colorful birds in a clearing, all perched on nearby branches in plain sight, as in some sort of natural theater-inthe-round. The progression of noise seems to be conducted in waves, like movements of a symphony. I wake to find that, though the vision is fantastical, the symphony is real. Back at Sumbiling Lama the next evening, sunk into a hammock, I watch a flock of needletail swifts maneuver over the river like tiny F-16s, a pitter-patter as they dip into
Co u rt e sy o f b r u n e i to u r i s m ( 2 )
guide to uLu teMBurong getting tHere speed boats to bangar (b$6) leave b.s.b. from kianggeh jetty almost every hour. most arrange the trip through a tour operator. Borneo guide owner leslie chang offers customized tours and excellent service, though accommodation is basic. 204, 1st Floor, kiaw lian building, jln. pemancha, bandar seri begawan; 673/242-6923; borneoguide.com. three day/two night packages from b$275.
Stay Sumbiling eco Village contact Borneo guide; two day packages from b$185 per person. ulu ulu national park resort the most comfortable option in the park. 673/244-1791; uluuluresort. com; three-day packages from b$780 for two. do Canopy Walkway twelve hundred steps lead to a series of towers that provide a stunning view over the national park.
the water at high speed, trying to catch their dinner. “You’ve got to see this,” I say to two young Australians who are also in the village. But Gary is frying strips of tapioca that we picked by the riverbank and the Aussies are enjoying them hot with sweet chili sauce, so I leave them to it. The swifts are so startlingly agile and gregarious in their movements that they look like they are toying with whatever they are chasing in the water; skimming the surface as much for the pleasure of flight as the need for food. I settle back into my hammock, pretending I will read, but every time I hear a splash on the river like the chime of a bell I look up to watch them darting again. As the light wanes their number decreases until there are just two of them making their music in the near-night. Tomorrow I’ll be heading back to the sedate city, but these two swifts don’t want the party to end. For as long as that’s true, I’m happy to listen. ✚
Rhinocerous hornbill, right. Below: In a temuai on the Temburong River.
journal obsessions A steaming bowl of Phò Tâù Bay’s beef pho, right. Left: Bowls of pho at a food stall.
saigon on the bayou on the outskirts of new orleans, tHoMaS BeLLer finds a thriving vietnamese-ameriCan Community, flawless pho—and unCovers emeril’s seCret obsession. pHotograpHed By CedriC angeLeS
ew Orleans is a foodie town. It is filled with famous restaurants doing the traditional dishes they have been doing for a hundred years, and with restaurants whose chefs have become brand names by spinning variations on those traditions—Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, John Besh and Emeril Lagasse, among others. The Takacs family and their restaurant, Phò Tâù Bay, are not names that spring to mind, but they rank as one of my big culinary discoveries since I moved to the city in 2008. I had been vaguely aware of a community of Vietnamese shrimpers working the Gulf, but it was a surprise to find so much authentic, high-quality Vietnamese food here, though it does make sense—both cuisines bear a French influence and have signature dishes built around the baguette: the bánh mì and the po’boy. According to Kathleen Carlin, a colleague of mine at Tulane who has written about the community for decades, New Orleans has a significant Vietnamese-American population, like Orange County, California; Arlington, Virginia; and Houston. But it is, compared with those places,
96 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
the least assimilated, the most self-contained. This is due, in part, to the fact that when large numbers of Vietnamese started arriving in the city in 1975, the economy was hot and the housing market tight. They ended up living in Section 8 housing way outside the city center, in Versailles, and later in Gretna, and other Westbank as well as New Orleans East communities. “Versailles used to be the last thing you passed before you were in the swamps on the way to Mississippi,” Carlin told me. “Just in back of beyond.”
y introduction to Asian food took place in the ceremonial palaces of New York’s Upper West Side circa the early 1970’s. My family often went to a place on 87th Street and Broadway where the waiters wore yellow waistcoats and bow ties; dinner arrived like a small city of silver domes arrayed on a huge tray. My childhood pleasure in those gleaming snow peas nestled amid pieces of beef, and in the small bowls of mustard and sweet sauce into which one dipped fried noodles before the meal had a significance beyond the meal itself. They were the start of my love of Asian food. Over the years each variation rolled into America like a soloist having a moment
BacK OF BeyOnd From left: A bandstand at
the Tet Festival, in Versailles, New Orleans East; Phò Tâù Bay’s owners, Karl and Tuyet Takacs; bánh mì at the Tet Festival.
i n s e t: l a r s k lov e
onstage—Japanese, Thai, Korean and, perhaps my favorite, Vietnamese, which I didn’t eat for the first time until I traveled in Vietnam in the mid 1990’s. In Ho Chi Minh City I had been dazzled by the markets. They were opulent, chaotic, fulsome with heaping dragon fruit and lychee, the colors so delightful, the crowds so distressing. I loved the restaurants there also, some of them hardly more than shacks with sidewalk tables. In the train station I had my first taste of bánh mì; I was skeptical before I was won over, a process echoed when I first regarded the po’boy—it was as if Blimpie had made me suspicious of all baguette-based sandwiches. I traveled up the coast, the meals always an occasion. In Bo Dái I had a crab dish that I can still practically taste. But it was in Hoi An, a small port town near Danang, that I became a confirmed devotee of Vietnamese cuisine. Hoi An is built around water. You go most places by boat. It felt like a Vietnamese Venice. My first night, there was no electricity. The darkness was interrupted by candles. Perhaps it was just a function of being deprived of sight that my senses of taste and smell were heightened, but that night I remember thinking that Vietnamese food was the most delicious in the world.
t was at Phò Tâù Bay in Gretna that I had the idea it would be fun to learn to cook Vietnamese food. Its essence is so in line with our current preoccupations, chief among them freshness, lightness and locally grown ingredients. We go there for dinner on Wednesdays with
friends who also have little kids. It’s a dramatic ride. You fly across the Mississippi at sunset, shoot along the elevated highway, and exit into the tidy, tawdry world of strip malls and ranch houses that makes up New Orleans’s Westbank. Phò Tâù Bay’s main attraction is the food, of course, but it helps that it is run by a family who always makes our menagerie feel welcome. We order goi ga and goi tom (chicken and shrimp salads), spring rolls, pho. The table is crowded with bowls erupting with herbs, sprouts, lime. One day, walking with my daughter through the restaurant, I passed the door to the kitchen. It was open. “Look at that,” I said. She ran back to the table. I stayed to peer at the various pots and pans, the tubs of fresh produce that make every Vietnamese table into a kind of garden. I peered around looking for the nuoc mam, which is made from fermented fish. There was a huge vat, almost a cauldron, sitting taSte oF in the corner: surely it was where VietnaM the soup stock for the pho had been red boat nuoc mam, a first-press concocted. How do they do it? I fish sauce from wondered. the vietnamese It felt like I was peeking at a island of phu Quoc, is made magician backstage. Like so many from salted black other men in America, it seems, I anchovies and slow-aged in have discovered cooking and also tropical-wood the transporting effects of culinary barrels using a adventure; I imagine myself a centuries-old artisanal process. culinary explorer. But there is a fine redboatfishsauce. line between exploring and com; from US$10. trespassing. Someone in the » travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 97
journal obsessions a cUlinary advenTUre From left: Fruit at the Versailles farmers’ market; nightfall outside Phò Tâù Bay, in Gretna; serving up fried bananas at the Tet Festival.
kitchen looked up and saw me. He walked over to the door wearing an expression that I chose to interpret as a polite smile, maybe even a welcoming one, and closed it in my face. I went up front and asked Karl Takacs Jr., the ravenhaired man behind the register, if I could observe the doings in the kitchen. Karl Jr. is in charge of building up the daily pot of pho for which the place is famous. He is the third generation in his family to work at Phò Tâù Bay. And he is always very friendly. So I was surprised when he shook his head and said, “Sorry, can’t do that.” “Why not?” I said. “It’s nothing personal. We’ve got a lot of people asking.” “Who else is asking?” “Emeril,” he said. “He’s in here all the time.”
hose guys are not going to give you their secrets!” Emeril Lagasse tells me. “There’s something in that pot, or there’s something in that vermicelli salad. There is something they’re not telling you. I have been trying to wrap my brain around it for at least ten years!” It was the Groucho principle at work—Phò Tâù Bay’s kitchen is the club that will not have us. Not only do we like the food, but it also seemed clear, as we spoke, that we both kind of like the mystery of being shut out of its creation. Emeril is fixated on the gigantic pot of pho at Phò Tâù Bay. He orders it every time. “When you get that taste, the depth, what Karl Sr. and Karl Jr. are doing.... I have tried to get it out of them. I have tried to duplicate it. Is it 98 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
not only do we like the food, but we both like the mystery of being shut out of its creation
cinnamon? The way they roast the cardamom?” (It’s neither.) “And it’s a hole-in-the-wall, as you know. There is nothing fancy in this joint! It confuses people.” Phò Tâù Bay’s story, I discover from Emeril and then from the Takacs themselves, is as intricate and shrouded as its food. They once had five restaurants in New Orleans, but after Katrina they were reduced to the original location. This was not the family’s first setback, however. Just as the Gulf’s climate echoes that of Vietnam, so the Katrina debacle echoed earlier catastrophes. Surviving one disaster, it turns out, can be helpful when you are faced with another. Karl Takacs Sr. is tall, broad-shouldered and moves around the Phò Tâù Bay kitchen with a bit of a limp. He shipped out to Vietnam as a GI, where he fell in love twice—first with pho and then with Tuyet, the daughter of the owner of Phò Tâù Bay, his preferred spot in Saigon. He married Tuyet. But then it all crashed and burned with the fall of Saigon. The family moved to the U.S. and Tuyet’s father and sister taught Karl how to cook. The restaurant’s next iteration was a no-frills version selling pho in Gretna in 1982. So began the start of another mini-empire, which »
vieTnaMese ingredienTs Clockwise from top left: A local residence; at Dong Phuong Oriental Restaurant, in New Orleans East; “downtown” Versailles; Phò Tâù Bay’s beef stew.
was then wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. Now the ex-GI, Tuyet and their son are the chefs. There are many other fantastic Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans—Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery, in New Orleans East, and Tahn Din, in Gretna, notable among them—and I like to explore them all. The Versailles community is a pleasure to roam for its restaurants and markets. But recipes and demonstrations are still out of the question. So I try to get snippets of information every time I go to Phò Tâù Bay. Last time, I marched up to the register manned by Karl Sr., with some fried shallot in my palm. It’s a tiny explosion of flavor and texture, artwork in miniature. “Tell me the story of how this came to exist,” I said. “You get ’em precut, and you flash-fry them or they burn...” and he went on, pride overwhelming the secrecy. On occasion I have called Karl Jr., my shaky attempt at goi ga in front of me, for advice. I list the ingredients I have used. Then, as if this were some Vietnamese food-crisis hotline, he suggests a few I have left out. Another day, bantering with the Takacs, it came out that Karl Jr. had visited Vietnam once. “What did you think of the pho?” I asked. “I think ours is better,” he said. At first, I thought this was blasphemy. Then I realized that, at Phò Tâù Bay, the pho and all of the recipes are part of one family’s secret oral history. Those recipes are the equivalent of diamonds smuggled from the home country in the lining of a coat, the foundation on which a family’s fortunes will rise again. ✚ 100 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
guide to VietnaMeSe Food in noLa lOUisiana
versailles new orleans
Gulf of Mexico
eaT dong phuong oriental Bakery & restaurant this 30-year-old shop is famous for its French bread and asian sweets, but don’t miss the restaurant’s beef soups with rice noodles, such as spicy hu tieu sate and pho dac biet. 14207 chef menteur hwy., new orleans east; 1-504/254-0214; lunch for two us$12; pastries for two us$3. Hoa Hong nine roses try the house specialty: grilled beef, chicken, squid and shrimp, prepared tableside and wrapped in lettuce with herbs. 1100 stephens st., gretna; 1-504/3667665; lunch for two us$24. Kim Son this chinese-vietnamese spot is worth the trip, with straightforward dishes such as charcoal-broiled pork with rice. 349 Whitney ave., gretna; 1-504/ 366-2489; lunch for two us$18.
phò tâù Bay the chicken pho is the specialty of the house, but locals know to ask for the grilled-pork spring rolls. 113-c Westbank expwy., gretna; 1-504/ 368-9846; dinner for two us$20. tan dinh menu highlights include bo nuong trieu tien—a vietnamese twist on korean short ribs—and lightly battered shrimp tom rang muoi, served with a lime, salt and pepper sauce. 1705 lafayette st., gretna; 1-504/361-8008; dinner for two us$25. sHOp Hong Kong Market a one-stop shop for would-be cooks, this asian market sells sauces such as nuoc mam (see “taste of vietnam,” page 97). 925 behrman hwy., ste. 3, gretna; 1-504/3947075. Versailles Farmers’ Market corner of alcee Fortier blvd. and peltier dr., in front of ly’s supermarket. open saturdays 5 a.m.–9 a.m. see a Village Called Versailles s. leo chiang’s powerful documentary chronicles the versailles community’s struggle to rebuild after hurricane katrina. avillagecalledversailles.com; dvd us$24.95.
LUXURY VILLAS IN THAILAND From THB 65 Million
W: kohsamuiresidences.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: +66 (0) 77 425 080
Amburaya Residences (Koh Samui) Co., Ltd. Registered and paid up capital Baht 1,000,000. Registered address: 4/1 Moo 1, Tambol Maenam, Koh Samui, Suratthani 84320. Site location: on title deed numbers: 12757, 13188, 13529, 13530, 13531, 13614 and 13691. Project area: 26 Rai 3 Ngan 19.7 Sq. Wah. Presently mortgaged with Siam Commercial Bank Plc. Customers will pay the expense of the common areas according to the Sale and Purchase Agreement and/or regulations of the project. Bangkok contact: Tel. (0)2 253 4300 Fax. (0)2 254 2441. Samui contact: Tel. (0)7 724 5133 Fax. (0)7 742 7524. An Amburaya Residences (Koh Samui) Co., Ltd. project. The Residences at W Retreat Koh Samui are not owned, developed or sold by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., W International, Inc. or their affiliates. Amburaya Properties (Koh Samui) Co., Ltd. uses the W 速 trademarks and trade names under a license from W International, Inc.
although rich in Folklore, Forests and the Finest in creature comForts, malaYsiaâ€™s northernmost island in the andaman sea is oFten overlooked. For the discerning traveler, thatâ€™s all the more reason to go. By MeLanie Lee photographed bY darren s oh
The Datai’s pool. Left: Four-legged friends feel at home at Bon Ton Resort. Opposite, from left: A tasting platter at the Four Seasons; spa therapist Yati Talib at The Datai.
ntil recently, locals on the Malaysian island of Langkawi believed that their home was cursed. According to legend, in the early 19th century a beautiful woman named Mahsuri was wrongfully accused of adultery. During her execution, blood ran white from her wounds, revealing her innocence, and in her dying breath Mahsuri declared that bad fortune would befall Langkawi for seven generations. If Langkawi’s history of failed crops and Siamese invasions are signs that there may have been something to this legend, the island—and its wider archipelago with the same name—is certainly not without its blessings. Located just south of the border with Thailand in the Andaman Sea, Langkawai offers turquoise waters, stretches of white-sand beaches, pristine rainforests and dramatic, cloud-scraping mountains. In 2007, it was awarded the status of unesco Geopark for its rich geological heritage. Yet, in terms of tourist arrivals, Langkawi still trails other established regional tourist spots. Last year, the island welcomed 2.4 million visitors, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2007, and is a far cry from Bali’s 4.1 million or Phuket’s 7.5 million in 2011. One reason could be its location. Langkawi is separated from Peninsular Malaysia and remains relatively isolated from major air routes. You
can only fly there via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Another reason, which many locals believe to be true as fervently as they subscribe to Mahsuri’s curse, is that Langkawi’s branding needs some polishing. For example, a recent marketing campaign focusing on its unesco Geopark status proved to be a flop, with one local saying that that it made Langkawi sound “like a bunch of rocks.” Still, the fact that Langkawi, with a sparse population of 90,000, is emptier than other popular destinations in Southeast Asia has actually helped to attract discerning travelers. With relatively unoccupied beaches, unspoiled greenery and a lack of nightlife, this destination provides a quieter, more contemplative sort of island holiday experience. It also helps that resorts such as the Alhambra-inspired Four Seasons Resort and The Datai, part of the Leading Hotels of the World group, are here to offer generous luxury, along with well thought-out activities that highlight Langkawi’s natural landscape.
t the start of a mangrove tour, Aidi Abdullah, a naturalist with the Four Seasons, tells me to “See everything here with ‘nature eyes,’ not ‘city eyes.’ Look hard, and look well.” At that very moment, an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin surfaces for air in front of our boat. “I see it, I see it!” I screech, a little too » travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 103
excitedly. Abdullah reports that he has already spotted four dolphins, and possibly a porpoise as well. For this affable naturalist, Langkawi’s rich eco-system is not just a tourist attraction, but also the perfect classroom of life. It’s a far cry from his management days in Kuala Lumpur, when he was “totally burnt out with all kinds of health problems.” Within a year of moving to Langkawi, he says, most of his ailments disappeared. “Every day, in the course of my work, I see how flora and fauna fight and adapt to survive, and this has shown me that hope is everywhere.” As we meander through the dense mangrove wilderness of Kilim River on a multi-purpose boat. Abdullah provides a mixture of entertaining commentary and philosophical lessons. He points out two mudskippers “slugging it out,” as he calls it. “Lots of action, but not much substance. Like drunk men in a brawl.” Seconds later, a blue fiddler crab waves at a female with his big claw. “He’s going, ‘Hey baby, check me out!’ ” Abdullah says. “I tell you, what we think of as human nature is actually found in all of nature.” Environmental education aside, there’s also something irresistible about appreciating nature in the most indulgent of settings. Within the Four Seasons 20-hectare compound, I am treated to a view of lush green islets, jagged limestone and the glistening Andaman Sea. In the evening, I enjoy a brilliant red sunset while sipping mojitos on a cushioned swing at Rhu Bar, on Tanjong Rhu beach. This juxtaposition of luxury and nature continues later at The Datai, which opened in 1993 as Langkawi’s first luxury hideaway resort. Nestled in a valley in the northwest of the island, its wooden architecture integrates with its surroundings, offering guests access to both a rainforest and Datai Bay beach. Kerry Hill, the acclaimed hotel architect who built The Datai, took great pains to ensure minimal environmental disruption and used elephants instead of bulldozers to cause less damage to the forest. Indeed, nature truly thrives at The Datai. Outside my room, a group of dusky leaf monkeys are perched on treetops, gnawing on leaves. Swallows flutter across the pool to take dainty sips of water during my morning laps. The open-air spa villa looks out to a winding stream. During a hot-stone massage, I am lulled by the sounds of trickling water, crooning cicadas and rustling leaves. “I’m all for this kind of tourism for Langkawi where people get to reconnect with nature in a non-threatening way,” says Irshad Mobarak, a local naturalist, on our nature walk the next day. For almost two decades, Mobarak has been leading The Datai guests on morning walks and educating them about the wildlife around the resort. Mobarak is a gifted storyteller and gives a compelling account of a territorial feud between the white-bellied sea eagles and the Brahminy kites that made their nests near the resort entrance. For three years, the kites relentlessly stole food from the eagles, making the mother eagle so stressed that she wasn’t able to lay eggs. Because the eagles had their 104 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
nest in a taller tree, however, “they won in the end and the kites upped and left,” Mobarak recalls. Later, while explaining how a bird’s nest fern gets its nutrients from its host tree, he suddenly stops talking and emits a few guttural squawks. We soon hear a few faint, mournful hoots coming from the distance in response— apparently, distressed hornbills are warning of predatory birds. “Do you really talk to them?” I ask. He laughs. “No, they are just humoring me.”
fter the beaches and rainforests, I decide to get better acquainted with Langkawi’s two most famous mountains, Gunung Raya and Gunung Mat Cincang. Legend has it that they are named after two giants who were best friends until the wedding of their children, when the groom had a roving eye and the father-in-law attacked him. The giants threw pots and pans at each other, and a pot of curry fell on a spot where Kuah (which means “gravy” in Malay), the district capital Langkawi, is located today. Speaking of curry, while climbing up the steps of Gunung Raya, Langkawi’s tallest mountain, I feel a twinge of regret at the huge bowl of chicken curry and roti canai, the Indian flatbread, I had for breakfast. Ashraff Zimmerman, who runs an obstacle course there called Langkawi Canopy Adventures, reassures me. “It’s not about being fit,” he says as I huff and puff while also trying to keep my breakfast in. “It’s all about having fun in the forest.” It takes 4,287 steps to get to the peak of Gunung Raya, but because Langkawi Canopy Adventures is nearer the base of the mountain, we have to climb “only” 716 stairs and crawl through some rocky terrain to get to the obstacle course. Zimmerman's assistant, Saiful Nizam, demonstrates some of the obstacles. He nimbly crosses a rope course over a small gorge, hovers along a zip line above a rainforest canopy and abseils swiftly down a huge rock in about 15 minutes. It is inspiring to watch—all that adrenaline coupled with the dramatic mountainous landscape. I forget about the curry and eagerly put on my safety harness. Then it beings to pour. The rain is a bit of an anomaly. Langkawi enjoys clear and sunny weather on most days, especially during its dry season from November to March. Ashraff shrugs his shoulders, and packs up the equipment. “When it rains, it rains,” he says. Fortunately, the next day it is gloriously sunny when I hop onto the SkyCab, a cable car that carries me from Oriental Village to the top of Gunung Mat Cincang, a 550 millionyear-old peak that is, according to geologists, the first rock formation in Southeast Asia. Seven hundred meters above sea level, a shimmering 125-meter curved steel suspension bridge provides panoramic views of jungle-clad mountain ridges and even islands in Southern Thailand. One of the young staff there, Redha Rashid, can’t help but whisper a soft “wow” under his breath even as he’s trying to play informative host. “I never get tired of this view. My friends in Kuala »
The pool at Casa del Mar, on Langkawiâ€™s southwestern shore.
ATOP GUNUNG MAT CINCANG, A SHIMMERING 125-METER SUSPENSION BRIDGE PROVIDES PANORAMIC VIEWS OF JUNGLE-CLAD MOUNTAIN RIDGES AND ISLANDS IN SOUTHERN THAILAND
The Langkawi Sky Bridge is accessible by cable car from Oriental Village.
Lumpur get so jealous when I post work pictures on Facebook. Sure, there’s not much of a nightlife in Langkawi with everything closing by 11, but the scenery here wins hands down,” Rashid says. “Even before working here, it has always been my place of retreat,” says Briton Alison Fraser, who runs side-by-side rustic chic boutique resorts Bon Ton and Temple Tree together with Australian Narelle McMurtie on the southwest corner of the island. Their two resorts feature eclectic Malaysian village houses that have been transplanted, restored and refurbished. Alison and Narelle also provide a sanctuary for 80 stray cats and 120 dogs at the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary that they set up 12 years ago. Though the shelter was established as a labor of love, “it has become one of the selling points of our resorts,” says Fraser. The closest I get to party animals, however, is at nearby Pantai Cenang, a popular stretch of beach with rainbow parasails gliding in the sky, screaming teenagers bobbing about on banana boats and rows of lobster-red European tourists baking in the sun. Occasionally, there’s loud rap music blasting out from a beach bar or two in the afternoon, but by the evening it’s all Beatles tunes. I’m staying at Casa del Mar, a Spanish-themed boutique resort along Pantai Cenang that offers a pocket of privacy
with beach villas, each with its own courtyard. After a day of acclimatizing to the spike in human traffic, I begin to appreciate this close proximity to the ocean and enjoy strolling up and down the beach and taking in that unmistakable salty, energetic buzz of a popular seaside haunt. I also discover a surprisingly sophisticated restaurant at the end of the beach called The Cliff, which serves contemporary Malay cuisine. The restaurant manager, Ramesh Somu, tells us that he and his friends opened the place last year because they wanted to offer a new dining concept that went beyond the typical Malay, Thai and Western offerings here. Excitedly, he tells us about how the Malaysian government will be investing RM5 billion to develop Langkawi’s tourism sector, including a massive clean-up of Pantai Cenang later this year. “It’s about time,” he says. “Langkawi is ready for new things.” Provided that those improvements are carried out with a forward-looking thoughtfulness, Langkawi and its visitors will benefit. Regardless, like its natural inhabitants— including those blue fiddler crabs and Brahminy kites—the island will continue to adapt to change. And for anyone who has experienced firsthand the diversity and character of this Malaysian island, it’s easy to believe that its greatest stories are yet to be told. ✚
Sunset at the beach by the Four Seasons. Spring chicken and bamboo clams at The Cliff Restaurant & Bar, right. Opposite: A heritage villa at Bon Ton Resort.
guide to LangKaWi the Westin Langkawi set along a half-kilometer-long stretch of beach. jln. pantai dato syed omar; 60-4/960-8888; starwoodhotels.com; doubles from rm595. eaT the Cliff restaurant & Bar an ideal spot to enjoy a sunset in langkawi, its menu gives local food a deliciously modern twist. lots 63 & 40, jln. pantai cenang; 60-4/953-3228; theclifflangkawi. com; dinner for two rm350. sTay the andaman, Langkawi offers a great chance to be close to nature while enjoying the comforts of a modern resort. jln. teluk datai; 60-4/959-1088; theandaman.com; doubles from rm668. great VaLue Bon ton &
temple tree pantai cenang; 60-4/955-3643; bontonresort. com; doubles from rm490.
Casa del Mar jln. pantai cenang, mukim kedawang; 60-4/9552388; casadelmar-langkawi.com; doubles from rm930. the datai Langkawi jln. teluk datai; 60-4/959-2500; thedatai. com.my; doubles from rm2,533. Four Seasons resort Langkawi jln. tanjong rhu, mukim ayer hangat; 60-4/950-8888; fourseasons.com/langkawi; doubles from rm2,050.
La Sal at casa del mar’s dining extension by the beach, enjoy a wide range of innovative cocktails—like their tom Yam martini—and a good mix of asian and Western dishes. dinner for two rm250. nam restaurant known for its hearty nyonya fare and scrumptious mini burgers in a breezy, balinese-inspired setting. bon ton resort; dinner for two rm150.
Wonderland Food Store a favorite local haunt for affordable and delicious seafood, serving a mix of chinese, malay and indian dishes featuring fresh catch of the day. lot 179-181 pusat perniagaan kelana mas, jln. trimula, kuah; 60-1/24946555; dinner for two rm50. dO Langkawi Canopy adventures a thrilling way to experience gunung raya and the surrounding rainforest. 60-1/ 2466-9027; langkawi.travel; from rm160 per person. Jungle Walla contact naturalist irshad mobarak for nature tours. 60-1/9225-2300; junglewalla. com; from rm150 per person. Langkawi Cable Car and Suspension Bridge oriental village, burau bay; 60-4/9594225; panoramalangkawi.com; rm30 per person.
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AA Modern Modern Odyssey Odyssey
How do you BRING THE How do you bring the ancient ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN Mediterranean to life? Follow in TO LIFE? Follow in the the footsteps of a 3,000-year-old hero. DANIEL MENDELSOHN traces the the PATH path ofOF Odysseus on a traces ODYSSEUS on a cruise to Sicily cruise fromfrom TroyTroy to Sicily and finds some remarkable findsand some remarkable parallels parallels with HOMER’S EPIC. with Homer’s epic. Amorous Amorous nymphs not included. photographed by by ANDREA ANDREA WYNER WYNER Photographed
Passengers on Travel Dynamics International’s Odyssey-inspired cruise of the Mediterranean touring Pompeii. Opposite: The 57-suite Corinthian II approaches Sicily.
the journey of odysseus troy pylos
IN THE END, WE NEVER GOT TO ITHACA—NEVER FOLLOWED “IN THE WAKE OF ODYSSEUS,” AS THE BROCHURE FOR THE CRUISE HAD PROMISED; AT LEAST, NOT ALL THE WAY TO THIS MOST FAMOUS OF LITERARY DESTINATIONS, ITHACA (ITHÁKI IN MODERN GREEK), THE SMALL AND ROCKY ISLAND OF WHICH HOMER SINGS, AND WHERE ODYSSEUS HAD HIS FAMOUSLY GRATIFYING HOMECOMING. We saw much that he had seen: Troy, where his war ended (He even took my Odyssey seminar, enlivening the class with and his wanderings began; Malta, where he was imprisoned his irreverent comments: “Hero? How can Odysseus be a by the nymph Calypso for seven years; Sicily, where his hero when he cheats on his wife and lies so much?!”) When I sailors were devoured by Scylla; the Neapolitan coast, which saw an advertisement for “Journey of Odysseus,” it seemed the ancients believed was close to the entrance to the under- ideal—a perfect way to introduce him to the landscapes, the world. But Ithaca turned out to be unattainable. For the hero weather, the flavors of the eastern Mediterranean, none of of legend, that island was the culminating adventure; for us, which has changed much since Homer first sang his songs. But I wanted him to have more than just a pleasant there were just the inconveniences of modern politics—in this case, a strike that forced us to make a mad nighttime vacation. I’d been a guest lecturer about 10 years ago on a Travel Dynamics cruise of the eastern Aegean, and had been dash for Athens to catch our flights home. But we weren’t at all disappointed, those of us who’d impressed by the intellectual seriousness of the undertaking. signed up for “Journey of Odysseus: Retracing the Odyssey For one thing, the tours are often conducted by the archaethrough the Ancient Mediterranean,” one of several history- ologists excavating the historical sites, a privilege not availand literature-themed voyages run by Travel Dynamics able to the average tourist. Our cruise on the intimate, International, a small-ship cruise operator. The opening 57-suite Corinthian II would include daily excursions to lines of The Odyssey, after all, describe Odysseus as someone archaeological sites in Troy, Pylos, Malta and Sicily, as well curiously like us—he’s the first tourist, the first person in as a full program of onboard lectures—often two in a day— either legend or recorded history who traveled because he given by scholars of classical antiquity and archaeologists. And then there was the homework. The hefty pre-embarthought the world was interesting, because he wanted to “know the minds and see the cities of many men,” as the kation packet came complete with a reading list that suggested six “essential” texts—The Odyssey, of course, poem puts it. So did we; and for a brief period, but also Henry Miller’s Colossus of Maroussi and we felt a bit like our hero—for the 10 days we epic vOyage Opposite, sailed, one day for each of the years he had to clockwise from top left: Moses Finley’s classic The World of Odysseus— Jay Mendelsohn, the and 15 “recommended” texts. Very soon after we travel before he got to the home we never author’s father and set sail from Athens to our first stop, Çanakkale, cruising companion, managed to see. in Malta; the walls of in northwestern Turkey—the modern-day site ancient Troy at i was on this cruise less for myself than Çanakkale, Turkey; the of Troy—a nice rhythm established itself, of on the Corinthian morning excursions, a leisurely lunch back on for my father. As a classicist, I have read and library II; the medieval fortress taught The Odyssey many times, and have been of Methoni, near Pylos in the ship on the aft sundeck, and then a lecture or Peloponnese; Robert two. Then there would be cocktails and dinner. to many of these sites before, but my dad hadn’t. the Cerise and his brother It was like a very opulent graduate seminar— Andrew, “Journey of Now in his eighties, a retired research scientist— passengers; rich, but also rigorous. a man more comfortable with numbers than Odysseus” the city of Ermoúpolis, I didn’t really understand how committed with literature, I had always thought—he Syros, in the Cyclades; a excursion off the our little group of about 80 or so passengers was decided a couple of years ago that he wanted to boating island of Gozo, in the read the Greek classics, to know what I’ve spent Maltese archipelago; the until one day at lunchtime, when I turned to the Corinthian II in port; youngster standing next to me at the buffet—a much of my own career reading and writing inside the Çanakkale serious-looking boy of about 10 whom I’d » about. And so, he’s been studying his Homer. Archaeology Museum.
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with ghosts. Unquiet ghosts, to be sure: across the strait from Çanakkale is Gallipoli. As we first sailed up the strait, Gallipoli on our left—with its heart-wrenching monument to the Australian and Kiwi World War I dead—and Troy on our right, my dad (who has always had more respect for The Iliad than The Odyssey) shook his head and said, “Twenty-five hundred years, and it’s still the same story.” A few days later, after some bad weather had forced us we began, of course, in troy—the city where the iliad into an un-Odyssean but delicious daylong detour on the ends, and where Odysseus’s homeward-bound adventures Cycladic island of Syros—the capital of the Cyclades, it now begin. Troy is not the name that the Greeks gave to the city seems to spend all of its time posing for postcards, with its where the greatest war of myth was fought; they called it little white houses as crisp as newly folded laundry and its Ilion, a word ultimately derived from the ancient Hittite harbor bristling with masts—we landed at Pylos, at one of the name Wilusa. (Iliad just means “a song about Ilion.”) Homer southernmost tips of the Peloponnese, the legendary strongcalls the city “windy,” and it is windy still. On the day we hold of Homer’s King Nestor. Already an old man in The Iliad visited, there was, despite the summer heat, a faint, steady and very ancient indeed in The Odyssey, Nestor is the hero breeze, coming from somewhere you couldn’t quite identify, who enjoys regaling the younger warriors with his tales of just enough to persuade the spiky acanthus plants to wave how much stronger heroes were in his day. Pylos isn’t far from Kalamata: when you arrive at the site their hostile leaves in your direction or the thronging wildflowers to nod their heavy heads. It’s a large, meandering known as Nestor’s Palace, the landscape shimmers with site, and most of what there is to look at—once you get past silver-green olive leaves. The palace is a Mycenaean the pier, which has inherited the giant Trojan horse structure consisting, now, of little more than some thighconstructed for the movie Troy—is walls: the remains of what high foundations and an occasional column-base to suggest were, in fact, nine successive settlements on the site, a what the architecture had been. But every now and then, seemingly endless series of massive accumulations of stone, something extraordinary will pop out at you, an object that from whose crevices little yellow flowers poke out. Brian draws you right into Homer’s world. It was here we saw the Rose, the improbably boyish University of Pennsylvania richly carved, nearly intact bathtub that sits at one end of the archaeologist who was one of the cruise leaders and who’s palace enclosure and is decorated with an undulating pattern been working at the site since 1988, led us around. He of large whorls. Clustered around this stolid household fixture that had so explained to the rapt gaggle of shipmates how the dogleg layout of the walls may have been meant to foil invaders. It improbably survived, our little group nodded in eager recogseemed pretty good at holding tourists back, too: Troy never nition, remembering the scene in which Odysseus’s son is given a bath during a visit to Nestor’s Palace, feels as crowded as, say, Pompeii, which we living HisTOry Opposite, where he goes seeking news of his long-lost explored later on our cruise. clockwise from top left: Rose specializes in Troy’s post–Bronze Age Taking photos at Troy; a father. One of our fellow cruisers also recalled dock on Gozo; the another famous bathtub moment in The Odyssey: history, and he reminded us that the area was a quiet temple of Segesta, on the scene in which Odysseus, having made his major tourist attraction in ancient times; Sicily; locals enjoying sun-drenched day way back to his own palace disguised as a filthy wandering around gawking at the famous walls inaTaormina, on Sicily’s beggar, is recognized by the old slave-woman is something people have been doing since the eastern coast; passing Pylos, following the who’s bathing him after she notices a telltale time of the Persian king Xerxes (480 B.C.). route of Odysseus; scar on his leg—a scar that, like pretty much Alexander the Great visited, en route to University of Pennsylvania everything in The Odyssey, has a story of its own. conquering Asia. (He slept with a copy of The archaeologist Brian Iliad under his pillow.) That thought—the idea Rose, one of the cruise’s Clearly, people were doing their homework and lecturers; a public bus enjoying it. that you, as a tourist, aren’t somehow desecrating in Malta; a religious Pylos is typical of the places you encounter an ancient site by visiting it, but joining its long shrine in Valletta, the capital of Malta; cliff on a cruise like this one, where every site has history—together with the whispering of that jumping into Gozo’s innumerable strata of history; we were always » never-dying breeze, makes the place feel alive Xlendi Bay. noticed traveling with what looked like three generations of his family. I jokingly asked what he thought of Robert Fagles’s rendering of The Odyssey, one of our “required” texts. He leveled a cool glance at me. “It’s very good, although it was pretty clear that Homer needed an editor,” the boy, whose name was Robert, replied. I didn’t dare admit that I myself had neglected to do my homework.
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Indeed, I kept worrying secretly that the very richness of encouraged to explore these post-Homeric layers. Far grander than Nestor’s Palace at Pylos, for instance, is the these sites and the immensity of their histories threatened, nearby fortress of Methoni, a relic of the Venetians’ owner- rather pleasantly, to distract us from our Homeric focus at ship of much of Greece during the Middle Ages: its gargan- times—although it occurred to me that such distraction was tuan stone walls are studded with carvings of the Lion of St. itself very Odyssean. The greatest threat to his homecoming Mark. I noticed my 10-year-old friend and his grandparents is the pleasure and interest and beauty of so much of what he strolling through the silver-gray artemisia, wild with yellow encounters on his journey: fascinating new cultures; opulent blossoms, that grows riotously among the crumbling arches. riches; amorous nymphs. The claustrophobia-inducing little Sometimes, a site would convey not so much this or that grotto on Gozo that has been identified as Calypso’s cave—at least since the era of the Grand Tour, when local era in history, but merely the enormity of time a jOUrney FOr guides wooed gullible northern Europeans itself. Not far from Nestor’s Palace is a Mycenae- generaTiOns Clockwise (“Looks a little phony,” my dad said, casting an an “beehive” tomb. Given the blazing sun, many from top left: The Doric anxious eye down the lumpy, narrow steps)—is of us practically ran to the black opening at the fifth-century-B.C. temple of Segesta; certainly picturesque, but can’t possibly base of what does indeed look like a giant domed brioche and almond for breakfast in compete, for sheer jaw-dropping impact, with hive. But once you’re inside, the hairs on the granita Taormina; the Greek the enormous, Stonehenge-like, Neolithic back of your neck stand up: a dank and perfect amphitheater at Segesta in Sicily; the temples nearby. “I know this isn’t what we came stillness suggests what 30 centuries of being author and his father on for,” a smartly dressed businesswoman from dead might feel like. When we emerged, we the Odysseus-inspired a view of Valletta; California—whose tender care of her frail but were grateful for the whiff of red currants in the cruise; on the beach at Trapani, air. They grow wild all around the tomb. on Sicily’s western coast. sprightly father had made her a favorite among 116 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
the other passengers—turned to me and said as we examined some 19th-century graffiti, as insubstantial as chicken scratches on the man-size stones. “But as far as I’m concerned, it’s worth the whole trip.” Unlike some college students, grown-up readers of The Odyssey on cruises like ours aren’t fulfilling an “area requirement”; their enthusiasm was palpable, and created an infectious shipboard bonhomie. One morning, during yet another lavish breakfast outside on the afterdeck—the coffee cups gleaming white in the Mediterranean sun, the teak tables shaded by blue canvas awnings—my father and I got to talking with a couple from California. In one of those improbable coincidences that somehow characterizes everything to do with The Odyssey, the husband had been the CEO of the company my dad had spent most of his life working for. “We’re having the greatest conversations we’ve ever had,” the husband declared about the cruise. Evenings after dinner, a group (including the dutiful daughter from California, after she had put her dad to bed) would gather in the lounge for drinks. My dad highly approved of the pianist’s penchant for Gershwin; on some nights, Elena Myasoedova, the cruise manager, and Rose gave impromptu folk music concerts—congenial sessions that would last late into the night. It was on one of these evenings, as the pianist played Cole Porter, that Rose told us how he’d trained GI’s fighting in Iraq to recognize and, if possible, to avoid disturbing potentially important archaeological sites. “If you see a gentle mound, it’s an archaeological site—there are no natural hills in southern Iraq.” After a few days’ sailing, we reached the Sicilian coast, the cone of Mount Etna hazily beckoning in the distance, as symmetrical and ethereal as something on a Japanese print. Whatever claims this stretch of coast may have as the mythical home of the huge, cannibalistic Laestrygonians who terrorized Odysseus and his crew, it’s the doggedly optimistic symmetries of the Doric temple at Segesta, which was begun three centuries after Homer composed his poems and has sat on a little hilltop ever since, quietly asserting the values of order and aesthetic calm through two and a half millennia of war and destruction and renewal, that I remember best from the ship’s stop on the coast near Erice. As Homer knew well, the danger of a great odyssey is that, like the Lotus-Eaters, you can be so distracted by incidental pleasures that you forget your destination and purpose. One afternoon after our visit to Segesta, I bumped into my young friend Robert in the ship’s library, and offered to split some of the sugary pastries I’d bought ashore. While he was happily munching, I couldn’t help noticing what he’d written on his iPad about Odysseus: “He makes many stupid mistakes that get him in trouble.” but maybe it doesn’t matter how closely you follow in Odysseus’s footsteps, in the end. More than anything, The Odyssey is a story about stories—stories about Odysseus, so
long missing in action; stories that Odysseus hears; stories that, often to save his skin, he tells; stories that we all tell about ourselves, often without knowing it: the canny businesswoman who becomes a little girl again with her dad, the family whose Mediterranean reunion seeks to palliate a recent loss, the scientist who sits breakfasting pleasantly with the executive who dismantled the company to which he gave his life. And then there was the story that I couldn’t have made up if I were writing a novel instead of a travel article. One day, while I was sunbathing, I noticed that the elderly gentleman next to me had quite a scar on his leg; when he noticed me noticing it, he smiled. “There’s a story to that scar,” he said; I settled in to listen. The scar, he began, was why he was on the cruise. He was Dutch, and during the final, most dreadful winter of World War II, when he was a teenager and people in Holland were eating tulip bulbs to stay alive, he went out, weak and underfed as he was, to chop some wood; unable to wield the heavy axe properly, he ended up swinging it into his own leg. For weeks he hovered near death. What saved
The Odyssey is a story about stories—stories about Odysseus, so long missing; stories that Odysseus hears; stories that, often to save his skin, he tells; stories that we all tell about ourselves, often without knowing it him was The Odyssey. A family friend who was a professor of Greek would come every day and, to distract the teenager from his pain, would teach him bits of Greek and recite passages from Homer’s epic of wonder and pain. “I can still recite parts of it in Greek!” he exclaimed; and did just that, right there on the deck of the Corinthian II, nearly seven decades later. He grew quiet and said, “I made a vow that, before I died, I would see what Odysseus saw.” The stories we tell! This was why, when the captain announced that the Corinth Canal had been closed by disgruntled strikers, and that we’d therefore have to skip Ithaca—skip Ithaca!—in order to get back to Athens in time for our flights, I don’t think anyone really minded. For Ithaca—as the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy writes in his famous poem by that name—represents the gift of a “beautiful journey.” If the island itself disappoints, you’re still “rich with all you’ve gotten on the way.” Travel Dynamics International; 1-212/517-7555; traveldynamicsinternational.com; 12-day Journey of Odysseus cruise from US$7,995 per person. ✚ travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 117
Dave Caldiero, chef de cuisine, and Ed Kenney, chef and owner of Town restaurant, in Honolulu. Opposite: A banana plant at MAâ€™O Organic Farms, on Oahuâ€™s western shore.
NEXT WAVE There’s a fresh breeze blowing Through The islands, as a generaTion of upsTarT chefs, arTisans, farmers and food lovers Takes hawaiian cuisine back To iTs rooTs—and inTo a bold new fuTure. peTer Jon lindberg checks in on The growing movemenT. Passengers on Travel Dynamics International’s Odyssey-inspired cruise
p h oTogra p h ed by co r a l vo n z u m wa lT
nybody here remember pineapple coulis? Macadamia-crusted mahimahi? Does the phrase “wasabi mashed potatoes” mean anything to you? If you spent any time in Hawaii over the past, oh, say 20 years, you may recognize these items from your dinner menu. This story is not about those things. First, some background. It’s been two decades since a coterie of forward-thinking chefs put Hawaii on the culinary map. Seizing on the then-current trend for East/West fusion, they blended classical techniques with Hawaiian ingredients, mixed in bold Asian flavors and called their style Hawaii Regional Cuisine. It was a thrilling amalgam, and HRC’s star burned brightly for a spell, making celebrity chefs of Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, Sam Choy and Peter Merriman. But as Pac-Rim fusion’s novelty faded, foodies’ affections shifted, like those temperamental Kona winds, to more beguiling shores. By the turn of the millennium, the term fusion had become a slur. Which isn’t to knock the HRC chefs’ chops. Most of the original crew are still doing fine work today—and, for plenty of visitors, their names, dishes and many restaurants still define Hawaiian dining, fickle food trends be damned. But something else has happened of late, as a new generation of food pioneers emerges. They’ve embraced HRC’s creative spirit and applied it to more traditional Hawaiian foods, drawing from the islands’ past as much as the globalized future. They’ve amped up their commitment to sustainability, to local farmers and ranchers and fishermen, and to unsung or forgotten ingredients. They’ve moved past the gimmicky aspects of fusion to embrace its tenets naturally, intuitively, as only pan-ethnic, polyglot Hawaiians could do. They’re cooking some extraordinary—often extraordinarily simple—food. And they’re making it more accessible, in presentation and price, to Hawaii’s workaday population, not just to well-heeled diners and tourists. That last point is fundamental, and explains a lot about where you’ll find the new breed. Hawaii’s next wave is cresting not in the fine dining rooms of Waikiki, but in an ever-growing number of roving food trucks, farmers’-market stands, plate-lunch diners, guerrilla pop-ups, surfers’ haunts, barbecue pits and hyper-creative hot dog and hamburger joints. Suddenly, out of the blue, Hawaii is one of the most exciting places to eat in the country. 120 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
rOOTs and all
Clockwise from left: Early morning at the KCC Farmers’ Market, in Honolulu; baby golden beets at MA’O Farms; looking onto Maili Beach Park, on Oahu’s leeward coast; a salad at Town, with MA’O Farms vegetables.
The beachhead of the movement is a defiantly casual Honolulu restaurant called Town, run by Oahu-born chef Ed Kenney. With his sleeve tattoos and flair for charcuterie, Kenney would fit right in among the scruffy hipster chefs of Brooklyn, Portland and Montreal—except he’s clean-shaven, built like a surfer, and as Hawaiian as they come. (Kenney’s mother, a renowned hula dancer, and father, a Broadway singer and actor, used to headline shows at the Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian hotels from the 1950’s through the 70’s.) Flush against the hillsides of suburban Kaimuki, far from the thrum of Waikiki, Town feels more neighborhood canteen than haute-dining mecca. The interior is a study in slacker chic, with hardwood benches, rough-hewn plank walls and portraits of island farmers hung with easel clips. The kitchen is far more ambitious. Take that charcuterie: all of it cured in-house, and all made with Hawaiian pork, from the spicy soppressata to the cumin-spiked terrine. Tart pickled star fruit provides the ideal counterpoint. Kenney’s beef comes from the Big Island’s Kuahiwi Ranch, where it’s pasture-raised and grain-finished for a pleasing minerality balanced with the depth of fat. A seared flatiron steak is served with local watercress and dense, chewy coins of fried paiai, or mashed taro root. Paiai—the solid form of Hawaii’s beloved poi—has all but vanished from island menus, since small-scale production of it virtually ceased and was even illegal for a time. But a native Hawaiian named Daniel Anthony began selling his own organic, handpounded paiai, to the delight of chefs like Kenney. If anything could stand in for fried potatoes with steak, it’s this. Other curious local ingredients find their way onto Kenney’s plates. A filet of buttery opah (moonfish) is sprinkled with feathery limu seaweed and sided with pohole ferns, lending umami and earthiness to the fish. Town especially dazzles with island-farmed greens and herbs, most of them sourced from MA’O Organic Farms, on Oahu’s western shore. I’d always envied Hawaii for its sweet mangoes and apple-bananas, but I never thought I’d envy its ethereal tatsoi, fennel and kale. Even the bartenders get in on the act, muddling arugula, celery, sage and fresh turmeric into the cocktails. Indeed, the bar menu is one of Town’s high points, especially given the dearth of good cocktails elsewhere. Turn up any Saturday at Honolulu’s crazy-popular KCC Farmers’ Market and you’ll be floored by the range of local ingredients on offer: tropical rambutan, sea asparagus, wild mushrooms, bitter melon, abalone, goat cheese, duck eggs, sweet Ewa corn, tangerines, taro, Kona coffee beans, Maui lavender, avocados the size of your head. The variety and quality of homegrown foods is startling. “People say we can grow anything in Hawaii, and it’s true,” says Gary Maunakea-Forth of MA’O Farms. On a tour of the farm’s 10 hectares, he shows me the garden, where a blueberry shrub is now thriving in the shade of a papaya tree. Star fruit, mangosteens, blueberries: Hawaii is blessed with such natural bounty that it’s shocking to learn that the » travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 121
state actually imports 85 percent of its food, at a cost of US$3.6 billion a year. Dismaying but true: between the high price of local labor, the loss of farmland to rezoning and the vagaries of the global supply chain, it’s cheaper (at least superficially) to ship food in rather than grow it themselves. This, in one of the most remote places on earth. Back on the mainland—and in my own archipelago of New York City—chefs tend to speak of sustainability as an ethic rather than as a necessity. But the locavore argument takes on a very real urgency on a chain of islands 4,000 kilometers removed from anyplace else. Of course, before Europeans arrived, the islands’ food supply was entirely self-sustaining, thanks to sophisticated farming and fishing systems developed by ancient Hawaiians. “Our ancestors lived here for thousands of years with no imports, feeding a population close to what we have today, by putting every acre of land into production,” says Kamuela Enos, of MA’O Farms. “They weren’t just dancing hula—they were scientists and naturalists, figuring out how to live on a finite biosystem indefinitely.” In the plantation era, however, Hawaiians were steadily driven off their farms and removed from the land. Today, fewer than one percent of Hawaii’s residents work in agriculture, and fewer still are growing actual food for Hawaiians to eat. (Hawaii is now the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seed corn—some 4.5 million kilograms of it per year—all of which is shipped overseas, and none of which is even edible to begin with.) It’s no coincidence that the Hawaiian diet has changed drastically as well. Fiber-rich taro was once the islanders’ go-to starch; it’s been almost entirely replaced by cheap white rice. (Because of blight, taro is challenging to grow and is priced beyond the reach of many consumers.) Processed, fried and fast foods have pushed out still more whole foods and fresh produce. In just a few generations, “traditional food” has come to mean gravy-soaked loco moco breakfasts, greasy plate lunches (with a double scoop of macaroni salad), and musubi rice balls topped with Spam. The state has had an alarmingly high rate of increase in obesity and diabetes, especially among the native Hawaiian population. Poverty plays a huge role in this, of course. There’s now a concerted effort among local chefs, farmers and policy makers to reclaim Hawaii’s agrarian roots and to make good food available and affordable across the islands. On Oahu’s windward coast, at the edge of Kaneohe Bay, an old fishing pier juts into the water. Roped alongside are a few dozen houseboats and rusty-hulled fishing boats. At pier’s end stands a ramshackle bait-and-coffee shop that, for 30 years, served basic diner grub to fishermen and surfers. Last spring, two local friends—chef Mark Noguchi and restaurateur Russ Inouye—took over the lease. Today, He’eia Pier General Store & Deli is one of the best restaurants in Hawaii, if you could properly call it a restaurant. Noguchi, 37, was born on Oahu and raised on the Big Island. After training at the Culinary Institute of America, he 122 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com
worked in some of Honolulu’s top kitchens, including Town and Chef Mavro. At He’eia Pier, Noguchi gets back to basics, elevating traditional Hawaiian food—using fresh fish, organic meats and local produce—without elevating the prices. No dish costs more than US$13. The daily-changing menu reads like a familiar array of plate-lunch staples, but when the food arrives you realize it’s on another plane entirely. Noguchi’s ahi katsu is delicate and flaky, brightened with fresh scallions and spiced with a surprisingly nuanced teriyaki sauce. His musubi are light and fluffy and shaped like dainty quenelles, nothing like the leaden, gummy rice balls Hawaiians are accustomed to; in lieu of the regulation Spam, they’re paired with a terrific “tuna salad”—chopped ahi dressed with shiso, onion, Kewpie mayo, vinegar and torn mint. And Noguchi’s marvelously elemental luau stew—tender chunks of slow-cooked pork, onions and taro leaf—could make a Hawaiian grandmother weep. The milieu is comfort food, but refined and enhanced. Like Ed Kenney, Noguchi is fond of sourcing odd, overlooked ingredients, such as akulikuli (a.k.a. sea purslane), a tidal succulent that he harvests just down the shore. The plant’s magenta flowers are used to make leis, but few younger Hawaiians realize that akulikuli leaves are actually edible: crisp, full of juice and deliciously salty. Noguchi uses them in a zesty salad with pickled limu seaweed, Hawaiian chilies and plump local tomatoes. High-tech kitchen notwithstanding, He’eia Pier remains the same weather-beaten shack it always was. You can buy a bilge pump or a gallon of outboard-motor oil along with your meal. The old-timers still turn up—only now they share picnic tables with food pilgrims from Honolulu, as well as the occasional biker, who’ve no doubt heard the rumors about Noguchi’s phenomenal cheeseburger. After lunch they linger on the pier to watch the paddleboarders drift by, or gaze at the verdant slopes of the Koolau Range, whose sculpted peaks are usually shrouded in mist by midday. Following a rain shower—a near-daily occurrence on the eastern coast— the entire mountainside lights up with waterfalls. Noguchi is just one of several island restaurateurs who’ve traded white linens and wine stems for a more democratic setting. Henry Adaniya was the toast of Chicago at his acclaimed restaurant, Trio. In 2006 Adaniya shut Trio, left Chicago and moved to his parents’ hometown of Honolulu to start…a hot dog joint. As at He’eia Pier, the food at Hank’s Haute Dogs is far, far better than it needs to be. Over on the Big Island, chef Edwin Goto, a veteran of luxury hotel kitchens, recently downshifted to set up Village Burger, located next to an Orange Julius in a Waimea shopping center. Goto is serious about his farm-to-fork. Not only is the beef local, but so are all the trimmings: Kekela Farms baby greens; Nakano Farms tomatoes; Hawaii Island Goat Dairy chèvre; Hamakua mushrooms. Just up the road is the promising Allen’s Table, opened last fall by Allen Hess, who previously ran the kitchen at
Merriman’s, the long-running HRC bastion in downtown Waimea. Hess’s new place has two faces: by day it’s a freewheeling roadhouse specializing in barbecue. At night the votives, tablecloths and jars of flowers come out, and Hess gets creative. A salad combining fresh and fried greenzebra tomatoes is laced with silken house-made ricotta and topped with smoked Kona kampachi ( jackfish). Grilled ika (squid) finds a provocative partner in melt-on-your-tongue short ribs. And Hess’s grass-fed Big Island rib eye is damn near perfect, with a distinctly buttery character. “That’s because we finish the beef on avocados,” he says, flashing an impish smile. Huh? “Yeah, it was an idea born of a few beers in the backyard. Like, ‘How good would that taste?’ A friend owns an avocado orchard, so I paid him a few hundred bucks
Ahi katsu from He’eia Pier General Store & Deli, on Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay. Right: A roadside coconut vendor near Haleiwa Farmers’ Market, on Oahu.
to dump a truckful at the ranch. The cattle are raised on pasture, but for the last month they gorge on avocados.” Hess is on to something. That beef was delicious. Oahu has a reputation for overpriced food, one that’s certainly justified at the tonier resorts. But you can also eat exceptionally well in the least assuming places, wearing little more than board shorts and flip-flops. (Trust me, you’ll fit in better if you do) You can find a soul-stirring tuna poke made by a Korean lady at the back of the Kahuku Superette, a dingy-looking North Shore grocery store. You can get a fabulous, fiery pad kee mao at Opal Thai, a bare-bones surfers’ hangout in Haleiwa run by Bangkok-born chef Opel Sirichandhra, who started with a food truck before going brick-and-mortar last November. You could spend an afternoon in the food court of Honolulu’s Shirokiya department store, sampling humble Japanese delicacies—from salmon-roe donburi to yakisoba (fried noodles), from sautéed okra to hot, gooey, made-toorder takoyaki (octopus fritters). You could troll the industrial district near the Honolulu airport to find Mitch’s, a hole-inthe-wall fish market that hides one of the city’s top sushi bars. You could also make the rounds among Oahu’s vaunted food trucks, which have exploded in popularity and number, going from 90 three years ago to more than 250 today. Or you could have a great meal at one of the itinerant lunch stands that set up inside local farmers’ markets. Best »
On Oahu yOu can eat exceptiOnally well in the least assuming places, wearing little mOre than bOard shOrts and flip-flOps. (trust me, yOu’ll fit in better if yOu dO) travelandleisureasia.com | maY 2012 123
a shore thing Clockwise from right: Anchoring on a sandbar near He’eia Pier; Vietnamese pho tai nam (beef noodle soup) from The Pig & The Lady stall at the KCC Farmers’ Market; chef Mark Noguchi at his He’eia Pier General Store & Deli; zapote fruit from the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market.
among the current crop: The Pig & The Lady, run by a young Vietnamese-American chef named Andrew Le. His family is there to help: Le’s three siblings, plus their Hanoi-born mom and Hue-born dad. (They’ve also hired a Japanese translator for the bazillion Japanese tourists who descend on the weekend markets.) Le’s bun bo Hue—the lusty noodle soup of his father’s hometown—is the finest I’ve had outside Vietnam; if you look serious about it he’ll drop in a slow-cooked pig’s trotter. The Japanese swoon over bo la lot (grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf ) and Hoi An–style com ga (chicken rice seasoned with turmeric and shredded banana leaf ). Three nights a week, Le takes over the storefront space at Hank’s Haute Dogs and transforms it into a remarkable pop-up restaurant, also called The Pig & The Lady. It’s here that the chef really shines, with an ever-changing, fivecourse tasting menu. A recent dinner started with a knockout punch: Chioggia beets, speck and raspberries, draped in horseradish crème fraîche and sprinkled with mint. A crispy confit pork belly was plated with pickled onions and black rice purée, topped with a soft quail egg, then drizzled in a sriracha vinaigrette. So hold on a minute. Aren’t some of Le’s dishes—with their East/West flavor collisions—pretty much what we used to call “fusion”? Well...yes. We just don’t use that word anymore. Yet for many, fusion-by-any-other-name is precisely how we eat these days. Young chefs are again turning east (and west, north and south) for inspiration, and embracing the remix, the hybrid, the mash-up: the Korean taco, the sunchoke-andbeef-cheek shu mai. The “f” word forms the angle at so many zeitgeist-defining restaurants, from Lukshon, Spice Table and A-Frame in Los Angeles to Wong, Fatty ’Cue and the Talde empire in New York. To a new generation of American diners, the once-exotic tastes of lemongrass and kimchi are
now as familiar as home cooking. These days you’ll find a bottle of sriracha sauce—the ketchup of the 2010’s—on every hipster’s table. What, then, do we call this post-global culinary style? “Transcontinental food”? “Srirachan Cuisine”? Maybe, for once, we should just call it “cooking.” For there’s a natural, homey quality to the current school. While 1980’s-era fusion came off as soulless and inauthentic, today’s iteration feels more organic, more real, in part by dispensing with the “authenticity” issue altogether. Chefs have moved beyond both the limitations of tradition and the cloyingness of novelty for novelty’s sake. They’re aiming not for purity but for pure deliciousness—and to hell with where it came from. Hawaii’s brand of fusion cooking runs hand-in-hand with the field-to-fork ethic. “A third of our menu at He’eia Pier is sourced in our immediate area,” Mark Noguchi says. If almost anything can indeed be grown in Hawaii, from lychees and persimmons to vanilla and cacao, why shouldn’t island chefs embrace all that bounty, in its myriad combinations? And so Hawaii, after years out of culinary fashion and favor, finds itself once again in sync with the times, on multiple fronts. But as Noguchi is quick to point out, trendiness has nothing to do with it. “This is how Hawaiians have been eating all their lives,” the chef says. “My entire larder is ingredients I grew up with.” So-called fusion cooking—be it refined Hawaii Regional Cuisine or a down-and-dirty teriyaki loco moco—never went away here. How could it? From the earliest Marquesan settlers onward, the islands have been defined by far-flung influences, resulting in a remarkable demographic diversity: Polynesian, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, British, Vietnamese and on and on. “Hawaii has always been a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures and cuisines, as much as New York or Miami, if not more so,” Noguchi says. “Look at us: we are fusion. Here it’s not just a concept or some fleeting trend—it’s a way of life.” ✚
guide to HaWaii wHen TO gO the weather is great yearround, but visit between april and november for warmer, drier conditions. geTTing THere most major airlines fly to oahu’s honolulu international airport (hnl) and some also to kona international airport (koa), on the big island. sTay Halekulani 2199 kalia rd., honolulu; 1-808/9232311; halekulani.com; doubles from us$435. Kahala Hotel & resort 5000 kahala ave., honolulu; 1-808/7398888; kahalaresort.com; doubles from us$425.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel 62-100 mauna kea beach dr., kohala coast, big island; 1-808/882-7222; maunakeabeachhotel. com; doubles from us$525. great VaLue Waikoloa
Beach Marriott resort & Spa 69-275 Waikoloa beach dr., Waikoloa, big island; 1-808/886-6789; marriott.com; doubles from us$209. eaT allen’s table 64-957 mamalahoa hwy., Waimea, big island; 1-808/8856268; dinner for two us$100. Hank’s Haute dogs 324 coral st., honolulu;
1-808/532-4265; lunch for two us$16. He’eia pier general Store & deli 46-499 kamehameha hwy., kaneohe, oahu; 1-808/235-2192; lunch for two us$26. Kahuku Superette 56-505 kamehameha hwy., kahuku, oahu; 1-808/293-9878; tuna poke for two us$17. Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar 524 ohohia st., honolulu; 1-808/8377774; dinner for two us$70. opal thai 66-460 kamehameha hwy., haleiwa, oahu; 1-808/381-8091; dinner for two us$47.
the pig & the Lady see thepigandthe lady.com for pop-up restaurant info. also visit their stand at the kcc Farmers’ market. Shirokiya Food Halls ala moana shopping center, 1450 ala moana blvd., honolulu. town 3435 Waialae ave., honolulu; 1-808/7355900; dinner for two us$80. Village Burger parker ranch center, 67-1185 mamalahoa hwy., Waimea, big island; 1-808/8857319; lunch for two us$27. sHOp Haleiwa Farmers’ Market joseph p. leong bypass
and kamehameha hwy., haleiwa, oahu; sundays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. KCC Farmers’ Market kapiolani community college, 4303 diamond head rd., honolulu; saturdays, 7:30 a.m.–11 a.m. Madre Chocolate oahu’s first bean-to-bar chocolate operation, which occasionally offers chocolate-making classes and cacao-plantation tours. 20a kainehe st., kailua, oahu; 1-808/ 377-6440; madre chocolate.com. Ma’o organic Farms maoorganicfarms.org. look for their stand at the kcc Farmers’ market.
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KOH KHai, pHUKeT “I took this picture on an island that is popular with package tourists. On the day I was there nearly 30 boats came, all full of people from places like China and Russia. It is a beautiful place with white sand and clear sea, but it felt like overcapacity to me, with everyone drinking coconuts and eating snacks, and I wanted to find a way to see it from a different angle. So I got a wide-angle lens, a housing for my camera and a snorkel and mask, and I spent four hours in shallow water trying to get this shot. I was there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The best time for landscape photos is usually sunrise and sunset, but for underwater photography the best time is noon, when the light can penetrate the water. I thought it would be easy but the reality was much different—I couldn’t really see my viewfinder through my equipment, my goggles fogged and filled with water, and there were constant waves. I drank a lot of ocean water that day. When I was finished I thought I had something but I wasn’t sure; it took about 1,000 shots to get five good compositions.” ✚ ph ot o g r a p he r at hi t p e r awo ngmetha • i n tervi ew ed by r i char d her mes 126 maY 2012 | travelandleisureasia.com