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Southeast asia

december 2016

Singapore gets Creative Bali’s got a brand new Ubud

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

Margaret River: Surf and Cabernet

Best of


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*Card Members and/or their guest(s) have to each order a qualifying main course to enjoy the varying savings. For full programme Terms and Conditions, please refer to & American Express International Inc., (UEN S68FC1878J) 20 (West) Pasir Panjang Road #08-00, Mapletree Business City, Singapore 117439. Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A. Ž Registered Trademark of American Express Company. Š Copyright 2016 American Express Company.

T+L WorLd’s BesT aWards 2017

vote for your

travel favorites vote now!

For your favorite hotels, resorts, cities, airlines, cruise lines and destinations you love—in the only truly global travel survey that matters.

We trust you. We trust your judgement. That’s why we want you to rate our global travel experiences for us, in the Travel+Leisure World’s Best Awards, now through March 6, 2017. These awards are recognized as travel’s highest honor, so it’s time to give back to those hotels, resorts, cities, airlines, cruise lines and destinations you love the most. Readers of all global editions of Travel+Leisure will participate in the awards, so this is your chance for Southeast Asia’s voice to be heard.

So visit and tell us exactly what you think. The full global results will be published in our August issue.

pornsak na nakorn

dear Travel+Leisure southeast asia readers,



ON THE COVER A touch of streetside art in Singapore. Photographed by Matthieu Salvaing.


A Grand Design Wealthy Singapore has long been more concerned with commerce than art. Now it’s spending millions to become a capital of creativity. As the city makes a culture, how will culture remake the city? By Jeff Chu. Photographed by Matthieu Salvaing.


116 126

F R O M t o p L E F T: m at t h i e u s a lva i n g ; a a ro n j oel s a n t o s ; l a u r y n i s h a k


Edge of America Underrated outpost Guam, with diving as fantastical as its local lore, is brimming with surprises. Duncan Forgan braves the vengeful ancestors, and explains why you should crave coconutmilk cheeseburgers. Photographed by Aaron Joel Santos.


The Best Medicine Ubud has been Bali’s healing capital for more than a thousand years. Through a weeklong curative quest, Jeninne Lee-St. John discovers that a shaman’s secret ingredient is simple: belly laughs. Photographed by Lauryn Ishak.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


In Every Issue  T+L Digital 14 Contributors 16 Editor’s Note 18 The Conversation 20 Deals 98 Wish You Were Here 142



Here & Now

T+L picks the year’s hottest openings across the region.

38 The New Minimalism A trio of

new small hotels in Singapore makes the city more affordable without scrimping on comfort.

opens in Penang. 44 Street Cred David Thompson’s new Thai restaurant in Sydney 42 Over the Top A new eco-park

ratchets up the heat.

93 The Road Ahead How do you feel about robot room service? Ready to wear shoes that give directions? This is a compendium of travel inventions you’re about to encounter, some as soon as your next trip.

River, an Australian wine region

60 Due South Welcome to Margaret with epic surfing beaches, a welcoming vibe, and standout Cabernets and Chardonnays.

64 Bohemian Rhapsody Long a

laid-back center for creative types, Chiang Mai’s art scene is on the cusp of stardom.

Guide 101 Travel Photography Tools,

techniques and tips—as well as learning vacations—to help you take your best shots yet.

Special 73 The Next Big Ideas Hotels made

Beyond 55 Vietnam’s True North The misty mountains near the Chinese border are home to a stunning



mix of lush landscapes, market towns and indigenous cultures.

of bamboo, socially conscious cruising, floating trains and fast architecture—these innovations will shape your travel experiences for years to come.


d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m



F R O M L E F T: c h r i s t o p h er w i s e ; c o u r t e s y of h o t el i n d i g o k at o n g ; c o u r t e s y of lo n g c h i m s y d n e y; c e d r i c a r n ol d

Indonesia, Halong Bay to Phuket,

25 The Best of 2016 From Japan to


t+l digital


5 Bespoke Shops in Singapore Emphasizing exceptionally crafted works, these stores in the Lion City will make your home look like an art gallery.

The Perfect Weekend in Macau From craft cocktails to fine dining, there’s plenty to do with three days in this dynamic city.

Rediscovering Tahiti There are still unspoiled corners of French Polynesia, beckoning with empty sandbars, turquoise waters and countless adventures.

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d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m


from lef t: c o u r t e s y of s u p erm a m a ; c o u r t e s y of t h e s t. re g i s ; i a n llo y d n e u b a u er

this month on tr

Luang Prabang’s new botanical garden; the best airline meals; Hanoi’s ancient papermaking tradition; vegetarian fast-food in Hong Kong; the latest travel deals and more.



Daven Wu

Duncan Forgan

Best of 2016: Singapore Page 25 — Wu’s favorite cultural stop in Singapore is Haw Par Villa. “Built by the Tiger Balm family in the 1930s, its grand set pieces of key Chinese legends and history were designed for the illiterates in the community—just as the stained glass windows in churches were in the Middle Ages.” Top opening of 2016? The austerely beautiful Whitegrass: “Aussie chef Sam Aisbett does wonders with Mangalica pork.” And speaking of magic, Wu is pumped for his upcoming trip to Bali. “I’m hoping to see Ida Resli, the island’s youngest ordained priestess, for a Melukat blessing.” Instagram: @davenwu.

Edge of America Page 126 — “I wasn’t particularly interested in going to Guam,” Forgan says. “I had visions of a giant army base with a few fancy shops—not my scene. But with the spooky stuff and the strong Chamorro culture, I was sold. It didn’t hurt that it turned out to be so pretty.” Best moment? “Reaching the beach at Ritidian Point after a long day in the rented Kia. Just me, the ocean and some ghosts.” With fatherhood looming, Forgan heads next to Sikkim in northern India. “I’m a sucker for Himalayan scenery and trekking, and I want to get halfway in shape before the birth of my first boy in February.” Instagram: @dunc1978.



Holly Robertson

Cedric Arnold

Best of 2016: Cambodia Page 25 — Roberston lists Timothy de Bruyns of The Tiger’s Eye in Phnom Penh as “one of the most inventive chefs in the country. Tim and his team are constantly challenging themselves to create exciting new menus with fresh, local ingredients.” While we’re on the subject of Cambodiangrown, the old pepper capital is emergent. “Kampot is beginning to appear on people’s radars,” she says. “With its crumbling French colonial architecture, and burgeoning food and arts scene, this sleepy riverside town looks set to start attracting increasing numbers of travelers.” Twitter: @robertsonholly.

Bohemian Rhapsody Page 64 — Of the arts scene in Chiang Mai, Arnold was wowed by Kamin Lertchaiprasert. “His retrospective at Maiim was a revelation to me. I did not know his earliest works in photography and monochrome paintings. He continues to use different media, constantly evolving. And he’s very humble about it all.” He might be describing the overall feel in the Lanna capital. “Chiang Mai has always had its own pockets of creativity, though they now seem more interconnected,” he says. “And, of course, if your creativity is caffeinefueled, you’re in luck—the coffee keeps getting better.” Instagram: @bkk_cedric.

W r i t er




w r i t er

P h o to gr a p h er

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of D av e n W u ; c o u r t e s y of D u n c a n F or g a n ; c o u r t e s y of Holly R o b er t s o n ; c o u r t e s y of Ce d r i c Ar n ol d


d e c em b er 2 0 1 6


W r i t er



editor’s note


d e c em b er 2 0 1 6

preconceived notions we carry about people and places. The more we journey abroad, the more we learn about the world in general and about ourselves. This month, we expand our horizons, with “The Next Big Ideas in Travel” (page 73). You’ll find a hotelier in Indonesia redefining “sustainable travel” with a resort opening in March that’s made entirely of bamboo. There’s also a look at retreats that help you unplug from social media and replace it with yoga, meditation and other diversions to reconnect you with yourself. Such destinations aren’t only found on tropical islands, even Asia’s big cities are getting into the act. Zipping proudly into the future is tech-savvy Japan, where you’re likely to be ferried by robot taxis come Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics. I’d welcome such a service in Singapore, where one of my few pet peeves is their taxi fleet, which often feels like it’s on a perpetual shift change. But there’s no denying the success of the city-state on so many levels—yes, there’s more than great food there—including the maturing arts scene. From the National Gallery to Gillman Barracks and many stops in between, the Little Red Dot is leaving an indelible mark on the map (“A Grand Design,” page 116), in the process of becoming a city that can afford poetry.



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From My Travels

As Singapore evolves into one of the world’s “happening” cities, there’s always more than meets the eye if you’re willing to look for it. On the CapitaGreen rooftop amid the mirrored office blocks, cocktail in hand, look up and you’ll see this strange piece of modern architecture soaring above the ever-changing city. Meanwhile, 40 stories below, the list of not-tobe-missed restaurants, galleries, bars and hotels is constantly improving.

from lef t: t h a n a k or n c h om n awa n g ; c h r i s t o p h er k u c way

One great takeaway from travel is that it tends to erase

the conversation Much-coveted millennials, especially those based in Asia, are a prized travel-industry demographic. According to Brand Karma, a hotel marketing agency, Asian millennials are set to spend more than US$340 billion on global getaways by 2020, largely thanks to well-heeled Chinese vacationers. A study by the Hurun Report shows the spending habits of China’s deep-pocketed, jetsetting youth, (here in U.S. dollars):

The average hotel budget per night for Chinese travelers aged 25 to 36.

The average annual amount spent on tourism per household.

The average amount spent purchasing luxury items while traveling.

traveled to Europe in the past year, making it the most visited destination of respondents.


of respondents with a household net worth of more than $15.1 million said personalized service was their most important consideration when booking accommodations. Call in the butlers.

our readers end the year with meditative moments of reflection.

Taking in the beauty of the Flores Sea in Indonesia. By @warda.n.

A peaceful moment before sunset in Chiang Rai. By @lasandroflores.

A quiet morning spent in the grand ruins of Angkor Wat. By @myeeleng.

The limestone pillars of Halong Bay provoke gratitude. By @hayzgal.

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

AUTHENTIC TRAVEL CHANGES US. It is when we travel farthest from home that we learn the most about ourselves. On the edge of our personal comfort zones is where we discover new things, grow, share, and connect with others. Uncover the world’s most memorable travel experiences at 16_120

P R E F E R R E D H O T E L S . C O M

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Regul ar contributors / photogr aphers Cedric Arnold, Helen Dalley, Philipp Engelhorn, Duncan Forgan, Diana Hubbell, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Melanie Lee, Brent T. Madison, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Darren Soh, Stephanie Zubiri chairman president publishing director publishER digital media manager TRAFFIC MANAGER /deput y DIGITAL media manager sales director business de velopment managers chief financial officer production manager production group circul ation MANAGER circul ation assistant

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tr avel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 10, Issue 12 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 Time Inc. Affluent Media Group 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Tel. 1-212/522-1212 Online: Reproduction in whole or in part without consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. subscriptions Enquiries: ADVERTISING offices General enquiries: Singapore: 65/9029 0749; Japan: Shinano Co., Ltd. 81-3/3584-6420; Korea: YJP & Valued Media Co., Ltd. 82-2/3789-6888;

INDULGE IN SIMPLICITY T DAY Experience Fresh Urban Living at Bangkok’s Newest Hotel Residences Modena by Fraser Bangkok • 238 Spacious and Stylish rooms with Complimentary High-Speed WiFi • Next to Queen Sirikit National Convention Center MRT Station & FYI Center • Conveniently set within Rama 4 & Ratchadaphisek Road • One stop away from Asoke BTS & Sukhumvit MRT Station (Terminal 21 Mall) • Close to famous Khlong Toei Fresh Market, Restaurants, Spas & Shopping Malls

Reservations: +662 033 0880


c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: c o u r t e s y of R a ffle s J a k a r ta ; c o u r t e s y of mor i mo t o ; c o u r t e s y of Cr y i n g T h a i g er ; c o u r t e s y of pa r a d i s e s e a p l a n e s ; c o u r t e s y of T h e Av i a r y; c o u r t e s y of s u p er lo c o c u s t om s h o u s e ; c o u r t e s y of me n j a n g a n d y n a s t y re s or t; c o u r t e s y of Po tat o He a d


best of 2016 T+L’s annual roundup of the hottest new offerings across the region. from stylish bars and luxury tours to trendy shops and boutique hotels, it’s been a bang-up year.

Clockwise from top left: A dapper doorman at Raffles Jakarta; chef Masaharu Morimoto checks into Bangkok; take a private seaplane to this Halong Bay cruise; bird statues abound at The Aviary hotel, Siem Reap; a drink at Super Loco Customs House, Singapore; Menjangan Dynasty Resort; Crying Thaiger restaurant, Bangkok; Potato Head, Hong Kong. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6



Long After Dark An unmarked wooden door leads the way into this whiskey den, where the dark timber bar and seating are made from reclaimed boats and furniture. Bartenders retrieve bottles from one of Cambodia’s largest whiskey collections by climbing a sliding wooden ladder, while locally brewed beers on tap and an impressive cocktail list complement a host of hearty pub-style dishes. longafterdarkcambodia. com; drinks for two US$8. Malis Siem Reap Set in an elegant twostory building along the Siem Reap River, the restaurant conjures up the nearby temples of Angkor with Khmer motifs woven throughout its design. An offshoot of the popular Malis in Phnom Penh, the menu stays true to chef Luu Meng’s blend of traditional recipes and modern cooking techniques. Definitely try the Kampot rock crab in a red curry sauce. siemreap; dinner for two US$50.

CAMBODIA Clockwise from top left: Avian

flourishes at The Aviary; The Providore’s charcuterie platters; The Aviary’s turquoise pool; Malis Siem Reap marries Khmer motifs with modern fare; sunset at Templation; goodies galore at The Providore.


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The Providore This gourmet café and deli in central Phnom Penh feels like a chic, oversized pantry. Its walls are lined with imported wines, spirits and dry goods while chilled cabinets display enough cheeses and cured meats to send epicures into a spin. A tasting menu has been created to showcase the grocer’s offerings, featuring simple fare topped with unusual ingredients and hard-to-find produce. theprovidorecambodia. com; lunch for two US$15.

The Fishmarket On the banks of Kampot’s languid river, this yellowhued 1930s Art Deco building is a true gem with extra points for history— at various stages it has served as a radio station, customs house and even a night club. Serving seafood fresh from the trawlers, The Fishmarket, named for its original incarnation, is a relaxed spot to grab a bite to eat. Go at dusk to sip cocktails while watching local Cham Muslim fishermen steering their boats out to sea as the sun sets over the Praek Tuek Chhu river. kampot; dinner for two US$28.


Templation With 33 suites and villas dotted along almost two hectares of garden grounds, this Siem Reap hotel strikes harmonic accord with its lush surrounds. The flawless design of the rooms— most of which have their own private pools, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, and outdoor bathrooms—is all about maximizing interaction with nature. And, just a stone’s throw from Angkor Wat, there’s plenty of opportunity to soak in the area’s history as well.; doubles from US$148. The Aviary Driven by ecologically responsible principles, this tasteful 25-room boutique hotel in the heart of Siem Reap has style points to spare. The space is a celebration of the local wildlife with animal-inspired flourishes and works commissioned from local artists giving the lodgings a distinctive Cambodian flavor. True to the name, bird statues abound, but the theme never threatens to overwhelm.; doubles from US$89. —Holly Robertson

c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: c o u r t e s y of T h e Av i a r y; c o u r t e s y of t h e p ro v i d ore ; c o u r t e s y of T h e Av i a r y; c o u r t e s y of M a l i s s i em re a p ; c o u r t e s y of t em p l at i o n ; c o u r t e s y of t h e p ro v i d ore . o p p o s i t e : c o u r t e s y of a m a n re s or t s

/ the best of 2016 /


STAY Amanemu

The Library, Amanemu.

Set in the far reaches of IseShima National Park east of Osaka, Amanemu embraces nature at every turn with 24 suites and four villas tucked between forested hills and a sweep of Ago Bay. guests can even catch their own fish, which the chefs will transform into a fresh sashimi meal.; suites from ÂĽ110,000.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 5



Cl ass The whisk y academy

IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE NECESSITY OF uisge beatha—“water of life” in Gaelic—YOU WANT TO ENROLL IN Whisky Academy. launched this year in THAILAND, MALAYSIA AND SingAPORE (AND COMING SOON TO the Philippines AND CHINA), IT’S a series of FASCINATING AND FUN daylong certification courses on the history AND science OF distilling, lubricated BY LOTS OF SAMPLE SWIGS. we say, slainte.; fees vary by country but start at Bt3,500 for an apprenticeship class in Bangkok.

A Whisky Academy tasting flight.

/ the best of 2016 /

c lo c k w i s e from t o p r i g h t: c o u r t e s y of s a m s e n ; c o u r t e s y of p o tat o h e a d ; c o u r t e s y of a lt o ; c o u r t e s y of t h e oly m p i a n h o t el ; c o u r t e s y of s a lvat ore at m a i s o n e i g h t. o p p o s i t e : c o u r t e s y of T h e W h i s k y A c a d em y


Salvatore at Maison Eight This is the first Asiabased cocktail bar from legendary mixologist Salvatore Calabrese. In addition to signature drinks such as his Spicy Fifty (vanilla vodka mixed with elderflower cordial, lime juice and honey syrup laced with red chili) the menu nods to the city’s colonial past with the Queen’s Backyard, which combines gin-infused rhubarb, strawberry sherbet, elderflower cordial and apple juice to conjure up the flavors of an English summer. The roomy terrace commands knock-out views over Victoria Harbour.; cocktails for two HK$250. Potato Head Where else in Hong Kong could hip Indonesian lifestyle brand Potato Head be located but in the oh-so au courant district of Sai Ying Pun? Open bookings are elusive at its Kaum restaurant, which serves dishes from across Indonesia. The Midcentury Modern-tinged space also contains a bar, a coffee shop, and boutique/ gallery that champions artisans from its native country. But the coolest innovation is the listening space, a rec room with a classic turntable that feels like a hidden house party.; dinner for two HK$550. Samsen Hong Kong’s first dedicated Thai noodle house has customers willing to brave the lines for its signature Wagyu beef boat noodle, while dessert high notes include pandanus coconut dumplings in warm salted coconut cream. The casual shophouse sees diners huddled together on stools around intimate tables as they keep an eye on dinner’s progress from the open kitchen. samsenhk; dinner for two HK$250.

Alto At this modern grill and rooftop bar situated on the 31st floor of Hong Kong’s new V Point building in Causeway Bay, diners are bathed in a warm glow from an installation canopy of 250 gold mini Melt lights by Brit designer Tom Dixon. While the mains are as you’d expect—hanger steaks, A5 Wagyu, pan-roasted duck breast—there’s plenty of innovation in the appetizers, including bone marrow with chimichurri, and watermelon salad with raisin vinaigrette. alto; dinner for two from HK$550.

is becoming more of a tourist magnet. If you’re in town to hang out in this artsy, up-and-coming hub, then check into the Olympian, a sumptuous 32-room hotel with uncharacteristically large rooms for Hong Kong (its starter Deluxe Olympian rooms measure in at 43 square meters) with high-end touches like Acca Kappa toiletries and fresh flowers in rooms.; doubles from HK$1,750. —Helen Dalley

HMV Bar & Restaurant Hong Kong’s largest HMV store has introduced F&B into the mix with a 230-seater restaurant that serves up surprisingly upscale fare—the HMV Burger is made from Australian Wagyu and roasted game hen appears on the menu. The 3,716-squaremeter space in Pearl City Mansion also acts as a showcase for local musicians; Wednesday

HONG KONG is jazz night while recent weekend spots have been taken by everyone from pop/rock duo Lil’ Ashes to Beatles-tribute band Old Boys.; dinner for two from HK$300.


The Olympian Hotel With the West Kowloon Cultural District now up and running —M+ Pavilion, which features an exhibition space dedicated to visual art, recently opened, and free monthly festival Freespace is a regular fixture—the area

Clockwise from top right: A Wagyu

riff on Thai boat noodle soup at Samsen; Potato Head serves up pork belly in banana leaves; 250 mini Melt lights set Alto restaurant aglow; The Olympian Hotel; dare to sip the Spicy Fifty cocktail at Maison Eight.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6



Dava Steak & Seafood Restaurant Nothing beats good old surf and turf, and this restaurant at Ayana Resort grills it up to a perfection matched only by the view. Hovering over the river pool, Dava is a stellar spot for sunset ocean vistas. Sure, there is a wine expert on hand to guide you through the walk-in wine cellar, but there is also a beef sommelier and a salt sommelier, all ready to help you nail your order.; dinner for two US$100. Nusa Gastronomy Modern cooking meets traditional Indonesian ingredients and flavors in a creative menu that is full of surprises. Nusa Gastronomy is helmed by chef Ragil Imam Wibowo, host of the popular cooking show Makan Besar, who has scoured the archipelago for the most special spices to bring his dishes to life, like the Na Niura fish ceviche using asam jungga, an indigenous lime from North Sumatra.; three-course set from US$27.


Heli-Surfing Bali How far are you willing to go to claim your own

waves? Tropicsurf has launched a heli-surfing experience offering guests of the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay a 45-minute helicopter flight across the strait from Bali to a landing area right in front of Grajagan’s famed breaks on the edge of a national park in East Java. Spend the day braving the tubes in total seclusion, or, for the less aquatically inclined, just exploring the nearby beaches and jungles, before heading back to the resort for sunset.; US$10,000 all inclusive.


The Samata Sanur A tapestry of greens and blues surrounds this 10-villa health-centric refuge among the rice paddies of Sanur, Bali. The Indian Ocean winks in the distance and turquoise pools dot the property’s shockingly chartreuse lawns, in hues so saturated you’re practically swimming in a color wheel. In Sanskrit, samata represents a state of balance between the body and mind, and this property by Lifestyle Retreats aims to satisfy both. The tennis court, gym and yoga studio will get your heart pounding, while the calming landscape provides a visual lullaby. thesamata. com; doubles from US$215.

Raffles Jak arta The city may be bustling, but nothing ruffles Raffles. The new 173room property hotel in Kuningan is going for an artist-retreat vibe, inspired by local icon Hendra Gunawan, so guests can experience the vibrant culture of Jakarta without the chaos. The fluidity of the women and trees Gunawan paints is reflected in the architectural flow, and his work hangs in the rooms and suites, which are among the city’s largest.; doubles from US$220.

INDONESIA Menjangan Dynasty Resort Serving up adventure with a side of extravagance, this beach camp and dive center is set on 16 hectares of land by Banyuwedang Bay in Northwest Bali. The safari-style resort is eco at heart—the rooms are crafted from canvas and the common areas are made of bamboo—but frills like private infinity pools amp up the luxury.; glamping from US$190. —merritt gurley

Clockwise from top right: Hop on a

private helicopter and fly to Bali’s best surf; chef Ragil Imam Wibowo at Nusa Gastronomy; steak and lobster at Dava; snorkeling trips organized by Menjangan Dynasty Resort may reap clownfish sightings; ecofriendly elegance at Menjangan Dynasty Resort.


d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

c lo c k w i s e from t o p r i g h t: c o u r t e s y of Hel i - S u rf i n g B a l i ; c o u r t e s y of n u s a g a s t ro n om y; c o u r t e s y of D ava S t e a k & Se a foo d R e s ta u r a n t; c o u r t e s y of me n j a n g a n d y n a s t y re s or t ( 2 ) . o p p o s i t e : c o u r t e s y of n i c o b a r

/ the best of 2016 /


shop nicobar

Mumbai-based fashion and lifestyle label with good looks rooted in the cerulean landscape and languid vibe of its namesake paradise, Nicobar has seduced the wanderlust set with its travel essentials and artisanal homeware that conjure vacation joie de vivre. shop in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore or online at; apparel ranges from US$26-$230, Maasai collection cups and plates range from US$10-$26.

Maasai collection, Nicobar.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 5


Anantara Kalutara’s gabled lobby at dusk.

Sri Lanka

stay Anantara K alutara

set in a building designed by the late Geoffrey Bawa, one of the country’s most beloved architects, Anantara Kalutara channels dutch colonial elegance while showcasing its choice corner of the Kalu River estuary and Indian Ocean.; doubles from US$275.

c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: c o u r t e s y of c a ll a s pa ; c o u r t e s y of c h i n at o w n h er i ta g e c e n t re ; c o u r t e s y of S u p er L o c o C u s t om s Ho u s e ; c o u r t e s y of t h e o t h er room ; c o u r t e s y of O a s i a Ho t el Do w n t o w n . o p p o s i t e : c o u r t e s y of A n a n ta r a K a l u ta r a

/ the best of 2016 / Super Loco Customs House Built in the 1960s for the Singapore Customs Police, these days the Customs House focuses on less clandestine pursuits, like drinking and dining at the clutch of stylish restaurants and mood-lit watering holes that fill its waterfront. The latest addition, Super Loco, a largely glutenfree, modern Mexican menu, including roasted chicken, Monterey Jack and cilantro mayo; and soft corn tortillas nuzzling crispy soft shell crabs.; dinner and drinks for two S$70.


Chinatown Heritage Centre Located along a long stretch of touristy shops hawking trinkets and tchotchkes in Chinatown, the Chinatown Heritage Centre has just emerged from an extended refurbishment, and what a treat it is. Carved out of three early 20th-century shophouses, the museum is an intriguing peek into the past. Alongside new gallery spaces and exhibits, entire room


Clockwise from top left: A hot mineral

pool at Calla Spa; Chinatown Heritage Centre; slicing through pork belly at Super Loco Customs House; order whiskey, hold the nonsense, at The Other Room; Oasia Hotel Downtown.

The Other Room Hidden behind thick drapes in an unmarked doorway (you’ll need to ask the hotel reception at the Marriott for directions), this ambient speakeasy is manned by a bartender who disdains fancy, tricked-up cocktails. Instead, drinks are based on 150 spirits that are cask- or spicefinished and served neat, in flights, or as close to the original cocktail recipe as possible. theotherroom.; drinks for two S$45.

sets from the era have been faithfully recreated, right down to dimly lit kitchens and cramped bedrooms of the original Chinatown tenants. china


Calla Spa Spas are a dime a dozen in Singapore, but few match the sheer scale of this 920-square-meter cocoon, or its imaginative menu of treatments that incorporate everything from trehalose and baobab extracts to aromatic oils infused with

sandalwood, peony, jojoba, and water lily. Separate his and hers hot mineral pools are powered by NASA technology that pumps the waters with oxidized ions; the couple’s suite incorporates a private infrared sauna.; treatments from S$98.


Looksee Looksee Conceived by Wee Teng Wen, the hospitality maven behind the two Michelin-star Odette, Looksee Looksee is an unusual creature. Located in a fin de siècle shophouse in Singapore’s Kampong Glam quarter, its gray-tan-pink interior houses a cozy, light-filled public reading room. The books, ranging from Buddhist philosophy to architecture and cookbooks, are regularly curated by a blue-chip corps of Singaporean influencers, chefs and fashion designers. Peruse while sipping tea brewed by local tea specialists A.muse Projects.


Oasia Hotel Downtown Billed as the world’s tallest greenscaped building, the Oasia Downtown’s green-clad façade looms over the historic red-tiled roofline of Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar neighborhood. The Aga Khan laureate architects WoHa have stacked the rooms in alternating volumes around a central core perforated with sky gardens whose terraces are festooned with lush creepers and flowering varietals. The 314 rooms, each furnished in soft hues of pastels, stylized leafy screens and patterned rugs, offer dizzying views of the city, as does the rooftop pool.; doubles from S$189. —Daven Wu

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


/ the best of 2016 / Himalayan salt room at Amatara Wellness Resort; fresh catch at Morimoto Bangkok; the bed’s-eye view from Riva Arun; a French Martini at Bunker; a Residence at Anantara Layan; the Mac’N’Blue burger at Crying Thaiger.

bunker Nouveau American cuisine may be hard to define, but out of the clever kitchen of locavore-leaning chef Arnie Marcella, it’s exceedingly easy to eat. Pair your roast baby carrots, local ricotta tortellini and dry aged squab with one of their alcohol-forward cocktails, international craft brews or wines from a broad but accessible list. No, let beverage director Andreas Pergher pair for you; he’ll do it with a wink and a smile.; dinner for two Bt2,000.


crying thaiger Bangkok’s most authentic American burger has found a permanent home, and has invited some tasty pals over to play. Mark and Honey Falcioni, of the Daniel Thaiger food truck, have opened a casual temple to carnivorism, where the dripping Tomahawk and the juicy pork chops impress. But they haven’t forgotten their roots. Get the newest flavor burst: the Mac’N’Blues, a burger topped with blue cheese, dijon and their excellent mac and cheese. Also, just get the mac and cheese.; dinner for two Bt1,200. morimoto Iron Chef extraordinaire Masaharu Morimoto has entered the ring with his signature fusion fare (tuna pizza; hamachi tacos; lobster pad Thai) abetted by fat, fuss-free cuts of sushi. Both the famous Morimoto chicken noodle soup and the clam miso are such perfect tonics that you’ll wish sickness upon yourself to eat them every day. Hit the outdoor bar for a close-up of the flash new Mahanakorn Tower and a nightcap or


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seven curated by Vibhi Harnvarakiat, sweetheart of a sake wunderkind.; dinner for two Bt3,000.


amatara wellness resort The world’s first Thai hammam is a pampering process, steam to scrub to salt room. But this newly retooled luxe resort in Phuket bursts with wellness options, from a deceptively delicious spa menu, to personal training and yoga, to its lengthy list of retreats. There’s even one to help you better bond with your partner. Sounds like the definition of heart healthy to us.; doubles from Bt8,050.


The residences, anantara layan Calling all ballers. In the market for a sevenbedroom duplex with lawn-topped living and dining villas, a sunken sala for barbecues served by an army of butlers, and a 21-meter infinity pool with a hottub, submerged loungers, and glassbottom windows so you can swim a peak into your personal spa room below? On this northwest Phuket hilltop, the service will stun as much as the Andaman Sea views—just wait til the firepit erupts at sunset.; residences from Bt89,500 for two-bedroom. riva arun Straddled by Wat Arun across the river and the four kings’ spires of Wat Po in its backyard, Riva Arun seems suitably blessed, even before you toss in a private pier offering aquatic access to Bankok’s newest Old Town boutique. The clean white and green palette helps maximize a feeling of airiness, which is most apparent in the three topfloor suites with vast balconies and whirlpool tubs.; doubles from Bt3,359. —jeninne lee-st. john

c lo c k w i s e from t o p r i g h t: t h a n e t K a e w d u a n g d ee ; c o u r t e s y of mor i mo t o ; c o u r t e s y of r i va a r u n ; p or n s a k n a n a k or n ; t h a n e t K a e w d u a n g d ee ; c o u r t e s y of Cr y i n g T h a i g er . o p p o s i t e : c o u r t e s y of Pa r a d i s e Se a p l a n e s


Clockwise from top right: The

A vertigious view from a Halongbound seaplane.


Tour Paradise Seaplanes

glide past the hassle of a long roadtrip with a Paradise Seaplanes private flight from Hanoi to halong bay. see the unescoblessed site from on high, then board the 17-cabin PAradise luxury ship and cruise between the thousands of limestone karsts peppering the cinematic seascape.; plane tour and two-day, onenight cruise US$523 per person.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m / d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 5


/ here&now / Reboots

The Strand Yangon.

Rangoon Revamped

Burma’s biggest city gets spruced up, with two time-honored hotels unveiling their renovations.

Sedona Hotel Yangon.

Tr avelers may want to step back in time when it comes to the scenery, but nobody wants to stay in an old musty room. Two of Rangoon’s big-name hotels know the importance of keeping au courant while maintaining local charm. The Sedona Hotel Yangon ( yangon; Inya Wing Prestige suite from US$230), which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, has added the new Inya wing, with 84 luxury suites broken into four room types, in ascending order of spaciousness: Prestige, Irrawaddy, Shin Sawbu and Anawrahta. The Anawrahta, a whopping 197 square meters, is on the top floor and has the best views of Inya Lake in the house. + Colonial gem and literary muse The Strand Yangon, (hotelthestrand. com; Superior suites from US$334), has had a few makeovers since it was built in 1901, always in keeping with its past. The re-opening in November, after a six-month dark stretch, reveals another respectful renewal of the hotel’s iconic look. Local artisans have restored original architectural details, from the antique bedsteads to the marble flooring, while niceties like USB ports in each room keep The Strand feeling current.


Wear the Air

A lesser-known side effect of Beijing’s pollution? Fabulous jewelry. A new heav y-dut y air purifier is turning smog into sparkle. By Veronica Inveen Can you imagine a smog-free Beijing? Dutch innovator and artist Daan Roosegaarde is making the vision a reality with his Smog Free Tower. Sitting seven-meters high in the middle of the capital’s creative hub, 751 D-Park, the tower serves as the largest air purifier in the world. The device, which has been operational since September, creates a bubble of clean air by capturing about 75 percent of the surrounding airborne smog particles. And with Roosegaarde’s zero-waste philosophy, the carbon particles collected from the machine are compressed into 8.4-by-8.4 millimeter cubes, each of which contains smog filtered from 1,000 cubic meters of air. The little black squares are turned into jewelry—rings and cufflinks set in sterling silver—that are being sold to fund the project. Every ring purchased equals a donation of 1,000 cubic meters of clean air. Now that the machine has been cranking for four months, they’ve collected enough smog particles to launch new designs that will ship in late January, and with the success of this one device there are plans to build more around China, and perhaps other countries in the region as well. Who needs blood diamonds when you can wear smog cubes? e-mail: to order; rings €250.


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Flight Qantas is re-launching its direct flight from Beijing to Sydney next month, marking the first time the Australian airline has flown the route since 2009. The daily service, which begins on January 25, is part of the expansion of Qantas’s joint-venture partnership with China Eastern, including three other new codeshare routes between Australia and China: Sydney‑Hangzhou, Sydney-Kunming and Brisbane-Shanghai. The two airlines are bringing the Middle Kingdom and the Land Down Under a little closer together.

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of t h e s t r a n d ; c o u r t e s y of t h e s e d o n a h o t el ya n g o n ; c o u r t e s y of s t u DIo roo s e g a a r d e

By Merritt Gurley

Christmas in Zurich

Enchanting Advent Season Come December of every year, Switzerland’s largest city transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland filled with an array of Christmas markets, glistening lights and cheerful music. The city is one of the most atmospheric Christmas venues with convenient transportation links and with Sunday opening hours and late-night shopping that offers plenty of opportunities to find the perfect Christmas gift. Each year, the city dresses up in glimmering lights to welcome this special time of the year. The celebration officially arrives when all the Christmas lights, known as ‘Lucy’, are switched on simultaneously at the end of November. ‘Lucy’ is made from nearly 12,000 crystals with white, blue and red LEDs, and just like the famous Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the lights illuminate like diamonds at Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s famous shopping mile. The beautiful sights along Bahnhofstrasse brought by ‘Lucy’ is also accompanied by the ever unique ‘Singing

For more informatio n visit zuerich.c om/chris tmas or email touristse rv zuerich.c ice@ om

Christmas Tree’. Choirs from the Zurich region show off the highlights of their Christmas repertoire each evening from a househigh, pyramid-shaped stage decorated to resemble a Christmas tree. Christmas Markets Whether at the oldest Christmas market in Zurich in the Niederdorf or the popular Christkindlimärt at the main station, the Christmas market is ideal for young and old alike. Children can have a ride on the carousel while their parents enjoy a glass of glühwein, hot mulled wine, all while basking in the festive atmosphere. A train or boat trip to Rapperswil is particularly recommended during Christmas period. The annual ‘Christchindlimärt’ is one of the biggest markets in Switzerland, and is renowned for both its elaborate decorations and its diverse program of events. Shops stay open until 10.00pm that evening, marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. From captivating sights and sounds to late-night shopping, the sheer atmosphere is enough to let you know that it’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

/ here&now /


The New Minimalism A trio of new small hotels in Singapore makes the city more affordable without scrimping on design or comfort. By Christopher Kucway How small can you go? In the hotel world where big space most often equates to big rates, how to pack full comfort into pint-sized quarters is the question du jour, and these three new boutique stays have all the right answers.

Hotel Indigo Katong

For a local feel, head to this homey hotel outside the city center. It is a bit out of the way to get here, but the payoff is larger rooms and a


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homegrown cultural aesthetic that pops. The 131 rooms combine playful primary colors with Peranakan kitsch, all in a former police station—check out the lock-up off to one side of the hotel restaurant. Traditionally, the deeper you venture into a Peranakan house, the more private the space becomes, and the guestrooms here mirror that effect: tile floors give way to wood and the vibe gets cozier as you walk farther into the room. The design >>

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of Ho t el I n d i g o K at o n g ; c o u r t e s y of T h e Wa re h o u s e

Peranakan touches at the Hotel Indigo Katong. below: The Warehouse, reinvigorating the river.

Loft Premier room at M Social. from top: Vibrant public spaces at Hotel Indigo Katong; stylish meets smart at The Warehouse.

The Ware house

takes local history and punches it up with exaggerated elements, like gallery-worthy tiling in the lobby, full-wall pencil murals, batik-print rugs and a game board coffee table. It’s a fresh twist on classic styles. 86 East Coast Rd.;; doubles from S$160.

M Social

Designed by Philippe Starck, this place is the perfect example of the petite-chic trend. The biggest of the 293 rooms is a lean 22 square meters, yet it doesn’t feel cramped. The diminutive size only registers once you unpack and realize there’s not enough space to lie a suitcase fully opened on the floor. Luckily, there is extra room on the sitting terrace outside, so you can always stash your luggage al fresco. While the two-tiered Loft Gallery room is better suited for guests looking for a clear divide between lounging and sleeping quarters, the Alcove Cosy


solutions for overcoming the limited space is part of the fun. Another highlight is its location; the wellappointed facilities—from the small fitness center to outdoor lap pool to funky restaurant—that open onto the Singapore River are all aimed at getting guests to mix with this happening residential neighborhood. 90 Robertson Quay;; doubles from S$225.

room is a feat of clever design. It has everything you’ll need, like a 40-inch HDTV and Wi-Fi, though not always where you might expect it: take the bathroom sink, which, bucking convention, is planted in the main room facing the bed. Apparently it took a little reconfiguring of the standard hotel-room layout to fit the jigsaw together, but the pieces are all there, and seeing the creative

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Opening this month, the property by Lo & Behold feels like a missing piece in the Singapore hotel puzzle: a boutique hotel in a restored address. This 37-room renovation on the Singapore River ticks off all the right boxes. The history of the place as a spice storehouse, illegal distillery and, most recently, under-the-radar rave joint is preserved in the design elements of the common spaces. Exposed brick and mod, industrialchic lighting all point to the past. Guestrooms are fitted out in leather and rattan, their earth tones making each feel larger than it actually is. Opt for a second-floor room—those on the ground level facing the public walkway along the river beg for the privacy of one-way glass. And don’t miss the see-through pool on the roof that opens to the river and streets below. It defines see and be seen. 320 Havelock Rd.;; doubles from S$225.

c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: c o u r t e s y of M So c i a l ; c o u r t e s y of Ho t el I n d i g o K at o n g ; c o u r t e s y of T h e Wa re h o u s e

/ here&now /

/ here&now / FROM top: Bespectacled dusky leaf monkeys swing rampant in The Habitat; hike or zip-line through Penang’s new eco-park.

Below a ceiling of clouds, I watch the


Over the Top On Penang Hill, a new eco-park is bringing an ancient Malaysian rainforest back into the limelight. By Marco Ferr arese. Photogr aphed by Kit Yeng Chan


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ocean crash against green fields dominated by Gunung Jerai, Kedah state’s highest peak, 50 kilometers away. I’m taking in this unobstructed panorama from the Tree-top Walk, a 100-meter-long circular platform that crowns the tips of century-old trees. The air is fresh and tropical birds tweet in the thicket all around. It’s hard to believe that a mere 900 meters below, Penang’s modernity honks and screeches. This viridian hamlet is part of The Habitat (; admission RM50 per person per day), the island’s newest eco-park within a five-minute walk from iconic Penang Hill’s Funicular Train upper station. The Habitat promotes conservation with guided hikes down a 1.6-kilometer nature trail, flanking the fringes of a virgin rainforest reserve protected since 1911, and an ecosystem that dates back 130 million years. Two giant swings along the trail offer relaxing stops to take in the dramatic vistas. “None of Penang’s other parks share our unbeatable location on top of the hill. The biodiversity here is phenomenal,” says Penang-born Allen Tan, the park’s director. “We discover new insects every day.” Developed from a drainage ditch built by the British East India Company in the early 1800’s, the Habitat’s walking path is made of hydromedia concrete—a porous material that drains quickly and doesn’t interfere with the native environment. “We enhanced what was already here, minimizing our impact,” Tan says. “We are cooperating with the state government to transform the site into a unesco Biosphere reserve.” Indeed, there’s much to protect. “The park hosts some of Southeast Asia’s rarest flying mammals, including the flying lemur and giant red and black squirrels, plus rackettailed drongos and giant millipedes...” Allen is still talking when a couple of the jungle’s other main dwellers—bespectacled dusky leaf monkeys—emerge high in the canopy as if to remedy their omission from the list. Adventurers who want a monkey’s-eye view of the park can brave the 40-meter-high canopy walk—at 230 meters, the longest on Penang Island—or the 700-meter-long zip line. But stay on the paths. The rest of this incredible habitat belongs to the animals.

/ here&now / Fish cakes at Long Chim Sydney.

Restaur ant

Street Cred Chili-loving Sydney-siders, your

dreams are about to come true. The expatriate maestro of Royal Thai cuisine, Australian chef David Thompson has a new restaurant, Long Chim Sydney (; dishes A$18-$43). In place of the complex flavors and fastidious presentation of Nahm—his famed restaurant in Bangkok—it serves raw, robust and at times tearfully spicy street food. “I’ve always been too precious, and obsessed in finding arcane venerable recipes to play with street food,” Thompson says. “But I was ignoring a huge genre of the Thai repartee.” ‘Ignoring’ seems a harsh self-critique; it is hard to imagine Thompson overlooking any detail of Thai cooking.


He wrote the cookbook on Thai Street Food—a 100-recipe anthology published in 2009—and received critical acclaim for the first two Long Chim restaurants, in Singapore and Perth, both of which opened in 2015. So, Long Chim Sydney represents a victorious homecoming for the chef and another opportunity to take diners on a culinary journey to the gritty streets of Bangkok without passing immigration. Set in a former storage basement in Sydney’s CBD, the 190-seat restaurant features dining alcoves, communal tables and counter seats facing an openplan kitchen. The layout, paired with track lighting and disco balls, coalesces in a strange, but effective, hybrid between a nightclub and a food court.

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But the real appeal lies in the menu. First-time travelers may want to play it safe with the mild Thai omelette or red curry with barramundi. Intermediate connoisseurs can try the hot-and-sour soup of leatherjacket and dried prawns in betel leaf, which ratchets up the chili dial a notch or two. Diners who can handle some serious heat should order the green papaya salad or deep-fried squid, the last dish so spicy that one customer dubbed it, “Satan in a bikini.” “I don’t go out of my way to shock people with chili,” Thompson says, “but I do go out of my way to be faithful to the original recipes.” The fiery fidelity is more than just tongue-scorching—it is nuanced and deeply delicious. Beelzebub looks good in a two-piece.

c o u r t e s y of L o n g C h i m S y d n e y

David Thompson’s fiery new Thai restaurant in Sydney ratchets up the heat. By Ian Lloyd Neubauer


SUITE STAY Celebrate the person who matters to you most, by serving up Hong Kong on a silver platter. The newly renovated suites spoil you with space, service and comfort. With 180-degree views, you feel like you’re amongst it all, whether just the daily bustle or the city’s famed New Year’s celebrations. Still, who needs fireworks with all those lights?


The best location in Victoria Harbour has emerged from a four-year revamp, just in time for the Festive Season. From bow to stern of this cruiseliner-inspired classic, there’s plenty to bring joy and delight. Here, a few great ways to celebrate past accomplishments and new beginnings:

GRAND CLUB LOUNGE Celebrate your success in life in the most classic way: a hearty toast—or four. Champagne flows all day in the Grand Club Lounge, though the best time is sunset, with its kaleidescopic sky and city lights. Indulge in the sumptuous buffets for breakfast and evening cocktails, the inspiration derived from the art, and the satisfaction of knowing you’ve earned it.

ONE HARBOUR ROAD Celebrate Hong Kong’s layered heritage with deliciously evolved Cantonese cuisine in a bright and lively, Art Deco-influenced dining room where everyone has a frontrow seat to the drama of Victoria Harbour. The rich authenticity, from Chef Li Shu Tim’s inspired cooking to the homestyle decor straight out of a colonial-era mansion up at The Peak, will whet all palates.

POOLSIDE YOGA CLASS Celebrate the start of another beautiful day with poolside yoga, complimentary for in-house guests. Your sun salutations take on deeper meaning to the pulse of the rushing waterfall and the tune of songbirds up in the trees. Follow up class with a healthy smoothie or a big brunch at the grill; everything tastes sweeter when you embark on your morning mindfully.

PLATEAU SPA Celebrate you—yes, that’s a thing, and a vital one at that. You deserve some pampering! A rejuvenating Plateau signature massage, involving hot stones and long strokes, is tailored to your physical and psychological needs, and incorporates the essential oils to which you best respond. It both heals your body and helps you get back in touch with yourself.

GRAND HYATT HONG KONG 1 Harbour Road, Hong Kong, China

/ here&now / dining

A Guide’s Guide The Michelin Guide Seoul ( debuted last month with love for local flavor. Eleven of the 22 rankings have gone to restaurants serving Korean fare, including two that snagged the elusive three-star title—now carried by just over 100 kitchens globally. Here’s a primer on 2017’s top tables: La Yeon.

2 Awarded La Yeon Time-honored Korean

classics, elevated with hansik (fermented foods, assorted vegetable dishes and rice) and wine pairings. shillahotels. com; dinner set from KW150,000. Gaon Korean food so meticulously prepared and presented that each meal is a lesson on the history of the cuisine.; dinner set from KW150,000.

Gotgan by Lee Jong guk Traditional Korean dishes showcasing seasonal ingredients. gotgan.; dinner set from KW150,000. Kwon Sook Soo Korean cuisine with modern flair and unconventional flavors.; dinner set from KW100,000. Pierre Gagnaire Artfully presented Parisian food in an elegant setting.; dinner set from KW85,000.

19 Awarded

Balwoo Gongyang.

There were a few surprises among the diverse group of 19 restaurants that were bestowed one star, including Balwoo Gongyang (balwoo.; dinner set from KW45,000), a relatively modest vegan restaurant, operated by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, that brings big flavor to temple food, a cuisine that’s sometimes saddled with a reputation for being bland.

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of t h e h o t el s h i ll a ; c o u r t e s y of p i erre g a g n a i re ; c o u r t e s y of b a lw oo g o n g ya n g

Pierre Gagnaire.

3 Awarded


/ here&now / Debut

The Pinnacle of Penang

The coastal city’s tallest building has sprouted new floors, and more spectacular views. By Marco Ferr arese excellent sunset views with zesty Asian and Western cuisine. Next work your way up to level 65, where D’Top Observatory Deck has unobstructed 360-degree bird’s-eye views of Penang’s coastline, the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. The cherry on the 249-meter-high sundae is the top floor, the outdoor Window of the Top. Forget walking on sunshine; take a stroll on a rainbow. The deck’s centerpiece is a twin rainbow structure

that arches into a pot of gold symbolizing hope, beauty, harmony, divinity, luck and good fortune, and the Rainbow Sky Walk, the venue’s star attraction, is a thrilling stroll on a glass walkway suspended 68 stories above ground. Right behind it, Coco Cabana Bar & Bistro dishes up nibbles and cocktails to keep spirits high, and vertigo at bay.; Rainbow Sky Walk, RM88 for adults; drinks for two at Coco Cabana from RM40.

The Rainbow Sky Walk.

Stocking Stuffer

What a Suite Gift Still doing last minute Christmas-present shopping? It’s not too late to pull through for your globetrotting pals with a Mr & Mrs Smith gift card ( They’ve got a snazzy new design this season, pairing up with luxury British brand Olivia Von Halle to create a color-popping limited-edition voucher available in any amount from S$100 upwards. The credit can be put towards a booking at any of the 1,000 hotels in Mr & Mrs Smith’s global collection, including a luxury curation of nearly 200 properties in Asia.


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from t o p : c o u r t e s y of t h e t o p ; c o u r t e s y of s m i t h h o t el s

Look who is growing up. Last month, the Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR) tower, Penang’s tallest building, had its first growth spurt in three decades, sprouting 17 meters. Three brand-new floors were added to the existing 65-story-high building, freeing Penang’s concrete behemoth from 30 years of touristic hibernation. Start at level 59, where the Top View restaurant offers Penang’s highest fine dining experience, mixing



JAPAN Tradition and modernity come together in this island nation, where ancient temples border cutting-edge resorts, bullet trains speed through wondrous landscapes to buzzing metropolises, and the Japanese spirit radiates everywhere: strong, warm, and incredibly welcoming.



THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE JAPAN Travel throughout Japan easily and affordably with Japan Airlines’ Japan Explorer Pass—a great way to experience the distinctive local culture of places like Oita, Nagasaki, and Fukui.


Flexible and convenient, the Japan Explorer Pass— exclusively avaiIable to international visitors—lets you purchase up to five domestic flight sectors for a fixed low fare. This special fare is avaiIable year-round and up to 72 hours prior to departure, valid for travel to over 30 cities in JAL’ s domestic network.

Omotenashi In-flight Service


Oita Prefecture



Japan AirIines, known by locals as JAL, welcomes every traveler with high-quaIity service and a thoughtful anticipation of guests’ every need. Often translated as hospitality, omotenashi is the selfless, meticulous, and unobtrusive service that rests at the heart of JAL’ s total service approach. Experience the JAL difference as you explore alI that Japan has to offer.




Built on a vast volcanic area, Oita Prefecture is Japan’s hot spring capital; Beppu, in central Oita Prefecture, is home to more than 2,500 onsen—hot springs. Spend a day at Beppu’s so-called Eight Hells, where the water gushes out at temperatures as hot as 150°C in a variety of colors. Vibrant, charming, and totally unique, Nagasaki beckons with churches, shrines, temples, and an East-meets-West culinary scene, prettily set within a gracious harbor. Experience an authentic tea ceremony at the Matsuura Historical Museum, a residence built in 1893 that was home to the Matsuura clan. Set on the coast of the Sea of Japan, Fukui is relaxed and easygoing. Visit the Eiheiji Temple, a headquarters of Zen Buddhism and a palpably spiritual place set amid mountains, mosses, and ancient cedars.



Before you head to Japan, check out NHK WORLD TV—an all-English channel broadcast from Japan—for an insider’s guide to Japanese culture, food, and the country’s latest happenings, all available at your fingertips. LIFE & TRAVEL NHK WORLD TV’s many creative travel programs feature tips to help you experience Japan like an expert. Programs include Tokyo Eye 2020, which focuses on Tokyo’s transformation as it prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympic games; Core Kyoto, a deep dive into the ancient capital of Kyoto; and Journeys in Japan, an insider’s guide to Japan’s many treasures, including traditional festivals and the best hiking spots throughout the country. FOOD & DRINK Learn about the history of favorite Japanese dishes, along with etiquette and recipes, on the NHK WORLD Japanese Food website (

Discover the art of eating sushi like a native (tip: eat it upside down so the fish comes into contact with the tongue first)—and learn how sake is considered sacred in the Shinto religion (a spiced version known as o-toso is drunk at New Year’s to ward off illnesses). NEWS & CULTURE Tune in to NHK WORLD TV for the latest news from Japan, Asia, and the world. The unique and diverse blend of programming includes NHK Newsline, which delivers live hourly news, business, and weather updates, and Newsroom Tokyo, which explains the day’s developments in depth. Other programs explore Japanese society, politics, and scientific advancements.

ABOUT NHK WORLD TV NHK WORLD TV is an Asiacentered 24/7 international English-language channel produced by Japan’s public service broadcaster NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). The network reaches approximately 290 million households in about 150 countries and regions via local satellite, cable TV, and IPTV. Live-streaming and VOD (video on-demand) services on the website and a free mobile app give viewers access anywhere and anytime. You can also connect through Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. ( サイズ:120px ×120px 角丸半径 26px)







To create a faux-pas-free journey, keep these etiquette tips in mind. ›› When using chopsticks, never leave them standing upright in a bowl of rice, or use them to pass food directly to another person’s chopsticks—these actions are reminiscent of funeral rituals. ›› When eating noodles in Japan, it’s standard practice to slurp them— just take the hint from fellow diners. ›› Say kam-pai, “Cheers!” before drinking, and oi-shii, “Delicious!” throughout any meal.


›› There is no custom of tipping in Japan. If you leave extra cash on the table, the waiter may chase you down the street to give it back.


›› Before entering any shrine, use the ladles provided near the entrance to rinse your hands. Then pour some water into your cupped hand to rinse your mouth, spitting out on the ground beside the fountain. ›› It’s considered rude to speak on your mobile phone while on trains and buses, and it’s best to switch your phone to silent mode. ›› Do not blow your nose in public. You may see people walking around wearing surgical-style masks when they are sick FUKUI to keep germs from others.






chi ang m ai | m argaret ri ver + more

Vietnam’s True North Road Trip

The misty mountains near the Chinese border are home to a stunning mix of lush landscapes, market towns and indigenous cultures. Keith Plocek plunges into one of the country’s most authentic regions. Photogr aphed by Christopher Wise


Na Hang, a rural district in Tuyen Quang province, northwest of Hanoi.

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/ beyond /r o a d t r i p on Cau Go Street, a short stretch of road in Hanoi’s Old Quarter with an amazing concentration of food stalls, eating a delicious plate of bun cha: grilled pork, rice noodles, sliced papaya, shredded carrots, a heaping pile of herbs. Locals rushed past me on motorbikes that buzzed like leaf blowers. The next day I would set out on a twowheeler of my own to explore Vietnam’s inland north, a place of breathtaking topography that is home to many of the country’s more than 50 ethnic minorities. I was perched on a pl astic stool

Many visitors to the country, seeking a more intimate connection with the landscape, follow the example of the locals and travel on lightweight motorbikes. A Brit I’d met in Central America had told me about the phenomenon, explaining that some travelers were inspired by an episode of Top Gear in which the hosts rode from Saigon to Hanoi. On Vietnamese Craigslist, there is an active trade in used motorcycles among visitors. I decided to rent instead, scoring a Honda Wave from Viet Nam Motorcycle Tour in the Old Quarter. Of course, I could have gone by car, but I’d come looking for adventure. I hoped to recapture some of the backpacker’s spirit of my youth, and maybe even get a little muddy.


After loading up on breakfast pho, I left Hanoi by way of narrow streets crowded with buses and other careening, honking bikes, then followed a route along the Red River. On the sides of the road, strips of eucalyptus had been set out to dry before being made into veneer for furniture. Believe it or not, this trip was my first time in Asia. I was drawn to Vietnam in part because I grew up in Houston, Texas, where the large community of Vietnamese immigrants piqued my interest. Still, the number of Nguyens in my yearbook hadn’t prepared me for this on-the-ground experience. Every vista left me wide-eyed. At the same time, when I saw my very first rice paddies, there was something oddly familiar about the glistening green grid spread before me, perhaps thanks to the all the Hollywood movies I’d seen about Vietnam, or perhaps because this trip was so long in the making that I’d had ample time to fantasize.


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from top: Women in traditional Flower Hmong dress at the market in Bac Ha; rice paddies near La Vie Vu Linh eco-lodge; the bar at La Vie Vu Linh.


VIETNAM DAY 3 217 kilometers

Bac Ha

Na Hang

Ba Be National Park

arrived at my destination, a thatched-roof lodge on the shores of Thac Ba Lake. I sat by a fire on which a giant pot boiled before sitting down to eat with the employees. We dined in the traditional style of the Dao people, one of the region’s ethnic groups, snatching individual bites from steaming communal plates of pork, broccoli, cabbage and rice. After dinner, I met some businesspeople who had traveled from Hanoi that morning to volunteer on a nearby farm. We spent the evening swapping stories and downing potent shots of rice wine brewed on the property.

DAY 4 247 kilometers DAY 2 193 kilometers

La Vie Vu Linh

My Lam Hot Springs



DAY 5 144 kilometers

Detail area VIETNAM




South China Sea


DAY 1 186 kilometers






ROAD-TRIP CHEAT SHEET DAY 1 Vietnam Motorbike Tour Expert Intrepid travelers can buy used bikes on Craigslist Vietnam (viet or rent from Viet Nam Motorcycle Tour (84973/812-789).Motorbike Tour Expert offers guided trips through the north. La Vie Vu Linh This eco-lodge in Yen Binh district is a sustainabletourism initiative to empower the area’s Dao people.; US$30 per person. DAY 2 Sa House A clean, lodging option tucked away on a hill near Bac Ha. 84-984/827537; doubles from US$13.

DAY 3 Bac Ha Market Flower Hmong women sell goods here on Sundays. Nha Nghi Hoan Nuong Simple digs in Ha Giang province. 84-273/864-302; doubles from US$15. DAY 4 Ba Be National Park Established in 1992, this stunning reserve in Bac Kan province contains limestone peaks, evergreen forests and a glittering freshwater lake. My Lam Hot Springs Spa & Resort This destination is renowned among medical tourists for the soothing and healing properties of the mineralrich water. 84-273/774-418; doubles from US$25.

The landscape grew only more magnificent as I approached the La Vie Vu Linh eco-lodge, riding along a narrow mud path flanked by paddies and rolling hills. It was tough going on the Honda, and there were few signs pointing the way. I kept pulling up at houses whose inhabitants would wave me onward. Finally, I

My next stop was Sapa, the French colonial hill city overlooking misty terraced farms. The overnight train ride there from Hanoi is legendary. But the resort staff suggested I go instead to the market town of Bac Ha—just as beautiful but less touristy. I checked the forecast: heavy rain in Sapa, clear skies in Bac Ha. Decision made. As I motored along the rural roads toward Lao Cai province, children chased after me shouting joyous hellos. I love the freedom of solo travel, but after a few days alone, nothing makes the endorphins kick in like a chorus of little kids cheering you on. At a roadside store, the shopkeeper smiled at me and pointed to a stool made from a tree stump. We sat down for green tea and tobacco from his bamboo water pipe. A single hit left me reeling. The world glistened on the switchbacks up to Bac Ha. Lush farms, blanketed in clouds, appeared beyond the guardrail. I had to share the road with water buffalo and chickens. When I pulled up in late afternoon, I called the owner of Sa House, the no-frills homestay I’d booked for the night. He arrived, smiling, on his own motorbike and led me up a winding road. The cool, wet air wrapped around me like a cloak.


Early the next morning, I found Bac Ha’s market. Men in puffy jackets and women in the colorful dresses of the Flower Hmong ethnic group hawked vegetables, meat, coffee, textiles, plastics, electronics and livestock. Shoppers carried bags with squirming creatures inside. I bought a pair of leather gloves before embarking on the most difficult leg of my trip. The early part of my day’s journey had hairpin turns and the occasional wayward >>

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water buffalo, but at least it had fresh asphalt. Then, at a sign for Ha Giang province, the road turned to dirt and I fell off the bike. I’d gotten my wish—I was covered with mud. I was elated to emerge, hours later, onto a real road again. A few days earlier, at a museum in Hanoi, I’d snapped a photo of a photo of Ho Chi Minh and set it as my phone’s wallpaper image. When I was checking in to Nha Nghi Hoan Nuong, a hotel in the rural town of Na Hang, the owner noticed it and pointed to an older man sitting on a couch. He in turn directed my attention to a picture of himself on the lobby wall, taken when he was much younger and dressed in uniform. He laughed and held up an imaginary machine gun, then said, “Rat-a-tat-tat-tat.” It was a quiet Sunday night. There were several restaurants on the main drag, but only one with people inside. With its plastic tables and chairs it felt like it could have been anywhere in the world. As I waited for my beef pho, a young man dropped an elbow on my table, wanting to arm wrestle. I shook my head, but he insisted. We locked hands. His friends were drunk on rice wine, and soon they all wanted a turn, too. They urged me to take shots. I ordered a beer instead.


The next day, I pulled my helmet over my aching head and plunged into Na Hang, which looked like a mountain version of Vietnam’s iconic Halong Bay. Sheer peaks reached toward the sky, as if subterranean giants had poked their fingers through the surface of the earth. I was so distracted by the


terrain that I almost ran out of gas. At the last possible moment, I bought two liters from a young woman in a roadside shack. Within a few hours I had coasted all the way down into the verdant valley of Ba Be National Park. In Ba Be Lake, I saw reflections of the same mountains I’d ridden through that morning. The narrow road curved past waterfalls and caves beneath a canopy of trees. I could have spent an entire day there watching the monkeys, bears and butterflies, but the highway beckoned. Near the town of Tuyen Quang, I stopped at My Lam Hot Springs to soak my battered bones. Inside a blue building surrounded by gentle hills and lush trees, I began my path to rejuvenation. I lay in a porcelain bathtub filled with lukewarm mineral water, appreciating the stillness after four bumpy days on the road. The next morning, I planned to sleep late, then ride back into Hanoi, straight into the Old Quarter for another fragrant plate of bun cha.

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From left: Beef pho in Hanoi’s Old Quarter; Ba Be Lake, in Ba Be National Park, part of Bac Kan province.


SANCTUARIES IN THE CITY Two tranquil retreats to whisk you away from the urban hubbub of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur: escape to the jungle oases that lie so easily within your reach, and discover SAMADHI.

Welcome to Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur.

The Library, Villa Samadhi Singapore.

VILLA SAMADHI SINGAPORE Breeze beyond the bustle and ensconce yourself in a 20th century colonial garrison, set amid the lush greenery of Labrador Nature Park on Singapore’s Southern Ridges. Lovingly preserved with recycled wood, Villa Samadhi immerses you in the romance of a bygone era, and as you recline, surrounded by vintage elegance oozing with old-world Malayan charm, strains of birdsong float through the windows from the canopy beyond. Nestled in The Lounge, enjoy a lazy afternoon spent buried in a classic from the well stocked library as you savor a refreshing pot of tea or indulge in a handcrafted cocktail from the bar. Venture across the jungle boardwalk to Tamarind Hill, where Executive Chef Wanthana Nikonsaen awaits with her traditional and contemporary Siamese cuisine. Fresh ingredients from sustainable sources are artfully combined in heirloom recipes, contributed by a coterie of Thai chefs and exquisitely paired with houseinfused gins or a glass carefully selected from the extensive wine menu.

Luxe Sarang, Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur.

20, Labrador Villa Road, 119193, Singapore T: +65 6270 1868 E: W:

VILLA SAMADHI KUALA LUMPUR Meanwhile, a comparably short hop from the heart of buzzing Kuala Lumpur brings you to a ravishing retreat built with timber sourced from indigenous tribes and salvaged from old village houses. From the floor to its soaring grass-thatched roof, Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur enchants with unmistakable authenticity and, like its sister in Singapore, transports you to an alternate world of luxe, lush tranquility. A villa in a room, your Luxe Sarang surrounds you with a natural, elemental tapestry forged with a raw and rustic palette of wood, stone and bamboo. Lounge on your bed, handmade by Villa Samadhi’s own craftsmen and stroll through your space, bedecked with southeast Asian hill tribe artworks and elegantly strewn with artifacts and antiques from Indochina, out to your private patio to dip in the invigorating waters of the lagoon. Recline on a floating futon in the shade of a gazebo, sipping something refreshing, or seek out further delectable delights in the hexagonal Dining Room.

Villa Samadhi Singapore in its evening illumination.

No. 8, Pesiaran Madge off Jalan Madge, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia T: +603 9212 0372 E: W:

/ beyond /d i s c o v e r y

Due South

from Top: Gnudi and artichokes at Vasse Felix, Margaret River’s first winery; LeeuwinNaturaliste National Park.


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Aussies like to say that Perth, the capital of Western Australia and a five-hour flight from Sydney, is the most isolated major city in the world. Which means that the Margaret River wine region, which is set on a tab-shaped peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean—and a three-hour drive south of Perth—must be as remote as it gets. A grueling 24 hours of travel from New York City, Margaret River was the farthest I’d ever been from home. But flying wasn’t the stressful part of this trip. Driving on the left side of the road was what really made me anxious. I stuck a Post-it note on the steering wheel of my rental car: stay left, it read, with an arrow for emphasis. The agent chuckled as I pulled out of the lot. I made the trek to “Margs,” as locals call the area, primarily for the wine. The case can be made that it’s Australia’s best wine region because of the sophisticated restraint that vintners pour into its top bottles. (Cabernet Sauvignon is the star grape here, followed closely by Chardonnay.) There are nearly 100 wineries open for tastings, many of which are located north of the town of Margaret River along a 16-kilometer stretch of Caves Road, where patches of forest alternate with honey-colored pastures. There are no fees—the winemakers are just thrilled you made it to see them.

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of va s s e fel i x w i n er y; A n d re w Wat s o n / G E TTY I M AG E S

Margaret River, an Australian wine region with epic surfing beaches, a welcoming vibe, and standout Cabernets and Chardonnays, lures Ted Loos for a taste.

from left:

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of va s s e fel i x w i n er y; E L E M E NTS M A R GA R E T R IV E R / C O U R T E SY O F M O R R I E S

Handpicking Chardonnay grapes; Morries, an upscale tavern in Margaret River.

But Margs has a lot to offer beyond the wine. It’s one of the most free-spirited places I’ve ever visited, and the people here have struck an enviable work-life balance. Because the coastline falls inside 375-squarekilometer Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park—a constantly shifting landscape of granite cliffs, scrubby forests and golden sands—the beaches are pristine. “Surf culture runs deep here,” said Will Berliner, when we met at his winery, Cloudburst. “If there’s a big swell that day, your plumber might be late to fix your sink.” An expat who fled New York and his film-industry job in 2003 to become a winemaker, Berliner now makes three exquisite bottlings using biodynamic farming practices. (You can find his wines in top U.S. restaurants like Alinea in Chicago and the French Laundry in Napa Valley.) As Berliner drove me in a pickup truck around his 101-hectare property, he sent gangs of kangaroos scattering. “There’s a real wildness here,” he said. On cue, Australian ringnecks yakked above us in a karri tree. “There’s really no industry— except wine and tourism.” That evening, Berliner and I shared a bottle of his 2013 Chardonnay, which had incredible apple and lemon blossom flavors, at Morries, his favorite restaurant in the town of Margaret River. The coowners, Anthony Janssen, Alex Brooks and Tony Howell (who is also the executive chef) have that

singularly Australian knack for creating a casual atmosphere while quietly delivering major sophistication—here in the form of dishes like beet gnocchi with citrus ricotta and almond-garlic purée. After dinner, I drove half an hour on Caves Road to the serene Injidup Spa Retreat, which is perched high on a bluff overlooking the cobalt Indian Ocean. (Most of the top hotels are just to the north of the wineries.) When I first checked in and had trouble connecting to the wonky Wi-Fi, manager Lisa Maclaren smiled and said: “Good luck with that.” But I soon discovered that you’re not here to troll Instagram (though I did manage to post a few photos). You’re here to stare at the coast from your private plunge pool. Injidup’s romantic, isolated setting soon made the rest of the world seem irrelevant. Leeuwin Estate, which is Margaret River’s most famous winery and is renowned for its rich and complex Art Series Chardonnays, also feels worlds away from reality. Set on a former cattle ranch, the wood-and-adobe building with a corrugated-metal roof appears a bit dated at first. The modernized interior, however, has both a farm-to-table restaurant and a gallery showing paintings by Aussie artists. “People like an adventure—they like to find you at the end of the road,” says Tricia Horgan, who founded Leeuwin in 1974 with her

husband, Denis. “And we have more than a hundred thousand visitors a year, so they figure it out.” Many of these guests come for the summer outdoor concert series, which takes place on the lush lawn every year. The two chipper septuagenarians don’t make wine anymore, but are never far away from whatever’s going on at Leeuwin. When I stopped by for a tasting, the Horgans told me that back in the early days, they enlisted the help of a knowledgeable friend. “Neither of us knew anything before we met Bob Mondavi,” recalled Tricia, of the man who put Napa Valley wine on the map. “He told us what to plant and where to plant it.” Those decisions were made easier by the climate. “We’re a warm region with an air conditioner,” Virginia Willcock, the chief vintner at the well-regarded Vasse Felix, explained to me over a lunch of roasted root vegetables topped with toasted barley and dill at the

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/ beyond /d i s c o v e r y You’re not here to troll Instagram. You’re here to stare at the coast from your private pool austere, by-appointment-only tasting room. “We’re constantly broke, but at least we have passion,” Jakimowicz joked when I met him one afternoon. The wine-making couple, who honed their craft while living in Spain, make an exquisite Chardonnay, a standout rosé, and a wonderful blend of Cab, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Surprisingly, I didn’t see many tourists during my winery visits, which only added to Margaret River’s off-the-beaten-path charm. But that vibe is in danger of changing when a A$60 million airport expansion wraps up in Busselton, a city on the edge of Margaret River, in 2018. Some locals feel that an influx of visitors will change the area’s unassuming, quirky character.

For now, though, Margaret River is still a peaceable kingdom—one with an outdoorsy, Australian edge. On my last night at Injidup, Maclaren hosted a barbecue for me. The guests included Berliner as well as Brad and Jodee Adams, the founders of Ocean Grown Abalone. When the couple aren’t at the beach, they’re eco-farming the mollusk on artificial reefs set at the bottom of Flinders Bay, some 72 kilometers away. Maclaren put some of their fresh abalone on the grill, and we chatted on the wooden deck outside my villa. As the sun set in an orange blaze and the night air turned cool, Berliner uncorked a bottle of his Chardonnay. I had never traveled this far from home, but I was already thinking about how soon I could get myself back.

Caves Road, the main winery-lined path that runs through the Margaret River region.


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A u s t r a l i a n S c e n i c s / G E TTY I M AG E S

winery’s restaurant. She was referring to the ocean that provides balance to the warm grape-growing season. Willcock’s Cabernets have what she calls “a savory, floral, earthy quality,” which she attributes to the cool, dry breezes. Vasse Felix was Margaret River’s first-ever winery, established in 1967—and it still delivers one of the area’s most elegant experiences. The two-story tasting room has walls clad in reclaimed timber, and its concrete floors are painted to a dark gloss. At the restaurant, chef Aaron Carr’s cuisine far surpasses typical winery fare; he offers a A$95, Asianinfluenced tasting menu that might include kingfish, served alongside eel and wasabi, or a banana dessert with miso, yuzu and peanuts. If Vasse Felix is the region’s established heavyweight, then Si Vintners is its devil-may-care upstart. Run by Iwo Jakimowicz, who founded the 12-hectare, allnatural winery along with his wife, Sarah Morris, in 2010, Si has an

the details GETTING THERE Airlines that fly directly from Asia to Perth include AirAsia X, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Thai. HOTELS Cape Lodge This 22-room hotel offers some of the area’s most luxurious lodging. Its rooms are decorated in an earth-tone palette and feature many locally made items, like Vasse Virgin bath products. Yallingup;; doubles from A$440. Injidup Spa Retreat With their white stone, light-wood trim, and sisal rugs, the 10 villas clustered on a magnificent bluff right on the Indian Ocean immediately encourage relaxation. The beach below is pristine, empty and seemingly endless. Yallingup; injidupsparetreat.; villas from A$640. Smiths Beach Resort A full-service beachfront property perfect for families. Many of the rooms resemble stand-alone condos and are clustered around an infinity pool. It also has a tennis court and an excellent restaurant. Yallingup; smithsbeach; doubles from A$276. RESTAUR ANTS Miki’s Open Kitchen Take a seat at the three-sided bar and watch chef Mikihito Nagai and his assistants whip up dishes like mushroom tempura and kingfish sashimi. Margaret River; openkitchen; tasting menu A$60. Morries Try the charcuterie board or the creatively combined scallops and venison at one of the best restaurants in the area. It’s open for lunch and dinner, and the tapas menu is perfect for anyone on the tasting trail. Margaret River;; mains A$28–$34.

Riversmith A smartly converted gas station run by a mother-son duo serves breakfast and lunch and offers local jams, jellies and honey in the back. Margaret River;; mains A$9–$27. Studio Bistro Set within a lush garden in a clean-lined modern building, this restaurant has an eclectic menu that includes dishes like prawn dumplings and fiery Malaysian duck curry. Yallingup; thestudiobistro.; mains A$31–$42. WINERIES Cape Mentelle Founded in 1970, this winery was one of the region’s pioneers. The property is now owned by LVMH and is producing some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the area. Take the hour-long, behind-thescenes tour. Margaret River; Leeuwin Estate A Margaret River original tucked away from the main roads. It’s famous for its concert series, held on the treeringed lawn, and for its Art Series Chardonnays, which are getting better all the time. Si Vintners The young couple running this smallproduction winery does a range of varieties, from Pinot Noir and Cabernet to Chardonnay and Semillon. Rosa Glen; Vasse Felix A beautiful, full-service winery with lovely garden-studded grounds and a tasting room covered in stone and wood. An all-day “Cape to Vine” tour is A$488. Margaret River;


Escape to the peace and tranquility of Kamandalu Ubud, a 5-star boutique resort situated amid lush paddyfields in the green hills of Ubud. From your very own Balinese-inspired villa, step out to enjoy the warm hospitality of our staff and explore the natural surroundings that lie just beyond.

Jalan Andong Banjar Nagi Ubud, Bali 80571 Indonesia T +62 361 975 825

/ beyond /T h e Sc e n e

Artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert by his eerily realistic model of a woman at Maiiam Museum.

Bohemian Rhapsody Long a laid-back center for creative types, Chiang Mai’s art world is on the cusp of stardom. Diana Hubbell stops by new galleries, and chats with the artists reshaping this free-spirited enclave. Photogr aphed by Cedric Arnold and a scruffy boho bunch clutching Thai whiskey-and-sodas spills into the street. Though there’s no real stage at Northgate Jazz Co-Op, the crowd makes room for the musicians, who are jamming in full swing. Pharadon “Por” Phonamnuai, a saxophonist and one of the owners, stops to mingle before diving back into the fray. In between solos, he bellows, “Does anybody want to join in?” People do. A young Shanghainese woman who’s been in town all of six hours starts riffing bebop, followed by a Thai university student with a boyish bob and 80s-style bottle-rim glasses who barely looks old enough to be in a bar. She sidles up, flashes her braces in a shy smile, then lifts the mic stand clean off the floor and lets loose a thundering alto a la Ella Fitzgerald. The whole room roars in approval. “We’re musicians, but we wanted to create a space for all the arts,” Paul Sugars, one of the other co-owners, tells me during a break. Both this and their other joint, Thapae East—an industrial venue decked out in the requisite exposed brick that hosts exhibitions, installations and all sorts of performance pieces— serve as de facto centers for Chiang Mai’s creative community. “Art

It’s Tuesday night, but the bar is packed


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for art’s sake” often rings hollow, but the old Lanna capital has an allure that has little to do with commerce, since the local market for art is still trailing behind regional creative hubs Hong Kong and Singapore. This is one of the rare places where off beat projects, free from the whims of deep-pocketed collectors, encourage artists to produce work simply for the sheer madcap joy of it. Lured by the prospect of finding like-minded individuals, international names have been passing through or setting up studios here for years. Slowly but surely, though, the scene is evolving, with a spate of openings including the ambitious Hern Gallery and the arrival last summer of Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum. Many of these newcomers boast sleeker designs in keeping with their polished, profitable brethren abroad. In fact, there are so many art spaces that the city launched its first

gallery night earlier this year and now prints maps to help visitors suss out the best ones. Though the number of local collectors remains low and government funding all but nonexistent, interest from outsiders is high enough that boutique hotels, like the new Art Mai, are seeking to capitalize on the travelers checking out the creative scene. Chiang Mai’s dreamers may still dwell on the fringe, but the rest of the world is starting to take notice, and those living within are hoping the community can maintain its avant-garde vibe. With any luck, the long incubation period prior to commercial success will preserve that weird soul, even as the art movement grows up and looks to sell its work to a larger global audience. “Chiang Mai’s a big hub for creative people from all over. I know a lot of foreign artists who come here just to work,” says Chumpol “Tua” Taksapornchai, a painter who runs Matoom Art Space. Soft spoken, with long hair and a bunch of piercings, he’s made himself a fixture in town by organizing exhibitions for others and helping to launch the popular Shambhala in Your Heart Festival. Virtually all of his work sells to collectors abroad, but the

Bangkok native has no intention of leaving his northern home. “I travel to Tokyo, Hong Kong, even Europe to sell most of my pieces, but I come back here to paint,” Tua says. “It’s like a village up here and I’ve always felt welcome. It’s hard to explain, but there’s this sense that in Chiang Mai anything you want to create, you can.” That can-do ethos manifests best in artist-run projects where people from different disciplines push one another to take their ideas to their logical—or, more often, gleefully illogical—extremes. To find out more, I head out to nearby Doi Saket via a tuk-tuk, a two-hour-long ride on a bumpy local bus, and finally a motorbike, to a lush patch of land well off any sort of grid that hosts ComPeung, the first independent artist residency in Thailand. Over the last decade, Pisithpong “Ong” Siraphisut has hosted roughly 120 artists from all over the globe in structures he built himself using mud and recycled bags of pet food. The meter-thick walls, decorated with murals inside and out, swallow mobile phone signals whole. I join Ong, along with a visiting couple of installation artists from San Francisco and a British photographer living in Sweden, for bowls of vegetarian khao soi, northern Thailand’s beloved noodles in yellow curry. As we wander the grounds after lunch, he tells me, “I found this land 10 years ago and just fell in love with it. Personally, I feel like this is my ongoing art project.” Thousands of trees, all saplings and all planted by Ong and his wife, grow wild, their trunks spindly and roots deep. Remnants of past installations linger decaying in the thickets and clearings. We pass a Thai-style

from left: Find handmade crafts sourced from neighboring hill tribes at Rare Earth Tribal Art; tea for two at the serene Hotel des

Artists Ping Silhouette; food vendors and shop stalls ripe for the browsing at Chang Puak North Gate Market.

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/ beyond /T h e Sc e n e

from left: Torlarp Larpjaroensook, artist and gallery-owner, with his work at Gallery Seescape; make time to reflect at Maiiam

Contemporary Art Museum; northern Thai specialties are on the menu at Art Mai hotel.

spirit house painted in lurid hues, a luxury condo for birds, a dilapidated pagoda where an Australian woman conducted a marriage ceremony for herself and a puppet dubbed “Ideal Husband,” and a massive, wire-mesh framework covered in vines spelling the word y e s. One of the San Franciscans is on her hands and knees, reshaping the landscape piece by piece with a spade. She waves a dusty glove as we pass. “Being independent gives us some freedom,” Ong says. “Since the community has never relied on government funds, artists are able push boundaries with fewer fears of censorship or deadlines. We’re more interested in the process than the final products. We really encourage artists to try out new things. We want them to know: ‘this is a playground for you.’” That playful side is also what initially drew Sutthirat “Som” Supaparinya. A svelte, composed woman dressed smartly in monochromatic tones, she greets me with quiet warmth at the new Asian Culture Station off of humming Nimmanhaemin Road. “It’s a supportive environment and it’s easy to meet the more successful artists who work here, even if they mainly sell their works abroad or in Bangkok,” she tells me in the sparse, white room lined with shelves of coffee table tomes. “Here, there are so many community and artist-run spaces where people can try to do different kinds of projects outside of the frame of selling things. It’s a place that gives you greater freedom to produce something you want to do.” Part of Som’s ambition is to give the artists who come here more outlets for financial sustainability without sacrificing that freedom.


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From this space, she and the other founders of Chiang Mai Art Conversation (CAC) organize exhibitions, lectures, symposiums, writing workshops, and other events to spread awareness about the city’s cultural landscape. Last year, in collaboration with The Jim Thompson Art Center, CAC printed the firstever “art map,” which lists galleries, salons, artist residences and museums. The free brochure is in its second print edition and gearing up for a third. “In the past, artists mostly needed to create a temporary space for their projects,” she says. “Now there are more opportunities for them to show their work than there were 10 years ago.” The biggest opportunity at the moment is the Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum, the passion project of Eric Bunnag Booth, the international marketing director for Jim Thompson, and Jean Michel Beurdeley, his stepfather. Set in a 3,000-square-meter warehouse refurbished by architectural firm Allzone, the building boasts rotating exhibitions, as well as an impressive selection of works by Thai artists from the family’s private collection. Its splashy debut in July >>

/ beyond /T h e Sc e n e marked the arrival of Chiang Mai’s first showcase of this caliber and has the potential to lure more art aficionados to the area. When I arrive, Kamin Lertchaiprasert, the artist whose lifetime retrospective is currently on display, shakes my hand at the door. A parttime professor for at Chiang Mai University and one of the cofounders of The Land Foundation, which supports the local art community and some of the more alternative lifestyles that go with it, he’s one of the region’s best-known and most prolific visionaries. “Chiang Mai’s art scene already has many alternative elements, but this is not just another artist-run project. It’s more professional,” Kamin tells me. That added level of organization and funding manifests in carefully curated exhibits showing a range of work that smaller galleries could never hope to display. “[Eric] is based in Bangkok, but when he decided to build a museum, he chose Chiang Mai because of the community here.” In comparison to the earthen buildings of ComPeung, the modernist white walls and

corridors of Maiiam might come across as too sleek or sterile, were it not for the contents. Kamin’s pieces, which begin with a painting he made when he was just 15 years old, span all sorts of media and genres, encompassing everything from traditional oils to hundreds of glazed clay pots to video installations to a grinning golden skull with a walk-in, meditation chamber. On the way out, I almost stumble into the culminating piece, a hyper-realistic fiberglass woman titled Living Kindness positioned before an abstract bronze work. I have to stop myself from mumbling, “excuse me” to her glazed, lifeless eyes. Kamin watches, amused. Though arguably one of Thailand’s most successful contemporary artists (his exhibition “Sitting (Money)” was on display at the Guggenheim for two years), he never seems to take himself too seriously. To better interact with visitors, he built a miniature cubic hut resembling a teahouse in the middle of the museum. On Mondays, if he finds someone interesting, he’ll invite them in for a chat about art, life, death or anything at all. As for Chiang Mai’s current lack of local buyers, he remains unconcerned, even optimistic. “For me, the market should come after you develop this kind of community. If the market comes first, that’s no good—you would lose so many interesting things,” he tells me. “Right here, right now, you have no choice. You have to create for your heart, not for your business.” The creative freedom beckons, “does anybody want to join in?” People do.

Awarded by

the details HOTELS Art Mai Gallery Hotel From the lobby adorned with rotating exhibitions to the slick suites sporting works by Thai painters including Jitsing Somboon and Charoon Boonsuan, this clever boutique takes its commitment to creativity seriously. Canvases and easels are on-hand should you be tempted to produce your own masterwork.; doubles from Bt3,200. Hotel des Artists Ping Silhouette At this serene hideaway nestled on the Ping River, chinoiserie details, antiques and objets d’arte set the mood. Inspired by the area’s old merchant trading alleys, the Café des Artists is perfect for an impromptu salon. pingsilhouette; doubles from Bt5,500. RESTAURANT Cuisine de Garden Endlessly inventive, seasonal tasting menus—think: liquid onsen egg served in the shell and cracked over a warm “nest” with fragrant foraged mushrooms—with just the right wink of molecular-gastro sorcery make this ambitious restaurant worth the drive.; tasting menus from Bt1,800. CAFES Arttitude Gallery Coldpressed juices are named for famous painters—order a Monet Sunrise with pineapple, carrots and passion fruit—at this funky exhibition space wreathed in greenery. arttitudegallery. Ristr8to Lab Baristas at this new branch of Chiang Mai’s most Instagrammable coffee shop take latte art to new

heights with fiendishly complicated designs on top of custom-crafted blends and single-origin brews. BARS Northgate Jazz Co-Op Swing by on a Tuesday night for a free-for-all jam session, where you’ll find local artists and musicians swaying to the rhythms until late. northgate.jazzcoop. Thapae East From open mic nights and poetry readings, to live jazz and photography exhibitions, this venue just outside the old town is where Chiang Mai’s cool kids gather for culture and craft beers. activities Asian Culture Station asianculturestation.cac-art. info. ComPeung Gallery Seescape galleryseescape. Hern Gallery herngallery. Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum Matoom Art Space SHOPS Cha Chaa Slow Pace Exquisite textiles, which are either designed by the owner or woven by hand in Laos, Thailand, India, China or Afghanistan, are the big draw here. chachaaslowpace. Rare Earth Tribal Art The handmade crafts that the owner painstakingly sources from neighboring hill tribes are a far cry from the tourist trinkets sold in many of the stores.










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P h o t o - i ll u s t r at i o n b y m at t c h a s e . So u r c e p h o t o s : Ge t t y Im a g e s


Big Ideas in Travel

Hotels made of bamboo, socially conscious cruising, floating trains and fast architecture—meet the innovations that will shape your travel experiences for years to come. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


big ideas design

The view from a beach villa on Cempedak with a thatched roof and a private saltwater plunge pool.


We were just 80 kilometers away from Singapore, on a boat cruising through the Riau archipelago in the South China Sea, but we might as well have been lost in the middle of nowhere. We skimmed over water of evershifting shades of blue, the sky dotted with the occasional fluffy cloud. I was traveling with Australian banker turned hotelier Andrew Dixon, and our destination was the private Indonesian island of Cempedak—a new resort made almost entirely out of bamboo that will open A pioneering hotelier is taking next March. As we approached, I could make out the sustainable design to new curved roofs of the finished villas, looking like the backs enormous armadillos nestled into the surrounding heights on a tiny island in of jungle. Our boat docked at the end of a narrow wooden Indonesia. Gisela Williams has jetty and we made our way to shore. To our right, in the first look. a tiny sandy cove, was a tower made of black bamboo with a cone-shaped thatched roof of grasses harvested in Sumatra. “That will be the bar,” Dixon said with a grin. I marveled at its height—some two stories—and wondered aloud how bamboo could possibly support such a structure. “It has a tensile strength greater than steel, and it’s a grass, so when you cut it, the plant doesn’t die,” he explained. “It grows faster than any other plant. Some species can grow a meter in a day. And it doesn’t require irrigation or fertilizer.” I originally met Dixon—who is often barefoot and in worn T-shirts—in 2007, when he began to wrap his mind around this concept. He had just opened his first private-island resort, Nikoi, not too far from Cempedak. He and his wife, Julia, had bought a small island in 2004 with a group of friends. Initally, they intended to turn it into a laid-back holiday escape for family and friends, but

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C h r i s t o p h er W i s e

Calling doctor bamboo

decided they could do better. “Why not train and employ locals who would get a share of the revenue?” he told me. “It makes a bigger, more positive impact.” But Cempedak—whose name refers to a native fruit tree—is on another level entirely. Aside from having the same socially beneficial practices as Nikoi, it is a pioneer in its radical use of bamboo, along with other zero- and low-waste materials and processes. In recent years, a small but focused group of hoteliers and designers—many of them now working on Cempedak—have banded together, hoping to test the limits of bamboo, this most traditional of building materials. In the process, they’re changing our concept of what sustainable accommodations can look and feel like. Over the past decade, Nikoi has won an impressive number of eco-awards and earns Dixon and his investors a healthy profit. With 15 private houses and an idyllic beach, grass tennis courts and, at other end of the island, two stone pools, it is both wildly paradisiacal and refined. “I am a strong believer that people won’t pay just because it’s sustainable. They’ll come because it’s a great experience,” he said.

Dixon introduced me to his architectural team: Bali-based and New Zealand–born architect Miles Humphreys (he recently designed the Mandapa in Ubud, which you can read about further in “The Best Medicine,” page 132) and Emma Maxwell, one of Dixon’s interior designers. Also present were Cempedak’s two Balinese architects: Chiko Wirahadi and Ketut Indra Saputra, both of whom have spent their careers working on bamboo structures. Bali is where some of the world’s most innovative bamboo buildings are being made, and the innovations there have received international attention. Colleagues of Dixon and his team, such as jewelers John and Cynthia Hardy, also the founders of the environmentally focused and all-bamboo Green School, in Bali, and their daughter Elora Hardy have led the effort. Elora’s company, Ibuku, designs some of the most breathtaking bamboo buildings you’ll ever see. Both father and daughter >>

From below left:

Cempedak villas dot the coastline; Dixon (right) reviews plans with his lead architect, Miles Humphreys (left), and bamboodesign expert Chiko Wirahadi.


C h r i s t o p h er W i s e

s I followed Dixon along a narrow, shaded path that sloped upward toward one of Cempedak’s villas, I saw that it was lined by several dark granite boulders that had been split in half. Dixon explained that the island was littered with them, and that his team had been burning them for months in order to make room for the walkway. The process allowed them to avoid shipping in compressors and jackhammers and wasting precious energy. “The objective here,” he said, “was to minimize the breaking of rocks and cutting of trees, and to create villas that look like they have grown out of the ground.”

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


big ideas

have given TED Talks as bamboo evangelists, singing its praises and its possibilities for changing how we live. Standing with me in a mock-up villa, Humphreys explained how they had manipulated and treated the bamboo to create a two-story structure with a cresting wave of a roof, floors polished the color of caramel, and

Low Impact, High Style Sustainability and luxury ARE at the core of these debuts in china, sri lanka and nepal. 1 Nuo Hotel , Beijing

Beijing’s smog crisis has given way to some of the world’s greenest buildings, including NUO Hotel. With its sophisticated air purification system, German energy-saving architecture and electric car charging stations, the new hotel is one of the first in Beijing to be awarded LEED gold level certification in environmental building design.; from RMB1,125.

2 Tri

The 11 suites here overlook the shore of Sri Lanka’s Koggala Lake, and each is made with living roofs planted with native creepers. Tri works with a local energy consultant to minimize its waste as much as possible, as evidenced by the use of solar panels and recycled wood. The treetop yoga space is a delightful finishing touch.; doubles from US$248. 3

The Pavilions Himalayas, Nepal

The 15 villas of this resort are nestled in a quiet valley near Pokhara, surrounded by farmland. The resort uses solar power and bio-gas, recycles its waste water, and grows most of its food. The plastic they use is biodegradable and even the toiletries are made of sustainably harvested wood.; from US$140. —V eronica In v een


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walls tightly woven in an intricate pattern. A small, elegant garden surrounded the plunge pool at the back. Dixon had hesitated about adding pools, only moving forward with the design when he discovered he could maintain them with concentrated salt water generated by the desalination process used to convert seawater to drinking water for the resort. Dixon pointed to a standing fan with radiating bamboo spokes and commented on how he found the plastic material of regular fans not just aesthetically unappealing but also wasteful. “A year ago I challenged Chiko to create one made from bamboo. It took him a while, but he did. We’ll be using them here,” he said. If Wirahadi and Saputra are bamboo wizards, Humphreys and Maxwell are relative novices with the material. It’s this kind of unorthodox collaboration that leads to new design, Dixon believes. He wanted Cempedak to break from the hippie-and-humble associations attached to bamboo by creating interiors that were more updated and luxurious. “But in a contemporary way that does not compete with the beautiful bamboo forms,” Maxwell added. Other materials they plan to use include recycled teak, lava stone, petrified wood and bronze, which will be used for the bar top. The restaurant’s open kitchen will not be made of bamboo, but it will have walls built from locally salvaged granite. We ambled over to the towering blackbamboo bar, accessible on one side by steep stairs and on another by a Raiders of the Lost Ark–style bamboo bridge that linked us back to the main restaurant. “The topography here, with all the huge boulders and steep inclines, is so mad, we are constantly thinking on the move,” Maxwell said. The height of the bar, situated on a terrace, was chosen so that sitting there would make you feel as if you were floating above the tree line. The conical bamboo roof looked to me like the spiraling interior of a giant conch shell. “It’s such a simple material,” Humphreys explained of the thatch. “It’s grass. But it is not primitive. You can make amazing shapes from it.” Dixon was most excited to show me the resort’s back-of-house. We walked down a path that led to dormitory-style buildings with beautifully woven bamboo walls and sleeping quarters for the staff that were as pleasing as the villas. We stopped at the wastewater garden, a string of beds filled with papyrus plants and Poaceae grasses blooming with large purple flowers. When waste­water

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of n u o h o t el ; c o u r t e s y of t r i ; c o u r t e s y of t h e pav i l i o n s h i m a l aya s


purples. I understood why a person would never want to leave. And I admired Dixon’s effort to minimize his footprint. “There are hundreds of uninhabited islands in this and the neighboring archipelagoes,” Dixon said, adding that he was looking into buying another. “If you sailed to it from here it would take twenty-four hours,” he said. “A seaplane would be useful.” Maybe he’ll build one out of bamboo. cempedak. com; doubles from US$400.

The all-bamboo bedroom interior of a Cempedak villa.

c h r isto ph er wi se . i llu str at io n by m at t c hase



a sp n ot sp l o ig r h ta t t io


passes through the roots of these plants, they extract toxins and clean the water so it can be reused for irrigation. “We’ll also collect rain­ water like we do at Nikoi, but Cempedak is my opportunity to improve on Nikoi,” Dixon said. “Here I can take the infrastructure up a notch in terms of efficacy and the latest technologies.” When the Balinese architects, who brought with them dozens of Balinese workers, originally broke ground, they insisted on bringing in priests to bless the project and the island’s ancestors. Dixon happily obliged. “This is a sacred island,” Saputra said. He pointed to a crooked andong tree. “The priests said a woman spirit lives in that old tree. So we built around it.” The priests also created an altar that sits under another tree nearby. We returned to Nikoi, where Dixon showed me a small contraption hidden in the growth: four dishes, half-filled with water, that attract mosquitoes to lay their eggs. The vessels are programmed to flood and kill the eggs. “It’s more effective than spraying pesticides,” he explained. “I’m not in this for the marketing. Being less wasteful is also excellent for your bottom line.” Every detail is considered with two equal criteria in mind: luxury and ecology. The sun was setting as we joined Humphreys for a dinner of fresh prawns—the seafood, and as much produce as possible, is sourced locally—at a table overlooking Nikoi’s beach. The sky was washed in vivid pinks and

In Japan, Transit Is Light-Years Ahead

Japan has long been at the forefront of transportation technology—for half a century, its bullet trains have whisked people between cities at up to 320 kilometers per hour. Construction is now under way on the world’s fastest magnetic levitation line, the Chuo Shinkansen, which will float trains between Tokyo and Nagoya at more than 500 kph. The trip will take 40 minutes, compared with three hours for a similar-length Amtrak journey between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Though rail companies have long prioritized speed over aesthetics, Seibu Railway’s new Limited Express cars, coming in 2018, have upended that. They have chameleon-like aluminum skins that will blend with the landscape by mirroring it as they speed from the verdant valleys of Saitama Prefecture into Tokyo. Japan is also a pioneer in fully automated vehicles. Self-driving buses will launch in the city of Chiba this year, shuttling up to 12 people on predefined paths. And for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, local company Robot Taxi plans to offer an Uber-like service of self-driving cabs between the competition venues and attractions. A countrywide rollout will eventually follow. — Yonah Freemark

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


big ideas

the blue dot revolution

Google is building the Internet’s most comprehensive map, one backpack at a time. Tom Vanderbilt joins the tech giant in St. Croix to see how it’s recording the world’s remotest corners—and in the process redefining how we get from one place to another.

In the gravel parking lot at Rainbow Beach, a popular, calm-watered spot on St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Google’s Mara Harris is struggling to stay upright. Her horse, Firefly, keeps nervously shifting and stomping. “She’s probably not used to the extra weight,” says Jennifer Olah, proprietor of Cruzan Cowgirls, a local horse-rescue outfit that runs beach riding tours. The extra weight is a 20-kilogram contraption strapped to Harris’s back: the Google Trekker. The custom camera rig, which captures imagery for Google’s Street View program, sits in a military-style backpack and has a towering extension topped by a large green orb. People often mistake it for a jet pack. I take all this in from atop my own horse, Crow, who is more concerned with munching grass on the sly than with Harris’s curious appendage. But then, the clouds that had suddenly gathered begin to yield drops. A Google technician scrambles to retrieve a black garbage bag to protect the Trekker’s lenses. As it turns out, if there’s one thing horses like less than an extra-heavy rider wearing a robot pack, it’s having a plastic bag flapping above their heads. Firefly bolts, circling in the parking lot, Harris and the Trekker nearly tipping off before she pulls off an admirable save and rights herself.


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PH OTO- I LLUSTR ATION BY au tc h a ra pan p ha i . SOU RC E PHOTOS : © Sh u tt erd o /Drea msti me. com ( C h ristia nst ed N ationa l Histor ic Sit e ); co urtesy of pix els ( H a nd )



i llust r ati on by m att c h ase

sp b ot ea l u igh t t y

e are on St. Croix because the largest of the Virgin Islands is nearly impossible to navigate using Google Maps. “Right now, if you tried to get to the airport, it would put you into Estate Kingshill—which is not where the airport is,” says Kirk G. Thompson, the local point man on Google’s effort to map the island, over coffee at the Avocado Pitt in Christiansted, the island’s biggest town. “And an airport’s a rather large thing to miss!” How about the botanical gardens, one of the island’s Top 10 destinations? “That sends you somewhere in the rain forest.” Thompson worked for tech and outdoor companies (with a stint at the U.S. State Department) on the “mainland” before coming to St. Thomas, then to St. Croix, where, he jokes, “St. Thomians come to relax.” He co-owns N2 the Blue, a popular dive shop in Frederiksted, which is how he came to be so deeply involved in Google’s mapping effort. As he points out, instead of giving exact addresses, Cruzans tend to say things like, “take a right at the pink house,” which works fine—until the house is painted blue. But if we were to open Google Maps and try to use it to find our way across the island, we would have very little chance of

Bangkok and Hong Kong for Anti Aging

success. He gestures to a colorful tourist map in a rack of brochures. “That’s more accurate.” It’s hard to overstate the ubiquity of Google Maps in the modern world—and never more so than when we travel. One in five Google searches is related to location, and the figure jumps to one in three when the search is performed on a mobile device. When you take an Uber to your Airbnb (which you cased on Street View) and then find a place to eat using TripAdvisor, you’re relying on data from Google Maps. On a recent hike to Finger Rock, in Arizona, I lost the trail. I stumbled about for a while and was about to turn back when, in a moment of casual desperation, I opened Google Maps. I (or the little blue dot that was me) was just a bit to the left of the trail—faint in real life but ridiculously clear on the map. The map is not the territory, goes the old saying, but the app is the world. And yet Google Maps is far from infallible. It seems like every week there is a story of tourists who were directed into a private driveway instead of a >>

Anyone from pro photographers to travelers can apply for a camera loan

Travelers looking for a little more than a spiritual lift should head to Bangkok and Hong Kong where medi-spa technology is having a moment. The golden mean between traditional facials and more drastic measures—like cosmetic surgery and injections—is quickly gaining ground in these two hopping medical-tourism hubs. A popular new alternative to cosmetic fillers, Second Peau by Biologique Recherche is an electrospun cosmetic mask created via a technology similar to 3-D printing, harnessing electronic force to weave the nanofibers of hyaluronic acid into patches that are placed strategically across the face, banishing fine lines and wrinkles. This treatment is on offer at the Peninsula Bangkok (; Bt6,500) and the Four Seasons Hong Kong (; 60-minute treatment HK$3,000). Striding in line with this trend, Divana Medical Spa has opened a new branch in Bangkok, Divana Nurture Spa (; 70-minute Sensitive Shining Oxygen facial Bt3,500), combining classic Thai healing practices, like warm herbal compresses and traditional massage, with new medical tech, like oxygen-spray hydradermabrasion facials and the intravenous supplementation of vitamins and minerals. The space, a 1,600-square-meters oasis in the middle of buzzing Sukhumvit 11, with a courtyard and treatment rooms spread out across a two-story colonial-style house, is also slated to host week-long longevity and age-reversal retreats next year. — Merritt Gurley

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big ideas technology

Decoding the Camera

national park. In 2010, Nicaragua blamed Google Maps for a misguided invasion of Costa Rica. For someone like Thompson, an unreliable map is just bad for business. “You might have had the greatest time diving, or horseback riding,” he says. “But if you get lost, it might sour the entire experience.” In other words, as our faith in Google Maps grows, when we do get lost, we might subconsciously take it out on the destination. Travelers now expect that punching “coffee” into Google Maps will display all nearby cafés. The stakes for business owners are huge. Not being discoverable on Google Maps is like not being discoverable in a Google search: you are, in essence, invisible.

weighty matters

The Google Trekker’s base is the size of a large backpack, and the whole rig weighs 20 kilograms.



All-Seeing E yes

The orb is mounted on an aluminum rod and contains 15 lenses for getting 360-degree photos. The apparatus extends 60 centimeters above the backpack.

snap judgment The Trekker takes a photo every 2½ seconds; the results later get edited into a panoramic view.

staying power

The camera battery lasts six to eight hours when fully charged.

As Vincent tells me, Street View grew from company cofounder Larry Page’s desire to “not just bring the Web to our users, but bring the world to our users.” After the technology was condensed into backpack size—opening up all those places inaccessible to a Street View car, like the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper or the “secret cave” of MythBusters cohost Adam Savage—the >>

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ncreasingly, our movement through time and space is mediated via screens. As happy as I was to be put on the right path in Arizona, the episode raised the very real question of what dependence on smartphones does to us. Research has shown that people who relied on GPS were less able to draw the cities they lived in to proper scale, and less able to create a mental map approximating where they had been. Maybe I have already lost some of my ability to detect objects in the real world, like trail markings. We travel to see new places, but this allpowerful compass may confine and restrict our knowledge. One of the ways we learn, after all, is by making mistakes. Being somewhere new should mean stumbling into places by accident, or dealing with locals in an unfamiliar language, or even being so immersed in a place that it doesn’t really matter if you lose your way. Yet even when we want to travel off the beaten path, we still expect to be shown exactly where that is. And maybe that frees us from the anxiety and hassle of finding our way, allowing us to be more in the moment. In the early days of Street View, the emphasis was on “giving you a virtual travel experience,” says Luc Vincent, a senior director of engineering for Google and the lead engineer of Street View. The program has evolved from those somewhat gimmicky origins; the imagery acquired from Street View now actually makes maps better. The ante was upped as users began to expect accurate maps of their destinations and panoramic images as well. “People wanted to see more detail—not just the street, but the pedestrian walkway and every store in a mall,” Vincent says.

to map obscure places, google’s street-view cameras have gone from vehicle to backpack.

big ideas technology

company realized “there was no way we could do it ourselves.” They began lending the Trekker to governments and tourism boards. “We wanted to engage communities and partners who know places better than we do and who are passionate and can bring those places to life through maps.”

sp o d t r li in g k ht s


It’s hard to overstate the ubiquity of Google Maps when we travel

California Is Making Vodka from Thin Air

There are two main ingredients in vodka: grain and water. So when California’s drought threatened one of those things, Hangar One head distiller Caley Shoemaker—who is based in the state—decided to get creative. She looked to the Bay Area’s pervasive fog for inspiration. Working with FogQuest—a charity that has collected fog in Nepal to provide villagers with drinking water—Hangar One placed fog collectors at landmarks like Sutro Tower. Over six months, they collected 1,000 liters of water, which was then double-filtered and boiled. “When we got our lab analysis back, we were told the water was cleaner than drinking water out of a faucet,” Shoemaker says. The fog water was combined with a white wine blend from nearby vineyard Bonny Doon. The result: a smooth sipping vodka with notes of honey and pear. Proceeds from the 2,500 bottles will go toward water conservation in California. To sample it, head to Hangar One’s new tasting room in Alameda, where you can compare the fog vodka with Hangar One’s signature version, or sit in the botanical garden, with its views across the Bay, and watch the inspiration roll in. — Stephanie Wu

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hompson—who is nothing if not passionate—is the first individual Google tapped to map a territory, in part because he had already been making so many additions as a civilian to Google’s St. Croix maps and Street View. Any user can add to maps, though that has led to the addition of some controversial, and since removed, material. Google says that anyone—from pro photographers to ordinary travelers—can apply for a camera loan. Thompson is essentially responsible for accurately mapping St. Croix—and by extension, creating the virtual experience for those who take a digital sneak peek before they visit. Over the past months, he has become a familiar sight on the island, conspicuous with his hiking poles and 20-kilogram appendage, roaming through botanical gardens: dutifully tracing 18-hole golf courses; plodding about old sugar mills; and embarking on a eightkilometer hike around Point Udall, the easternmost point of the territorial United States, in full Caribbean sun and humidity. He

walked from the end of the pier in Frederiksted and into town so a theoretical visitor from a cruise ship (the island gets about 50 ships a year) might preview the experience. Street View has been deployed, at least partially, in some 77 countries—its website lists an extensive number of locations around the world the company plans to map next. But places like St. Croix show vividly how daunting a challenge Google faces: the island’s quirky house-numbering system, the road closures and other physical changes to the landscape wrought by devastating storms, Google’s reliance on existing third-party map products. Take all those factors and multiply them by the number of remote unmapped destinations in the world, each with its own idiosyncrasies, and you get an idea of the difficulty. In a moment of cosmic irony during our filming, Mara Harris tries to use Google Maps to guide a taxi driver to her Airbnb lodgings; when that fails, she has to pull up a satellite image on her iPhone. Capturing these photos takes training, hard work and optimal conditions (for usable photos, Street View must operate at midday, when there are no shadows present, and in clear weather). Our plan one afternoon to film the

gorgeous shoreline of Buck Island is canceled due to rain. We leave the Trekker behind and go snorkeling instead, under the pier in Frederiksted. The vista rivals anything above water: an endless array of deep pillars, stretching into the pale blue murk, each encrusted with a staggering array of coral and marine life, from sea horses to frogfish (a fish that looks, er, rather like a frog). Soon, this view may too be a click away—Google worked with the Catlin Seaview Survey, which tracks coralreef loss and publishes breathtaking “virtual dives,” to document Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with a special underwater camera.

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am reminded of a line in Greg Milner’s recent history of GPS, Pinpoint: “In an age when GPS gives us a blue dot on a map—and perhaps also a rich visual image to go along with it—it becomes increasingly difficult to understand that this system is imaginary.” For one, it is a rare occassion when we stop to question whether the almighty data might be wrong. Maybe someone entered an incorrect data point; maybe the image was taken a while ago and now there’s an overpass running past that quaint rental apartment. But, more broadly, it suggests that our online tools can only ever be a simulation. The blue dot on a location-aware map is a powerful, egocentric metaphor; the 360-degree panorama of the Djemaa el-Fna, in Morocco, may help you feel as if you are there. But you will never actually experience a place until you are there. As Alain de Botton puts it in The Art of Travel, “we are inclined to forget how much there is in the world besides that which we anticipate.” Are we also inclined to forget the joy of serendipity and discovery (and not the “discovery” coughed up by an online algorithm)? As the Google Sightseeing website—an unaffiliated site that takes users on world tours with Google’s mapping tools— cheekily asks, “why bother seeing the world for real?” When I ask Vincent if all this information will dampen our desire to travel, he thinks for a moment, then brings up the case of Pompeii. “It was one of the first places we sent the Street View tricycle,” he says. “We were told by the Italian authorities that foot traffic has increased substantially since we launched the imagery.” Back on the beach in St. Croix, the rain lets up, the garbage bag is removed, and we begin

Treasure Hunters

The Milky Way Project It’s not just our understanding of the Earth that is benefiting from citizen-science projects. In this program, run by Zooniverse, tens of thousands of volunteers, sifting through infrared satellite imagery, have helped scientists locate— with nearly 10 times more success than previous surveys— some 5,000 “bubbles” (places where stars have formed) in the Milky Way. milkyway​

Google isn’t the only online platform using digital tools and crowdsourcing to catalogue our galaxy and its riches, natural and otherwise.

World Flora Online

This initiative, led by institutions such as the New York Botanical Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, aims to digitally index (and make available to everyone) an entire listing of the world’s plants—some 400,000 species. The program has even sent botanists to South America to study Brazilian flora.

global xplorer

This project, led by National Geographic Explorer and TED fellow Sarah Parcak, tasks users worldwide with looking through high-resolution satellite imagery to identify unknown archaeological sites. The program, which is funded by a TED prize, is scheduled to launch in Peru this month. Parcak’s team thinks they may have already discovered a new cemetery in the Nasca region. global​​ xplorer.​org.  — T.V.

our “collect,” as Google calls it. We stride, in single file, down the empty beach. The Trekker, atop the lead horse, silently snaps a series of panoramic photos—thick rain forest to one side, the flat turquoise sea on the other. We ride placidly, sucking up many megabytes of pure Caribbean bliss that, months down the road, anyone will be able to enjoy (well, virtually). But it is not just about pretty pictures: it’s the latest chapter in that perennial human quest to faithfully capture the world that lies somewhere between the boundaries of one’s life and the edge of imagination. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


big ideas

the wild frontier

Douglas Tompkins sparked controversy when he bought nearly a million hectares of Patagonian wilderness to donate to local governments. Now, the impact of his vision for public-private conservation can be felt from Montana to Mozambique. By Juan Manuel Vial

Palena province, in Chilean Patagonia, is a region of glassy fjords and simmering volcanoes, where the Andes rise to splendid, white-capped heights straight from the sea. It is home to one of the last remaining stands of the majestic and nearly extinct alerce tree, cousin to California’s sequoia. The place is grand, uninhabited, wild. And thanks primarily to Douglas Tompkins—the founder of the North Face and Esprit clothing lines, who died at the age of 72 last December—it will stay that way. In 1989, Tompkins piloted his Cessna from San Francisco to Chile and started buying up huge tracts of land—eventually more than 800,000 hectares—to protect from development. And what began as a personal mission has become a global model for conservation.


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Tompkins established Parque Pumalín in Chilean Patagonia.

C h r i s t i a n He i n r i c h / g e t t y i m a g e s


De n n i s L i n g o h r

The idea of privately protecting land is not new, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). For centuries, powerful people have set aside hunting grounds, and native communities have shielded sacred areas. Acadia National Park, in Maine, was created in the early 20th century with gifts of land, including 4,451 hectares donated by John D. Rockefeller. But when Tompkins began buying territory, “no one was doing anything similar in the world, at least not on such an ambitious scale,” says Chilean journalist Andrés Azócar, who has written extensively about the philanthropist. Tompkins and his second wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, eventually donated the land to Chile and Argentina. The scale of their work was groundbreaking—in part because such large tracts provide wildlife the neccessary space to roam and thrive, but also because it helped mainstream the concept of privately driven protection. “He really added to the visibility of this type of conservation,” says Jeff Langholz, professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a leading expert in privately protected areas. “In the last decade or so, it has become a well-established tool around the world.” The IUCN says that there are now more private protected areas around the world than can be counted. They include 762 individual tracts in the vulnerable and highly biodiverse Atlantic Forest of Brazil and a number of wetland areas being restored in the Avalon Marshes of England. Many ambitious projects have Tompkins to thank for their inspiration. In Chile alone a number of local millionaires are following his example. “He’s really a global hero,” says Larry Linden, a former Goldman Sachs partner who helped turn 340,000 hectares of bank-owned wilderness in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, into Karukinka Natural Park, with Tompkins’s quiet assistance. Similarly, the Montana-based American Prairie Reserve (APR) aims to create the largest nature reserve in the U.S. by connecting more than 1.2 million hectares of private and public land. “Doug’s boldness, penchant for problem solving, relentless drive and boundless ingenuity were a model and an inspiration for us,” says APR president and founder Sean Gerrity. Since 2004, the nonprofit has bought or leased more than 143,000 hectares, and while its first priority is conservation, nature-loving

There are now more private protected areas than can be counted

travelers also benefit from the work. APR offers a campground and an upscale, five-yurt compound where visitors can enjoy prairie safari experiences. In East Africa, Gorongosa National Park, home to hippos, crocodiles, elephants and an estimated 50 to 70 lions, is the result of a 20year partnership between the government of Mozambique and the Gorongosa Restoration Project. “I saw a documentary about Doug’s work,” says Greg Carr, the American entrepreneur who founded the charity, “and realized that it is possible for individual philanthropist-conservationists to make a difference.”

Kestrel Camp, at the American Prairie Reserve in Montana.

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big ideas

Device as Vice

A new breed of retreat wants to separate you from your screen—for your own good. By Alex French One Saturday last spring, seven strangers and I plopped down on leather couches in the Masseria della Zingara, a beautifully restored 18th-century farmhouse in Puglia, Italy. Everyone looked a little nervous. It was the first day of Time to Log Off, a new weeklong retreat that asks guests to unplug from their devices while participating in a battery of yoga, meditation and mindfulness exercises. Tanya Goodin, the retreat’s founder, passed around a basket, asking guests to surrender their phones and declare their intention for the week. “I really need to catch up on sleep and just chill the hell out,” said an oil-and-gas executive. “I’m desperate to feel less frantic, less like I need to always be sharing to promote my work,” said a novelist.


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When it was my turn, I talked about how I’d been neglecting my wife and kids in favor of texting and posting. “My addiction to technology is nasty,” I confessed. “I’m in need of a total reset.” Goodin, the founder of the London-based digital marketing agency Tamar and a soughtafter speaker on responsible Internet use, wants to help people like me. The idea for Time to Log Off came last year during a visit to Silicon Valley, where she learned that companies like Google encourage employees to take digital sabbaticals. “People there could see the problem—the amount of time we waste mindlessly scrolling and browsing.” Goodin, who worked in tech for 20 years, felt her own attention span had diminished. That insight was backed up by a Microsoft study last year, which found that since 2000 the average human attention span has declined from 12 seconds to eight—shorter, the researchers claimed, than the attention span of a goldfish. A growing body of research from organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health links heavy social-media use to depression. There’s nothing new about restorative travel, from spa vacations to meditation retreats. But programs designed to help us step away from our digital lives are something of a growth industry. In addition to Time to Log Off, there’s San Francisco–based Digital Detox, which hosts Camp Grounded, a four-day boot camp in locations around the U.S. for people looking to break the digital habit. Hotels have also started helping guests unplug. At Villa Stéphanie, a wellness retreat in Baden-Baden, Germany, for example, the bedroom walls have been embedded with copper plates and coated in special paint finish to block all Wi-Fi signals and electricity. Goodin also organizes digital detox programs in Cornwall, England, and on Oahu’s North Shore. “We structure the retreats around activities that will force guests to focus and be mindful. If you disconnect from your digital devices for a week, we will help you reconnect with yourself,” she says. The symptoms of withdrawal were clear the first night. Over a vegetarian, alcohol-free dinner of wild-asparagus lasagna, salad and apricot tart, the conversation went from the American presidential election and thenlooming Brexit vote in the U.K. to favored Instagram accounts and increasingly clever Internet memes. Afterward, I headed to my bleached-white hut, located mere steps from

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c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: c o u r t e s y of k a m a l aya s a m u i ; c o u r t e s y of b r i c k ya r d b e i j i n g ; c o u r t e s y of a l i l a v i ll a s s oor i b a l i ; c o u r t e s y of B ay of F i re s

the swimming pool. I climbed into bed with a Donna Tartt novel, unsure of what the coming week would hold. The days that followed were long and languorous. They kicked off at 8 a.m. with a brisk, silent group walk through the cherry, olive and almond orchards that surround the farm. The point was to stop thinking so much and just be there, but in the first days, my mind caromed from my family to my career to the NBA playoffs. Goodin told me the “monkey brain” would improve as the week progressed. After the walks came two hours of yoga led by Caroline Dollar, a management consultant who also teaches in London. She explained that she would rely on a range of styles to help us “break the unconscious drive to reach for the screen.” I knew what she was talking about: the urge to scroll through Instagram in the middle of a chess game with my son or to check e-mail while working on watercolors with my daughter. If I couldn’t shake it here, was there any hope? After breakfast, most of the day was ours to do with as we pleased. I settled into the rhythm of the place. I swam in the pool and lounged in the sun with my book. I worked in the garden, gathering greens for the evening meal. I learned how to curl dough for fresh orecchiette. There were group trips, like a ramble along the craggy coast followed by a picnic at the beach and a dip in the cool waters of the Adriatic. At 5 p.m. each day, we had 90 minutes of unwinding yoga and meditation. By the middle of the week, I found myself outside of class thinking about the questions Dollar would ask: Is the breath you’re breathing right now a long breath or a short one? Can you direct your breath into the bottom rib? While pacing the grounds, I tried centering myself. The world became vivid: birds of paradise in the garden; butterflies flickering above a field of fennel; a hummingbird buzzing around the flowers that climbed the porch latticework; bees loitering around the lavender; diaphanous sea clouds. One night I sat staring up at the stars, trying to figure out the most distant thing I could hear. There was a faint volley of barking. Mindfulness achieved. Corny as it sounds, when the retreat was over, I felt cleansed. I didn’t crave the meat and alcohol I’d forgone. I hadn’t checked the news but I didn’t fear that the world had fallen apart. I felt recharged, not anxious about the work I’d missed. And I had a plan for sustaining those feelings: No phone in the bedroom. No work

e-mails on weekends or after hours when my family is in the house. Digital-free meals and bathroom breaks. Occasional digital detoxes. Just before I left for the airport, Goodin handed me back my phone. For a second, I was tempted to tell her to keep it.

Mobile Moratorium Four retreats in the region where you’ll have to log out to check in.

K amalaya , Samui

With only an hour of free Wi-Fi your entire stay, a strict no-mobile phonesin-public policy and nary a TV in your suite, you’ll have ample time to get tortured by your personal trainer, sweat out toxins in the multi-sensory steam caverns, dive into one of their extensive list of wellness retreats—or just read by this perennially acclaimed resort's temple-inspired main pool.; doubles from Bt8,500.

Bay of Fires Walk

A four-day amble along one of Australia’s most pristine coastlines is the perfect way to forget about your next Instagram post (spoiler: it's a landscape picture of this shoreline's famous orange-striped boulders). The Bay of Fires Lodge Walk offers 96-hours of uninterrupted Tasmanian coastal views, with comfortable stays in luxury tents.; four-day walking tour from A$2,300.

Brickyard, Beijing

Since social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are blocked in China, the country itself makes for a great digital detox destination, as it is. Venture past Beijing to the secluded Brickyard Retreat at Mutianyu, where you can explore the Great Wall, which is visable from the resort, ride bikes through the nearby village or unwind with yoga on the patio. brickyard; from CNY1,440.

Soori Bali

Sandwiched between rice fields and white-sand beaches, this setting makes the virtual world seem awfully unimportant. The resort, formerly Alila Villas Soori but now relaunching under its own management, is the perfect place to shake off your screentime blues with meditation or a massage session and indulge in life’s more simple pleasures.; doubles from US$460.— v. i.

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big ideas giving back


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m i k e mor g a n / c o u r t e s y of fat h om

Fathom’s Adonia cruise ship.

Cruising with a conscience

They say that creativity thrives on constraints. And not many situations are more constrained—more inescapable and impregnable—than a ship on the open seas. So as a thought experiment, the idea of a weeklong cruise thrilled me. As a reality, well, I’m an unmarried 29-year-old New Yorker who works at a start-up. My dossier places me well outside the average cruise-taking demographic. The indifference of millennials like me Fathom’s passengers focus on toward cruising is not lost on industry volunteering and cultural exchange. Can executives, who are starting to see a market ripe this shake up an entire industry? Molly for—you guessed it—disruption. Among these Young tests the waters. leaders is Tara Russell, president of a new venture called Fathom. The cruise line is a tiny subsidiary of the behemoth Carnival Corporation, and its fleet consists of one ship, the 704-passenger Adonia, which alternates seven-day voyages to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. But what is a small initiative now could have, if it succeeds, very large implications for an industry looking for its next customer base. Instead of casinos, comedians and show tunes, Fathom offers guests opportunities to build water-filtration systems, tutor children and meet local artists. “Impact travel” is the brand’s stated purpose, and some of the goals include equipping more than 15,000 homes with ceramic water filters and planting 20,000 trees per year.

i ll u s t r at i o n b y m at t c h a s e



sp ch ot it li ec gh t t u r e

“We don’t think of it as a cruise,” Russell explained to me aboard Fathom’s second-ever journey to the Dominican Republic, putting air quotes around the word, “but as a travel experience that happens on a cruise.” As we tucked in to Dominican dishes at the ship’s Ocean Grill restaurant, I noticed that Russell, who possesses impressive social-­enterprise credentials, spoke about Fathom with the kind of vocabulary that a tech CEO might use to talk about a product in beta. “Everything is so not fully baked yet,” she cheerfully admitted. Still, this trip was version 1.0 of what Russell intends to grow into a category of its own. Every detail has been carefully considered, from the paintings by a Cuban-American artist that hang on the restaurant walls to the Adonia itself, which is a refitted P&O vessel. “Building a new cruise ship takes three years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars,” Russell pointed out. “We found it much more appealing to repurpose an under­used asset.” The impact portion of the trip started as soon as the ship left Miami. Passengers were divided into groups and assigned a guide to facilitate activities and lead icebreaker games. My group included an auto mechanic from Jackson, Mississippi, two Germans, a teenager from Tennessee, a retired couple from New Jersey, and a graphic designer from Brooklyn— not your typical cruise crowd. Our guide,

Christchurch Is Reimagining the Cityscape

Ricardo, was originally from Colombia. “I feel I am working for travelers, not for tourists,” he explained at the first of three meetings, flattering the group’s collective ego.


t wasn’t your typical cruise atmosphere. Over the three days and some 1,500 kilometers of smooth sailing to Puerto Plata— where the volunteering officially began—I wandered around the ship, snapping pictures of murals printed with what starts here can change everything and remember this moment and jump in. I curled up in a sunny library stocked with volumes by Michael Pollan and Eckhart Tolle. I grew accustomed to the sight of sun-worshippers lying out on the pool deck, sipping piña coladas while reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography. Something about the nautical setting lent an appealing dignity to solitude. I was perfectly comfortable eating alone with a book. But all I had to do for company was look up for 10 seconds and make eye contact with someone (literally, anyone) and I had a buddy. This cruise was the opposite of reality television: everyone really is there to make friends. >>

Fathom offers opportunities to make water filters and tutor children

In 2010 and 2011, a series of earthquakes killed 185 and left the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island in disarray. More than 1,000 downtown buildings had to be demolished. Whole neighborhoods were abandoned. Faced with such devastation, leaders decided not to simply re-create the city. Before the quakes, downtown was losing retail to the suburbs and had comparatively few residents. Even the mayor admitted that the city was on track to becoming a “sleepy hollow.” Instead, Christchurch quickly made structures out of nontraditional materials, establishing it as an exciting destination for fast architecture. A damaged historic church was temporarily replaced by the six-story A-frame Cardboard Cathedral, its nave enclosed by 86 half-tonne cardboard tubes, designed by Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban. From late 2012 to the spring of 2014, a Pallet Pavilion built of packing materials provided room for creative events. The Re:START complex houses international chains, local shops and cafés in shipping crates. In the long term, residents are getting a more sustainable and livable environment. Christchurch expects to attract 20,000 new residents to downtown, tripling the pre-earthquake population. Riverfront development will connect nature and the built environment. And landscaped plazas and cycling lanes are popping up everywhere. Though it will be rebuilding for many years, Christchurch is well on its way to a renaissance. — Yonah Freemark

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big ideas


giving back

t 7:25 a.m. on the day we slid into Puerto Plata, passengers assembled in a lounge, ready to volunteer. We were sunblocked and prepared to do some good. My activity was Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship; others had signed up to pour concrete floors in homes or assist with English lessons. We funneled out to Amber Cove, a sparkling US$85 million port opened by Carnival last fall. The coffee shops and manicured greenery of the compound gave it the vibe of an upscale mall. But—lest anyone forget why we were there—more than 40 percent of Dominicans live below the poverty line. My group of about two dozen filed in to a bus and drove 20 minutes to a recycling plant in a low-income neighborhood where a group of Dominican women have formed a small association that makes crafts from recycled paper to sell. Upon arrival, the employees thanked us, with much applause. We then participated in 20-minute rotations through craft stations: gluing

coasters, sewing pot holders, pouring candles infused with insect repellent, sifting paper pulp through molds and chatting with locals the whole way through. In total I poured 18 candles, made three coasters, sewed one-third of a pot holder, produced one lumpy sheet of recycled paper and generally got in everyone’s way. After an hour, there was a snack break, during which I talked to fellow passengers. “It’s very emotional, seeing the struggles that people go through,” a woman shared as she unwrapped a sponge cake. “But it’s good to be here,” she added. “It’s good that you’re doing this.” “Er, thank you?” I replied. (Or: “Ditto?”) I found myself unsure of how to deliver a socially appropriate response. By lunchtime the cruise group had separated into clusters: some were Instagramming, some were buying souvenirs, some were planning to go ziplining or

The activities seemed to function as a volunteering gateway drug

From top:

F rom t o p : Jeff Berl i n / Co u r t e s y of Fat h om ; Co u r t e s y of Fat h om

Passengers volunteer at a women’s cooperative and cacao farm; Fathom cruisers plant trees at a nursery as part of a reforestation project in the Dominican Republic.

snorkeling (Fathom also offers more traditional shore excursions). On the bus ride back we answered survey questions: What did we most enjoy about ­today’s activity? What was the most significant thing we achieved today? Our Fathom group leader, who had accompanied us on the ground, shared stats: we made 157 sheets of paper and 300 candles. Not too shabby. Later, after I’d cleaned cacao nibs at a women’s collective and planted tree seedlings, I realized that the sheer metrics of the volunteering—the number of students tutored, the weight of cacao nibs cleaned—was not the point. It is, after all, hardly a stretch to conclude that each of the partnering organizations might have had a more productive morning without being interrupted by dozens of untrained volunteers. Instead, the activities seemed to function as a volunteering gateway drug for people who wouldn’t normally spend their vacation digging holes in a mountainside for the sake of rainforest replenishment. And the activities were possibly even a gateway to people, like me, who wouldn’t normally cruise. On Fathom, you will watch Winslow Homer sunsets and eat breakfasts of gemlike tropical fruits. But you may also witness a preteen boy’s first epiphany about global inequality over said breakfast: “We are just miles away from people who are starving and we’re eating at a buffet,” one kid announced to his family, with a look that can only be described as “dawning clarity.” When it comes to souvenirs, that’s worth more than a T-shirt.; seven-night cruises from US$499.


t r av e l s m a rt e r


the road ahead p h o t o - i ll u s t r at i o n b y A u t c h a r a pa n p h a i . So u r c e P h o t o s : T h e A s a h i S h i m b u n / Ge t t y Im a g e s ( ro b o t ) ; c o u r t e s y of He n n n a h o t el ( b a c k g ro u n d & c o u n t er )

From robot room service to shoes that give directions, seven inventions you’re about to encounter—as soon as your next trip.


Teched-Out Hotels The room of tomorrow—voicecontrolled and, yes, with a droid at your service— is here.

R o b o ts t o th e R e sc u e Henn-na in Japan (pictured here) takes teched-out hotels to new heights, as the world’s first hotel staffed nearly entirely by robots—including two dinosaurs. From bellhop to concierge, friendly animatronic attendants smile through your stay. InterContinental and Starwood are also jumping on the andriod bandwagon, deploying a robot named Relay to deliver snacks and amenities to rooms.

S mart L ighting Lighting does more than provide illumination—it can also enhance your mood. Guests at the W Sentosa Cove, in Singapore, can select from a spectrum of colored LEDs. Give your room a calming blue glow or a red hue for more energy. The Stay Well rooms at the MGM Grand Las Vegas as well as six Marriott properties offer bright white lighting to reduce jet lag and circadian bedside lighting to promote better sleep.

Your Phone, in charg e Landlines, keys and remote controls may soon go extinct. Apps are being rolled out at Dream Hotels in Bangkok and Phuket to let guests manage everything from lighting to restaurant reservations from their phones. In Singapore, Conrad Centennial and the Hilton have apps that unlock guest rooms. And Aloft hotels are starting to use RoomCast, which lets guests securely stream video from their devices to their room TVs.

v o ic e activati o n Want to check the weather report or turn up the airconditioning? All you have to do is ask. The Aloft Santa Clara, in California, and the Aloft Boston Seaport piloted the first-ever voice-activated rooms, powered by Siri and Apple HomeKit, this past summer. — Jen Murphy and veronica inveen

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— Gr ant Martin

• Temperatures in the unpressurized cockpit range from -20 to 35 degrees, so pilots are equipped with oxygen as well as special clothing.

• The plane weighs about 2.3 tonnes— less than a Cadillac Escalade—to help maintain lift and conserve energy.

• The 72-meter wingspan is longer than a Dreamliner aircrafts’s and supports more than 17,000 solar cells.

Crystal Ball We asked some bright minds to predict what the coming decades will look like.


The global workation Blending elements of Airbnb and WeWork, peripatetic start-ups are bringing new meaning to the phrase business trip.

> If it is now possible to work anywhere in the world, why not work everywhere in the world? That’s the proposition of a new generation of businesses, including Remote Year, a mobile live/work program. Last May, its first group of 75 members wrapped up a year of living and laboring around the globe. Each month they moved to a different city, including Buenos Aires, Prague and Kyoto. For US$27,000 a year, Remote Year provided lodging, co-working spaces, and transportation. Of its six current groups, half keep Western hours so, say, a consultant isn’t asleep in Shanghai when a conference call is held in New York. Similarly, Hacker Paradise sends programmers on working vacations for a fee that starts at US$350 a week, while Estonia-based e-marketplace Jobbatical matches tech workers with overseas gigs (a.k.a. “career adventures”). Some companies are simply designing spaces, such as co-working labs, with globetrotting professionals in mind. “You feel like you’re constantly doing something worthwhile with your time,” Charles Du, a former NASA scientist, said from Cuzco, Peru, where he was part of the third Remote Year class. “It makes us more than travelers—it makes us explorers.” 

Inside the solar impulse two • Each propeller engine generates 17.4 horse­power. By comparison, a typical John Deere riding mower’s engine generates roughly 22.


— Richard Morgan



An airport eatery will make the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. — Rick Mast, cofounder of Mast Brothers chocolate

With a cheek swab, a spa will identify the genetic markers that can be modified with healthy living and customize a treatment program for mind, body and spirit. — Barbara Close, founder and CEO of Naturopathica

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frome lef t: PH O T O - I L L UST R ATI O N BY a u t c h a r a pa n p h a i . S O U R C E PH O T O S : H a n d o u t/ G E TTY I M AG E S ( P L AN E , SAN F R ANCISC O ) ; FAB R IC E C O F F R INI /A F P/ Ge t t y Im a g e s ( PI L O TS ) ; © S k y p i x el / Dre a m s t i me . c om


ome revolutions happen slowly—in this case, at around 74 kph. In July, Swiss scientists and adventurers Bertrand Piccard (below right) and André Borschberg (below left) completed the first around-the-world flight powered entirely by the sun. Their Solar Impulse Two was built not for comfort or speed (it averaged less than highway speed) but for efficiency. Piccard, 58, and Borschberg, 63, flew 17 exhausting alternating legs, the longest (from Nagoya to Hawaii) clocking in at 117 hours, 52 minutes. They generated zero emissions along the way. The team wanted to demonstrate the viability of clean energy in air travel, and while they admit that solar jumbo jets are years off—we can’t currently get enough power from the sun to fly them— experimental aircraft such as NASA’s battery-powered X-57 passenger plane are exploring new ground. “I bet in ten years, electric planes will transport fifty people, commercially,” Piccard says. 

4 Think-Tank resorts

c o u r t e s y of S a n F r a n c i s c o M u s e u m of M o d er n Ar t ( s fmom a )

For some developers and hoteliers, it’s no longer enough to build a hotel: you have to create an ideas community. > Claus Sendlinger has long been ahead of the curve. When he founded Design Hotels in 1993, the boutique-­ hotel concept was nascent. Now Sendlinger is on to his next big thing: creating a multi-hyphenate resort that’s part hotel, part members’ club, and part idea incubator for the creative class. This year, he debuted La Granja Ibiza (; doubles from US$500), an 11-room guesthouse on a farm in the heart of the Spanish island. The activities available for a small charge include yoga, Slow Food workshops and lectures on the future of mobile societies, and aim to attract like-minded vacationers. Locals are welcome, too; a US$220 annual membership fee provides access to events and lectures (for overnight guests, a membership is built in to the rate). “It’s all about dynamic collaboration,” says Sendlinger, who plans to expand to other locations. Similar projects are springing up, on different scales and with different levels of inclusiveness. Set on a previously uninhabited island in Croatia, Obonjan (; from US$65 per person per night) is a seasonal resort-festival that accommodates up to 500 guests. The draw: highly curated, experiential fun, including marineconservation workshops, underwater art exhibits, and movie nights under the stars. Spread over 4,000 hectares in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, Summit Powder Mountain (summitpowder, is hoping to be a nextgen ski village, complete with private residences, co-working spaces, a recording studio, a culinary school and, eventually, several hotels. The town serves as an extension of Summit Series, invite-only networking events for wealthy individuals and thought leaders; early investors include Tim Ferriss and Richard Branson. Some programs and events will be open to the public, while others will be exclusive to Summit members. 

— Gisel a Williams

What will travel look like in the year...


Hyper-Wired Museums


arly in the last century, when the American Museum of Natural History in New York began placing taxidermied animals in the “natural” context of dioramas instead of traditional glass cases, some observers were aghast. Critics accused curators of popularizing science and emphasizing entertainment over research. “It was cutting-edge at the time, and the museum was accused of dumbing things down,” says Jake Barton, principal of the renowned New York exhibition-design firm Local Projects. He sees the dioramas as a pioneering step toward today’s visitor-oriented museums: “It began transferring the focus from things to people.” Today that process continues with technology, which is revolutionizing

how we engage with storied institutions. New techniques are eliminating barriers, enhancing the visitor experience and expanding accessibility. And as we integrate more technology, especially social media, into our lives, museums are using such tools to attract more visitors—and followers. The trend points toward immersion and interaction. For “New York at Its Core,” an exhibition opening in November at the Museum of the City of New York, Local Projects and Studio Joseph designed the Future City Lab, which allows visitors to create their own Gothams, complete with parks, shops and housing. You can see yourself in your streetscape, and export a video of your vision to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. For the Tech Museum of Innovation in



All travel documents will be digital. — Craig Dykers, architect and founding partner of Snøhetta

The Internet will have erased the mystery of discovering another human being. At Hotel Incognito, bookings will be made by mail, and payment will be in gold bars. — Carlos Couturier, managing partner of Grupo Habita

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if the story is boring, it won’t matter how good the technology is

certain exhibitions to add a layer of information for visitors without overwhelming the display with text and sacrificing the clean aesthetic of the contemporary gallery. Of course, more technology isn’t always better for the visitor. When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma) expanded recently, its digital team, led by Keir Winesmith, pondered a suitable tech upgrade. “We didn’t want to innovate for innovation’s sake,” he says Winesmith’s team nixed 3-D, virtual reality and augmented reality in favor of a new iOS app and audio tour developed with Detour, a start-up specializing in GPS-enabled walking tours, and Apple, which deployed its location-based technology indoors. Unlike most audio tours, which require you to input a number indicating your position, the app calculates your location using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi access points and the accelerometers and pedometers built in to Apple devices. (No Apple device? You can rent one on site; an Android app is in the works.) The tours are led by a diverse collection of guides—Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr, from HBO’s Silicon Valley, debate whether Marcel Duchamp’s work is art or junk. An app-aided stroll through sfmoma feels “as if you had friends walking with you,” Winesmith says. Disembodied, chatty friends—it’s eerie. I took philosopher Alva Noë’s tour, and he directed my steps, telling me to meet him in the next room, or past the elevators. When I arrived, he’d simply start speaking again. As we regarded a Lee Krasner painting, Noë likened it to “a work of choreography.” You could say the same of the app. Technology is a tool. Used well, it enhances the museumgoing experience, forging smarter, faster connections to the work. But it has its limits. As Winesmith says, “If the story is boring, it won’t matter how good the technology is.”  — JEFF CHU

6 omnipotent travelplanning Machines > It’s the next thing in travel booking: companies are leveraging artificial intelligence to offer the personalized touch that used to come from agents alone, but delivered on demand. These tools process huge amounts of public data and mine your e-mail and calendar to provide spot-on recommendations with a minimum of hassle.

L o la An iOS app launched in May by Kayak cofounder Paul English, Lola combines advanced processing ability with human judgment. Submit requests via a messaging tool; Lola applies the preferences in your profile (aisle or window, high-end hotels or affordable B&Bs), and a team of agents delivers a start-to-finish plan.

Pana This year-old app (iOS and Android) also offers a hybrid of computer and human expertise—in this case, to help business travelers book flights, hotel rooms, transportation and restaurants, as well as assist with changes and problems along the way. It costs US$19 a month; a desktop tool is in beta.

H e ll o H ipm u n k The booking site’s “travel planning assistant” doesn’t require you to down­load an app or even visit the website. Hello Email and Hello Calendar glean info from your e-mail threads and calendar. It’s like looping in your travelagent friend and letting him do all the unpleasant parts of planning, from flight comparisons to hotel searches. — Mel anie Lieberman

What will travel look like in the year...




There will be excursions to new, human-made worlds that orbit the Earth, to the moon, even to Mars. It will make Star Trek seem like nonfiction. — James Canton, futurist and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures

Some of us will be living in homes under the sea. — Edie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Crystal Cruises

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from lef t: Co u r t e s y of L o c a l Pro j e c t s . P h o t o - i ll u s t r at i o n b y a u t c h a r a pa n p h a i . So u r c e P h o t o s : p e x el s . c om ; free p i k . c om

San Jose, California, Local Projects helped build the BioDesign Studio (below), where visitors can play with DNA-sequencing technology and “edit” bacteria. “You can cut and paste different parts of DNA, and see an actual organism grow,” Barton explains. “You’re authoring new lifeforms. It’s crazy.” The Powerhouse Museum, a major branch of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney, has been incorporating technology into their exhibits for several years now. Instead of using LCD and plasma screens for audio and visual displays, you’ll find visitors using iPads to take in more personalized information. The museum has also used QR codes in

S l e e p S o u nd These headphones track sleep patterns, adjust white-noise volume for the best rest, and wake you when you’ll feel most refreshed.; US$229.

C o ntr o l T o p

C hic H e at

Clo c k w i s e from L ef t: Br i a n He n n ( S t y l i s t: J u d i t h Tre z z a for R J Be n n e t t R e p re s e n t s ) ; Co u r t e s y of Ko k oo n ; Co u r t e s y of L e v i ’ s ( 2 ) ; Co u r t e s y of T h i s I s Gro u n d ; Co u r t e s y of e a s yJe t; Co u r t e s y of W i s e w e a r ; Co u r t e s y of L a R o c h e - Po s ay

A thin, flexible heater is sewn into this Courrèges coat; press a button for instant toastiness. courreges. com; US$2,800.


Conductive threads are woven into this Levi’s jacket, created with Google. Swipe and tap the sleeve to send commands to your phone. It’s machine-washable, too.; available spring 2017.

Smart Clothes Self-heating, sleeptracking, step-directing gear turns your carry-on into a high-tech hub.

T agg e d B ag The minimalist, Italian-leather backpack conceals an optional Wi-Fi hot spot and a Tile device that lets you track its location. thisis​ground. com; from US$725.

B u rn N o tic e The My UV Patch skin sensor monitors your sun exposure, notifying you via smartphone app when you’ve had too much. laroche-​; free with Anthelios sunscreen purchase.

A l e rt A cc e ss o ry

S h o e s T hat S t e e r The prototype Sneakairs by EasyJet link to Google Maps and direct you left or right with vibrations. The company is working on a shoe insert that does the same thing.

WiseWear’s bracelets (designed with jeweler Iris Apfel) track activity levels, send mobile notifications and act as emergency beacons.; from US$295.

What will travel look like in the year...



In-N-Out Burger will finally open in N.Y.C., because it’s about damn time. — Will Guidara, restaurateur and co-owner of the Make It Nice restaurant group

Fuel will be so expensive that air travel will be exclusive and relaxing again. — Christoph Hoffmann, CEO and cofounder of 25Hours Hotels

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DEALS | t+l reader specials


From a VIP shopping experience in Hong Kong to a luxury cruise down Burma’s Irrawaddy River, offers this month are turning dream trips into a reality.

Per Aquum Niyama Tucked between green jungle and blindingly white sands, a haven awaits your arrival at Per Aquum Niyama. Immerse yourself in two days of pure indulgence with this all-aboutyou package. From the complimentary daily cocktail to the discounted spa services, there’s plenty on offer to help you unwind. And with late check-out, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of this promotion for a few extra hours. The Deal Signature Escapes package: a night in a Beach Studio suite, from US$851 for two, through October 31, 2017. Save up to 20%.


Overwater villas at Per Aquum Niyama Maldives.

SUPERSAVER Renaissance Koh Samui Resort & Spa, Thailand Give the gift of romance with this getaway, which includes a bottle of bubbly, a candlelight dinner and a couple’s massage, along with round-trip airport transfers and late check-out. The Deal Romance Getaway offer: a night in a Deluxe Sea View room, from Bt8,700 for two, through December 31. Save 45%.


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Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Check out the stunning view of the Indian Ocean from your plum position between coconut palms and the golden crescent shores at Anantara Peace Haven Tangelle. Start your day with that perfect panaroma cast in pinkish hues of dawn as you stretch for a sun salutation at morning yoga, then usher in the evening with a Sri Lankan feast at the resort’s cliff-side restaurant. The Deal Festive Package: a night in a Premier

from t o p : c o u r t e s y of Per A q u u m N i ya m a M a l d i v e s ; c o u r t e s y of R e n a i s s a n c e Ko h S a m u i R e s or t & S pa


The District Boracay You’re on vacation—you have the right to sleep in and start your day at a leisurely pace. Get the nine or 10 hours of shut-eye you deserve and reward yourself with a buffet brunch under the resort’s grand veranda. As the day grows warmer, move to a lounge chair, mere meters from the Sulu Sea shores, to take in the truly picturesque views of the passing sailboats. The Deal Book-and-Buy offer: a night in a Deluxe room, from P18,700 for two, through March 31. Save 15%.

Garden View room, from US$580 for two, through December 31. Save 30%.

FAMILY thailand

Movenpick Siam Pattaya Ice cream at check-in? Tickets to the Cartoon Network Water Park? Your kids will never love you more than after this vacation. With a riveting roundup of activities to keep your little ones busy, from Thai lessons to crafting paper flowers, you’ll have the free time to take advantage of your special spa discount or to cool off in the resort’s expansive lagoon pool. The Deal Exclusive Family Package: a night in a Junior Suited Sea View room, from Bt7,300 for two, through March 31. Save up to 20%.


Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund Saunter down the Bund as you make your way back to your room at the Banyan Tree. The centrally located resort serves

as a calm haven in the ever-bustling city, with rolling vistas of the Huangpu River never more than a head turn away. You get one complimentary night with every two nights you book, so you’ll have more precious time to uncover the treasures of the Chinese city. The Deal Night on Us offer: applies to any room, from CNY1,368 for two, through December 28. Save 33%. RANGOON

Sedona Hotel Yangon Ring in the new year in Burma’s most happening city. End 2016 on a high note at the Sedona’s Year-End Poolside Party where you can mingle with likeminded travelers, indulge in a Burmese feast and sip cocktails until the clock strikes midnight, knowing that a plush bed in your elegantly designed room in the hotel’s newly opened Inya Wing awaits your return. The Deal Celebration Package: a night in a Premier Deluxe room, from US$201 per person, through March 31. Save 20%. sg.


The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Revel in the luxury of the exclusive Landmark Mandarin Oriental in the heart of Hong Kong’s shopping district while celebrating the reopening of Harvey Nichols department store. You’ll receive a two-day VIP Gold pass with 15% off regular priced items; in-store styling service; access to the store’s Personal Shopping Suite with a complimentary bottle of champagne; a Harvey Nichols beauty set; and a special travel wallet. The Deal Stay & Shop at Harvey Nicholas Suite Package: a night in a L900 Landmark suite, from HK$8,200 for two, through March 31. Save 43%.


Sireeampan Boutique Resort & Spa Pal around with your bestie at this secluded sanctuary on the outskirts of laidback Chiang Mai. With this package, your stay will be full of pampering, from a relaxation massage to a

Sireeampan Signature mani-pedi. You’ll also get the opportunity to brush up on your culinary skills with a private cooking class under the tutelage of the resort’s head chef. The Deal Girlfriends Getaway Package: three nights in a Studio, from Bt39,900 for two, through December 31. Save 40%. SINGAPORE

The Fullerton Bay Indulge in your passions, from wining and dining, to art and history. In the city-state that is brimming with heritage, you’ll be able to hop aboard a complimentary boat tour around Singapore’s waterfront or of the historic Fullerton monuments. Get to know the city better with the use of a smartphone with unlimited data, local calling and built-in city guides during your stay, and enjoy S$200 hotel credit redeemable at all nine hotel restaurants or at The Fullerton Spa. The Deal Fullerton Wellness Lifestyle Package: a night in a Deluxe room, from S$610 for two, through December 30, 2017. Save up to 20%.


c o u r t e s y of B a n ya n Tree S h a n g h a i


Views of the Huangpu River from Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund.

The Strand Cruise One of the region’s most iconic hotels offers a luxury cruise for three-or-four-day languid journeys along the Irrawaddy. Visit Mandalay, Bagan and other cities aboard the custom-built ship and end each day with a sumptuous multi-course meal. Get the cruise at a discounted price, a complimentary night at the refurbished Strand Rangoon and round-trip airport transfers. The Deal Three nights in a Superior suite on the cruise and one at The Strand Yangon, plus the flight back to Rangoon, from US$2,268 for two, through December 31. Save 30%. thestrandcruise. com. — VERONICA INVEEN

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To Trav el


sam kaplan

To come home from your journey with the most awesome photos possible, you need the right tools, techniques and trips.

by david ale x ander arnold, jason chen, veronica inveen, eimar lynch, tim moynihan, jennifer murphy, mary Robnett, tom samiljan, john scarpinato, kir a turnbull and mariah t yler * Prices throughout are listed in U.S. dollars and the cost of gear may vary by region and retailer.

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The Pre-Trip Checklist

T+L’s photo editors share their tips on what to take along.

A lens cloth Never use a napkin to remove dirt from a lens. Zeiss makes a microfiber pouch that doubles as a cloth (; $5). For a more thorough cleaning, apply ROR Residual Oil Remover (; $6).

A connection to the cloud Set up an iCloud, Google Drive or Dropbox pro account to back up your photos any time your device is connected to Wi-Fi. You’ll have to pay extra, but if you ever lose your camera, you’ll be glad you did. Only the cables you need Many non-Apple products, including Android phones and cameras, use micro-USB connectors, so you should be able to bring just one and avoid that dreaded tangle of cords. Most USB wall adapters are interchangeable, too.

Smartphone Secrets

Amp up your snaps without downloading extra apps.


Freediving in the Philippines member at Flower Island Resort “When traveling in the tropics, to come with me as a model. it’s always a good idea to carry When shooting underwater, you camera gear that lets you shoot don’t need to go too deep–the underwater. I took this photo light is best between two and six with a Sony RX100 and Recsea meters. If you venture underwater housing, but farther the water any gear set up will work filters out the light if you keep it well intensity and you loose maintained and double the colors. If you do check the rubber seals. have to go deeper, use a While in Palawan, I red filter to make the wanted to capture the colors pop. And always coral formations but I dive or swim with a needed a human element b y f r a nc i sc o buddy; it is safer and for scale, so for this shot g u e r r e ro you have a model.” I asked this staff

Burst Mode Keep your finger on the shutter button of your iPhone or Android to capture a rapid series of shots. Select your favorite later on.

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Focus Lock Hold a spot on your camera screen until you get a “Lock” message. A square will appear, showing where your focus is set, even if you reframe.

Photo and Video in One Press the concentriccircles icon on an iPhone or activate “Motion Picture” in Settings on a Samsung Galaxy to capture a video snippet.

I L L UST R ATI O N s , from t o p : KAGAN M C L E O D ; wa s i n ee c h a n ta k or n

E x tr a stor age Estimate the number of memory cards you’ll need based on your pics’ average file size, how often you snap and whether you shoot video. Then bring twice that many. Store them separately from your camera in a waterproof case.

How I got t h e shot

Print Matters

These services will turn your favorite digital photos into treasured mementos.

Fr acture This company offers a single product, but it’s a great one: your photo printed directly onto glass and ready to hang, without a frame or additional hardware. Eight square and rectangular sizes are available.; from $15.

Osaka Castle.

Picture-Perfect Journeys

Artifact Uprising For all of its books, cards and prints, this brand uses paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. It also sells accessories, like display stands.; cards from $1, books from $18, prints from $20.

A host of new photo-focused trips place travelers alongside experts and educators in the world’s most appealing classrooms.

E l i a - L o c a r d i . I L L UST R ATI O N BY KAGAN M C L E O D


Vietnam Join travel photographer Nathan Horton on a 13-day tour through the beguiling region of Northern Vietnam. From the rice terraces of the north east, to life on the streets of Hanoi, to the seascape of Halong Bay, you’ll leave this tour with a memory card full of unforgettable shots.; May and Nov.; from $3,800.



Lighting is everything when it comes to getting the perfect shot. In a country that seems to be constantly cast in a golden sheen, you’ll be thankful to have photographer Ian Robert Knight to show you how to properly capture it all on this 11-day tour of the most snappable sights.; Jan. to March; from $8,995.



There may not be anywhere in the world quite as picturesque as Japan in the springtime. On this tour join photography husband-and-wife team Elia and Naomi Locardi in capturing the beauty of Japan’s ancient castles, iconic shrines and, of course, the eminently photogenic cherry blossoms.; March and April; from $6,995.


The Galápagos

Eight photographers and naturalists join guests aboard the National Geographic Endeavour on Lindblad Expeditions’ new 17-day Galápagos Photo Expedition. The trip includes a workshop in Guayaquil, Ecuador, daily assignments, along with wildlife-viewing adventures.; Dec. 2016 and Nov.–Dec. 2017; from $13,180.

Milk books The result of collaboration between Moleskine and publisher PQ Blackwell, Milk Photobooks can print and bind your your shots in classic Moleskine fashion, Italian paper and all.; moleskine photobooks from $60. T weed Wolf Design professionals will sift through thousands of your photos (with your input, if you wish) to cull a visual narrative of between 250 and 350 images, presented on archival paper in a bound album.; from $295.

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Whether you’re working on your phone or a computer, these easy tricks will improve your pics.

Cropping and le veling Both Android and iOS have solid built-in tools for these tasks. To zoom in on part of your photo, tap “Edit,” then the “Crop” icon, which looks like two interlocking Ls. Drag the corners of the overlaid box to adjust your frame. To correct tilt, use the protractor interface below the image. Eliminating red e ye Pixlr is one of the best mobile apps for softening that demonic glow. Tap the circular “Tools” icon, select “Red Eye,” then tap both pupils to make them a realistic color. On a desktop, try Adobe Photoshop Elements, which includes a “Pet Eye” box within its “Red Eye” tool.

A Mardi Gras Indian in New Orleans supplement the natural light. “Ronald Lewis, who runs the Because this was a parade, and House of Dance and Feathers in the big chiefs were drumming New Orleans, told me about this and singing, I didn’t want to do Super Sunday parade the Mardi static pictures—I Gras Indians put on. wanted it to feel like The big chiefs have the you were witnessing most elaborate the moment. There costumes, with highly were tons of people detailed beadwork. I around, pretty much took this picture in the touching the feathers. middle of the day, when This composition came the light creates harder out of just wanting to shadows and brighter focus on him, without highlights. My assistant b y Bryc e the distraction of the was carrying a strobe Du f f y other people.” that we used to


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Removing dust On your phone, Snapseed’s “Healing” tool, Aviary’s “Blemish” tool, and TouchRetouch all get rid of specks caused by pollen or pocket lint. On your desktop, go with Photoshop’s “Spot Healing” tool. Just touch each mote to replace it with the surrounding color. Enhancing e xposure Fix blown-out shots (common at the beach or on the slopes) with Photoshop’s Lightroom app. It allows you to apply an “Auto Tone” effect to balance images, reduce the exposure compensation, or apply a tone curve—adjustments that also help out with underexposed shots. Fix ing night time shots Android and iOS apps like Manual, Camera+, and Night Camera can all help with dark shooting. Adobe Lightroom offers white-balance control, vibrance and saturation sliders, and highlight and shadow tools. The VSCO app has filters to bring out details obscured by the dark.


How I got t h e shot

Do This, Not That

Follow these simple rules to get an indelible image in any travel situation. Shot from above

Building detail

Shot from the side

c lo c k w i s e from t o p lef t: d av i d a le x a n d er a r n ol d ; k i r a t u r n b u ll ; d av i d a le x a n d er a r n ol d ( 2 ) ; m a r i a h t y ler ( 2 ) ; m a r y ro b n e t t ( 2 )


1. Overhead shots are almost foolproof—preferably pulled back far enough to reveal place settings. When shooting sandwiches or burgers, cut first and tilt one half up toward the camera. 2. Meals look best in natural light, so try to score a window seat. 3. In low-light situations, to avoid the glare of

Entire building


the flash, ask a friend to turn on their smartphone’s flashlight and wrap it in a napkin for more diffuse illumination.

Well-lit subject

1. At street level, it can be difficult to capture an entire building without distorting its shape, so consider zooming in on a compelling design detail. 2. Ornamentation on a façade will look different in direct light from the way it does in shadow. Walk around the building to assess your lighting options.

Soft light

Harsh light

Backlit subject


1. Pay attention to the direction of the sun. To avoid overexposed backgrounds, photograph your subject with the light shining on it, rather than from behind. 2. Shoot in the early morning or late afternoon, when the light is softer, and try to avoid the harsh midday sun, which can lead to washed-out photos. 3. Find a

3. When shooting an interior, you probably won’t have much light, so use wide aperture, a slow shutter speed or a tripod.


focal point, such as a building, person, tree or vehicle, to help communicate the overall scale of the landscape.

1. Look for a shady or lightdappled spot to shoot portraits. If you’re in direct sunlight, avoid blinding your subjects by telling them to close their eyes and giving them a countdown until you take the shot. 2. Always ask permission before taking portraits of locals. It’s polite, and it will give you time to set

up your shot. 3. For street scenes, stand on a busy corner and wait for an interesting situation, then start snapping.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6



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how i got t h e shot

New Zealand Night Sky

Beyond the Snap

Add texture to your vacation diary with these next-gen visual storytelling formats.


The Animated GIF Capture people and scenes in action by shooting them as video loops rather than stills, using apps like DSCO, Boomerang or Phhhoto.

d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6   /  t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

The 360-Degree Photo Next time you’re on top of a building or a mountain, record everything you see, using Google’s Street View app, then share it on Facebook.

The Mash-Up Combine stills, videos and text using Snapchat or Instagram Stories—or automate with Magisto or Google Photos’ Assistant feature.

I L L UST R ATI O NS BY wa s i n ee c h a n ta k or n

the day we had used “Sometimes you get the Photopills app to lucky, and this check the time when particular night we the Milky Way would did. The clouds line up with the disappeared, there lighthouse. This shot was no moon and a was taken with a fishing boat had come Nikon D810 with a in to shelter for the F2.8 14-24mm lens. night, illuminating Aperture was set to the right-hand side. F2.8 in order to catch Nugget Point, the most light. The pictured here, is ISO was set to 5,000 located on the east over a 25 second coast of New Zealand exposure. Set your near the bottom of ISO to capture the the South Island, a stars, compensating four-hour drive from for any light pollution Christchurch. There and your camera’s is minimal light ability to pollution here handle high as it is ISO. Keep your kilometers shots to from between 10 and anywhere. 30 seconds The nearest depending on populated your lens, to land mass is limit star South trails: the America, longer the lens, 6,500 b y Br e n t the shorter the kilometers P u rc e l l exposure.” away. During

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay


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The Gear From VR cameras to tripods, our pick of the best equipment for documenting your next trip.

DJI’s sleeker and younger sibling of the Phantom 3 has the same features plus a system that senses and avoids airborne obstacles— thus protecting your investment.; $1,399.

Drones Aerial footage can take your travel video up a notch. But even though consumer drones are increasingly affordable and user-friendly, flying one comes with rules and regulations, which vary by destination. Go to to look up the aerial laws by country.


Want to film while schussing down a double-blackdiamond? Look for models that keep the image stable during camera movement; daredevil videographers will want slow-motion capabilities and ultra-tough bodies.



GoProHERO5 Black

The new GoPro has voice-control functionality, a two-inch touch screen, GPS, electronic stablization, and is waterproof down to 10 meters without housing.; $400.

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2 VTech Kidizoom Action Cam

3 Ricoh WG-M2

This unit is hardy, waterproof, and easy to use—perfect if your kid’s an Evel Knievel. Plus it comes with cool filters and accessories to strap it to a bike or skateboard.; $38.

You can drop, step on, freeze, and submerge (down to 20 meters) this durable and slickly designed camera, which shoots 4K video and has built-in Wi-Fi.; $299.

c lo c k w i s e from t o p : s a m k a p l a n ; c o u r t e s y of r i c o h ; c o u r t e s y of v t e c h ; c o u r t e s y of g o p ro

Phantom 4 Quadcopter


Mirrorless Cameras

One of the fastest-growing segments of the industry, mirrorless cameras beam the image straight to an LCD screen instead of bouncing it off a mirror to a viewfinder, as a DSLR does. This means the camera body is smaller, with nearly the same resolution and the ability to fit an array of lenses. The main setback is that most mirrorless cameras lack a manual focus option (a disadvantage for serious photographers).

360-degree cameras These are the cameras that make virtual reality possible, by shooting with multiple lenses simultaneously in a full 360 degrees, then stitching the images together into one seamless shot. (Watch the footage on a headset like Oculus Rift for an immersive experience, or watch and share it on YouTube and Facebook.) 1 Ricoh Theta

2 Orah 4i

The most accessible to the most people, this camera has two wide-angle lenses that can join video and images together at a super-speedy 30 frames per second (Avatar was filmed at 24 fps). You can livestream and edit footage on your iPhone using Ricoh’s Theta+ Video app; or go all out with Adobe Premiere on your desktop. theta​; $349.

Until recently, 1080pixel resolution was the standard. But the Orah 4i, which integrates four cameras into one handheld device, can capture footage at four times that clarity and has four built-in microphones that record immersive sound. Instead of the usual memory cards, it connects with a single wire to its “stitcher,” for seamless playback.; $2,195.

3 GoPro Omni Designed for professional-level VR, the action-cam pioneer’s top-end equipment captures 360-degree video on what’s essentially six GoPros attached to one spherical frame. It automatically syncs up the timing and settings, which results in seamless footage you don’t have to edit together manually.; $5,000.

Smart Phones

If you’re a traveler who shoots only with a smartphone, you’re not necessarily missing out. Most phone cameras now have at least 1920 x 1080 resolution (sufficient for everything except enlarging to poster size) and 4K video (better than you can upload to YouTube).


1 Sony Alpha a7R II

2 Fujifilm X-T1

It has many features associated with highend DSLRs, including 42.4mp resolution, good stabilization for video, and high light sensitivity.; $3,199, body only.

The superfast focus makes it hard to take a blurry shot, and the 16mp sensor is virtually as sharp as most DSLRs. fujifilm. com; $1,399, including one lens.

Instant Cameras

Your eighties-era self may not believe it, but instant cameras are back. Not much has changed: the camera exposes an image and prints it on self-contained photo paper. Which doesn’t make for amazing image quality, but that’s not the point—nostalgia is.

1 Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 This was the company’s biggest seller last year, thanks to its small size, light weight (about 300 grams), and candy colors. One drawback is that the selfie lens is sold separately.; $54.

Pro DSLRs DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras) replicate the multilayer, multicolor technology of an old-fashioned pro 35 mm film camera—but with a digital imaging sensor. Today’s DSLRs can have resolutions as high as 50 megapixels (about 25 times that of your standard phone camera), but anything over 20 is a good level. They’re generally sold without lenses. 1 Canon Rebel EOS T6i All the DSLRs from the Rebel line perform well—and they’re generally less bulky than much of the competition— but the T6i stands out for its 24.2mp sensor, built-in Wi-Fi, and speedy focus.; from $399.

2 Impossible I-1 The Impossible Project’s camera uses classic Polaroid film, but is improved with a lens surrounded by an LED light ring, and Bluetooth to send digital images to your phone.; $388.

2 Nikon D500 A lower-priced alternative to the pro-favorite D5, the D500 offers the same 20.9mp resolution, 4K video, and touch-screen controls in a smaller package—for about $4,500 less. nikon​ .com; from $2,000.

1 iPhone 7 Plus

1 Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Apple’s newest large-format iPhone has a dual-lens camera that allows for better, clearer zooming and for manipulating depth of field, à la a DSLR. Like its little brother, the iPhone 7, it can also shoot ultra-hi-res RAW images. And it’s waterresistant.; from $769.

This new model is lightning-fast and takes bright, sharp pictures—even in dim light— thanks to a wide aperture, dual-pixel autofocus, and a resolution of 534ppi. It’s also waterresistant, shoots RAW image files, and has expandable storage up to 256GB. samsung. com; $770.

d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6   /  t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

from lef t: c o u r t e s y of g o p ro ; c o u r t e s y of f u j i f i lm ; c o u r t e s y of t h e i m p o s s i b le p ro j e c t


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1 Michael Kors

Got It in the Bag?

The designer’s new retroinspired leather Scout bag— which also comes in deep red, bright orange and soft blue—was made to fit Fujifilm’s new Instax Mini 70. The brands collaborated on an exclusive metallic version of the instant camera. michael​; $348.

c lo c k w i s e from t o p : s a m k a p l a n ; c o u r t e s y of o n a ; c o u r t e s y of L o & s o n s ; c o u r t e s y of m a r k c ro s s ; c o u r t e s y of k i ll s p e n c er

Every great camera needs a worthy case. The latest ones offer good looks and smart solutions for today’s equipment.

2 Killspencer

3 Mark Cross

4  Lo & Sons

5 Ona

This update on a traditional camera case is made with leather inside and out, a cross-body strap and industrial hardware that stands up to heavy use. It has slots for a camera, lens and accessories; other interior organizers like lens bags are available.; $750.

A luxe bag that strikes the right balance between style and function: the hard-sided case— curved to sit perfectly on the hip— keeps equipment safe and organized. Saffiano leather, sleek hardware, a playful key chain and a top handle keep you on-trend. match​; $2,495.

The purse that became a camera case: what looks from the outside like a discreet leather handbag contains internal compartments that house a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a small lens, cords and memory cards, along with your keys, wallet and phone. loand​; $300.

With enough room to fit an 11-inch laptop, a DSLR camera and two lenses, this is the satchel for the serious traveling shutterbug. The double straps make it comfortable to carry, and the water-resistant waxed-canvas exterior keeps everything clean and dry.; $279.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6



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If you’re shooting with a phone...

1 Moment Lenses Three lenses (sold individually) that clip over your phone’s lens let you zoom, go wide-angle, or get super close—so you can get the Angkor Wat at sunset or that butterfly on a branch. moment​; $100. 2 LuMee Glowing Selfie Case Let’s be honest: the front-facing cameras of most phones barely pass muster, especially in lowlight conditions. To make selfies pop, get a case that lights your shots.; from $50. 3 Quikpod Selfie Stick

If you’re shooting with a DSLR...

Whether you use a phone or a Leica, the right accessories can make your shot a keeper (and the envy of Instagram).

Add-ons for any kind of camera...


1 Joby GorillaPod

3 Rocket Blaster

1 Incase Portable Power 5400

Already a design classic, the legs of this multi-jointed stand twist into any position. Comes in DSLR- and phone-friendly models.; from $49.

Stop blowing onto your lens—the way to clean it is with this simple, syringe-like device with a one-way valve that shoots out clean air.; $10.

Your phone’s not the only device that needs a backup power source. A DSLR juice pack takes up only as much space as a deck of cards.; $80.

2 Canon Pixma MG7720 Printer

4 Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes

2 Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod 263AP

Wirelessly beam images from the cloud to this printer/scanner that handles both 4 x 6 and 8 x 10 paper.; $140.

You’ll want to keep your 360degree HD video camera spotless. These will erase all grease and grime.; $14 for 200.

Pretty much your dad’s tripod— and the best all-around base for your equipment we’ve found: a head that pivots 360 degrees, rubberized feet and a full height of nearly two meters.; $130.

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c lo c k w i s e from lef t: s a m k a p l a n ; c o u r t e s y of mome n t; c o u r t e s y of i n c a s e

Extra Helpings

If you must be that person with a selfie stick, get a good one (and refer to it as a monopod). Quickpod’s version is sturdy and ergonomic; works with GoPros, point-and-shoots and phones; and comes with an optional tripod accessory.; $50.



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A man and his son paddleboard into the interior of Guam.

A a ro n Joel S a n t o s


/ december 2016 / Do’s and don’ts for gallery-going in Singapore, and

other lessons from a nascent cultural capital | Why Guam is a lot cooler, and spookier, than you think | Ubud, Bali’s land of ancient healing, clears chakras and soothes souls


Inside the National Gallery Singapore.


d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

A Grand Design

In its short, 51-year life, Singapore has become one of the world’s wealthiest metropolises— one more concerned with commerce than art. Now it’s spending millions to become a capital of creativity. As the city makes a culture, how will culture remake the city?

by J ef f Ch u / photographs by M atth ieu Sa lva ing

Clockwise from top left:

An umbrella tree, one of Little India’s public-art installations; Singaporean artist Jimmy Ong’s work on display at FOST Gallery; a mural on one of its courtyard walls.


here is no better emblem of Singapore’s artistic ambitions than its National Gallery, which opened last November. Standing before its stone bulk, I felt like an ant that had crept across the lawns of the Padang, the parade grounds where Singaporeans have gathered to mark momentous events in their history—the end of Japanese occupation in 1945, independence in 1965, and, just last year, the nation’s 50th birthday. The building is, in fact, two. The government took a pair of colonial-era, Neoclassical monuments (the old copper-domed supreme court and the former city hall) and, with the help of Parisbased architects Studio Milou, bridged them. Held aloft by a giant metal trunk, the sparkling glass canopy resembles the majestic rain trees that grow throughout the city. There’s also no better symbol of Singapore’s halting artistic development than this museum. On both of my visits, it was nearly empty, a cavernous temple with barely any worshippers. That is understandable—the arts are a relative novelty for Singapore. Commerce has defined this city since it was founded, in 1819, as a British East India Company trading post. It’s what lured two of my great-grandparents from China—my maternal grandfather was born here—shortly after 1900. When the city-state gained independence in 1965, it was poor. Back then, a tenth of its people were unemployed, and two-thirds lived in slums. Per-capita GDP hovered just below S$5,500 (inflation-adjusted). Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, declared in 1969 that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford.” Lee, British-educated and urbane, was determined to enrich Singapore. His hand was far from invisible. His government revamped laws to attract foreign investment; mapped out an

with our identity,” Dr. Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery Singapore, told me. “How do we see our place in the world?”


efficient, modern city infrastructure; and built homes for millions. Tiger Dad–style, he emphasized education in practical fields: math, technology, engineering, science. Today, per-capita GDP has soared above S$75,000. Singapore—with its population of 5 million people and few natural resources—has become one of the richest countries in the world. The city-state can now afford poetry, and all manner of luxuries. Starchitect-designed skyscrapers punctuate the sky, and a precinct of colonial buildings has been transformed into an arts district. The calendar is full of festivals, including the fifth Singapore Biennale, which runs through February. Last year the government marked its 50th anniversary with symposia in New York, London and Beijing, dispatching artists to help cultivate its image as a cultural hub. All this makes it a particularly fascinating time to experience Singapore’s cultural offerings. Government spending on the arts is approaching S$1 billion per year, a 3,000 percent increase from 25 years ago. With that money, the government has sought to construct a hothouse of what one might call Confucian creativity: orderly, pragmatic, respectful of elders and rules. While this is no longer the Singapore of chewing-gum bans and canings, bloggers are still arrested for violating laws meant to maintain harmony. The effect of such official efforts is that Singapore’s creativity has been less like the vigorous riot of vines and trees that grow in these tropical climes than a collection of delicate orchids (aptly, the national flower), trained and coddled. Yet this may be changing with the emergence of a generation of artists engaged in a conversation about the place they call home. Given how assiduously Singapore’s government has worked to shape the arts, the question is how that culture will shape Singapore. “Our artists are beginning to deal

n order to better understand this, I toured the National Gallery with curator Charmaine Toh. Some of the oldest works are European prints and paintings of 19th-century Southeast Asia. “This is what people thought the region was,” Toh said of fantastical images of birds and Brobdingnagian trees. Many artists favored what Toh called “native tropes,” women exoticized in traditional garb, for example, and gave their works titles like Chinese Types. We entered a gallery featuring mid-20thcentury Singaporean paintings. The era’s most renowned local artists are called the Nanyang School (nanyang is Mandarin for “south seas”). The work of these painters, several of whom were educated at Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts, resembles that of their European counterparts, only more awash in lurid purples, blues and greens. Several Nanyang men famously traveled together to Bali. “They wanted to paint naked women,” Toh said, rolling her eyes. “Just like the European painters othered the Asians, the Singaporeans go and do the same thing in Bali.” We ended our tour in a room devoted to contemporary art. Here, after the National Gallery opened, the curators saw behavior they had never witnessed before. Black tape on the floor demarcates no-go zones, but some novice museumgoers didn’t understand. Kids picked up the glass pebbles of an installation and flung them across the room. Elderly women ran their fingers over oil paintings. When a curator approached and said, “Auntie! Auntie! Don’t touch,” one woman replied, “But I just wanted to feel the texture.” According to Toh, who studied art history in Australia, the museum struggled to find a way to educate visitors. Then an artist made an observation about privilege: “Why do you expect people to know what to do? How would you, if you’ve never been to a museum before in your life?” The Singapore Art Museum, the first in the city-state’s history, opened just 20 years ago, which means that nearly all its adult citizens grew up without one. “We have a gulf,” Toh said, “between our art-appreciating elite and the masses.” The government is more keen to bridge the distance between Singapore and the West. In 2012, it converted Gillman Barracks, a former military base, into a contemporary art complex with more than a dozen galleries. Outposts of Berlin’s Arndt and Tokyo’s Tomio Koyama added international credibility.

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The government offered unusual stability and favorable lease terms. The competitive real estate market has vexed gallery owners, according to Stephanie Fong, the polished young proprietor of FOST Gallery, which focuses on emerging Singaporean artists. She told me the rent on her previous space, a converted shop house, had doubled in four years, outpacing the gallery’s growth. “The scene is still very small,” Fong observed as we chatted over drinks at Masons, a restaurant and bar just uphill from her gallery. Art lovers may crowd openings, but they don’t often become buyers. The world’s biggest collectors still prefer to buy in New York and Europe. And wealthy Singaporeans still favor work from outside Southeast Asia—unlike, say, Indonesians, who have concentrated more on their home region. Strolling Gillman Barracks that afternoon, I saw few visitors. On view at FOST was Chun Kai Feng, a Singaporean artist who arranges everyday objects, like orange seats that you might see at a bus stop, into totemic forms. It’s slightly Duchampian, a whimsical subversion of the ordinary. I didn’t mind being alone in the empty space—it might even be a better way to enjoy art—but I wondered about the implications. Gillman Barracks is 15 minutes by taxi from the CBD. Five galleries, including Tomio Koyama, have shuttered in the past year. “You can build a building in ten years,” Fong said, “But the soft bits take time.”


ver and over, I heard variations on this same theme: We need patience. We need space. Let us be. “Everything is so fabricated in Singapore. But you lose authenticity when you want the world to see Singapore as a developed country,” the artist Zul Mahmod said as we dug in to chwee kueh— steamed rice cakes with savory radish relish— at a hawker center. “Singapore is notorious for pumping in money to force the culture to grow. But a culture takes time to grow.” Mahmod’s medium is sound. He walks the streets for hours, wearing headphones equipped with microphones. “It looks like I’m listening to music,” he said, “but I’m recording a 360 of what’s happening.” In the studio, he cuts and collates, creating sonic mosaics. Lately, Mahmod has been busy preparing Sonic Reflections for the Singapore Biennale. The piece will feature 201 wok lids with inward-facing speakers so that the recorded sounds collected from Singapore’s Southeast Asian precincts (Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese) dance off the metal like raindrops. He wants it


to reflect the region’s well-known ethnic complexity. “There’s always a tension,” Mahmod explained to me, “because we’re not completely aware of each other’s cultures.” We stopped to listen to the hawker center: Clack clack clack— metal against metal, which I recognized as spatula striking wok. Sssssss—the sizzle of liquid hitting a hot pan. Chop chop chop. A cleaver against wood block? “Uncle cutting things,” Mahmod said. What he hears, too, is loss—or, more charitably, change. When Mahmod was a kid, food stalls crowded sidewalks. In the mid 1980s, the government corraled hawkers into food courts. In the names of sanitation and modernity, walls went up and tile came down, muting the street market’s cacophony. “Look at these buildings,” he says. Anodyne. Beige. He shrugs. “You need people to make it alive.” Mahmod grew up in a kampong, a traditional village. Roosters crowed. Goats bleated. Rain splatted onto banana trees. But when he was 13, the government razed the area, moving everyone to public housing. Today, if nostalgia strikes, Mahmod visits Little India, which he calls a rare remnant of “authentic” Singapore: “It’s music blasting. It’s vegetable sellers yelling. It sounds like chaos. It’s real.” Authentic to which era, though? Real to whom? Before Little India became the busy market community it is today, the area was home to cattle farmers and brickmakers. Did the farmers decry the construction of now-historic shop-houses on their pastures? Did the brickmakers mourn the loss of their kilns as the end of authenticity? Mahmod knows change is inevitable. What concerns him and other artists isn’t that; it’s a particular type of change—one that comes from above rather than bubbling up from below. A national

d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

Sea State, by Charles Lim Li Yong, at Gillman Barracks, a newly formed cluster of governmentsponsored art galleries. Opposite: The Singapore skyline as seen from the steps of the National Gallery.

The city-state can now afford poetry, and all manner of luxuries t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 6


Inside the Hotel Vagabond, which aims to be a gathering space for artists and writers. Opposite: An art installation in the garden of the National Gallery.

aversion to the laissez-faire plus old-fashioned governmental bumbling fuels the exasperation. A small example: for the nation’s 50th birthday, the National Gallery Singapore commissioned five artists to contribute to a public work, titled Art Connector, located nearby. Part of the installation includes 26 benches along a covered walkway. Several feature hundreds of self-portraits of Singaporeans; another is covered with quotes about the nation and geometric patterns in rainbow colors. For months, though, the benches have been roped off to protect the work.


ne afternoon, I visited Mamoud’s beloved Little India with theater and film director Glen Goei as my guide. We were standing outside a shop house that’s home to production offices for Wild Rice, the theater company for which Goei is one of the creative directors. Nearby sits the Tan Teng Niah house, a villa built in 1900. Every panel on every door and shutter seemed to be a different color, as if 100 kindergartners had gone full Crayola on the place. “Everything else in Singapore is so controlled and measured and considered,” Goei said. “But this is hideous, and Little India is still a mess, and I love it.” Goei pulled me down an alley, past vendors stacking mangoes and bananas. He stopped at a kiosk selling floral garlands: bursts of magenta, crimson, gold. “Smell that!” he commanded. I inhaled. Jasmine. We walked a few more steps before he halted at a newsstand. Neatly

arranged on the shelves were Tamil magazines, candies, cigarettes. “This was the original 7-Eleven!” Goei said. The proprietor, an Indian woman wearing a turquoise sari, laughed. “We call them mama stalls—mama means ‘Indian,’ ” he continued. “Actually, it’s very racist and politically incorrect. It’s messy.” At age 21, Goei moved to England, where he became the first Singaporean ever nominated for an Olivier, for his performance in the title role of the 1989 West End production of M. Butterfly. He returned to Singapore 15 years ago. “I think about leaving all the time,” he told me. But he stays to stir debate about divisive topics. Since 2009, Goei, who is gay, has staged an all-male production of The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s a pointed commentary on Singapore’s Penal Code 377A, a British-era statute, still unrepealed, that criminalizes homosexuality. “This was the same penal code Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for breaking,” he said. Last year, Wild Rice’s Christmas pantomime was The Emperor’s New Clothes, which—well, you get his point. “Race, religion, gender, sexuality— these are very taboo subjects, partly because we are authoritarian, partly because we’re patriarchal,” he explained. “I want to create dialogue about them.” The government still provides 7 percent of the theater company’s budget. Several years ago, the subsidy was trimmed—Goei doesn’t mind speculation on whether that was punitive—then restored. What Wild Rice pays for performance space (most shows are at the National Library or the Victoria Theatre, both government-owned) exceeds its subsidies. “The image we like to project is that we are an economic miracle,” he said. “But look under the carpet.”


t’s easy to forget that Singapore is an island. “Islanders have an us-them attitude toward whatever mainland they’re oppositional to,” Rajeev Patke, a literary scholar, told me. In 1963, the newly independent Singapore merged with neighboring Malaya to form the nation of Malaysia. Ethnic and political tensions led to Singapore’s expulsion from the federation two years later. Patke said Singapore’s “mainland” will always be Malaysia. But perhaps the relevant “mainland” is less geographic and more socioeconomic, with Singapore envisioning itself among rich, powerful countries such as the U.K. or China— and not alongside its Southeast Asian neighbors. Patke leads the humanities division of Yale-NUS, a joint venture between Yale and the National University of Singapore that welcomed its first students three years ago. We chatted at an alfresco café on campus. Indian-born, Oxford-educated, and Singapore-based for the past 30 years, Patke is gregarious: ask him about the island, and he’ll narrate the archipelago. “Singapore’s location has meant that it is both separate from the mainland and conscious of its size and scale,” he explained. “You have to build global linkages to prosper. You have to husband your resources.” You can see these impulses in a wave of innovators who are creating new spaces and renegotiating Singapore’s artistic limits. There’s Harpreet Bedi, a former Silicon Valley lawyer who, with her husband, Satinder Garcha, owns several hotels. She hopes their latest, Hotel Vagabond, will become an artists’ colony. Two rooms are reserved for artists-in-residence. Each afternoon she hosts the Lady Boss High Tea, with free food and drink for all. “Any artist can just hang,” she said, as we sat in the kitschy lobby and salon, boudoir-ish except for the giant bronze rhino that doubles as a check-in desk. “People expect me to have white hair, wearing a gown and smoking opium.” (Her hair is jet-black. She’s in an elegant t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


pantsuit. And she doesn’t smoke.) “But I want artists to just come. Have food. Create. Be free.” There’s also Ezzam Rahman, a performance artist and sculptor whose dreams of large bronze installations were doomed by real estate costs. Instead, he has gone small. Last year, he won the President’s Young Talents award from the Singapore Art Museum for 34 miniature sculptures of flowers. Intricate and beautiful, they are crafted from dried skin harvested from calluses on his feet. He is now producing a new series, in the same material, of orchids. It expresses his angst as a native Singaporean who feels marginalized on multiple counts. “I am Malay. I am gay. I am tall. I am fat,” Rahman said. “I want to question our national identity and its connotations. This is such a prim and proper country, shiny and polished.” And there are literary types like entrepreneur Kenny Leck and poets Cyril Wong and Pooja Nansi. I met them in Tiong Bahru, all casement windows and Art Deco curves. The streets house both hipster-specific retail—artisanal barber; juice bar—and the corner noodle shop where the old lady may be losing her wonton-making skills, but not her clientele. On Yong Siak Street is Leck’s shop, Books Actually, Singapore’s premier independent bookstore. Literature is thriving. Poets here regularly sell 3,000 or 4,000 copies of their collections. Thousands of Singaporeans thronged events, online and in person, for National Poetry Writing Month. Nansi, who hosts a monthly poetry night at the Artistry Café, noted that, last time around, she had to pipe the sound out to the patio because the interior was crowded past fire-safety limits. Nansi wonders whether Singapore’s soul searching has actually ignited creativity. “There’s an extra rage, an extra passion,” she said. “Some days, this tension makes me want to write more. Others, I never want to write again.” Leck added: “There is still so much work to be done.” Wong likens Singapore to a person learning to tango in too small a room. “Three steps forward, two steps back,” he told me. “And then a door slams in your face!” This from a queer writer whose most recent collection is, in his own telling, “dirty,” yet who has won the Singapore Literature Prize and is a finalist again this year. If the door slams, it also reopens. “Are you hopeful?” I asked. They glanced at each other nervously. “I am,” Nansi said. “Yes,” Leck nodded. “I’m too practical to be extremely hopeful— or extremely pessimistic,” Wong offered. It’s a very Singaporean answer. They laughed, and then they sighed.


The details hotel s Amoy Enter this boutique hotel through a 19th-century Buddhist temple turned museum. Each of the 37 rooms bears the name of a different Chinese immigrant family. 76 Telok Ayer St., Downtown Core;; doubles from S$200. Fullerton Hotel Housed in a grand converted 1920s government building on the Singapore River, the luxurious property was recently named a national monument. Downtown Core; fullerton​​; doubles from S$257. Hotel Jen Orchardgateway At the retail heart of the city, the playful hotel offers a 47-meter infinity pool on its rooftop, a great overview. Guestrooms have a modern vibe to match the location. 277 Orchard Rd.;; doubles from S$215. Hotel Vagabond A kitschy but comfortable art-themed hotel featuring an artist salon inspired by New York City’s Chelsea Hotel in its glory days. Kampong Glam; hotel​vaga­bond​; doubles from S$235. InterContinental Singapore Reworked to give it more of a Peranakan feel, the 403-room hotel now comes with shop-house design touches, including batik tile floors and finely carved wooden touches, and silkthreaded wall coverings. 80 Middle Rd.;; doubles from S$315. restaur ants & Cafes Artistry This small gallery and café displays local art and hosts live events. Kampong Glam; artistry​ Atlas Grand Lobby Bar Opening this month, the bar offers the largest selection of gin in the world, which is a good thing as you’ll need a drink or two to absorb the Art Deco. There’s also a vast champagne collection, if that’s your tipple. Downtown Core. CSHH Coffee Bar A former hardware store in the Jalan Besar district has been transformed into a popular roastery, coffee bar, and breakfast-andlunch spot. cshh​c; mains S$15–$18. Labyrinth Chef LG Han’s neoSingaporean cuisine includes boldly reimagined versions of regional classics like chicken rice and chilli crab. Downtown Core;; tasting menu from S$48. National Kitchen by Violet Oon The grande dame of refined Peranakan (Straits Chinese) cuisine, Oon has installed her latest venture on the second floor of the National Gallery Singapore. Civic District; violet​; mains S$15–$42. Plain Vanilla Bakery Sip delicious brewed coffee while browsing local and

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international magazines from the reading racks. Tiong Bahru; plainvanilla​ Tippling Club Chef Ryan Clift’s superb cocktails and sophisticated tasting menus feature the flavors of the globe, and include herbs and greens grown atop a retail tower on Orchard Road. Tanjong Pagar; tippling​; tasting menus from S$170. shops Books Actually This indie gem and writers’ hub is home to Singapore’s most interesting publishing house. Tiong Bahru; books​actually​ Cat Socrates An offbeat boutique— complete with resident feline—offering goods like buttons, key chains, tchotchkes and letterpress postcards. Downtown Core; cat​ Supermama Designer Edwin Low’s shop features items like socks with patterns based on popular childhood snacks. Rochor; ­ galleries & museums FOST Gallery Stephanie Fong’s contemporary art gallery showcases both local stars and artists from around the world. Alexandra; Gillman Barracks Located in a former military camp, this visual arts precinct has 11 international galleries. Alexandra; National Gallery Singapore A massive new institution featuring the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary Singaporean and Southeast Asian art. Civic District; national​ Singapore Art Museum The country’s first art museum, which opened 20 years ago, focuses on contemporary art and is housed in a restored 19th-century mission school. Downtown Core;​

Tiong Bahru, one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore.

E s c ap e . Unwind . D iscove r A TROPICAL ISLAND PARADISE

O n ly 6 0 m i n u t e s f r o m S in ga p o r e Bintan Resorts bintanresortsofficial

Edge of America

Underrated outpost Guam, with diving as fantastical as its local lore, is brimming with surprises. Duncan Forgan braves the vengeful ancestors, and explains why you should crave coconut-milk cheeseburgers. Photographed by Aaron Joel Santos

A painted bus stop in downtown Tumon, the nexus of Guam's tourism industry. opposite: Young Chamorro men in the Valley of the Latte.

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Clockwise from top left: A coconut

tree on Ritidian beach in northern Guam; a statue of the pope welcomes visitors to the roughly 95-percent Catholic island; a view over Tumon and the Pacific Ocean; small versions of latte stones near a local hangout in Tumon; public art in Tumon depicting Guam’s cultures.

Although it lies a distant 9,331 kilometers from the California coast, Guam nonetheless brandishes super-sized portions of American bonhomie. Due to its location just west of the international dateline, the U.S. Pacific territory is, as its garrulous inhabitants waste no time in pointing out, where America’s day begins. Up until now, my guide Ron Laguana has acted as a self-appointed ambassador for this seemingly insatiable sunniness. He lays down an extensive 101 on the island’s colorful history and only draws breath to scold me for not taking enough notes and to complain about the inadequate dimensions of my rented Kia. (“Shoulda hired a Tacoma bro,” is a frequent refrain heard throughout the day.) Things take an unexpectedly darker turn though as he steers us towards a favorite fishing spot on the eastern side of the island. “I remember it like it was yesterday and it still gives me the shivers,” he says maneuvering the car through a maze of coconut palms into a clearing by the ocean. “I trapped a wild boar in this very spot,” Ron whispers, the sound of the waves pounding in from the Mariana Trench—the world’s deepest point—upon the rocky shore nearly drowning out his voice. “Just a single wild boar. Nothing else. But when I opened up the trap, a chicken flew out. It was inexplicable, but I knew it must have been the Taotaomona. Perhaps they were in a playful mood.” Guam is a surprisingly eerie place. The island’s indigenous Chamorro people fear and respect the Taotaomona, zombie spirits of ancient ancestors. Their presence and mysterious works of sorcery, it is said, can be detected at sacred areas dotted around the island—often at some of its most famous beauty spots—and at mysterious rocks known as the Latte Stones, which date back to 800 A.D. It is doubtful whether any of the million-plus visitors to underrated Guam each year pay much mind to the spook factor. In fact, many tourists who do make it here are lured foremost by duty-free designer shopping— though there’s a growing appreciation for the idyllic stretches of sand, and wealth of playable golf courses that include some designed by the game’s biggest pros. This is a shiny Pacific paradise with a laid-back vibe, where the diving is as legendary as the island’s historic role as one of the most strategically important American military bases in the world. The shores are superstars for plenty of reasons. As a first time visitor, however, I want to dig a little deeper to get a feel for the island’s Chamorro culture. I also want to hear more about the myths and legends attached to Guam—species transmogrifications being a fantastical case in point.

My first mission, before I get down to the serious business of mining zombie lore and other gothic tales, is to get a feel for the island’s evolution from colonial hand-me-down into the most dynamic tourist destination in Micronesia. The obvious place to start is the commercial hub of Tumon where mass tourism on the island first took root around 40 years ago. Here, the mostly Japanese shoppers flit between glitzy duty-free malls full of brands such as Versace, Coach and Chanel. Lining the main thoroughfare, Pale San Vitores Road, are familiar eateries like Tony Roma’s and Hard Rock Café, and the swanky Manhattan Steakhouse—all testament to Uncle Sam’s firm caloric grip on the island. A stone’s throw away is the bay’s long, curving beach, a dazzling expanse of white sand that slopes gently into shallow turquoise waters guarded by a coral reef. It is an undeniably gorgeous stretch, with the high-rise hotels offering guests a grandstand view. Surveying the scene from the balcony of my room at the stately Hyatt Regency, one of the island’s most prestigious addresses, I can see the appeal. The hotel, with several pools in lush gardens, provides a stylish refuge from which to strike out to nearby bars such as Shamrocks, an Irish joint with a great selection of locally brewed craft beers, and restaurants such as the resort’s own signature Italian venue Al Dente, which does an impressive line of giant tomahawk steaks. Between the American conveniences and the paradisaical aesthetic, Tumon feels like a closer, calmer Waikiki. On my first morning, I head for Pika’s Café, a lunch joint that specializes in giant sandwiches and salads with a distinct Chamorro twist. I go for the Tinaktak Burger, a giant patty cooked with coconut milk and green beans. Although it doesn’t sound enticing, website reviews rave about it. And, sure enough, the eccentric combination works: the coconut reduction imparting an enjoyably sweet, tropical note to the juicy meat with the fresh beans delivering some welcome crunch. I’m a convert. In fact, dining turns out to be an unexpected highlight of my trip. Native Chamorro food was largely based on what early inhabitants could gather, grow and hunt from the land plus what they could harvest from the ocean. Spanish, American and Filipino influences crept in, producing gems such as kalaguen (a ceviche-like dish) and finadene sauce (a blend of vinegar, soy, onion and hot peppers, a popular marinade used in traditional barbecue cookouts). Other surprisingly memorable meals come at Meskla and Proa, fusion venues where international techniques give Chamorro cuisine a twist, in keeping with the island’s cosmopolitan character. En route to Pika’s Café, my taxi driver, who grew up on the island of Rota about 90 kilometers away, expands on Guam’s irresistible uptown allure. “It was like the promised land for me,” he laughs. “Life is still traditional on the other islands and there are few prospects. On clear nights, I used to stare at the glow from the buildings on Guam and wish I could live there someday.” t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


seek clearance at each of my stops on my last day on the island, which is devoted to its natural highlights. In the morning I ascend Mount Lamlam, said by locals to be the world’s tallest peak. Though it rises a modest 406 meters above sea level, the theory is that, with its base at the foot of the Mariana Trench, its real height is some 11,000 meters (more than 2,000 meters higher than Everest). Whether or not that’s actually a legitimate case, the summit offers breathtaking views of the luminescent green hills of southern Guam pouring into the Pacific. For me, however, it is the beaches that steal the show. The pick of the bunch is Ritidian Point in the far north of the island. Accessible via a pot-holed road through some of the thickest jungle on the island, it is not the easiest place to get to. But chalk-white sand and mirror-clear water make the arduous journey well worthwhile. I divide my time between bobbing weightlessly in the Pacific and staring off into the powder blue horizon. The thought occurs to me that perhaps if I meditate long enough, I can transform into a bird and hover above all this beauty. Maybe that’ll sate the ancestors.

Ron, my guide, also encapsulates the island’s unique hybridization. His hale and hearty demeanor—and his preference for gas-guzzling beasts—could hardly be more American. But he is a proud Chamorro, a teacher and an authority on the culture, who co-authored a book on the native tongue and has promoted its use in schools. He is a font of knowledge on the legends and traditions that add a depth of flavor to Guam’s heady gumbo. As we strike out from Tumon towards the wild palmbacked beaches and rolling, grassy hills that characterize the south, he delivers a crash course in Chamorro lore. I discover that the island was once at risk of collapsing in the middle when a monster fish was devouring its center. Fortunately, the women of Guam captured the fish with their hair and the island was saved. The story chimes nicely with the matrilineal nature of the Chamorro. Although the men are built big and have traditionally assumed the hunter-gatherer role, family lines are traced through mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The Taotaomona are capable of mysterious, sometimes macabre, works of magic. Ron tells me that Chamorro are taught to ask permission from these ancestors to proceed wherever they set foot. “Over the centuries, lots of outsiders have come to Guam,” he says. “Many of them don’t know—or don’t care to know— about our traditions. They’ve trod on sacred land without asking permission and they’ve developed sicknesses, and unexplainable injuries have been inflicted upon them. “We [the Chamorro] respect our ancestors. If you show them courtesy then no harm will come to you.”

Getting There From Southeast Asia, direct flights to Guam International Airport leave from Hong Kong, Manila and Taipei. Visa and entry requirements for Guam are the same as for any U.S destination.

Ron’s tales are interspersed by visits to significant spots such as Umatac, where explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521. The fateful visit was the precursor for a history of colonialism—by Spain, the United States, Japan and the U.S. again—that is the longest among the Pacific islands. Also memorable is the Valley of the Latte, a nicely realized eco-tourism venture that features a boat ride up the tranquil Talofofo River and demonstrations of basketweaving and fire-starting by local Chamorro men. There’s also a small museum dedicated to the life of Private Shoichi Yokoi. As U.S. forces retook the island for the Allies during the bloody dying days of the Pacific campaign, Private Yokoi and a handful of his Japanese comrades retreated to the undergrowth. There they held out for an incredible amount of time, subsisting on a diet of venomous toads and river eels, determined to avoid detection at any cost. One by one they succumbed to illness or the elements, or were seized. Only Private Yokoi survived. After eight more years in the jungle with only the Taotaomona for company—a chilling prospect—he was found by a group of local hunters in January 1973, by which point Private Yokoi had been fighting the Second World War for nearly three decades. Private Yokoi’s tale and travails sound so horrific that I suspect the spirits kept him as punishment for encroaching on their turf. So I make a mental note to

Hotel s Hyatt Regency Guam With a private stretch of beach, several swimming pools and a fine selection of restaurants— including signature Italian venue Al Dente—the Hyatt is Guam’s top hotel. Rooms offer coffee machines, choice toiletries and king-sized beds. guam.regency.; from US$250 per night. Outrigger Guam Beach Resort Due to its onsite mall and proximity to DFS Galleria, one of the island’s premier duty-free retail outlets, Outrigger is ideal for shoppers. Try to snare a room with an ocean-view balcony—the turquoise expanse of Tumon Bay is truly special.; from US$260 per night. The Westin With seven on-site dining options, two outdoor pools and a day spa, this resort is a one-stop shop for leisure. Rooms are spacious and many enjoy ocean views.; from US$275 per night. Dusit Thani One of the newest luxe options in Tumon, this resort feels fresh. Everything from the Thai-inspired rooms to the huge swimming pool benefits from


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The details stylish attention to detail. dusit. com; from US$320 per night. Restaur ants Pika Café Excellent, friendly breakfast and lunch venue in Tumon. The Chamericano tortilla wrap panini is stuffed with Chamorro sausage, cheddar cheese, red potatoes, scrambled eggs and the special house sauce.; meal for two from US$50. Meskla Chamorro fusion is the name of the game at Meskla. For newbies, the Chamoru Platter is a good bet: fried reef fish, tinala katni (dried beef), kelaguen (a ceviche-like starter), salad and red rice.; meal for two from US$85. Proa Guam locals pride themselves on being masters of the barbecue. If you can’t get yourself invited to a cook-out, the meaty offerings at Proa make a worthy alternative. proaguam; meal for two from US$100. Activities Mangilao Golf Club Widely considered the best course on an island full of great ones.; greens fee from US$200. Blue Persuasion Diving Guam Visitors Bureau; private tour guide day rates from US$100.

Clockwise from top left: When it comes to

land crabs, buyer beware—of pincers; your standard trappings of a tropical paradise; a traditional Chamorro sinahi necklace; star fruits: rock formations off the west coast of Guam; the tranquil War In The Pacific National Historic Park.

The Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. opposite: Grilled octopus at Kubu, the fine-dining restaurant at Mandapa, a RitzCarlton Reserve.


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The Best Medicine

Ubud has been Bali’s healing capital for more than a thousand years. Through a weeklong curative quest, Jeninne Lee-St. John discovers that a shaman’s secret ingredient is simple: belly laughs. Photographed by Lauryn Ishak

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hen I told my friends I had been skipping through fields collecting caterpillars, they didn’t believe me. I’m not so into bugs. Or dirt. Or surprise bugs you might find in the dirt. But this particular dusk, I’m super into all of that. I’m like a little kid pretending little swaths of grass are a big jungle, the world is shiny and new, a delight waiting to be explored. I pick up a fuzzy green caterpillar, letting it crawl and flip along the tops and insides of my fingers, up my hand and my arm. The soft fur and tiny legs tickle in the exact way I remember from when I was five, and I wonder why I don’t do this every day. The most obvious reason is I don’t meet Djik Dewa every day. This man is a marvel. A priest and a healer specializing in Kundalini, or life-force energy, Djik Dewa has spent 90 minutes working on me, trying to unfurl the coiled up snake (the literal definition of Kundalini) that usually lies dormant at the base of my spine. The snake is, of course, a metaphor for what are said to be deep reserves of untapped creative energy that, when activated, can alter your consciousness and in the best of cases work miracles. Djik Dewa does some reflexology, he scans my body, he activates and balances all of my chakras, clearing the path for the Kundalini to travel up through me and work its purifying, detoxifying magic. He also engages me in what can be most easily described as the world’s most eccentric staring contest. He asks me to open my eyes, and then looks so deeply into them that it feels like he’s looking through them. It is both extremely hokey and not entirely inaccurate to say he’s looking into my soul. When the session is finished, he asks how I’m feeling. “OK,” I venture unsure. “Better?” “Look into the mirror,” he says. My eyes are wide open, glassy and bright, and the whites are clearer than I’ve ever seen them. For some reason this makes me giggle. I glance at Djik Dewa for confirmation and he giggles back. I erupt into a pure, hearty laugh and Djik Dewa laughs too, and then I cannot stop. What is so funny? I have no idea. But I’m filled with joy and incredulity. I’m a laugh machine. Djik Dewa excuses himself while I freshen up. But the short walk from the treatment villa to the reception sala in the Four Seasons Sayan’s Sacred River Spa is rife with sensory distractions—birds, trees swaying in the light breeze, flowing water that is topped by a path I find eminently danceable. This makes me laugh. Djik Dewa is waiting in the sala with the spa receptionist. “How are you feeling now?” I look around, blink, everything is crisp, my head is clear, my body is light. I’m great! This is nuts. I’m laughing again. I hug Djik Dewa maybe four times. Thank him maybe 10. The walk back to my villa is amazing. The world is in Technicolor and surround sound. I make best friends with a caterpillar.

clockwise From left: Relaxing at the

Four Seasons Sayan Sacred River Spa; Padma Resort Ubud and its heated infinity pool nestle in a lush valley; I Made Warnata, Mandapa's recreation supervisor; a villa bedroom at Mandapa; whitewater rafting on the Ayung River.

This is all pretty hilariously not me, and I haven’t even gotten to my utter fascination at discovering the bullfrog choir burping the sun down from the pond on the roof of my villa. It’s the most mellifluous symphony I’ve ever heard and I stop to record it to send immediately to everyone I know. I’ve discovered the perfect soundtrack to this shaman-driven wellness journey I’m on in Ubud. The traditional center for healing on the island, the lush central region whose name comes from “ubad,” or medicine, was for more than a millennium the go-to destination for royal and wealthy Balinese in need of the cure. It was kind of like Baden for the Swiss or the Izu Peninsula for the Japanese, and has exploded into a center for alternative medicine, from reiki to colonics. In Ubud city center, there’s a yoga shop on every block, and loads of people concocting raw or vegan food. But for me, everything in moderation applies to getting healthy as well. So there will be wine and cheese and gastronomy, and coddling in pool villas at resorts with equally wellrounded views on wellness. My back hurts, my soul’s a bit wounded, I’ve got tummy troubles and I bristle when forced to discuss the passage of time. I wanted to flee the hectic city, immerse myself in this culture of comfort, hang out with as many Balians (the local word for healers) as I could and see if it would help me properly exhale. Turns out the most healing exhalation of all is a rib-splitting guffaw.

My grandmother grew up in a village

in Guangzhou in the 1930’s. Everyone worked the rice paddies. But she fought the odds, and much of her family, to pursue her education in Hong Kong and then the U.S. She loved learning, but she also wanted to ensure that her offspring would not have to toil in knee-deep mud. So, when I find myself in a paddy, knee-deep in mud, cracking up with head farmer I Nyoman Wirawan over my gardening incompetence, I feel a tinge of betrayal. A large patch of the Four Seasons’ land bordering the river is fertile for planting and convenient for accessing on foot, so locals manage the paddies and keep the harvest, and the hotel gets its own on-site example of a beautiful terraced subak—in which guests may get their hands and feet dirty. There’s a little part of me that feels like a first-world jerk, play-acting an expensive activity on the grounds of a luxury hotel, when so many people have to be serious about it to survive. Here I am, yukking it up, and wearing a conical hat, no less, when three paddies over are two women actually working these fields. But the reason I signed up for this is those women—and my grandmother. I wanted to see what it was like for her and her sister and her mother, to get some fraction of understanding of where and what she came from. Rare are the hotel experiences that want you to be uncomfortable. That explicitly force you to reckon with your family lore and middle-class guilt. I have to give them props for the many layers of benefits I accrue from this activity. It’s part therapy, part history lesson, agricultural science, of course, and some math. It’s also something of a work out, raking and pounding mud into t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   d e c e mb e r 2 0 1 6


a semi-consistent level and thickness, then bending over to plant the seedlings, all the while trying not to fall over into the goop, my toes clenching in the slickness for stability. I am instructed by Wirawan to neither stand up nor shuffle over between each plunge of seed into the mud so as not to throw off my focus in creating a straight row. Well, Wirawan may have given me the thumbs up after my dozen rows, but when I send a photo of their distinctly trapezoidal shape to my sister-in-law, who actually grew up planting rice in rural China, I receive a reply of her whole family laughing at my terribleness. “You’d never survive in a village,” they chuckle. Of all the answers I might be seeking on this trip, that one was already predetermined. Thanks, grandma.

“Please understand, nothing is

required,” I Made Warnata tells me when we arrive at Pura Titra Empul, one of the island’s famous sacred sites. “You may follow behind me and do exactly as I do, or you can just observe, or anything in between. Whatever you feel comfortable with.” We ease our way down the stone stairs into the pool, formed by the spring of immortality said to have been created by the god Indra. The water is icy, the stones below are a bit slimy, and I start when a large koi swims past my thigh. Made asks me if I’m afraid of them; No, I say, just unenthused about their presence. He smiles indulgently then approaches the first fountain to begin a ritual that’s been followed at this site since at least the temple’s founding in 926 A.D. Rinse your head three times. Rinse your face three times. Fully submerge under the spout. Press your palms together and give thanks. He goes first; I follow. After the first spigot, I’m no longer cold. After the third, the fish barely register. By the twelfth, I am in a trance, feeling peaceful and refreshed and clean. When I’m done (we skip the final two on this row because they are for funeral ceremonies), Made is waiting behind me and only then do I notice—again— the crowds… people weaving around… cutting fountain lines… not praying properly! I wonder if this irks Made, for whom this is clearly a solemn ritual. But he’s looking serene and super chill as we climb up and over from this pool to the next. It’s not for me to judge the other tourists. Nothing is required. The last fountain is called the Master Cleanse. You rinse your head, your face, you fully submerge, and you drink. It’s supposed to purify you both physically and psychologically, and so I drink as much as I possibly can. I guzzle. I’m like a woman in the desert. Made is amused. We head back to the changing room to peel off our wet kamen (sarongs) and sashes—the dress code for pools— change into dry ones, and then head for a stroll around the temple grounds. “When a man becomes a priest, it’s very hard,” Made says lamentably, seemingly apropos of nothing after pointing out the modern house on the hill above, which was built by the Dutch and later used by Indonesian President Soekarno. “You stay married, but you give up


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clockwise From top left: The spa at

Padma Resort Ubud resembles a grotto; the Clean Living bowl at Four Seasons Sayan contains spinach, avocados, chickpeas, mangoes and beets; a Sacred River Spa villa; planting rice in a Four Seasons paddy; Djik Dewa, a Kundalini healer.

sex. The husband and wife still live in the same house, but they must separate everything.” Stop. Back up, please. Priests can be married? I immediately come to terms with my near-total ignorance of Hinduism’s many iterations, and listen carefully. It turns out Made is speaking from experience. Of the main strains of the religion, Sivah, Bhrama and Visnu, most Balinese are Sivah (though Made says most villages have adherents to all three) and his family is of its priesthood. It’s a patrilineal role that passes to the eldest son upon the death of his father. “My father became a priest only five years ago,” Made says, meaning when his grandfather died, at the age of 101. His grandmother is 98. Made, former competitive weightlifter and now recreation supervisor at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is heir to the cloth, and he already has two sons, but with this hereditary longevity, I’m not too worried about any of them having to forsake carnal pleasures any time soon.

I’m lying on a table listening to the

sound of the river flow outside. Mandapa’s terraced grounds sit in a dramatic valley on a hook in the Ayung River. From our position on a sharp bend, I can hear the rapids hit the near edge of the riverbed, drop about a meter, and carry on rightward off into the distance. I can also hear the occasional “whoop” from whitewater rafters out there thrilling at the turn. There’s a blind woman at my feet conducting reflexology, murmuring to herself quietly. After a while, she, Ni Ketut Mursi, raises her voice slightly and her assistant, who had been hovering by my side, heads to my back, sides, arms, legs to apply pressure at the, apparently—since they’re speaking Balinese—specific instructions of her boss. This push-me/pull-you tag team manages to make both for a gentle, almost loving, four-hand massage, and me feel like a lab subject. They continue in this way while Ni Ketut Mursi does reflexology in my palms, then she comes up behind me, cradles me between her legs and works on my meridians, trying to clear toxins in these lines between my organs. It is fantastically lulling. Which the makes the next step slightly jarring. She is wiping her hand across my head, my chest, pulling something off and then blowing, even spitting, it away disdainfully. I crack an eye, but don’t see anything in her hand. Yet the mood is contagious, and I also get slightly amped up with disdain for whatever she’s spitting away. Turns out, this is a neutralizing tactic, and she’s removing the excessive energy she’s found in parts of my body in order to balance the positive and the negative inside me. OK, OK. So, some people might not be down for such mumbo jumbo. But besides the tangible lightness I feel after this session, in the debrief she offers diagnoses— culled from her various examination techniques including tapping my throat, chest and tummy to listen to the echoes—that might have come straight from my medical file. She asks if I’m on antibiotics. Yes, I say, wondering how she could’ve known. “The antibiotics

were repressing the good bacteria in your digestive system,” she says via the translator. “I fixed it.” She noticed the slight scoliosis in my lower lumbar and suggests when I get home I get cupping done to that area, and find a tendon-massage specialist. I should fix my lower back first, so that there’s a solid base from which to work on my neck and shoulder strains (true, but those are relatively easy to feel with your hands), and start quelling my persistent headaches and general feeling of unsteadiness (so true, and how in god’s name did she detect that physically?). As for my chakras, two had been blocked, but, she says, she was able to clear them. The third chakra, in the navel and connected to the organs, especially the stomach, controls the mind and how you form opinions. Decision-making can be a problem for me, so by all means, away with those blockages. The fifth chakra, at the throat, flows down to the chest and the heart. By clearing that one, Ni Ketut Mursi says, “all existing feelings will be able to be expressed easier through words.” (As I type that last sentence, I am overcome with regret at not having written this story immediately after my session.) Ni Ketut Mursi, whose father was also a healer, sends me away with the reassurance that my gastrointestinal problems are “nothing major” and a prescription to drink ground turmeric mixed with water and honey as a natural antibiotic and digestive aid. Duh. Google turmeric and you get all kinds of variants on “world’s healthiest herb.” I am reminded how far away from the simplest answer most modern health care has moved. I’m a big believer in alternative therapies for physical pains, like acupuncture, but I always forget that Mother Nature evolved her own medicines that kept the human race going for millennia before big pharma.

“So, you believe in... everything?”

From top: A private dining coccoon at Kubu Restaurant, in Mandapa, overlooks the Ayung River; I Wayan Suwitra leads an aerial yoga class at Four Seasons.


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a friend asked me when I gave him a debrief, mid-trip, of my wellness-packed schedule. This is a man who’s been to a hypnotist. Hmm. Not exactly. I believe in trying everything, within reason, at least once. I believe in the sincerity of the people I’ve met and their dedication to their work. I believe in my own experiences, and feeling tangibly altered after each new meeting. I believe you can learn something from everyone and hopefully create your own compendium of personal best practices to a healthier, happier, more purposeful lifestyle. A swoop-peaked, open-air grandstand known as a bale overlooks the terraced paddies of the Four Seasons. It’s here where you can take meditation class, guided by a gentle, relatable former nun (who is pregnant during my visit). It’s also here where you can test your flexibility, upper-body strength and equilibrium with antigravity yoga. I have exactly one hangover this trip and it occurs on the morning I am scheduled for this flying, upsidedown workout. I can only laugh at myself each time the instructor demonstrates yet another crazy circus move with the greatest of ease. I’m an idiot and I’m definitely going to hurt myself. But the hammocks are made of

From left: Pura Tirta Empul, a fresh-water purfication spring near Tampaksiring; whether or not you participate in the Hindu rituals, visitors to Pura Tirta Empul must wear traditional kamen.

long, strong, silky pieces of bright violet fabric. So besides providing more support than you might expect, they’re also gorgeous. We are like performance artists or synchronized swimmers, unsure caterpillars turning into beautiful purple butterflies. The joy of it tamps down my remaining nausea. Sort of. As class wraps up and we’re all marveling at how much less impossible aerial yoga was than it seemed, our instructor instructs us to laugh. We hesitate, letting out subdued chuckles. No, I Wayan Suwitra says, “Laugh.” And he erupts into a deep cackle, grinning ear-to-ear, eyes practically crying. It’s a gut-grabbing, foot-stomping laugh and the rest of us have no choice but to laugh along. “Every day I wake up and the first thing I do is laugh,” he says. “I’ve taught my children all to wake up and laugh. It carries with you throughout the day. Sometimes we hear someone laughing at 5 a.m., it wakes us up and soon everyone in the house is laughing too.” As far as alarm clocks go, you could do worse. The next day, I take a jaunt through the woods and to a village with I Made Agus Nova Putra, who goes by Agus. He’s a local twenty-something who’s worked his way up from hawking tours on the side of the road to becoming one of Four Seasons Sayan’s most popular guides. His English is tops, he’s an utter sweetheart, and he’s got all the knowledge. Daun piduh is an antiseptic leaf that you chew then wrap on a wound like a band-aid to stop bleeding; binahong is an herb you mix with water to help cool the body temperature. We come upon a middle-aged man with a lined face and shoulder-length wavy hair, wearing only a wide, tooth-baring grin and a loincloth. He was about to scale a tree to fetch fronds from the tops that can be made into roofing and fibers. His name is Lonto and he lives in this clearing with his wife in what can most charitably be described as a lean-to. Lonto and I compare curls. We sit on a log together and I ask if we can take a picture, then realize it would be a lot more fun to make a Boomerang, the app that takes a few seconds of video to play on a continuous loop. When I show him the footage of us shimmying our shoulders and wiggling our hands and butts, he—like everyone who sees their first Boomerang—cracks up. When Agus and I finally pull ourselves away and say farewell, Lonto’s laugh follows through the trees.


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The details Four Seasons Sayan This nearly self-contained village is dotted with gardens and on-site paddies. The double-decker main pool, boasting intuitive staff and lovely sundappled afternoon shadows, perches over the Ayung River, drawing out even those guests with luxe pool villas. The Sacred River Spa “ceremonies,” tailored to guest needs, are some of the most comprehensive, healing treatment packages we’ve ever experienced.; doubles from US$560. Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve For a dramatic entrance the elevated lobby offers a panorama of this new resort in an Ayung River valley. Bamboo nests in Kubu (or, “shelter” in Bahasa) restaurant furnish the ultimate special occasion, especially with chef Maurizio Bombini’s yummy, accessible gastronomic delights. The vast river-front villas have a separate living room salas, and generous pools.; doubles from IDR6,240,000. Amandari Dedicated to being of and for the community, the resort hosts village kids' dance classes. Immersed in the rhythms of local

prayer and ceremony, guests get daily gifts of artisanal crafts.; doubles from US$605. Padma Resort Ubud Up in the hills with a dramatic valley view, this new, mist-shrouded hotel has a bamboo-forest walking trail and a large heated infinity pool.; doubles from IDR2,535,000. Maya Ubud Tucked between the Petanu river and the Peliatan rice paddies, the resort has an awardwinning spa and complimentary activities that include tai chi and pilates.; doubles from US$199. Kamandalu Named for a vessel to hold holy water, the resort focuses its design and energy on, as the namesake legend goes, helping guests break away from the attachments of the physical world.; doubles from IDR2,243,000. Kayumanis Private Villa & Spa At this all-pool-villa resort, book the all-day sensory surrender for a holistic regimen of exercise, therapy and dining. kayumanis. com; doubles from US$224.

wish you were here

Scott A. Woodward /  Lhasa /  tibet

The first stop on many travelers’ Lhasa itineraries is the Barkhor, a swarming market square and one of the most famous devotional circumambulations in the Buddhist world. The Barkhor kora, or pilgrim circuit, is approximately one kilometer around the revered Jokhang Temple, which dates to 652 A.D. The Barkhor heaves and churns with a constant swirl of devout Tibetans, many of whom have traveled for days or even weeks to meditate and pray. They stroll clockwise around the hallowed grounds, one of the most sacred monasteries in Tibet. I found myself drawn to the square, spending hours there each day, becoming swept into the masses as they whirled their way around the spiritual heart of Lhasa. Inevitably, I photographed both the faithful and the impious, but it was the energy that excited me. My back is to the main entrance of Jokhang Monastery, where prayers and prostrations occur tirelessly throughout the day. My focus is towards the bustling footpath, a stupa draped in vibrant Tibetan prayer flags, a monk smiling peacefully to himself, as the sun sinks lower in the sky on a warm, golden autumn afternoon.


december 2016 / tr av el andleisure asia .com

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December 2016  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia December 2016

December 2016  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia December 2016