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Southeast asia

april 2018

Room Boom Shanghai comes alive with new hotels

Fukuoka for the food A Classic Khmer Retreat

Singapore S$7.90 / Hong Kong HK$43 Thailand THB175 / Indonesia IDR50,000 Malaysia MYR18 / Vietnam VND85,000 Macau MOP44 / Philippines PHP240 Burma MMK35 / Cambodia KHR22,000 Brunei BND7.90 / Laos LAK52,000

Bhutan Magical, mysterious and mountainous


April

ON THE COVER At the W Shanghai, a new, dim sum take on room service. Photographed by Dave Tacon.

features 66

New Concession With hotels opening in Shanghai at a dizzying rate, Jeninne Lee-St. John checks in to a few that artfully engender a sense of place. Photographed by Dave Tacon

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High Spirits Bhutan, the happiest country on earth, is a pastoral fantasyland steeped in tradition, Tony Perrottet discovers. Photographs by Scott A. Woodward 66 74

c l o c k w i s e F R O M t o p LE F T: d av e ta c o n ; s c o t t A . w o o d wa r d ; s q u i r e f o x ; a d r i a a n l o u w

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Do the Charleston Forget the southern city of old. Sid Evans considers how a new wave of designers, restaurateurs and hoteliers have put this jewel on the global stage. Photographed by Squire Fox

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The Way of the Wild In Tanzania, two new safari camps offer visitors a chance to witness and protect the creatures that reside there. By Jeffrey Gettleman. Photographed by Adriaan Louw

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   a p r i l 2 0 1 8

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In Every Issue 

T+L Digital 8 Editor’s Note 10 Contributors 12 The Conversation 16 Deals 62 Wish You Were Here 106

contents

Express; how to get into Singapore’s latest private club; and more inspiration to get out and travel.

the new villas at Shinta Mani

22 Khmer Collection In Siem Reap, Angkor aren’t just a lesson in luxury, but also offer guests a dose of history and humanity.

through remote corners of the

32 Into the Wild On a journey

Philippines, a biologist and TV presenter get closer to nature while filming a new BBC series.

ignored by many travelers, the

push the boundaries of tradition

in the Indian capital, the creative scene is beginning to bloom.

French island is finally enjoying its moments in the sun.

menswear label Ermenegildo

56 Haute Comfort High-fashion

of new dining options in Perth is

40 Advance Australia Fare A slew

Pun neighborhood, hip new

putting Western Australian regional produce front and center.

inner coffee geek on a roadtrip

46 On the Coffee Trail Channel your

Fukuoka, birthplace of many of

28 Soul Food Culinary creatives in Japan’s favorite dishes, spin international style into local staples.

36

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Caribbean’s best-kept secrets.

53 The Martinique Mystique Long

36 Delhi by Design As designers

26 Go West In Hong Kong’s Sai Ying eateries and bars meld in with local markets and artisans.

the Nicaraguan coast is one of the

50 Small Wonder A tiny paradise off

april 2018 / t r av el andleisure asia .com

Zegna runs a hotel in the mountains of northern Italy that is far more bucolic than blingy.

years after running away to the

58 I’ll Always have Paris Twenty City of Light, a writer returns and finds shadows of her younger self.

through the lush Bolaven Plateau, in Laos.

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F R O M LE F T: d e b j i t b a n e r j e e ; d a i s u k e i k e d a ; c o u r t e s y o f b b c w o r l d n e w s ; l e i g h g r i ff i t h s

new-look Eastern & Oriental

19 Reasons to Travel Now The


GRACEFUL

AMERICAS ASIA

S o o n H O N G KO N G

EUROPE

MIDDLE EAST

LUA N G P R A B A N G rose woodhotels.com

BAHAMAS

B A N G KO K


+

Lookout

this month on tr avel andleisureasia.com 10 of Our Favorite Places Our writers, editors and photographers share the trips and memories from the past 10 years that make them want to return again and again.

Why You Should Visit Jakarta Now With a new modern art museum, a bevy of high-end hotels and a burgeoning dining scene, the Indonesian capital beckons.

In Honor of Asia’s Grande Dames Even after decades of raising the bar, our favorite old-world hotels still effortlessly exude class, and offer fascinating history around every corner.

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tleditor@ mediatransasia.com

Venture off the beaten path in Japan with these easy day trips from Kyoto and Tokyo; iconic hotel bars worth staying for another drink or two; Bangkok’s oh-so-cool new creative spaces; teeny, tiny hotels across Australia; how to travel the world like a digital nomad; the latest travel deals and more. travelandleisureasia.com

fr o m l e f t: j o h n ba rto n ; w e i x i a n g l i m . i l lu st r at i o n by v i r g i n i e b r o q u e t

t+l digital


|

april 2018

o you ever wonder what’s around the next corner when you’re traveling? If you don’t, you probably should. Taking that extra step, more often that not, uncovers something unexpected and worthwhile, anything from a great little coffee shop to a grand vista stretching in the opposite direction, not to mention a moment in time that you’ll remember years later. Surprise should be a key ingredient in all our travels, whether in our hometown or on the other side of the world. Throughout this month’s issue, we arm ourselves with an added dose of curiosity and revel in the unexpected. In Hong Kong, for example, we head away from Central to Sai Ying Pun (“Go West,” page 26) for a glimpse of that chic, ever-changing neighborhood. Today, microbrews or avo on toast blend with the more traditional XO sauce makers and herbalists these streets have been known for in the past. If Japan is part of your travel plans—and it should be—by all means visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Hokkaido, but do not miss out on the chance for a food tour of Fukuoka. We’ve got the perfect guide (“Soul Food,” page 28) to this southern city where local staples are mixing well with innovative international tastes, but you’ll also overhear some old Japanese expressions that help to make sense of it all. Though we remain a little confounded by the tale’s Zen monk, but for more on him, read on. Initially, Tony Perrottet’s take on Bhutan (“High Spirits,” page 74) was anything but Zen. I thought he was the first person ever not to be wowed by the Himalayan nation. During the journey, his notions of the country and his own travel preferences were altered, and Perrottet came away impressed in ways he could not have imagined at first. That’s a result all our trips should have.

@CKucway chrisk@mediatransasia.com

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From my travels Everyone knows that Bangkok is a food-lover’s paradise and not just for the variety of Thai cuisine. Still, I was a bit skeptical when it came to visiting a restaurant that blends Korean, Japanese, French, American, Mexican and Peruvian flavors on its menu. But Akira Back at the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park (bangkokmarriottmarquis queenspark.com), the newest outpost from the KoreanAmerican chef whose Seoul degustation restaurant just earned him his first Michelin star, masters this global mixing. For an inkling of what to expect here, think tuna pizza—it’s not what you’d probably predict—Wagyu bulgogi tacos and Jeju domi, a Korean sashimi dish infused with orange.

fr o m l e f t: Irfa n S a m a r t d e e ; c o u r t e s y o f t h e m a rr i o t t m a r q u i s q u e e n ’ s pa r k ; c h r i s t o p h e r k u c way

editor’s note


ts... i a ld aw sh! r o the w ,000 ca o t 20 icket D T S n U olde lus G p r s u t h Yo E nig

E 20 FR


contributors

2

Dave Tacon

Allison Smith

“New Concession”

— After six years in Shanghai, the Melburnian says worldclass cocktail bars and a serious coffee culture are the big changes on the social scene. Among new hotels, he says, “I love the Drawing Room at The St. Regis for its great natural light. Come summer, W has the best outdoor pool, with an unbeatable skyline view.” His local recommendations for guests of Capella, Jian Ye Li? “Jianguo 328, a small, clean Shanghainese restaurant two blocks west, and Speak Low, a speakeasy on Fuxing Road that recently cracked the top 10 in a World’s Best Bars list. It’s a long walk, but worth it.” Instagram: @davetacon.

“Soul Food” Page 28 — “Fukuoka’s culinary scene is a symbiotic blend of past and present. It’s a large, modern city, but the pace is relaxed. Kubo Curry served me one of the best curry dishes I’ve ever eaten. I went back multiple times.” Memorable meetings? “Chef Hiroyuki Soma’s vision regarding food’s unifying potential is refreshingly optimistic. And, bartending monk Kanwa Takeuchi assured me he doesn’t drink the alcohol, but he also explained that different tenets of Buddhism vary from sect to sect. Still, I suspect you probably have to err on the liberal side to do what he does.” Instagram: @allisonnicolesmith.

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Craig Sauers

Janice Leung Hayes

“On the Coffee Trail” Page 46 — In Laos, Sauers practically OD’ed on espresso (“smooth, creamy, with the faintest trace of bitterness”) from one guide, Koffie, who explained that trees on the same farm can yield beans with different qualities, depending on the soil. Another guide, Hook, explained Katu life. “A family from his village was spending five years alone in the forest because their son had fallen from a tree and died. Villagers believed only isolation would ward off the evil spirit that had caused the fall. Stories like this are a reminder that our planet contains an amazing diversity of cultures.” Instagram: @cksauers.

“Go West” Page 26 — Sai Ying Pun, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, was developed in the 1800s as the first British military camp. Now, most “residents are a mix of university students and older folks,” Leung Hayes says. “There’s so much good food. My favorite is the lu rou fan (braised pork on rice) at Qing Zuo.” Antony Yu is the third-generation owner of chili sauce masters Yu Kwen Yick. “My grandfather used to sell the sauces by carrying the stock on a pole across his shoulders and walking from Sai Ying Pun to North Point,” Yu says. Kwen yick means “benefit for all”—a fitting motto for the neighborhood. Instagram: @e_ting.

W r i t er

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W r i t er

W r i t er

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f d av e ta c o n ; c o u r t e s y o f a l l i s o n s m i t h ; c o u r t e s y o f c r a i g s a u e r s ; c o u r t e s y o f j a n i c e l e u n g h ay e s

Page 66

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april 2018

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P h o to gr a p h er

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exotic & idyllic retreat ...where life is a private celebration

editor-in-chief art director Deput y editor Features editor senior DEsigner

Christopher Kucway Wannapha Nawayon Jeninne Lee-St. John Eloise Basuki Chotika Sopitarchasak

Regul ar contributors / photogr aphers Cedric Arnold, Kit Yeng Chan, Marco Ferrarese, Duncan Forgan, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Grace Ma, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Stephanie Zubiri chairman president publishing director publishER digital media manager TRAFFIC MANAGER / deputy DIGITAL media manager sales director business de velopment managers chief financial officer production manager circul ation assistant

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj Robert Fernhout Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Varin Kongmeng Joey Kukielka Leigha Proctor Tim Rasenberger Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Yupadee Saebea

TR AVEL+LEISURE (USA) Editor-in-Chief Senior Vice President, News, Luxury, st yle

Nathan Lump Meredith Long

meredith partnerships, LICENSING & syndication (syndication@meredith.com) Business affairs director director, licensing oper ations editorial director e xecutive director, content management

Tom Rowland Richard Schexnider Jack Livings Paul Ordonez

meredith Chairman and ceo president and coo chief content officer editorial director, lifest yle group e xecutive vice presidents

Steve Lacy Tom Harty Alan Murray Nathan Lump Leslie Dukker Doty, Brad Elders, Lauren Ezrol Klein

tr avel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 12, Issue 4

Sanur I Ubud I Nusa Dua I Jimbaran

P. 62 361 705 777 F. 62 361 705 101 E. experience@kayumanis.com

Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, 1603, 16/F, Island Place Tower, 510 King’s Road, North Point, Hong Kong. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: 66-2/204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (66-2/368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (66-2/291-7575). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy. This edition is published by permission of Meredith 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Tel. 1-212/522-1212 Online: www.meredith.com Reproduction in whole or in part without consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. subscriptions Enquiries: www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe ADVERTISING offices General enquiries: advertising@mediatransasia.com Singapore: 65/9029 0749; joey@mediatransasia.com Japan: Shinano Co., Ltd. 81-3/3584-6420; kazujt@bunkoh.com Korea: YJP & Valued Media Co., Ltd. 82-2/3789-6888; hi@yjpvm.kr

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CITY LIGHTS COME TO LIFE Pulsing with creativity. Alive with history and culture. Let Four Seasons reveal the secrets of these 9 exciting cities. Choose from our exclusive offers to make your next urban getaway even more satisfying.

Find out more at:

Fourseasons.com/citybreaks Beijing

Hong Kong

Kuala Lumpur

London

Mumbai

Seoul

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Vancouver


the conversation We’re strong advocates of taking a break, but with the release of Expedia’s latest Vacation Deprivation Study it seems many aren’t booking as many days off as deserved. The survey found that Asia-Pacific ranked highest of the holiday-deprived, with full-time workers in South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India and Singapore all making the top six. Here are some of the more alarming stats, so— considering we have great beaches, private islands, remote jungles and luxurious resorts on our doorstep—book a flight, leave your desk and read this magazine poolside.

81% Thailand % 48 % NORWAY of South Koreans feel they don’t take enough vacations, the highest number of all countries surveyed.

is the most content vacation nation—only 38 percent feel like they don’t take enough holidays.

67

of workers in India have canceled a planned vacation when something work-related crops up at the last minute.

is the country with the lowest average amount of minimum leave—just 10 days per year. Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India get 20 days off, while the UAE, France, Spain, Denmark, Finland and Germany score a full month off each year.

of Taiwanese workers check their e-mail or voicemail at least once a day while on a trip.

JAPANESE

employees, on average, waste the most vacation days each year, only taking an average of 10 of their allotted 20 days of leave.

*Statistics taken from the Expedia Vacation Deprivation Study 2017.

#TLASIA

A pocket of Coron from above. By @mmarinrz.

For those of you who have been traveling, we’ve loved seeing your personal snaps of the region’s natural wonders.

The Mui Ne sand dunes in Vietnam look like an Arabian desert. By @zaksey.

The Chocolate Hills of Bohol in the Philippines. By@charlespcooper.

A view of Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko. By @charm.wu.

Share an Instagram photo by using the #TLAsia hashtag, and it may be featured in an upcoming issue. Follow @travelandleisureasia

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REASONS TRAVEL NOW april 2018

TO

T+L’s monthly selection of trip-worthy places, experiences and events.

no.

1

c h r i sto p h e r ku cway

The Eastern & Oriental Express is celebrating a milestone in style. Marking 25 years of service, Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express now features two carriages with whimsical makeovers. Thai artist Somnuek Klangnok is behind the playful princes and princesses that adorn their exteriors. Also part of the Art & Fashion in Motion program, fashionista Thattaworn Sugunnasil has introduced uniforms notable for the fact they look nothing like uniforms, instead evoking a style that combines Oriental flare with French tailoring. So, female attendants wear solid silks that will leave passengers pondering who is on staff and who requires a G+T? belmond.com; suites on the two-night Singapore to Bangkok journey from US$3,110 per person.

tr av el andleisure asia .com / april 2018

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/ reasons to travel now / no.

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Become part of the clan at Singapore’s next-generation private club.

Art abounds at Straits Clan’s lobby and lounge.

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Google’s new earbuds are a game changer for travelers. Instant translation may sound like a futuristic fantasy, but technology is already making it a reality. The most advanced contender: the new Google Pixel Buds (available from Singtel stores in Singapore; singtel.com; S$238), a wireless headphone set designed to offer—among other things—advanced in-ear translation of a foreign speaker. The two earpieces can be paired with the Google Pixel smartphone to communicate easily with people around the world, whether they speak Thai, Mandarin, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, or any of the other 40 supported languages. While one person wears the earbuds, the other speaks into the smartphone. A translation is immediately streamed to the listener. Although the technology is far from perfect—the translation is not always spot-on, and noisy environments will challenge the microphone—the language gap has never felt easier to bridge. — Jessica Pl autz

fr o m l e f t : c o u rt esy o f st r a i ts c l a n ; c o u rt esy o f g o o g l e

New to Singapore, where both socializing and doing business usually involve food, is Straits Clan (straitsclan.com), a members’ club that draws inspiration from the clan associations that proliferated for generations in its surrounding neighborhood. But visitors are welcome to a peek behind the private curtain. Having repurposed the former boutique New Majestic Hotel, the stylish, throwback club permits non-members to use its Clan Café on street level, where tea and basic Hakka-inspired dishes are available. Visit Singapore often? Then purchase a membership—a S$2,000 joining fee and a S$88 monthly fee—to gain access to the rest of the club. With that door open, you can use the dining room along Bukit Pasoh Road. One level up is a bar and alfresco area for drinks and food, while the top floor is home to a small gym that offers fitness classes; a spa with foot reflexology and head, neck and shoulder treatments; and an inviting reading lounge.


Canapés at a three-course dinner by Room4Dessert.

A cupping session at the Seniman Coffee masterclass.

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A n g ga r a M a h e n d r a ( 2 )

Southeast Asia’s most exciting food festival is a delicious reason to return to Bali. Already teeming with diverse local produce and world-class dining options, Bali casts its culinary net even wider with the annual Ubud Food Festival. The April 13–15 smorgasbord isn’t just a celebration of Indonesian cuisine, but also a gathering of top chefs, farmers and restaurateurs from around the globe for workshops, talks, cooking demonstrations and culinary tours. Forget your average nasi goreng cooking class (though, we’re pretty sure that can be arranged)—the event this year is inspired by the young, innovative generation that is driving the world’s culinary scene. Our picks include a talk on click-bait versus the art of transcribing taste in food reviews; a sourdough workshop from Canggu bakery Starter Lab; and a demo from the “bossman of bibimbap,” Michelin-starred Korean chef Sun Kim. Those whose waistlines cower at the idea of three days focused on food will find solace in the program’s frequent yoga breaks and walking tours. ubudfoodfestival.com; three-day passes from Rp1,500,000.

— Veronica Inveen


/ checking in /

Khmer Collection In Siem Reap, the new Bill Bensley–designed villas at the Shinta Mani Angkor hotel aren’t just a lesson in luxury, but also offer guests a dose of history and humanity. By Eloise Basuki. Photogr aphs by Leigh Griffiths

From left:

Butler Sreysor; jump straight into the private pool from the villa bedroom.

It’s not uncommon to be treated like royalty at a five-star hotel. Butler service, the finest furnishings, luxury spa treatments and highend dining all come together to make us ordinary folk feel like kings and queens for a few days. At a new brood of five-star-plus villas in Siem Reap, architect Bill Bensley creates a majestic retreat that also takes pride in Cambodian culture. “I need to ensure that our guests, when they wake up in the morning, know exactly where they are,” Bensley says. It’s dark and rainy when I check in to my villa for the weekend, but, as the sun rises, I wake to a Khmer kingdom. Opened in December, the 10 two-story Shinta Mani Angkor Bensley Collection villas are set within a private compound bordered by Angkor-inspired stone walls and a canopy of

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palm trees. A lush oasis in the center of Siem Reap’s dusty, dry streets, the villas share their green patch of land with the Shinta Mani Shack, the four-star sister hotel to the six-yearold, five-star Shinta Mani Angkor across the road. Bensley’s studio has designed all three properties, but at the villas, the Bangkok-based designer has personally overseen every detail to ensure indulgence is infused with creative cultural elements. “The doors and windows in the front of the villa’s courtyard, while wood, are patterned after those found in stone at Angkor,” Bensley says. The bold stripes he mentions also feature on black-and-white lounge pillows, brass lines interspersed between bedroom floorboards and the tiling of my villa’s nine-meter private lap pool. “Some have described [the villas] as


being Art Deco in nature—they’re not,” Bensley says. “The Khmer understood the power of repetitive geometric lines hundreds of years before architects of Europe. Our architecture interprets that of the Khmer in a new way, extending their culture, their legacy, into 2020.” The most dramatic element is the feature wall that runs from the bedroom to the edge of the pool. The entire wall is covered in a three-dimensional depiction of the rippled, flowing robes of King Jayavarman II, the Cambodian king who founded the Angkor period. “We wanted guests to feel the power and magic that the king of Cambodia would have felt when arriving at his Siem Reap palace,” Bensley says. My villa feels fit for a king and queen, and there’s definitely plenty of room for both. The double vanities, walk-in-wardrobe and outdoor shower and stone bathtub are located in their own separate quarters behind the bedroom, and the poolside courtyard and upstairs rooftop lounge offer ample options for a sundowner space. It’s up on the roof that Sreysor, my personal butler, organizes a bountiful breakfast spread for me on my second morning. The round-the-clock butlers can tailor your stay to your specific needs and interests, and can schedule temple tours, market visits, artisan workshops, transportation and restaurant reservations. Not only does Sreysor book me a last-minute tuk-tuk tour of Angkor Wat during jam-packed peak season, but she goes to the ticket office with my passport to line up for my ticket in my place, something most tourists waste hours of their vacation time doing themselves.

While I’m being treated like royalty, my stay here isn’t all about self-indulgence, and guests have the chance to venture beyond the temples and tourist-run streets to gain deeper insight into rural Cambodian life. The Shinta Mani hotels give a portion of their profits and 100 percent of any guest donations to the nonprofit Shinta Mani Foundation (shintamanifoundation.org), founded by the hotels’ owner. The foundation not only helps to redevelop more than 100 rural villages, but also offers free hospitality training to underprivileged locals, as well as loans for students who want to go to university or locals with a small business idea. “The loans have no interest. They can pay it back in small amounts—US$5 or $10—whatever they can afford each month,” says Neat Chhunnin, the Shinta Mani Foundation’s community coordinator, who is taking us to see exactly who the donations benefit.

From Left:

The entrance to the villas is modeled on the old stone walls of Angkor Wat; folded lotus flowers and fish ponds bring color to the hotel’s grounds.

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/ checking in / From left:

The villa’s glass bathroom; follow the lines to the Shinta Mani Angkor’s pool bar.

We head to Prey, a village in the Banteay Srei district of Siem Reap province, where the foundation has helped locals gain access to water, flushing toilets and permanent housing. We meet one couple with six children who now have their own brick house and water well. “The father built the water well himself. We trained him to do it, and then paid him to do the job here. Now he can do the job for other families and earn some money,” Chhunnin says. We also meet Yous Ny, who asked for a loan to start a small shop that sells food and daily necessities to the locals of the village. It’s a success. “I feel so proud of her. People here look at her and are really motivated to be like her,” Chhunnin says. On our way back we brave the heat of the midday sun to walk through the Shinta Mani organic farm; thriving crops of tomatoes, eggplants, beans, herbs, fruit and more are all sold back to the hotel for use at Kroya, the hotel’s high-end Khmer restaurant. The aim of the farm is to teach the villagers how to set up and nurture their own sustainable plots, giving them a source of income and food for their families. “Our goal is about education,” Chhunnin says. “We are helping the families because we want their kids at school.” The foundation has helped more than 200 students graduate from its hospitality program, some—like the Shinta Mani Shack’s front office manager—have even scored jobs at the hotels. Sreysor herself has been a part of the success; many of the students she helped train at Kroya have gone on to manage other restaurants in town. While the foundation’s

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message is prevalent, it’s not forced upon you, although it’s hard not to leave without feeling the need to be a little more altruistic. The new Bensley Collection gives guests the chance to be treated like the ancient Khmer kings, but seeing how your visit can benefit the community is an even richer reward. shintamani.com; villa B&B package from US$450 per night; all-inclusive package from US$750 per night includes all meals, free-flow mini bar, temple tour and more. Bill Bensley’s next project in Cambodia, Shinta Mani Wild, a luxury tented camp, will open in the Southern Cardamom National Park later this year.


/ in the neighborhood /

EAT

Go West

Thanks in part to Hong Kong’s MTR, Sai Ying Pun is now hip, with all-day cafés, boutique restaurants and small bars melding into a streetscape of local markets and artisans, writes Janice Leung Hayes.

Founded in 1922, Yu Kwen Yick’s chili sauce is beloved by locals. FAR right: Mrs. So’s XO sauce.

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The second branch of popular Sheung Wan café Brew Bros (fb.com/ brewbroshillroad), the Hill Road outpost is a quiet corner to start your day. Known as a slice of Australian café culture in Hong Kong, here, you can order smashed avo on toast (choose between the classic or their signature version, which is topped with crab) from their excellent breakfast menu. Their specialty beans come all the way from Melbourne’s boutique coffee roaster Market Lane. For lunch, stop into Qing Zuo (Shop 2–3, Wah Fai Court, 1–6 Ying

SHOP Surprise your food-loving

friends at home with some of the city’s best locally made sauces: subtly spiked with garlic and vinegar, Yu Kwen Yick (66A Third St.; 852/2568-8007) has made a favorite chili sauce for almost a century. At Mrs. So’s XO Sauce (xo-sauce. com.hk) the eponymous condiment, is deliciously chunky, packed with dried scallops, Yunnan ham and more. They have a range of Chinese sauces and you can taste them all at this flagship store.

c l o c k w i s e fr o m t o p l e f t: M e n d o w o n g P h o t o g r a p h y/ g e t t y i m a g e s ; c o u r t e s y o f Br e w Br o s ( 3 ) ; c o u r t e s y o f B l a c k S a lt; © m k 2 0 1 0 / w i k i m e d i a ; c o u r t e s y o f a b o v e s e c o n d ; c o u r t e s y o f A lv y ' s ( 2 ) ; j o n at h a n m a l o n e y; c o u r t e s y o f mr s . s o ' s x o s a u c e ; c o u r t e s y o f y u k w e n y i c k

clockwise From left: Steep streets in Sai Ying Pun; coffee and brekkie at Brew Bros; BlackSalt’s homey interior.


DO

Wa Ter.; 852/2677-2888; mains from HK$33), a minimalist, family-run hideaway that packs in the crowds for Taiwanese street food favorites like lu rou fan (braised pork on rice) and dan bing (egg pancake rolls). Spend dinner rounding out the culinary journey at BlackSalt (blacksalt.com.hk; mains from HK$130), where husband-and-wife team Taran and Sheela Chadha serve up creative, modern takes on Sri Lankan, Nepalese and Bengali cuisines using their own homemade masala blends.

If you’d rather just relax and feel the sea breeze, head to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, a rare expanse of green in this crowded city. Come early enough and you’ll catch locals practicing their daily tai chi. While neighboring Sheung Wan and Central districts have become a hub for gallerists, contemporary art hasn’t quite made it to Sai Ying Pun yet. But Above Second (abovesecondgallery.com) is a pioneer not only because of its geography, but because it is the only gallery in the city focused on exhibiting art inspired by today’s urban subcultures—from street art and graffiti to comic book illustrations.

From above: Sun Yat Sen

Memorial Park; Japanese artist Daisuke Tajima at Above Second.

DRINK

One of Hong Kong’s most important marketplaces, Dried Seafood Street stretches along Des Voeux Road from Sheung Wan to Sai Ying Pun. The long row of shops sells dried abalone, scallops, flounder and all kinds of marine life that once came ashore from the harbor in front of the shops, but the coastline has long been reclaimed. Nonetheless, the market is alive and well—take a stroll and play “guess the food.”

from above: Young Master’s

award-winning rye ale is on tap at Alvy’s; the gin wall at Ping Pong Gintoneria.

Dip into the border of Sai Ying Pun and Kennedy Town for a beer at Alvy’s (fb.com/alvyshk; drinks from HK$34), opened by local craft brewers Young Master. Apart from their own range, which includes crowd-pleasing lagers and experimental sour beers (their Cha Chaan Teng Gose beer is brewed with salted lime, a soda ingredient at Hong Kong’s old cafés), they stock beers from around the world. For a quiet drink in a speakeasy setting, Ping Pong Gintoneria (pingpong129.com; drinks from HK$110) is known for its array of Spanish gins. Located in what was a table-tennis training center, the bar has retained some of the original décor—a funky mix of old and new, just like Sai Ying Pun itself.


/ dining /

In the birthplace of many of Japan’s favorite dishes, a few culinary creatives are spinning international style into local staples. Allison Smith squeezes into Fukuoka’s most imaginative counter spaces and finds that history is repeating itself in new and delicious ways. From top:

Zen monk and bartender Kanwa Takeuchi in Vowz Bar; the Inori, mixed with matcha liqueur and a prayer from Takeuchi.

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D a i s u k e I k e d a (4 )

Soul Food

“There’s an old Japanese

expression, ichigo ichie. It means ‘one opportunity, one encounter,’” says Zen monk Kanwa Takeuchi. He’s reaching for a bottle of sake behind his bar in Fukuoka’s bustling Hakata district, and anyone on the hunt for some bartender wisdom would be hard-pressed to find a better sage. Takeuchi’s robed figure is partially obscured by a thin rag of smoke; I’ve lit a stick of incense, a standard gesture in Buddhist rituals, and part of the recipe for one of his signature cocktails, Inori, the Japanese word for prayer. “Every experience is unique and will never come again, so each moment should be cherished,” Takeuchi says. With an unhurried elegance, he captures the smoke with a cocktail shaker, cupping it over the top of the glass, and, in doing so, mixes my prayer into the drink. Port city Fukuoka, the capital of Kyushu, Japan’s most southwesterly island, exemplifies ichigo ichie better than most—the city’s urbanity is


distinguished by its ability to reinvent the present with innovative ideas, while also treasuring the past, and nowhere is this felt more deeply than in its local cuisine. Many Japanese culinary traditions trace their origins here: tonkotsu ramen— the city’s star—characterized by its fatty pork bone broth, as well as hot pot dishes motsunabe and mizutaki. Jotenji Temple, built in 1242 in the heart of Fukuoka, even has a stone marker bearing the inscription, udon soba hassho no chi, or, “the place where udon and soba were first made.” But, like the seemingly misplaced monk Takeuchi, today a new generation is reinventing Fukuoka’s eating and drinking scene through cross-cultural fusion and modern food trends. Framed by crimson walls accented with calligraphy brushstrokes, at first glance, Takeuchi’s Vowz Bar (fb. com/vowzbar.hakata; drinks from ¥1,000) looks like a stylized fantasy of the East, but his egalitarian approach to booze consumption dispels any stereotypes. Most might think monks and alcohol don’t mix, but Takeuchi holds firm that his Buddhism-inspired cocktails can bridge the gap between spirituality and the daily demands of modern life. “It can be difficult for people to meet with a monk for spiritual guidance because of work schedules,” he tells me. “But most people drink alcohol at night after work. If monks go out to bars with the people, then we can meet, talk, and bring people closer to Buddhism.” At Vowz Bar, Buddhist tenets are reimagined through specialty cocktails. The Ichigo Ichie can be personalized with your choice of alcohol, reflecting the phrase’s ephemeral wisdom. A spicy vodkabased cocktail, Samjiva, named after one of the realms of hell, offers a kick. “Every drink has a special meaning, a story behind it,” he says, hopeful that these messages will act as a catalyst for spiritual connection. With a similar attitude to his culinary ethos, chef Hiroyuki

From left: The

noodles at Samurai. Udon are topped with seasonal tempura vegetables; chef Hiroyuki Soma scoops up his potentially conflicteasing udon.

Soma’s samurai-like dedication to Fukuoka’s most underrated noodle suggests it’s udon, not rock and roll, that will save the world. Samurai. Udon (samurai-udon.com; mains from ¥850), his aptly named restaurant, is a standout for its handmade noodles and locally sourced ingredients. Yet it’s Soma’s eagerness to collaborate with other chefs from all cultural backgrounds that makes his shop special. Soma says udon’s base components—flour, water and vinegar—are the key to merging cultural borders, “its ingredients make it a very versatile dish, so as

long as I have those three parts, I can blend udon with many other cuisines to create something new.” Balling his hand into a fist for emphasis, Soma proposes that “udon culture could even ease international conflicts, like North Korea and Donald Trump.” His brand of optimism, characterized by the breadth of its vision, has resulted in an impressive array of culturally experimental dishes—more than a hundred, according to Soma—and nearly two dozen restaurant collaborations. Whether he uses Korean sauces or horse meat, or buries his noodles beneath a mound

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/ dining / of spicy South Asian curry, Soma is eager to infuse his udon with a global awareness. Despite his restaurant’s mounting popularity, Soma remains modest: “I don’t know if my restaurant is that unique. This is just the most natural way for me to express myself.” Toshiyuki Morimoto is another local chef who is motivated to reinvent local dishes with a modern sensibility. At his izakaya-style seafood restaurant Number Shot (foomanlab.com/fish-market-1; mains from ¥1,250), his menu remains true to the cuisine’s roots. Despite Fukuoka’s diverse food scene, it isn’t a tourist hub like Tokyo or Kyoto; Morimoto hopes that combining French-style cooking with Kyushu cuisine and locally sourced ingredients will introduce the city as an international culinary superstar. My appetizer is a promising start. Mentaiko—

Fukuoka’s famed spicy cod roe—is rolled in an omelet and wrapped in sliced Hakata-style pork belly, combining two local specialties into a deceptively simple concoction. However, it’s Morimoto’s signature main, Number Shot Doria, that leaves me spinning in the best possible way. Though doria is Italian in name and origin, the rice gratin dish was introduced to Japan 90 years ago by a Swiss chef whose version bakes melted cheese over a bed of steamed rice and Bechamel sauce. Instead of rice, Number Shot’s re-interpretation showcases Kyushu seafood; mussels and crab pop on the tongue, delicately rich and buttery soft. It’s also one of the most attractive dishes I’ve ever seen, garnished with sea urchin and little orbs of roe that shimmer like precious stones. Like many foods I’ve encountered here, it’s never the same dish twice. The fish selection

changes daily, and the vegetables are seasonal; in springtime, they’ll swap mushrooms for bamboo shoots. Number Shot, and Fukuoka at large, are places of juxtaposition. Despite the trendy interior, and the larger metropolis surrounding it, this is not a place where one checks the time or hurries off to the next hotspot. Like many restaurants throughout Japan, the shoulder-toshoulder dining nature along the communal counter invites strangers to interact, while the exposed kitchen in the center evokes the theatricality of a playhouse. Departing into the chilly night, I’m guided by the far-off lights of yatai, wooden food carts, an anachronistic culinary tradition that survives in Fukuoka despite the city’s modern urban landscape. Wheeled out at dusk and gone again by the break of dawn, yatai stalls date back to at least the 17th century,

Morimoto utilizes Fukuoka’s port locale to source fresh seafood; it’s counter space only at Number Shot; Morimoto’s take on doria, a Japanesestyle gratin.

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Y u i t i r o H i r a k awa ( 3 )

clockwise from far left: Chef Toshiyuki


Daisuke Ikeda (2)

and were widespread throughout Japan. In preparation of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, however, many were shut down due to increased sanitation standards. Since then, their prevalence has diminished by more than half, though Fukuoka has taken strides to preserve the custom. Yatai ownership used to be exclusively familial until 2016 when Fukuoka’s local government began accepting new applications. Enter: Rémy Grenard, a Normandy-born chef and baker living in Fukuoka since 2001, who is the first non-Japanese to operate his own yatai, called Chez Rémy, which opened last spring. (fb.com/ yataichezremy; mains from ¥650). Grenard began introducing his homeland’s cuisine to Fukuoka when he opened his French bakery, La Tartine, in 2016, and continues to bake its authentic croissants, brioche and quiches before his work at his yatai begins in the evening. At Chez Rémy, what sets his ramen apart is the French-style bouillabaisse broth topped with a hearty helping of mussels, shrimp and potatoes, instead of the usual sliced pork. It’s a savory dish that warms your belly, especially when paired with his boundary-pushing European sides, such as French-style pumpkin gnocchi, and seasonal mulled wine. The decision to serve ramen began as a back-and-forth debate with a friend who insisted he add the dish to his yatai repertoire. Laughing, Grenard admits he was skeptical at first: “I don’t want to make what everyone else is making—I want to be myself,” he recalls saying. This commitment to individualism has paid off. Chez Rémy draws large crowds each night, due in part to its original ramen dish, as well as Grenard’s willingness to accommodate vegetarian palates—not possible in most pork-laden tonkotsu broths— all of which is further buoyed by his breezy personality. As he hopscotches between French, Japanese and

Soma’s samurai-like dedication to Fukuoka’s most underrated noodle suggests it’s udon, not rock and roll, that will save the world English, prompting conversation with customers, while calling out directions to his staff, he is both charming and impressive. Vestiges of the past permeate Fukuoka’s landscape, from festivals celebrating centuries-old events to elderly women clad in traditional kimono boarding the rush hour train. Time is easily lost to idleness, but Fukuoka’s recent wave of culinary creatives has left a stamp on the present, transfiguring local staples through modernity, as they understand better than anyone else: this moment will never come back again. Grenard makes a toast: “Ichigo ichie.” “That’s an interesting adage,” remarks the diner next to me, a Tokyo-based expat visiting for work. “It means…” But I stop him short. I’m well-versed by now in the divine opportunity of singular culinary encounters.

From top: French Chef Rémy Grenard’s yatai stall; Grenard fuses the cuisines of both his old and new homes in his signature dish, ramen bouillabaisse.

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/ travel diary / snorkeling the Coral Triangle and Coron

The coral reefs around Coron are simply world-class. Situated in the fabled “Coral Triangle,” stretching from the Philippines in the north to Indonesia further west and the Solomon Islands in the east, the diversity of marine life here is off the Richter scale. Dipping into the bath-warm water to scope out the sea life feels just like dropping into the world’s largest fish tank.

Into the Wild

— Mike Dilger

Embarking on a journey through remote corners of the Philippines, biologist Mike Dilger and BBC World News presenter Rico Hizon get closer to nature while filming a new travel series. presenter Rico Hizon, the rich culture and natural landscape of his homeland are a constant surprise. Venturing deeper than he ever had before, Hizon joined BBC Earth wildlife expert Mike Dilger on a 3,000-kilometer trip from Palawan Island to the jungles of Luzon for their upcoming documentary series, Philippines: Island Treasures. For Hizon, it was the cuisine that amazed him most: “Generally, adobo has the same basic ingredients. But on this journey, I learned that each region, each island, sometimes even each town, may have their own style of cooking it. They tailor their recipe to what ingredients they have locally or seasonally.” For Dilger, the trip was a biologist’s dream, and releasing a captive-raised endangered Philippine Crocodile into the wild was a thrill. “Standing ankle-deep in the water, I loosened the grip of the crocodile in my hands, only to watch it momentarily float on the surface, before a quick swish of its tail saw it disappear from view.” Here, Dilger and Hizon share some highlights from their trip. —Eloise Basuki

You can watch Rico and Mike in Philippines: Island Treasures on BBC World News on April 7 & 14. The series will be repeated later in 2018.

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a beer at the PalaweÑo Brewery

I’m really proud of Ayah Javier, Palaweño Brewery’s founder and brewmaster,  and her business partner Malu Lauengco. They manage the first all-women beer business in the

Philippines. Their brewery uses local ingredients from spices to coconuts and mangoes to give their beers a unique taste. The varieties range from the hoppy Ayahay IPA to the Honey Kölsch, a “tribal beer” made with Palawan honey. 

— Rico Hizon >>

A l l Im a g e s C o u r t e s y BBC W o r l d N e w s

For Filipino news


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/ travel diary /

spotting a Philippine Cockatoo

Once common across the archipelago, a combination of habitat loss and poaching over the last 30 years has seen the Philippine Cockatoo brought

to the verge of extinction. However, with the help of local support from communities on Palawan, the future of this stunning, sociable and noisy bird may just be starting to get a touch brighter.

— M.D.

sagada’s Hanging Coffins

meeting The Batak Tribe

With few signs of modernity, it is a simple and yet demanding life played out by the Batak people, the country’s oldest indigenous tribe, in the shadow of Cleopatra’s Needle—one of Palawan’s most distinctive mountain summits. Living a subsistence lifestyle on the edge of the forest, the tribe survives by tapping resin from the almaciga tree.

— M.D.

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Inhabitants of the mountainous town of Sagada in northern Luzon have a rather unconventional way of honoring their dead. Rather than burial or cremation, some departed members of the Igorot community have chosen for their coffins to be suspended halfway up a sheer cliff. Only when placed at such a lofty location will they then be closer to their ancestral spirits.

— M.D.


trekking the Banaue Rice Terraces

I was awestruck with the beauty and splendor of the Banaue Rice Terraces. They were breathtaking, nature at its finest. Despite their

majestic beauty, this was the toughest part of my trip. I had to trek up and down the terraces that are around 300 meters high. What’s really impressive is that these terraces were built by hand more than 2,000 years ago.

— R.H.

“A remote archipelago that’s been geologically isolated from the rest of Asia for millions of years will always be a draw for naturalists” —mik e dilger

exploring palawan’s underground river

For any eco-tourist, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a river that flows under the St. Paul Mountain range, is a must-see. Macaques and monitor lizards form a welcoming party

before visitors are invited to take to the boats. Paddling upriver and under the island, torches are essential if you want to get the best out of the dark, wet subterranean world that has become home to innumerable bats and blind tarantulas.

— M.D.

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/ insider intel / clockwise from left: Vintage

colonial water flasks at Serendipity Delhi; jewelry studio Nimai has a moody boutique at fashion market Shahpur Jat; designer Kuldeep Kaur. opposite: Serendipity Delhi’s bespoke Suzani pillows, inspired by Kaur’s travels to Central Asia.

Delhi by Design With designers pushing the boundaries of tradition in the Indian capital, the city’s creative scene is beginning to bloom. Rachna Sachasinh talks to local design maven Kuldeep Kaur about the innovators behind the new studios, boutiques and brands. Photogr aphs by Debjit Banerjee “When we first opened, I thought, Who will come?” Kuldeep Kaur recalls, laughing. “Delhi is a conventional city. People would rather go to the mall.” For decades, Delhi has been chastised for its buttoned-down style. Compared to Mumbai, with its colorful film industry, and Kolkata, a hub of modern literary culture— cities where creativity has always been naturally experimental—Delhi’s bureaucratic way of life has led to a more formulaic style, focusing almost exclusively on couture bridalwear and export garments. Things are pivoting, however, towards the local and the personal, and Kaur, a designer and the owner of Serendipity Delhi (serendipitydelhi.com), a travel-inspired homewares and design shop, is this new era’s biggest cheerleader. “There is an interesting alchemy between Indian-ness and individuality,” Kaur says. In Delhi, where past and present, traditional and modern are seemingly at odds and in collusion with each

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dres s: courtesy of artisau

other, designers are questioning what it means to be Indian and an individual. Kaur is exploring these issues at Serendipity Delhi with her curated collection of furniture, textiles and vintage treasures from India and beyond. She also points to fashion designers like Sanjay Garg at Raw Mango and Suket Dhir of his eponymous menswear label as pioneers in these internal-external deliberations. Garg focuses on the iconic saree, stripping it down to its simplest component and mining village know-how to revive old-fashioned weaves. Dhir, meanwhile, straddles time and genre, managing to marry a Savile Row-sensibility with quirky vintage and athletic references. “Garg is an example of the resurgence of minimalism, yet has a strong commitment to Indian craft,” Kaur says. “Dhir’s silhouettes are looser, restructured and a bit rebellious. More designers are chiming in, the questions are broader, the pitch is different and the conversation livelier.” Creating intellectual and physical space to experience good design is as important as the products. “Design is most visible when it’s not overworked,” Kaur says. Delhi is a city notorious for its claustrophobic markets and over-dressing, so this type of thinking is a giant leap. Kaur’s own outpost has made the jump: hidden at the end of a dusty country lane in Jonapur, a modest village on the outskirts of Delhi, Serendipity Delhi sits within a rustic whitewashed haveli, a classic Indian home >>

these are a few of Kaur’s favorite up-and-coming design stars and pioneers worth seeking out:

En Inde’s jewelry often uses tribal elements. + At their studio in leafy Lajpat Nagar, En Inde (eninde. com) encourages you to “find your steel” with their striking range of stainless steel jewelry. “Not wearing gold is almost sacrilege in India, yet this collection has caught on,” Kaur says. “The pieces are inspired by a rustic, tribal aesthetic, and make use of atypical materials like steel and jute. They convey power, strength and individuality.” + “Nicobar

(nicobar.com) clearly has vision, one that mines urban India’s hipster beachloving alter ego. Pared down silhouettes, surprising design details and excellent quality appeal to a broad audience. A foot planted in India and another stepping

Artisau’s. handloomed. silk Aravali. dress..

overseas, Nicobar hands-down captures the country’s growing frontier spirit.” + “The clothes by

Simran Chaudhry of Artisau (fb.com/ wearartisau) are ambient and rooted in minimalism. Elegant and simple cuts, a beautiful color palette, natural fabrics and sustainable practices are their hallmark.”

+ Doodlage

(doodlage.in) makes a case for sustainable fashion. “Kriti Tula’s label focuses exclusively on recycled and repurposed garments. The message is serious: we need to cut waste in fashion. Yet, at the same time, Tula’s collection of breezy frocks and jackets is playful and whimsical.”

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/ insider intel /

from top: A saree vendor at

Shahpur Jat; a mural at Lodhi Colony. Opposite: Waiting outside Meharchand Market.

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built around a central courtyard, where Kaur curates living spaces that blend India’s diverse craft heritage with a contemporary aesthetic. Mod club chairs are upholstered in blockprinted cotton; midcentury sofas are paired with Art Deco tables and Mughal miniatures; Suzani embroidery, Moroccan pillows, handloomed duvets and kaftans drape vintage Burmese teak beds. In spite of her genre- and era-bending aesthetics, Kaur’s space is surprisingly uncluttered and tranquil. In a city perennially dodging a bad rap for stuffy markets, stifling heat and acrid pollution, Kaur delivers a rare commodity: a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Nicobar, a year-old fashion and lifestyle brand that already has stores across the country, bases its design studio in a former farmhouse. Here, the production team dreams up collections sitting outdoors in nature-filled courtyards. While their seaside-themed 306-square-meter flagship store just opened in Chanayapuri, Nicobar premiered in Delhi back in 2016, opening a store in Meharchand Market, a vintage shopping district where old-school tailors and chai wallahs rub shoulders with a burgeoning hipster scene. Among the din and drama of the market, the petit glass-fronted


+ “Nappa Dori

(nappadori.com) have been around for a while, but their new space in Chhatarpur’s warehouse district is a must-visit. A leather workbench gives you a look at the classic tools and techniques of one of India’s oldest crafts. The line’s entire collection of bespoke leather bags and journals sit alongside a handful of indie labels. The café’s Mediterranean brunch menu, coffee drinks and laid-back vibe are a great addition to the area.”

t o p r i g h t: c o u r t e s y o f N a p pa D o r i . i n s e t: c o u r t e s y o f An a a m

+ Although the style of Anaam

store is filled with their modern clothing range that uses soft mulmul cotton and buttery Chanderi silks in classic Indian shapes and breezy island silhouettes. A block west of Meharchand Market is Delhi’s swish Lodhi Colony, whose Lutyens-era bungalows provided the canvas for the city’s first contemporary public art installation. Last year, the arts organization ST+art commissioned a series of conceptual and edgy murals that scale three-story buildings and span entire city blocks, an event that pushed the city’s bastion of old money into the new world in just a matter of weeks. At Serendipity Delhi, Kaur is hoping to engage a similar movement, and is committed to providing a forum for emerging voices with her annual art, music and design festival, Color Me Autumn, which showcases the city’s newest creators. “In India, fashion can be classist and elitist. Designers have adhered to very narrow definitions and limited opportunities to express themselves,” she says. “Western designers are used to expressing their individuality. For Delhi, this is entirely new. It’s an exciting time to create and shop in the city.”

(anaamofficial. com) is inspired from traditional garb—for example, the drape of simple dhotis worn by rickshaw wallahs are a feature—their studio in Shahpur Jat market is edgy. “Anaam means ‘no name,’ which suggests a

Nappa Dori’s leather workshop..

rejection of labels and boundaries,” Kaur says. “Sumiran Kabir Sharma’s clothes are deconstructed, androgynous and a bit punk.” + A one-stop

shop for jewelry lovers in Shahpur Jat, “Nimai (shopnimai.com) is an amazing platform for innovative jewelry designers using non-traditional mediums and embellishments.”

A piece from. Anaam’s. Sonagachi. collection..

Contemporary homewares at Shapur Jat..

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/ place settings /

Advance Australia Fare In Perth, a slew of new dining spaces is putting Western Australia on a plate. Grace Ma spends a weekend grazing the city’s best regional fare.

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c o u r t e s y o f I n t e rC o n t i n e n ta l P e r t h C i t y C e n t r e

A taste of Spain at Heno & Rey.


from left: The InterContinental Perth City Centre is surrounded by stately architecture; Fremantle octopus, chorizo and pimento caponata on toast, a hearty lunch at Market Grounds; the dining room at Ascua, where Spanish cuisine gets an Australian approach.

on my second visit to Perth. I had just popped a mouthful of roasted peppers at Ascua, a Spanish-inspired restaurant in the newly opened InterContinental Perth City Centre, and the silky strips were among the sweetest I had ever tasted. “They’re from Gingin,” the waitress said of their origin, a town 67 kilometers north of Perth. “They’re really good, aren’t they?” That was an understatement. Served alongside an equally flavorful beef rump cap, which has been cut from grain-fed cattle from the southeast Stirling Ranges, the peppers were just the beginning. Isolated from the rest of the country, Perth has access to some of the most biologically diverse produce from across Western Australia, the largest Australian state. The opening of the InterContinental last October coincided with the debut of many regional-focused restaurants in the last year and the hotel forms the perfect base from which to start my feasting journey. Ascua is one of two new openings located within the hotel itself. The other is tapas and raw bar Heno & Rey. A Spanish take on “hay” and “king”—the names of the streets forming the intersection where the bar is located—Heno & Rey, like Ascua, embraces the Spanish style of cooking to make local ingredients sing. “We felt there was something missing from the market and Spanish cuisine would be a great addition. But we also wanted to keep it regional with our own spin on it,” says chef de cuisine of both restaurants Nicholas Trezise, who grew up in Pemberton, a small town southwest of Perth. Trezise worked the Australian-Spanish combination into each restaurant’s menu distinctly. My Ascua dinner is refined: Shark Bay scallops (from the World Heritage site at Australia’s westernmost

fr o m l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f I n t e rC o n t i n e n ta l P e r t h C i t y C e n t r e ; c o u r t e s y o f m a r k e t g r o u n d s ; c o u r t e s y o f I n t e rC o n t i n e n ta l P e r t h C i t y C e n t r e

It was my first dinner

tip) are complemented with two types of jamón: serrano crisps and ibérico crumbs. Dessert is a rich chocolate pudding made from handcrafted chocolate by a Margaret River chocolatier and paired with ice cream made with turrón, a traditional Spanish nougat. Heno & Rey’s offerings are more relaxed. I share the space with happy locals celebrating Australia Day, and polish off plates of Australian tuna ceviche, acorn-fed cured ham, and marinated chicken thigh with romesco sauce. I sit alone, but the boisterous Aussie crowd, pumping music and house-made sangria on tap make me want to skip up from my table. the hotel, at the basement of an old bank building, is Fromage Artisans. Opened by Danicia Quinlan and Michael Taylor, who also founded the city’s only cheese festival, the fromagerie not only showcases the region’s best dairy produce but is licensed to sell liquor and has a serious dress code—no activewear, sandals or ripped jeans allowed. “Our travels interstate and overseas made us realize that there was nothing [in Perth] that showcased amazing artisanal cheeses in a way that was so appealing as it is in these boutique places,” Quinlan says as we stand in the century-old

A short walk from

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former bank vault that’s now a cold room filled with more than 40 types of cheese. Here, the tasting boards feature the best table-aged cheeses paired with artisanal liquor. Today I’m presented with rare goat and sheep cheeses from Toodyay and Nannup (“small communities with a strong focus on artisanal produce and sustainable farming practices,” Quinlan says) alongside a newly arrived Sartori BellaVitano, an American-made sweet cow’s milk cheese rubbed with roasted ground coffee. “The goat cheese from Gidgegannup [near Toodyay] is one of our biggest sellers, but there are days where the owner gets busy with the goats and finds it hard to deliver to us,” Quinlan says. “When you’re running an establishment and people are expecting to have the same thing in a consistent way, relying on small local producers can be challenging. But while you may not know what cheeses you’ll get, you know it will be of good quality with a great story.” No matter, busy goat owners are easily forgiven when you can also order from a menu of decadent bar bites—the 10-cheese toasted sandwich, which melts a secret mix of high-end remnants of the day (some costing as much as A$120 per kilogram), is best eaten with a dab of spiced tomato chutney made by a Peppermint Grove Beach producer southwest of Perth.

Going big on Western Australian produce seems the intuitive way to go, and Market Grounds, a massive new 780-seat restaurant, bar and beer garden, does this as well as celebrating the city’s past. Fashioned after the old Perth Market that operated here from 1897 to 1937, the complex sits within King’s Square, a commercial precinct at the heart of the new Perth City Link, which was constructed over a railway that had previously separated the CBD and the Northbridge neighborhood for more than a century. The multi-million dollar venue provides distinct places to dine: go for a grazing menu at the sunken lounge, small bites at the bar or shared plates at the 75-seat main restaurant. Menus are broken down into butcher, baker, grocer and fishmonger sections—a connection to the old market halls—and ingredients are sourced from farming communities located within a 200-kilometer radius of Perth: fruits and vegetables come from Wanneroo; meat from Dardanup; seafood from Fremantle. It’s the ultimate modern pub, says Adam Kapinkoff, group operations manager of his family’s Ark Hospitality Group, which launched Market Grounds in December. “As pubs evolved in the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a serious shift in providing restaurant quality food in a relaxed casual setting. We’re all proud Western Australians who want to support the local suppliers. With such great access to quality local produce, it’d be silly not to.” It’s the same pride I encounter as I round off my trip at a weekend brunch with local friends at Island Market Trigg, a bright beach diner clad in pink and marble with Mediterranean vibes and a Levantine menu. The minds behind the menu, executive chef David Coomer and head chef Sunny de Ocampo, have cooked in some of Perth’s best kitchens and are long familiar with the West’s bounty. >>

from left: A peek at the tasting room at Fromage Artisans; the limited edition Avo Splash cocktail at Market Grounds blends avocado

with a dash of tequila; order the selection of Middle Eastern–style dips at Island Market Trigg with a plate of their warm pita bread.

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/ place settings /


/ place settings / the details

Sunset vistas at Island Market Trigg.

“We don’t want to import from overseas when the availability is out there,” de Ocampo says. “It’s also about putting what’s fresh and in season on our plates and supporting our local farmers.” Summer plats du jour include seasonal fruits to balance richer flavors: watermelon brings sweetness to a feta salad, while nectarines add a zesty spritz to woodfired roast duck. Close relationships with the producers also mean getting first dibs on the most interesting harvests of the day—think local shellfish “honey bugs” from Perth’s offshore Rottnest Island, and Manjimup figs from the southwest. As we look out to views of sparkling Trigg Beach, our party of four passes plates of latkes topped with hot-smoked salmon, dill and capers; breakfast pide, a Turkish pastry filled with sausages, egg, peppers and haloumi; and shakshuka made with free-range CharCol Springs eggs from the Southern Forests region. In Perth, it seems like every plate is an ode to its neighbors.

Eat+Drink Ascua Wood-fired meats are the main event at this Spanish-style grill-house at the base of the InterContinental. ascua.com. au; mains from A$28. Fromage Artisans Offering a range of tasting boards, wine and cheese masterclasses and bespoke artisanal cheese hampers, this boutique bar answers all dairy cravings. fromage.com. au; cheeseboards from A$22. Heno & Rey As well as a diverse tapas menu, this lively spot at the InterContinental serves sangria on tap, Latin beers and top Spanish sherries. henoandrey.com.au; tapas from A$13; drinks from A$6. Island Market Trigg The bright and airy dining space here has views of Trigg Beach with a relaxed yet refined menu. islandmarkettrigg.com; mains from A$16. Market Grounds This two-story eating-anddrinking complex offers several bars for an after-work tipple. Our pick is the outdoor garden bar—perfect for summer sundowners. marketgrounds.com.au; mains from A$19; drinks from A$9.

“We’re all proud Western Australians who want to support the local suppliers. With such great access to quality local produce, it’d be silly not to”

courtesy of island market trigg

STAY InterContinental Perth City Centre Located within the King Street Precinct, this five-star hotel was designed with the Western Australian landscape in mind—the entrance features locally sourced natural timbers and stones. The well-connected Club InterContinental team can organize exclusive local experiences in the city. intercontinental.com/perth; doubles from A$245.


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Heritage Hot Spots THREE DIFFERENT REGIONS OF THIS VAST NATION OFFER UP THREE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GLIMPSES INTO ITS RICH PAST.

Brihadeeswarar Temple.

BRIHADEESWAR AR TEMPLE, TAMIL NADU

Dedicated to Shiva, Brihadeeswarar Temple is one of the largest temples in South India and an excellent example of Tamil architecture at its best. Located 350 kilometers southwest of Chennai, the original portions of the temple date to the 11th century. Its main vimana tower, at 16 storeys is among the tallest in South India, and is constructed from granite, while the quality of sculpture throughout the grounds is second to none. One of a trio of Chola temples with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, it’s easy to see why Brihadeeswarar Temple is one of the most popular stops in Tamil Nadu.

NAL ANDA UNIVERSIT Y

One of India’s earliest teaching institutions, it’s mind boggling to realize that Nalanda University dates back to the 5th century. At the time, highly formalized Vedic training attracted students from as far as Korea, China and Tibet. To this day, a series of Buddhist monasteries and temples that were in use for the better part

http://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html

of 700 years continue to unearth a wealth of knowledge of this era through sculptures, coinage, carvings and seals. This alone is why the university, 95 kilometers outside of Patna in Bihar, continues to attract Buddhist visitors and the simply curious.

SUN TEMPLE, KONARK

Situated along the Odisha coast, the Sun Temple, Konark remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather for the Chandrabhaga Mela, which normally takes place in February. Dedicated to the Hindu god Surya, the 13thcentury temple is famous for its intricate stone carving, artwork, iconography and Hindu themes. Surya is represented by an oversized chariot led by seven horses and, today, it’s that detail in the stone carvings of chariot wheels that remains fascinating for visitors. The reliefs here are so intricately detailed that they are described in terms normally left to the fine art of jewellery.

Nalanda University.

For more information: www.incredibleindia.org

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Sun Temple, Konark.

@incredibleindia


/ the quest /

On the Coffee Trail An emerging specialty coffee scene in Laos has attracted a growing number of espresso geeks and independent travelers to the lush Bolaven Plateau, an area best seen on two wheels. story and photogr aphs by cr aig sauers

clockwise from top: Excelsa coffee beans at Ban Kok

Phung Tai; an elephant gets a bath at Tad Lo Lodge; separating the dried beans at a plantation in Paksong.

I should have known

what I was getting myself into when I arranged to meet a man named “Koffie.” Yes, Koffie—as in coffee, café, gafae. By the time the Laos-based coffee connoisseur served me a fifth cup of what I’m pretty sure is the best espresso I’ve ever had, I felt as if I might start levitating. Dutch expat Koffie— real name: Cornelis Obee—has spent the past 11 years in Paksong, the largest town in the Bolaven

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Plateau where 95 percent of Laos’s coffee is grown. Working as a guide and occasional barista at his rustic coffee shop, Won Coffee, Koffie leads “cherry to cup” tours of local plantations every morning; in the afternoon, he hosts workshops for those with a deeper interest in the coffee-making process. I’m signed up for both. I’ve rented a motorbike with plans to tour the chip-sealed roads that circle the Bolaven Plateau


in search of the country’s best coffee. The route has become popular among independent travelers, who hire their wheels in Pakse, the capital of southern Champasak province, to access the plateau’s abundant natural attractions—the waterfalls are spectacular—and meet the Mon-Khmer ethnic groups in the area. I’m in the growing minority of travelers following the espresso trail, hoping my motorbike will give me access to remote farms and local cafés. After I’ve driven two hours from Pakse to Paksong, dodging potholes, cows and the occasional goat along the way, Koffie’s cram session proves to be an excellent primer. “I’ll overload you with knowledge,” Koffie warns me. “You might forget half of what I’ve told you by nightfall.” He explains why Paksong is ideal for

growing coffee: the cool average temperature of 24 degrees combined with the high altitude—the plateau is at 1,300 meters—and 3,700 millimeters of rainfall per year. Koffie describes how local farmers use a process

from top: Getting snap-happy in the lush valley surrounding Tad Yuang Waterfall; deliveries on two wheels.

called washing to produce a better balance of bitterness and acidity. But it’s the plateau’s volcanic soil that really makes the region so ideal for the bean. It’s home to 30 different types of arabica—the highervalued bean variety— yielding around 3,000 distinct tastes. It had never occurred to me that parts of Laos could have the same climate and topography that feed coffee plants in places like Ethiopia and Sumatra. “Before, you only tasted coffee,” Koffie tells me. “Now you will know what you’re drinking.” French colonists cultivated the first arabica, robusta and liberica coffee plants in Laos, bringing them in the 1900s from their farms in Vietnam. But the crops suffered from frost, as well as an outbreak of fungus called leaf rust, and were almost wiped out from a series of

wars. During World War II, many French farmers fled Laos; then civil war rampaged through the country; finally, during the American conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s, the U.S. carpet-bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and its surrounds brought death, destruction and disorder to villages and farms in the Bolaven Plateau. Coffee came back on the scene in 1994, when French-educated Sinouk Sisombat bought farmland on the plateau, hoping to revive arabica in his home country. Others followed Sinouk’s lead, and before long arabica was on the rise and a “quality over quantity” approach took root. While Laos only exports about 25,000 tonnes of beans per year—by comparison, Vietnam exported 1.4 million tonnes in 2017—producers like Sinouk and the Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers

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/ the quest / Cooperative have worked with farmers to improve quality and focus on putting high-earning beans on the market. “The Bolaven Plateau is a small pond with many different fish,” Koffie says, grabbing some green coffee beans and lighting the burner beneath his wok, which he uses to teach people like me how to roast beans at home. As he tosses beans onto the hot wok, he adds, “Everyone does coffee their own way,

and they’re all proud of their products.” Leaving Koffie sufficiently caffeinated, I backtrack on my motorbike to Sabaidee Valley, my retreat for the night. The hilltop resort occupies a prime position on the edge of the plateau, overlooking a basin that fills with mist in the morning. The hotel’s café is buzzing, and I pick up a souvenir of fair-trade Paksong beans to take home. The next morning,

from top: A guest room at Le Jardin de Pakse; Tad Yuang Waterfall; bamboo filter coffee by Captain Hook. opposite: The villas at Sabaidee Valley resort hover over the clouds.

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I drive 100 kilometers to Tad Lo village, a common stopover known for its stunning waterfalls, Tad Lo and Tad Hang, taking a coffee break at Sinouk’s resort and coffee plantation. In Tad Lo, life moves at the pace of a weekend picnic. After zipping around on a Honda for two days, I’m content to soak up the cool air and unwind by the waterfalls. Tad Lo isn’t just a rest stop, though. For many, it’s a base for visiting ethnic minority communities, specifically the Katu, one of 14 Mon-Khmer groups in the area. My last day on the plateau begins with a drive down a dirt road to

a Katu village called Ban Kok Phung Tai, where I join a tour of the coffeefarming community led by a local man named Hook (nicknamed “Captain Hook” by clever tourists). Eloquent and friendly, if enigmatic, he provides a lens into an animist lifestyle it’s hard to imagine existing these days. As it turns out, he is also a coffee savant. Under the shade of a robusta plant, Hook describes how farmers in his village—some of the 10,000 coffee-farming families who live on the Bolaven Plateau—fertilize crops with the sun-dried skin of coffee cherries and


“Before you only tasted coffee; now you will know what you’re drinking.” —bean-to-brew expert Koffie Obee the water left over from fermentation. He picks some cherries to show the stages of ripeness. Over cups of robusta brewed in bamboo filters, we also discuss Katu life: animal sacrifice, shamanism and local beliefs. “In my village, we never speak of the future,” he says, citing an example. “Evil spirits will know your plans.” My plans for the plateau are almost over, and on my last night I ride back to Pakse to soak my saddle

sores in the saltwater pool at Le Jardin de Pakse, a turmeric-colored villa that speaks to the city’s French colonial past. There, I start to feel sentimental for the pastoral world I just left and remember something Koffie said: “I try to give you adaptable knowledge you can use outside of here, coffee knowledge for the real world…as long as you can remember it.” Coming down from this caffeine high, there’s no way I could forget it.

the details LAOS bolaven plateau

sekong

SALAVAN

Pakse

Tad Yuang Waterfall Tad Fane Waterfall

attapeu CHAMPASAK Paksong

Tad Lo Village

getting there There are non-stop flights to Pakse from Vientiane, Siem Reap and Bangkok. From there, Miss Noy Motorbike (No. 13 S Road, Pakse; 85620/2227-2278; from US$6 per day) hires out some of the best bikes in town and offers nightly informational sessions on driving the loop. Not confident on two wheels? No problem. Avis (avis.com; from US$75 per day) has a branch in Pakse, renting out cars and SUVs that can be dropped off in Vientiane as well as Pakse. STAY Le Jardin de Pakse This charming hotel, located in a colonial villa near the Dao

Hueang Market in Pakse, is a great place to start or end a journey into the Bolaven Plateau. lejardindepakse.com; doubles from US$60. Sabaidee Valley The best rooms at this spacious allvilla resort boast views of the mistshrouded valley just outside of Paksong. sabaideevalley.com; villas from US$51. Tad Lo Lodge Rustic bungalows look out over Tad Hang, the small, gentle waterfalls in the center of Tad Lo. Be aware that the lodge keeps two rescued elephants on site, with which they offer rides to guests. 856-34/211889; doubles from US$50.

DO Captain Hook’s Coffee Tour Katu village Ban Kok Phung Tai is on the border of Salavan and Sekong Provinces on the Tad LoPaksong Road. Note: If wooden beams are barricading the village entrance, a special ceremony is taking place and outsiders are strictly forbidden. fb.com/ hook.laos; tours from US$3. Mr. Koffie’s Coffee Tour & Workshop Visit the humble, roadside Won Coffee café in Paksong at 10 a.m. to join Koffie’s tour; his coffee-roasting workshops start at 2 p.m. paksong.info; tours from US$6, workshops from US$21.

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/ discovery /

Small Wonder

A tiny paradise off the Nicaraguan coast, Little Corn Island is one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. On a visit to its sole luxury resort, Eleni N. Gage enjoys all the pleasures of a beach vacation while embracing the island’s distinctive blend of cultures.

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Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa’s sunny spot on Little Corn Island.


A great view to go with your lobster dinner.

“You don’t just marry a man, you marry his whole family.” When I wed Emilio, I got his entire country—Nicaragua. We go there frequently, so I’ve managed to see most of his homeland’s greatest hits: the Spanish-colonial city of Granada, a handful of dormant volcanoes and the Pacific beaches loved by surfers. But I’d been married to my Nicaraguan husband for seven years before we made the trek to Little Corn Island, and I’m still a little resentful about that oversight. To be fair, most travelers can’t fit Little Corn—the smaller of the two Corn Islands, situated in the Caribbean 80 kilometers off Nicaragua’s eastern coast—into their mainland itinerary. “It’s too far,” Emilio always said, what with the hour-long flight in a prop plane from Managua to Big Corn, then a 30-minute ride in an open-air panga boat. Even among his many relatives and almost-relatives—Nicaraguans don’t have friends, they have “cousins”—only a few had ventured out there. But those who had been spoke of Little Corn as the most romantic place in Nicaragua. As one of these so-called cousins said, “I went with a boyfriend, and I came back with a baby.” Hearing her tales of sailing by day and eating lobster dinners at night, I

c l o c k w i s e fr o m t o p : O t t o J . M e j i a L . / c o u r t e s y o f y e m aya i s l a n d h i d e away & s pa ; © R o b e r t L e r i c h / Dr e a m s t i m e . c o m ; c o u r t e s y o f y e m aya i s l a n d h i d e away & s pa

My mother always said,

developed a vision of a long weekend spent sunning on white-sand beaches, swimming in turquoise waters, and drinking adult beverages out of coconut shells while my mother-in-law looked after our two children back on the mainland. I decided to pursue my dream by booking at the only upscale property on Little Corn, Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa (yemayalittlecorn. com; doubles from US$250), a collection of 16 eco-cottages dotting the beach. When we landed at the tiny airport on Big Corn, I saw that Emilio was half right. The Corn Islands are far—but the distance is cultural as much as it is physical. Colonized in 1655 by the British, rather than the

Fresh lobster tails are found throughout Little Corn.

Handmade furnishings are a feature of Yemaya’s suites.

Spanish who ruled the rest of the country, Nicaragua’s eastern coast has its own blend of Afro-Caribbean cultures. Its locals speak English, Creole, and native languages, including Garifuna and Miskito, as well as the Spanish they learn in school. On Little Corn, the population is around 850, mostly descendants of the slaves freed from the four families who colonized the area. I understood that Little Corn is a world apart from the rest of Nicaragua. It was in the cab to the panga, though, that I began to feel it. “The boat ride will be calm, because they’re not killing lobsters today,” the cabbie informed me. “When you take from the sea, she gets angry.” I never heard such romantic assertions over ceviche at Mukul, the glam beach resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific shore. Our sailing—accompanied by American honeymooners and a chic French couple, all blond hair and tan limbs—was relatively smooth, and when we stepped onto the sand at Yemaya we were met by staffers bearing fresh juice and chilled washcloths. Yemaya is part of the barefoot-luxe Colibri Boutique Hotels group, whose other four properties are in Tulum, Mexico. Which is not surprising, as Little Corn recalls Tulum before the massive resorts moved in. At first glance, Little Corn looks like your universal Caribbean fantasy. But as we walked along the

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Snorkelers set sail on the Meskito boat.

one “road,” a cobblestoned path that locals use to roll wheelbarrows from one coast of the four-squarekilometer island to the other, I felt a distinct sense of place. We passed a baseball field where the local team plays its rivals from Big Corn, as well as cottages painted Caribbean pinks, blues and oranges, from which women sell homemade coconut bread to kids in school uniforms, backpackers in cutoffs, and sun worshippers in caftans. Foot traffic is the only kind there is on Little Corn—motorized vehicles, even golf carts, are prohibited. For me, the island was an ideal blend of quiet, with its spotty Internet and lack of cars, and lively, given the mix of cultures and people. I found the same delicate balance offshore as well. In the morning, as we paddleboarded along the coast, we’d wave at the other early birds bobbing in the warm water—both the human ones and the white crane who sometimes perched on the boulder opposite our cottage. We snorkeled with Barracuda, a Miskito sailor, who would point out the stingrays and nurse sharks floating past. He

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showed the same cheerful unflappability when we took a sunset sail on his wooden boat the next evening. Emilio and I sipped champagne while Barracuda lay on a long plank extending over the ocean, balancing the boat’s weight. Back on land, we had fragrant facials in the spa huts and did yoga in the open-air studio. We even toured the resort’s gardens, where all the

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greens eaten on site are grown. As we watched a marauding bird steal a papaya, I asked the golden French couple—they seemed to be experts in sustainability and composting— what had brought them to Yemaya. The wife said she had wanted to go someplace far from everything else. Where did they normally live? Paris, where she does PR for the Ritz. The boho-chic Europeans and adventure-seeking honeymooners had me worrying Little Corn might become Tulum 2.0. Yemaya has responded to an increase in tourism with the addition of private pools and the introduction of a twin-engine boat to make the ride from Big Corn more comfortable. But as I sipped my last Coco Loco, I reassured myself that Little Corn will always feel like no place else. It’s inherently hard to get to, and there’s no room for large hotels. None of the beaches are private, so you will always run into backpackers who have come to dive. The Miskito sailors will continue to lie on boards floating over the ocean. When I Instagrammed photos of our trip, Emilio’s relatives commented, from their condos on the Pacific coast, “Where are you? Still in Nicaragua?” “Of course,” I typed back, falling just a little bit deeper in love with the country I’d married.

A tropical view from a suite at Yemaya.

fr o m t o p : J a s o n C h i n n / c o u r t e s y o f y e m aya i s l a n d h i d e away & s pa ; c o u r t e s y o f y e m aya i s l a n d h i d e away & s pa

/ discovery /


/ the primer /

The Martinique Mystique

TA R A DONNE

Long ignored by many travelers, the French Caribbean island is finally enjoying its moment in the sun. By Tony Perrottet The park ranger Robert Régina and I were hiking along a ridge in the Caravelle Peninsula, high above the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, when he asked me, “What do you know about Martinique?” Then he answered for me with perverse Gallic pride: “Rien, je crois! Nothing, I think!” Well, not quite nothing. I once wrote a book involving Napoleon Bonaparte’s romantic life, so I knew that his legendary amour—MarieJosèphe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, better known as Empress Josephine—was born and raised on Martinique. But Régina was pretty close, which I knew after one look at the lavish beauty of this spectacular nature preserve, where lovely forest cascades down mountainsides to white-sand beaches. I had never heard of the Caravelle Peninsula before. My knowledge of Martinique was indeed almost rien. Régina and I eventually made our way to the ruins of the Château Dubuc, an enormous sugar plantation and today a stark example of Martinique’s complicated history. The French first settled on the island in the 17th century, and quickly set up many plantations like the Dubuc, all worked by slave labor. (Slavery was outlawed in 1848.) Currently an overseas department of France, Martinique remains closely bound to la patrie: in its language, its use of the euro, its cuisine, and its openness to progressive ideas unusual for the region. This Franco-centric worldview—and the fact that many international flights used to involve so many stopovers that it sometimes seemed faster to go via Paris—has long kept Martinique off the radar of most foreign travelers. All that changed over the past few years, when Norwegian Airlines started offering affordable direct flights from New York, Boston and Fort Lauderdale. Some friends who had made it to Martinique told me about the

Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique.

dazzling variety of tropical landscapes that make the country feel much larger than its 1,129 square kilometers. The northern coast is volcanic, with dark-sand beaches, while the southern coast is scalloped with white-sand coves. The eastern, Atlantic shores are wild; the western, Caribbean waters stay serene. At the island’s green heart are mountains dense with rain forest where the adventurous can go hiking, canyoning and rafting. And you can also retreat to villages that offer a relaxed, uniquely Creole charm.

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/ the primer /

it’s got sci-fi GLAMPING.

I’ve been accused of being self-absorbed before, but on my first night I was literally living in a bubble. The inventive Le Domaine des Bulles (ledomainedesbulles.com; doubles from €145) is an excellent example of how Martinique does things the unexpected way: these three transparent bubbles, set in the forest near the town of Le Vauclin, offer camping as Jules Verne might have imagined it. My high-tech globule was air-conditioned, with a huge bed perfect for stargazing. Outside was an open-air shower and a stone plunge pool replenished by a cool mountain stream. For dinner, I called on a walkie-talkie to have a fine French meal and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône delivered to my outdoor table. Exhibitionists may be disappointed, however: each bubble is kept private by fences and thick foliage. Martinique is very French, but there are limits to self-exposure.

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from left: Take in

360-degree garden views in the bubble rooms at Le Domaine des Bulles; the restaurant at Hôtel Plein Soleil serves Franco-Carribean cuisine with ocean views.

People don’t typically think of the Caribbean for contemporary art, but visitors to Martinique can see an impressive collection of works—all housed in a rum distillery. Habitation Clément (rhum​clementusa.com), in Le François, comprises a historic plantation house, a 16-hectare sculpture park, and a sleek gallery showcasing artists from the region. The works can be provocative: one of the most striking sculptures is the word Blood in enormous red letters, a reference to slavery’s brutal impact on the island. In addition to the art, most come here to taste rhum agricole, Martinique’s signature spirit, which is made from pressed sugarcane instead of molasses, giving it a lighter, less syrupy taste. The original Clément distillery, which dates from 1917, is preserved like a site-specific artwork in itself, and the rum is stored in sweet-perfumed cellars. I was delighted to find that the last stop was an elegant tasting room.

it’s a GASTRONOME’S paradise.

Food is taken seriously on the island, but the culinary style quotient was cranked up a notch

fr o m l e f t : c o u rt esy o f L e d o m a i n e d es b u l l es ; C o u rt esy o f H Ôt e l P l e i n S o l e i l

it’s an ENCLAVE OF cutting-edge ART.

And so I headed south for my own crash course on all things Martinican. Here are a few of the island’s avant-garde charms I discovered along the way.


with the opening of French Coco (hotel​f rench​coco.com; doubles from €430; mains €25–€30), a boutique hotel in La Trinité whose design is as bright and airy as any chic new Provençal inn. The dining room is its heart and soul: the chef, Michel Benaziz, a veteran of restaurants in Toulouse and St. Martin, gives his French dishes a Caribbean twist using organic herbs from the on-site garden. (His marlin confit with turnips and “virgin sauce,” made from freshly crushed lemon, tomato, basil and cilantro, was outstanding.) French Coco’s urban counterpart in the capital, Fort-de-France, is the 24-seat Table de Marcel (hotel-simon.com; prix fixe from €87), from Martinican chef Marcel Ravin, who recently came home after running the Michelin-starred restaurant at the MonteCarlo Bay Hotel. One day, I headed for lunch at a cheerful beach hut in Le Carbet called Le Petibonum (fb.com/lepetibonum; mains €17–€22) run by Guy Ferdinand, who likes to be called “Chef Hot Pants” because of his extra-short shorts. After a plate of fresh local crayfish by the lapping waters of the Caribbean, I raised a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to the French attitude to life.

It’s a great place to go for a drive.

A hike along the Caravelles Peninsula offers unspoilt views of the Atlantic.

596/68-38-34), are lovingly preserved, with gardens that display the dahlias, hibiscus and camellias she introduced to Europe as empress. Boat tours from Le François, on the eastern coast, include visits to La Baignoire de Joséphine—“Josephine’s Bathtub”—a shallow sandbar in the middle of the bay near where, legend claims, she holidayed as a child. Catamarans from Les Ballades du Delphis (catamaran-martinique.com) weigh anchor so passengers can eat Creole snacks and sip cocktails in the waist-high water. But the love affair is complex. The island’s most prominent statue of the empress, in the main square of Fort-de-France, has had its head chopped off. The few Martinicans who believe the island should be independent see Josephine as a symbol of French oppression. It was she who convinced Napoleon to reinstate slavery on the island in 1802, locals believe, after it had been abolished following the French Revolution. In 1991, independence activists “guillotined” the statue. “The government has had another head carved for her, but they don’t want to put it back on,” an old gent in the park told me with a chuckle. “If they do, those coquins [rascals] have promised to chop it off again!” Obviously, I still had more hidden depths to explore.

S e v e r i n e BAU R / g e t t y i m ag es

This is one of the best Caribbean islands for renting a car. The French-funded A1 highway from the airport is so well maintained that it practically qualifies as a tourist attraction in itself. But take any turnoff from the A1 and one of the primary roads, and you will find yourself following a spiderweb of country lanes through lush farmland. When I reserved dinner at Hôtel Plein Soleil (hotelpleinsoleil.fr; doubles from €195), in Le François, the maître d’ e-mailed me a page-long set of driving instructions, although the absence of road signs meant that it was easier to stop and ask directions from locals. It was all worth the effort: the rambling colonial estate has stunning views over the Atlantic coastline, inventive cuisine, and—best of all—a retro bar filled with sensual artworks, including a lavish nude presiding over the liquor bottles.

it’s steeped in HISTORY.

My growing realization that I had only scratched the surface of Martinique was confirmed when I visited the sites related to the island’s celebrity daughter, Josephine Bonaparte. The remains of her birthplace, Domaine de la Pagerie (Rte. 38, Les Trois-Îlets;

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/ hideaway /

Haute Comfort

On a visit to the Albergo Bucaneve—a hotel in the mountains of northern Italy run by high-fashion menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna—Simon Willis is surprised to find the ambience more bucolic than blingy. Photogr aphs by Andrea W yner

From left: Slow-

cooked egg in fondue (top) and raviolini in sugo d’arrosto at the Albergo Bucaneve in Bielmonte, Italy; the hotel’s sitting room. opposite: The Monte Marca Hut, a mountaintop café in the Oasi Zegna, is accessible from the hotel by chairlift.

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From the window I could see for more

than 200 kilometers. Below me, in the near distance, were tiny villages following a winding road, little rivers of houses meandering down the hill. Beyond them the plains of northern Italy spread out as flat as a tabletop, and farther still were the Cottian Alps on the French border. It was something you might glimpse from a plane while climbing away from the airport. Instead, I was sitting down to lunch at the Albergo Bucaneve. The local landscape informs almost everything about this hotel and spa in Bielmonte, a tiny resort high in the hills of Piedmont about 120 kilometers northwest of Milan. The Albergo Bucaneve (bucaneve is

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Italian for “snowdrop”) sits at the heart of the Oasi Zegna, a 100-square-kilometer park owned and protected by Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian menswear company whose factory has been based in the nearby town of Trivero since 1910. But despite its relationship with one of the world’s leading luxury brands, the hotel is more responsive to flora and fauna than to fashion. Opened in 1963, the Albergo Bucaneve was originally conceived as a restorative getaway that benefited the workers in Zegna’s factory. Following World War II, Ermenegildo Zegna, the high-end fashion brand’s founder, built a scenic road into the mountains called the Panoramica and later added the hotel, along


with ski slopes, at its highest point. “It was his gift to the local people,” says Anna Zegna, Ermenegildo’s granddaughter and the president of the Fondazione Zegna, the family’s philanthropic organization. To design the hotel, Ermenegildo chose Luigi Vietti, an Italian architect known for the stylish houses he fashioned for Cortina, a town in the Dolomites. Both the interiors and exterior of  Vietti’s building, which has remained largely unchanged since it opened, echo the old chalets and shepherds’ dwellings that dot the landscape. Its bedrooms are cozy spaces lined with the spruce that grows on the hills; the sitting room and restaurant below are decked with the horns of the deer and chamois that roam the mountains. The only addition has been a spa, which was built in 2014 and expanded in 2016 to add a hot tub with a view through a giant picture window. The hotel’s rustic charms draw stressedout Milanese looking for Alpine renewal. After breakfast there one morning, I headed out with Arturo Ramella, who was born near Bielmonte in 1963 and now works as a guide in the Oasi. The resort is an all-purpose playground for lovers of the outdoors. In winter you can ski down the slopes or through the valleys, or explore the network of paths on snowshoes. In spring and summer you can ride horses, go rock climbing, or admire the wildflowers that bloom all over the hills. But Ramella had a more meditative pursuit in mind for us: he was taking me “forest bathing.” The keepers of the Oasi have an almost hippieish devotion to trees. For centuries the forests had been exploited for timber, and the land had become denuded. So Zegna replanted more than half a million specimens. Today they are harnessed for therapy rather than fire. Forest bathing, a trend that originated in Japan, involves embracing the silence of the woodland—sometimes literally. As we walked through the valley, surrounded by firs and larches, we saw a set of steps leading to a platform in front of a large beech. A small sign invited you to hug the tree, and sure enough, there was a man in a red hat enjoying a lingering embrace. For anyone who, like me, finds the idea of absorbing a tree’s “energy” mildly ridiculous, the forests hold other treasures. As Zegna’s replanting took hold, animals that had been chased out by the logging came back. For the first time in a hundred years, you can hear the howls of wolves again.

The interiors and exterior of the building echo the old chalets and shepherds’ dwellings that dot the landscape The landscape is the source of the Albergo Bucaneve’s culinary pleasures as well as the Oasi’s natural ones. That evening I sat down with chef Giacomo Gallina, who is at the start of his first season at the Albergo, following stints in Singapore, Paris and Milan, and whose food is a reason to visit in itself. Gallina cleaves to a simple rule: he only cooks produce from the land he can see from the window. Happily, he can see a long way. Dinner took in the whole terrain, starting with anchovies from Liguria’s fish markets before moving on to veal cheeks from Piedmont, cooked long and slow, that were soft enough to eat with a spoon. I was visiting in December, and as I ate, snow carpeted the Panoramica outside. Cutting into my chocolate dessert, its rich center oozing out and saucing a fan of caramelized pears, I hoped the road would become impassable and I’d be stuck here for a few more days.

next stops

The Albergo Bucaneve is a 1½-hour drive from Milan’s Malpensa Airport. After a weekend stay in the Oasi Zegna, venture to one of these nearby destinations. Turin 1¾ hours by car Como 2 hours by car Locarno 2½ hours by car Chamonix 2¾ hours by car Genoa 3 hours by car

bucaneve.eu; doubles from €110. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  / a p r i l 2 0 1 8

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/ essay  /

Twenty years after running away to the City of Light, Tess Taylor returns and finds shadows of her younger self.

At y p e e k / g e t t y i m ag es

I’ll Always Have Paris

after landing at Charles de Gaulle, and my heart was beating fast. It had been two decades since I’d been to the city. I craned out the cab window hungrily. I couldn’t wait to wander the Marais, or shop on Boulevard de Sébastopol for ham and eggs and white asparagus to whip up into brunch. As my husband and I made our way to the attic apartment we had rented, I was amazed at how sharply I recognized the churches and alleyways, and how, after a few hours, my rusty French began to quicken on my tongue.

We were speeding through Paris


My reentry was also a homecoming. When I was 19, I abruptly dropped out of college and ran away to Paris. I left the U.S. in January with little more than a oneway ticket, six years of public school French and US$700 to my name. I couch-surfed a bit, first with the baroness grandmother of a friend, then with a distant acquaintance. Finally, nearly broke, I checked into a Protestant youth hostel in the Sixth Arrondissement, renting a narrow bunk that I shared with Elise, a Scottish redhead. We ventured out daily to look for work and mostly came back empty-handed. For breakfast, the hostel put out long baguettes and butter and strawberry jam, as well as bowls of steaming milk and coffee. Every day for weeks this was my only full meal, and each morning it was a delicious miracle— in memory, still the best coffee I’ve ever had. Nights, we raffish hostel dwellers sometimes slunk into the building’s basement, a dark medieval cave where we lit candles and drank cheap red wine. Living in Paris was heady, a bit stressful, and somewhat improbable. But over the weeks, my French improved. I landed a job as a translator at the Hôtel Ritz Escoffier École, where I learned to cook poulet à l’estragon and crumbly chestnut gâteau. A stage-set life assembled around me. I’d while away cold winter hours at Shakespeare & Co., the legendary Left Bank bookshop, reading poetry—Pound, Baudelaire, Beckett, Stein. I made friends with a Swedish watchmaker and a Norman

duke. Eventually, a former boyfriend showed up, and we rented a narrow apartment near St. Eustache, on a white-cobblestoned street I adored the second I saw it. All the while I worked and read and explored new quartiers. My walk to the Ritz took me past the Louvre, and I would pop in most afternoons using my student card. On each visit I’d sit with a single painting, teaching myself to see what it was I loved in art. One day it was a Neoclassical David; another day a delicate, shadowy Vermeer. It wasn’t all perfect—the boyfriend and I fought, and money was wildly tight. But it was remarkable, absorbing this world week after week; learning to joke in French, to taste and wander like a proud flaneuse. By the time I left in the summer, I had cheap espadrilles, a short Jean Seberg haircut and a 1970s-style belted blue leather coat I’d picked up at the Marché aux Puces. I felt ready to face down my adulthood. Last year I returned to give a lecture about poetry to some American students. I couldn’t help glimpsing myself in them, recalling my life in the city as a young would-be poet. I’d turn a corner to see a flash of my own self 20 years earlier, dashing down an alley after art or bread. I was taking in not just the Pompidou but the memory of first entering the Pompidou; running along the quays below the Pont des Arts, I was also running after my headstrong former self. In the Jardin du Luxembourg I had a vivid memory of sharing warm ham crêpes on a

cold evening with Elise before heading to that hostel basement to play guitars and flirt in all the languages we knew. “The shape of a city changes more quickly than a mortal’s heart,” said Baudelaire in a famous poem about Paris, but this isn’t quite true. Paris, when you’ve loved it, also seems to save a bit of you waiting, unchanged, in its crevices. It is as if the city holds within its knotty streets not only the ghosts of artists and lovers, but your own ghost, too. This trip, we stayed in the Seventh Arrondissement, in a tall crumbling building mere blocks from the hostel I lived in decades ago. One night my husband and I slunk out to La Vénus Noire, another venerable basement speakeasy, to spend the night listening to jazz. Walking home that evening, after passing the stone lions in the fountains at the Place St.Sulpice, I led us back through a familiar alley, as if toward my old hostel. I found the wall now inscribed with “Le Bateau Ivre,” Rimbaud’s poem about the seasickness of travel and longing. I stopped to savor it, dizzy between worlds. The next day, I made a pilgrimage to Shakespeare & Co. In the cluttered stacks of a second-floor room was a copy of the book of poems I’d recently published. With wonder, I saluted the brazen, wayward young woman I’d been. Looking at the Seine that night, I thought how the self is a series of refractions, sticky with place. The pieces flash back, like light on the river. There are our hearts, fluttering in the world, glittering, waiting to be rediscovered.

It was remarkable, absorbing this world; learning to joke in French, to taste and wander like a proud flaneuse

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/ deals /

t+l reader specials

CITY SINGAPORE

This month’s deals add some extras to your weekend breaks in Singapore, Thailand, China and beyond. Marina Bay views from Mandarin Oriental.

Mandarin Oriental, Singapore Add a dose of wellbeing to your next stay in Singapore with this deal from the Mandarin Oriental. The two-night Restore & Refresh package includes a stay in a luxurious Marina Bay View room, and will also treat two guests to a 120-minute Abhyanga healing treatment; a Yamuna body rolling session; a wellness lunch at Dolce Vita restaurant; and daily buffet breakfast at Melt Café. To keep you fighting fit, the special offer also includes return limousine transfers to the Duxton Road Lululemon store, where you’ll get an in-store personal fitness session. The Deal Restore & Refresh package: two nights in a Marina Bay View room, from S$1,350, through June 30. mandarinoriental.com.

SUPERSAVER Best Western Thousand Island Hotel, Burma

With its prime location on the banks of Nyaung Shwe River this quaint 48-room hotel makes a tranquil base for exploring Shan State’s most impressive draw, Inle Lake. Best Western is offering 20 percent off any two-night stay in this year-old hotel, which boasts a billiard room, riverfront café, rooftop bar and hot tub. The Deal Best Deals: a night in a Superior room, from US$80, through December 31. bestwestern.com.

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Eastin Thana City Golf Resort Bangkok Take advantage of this special and receive up to 50 percent off the standard rate at the new Eastin Thana City Golf Resort Bangkok. Opening their doors this month, this golf-focused resort gives guests access to the neighboring Thana City Sports Club, which includes an international-class, 18-hole course designed by Greg Norman. The 194-room resort is just 25 minutes from the capital’s vibrant downtown area, and also houses an outdoor swimming pool, playground, kids’ club, 24-hour gym and badminton, tennis and squash courts. The Deal Introductory rate: a night in a Superior room, from Bt1,899, through October 31. eastinthanacitygolfbangkok. com. MACAU

Sheraton Grand Macao Make the most of your stay in Macau with this special offer

fr o m t o p : m a n d a r i n o r i e n ta l , s i n g a p o r e ; c o u r t e s y o f b e s t w e s t e r n t h o u s a n d i s l a n d h o t e l

THAILAND


from the glam Sheraton Grand Macao hotel on the Cotai Strip. The deal includes a night in a Deluxe King or Twin room; buffet breakfast or lunch for two; two complimentary glasses of selected wines, cocktails or beers at Palms Café and Bar; and dining and spa credits for use during your stay. You’ll also get two one-way Cotai Water Jet tickets departing from Macau to Hong Kong or Hong Kong International Airport. The Deal Fun with Friends package: a night in a Deluxe King or Twin room, from HK$1,388, through June 30. sheratongrandmacao.com. VIETNAM

Sedona Suites Ho Chi Minh City Celebrating the newly opened Grand Tower, Sedona Suites Ho Chi Minh City is offering an introductory special for stays reserved before April 30. Book a night in one of their contemporary rooms and you’ll get complimentary Wi-Fi and daily housekeeping. The artfully designed Grand Tower suites evoke both luxury and comfort, and the flexible design layouts allow for select studio apartments to combine with two- and three-bedroom units to become larger lodgings perfect for families or group trips. The Deal Grand Tower Opening Offer: a night in a Grand Studio room from US$140, through July 31. sedonahotels.com.sg.

and shuttle service to Layan Beach. Upgrade to a Private Pool villa and you’ll get all of the above, plus daily champagne breakfast and daily afternoon tea at Firefly. The Deal Ultimate Romantic Escape: a night in a one-bedroom suite, from Bt8,260; a night in a Private Pool villa, from Bt19,860, through October 31. pavilionshotels.com.

ADVENTURE CHINA

Alila Anji Add an unforgettable journey to your stay at Alila Anji, in eastern China’s mountainous Zhejiang province. The Aerial Tapestry tour offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to board either a Robinson R44 helicopter or Cirrus SR-20 airplane for an 8- or 15-minute flight over Tianzi Lake and Zhangwu Town. Guests will also have the chance to co-pilot the aircraft—a must for flying enthusiasts. As well as the flight, the two-night package includes

accommodation in a Hill View villa or Lake View villa; daily breakfast for two; one family dinner at Hidden Dragon restaurant for two adults and one child; and one energy lunch box for two adults and one child. The Deal Ariel Tapestry package: two nights in a Hill View or Lake View villa, from RMB6,760, through October 31. alilahotels.com.

ROMANCE THAILAND

X2 Chiang Mai Riverside With its charming location by the Ping River, romance will come easy during a cozy weekend away at the X2 Chiang Mai Riverside boutique hotel. Book this special package and you and your partner will be treated to two nights in a Riverfront suite; daily champagne breakfast; a high-class dinner at Oxygen Dining Room; a 60-minute aromatherapy massage at X2 Spa; a high-tea set at H2O Water Bar and Tea Lounge; and a sunset cruise trip on a private boat with a bottle of wine and

a tapas set. To make the entire trip a breeze, you’ll also receive round-trip airport limousine transfers. The Deal Romance by the River: two nights in a Riverfront suite, from Bt16,483, through October 31. x2resorts.com. CHINA

Niccolo Chengdu Treat your beloved to an elegant night’s stay at this sophisticated and stylish hotel in the center of Chun Xi Road business district in Chengdu. This special offer includes a romantic breakfast in bed, a bottle of bubbly and an indulgent signature cake. You’ll also get in-room check-in and a guaranteed late checkout until 4 p.m. With each guest room offering panoramic views of IFS Sculpture Garden, sumptuous beds with 500 thread-count linens and complimentary fast Wi-Fi, you’ll never want to leave. The Deal Love is in the Air: a night in an N1 Deluxe room, from US$203, through December 31. marcopolohotels.com.

BEACH

courtesy of x2 chiang mai riverside

THAILAND

Pavilions Phuket Upgrade your next beachside vacation and book this luxury package from Pavilions Phuket. Book a three-night stay in a one-bedroom suite and you’ll get daily breakfast for two at Firefly, Pavilions’ stylish restaurant; a “Cocktails & Tapas” combo at 360° Bar; a welcome foot massage; a 60-minute spa treatment for two; return airport transfers;

X2 Chiang Mai Riverside’s Oxygen restaurant.

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s c o t t a . w o o d wa r d

Punakha Dzong, the second-oldest temple in Bhutan, page 74.

/ april 2018 / Why this is the year to check in to Shanghai | Seeking

yetis, discos and other off-piste adventures in Bhutan | The best food, bars, sights and shopping in Charleston | A family tour of sustainable safaris in Tanzania

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A hop, skip and a jump from Pudong, at W Shanghai—The Bund. Opposite: At home among the restored shikumen gated courtyard residences at Capella Shanghai.

Golden light sweeps across the peaks surrounding Thimphu.


New concessions

There’s a room boom in Shanghai, with new, high-end hotels opening at a dizzying rate. Count among them the history-laden Amanyangyun, just outside the city, and the meticulously restored 80-year-old neighborhood that is Capella Shanghai. Among the other standouts are addresses that artfully engender a sense of place. By Jeninne Lee-St. John. Photographed by Dave Tacon t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e as i a . c o m   / A p r i l 2 0 1 8

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Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li

Modern Shanghai’s best example of the architectural as political is surely the shikumen. The word literally translates to “stone gate,” but references a type of laneway housing here that in its lifespan has hosted a cultural and economic rollercoaster of residents, depending on the political winds. If you’ve been to Shanghai, you’ve probably strolled the best-known shikumen revitalization projects, the fancy shopping and eating district Xintiandi and its aspiringhipster cousin Tianzifang. On a leafy street in the former French Concession is an unassuming stone archway cut into a brick façade that leads to a different kind of shikumen compound, this one a tourist-traffic-free haven that has settled serenely its latest role: the plush, homey Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li. The architectural style was pioneered in the mid-1800s in Shanghai’s foreign concessions, a

mix of European and American factory towns and rural Chinese country homes. Oriented south and organized according to other feng shui principles, two- and three-story shikumen appealed to wealthy expats and locals, who lived in them and bought them as investments to rent to the masses of Chinese workers then streaming into the city. Set along a series of narrow lanes (called “longtang” or “lilong”), the townhouses shared walls but each had its own front garden cocooned behind an often ornate shikumen—giving the neighborhoods their name. The result was a cozy inner sanctum surrounded by a lively outer ecosystem. But chaos is hard to contain. Renters began subletting rooms to students, artists and scholars—including dissident Communists who had found among the increasingly warren-like neighborhoods safe places to convene. When the Western powers left China in the 1940s, the Party packed the shikumen further, installing multiple families into each unit, sometimes in the same room, sometimes adding new floors between the original ones. It’s not hard to imagine how quality of life deteriorated in such tight quarters.


Yet, despite obvious hardships, these gated enclaves were also vibrant communities. So it’s little surprise that as one of the few caretakers left of shikumen—by some estimates, 4 million people lived in lilong through the 1950s, with government housing policies from the 1990s winnowing that number to around 200,000 today—Capella feels driven to preserve the shared neighborhood feel while modernizing the structures, creating senses of peace and privacy while also fulfilling their mission as a communal space. Regenerating the inner sanctum (adding indoor plumbing, for a start) while preserving the outer ecosystem (keeping sections open for public events). It’s an urban corollary of the fairytale preservation project the new Amanyangyun has pulled off 30 minutes outside of Shanghai (see “A Moving Endeavor,” in our March 2018 issue). Along Capella’s 22 mews are 55 vertical suites, of one to three bedrooms, encased behind gated gardens. First built by a French developer in the 1930s for expats and traders, they were given new interiors by renowned Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim in his last project before he died. The ground floor holds a

study and powder room, up a flight is the den and bar; it’s half a flight up to the bedroom, and another half to the Acqua di Parma toiletry–stocked bathroom. If you’re lucky enough to be in Shanghai on a rare sunny day, your brick roof deck is lovely for morning tea. People who tend to forget their keys should look on the bright side: running up and down your stairwell will be the easiest 10,000 steps per day you ever achieved. Certainly, I felt the history and prime location of the compact space was worth the tradeoff in convenience. I would’ve enjoyed a monthly lease. (Note to self: next time take a longer sabbatical and stay in one of their 40 serviced residences.) In fact, major props to Capella for managing to weave that sense of high-end relaxation throughout. Entering is like plunging into a secret garden, with further treasures and greater peace hidden the deeper you go. Running the length of the property at the end of each alley is a peaceful park space filled with sculptures and greenery. The spa, also in a series of refitted shikumen houses, has managed to ensconce among its multi-level treatment suites a salt room, a therapy pool

From far left:

The historic water tower at the heart of Capella Shanghai; the hotel’s sweet and tailored service personified; in the lounge room of a shikumen villa; chef Romain Chapel’s duck foie gras terrine with Dulcey chocolateautumn chutney and red cabbage jelly; the bright dining room of Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e as i a . c o m   / A p r i l 2 0 1 8

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The mews of Capella Shanghai.

and two flotation tanks. The main building has a light-filled library where it’s a pleasure to sit and sip tea and partake of the fresh pastries and canapés available all day. Normally I want to hustle out of the hotel lobby; here I want to linger. But it would be a waste not to take advantage of this prime location. Carve out some time to just get lost in the winding, tree-lined boulevards the French left behind. You’ll be ecstatic to stumble upon holes-in-the wall like the fresh-dumpling doorway manned by a husband-and-wife team at 102 Goa’an Road. At little local eatery Jesse, the braised pork is a must-order. Some of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants are within a 20-minute walk, such as pioneering microbrew-pub Boxing Cat and their beautifulpeople dining spin-off Liquid Laundry; Mr. Willis—imagine if your favorite comfort-food chef invited you to his enchantingly lit apartment for dinner; and the bubbly fueled, binge-worthy brunch hotspot Bull and Claw. Capella’s on-site dining is fully of a piece with this neighborhood vibe, and it’s spectacular. Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire, whose windows overlook the courtyard and the restored water tower that used to supply the residents here, has the pleasantly unstuffy feel that is perfect for a fancy champagne high tea or a casual-chic bistro dinner. Executive chef Romain Chapel turns out cocotte of meaty, succulent frogs poulette and a Dover sole meuniere sautéed with orange butter whose incredible lightness is balanced by its mushroom and txistorra sausage stuffing. After dislodging myself from the ginforward bar, I wander back to the hotel, under the archway, past the water tower. I buzz myself in through the lilong fence then, after a saunter down the mew, into my shikumen gate. Heading up my mini flights of stairs, it feels nothing so much like entering a hotel as returning to a how-did-they-pull-that-off Airbnb. It feels like returning home. capellahotels.com; villas from RMB4,500.

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The St. Regis Shanghai Jingan

Looking out from my Executive Deluxe room on the 59th floor of the golden-ribbed St. Regis Shanghai Jingan, I realize I’ve never had quite this view of the city. I’ve been to the observation decks of towers like the Shanghai World Financial Center, legions higher, but they’re over in skyscraper-central Pudong—which I can see to the northeast, melding into a neon Crayola box with their cousins in the North Bund. From a tall building on that side of town, you feel like a tree in a cacophonous forest; from here, alone at the top of the lower-rise Jing’an district, the CBD looks a peaceful world away, though it’s just a 15-minute drive. Yes, I just called crowded, sprawling Shanghai “peaceful,” but even at ground level, large swathes of Jing’an are just that. You won’t exactly find seclusion at the must-see Jing’an Temple, with the masses of devotees paying their respects to China’s largest jade Buddha. Just toss a coin for luck into the central shrine, and head back out to stroll Nanjing Road West, or duck into Jing’an Park, where grinning old people doing traditional dances from their far-


flung provinces stop traffic on the footpaths, but you can also score a quiet gazebo for some reflection. Garden trails in Jing’an Sculpture Park can give you a Zen-infusion as well. You’ll feel the same mix of hustle and hush within the hotel. In this era of shifting tastes, when so many properties are nixing lobbies and swapping out the gilt for the reclaimed, it’s refreshing to enter a hotel so unabashedly dripping in glamor. Of course, old-school class is St. Regis’s modus operandi, but this St. Regis has nearly perfected the genre. After pulling up to the grand porte cochere and passing the army of concierges (who will later recover the wallet you lost in a taxi in a rainy-night frenzy), you’re led to the double-height lobby and a pair of leather armchairs at a private desk for a seated check-in—it brings the club lounge greeting to every guest, and it’s as pleasant as life admin after a red-eye can be. There’s so much bling hanging from the ceilings here that I couldn’t stop looking up and kept bumping into strangers. The chandelier on the spa level was inspired by autumn leaves in the former French Concession. They dangle in the shape of a dragon with its head facing east, in accordance with feng shui. Perhaps he’s heading for a swim in the marble indoor pool guarded by Roman statues, or to blow off some steam in the labyrinthine Iridium Spa. After a jetlag-curing rubdown, a rest in their semicircle of full-cocoon massage chairs is the perfect salve to my typical end-of-spa sadness.

Afternoon tea is also a mood-brightener— especially with its curated selection of specialty loose-leaf blends. The Drawing Room has a conservatory feel, heightened by the classical string duo, and under, of course, a chandelier made of small glass spheres strung in the shape of a massive sphere, I was served a prodigious spread of sweets and savories, both Chinese-inflected and classic English, that made the strongest case I’ve ever seen for designing one’s tables to fit one’s menus. The bar’s version of the Bloody Mary has homemade fig vodka, yellow tomato juice, osmanthus honey and lemon—it’s a frothy, surprisingly balanced drink that tastes like it should be the amuse bouche’s accompanying cocktail in a 10-course alcohol-pairing degustation. The chartreuse and carmine chesterfields, sky-high shelves of whisky, and live jazz evoke a social club of yore. Head there before or after dinner at Yan Ting, the finedining southern Chinese restaurant that seems to be gunning for Michelin. Flash-fried abalone, mushrooms in tofu skin, shrimp cakes… amiable chef Junping Lui elevates the simplest Cantonese food to dishes I order twice, despite being full, for both the flavors and the photos. Everything is naturally prepared and fancily presented yet magically not try-hard. Which, come to think of it, is a great view to take on this St. Regis itself. starwoodhotels.com; doubles from RMB2,080.

clockwise From Top: Tea time at

The St. Regis Shanghai; into The Drawing Room; a moment of reflection in an Executive Deluxe room; between floors in The St. Regis Bar; at Yan Ting restaurant, order the shrimp cakes twice.


Cult favorite boutique brand The House Collective, of Swire Hotels, is opening its fourth property, The Middle House, this month in Dazhongli, one of Shanghai’s oldest neighborhoods, on the southern side of Nanjing Road West. Its rounded, aluminium louvered exteriors create a stylish, environmentally friendly façade that modernizes traditional Shanghainese architectural

W Shanghai’s playful pillows and skyline views. top, from left: Wagyu steak at The Kitchen Table; a bartender prepares an L.D.M. cocktail with spiced rum.

It’s fitting that the flashy W brand would commandeer prime position here in the tallest building in Puxi, overlooking the Huangpu River. Opened last summer, W Shanghai—The Bund, like many of its sister hotels, is a Technicolor music video on steroids (the Cloud on The Bund suite has a hanging bed in a birdcage), but this one a fever dream of haipai—a word that referred a century ago to a dramatic, opportunistic collision in design, personality and philosophy of East and West, old and new. Witness the giant, sparkly xiaolongbao pillows and chopsticks on each bed, or the modern Cantonese restaurant Yen

Mod minimalism in The Middle House.

W Shanghai —The Bund that also harbors a 1920s speakeasy. Thanks to an elegant curve of the building, most of the 374 rooms face the river, but the best view can be had from the outdoor pool deck of Wet Bar, which takes in the towers of Pudong and is a dazzling place to dance away the day at their splashhappy summer parties. wshanghaithebund.com; doubles from RMB1,980.

two more stylish new openings Bellagio Shanghai The first export of the flamboyant megahotel synonymous with the Las Vegas Strip is an expectedly opulent affair—though it has increased the intimacy factor by downsizing to only 162 rooms and suites, and for a water feature has swapped out that famous dancing fountain for the Suzhou River, on whose banks it sits. The Art Deco style is pumped up by gold and bold colors. The spa offers acupuncture. And James Beard Award–winner Julian Serrano brings his Italian small-plates specialist restaurant Lago. lhw.com; doubles from RMB2,040.

c o u rt e s y o f t h e m iddl e h o u s e

The Middle House


elements—a thought process the hotel’s award-winning designer Piero Lissoni brought to the spacious, minimalist, Chineseaccented interiors as well. The yoga classes by Lululemon, the heated indoor pool and the complimentary in-room maxi-bar speak to today’s generation of have-it-all travelers. Devotees of the original Upper House in Hong Kong can look forward to another seasonal-European Café Gray Deluxe on site, and a similar calming nouveau-Zen aesthetic throughout the whole property. themiddlehousehotel.com; doubles from RMB2,850.

Bulgari Hotel Shanghai Taking the century-old Shanghai Chamber of Commerce as its centerpiece, the Bulgari, which is set to open this spring overlooking The Bund and Pudong, will be channeling an Italian estate with its Edenic setting amid neighboring art galleries and heritage buildings. The cabanas and DJs at rooftop bar La Terrazza will conjure resort life. But the real masterstroke will be the massive 2,000-square-meter garden-ensconced spa, where amenities will include vitality pools, a men’s barber shop, and two couple’s suites. bulgarihotels.com; prices not yet available.

Three looks at a suite in The Sukhothai Shanghai.

Seems the joint developers of new luxury-lifestyle complex HKRI Taikoo Hui were laser-focused on hospitality with personality, because they’ve each plucked the most luminous brands from their portfolios: in addition to The Middle House, this new minidistrict in Jing’an also boasts The Sukhothai Shanghai. The original hotel named after the ancient Thai capital is lush and resort-style in the middle of Bangkok, and the use of traditional art and design elements like the chedi, or stupa, create a living-museum feel. The second location—from Shanghaibased architects Neri&Hu, who purposefully refer to themselves as “Asian designers”—promises an aesthetic that similarly invokes

The Sukhothai Shanghai its home city, amid a backdrop of minimalism. The five dining venues include haute-Italian La Scala, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Theodor Falser, and Zuk Bar, a street-level watering hole serving oh-so-on-trend Nordic small plates. The Southeast Asian therapies at The Retreat Spa provide an antidote to the din of the bustling Chinese megacity. sukhothaishanghai.com; doubles from RMB2,500.

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Golden light sweeps across the peaks surrounding Thimphu.

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high The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which touts itself as the happiest country on earth, is a pastoral fantasyland steeped in tradition. Tony Perrottet discovers the pleasures and quirks of this singular destination, still untouched by mass tourism.

spirits Ph otog ra p hs by scott a . woodward


“Can I see the red yeti skin?” Even in Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom that has one of the world’s highest standards for strangeness, the question stopped my guide in his tracks. “Who told you about that?” Max asked suspiciously, pulling his gho closer as if to ward off a sudden chill. We were

standing on the timeworn stone steps of the Gangtey Monastery, an eerily quiet religious complex perched above a misty valley, where monks slipped like ghosts through a cobblestoned courtyard. Until that moment, Max (his Bhutanese name is Nawang Gyeltshen) had been a polite but disciplined font of information— the sort of guide whose aim is to usher travelers along a well-established path rather than get them behind closed doors. Now he was looking at me with a mix of alarm and curiosity. I explained that a friend in New York, Erin Levi, a Bhutan guidebook author, had told me about a fabled yeti hide hidden in the tantric chamber of the Gangtey Monastery. The relic was last documented by the Italian adventurer Reinhold Messner in 1991. “I have heard the skin is still here,” Max admitted. “But it is totally off-limits. Only the highest religious officials can see it.” This was good enough for me. “Let’s find the abbot.” I declared, marching into the courtyard. “We can request special access.” Max at first looked perturbed, but then hurried behind me,


From far left: A novice monk pores over his studies

in Punakha; this is a land shaped by fast-flowing rivers and Himalayan peaks; women in their traditional kira; the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

ready—I hoped—to take up the challenge. After all, you don’t come all the way to the Himalayas and miss a good yeti relic. This flurry of excitement was something of a breakthrough on my weeklong trip to Bhutan. Three days earlier, when I’d first arrived in the world’s most remote Buddhist kingdom, I found myself experiencing some not-very-Buddhist feelings—frustration, impatience, anxiety. No matter how often I took a deep, meditative breath, a cantankerous mood descended. On the face of it, this was a dream trip. The coups de théâtre had begun with the heart-stopping flight into Bhutan’s international airport in Paro, with the plane tilting its wings 45 degrees to squeeze between snowcapped peaks. At 2,225 meters above sea level, the airport itself was promisingly exotic, with a terminal that resembled a temple and a billboard-size portrait of Bhutan’s young king and queen flashing smiles like Bollywood stars.

Within an hour, I was walking a rope bridge across a river gorge to a fortress, accompanied by farmers in handwoven traditional garb. What’s more, in the midst of this deluge of culture, I would be spending my first night in the lap of Bhutanese luxury. My entire suite in the Amankora Thimphu Lodge—located above the tiny capital city, Thimphu, and one of the five high-end Aman lodges that opened across the country a little more than a decade ago— was crafted from polished wood, with a terrazzo bath placed in its center like a site-specific sculpture. As dusk fell, we gathered around a fire blazing on an outdoor deck overlooking a pine forest. The reason for my cantankerous mood was simple. Bhutan, which opened to the outside world in 1974 and which has a near-mythic t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  / A p r i l 2 0 1 8

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At every turn, it’s easy to disappear into rural Bhutan.


status as one of the world’s purest and most remote countries, places restrictions on foreigners’ activities. Travelers must follow a preplanned itinerary and have a guide present at all times, per the government. By the end of the first day, I was ready to step off the manicured path. I told the Aman employees that I was headed off on a solo stroll around Thimphu. But it turned out I couldn’t leave. Such a jaunt was not on my “schedule,” the staff kindly informed me. All the guides had gone home, and I was not permitted to explore the capital alone. In any case, they added, it would be all but impossible to find a taxi at this hour, and there was no public transport.

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hutan has had some excellent PR. The tiny kingdom of 700,000 people squeezed between India and China has long been billed as the untouched gem of the Himalayas, attracting Buddhist celebrities like Richard Gere and Uma Thurman. Some of the reverence dates back to the mid 70s, when King Jigme Singye Wangchuk announced that, instead of measuring the gross national product, Bhutan would measure Gross National Happiness. It was a media coup, and this chestnut has been repeated in every story on Bhutan ever since—it’s trotted out as proof that the Buddhist kingdom really is a spiritual haven, untouched by the crass materialism of the Western world. You’d think that all visitors were swept up in a euphoric state of enlightenment the moment they crossed the border. Adding to the mystique is Bhutan’s unique approach to tourism. In 1989, the country imposed a “minimum daily tariff” to keep out the riffraff (now US$250 in high season, including a US$65 sustainable-development fee, which goes toward providing the citizens with free health care and education). The restrictions were imposed to allow the country to step gingerly into the modern era and avoid the fate of other fragile cultures crushed by global onslaught. Still, Bhutan is hardly in stasis: Six Senses is opening five luxury lodges there this year, in the same key valleys as the Amans, and rumors swirl that other brands are looking to join them. Interest in Bhutan has grown in recent years, in part because the country still feels like a dreamlike time capsule, especially when compared with the many other corners of manic Asia that are plunging into the future. “Tourism in Bhutan is different from anywhere else in the world,” explained Dhamey Tenzing Norgay, son of the famous sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who guided Edmund Hillary to the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. Dhamey, whom I met in New York before my trip, lives in Bhutan and works as a mountain guide. “Independent travel doesn’t make sense. It’s too hard to get around alone.” He suggested I alter my expectations to fit this reality. “Bhutan is not a vacation destination. It’s more of an emotional journey.” In other words, it was a pilgrimage, and one should obey the rules. I’ll admit I have a shamefully Western attitude toward travel. If I am doing the same thing as everyone else, it’s all but impossible to have a sense of discovery and wonder. Happiness means different things to different

people, and for me, happiness means doing different things than other people. So beneath the blazing Himalayan stars that night, I became determined to find a little ancient magic on my own.

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his resolution induced a Zen-like calm. From then on, most of the time I would work within the system, selflessly accepting the more luxurious blessings of my seven-day journey—Amankora’s fine cotton sheets, for instance, or its multicourse dinners in a former potato barn surrounded by hundreds of candles, like an elvish feast out of Tolkien. I would sink into a traditional outdoor hot-stone bath heated by fire-roasted rocks that released healing minerals. But for the rest of my weeklong expedition, I looked for every opportunity to slip through the cracks. It was easy to disappear on short hikes, since, outside of Thimphu, the Amankora lodges are in rural settings connected by a spiderweb of footpaths, which meander through rice paddies and past shrines with colorful prayer flags. One afternoon, I met a family of farmers who invited me to drink a Himalayan tea called suja, a dubious concoction flavored with yak butter and salt. On another hike, I stumbled upon an archery match (archery is the national sport) where a dozen enthusiasts in leggings paraded about like Tudor aristocrats, showing off their state-ofthe-art metal bows and chatting about their chances of making it to the Olympics. These were fleeting glimpses into other worlds. And I began to realize that the Bhutanese guides weren’t so much passive as very shy, and unsure about what might actually interest a traveler. When Saturday night rolled around in Punakha, a pastoral valley with skies so bright and warm it resembled Napa with rice fields, as a joke I asked one guide, Ugyen, what the weekend party scene was like. Ugyen, who with his slicked black hair and aviators qualified as the hippest of the Aman employees, soon divulged that several nightspots were operating in a village called Sopsokha, half an hour away. It seemed wildly improbable. But after dinner, a few game guests piled into a car with Ugyen—now in mufti, having traded in his gho for a black hoodie and jeans—and roared off into the dark countryside. The spontaneous nightlife tour began in a roadside pool hall, where players had to dodge long strips of bloody beef hanging from the rafters in the early stages of being air-cured. Soon after, we were following pounding music down nearby stairs into a concrete bunker illuminated by colored lights. It was a historic t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  / A p r i l 2 0 1 8

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moment: the Sopsokha region’s first pop-up discotheque had opened that weekend. It was rumored that some village girls trying to make money to travel overseas were setting up the club for a month, and fresh-faced young farmers and yak herders had traveled from all around to buy bottles of Misty Peak and the local firewater, ara, which many drank in traditional fashion, mixed with chunks of scrambled egg. The music was a medley of  Western classic rock, Indian pop and Bhutanese folk songs, all equally beloved by the wildly dancing crowd. As I lurched home at 3 a.m., I could feel that the script was beginning to fray.

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f course, these cultural immersions paled in comparison to chasing the yeti skin. As I wandered the Gangtey Monastery with Max, trying to find someone who would let us in to see the artifact, I began to appreciate for the first time the depth of traditional lore in Bhutan. The religious complex, a bone-rattling five-hour drive from the capital, was an otherworldly enclave that seemed to float on its lonely hilltop, caught between lush forests and luminous clouds. Mist from the valley floor began to drift through the ancient courtyards, and every room was blackened by the soot from four centuries’ worth of incense sticks and butter lamps. It was a minor setback to learn that the top officials were away. Surely someone other than the abbot had a key? Max saw that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. After giving it some thought, he explained that each of the three inner shrines in the monastery did have its own special caretaker. If we were lucky—and I gave a decent “donation” for the upkeep of the monastery—one might open the tantric chamber. We descended to the village’s backstreets, poking our heads into farmhouses and barns, dodging donkeys, chickens and dogs before finding a pallid monk in a red robe. As Max made our case, the monk looked me over with a furrowed brow. “I told him you are not a tourist but a respected Buddhist scholar,” Max confided as we slowly walked together back up the hill to the monastery. I felt a new sense of camaraderie. Max was suddenly my new best friend. He didn’t even seem to mind that my only spiritual credentials came from daily meditations on the Headspace app. “Maybe you are a Buddhist scholar then,” he laughed. “Almost a lama.” Night was falling by the time we reentered the monastery. The monk indicated that we should climb a wooden ladder to the second floor, where we groped in near darkness past murals of demons grinning malevolently. I entered one shrine filled with rusted weaponry—antique spears used against Tibetan invaders, muskets that repelled the British—but nothing resembling the hide of an abominable snowman. And then, to my surprise, the custodian waved me over to another portal, which he unlocked and slowly opened. I couldn’t believe it: the inner sanctum. Holding my breath, I pressed forward into a wood-paneled chamber illuminated by the watery light coming through one sliver of a window. As my eyes adjusted to the sepulchral

in the ornate shrine, a monk was chanting to himself darkness, I saw a wall lined with ghoulish animal trophies, like the monsters of a medieval bestiary—the desiccated carcass of an enormous fish baring piranha-like fangs; the hide of a feline that resembled a saber-toothed tiger; the scaly skin of a giant serpent. “This is the hand of a ghost,” Max said matter-of-factly, pointing to a skeletal claw that had belonged to a “dead king” who once haunted the valley. I had been transported back to a prescientific age, looking at evidence of myth and legend. Max then shined the light of his iPhone to reveal a grisly skin nailed to the wall and hanging like a sinister cape—the red yeti. I cautiously ran my fingers over the 400-year-old prize. It was definitely animal hide, stiff and fraying, with mummified claws and feet attached. Framed by long strands of hair (which was very black by now) was a grimacing, simian face. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but the yeti’s features may have been reworked by the monks over the centuries, perhaps with stretched leather, to stem the tide of decay. The attendants solemnly explained that this strange creature was known as a meichum, a smaller type of yeti, which had been spotted around the village in the 17th century. The creature had a thorn in its foot, and the peasants, once they got over their terror, helped to remove it. Later, when the yeti was found dead in the forest, the abbot ordered its skin preserved for the monastery’s Cabinet of Curiosities. I felt like high-fiving Max. Instead, I soberly slipped some cash into the offering bowl, bowing profusely. Walking back down the mountain trail, I was exultant. Caught up in the moment, it didn’t matter whether the hide was authentic. Instead, I was happy to suspend


clockwise From right: Archery remains a serious

undertaking; Paro Dzong flashes its woodworking brilliance; smiling locals, their faces wizened by years at high altitude; horse trekking in the snow.

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disbelief as Max spoke casually about yeti lore—the footprints he had seen in the snow, the howls villagers heard in the night, the hulking figures his ancestors had glimpsed in blizzards. The fact that nobody had found a live yeti was only logical, he explained, because many yetis can become invisible. Others had feet that were on backward so they were impossible to track. The creature’s elusiveness felt oddly enviable. I could do with a few yeti tricks myself.

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n my last day, the contradictions of Bhutan came together at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This fantastical series of temples, which seems almost glued to the side of a sheer cliff and can only be reached via a two-hour hike along a steep, twisting path. In December, even though it was sunny and 20 degrees, there were only a handful of hikers. For most of the time, my only company was a pious dentist from Sikkim, India, who took selfies along the route. I entered the Tiger’s Nest solo, was waved into its labyrinth of lanes by a drowsy guard, and wandered through echoing chambers lined with age-old murals. Up in the last ornate shrine, a lonely monk was chanting to himself, and I joined him cross-legged on the

stone floor. I had to admit that behaving like a pilgrim—going where everyone else was going, doing what everyone else was doing—wasn’t so bad if you could find scenes like this. And while Bhutan’s system has its frustrations, it’s hard to imagine what the alternative would be. Tourism is thriving, and the government is debating deregulating portions of it in the east of the country, where there are fewer travelers. (The idea is being considered, but mass tourism is opposed by everyone I spoke to.) The country’s single highway, until now an obstacle course of SUV-size potholes, will be paved this year. More pessimistic observers say that in five years Bhutan will lose its innocence. I realized that being able to visit under the current restrictions was a blessing in disguise. When I got back to New York, I tracked down Reinhold Messner’s book, My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas’ Deepest Mystery, which recounts his pilgrimage to the Gangtey Monastery and hike across the country. I was bemused to find that Messner declared the relic a fake. Outraged, he said the four-century-old


opposite: Paro Dzong and its cantilever bridge alight at nightfall. Below: A serious and playful

monk, typical around Bhutan.

Punakha

Thimphu Paro

bhutan

HOW TO EXPLORE BHUTAN

Writer Tony Perrottet highlights the top hotels and activities from his trip. GETTING THERE There are direct flights to Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport, from Bangkok, Singapore and various Indian cities including New Dehli. The state-owned Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines (drukair.com) and the private Bhutan Airlines (bhutan​airlines. bt) serve these three cities. The landing in the Himalayan airport was spectacular—and just as hairraising as reputed.

skin was either that of a large monkey or a Himalayan brown bear. Even so, seeing it must have been a powerful experience: Messner’s photographer fell ill with blood poisoning not long after, and was convinced that he had fallen under a curse for sneaking a flash shot. He eventually had to be helicoptered out of Bhutan. But Messner surely missed the point. It matters less to me whether it was a real yeti skin than that the monks and my new friend Max believed it was. There is little enough wonder left in the world. Personally, I still prefer to suspend my disbelief. On chilly evenings in Manhattan, as I hustle for the subway or rush through the crowds, I like to imagine that in faraway Bhutan the yetis are still in the mountain forests, invisible, feet on backward, making ghostly footprints in the snow. My own Gross Personal Happiness is much higher for it.

TOUR OPERATORS & LODGING Independent travel is all but impossible in Bhutan. You must go through a government-licensed tour operator (they obtain your US$40 visa) and pay the minimum daily tariff of US$250 in high season (September–November and March–May) or US$200 in other months. Most itineraries are about nine days, and can be booked through seasoned, highend companies such as Remote Lands (remotelands.com) and Absolute Travel (absolutetravel. com). Carole Cambata (ccambata@​greavestvl.com), a member of T+L’s A-List, our network of editor-approved travel agents, also specializes in Bhutan. I stayed at Amankora (aman. com; doubles from US$1,550, allinclusive), a series of five luxury lodges in valleys around the country. You don’t have to stay at all five—but many visitors make the circuit to get the full experience. One of my favorites was Amankora Gangtey Lodge, an opulent eight-suite hotel on a hilltop in the remote Phobjikha Valley. It is within hiking distance of the vibrant Gangtey village and its ancient monastery, and each suite has its own wood-fired stove. Ask for a hot-stone bath to unwind at dusk. Another standout, Amankora Punakha Lodge, can be reached only by walking over a suspension bridge swaying above a roaring river. Hiking trails from its doorway lead across an orange orchard to small farms that seem lost in the Middle Ages, with prayer wheels placed at strategic points.

If staying in Thimphu, Le Méridien Thimphu (lemeridien​thimphu.com; doubles from US$380) has a traditional Bhutanese façade to fit in with the Himalayan aesthetic, but its rooms are surprisingly contemporary. Como Hotels (comohotels.com; doubles from US$580) has properties in Paro and, with only 11 rooms, Punakha. By year’s end, Six Senses (sixsenses.com) plans to open its own circuit of five lodges. EXPERIENCES Your tour operator can work any of these sights into your itinerary. At the top of many a bucket list is the Tiger’s Nest, a Buddhist monastery that sits on the side of a cliff. The structure was built beside a cave where the Guru Rimpoche lived after flying here on a tiger, as legend has it. The hike up was as memorable as promised: the steep 3.5-kilometer trail, swathed in prayer flags, became more astonishing with every step. The National Museum of Bhutan (nationalmuseum.gov.bt) was another highlight. Although still being restored after an earthquake in 2011, the circular 17th-century watchtower, or ta dzong, above Paro is an impressive attraction in itself. The exhibits on display offer a primer on Bhutanese culture, with information on holy men, relics in glass cases, and a natural-history gallery. Not everything worth seeing makes it into the scheduled tour circuit. In Thimphu, the Bhutan Postal Museum (bhutan.travel), which is dedicated to the humble stamp, perfectly sums up the country’s quirkiness. Visitors can have their own images reproduced on legal stamps and use them on postcards to send home—the ultimate Bhutanese souvenir.

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Forget the city of old—or even the city of five years ago. Sid Evans considers how a new wave of restaurateurs, designers and hoteliers have put the jewel of the Lowcountry on the global stage.

Photogr a phed by Squire Fox

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Clockwise from top left: A mural outside

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noodles with pulled pork from Pink Bellies goods, art and antiques store on East Bay


c ha r le s ton

Lewis Barbecue, which serves Texas-style brisket on North Nassau Street; Shepard Fairey’s Power & Glory mural, on King Street; garlic egg at Workshop food hall, on King Street; the façade of a traditional home in the Historic District; the patio at Lewis Barbecue; Fritz Porter, a homeStreet; the Dewberry Charleston hotel, set in a renovated Midcentury building; rack of lamb at Stella’s, a Mediterranean restaurant.


When I was considering a move to Charleston to edit a new magazine called Garden & Gun in the summer of 2007, my wife and I went to McCrady’s restaurant, just off East Bay Street, which was helmed by a young chef named Sean Brock. Having been spoiled by New York restaurants, we weren’t expecting much, but it was hard not to be charmed by the entrance on a tiny cobblestoned alley, the long walnut bar, and the brick arch that framed the entrance inside. We couldn’t get a babysitter, so we stashed our sleeping six-month-old daughter under the table in her car seat, praying that she wouldn’t wake up and spoil a rare date night. Then the courses started coming—house-made charcuterie, sous vide scallops seared a la plancha, and something called country ham cotton candy. Here we were in a building that dated back to 1778, where George Washington once dined, and this mad-scientist chef was serving some of the most innovative, delicious dishes we’d ever had. For a couple debating a new life in an old city, that meal was a promise of exciting things to come. Our daughter slept peacefully through dinner, and by the end of the night (and after plenty of wine) we had decided to make the move.

Looking back, I realize that Brock was a messenger from the future— a devoted student of the region’s culinary history as well as a brash, tattooed innovator. Within a few years he would be named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, and soon his tribute to Southern ingredients, Husk, which opened in 2010, would pave the way for an explosion of new restaurants and bars that would transform the city. Charleston is an international food destination now, like Paris or San Sebastián, Spain. You can’t walk half a block without stumbling on some inventive new oyster bar, café,

or barbecue joint, not to mention a Mediterranean standout like Stella’s, where the calamari and keftedes draw a devoted lunch crowd, or a charming French bistro like Chez Nous. Eating is a sport there, a topic of conversation from the streets south of Broad to the suburbs of Mount Pleasant. But something bigger than food is reshaping Charleston. There is more traffic, for one thing, but there is also an energy coursing through the city that reminds me of Nashville and San Francisco. Charleston is home to more than 250 tech companies now. Hip design shops are opening, like


ASk an Insider

Ca rr ie Mor e y, ch a r le s ton’s culin a ry queen Ten years ago, women like Morey—the boss-lady behind Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (calliesbiscuits.com), a restaurant where people line up for the Southern breakfast staple—were a rarity in Charleston. Now that’s all changing, as more female chefs and entrepreneurs bring their talents to the table. Here, Morey shares her favorite eateries with women at the helm.

A view of Broad Street and St. Michael’s Church, built in the mid 18th century.

Something bigger than food is re shaping charle ston. There’s an energy coursing through the cit y that reminds me of nashville and san francisco

Fritz Porter Design Collective, where you can browse antiques selected by the South’s best tastemakers. New events are crowding the calendar, like High Water Festival, “a celebration of music, food, and libations” from local artists Shovels & Rope. And the cocktail culture is keeping the city lubricated, from the tiki-themed South Seas Oasis, where you can sip mai tais in a space lined with bamboo and hula skirts, to the intimate, old-school Proof, celebrated for its crisp gin and tonic. On a Friday night, Upper King feels a little bit like a block party in Brooklyn, as people spill out of the bars, clubs >>

“Literally my favorite thing to do on Fridays, after a long week of work, is to linger over lunch at Jill Mathias’s restaurant, Chez Nous (cheznousbistro.org; mains US$12–$40), off Cannon Street. It’s like a minivacation via transportive French food. And I just love how Jill is unapologetic about having only a few things on the menu. She’s breaking all the rules in all the right ways. Verde (eatatverde.com; salads US$8–$10), a delicious salad spot on King Street, is where I eat at least three times a week. Jennifer Ferrebee, the owner, is a seriously smart cookie. She just celebrated the birth of her first baby. And for something sweet, I—like everyone here—line up for Lauren Mitterer’s Sticky Bun Sundays at WildFlour Pastry (wildflour​p astry​c harleston. com). When she opened in 2009 in Cannonborough, the area was a little off the grid. But Lauren had the vision, and then everybody came.”

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Clockwise from top left: A guest at Stella’s, which serves modern Greek cuisine downtown; Goat Sheep Cow, North, a new wine bar and cheese shop in Half Mile North; the piazza at 86 Cannon, the Poinsette House, a five-room inn; a charcuterie plate at Goat Sheep Cow, North.


and restaurants. What not so long ago was a sleepy little town in the Lowcountry is becoming a city that never sleeps. There is no better reflection of this changing city than the Dewberry Charleston hotel in a 1964 federal office building. I used to drop my kids off for preschool at the Presbyterian church across the street, and I barely noticed the monolithic Midcentury Modern structure that loomed over Marion Square. For years, cranky residents wanted it replaced with something more traditional. But in the eyes of former Georgia Tech quarterback and real estate magnate John Dewberry, it was a thing of beauty. “Most people wanted me to tear it down,” he told me over coffee one morning in the lobby, which began welcoming guests two years ago. “But while a lot of people couldn’t see it, a few of us could.” Dewberry

sid evans’S guide to charleston The editor in chief of Southern Living and former Holy City resident shares his top picks on what to experience now. Stay The Dewberry Charleston A hotel with Midcentury design elements off Marion Square. thedewberry​charleston.com; doubles from US$350. 86 Cannon, the Poinsette House Don’t miss the nightly wine and cheese at this inn on Cannon Street. 86cannon. com; doubles from US$349. Wentworth Mansion This downtown inn is classic Charleston, with its Tiffany windows and evening sherry service. wentworthmansion. com; doubles from US$400. Zero George A cluster of 1804 homes and carriage houses make up this hotel in Ansonborough. zerogeorge. com; doubles from US$449. Eat Butcher & Bee Middle Eastern small plates reign at this creative restaurant in Half

softened the building’s façade with 35-year-old crepe myrtles, espaliered red maples, a walled garden and gorgeous outdoor lighting that accentuates its vertical lines. More than any other hotel in town, the Dewberry is unapologetically modern, with Midcentury furniture that Dewberry and his wife, Jaimie, have curated from auctions all over Europe. The brass bar in the lobby (which they call “The Living Room”) is the heartbeat of the hotel, always staffed by bartenders in white jackets who make a mean Old-Fashioned. If there’s a better-looking bar anywhere in the South, I haven’t seen it. A kilometer or so up the peninsula, the five-room 86 Cannon, the Poinsette House captures another side of the new Charleston. Modeled on other intimate properties in town, like Zero George and the Wentworth Mansion, the year-old >>

Mile North. butcherandbee. com; mains US$19–$28. Goat Sheep Cow, North The artisanal cheese shop’s new outpost in Half Mile North doubles as a wine bar. goatsheepcow.com. Husk Chef Sean Brock’s love letter to Southern cooking (shrimp and grits, wood-fired quail) focuses on local grains and meats. husk​restaurant. com; mains US$30–$34. Leon’s Oyster Shop A former auto-body shop is now a destination for fresh oysters and fried chicken. leonsoyster​ shop.com; mains US$13–$39. Lewis Barbecue Try the “sancho loco” sandwich with pulled pork, chopped beef, and house-made sausage at this spot helmed by the pit master behind La Barbecue in Austin, Texas. lewisbarbecue.com; mains US$10–$20. McCrady’s Brock experiments with various flavors (uni, meet cucumber) at this 22-seat, tasting-menu dining room. mccradysrestaurant.com; tasting menus from US$115. Rodney Scott’s BBQ Scott got his start at his family’s grocery in Hemingway, South Carolina; his excellent barbecue has now reached cult

status. rodneyscottsbbq.com; mains US$9–$18. Stella’s This branch of the Richmond, Virginia, favorite began serving Greek fare last year. stellas​charleston.com; mains US$15–$29. Workshop An “exploratory food court” of rotating food and beverage areas. The venue also hosts culinary classes. workshop​charleston.com. Xiao Bao Biscuit This casual restaurant dishes up “Asian soul food” plates like okonomiyaki and Vietnamese crêpes. xiao​bao​biscuit.com; mains US$12–$18. drink Edmund’s Oast Supplement the house beers (brewed a few blocks away at its sister taproom) with snacks like fried tripe. edmundsoast.com. Proof Known for its menu of nearly 40 refined cocktails. charlestonproof.com. South Seas Oasis A lively bar for tiki cocktails and pupu platters. southseasoasis.com.

shopping TIP

the se only- in ch a r le s ton s ouv enirs a r e wor th the splurge For the ultimate keepsake that celebrates heritage and craftsmanship, look to these skilled artisans. Charleston has been exporting its culture via the products of metalsmiths and basket weavers for hundreds of years. Two of the artisans taking those traditions into the 21st century are Marianna “Mini” Hay and Corey Alston. Hay is the youngest designer at Croghan’s Jewel Box (croghans​jewelbox. com), a King Street institution (her great-grandfather opened the shop in 1907). Looking to make her own mark, the 27-year-old took an unusual symbol—the palmetto bug, a.k.a. the humble cockroach— and turned it into her signature totem, placing it on chunky cuffs and delicate pendants. Her Goldbug collection has grown to 40 core designs, from a US$25 napkin ring to a US$530 bib necklace. In Charleston’s City Market, fifth-generation basket weaver Corey Alston is also injecting fresh thinking into his family business, Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets (thecharleston​citymarket.com). From traditional S-handle baskets and trays to one-of-akind caddies, the pieces, which range from US$35 to US$350, stand out for their meticulous construction—no surprise since Alston began weaving as a teenager. He also launched a Build Your Sweetgrass Basket app that lets customers design their own model and have Alston bring it to life.

Do Fritz Porter A design collective featuring curated antiques and contemporary art. fritzporter.com.

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A hearty spread at Lewis Barbecue, whose proprietor employs Texas barbecue techniques. Right: Visitors can tour the main house and slave quarters at McLeod Plantation, on James Island.

at Le wis barbecue, you can sit under the shade of a liv e oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Te xas-St y le

hotel is in a house dating from 1862. You can hear the wood floors creak under your feet on the piazza (peeah-za, as they say here), but the entire experience is luxurious, from the décor to the sheets to the sleek Linus bikes that wait for you outside. Five years ago, the neighborhood was known for its sagging porches and rowdy college students who came for the cheap housing. Tourists had no reason to venture there, but now this tiny hotel is a destination for travelers from all over the world. When I asked

the proprietors, Marion and Lori Hawkins, what these international visitors want to do, Lori answered without hesitation, “Eat.” It’s a five-to-10-minute walk to some of the best restaurants in town, from Xiao Bao Biscuit, which serves inspired Asian dishes in a converted gas station, to Leon’s Oyster Shop, where the fried chicken rivals any in the South. Or you can go for barbecue. Southerners have long nurtured a debate over whether Carolina-style pork or Texas-style brisket is the true king. Charleston has decided you can have it both ways. On Upper King Street, one year ago, Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ, a brick temple to the low, slow, whole-hog style that put South Carolina barbecue on the map. Less than half a mile away, at Lewis Barbecue, you can sit in a gravel courtyard under the shade of a live oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Texas-style. Like all real Texas barbecue, it’s smoked for 18 hours and served on butcher paper with a couple of slices of white bread. You simply couldn’t find brisket of this quality anywhere


If You’re Going to See ONLY One Plantation, Let This Be It

When it comes to visiting the Lowcountry’s historic estates, many visitors find themselves overwhelmed by the options, which include the popular Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, and Magnolia Plantation. But McLeod Plantation Historic Site (ccprc.com) is different for its unflinching perspective on both slavery and the struggle for land rights before, during, and after the Civil War. Spread over 15 hectares on James Island, McLeod opened to the public in 2015. Through tours and lectures, guides paint a stark, vivid picture of life for the slaves who harvested Sea Island cotton for McLeod's middle-class farmers. They also trace McLeod’s wartime and postbellum evolution, from a campsite for both Confederate and Union troops to the headquarters of the Freedmen’s Bureau following emancipation. The tours last 45 minutes, but you'll want another hour on your own to explore the grounds, which include the 1851 main house, slave quarters and a riverside pavilion.

outside of the Lone Star State until the young, bearded pit master John Lewis decided to pack up his smokers and move here from Austin. What makes Lewis’s even more interesting is that it sits in the emerging development of Half Mile North (a half-mile north of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge), with its contemporary architecture, carcharging stations, and cluster of tech companies. This is where another revolution has begun, driven by a wave of start-ups, like the e-commerce firm Blue Acorn, that have helped earn Charleston the moniker Silicon Harbor. At Butcher & Bee, Web developers and digital entrepreneurs talk tech over >> t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  / A p r i l 2 0 1 8

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Oysters pile up on a table at a traditional roast.

You’re In v ited to a Lowcountry Oyster Roast. Now W hat?

This convivial outdoor ritual is a social-calendar mainstay from September through April, and locals are famous for inviting visitors and new friends to join in. It’s always best to brush up on a few basics before you go. Dress Code

Proper oyster-roast attire generally begins with the two B’s: boots— something in the Billy Reid, L.L. Bean, or Blundstone vein—and a Barbour jacket. If you don’t have one of the waxed-cotton classics, the Southern equivalent from outfitter Tom Beckbe (tombeckbe. com) will do.

Table Etiquette

The Lowcountry uses a wood-fire technique, in which the bivalves are smothered beneath wet burlap while being steamroasted over a flame. Groups rotate away from the table after each fresh batch is laid out so everyone gets a turn.

ASk an Insider

shep Rose , r e a lit y s ta r t urned i sle of pa lm s r e sident With their windswept Atlantic beaches and family-friendly vibes, the barrier islands outside Charleston offer a different kind of escape. One of the most popular: Isle of Palms, home to the 650-hectare Wild Dunes Resort (destinationhotels.com/wild-dunes; doubles from US$199) and two golf courses. Many of the area’s most recognizable residents have homes there, including Shep Rose, who stars in the Bravo TV series Southern Charm and a new spin-off series, Relationshep. Here are his weekend go-tos, before and after a long day of

The BYO Rule

Bringing your own oyster knife and glove is welcomed. The heirloom-quality Edisto knives at Williams Knife Co. (williamsknife.com) are a local go-to; otherwise, the East Bay True Value Hardware (18 Society St.) keeps kits with a knife, glove, and cloth in stock throughout the season.

surfing. “I get my coffee at the Refuge (therefugeiop. com), a little nauticalthemed spot just over the IOP connector. That’s where you’ll find me most mornings. The seafood-focused Long Island Café (longislandcafesc.com; mains US$16–$33) is a gem. It’s been here since the 1980s and is as unpretentious as they come. My dad loves it, too. He’s obsessed with the local flounder. I’m a grouper guy. And the Italian restaurant Coda del Pesce (codadelpesce.com; mains US$24–$32) is definitely the diamond of the restaurant scene here. The chef, Ken Vedrinski, does amazing things with fresh seafood and house-made pasta.”

s h e p r os e : NBCU P h oto ba n k v ia Ge tt y Im ag es

shakshuka and brown-rice bowls. Edmund’s Oast has become an evening hangout, with sophisticated dishes like chicken-liver parfait and exceptional craft beers. Still farther up the peninsula, at the Pacific Box & Crate office complex, there are no porches in sight—just chic industrial buildings with soaring windows. Inside couldn’t be more modern, with pingpong tables, a yoga studio and dogs lounging among the workstations. Stephen Zoukis, the real estate mogul behind the complex, recognized that Charleston needed a home for these new businesses—as well as another culinary center. “For a lot of these young people, having an alternative to downtown is important,” he told me one morning at Bad Wolf Coffee, the campus caffeine hub. And so Zoukis launched Workshop, a food court showcasing all kinds of global cuisine. I only lived in Charleston for about four years, but every time I go back, I feel the city’s magnetic pull. It’s not the quiet Lowcountry town I first fell in love with, but underneath all these new places, the character and charm of the city are still there. Ten years after that memorable dinner at McCrady’s, Sean Brock is busier than ever, now overseeing eight restaurants in five cities, including new iterations of Husk in Greenville, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. But McCrady’s is where the chef is at his most creative. “That’s my sanctuary,” he told me recently. A year-and-a-half ago, he reimagined the restaurant as a 22-seat tasting-menu-only space, curating everything from the music to the silverware. McCrady’s now serves 15 wildly inventive courses, such as a single Virginia oyster perched on a bed of smooth rocks with a cloud of steam rising from the bowl. I don’t know what this portends for the next 10 years in Charleston, but I do take comfort in the fact that Brock is reinventing himself and his signature restaurant every day, just waiting for the next couple to come in and taste something out of this world.


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The Dewberry Charleston hotel now offers private mixology classes.

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shopping tip

Ca nnon S tr ee t, Your Off-theBe aten - Path re ta il Corr idor King Street is Charleston’s Madison Avenue. But some of the city’s most interesting stores can actually be found on nearby Cannon. 1/Beads on Cannon

The ultimate specialty shop, this two-story emporium carries any kind of gem, stone, bead and bauble imaginable, plus everything necessary to string, weave, or wirewrap them. beadsoncannon.com.

2/Indigo & Cotton

Since 2011, owner Brett Carron has been outfitting Charlestonian men with his smartly edited selection of both Southern (Raleigh Denim, Makr) and nonSouthern (Post Imperial, Mollusk) brands in this welcoming, airy space. indigoandcotton.com.

3/Mac & Murphy

This intimate shop raises the bar for indie stationery stores. Owner Liz Macpherson has stocked an eclectic array of things you never knew you needed: colorful greeting cards, framed prints, and desk accessories. macandmurphy.com.

4/Candy Shop Vintage

Designer Deirdre Zahl’s boutique is a local mainstay for vintage and vintage-inspired accessories. Her Charleston rice-bead necklaces (long, flapper-style chains popular in the 1970s) have become a signature. candyshop​vintage.com. 

Additional reporting by Jessica Mischner

Hea d of the Class

Get schooled in the ways of Charleston’s fabled craftspeople in one of these informative classes and workshops.

Intricate ironwork can be found throughout the city, in churches, homes, and gardens. Get hands-on instruction in the trade from blacksmith James Irving, who leads a Playing with Fire course on the basics at the Wild Dunes Resort and at his forge on James Island; students

may come away with a bottle opener, oyster shucker, or fire poker. destinationhotels.com/ wild-dunes; from US$90 for a two-hour class. Ryan Casey is a rising star in the craft-cocktail world, having earned his stripes at Charleston hot spots like FIG. Now he presides over the brass bar inside the Dewberry Charleston, where he hosts private mixology lessons for locals and guests. dewberry​charleston.com; from US$100 per hour. Henrietta Snype’s basket-making lessons are

a deep dive into weaving technique, covering topics such as identifying native grass types and why the woven pieces can command high prices. preservation​ society.org; from US$85 for a two-hour class. Floral arranging is an art in Charleston, one of the country’s top wedding destinations. Learn the ins and outs—from tabletop designs of wild blooms to wreath making—from the experts at Charleston Flower Workshop. charleston​flowerworkshop. com; from US$150 for a two-hour class.

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Sunrise in central Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, where guests at Jabali Ridge, a new high-end safari lodge, often break from their morning game drive to have breakfast under a baobab tree.

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the way of the wild In two of Tanzania’s lesser-known tracts of wilderness, Ruaha National Park and the Selous Game Reserve, glamorous new safari camps are offering visitors the chance to witness—and protect—the spectacular creatures that reside there. And, as a bonus, there probably won’t be another soul in sight. By Jeffrey Gettleman photographed by ADRIAAN LOUW


The pool at Jabali Ridge, with the plains of Ruaha National Park in the background.

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The instant the door opened and we stepped out of the plane, I took a deep breath. We had just touched down on a dirt airstrip in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, and the air around us smelled of warm wood. The sky was immense; beneath it lay a primordial landscape of chest-high elephant grass, stubby baobab trees, and, in the distance, haze-clad hills that seemed to melt into the bright horizon. Waving goodbye to the pilot, we walked a few meters to a waiting safari truck, its sides completely open. My wife, Courtenay, slid in next to me, and our two boys—Asa, five, and Apollo, eight—hopped in front. At the wheel was Moinga Timan, a young Masai guide with a smooth, oval face and two notchlike scars on his left cheekbone. Off we rumbled down a deserted sandy road, the savanna rolling away on either side like a dry, endless ocean. After about 15 minutes, Timan suddenly turned onto a narrow track. We threaded through tangled thorn trees, leaning in to avoid getting scraped, our luggage bouncing around behind us. Up ahead, a gnarled old sausage tree loomed, casting a dense pool of shade on the ground. As we approached it, Timan turned and put a finger to his lips. I could feel my adrenaline rising as we spotted a dark shape lying on a branch midway up the tree. I stared harder and realized we were looking at a leopard. She was two years old, Timan estimated, and probably the most exquisite creature I have ever seen. Asleep on a branch, head on her left paw, other legs dangling, she looked absolutely serene. Timan cut the engine and we rolled right under her. None of us could take our eyes off her coat. It was a masterpiece, the orange spots so precisely framed by black, it looked as if they had been applied with a fine paintbrush.

We all sat in the cool shade looking up, lost in our own thoughts. After a few minutes, Timan put his hand lightly on the ignition key and turned around. “Okay, we go?” I could have stayed there the rest of my life.

M y fa mily a nd I recen t ly left East Africa,

where I had spent 11 years as bureau chief for the New York Times, and this was our first trip back. No matter how many times I go on safari, the experience is always profound. There’s a special peace—and a special thrill—that comes from stepping onto the savanna under an open sky and seeing the most beautiful animals on earth existing in their own space, on their own terms, often against great odds. It is a rare privilege, and never fails to engender a shift in mood, a slowing down, an opening up. We had come to Ruaha National Park and the nearby Selous Game Reserve, two of Tanzania’s most pristine tracts of wilderness, to spend a week at a pair of new high-end safari camps. Ruaha lies on a vast, baobab-studded plain, with only a handful of lodges spread over a territory just a little smaller than New Jersey. Selous, where we started our trip, is even bigger. Rugged and bushy, the reserve was once home to one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants. Though there are now far fewer of

above:

Emmanuel Matari, one of Asilia Africa’s in-house safari guides. opposite: A lion seen on a lateafternoon game drive near Jabali Ridge, in Ruaha National Park.

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these creatures, and those that remain are a little skittish (more about that later), it’s still a great place to spot lions, giraffes, hyenas, hundreds of species of tropical birds and the elusive wild dog. Neither of these parks is on Tanzania’s main safari circuit. You can go for days without hearing another car, so you don’t have to deal with other tourists acting like wildlife paparazzi, as they can in other, more trodden safari destinations. Here, you have the African veld to yourself. Well, almost to yourself. Tanzania is in the midst of an epic battle to protect its wildlife, especially its elephants, and all of its parks are haunted by poachers. In the past decade, at least 100,000 elephants across Africa have been slaughtered for their tusks: a crisis driven by China’s rapacious demand for ivory trinkets. An underground ivory pipeline runs from the most remote reaches of the savanna, through African ports, where sticky-fingered customs officials are more than happy to turn a blind eye (for the right price), to carving workshops in cities such as Guangzhou. Tanzania—where the people are poor, the wildlife is rich, and the government has historically been deeply corrupt—has lost more elephants than any other country. But please don’t get the wrong impression: as a visitor, you’re not in any danger. The poachers operate deep in the bush, and they’re not interested in you. With any luck, your visit will help put a few more eyes on the situation—and protect a few more elephants, lions and leopards. Both the camps we stayed at are run by a Dutch-owned safari company called Asilia Africa, which invests a portion of its profits in wildlife protection and research, bringing resources these areas might not otherwise get. And this is a great time to visit, because the tide may at last be turning. The world’s elite, from Hillary Clinton to Prince William to Leonardo DiCaprio, have embraced the elephant cause and thrown a spotlight on the tragedy of the ivory trade. They have named names— China’s in particular. The Chinese government recently bowed to the pressure and announced it was shutting down its domestic ivory markets. For the first time in years the price of ivory is falling, a sign that demand for Africa’s “white gold” may finally be waning.

W e h a d t ouche d dow n in the Selous at 5 p.m.—that stunning hour when the light in tropical Africa turns the color of whiskey, and the animals come out. From New Delhi, where we now live, we had flown to the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, and from there caught a small bush flight to the reserve. In order to take advantage of the last hour or so of daylight,

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our guide had suggested we drive to the lodge via Lake Nzerakera, one of many shallow lakes that dot the landscape of the Selous. We parked at the water’s edge in the shade of a group of palm trees, their white trunks as smooth as plastic piping. A pod of hippos wallowed so close by I could see the pink of their little round ears, which seemed comically tiny in proportion to their enormous heads. A troop of baboons ran around the beach playing something that resembled tag; the fish eagles and black herons hunting on the shore turned their heads once or twice to look at them. As we watched in silence, I was struck by the sheer diversity of all the forms of life happily sharing the same space. Clearly, our species has a lot to learn.


Asilia Africa is a safari company dedicated to protecting the ecosystem and creating sustainable economic opportunities in lesservisited areas of famous wilderness destinations. The brand’s new property in the Selous reserve, Roho ya Selous, is a tented camp without a gate or a fence, totally open to the wilderness—and everything that resides there. It was both wonderful and unnerving to walk over to the dining tent in the dark and hear a lion grunting for its dinner in the distance. (Don’t worry, a guard escorts you everywhere after nightfall.) Before our first evening meal, Aidan Kikoti, the Tanzanian camp manager, had asked a couple of staff members to build a huge fire. Settling into canvas director’s chairs around the fire, Courtenay and I sipped chilled South African

wine while the kids sucked down orange Fantas and we all watched sparks drift up into a rapidly darkening sky. Dinner was served under the stars, and the food was fantastic—especially considering how remote this camp is (the nearest, tiny, town is 160 kilometers away). We feasted on steak sourced from central Tanzania, Brie made in Kenya, and chocolate mousse that I knew was going to be worth the calories when I stuck my spoon into it and the spoon stood up straight. After waddling back to our tent, a large master suite with an adjoining room furnished with bunk beds, we tucked the kids in under their mosquito nets and said good night. A big part of the safari experience is sitting in the passenger seat of a truck looking for

The pool at Jabali Ridge, with the plains of Ruaha National Park in the background.


There’s a special peace that comes from seeing the most beautiful animals on earth existing in their own space, on their own terms, often against great odds


game, and I find there are few activities more relaxing than leaning back, feeling the warm breeze on your face, and watching the landscape slip by. The next morning, it was time to set out into the bush and get into vacation mode. Selous is very lush, with dense trees and shrubs everywhere; one can only wonder how the Victorian explorers survived out here, hacking through foliage, dodging predators, and getting devoured by mosquitoes and tsetse flies—all in the name of the queen. Fortunately, in the intervening years the Tanzanian government has put in a network of dirt roads, and after an hour or so of driving, our guide in the Selous, Mashaka John Ngalawa, followed one up to the base of a baobab tree. He started pointing things out, like elephant scratches in the bark and a big beehive lodged in the tree’s stubby, rootlike branches. My boys listened attentively. “I think this tree has been here for about eight hundred years,” Ngalawa proclaimed, which was entirely possible (some baobabs are believed to be thousands of years old). He drove us closer to get a better look. Then closer still. Suddenly, I saw Ngalawa’s face, its expression usually languorous, go into a state of red alert. He gunned the engine, threw the truck in reverse, and raced us backward, crashing over rocks and tree stumps and flattening several innocent bushes. “Bees!” he yelled. In an instant, a huge swarm had poured down on us in a dark cloud. African killer bees! (Actually, I can’t say for sure that they were killer bees. But there were a lot of them—and they were not happy.) Asa, who sometimes speaks in oddly complete sentences for a five-year-old, howled: “I have been stung by a bee, mama! I have been stung by a bee!” Mama vaulted out of her seat to yank out the stinger as the truck roared backward. Shooting a quick glance at Apollo, who had curled up into a ball like a pangolin, I frantically shooed away more bees before they could land. Note to self: don’t park under a baobab containing an enormous beehive. We motored back to camp, licking our wounds, and took it easy the rest of the day. Fortunately, we were in the perfect place for that. Asilia does safaris a little cushier than most—though not so cushy you feel like you’re losing contact with your surroundings. Our camp had Wi-Fi, a great big wooden bar, a living-room-like tent with a small library, and a swimming pool. Walking back to our tent after an afternoon of swimming and lazing, I was able to appreciate how far out we really were. There was no mechanized noise. The only

sounds were our eight sandals crunching through the dirt and the cicadas singing in the trees. The place felt so peaceful, it was hard to reconcile the fact we were actually in the midst of one of Africa’s biggest hunting grounds. The Selous is a game reserve, which means that each year, hundreds of animals are legally killed here. If you have the budget, the proper permits, and the correct weapon, you are entitled to choose from a wide menu of wildlife to kill—including the endangered elephant (a successful elephant hunt costs around US$100,000). To those of us who cherish wildlife and fear for its future, big-game hunting seems like a sport that should be relegated to the past, particularly in light of the recent poaching craze that has pushed some of the continent’s most iconic species closer to extinction. But hunting is alive and well in Africa. Some governments, such as Tanzania’s, earn millions of dollars from it each year. Proponents argue that, when correctly managed, hunting can protect wildlife. Responsible hunters, they say, kill only adult males past breeding age, and help scare away poachers. There might be some truth to this; areas where active hunting is taking place tend to be more closely patrolled. Personally, though, I will always have trouble squaring the notion that killing rare animals helps save them.

BELOW: Breakfast served on the hood of a safari truck in Ruaha National Park. Opposite: Drinks around the campfire at Roho ya Selous, a new tented camp in the Selous Game Reserve.

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Her coat was a masterpiece, the orange spots so precisely framed by black, they could have been applied with a fine paintbrush The vast, 30,000-square-kilometer Selous has been divided into two parts: one for what are called “photographic’’ safaris, like ours, and the other for hunters. The hunters’ area was eons away, and we never saw anyone involved in the sport. Still, we felt their impact. In three days in the Selous, we didn’t see a single elephant. The combination of legal hunting and pervasive poaching has made the reserve’s elephants deeply suspicious of man. At the faintest sound of a car or scent of a person, these famously intelligent, sensitive creatures go crashing into the bush.

Opposite: A guest

room at Jabali Ridge, where materials were chosen to blend in with the surrounding landscape.

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Ja ba l i R id ge , t he new A s il i a property in Ruaha National Park, is an oasis in the middle of a vast expanse of open parkland dotted with baobab trees. Sitting at the top of a small hill, the lodge is made up of a series of wood-andstone villas built into the rocks and connected by sleek wooden catwalks. Picture a safari lodge designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and you get the idea. The place is seriously gorgeous. I loved leaning against the railings of the dining area, or just about anywhere on the property, and staring out at the savanna traversed by sandy animal pathways, and the tawny hills beyond. Jabali Ridge is also a well-oiled machine. The camp’s manager, Clement Lawrence, is a Namibian with a wry sense of humor and a soft spot for kids. When he heard us musing at dinner about making an early start the next day, he volunteered to organize a bush breakfast for the morning so we could begin driving at dawn, eating our eggs, sausage and house-made granola on the fly. When our boys lost a plastic tiger near the infinity pool, a technician hunted under the deck and found it. The guides were among the best I’ve ever encountered, deeply knowledgeable about the entire ecosystem, able to track game from a few half-blown footprints, and—perhaps most importantly for our gang of four—incredibly patient. Our kids are bird freaks, and their intensity at times is a little scary. In breathless, earnest sentences, they will talk your ear off about the difference between a pied kingfisher and a

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malachite kingfisher (they’re big on kingfishers these days), or what a saddle-billed stork eats for breakfast. They were born and raised in East Africa and have a much more intuitive appreciation of nature than I ever had growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. I was worried they might wear out our guide, Moinga Timan, the sturdy 24-year-old bachelor who had found the sleeping leopard en route from the Ruaha airstrip. He hailed from a rural Masai area and was, I imagined, probably not accustomed to the high-velocity needs of American expat kids. But he couldn’t have been kinder, cheerfully grabbing his canvas-covered bird book and thumbing through the pages to answer every last one of the boys’ questions. The perfect safari guide has to be a lot of things—driver, tracker, spotter, host, conservationist, conversationalist, mixer of drinks and master of surprise. Timan was all of those. He let the kids sit on his lap and drive his truck down those long, straight dirt roads. He taught them—and me and Courtenay, too—about how to pay attention to the smallest things and how, by being mindful, you can feel so much more connected to the world around you.

Rua h a h a s done a much better job of protecting its elephants than the Selous, and is one of the last places in Africa where you can still see enormous herds. Unlike the Selous, which is run by Tanzania’s notoriously corrupt wildlife department, Ruaha is a national park, and therefore managed by professional conservationists. Although poachers have encroached here, Ruaha has far more aggressive ranger patrols. Near Jabali Ridge we saw a sprawling ranger station made up of a number of low-slung buildings, their metal roofs shimmering under the sun, where dozens of armed figures marched around the complex in camouflage. The battle is far from over, but I got the sense from the guides and rangers we met that, here and elsewhere, the ivory problem is no longer hopelessly out of control. “Watch how they dig,’’ Timan said as we approached a herd of around 30 elephants early one afternoon. We parked a safe distance from where they were lumbering across a dry river. Timan told us that each year Ruaha was getting drier, maybe because of climate change, maybe because of the farms appearing upriver to feed Tanzania’s fast-growing population. Elephants have an uncanny ability to detect underground water, and as the herd moseyed past us, clouds of dust lifting under their gigantic feet, one of the matriarchs suddenly stopped. Using her right foreleg, she started digging a hole, pawing a patch of sand like a bull in a ring. She then


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lowered her head and began scraping with a tusk. The riverbed was bright and hot, a dusty haze hanging in the air, not a trickle of water anywhere. But after a few minutes, the elephant snorted triumphantly and lifted up her trunk. Its tip was dark gray with moisture: she had found water. Other elephants trotted over and began digging with their feet. As we watched them take turns drinking out of the ground, I was humbled. If it had been left to me to find water out there, we would have all died of thirst. On our last afternoon, Timan caught us lounging in the dining area and said: “What do you guys think of a night safari?” The kids cheered. Leaving the camp in the fading light, Apollo spotted a bird perched atop a mahogany tree. “Is it a lapwing?” he asked. Timan shook his head. “A ringed plover?” “Just look, look at the details,” Timan said. “Look at the beak, the plumage, its eye color. Take it slow.” Apollo lifted the binoculars to his eyes and studied the bird for a moment. “A three-banded plover!” Timan cracked a smile. As the sun sank behind the hills and night rose up around us, we drove into a small forest, looking for a lion pride another guide had spotted earlier in the day. After a few minutes,

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a fr i c a Ruaha National Park

ta n z a n i a

Selous Game Reserve

Timan seemed to sense something. As he shined a light across a tangle of dead bushes, a dozen bright green disks stared back. Six lions, each with a muzzle soaked in blood, were chomping on the carcass of a giraffe just a few meters from us. It was an extraordinary sight: eerie, fascinating and unforgettable. After watching for a few moments, we drove away, leaving the pride to enjoy their meal in peace. On the way home, I asked Timan if there was a place we could stop and stargaze. Next thing I knew, he started peeling back the truck’s canvas roof, opening up a spectacular night sky smeared with stars. We stood up and listened as Timan pointed out formations I had only ever seen in books. The constellations were so clear, the sky so black. From somewhere in the bush came the sweet, light perfume of a plant that I guessed must be a cousin of jasmine, blowing on the warm night breeze. As we drove quietly back to camp, our two headlights punched holes through the dark. The poachers, the ivory trade, the population pressures, climate change—they were all obscured by the darkness and the overpowering sense of Ruaha’s immensity. I looked out at the starlit savanna and over at my kids just soaking it all up and couldn’t help thinking, Why, exactly, did we have to leave? Might there be a way to make a life out here again, one day?

Visas & Permits Single-entry visas costs US$50 and are generally available upon arrival— though you can also apply in advance through the Tanzanian embassy. Nationals of certain countries require special advance-referral visas. The Southeast Asian locations whose passport-holders do not require visas are Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Macau and Singapore. Check the government's site for full requirements for each country. immigration.go.tz. Getting There Fly into Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere Airport via hubs such as Doha. From there, your tour operator can arrange a charter flight to Selous Reserve or Ruaha National Park.

lodging Asilia Africa (asiliaafrica. com) is a Dutch-run safari operator that focuses on East Africa and emphasizes ethical and sustainable tourism. They have 12 camps in Tanzania including: Jabali Ridge The eight Modernist bungalows at this new lodge blend into a towering granite boulder in Ruaha National Park. Track leopards and elephants on game drives led by passionate local guides, and enjoy amenities like a “bush bonnet” breakfast while out in the field. Doubles from US$1,577. Roho ya Selous The new second camp is eight tented platforms with hand-carved wooden accents and private verandas. The alfresco meals feature East

Opposite: A leopard seen on a late-afternoon game drive near Jabali Ridge, in Ruaha National Park.

African specialties like Zanzibari snapper. Doubles from US$1,400. Tour Operators Deeper Africa A World’s Best Awards winner, this trusted safari operator offers adventures like lion-spotting excursions in Ruaha and cruises down the Selous’s Rufiji River, home to hippos and crocodiles. deeper​africa. com; 10 nights from US$8,445 per person. Extraordinary Journeys This boutique tour operator specializing in East Africa is run by mother-daughter duo Marcia and Elizabeth Gordon—featured on the A-List, T+L’s best travel advisors. Ruaha and the Selous are some of their many offerings in Tanzania. 1-212/226-7331; elizabeth@ejafrica.com.

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wish you were here

If riding a wave offers the ultimate get-away-from-it-all moment, then surfing Canggu in South Bali is transportive. In recent years, this hamlet has skyrocketed in popularity, meaning footpaths through rice fields have been replaced by small roads, now crowded with all manner of cars. But out on the water on the breaks of beginner-friendly Batu Bolong, long, warung-dotted Berawa, and Echo, which is roiled by the strongest waves of the three, surfers can still find freedom on continuous lines of curls. — Eszter Papp

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April 2018  

Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia April 2018

April 2018  

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