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SOUTHEAST ASIA

Beach Bliss BACK TO NATURE ON GAYA ISLAND

BEST OF

2013

New openings you need to check out

DECEMBER 2013

25

WEEKEND GETAWAYS IN ASIA

TOP TRAVEL GADGETS

SINGAPORE S$7.90 ● HONG KONG HK$43 THAILAND THB175 ● INDONESIA IDR50,000 MALAYSIA MYR17 ● VIETNAM VND85,000 MACAU MOP44 ● PHILIPPINES PHP240 BURMA MMK35 ● CAMBODIA KHR22,000 BRUNEI BND7.90 ● LAOS LAK52,000


Volume 07 / Issue 12

Contents

December 2013 Features 94 25 Weekend Getaways Asia’s cities are some of the most madcap and electric in the world, making them both energizing and, we admit it, exhausting. Luckily, you needn’t travel far to find fresh air, sea breezes and great gathering spots for groups of your friends.

A U S A DAV U T S A R U M

112 The Advice of Strangers Sifting good intel from poor counsel in today’s tech savvy travel

world is increasingly difficult. Is TripAdvisor helping? by r ich a r d mcleish . illustr at ed by wasin ee ch a n ta kor n

116 The Jungle Book Pulau Gaya is a world of its own. Once you wrap yourself in this ecosystem of whale sharks, pygmy elephants, and coconut-avocado scalp scrubs, you’ll want to set up a treehouse and move in. by di a na h u bbell .

124 Isle of Inspiration m er r it t gu r le y checks in with Maldivian queen Soneva Fushi and other dreamers, innovators and tree-huggers that took home accolades at this year’s Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards.

but also its dark and abiding Melanesian history. Island-hop the archipelago of coconut crabs, klevers and the cult of Prince Philip. st ory a n d pho t os by i a n lloy d n e u bau er . m a p a n d gu ide page

139

132 Pacific Spirits The romance of Vanuatu isn’t found merely in its upscale resorts and deep-blue seas,

pho t ogr a phed by ausa dav u t sa rum .

Gaya Island Resort, page 116. T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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dest i nat ions

23 All About Ann Siang This neighborhood on the edge of Singapore’s Chinatown has it all. by m el a n ie lee

32 Taking the Plunge In one of the world’s richest countries, di a na h u bbell finds treasure at the bottom of the ocean. 38 Why Go: Colombo st eph a n ie zu bir i checks out Sri Lanka’s seaside capital. 42 Shared Visions Four architects find inspiration in Asia’s vibrant cities. by k a r en fong

Plus Cronuts take Asia; the tableside-cooking trend; Cristal uncorks its new Hong Kong lounge; and more

Point of View

88

Escaping Christmas Abandoning the trimmings and trappings of holidays past, gu y tr ebay heads to London to celebrate the season

50 The Best of 2013 The region’s hottest openings.

Strategies

73 Travel Tech Awards T+L’s list of the year’s most innovative releases. All road tested by t om sa mil ja n .

Trip Doctor

84 Deals A luxury trip to Langkawi; festive holidays around Hong Kong; an adventure trip in the Himalaya; and more.

Decoder

140 Cape Town Edgy boutiques. Independent galleries. Forwardthinking restaurants. w ill hide surveys the city.

Departments 14 16 … i n b o x 18

e d i t o r ’s n o t e

contr ibu tors

Radar

12 …

On the Cover At Gaya Island Resort in Sabah. Photographer: Ausadavut Sarum. Assistant: Kaona Nilavajara. Stylist: Alisa Ounsuwan. Model: Atiporn Introatporn/Super Red. Hair and make up: Santipong Kwanseng.

pho t ogr a phed by dook

Last Look

146 Vietnam Motorcycling the length of the country, morga n om m er visits Ho Chi Minh’s hometown.

DARREN SOH

Ding Dong restaurant in Singapore, page 23.

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Destinations

December 2013

94

94 L A N G K AWI

94

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H A N GZHOU

BACA LOD

BRU N E I

VA N UAT U

CA PE TOW N

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140

DESTINATION

PAGE

WHEN TO GO

WHAT US$5 BUYS

WHO TO FOLLOW

Bacalod

94

January to May tends to bring pleasant weather.

A donation to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

@TourismPinas

Brunei

32

January through March are the driest months, though the climate is fairly mild year-round.

An assortment of snacks from Gadong Night Market, including kuih melaya, a sweet, Malay-style pancake stuffed with raisins, peanuts and condensed milk.

@brunei_tourism

Cape Town

140

Summer, between December and March, brings warm, sunny weather.

A glass of wine from one of the local vineyards.

@CapeTownTourism

Hangzhou

94

March, April and May bring warm, mild weather and cherry blossoms, but also hordes of tourists.

An order of jiao hua ji, or“beggar’s chicken” at a streetside restaurant, a local specialty in which a whole chicken is baked in lotus leaves and clay.

@Hangzhou_CHINA

Langkawi

94

December through February is dry season and the ideal time to visit.

A plate of the nasi kandar, or rice with assorted curries and fried meats.

@TourismLangkawi

Vanuatu

132

Eccentric paradise best experienced between April and September, when the weather is cool and the chance of cyclones low.

Coconut crab at a casual restaurant.

@VanuatuTourism1

Long Weekend

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Beach

Active

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

Food+Drink

Shopping

Arts+Culture


Editor’s Note

where to find me chrisk@mediatransasia.com @CKucway on Twitter

Looking Ahead

I

f, like me, you’re in a minor state of shock that the final month of the year is upon us, maybe you need a break. We got thinking about some of our favorite places in the region to take that breather and, as you might expect, came up big. Our compilation of “25 Weekend Getaways” (page 94) offers just a few of the best spots to get some fresh air and rejuvenate. But before you skip town, remember to take a look at all the top-quality offerings that entered the scene this year. Our selection of new hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants and bars, (“The Best of 2013,” page 50), perfectly demonstrates why Asia’s popularity continues to barrel ahead as a travel destination. When in Hong Kong, I can definitely recommend Caprice Bar, with its wealth of cheeses, at the Four Seasons. Ditto for the oyster-rich Black Swan in Singapore, though be warned that it is so new, many taxi drivers insist it doesn’t exist. I also managed to visit the Regent in Bali before it opened and got to see the beautiful resort taking shape around me over a pool-side martini. It’s on my to-do list to get back there, if only to see the clever do not disturb signs. This, by the way, is a slogan that several resorts we feature this month took to heart with regards to their impact on the Earth. Our look at the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards (“Isle of Inspiration,” page 124) highlights Soneva Resorts, whose properties in the Maldives and Thailand garnered commendations for galvanizing guests—and other hotel companies—to get involved on the environmental front when on vacation. That’s practically an imperative on Gaya Island in East Malaysia, where we did a green-inspired fashion shoot (“The Jungle Book,” page 116) in a locale where nature rules the day, both underwater and in the surrounding forests. It’s one of those places where you know you are merely a visitor. Whether you want to ensconce yourself in millennium-old trees or a decadent room full of cheese, we at T+L wish you all the best in the new year, and promise to keep bringing you a bounty of travel choices in 2014.— chr istopher k uc way

At Le Meridien Bali, a new resort worth a look.

our next stops

China

Hoi An Burma Palawan

The T+L Code Travel + Leisure editors, writers and photographers are the industry’s most reliable sources. While on assignment, they travel incognito whenever possible and do not take press trips or accept free travel of any kind. 14

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Contributors

Richard Mcleish

Fiona MacGregor

Guy Trebay

how much faith should we put in sites like tripadvisor? I trust TripAdvisor more than I trust the American NSA, but always take their reviews with a generous grain of salt. There are all kinds of people out there, and now they have a voice. best bit of travel advice you ever got The key to enjoying a place the most is to know not when to arrive but when to leave. Not sure if TripAdvisor can help with that though. favorite bangkok getaway that you didn’t share in the story My secret getaway is a beach resort a few hours’ drive south, just below Hua Hin. Any more information would be telling too much, since everyone needs to find their own special slice of weekend paradise, just for themselves.

you’ve only been in burma five months. has it changed that much? I’d been warned to take all the cash I’d need into Burma with me. In my first few weeks, two ATMs started taking foreign cards; now almost everyone does. Also, walking in Rangoon is treacherous: holey streets and eye-level hazards. The sidewalks are improving now, slightly decreasing the likelihood you’ll fall into a drain while avoiding debris plummeting towards your head. what’s our friday night itinerary? After sunset at Shwedagon Pagoda, make your way to Strand Road for happy hour in the impressive surrounds of The Strand Hotel, then colonial-style dining at The Governor’s Residence, where you can end the evening in the garden with drinks under the stars.

christmas ritual you can’t help but enjoy It’s a dying custom, I know, but I love sending and receiving Christmas cards—the kind with the stamp on the envelope. Say no to Paperless Post. holiday tradition you could do without I wouldn’t mind losing eggnog. a favorite place to shop in london It’s hardly under the radar, but whenever I’m in London, I buy a piece of luggage at the Globe-Trotter in the Burlington Arcade. destination you’re escaping to next Transylvania is so beautiful and, for the moment, unspoiled. I’m returning there soon on a hiking trip.

Writer “Best of 2013, Burma,” (page 50).

Writer “Escaping Christmas,” (page 88).

‘It’s a dying custom, but I love sending and receiving Christmas cards—the kind with the stamp on the envelope. Say no to Paperless Post.’ —GUY TREBAY

F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F R I C H A R D M C L E I S H ; C O U R T E S Y O F F I O N A M A C G R E G O R ; G R E G K E S S L E R

Writer “25 Weekend Getaways” and “The Advice of Strangers,” (pages 94 and 112).


Inbox

Old Frontiers Well, now I’ve seen it all! T+L trying to convince me to visit Kazakhstan [“Steppes in Time,” October]? And doing a bang-up job of it? Borat is wiped from my brain, and I’m now champing at the bit to horseback ride across the plains. Marie Mateo malacca

Digital Overload

Italy Revealed

I want to express my appreciation for your October “Comment Card.” Watching museumgoers ignore everything around them, faces silently glued to a small, handheld screen, is a clear signal that society has taken a digital step backward. Is it so much to ask for less velocity and a renewal of face-to-face communication? Keep it up, Travel + Leisure. John “Doc” Fabiano jacksonville , fla .

I was shocked to see my gorgeous little European hideaway, Camogli, “exposed” [“The Beach, Italian Style”] in your July issue! I first discovered the fishing village a decade ago while attending a local wedding, and I took my seventh trip there last summer, enjoying the flavor of Italy without much English spoken. I hope most T+L readers will travel to La Spezia, its surroundings, and other places south of the Cinque Terre—and also hope they find Camogli too “off the beaten track.” Patricia Hughes los angeles , calif.

CONTACT INFO

tleditor@mediatransasia.com, travelandleisureasia.com, f facebook.com/ TravelLeisureAsia or @TravLeisureAsia.

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Comments may be edited for clarity and space.


the soul of Bali in the heart of

Ubud

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ART DIRECTOR FEATURES EDITORS SENIOR DESIGNER DESIGNER ASSISTANT EDITOR—DIGITAL ASSISTANT EDITOR

Christopher Kucway John Boyer Merritt Gurley Jeninne Lee-St. John Wannapha Nawayon Chotika Sopitarchasak Wasinee Chantakorn Diana Hubbell

REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGRAPHERS Cedric Arnold, Robyn Eckhardt, Philipp Engelhorn, David Hagerman, Lauryn Ishak, Naomi Lindt, Jen Lin-Liu, Brent Madison, Nat Prakobsantisuk, Aaron Joel Santos, Adam Skolnick, Darren Soh, Daven Wu

CHAIRMAN PRESIDENT PUBLISHING DIRECTOR

PUBLISHER DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS

“We spent 14 glorious days at this resort, enjoying every minute. The staff are fantastic, some even remembered us from the previous year. From the moment of arrival to departure I could not fault anything. The meals were delightful, the spa, pool and gym great. I would recommend this Resort to all, young, old and in between. The view from the suites is beautiful. I can only say thank you to all the staff for a wonderful time”. – bungy1. - Australia

KOMANEKA

Monkey Forest | Tanggayuda | Bisma | Rasa Sayang Your home address in Ubud sales@komaneka.com www.komaneka.com

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PRODUCTION MANAGER PRODUCTION GROUP CIRCULATION MANAGER CIRCULATION ASSISTANT

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj

Robert Fernhout Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Joey Kukielka Louisa Daly Justin Williams Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Supalak Krewsasaen Porames Sirivejabandhu Yupadee Saebea

AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION PRESIDENT/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR, INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL

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

TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA VOL. 7, ISSUE 12 Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, Room 1205-06, 12/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2851-6963; Fax: +852 2851-1933; under license from American Express Publishing Corporation, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: +66 2 204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (+66 2 368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (+66 2 291-7575). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy.

This edition is published by permission of AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORPORATION 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036 United States of America Tel. +1 212 382 5600 Online: www.amexpub.com Reproduction in whole or in part without the consent of the copyright owner is prohibited.

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POINTS N O W E A R N P O I N T S O N S TAY S AT T H E

H O T E L A M E N I T I E S , O R S E RV I C E S *

M O S T C E L E B R AT E D H O T E L S I N T H E

AT OV ER 450 PA RT IC IPAT ING HO T ELS

WORLD. THEN REDEEM THOSE POINTS

I N S I X B R A N D S G L O B A L LY.

FOR C A S H - VA L U E R E WARD CE RTI F I CATE S

VISIT

VA L I D F O R R O O M C H A R G E S ,

iPrefer.com/TLSEA

TO EXPLORE THE COLLECTION.

©2013 Preferred Hotel Group

REWARDS

BU N G A RAYA IS L AN D R ESORT & SPA – Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia *varies by hotel


Radar On Our

News. Finds. Opinions. Obsessions.

on the map

ALL ABOUT ANN SIANG This hilly row of charming shop houses on the edge of Singapore’s Chinatown oozes class with a side of swagger. Melanie Lee ambles its sweet streets in search of the coolest places to eat sea urchin pudding, drink Asian-inpired cocktails and indulge in the ultimate spa experiences. Turn the page for a few of our favorite new diversions in this constantly evolving neighborhood. ➔

Photographed by Darren Soh

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Radar 1 The perfect spot for afternoon tea is Kki Sweets and The Little Dröm Store (7 Ann Siang Hill; kki-sweets. com; tea for two from S$24; thelittledromstore.com), a Japanese bakery and hipster trinket shop respectively that share the same sunlit space. Try Kki’s Mont Blanc, a swirly chestnut-almond tart, then pick up local souvenirs at The Little Dröm Store, which sells a colorful range of tchotchkes made by Singaporean artists and designers.

A new kid on the block is

SI AN G RD .

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Ding Dong’s Vietnamese Scotch eggs.

5 The Club Hotel (28 Ann Siang Rd.; 65/6808-2188; theclub.com.sg; from S$235 double per night) is a 22-room boutique heritage hotel in an elegant building from 1900. Don’t be fooled by its pristine white façade, for there are plenty of fun, artistic touches such as stenciled tree branches

4

SK

3 The world’s oldest barbershop, Truefitt & Hill (9 Ann Siang Rd., 65/62235263; truefittandhill.com.sg;

4 Zui Hong Lou (8 Ann Siang Hill; 65/6423-9562; zuihonglouxinjiapopteltd. com.sg; drinks and dim sum for two around S$60) is a concept dim sum bar that exudes a nostalgic vibe with old-school backlit posters hung on its ceilings—a fitting tribute to an area that was once a gathering spot for Chinese coolies. Try the Flower Song, a vodka-based cocktail with chrysanthemum and lychee, served in a Chinese teapot.

N

ER

Rd.; 65/6557-0189; dingdong. com.sg; dinner for two from S$100), which opened in June. Its Southeast Asian small plates dining concept is the brainchild of Chef Ryan Clift (of the much-lauded Tippling Club) and the Spa Esprit Group, and fuses creative cuisine with an unmistakable chill-out vibe. Don’t miss the scallop ceviche with fresh coconut or the cross-cultural Vietnamese Scotch eggs.

S$60 for a shave and S$75 for a haircut) opened its first branch in Singapore in March and has become popular with businessmen bromancing their gentlemanly associates in a manly black-and-white grooming establishment that also serves (masculine, we promise) cocktails.

AN

2

Ding Dong (23 Ann Siang

Ann Siang comes alive at night.

Browsing the Little DrÖm Store.

5

adorning the walls and i need

tranquility do not disturb

signs. Its rooftop bar, Ying Yang, offers stunning views of the city.

6 A sea urchin pudding? Not just a quirk of the menu at tapas bar Lolla (22 Ann Siang Rd.; 65/6423-1228; lolla. com.sg; dinner for two from S$160), but considered legendary by foodies in this town, and far beyond. Lolla made waves when it opened a year ago with its Mediterranean-influenced bites, and was named to Zagat’s 2013 list of “The 10 Hottest Restaurants in the World.” So book early.

Note: On Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., the Ann Siang area is closed to traffic and becomes pedestrian-only. ✚

Shave and a haircut at Truefitt & Hill.

Snazzy interior at The Club Hotel.


Radar s e r i o us ly ?

Smash in the New Year

These good-luck rituals make a midnight kiss seem downright dull. Seafood and champagne pairings at Le Dôme de Cristal.

drink

BUBBLE TROUBLE

↑ South Africa In downtown Jo-burg, locals throw old appliances out the window. Heads up!

Many glasses will cin cin to celebrate this effervescent opening. While exclusive ventures from luxury wine and spirits brands have been around for a while in Greater China—mega resort Galaxy Macau boasts the only Macallan whisky bar in the world and Beijing hosts one of just a handful of Bollinger bars globally at Duck de Chine —Hong Kong is upping the ante with the world’s first Cristal-branded restaurant and bar, Le Dôme de Cristal. Owned by the Louis Roederer Champagne house, this prestigious cuvée is renowned for its elegant, concentrated character.

Colombia Hoping for a travel-filled year, residents tote empty suitcases around the block. Denmark Danes hurl old plates and glasses...against the doors of friends’ and relatives’ houses. Japan The faithful wear a costume of the next year’s zodiac animal (in 2014: a horse) to the local temple, where bells chime a sacred 108 times.  —melanie lieberman

b o o ks

Good Reads

Gifts for the globetrotters on your list. By Kolby Yarnell 5 4 2

3

1

Decked out in a champagne (what else?) color scheme, the globular-shaped space provides a dramatic setting that’s more Paris than Hong Kong. Its Oyster and Champagne Bar is backed by a giant antique mirror, designed so singletons can discreetly check each other out. Sure to set the mood for mingling, 1,500 bottles of champagne are on offer, including one of our favorites: Cristal Rose 2004. After dinner, stop by the outdoor terrace for a Black Velvet amid the city’s towering concrete canyons. cristal-hk. com; dinner for two HK$1,600; glass of Louis Roederer Brut NV HK$178.

1 For the Art Lover Surveying 113 artists from 25 countries, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti by Rafael Schacter (Yale University Press, US$35) makes a case for graffiti as serious public art. Standouts include Mexico City’s Sego y Ovbal and Berlin’s Aram Bartholl. 2 For the Foodie D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients (Phaidon, US$50), the lushly photographed first cookbook by legendary São Paulo chef Alex Atala, tells a powerful story about not only exotic ingredients but also people, places and national identity. 3 For the Francophile Bérénice Vila Baudry’s French Style (Assouline, US$65) is a breezy tour of the country’s greatest visual

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hits—from Yves Saint Laurent to Astérix and Babar—and a beacon to anyone yearning for la vie française (that is, most of us). 4 For the Beach Fanatic Time & Tide: Photographs of Praia Piquinia (Chronicle, US$35) is Christian Chaize’s riveting series of pictures of a Portuguese beach. All taken from the same angle, they’re animated by changes in weather, light, bathers and tides. 5 For the History Buff Goethe’s Italian Journey is one of the great travel chronicles of the 19th century, and the large, sumptuous Grand Tour: A Photographic Journey Through Goethe’s Italy (Hatje Cantz, US$150) pairs his memorable quotes with historical images of the Colosseum, Piazza San Marco and other sites.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F L E D O M E D E C R I S TA L ( 2 ) ; J O H N L A W T O N (5 ) ; I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y L- D O P A

Our cups runneth over—the first ever Cristal-themed bar has opened in Hong Kong. By Helen Dalley


Radar t r av e l u n i f o r m

ORASRI BALENCIAGA HONNOLD For the Thai model and actress, travel is about keeping it classy. By Loren Braunohler “My father taught me the importance of dressing well from a young age, which is why I always wear beautiful clothes when I travel,” says Orasri Balenciaga Honnold. For the former Mrs. Thailand (a beauty pageant for married women) and the runner-up for the title of Thailand’s Next Top Model, being in the air is a first-class affair. The multi-talented Honnold, also a restaurateur, is not shy to admit that she often chooses her travel destinations based on food—whether a weekend excursion to Hong Kong for xiao long bao or a jaunt to Provence for wine. Her carry-on always includes a jacket and a scarf, both to stay warm on the plane and to brighten up an outfit. Her jewelry tip? Travel with one bold set and vary your look daily by wearing different pieces. ✚

“A scarf doesn’t need to be designer.” Honnold found this colorful piece at Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market.

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A jacket like this Wallis (wallis.co.uk) leopardprint number “not only looks elegant, but dresses up an outfit.”

“Sometimes all you need to complete an outfit is one bold-sized ring,” like this amethyst number designed by Tan Jewelers (6681/626-6555).

This coral Louis Vuitton (louisvuitton. com) duffel adds a “pop of color” and “doesn’t get dirty easily.”

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

These fashion-forward studded pants, by Wallis, “are comfortable and have stretch. When you travel, it is so important to wear clothes with stretch.”

Photographed by Ausadavut Sarum


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IN PLANE SIGHT How closely did you study up on your airplane art the last time you had a long layover? To find out, try matching these lively liveries to their respective air carriers.

1 This carrier boasts not one but two generations of Hello Kitty Jets. 2 “The Flying Kangaroo” is the second oldest airline in the world. 3 This airline swapped out its old logo, featuring a

dancing man, in favor of a blossom in colors representing the temples, orchids and silks for which its home is famed. 4 The Silver Kris is well known in the air. 5 These planes featuring a peacock always show off on

the runway, proudly representing the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. 6 Hop on one of these jets if you’re headed to the Dead Sea. 7 Attention Captain: Please steer clear of the world’s tallest

man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa. 8 Hong Kong’s fire-breathing beast. 9 Were you aboard the world’s first commercial non-stop transpolar flight from Toronto to Hong Kong? —loren braunohler

A N S W E R S 1 E V A A I R 2 Q A N TA S 3 T H A I A I R W AY S 4 S I N G A P O R E A I R L I N E S 5 S R I L A N K A N A I R L I N E S 6 R O YA L J O R D A N I A N A I R L I N E S 7 E M I R AT E S 8 D R A G O N A I R 9 C AT H AY P A C I F I C

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T O P, F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F E V A A I R ; © B A N O L 2 0 0 7 / D R E A M T I M E S . C O M ; © N I T I N U T 3 8 0 / D R E A M T I M E S . C O M ; C E N T E R , F R O M L E F T: © I W I K O Z 6 / D R E A M T I M E S . C O M ; © P I N D I YAT H 10 0 / D R E A M T I M E S . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F R O YA L J O R D A N I A N A I R L I N E S ; B O T T O M , F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F E M I R AT E S ; C O U R T E S Y O F D R A G O N A I R ; © O H M AY M AY / D R E A M T I M E S . C O M

Radar


Radar

The Cement Wreck is so packed with sea life that one of its decks is often called the “Coral Garden.”

a dv e n t u r e

Taking the Plunge

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, you’ll find some of the most unexpected treasure hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Diana Hubbell dives in. Right as I was starting to wonder if this was a good idea, the parachute opened. A split second later, I was yanked off the boat deck and airborne, drifting 30 meters over ships bobbing near Serasa Beach, Brunei. The tiny affluent sultanate often lures travelers seeking out one of its many golf courses, or a safe family-friendly haven. Few people come here for adventure, but my first time parasailing certainly qualified. I had an endless view of the ocean as I drifted 32

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through the sky, and while this panorama was definitely worth my minor heart attack, even more awaited beneath the surface. Snorkelers can expect to see cuttlefish and sea eagles around coral-crusted Pelong Rock, while intrepid (and Open Water Certified) divers have the chance to explore some of the most accessible shipwrecks in all of Asia. Sunken ships act as artificial reefs, providing a habitat for a dazzling array of marine life. As their hulls rust and decay, corals take

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root, drawing everything from brilliantly hued schools of rainbow fish to swarms of barracuda. Wrecks also tend to attract sea turtles, making them one of the best places to spot these gentle giants. Brunei Bay features four capsized vessels at a depths of roughly 20 to 30 meters, each with its own historic and sometimes spooky back story—the Blue Water Wreck capsized on Friday the 13th, while the American Wreck is a mine-blasted warship now teeming with coral and

exotic, finned fauna like scorpionfish. Cement Wreck, originally a cargo ship from Japan, is so packed with sea life that one of its decks is nicknamed the “Coral Garden.” In this lush, undersea landscape, octopi slink, batfish swarm and lionfish prowl. So follow the lead of these beautiful old boats, and descend into the deep. Poni Divers offers guided dives of all of the wrecks; Serasa Watersports Complex, Serasa Beach; 67-3/223-3655; facebook.com/ PoniDivers. ✚ Photographed by Andrew Cheng


An assortment of dishes cooked or carved tableside at Tables, in Bangkok.

dining

Dinner and a Show

C O U R T E S Y O F TA B L E S ( 3 )

Forget Top Chef—the best culinary theatrics are happening right under your nose. By Diana Hubbell Molecular-gastro wizardry and edible Nordic landscapes may come and go, but there’s no substitute for the drama of classic fare prepared and served tableside. Perhaps as a backlash against faddish foods, restaurants around Southeast Asia are going back to basics and flambéing those sauces and tossing those Caesars before your very eyes. Take Bangkok’s Tables (Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok; bangkok. grand.hyatt.com; dinner for two Bt4,200), long known for its truffle risotto and lobster thermidor. The restaurant has had a makeover, transforming into an old-school steakhouse where chefs in immaculate whites carve Paleolithic-looking Tomahawk chops and ignite baked

Alaskas at your table. (Do order a ramekin of the rigatoni and Gruyére.) The sommelier has concocted an impressive wine list, but the theatrics are best enjoyed over one of the deadly dirty martinis—shaken at your side. Over in Singapore, eager Instagrammers have been flooding the web with snapshots of The White Rabbit’s (thewhiterabbit.com/sg; dinner for two S$150) iconic crêpes Suzette, finished in a blaze of orange liquor. Meanwhile, in one of Hong Kong’s grande dames, Gaddi’s (The Peninsula Hong Kong; peninsula.com; dinner for two HK$2,600) continues the same tableside service that’s made it a landmark for 60 years. The menu has evolved, but the feel is timeless. ✚


Radar

↓ The Routine Buttered toast and coffee is Browne’s breakfast, wherever he is in the world. One regular stop: Tokyo’s Hotel Okura (hotelokura.co.jp), below. The Latest → The designer’s new line of reimagined men’s beachwear includes this preppy-with-apunch polo and swim trunks.

↑ The Suit Browne is rarely caught not wearing one of his ultra-trim suits, which can cause unintended confusion. “People think I’m a pilot,” he laughs. “I’ve been offered discounts at Starbucks.”

spotlight

Thom Browne

The New York–based fashion designer made his name on a prim, classic and sometimes offbeat look, a credo that is echoed in his travel style. “I’m a horrible creature of habit,” he admits. “I pack more simply than most people—I don’t bring much stuff.” We take a peek at his well-ordered universe.  —rachel felder

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← The Women’s Collection Browne made a splash last January when Michelle Obama wore a coat he designed to the inauguration. This look is in stores now.

↑ The Hotels “The service at Claridge’s (claridges.co.uk), in London, is unbelievable—though they won’t let me wear shorts in the restaurant,” he says. “But I appreciate when establishments adhere to tradition.” Another favorite: the iconic Villa d’Este (villadeste.com), left, on Italy’s Lake Como.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: K A R I N K O H L B E R G / C O N T O U R B Y G E T T Y I M A G E S ; C O U R T E S Y O F H O T E L O K U R A T O K Y O ; TO M S C H I E R L I T Z (3); C O U R T E SY O F C L A R I D G E ’S ; O B E R TO G I L I ; A S H R E Y N O L D S

← The Carry-On In the sleek black leather briefcase of his own design: personalized Crane & Co. stationery for thank-you notes.


m y tow n

Beijing en Vogue As the founding editor of Vogue China, Angelica Cheung is a trendsetter for the world’s biggest market. Gabrielle Jaffe asks the doyenne of Chinese fashion for her tips on how to make the very most of the nation’s capital.

Eat “They serve delicious traditional soup dumplings (my favorite is pork with a pinch of crab roe) with other Shanghainese delicacies at Ding Tai Fung [dintaifung. com.cn]. This oldie but goodie is sometimes sneered at as being westernized Chinese food, but the cooking is still so good that locals continue to flock here regardless. As an added impetus, we once even spotted Christian Bale in one of the Beijing locations.” + “I also like to go to Made in China, in the Grand Hyatt [beijing.grand.hyatt.com; dinner for two RMB500], which is known for its Peking duck.” Stay “When visiting friends ask, I recommend the Opposite House

[theoppositehouse.com; doubles from RMB1,955] for its modern minimalist design.” + “Those who consider impeccable service the priority should head to The Peninsula [peninsula. com; doubles from RMB1,120], where the staff is always attentive.”

Clockwise from top: Editorin-chief of Vogue China, Angelica Cheung; bold lighting at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art; delicate Peking duck at Made in China; outside the Opposite House.

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Shop “I like to visit BNC [86-10/6416-9045] in Sanlitun North for its fashion by Chinese designers and crafts from Chinese artists, as well as Dong Liang Studio [Unit 102, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Building 2, Central Park, Chaoyang Dist.; 86-10/ 8404-7648], another boutique specializing in Chinese designs.” + “Panjiayuan Antique Market [18 Huawei Li, Chaoyang Dist.; 86-10/ 6775-2405] is a great place to go for interesting and quirky bits and pieces.” Do “798 Art District has plenty of exciting galleries. Among the best is the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art [ucca.org.cn/en], where

major exhibitions are staged. I really respect the Ullens couple behind it— they have done a lot to promote contemporary Chinese art.” + “Beijing also boasts some fabulous parks. My favorite is the Ritan Park, which is right in the middle of the city. It is full of retired people dancing and singing.” ✚

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F A N G E L I C A C H E U N G ; C O U R T E S Y O F U L L E N S C E N T E R F O R C O N T E M P O R A R Y A R T; COURTESY OF MADE IN CHINA; COURTESY OF THE OPPOSITE HOUSE

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Indulge at Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort We invite you to experience the ďŹ rst Hyatt branded Resort on Phuket. 199 well-appointed rooms, terraced up a hill south of Kamala Beach, coupled with our legendary Thai hospitality will ensure you feel more than welcome. Reservations +66 76 234 123 or phuket.regency.hyatt.com

HYATT REGENCY PHUKET RESORT

16/12 Moo 6, Tambon Kamala Amphur Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand

HYATT REGENCY PHUKET RESORT, design and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Š2013 Hyatt Hotels Corporation. All rights reserved.


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Deliciously messy at Ministry of Crab.

Paradise Road and its treasures. Monkeying around at Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple.

Casa Colombo’s vintage welcome.

why go

Capturing Colombo

Sri Lanka’s capital is bustling with more than just business. Here are five ways to make the most of this historic harbor town. Story and photos by Stephanie Zubiri Ride in style

Treasure hunt

Get down and dirty

Soul search

Melt into the sunset

Get a pampered pick-up in one of Casa Colombo’s (casa colombo.com; doubles from US$200) vintage 1930’s cars, complete with champagne and majordomo. He’ll set up your entire visit, from restaurant reservations to tuk-tuk tours, before you even set foot in this old colonial mansion. Feel like lazing around the pink pool instead? That’s cool too.

Founded by local designer Shanth Fernando, Paradise Road (paradiseroad. lk) looks like the inside of Ali Baba’s cavern. From stunning blue-white ceramics to handcrafted silverware and embroidered linen, this shop is a temple of impeccable taste to suit all lifestyles. Not enough luggage space? They ship all over the world.

Leave decorum at the door of the Ministry of Crab (ministry ofcrab.com; half-kilo crabs from Rs3,000), housed in the Old Dutch Hospital, and dive elbow-deep in a spicy, rich black pepper curry crab. These super fresh Sri Lankan crabs weigh in at more than half a kilo. Indulge in the fluffy flesh of the big fat claws as bits of shell and sauce fly in all directions. Mmm.

A maze of talismans, statues, prayer rooms and antiques, the

End the day staring out into the Indian Ocean with a festive cocktail in hand—try the Old World Charm, a blended Pimm’s concoction laced with cinnamon… and adventure. The garden terrace at the iconic Galle Face Hotel (gallefacehotel. com; drinks for two Rs1,200) is the perfect place to sip sundowners while kids play with kites in the distance. ✚

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Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple

(Gangaramaya, 61, Sri Jinarathana Rd.; 94-11/243-5169) is not only a place of prayer but a piece of history. A magnificent tree grows in the center of the temple, and each branch hangs heavy with a thousand wishes. Get lost in its intricate patterns and peaceful energy.


Radar goods

Cronuts, Southeast Asianstyle, by Café Mozu.

trending

Faux-nuts

New York’s confection craze hits Southeast Asian shores. By Diana Hubbell Naysayers have called it the world’s most overhyped pastry, but it is rare to see a puff of dough launch a black market. When Dominique Ansel came up with the “cronut”—a deep-fried croissant with icing and a cream filling—hordes of New Yorkers lined up outside his bakery and scalpers started hawking them on Craigslist. The official cronut is trademarked, but it didn’t take long for flaky, fried copycats to start popping up across Asia. This is a region full of sweettooths, after all. Brunetti (Tanglin Mall, 163 Tanglin Rd., Singapore; 65/6733-9088; S$4.50) sells variations with Nutella or vanilla custard topped

with chopped pistachios, while over in Thailand Café Mozu (lebua at State Tower, Bangkok; 66-2/624-9555; lebua. com; breakfast Bt600 per person) is all about tropical flavors like passion fruit and coconut. Manila’s Wildflour Café + Bakery (4th Ave. GF Netlima Bldg, Global City; 63-2/856-7600; 120 pesos) sticks close to the cronut’s small-batch roots, as does Swissbeck (GF Cochrane St., Amber Lodge, 23 Hollywood Rd., Central; 852/3421-0438; swissbeck.hk; HK$30) in Hong Kong: although the labor-intensive pastries usually sell out before lunchtime, Swissbeck continues to bake only around 100 a day. So queue up early.

Confessions of a Honeymoon Planner

We got the scoop from a veteran travel agent specializing in romantic getaways. Turns out the job’s not all champagne and rose petals. I was working with one couple over e-mail, and they couldn’t agree on anything. They actually ended up breaking up over e-mail—and I was cc’d!

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A couple showed up to an appointment to finalize their plans in the Maldives. The bride and I had everything planned; they just had to choose a hotel. When we started discussing it, the groom blurted out, “Wait— I thought we were going to Italy!”

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I once had clients come home from Bora-Bora three days early, because they were bored. Bored! In Bora-Bora!

Slip right into island time by strapping on a pair of Bridget Sandals. Created in Jamaica by former model and Playboy Bunny Bridget Brown, they’re seen on the island’s most fashionable feet. (Reggae royal Rita Marley is a fan.) We love the Rose, with its gladiator ankle wraps and a leather rosette that blooms between your toes. bridgetsandals.net; from US$95. —sarah greaves-gabbadon

CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: COURTESY OF CAFÉ MOZU; TOM SCHIERLIT Z

BETTER THAN BAREFOOT


Radar design

Shared Visions

STEPHEN PIMBLEY, WELSH

Founding Director, Spark, Singapore

Stephen Pimbley first moved to Singapore 13 years ago to oversee the redevelopment of the Clarke Quay area, creating a major food, beverage and entertainment hub. What has changed about Singapore since you first moved there? A lot more

young people are eschewing traditional careers and being more inventive in their life choices. Areas like Tiong Bahru and Haji Lane are now much more lively.

What do you enjoy most about working overseas?

Traveling for work really expands one’s cultural reference points. There is a great reliance on the local team, which enriches the experience through the blend of international and regional knowledge. 42

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What changes do you see in the design trends in Asia? What interests me

is the blurring of boundaries for working, living and playing. This is happening at a faster rate in Asia than the rest of the world, perhaps because people are happier to use technology as a positive lifestyle tool. What challenges do you face as a modern architect? There’s been a

kind of cultural flattening —every city looks the same and things are no longer “local.” Now the question is how to rediscover a sense of a place.

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FEDERICO MASIN, ITALIAN

Partner, HBA Architects, Hong Kong

Federico Masin heads up HBA Architects Hong Kong and has worked on a number of regional projects including the restoration of Shanghai’s Bund 18, which won unesco recognition. What inspires you about Hong Kong? Hong Kong is

a great exercise in extreme density; here you learn how to use space cleverly. Do you try to bring design elements from your home country into your work? Constantly. I

am a very curious person and I believe there is always a lesson to be learned. So I take note of ideas and little details everywhere I go.

What are the challenges of working in foreign cities? The challenges are

cultural mainly. But they’re the very reasons why I

moved out here. A lot of what we do has very subtle psychological elements and symbolic interpretations. For a designer, not only is there the challenge of getting the right message across but also to understand the culture we are immersed in. What changes do you see in the design and architectural aesthetics in the cities you live in? I

think there is an increasing uniformity amongst cities. Trends are becoming more important than traditions. But hopefully a new identity will emerge.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: R O B L O U D ; B L O O M B E R G , G E T T Y I M A G E S ; C O U R T E S Y O F S T E P H E N P I M B L E Y; C O U R T E S Y O F F E D E R I C O M A S I N I

Four architects living in Asia explain how they are influenced by the vibrant cities where they live and work. By Karen Fong


Radar

Founder and Creative Director, Blink Design Group, Bangkok

ROSSANA HU, TAIWANESE

Founder, Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, Shanghai

Clint Nagata started his career in Hawaii, moving to Bangkok after 14 years to set up his own firm. His most recent work includes the Conrad Sanya Haitang Bay and Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in the Maldives.

Rossana Hu is half of Neri&Hu, the award-winning architect duo based in Shanghai and responsible for the city’s Waterhouse on the Bund and Italian restaurant, Capo. Hu’s family hails from Shanghai; she previously worked in the U.S.

Why did you choose to move to Bangkok?

Why did you relocate to Shanghai? Before moving

Bangkok is a bustling metropolis that I find both chaotic and calming at the same time. As often as I travel—I’m away at least 200 days a year—it is always refreshing to arrive back home in Bangkok. What interests you about the local design scene? Local designers

used to focus on all things international—but now they delve more into their own culture, which is rich in tradition and history. The result is a wonderful contemporary interpretation that is influencing both design and architecture. There is also more support for local communities through the sourcing of materials and special skills. 44

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What have you added to Thailand’s skyline? It is

more about what have we tried to add to their shorelines rather than skylines, since we focus on resort hotels, like our recent project—the Regent Phuket Cape Panwa. In each project, we try to introduce something distinctive to popular locales. It’s more about creating memorable experiences than just iconic architecture. Do you try to incorporate elements of your upbringing into your designs? I’m of Japanese

and Hawaiian ancestry and was raised in Hawaii. No doubt, that influences my work. I have been told that there is a Zen-ness and a sense of modern simplicity to my design.

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to Shanghai, we spent 10 years traveling to Asia for various projects. Lyndon Neri [Hu’s husband and partner at the firm] was in charge of the Three on the Bund project while working for Michael Graves. The project gave us the opportunity to live in Shanghai for an extended period of time and we began to feel the calling to stay. Architecture-wise we felt that many of the cultural issues explored in our work could be best realized here. What inspires you about Shanghai? The very fabric

of Shanghai as a city and the everyday activities here. More than anything, Shanghai is a city that is convoluted with both the excitement of the “here and

now” and the charm of history. This aspect of complexity and contradiction is very interesting to us as designers. What has influenced your design aesthetic?

Studying abroad formed the foundation of my architectural thinking and design process. Design elements are not like chemicals you can mix into a formula and create results. Everything we come into contact with inspires our work. What are the demands of working in foreign cities? The challenges are

more practical, like lacking a good network of contacts. But it’s also refreshing. Architects need to be ready to work anywhere in the world. ✚

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: D A V I D J O H N S O N ; C O U R T E S Y O F R O S S A N A H U ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F C L I N T N A G ATA

CLINT NAGATA, AMERICAN


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Radar

Photographed in Delta’s Business Elite cabin, where the new perks at turndown include a full-size Westin Heavenly comforter on a 180-degree, flat-bed seat.

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st yle

Sitting Pretty The best guarantee for a smooth flight: choosing the right accessories. Photographed by Arthur Belebeau Styled by Mimi Lombardo

2 7 3 1 Leather carry-on by Louis Vuitton. 2 Felted tweed bag, Prada. 3 Cashmere shawl, Christopher Fischer. 4 Calfskin carry-all, Hermès. 5 Ostrich wallet, Tiffany & Co. 6 Leather iPad sleeve, Etro. 7 Canvas vanity case, Louis Vuitton. 8 Saffiano key holder, Prada. On her: Crepe blazer, Marc by Marc Jacobs; poplin blouse, Carven; jersey pant, Donna Karan New York; suede flats, Charlotte Olympia; 18-karat yellow-gold earrings, Marco Bicego; ceramic-and-leather watch, Omega.

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1 Nylon Dopp kit by Salvatore Ferragamo. 2 Leather folio, Smythson. 3 Italian-leather duffel, Dressage Collection. 4 Leather zip portfolio, Salvatore Ferragamo. 5 Reversible black-and-gray cashmere blanket, Christopher Fischer. 6 Suede loafers, Bottega Veneta. 7 Four-wheeled carry-on, Rimowa. On him: Cashmere sweater and cotton shirt, Brunello Cucinelli; polarized sunglasses, Under Armour; stainless-steel-and-leather watch, Longines.

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Radar flights

BEAM ME UP

Air travel tech is moving at warp speeds.

squash glasses connected to the airline reservation systems that let him verify your passport and ticket, and authorize the match automatically. “Interaction can be via video analysis of what a staff member is looking at, like a boarding pass or bag tag,” says SITA’s chief technology officer, Jim Peters, “or voice recognition, or a combination of both.” Add to that the possibilities of security staff and even passengers themselves sporting this headgear:

At the Heart of it all.

good-bye airport lines! Biometric technology, with devices that sense the wearer’s identity, could be integrated to send the whole concept of passports out the window. When it comes to planning trips, new services like Apple Siri can be used to arrange all the details for you. This tech is here now and we’re just scratching the surface of its potential in terms of travel. So in the words of Captain Picard, “Let’s see what’s out there.” —david ngo ✚

C O U R T E S Y O F S I TA

We might not be quite ready for teleportation, but air-travel tech is moving at warp speeds. The U.S. has announced that soon flyers won’t have to switch off their smartphones or Kindles at any time during a flight. Great news for gadget junkies, and there’s no doubt other parts of the globe will soon follow suit, moving towards an increasingly digitized travel experience. AirAsia and Singapore Airlines have already moved to online check-in and self-printed or mobile boarding passes, while onboard Wi-Fi is becoming the norm for most long-haul flights. Meanwhile, recent experiments with Google Glass have the staff at SITA Labs, a specialist in air transport communications, dreaming big. Picture Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge checking you in, wearing sci-fi


Sunshine Mountain Lodge, in Banff, Canada.

t+l p i c ks

Powder Rooms C O U R T E S Y O F S U N S H I N E M O U N TA I N L O D G E

The best way to end a day of skiing? Sleep at the foot of the mountain. This flurry of new and reinvigorated ski-in, ski-out hotels is your ticket. Hokkaido, Japan Niseko Annupuri Mountain gets nearly 15 meters of snowfall a year (take that, Aspen, with your mere 5 meters). Chalet Ivy has balconies overlooking the slopes and a marble onsen fed by an underground hot spring. chaletivy.com.

Pradollano, Spain Soak up Andalusian sunshine on the terrace of Nordic-inspired El Lodge, set in the Sierra Nevada of Granada— Western Europe’s highest range, after the Alps. It feels like a luxury hunting cabin: all log walls and soft-hide upholstery. ellodge.com.

Kangwon, North Korea North Korea might not spring to mind as a luxury skiing destination (0.02 percent of its population skis) but leader Kim Jong Un is pouring millions of dollars into Masik Pass, aiming to open 110 kilometers of ski runs, a lavish chalet and a heliport by the year’s end.

Banff, Canada The sole slopeside hotel in Canada’s Banff National Park, Sunshine Mountain Lodge sits at 2,200 meters and can be reached only by gondola. Don’t worry—lift tickets are included in the rate (along with snowshoeing and tobogganing trips). skibanff.com.

Verbier, Switzerland The W Verbier Hotel & Residences anchors a buzzing shopping district around the Medran gondola. Interiors are spunky (globe lights; furry pillows), but Pica Pica restaurant, run by star chef Sergi Arola, is serious business. wverbier.com. —brian kevin

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TRAVEL + LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA’S

At Sundara, Bali.

Overwhelmed by openings? Here is our well-culled list of the newest restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, shops and more across the region.

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COURTESY OF SUNDAR A

THE BEST OF 2013


F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F B AY O F F I R E S L O D G E S P A ; C O U R T E S Y O F A U C T I O N R O O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F L O X S T O C K & B A R R E L ; C O U R T E S Y O F S A L A M A N C A ; C O U R T E S Y O F F R A N K I E B R O W N C A F E

AUSTRALIA* * BEST OF By Ian Neubauer STAY Salamanca Wharf Hotel Sandwiched between a pair of 19th-century warehouses on Hobart’s waterfront like a daring piece of contemporary art, Salamanca Wharf Hotel is a cutting-edge nod to Tasmania’s rich colonial past. This boutique beauty has 22 studio, one-bedroom and loft penthouse apartments decked out in bespoke Tasmanian timber furniture and photography from Antarctica. The ground floor is home to Castray Esplanade Food + Wine and backs onto Salamanca Place, where the city’s famous Salamanca Market erupts on Saturday mornings. 17A Castray Espl., Hobart; 61-3/6244-7007; salamancawharfhotel. com; rooms from A$195. EAT Lox Stock & Barrel Every morning, locals at Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach can be seen queuing to get a table at Lox Stock & Barrel. The brainchild of Lianne and Neil Gottheiner, the siblings behind Bondi’s iconic Brown Sugar café, Lox Stock & Barrel is a New-York deli specializing in gourmet sandwiches made from bagels, brisket, panini and challah baked daily in-house. 140 Glenayr Ave., Bondi, Sydney; 61-2/9300-0368; loxstockandbarrel.com.au; sandwiches A$13. Frankie Brown Cafe The newest venue in Byron Bay, the east coast capital of alternative cool, Frankie Brown Cafe’s menu pulls no punches with offerings like “melt in your mouth beef cheek” and “ooey gooey chocolate explosion pudding.” Local artists like award-winning singer-songwriter Pete Murray (who also co-owns the café) perform on weekends. 32 Lawson St., Byron Bay; 61-2/6680-7474; frankiebrown.com.au; mains from A$29. DRINK Auction Rooms Cafe Sure, it’s a well-known fact that Melbourne is one of the world’s great coffee capitals. But for the very best cup, follow the city’s caffeine lovers to Auction Rooms Cafe. Set in a large, lofty building with an internal courtyard, this industrial restaurant and bar expresses small-batch roasted beans sourced from East Timor, Papua New Guinea and other exotic locales. 103 Errol St., North Melbourne; 61-3/9326-7749; auctionroomscafe.com.au; coffees from A$4. Choo Choo’s Bar The staff dress down, beverages are served in jars and graffiti scores the walls. But it’s the service, not the décor, that make this character-filled watering hole in the heart of Perth’s central business district stand out. Rather than handing out cocktail menus, the mixologists at Choo Choo’s play 20 questions with customers to figure out their perfect drink. Brookfield Place, 125 St. Georges Tce., Perth; 61-4/1645-9291; choochoosbar.com; cocktails from A$12.

Bay of Fires.

Auction Rooms Cafe.

Lox Stock & Barrel.

Salamanca Wharf Hotel.

INDULGE Bay of Fires Lodge Spa Inspired by local healing practices that harness the restorative properties of Australia’s native botanicals, the new spa at the Bay of Fires Lodge is divine. Set on a clifftop 40 meters above a sugar-white beach on Tasmania’s remote northeast coast, it features a bathing pavilion, a spa boutique and an outdoor deck with infinite ocean views. The Gardens Rd., Ansons Bay, Tasmania; 61-3/6392-2211; bayoffires.com.au; 60-min massage from A$135. Frankie Brown Cafe.


* THE BEST OF BURMA 2013 *

OF BURMA * * BEST By Fiona MacGregor EAT Union Bar and Grill Four Seasons Shenzhen Situated in the colonial splendor of Rangoon’s Strand Road, Union Bar and Grill is a stylish but relaxed spot to enjoy a specialty cocktail or decent glass of wine. A chilled daytime atmosphere makes it perfect for coffee and a Sunday brunch. Craving comfort food? Try their pasta, pizza or burgers. 42 Strand Rd., Botahtaung, Rangoon; unionyangon.com; dinner for two US$60. Water Library Fine dining in Burma doesn’t come in a more elegant setting. “New Nordic” cuisine from Swedish Chef Gabriel Hedlund (formerly of Denmark’s legendary Noma restaurant) is served up in a century-old Rangoon mansion with a wine list that the proprietors boast is the most extensive in the country.  And those more interested in drinking than dining can nurse a cocktail under the stars in the adjoining bar’s outdoor lounge.  83/95 corner of Manawharri and Pyay Rds., Dagon Township, Rangoon; 95-01/221721; mywaterlibrary.com; dinner for two US$120. DRINK Grill Restaurant Maru Hidden down a side street in downtown Rangoon, Grill Restaurant Maru serves up Italian/Japanese fusion food in a cute café-style setting 52

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with an emphasis on Oriental design. Its sister wine bar next door, also with a Japanese theme, is the ideal place to continue your evening with an afterdinner tipple. 130/134 GF, Shwe Taung Tan St., Lamadaw Township, Rangoon; 95-94/2030-8350; dinner for two US$50. Bar Boon Dutch-style deli culture makes this the coolest place to grab an espresso or snack in downtown Rangoon. Just two minutes’ walk from the city’s famous Bogyoke Market, and close to several upmarket hotels, the terraced coffee bar attracts a mix of tourists, expats and sophisticated young Rangoonites. The best part? Bar Boon takes latte art to a new dimension—literally. Their cappuccinos sport whimsical 3-D foam kittens and melting clocks straight out of a Dalí masterpiece. 380 Bogyoke Aung San Rd. (Parkson FMI Center), Pabedan Township, Rangoon; 95-94/2032-1058; coffee K2,500. INDULGE La Source Spa There aren’t many places in Southeast Asia you can trust when it comes to having Western tresses highlighted, but nestled away among the grand houses of Rangoon’s Inya Road, La Source Spa offers not just top quality hair-dressing, but luxurious facials and aromatic massages too. 80A Inya Rd., Kamayut Township, Rangoon; 95/151-3280; lasourcebeautyspa.com.

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Union Bar and Grill.

California Skin Spa If your skin is frazzled by the country’s abundance of sun and dust, then the Dermalogica treatments at this salon in Rangoon’s swanky Golden Valley district will revive you. Internationally trained staff offer the latest skincare in a luxurious atmosphere that will refresh your spirits as much as your face. 32B, Inya Myaing Rd., Bahan Township, Rangoon; 95/153-5097. STAY Bagan Lodge Ancient and modern Burma collide in this lodge complex on the edge of the country’s legendary Bagan temples. Recuperate from wandering the wonders in the spa or swimming pool, or simply enjoy the comforts of the thoughtfully designed rooms. Myat Lay Rd., New Bagan, Nyaung Oo Township; 95/0616-5456; bagan-lodge. com; doubles from US$180. Novotel After years of economic isolation, five-star hotels in Burma have been in short supply, but things are changing fast and leading the way is Rangoon’s new Novotel. Set to open by the end of the year, this behemoth will feature a total of 366 rooms, was designed by Singapore’s International Interior Design Association and is tipped to set a new standard for accommodation in Burma. novotel.com.

COURTESY OF UNION BAR AND GRILL

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Dining at the Duck.

Park Hyatt Siem Reap.

Evening at Chanrey Tree.

Nifty knick-knacks at Trunkh.

Sleek style at Public House.

STAY Sala Lodges Two Swiss couples recreated the charm of a Khmer village at Siem Reap’s Sala Lodges, populated by 11 gorgeous wooden stilt houses sourced from across Cambodia and outfitted with antiques and heavy wood furnishings. There’s also a saltwater pool and open-air bar, plus a restaurant that serves up a mouthwatering mix of Khmer and international fare. Near Wat Damnak, Siem Reap; 855-63/766-699; salalodges. com; doubles from US$190. Park Hyatt Siem Reap The famed Hotel de la Paix has been transformed into the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, marking the most high-profile hotel opening in town in years. The 108 rooms and suites feature Khmerinspired contemporary art and a subdued palette of beiges and browns. Sivutha Blvd., Siem Reap; 855-63/211234; siemreap.park.hyatt.com; doubles from US$276.

Public House Cracking fish and chips, juicy bacontopped burgers and shepherd’s pie are served at Public House, a sleek take on an English beach house with seafoam-hued clapboard walls, blond wood furniture and metallic lampshades. There’s also a boozy brunch on weekends and classic tea and scones every afternoon. 2401/2 Alleyway, Phnom Penh; 855-23/212-917; dinner for two US$30. Chanrey Tree Named for the tall tree that shades its garden, Chanrey Tree provides a romantic spot to experience fine Cambodian cooking after a day touring Angkor Wat. Dishes like sticky rice with prawn curry and honeyroasted chicken are served alfresco or in the lovingly restored traditional Khmer house, now outfitted with modern touches like dangling globular light fixtures. Pokambor Ave., Siem Reap; 855-63/767-997; chanreytree.com; dinner for two US$25.

EAT the Duck With its dark wood, low lighting and soft banquettes, the Duck is a moody yet comfortable entry to Phnom Penh’s dining scene. The bistro fare is similarly understated yet full of impact, with highlights including duck hoisin spring rolls and melt-inyour-mouth osso buco. 49 Sothearos Blvd., Phnom Penh; 855-89/823-704; the-duck.net; dinner for two US$45. Common Tiger Expect a fantastical culinary journey at Common Tiger, where South African chef Timothy Bruyns concocts whimsical small plates like asparagus panna cotta and green peppercorn- and basil-encrusted sea bass with a tom kha gel. The complex flavors are tempered by the minimalist, concrete and exposedbrick space. 20 St. 294, Phnom Penh; 855-23/212-917; dinner for two US$60.

SHOP Trunkh Inspired by Cambodia’s quirky provincial aesthetic, an American graphic designer and an Australian marketer opened Trunkh, Phnom Penh’s first design concept store. Stocked with hand-painted vintage signs, screen-printed sarongs and tea towels, and upcycled salvaged wood furniture, it’s a must for unusual keepsakes. Sothearos Blvd. and St. 294, Phnom Penh; trunkh.com. SEE Phare The famous tumblers, acrobats and dancers of Battambang’s NGO-run circus, Phare, have set up a second big top in Siem Reap, putting on dazzling shows every night at 7:30 p.m. Behind Angkor National Museum; pharecambodiancircus.org; tickets US$15 to $35.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F T H E D U C K ; C O U R T E S Y O F P A R K H YAT T S I E M R E A P ; C O U R T E S Y O F C H A N E R Y T R E E ; C O U R T E S Y O F T R U N K H ; C O U R T E S T Y O F P U B L I C H O U S E

CAMBODIA* * BEST OF By Naomi Lindt


Shangri-La Jing An.

Okra 1949.

Four Seasons Shenzhen.

Mandarin Oriental Pudong.

CHINA* * BESTByOF Cain Nunns STAY Four Seasons Shenzhen The newest addition to Four Seasons’s China stable, this modern property feels right at home in Shenzhen. Architects Urabanus and interior gurus Hirsch Bedner & Associates dreamed up a whimsical light-filled tower with a sixth level reception looking down on pockets of greenery, water features and the sprawling city. The FOO restaurant, designed by Spin Design Studio, comes up big with its pan-Asian menu. 138 Fuhua Third Rd., Futian Dist.; 86-755/8826-8888; fourseasons.com/shenzhen; doubles from RMB1,700. Mandarin Oriental Pudong This big-ticket luxury brand opened its first Shanghai outlet smack on the Huangpu River with stunning views of The Bund across the water. The property is decked out in warm gold and teal, more than 4,000 pieces of art and enough high-tech to open an Apple Premium Reseller store. But the jaw-dropping butterfly shaped spa is the biggest jewel in the hotel’s crown. There are 13 treatment suites 56

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to choose from, a crystal steam room, and a plethora of aromatic goodies. 111 Pudong Rd., Pudong, Shanghai; 8621/2082-9888; mandarinoriental.com/ shanghai; doubles from RMB2,400. Shangri-La Jing An Shangri-La’s new offering is a 508-room gem that overlooks Mao Zedong’s old digs and a booming commercial district that is Middle Kingdom’s wealthiest. The imposing steel-and-glass spike in the middle of shopping malls, skyscrapers and lane houses has already cemented itself as the hotel of choice for visiting heads of state. 1218 Middle Yan’an Rd., Jing An Kerry Centre, West Nanjing Rd., Shanghai; 86-21/2203-8888; shangrila.com/shanghai/jinganshangrila; doubles from RMB2,150. EAT Okra 1949 Award-winning New Orleans native Max Levy’s Beijing hotspot churns out superb sushi and cocktails nightly. The second-story eatery’s light blond wood and pale green design matches Levy’s farm-to-table philosophy of sourcing

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as much locally grown organic produce as possible. The results are contemporary bold flavors sans the stuffy pretension. 1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Sanlitun South, Beijing; 86-10/6593-5087; okra1949.com; set menu for two RMB700. DRINK Janes & Hooch What better way to symbolize the constant drumbeat of China’s voracious economy than a former Cultural Revolution-era factory canteen transformed into a roaring 1930’s Prohibition-style speakeasy. Tucked behind an unmarked entrance, Janes & Hooch gives way to an exposed brick den bathed in simmering darkness. 4 Gongti Bei Rd., Chaoyang Dist., Beijing; 86-10/6503-2757; drinks for two RMB140. Samfaina Resto & Gastro Bar This hip two-story eatery doles out super-slow-cooked veal shank, beef short rib, Joselito ham and a stellar Iberian pork cheek stew. 532 Fuxing Zhong Rd., Shanghai; samfaina.com; tasting menu for two RMB988.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F T H E S H A N G R I - L A J I N G A N ; C O U R T E S Y O F O K R A 19 4 9 ; C O U R T E S Y O F F O U R S E A S O N S S H E N Z H E N ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A N D A R I N O R I E N TA L P U D O N G

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The Best of Both Worlds RIMBA Jimbaran Bali, the new sister hotel of the award-winning AYANA Resort and Spa

Asia’s Best Resort & World’s #1 Spa Hotel – Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Awards World’s Best Hotels – Travel + Leisure Readers’ Awards Indonesia’s Best Spa Resort – World Travel Awards

Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds, from the forest to the sea: A 282-room hotel within the 77-hectare grounds of AYANA Resort and Spa, with sunset views Six swimming pools including children’s pool with waterslides, swim-up Pool Bar, and Pool Access Rooms World-class dining including Bali’s first Ah Yat Abalone Seafood Restaurant, UNIQUE Roof-top Bar offering panoramic sunset views, To’ge all-day dining, and convenient access to AYANA’s 7 restaurants Priority Access to Rock Bar and private Kubu Beach Roof-top spa rooms to expand on the Thermes Marins Spa at AYANA Scenic jogging track and resort shuttle connecting RIMBA to AYANA and Kubu Beach

R I MBA Ji m ba r a n Ba l i | w w w.r i m baji m ba r a n.com | T. +62 361 846 8468 | book i ng @r i m baji m ba r a n.com


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HONG KONG * * BEST OF By Madeline Gressel

EAT Chachawan Yenn Wong, the creative force behind 22 Ships and Duddell’s, has teamed up with protégé chef Adam Cliff to create this spicy Isaan Thai joint in Sheung Wan. Don’t miss the pla phao glua (salt-crusted

Chachawan’s chef Adam Cliff.

Lounging alfresco at Hotel Indigo

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whole grilled sea bass) or the khee pad, a succulent crab fried rice. 206 Hollywood Rd., Hong Kong; 852/2549-0020; dinner for two HK$700. Stone Nullah Tavern Wanchai’s newest hit, this restaurant serves American fare with a seasonal, locavore bent. The menu is homey and eclectic. 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wanchai, Hong Kong; 852/3182-0128; stonenullah tavern.com; dinner for two HK$600. DRINK Duddell’s An instant Hong Kong icon, Duddell’s combines a gourmet Cantonese menu, a bar, a gallery and a members-only club into one elegant, modernist space. The leafy roof terrace is the perfect place to sip cocktails . 1 Duddell St.; 852/2525-9191; duddells.co; drinks for two HK$300. Caprice Bar The Four Season’s three Michelinstarred French restaurant has opened an adjacent bar specializing in top-shelf

wines, cheeses and champagnes. The dark-wood interior manages to be both warmly intimate and delightfully plush. Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance St.; 852/3196-8888; fourseasons.com; drinks for two HK$300. INDULGE Flawless Spa Cool graffiti stencils cover this stark, airy space that is a far cry from your usual Asian Zen spa. Like everything hip, facials have gone bespoke, and Flawless adapts theirs to fit each client’s skin type. 4F, Sea Bird House, 22-28 Wyndham St.; 852/2869-5868; flawless.hk.com. Amika: Hairdo Bar The sleek blow-outs of the early century have been replaced by beach hair and braids, and Amika: Hairdo Bar accommodates Hong Kongers with perfectly unstudied hairstyles for a night out. Choose among four blowouts, four glam updos or four braided looks. 8 Elgin St.; 852/2291-0070; amikahairdobar.com.

Crispy noodle roll with fresh prawns at Duddell’s.

Caprice now offers an adjoining bar.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F C H A C H A W A N ; C O U R T E S Y O F D U D D E L L’ S ; C O U R T E S Y O F H O T E L I N D I G O ; C O U R T E S Y O F C A P R I C E B A R

STAY Hotel Indigo This shimmering skyscraper is designed to resemble a bronze Chinese dragon. But the real draw is their vertiginous, glass rooftop pool, which hangs off the building’s edge, 29 floors above Queen’s Road East. 246 Queens Rd. East, Wanchai; 852/3926-3888; doubles from US$280. Mira Moon Hotel Mira’s latest property, in the heart of Wanchai, reinterprets Chinese kitsch to swish effect. The 91 rooms are colorful with lacquer accents, standing tubs and carved wood paneling. 388 Jaffe Rd., Wanchai; 852/2643-8888; miramoonhotel. com; doubles from US$286.


Radar

Blood Orange Mojito at Eastern & Oriental.

Slide into the mosaic pool at Luna2studios.

Soaring columns at Merah Putih restaurant.

STAY Luna2studios The 14 open-plan suites at Luna2studios are bold, stylish and funky. The look evokes nostalgia and futurism in equal parts: primary colors create a fun atmosphere in the rooms; iPad docks play your favorite tunes; and Smeg fridges chill the drinks. A Piet Mondrian-esque mosaic beckons in the communal pool and you can kick back at the private club or subterranean cinema. Jln. Sarinande 20-22, Seminyak, Bali; 62-361/730-402; luna2.com/studios; doubles from US$545. Regent Sanur Sanur is back on the map with the salubrious beachside Regent’s exquisite suites. The vision inspired by the Majapahit empire is grand, but touches like the private pickup and drop-off boxes in the spacious suites add a hint of intimacy to the experience. A 50-meter infinity pool keeps swimmers and sunbathers content, while the boardwalk along Sanur beach makes this a top family option. Jln. Kusuma Sari, Sanur, Bali; 62-361/301-1888; regenthotels.com; doubles from US$647. 60

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DRINK Sundara The new pool, bar and restaurant at Bali’s Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay pairs a chilled-out beachside feel with elemental luxury. Snare a daybed and settle in for the day, peering out over the bay and doing a few lazy laps in the 55-meter pool before the DJs starts their set and it’s drink o’clock—the enticing cocktail list was created by Spanish mixologists. Smoked Lemon Drop Martini, anyone? Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali; 62-361/708333; sundarabali.com; drinks for two Rp400,000. EAT Merah Putih Soaring columns and glass walls create a dramatic yet intimate venue where Indonesian cuisine takes center stage with panache that tops the scene in Bali—and possibly Indonesia. Choose from classic, authentic dishes from around the archipelago, or go modern with one of the more imaginative fusion dishes. Allow time for a drink at the slick bar. Jln. Petitenget No.100x, Kerobokan,

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

Bali; 62-361/846-5950; merahputihbali. com; dinner for two Rp1,200,000. Teatro Gastroteque Indonesian chef Mandif Warokka wants a Michelin star and after a meal here you’ll see why he deserves one. His intimate, 24-seat restaurant offers several brave and creative degustation menus that have tongues wagging. Pasta in Java’s famed rawon beef soup? He makes it work. Textures and flavors clash yet result in perfect harmony. Kayu Aya Block C No. 1-2, Seminyak, Bali; 62-361/870-0078; teatrobali.com; set menu for two Rp980,000. Eastern & Oriental You don’t get much more worldly than a Scottish chef bringing Thai and Vietnamese food to Indonesians; E&O Jakarta proves that globalization can be a good thing. Serving up his exceptional takes on Southeast Asian cuisine in breezy yet vintage surrounds, Will Meyrick’s third restaurant delivers as deliciously as acclaimed Sarong and Mamasan in Bali. Menara Rajawali, 1F Jln. Dr Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung, Jakarta; 62-21/576-1645; dinner for two Rp1,200,000.

F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F E A S T E R N & O R I E N TA L ; C O U R T E S Y O F L U N A 2 S T U D I O S ; C O U R T E S Y O F M E R A H P U T I H

INDONESIA* * BEST OF By Holly McDonald


AWAKEN YOUR SENSES Discover your best self with the Heavenly Spa by Westin™. Unwind in our thermal pools and receive the spiritual blessings of Bali. FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO MAKE A RESERVATION, VISIT HEAVENLYSPABALI.COM OR CALL 062 361 771906

2011 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Westin and its logo are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates. For full terms & conditions visit westinnusaduabali.com


Radar Costa Pacifica’s cheerful digs.

Cocktails at Niner Ichi Nana. at Niner Ichi Nana Cochinillo atCocktails Vask.

Kenneth Cobonpue’s whimsical crafts.

THE PHILIPPINES* * BEST OF By Stephanie Zubiri STAY El Nido Pangulasian Emerald lagoons, lush vegetation and stunning limestone cliffs surround this new ultra-luxurious island resort Pangulasian. Stand-alone villas in an airy contemporary Filipino design boast views overlooking either the soft white-sand beach or the bay. Book the Kalaw Villa with some friends, complete with its own large lap pool and private salas. Located on a secluded area of the island, it offers the ultimate treat: privacy. elnidoresorts. com; villas from P30,500 per night. Costa Pacifica—Raintree Baler Situated in Baler, Aurora Province, an often-overlooked region with historical sites, tropical jungles, nearby coral reefs, wide deserted beaches and amazing surf, Costa Pacifica is a welcome addition to the resort scene. Modern white suites accentuated with bright pops of color and quirky details create a vibe that is young, fun and just a tad shy of hipster. Evenings are a festive affair with wood-fired pizzas and tropical cocktails set to fantastic music mixes and a languid setting sun. Buton St., Sabang, Baler, Aurora; 63-2/576-4555; costapacificaraintree.com; doubles from P7,000 per night. EAT The Gallery at Vask Seating only 14 people, this is an evolving art space of contemporary work with an equally creative 62

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gastronomic menu: the first of its kind in the Philippines. Chef Chele Gonzalez, having worked with big names like Arzak and Celler de Can Roca, unleashes his talent in a menu that knows no boundaries, taking inspirations from all his travels around Asia. Expect dishes with modernist techniques and hearty substance. 5F Clipp Center, 11th Ave. and the corner of 39th St., Bonifacio Global City, Manila; 63-2/217-6563; 14-course degustation menu P4,900 per person. Yakumi at Solaire Working around seasonal deliveries, Yakumi offers amazing modern and traditional Japanese dishes in a bright, lofty setting in stark contrast to the rest of Solaire’s casino surroundings. Dining itself is casual but the main focus is on the stunning perfection of their food. Pricey but worth it. 1 Asean Ave., Entertainment City, Paranaque City; 63-2/888-8888; solaireresort.com; dinner for two P4500. Donosti Rare in Manila is the restaurant outside the confines of a mall or strip development. Donosti, situated on the ground floor of an office building in the Fort, with its warm bistro interiors, vintage photos of the Basque region and inviting bar, is a cozy haven for authentic, down-to-earth Spanish food. Order their juicy baby lamb chops, best eaten by hand like little lollipops, and wash it down with an ice-cold beer pumped fresh from what

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was described as the Rolls Royce of taps, and be transported for a moment to a scene right out of a tapas tavern in San Sebastian. GF Block 3, Lot 2, 32nd St., NAC Bldg, Bonifacio Global City; 63-2/ 216-4677; dinner for two P3,500. SHOP Kenneth Cobonpue Cobonpue’s pieces combine traditional craftsmanship with visionary design and a touch of playfulness. This internationally acclaimed designer curates an amazing space in an accessible location, a great feat for his first showroom. Amid the stunning furniture, there is artwork from budding contemporary Filipino artists that complement the ensemble. Purchases can be shipped anywhere in the world. GF The Residences, San Lorenzo Tower, Makati City; kennethcobonpue.com. DRINK Niner Ichi Nana Backed by big names in Manila’s night scene, with a hearty bar chow menu by Chef Rob Pengson and cocktails crafted by local foodie icon Erwan Heussaff, it’s no surprise that this bar was an instant hit from day one. Using only the freshest ingredients and steeping their own infusions, it bears witness to the rise in true blue cocktail establishments in the city. GF corner of 32nd Ave. and 7th Ave.; Bonifacio Global City; 63-91/ 787-6999, drinks for two P700.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F C O S TA P A C I F I C A ; C O U R T E S Y O F N I N E R I C H I N A N A ; C O U R T E S Y O F Y U K U M I ; C O U R T E S Y O F K E N N E T H C O B O N P U E ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E G A L L E R Y AT V A S K

Sashimi platter at Yukumi.


BHUTAN BY COMO Uma by COMO, Paro, is more than a Himalayan lodge offering luxury villas, world-class Bhutanese and international cuisine, yoga and a COMO Shambhala Retreat. We provide the means to discover a pristine landscape and culture with staff who will curate your journey from beginning to end. We will lead you into far-flung valleys, with stays at our second lodge, Uma by COMO, Punakha. We will reveal Buddhism’s Himalayan story, navigating the high mountain passes to take you to the country’s most spectacular historic sites. In the company of English-speaking guides, we will ensure a COMO luxury experience on hiking, biking and whitewater rafting trips, teach your children the national sport of archery and introduce you to monks and artisans on intelligently calibrated journeys instilled with a true spirit of adventure. For reservations, please contact Uma Bhutan on www.comohotels.com/uma/bhutan.


Radar

Common Man Coffee Roasters.

Outside Oxwell & Co.

Dine in the park at Grub. M O N T H 2 01 3

result is divine. Bishan Park 1, 510 Ang Mo Kio Ave. 1; 65/6459-5743; grub.com. sg; dinner for two from S$50. Windowsill in the Woods There’s nothing quite as charming as a café with a whimsical fairytale concept and fresh, crusty pies. Their s’mores pie, which oozes with milk chocolate pudding and dark chocolate fudge, is impossible to resist. 78 Horne Rd.; 65/9004-7827; windowsillpies.sg; tea for two from S$20.

SHOP Tyrwhitt General Company This artisanal boutique with retro flair sells crafted goods including tableware, cushions, watches and assorted artworks. They also hold workshops led by local craftsmen, with the idea that things should not just be bought, but also experienced. 150a Tyrwhitt Rd.; 65/8444-5589; tyrwhittgeneralcompany.com.

DRINK Oxwell & Co With U.K. celeb chef Mark Sargeant and Aussie celeb bartender Luke Wheaty helming this shophouse gastrobar, you know the drinks here will be special. Their own beer brew, the Oxhorn Lager, has hints of nutmeg and calamansi, while their signature gin and tonic comes on tap. 5 Ann Siang Rd.; 65/64383984; oxwellandco.com; drinks for two from S$30. The Tuckshop This beer bar is the perfect place to lounge about on alfresco rattan furniture and play old board games. About 50 types of craft beer from all over the world are offered here, but if you really want to go local, request ice in your brew. 403 Guillemard Rd.; 65/8511-8102; thetuckshop.com.sg; drinks for two from S$26. Common Man Coffee Roasters There’s plenty of buzz about this new café, given its tie-up with Australia’s Five Senses Coffee. Besides espressobased drinks, Common Man offers coffee made by different pour-over methods such as the V60, Kalita Wave, Aeropress or the Chemex.  22 Martin Rd.; 65/6836-4695; commonmancoffeeroasters.com; coffee for two from S$12.

EAT The Black Swan This new dining establishment, housed in a heritage Art Deco building, exudes 1920’s old-school swag. Their contemporary European menu has won many foodie fans here, with an oyster bar and house favorites such as the melt-in-your-mouth baked bone marrow. The Quadrant, 19 Cecil St.; 65/8181-3305; theblackswan.com.sg; dinner for two from S$160. Grub Located in one of Singapore’s prettiest suburban parks, Grub offers wholesomely delicious food that dodges downtown prices. Their beef comes from New Zealand and their popular slow-roasted pork belly comes from pigs that are fed only barley, wheat and mountain mineral water—the

Shaken or stirred at The Black Swan.

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STAY Park Royal on Pickering All 367 guestrooms of this awardwinning hotel look out to lush, four-story sky gardens with reflecting pools, waterfalls and cascading vertical greenery. This is Singapore’s first hotel-in-a-garden, and is built by the famous WOHA Architects. 3 Upper Pickering St.; 65/6809-8888; parkroyalhotels.com; doubles from S$290.

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F R O M TO P : C O U R T ESY O F C O M M O N M A N C O F F EE R OAST ERS; C O U R T ESY O F OX W EL L & C O.; C O U R T ESY O F T H E B L AC K SWA N; C O U R T ESY O F G RU B

SINGAPORE * * BEST OF By Melanie Lee


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THAILAND* * BEST OF By Diana Hubbell

Point Yamu views.

flown down once weekly, and then cooked sous vide. Healthful smoothies and the many single-origin coffees or teas match up nicely with the crusty sourdough baguettes and all manner of sweets churned out by their on-site bakery. 149 Sathorn Tai Soi 12, Bangkok; 66-2/635-0404; rocketcoffeebar.com; lunch for two Bt600. DRINK Maggie Choo’s Oozing equal parts camp and class, this subterranean cabaret is a throwback to Suzy Wong-style hedonism. In a gorgeously detailed retro space, live jazz plays, cheongsam-clad models preen, and the city’s trendiest crowd quaffs cocktails like the HMS Leviathon, a potent elixir of honeycomb-infused bourbon and sweet vermouth. Underneath the Novotel Bangkok Fenix, Silom, 320 Silom Rd., Bangkok; 66-2/6356055; drinks for two Bt560. Ku Dé Ta In the most hotly anticipated opening of the year, this spin-off of Singapore’s modern legend recently entered Bangkok’s nightlife scene in decadent— if not fully finished—fashion. Ku Bar is warm, low-key, open-plan, while the Club Lounge is a long garden of overgrown greenery, round banquettes, flashing lights and popping bottles. But these are just two of the planned dozen restaurants, bars, clubs and private members’ spaces set to take over two

The specials at Appia.

sky-high floors in the hip-again Silom-Sathorn neighborhood. Watch this space. 39th and 40th Floors, Sathorn Square Complex, 98 North Sathorn Rd., Bangkok; 66-2/108-2000; kudeta.com; drinks for two Bt600. STAY Regent Phuket Cape Panwa This intimate property set high on a bluff on Cape Panwa is worlds away from the hordes of tourists in Patong. The 55-meter infinity pool has a jaw-dropping view of the Andaman, as does the Regent Spa. Don’t miss the contemporary, molecular-tinged cuisine from Chef Justin Baziuk at The Grill—the restaurant makes its own cured meat, cheese, yogurt and truffled butter. 48 Moo 8, Sakdidej Rd., Tambon Vichit, Amphur Muang, Phuket; 66-76/200-800; regenthotels.com/ phuket; doubles from Bt7,488. Point Yamu by COMO Designer Paola Navone brings an understated elegance to this tranquil haven overlooking the limestone karst formations of Phang Nga Bay. The resort fuses Thai and Italian style both in its aesthetic, and in its cuisine, which is showcased in two distinct restaurants. There’s a strong emphasis on wellness here, with a top-notch spa offering everything from shirodhara to traditional local therapies. Point Yamu, 225 Moo 7, Paklok Thalang, Phuket; doubles from Bt9,000.

Rocket Coffee Bar.

F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F C O M O H O T E L S A N D R E S O R T S ; C O U R T E S Y O F A P P I A ; C O U R T E S Y O F R O C K E T C O F F E E B A R

EAT Appia We can’t decide what we love most about this family-style trattoria: woodroasted meats like the ultra-crispskinned porchetta, or the silky, handmade pastas. Chef Paolo Vitaletti flew his mother over from the Eternal City to help train the kitchen staff, and Bangkok is smitten with their rustic Roman cuisine: it’s still one of the hardest tables to score. 20/4 Sukhumvit Soi 31, Bangkok; 66-2/261-2056; appiabangkok.com; dinner for two Bt2,000. Opposite Mess Hall Diners in the know head to this barebones industrial spot across from WTF Bar & Gallery for a taste of Chef Jess Barnes’s endlessly inventive small plates. With buttermilk-battered fried chicken, croquettes of the day, killer cocktails, craft beers, regular pop-up events and now brunch—think chocolate waffles with passion fruit and bacon jam—they’re perpetually packed. 27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 51, Bangkok; 66-2/6626330; oppositebangkok.com; dinner for two Bt1,100. Rocket Coffee bar This smart new operation from the team behind the city’s now classic Hyde & Seek is the perfect place for a lazy, sun-drenched brunch. The menu is an atypical blend of locavore and molecular gastronomy, sometimes in one dish: take their Benedict, starring eggs sourced from Northern hill tribes,


Radar

VIETNAM* * BEST OF By Lien Hoang

STAY Amanoi For its first property in Vietnam, Aman went entirely its own way, to an unspoiled rural haven an hour south of Nha Trang. The 36 guest pavilions and villas sprawl across a jungle peninsula in Nui Chua National Park, surrounded by the East Sea and dotted with impossibly free-standing giant boulders. Do not miss the gorgeous 68

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Acrobatics at AO Show.

Heady talk at Imagine Café.

The firey and fabulous Dragon Bridge.

Sophisticated fresh tapas at Vesper.

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

Pilates studio or sunrise yoga in the lakeside sala. Vinh Hy Village, Ninh Hai District, Ninh Thuan Province; amanresorts.com; doubles from US$750. Pullman Saigon Centre Purple legs protruding from a wall, mesh bunnies and birds dangling from the ceiling—the eclectic new Pullman fuses these funky elements with a classic ambience, while the floorto-ceiling windows brighten up the joint. 148 Tran Hung Do, Q1, Saigon; 84-8/3914-1489; pullmanhotels.com; doubles from US$109. SEE AO Show Cirque de Saigon? A great way into the city’s iconic Opera House is buying a ticket to AO, an acrobatic mix of modern dance, traditional music, and gravity-challenging stunts using such instruments as bamboo rods and tightropes. 7 Cong Truong Lam Son, Q1, Saigon; 84-12/4518-1188; aoshowsaigon. com; tickets from VND530,000. Dragon Bridge Sure, 2013 was the year of the snake, but dragons are perennially lucky. Rarely, though, are they so large, lifelike, and, well, useful. To celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Communist capture of the Central Coast, the Da Nang River is now spanned by a six-lane bridge in the shape of a giant, brightly lit dragon. The structure, which breathes real fire on the weekends, was built by an American firm. Talk about scorching irony. Cau Rong, Danang.

SHOP Vincom Mega Mall Royal City The biggest underground shopping center in Asia has luxury brands and hundreds of restaurants, of course, but the defining features are the indoor water park, and Vietnam’s first international standard ice rink. No wonder the owner, Pham Nhat Vuong, was the first Vietnamese to make Forbes’ list of billionaires. 72A Nguyen Trai. Thanh Xuan Dist. Hanoi; 849/4755-6886; royalcity.com.vn. ✚

FROM TOP: COURTESY OF AO SHOW; COURTESY OF IMAGINE CAFE; COURTESY OF GE T T Y IMAGES; COURTESY OF VESPER

EAT & DRINK The Hungry Pig Mmmm… bacon. This too-cute café serves up pork in droves: on bagels and baguettes, in salads and sausages, and of course in your full English breakfast. 144 Cong Quynh, Q1, Saigon; 84-8/3836-4533; lunch for two VND200,000. Vesper This sophisticated cocktail bar along the Saigon River is one of the few places in the city to serve tapas. Pop by on a weekend afternoon and you might get drafted into a competitive game of corn-hole. 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Saigon; 84-8/3822-9698; drinks for two VND300,000. Imagine Café Intellectuals gather at Imagine Café for its range of books and its intimate discussions with writers and scholars. On the main road to the airport, it’s an easy stop on your way into town. 58 Ho Bieu Chanh, Phu Nhun Dist., Saigon; 84-90/9560105; drinks for two VND44,000. Song Xanh Café Don’t let this coffee shop’s location adjacent to the backpacker district turn you off; the vibe is decidedly less hedonistic, and more heady. Social entrepreneurs and activists gather in the free meeting room, immersing themselves in the funky, recycled seating and ornaments. 64 Ho Hao Hon St., Q1, Saigon; 84-8/3838-9900; cafe.songxanh.vn; drinks for two VND60,000.


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Strategies T+L’s

Travel Tech Awards

Cameras that upload straight to Facebook. Laptops thinner than thumb drives. Smartphones that listen for your spoken commands—without the push of a button. The latest tech products are taking intuitive design to the next level—and changing the way we see the world. Here, our annual list of the year’s most innovative releases, all road-tested and carry-onapproved by our tech expert, Tom Samiljan. Photographed by Jamie Chung

BEST OVERALL

Our favorites across five categories.

P R O P S T Y L I S T: B R I A N B Y R N E

↑ Headphones Audio-Technica ATH-ANC29, page 80

Laptops MacBook Air, page 76

↑ Tablets iPad Mini, page 74 ↑ Cameras Samsung NX300, page 78

↑ Phones HTC One, page 82

*Prices throughout are listed in US dollars and may vary by country and retailer, as well as by mobile phone contract carrier.

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

D E C E M B E R 2 01 3

73


Strategies

Tablets ← Google Nexus 7 With a full-featured version of Google Maps that stores data for offline use, a location-based news feed, and Google Now’s collection of travel-friendly functions (currency exchange rates, translations and local transit info, to name a few), this ultracompact, 7-inch workhorse could win over the fiercest Apple loyalists— even without mention of its affordable price tag. $229, google.com.

↘ Samsung ATIV TAB 3 The smallest tablet running Windows 8, the 10.1-inch TAB 3 is as close as you can get to a handheld laptop. The detachable keyboard makes it easy to work on the go, while built-in SideSync technology lets you use your tablet’s screen and keyboard to type long e-mails—or surf the Web— with your smartphone’s connection. $700, samsung. com.

↓ iPad Mini Sexy, light, and slim (at just 0.28 inches), the iPad Mini is an all-around winner. Its loudspeakers do justice to movies and TV shows, but at two inches smaller than the flagship model, it is also comfortable to carry as a navigation tool. Throw in the growing number of offerings in the App Store (900,000-plus at press time), and there’s little that this powerhouse can’t do. $329, apple.com.

BEST OVERALL

Working Wonders

Three tools that can turn your tablet into a portable office.

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Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse In addition to being pocket-size and ergonomic, it’s compatible with both laptops and certain tablets. $70, logitech.com.

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

ZAGGkeys Cover for iPad Mini This backlit Bluetooth keyboard doubles as an iPad cover. $99, zagg.com.

Innergie PocketCell Duo Charge two devices at once, without an electrical outlet. $90, myinnergie.com.

B O T T O M , F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F L O G I T E C H ; C O U R T E S Y O F Z A G G ; C O U R T E S Y O F I N N E R G I E

← Sony Xperia Tablet Z The glossy, 10.1-inch touch screen of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is both beautiful, with a full HD display, and durable (the glass is more scratch-resistant than most). Thanks to fully sealable inputs, it’s also water- and dust-resistant, making it equally suited for beach reading or navigating city streets on a snowy day. $500, store.sony.com.

Don’t mistake these sleek multitaskers for just another entertainment source—thanks to more built-in productivity features, tablets are giving laptops a run for their money.


Strategies

Laptops Light enough to carry around town and powerful enough to outlast any long-haul, these laptops offer big performance in the smallest of packages.

BEST OVERALL

← MacBook Air It may look like the same slim classic you know and love, but the latest MacBook Air delivers nine hours of battery life, improved performance and a new operating system with sophisticated mapping and organizational tools. Add state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology for more stable connectivity, and you have the fastest, most reliable laptop on the market. $999, apple.com.

Panasonic CF-SX2 → Despite being one of the lightest high-performance laptops (at a mere 1.15 kilograms), the SX2 is packed with convenient features: a blazing-fast Core i7 processor, up to 16 hours of battery life and an all-too-rare DVD drive. It’s also rugged, with a magnesiumalloy body that comes in seven splashy colors. $2,799, dynamism. com.

Toshiba Kirabook → There’s no need to choose between work and play when it comes to this sleek Ultrabook, which is preloaded with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Norton Anti-Theft Security software. We love the backlit keyboard and USB ports that charge your gadgets even when the computer is turned off, along with the better-than-HD screen and Harman Kardon speakers, which make for exceptional movie viewing. $1,600, toshibadirect. com.

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The HP Chromebook 11, which hit shelves in November but was too new to test at press time, offers a full suite of cloud-​based Google apps and top-notch hardware for less than

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

$300. This striking second-​ generation model doesn’t skimp on form or function, with a 16-inch widescreen and digitally tuned speakers squeezed into a 1-kilogram white magnesium-

alloy body. Even the charger warrants applause: the simple USB cord is refreshingly lightweight, and it also works with any Android smartphone. $279, google.com.

BOT TOM: COURTESY OF GOOGLE

Just Google It

↖ Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S Few convertible laptops satisfy as both a computer and a tablet—but the IdeaPad rises to the challenge, thanks to its wide keyboard; intuitive, motion-sensitive controls; and smart design. Simply rotate the supersharp, 11.6-inch touch screen to create a flat, handheld device, or rotate it into a “V” shape to prop it up on your seatback tray table. $649, lenovo.com.


Strategies 1

4

5 2 BEST OVERALL

6 3

Cameras

1 Nikon Coolpix A Don’t be fooled by the small package: this point-and-shoot has the same type of powerful sensor used in many DSLR’s. An optional adapter turns your smartphone into a remote control, making it easy to take self-portraits from a distance. $1,100, nikon.com.

Snap to It 78

D E C E M B E R 2 01 3

2 Pentax K-50 Ideal for active trips, Pentax’s latest weatherproof DSLR has ergonomic dials for its many advanced features (from ISO to depth of field) and an add-on backup AA-battery power supply—all in a whopping 120 color combinations. $780, ricoh-imaging.co.jp

3 Canon Vixia Mini No bigger than a deck of cards, this video camera has a 2.7-inch touch screen that flips up so that you can be both videographer and on-screen star, as well as built-in Wi-Fi for instant uploading to YouTube. Also fun: a fish-eye lens that adds a funky, Instagram-like edge. $300, canon.com.

4 Sony Cyber-Shot TX30 While many ruggedized cameras look the part, this shock- and waterresistant point-andshoot is slim and discreet, packing in 18.2 megapixels, HD video, and 5x optical zoom, all at a great price. $260, store.sony.com.

5 Samsung NX300 With 20.3 megapixels and hybrid autofocus for quick, detailed shots, this mirrorless camera has the ability to capture 8.6 snaps per second, a tilting screen for tricky angles, and built-in Wi-Fi for easy uploading to Flickr or Facebook. $749, samsung.com.

6 Olympus PEN E-P5 Underneath its retro styling, this Micro Four Thirds camera offers cutting-edge features—such as ultrafast 1/8000s shutter speeds—that optimize performance for close-ups, low-light situations and everything in between. $1,000, getolympus. com.

Sony Smartphone Attachable Lens-Style Camera (DSC-QX100) This accessory—designed in collaboration with high-end lens maker Carl Zeiss—uses a Wi-Fi connection to bring DSLR-like capabilities to your mobile device. With a built-in sensor and 3.6x optical zoom, it turns out crisp close-ups, impressive low-light performance and 1080p HD video. It’s optimized for use with Sony’s Xperia smartphones, but a special case lets you use it with Apple or Android devices as well. $500, store.sony.com.

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

BOT TOM: COURTESY OF SONY ELECTRONICS

These sharpshooters prove that your smartphone can’t compete when it comes to capturing your travels.


LEISURE HAS A NEW EXPRESSION Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan, Cebu’s sprawling landscape allows you to savor the intimacy you seek in an environment of pure serenity. From the laid-back to the active, we offer lifestyle experiences so you can make the most of your holiday at your leisure.

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Headphones The one accessory to pack if you’re looking for sound quality—or sound sleep.

BEST OVERALL

2 1

Sound Off 80

2 Audio-Technica ATH-ANC29 QuietPoint Noise-Cancelling Headphones The top choice for those who need to tune out their seatmates at 6,000 meters, these sleek headphones strip away 87 percent of outside sounds when noise canceling is turned on. Even better, they offer thumping bass and clear dialogue at a bargain price. $100, shopaudio​ technica.com.

3 Beats by Dre Studio Beats by Dre’s newly revamped design— in four splashy colors—goes well beyond aesthetics, delivering crisp audio while blocking out everything you don’t want to hear. What’s more, the USB-rechargeable battery lasts an impressive 20 hours, long enough for a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. $300, beatsbydre.com.

Bose QuietComfort 20i These tiny earbuds are every bit as powerful as the best over-ear models, proving surprisingly adept at blocking out noisy airplane neighbors and delivering warm sound on movie dialogue. Bonus: a built-in mic doubles as a remote for your smartphone, and it’s easy to deactivate the noise-canceling technology to hear your captain’s PSA. $299, bose.com.

D E C E M B E R 2 01 3

T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

3 BOT TOM: COURTESY OF BOSE

1 Creative Labs Sound Blaster EVO ZxR The high-tech look of these Bluetooth wireless headphones is just a hint at the standard-setting specs that lie within: 50 mm drivers for big sound, active noise canceling, and a built-in processing chip that lets you adjust your audio preferences straight from your smartphone. $300, creativelabs.com.


When it’s right,

you just know

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Strategies

← HTC One The sleek Android interface offers instant access to news and social media on your home screen. The camera’s Zoe mode lets you pull still images from video (ideal for group shots). And the built-in Beats Audio speakers provide the clearest and warmest sound we’ve ever heard on a phone. $200, htc.com.

Moto X → One of the smartest hands-free devices on the market, the Moto X is constantly listening for your spoken commands, from making calls to setting alarms. When its sensors detect that you’re driving, the phone automatically reads aloud your incoming e-mails and text messages, and makes it easy to respond with talk-to-type. Add to that Google’s sophisticated voice search, and you’ll almost never need to push a button. $200, motorola.com.

BEST OVERALL

BlackBerry Q10 → Want the convenience of a touch screen and the accuracy of a physical keyboard? The Q10 has both. The software’s smart, too: a multilingual predictor simultaneously checks your spelling in up to three languages of your choice, while a nifty substitution tool learns when (and how) to expand your shorthand. So long, auto-correct. $200, blackberry.com.

Phones

If there’s one thing this year’s best releases have in common, it’s their uncanny ability to streamline your life (and travels).

Eyes on Apple

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Android and Windows phones may take the prize for innovation, but Apple’s latest updates don’t disappoint. Both the

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budget-conscious 5C and high-end 5S have improved cameras and battery life—up to 10 hours’ worth. Particularly great is the

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5S’s new processor, which yields smart navigation functions (knowing you’ve switched from driving to walking, for

instance) and the ability to access a broader network of Wi-Fi connections, even on your travels. $99, apple.com.

BOT TOM: COURTESY OF A PPL E (2)

← Nokia Lumia 1020 Never agonize over perfectly framing your shots again: the best of Windows Phone’s latest releases features a standard-setting 41-megapixel camera, with built-in photo and video tools that beat many a point-and-shoot, even in low-light situations. $200, nokia.com.


Deals

Indonesia

US$230 per night

Diving in at RIMBA Jimbaran Bali.

CHINA

Island

What Intimate Hideaway at Banyan Tree Chongqing (banyantree.com). Details Two nights in a Spring Retreat room. Highlight A complimentary spa treatment at one of the local outdoor hot springs. Cost From US$554 (US$277 per night), double, through January 31. Savings 40 percent.

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INDONESIA

What Introductory Offer at RIMBA Jimbaran Bali (rimbajimbaran.com). Details Three nights in a Hill Side room. Highlights One complimentary 50-minute Balinese massage for two and a US$50 credit. Cost From US$230 per night, double, book by December 22. Savings 36 percent.

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MALAYSIA

What 21 Days Advance Purchase at The Danna Langkawi (thedanna.com). Details A stay in a Grand Merchant room. Highlights Complimentary welcome drinks and shoulder massages for two upon arrival. Cost From RM1,159, double, through December 20, 2014. Savings 25 percent.

THAILAND

What Relax & Recharge at Le MĂŠridien Koh Samui (lemeridienkohsamui.com). Details Three nights in a Verandah suite. Highlights Daily breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi. Cost From US$485 (US$162 per night), double, through December 23. Savings 33 percent.

COURTESY OF RIMBA JIMBAR AN BALI

Spa


Deals

Seasonal VIETNAM

What Festive Offer at Sheraton Saigon (starwoodhotels.com). Details A stay in a Deluxe room. Highlights Complimentary internet and complimentary access to fitness facilities. Cost From VND3,200,000, double, through January 5, 2014. Savings 25 percent.

HONG KONG

What Enchanting Festive Holiday at The Excelsior (mandarinoriental.com/excelsior). Details Three nights in a Superior Side Harbour View room. Highlights Complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and gourmet chocolate on arrival, plus daily breakfast for two. Cost From HK$6,240 (HK$2,080 per night), double, through January 7, 2014. Savings 22 percent.

cottage at Shakti 360 Leti. Highlights A personalized nature walk, cooking class featuring local dishes, and visits to temples. Cost From US$1,873 (US$468 per night) per person, all-inclusive; book by January 31. Savings 35 percent.

MULTI-COUNTRY

What Art of Design from GHM Hotels (ghmhotels.com). Details Two nights each at the Chedi Chiang Mai in Thailand; the Chedi Club Tanah Gajah Ubud and the Legian in Bali, Indonesia; and the Nam Hai in Hoi An, Vietnam—for a total of eight nights.

Highlights Learn about local handicrafts at a painting-studio session in Ubud; a batik-fabric workshop in Seminyak, Bali; and a lantern-making class in Hoi An. Cost US$3,582 (US$448 per night), double, through February 28, 2014. Savings 34 percent.

VIETNAM

What Immerse Your Senses from Six Senses Con Dao (sixsenses. com). Details Two nights in an Ocean Front Duplex. Highlight A three-hour tour of the island, visiting sites such as the historic Phi Yen Temple. Cost US$1,100 (US$550 per night), double,

through December 31. Savings 30 percent.

CAMBODIA

What Anantara Short Breaks Special at Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa (angkor.anantara. com). Details Two nights in a Deluxe room. Highlights One signature cocktail per stay, 20 percent discount on dining throughout the stay, late check-out until 4 p.m. and automatic room upgrade if available. Cost From US$588 (US$294 per night), double, through December 31. Savings 18 percent.

A Premier Deluxe room at Sheraton Saigon.

CHINA

What Warm Winter Welcome at New World Shanghai Hotel (shanghai.newworldhotels.com). Details Three nights in a Superior room. Highlights Guests receive a 50 percent discount on the third night, plus daily complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi. Cost From RMB2,250 (RMB750 per night), double, through February 14. Savings 17 percent.

CULTURE INDIA

What Eco Adventure from Shakti Himalaya (shaktihimalaya.com). Details Four nights in a private

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C O U R T E S Y O F S H E R AT O N S A I G O N

SINGAPORE

What Festive Merriments at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel (milleniumhotels.com.sg). Details A stay in a Superior room. Highlights Complimentary breakfast. Cost From S$188, double, through February 8, 2014. Savings Up to 40 percent.


Point of View

P

Escaping Christmas

Abandoning the trimmings and trappings of holidays past, Guy Trebay heads to London to celebrate the season. 88

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iccadilly is empty. After the torrents of last evening, the morning dawned bright, the vaulted sky filled with high, fat clouds and rain-following sunshine that appears to have scoured the drear from the world. It is Christmas. I am, of course, in London, walking the quiet streets of a city many of whose residents are presumably now at home awakening to the smell of bacon and to ziggurats of boxed presents wrapped in shiny paper. The city is mine for a moment. Its broad, bowed avenues, its shuttered shop fronts, its parks with venerable oaks seem like the furnishings of an immense and harmonious ancient structure, a 1,000-year-old edifice. The moment feels oddly holy, a word I long ago ceased to associate with this particular day. I have come to England to escape from Christmas. And here, by happenstance, I have found some of its essence. A string of days spent in the company of new and old friends and a particular loved one has renewed my spirit, even given me a kind of faith. At the very least, it has shifted my perception of Christmas as a holiday to be outrun at any cost. And as I walk the lightly occupied streets it comes clear that it was not so much a desire to avoid a day that’s held sacred by billions of Christians as to flee what any sane person agrees is months of dinning and relentlessly commercialized cheer. I came to London to escape the endless aural loop of Alvin & the Chipmunks and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” ➔ Illustrated by Peter Arkle


Point of View This is not the first time I’ve tried. I’ve ducked out on a holiday I felt was best appreciated by six-year-olds so often that I’ve begun to feel part of the Escape Christmas movement. There actually is one. Scores of websites exist that recommend getaways to destinations like India, where so many gods are in competition for one’s attention that the infant Redeemer is just another face in the crowd. While on paper this seems promising, in reality you plan a jaunt to, say, the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi and soon enough you encounter the reality that Christianity is the third largest religion on the subcontinent. This becomes clear when an old friend, a highborn Sikh, e-mails to say that her daughter will be appearing in her school’s Nativity pageant. She will be dressed as “Mother Mary.” Would you like to attend? There will be a crèche. You might, as I have done, try escaping to Thailand at Christmas, figuring that in the land of the Buddha and sex tourism you might find relief from an obligatory annual viewing of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. You would be mistaken. In Thailand, as I discovered one Christmas, every half-decent hotel features a tree in the lobby, beneath it a stack of Potemkin packages fastened with shiny bows. You are also sure to find a petite Thai lounge singer with a voice like a Klaxon at the bar. She will be belting out a phonetic version of “Feliz Navidad.” Perhaps this is the place to mention that my ambivalence about the holiday is not antireligious. Even as a lapsed believer, I can be moved by the tale of the flight into Egypt, the lone figures in search of lodging, the manger kept warm by beasts with steaming flanks, the guiding star, the miracle itself. Rather, it originates in an effort to avoid the freighted emotional longings of the season, its welter of muddled expectations, the office parties, the candy canes and eggnog, the consumerism run amok. It is not that my lot in life has been to find a lump of coal in a stocking come Christmas. I have enjoyed 90

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In Thailand, as I discovered one Christmas, you are sure to find a petite Thai lounge singer with a voice like a Klaxon at the hotel bar. She will be belting out a phonetic version of ‘Feliz Navidad’ wonderful and companionable Currier & Ives holidays with family and among friends. I have decked halls, stuffed turkeys, gone on slightly drunken rounds of caroling in sleighs drawn by horses yoked with jingle bells. I have succumbed to full-blown seasonal madness, resuscitating childhood Christmases with the demented intensity of a Disney Imagineer. The nadir was the year I bought a lush Fraser fir so large it took two deliverymen to get it into my apartment, and decorated the behemoth with hundreds of ornaments accumulated over the decades. For a week I took to lying on the floor every evening and gazing up through the lighted branches in a kiddie swoon. Then the tree dried out, of course, and you know how that story ends. It was then that the idea first occurred to me that I could enjoy Christmas better when it was someone else’s. I conceived a notion of traveling

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to some Christian country, where I might float anonymously among the tree-trimmers and last-minute shoppers and treat the holiday and its customs with the bemused fascination one might bring to some charming but culturally obscure event. I did this first in Bavaria where, accompanied by a pal, I settled into the Mandarin Oriental, Munich, a place of snug rooms, wide beds, fat down coverlets and a lobby tree surrounded by bow-tied boxes from Bulgari. Even the weather conspired to complete the clichéd scenario, and near nightfall on Christmas Eve, an armada of clouds sailed across an otherwise clear sky and precipitated onto the medieval beer halls and famous Glockenspiel a confectionary dusting of snow. I took to visiting various other western European capitals at Christmas, this past year choosing London in the hope that the Anglicans’ restraining influence might temper the


worst, noisiest and gaudiest elements of the season. I billeted myself at 51 Buckingham Gate, a hotel where— as an English actor friend explained—temperamental Hollywood artistes tend to lodge while promoting their films. I spent five indulgent days there, wandering the city’s blessedly depopulated precincts; visiting the Orientalist madhouse that was the Holland Park studio dwelling of the Victorian artist Frederic Leighton; taking the Tube to another little-visited gem, the Dulwich Picture Gallery; dropping in to the subterranean Portobello Road arcade called the Admiral Vernon Antique Market where the antiquarians with their moth-eaten cardigans and crooked toupees seem every bit as odd as the fascinating old oddments they sell. I made my usual beeline to Chelsea and John Sandoe (Books) Ltd., an independent bookseller where 24,300 volumes, are stacked wall-to-wall and floor-toceiling, in places two deep on the shelves. I acquired for myself several presents, among them Letters from London and Europe, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the Anglophile Sicilian aristocrat and genius whose novel, The Leopard, must rank among the finer literary achievements of the 20th century. The view from my hotel window was of some housing blocks set behind Buckingham Palace. The cozy interior landscape was of a bed heaped in hillocks of books with, on a side table, a glass of Chablis and a tin of ginger cookies. It was the kind of self-indulgent holiday you might have dreamed of in childhood. As a concession to the religious centerpiece of the season, I took a taxi on a drizzly evening to midnight mass at the Temple Church. It was pleasant enough, though the choristers seemed bored, and when the hymns and homily had ended, I ducked through the gates and walked back to the hotel, arriving in the first hours of Christmas morning to flop into bed. In place of the paranoia or creeping dread I sometimes experience at this time of year, I felt contentment. Before leaving home I had ticked off the names on my lists, posted presents and sent Christmas cards, and it cheered me to imagine friends and family back home enacting familiar rituals. It was not displeasing to know I would be spared the white meat versus dark meat debate, the toasts and the yawning empty hours between Christmas lunch and a latenight turkey sandwich eaten in the light of an open fridge. In a few hours I would occupy a coveted table at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, toasting the holiday with friends over a delectably unseasonal meal of fish that was a Christmas present from me to me. And in the meantime, I could walk around London as if in an empty museum, taking in the momentary stillness that struck me as the most wonderful and unanticipated gift. ✚


December 2013

IA N L LOY D N EU BAU ER

In This Issue 94 25 Weekend Getaways 112 Should You Trust TripAdvisor? 116 Gaya Island 124 Maldives, and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards 132 Vanuatu

Ring of fire, on Vanuatu, page 132.

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25

Weekend Getaways

ASIA’S CITIES ARE SOME OF THE MOST MADCAP AND ELECTRIC IN THE WORLD, MAKING THEM BOTH ENERGIZING AND, WE ADMIT IT, EXHAUSTING. LUCKILY, YOU NEEDN’T TRAVEL MORE THAN FOUR HOURS FROM SO MANY OF OUR METROPOLISES TO FIND FRESH AIR, SEA BREEZES, PORTALS TO TIMES-PAST AND GREAT GATHERING SPOTS FOR GROUPS OF FRIENDS. HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITES.


From BANGKOK

MANDALAY, BURMA

A ARON JOEL SANTOS

Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Road to Mandalay etched the eastern town into the Western psyche, but the city’s sleepy charm requires a bit of legwork today. Hop the direct flight from Bangkok (airasia.com) in the afternoon and arrive in time for that emblematic Burma photo at U Bien Bridge with its iconic silhouettes of monks at dusk. Hotel Red Canal (hotelredcanal.com; US$290) is a sanctuary in the city, but in dry season, escape the dust bowl and trace the colonial ghost of George Orwell to Maymyo, a hill station an hour’s drive east that, under British rule, was a retreat for top brass escaping Rangoon’s humidity and heat. For a simulacrum of their high-brow getaways, check in to Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin (hotelpyinoo lwin.com; US$125). And if you really want to follow historic footsteps, return by train to Mandalay—part of a journey romanticized by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia. ➔

The romance of Mandalay remains etched on our psyche.

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From BANGKOK

Kwai River Bridge.

KANCHANABURI

Well-pedigreed Prachuap Khiri Khan.

DOI SAKET

Chiang Mai is known for ambling atmosphere and ethnic diversity, but its true treasures lie in the nearby surrounds. One trove of culture and beauty is Doi Saket. Getting there requires a 70-minute flight to Chiang Mai plus a smidge of a drive, but you’ll be rewarded with dense jungle and sweeping landscapes that impose a total timeout. Thais flock to Wat Doi Saket, built in 1112, for its elaborate murals; after your culture fix, head for the hot springs or go hot-air ballooning. Get among the foliage Tarzan-and-Jane-style at Rabeang Pasak Tree House Resort (facebook.com/CMTreehouseResort; Bt1,400), which is suspended in the canopy of remote protected forest. Or, unwind at Soulmates Retreat (soulmates-retreat.com; Bt2,800)—it’s perched over a verdant-season vista of the electric-green rolling hills just north of town, and lets you do nothing but relax.

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

No matter how much we love the islands, we’ll let you in on a secret: the mainland of Thailand boasts some of the country’s best coastline. You couldn’t conceive of a better pedigree than Prachuap Khiri Khan, whose powdery sands were first put on the map by the Thai Royal family. The expansive shoreline provides space and solitude for a range of coastal activities from navel contemplation, for the lethargic, to kite surfing, for the more ambitious. Many ex-urbanites have made the seaside stretch of coast their new home, opening up venues such as La a Natu Bed & Bakery Resort (laanatu.com; Bt4,488). Bringing design sensibility and big-city sophistication to the area is X2 Kui Buri (x2resorts.com/resorts/ kui-buri, Bt4,790), whose pool villas are perfect self-contained pamper pods for a weekend... or longer. —r i c h a r d m c l e i s h

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Rabeang Pasak Tree House Resort. *Hotel prices throughout are starting rates for double occupancy, unless otherwise noted.

F R O M T O P : N A R O N G S A K N A G A D H A N A ; © Y O N G K I E T/ D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F R A B E A N G P A S A K T R E E H O U S E R E S O R T

A sleepy nook a few hours’ drive west of Bangkok—and clear of the beeline most travelers make for either the southern beaches or the northern mountains—harbors an unadulterated tranquility. With a drier climate, Kanchanaburi is set on the historic Kwai River Bridge, a shrine for World War II history buffs. To really immerse yourself in the area’s serenity, take a long-tail boat ride upriver to the Float House River Kwai (thefloathouseriverkwai.com; Bt3,528). Be serenaded to sleep by the gurgling river beneath you, and, come daytime, let it carry away your city stresses while you lounge with a book in your hand.


Drifting at dawn down the Li River.

From HONG KONG

E U R A S I A /G E T T Y I M A G E S

GUILIN, CHINA

Roaming water buffalo, emerald rice paddies and drifting bamboo rafts… the rustic river scenes back-dropped by the dramatic limestone karsts of Guilin are reached by a 90-minute flight from Hong Kong (dragonair.com; hongkongairlines. com). Take in vistas that have inspired artists for centuries on-board the Li River Cruise from Guilin to lovely Yangshuo; there, at the rustic Yangshuo Li River Retreat (li-riverretreat.com; RMB428), you can take a dip in the Li, or choose the more remote Yangshuo Mountain Retreat (yangshuomountainretreat. com; RMB769). After refueling at one of the many cafés in and around Yangshuo’s West Street—try Cloud 9 for local delicacies such as beer fish, or the Mood Food Energy Café for sourdough bread and homemade jams—escape the backpacker crowd by pedaling out to the surrounding villages (bikeasia.com one-day tours for RMB152, or self-hire for around RMB30) and say ni hao to the locals. Keep the adrenalin pumping by scaling the karsts, Krabi-style (karstclimber.com). —h e l e n d a l l e y


From KUALA LUMPUR

LANGKAWI

Pantai Cenang beach, Langkawi.

DARREN SOH

For stressed-out city slickers, this laid-back island an hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur (malaysiaairlines; airasia.com) and at the periphery of Peninsular Malaysia’s northwestern coast is fast-becoming a popular place to relocate. Case in point: former radio executive turned resort owner Karen Bahrin and her sister Karina, whose 12-room property La Pari-Pari (laparipari.com; RM250) melds their cosmopolitan outlook with the island’s demand for chic, minimalist and affordable places to stay. Besides hanging out at the beach, which is a 10-minute stroll away, guests are encouraged to explore the island on bicycle—the excellent roads are a breeze to pedal. Take a day trip to the mangrove forests in the Kilim Nature Park (langkawimangrovetours.com), where you’ll encounter a cast of local inhabitants including lively macaques, stealthy monitor lizards and the soaring brown eagles from which the island gained its name.


IPOH

Former tin-mining hub Ipoh, a two-hour trip from the capital by road or rail (ktmb.com. my), is showing new polish—particularly in Old Town, where late-19th century shophouses like converted flash-packer residence Sekeping Kong Heng (sekeping. com; RM250), the town’s first shiny haven of hipness, line the broad streets. Previously a ramshackle boarding house, the property accommodated Chinese opera troupes back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and still looks as if it hasn’t quite shrugged off its bohemian past. Amble down the adjacent alley, and you’ll find Thean Chun coffee shop (73 Jln. Bandar Bijih Timah; lunch for two RM20). Join the lunch crowds that come here for bowls of flat rice noodles in a tasty chicken and prawn broth; Chinese-style pork skewers; and Hokkien delicacy popiah, fresh and deep-fried rice-flour spring rolls. At The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat (thebanjaran.com; RM1,350), a luxury resort neighboring a cluster of ancient limestone hills, you can relax and take the cure in Ipoh’s famed hot springs. Or if you prefer aquatic adventure, the sleepy town of Gopeng, a 16-kilometer drive away, attracts whitewater rafting and kayaking enthusiasts (nomadadventure.com) to the Kampar River, flowing with 22 Grade Two and Three rapids.

F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F N O M A D A D V E N T U R E ; N I C O L A P A LTA N I / G E T T Y I M A G E S

Rafting the Kampar River.

A mother orangutan and her baby in Sarawak.

KUCHING

The Chinese immigrant heritage of melting pot Kuching is best displayed at The Junk (60-82/259-450; dinner for two RM200) a restaurant/exhibition space for antiques and curios, located on one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares, Wayang Street. After your 90-minute flight (malaysiaairlines.com; airasia.com), the Pullman Kuching (pullmankuching.com; RM250), near the historic Sarawak River, is a plush base for your East Malaysian adventure: On one day, hit the beaches at Santubong, a 45-minute drive from town, and go porpoise- and dolphin-spotting; on another, head inland to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (sarawakforestry.com)—accessible by bus and taxi from the city center—a sanctuary for orangutans and other injured and orphaned animals. Plan your visit during the twice-daily feeding times, when rehabilitated orangutans return from the wild for their bounties of fruits and bottled milk. —m a r k l e a n T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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From MANILA

TAAL LAKE

With a spectacular view of Taal Volcano floating on the glassy lake, a multitude of farm-totable restaurants, boutique hotels and inns, Tagaytay, only 90 minutes by car (manilastay.com; packaged roundtrip rates inclusive of car, driver and fuel from P6,500), is Manila’s No. 1 getaway spot. Go sailing on the flat waters or, for the more adventurous, rent a boat to wakeboard (sailing. org.ph). Have lunch and a dreamy afternoon massage at Sonya’s Garden (sonyasgarden.com; all-you-can-eat lunch for two P1,366; one-hour signature massage P879), a shabby-chic haven of flowers and organic herbs, then melt into the evening with cocktails and dinner at Antonio’s (antoniosrestaurant.ph; dinner for two P3,500). Soft lighting, old-world charm, vintage furniture and cutlery all nestled amid overgrown greenery make the perfect backdrop for the excellent classic gourmet cuisine. Snuggle in at the English cottage-style Discovery Country Suites (discoverycountrysuites; P8,500) or, for the modern and glam, The Boutique Bed & Breakfast (theboutiquebnb.com; P5,600).

Morning in Calatagan.

Old-world charm at Antonio’s.

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F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F A N T O N I O ’ S ; A G U S T I N R A F A E L C . R E Y E S /G E T T Y I M A G E S

CALATAGAN

Gentle rolling hills, mango groves, sprawling ranches and a seaside with the setting sun: Calatagan can be best described as part-Hamptons, part-Santa Barbara. It’s a spot where Manila’s upper crust have spectacular weekend homes that put many local resorts to shame. You can play that game too, by taking the two-hour drive from the capital, renting your own serviced villa for a weekend with friends, barbecuing by the pool and sipping some cold rosé. Along with 12 of your favorites, take over Puesto del Sol (puestodelsol.com; P5,880), and enjoy its 25-meter lap pool, giant Jacuzzi and spa services—though the three villas are available separately as well. Arm yourself with some great music, books and board games, then pass by Säntis Delicatessen (werdenberg.com) en route on the highway in Cavite to purchase some prosciutto, Brie and wine, plus some fine steaks and sausages to slap on the grill.


The Ruins stand majestic in Bacolod.

H E C T O R J O S E P H L U M A N G/G E T T Y I M A G E S

BACOLOD

Deliciously languid Bacolod is a one-hour flight (philippineairlines.com) and a step back in time, into a world of sugar farmers and plantation living, where nothing is more important than good food, good friends and good rum. Have coffee by The Ruins (theruins.com.ph), a beautiful garden where the bones of an old mansion stand majestic. Hotel choices are slim but L’Fisher (lfisherhotelbacolod.com; P4,500) is tried and trusted. Stay at their new Chalet wing for fresher, more modern rooms. Standing proud amid the rustling sugarcane is Balay Negrense (balaynegrense.com), the Gaston Family Ancestral Home left just as it was, with the dishes still set for a decadent banquet. Speaking of dining, Negrense food is a rich mix of Filipino and Spanish heritage; Bacolodians are proud of it and will consistently offer you things to eat—an offer rude to refuse, so do not come on a diet. Instead, treat yourself to sweet rich snacks like napoleones or piaya (virgieshomemade.com) in the afternoon, then for dinner, indulge in the local specialties, much of which is inspiringly fresh seafood. Have some grilled diwal (angel wing clams) or kilawin (local ceviche). For a heartier meal, don’t miss the charcoal-grilled, bright atsuete-painted Chicken Inasal. Dip it in some tangy, sweet sinamak (sugarcane vinegar). Most importantly: eat with your hands.—s t e p h a n i e z u b i r i


From PHNOM PENH

KEP

A ARON JOEL SANTOS

Until history intervened, Kep was once the halcyon playground sandpit of the elite. Nowadays, the sleepy seaside town nestled on Cambodia’s coastal border with Vietnam is littered with colonial remnants of decadence that hint at the country’s checkered past. Once-grand villas lie in decay among new buildings—such as the modernist, minimalist Knai Bang Chatt resort (knaibangchatt.com; US$140), filled with natural, local and antique furnishings—that cater to the revamped interest in the town. The sweeping sunsets and fresh seafood (available in heaps at the crab market and elsewhere) are enough of a reason to make the three-hour drive from the capital, but we suggest day-tripping to Rabbit Island to find the best of the beaches, or dropping by the abandoned King Sihanouk’s Palace that overlooks Kep Beach. Kampot pepper was for a time the most prized variant of the seasoning in the world and present on every Parisian restaurant table—shipped all the way from places like the picturesque pepper plantations at Phnom Voir (free tours offered by The Vine Retreat; thevineretreat.com), a 20-minute drive from town. — r . m .

Kep’s coastal sunset.

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Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site.

From JAKARTA

MALANG

F R O M L E F T: © N O P P A K U N / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; I R Y N A R A S C O / D R E A M S T I M E

Five hundred meters above sea level and a 90-minute flight from Jakarta, this city was once the coolclimate getaway for Dutch colonials longing for reprieve from the stifling urban density. In keeping with that moneyed tradition, tycoon Anhar Setjadibrata houses 44 guest rooms, as well as an astounding collection of Javanese antiques such as Chinese street theater puppets, in his Hotel Tugu Malang (tuguhotels.com/malang; US$130). Besides boasting a military museum, colonial architecture and a botanical garden, Malang also looks out on the dramatic Mount Bromo volcano (mountbromotour. com), which you can visit via a twohour trip by car. However, if you prefer more laid-back sightseeing, just hire a driver to take you around Malang’s hills, which are peppered with apple orchards, tea plantations and dairy farms.

SEMARANG

Mount Bromo at sunrise.

The enchanting capital of Central Java, Semarang, has a mix of Dutch colonial buildings, kampongs (small village houses) and Chinese shophouses. However, its most compelling holiday hotspot comes in the form of the mountainside MesaStila Resort (mesahotelsandresorts.com; US$280), the former Losari Spa Retreat and Coffee Plantation 90 minutes outside of town. Not only is it surrounded by eight stunning volcanoes, lush tropical jungle and a coffee plantation, this resort also offers specialized health retreats to rejuvenate your body with organic local cuisine, authentic Turkish Hammam baths, and an array of recreational activities including mountain biking, Javanese dance and pencak silat (Indonesian martial arts). Since Semarang is just an hour’s flight from Jakarta (garuda-indonesia.com), you should be able to fit in a short road trip to the impressive unesco World Heritage Site Borobudur (borobudurexcursion.com), a 9th-century temple that is also the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site with more than 500 images of Buddha. —m e l a n i e l e e T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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From SAIGON

CON DAO

A ghost town, this wee islet in the South China Sea once housed a notorious French-colonial then Vietnamese-Communist penal colony; the spirit of Nguyen Thi Sau, a teenage girl martyred on the altar of national liberation is said to still roam the rural lands. Jittery fliers might get a different kind of fright landing on the super-short oceanbounded runway after the quick prop-plane flight from Saigon (vietnamairlines.com)—but it’s worth it for the somber look at this powerful history, as well as the more uplifting activities of snorkeling, Hobie Cat sailing and fresh-seafood gorging. The knockout, rustic-chic, all-pool villa Six Senses Con Dao (sixesenses.com; US$670) sprawls a seemingly interminable flat beach and, at low-tide, you can wade into the crazy-clear, bathwater-warm ocean calf-deep for half a kilometer.

Traditional fishing on Con Dao island.

HO TRAM

Now usurping kite-surfing capital Mui Ne’s grip on the hearts of Saigon-dwellers needing a road-trippable beach, Ho Tram (a three-hour drive away) has so far managed to stay rustic and under-the-radar—no small feat considering the opening this year of The Grand (thegrandhotramstrip.com; VND3,579,000), the country’s first Vegas-style casino and resort. After a bit of glitz and gambling—and, with a Greg Norman-designed course set to open in January, golfing—overload, head back to the stunning Southern Californiastyle four-bedroom manse you and 10 pals rented for the weekend. Never has Vietnam seen a more aptly named private community than The Sanctuary (sanctuaryresidences. com.vn; villas from VND11,865,000 per night), which sits on a long, clean, hawker-free beach. The front walls of all the villas accordion open onto their private pools, so everyone can do their thing and still stay together: rock out or relax to the sea breezes, jetski or banana boat out on the ocean, grill up steaks you brought from Saigon and seafood you bought in the village market. What better way to bond with your besties?

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This beyond-green, chill (in both senses of the word) mountain town 1,500 meters above sea level and a 60-minute flight from Saigon is the quintessential colonial hill station: centered on a lake and surrounded by mountains of fir trees, vineyards, orchards and farms, all of which you can admire from above in the lengthy cable-car gondolas. Check-in old school to Ana Mandara Villas (anamandara-resort.com; VND1,864,351), a smattering of turreted mini-chateaux with claw-foot tubs and fireplaces for those cool nights. The grande dame Dalat Palace (dalatplace.vn; VND2,750,000) serves spoton high-tea and is smack in the center of town, giving you easy access to the eccentric Gaudi-esque Crazy House tree house/ jungle gym, the adorable lake-top swan pedal-boats, and the Dalat Palace Golf Club, Vietnam’s oldest and loveliest 18 holes. —j e n i n n e l e e - s t . j o h n ➔

Dalat Palace.

C LOC K WISE FROM TOP: A A RON JOEL SA N TOS (2); COURTESY OF SA NCTUA RY RESORT COMMUNIT Y HO TR A M

DALAT

Beach style at The Sanctuary.


From SHANGHAI

Six Harmonies pagoda towers over West Lake.

HANGZHOU

Just after sunrise, with elderly Chinese doing their tai chi and couples ballroom dancing beneath willow trees, the sound of a Chinese flute fills the calm air. This is China, so it must be a recording. But no, an anonymous flautist plays, the music echoing out from a lakeside pagoda through stands of bamboo, and plum and peach trees. West Lake on a summer’s morning is a scene straight out of a Chinese scroll. The timelessness and tranquility of the setting are perfect antidotes to the rush of modern life—just 45 minutes away by high-speed train (ctrip.com). Arched stone bridges, tea plantations and leafy strolls here on the western end of the lake transport you to another era. So too do the classic, comfortable stylings of the Four Seasons Hangzhou (fourseasons.com/ hangzhou; RMB2,700), where the menu at Jin Sha restaurant covers Shanghainese, Cantonese and local cuisine, as well as dynamite fusion fare such as smoked egg with sturgeon caviar, mint crystal tofu, and braised pork with black truffle in soya sauce, and sautéed peas with olive oil.

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Tea fields of Moganshan.

F R O M T O P : © C H U Y U/ D R E A M S T I M E .C O M ; B E N M I L L E R /G E T T Y I M A G E S

MOGANSHAN

A favored getaway for Shanghai’s expat residents a century ago, the mountain retreat of Moganshan has come back into its own in the past decade. See China Cuckoo, by British author Mark Kitto, for more on the outpost’s history and his experience reinvigorating a stately old home on the mountain. Today, three stone manors that he and his wife renovated serve as the anachronistic Moganshan Houses 23, 25 and 2 (moganshanhouse23.com; RMB650). Meanwhile, eco-resort Naked Stables Private Reserve (nakedretreats.cn; Tree Top villas from RMB2,600 a night for two weekdays or RMB3,200 a night for two weekends, minimum of four guests) is the address attracting wealthy weekend guests. Its villas feature everything you wouldn’t expect from China: energy efficiency, eco-friendly construction and a sustainability-education program. Moganshan is an outdoorsy destination worthy of an Instagram gallery—hiking and biking trails through bamboo and pine forests, the distant hills clothed in dense woodlands, and tea plantations making this as different from Shanghai, a three-hour train and car ride away, as any visitor could ever imagine. —c h r i s t o p h e r k u c wa y ➔


From SINGAPORE

BATAM, INDONESIA

Ignore its common misperception as Bintan’s poorer island-resort cousin; Batam, just a 45-minute ferry ride (wavemaster.com.sg) from Singapore, has plenty of luxury and recreation, as well as a fascinating historical footnote. The sparkling white, upscale Montigo Resort (montigoresorts.com; S$330) has plush villas offering uninterrupted panoramic views of the South China Sea. It also houses the hippest party spot in the island—Tiggo, a bar with private poolside enclaves, open-air gazebos and creative cocktails. If you’re looking for sea sports, outlet shopping and nature trails, Batam will not disappoint. But a unique perspective can be had at the striking Barelang Bridge, which is actually six suspension bridges connecting the isles of Batam, Rempang and Galang. The last was a Vietnamese refugee camp from 1979 to 1996, and makes for a haunting tourist stop: see the former detention room and UN refugee agency, along with household artifacts left behind by the boatpeople.

Turi Beach, Batam.

Central Malacca is a unesco World Heritage site.

MALACCA, MALAYSIA

Atop Mount Rinjani.

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With its hybrid influence of Portuguese, British, Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures, the center of Malaysia’s colorful heritage town of Malacca—a three-hour bus ride from Singapore (easibook. com)—has been marked as a unesco World Heritage Site. Soak in its history by staying at The Majestic (majesticmalacca.com; RM450), a 54-room boutique hotel in a restored 1920’s Chinese mansion with retro mosaic flooring, 1960’s standalone bathtubs and complimentary historical tours. Of course, there’s a mélange of mouthwatering food in Malacca, and the best way to sample its local delicacies such as chicken rice balls, pineapple tarts and gula melaka chendol (shaved ice with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk) is to saunter down the Jonker Walk Night Market (Jln. Heng Jebat, Chinatown). Even gluttony gets you a heritage fix: the quaint shophouses that line Jonker Walk date all the back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. —m . l . ➔

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F R O M T O P : D E M R O M E R O /G E T T Y I M A G E S ; W A N N A P H A N A W AY O N ; TAT YA N A K I L D I S H E V A / G E T T Y I M A G E S

LOMBOK, INDONESIA

“Unspoiled Bali” is a frequent and apt description for Lombok, a relatively untouched island a three-hour flight (silkair.com) from Singapore. Heading out to the gorgeous, powder-white beaches of Gili Islands, where no cars or motorbikes are allowed, provides plenty of opportunities to wind down (it’s always a good sign when wild sea turtles choose to lay their eggs here). The Lombok Lodge (thelomboklodge.asia; S$465) is all about stylish discretion with just nine luxury lodges designed in soothing shades of gray and cream by famous Italian architect Vittorio Simoni. However, if you prefer to rough it for a few days, then trekking to Mount Rinjani (lombokoutdoors.com), Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, will provide a scenic respite with caves, sulfur lakes and, of course, that glorious mountaintop view to invigorate the soul.


From TOKYO

IZU PENINSULA

Izu’s craggy coast.

The Azusagawa River flows through the Kamikochi highlands.

MATSUMOTO

The breakneck neon-infused circuitry of Tokyo offers a lifetime of entertainment, but Matsumoto in central Honshu rewards visitors with an experience closer to Japan’s cultural core. Set at the eastern end of the Japanese Alps, accessible by fast-train (jreast.co.jp/e; ¥6,200) or bus (keio-bus. com, in Japanese only; ¥3,400), its mild climate lets you comfortably enjoy the ink-painting mountain-scape and take in sites like Matsumoto Castle, the majestic Myojin wooden bridge, and Daoi Wasabi Farm, the country’s largest. But most visitors venture further afield to blaze the spectacular hiking trails at the Kamikochi highland or the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which shows off its scenery via cable cars, funiculars and several other modes of transport. Take to the waters drawn from the nearby Asama hot springs at the Kai Matsumoto resort (global.hoshinoresort.com; ¥52,000). Or: a stay in the The Shining-esque Ougatou Hotel (ougatou.jp, in Japanese only; ¥13,650) completes any visit to this remote and mystic town. —r . m .

From TAIPEI

SUN MOON LAKE

Overlooking Sun Moon Lake.

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Chiang Kai-shek used to mix it up with heads of state at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan’s largest body of fresh water, in the foothills of the island’s lush central mountains. His bastion of gnashing civility has been turned into The Lalu (thelalu. com.tw; T$570), a minimalist charcoal granite, iron, steel and teakwood hotel that walks a fine line between hip modernism and rich Taiwanese design. Clamber through Chinese fir forests and a tea plantation to the summit of Jiji Dashan. The view of the Jiufen’er and Houjian Mountains will make you feel a world—not just a three-hour drive (private car arranged by The Lalu, T$220; public bus T$9)—away from Taipei. So too will the excellent Thao aboriginal restaurants on the lake, where fatty wild pork with bamboo shoots and braised wild deer are the best bets. —c a i n n u n n s ✚

F R O M T O P : A A R O N R E K E R P H O T O G R A P H Y/G E T T Y I M A G E S ; I P P E I N A O I /G E T T Y I M A G E S ; G V D P R O / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M

A rugged protrusion of earthquake-riddled rock that plunges into the Pacific Ocean below central Honshu, Izu Peninsula is just far enough away from Tokyo—two hours by train (jreast.co.jp/e; ¥4,400)—to thwart most of the weekend hoards fleeing the city. It brags a craggy coastline that’s an inspiring setting for a sunset onsen. While there is plenty of fresh seafood from nearby fisheries on offer, and scuba diving for the super keen, the main draw of the peninsula is its volcanic water flow sourced from the depths of the fiery earth below. Stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese guesthouse such as Arcana Izu (arcanaresorts.com; ¥41,500), for the full onsen experience and learn how to unlock and engage this ancient Japanese form of relaxation, socialization and seduction.


strangers THE ADVICE OF

Sifting good intel from poor counsel in today’s tech-savvy travel world is increasingly difficult. Is TripAdvisor helping? b y r i c h a r d m c l e i s h

i l l u s t r at e d b y

wa s i n e e c h a n ta ko r n


he best travel experiences are often the rewards of welltimed advice. The whisper of an undiscovered beach in Sumatra, of a life-changing eco-retreat in Borneo, of the best pho shop in Saigon—it’s the priceless information that can make or break a trip. ‘Give me all the advice I can get,’ says the smart traveler. But from whom? We’ve been interested in other people’s takes on travel from the times of the earliest explorers, who put observations of their global journeys to paper—by the turn of the 18th century, such voyage-voyeurism made Captain James Cook’s diaries best-sellers—but most of their readers would never leave their home shores. Travel agencies appeared when the smart set took to the seas in the late 1800’s. In our modern era, the more sophisticated travelers knew to take their cues from word-ofmouth musings. Then trail-blazing Tony and Maureen Wheeler changed the game in the 1970’s with their Lonely Planet guidebook series that spawned a fresh generation of enthusiasts, captured succinctly in Alex Garland’s backpacker manual, The Beach. Now the new generation of travelers—couchsurfers, hashtaggers or otherwise—is looking to technology for inspiration and advice. Enter TripAdvisor, the travel-advice site that collectively receives 260 million unique visitors a month and made US$762 million in revenue last year. Started in 2000, the site features reviews of everything from hole-in-the-wall noodle nooks in Hong Kong to six-star private islands in the Maldives. The concept is simple: turn on your smartphone, tune in and find out. What began as an infosharing portal for in-the-known travelers morphed into a go-to guide for mass travel. But now it’s gaining a reputation as a diarrheicdiatribe mouthpiece for the disenchanted. Part of the original genius, which has now become a problem, is that neither travel gurus nor journalists impart their trail-weathered secrets any longer; it’s mostly a random community of users who log in with any e-mail address or social media account and become instant experts.

As Sophocles said—and your mum and dad no doubt

overstated in various forms—“No enemy is worse than bad advice,” particularly while on the road. After all, one traveler’s plight is another’s pleasure, and anonymous and subjective critiques are wide open to sway. Take the case of Appia, a Roman-cuisine restaurant in Bangkok, which recently entered the firing line after dramatically polarizing TripAdvisor reviewers. The eternally booked spot has solicited comments ranging from “Shame on you Appia” and “Overpriced and arrogant” to “Outstanding” and “The king of trippy.” Owner Jarrett Wrisley has received heavy praise and exposure through traditional media channels (including, full disclosure, this magazine), yet Appia continues to grossly under-rank at, when we went to press, No. 696 of 7,528 in the Bangkok Restaurants section of the website. (The popular W Bangkok hotel, in merely one other example, also was under-performing at just No. 80 of 730 hotels in the city). “I have been threatened by many people who say things like, ‘Wait until you see what I write on TripAdvisor,’” the normally laid-back Wrisley says. “Many morons on TripAdvisor think restaurants are responsible for everything, but if you don’t like getting bit by mosquitoes, then don’t sit outside! Now, [people] can spite each other via the very poorly regulated medium. Sadly, [some] groups discredit what could be a pretty useful thing.” Sure, you could chalk this up to

sour grapes, but Wrisley is a former foodjournalist himself and understands the power of the pen—as well as, in my opinion, of a properly prepared ragu. The open nature of TripAdvisor has certainly benefited countless others—particularly, and perhaps most to the site’s credit, those underthe-radar places you would’ve only heard about through your friend’s cousin’s coworker a generation ago. Nang Gin Kui enjoyed the coveted No. 1 ranking restaurant in Bangkok status for many months this year and it might not exist at all without TripAdvisor. As much an experience of guerrilla dining as a restaurant itself, guests are invited into a private apartment to sample traditional home-style Thai cuisine with a snappy view of the Chao Phraya River. It’s a service that traditional marketing channels might miss, but thanks to glowing reviews on TripAdvisor, the venue now requires reservations well in advance. “It’s really fantastic because it’s a global word-of-mouth engine which overcomes huge obstacles when you are a small, inexperienced business,” says the manager of the restaurant. “It focuses on the real value of content of hidden places like us.” (In an interesting parallel with Bangkok’s dining category, the teeny boutique heritage-hotel Ariyasomvilla holds the city’s best hotel slot, ahead of all the stately grande dames.)

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and other

tourism venues seem to have no choice but to embrace the power of online sway. One recent visitor to a high-end resort in Bali was handed a card by a pool attendee that not-so-subtly mentioned TripAdvisor, his name and how much he would appreciate a special shout-out on the site. A follow-up post-stay e-mail from the hotel requested a TripAdvisor review, providing a direct link to do so (which the site allows in its terms and conditions). When asked, the hotel denied prompting or rewarding staff with incentives for such coverage. Regardless, their self-awareness is hardly unique: how many times have you been confronted by eager maître d’s—or perky signs on the backs of bathroom stalls—asking for a friendly TripAdvisor review? And then there are the pay-for-praise allegations that have dogged the site for years now; a few dozen venues worldwide have been banned for such practices. Researchers at Cornell University, in the U.S., even developed an algorithm to weed out fake reviews. Be wary, the study said, of people laying out every nitty-gritty detail of their holiday, and of those using too many superlatives. T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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Be also wary of excessive negativity. Horror stories abound. One hotel owner in the U.S. felt the full wrath of TripAdvisor’s force after his property, The Grand Resort Hotel & Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, was not-soprestigiously named the dirtiest hotel in America in January 2011, beating out some apparently less-rancid opposition. It unceremoniously closed its doors the next year and was sold, but not without further recourse from the disgruntled owner, who, with his tongue far from his cheek, threw down a US$10 million lawsuit against the “unsubstantiated rumors” reported by reviewers. The website pulled the publicity-grabbing smear list after 2011, and while this perhaps undermines their initial aim to expose “the whole truth about travel—the good, the bad and the ugly,” they beat the lawsuit this August. The presiding judge stated that the term ‘dirtiest’ amounted to nothing but “rhetorical hyperbole” and that “even the most careless reader must have perceived that ‘dirtiest’ is simply an exaggeration.” But did she give the average web-trawler too much credit?

“Don’t believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” —douglas ada ms

In an act of revenge for the TripAdvisor

damned worldwide, one disgruntled man in the U.K. got creative in his attempt to subvert the website after reading unfounded attacks on a friend’s restaurant. In July, Oscar’s appeared fresh on the Brixham, U.K., dining scene, drawing raves on TripAdvisor. Reviewers declared it “The most amazing meal [they’d] ever had,” with the food “bordering on sorcery” and matching the world-famous, now-closed Spanish restaurant elBulli. Divers were even said to venture out into the waters from the restaurant situated in the hull of a boat to catch the fish fresh! Impressive, by anyone’s standard. Alas, it proved too good to be true when the directions to the venue led unwitting, would-be diners to a bin-filled alleyway instead of a restaurant. The bogus campaign for Oscar’s was an ironic mirror of the less-scrupulous venues 114

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and their too-perfect reviews. All of the site’s contributors must agree to the terms and conditions that include the line, “I understand that TripAdvisor has a zero-tolerance policy on fake reviews”—but that’s like asking everyone on a dating site to pledge they’re as young and good-looking as they say they are. Indeed, TripAdvisor changed its official slogan from “reviews you can trust” to “reviews from our community” in 2011, an admittance of factual infidelity. Still, how do the site’s regulators stop it from becoming a mudslinging event for crabby customers hidden safely behind a firewall? A representative for TripAdvisor in the Asia-Pacific region told me, “Nothing is more important to us than the authenticity of our reviews. We have a world-class international team of specialists who spend 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, making sure our reviews are real,” but didn’t elaborate on the details of this morally motivated truth-seeking sweatshop. After the Oscar’s prank, a spokesman from TripAdvisor suggested, not so unreasonably, that its community is at least partly responsible for policing itself. “With over 70 pieces of content coming in every minute, occasionally a review or business that does not meet TripAdvisor’s guidelines may slip through the cracks,” he said. “In these rare cases, our members can report the material to us.” But the obvious question arises as to the width of such cracks and the ability of the site’s metrics, called the Popularity Index, to bridge them. The site’s algorithm “measure[s] the quality, quantity and recency [sic] of their content on TripAdvisor” and is updated weekly according to the website, but the numeric formula that drives it remains a mystery worthy of Euler to solve, much to the chagrin of many a management team. “A couple of positive reviews have little effect” if you’re already doing well in the rankings, opines Karel Poels, owner of The Collector Bed and Breakfast in Amsterdam. “But I had one ‘terrible’ review, and I dropped eight positions.” Worse, Poels has no record of this reviewer ever checking into his hotel. Not that actually visiting somewhere prevents passive-aggressiveness. Poels remembers a friendly experience with two guests, with whom he would chat and share wine in the evenings. “Every day I asked ‘Is everything to your liking?’ and their response was, ‘Yes, everything is fine,’” he says. “Then they wrote a review on TripAdvisor that the pillows were too soft and that the bed was squeaking. I didn’t understand it at all.” People love to complain—about mobile-phone reception on a deserted beach, the shape of the ice cubes in their mojito, the angle of the sun, you name it. TripAdvisor encourages managers to respond to despondent or vitriolic reviewers directly within the forum, engaging the beast. But Wrisley from Appia is wary. “My father used to tell me that if you wrestle with a pig you both get covered in shit,” he says.“I think that applies well to TripAdvisor.” The customer has always been right; now the reviewer is too. Since everyone’s an expert, it’s up to the traveler to navigate not just the streets of a city but also the prickled paths of the internet to find advice, and to take heed with a grain of salt and a healthy dash of cynicism. Your best bet might be a blanket approach to the major websites (TripAdvisor, Gogobot) without taking anything too literally, a glance at the minors (Couchsurfing, Oyster) for some fresh tips, and a social media cast out to your friends and theirs—some of them could be latter-day Captain Cooks whose adventures might remind you of the pride and joy of charting your own journeys. —with additional reporting by jago gazendam. ✚


PULAU GAYA IS A WORLD OF ITS OWN. ONCE YOU WRAP YOURSELF IN THIS SPRAWLING ECOSYSTEM OF WHALE SHARKS, PYGMY ELEPHANTS, COUNTLESS TYPES OF CORAL AND, OH YES, COCONUT-AVOCADO SCALP SCRUBS, YOU’LL WANT TO SET UP A TREEHOUSE AND MOVE IN. BY DIANA HUBBELL. PHOTOGRAPHED BY AUSADAVUT SARUM.

S T Y L I S T: A L I S A O U N S U W A N . M O D E L : AT I P O R N I N T R O AT P O R N / S U P E R R E D . H A I R A N D M A K E U P : S A N T I P O N G K W A N S E N G . P H O T O G R A P H E R ’ S A S S I TA N T: K A O N A N I L A V A J A R A

THE JUNGLE BOOK


The view from the porch (swimsuit, robe and accessories by Chanel).

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“Finding Nemo got it wrong,”

says Heldy Bin Soonny, my snorkeling instructor for the day. “Come again?” “Look down.” I attach my mask and lower my face below the surface. The water is shockingly clear. What looks like an undulating kaleidoscope of cerulean and lapis lazuli from above turns out to be an underwater metropolis. The coralstudded ocean floor stands out in hyper-definition no nature documentary could hope to match. This is Planet Earth times 10, real and live and so sharp you can see the scales on the fish at the bottom. Near the brain coral and below a spindly school of needlefish, I spot two clownfish hovering around an anemone’s protective tentacles. The smaller of the pair darts for cover, but the larger, darker one is fearless. It rushes right at us, stopping only a meter away, before diving back to home turf. Moments later, it’s back again, mouth agape. “That bigger clownfish is the female,” Heldy tells me. “And the smaller one is her husband. Here’s what they didn’t tell you: all clownfish are hermaphrodites. They’re basically male when they’re young, then the biggest and strongest ones change into females. If something happens to the female though, her husband will change sex within two months and become the new dominant female.” Wait, so Nemo’s dad should’ve turned into Nemo’s new mom? “Yes, but Disney and Pixar didn’t show that part. They lied to little children,” he adds with a smirk. “So unethical.”

S

ex-swapping clownfish are far from the strangest things lurking just a few meters down. Heldy shows me a pair of blue-and-purplemottled giant clams, each at least 20 years old. There are 17 more just like them on this reef, all rescued from illegal fishermen. The two clams slam shut as we swim by, still skittish from nearly becoming sashimi. Damselfish dance about in a frenzied mating display, their silver-streaked bodies shimmering in the light, while triggerfish scurry, and clusters of sea urchins waggle their spines. Whale sharks have been spotted nearby, and many of these creatures of the deep have yet to be discovered. Welcome to Pulau Gaya in Malaysian Borneo, one of the largest biodiversity hotspots in the world, the oceanic answer to the Amazon. The seas between here, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea—the “coral triangle”—host more than 500 species of coral and 3,000 of fish. Keep in mind that marine biologists have only tallied around 700 kinds of coral and 7,000 of fish on the whole planet. Even after nearly two years of working overtime with the Marine Centre’s team, “we haven’t even begun to tabulate everything,” Scott Mayback, the resident marine biologist tells me. Pulau Gaya is no less impressive above the water. This island is home to many of Borneo’s 200-plus species of mammals, including the not-so-diminutive Borneo pygmy elephant, rare proboscis monkeys and wild bearded pigs. Lush mangroves provide shelter for everything from megapodes to hornbills to 2-meter monitor lizards plucked from the Jurassic period. In the midst of all this biological proliferation, surrounded by Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, sits Gaya Island Resort. Swathes of foliage encircle the 120 earth-toned villas and two-bedroom suite. Large parts of the resort are perched on elevated walkways above mangroves. There are few straight lines in the whole place; instead, the paths weave and wind, as if they grew organically along with the rest of the vegetation. This is the rare sort of resort not defined by the opulence of its interiors—a seamless blend of contemporary minimalism and classic Malay style—but rather by the gloriously unfettered, unplanned luxury of its surrounds. Yes, there are eggs Benedict dripping sunny hollandaise in the morning, sambal-slathered local slipper lobster served seaside by candlelight in the evening, and potent cocktails in the pool all day long, but

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Catching some sun (dress, Emilio Pucci; headscarf and cuffs, HermĂŠs; sunglasses, Chanel; shoes, Jimmy Choo). Opposite from top: Outside the library (caftan and cuff, Chanel); eggs Benedict for breakfast; a villa tucked in the trees.


Clockwise from left: Unwinding at Spa Village (T-shirt, Diane von Furstenberg; necklace and cuff, Chanel; shoes, Valentino); villas are contemporary and classical; cocktails by the beach (blouse, Diane von Furstenberg); all hands on deck for a yacht cruise; welcome to the resort; slipper lobster on the beach (scarf as top, HermĂŠs; earring and cuffs, Chanel); taking in the sun.


what you’ll remember most from Pulau Gaya is ancient and far more grand. After all, the resort opened its doors little more than a year ago, whereas many of these trees have stood here for a millennium.

O Clockwise from top right: The sun sets over Pulau Gaya; a walk in the jungle (scarf as dress and cuffs, Hermés); barbecue and beverages on the lunch board at the resort’s private beach; local seafood shines at Fisherman’s Cove restaurant.

ne afternoon, I meet one of the island’s old-timers, a deadly predator known for taking on king cobras and turning them into lunch. Silent, lethal and prone to nocturnal attacks, this beast and his ancestors have sat at the top of the Bornean food chain for ages. Right now though, the barred eagle owl is more interested in snapping up bits of raw chicken from my hand. “You have to make him pull,” Justin Juhun, the resort’s resident naturalist, reminds me. I close my fingers obediently and the owl glares at me with huge, liquid eyes. He’s smaller than many of the eagle-size members of his species, but when his wings flare up I have to lean back. He rips the morsel away from me before settling down again, feathers literally and figuratively ruffled. The owl’s shattered leg is still wrapped in plaster, a mark of the injury that landed him here in the first place. Like the wounded sea turtle the resort’s Marine Centre released back into the ocean just the week before, the owl was near death when Gaya Island took him in. The staff has been slowly nursing him back to health for months. But the owl is far from domestic. He still must work for his food. He does not have a name. “For me, wildlife is always wild,” Justin says. He would know. He has been raising and rehabilitating animals since childhood. Growing up, his backyard in a softwood plantation three hours from Sabah was the temporary resting place of dozens of injured or orphaned creatures. Here on Pulau Gaya, he oversees the immense and, in many instances, unknown environment. The next morning, he takes me for a walk in the woods, with stops to plant stray mangrove seeds (the barbed pods need only be dropped in shallow

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A sun-speckled stroll (skirt, Emilio Pucci; scarf, Hermés; cuff, Chanel). Opposite top: Letting loose at Tavajun Bay (bikini, Emilio Pucci; cuffs, Hermés). Opposite bottom: bearded pigs call Pulau Gaya home.


water) and to rip out an invasive species. He leads me past vine-strangled eucalyptus and termite mounds strong as bulbous, bronze sculptures. He points out a leaf with antiviral properties; a plant good for healing open wounds—and even better for facials; a parasitic fungus capable of killing an entire tree, but highly prized in Chinese medicine; and curculigo officinalis, a berry much like the popular “miracle fruit,” which can make bitter flavors taste sweet. “It’s a vast jungle. We just finished identifying all the plants. There are currently 276 just along the trail. We also have about 18 species of snake and 40 of birds and four species of gecko and four types of flying lizard…” The list goes on. At one point during the walk, Justin reaches down and snatches a viper up as casually as if it were a twig. The serpent, long, whip-thin and a venomous shade of green, coils around his arm and turns to look directly at me. “Is it poisonous?” I ask. “Oh, only a little,” he shrugs. It turns out to be an Oriental vine snake. “But it is not aggressive. It won’t bite me. Look—it’s beautiful.” He speaks in an almost reverent tone, and indeed, it is. I relax just a little after he releases it and watch as it slithers, lightning-quick, into the undergrowth. Justin describes many parts of the forest as “beautiful,” using the same hushed awe regardless of whether an outsider might tend towards “weird” or even “revolting.” Where others might see a millipede, he sees a sign of a thriving, healthy ecosystem.

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T L Guide Getting There Malaysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines. com) and Royal Brunei Airlines (flyroyalbrunei.com) fly directly to Kota Kinabalu from several major Southeast Asian cities. AirAsia (airasia.com) offers flights from Kuala Lumpur. The resort provides speedboat transfers directly from the airport.

Gaya Island Resort Malohom Bay, Pulau Gaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Kota Kinabalu; 60-18/9391100; gayaislandresort.com; doubles from RM810.

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hat same respect for the jungle’s abundance extends to the more refined parts of the resort. On my visit to the spa, I notice the treatments draw more from the Earth than a laboratory. My therapist gently massages my scalp with a bowl of coconut cream laced with fresh avocado, and scrubs the city-soot from my skin with a blend of soaked red rice and more avocado heady with cinnamon. I’ve never smelled better or felt smoother. Thoroughly blissed out, I step outside the spa and stumble across a family of long-tailed macaques. The monkeys eye me with silent, wizened faces, before lazily hopping off the path and vanishing. My treatment room, like the yoga studio where I had saluted the tropical sun that morning, was only barely removed from the forest canopy. On Pulau Gaya, you’re wrapped in the wild. The jungle was here first, and it’s here to stay. ✚ T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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Sunset beers and champagne at Bar(a)Bara, Soneva Fushi’s overwater bar.


Isle of Inspiration

JAGO GA ZENDAM

MERRITT GURLEY CHECKS IN WITH MALDIVIAN QUEEN SONEVA FUSHI AND THE OTHER DREAMERS, INNOVATORS AND SUN-WORSHIPPERS THAT TOOK HOME ACCOLADES AT THIS YEAR’S WILD ASIA RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AWARDS.

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I am lost on an island that might be sinking. Earth-saving innovations that are, in no small feat, actually of interest to their guests.

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here are few places on earth that are as worthy and as deeply in need of preservation as the Maldives. The republic takes its name from the Sanskrit words for “garland island,” as each of the coral islets is surrounded by a reef lagoon. The approach by seaplane is spectacular: the ocean dressed in emerald and sapphire bracelets of various sizes and shapes... or perhaps Davey Jones’ Locker finally sprung open, its bounty having floated to the surface in all its glittering glory. But the splendor is of the vulnerable variety. This is the smallest country in Asia, both in terms of population and landmass, made up of a collection of 1,190 atolls spread over 764 kilometers of the Indian Ocean and with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level—which is gradually rising thanks to global warming. Recent studies released by the United Nations predict that the ocean will increase by

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I start at the beach, an empty stretch of snow-white sand outlined in those turquoise waves the postcards promise. Then I pass the 10-meter long private pool (a pretty solid landmark) and continue onward through the villa and out the door, down a stone path, alongside a wading pool, weaving through palm trees and banyan trees, here to this stonewall waterfall. I have no idea where I am or how to get where I want to be going (to lunch). I walk the length of the waterfall and at its conclusion I spot a shower. It dawns on me. I turn around in slow circle, and it hits me full force. I’m in the bathroom. In the 20 minutes that I’ve been wandering aimlessly, I never left my own villa. My pitiful lack of an internal compass conspires with Soneva Fushi’s pitch-perfect harmony with the natural landscape—and its good fortune to be situated on one of the Maldives’ biggest islands, at 1,400 meters long—to create an environment where I’m often not sure if I am inside or outside. Yet design is only a part of why the Soneva brand was named Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodations Provider at this year’s Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. Soneva’s founders, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, tailored the Fushi’s sustainable practices to the pressures looming largest in the Maldives. They call their mission the slow life, a resort-friendly acronym for the more cumbersome Sustainable-Local-OrganicWellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. This duo launched an international movement to improve access to drinkable water across the globe and they’ve poured millions of dollars into minimizing their resorts’ impact on their surrounds. These efforts have paid off in a slew of


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more than a meter by the turn of the century, which could mean lights out for the Maldives. That would be disastrous for a country that derives most of its revenue from honeymooners and other sunseekers. Back in the mid-1970’s, author Clarence Maloney bemoaned how quickly infrastructure was developing in the Maldives: “Now nine islands have hotels designed to accommodate a total of over 1,000 tourists, of the sort who relish basking in the equatorial sun and who come during the European winter.” Boy would he be pissed today. Tourism developments have broken ground on 14 virgin islands in Maldives this year alone, there are at least 124 resorts, and visitor arrivals last year topped 958,000. Though there are some scientists who write off the environmental concerns as hype, leaders in the Maldives seem to take them pretty seriously. This is a country, after all, that so esteems the power of nature that a coconut was officially arrested during the recent tumultuous election for giving off bad vibes near a polling station. In 2008, then-president Mohamed Nasheed held a cabinet meeting underwater, signing a document that called for global cuts in carbon emissions, all decked out in his scuba gear, making the not-so-subtle point that the country could be swallowed by the depths. He vowed to make the Maldives carbon neutral by 2020 and even set aside a sovereign wealth fund from tourism capital and was in negotiations with Australia to set aside land for displaced Maldivians should the country be washed away. Despite current governmental upheaval, plans seems to be continuing to construct artificial islands that can withstand an oceanic

surge, complete with resorts, golf courses and the other trappings of high-end tourism.

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hat’s so inspiring about Soneva Fushi is that they needed no governmental nudge to go ecowild. One afternoon I tour the atoll, on a mission to uncover the innerworkings of its green innovations. I discover that all leftover metal is sorted and sent to India. Styrofoam is sliced up and used in construction for insulation. Waste wood is used to create charcoal for the resort’s many barbecue grills in such bulk that none needs to be imported. Unlike most resorts in the Maldives that simply chuck their food waste out to sea, Soneva uses this nutrient-rich trash for compost, which has resulted in the speedy growth of eggplants, tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables in their burgeoning on-site garden. This is of paramount importance for the island nation as its loose sand is poorly suited for agriculture, “It is almost

From far left: Soneva’s glass bottles and filtered water sparked the Whole World Water campaign; veggies in the garden at Soneva Fushi; here villas blend in. Bottom: An egret strolls the beach.

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impossible to grow fruits and vegetables without compost,” says Sophy Williams, public relations for Soneva Resorts. “We need this compost to become more self-sufficient.” The compost is so effective that they’ve started selling it to neighboring islands for US$6 a bag. “Recycling is still a good business and that’s what the world needs to wake up to,” Williams says. Recycling can also be a beautiful business. In one room there are bags of sparkling glass, pieces of crushed wine bottles used to supplement cement, reducing the carbon footprint. And the rows of solar panels, bathing in the Maldivian sun, have a sharp metal dazzle of their own. Everything is looking up to snuff when I stumble on a room full of empty plastic bottles—the very kind I’d been assured had been banned back in 2008. Busted. “Ah ha!” I say. “Where did these come from?” Well, as it turns out, the staff goes on recycling runs to pick up plastic bottles at nearby islands and found floating in surrounding waters and collects them to be crushed and sent to India where they are repurposed. Of course they do.

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here’s a sad irony to sitting on a dock with a 360-degree view of the ocean and realizing that there is, as Coleridge nailed it in The Rime of the Ancient Marine, “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” In addition to plastic control, water shortage is a big issue plaguing the Maldives. Once again, Soneva plays part-scientific/part-spiritual leader on this front. Guests pay US$6 per bottle of water at Soneva Fushi and if this sounds steep, realize that this is some seriously pampered aqua—they play Bach and Mozart to the high-class H2O as it is filtered, which they believe improves the taste. For an extra US$2 you can request various crystals be submerged in the water for their supposed healing properties. Half of this water revenue is poured into the slow life foundation, which, according to Arnfinn Oines, who heads up the environmental efforts at Soneva, has helped 600,000 people get access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation over the past four years. In fact, this on-site water purification and glass bottling system has been so successful that it sparked the Whole World Water campaign, which aims to contribute US$1 billion per year from the sale of filtered water towards providing safe drinking water for communities around the world. Essentially hotels pay a licensing fee for membership, which includes branded Whole World Water bottles and associated marketing materials. In turn, 10 percent of the proceeds from the water they sell goes back into the project. Big names like Edward Norton and Richard Branson are advisors, while hotels like the Dusit, the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, the Banyan Tree and Jetwing have already joined the collective. Water isn’t the only high-end commodity at Soneva Fushi. I spend my time on Kunfunadhoo Island cycling sun-dappled trails that lead through arched jungle canopies to stilted yoga studios and hidden beaches, snorkeling the parrot-fish-infested waters, and gorging on 128

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THEY PLAY BACH AND MOZART TO THE HIGH-CLASS H20 AS IT IS FILTERED. YOU CAN REQUEST CRYSTALS BE SUBMERGED IN IT FOR THE HEALING PROPERTIES salted caramels. At sunset I head to the overwater bar for a chilled Corona and the warm rush of sea air, that’s just a little cooler as the sun ducks beneath the horizon. And for dinner? Grilled Maldivian reef fish and butter-drenched lobster. There is an entire room, open round the clock, full of just chocolates. Another room is devoted to breads and ice cream, and yet another is chock-a-block with cheese and cured meats. When I lose my way through this paradise, I enlist the assistance of my personal butler, known as Mr. Friday. It is hedonism at its best in a setting that’s as spectacular as the service. And yet, knowing that part of the profits go towards philanthropy and preservation, that at least some of the energy is being offset by solar power, and that the waste will eventually help a garden grow, takes the guilty edge off of an indulgent vacation. Isn’t that the ultimate luxury? ✚ Soneva Fushi, Kunfunadhoo, Maldives 960/660-0304; soneva.com;

doubles from US$1,145.

Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand

66-3/961-9800; soneva.com; doubles from US$1,120. Please see page 130 for all the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award winners.


Singapore’s Best Employer 2013 and Best Employer for Commitment to Engagement 2013 By Aon Hewitt Forbes Travel Guide Recommended 2013 By Forbes Travel Guide Best Independent Hotel Award 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 By TTG Travel Awards Singapore Green Hotel Award 2011 By Singapore Hotel Association Hotel of the Year Award 2010 By Summit Hotels & Resorts AsiaOne People’s Choice Best Buffet Restaurant 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 By SPH AsiaOne Carousel, Best Buffet Restaurant By The Straits Times

25 Scotts Road Singapore 228220 www.royalplaza.com.sg Tel: (65) 6737 7966 Fax: (65) 6737 6646 Email: royal@royalplaza.com.sg


LEADERS OF THE PACK Best in Community Engagement and Development

Winner Bali CoBTA, Indonesia (cbtbali.org), is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable tourism. “Successfully established an ambitious, multi-stakeholder working and advisory group, to develop more sustainable and marketable community-based tourism in Bali.” —peter richards

Runner Up Lisu Lodge, Thailand (asianoasis.com; two-day, one-night trek from Bt3,320), named after the Lisu villagers whose ancestors migrated from China and Tibet a hundred years ago, is part of a project that works to preserve Thai culture.

Best in Resource Efficiency

Runner Up Sampran Riverside, Thailand (sampranriverside.com; doubles from Bt2,900 per night), offers a window into local Thai life, exploring both the rich history and current culture.

Best in Protection of Natural Areas and/or Wildlife Conservation

Winner Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka (ranweli. com; doubles from US$205), is an eco-friendly resort on nearly 9 hectares of land, rich with mangrove forests and rivers teeming with life. “Tangible examples include contributions, conservation, eduction, carbon offsetting, sewage treatment, green purchasing and mangrove rehabilitation.”— amy mcloughlin

Best in Cultural Preservation

Winner Frangipani Langkawi Resport and Spa, Malaysia (frangipanilangkawi.com; doubles from RM580, with breakfast), is an eco-friendly beach resort on Pantai Tengah. “Very innovative when it comes to recycling. The owner builds his own systems, and is open about transferring knowledge and helping other hotels adopt his innovations.” —jens thraenhart

Runner Up Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka (heritancehotels. com; doubles from US$165), designed by Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa, overlooks the rock fortress of Sigiriya.

Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Accommodation Provider

Runner Up Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysia (sukau.com; overnight wildlife safari RM1,138 per person) protects Borneo’s wildlife and waterways, while providing superlative comfort.

Most Inspiring Responsible Tour Operator

Winner Papua Expeditions, Indonesia (papuaexpeditions. com; ascent of Mount Nok, six nights, from €1,164), has hiking birding, wildlife and trekking expeditions on the lesser-known western half of New Guinea. “Within a remarkable and largely undiscovered destination, they provide inspiring management and contribute to community engagement, especially with indigenous groups, and wildlife conservation.”—a.m.

Best in Cultural Preservation

Winner Apani Dhani, India (apanidhani.com), introduces visitors to the traditional arts and crafts of Rajasthan. “Engages with its local community on powerful levels. Their campaign to protect historic buildings in Shekhawat wiill help to keep arts vibrant and relevant in people’s daily lives.” —p.r.

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Runner Up Scuba Junkie, Malaysia (scuba-junkie.com; doubles from RM215), runs dive trips to 25 islands in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, exposing visitors to some of the world’s most biodiverse dives.

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Winner Soneva Resorts, Thailand & Maldives (soneva. com; Crusoe villas from US$1,145) pushes the envelope when it comes to combining luxury with conservation. “Innovation, quantifiable action and creativity with impacts at scale, on issues like climate change, access to water, recycling and hiring local people.” —p.r.

Runner Up ViaVia Tours, Indonesia (viaviajogja.com; four-hour bicycle-trip to a Javanese village; Rp135,000 per person for groups of two or more), gives part of all profits from its adventure, gastronomy, arts and culture tours to supporting educational, social and cultural projects around Yogyakarta.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F B A L I C O B TA ; C O U R T E S Y O F S A M P R A N R I V E R S I D E ; C O U R T E S Y O F F R A N G I P A N I L A N G K A W I R E S O R T A N D S P A ; C O U R T E S Y O F S U K A U R A I N F O R E S T L O D G E ; G U N T H E R I Z E / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F V I A V I A T O U R S ; C O U R T E S Y O F S O N E V A ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F S C U B A J U N K I E ; C O U R T E S Y O F A P A N I D H A N I ; C O U R T E S Y O F L I S U L O D G E ; C O U R T E S Y O F R A N W E L I H O L I D AY V I L L A G E ; C O U R T E S Y O F H E R I TA N C E K A N D A L A M A

We spoke with Wild Asia Responsible Tourism judges JENS THRAENHART, AMY MCLOUGHLIN and PETER RICHARDS to find out how these jolly green giants managed to take the top spots in an award that draws nominations from the world’s most forward thinking names in sustainable tourism.


SUBSCRIBE NOW TO OUR DIGITAL EDITION Available at www.zinio.com 1 year / 12 issues for US$29.99.


Pacific Spirits The romance of Vanuatu isn’t found merely in its upscale resorts and deep-blue seas, but also its dark and abiding Melanesian history. Island-hop the happy-go-lucky archipelago of coconut crabs, klevers and the cult of Prince Philip. Story and photos by Ian Lloyd Neubauer


Blazing saddle-free in Mele Bay. Opposite top: A cultural performer at Vanuatu Secret Garden.

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Chilling on Lelepa. Opposite: Spearfishing in crystal-clear seas.


ith its candy-colored buildings, bustling farmers’ market and sultry seaside location, Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, has the look and feel of a reggae video. The city, if one can call it that, was established in the late 19th century as the administrative center of an Anglo-French venture known as the New Hebrides. At first a bastion of law and order, Port Vila descended into a veritable pirate’s den during World War I, when the then-superpowers turned their attention to the Western Front. Impromptu horse races tore down the main drag and drunks fired pistols at random targets and into the sky, while slaves were traded with the throw of a hand of cards at the notorious Bloodhouse Bar. Yet even these antics were eclipsed by the depravities of the outer islands, where human sacrifice and cannibalism were rife. A number of high-profile Europeans, particularly missionaries, were roasted on the spit—even though they weren’t especially savored by the connoisseurs of human flesh. “The natives allege that this is because the whites taste bad,” wrote Swiss anthropologist Felix Speiser in 1923. “He stinks of gin. He eats too much salt.” Who would’ve guessed that such a debauched nearcaricature of old Oceania would, 80-odd years later, be the paradisiacal, warm and inviting society topping the 178 contenders in 2006’s inaugural Happy Planet Index? (The study assesses a country’s environmental footprint, and its residents’ life expectancy and wellbeing .) “People are happy here because they are very satisfied with very little,” Mark Lowen, an Australian journalist based in Vanuatu said. “This is not consumer-driven society. Life here is about community and family and goodwill to other people.” The gross domestic happiness of its people—and, as I experienced, their genuine embrace of foreigners—remains unchanged. “Our salaries are very low,” says bus driver David Carcasses, “but we have everything we need.” Despite the fact that they pay no income taxes—something surely high on many people’s happiness meters—“you will never see a person go hungry or begging in Vanautu.” Adds yam farmer Heston Bebe: “Life here is timeless.” That means subsistence agriculture and fisheries for the vast majority of its 250,000 people, who are scattered about 83 velvet-green islands ringed in coral reefs. A patchwork of tropical forests edged by beaches and translucent seas home to more than 4,000 species of marine mollusks, 450 kinds of reef fish and 300 species of coral, this South Seas archipelago is a virtual Garden of Eden. It’s an opinion shared by the few thousand cruise passengers and honeymooners who visit Vanuatu every week to shop in Port Vila and to ensconce themselves in full-service resorts elsewhere on the main island of Efate. “Vanuatu used to sell itself exclusively as a honeymoon destination,” says Troy Spain, a retired postal officer from Sydney who operates an abseiling business at Mele Waterfall. “But

they were selling the country short of everything else it has to offer.” Indeed, beyond this tiny Pacific nation’s welltraveled confines lies a rich Melanesian culture steeped both in religion and magic with a dark but fascinating colonial history.

Cannibalism in the New Hebrides was stamped

out by missionaries in the 1920’s, but sorcery remains ingrained in the national psyche. Witchdoctors, known as klevers, are often contracted by Vanuatuans to protect them against the spirits of the recently deceased, to deliver bumper crops and to concoct love spells. Malicious klevers can also be called upon to rain misfortune or bad health upon one’s foes using small stones baring the likeness of human faces called nakaemas. “At first I didn’t believe, but there have been many cases with people killed by witchcraft in Vanuatu,” says Benna Vores, a law student I meet in Port Vila. “When the doctors performed the autopsies, they saw that internal organs had been replaced by leaves.” Vores helped me set up a meeting with a klever but when we rendezvous, he informs me without irony that the klever can’t see me because he’s sick with a cold. This being a Sunday, Vores offers to take me instead to a mass held by a chapter of The Revival Fellowship on the outskirts of town. The service is held in Bislama—a comical creole of English, French and Spanish (the term for brasserie is basket blong titi; french fries are chipypotato)—but sees churchgoers enter a kind of spasm and spew prayers in an unintelligible gobbledegook: “The Bible says he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to man but to God,” says Jimmy Langa, a parishioner I meet. “When I speak in tongues, my mind is not there. I cannot understand but the Devil can’t understand it either. It’s the language of the Holy Spirit. It comes from the heart.” T R AV E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A .C O M

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My soul now nourished, I return to the waterfront to do the same for my body at one of Port Vila’s 50-some restaurants, cafés and bars. Grass-fed antibiotic-free beef from the island of Espiritu Santo is a favorite among tourists, though the locals prefer wild pigeon or flying fox. These gamey dishes are marinated in red wine at L’Houstalet, Port Vila’s most talked-about FrenchMelanesian restaurant. When I go there I opt instead for the deliciously sweet meat of coconut crab. With fist-size pincers used to crack open, as you might have guessed, coconuts, these shellfish are hazardous to hunt. these crabs can be dangerous and can easily cut off your finger if provoked, warns a sign posted on a cage housing a coconut crab at the Secret Garden, a family friendly cultural attraction on Efate’s south coast. After a few days in Port Vila, I head to Havannah Bay, a sheltered strait encircled by islets on Efate’s north coast. There, I check-in to The Havannah, a chic boutique resort that would look right at home in Seminyak. It features 16 luxuriously appointed bungalows, a two-tiered infinity pool and open-air restaurant with oversize red sofas. Hardwood table settings freckle the garden and private beach, though the best spot in the house is on a glassbottom pavilion set into the jetty. The Havannah’s contingent of complimentary activities boggles the mind: sunset catamaran cruises in waters bubbling with bottlenose dolphins; guided treks through coast-hugging jungle; and transfers to secluded beaches on Tranquillity Island on the other side of the bay.

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Tranquillity has a small bungalow complex, a dive center, and the longest-running Hawksbill turtle-breeding program in the South Pacific. Devoid of development, roads and electricity, the island a great place to disconnect. “If you think Tranquillity is laid-back, then you’ve got to get yourself the outer islands,” says Victoria Maclean, The Havannah’s assistant manager. “There are villages there that have laws against modern inventions and people who live 100 percent traditional lives. The men still wear penis sheaths and women wear grass skirts. I can’t imagine there are many places outside Papua New Guinea or the depths of the Amazon Jungle like that.”

I take Maclean’s advice and book an overnight

trip to Tanna Island in Vanuatu’s south where I walk around the crater of Mount Yasur, one of the world’s most accessible active stratovolcanoes. Tanna is also home to the Prince Philip cult that recognizes the husband of Queen Elizabeth II as the living incarnation of the son of a mountain-dwelling spirit and worships him as a god. I also visit Pentecost Island, an hour’s flight to the north, where I see men throw themselves off a 30-meterhigh bamboo tower with vines tied to their feet in a centuries-old coming-of-age ceremony. The land divers of Pentecost inspired the modern-day extreme sportsmen who invented bungee jumping but, done Vanuatu-style, the stakes are markedly higher. Fatalities may be rare (the last was reported in 2006), but ruptured spleens, concussions and dislocated bones are par for the course. In my heart of


Outrigger kayaking on Lelepa. Opposite from left: Sailing Havannah Bay; be wary of the coconut crab’s pincers.


Set for a swim at The Havannah. Opposite: Land divers of Pentacost prep for the plunge.


hearts, I know I would never have the balls to do this, let alone walk around all day in a penis sheath. On my last day, I take a speedboat to Lelepa Island where I spend the day snorkeling over Technicolor reefs, stuffing myself on barbecued fish and sunbaking on secluded, sunkissed, sugar-white beaches. As I lie there, palm trees behind me, warm water rushing between my toes, a cloudless blue sky reflected on the swell, I think there is nowhere left to travel after this, nothing to say, nothing to do but sit back and soak it in, one soft, glassy wave at a time. Like so many of Vanuatu’s islands, Lelepa is more than just pretty face. My guide Albert Solomon shows me a plant with anesthetic properties used to soothe toothaches and a tree used to make outrigger canoes. He takes me deep into the jungle to see the twisted remains of a Scout Bomber Douglas—one of 300 U.S. Air Force planes that crashlanded in the New Hebrides during World War II. He leads me into a 100-meter-deep cave used as a leper colony in the early 20th century following an outbreak attributed to European missionaries. And he tells me how Lelepa’s 500 residents bathed in the international spotlight when the American and Australian versions of the TV series Survivor were filmed here in 2004 and 2006 respectively. “When we saw them trying to open a coconut, some people laughed so hard they could not breathe,” Solomon says. “They still make jokes and laugh about it today.” Most Vanuatuans are softly spoken and reserved, though there is a small, highly vocal minority that takes pleasure in rocking the boat. Solomon fits into the latter archetype and is non-stop with the jokes, especially when the subject of cannibalism is broached. “You’re a journalist?” he enthuses. “Fantastic! Please send more tourists to come and visit Lelepa Island. The last group that came here was delicious.” ✚

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T L Guide Getting there Vanuatu Air (678/23-848; airvanuatu.com) flies from Sydney to Port Vila, Efate Island, daily. Melanesian Tours (678/26-847; melanesiantours.com) offer airport transfers and ground transport elsewhere on Efate.

STAY The Havannah A boutique resort on Efate’s northwest coast. 678/551-8060; thehavannah.com; villas from A$420; dinner for two from A$24. Iririki Island Resort On a private island on Port Vila Harbour. 61-3/9326-6579; iririki.com; waterfront bungalows from A$318; candlelit balcony three-course dinners for two A$100. Tranquillity Dive Resort Ecoproperty on Tranquillity Island. 678/25-020; tranquillitydive. com; palm-thatch bungalows with meals A$120 per person; introductory dive A$60.

EAT AND DRINK Élan Stylish waterfront eatery in Port Vila. Try the Vanuatuan aged organic eye fillet, lobster stack or clam chowder. Wharf Rd.; 678/25-526; dinner for two from A$60. L’Houstalet Restaurant Iconic 40-year old French restaurant on Route de Lagon, Port Vila. 678/22-303; house specialties: flying fox in red wine A$25, coconut crab in garlic sauce A$35. Do Coongoola Day Cruise 678/25-020; southpacdive cruise.com.vu; day trips to secluded coves on Tranquillity Island aboard a 23-meter sailing ketch with barbecue lunch and snorkeling gear A$120. Mele Cascades Thirty-meter waterfall with bright-blue natural swimming pools set in tropical gardens a 15-minute drive north of Port Vila. Entry A$25. Evergreen Tours 678/23-050; evergreenvanuatu.com; half-day tours around Efate with pick-up from Port Vila A$40.

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Our Definitive Guide to

Edgy boutiques. Independent galleries. Forward-thinking restaurants, each more innovative than the last. There’s never been a better time to visit the South African city. Will Hide surveys the scene. Photographed by Dook


Artists Mbongeni Dlamini (left) and MornĂŠ Visagie at Whatiftheworld Gallery, in Woodstock, just southeast of Cape Town. Opposite: A giant disco ball at Grand CafĂŠ & Beach, on the V&A Waterfront.

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CAPE TOWN

SOU TH A F RICA CA PE TOW N

V& A WAT E RF RON T

ROBBE N ISLAND

From left: The lounge at One&Only Cape Town; a room at Villa Zest.

C IT Y BOW L WOODSTOC K C LI F TON

CA M PS BAY TA BLE MOU N TA I N

N 0

2.4 K M

CONSTA NTIA

Lay of the Land City Bowl Cape Town’s commercial heart is home to trendy neighborhoods such as Gardens, De Waterkant and Bo-Kaap, filled with stylish cafés and colorful cottages. Clifton/Camps Bay White-sand beaches border the city’s ritziest area, where cocktail bars spill out onto the shore. Constantia Known for its rolling vineyards, Constantia is just a 20-minute drive south from downtown. V&A Waterfront Fashion boutiques and live-​music venues line this historic landmark, also a gateway to nearby Robben Island. Woodstock Design shops and galleries make up the artsy suburb of Woodstock, a hub for Cape Town’s creative set. Getting Around Taxis are easy to hail. Rent a car (drivesouthafrica.co.za) to reach the Winelands; many wineries are accessible off Route 62.

Stay Seven hotels that top our list, from the latest openings to the classics. CAPE GRACE Located on a private quay, Cape Grace is a magnet for Hollywood royalty (Ryan Reynolds and Beyoncé have been spotted here). Rooms come with whimsical chandeliers made from dangling delft saucers, botanical prints and forged iron lamps. capegrace.com; R5,313.

ELLERMAN HOUSE You’ll find plenty of discreet charm at this Edwardian, mountainside retreat overlooking the Atlantic. The main mansion has starkwhite balustrades and sweeping patios. Tour the terraced gardens, and the art gallery, built into the bluff. ellerman. co.za; R8,000.

KENSINGTON PLACE In-the-know travelers love this eight-room town house in the foothills of Table Mountain. The interiors are ultracontemporary (white-on-white bedding; slick leather couches; hot-pink pillows), with tasteful accents such as original South African artwork. kensingtonplace.co.za; R3,553.

MOUNT NELSON HOTEL The 1899 colonial-style structure is showing its age, but a recent renovation has given the storied hotel new life: updated Oasis wing rooms are decked out in plush red sofas and paintings by local artists, while chef-led

tours bring guests to the coastline to forage for the night’s dinner. mountnelson.co.za; R4,570.

ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN The postcard-perfect views of Table Mountain and Adam Tihany– designed rooms (bright geometric textiles; parquet flooring; freestanding soaking tubs) have made this V&A Waterfront hotel a new favorite. oneandonlycapetown. com; R5,985.

TAJ CAPE TOWN You can’t get more central than the Taj, just steps from Parliament and St. George’s Cathedral. Inside, old

meets new: elegant Heritage rooms—tufted headboards; original mullioned windows—in two restored landmark buildings offset the more modern Tower wing, with floor-toceiling windows and private balconies. tajcapetown.co.za; R2,475.

VILLA ZEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL It’s all about the 1970’s at this new Bauhausinspired building in leafy and trendy Green Point: vintage Polaroid cameras and Panasonic Toot-a-Loop radios line the hallways, while rooms are decorated in mod egg chairs and shag rugs. villazest.co. za; R1,590.

Hotel prices are starting rates for double occupancy.


Shop

Our favorite one-of-a-kind boutiques across Cape Town.

HEATH NASH The 35-year-old owner of this open studio in Woodstock is a champion of sustainability, repurposing items such as milk cartons and galvanized wire into decorative art. We love the colorful lampshades, made from hundreds of hand-cut plastic flowers. heathnash.com.

HOUSE OF MACHINES Equal parts men’s outfitter, motorcycle shop, café and bar, House of Machines caters to various whims (and tastes). Try one of the small-batch bourbons, then shop for a pair of house-brand jeans and watch the mechanic at work. thehouseofmachines.com.

everything from textured ceramics to ribbons, natural soaps and vintage porcelain tea sets. olivestudio.co.za.

OLIVE GREEN CAT You’re unlikely to leave this jewelry boutique empty-handed. Philippa Green and Ida Elsje turn out avant-garde treasures— embellished cuffs; rings with diamonds suspended in resin—that make a statement. olivegreencat.com.

MUNGO & JEMIMA Come here for a carefully chosen selection of feminineyet-sophisticated women’s wear and accessories—bold pleated skirts; patent-leather brogues— by emerging South Africa–based designers including Coppelia, Margot Molyneux and Selfi. mungoandjemima.com.

O.LIVE

From left: Home décor on display at O.live, in Woodstock; outside Mungo & Jemima, in City Bowl.

Rupert Smith and Warren Matthee’s rustic-chic local housewares shop is an aspiring decorator’s dream. You can find

See+Do 1

District Six Museum.

Whatiftheworld Gallery Woodstock’s first art space, which participates in major fairs like Frieze New York and Volta, in Basel, Switzerland, showcases the city’s newest generation of contemporary artists. The highlights: exhibitions by local painters such as John Murray and international multimedia talents including renowned illustrator Olaf Hajek. whatiftheworld.com.

Three ways to get your culture fix.

2

District Six Museum This former Methodist church was a shelter for anti-apartheid protesters during the Sixth Municipal District’s 1960’s fallout. Today the museum hosts a diverse range of works, from South African photography and fine art to living documents (street signs; books; audio recordings) that are a chilling narrative of the city’s past. districtsix.co.za.

3

Table Mountain A 10-minute ride from downtown brings you to the base of Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain, named for its distinctive flat top. An aerial cableway whisks sightseers to unbeatable views of Cape Peninsula and beyond; more-​adventurous types can reach the summit via a three-hour hike from the base up Platteklip Gorge with outfitter Abseil Africa. abseilafrica.co.za.

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CAPE TOWN From left: Korean fried chicken with pineapple cannelloni and miso dressing at Pot Luck Club & Gallery, in Woodstock; browsing local produce at Neighbourgoods Market, also in Woodstock.

Explore the Winelands

Eat

Some of South Africa’s best vineyards are a short drive from the center of Cape Town. These four are worth the detour.

Here, six places to sample Cape Town’s ever-evolving “rainbow cuisine.” CARNE SA Braaiing (grilling) is a national pastime in South Africa, and no one does it better than this locavore steak house (the meats are sourced largely from owner Giorgio Nava’s ranch in the Karoo). You can’t go wrong with the free-range lamb, braaied over coal, or the 24-month-aged, grass-​fed sirloin. carne-sa.com; R500. GRAND CAFÉ & BEACH The ocean-facing tables and outdoor cabanas at this beachside hangout are perennially packed with stylish Capetonians. What to order: café classics such as smoked-trout salad

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and flatbread pizzas. grandafrica.com; R540. NEIGHBOURGOODS MARKET On Saturday mornings, the city’s hipster bread makers and charcutiers gather at this collection of high-end artisanal food stalls in Woodstock. Pick up pastries, coffee and crêpes, then grab a seat at one of the communal wooden tables. Or stock up for a picnic. neighbourgoods market.co.za. POT LUCK CLUB & GALLERY Chef-owner Luke DaleRobert’s low-key tapas spot is the coastal port’s most buzzed-

about restaurant. An airy, loftlike dining room decorated with contemporary art sets the backdrop for his creative dishes, prepared in an open kitchen. Don’t miss the pork belly with red cabbage and apple slaw. thepotluckclub. co.za; R600. ROUNDHOUSE When restaurant designer—and jet-​ setting foodie—Adam Tihany comes to town, he stops in at this onetime Dutch East India Company guardhouse on Table Mountain. The draw? A six-course tasting menu (rib eye with onion petals; beet

carpaccio served with pickled eggplant and shimeji mushrooms). theroundhouse restaurant.com; R800. TEST KITCHEN Pot Luck Club & Gallery’s sophisticated older sister made its debut three years ago with an innovative concept. Ingredients such as ginger and yuzu are pickled and poached to intensify their essence, while dishes are presented in unexpected ways: biltong (cured meat) is topped with plum-cured foie gras; langoustines come alongside smoked quail and a corn-andmiso velouté. thetest​ kitchen.co.za; R1,080.

Restaurant prices are approximate rates for dinner for two.

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Twenty minutes south of the city, the 182-hectare Groot Constantia (groot​ constantia.co.za) is one of the country’s oldest wine estates, known for its high-quality blends. • From there, make your way east to Fairview (fairview.co.za), just outside the historic town of Paarl; book a private tasting of the winery’s single-vineyard bottlings paired with Fairview’s own goat-milk cheeses. • In the nearby Franschhoek valley, Babylonstoren (babylon​ storen.com) produces fruity Viogniers and Chardonnays. • Moving north, rocky landscapes line the coast—don’t miss Tierhoek (tierhoek. com), whose high altitude and breezy conditions contribute to the intense flavors in its Chenin Blancs.


From left: Drinks alfresco on Tjing Tjing’s terrace; a salad with orange, feta, walnuts, dates and pomegranate at Hemelhuijs; Sea Point, along Cape Town’s waterfront.

Local Take Get the scoop on the city from these three Capetonians. BRAD ARMITAGE

ISHAY

Restaurant entrepreneur and co-owner of the House of Machines

GOVENDER-YPMA

LUVO NTEZO

Food blogger at foodandthe fabulous.com

Head sommelier at the One&Only Cape Town hotel

I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y L A U R E N N A S S E F

“On summer mornings you can find me catching surf breaks at Horse Trails, near Big Bay, before returning to town for a bacon croissant and fruit salad at Jason Bakery (jasonbakery.com). My family and I often pack up the car and go swimming in the rock pools at Bakeoven Beach, probably Cape Town’s best-kept secret. I love to watch the lights come up on Table Mountain at dusk. For the greatest view, head to Tjing Tjing (tjingtjing.co.za), one of the city’s few rooftop bars, and order a negroni.”

Beyond the City

Cape Point You’ll pass Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African penguins, before reaching the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve (capepoint. co.za). The view from one of the peninsula’s highest points is unparalleled.

“For a sneaky weekday brunch, I go to Hemelhuijs (hemelhuijs.co.za; R790 ), where chef Jacques Erasmus combines seasonal and classic ingredients like salmon with daikon radish. The freshly squeezed fruit juices served in tall jars are a must. Kalk Bay is a wonderful place to bring out-of-towners; be sure to have lunch at Harbour House (harbour​house. co.za; R740), which looks out over the waterfront. The Orphanage (theorphanage.co.za) cocktail emporium is a favorite for late-night drinks; the tapas are equally outstanding.” Hout Bay A scenic, cliff-hugging drive leads to this picturesque harborside town. Stop by the late-19th-century Chapmans Peak Hotel (chapmanspeakhotel.co.za) for lunch and order the fried calamari.

“After an early run along the seafront, I recharge with breakfast at Giovanni’s Deliworld (103 Main Rd.; 27-21/434-6893); get the ham-andcheese ciabatta sandwich with a cappuccino. On my days off, I’ll put the top down on my convertible and drive out toward Stellenbosch to visit small, quality wineries such as Bizoe Wines (bizoe.co.za), Grangehurst Winery (grangehurst. co.za) and Rainbow’s End (rainbowsend.co.za). Along the way, I stop for a bite at Terroir (kleinezalze. com; R520 ) at Kleine Zalze farm, known for its Shiraz.”

Scarborough An hour outside central Cape Town, this seaside village draws urbanites seeking a quiet weekend escape. Stroll the boardwalk that runs along the beach—​ if it’s windy, you’ll have only kitesurfers for company.


Last Look

Photographed by Morgan Ommer

Vietnam

Just starting out

First portrait A motorbike tour from the northernmost town to the most southerly brought Morgan Ommer to Nam Dan, hometown of Ho Chi Minh, where Mr. Duyen and his wife, ethnic Daos, posed for their first formal portrait.

Newlyweds from Quy Nhon, Lang and Hien run a restaurant specializing in rice dishes. They rent this building in the town of Sa Thay from a local painter and muralist, lending their cafĂŠ an artistic flair.

Pride of the family Taylor Swift-fan and top student Kim Chi (in white shirt) is a spell scholar—the stay-in-school program to which the photogapher has dedicated his two-month charity ride. The 15-year-old 10th-grader lives with her mom, grandmother and two sisters in Hue.

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An afternoon off Early motherhood offers a reprieve from field labor for these Jarai women in the village Kleng. Perhaps their infants will one day join the ranks of the now-4,000 spell scholars in the Central Highlands.


December 2013  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia 2013

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