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SOUTHEAST ASIA

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PHNOM PENH NIGHTS SWEDEN WHEN IT SHIMMERS IN THE SUMMER WHEN KYOTO CALLS

SINGAPORE S$7.90 HONG KONG HK$43 THAILAND THB175 ● INDONESIA IDR50,000 ● MALAYSIA MYR18 ● VIETNAM VND85,000 ● MACAU MOP44 ● PHILIPPINES PHP240 ● BURMA MMK35 ● CAMBODIA KHR22,000 ● BRUNEI BND7.90 ● LAOS LAK52,000 ●

The Philippines find an island to call your own


INGREDIENTS FOR A GREAT Nestled between the bustling markets of Cenang Beach, and a kilometre of white sandy beach amidst lush tropical greenery lies the Jewel of Langkawi that is Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa. Built in the traditional Malaysian Village concept , this rustic charm embodies the traditions of Malay architecture with modern amenities, a balance of East meets West creating the perfect island getaway. Elegantly furnished in soft pastel colours, each guestroom is equipped with modern comforts , while the lighting creates cosy ambience. Natural textured materials such as sisal carpet panels and nyatoh flower motifs are added as decorative pieces. All rooms and suites are non-smoking. Enveloped in lush tropical greenery with white sands and blue waters bordering on one side, Meritus Pelangi provides the perfect combination of an island carefree holiday. Whether it is the Garden, Lake , Pool or Beachfront room, each is an oasis in itself.

For families, the spacious family room with one king sized bed and single bed as well as day bed, perfect for a family of four. With two swimming pools ,the kids themed Horizon Pool area gives families the perfect escapade, leaving the sunken bar and Cascade Pool for those who prefer a more serene atmosphere. Dining options at Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa provides an array of Asian and International Delicacies at the Spice Market Restaurant and the perfect Cocktail Hour at sunset at the Beachfront Restaurant, Cba. The many leisurely activities such as the island safari , jungle treks, yachting, golfing and a rejuvenating spa is guaranteed to give you the perfect holiday balance. Yet, stretched across 35 acres, guests will never be lost for their own personal space at Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa even at its busiest. This truly is the island getaway for those who want to experience a traditional Malaysian beach holiday.


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Contents Features 66 Your Own Private Island They don’t call the Philippines an archipelago for nothing. There are more stunning, secluded islands, coves and beaches than we’ve had time to overdevelop. Thank goodness. So, peruse this list of our favorite slices of personal paradises, then put in for those vacation days. Privacy and time—the ultimate luxuries. by st eph a n ie zu bir i . pho t ogr a phed by fr a ncisco gu er r ero

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The Sweet Spot The best sunsets—possibly beaches and fish sauce—in Vietnam are actually found in the Gulf of Thailand. But Phu Quoc is coming of age. j en in n e lee - st . joh n heads to the leafy, laid-back island before mass-tourism harshes its mellow. pho t ogr a phed by morga n om m er . gu ide a n d m a p

FRANCISCO GUERRERO

page

83

84 Brand-Name Bali Grounded luxury amid thriving local culture? di a na h u bbell asserts that you still can have it all on the ever-more-upscale Bukit Peninsula. pho t ogr a phed by n ikol a kostic . gu ide page

91

92 A New Day Dawning As the U.S. warms to Cuba, the world awaits a country on the verge—but of what? ga ry sht e y nga rt

discovers a culture that is hanging in the balance, at turns strivingly modern and forever 1959. pho t ogr a phed by fr édér ic l agr a nge . gu ide page

101

102 Suddenly, This Summer On the Bohuslän Coast, the sea is sparkling, the crayfish are jumping, and Sweden’s most perfect season is (finally) here. by pe t er jon lin dberg . pho t ogr a phed by mik k el va ng . m a p page page

109. gu ide

111

Not a bad place to land: the private runway of Balesin Island Club, Philippines, page 66.

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Contents Radar 27 Pretty Again A reboot of Australia’s top beach house. 32 The Sweetest Seaport Philippine coastal college town. 34 A Date with 308 Phnom Penh’s hottest new watering holes. 36 Chic Batik Folk textile made high fashion. 40

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42

40 Tropical Trunks Splashy swimwear. 42 Starlit Plateau Eco-glamping in the Tibetan highlands. Plus Isles of the sub-rosa Andaman sea, south of Phuket; the coolest sun hats; and more.

Trip Doctor

53 The Fix How to claim compensation when your plans go awry. 56 Tech Hotel Wi-Fi fees. 58 Road Trip How and where to drive Southeast Asia. 60 Deals Decoder 112 Our Definitive Guide to Kyoto

Last Look

118 North Island, New Zealand In Every Issue t +l digi ta l

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con tr ibu tor s

20 i n b ox

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On the Cover In Mykonos Village, at Balesin Island Club, Philippines. Photographer: Francisco Guerrero. Stylist: Guada Reyes. Make-up: Renen Bautista Model: Luisa Beltran. “Sassy” dress with beaded collar by Nimo With Love; raffia clutch bag by Hat Attack; neon sandals by Jack Rogers.

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 I S T R O T B A S S A C ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A Z U ; C O U R T E S Y O F N O R D E N T R A V E L ; S H I N S U K E M AT S U K A W A ; K R I S T O F F E R L A R S E N

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Phnom Penh nightS Sweden when it ShimmerS in the Summer when Kyoto CallS

j u n e 2 0 15

The Philippines

● Singapore S$7.90 ● Hong Kong HK$43 ● THailand THB175 indoneSia idr50,000 ● MalaySia Myr18 ● VieTnaM Vnd85,000 ● Macau Mop44 ● pHilippineS pHp240 ● BurMa MMK35 caMBodia KHr22,000 ● Brunei Bnd7.90 ● laoS laK52,000

find an island to call your own

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Editor’s Note

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@CKucway chrisk@mediatransasia.com

CAN YOU SUM UP WHAT YOU EXPECT OF YOUR

next vacation in a single word? It’s not a trick question. The answer comes easily when you reflect on your past journeys, when you experienced that singular moment for which no other reaction would suffice but “Wow.” At their best, our travels should take us away from the norm with encounters that surprise us, and they should stick in our minds long after we’ve experienced them. Enter Mr. Wow, Vietnamese guide extraordinaire. The carefree manner in which

One of many quiet beaches on Phu Quoc.

he navigates Phu Quoc (“The Sweet Spot,” page 76), an island known mostly for fish sauce, seems perfectly appropriate to our deputy editor Jeninne Lee-St. John. She visits “for the laid-back vibe that lingers even as the island slowly but surely heads upscale.” Read the story, and I’ll guess that you’ll soon add little-known Phu Quoc to your must-visit list. This issue is our annual special on beaches and islands, so we’ve got a trio of stories meant to keep you au fait in sandy, sun-drenched designer circles. Don’t miss “Chic Batik” (page 36), a modern take on that cloth-making technique; “Tropical Trunks” (page 40), the latest in men’s swimwear; and the pile of stylish sun hats in “Made in the Shade” (page 46). Your beachside fashion sense will climb a few notches. Recently, I was fortunate enough to revisit Kyoto (Decoder, page 112), a personal favorite and the top destination among T+L’s global readership. Kyoto is well known for its temples and shrines as well as a strong embrace of design, so I was more than amused when a friend there suggested we see a Japanese band perform word-perfect American pop hits from the 50s and 60s, despite the fact that none of the band actually speaks English. A fun night. Still, what stands out in my mind most about Kyoto is staring skyward at the stands of bamboo one dawn in Arashiyama. The towering green stalks scraped against each other in the breeze. I was silent, but most certainly was thinking, “Wow.”

The T+L Code While on assignment, Travel+Leisure editors and contributors travel incognito whenever possible. They also generally do not accept free travel or take press trips; we will clearly identify any instances in which we’ve made an exception to this policy.

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F R O M T O P : N A P AT R A V E E W AT; M O R G A N O M M E R

Christopher Kucway


Contributors Stephanie Zubiri — Writer “The Sweetest Seaport,” page 32, and “Your Own Private Island,” page 66

Nicole Saunders — Writer “A Date with 308,” page 34

Diana Hubbell ­— Writer “Brand-Name Bali,” page 84

Capital changes I’ve been in Phnom Penh for only eight months, but I’ve witnessed so much growth. The insane speed of development is incredible. Barely a week goes by without a hip new dining spot or bar opening up. Favorite Cambodian dish All Cambodian curries are hard to resist but the rich and aromatic saraman curry is my pick. I’m in town for 24 hours. Where are we eating and drinking? Start the day with perfect eggs Benedict and flat white at The Duck. Head to Che Culo around 5 p.m. for happy hour; they do a fantastic Negroni. Come dinner, go to The Lost Room for some of the most exquisite food you’ll find in Phnom Penh. Order anything—or everything.

Nusa Dua... feels like a super-groomed mega-resort, but with quirky nooks lurking behind the glitz. Uluwatu... is a short drive away, but might as well be on a different planet—limestone cliffs, massive waves and lots of beautiful emptiness. Favorite moment Weaving through piles of tuna and blue lobsters the size of toddlers in Jimbaran’s pasar ikan. Best meal Friends took me to Bumbu Bali for a rijsttafel-style feast including braised lamb and bebek betutu (duck in banana leaves). I was too full to move afterwards, but it was worth it. Making friends I met a sunburned Russian camping alone in the middle of nowhere in Uluwatu. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: COURTESY OF STEPHANIE ZUBIRI; COURTESY OF DIANA HUBBELL; COURTESY OF NICOLE SAUNDERS

Castaway essentials Isolation, a great sunset and cold rosé. What island is missing from your story? The ultimate getaway is Amanpulo. It has the most beautiful beach ever—which you can walk for 30 minutes and not meet another soul—and impeccable service so discreet it almost seems sneaky. Their villas are rocking, with private pools, chefs and butlers. It’s great for families or a group trip… but best experienced en amoureux. Would you ever buy an island? Most definitely! In the Philippines they aren’t as expensive as you’d think. The biggest hurdles would be developing it and getting there. But perhaps when I’m old and gray, all the charm would be in that inaccessibility.


Inbox

I’m a hard-core carnivore, and even I’m not sure anyone could make beef sound more appealing than Stephanie Zubiri [“Delirium,” April], although the story’s photographs also made my mouth water. I want to go have a night out with those cool Tokyo chefs. –Sarah Jane Carlysle, hong kong

I am biased but I have to be honest: though Thailand is beautiful from its golden images of Buddhas to its pristine beaches [“Sacred Spaces,” April], the Philippines is three or four times more beautiful than Thailand. People don’t know because the beautiful places in the Philippines are underdeveloped, but these places are now looking for businessmen and investors to come in and put up resorts and recreation. If Thailand can name a dozen of their loveliest, undiscovered places, the Philippines can name a hundred. —Bernard James Villaruz Secret Rendezvous

Well, there are lots of other great places to stay if you’re looking to

Visit us travelandleisureasia.com

turn up the romance [“Romantic Rooms,” February 2014] that are worthy of mention—but I’ll keep them secret! —Ahmad Nizam Radzi Hawker Gourmet

It is such a part of the Asian experience, and Saigon’s street food [“The Last Stand,” April] is excellent. What a shame to see it disappearing. —Jaqueline Allen sydney

A Shining Example

Lynette Ong [“Glowing Embers,” May] is an inspiration. I admire this beautiful woman’s commitment to fair trade and traditional artisans. —Frank Lew singapore

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Radar News. Finds. Opinions. Obsessions.

Pool pavilions skirting Bouddi National Park.

reboot

PRETTY AGAIN An exclusive guesthouse tucked into bushland on an inlet north of Sydney reopens its doors after a three-year hiatus.
 Story and photo by Ian Lloyd Neubauer When it opened in 2008, Pretty Beach House—with three private pool pavilions in a magical cliffside setting run by a crack team of chefs, sommeliers, butlers and spa professionals—quickly made a name for itself as the pinnacle

of luxury. But the goods weren’t to last. In 2012, a bushfire gutted its main building and the doors were bolted shut. Following a multimillion dollar rebuild that adds to the property a two-story penthouse and artworks by the likes of

Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd, Pretty Beach House reopened in April with a single-minded objective: to reclaim its title of Australia’s most private and exclusive guesthouse. pretty beachhouse.com; doubles with full board from A$2,000. +

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Radar

SPIN CYCLE Creative head of Design Studio Spin, Yasuhiro Koichi shares his long-game strategies for creating one-of-a-kind spaces.

“I always try to incorporate a sense of place into my designs,” Koichi says, when he finally finds time to squeeze in an interview. “Every country, city and town has very different customs and cultures.” He has spent weeks in Bali, Hyderabad, Manila, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, researching the directions technology, food and fashion are headed in each destination. The biggest challenge, he says, is determining the best possible design for the space. This often means a long and

dedicated hunt for what he deems the ideal resources. “I always try to find out what materials are available in different project locations,” Kochi says, “and then I choose on the basis of color, texture, appearance and longevity.” That last value is a keystone of Koichi’s mission. “I do not base my designs around trends,” he says; rather he aims to create spaces that will still be relevant in a generation. “I think my designs have been widely accepted because of this philosophy.” Only time will tell. — mark lean

Designs by Yasuhiro Koichi, clockwise from top left: Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong; Nobu Tokyo; The Chedi Andermatt; Rock Bar, Ayana Resort, Bali.

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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 D E S I G N S T U D I O S P I N (4) ; C O U R T E S Y O F R I T Z- C A R LT O N , H O N G K O N G

spotlight

Interior designer and cofounder of Tokyo-based Design Studio Spin, Yasuhiro Koichi is as elusive as he is prolific. In recent years, he has worked on some of the most lauded design spaces in hotels, bars and restaurants around the world, with standout projects including the Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort & Spa on the edge of Bali’s Jimbaran Bay, the Nobu restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong, The Restaurant at The Chedi Andermatt, and Foo at the Four Seasons Hotel Shenzhen.


Radar

A Welcome Designed to Enthrall & Inspire

A great view at Hong Kong’s new Tsz Shan monastery.

c u lt u r e

you will find a hotel with a wonderful complex character, a place filled with surprising design details but with a startlingly Bangkok flavour. In the heart of Bangkok.

T. +66 26 123456 www.litbangkok.com

ZEN ZONE A new monastery funded by billionaire Li Ka Shing has opened in Hong Kong, offering the perfect place to relax and reflect. Next time you’re in Hong Kong, sideline the skyline for some spiritual meditation. The city’s newest place of Buddhist worship, the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po, opened the doors to its lush hillside sanctuary this spring. The HK$1.7 billion development was funded entirely by the city’s most minted resident, Li Ka Shing. Situated far beyond Hong Kong’s concrete canyons in the northeastern New Territories, this sacred spot has good feng shui, as it faces the city’s largest reservoir, Plover Cove, with the Pat Sin Leng Mountains as its backdrop. Tsz Shan is overlooked by a mighty Guan Yin (goddess of mercy) statue that stands

an impressive 76 meters tall—more than double the height of the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau. The 46,000-square-meter Tang dynasty-style monastery offers classes such as Zen calligraphy and tea meditation plus educational activities like Dharma lectures. To ensure minimum disturbance to the monks, only 400 visitors are welcomed each day, while advance reservations via the monastery’s online booking system are required. Sometimes the ancient pursuit of peace requires a little modern scheduling. Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 88 Universal Gate Rd., Tai Po; 852/2123-8666; tszshan.org. —helen da lley

COURTESY OF TSZ SHAN MONASTERY

At LiT BANGKOK Hotel


r e s tau r a n t s

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

CHEFS ON THE MOVE Three culinary stars are branching out from the cities that made them. MUMBAI | THE BOMBAY CANTEEN The Chef Floyd Cardoz, a pioneer of haute Indian cuisine in New York City. New Digs A colonial-inspired space near the world’s tallest residential tower. The Dish Cardoz pays homage to his Goan roots with creations like pork vindaloo tacos; also try the chili crab. thebombaycanteen.com; entrées Rs600–Rs900.

NEW YORK CITY | GUENTER SEEGER NEW YORK The Chef Seeger, known as the forefather of farm-totable cooking in Atlanta. New Digs Just 36 seats and a chef’s table in the Meatpacking District. The Dish Expect flavorful plates like poached pears with Parmesan on a tasting menu that changes daily. guenterseegerny. com; tasting menus from US$120.  — n i k k i e k st e i n

TOKYO | DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY The Chef Ansel is the Manhattan pastry wizard who invented the cronut. New Digs Three floors in hip Omotesando, including a 73-seat café with a glass-walled kitchen. The Dish He’s going with a soft-serve ice cream bar and Japanese tea pastries. dominiqueanseljapan.com.

gadgets

WORK YOUR WEARABLE How to maximize the latest gadgets on the go. 1

2

3

4

1. Apple Watch Apple’s first smartwatch lets you pay for coffee, get directions, hail a taxi and more. BEST PRACTICE Use it to put boarding passes on your wrist via Passbook or as your room key at Starwood hotels. From US$349; apple.com. 2. Bragi Dash Earbuds These Bluetooth, noisecanceling earbuds have built-in biometric capabilities. BEST PRACTICE Clock your steps while listening to a walking tour, thanks to body sensors. US$300; bragi.com.

3. Narrative Clip 2 The inconspicuous square clip continuously takes pictures everywhere you go. BEST PRACTICE Stop seeing the world through a lense. You’ll get plenty of cityscapes without pressing a button. US$199; getnarrative.com. 4. June by Netatmo This bracelet measures and analyzes UV rays. BEST PRACTICE Never get sunburned again. June’s companion app notifies you when it’s time to reapply SPF 50. US$129; netatmo. com. —tom samil jan

A New Leading Light in City Living

LiT BANGKOK Residence offers that rare combination of downtown convenience that is also a haven of calm: a true home from home. Innovative design, state of the art amenities, international service standards and delightful Thai touches are set to redefine contemporary Thai living. Come home to the city.

T. +66 26 123456 www.litbangkok.com


Radar Because dessert is more than a course here; it is a lifestyle. You are in sugar

country, there is no getting around it. Don’t fight the craving, succumb to it, and all roads will lead you to

Sans Rival Cakes & Pastries (1 San Jose St.;

63-35/225-4440; P125 for a box of 10 silvanas). Although famous for their namesake cashew, buttercream meringue cake, make a beeline for the silvanas instead, the frozen cookie version of the Sans Rival cake. That’s right: frozen buttercream, crisp chewy meringue and melt-in-yourmouth crumbs. It truly is the sweet life. Because the snorkeling is sublime. The waters

why go

THE SWEETEST SEAPORT

surrounding Dumaguete are teeming with marine life with some very accessible prime dive spots, notably the waters surrounding Apo Island (apoislandresort.com; one boat dive inclusive of

tanks, weights and guide P1,400 with Apo Island Beach Resort). Take a day trip to dive in sparkling clear depths filled with more than 650 documented fish species and 400 types of coral. From the easy snorkel to the advanced deep dive, you’ll definitely find more than just Nemo. Because even the spa treatments sound like a sugar rush. If your

laid-back living needs a good dose of luxury, head down to The Sanctuary of Atmosphere Resort & Spa

(atmosphereresorts.com; day spa packages start at P5,395) to get a skin-brightening coconut-and-ginger scrub, followed up with a massage, then a papaya-andpineapple body mask… and to top it all off you’ll be wrapped up in banana leaves. It is your chance to shine as the star ingredient of a tropical fruit salad. — stephanie zubiri

Dumaguete has the laid-back charm of a university town and the beaches of a castaway paradise. Here, five reasons to pack up your swimsuit and your sweet tooth and go now. Because it has a heroic stamp of approval.

Because this is tropical campus life at its finest.

Walk in the footsteps of Philippine national hero José Rizal, who passed through the city before heading to Dapitan, and take a leisurely stroll on the palm-lined boulevard named after him. Rather than ponder life-in-exile as he did, indulge in the many street-food stalls that slowly open up as the sun sets. Enjoy living in the past? Dumaguete is home to several colonial churches and historic buildings— pass by the Belfry and visit the City Hall.

There is a young energy in this seaside university town, and it’s best exemplified by the tasty cheap eats, inexpensive beer and vibrant nightlife. Head to longtime favorite

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Hayahay Treehouse Bar & Viewdeck (Flores Avenue,

Piapi Beach; 63-35/225-3536; dinner and beer for two P700) for char-grilled bigger-than-your-head lobsters, washed down by some cold brewskies before channeling your inner Marley and letting loose to some reggae beats.

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

Clockwise from top left: Deserted beaches await; Reggae Wednesday at Hayahay; silvanas at Sans Rival Cakes & Pastries; tropical treatments at The Sanctuary of Atmosphere Resort & Spa.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: K R I S T O F F E R L A R S E N ; C O U R T E S Y O F H AYA H AY T R E E H O U S E B A R & V I E W D E C K ; C O U R T E S Y O F S A N S R I V A L C A K E S & P A S T R I E S ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E S A N C T U A R Y O F AT M O S P H E R E R E S O R T & S P A ; K R I S T O F F E R L A R S E N

Diving near Dumaguete.


Radar wellness

HEART OF PALMS

C O U R T E S Y O F T H E P A L M S R E T R E AT, S A M U I

Self-indulgence meets self-improvement at this swish Samui newcomer.

Detox and a dip at The Palms Retreat, Samui. TRAVEL AND LEISURE JUNE ISSUE.pdf 1 5/7/2015 4:40:24 PM

Everyone knows a great way to combat the summer heat is with cold beers and frosty umbrella drinks. Yet sadly this tactic may also combat your goal of looking good in your swimsuit. If you need a mid-year makeover, it could be time to put down the cocktail and pick up a smoothie—for a few days anyway. Founder of The Palms Retreat Samui, which opened last month, Susan Field says her first detox experience was a revelation. “After just one week of living healthy,” Field says, “I had shed four kilograms and I felt great.” This experience inspired her to open the intimate six-room boutique on the Thai island’s secluded northeast

corner where guests are treated to daily consultations with wellness and yoga guru Rocio Gaborit and her team of health experts. The estate is a 10-minute walk from the beach, but what it lacks in seafront it makes up in sublime garden surrounds, with a rainbow of trees, flowers and plants framing every view. Programs here are gentle and rejuvenating, offering a mix of healthy foods, restorative fitness activities and soothing spa treatments. It feels so indulgent it’s hard to believe it is good for you. thepalms-retreat.com; doubles from Bt14,000 per night, including personal consultations, juices, smoothies, supplements and daily massages for two. —mer r it t gu r ley

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

HERITAGE OF SERENITY

Jalan Andong Banjar Nagi Ubud, Bali 80571 Indonesia T +62 361 975 825 reservation@kamandaluresort.com www.kamandaluresort.com kamandalu

kamandalu

kamandaluresort


Radar Clockwise from left: A motorbike swings from the ceiling at Hangar 44; Chinese lanterns at Mama Wong’s; the dinner crowd at Bistrot Bassac; finger food at Mama Wong’s; a frosty drink at Bistrot Bassac. Opposite: Airy Chez Flo.

A DATE WITH 308 In the city of the 50-cent pint, Street 308 in Tonle Bassac is making its mark as the sophisticated soul of Phnom Penh’s nightlife. Nicole Saunders saunters from bar to bar. Hangar 44

The Norbert-Munns brothers are undoubtedly Phnom Penh’s “It” boys when it comes to chic upmarket establishments, and Hangar 44 is their newest micro-bar baby. The space, which oozes both class and masculinity (check out the custom-built motorbike suspended from the ceiling) spills out onto Bassac Lane, which the Kiwi owners dominate with a handful of some of the most sophisticated bars that the city has to offer. Revel in good old-fashioned people watching—this is where all the hip expats hang out—or head upstairs and cozy up to someone special in the dimly lit lounge area. Bassac Lane (off Street 308); 85577/960-413; drinks for two US$10. Chez Flo

Fans of fromage should head to this swank newcomer smack in the middle of Street 308 for the mouth-watering cheese and charcuterie platters, alongside an equally 34

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C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F H A N G A R 4 4 ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A M A W O N G ' S ; C O U R T E S Y O F B I S T R O T B A S S A C ; COURTESY OF MAMA WONG'S; COURTESY OF BISTROT BASSAC. OPPOSITE: COURTESY OF CHEZ FLO

nightlife


French wine list. Gregarious owner and Lyon native Flo Montmeat has designed his menu for urbane travelers who don’t want to break the bank—but do want their custommixed “Flojitos” with a side of pre-war French family lore. The airy atmosphere evokes a springtime jardin, and brings a polished pinch of Paris to the chaotic capital. 37 Street 308; large charcuterie platters US$15, drinks for two US$8. Mama Wong’s

In a city with an abundance of no-frills Chinese eateries, Mama Wong’s is a stylish breath of fresh air. Follow the red glow of Chinese lanterns to this hot spot for authentic Chinese dishes with a contemporary twist. Chefs work in an open kitchen where melt-in-your-mouth noodles are hand-pulled right before your eyes. Their dumplings and savory small dishes are perfect for sharing while sampling a signature cocktail. Alfresco diners can soak up the sultry Phnom Penh evening air, watching while tuk-tuks and motodops weave their way down the narrow street. 41 Street 308; 855-97/850-8383; dinner for two US$12. Bistrot Bassac

Another decidedly French affair, this is an art gallery, restaurant, and coffee bar, all rolled into one trendy dining destination. Drawing inspiration from vintage and industrial designs, the décor is all kinds of cool. From beef tartare with fries to a mean cappuccino, this hip eatery

does the simple things and does them well. Bistro Bassac’s chalkboard menu is revived and reinvented all the time to keep the regulars guessing. And for atmosphere, just glance at the walls adorned with rotating exhibitions of work by local and international artists, or head to the open rooftop for bird’s-eye views of the bustling lane below. 38 Street 308; 855-70/902-021; facebook.com/bistrotbassac; dinner for two US$17, drinks for two US$8. +


Radar

fa s h i o n

CHIC BATIK

COURTESY OF RUZZ GAHAR A

Fashion brand Ruzz Gahara puts a 21st-century spin on the old Asian art form.

Imagine batik minus the kitsch and you get the effortlessly stylish designs of artisanal label Ruzz Gahara (ruzzgahara.com). This Malaysian brand churns out statement pieces that relate visual stories, both ancient and current, from across the archipelago. The traditional floral prints on fashion-forward resort wear make for breezy looks that go from poolside to candlelit private-island dinners. Big on “fresh and contemporary motifs representing the essence of Malaysian arts,” as cofounder and brand director Hanifi Triff Thamid describes the label, the creations can be as simple as a sarong-pleated silhouette, or more poetic, like the Gilded Pigment line. Think airy pieces splashed in the colors of the sky after seasonal monsoon storms on Malaysia’s east coast. Guri, the Summer 2015 collection, is all about the ketam guri flower, believed to be a symbol of immortality. If you could live forever, these are the clothes you’d want to do it in. The intricate floral emblems are embroidered on silk chiffon blouses, flowing sarongs and tunic tops, all of which can be mixed, matched or paired with a timeless white shirt. What a relief when looking effortlessly stylish actually is effortless. — mark lean

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Radar b o o ks

PERFECT SETTINGS

PHILIP FRIEDMAN

Tales to take you places near and far. Every traveler fantasizes about starting over in a foreign land—but what happens when you throw caution to the wind and actually go for it? That question is the starting point of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, in which Vendela Vida tells the story of a woman who travels to Morocco and completely reinvents herself. Peter Nichols’s The Rocks takes place in a glamorous Majorcan resort, and is both a riveting mystery and a decades-long love story. Set in Manila, Boston and Bahrain, In the Country, the debut story collection from Mia Alvar, dives into the way race, class and borders can change us, or make us want to change ourselves. Of course, home—whether going to it or leaving it—can be just as dramatic. Eleni N. Gage, in her spellbinding The Ladies of Managua, looks at three generations of

Nicaraguan women, reunited in their homeland, while Naomi Jackson’s lyrical novel The Star Side of Bird Hill is about two sisters forced to leave their mother in Brooklyn to live with their grandmother, a midwife and shaman,

in Barbados. The Unfortunates, by Sophie McManus, conjures blue-​blooded New York with its tale of the Somner family’s struggles to hold on to a waning era of opulence.  —thessaly l a force


Radar m y fa b u l o u s wo r l d

ELLE MACPHERSON The Australian supermodel turned wellness entrepreneur gives us a look at her globe-trotting lifestyle.

Uniform I typically fly in jeans, a T-shirt and Azzedine Alaïa ballet flats, with a cross-body Hermès Jypsiere handbag. On the plane, I use a cashmere pillow and blanket from Banjo & Matilda, my brother’s company.

Shopping fix I live in Miami, where the Design District is filled with new stores. One of my favorites is Chrome Hearts (chromehearts. com), which sells everything from sweatpants to fine jewelry, including a collection designed by Kate Hudson.

Great getaway My son and I recently went hiking, horseback riding and bear-watching at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (wildretreat.com; doubles from US$1,598 per person, all-inclusive), in Canada.

Go-to products The rose oil in Dr. Sebagh’s Rose de Vie Serum Délicat (drsebagh.com; US$192) keeps my skin hydrated on the plane. To combat dry lips, I use Lucas’ Papaw Ointment (lucaspapaw. com.au), which has extract of papaw, or papaya, that’s grown in Queensland. 

Staying healthy Before and after a flight, I mix water with a travel pack of my supplement, the Super Elixir (net-a-porter.com; US$27 for seven). Its vitamins, minerals and alkalizing greens give me energy. — as told to katie james

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

Homecoming There’s nothing better than returning to Sydney, where my family lives. I love to swim in the famous outdoor pool at Bondi Icebergs Club (icebergs. com.au), and I often rent a house in Byron Bay so I can go surfing twice a day.


Radar

style

TROPICAL TRUNKS

MAZU

TIMO

The Bamboo Vesper The popularity of this Hong Kong brand’s double-needle stitched swim trunks is as fast-growing as the bamboo grove that inspired the print. For extra indie cred, the graphics were created by local artist Marc Allante. mazuswimwear.com; HK$1,400.

Forest by Yune These playful trunks exemplify Timo’s mission of bringing bon vivant flare to the beaches of Thailand. This is the longest model in the line, so you can sunbathe knowing the forest animals will be the only things peeking out. timotrunks.com; US$130.

MADE IN PARADISE

VILEBREQUIN

Island Time We dare you to feel anything but tiki-tropical wearing these cheeky digital-print swimmers by Hong Kong’s streetwear-style bad boys, Made in Paradise. Hula girls, umbrella drinks, coconuts: Yeah, dude, there’s officially a party on your swim pants. 1800-paradise.com; US$80.

Superflex Tropics The godfather of high-end trunks, Vilebrequin— with stores already in Hong Kong, Macau, Manila and Seoul—just launched in Bangkok, and we’re pleased as pineapples about it. This juicy design comes in form-flattering extra-stretch fabric with a built-in water-resistant wallet. vilebrequin.com; Bt8,500.

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

Nothing says summer like bold beachy swim trunks. Here, our favorite brands making a splash in Southeast Asia this season.


Radar

d i s c ov e r y

STARLIT PLATEAU

Clockwise from top left: Luxury yak-hair tents at Norden Camp; a horse in different colors; a cozy log cabin at Norden Camp; Tibetans bundle against the cold; the Norden Camp menu changes based on the seasonal local produce.

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Here in the endless grasslands of Tibet, it is easy to get lost. Somewhere between the fields of wildflowers and the star-punctured canopy, you lose track of what year it is, even what century. Inside the log cabin it is a snuggly cocoon, warmed by a Tibetan wood furnace, but you’ll have to brave the crisp the morning air to take in the view that waits beyond your yak-felt padded walls. Norden Camp, on the untouched prairie of the Tibetan Plateau, just opened in May but it feels like it has been here forever, so seamlessly does it blend into the surrounding serenity that stretches from undulating grasslands to, further afield, one of the six great monasteries of the Dalai Lama’s sect. The eight log cabins and four khullu (yak-hair cashmere) tents are high-end and eco-friendly takes on traditional Tibetan style, and every detail is on point from the local antique furniture to the lush khullu bedding. It seems authentic, because it is authentic—this is no tour company construct, but rather the result of a shared vision between a Tibetan ➔

C O U R T E S Y O F N O R D E N T R A V E L (5 )

A luxury eco-camp opens on the pastoral plains of Tibet. Cynthia Rosenfeld gets to know the sheep-grazing, stargazing paradise.


nomad raised in these grasslands, Yidam Kyap, and his TibetanAmerican wife, Dechen Yeshi. Like all the best shared visions, this one starts with a love story and a little yak hair. Fresh out of university in 2005, Yeshi was an aspiring filmmaker traveling China’s Gansu Province in search of material for her first documentary. On this dramatic venture, she unwittingly found herself in the starring role of a deeper saga, for it was here that she met Kyap, and fell in love with both him and the local Tibetan community, whose traditional livelihoods have been threatened by China’s rapid development. Yeshi put down her camera to create Norlha, a social enterprise employing more than 100 ethnic Tibetans. The locals collect the yak hair that the animals naturally shed each year and sell it to Norlha, where it is turned into softer-than-cashmere khullu textiles for Paris fashion houses including Lanvin, Céline and Sonia Rykiel.

Norden Camp is this same winning formula of Tibetan nomadic life, luxury and responsibility writ large. Kyap’s family still lives in this undulating, wildflower-strewn landscape at 3,200 meters above sea level, but beyond the local population, the area is largely unknown. Unlike travel to Lhasa, going to Norden requires no special permit and yet, up to now, no luxury tourist accommodations have existed across greater Tibet. “We wanted to share with our urban, sophisticated friends all this Himalayan-fed river water, fresh air and emerald-tinged terrain,” Yeshi says. To protect this rarefied environment, Norden Camp has eco-sensitive plumbing, advanced insulation, traditional heating and solar power. The campsite is bordered by a meandering river and also sports a Finnish sauna, three dining tents and a juniper wood Buddhist prayer altar. Between the Tibetan Plateau’s more welcoming months, from May to the crisp, clear

C O U R T E S Y O F N O R D E N T R AV E L

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C O U R T E S Y O F N O R D E N T R AV E L

nights of October, the camp shares its 11 hectares with gazelles, owls, hares and migratory birds. In the winter, the land returns to the nomads as a grazing area for sheep and yaks. Set aside “plenty of time to sit and listen to the river water from your deck,” Yeshi says. “Norden is as much about our access to Tibetan culture as it is about the restorative sounds of silence.” Which means you may be able to hear the flutter of your own heart even as you ride Tibetan horses, trek, bird-watch or practice yoga. Join a local nomad family for a picnic, or take the easy, 30-minute drive among the Himalayan foothills to the town of Xiahe, where you can snack on brownies baked by Kyap’s sisters at their Norden Café. Next, Norden’s English-speaking guides will shuttle you to the region’s star attraction: Labrang Monastery, founded in 1709, and a pillar of Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhism, a sect known as the Yellow Hats. Though

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nearly all of its original structures, along with countless bejeweled artifacts, were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, Labrang remains one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites and is still home to a strong community of around 1,800 monks spread across tratsang monastic colleges covering esoteric Buddhism, theology, medicine, astrology and law. Back at camp, nightfall brings another soul-expanding pursuit into focus. Skylights in the cabins glow with views of a night sky ablaze with stars that really do appear to twinkle. “We had one guest complain about straining her neck counting so many shooting stars,” says Yeshi. It’s a risk you’ll have to take when you camp on the roof of the world. Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province; 86-138/9397-0003; nordentravel.com; doubles from RMB1,425. +

2/4/15

5:43 PM

Above: A painting in Labrang Monastery of a Gelugpa monk. Opposite: Tibetan wood furnaces warm the log cabins.


Radar

ac c e s s o r i e s

MADE IN THE SHADE This season’s sun hats are brimming with style. By Jane Bishop

S E T S T Y L I S T: S A R A W A C K S M A N /J E D R O O T. M O D E L : J E N D A N C E F O R W I L H E L M I N A M O D E L S . H A I R & M A K E U P : R E G I N A H A R R I S . M A N I C U R E B Y S H E R I L B A I L E Y AT J E D R O O T U S I N G C H A N E L L E V E R N I S . C A M I S O L E : O R G A N I C B Y J O H N P AT R I C K

From top: J. Crew fedora, US$58. Eugenia Kim color-blocked hat, US$365. Gigi Burris Millinery flat-brimmed hat, US$380. Ryan Roche panama hat, US$348. Preston & Olivia hat, US$150.

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PHOTOGR A PH ED BY JOA N N A MCCLURE


T

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accessible only by sea, the racha is located twelve nautical miles from phuket.

Whether it’s a simple barefoot beachfront ceremony for two or a grand affair, the resort’s enthusiastic and dedicated wedding consultants plan every event to its last detail - from luxurious award-winning* accommodations to the intricate touches on a wedding cake. It’s no wonder that so many honeymoon and wedding couples choose to celebrate at The Racha. Let The Racha realise your dreams. Contact the resort’s wedding professionals today at sales@theracha.com

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world-acclaimed anumba spa • club del mar for chilling • personalized sea and land experiences • to-die-for-views complimentary tel: 66 76 355 455 fax: 66 76 355 637 email: reservation@theracha.com In accordance with Thai law, all beaches in Thailand are open to the public.

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Radar

Clockwise from left: Emerald Cave, Koh Mook; karst-studded views at Anantara Si Kao; a sunbathing hermit crab.

SECRETS OF TRANG Off the western coast of Thailand, there is a cluster of islands that you’ve likely never heard about. Simon N. Ostheimer lets the manatee out of the bag. The crystal-clear water lapping around the islands of Trang is one of the kingdom’s last refuges of the dugong. Perhaps the gentle giants come here for the privacy, for though it is only a few kilometers south of the Andaman tourist trail headlined by Lanta, Phi Phi and Phuket, the crowds have missed this stretch of sub-rosa sea. The islands of this sleepy southwestern province remain under the radar— and are all the more magical for it. If you’re looking for a low-key throwback to the early days of travel, Trang rocks the perfect vibe. 48

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KOH LIBONG

Rent a Thai-style sidecar (Bt300 a day) and cruise along the small road network on Trang’s biggest island. The beaches are rocky but empty; you’ll find yourself sharing the sands with a handful of local families and an astonishing number of hermit crabs. Where to stay: There are not any five-stars on the island, but the basic air-con rooms at Libong Relax Beach Resort (libongrelax. com; air-conditioned doubles from Bt1,600) are quite comfortable. Ask the front desk to arrange a long-

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

tail boat (three hours for two Bt3,000) to the shallow waters off Libong where the elusive manatees gather, and surface to breathe. KOH MOOK

What’s an adventure without a challenge? Inhale deep, dive in and power through the 80-meter-long swim across the pitch-dark Emerald Cave. You can make it, matey, for beyond awaits an idyllic beach cove that was once a hideaway of pirates. It’s the definition of secret booty. Where to stay: Book a seaview villa at Sivalai Beach

SNORKELING STOPS You’ll find the best snorkeling near Koh Ngai, surrounding the small outcrops of Koh Chuak and Koh Wan. You can’t go ashore on these karst islets jutting out of the sea, but the marine life is simply stunning, with reef fish, abundant coral and the occasional shark or two. Long-tail boats can be hired from any island for around Bt3,000 for a half-day trip, with a local lunch and snorkeling equipment included.

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

explore


Resort (komooksivalai.

com; sea-view doubles from Bt3,500), on a powdery stretch of the eastern cape.

Anantara Si Kao (sikao. anantara.com; doubles from Bt4,600), for its private beach club.

KOH KRADAN

KOH NGAI

The most famous of the Trang cluster, Kradan is being heralded as the next must-see island, one of those paradoxical paradises that you can’t stop raving about yet don’t want anyone else to discover. It’s got top beaches, coral reefs brimming with fish, and some high-end getaways.

Koh Ngai (or Koh Hai) is technically part of the neighboring Krabi Province, but is most easily accessed by the piers on the Trang mainland. It’s the wildest island in the archipelago, so get back to nature among roving monitor lizards, crabeating monkeys, and blacktip sharks that circle just offshore.

Where to stay: Of the slew of resorts that occupy the east coast of this slender island, our favorites are The Sevenseas Resort

(sevenseasresorts.com; doubles from Bt5,700), with its boutique Robinson Crusoe charm; and

Where to stay: Boasting the best restaurant on the island, Thanya Resort (kohngaithanyaresort.com; doubles from Bt1,890) has smartly appointed beachside bungalows. +

Above: Beach Villa at Sivalai Beach Resort, Koh Mook. Below: Snorkeling by Koh Kradan.


subscribe now! Every month, more than 5 million people worldwide read Travel + Leisure, the world’s leading travel magazine. Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is the most widely distributed international edition of the magazine, offering readers around the region a chance to experience the world. Timely and trusted advice on

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your travel dilemmas solved ➔ t h i s mon t h ’ s t op t r av e l de a l s 60

u n de r sta n di ng ho t e l w i - f i f e e s

56 …

how t o pl a n t h e pe r f e c t roa d t r i p

Trip Doctor

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by Diana Hubbell

Q+A

©E YEIDE A /DRE AMSTIME.COM

I’VE BEEN THE VICTIM OF MORE THAN A FEW AIRLINE AND TRAVEL COMPANY MESS-UPS AND MISADVENTURES. HOW DO I GET MY MONEY BACK WHEN THINGS GO WRONG? Whether it’s a missed connection that leaves you stranded or a wayward suitcase with all your bare necessities, sometimes our journeys don’t quite go as planned. When luck turns foul though, there are often ways to salvage something from your travails. →

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Trip Doctor

The Fix

A slightly longer layover may be no big deal, but if it drags on for hours it can cost you precious beach time or, worse, make you miss your next flight. If the latter happens to be the case, some airlines will spring for accommodation while you wait. Even some budget options such as AirAsia (airasia.com) will comp a hotel, food costs and transportation as long as your connecting flight was purchased with the same booking number. Translation: if you’ve booked two separate flights, even through the same airline, you may end up with nada. Be sure to check the individual airline’s policy carefully; while Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) will cover accommodation and dining expenses, their low-cost offshoot Scoot (flyscoot.com) will likely leave you with nothing more than a S$50 voucher. The good news is that, depending on the airline and where it flies from, even a relatively short delay could

make you eligible for a hefty refund. Under EU regulations, any flight of 1,500 kilometers or more that is delayed for at least three hours entitles passengers to €250, a number that could go as high as €600 with the distance and length of the delay. The only exception is when there are “extraordinary” circumstances outside of the airline’s control. Passengers on U.S. internal flights may get compensation if they are denied boarding, though the rules are stricter and the airlines usually less generous. Unfortunately, there are no overarching aviation rules covering compensation in different Asian countries, so you’re at the mercy of your airline. So why should you care about European regulations if you live in Asia? “This regulation is not only applicable for EU residents— we also have many customers from all over the world whose flights were delayed or canceled and

which come within the provisions of the European law,” says Dr. Philipp Kadelbach, CEO and cofounder of Flightright. As long as your flight flew either to or from the EU, Iceland, Switzerland or Norway, you may have a shot. Unsurprisingly, airlines have hotly contested these regulations and are notorious for stalling or denying claims. “In most cases, airlines reject compensation requests when they are filed by an individual passenger,” Kadelbach says. To save yourself the hassle and improve your odds, you can enlist a service such as Flightright (flightright.com) or AirHelp (getairhelp.com) to duke it out with the airline on your behalf. Both will take a 25-percent cut, but will only charge if they win. Given that it only takes a few minutes to file a claim, that it’s possible to file even three years after the incident, and that Flightright has a 98 percent success rate, there’s no harm in trying. Your luggage is MIA

Don’t panic and don’t leave the airport. If you turn up and your checked bag is nowhere to be seen, file a full report before you go anywhere. It helps if you can accurately list the contents of your suitcase and carry a photo of your luggage on your phone. Your bag will not officially be considered lost for 21 days under the Montreal Convention, a 54

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treaty signed by 109 countries plus the EU, but you may need to file a written claim within that period in order to get anything at all. Although in theory, the treaty offers some protection and may provide compensation of up to SDR1,131 in IMF currency (about US$1,600) for lost or damaged luggage, it can be tough to prove the value of your bag’s contents, and it may be a challenge to get actual cash back without a trip to court. To stay on the safe side, always tote your valuables in your carry-on. Your vacation rental doesn’t meet expectations

If you roll into town only to find that the pristine loft you saw online isn’t what you were hoping for, speak up. Vacation rental sites can’t afford to risk too many dissatisfied customers and will usually help you get a refund. With Airbnb (airbnb. com), you can get your bucks back if the host cancels last minute, the listing isn’t what was described online, or the place is a mess. That means if there’s no freshly washed bedding or towels or any amenities are missing, you should not get stuck with the bill. HomeAway (homeaway.com) will ask hosts to offer a partial refund or to refund your cleaning fee if the place truly is a pigsty. You can get a refund for any unused nights if you are forced to vacate the property for any reason during your stay. +

T H O M A S B A R W I C K /G E T T Y I M A G E S

Your flight is delayed


Trip Doctor

Tech

Closer Look | Hotel Wi-Fi 2.0 Hotels are finally dropping Internet fees—only to replace them with “tiered service” and sometimes unimpressive speeds. So what’s behind the cost of connectivity? By Sarah L. Stewart After years of pressure from disgruntled guests over Wi-Fi charges, hotels are coming around. In the past year, nearly every major brand that was still charging for Internet access has done away with basic fees—either for all guests (good job, Hyatt) or for loyalty-program members (Hilton, InterContinental, Marriott, Starwood). That’s good news, but it comes with a catch: a growing number of properties have adopted a tiered model, offering free basic service but adding an often hefty charge—as much as US$30 a day—for premium speeds. What’s more, basic Wi-Fi at many hotels measures less than three megabits per second (Mbps), which is just enough for e-mailing and Web browsing—leaving some guests no choice but to pay for the faster speed. With no industry standard for minimum speeds, a premium connection may give you anywhere from 4 Mbps (sufficient to stream a buffering-plagued video) to more than 20 Mbps (good enough for gaming). At some top-tier properties, however, even standard speeds are exceptionally high. Peninsula Hotels offer free Wi-Fi at 120 Mbps, while Mandarin Oriental provides up to one gigabit per second complimentary if you book online.

Although Wi-Fi fees represent a considerable chunk of the ancillary revenue that hotels across the globe take in each year, industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group says that many hotels are just trying to offset expenses. The pay-for-premium push “isn’t about getting more revenue,” he says. “There is a cost to providing Wi-Fi access.” Properties are struggling to meet the bandwidth demands of a data-hungry world, in which the average guest has three Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Keeping pace with new technological standards requires major hardware upgrades costing tens of thousands of dollars every few years. Experts predict that within the next decade, data rates will reach a whopping 10 gigabits per second at hotels. That’s not overkill, if you consider our increasing reliance on the cloud and the advent of ultra-high-definition 4K displays for streaming our in-room entertainment. Given the amount of capital those improvements will take, premium fees are likely here to stay, at some hotels at least. Those travelers who want free and fast Wi-Fi will have to choose brands that decide to make it a priority. +

THE WIRED WORLD Asia leads the charge when it comes to hotel Wi-Fi quality. Findings by Hotel WiFi Test published this January show half of the hotels in an Asian country, on average, offer adequate Wi-Fi connection that allows basic SD-quality streaming (Netflix-recommended 3 Mbps) and high-quality non-HD video calling (Skype-standard minimum upload speed of 500 Kbps). In the U.S. it’s only 35 percent. But quality costs: 39 percent of hotels in the region charge for in-room Wi-Fi, compared to 15 in the U.S. and 25 in Europe. Here’s our break down for Asia:

HOW MUCH SPEED YOU NEED ... 15+ Mbps: Gaming or simultaneous Web browsing, uploading to social media and video streaming 8-14 Mbps: HD video streaming

3-7 Mbps: E-mail with large attachments, video streaming (may buffer), uploading to social media 1-2 Mbps: Basic e-mail (without attachments), simple Web browsing

...VERSUS HOW MUCH SPEED YOU GET At hotels, actual Wi-Fi speeds are often very different from advertised ones. Unlike at home—where you may have a few devices going at once—a hotel can have hundreds in use simultaneously. And the more people using a network, the slower service can be. Hotel WiFi Test, which uses Web-based crowdsourcing to monitor real speeds at properties around the world, has found that many hotels barely deliver enough speed for video streaming. Here are its findings for Singaporean hotels. You can contribute your own to the site by visiting hotelwifitest.com.

14% 34%

WI-FI QUALIT Y

FREE WI-FI

(PERCENTAGE OF HOTELS OFFERING ADEQUATE WI-FI)

(PERCENTAGE OF HOTELS OFFERING FREE IN-ROOM WI-FI)

1. South Korea 92% 2. Japan 84.9% 3. Hong Kong 77.3% 4. Taiwan 75.7% 5. Malaysia 34.2%

1. Cambodia 95% 2. Taiwan 85% 3. Indonesia 78.5% 4. Malaysia 74.5% 5. South Korea 73.8%

The ranking is based on Hotel WiFi Test’s list of top 50 countries whose Wi-Fi connections are most tested.

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> 15 Mbps

5–15 Mbps

52%

< 5 Mbps

Based on tests at 101 hotels that have the most accurate results, according to Hotel WiFi Test.


Trip Doctor

Road Trip

TRAVEL PREP 101 | YOUR ROAD-TRIP CHECKLIST

If you’re hitting the road this summer, here are a few essentials to jump-start your journey. Checklist

Road RX

A well-stocked comfort kit The popular road-trip routes in this part of the world are pretty well trafficked, so you can forgo the emergency kit road flares for niceties such as neck pillows, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a cooler with drinks and snacks, and extra-large zippered plastic bags (for trash). Soft-sided luggage. Duffels and tote bags, which are easy to squeeze into a stuffed car, are the key to packing effectively.  universal car charger. Your smartphone A is your lifeline. Make sure it doesn’t run out of juice with a Ventev Dashport q1200 (US$35; ventev.com), which powers up devices lightning fast and works with just about any phone. Mapping tools. Discover top trending spots near you with Lyke (free; Android). The beta app integrates real-time ratings from its community of users, so you can decide, based on the colors (green means good) on the map whether a café or shopping plaza is worth a stop. If your tastes run toward quirkier attractions, try Field Trip (free; Android, iOS), which reads the backstories of landmarks alound as you drive by. For offline vector maps, download Galileo (US$3.99; iOS). t raffic updates and gas-station finder. The Waze app (free; Android, iOS) will give you directions, and alert and reroute you if there’s traffic ahead, thanks to crowdsourced information from users.

Quick fixes for when you’re feeling weary. 1 Fatigue Pop a peppermint, which helps to stimulate the brain. If you’re really tired, though, pull over. 2 Motion sickness Don’t watch the landscape whiz past the side windows. Instead, look out the windshield to the horizon line. Also try acupressure: use your thumb to apply pressure to the underside of the wrist, about five centimeters below your palm and between the two tendons. 3 Stiffness Adjust the seat’s lumbar support to align with your lower back or tuck a small pillow behind you. And be sure to stop every two hours for a quick set of stretches.

Rental Cars 101

Three things to know before hopping in a rental.

Trips to Try

Three road-trip routes in Southeast Asia. vientiane to pakse, laos. The 660-kilometer drive passes through national parks and by waterfalls, caves and hilltribes: all worthy of exploratory pit stops.

1 Check your licence. An International Driving Permit will get you through most countries in Southeast Asia, but it must be accompanied by a valid driver’s licence.

northern Loop, Thailand. This eight-day journey winds from Chiang Mai through Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai and back.

2 Get good Insurance. Traffic rules vary, and are sometimes mystifying in many parts of the region. Opt for comprehensive coverage that includes liability, third-party damage and vehicle breakdown.

east coast, malaysia. Cruise from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu, and stretch the 160-kilometer drive out over a few days by lazing on the sugary shores along the way.

3k  now the laws. Driving rental cars across country lines is restricted in most of Southeast Asia so it may be easiest to plan your trip within one country.

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I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y VA L E R O D O VA L


Trip Doctor

Deals

T+L REA D E R S P EC I A LS

THIS MONTH’S BEST DEALS From unlimited spa treatments in Siem Reap to a grand eco-tour across the best of China, this month’s offers soothe you with the slow life.

CITY ✪ BRISBANE The Deal Staycation package from NEXT Hotel Brisbane (nexthotels.com/ brisbane), where all amenities are thoughtfully engineered for modern travelers. Stay A night in a NEXT Standard room. The Highlights A complimentary upgrade to a NEXT Deluxe room; high-speed Wi-Fi; and a welcome cocktail-of-the-day at Lennons Pool Terrace & Bar. Cost From A$229, double, through September 30, when booked with the code “STAYCATION.” Savings 30 percent.

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SINGAPORE The Deal Weekend Attraction package from Sheraton Towers Singapore (sheratonsingapore.com), 420 rooms on Scotts Road. Stay Two nights in a Deluxe room. The Highlight Admissions to Singapore Zoo and Night Safari with tram rides for two. Cost From S$644 (S$322 per night), double, through June 30. Savings 30 percent.

✪ BANGKOK The Deal Opening Specials from Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road (hotelindigo.com/bangkok), with art murals and installations

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

Super Saver

HONG KONG The Deal City Getaway package from Regal Oriental Hotel (regalhotel. com/regal-oriental-hotel), 494 guest rooms in Kowloon East. Stay A night in a Deluxe room. The Highlight A choice of either buffet dinner for two, or buffet breakfast with two round-trip Ngong Ping 360 tickets. Cost From HK$888, double, through June 30. Savings 75 percent.

inspired by the neighborhood named after Thailand’s first radio station. Stay A night in an Urban Superior room. The Highlight Twenty-five percent off room rates inclusive of breakfast for two and Wi-Fi. Cost From Bt3,499, double; book by June 30. Savings 25 percent.

✪ ✪ BEIJING The Deal Introductory offer from NUO Hotel Beijing (nuohotel.com), blending Ming dynasty with contemporary lifestyle. Stay A night in a Deluxe room. The Highlights Traditional Chinese tea ceremony for two at Yuan →

✪ Newly opened ✪ T+L Reader Exclusive

COURTESY OF HOTEL INDIGO BANGKOK WIRELESS ROAD

Locally inspired, vibrant Urban Superior room at Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road.


Trip Doctor

Deals

RMB1,880 food-and-beverage credit per stay. Cost From RMB6,290 (RMB3,145 per night), double, through June 30. Savings 23 percent.

✪ HONG KONG The Deal

MALAYSIA The Deal Book Now, Save and Get Value Added from The Danna Langkawi (thedanna. com), colonial architecture in a Mediterranean atmosphere. Stay Two nights in a Merchant room. The Highlights Daily champagne breakfast and one three-course set dinner for two. Cost RM2,080 (RM1,040 per night), double, through December 22. Savings 40 percent.

Opening offer from Hotel Sáv (worldhotels.com/hotel-sav), a colorful newcomer minutes away from the Hung Hom Coliseum. Stay A night in a Superior room. The Highlight Complimentary usage of a smartphone with unlimited 3G Internet access and calls to select local and international destinations. Cost From HK$935, double, through July 16. Savings 50 percent.

ROMANCE

DINING SINGAPORE The Deal Come Back to Sunrise and Sunset from Park Regis Singapore (parkregissingapore.com), just refurbished with a new gym, alfresco dining terrace and sleepenhancing bedding. Stay A night in a Merchant room. The Highlight A sunrise-to-sunset experience for two, including sunrise juice and sunset mocktail; either a sunrise yoga class or a cocktail-making class; and a sunset Singapore River cruise. Cost From S$290, double, through December 31. Savings 60 percent. BANGKOK The Deal Hua Chang Anniversary package from Hua Chang Heritage Hotel (huachang heritagehotel.com), a colorful boutique in Siam shopping district. Stay Three nights in a Deluxe room. The Highlight Thai afternoon tea for two at The Ivory Lounge & Pool Bar. Cost From Bt14,997 (Bt4,999 per night), double, through June 30. Savings 50 percent. BEIJING The Deal The Suite Life from Rosewood Beijing (rosewoodhotels.com), displaying artworks curated by Peking Art Associates. Stay Two nights in a Manor suite. The Highlight

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THAILAND The Deal Sneak Away Made Easy from Sheraton Hua Hin Pranburi Villas (sheratonhuahinpranburi.com), villa-only beachfront resort in peaceful Pranburi. Stay A night in a Pool villa. The Highlights Daily in-villa breakfast for two; a daily 60-minute Thai massage for two; and a daily bottle of sparkling wine served in villa with fresh strawberries. Cost From Bt8,900, double; book by June 30. Savings 50 percent.

✪ LUANG PRABANG The Deal Romance Package from Kiridara (snhcollection.com/kiridara), 24 rooms scaled on a hillside surrounded by Luang Prabang’s World Heritage teak forests. Stay Two nights in a mountainview Kiri suite. The Highlights A candlelit three-course dinner with a bottle of wine for two set up on the suite’s balcony or the Pool Deck; and a traditional Laotian massage for two. Cost From US$577 (US$289 per night), double, through October 31, when booked with the code “Romance.” Savings 20 percent.

la-residence-d-angkor-siemreap), an elegant escape on a serene, umbrageous riverbank. Stay A night in a Deluxe Garden room. The Highlight Unlimited spa treatments for two at Kong Kea Spa. Cost From US$252, double, through June 30. Savings 35 percent. THAILAND The Deal Ultimate Energy from Putahracsa Hua Hin (putahracsa.com), whose latest Silksand room category boasts a walk-in closet, a daybed and a rain shower with spa jets. Stay Three nights in a Silksand Deluxe room. The Highlights A full board of East-meet-West spa menus made with locally grown or organic produce; two-hour daily spa treatments; two private outdoor yoga classes; and a 90-minute muay Thai lesson. Cost From Bt36,000 (Bt12,000 per night), double, through October 31. Savings 25 percent.

CULTURE ✪ ✪ BURMA The Deal Wonders of Inle from Sanctum Inle Resort (sanctum-inle-resort.com), a monastic life-inspired lakeside retreat with 96 timber-floored rooms. Stay Three nights in a Provost Garden View villa. The Highlight A full-day tour of

Kakku in Shan State, where 2,500-plus centuries-old stupas line up in neat rows. Cost US$1,462 (US$487 per night), double, through September 30. Savings 30 percent.

✪ CHINA The Deal Flavors of China from Adventure Life (adventure-life.com), leading low-impact tours that contribute to local conservation projects. Stay Eleven nights in Beijing, Xi’an, Dujiangyuan, Chengdu and Shanghai. The Highlight A bamboo dinner, including local delicacies made of bamboo shoots and bamboo byproducts, in Dujiangyuan city famous for its World Heritage, 2,000-year-old irrigation system. Cost From US$11,472 (US$1,043 per night) for a group of four; book by July 31 with the code “T+L Deal.” Savings 20 percent. CAMBODIA The Deal Let’s Go Back to Nature from 4 Rivers Floating Lodge (ecolodges.asia), eco-friendly tented villas set amidst the sounds of Koh Kong’s cascading river and wildlife. Stay A night in a floating tent. The Highlights A firefly-watching excursion and a round-trip boat transfer. Cost From US$221 per person, double, through July 31. Savings 25 percent. +

SPA SIEM REAP The Deal Unlimited Spa from Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor (belmond.com/

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

Semi-submerged sun loungers at Park Regis Singapore.

✪ Newly opened ✪ T+L Reader Exclusive

C OU R T ESY O F PA R K R EGIS SIN GA P O R E

teahouse; room upgrade; and VIP status. Cost From RMB1,500, double, ongoing, when booked with the code “PROMTL15.” Savings 32 percent.


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June 2015

In This Issue

66 Private Philippine Islands 76 Phu Quoc 84 Bali 92 Cuba 102 Coastal Sweden

MORGAN OMMER

La Veranda Resort, in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, page 76.

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They don’t call the Philippines an archipelago for nothing. There are way more stunning, secluded islands, coves and beaches than we’ve had time to overdevelop. Thank goodness. So, peruse this list of our favorite slices of personal paradises, then put in for those vacation days. Privacy and time—the ultimate luxuries. By Stephanie Zubiri 66

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M O D E L : L U I S A B E LT R A N . S T Y L I S T: G U A D A R E Y E S . M A K E U P : R E N E N B A U T I S TA

N W O R YOU D N A L S I E T A P R IV


Trotting along Balesin Village beach. On Luisa: Bhig Buda Outfitters bikini, Two Chic Manila shorts. OPPOSITE: Cone of silence at Dedon Island, Siargao.

uerrero f r a n c is c o g y b d e h p a r photog


FROM TOP: At Mykonos Village, on Luisa: Nimo With Love dress, Hat Attack clutch, Jack Rogers sandals; aromatic rice in Phuket Village; the clear blue beyond. OPPOSITE: In a Royal Villa, on Luisa: Nimo With Love kaftan, Linya Disenyo earrings, Bhig Buda Outfitters sunglasses.

b u l C d n a l s I n Balesi They say no man is an island, but I’d hazard a guess that every one wants one. In a country like the Philippines, where you have 7,107 to choose from, it isn’t that difficult to find one that is actually for sale. But while retail prices can be in fact quite reasonable, the extra financial as well as logistical tolls add up. Is there fresh water? What about electricity? Sort those issues out, but then every rainy season you’re worried a giant typhoon will sweep in and blow all your effort and affection to smithereens. Enter Balesin, a unique, private island resort that is incredibly accessible. The 25-minute flight on a private plane leaving from a private hangar smack in the center of Manila means it’s quicker to get to the island than to drive an hour south of the capital to popular weekend destination Tagaytay. A friend of mine who owns a membership explained to me that it was like having maintenance-free beach houses in Bali, Costa del Sol, Mykonos, Phuket, St-Tropez and Tuscany. That’s right: it’s a seaside Epcot Center of sorts for adults (far less cheesy than it sounds!) with only 300 villas and two-bedroom suites grouped into international villages on 500 wondrous hectares. The privilege of privacy—honestly, I’ve been kicking myself for not getting in on the ground floor ever since my first visit.

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That day, it felt like I barely got settled into my seat, comfortable with my headphones and magazine, when the captain announced that we were about to land. A tropical welcome awaited us upon touchdown with its customary flower necklaces and fresh coconut juice. Buggies lined up to give tours around the world. Yes, as strange and mainland China as it may seem, the villages are less theme-park reproductions and more inspired development. Absolutely no detail was overlooked and not one tree was out of place. Or, on Mykonos, in place, for that whole village is void of tropical coconut trees. There, the signature Greek white and blue structures are surrounded by large rocks and stunning bougainvillea perched on a small cliff overlooking the vast expanse of ocean. Over on Costa del Sol, instead of overgrown balmy vegetation there is the slightly arid landscape punctured by tiled fountains reminiscent of southern Spain. And, the shady, tree-lined beaches at Phuket, with its ornately decorated wooden villas, are perfect for a relaxing, dreamy escape. Each village comes not just with the ambience of its inspiration but with a corresponding restaurant. Moules frites at St-Tropez? Spaghetti alle vongole and wood-fire oven pizzas at Toscana? Sundowners and satay at Bali? That probably sums up the bulk of my intended itinerary here… My holiday was planned around mealtimes and cocktail hours—and while I was nibbling on a tasty skewer during the first of what was to become many happy hour sessions at the beautiful Nusa Dua bar overlooking the fuchsia sea, I had a moment of clarity: The diversity of food and drink was just one signal of the breadth of options on the island designed to maximize repeat visitors’ investments and minimize any inkling of ennui. The choices are in fact quite dizzying: You can go horseback riding on the beach, indulge in the spa, dive, fish for your own meal, karaoke. Heck, you can even let out your inner Legolas and try your hand at archery. Still, I sincerely am more than happy 70

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just reading a book, swinging in a hammock, enjoying the salty breeze, because the truth is that the most powerful selling point of Balesin is the stunning natural setting. Only one-tenth of the island is developed, planned as it was with sustainability and respect for nature in mind. One has to drive a good 20 minutes, winding through untouched forests and untrimmed flora, to get from one village to another.

Adventurous spirits might pack a picnic lunch and, towel and hat in hand, disappear to a secluded cove. There are more than seven kilometers of white-sand beachfront, so it’s no sweat to find a few square meters to call your own. The development was so well considered that despite the extremely high occupancy one Valentine’s weekend, we often found ourselves dining alone in restaurants, only bumping into people Sunday


OUS R U T N E V AD PAC K T H G I M SPIRITS AN D, TOWEL A PIC NICAT IN HAN D, AN D H PPE AR DISA

afternoon in the hangar on our way home. “Oh, I didn’t know you were here too!” is a common exclamation at the end of a holiday. As our initial tour came to a close, the friendly guide asked if we’d like to see her favorite place, and took us to the southernmost tip of the island. The buggy climbed up the hill and the island narrowed to a point where on one side stood the Pacific and on the other Lamon Bay. We were waved in by

the watchman, who had a big toothy grin. The mid-afternoon sun warmed our skin, long unkempt grass danced in the ocean wind, softly framing the small, charmingly beat-up guardhouse. A rickety bamboo hut with equally rickety benches stood glowing against the light and sparkling water. “I love coming here and just staring out to sea,” our guide said. “In the early morning, you can watch the sunrise and there are often

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Balesin Island has a team of resident wood carvers who create decorative items and furniture; chill in beanbags at the Balesin Village Clubhouse; at the Balesin Village beachfront, on Luisa: Two Chic Manila blouse and pants; at the spa, on Luisa: Dusk Resortwear cover-up, H&M bikini; sun-kissed dining in St-Tropez; private transport for the jet set.

turtles that come up to the surface. Then you can come back later in the day and enjoy an unobstructed view of the sunset.” She sighed and so did I. Lucky watchman, I thought to myself. He had the best spot on the island… and didn’t have to pay a cent. Balesin Island Club; 63-2/846-6205; balesin.com; contact the resort for a preview visit, membership fees and accommodation rates.


CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Each of the eight rooms boasts uninterrupted westerly seascapes; all-inclusive water sports; luxe lounging; hand-carved marble baths from Romblon.

CAL AM

IA N A

L AG O, R C H IP E

This is the luxe life. The brainchild of a British couple who say they live for exotic adventures without the restrictive and confining feel of resorts and hotels, Ariara is an all-ornothing private island with the requisite dense emerald jungles, turquoise waters and white sands. The ultimate indulgence here? Whether you want a romantic escape for two or a raucous beach party with 18 friends, the eight villas, cottages and suites are book one, get them all. That goes not just for the contemporary tropical, artisan-highlighted accommodations, in which you can hop into large handcarved marble baths from Romblon, duck under thatched roofs made out of nipa fibers, and wrap yourself in

PA L AWA

N

textiles from tribal weavers. It also applies to the bounty of big-kid toys at your disposal. Jetskiing in the late afternoon? Discovering deserted islands on the 30-meter trimaran? Taking the 12-meter dive boat out to explore coral reefs and World War II? From spa treatments to yoga to curating each vintage from the wine cellar to your personal preferenceâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and the menu of the private chefâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; every desire is met, surpassed, often even anticipated, by the friendly and efficient staff. Ariaraisland.com; seven-night stays from US$40,040 for groups of six to eight people, to US$59,850 for groups of 15-18 people.

C O U R T E S Y O F A R I A R A I S L A N D (4)

d n a l s I a r a i Ar


CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW: Pier to private paradise; nearby bountiful reefs draw divers; history writ on the wall; fish, plus monkeys and birds, are the nearest neighbors.

T he

a l l i V n a g Lambin

S A N G AT

IS

ORO N L A N D, C

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Does it count as “private” if you’re surrounded by simians? Well, if it comes with your own cave-waterfall shower, we say, definitely. Sangat Island is a pristine nature reserve owned by British-climate refugee Andy Pownall, but the true rulers of this roost are the mischievous monkeys that scamper freely about— and among the exotic birds such as the Palawan hornbill and endangered Tabon who live in the magnificent jungle overlooking the small strip of ivory sand dotted with large conch shells. Lambingan Villa is accessible only via a rickety bridge that snakes through jagged rocks and into a cave before thrusting you out onto its secluded beach. The rustic, threestory villa is somewhat spartan and has no air-conditioning, but it harnesses nature to provide the perks, from that waterfall shower to the cool, ocean breeze. Take a kayak and explore the island’s hidden lagoons, jump into a school of rainbow-colored fish or unwind in the secret hot-spring pool. Simplicity and freshness reign with tasty (though, note, limited) offerings such as a grilled catch of the day and sautéed vegetables from the owners’ lovingly tended garden. Unplug and melt into the island’s languid time. Soon you’ll contemplate just burning that bridge and staying tucked up with the monkeys. Sangat.com.ph; low-season doubles from US$155 per person per night, including three buffet meals daily, complimentary tea or coffee, and airport transfers.

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Planning a destination wedding, family reunion or other intimate celebration? Pearl Farm’s seven Malipano Villas have you covered. Perched on stilts and on the rocks of the speck of land across the bay from the main resort, these spacious threestory, three- and four-bedroom villas were built in the traditional Maranao and Samal styles with bamboo accents and picturesque pointed roofs meant to look like the iconic native Philippine hat, the salakot. With its own beachfront and a large open-air veranda, the spot is made for cocktail parties and barbecues overlooking the sea. Just dial up the main resort for all your catering and concierge needs: For entertainment, there are the usual offerings of aqua sports, but perhaps you’d like to sprinkle in a dose of culture with a guided field trip to the weaving center where women from the Mandaya tribe work on lavish hand woven textiles and artisanal housewares. Back home for happy hour, be sure to order their succulent morsels of fresh tuna kinilaw—a local version of ceviche made with fresh green chilies, ginger and coconut milk—the heat tempered by frosty San Miguel beers. Whatever you fancy, take over this cluster of cottages and rule it like a festive tribe. Pearlfarmresort.com; three-bedroom villas for up to six people from P40,941 per night, four-bedroom villas for up to seven people from P44,398 per night. 74

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CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW: The Malipano Villas are sheltered by salakot-shaped roofs; pool party, anyone?; room with a view; stilted glory.


Call it the kingmaker. Nestled in thick mangroves and among flying lemurs and monitor lizards on surfers’ paradise Siargao, the whimsical architectural gem that is Dedon Island is designed to be your personal sand castle-away-from-home. Okay, so technically there are nine vaultedceilinged, playful niche-filled, luxury villas here, but at this self-described “outdoor living lab” on four hectares, in which the coconut-leaf roofs blend seamlessly and sustainably with the emerald tree canopy, you’ll hardly notice—and you definitely won’t hear—the other barefoot guests. A flat rate per person per night ensures ease akin to residency; this island is your oyster; your wish is its command. Indulge in multiple massages per day, bounce in the domed trampolines,

visit the local market… boat rides and surf lessons and picnics on deserted isles, and did we mention so many cocktails at the handwoven circular bar? Feel like expanding the menu? Wander through their organic garden and pick your own vegetables, then pop into the kitchen to have the chef assist you in satisfying your craving. At Dedon Island there are no checks and no billing statements, just the sheer joy of pure vacation abandon without having to worry about adding up costs upon departure… That is if you can bear to give up Poseidon’s trident and go back to civilian life. + Dedon Island; dedonisland.com; doubles from P25,100 per adult per night, P12,550 for children under 18 years old, and free for kids under 10.

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Your sand castle-away-from-home; beachy bounce houses; pick your own organic veggies and tell the chef how to prep your salads; Siargao is a surfing mecca.


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Snorkeling in clear, coral-filled waters.

The best sunsetsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;possibly beaches and definitely fish sauceâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in Vietnam are actually in the Gulf of Thailand. But Phu Quoc is coming of age. J E N I N N E L E E-S T. J O H N heads to the leafy, laid-back island before mass-tourism harshes its mellow vibe. P H O T OG R A P H E D BY M O R G A N O M M E R


R E D B O AT: J E N I N N E L E E - S T. J O H N

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Fish sauce starts here; French doors fill a La Veranda suite with sunlight; a fresh Salinda spring roll; beachside dining at La Veranda; Hung shakes things up at Salindaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bar.


In my enthusiasm for this hotel-sanctioned but iffyelsewhere idea, I exclaim, “Xe homs?!” Thomas tries to backtrack, but, no, no, I explain, we’ve both lived in Southeast Asia for ages. We are all for motorbike taxis. And so an hour later we find ourselves on the backs of bikes, me with the English-speaking leader Mr. Wow—“Do you know why they call me that? I take people places and they always say, ‘Wow!’”—clutching the purple Salinda beach towels Thomas handed us on the way out, heading up near-empty roads, crossing bridges over the little port and a lovely river, the only traffic coming from a family of cows in the road, their shepherd trying to corral them on foot. Super chill.

id-morning, after a leisurely breakfast and a lounge in one of the birdcage daybeds on the empty beach, my friend Valerie and I amble up to the reception area of Salinda Resort, casually inquiring about going snorkeling. Industrious front-desk manager Thomas’s face falls when he realizes we mean today. “I’m sorry but all the tour groups with other people left a while ago… like at dawn,” he says, unnecessarily checking his watch. I picture a toocrowded boat of awkward strangers with selfie sticks, and reply, “That’s okay. We don’t really like other people so much anyway!” Well, in that case, we’re in business. He lays out the options, in descending order of price: we can take a hotel car to the northwestern tip of the island and try to hire a boatman ourselves to take us to the reef; do the same via taxi; or, we can go with “reliable xe homs” (motorbike drivers) who can negotiate the price for us and take us to their favorite spots post-swim. Wait. Xe homs? Really, that’s an option? This is the first time any five-star in any country has ever suggested I take a motorbike taxi, “reliable” or no. It takes me a second to realize that I’m overjoyed. This is the exact reason I’ve come to Phu Quoc—for the laid-back vibe that lingers even as the island slowly but surely heads upscale. Vietnam’s largest island chills out off its southwest coast, full of empty white beaches, shady seafood shacks, miraculously unsmelly fishsauce factories and an exceptionally unjaded population. The brand-new Salinda is one of a handful of fresh or rebooted faces luring luxury travelers to these sleepy shores, but their operations are all small-scale; there are murmurs of giant, global top-end chains coming in. The new international airport already welcomes with special visason-arrival direct flights from Singapore and soon, the plan is, Seoul and Bangkok. Having never visited this pretty paradise when I lived in Saigon, I wanted to do Phu Quoc nice, but do it before the rest of Asia turned it into Phuket.

HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN around an abandoned airport? You can in Phu Quoc. It’s eerie, exciting, confusing (why’d they shutter this one when the new one looks almost the same?), and easy: the fences are down—just bypass the terminal and hit the tarmac. Driving the length of a runway on a 125-cc two-wheeler, you realize just how long 1,800 meters is and yet still can taste the thrill of unbridled freedom. Don’t laugh, but I felt like we were channeling that scene in Top Gun when Tom Cruise is racing his motorcycle alongside a fighter jet and, as it takes off, he pumps his fist in a rallying cry. We were racing a couple of lazy cattle; still, we, too, were pumped. Have you ever hired a local fisherman to take you snorkeling? Okay, maybe you have. But once you agreed to the terms, did he also set a clandestine rendezvous point and time? Ours did. Mr. Wow conferred with the boatman and then said, “We must go 1.5 kilometers south, to a place where the little beach meets the big rock under the wide tree.” Got it. We were approaching 13-hundred hours, time to get the package in the post. Sure enough, we waited on the rock under the tree and, though I swear I had thought it was a clear day, it seemed like fog appeared right then purely for our long-tail boat to putter out of, like in a mystery novel. Once a bit out to sea, we had some perspective to contemplate what the coming construction will mean to the now mostly leafy green, super serene coastline. On this nearly empty northwestern stretch, Vietnamese mega-developer Vinpearl has a massive complex that includes a waterpark primed to open, and their twisty pastel tubes that make up the water slides seemed unnatural and ominous. I redirected my attention outward, to Doi Moi, the wee islet surrounded by a reef where we were headed to snorkel. Upon weighing anchor, the boatman, with a wink and a sly grin, uncovered two fishing baskets to reveal piles of snorkels and masks that looked homemade—“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that,” Valerie laughed—and into the water we went. The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping ice-filled Tiger beers at a beach shack, in a gazebo made of bamboo poles stuck in the sand and covered with palm fronds, alternating between dipping our legs in the receding tide and kicking them up on the hand-hewn swings hanging from the branches. A meal of whole fish grilled with chilies and garlic, a side of morning glory and a platter of what are T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M J U N E 2 01 5

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WE ALTERNATED BETWEEN DIPPING OUR LEGS IN THE TIDE

Sundowners at Rory’s. CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Dried seafood victuals at Phu Quoc wet market; La Veranda’s airy bar; The Shells stays stylistically on theme.

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AND KICKING THEM UP ON HANGING, HAND-HEWN SWINGS


EVERY SINGLE PERSON LOOKED LIKE HE OR SHE HAD WON THE LOTTERY AND WASN’T SURE ABOUT TELLING ANYONE now my second favorite french fries in Asia (my favorite are on a Thai island, but that’s all I’ll say here) spelled complete satisfaction… or, to give our guide his due props, “Wow.” I wasn’t sure a beach could get better than that deserted honey-hued languidness. But then I hadn’t yet been to Bai Sao. If there’s a more beautiful beach than Bai Sao in all of Vietnam, please let me know. Make your way past the tourists milling about the clutch of covered seafood eateries by the parking lot and emerge from darkness into the promised land. It takes a second for the eyes to understand what you’re seeing because, in the blinding sun, the sea and the sky melt into each other in same sweet baby blue. To describe the sand in Vietnam, I’ve used “white” sparingly, and “cookie-dough” never, but that’s exactly what my toes were sinking into at surf’s edge. My toes, which I could see perfectly clearly even under a meter of water. At low tide, you had to walk out really far to get that deep, so mostly people knelt in the shallows with beers. People flopped down and beached themselves like whales on the sandbar; kids built drippy castles or chased fish. Every single person looked like he or she had won the lottery and wasn’t sure about telling anyone. Bai Sao is a long bay, and I could have spent days at the casual seafood stalls and beach bars, on rental loungers, looking south into the Gulf of Thailand. But sunset on Doung Dong Beach beckoned. Vietnam does classic colonial comfort very well, and the prime example of this in Phu Quoc is La Veranda Resort. Talk about pretty. A bar, the library and part of the breakfast restaurant comprise its eponymous, double-decker main porch, graced by rattan chairs, lazy fans, beach views and solicitous staff who all remember your coffee order. You’d never know there are 70 rooms and villas in this property, enveloped as they are in overflowing greenery. On the winding brick paths through the shady gardens and on the vast front lawn of the newer building housing the understatedupscale suites—think hand-tiled floors, four-poster beds and French doors—you’ll rarely come across another guest, no matter how full the resort, but, if you time it right, you will find yourself dappled in the most exquisite late-day sun—rays lasering through the leaves, bathing everything in a tint of gold. Lounging on my veranda, coconut in hand, watching the trees light up as the sun fell behind them, and, beyond, upon the swimmers in shadows on the mirror-face sea, I realized why it felt like magic. Vietnam is one, long, eastern shoreline; it’s sunrises galore over the ocean, but the end of day is always lacking this pretty punctuation mark. I ordered another coconut and settled in for the glittering finale.

ANYONE WHO’S BEEN TO MUI NE, another fish sauce capital also known as the kite-surfing center of Vietnam, knows

that if you get a gust of that famous wind going right in the wrong direction, the stench of rotting fish wafting from the factories can be enough to ruin any beach day. So, I was incredibly confused to find the entire island of Phu Quoc, no matter which way the breeze was blowing, scent-free— aside from the bitter yet sweet aroma of cashew apples. A visit to Red Boat fish sauce factory solved the mystery of why Phu Quoc fish sauce not only smells better but tastes better too. Elsewhere in Vietnam, the manager Mr. Sanh explained, fishermen go out to catch sardines, anchovies and other small swimmers, leaving their haul in their hulls for days at a time. When they return to port with a boatload of smelly fish, the higher quality ones are removed for other uses, leaving the least desirable to be salted and sent to the factory for the year-long fermenting-pressingdraining-remixing process. In that light, it’s a wonder nuoc mam is edible at all. In Phu Quoc, however, the original ingredients don’t get the chance to get hinky because the fishermen salt them as soon as they’re in the boat—all of them—ensuring they’re preserved from the get-go. Red Boat, for its part, contracts only five fishermen, who catch black anchovies and use a specially pH-balanced sea salt as preservative. Strolling down their long aisles of 200 towering, 50-tonne wooden barrels drip-drip-dripping translucent amber, extra virgin, nuoc mam nhi (“first-press”), I couldn’t hide my amazement: it almost smelled good. Did I want a spoonful? Oh, yes. The taste was light, nearly crisp, a little bit sour and a hint of sweet, but closer to the saltiness of soy sauce than the pungent sugariness of your usual nuoc mam. Did I want to bring some home? Most definitely. Ah, here’s the problem. Like durian, fish sauce is not a favorite of airlines. No worries; in our region you can buy Red Boat in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. On our last afternoon at Salinda, drinking white sangria filled with cranberries—cranberries! I’ve never seen fresh ones anywhere in this country—our favorite waiter, Hung, who had bantered with us in English and tried valiantly to understand my elementary-school Vietnamese and had the get-up-and-go to chat with the chef about dishes we might like, came into work early just to say goodbye. He handed us carved-shell keychain souvenirs he had bought in the market, and a hand-written note punctuated by a smiley face: Dear Jeninne, sister, Thank you for coming here with us. Wish you remain young and beautiful forever, and lots of success in life. —Hung, brother Aww, Hung. I wish the same for you. And for Phu Quoc. Throughout the inevitable face-lifts, please keep your youthful beauty. I know you’re going to grow up. Just don’t do it too fast. +


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T L Guide Getting There From most places, you’ll need both to procure a visa in advance and to fly into Saigon, and then get a connecting flight to Phu Quoc on Vietnam Airlines (vietnamairlines.com), Jetstar (jetstar.com), VietJet (vietjetair.com) or Hahn Air Systems (hahnair.com). Weekly direct flights connect Singapore with Phu Quoc on Vietnam Airlines, and specialeconomic-zone visas-onarrival are available for travelers of this route; plans are in the works for a similar program for visitors flying in from Seoul and Bangkok.

STAY Salinda Premium Resort Cua Lap Hamlet, Duong To Commune; 84-77/399-0011; salindaresort. com; doubles from US$394. La Veranda Resort Tran Hung Dao Street, Duong Dong Beach; 84-77/398-2988; laverandaresorts.com; doubles from US$260. The Shells Resort & Spa Low-slung, nouveau-retro hotel opened last year to excellent service reviews. Every room has a balcony, and “the shells” theme is pervasive from the overall design to the little touches. Ganh Gio Beach, Duong Dong Town; 84-77/371-8888; shellsresort.com; doubles from US$180.

Mango Bay One of the country’s most eco-friendly resorts (think air-con-free bungalows made of rammed-earth, an offshore reef, and two resident sea eagles) long has been a favorite among Vietnam’s expat community. Ong Lang Beach; 84-90/338-2207; mangobayphuquoc.com; doubles from US$69. Mercure Phu Quoc Resort and Villas Currently the most southerly upscale resort on Long Beach, this new, cozy property has a swim-up bar. Book a second-floor room near the tennis courts for large balconies with ocean views. 1 Duong To Hamlet, Duong To Commune; 84-77/397-2999; mercure.com; doubles from US$98.

FROM TOP: The Embassy: streetside café by day, rooftop tiki bar by night; Bai Sao Beach is the best in Vietnam.

DO Flipper Diving Club If you don’t fancy a secret rendezvous with a random boatman, try this pleasant, professional operation, for aquatic fun from snorkeling to PADI certification courses. 60 Tran Hung Dao St., Duong Dong; flipperdiving.com; snorkeling trips from VND645,000 per person. The Embassy Rooftop tiki bar with grooving DJs and delicious cocktails. Need we say more? Tran Hung Dao Street next to Co.opmart; 84-96/806-7940; facebook.com/mbazi.phuquoc. Rory’s Beach Bar Great spot for sundowners served by super friendly staff at a bar shaped like a fishing boat. 118/10 Tran Hung Dao, Long Beach; 84-91/9333250; fb.com/rorysbarphuquoc.

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brand-na GROUNDED LUXURY AMID THRIVING LOCAL CULTURE? DIANA HUBBELL ASSERTS THAT YOU STILL CAN HAVE IT ALL ON THE EVERMORE-UPSCALE BUKIT PENINSULA. PHOTOGRAPHED BY NIKOLA KOSTIC


me bali Waiting for a bite in Jimbaran. CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Sofitelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spa; plump prawns at Sofitel; a RitzCarlton balcony; standing tall at Nikki Beach; shockingly understated Bulgari; Bulgari serves rich treats.

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nd this is just a lower-caste wedding,” whispers Tasya, who with her friend Tommy is one of my two partners in gluttony for the day. We’ve been delayed in our quest for babi guling by a swarm of women in towering, gilded headdresses and embroidered sarongs that has invaded the street. This being Bali, the rickety motorbikes and cars part for the procession, rather than the other way around, and just like that a major road is closed until who-knows-when. “At an upper-caste one, the ornaments are even higher and even heavier.” “There’s always something unexpected going on around here,” Tommy says. Maybe, but these guys have volunteered to take me down Nusa Dua’s narrow alleys for some real Balinese food—specifically a porcine extravaganza—and our destination, Warung Pak Dobeil, is just a little shack rumored to have long lines by 11 a.m. My stomach and nerves are grumbling at the delay, still the romantic in me is thrilled by this serendipitous cultural encounter. On an island where luxury tourism just keeps growing, it’s a shock to the senses to see the real world, still raw around the edges, minutes from all those Instagram-candy infinity pools. Bali booms, but you already knew that. The Bukit Peninsula is turning into a high-stakes arms race as each five-star competes to outshine its neighbors. It’s a Who’s Who in hospitality: Aman, St. Regis, Club Med, Grand Nikko, and the mammoth, three-part Mulia. Newest is the sleek Sakala, as well as a stunning Ritz-Carlton draped down a sheer cliff face by way of a great, glass elevator to a winding series of rice paddy-inspired lagoons. Next door, the concrete skeleton of a 600-plus-room Kempinski looms. Sofitel has just added the island’s only cutting-edge medical spa and a Nikki Beach Club. Meanwhile, even over on Uluwatu, the Alila and the Bulgari Resort Bali are taking the surf locale upscale. Bali is no untrammeled oasis, but there’s something grand about its current incarnation where some thoughtfully designed hotels coexist alongside patches of a thriving local life, where the best lobsters come from the docks and not an airplane, where floral offerings litter the 86

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In Jimbaran, fishing boats bring their haul to pasar ikan, or the seafood market. OPPOSITE: Nikki Beach club, temple to hedonism, is brand new to Nusa Dua.

sidewalks each morning, and where some of the most revered restaurants are street-side warungs. Here you can eat truffle-oil-anointed sashimi and suckling pig from a makeshift firepit all in the same day. Yes, we at last make it to Warung Pak Dobeil and the promised pork is more than worth the trouble. Babi guling pretty much defines nose-totail dining: a whole suckling pig is gutted, crammed with spice paste and herbs, then surgically sewn back together before slowroasting for hours. Shards of skin, deep-fried intestines, pork sate, and collagen-rich bone broth accompany the tender meat. Served with an incendiary sambal to cut the fat, this pork is an undeniable affirmation of why I cannot be a vegetarian. It’s all I wanted and more. “You know, it’s a shame for you to come all this way and not try nasi ayam,” Tasya begins. Nasi ayam is the halal equivalent to my piggy feast, though it’s equally popular with non-Muslims. “The place next door is owned by the same family as Dobeil and their version is excellent,” Tommy teases. “We could just try a bite...” Minutes later, a plate of chicken materializes, topped with a hard-boiled egg, peanuts and a glob of chili paste. It vanishes with equal speed. Drenched in sweat and stretching the limits of human stomach capacity, I’m both intrigued and horrified when Tommy and Tasya mention that, although this nasi ayam is good, it isn’t really the best, and it would be a crime to come to Bali without trying the famous Ibu Oki’s rendition. With no turning back now, we weave down the road past whole families piled circus-style on scooters to another unassuming warung with a formidable line. This rendition is saucier and less scorching, though every bit as addictive.


“See, this is the trouble with living here,” Tommy groans. “We can’t eat like this every day, but it’s so tempting.”

“Now you see why women get to the market before 5 a.m. to start preparing the food,” chef smirks as I bungle another sate lilit. He takes my mangled fish and wizards it into a pleated shape. My lessons in local brewing continue at L’Atelier Parfums et Créations, where guests create fragrances from combinations of 44 essential oils ranging from spices such as nutmeg and cloves, to flowers like ylang-ylang and frangipani, to woods such as massoia, which smells intensely of coconut, and agarwood, a substance worth more per ounce than gold. “Indonesia is such an important center of raw materials,” effuses Nora Gasparini in her breathy French accent. “About 80 percent of everything here is local.” A striking native of Martinique with a pixie cut framing her petite face and high cheekbones, she has been working with perfumes in Bali since she arrived six years ago. Enigmatic, heady and with a deep sense of place, the scent we concoct together quickly replaces the brand-name staple I’ve been wearing daily for years.

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ut I can eat like this every day—at least for my time here. Which is why one morning I rise at an ungodly hour to join I Made Suriana, the chef de cuisine at Ritz-Carlton Bali, as he scours pasar sayur for produce and pasar ikan for seafood. Along the way, he describes the distinct cuisines in this country of 300 ethnic groups and more than 700 languages and dialects. “In Sumatran rendang, they use coconut at the beginning of cooking. If you go to Java, they put a lot of a gula melaka, palm sugar, in,” he says, snatching up half a dozen tiger prawns. “Go to Flores, you’ll see the Portuguese influence. I take a little bit from everywhere, but mostly I am Balinese and I cook Balinese.” Greater and lesser galangal, turmeric root, kaffir lime, candlenuts, roasted shrimp paste and fistfuls of screaming-red chilies are sautéed, puréed, then sautéed again to produce the fiercely aromatic bumbu that forms the backbone of other dishes. “Bruise the lemongrass or there’s no taste!” chef commands. “Now tie it in a knot to make it easier to fish out later.” “Fold your banana leaves this way, not that way. That’s how you know whether the inside is sweet or savory.” “Smell the shrimp paste—it could kill your cat. Then roast it over the grill. Smell the difference?” We whip up electric-green pandan crepes with braised jackfruit, minced duck meat steamed in banana leaves, tuna sate lilit skewers on lemongrass, nasi goreng, and finally, a bunch of those magnificent salt-water prawns slathered in bumbu.

s Partner your detox at Vietura medical spa with healthy, locally sourced meals at Sofitel. OPPOSITE: On the Bulgariaccessed beach in Uluwatu, it’s still possible to experience rough and rugged Bali.

ince I’m already mixing science and beauty, I check in to Sofitel Nusa Dua’s Vietura. While the hotel’s day spa is robed in dark tones and burnished bronze, Vietura medical spa is like a plush doctor’s office with high-tech treatments including cryogenically freezing your fat. My girly side is thrilled when my technician offers dermabrasion with diamond particles, along with a blast of super-chilled oxygen. Though some of the chemistry eludes me, the results speak for themselves: I emerge two hours later shining bright and minus a few stress lines. No detox is complete without a re-tox, especially on this pleasure-centric playground. If you’re going to dive headfirst into Nusa Dua’s pursuit of hedonism, there’s no better place to do it than Nikki Beach, the newest member of the empire that stretches from Ibiza to Phuket. “Understatement” is unheard of in this world of aerialists, models and bottles. On this particular Sunday, the brunch is in full swing. Enviably curvaceous women, in feathered headdresses and not much else, shimmy along the bar in stilettos to a saxophonist’s solo. And although the crowd never gets too rowdy, there’s plenty of dancing in and out of the pool before the sun begins to set. “We definitely stand out in Nusa Dua,” admits the appropriately named general manager, Michael Sin, a 16-year veteran of the company who started as a busboy back at the brand’s flagship Miami property, then a regular haunt of A-listers from Madonna to Matt Damon, and has T R A V E L A N D L E I S U R E A S I A . C O M J U N E 2 01 5

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just moved here from Thailand. “Plenty of people asked why we’re not in Seminyak, but I think we’re exactly where we need to be. When we opened in Samui, a lot of people doubted us, and now that club does upwards of 800 people at brunch during high season.”

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SAMUI | PHUKET | khaoyai | chiang mai | bangkok | ayutthaya T 66 (0) 2231 2588 | F 66 (0) 2231 2589 www.salahospitality.com

walk for the better part of an hour before I find the only other inhabitant on a jungled stretch of nowhere. My feet sink into the slope of coarse sand. To my left, huge translucent waves rear up and froth to the ground. To my right, limestone cliffs rise, riddled with crags and choked with a riot of savage greenery. And directly before me, kilometers from any sign of civilization, sits a surfer type with a neon orange tent, his hair so sun-bleached that his brows and lashes all but disappear on his face. His name is Grigori. And while I arrived on the lonely patch of Uluwatu via a five-minute ride on a reopened private funicular, this wayward Russian made his way down to the beach by sneaking through one of the far resorts and clambering down the rough-hewn stone stairs. When I ask if he’s even allowed here, he gestures pointedly to the empty expanse. “Do you see anyone to stop me?” Rough and rugged, Uluwatu still resembles the tropical fever dream that Bali once was. Not that there aren’t cushy amenities. Somewhere on the top of those bluffs sits the eco-gorgeous Alila Uluwatu and the Bulgari Resort Bali, where I am staying. Much to my surprise, the latter is a study in understatement that has little to do with its ostentatious name. Yes, the spa is an intricate, century-old joglo house imported piece-by-piece from Java and painstakingly reassembled on this 160-meter drop-off overlooking the Indian Ocean. But call it a superlative example of the emphasis on local materials here.

Bukit, the same kind of coral stone used in many Balinese temples, and bangkiray, a type of mahogany from Java, dominate the all-villa landscape. The resort sports brand-new three- and five-bedroom mansions larger than most boutique hotels with interiors dripping in Italian onyx, but from the outside even these exceedingly luxe abodes are moss-covered and subdued. More than 1,500 ceramics and 80 objets d’art ranging from the Stone Age pieces to the one-tonne copper sculpture by contemporary Balinese artist Made Wianta dot the 8.5 hectares. Textiles called songket, made of gold and silver threads in silk and requiring four months to handweave, decorate virtually every room. Lovely as the resort is, it’s that view and this coastline that steal the show. So transfixed am I by the scenery that I fail to notice the steady advance of the sea. By the time I turn around, the beach behind me has vanished into saline foam. The biblical waves that made this area so beloved by boarders come ever closer. I begin to crawl my way back, bruising each time my body slams against the cliffs, fully clothed and drenched through skin and bone. “Time to make everything change. In the fields, where another Ritz-Carlton is going to be, I used to cut the grass for the cow,” chef Suriana told me back when I first landed. “But something of the old stays, even when the new comes. I still have my village. I told my father, ‘Bring my kid and take him to the rice field.’ I want him to play in the mud there as I did. I want him to know where he comes from.” That it is still possible for the youngest generation to free-play in the paddies like their parents did, to even here on the Uluwatu shore find a place this wild, to be half-terrified and fully alive, is truly something. Salt-crusted and wind-battered, I hold tight and let the next wave come. +


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T L Guide STAY The Ritz-Carlton, Bali 3 Jln. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan, Sawangan Nusa Dua; 62361/849-8988; ritzcarlton.com; doubles from US$430. Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort N5 Jln. Nusa Dua, Kawasan Wisata Nusa Dua tourism complex; 62-361/8492888; sofitel.com; doubles from Rp2,160,000. Bulgari Resort Bali Jalan Goa Lempeh, Banjar Dinas Kangin, Uluwatu; 62-361/847-1000; bulgarihotels.com; villas from US$1,000, three-bedroom mansions from US$8,000, five-bedroom mansions from US$10,000. The Sakala Resort & Villa Bali 95 Jln. Pratama, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua; 62-361/775216; sakalaresortbali.com; doubles from US$191. Inaya Putri Bali Traditional Balinese style infuses every bit of this stylish newcomer.

S3 Kawasan Wisata Nusa Dua; 62-361/774-488; inayahotels. com; doubles from US$140. EAT AND DRINK Warung Pak Dobeil 9 Jln. Srikandi, Nusa Dua; 62-361/771633; babi guling for two Rp60,000. Warung Merta Sari Buana 9 Jln. Srikandi, Nusa Dua; 62-361/778-278; nasi ayam campur for two Rp40,000. Warung Nasi Ayam Ibu Oki 27 Jln. Siligita, Nusa Dua; 62-361/805-2059; nasi ayam campur for two Rp40,000. Bumbu Bali One It may cater to international guests, but that doesn’t make the food at this iconic Indonesian restaurant from cookbook author Heinz von Holzen any less authentic or enjoyable. Bumbu Bali One and Two are located within a kilometer of one another on the same street and sport identical menus, though the former has a

bit more ambience. Order the the rijstaffel for the full experience. Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa; 62-361/774502; balifoods.com; rijstaffel menus from Rp550,000. The Beach Grill Simple, beautifully executed seafood dishes overlooking the Indian Ocean. Order the lobster linguine. The Ritz-Carlton, Bali; ritzcarlton.com; dinner for two Rp765,000. Il Ristorante Contemporary spins on Tuscan classics from chef Nicola Russo. Bulgari Resort Bali; bulgarihotels.com; four-course tasting menu Rp850,000. Nikki Beach Bali Every day is a party, but in laid-back Nusa Dua it tends not to run late. Though the club stays open well into the night for special events, on regular days it shuts its doors at 7 p.m. Sunday brunch is well worth getting out of bed for, both for the spectacular spread

and people-watching. Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort; 62-361/849-2900; nikkibeach. com; Amazing Sunday Brunch Rp350,000. DO Cooking class The RitzCarlton, Bali; ritzcarlton.com; cooking class with lunch US$90. L’Atelier Parfums et Créations The Ritz-Carlton, Bali; 62-361/849-8988 ext. 3941; perfumeworkshops.com; 90-minute workshop and 30 milliliters of custom perfume US$80. Vietura Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort; 62-361/8492988; facebook.com/ VieturaAestheticLifestyleBali; one-hour Micro Exfoliation facial US$60. The Spa Bulgari Resort Bali; 62-361/847-1000 ext. 66016602; bulgarihotels.com; two-hour Balinese Four Hand Massage US$325.

JOIN OUR GLOBAL LOYALTY PROGRAM AT ACCORHOTELS.COM


A New Day Dawning

As the U.S. restores its relationship with Cuba, the world awaits a country on the verge—but of what? Gary Shteyngart discovers a culture that is hanging in the balance, at turns strivingly modern and forever 1959. photographed by frédéric lagrange

Sunrise over Old Havana, with a view of the Straits of Florida beyond. Opposite: The son of a tobacco farmer at home. Many houses in the country have a picture of Fidel Castro.


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cuba!

Just 45 minutes out of Miami, I am on a chartered jet circling over an

island, a nation and an idea. American tourists, some old enough to have been adults during the Cuban missile crisis, are leaning into their windows, adjusting their thick glasses to take in a landscape of tropical greenery dotted with Soviet-style apartment complexes and fiery Socialist slogans. Our CubanAmerican counterparts come loaded with loot for their relatives; one middleaged man is wearing a Hello Kitty backpack on his shoulder, the price tag still attached. Soon we are taxiing to the terminal past Russian-made Cubana airliners, barely up to the challenge of taking to the skies. The country that has played such a ridiculously outsize role in the American imagination is right here before us, lush and threadbare, beguiling and humdrum, proud and ruined. Let me mention the date before I continue, because when it comes to Cuba, dates matter. Today is January 9, 2015, 24 days since President Obama announced his intention to restore American diplomatic relations with this country. And although I’m only set to spend a week here, I will leave a slightly different place from the one first glimpsed outside the airplane window. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Back on January 9, 2015, the chief legal way for a U.S. citizen to travel to Cuba—other than for Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island—was through one of the people-to-people exchange programs sanctioned by the


From far left: A near-empty bar in Havana; the image of Che Guevara, a stillubiquitous sight in the city, watches over a Havana street corner; Cuba’s cars bear witness to the country’s myriad historical influences (American, Russian, Chinese); the seaside Malecón at dusk.

Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. These group tours are designed to “result in meaningful interactions between the U.S. travelers and individuals in Cuba,” which in practice means lots of rumba classes, art gallery visits, and the most dreaded word in tour group vocabulary: flamenco. And so I find myself on a Chinese-made bus surrounded by boisterous, mostly older tourists about to undergo a week of jam-packed cultural exchange. We are at the airport’s parking lot, waiting for everyone to clear customs and clamber aboard. Across the lot, a red-and-white 1950s Chevy Biscayne is taking an hour to huff into its parking space, while a father wearing a shirt with the Chevy logo throws a weathered baseball around with his kid. It’s not just the cars that evoke midcentury America; the entire pace of life seems closer to the Eisenhower era than to the Zuckerberg one. For a travel writer, being forced into a tour group instead of being allowed to roam free is like giving a dachshund long legs—life is easier, but you’re not yourself at all. Our leaders are a charming young American named Tony, who wears a newsboy cap and rockabilly sideburns, and his Afro-Cuban companion, an even younger woman named Yanet. Our driver is called Bistec, because his earlobes hang down like steaks. “Fidel is still alive!” Tony tells us as we rumble out of the airport parking lot. A rumor had circulated among the masses of Cuban relatives outside the terminal that Castro had finally departed for the Leninist version of heaven, a produce store stocked with a few heads of lettuce. “Welcome to our planet,” Yanet says, gesturing at the nearly empty highway on the approach to Havana. I notice an Apple logo on a 1950s Chevy. You can’t say the Cubans don’t have a sense of humor. The buildings—jumbles of Neoclassical porticoes and dashes of the Baroque—are weather-beaten and partly hollowed out. “It’s a tragically

beautiful city,” Yanet says, and I’m reminded a bit of Leningrad, the city in which I was born, during the decline of the Soviet Union. There’s a lushness to this decay, the jerry-rigged lifestyles, the queues outside government office buildings where the basics of life are parceled out in monotone by tired bureaucrats, the carelessness with which electric wires drape a fading mansion, the orderliness of red-and-whiteuniformed school kids lining up. We pass the hulk of the former National Assembly, meant for a nation of several hundred million people, not 11 million, and pull up to the Parque Central, a banal hotel that seems to accommodate almost every American tour group on the island. On the rooftop, we are given the traditional Cuban welcome for all gringos: a 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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volley of mojitos and cuba libres, which, because of the embargo, are mixed with TuKola, the Socialist alternative to Coke. We introduce ourselves. We are investment banking professors with handkerchiefs tucked into our blue blazers; we are Pilates enthusiasts from Ohio; we are doctors and lawyers and one former Pan Am flight attendant. And everyone is here for the same reason. We are Americans fascinated by the very thought of a sunny Marxist dictatorship floating off the Florida coast. The tour group heads off to witness a display of Cuban dancing at La Casa del Son, just a few blocks away from the hotel. We are soused down with the requisite cuba libres, and then some gorgeous young women in black minis spin around for us. A dude in a 70s leather jacket with spiky 80s hair shows off his moves, as well as the fact that Cuba’s stylistic choices are a museum of four American decades starting with 1959 and ending some time around Lenny Kravitz’s debut album. When we’re invited to salsa (“Try? You must! No? You don’t want?”), I duck out and take my first walk alone. Havana: Where the streets have no lamps. It’s only 7 p.m., but the city is lost to half-darkness. A staircase meanders into a former manse, its columns dense with wires like a form of vegetation. A store, half-lit, seems to be selling nothing more than a single box of detergent. The only well-lit portal is the window of a local administrative office from which Che Guevara’s youthful visage admonishes passersby to “work more and criticize less.” I can hear my tour group rumba-ing somewhere down the street, but suddenly I realize the following: My iPhone doesn’t work here. My American credit cards don’t work here. There is no traffic. There are, practically speaking, no stores. There is no light. I am standing in a city virtually untouched by the dense web of satellites floating above the earth. I am primordially happy.

The following day, we’re on the bus, stopping at an art museum and a

paladar serving fresh but pointless mahimahi. Paladares are the new wave of privately owned restaurants housed in shabby-chic quarters, and last night we’d dined at our first one: La Guarida was a plush and cinematic place with starchy food that failed to impress. (Then again, coming to Cuba for the cuisine is like going to Boston for the nightlife.) As our fearsome Chinese-made vehicle groans on the potholed streets, my snout is pressed to the window, and I’m dreaming of being let loose upon Havana. How ironic that a U.S. law designed to combat the Castro regime actually restricts the movements of Americans on Cuban soil. On that note, we arrive at the Museum of the Revolution, a grand mansion in which the pre-Castro dictator Batista was nearly assassinated. After touching the golden AT&T phone once gifted to the overthrown leader, I sneak away from the group to commune by the museum’s Wall of Cretins. Like many ideological displays in Cuba, the Wall is a perfectly distilled cocktail of pride and spite, featuring cartoonish renderings of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat, George Bush I in a Roman toga, and W. in a Nazi helmet reading a book upside down. It’s crude and childish, but the Cubans seem to have a lot more fun with their propaganda than their counterparts in Pyongyang and Tehran—more “you silly imperialist pigs” than “death to the great Satan.” And then a wonderful thing happens: Tony the tour leader lets us roam free. I quickly run to the Malecón, the seawall upon which half of Havana’s population seems to stroll—it has been referred to as “Havana’s sofa.” The decayed rocks form their own compromised skyline, mirrored by old mansions that look like they’ve been eaten away from the inside, their exposed innards forming so many Escher drawings. How soon before this prime real estate is turned over to a string of Marriotts catering to the expected 3.5 million American tourists? Back in Old Havana I spend about 30 minutes waiting for some simple but delicious churros topped with condensed milk from a street-side stand, worrying along with my Socialist compatriots that the vendors will sell out before our turn comes. As night descends, I pass through dim streets punctuated by pockets of heat and sound, past a first-floor party bursting with 96

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reggaeton, past grandmas sitting on their rocking chairs like exhibits in a museum of working-class life. Without an iPhone, I can take time to soak in my surroundings. Although it’s a city, there’s the feel of a halfruined village. I spot some kids lobbing a soccer ball into the impressive façade of the Numismatic Museum—a hilarious concept in a country where most workers are paid in a near-worthless currency and tourists spend “convertible pesos” pegged to the dollar. Deep into the night, on a completely dark street that in most Latin capitals would carry at least a sliver of danger, I can feel the presence of a very young woman walking beside me. “Chica,” she hiss-whispers at me. “Chica! Chica! Chica!” I make a helpless mooing sound and run away from her, my wallet, stuffed with convertible pesos, sweating in my jeans.

Our next tour is of the leafy

Miramar neighborhood. The city’s wealthy gradually ventured beyond Old Havana and the adjacent bustling Centro district, moving out to Vedado, Miramar, and then Miami. To explain: Vedado is the central core of the city, with famous buildings like the


Hermilo Aquiles, a tobacco farmer near the town of Vi単ales. Opposite: Diez de Octubre boulevard in the Old Town

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Tobacco fields and mogotes in the ViĂąales countryside in western Cuba. Opposite from left: A boy calls up to his mother on the balcony of their apartment; a local connoisseur of Cubaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s famous cigars.

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midcentury Habana Libre hotel and the enormous Art Deco Hotel Nacional; Miramar has a mansions-in-the-suburbs feel; Miami is a nearby city where the relatives of people in Miramar and Vedado get them their used iPhone 3s. Today’s paladar, Río Mar, is probably my favorite of the trip. The pretty view is of the mouth of the Río Almendares, which separates Vedado from Miramar. There are wealthy Cuban-Cubans, Louis Vuitton handbags hanging from their chairs, along with Cuban-Americans taking their kin out for lunch. The holy trinity of mojito, crudo and flan are a touch better here than at other paladares, and an appetizer of smoky chorizo and beans has a hearty peasant flavor. Afterward, I ask our driver to drop me off in the middle of Vedado to visit a friend of Rosa Lowinger, a Cuban-American art conservator I know from home. José Alberto Figueroa, an important Cuban photographer, and his wife, the curator Cristina Vives, have turned their home into a salon for the visual arts. Figo, as he is known, has a graying beard and is wearing a light jacket in the mild tropical heat. The apartment he shares with his wife is possibly the most tasteful in the Western Hemisphere, somehow full of both light and sympathy. It is, however, still located in Cuba, so while the bathroom contains an issue of Marie Claire, its toilet still has to be activated with a spigot. Sitting on his balcony, I drink a strong Bucanero beer, while Figo smokes an equally strong Popular cigarette. We talk about the projected millions of American tourists who will soon descend on his nation. “Mariel is a port big enough for a megacruise-ship,” he says, in a tone more wistful than weary. Nearly all the walls are covered with art, including works by the wonderfully wiseass Alejandro Gonzáles, who has a series of sparkling photographs of megaprojects the Cuban government never finished, such as the ghostly Juragua nuclear power plant decaying somewhere off the coast. The idea of mega-cruise-ships in a country with, at best, a mid-20th-century infrastructure is surreal yet fitting. This nation could copyright the term contradiction.

The most striking photo is a simple black-and-white taken by Figo from the terrace of Havana’s airport, eight years after Castro came to power. His mother, a tiny figure in a black dress and heels, is waving good-bye to Figo from beneath the fuselage of a Cubana jet. She is headed to Miami and, because he is of military age and not allowed to travel, Figo will not see his mother for the next decade and a half. Figo has given this melancholy series of photographs a simple title: Exile. On the way down the staircase and into the humid Havana night, Figo tells me, “We have to open up to the world. There’s no other way.” The next day we take a two-hour bus ride to the Viñales Valley, in neighboring hurricane-prone Pinar del Río province. It’s famous for its tobacco, verdant hills and mogotes, the 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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The pot-dealing taxi driver takes us to Old Havana in his fume-belching 1950s Plymouth. We eat ceviche and drink gin and tonics with rose petals magnificent limestone mountain range that looks like the plates and spikes of a stegosaurus’s back. Vast stretches of the main national highway are all but car-free; at one point I see a woman walking with a stroller down the middle of the road. After a lunch of roast chicken, fresh cabbage and plantain chips at a local tobacco farm, I take a solitary stroll down a slight hill to the colonial town of Viñales. The countryside offers a brilliant panorama of both happiness and want. The red earth is full of budding tomatoes and black beans. Dark brown streams are filled with happy piglets, and an oxen pulls a canister of water on a pallet. I see a boy bike down the hill balancing a giant bottle of TuKola on his pumping legs. An escaped goat chews on a palm leaf. A man talks violently to his horse. On the main plaza, chickens waddle past a statue of José Martí, Cuba’s omnipresent national hero. The country’s panoply of cars are on full display here: the bulbous 1950s Chevys, the boxy Soviet Ladas, and the utilitarian new Chinese Geelys. Surrounded by American, Soviet and Chinese influences, it’s not hard to conclude that Cuba has been bouncing between empires for far too long. Can a nation living under an endless series of slogans, with an endless list of enemies and comrades, heroes and betrayers, ever escape into the mundane?

On a day with no people-to-people exchanges, I finally meet some

actual people. Let’s call one of them Mago. He’s in his late twenties or early thirties, another friend of Rosa Lowinger, who described him as “a hipster who wants to work in film.” My Spanish is nonexistent, so I can understand about 20 percent of Mago’s English, which is fine, because the other 80 percent would probably blow my mind. The oft-repeated phrase “Cuba is crazy” is the one thing I totally get. His apartment in Vedado—another white-walled, art-filled space—is packed with a motley assortment of edgy Cubans: a cool young photographer, a physical therapist, a taxi driver who also doubles as a pot dealer. We drink Beefeater gin neat, while all around me the semiofficial pronouncements of Cuba’s being a drug-free country are dispelled. “How much does a physical therapist earn in America?” the physical therapist asks me through the smoke. I give him an approximate figure, and he looks at me with a knowing sadness, his mind spinning with hard currency. The average official salary for a Cuban is around US$20 a month. The pot-dealing taxi driver takes us to Old Havana in his stuttering, fumebelching 1950s Plymouth. Mago and an Afro-Cuban friend I’ll call Mikey, who has lived on 183rd Street in New York, take me to a restaurant called O’Reilly 304. The place is blazing, full of Spanish tourists and locals, and we hang off a little ledge out on the street, eating ceviche and empanadas, drinking enormous gin and tonics packed with rose petals. We do what men do the world over: compare our sneakers and iPhones and talk blindly about the difficult past, which, for Mago, I believe, has included a stint in jail and several years of sweeping the streets as part of his parole. The young owner of O’Reilly’s pops out; he seems to know every single denizen of the street. He sports a Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt, a hip reference to the Breaking Bad TV


series. We’re finally seated next to two of the most beautiful women in Cuba, snacking on tuna tataki and croquetas. Later, as we’re walking toward the Malecón, two cops pull Mikey aside for the Cuban version of a stop-and-frisk, which takes more than 20 minutes. Mago whispers to me that Mikey has been singled out for being black. When we finally settle down on the seawall with a couple of cans of Bucanero beer, Mikey points to the habana libre sign blazing in the night above us. “Havana never free,” he says. I promised you I would fly into one Cuba and fly out of another, and today, January 15, 2015, one more pillar of the U.S. embargo of Cuba crumbles. The Obama administration says U.S. citizens will no longer have to ask permission to travel to Cuba (though they still need a visa). Restrictions remain in place, but Americans who wish to sample the island will now be able to do so on something of an honor system. And starting tomorrow, Americans will be allowed to bring back US$400 in Cuban products, including US$100 worth of Cuban cigars and alcohol—holy grails for my compatriots, both, though I realize my friends in almost every other country have always puffed and drank with impunity. (The tiny gift shop of the Parque Central is immediately overrun by Americans.) The days of the mega-cruise-ships from Miami docking at Mariel harbor are still years, maybe decades, away, but the door to Cuba is softly creaking open. A cab driver tells me that all the changes in U.S.-Cuban relations will be good “para usted y para nosotros.” He cheats me out of three convertible pesos, but I suppose that just makes him a good capitalist, too. “Cuba’s the most capitalist country in the world, in my opinion,” my friend Rosa had told me. “Everyone’s got an angle.” On my final day, on the advice of Figo, I leave central Havana behind and take a taxi to the southern part of the city, along a wide boulevard called Diez de Octubre. In this, one of Havana’s oldest districts, grand balconied mansions hover over the street, nearly toppling from the weight of the laundry heaped upon their railings, as abuelas peek out from columned porticoes. Fierce curbside games of dominoes clack along in view of faded buildings with names like Apolo and El Grande. The state is everywhere, but the state is often exhausted: two cops, a man and a woman, push a Soviet Lada marked guardia operativa down the thrumming boulevard. At a classical mansion housing a casa de cultura, elderly women practice to the sound of a piano, the halls reverberating sweetly with their voices at five in the evening. At the moment, all of Cuba seems ensconced in the sorrow and beauty of their song. +

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T L Guide Getting There A tourist visa or tourist card is required for all nationalities entering Cuba and can be obtained at the Cuban embassy in your country of residence. Residents of Burma, Brunei and Singapore can apply at the embassy in a nearby country. Round-trip plane tickets, a hotel reservation and travel insurance issued by a non-U.S. company are basic requirements for the visa application; additional documents may be requested per each embassy’s discretion, so check the official site (cubadiplomatica.cu) for specifics. Fly into Havana’s José Martí International Airport from Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore on Air France (airfrance.com), with a stop in Paris or Amsterdam, or on Swiss (swiss.com), with a stop in Zürich. Other transit hubs with direct flights to Cuba include London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Moscow, Toronto and, starting this September, Montreal via Air China (airchina.com) originating in Beijing.

TOUR OPERATORS Classic Journeys This walkingadventure outfitter offers trips to Havana and the Viñales Valley. classicjourneys.com; five-day tours from US$3,995 per person. GeoEx Their eight-day, smallgroup educational exchange program was our author’s choice. geoex.com; eight-day trips from US$5,980 per person.


SUDDENLY, THIS SUMMER On the Bohuslän Coast, the sea is sparkling, the crayfish are jumping, and Sweden’s most perfect season is (finally) here. By Peter Jon Lindberg

Swimming off the docks in Smögen. Right: Fjällbacka harbor.

Photographs by Mikkel Vang


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It’s one of those shimmering Swedish afternoons when everything seems to glow from within: the boathouses on the harbor, all pulsing vermilion red; the windrippled bay, glittering like a million suns; and the chalk-white houses of coastal Fjällbacka, luminous under the Nordic sky. Laughter and ship’s bells echo off the town marina. One could walk eight kilometers out to sea just by hopping across schooners and yachts. (In western Sweden there’s a boat for every man, woman, child and dog.) On the waterside deck at Restaurang Matilda, a rowdy crew is singing Swedish folk tunes, knocking back aquavit and ripping into platters of crayfish. There’s barely enough space to move. If you are Swedish you will register this scene with deep satisfaction—and also, perhaps, a twinge of anxiety. For in Sweden, summer blazes through like a comet, hot and bright and ungodly fast, then abruptly disappears. For ages. Even at midsommar’ s hopeful crest, every blessed gain—in temperature, in daylight, in crayfish— must be reckoned against impending loss. And so it is that, around the third week of June, the entire country is catapulted into a joyful panic. That’s when Swedes begin their great migration—to vast inland lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and, especially, to the coasts. This delirium prevails until mid-August, when the kids go back to school: all of Sweden soaking up as much sunshine and seawater as their precious time allows. As the grandson of Swedish immigrants, I am well acquainted with the quasi-pagan rites of summer. Growing up, I’d embraced similar rituals across the Atlantic, in Maine, where days were measured in saltwater ablutions and lobster-​shack lunches. But it was the cajoling of my pal Marcus Samuelsson, the Swedish-American chef—who spends part of each summer in his family’s ancestral home of Smögen—that inspired a return to the source. With Marcus as my occasional cohort, last August I traced Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast in that familiar, happy mania, bent on wringing every drop from summer’s quickly receding tide. I would rise at 5 a.m. for sunrise kayaking; spend every golden hour outdoors; and linger, like the sun, late into the evening, until the last of its rosy aura had vanished from the midnight sky.

IN CONTRAST TO SWEDEN’S

leeward east coast—gentle, verdant, refined—the western county of Bohuslän is raw and wind-lashed, showing more granite than green. If you’re accustomed to the pinecovered Stockholm Archipelago, it can feel like another country. And it is, sort of. Conflate coastal Maine with the more lunar landscapes of Iceland and you’ll have a fair picture of Bohuslän. With its seaside resorts just a few hours’ drive from Oslo, to the north, and Göteborg, to the south, the region draws streams of summer revelers from both cities. In fact, oil-rich Norwegians have been

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buying up property here at a rapid clip. (“They’re the Russians of western Sweden,” said one Swedish friend.) Bohuslän’s resort towns may be superficially interchangeable, but there are subtle variations—​ primarily, the favored local catch. There’s Lysekil, in the south, with its distinctly nutty, umami-rich mussels. Grebbestad, in the north, with its celebrated wild-oyster trade. And Smögen, midway between, with its sweet, rosecolored shrimp. Fjällbacka, the prettiest of these communities, is known less for fishing than for two former residents. Ingrid Bergman kept a house on an island off Fjällbacka from 1958 until her death in 1982. There’s a bronze bust of the actress in the town square, which is named for her. Bergman may have her statue, but whole walking tours are devoted to native daughter Camilla Läckberg, the wildly popular crime novelist. All eight of her books are set, improbably, in this sleepy town of 900 (the summer population swells to 15,000). I’ve read a few of Läckberg’s mysteries, and her imaginative gifts seemed all the more impressive when I saw Fjällbacka in the cheerful light of day. Really? This place? Far from Läckberg’s sinister town-ofsecrets, it recalled a miniature village from a model railway. As I set out on my first morning, a line had already formed outside Setterlinds Bageri, an old favorite of Bergman’s, who made pilgrimages for moist, almondy Mandelberg cake and kardemum­mabullar (savory-sweet cardamom rolls). On the public pier, towheaded kids gobbled bags of gummy candy. Handsome women and impossibly tanned men were hiking up the Vetteberget, the granite butte that juts 75 meters up from the town center—it, too, looked like a train-set prop. On a gentler hillside above the harbor, cobblestoned paths wound past cottages with red-tiled roofs and the gingerbread trim known as snickarglädje or “carpenter’s delight.” Geraniums filled every window box, and the


Traditional boathouses on the north side of Smรถgen.

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A boathouse in Grรถnemad. Opposite: Coffee and a kardemummabulle (cardamom roll) from Lyckans Stenugns Bageri, in Lyckan.


Boathouses on Smögen’s main boardwalk. Clockwise from below left: Seafood and homebrewed beer at Karlsson’s guesthouse, Everts Sjöbod; Grönemad fisherman Per Karlsson on his restored boat, the Tuffa; overlooking the Bohuslän Coast from Fjällbacka.

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emblematic Swedish blue-and-yellow flapped on every other rooftop.

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THIS ODD MIX OF HARSHNESS AND G R A C E —of wind-scarred rock and rosebushes—

is what gives Bohuslän its stirring beauty. Its greatest assets, however, are found not on land but hiding underwater. From these cold, clean bays and inlets comes some of northern Europe’s finest seafood, not least the coveted Bohuslän saltwater crayfish, which are not actually crayfish, but plump, delectable langoustines. Their flavor is staggering, their abundance obscene. Here, the sea is everything. At shorefront snack bars, teenagers order hot dogs topped with shrimp and mayonnaise. If you’ve come, like me, to devour as much seafood as possible, you’ll chart a course for Grebbestad, where half of Sweden’s lobster, 70 percent of its crayfish, and 90 percent of its oysters are harvested. I’d driven up from Fjällbacka to spend the day and night in Grönemad, a minuscule fishing village just north of Grebbestad. Village is too strong a word: Grönemad feels like a Viking encampment on the edge of the known world. If Fjällbacka is sleepy, Grönemad is downright comatose. In 24 hours I saw more cattle—grazing beside the town beach—than people. Fortunately, two of those people were Per and Lars Karlsson, seafaring brothers who run oyster and lobster “safaris” out of their Grönemad boathouse, Everts Sjöbod. The boathouse is 130 years old, and inside it’s still 1884: kerosene lanterns rest on wooden barrels; knotty rafters are tangled with ropes and pulleys and fishing nets. Last May the brothers added four modest guest rooms with kitchenettes and bright pickled-pine interiors. Per showed me to one of the smaller suites upstairs, where a breezy terrace overlooks the bay. Then we went out to harvest some oysters. This was easier than I’d expected. From the boathouse pier, Per simply dipped in his 2.5-meter oysterman’s rake, rummaged in the seabed, and pulled up half a dozen shallow-cupped European flats, the size and color of sand dollars. A few more rakings and we had three dozen. We took our pail onto the brothers’ small fishing boat, and with Lars at the helm, chugged out into the bay. The coastline was gnarly and sea-gouged and fuzzy with moss; it looked like an oyster. After we moored off a tiny islet where seals were basking in the sun, Per broke out the pail and handed me a spare knife, and we set to work shucking our haul. Even in summer the oysters were full-bodied and

full-flavored. Still cool from the sea, they didn’t even need ice. They also paired well with Per’s excellent home-brewed porter. “We used to serve champagne,” he said, “but that didn’t feel very Swedish.” After another 20 slurps I was buzzed on porter and oyster liquor. It was early evening, but the sun still hung high. “So: back to the sjöbod?” asked Lars, knocking back one last half-shell for the journey. Later that night, the sunset had painted everything crayfish-pink. It was 9:55 p.m., and I sat on my rooftop terrace reading Läckberg’s The Stonecutter. A Fjällbacka girl had turned up drowned (murdered?), her corpse entangled in a lobster trap. Just then I heard a scream, followed by a splash. On the public pier, kids were somersaulting into the glassy bay. A Swedish family was savoring the last of the evening’s light. Laughter pealed across the water. This looked too fun to miss. I put on my swimsuit and leaped off the boathouse dock. The water was surprisingly warm, and smooth as a skating rink. When the light finally left, the family followed suit, disappearing across the cow pasture. On the water all was silent. I floated for what seemed like hours, till I could barely see the shore in the dim, then swam back to the sjöbod and tiptoed upstairs to bed.

T H E N E X T M O R N I N G I W A S O F F to Smögen, where Marcus was waiting. The chef is a proud son of Göteborg, but many of his prized childhood memories took place 80 kilometers north, in Smögen, where his adoptive father was born. Here the Samuelsson clan would gather every summer, in a rambling, three-story Victorian owned by Marcus’s grandmother. And it was here that young Marcus learned to fish and, not least, cook his catch under the watchful eyes of his father and uncles. Smögen—year-round population 1,400—is one of Europe’s great and enduring fishing towns. Its famous fish auction, founded in 1919, still operates twice a day. Smögen is also the headquarters of Abba, the seafood conglomerate and maker of Sweden’s beloved Kalles Kaviar (fish-roe spread), whose retro blue-and-yellow packaging will be familiar to any Ikea shopper. There’s a playground in the heart of town with a slide shaped like a Kalles Kaviar tube.

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Running along Smögen’s central harbor is a classic old brygge, or boardwalk—Sweden’s longest—lined with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and fish markets. Marcus and I strolled the brygge on our first afternoon. Inside, all the restaurants were empty, but the dockside patios were jammed. “In July,” said Marcus, “there are people all along the boardwalk, legs dangling over the edge—some jumping in, some falling in. It’s truly a madhouse.” We were walking with Marcus’s cousin Karin Samuelsson, who runs a local summer-rental agency called Smögen Rum o Stuga (“rooms and cottages”). She and Marcus know half the people in Smögen, which for six weeks of the season is a summer party town, and as we walked everyone called out exuberant hellos. For a visitor used to a certain Nordic reserve, it was funny to see Swedes so voluble. Like molting crayfish, they’d burst from their shells. “Remember, for nine months we hardly even see the neighbor’s cat,” said Karin. “Then, for that short spurt of the season, we’re just relentlessly social.” She laughed. “It’s frankly kind of exhausting!” I spent three days in Smögen with Marcus and his family, during which I consumed half my body weight in crayfish. On the final day Marcus and I booked a crayfishing trip with Martin Olofsson, a ninthgeneration fisherman. (Actually, Martin’s father broke the streak and became a boat mechanic. But his son wised up and went back to the sea.) Martin speaks with a warbly, singsong inflection that, per Marcus, “is sort of the Swedish equivalent of a Maine lobsterman’s accent. As a

kid I couldn’t understand a word.” He laughed. “Now I get about half of it.” Wearing yellow slickers, matching overalls and thick rubber boots, we set out with Martin and his crew to the crayfishing grounds, a few kilometers out to sea. Crayfish traps resemble lobster traps, and rest on the seabed below. Retrieving them was fairly simple: Martin aimed for his telltale orange buoys, and with long hooked poles Marcus and I would grab the lines, and then use a crank to hoist the traps. Most held at least a couple of crayfish, plus the odd crab or jellyfish. Working quickly, we’d empty the traps— the crabs clung tightly to the mesh, claws snapping at our fingers—rebait them with chunks of salted herring, and stack them on the deck for later. It was tiring but thrilling work. After an hour we’d netted 63 langoustines. Good timing, said Martin: that morning, the market had hit a season high of US$40 a kilogram. Earlier, on the sun-drenched pier, I’d thought our thick yellow rain gear seemed excessive. Now, though, as the sky suddenly grew heavy with clouds, I could see what nine generations of

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OPENING OPENING SOON SOON

J7 Hotel Road 6J7 Siem Reap, Hotel Kingdom Cambodia Road 6 of Siem Reap, www.j7hotel.com Kingdom of Cambodia www.j7hotel.com info@j7hotel.com info@j7hotel.com


Olofssons could teach a Lindberg about weather in western Sweden. We were within sight of Smögen’s iconic Hallo lighthouse, yet being tossed on huge heaving swells as if in the Atlantic. Slipping and sliding across the rain-slicked deck, careening into each other as the boat rocked and reeled, Marcus and I eventually managed to toss back all the traps. Martin, meanwhile, stood firm and smiling at the wheel, secure in his element and his bright yellow raincoat. “Jag älskar sommaren!” he shouted to me and Marcus, flashing a grin as a monster wave crashed over the hull. “I love summer, too!” Marcus shouted back, and we all fell into laughter. +

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Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast When to Go Peak season is mid-June to early August—six weeks in all. Getting There Fly in to Oslo or Göteborg, Sweden, and rent a car; the Bohuslän Coast is a mere two-to three-hour drive from either airport.

STAY Everts Sjöbod Grebbestad A rustic, four-unit guesthouse in Grönemad, offering shellfish “safaris” led by innkeepers Per and Lars Karlsson. everts​sjobod. se; doubles from US$162. Hotell Smögens Hafvsbad Contemporary rooms in central Smögen— many facing the water. smogenshafvsbad.se; doubles from US$98. Stora Hotellet Bryggan It may be a bit twee and traditional, but this 33-room hotel near Fjällbacka’s main pier is the only game in town. storahotelletbryggan. se; doubles from US$231. EAT AND DRINK Gösta’s Opposite the famous Smögen Fish

Auction, this simple seafood spot is a favorite of Marcus Samuelsson. gostasfisk.se; entrées US$17–US$46. Lyckans Stenugns Bageri Go to this roadside café and organic bakery—midway between Smögen and Lysekil—for sublime levain bread and almondcardamom rolls. stenugnsbageri.se. Norra Hamnen 5 Lysekil’s best (and best-looking) restaurant. norrahamnen5. se; entrées US$34–US$63. Restaurang Matilda Terrific fresh crayfish, aquavit and a perfect view of the harbor. Fjällbacka; storahotelletbryggan.se; entrées US$23–US$42. Setterlinds Bageri Fjällbacka’s finest bakery, beloved by Ingrid Bergman. 8 Norra Hamngatan; 46-525/310-29. DO Orust Shellfish Mussels & Oyster Safaris One of the top operators for fishing tours, based in Lysekil. orustshellfish.se. Smögens Fiske & Skärgårdsturer Crayfishing safaris with Martin Olofsson are a hit; look for the docks marked “Tommy’s Marintjänst AB,” under the Smögen bridge. fisketur.se.


At Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, a few of the 1,200 humorous rakan statues. Opposite: The famous torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Our Definitive Guide to


A reader favorite, the former Japanese capital is in perfect parts traditional and modern. Christopher Kucway uncovers a few of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gems, and is always surprised at whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s around the next corner. Photographed by Shinsuke Matsukawa 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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KYOTO

ARASHIYAMA

Ritz-Carlton’s stylish check-in. Below: Pine-scented grounds at Suiran.

GION

0.5 KM

Lay of the Land Gion Down these twisting and rolling streets you’ll find iconic Kyoto scenes from a different century, these days mixed in with some modern kitsch and tacky trinkets. Sanjo-dori Small restaurants and local designers—some in renovated, century-old buildings—dot this pedestrian lane, but the street’s popularity now has drawn larger chains, too. Teramachi-dori An intriguing street next to the Imperial Palace and the address for paper sellers, bakeries, tea shops, organic stores, and more than a few shrines and temples. Arashiyama Home to the bamboo forest, numerous shrines and Tenryu-ji Temple—visit first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Stay Both old and new, these hotels specialize in combining traditional and modern touches. RITZ-CARLTON KYOTO Enter the hotel via a gradually descending stone walkway next to flowing water and you immediately sense why this is like a modern ryokan. Guests flow through the public areas with the same ease. Interior design relies on tactile backdrops of wood, bamboo and metal, while comfortable guest rooms use traditional Japanese motifs. Opt for a room with a river or garden view. ritzcarlton.com/kyoto; ¥63,000. SUIRAN Kyoto’s latest opening is a 39-room affair set between Tenryu-ji Temple and the Oi River. Exuding tranquility, Suiran’s interiors are heavy with pinewood and use bright splashes of color to liven up the rooms. Request a

Getting Around Kyoto is easily navigable on foot, though its gems are spread out. Fortunately, public transport—buses, subways and trains—is easy to use. Haruka Express trains from Osaka Kansai take just over an hour, priced from ¥2,850 one way, depending on the time of day.

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garden room, with its open-air wooden bath—though the spa guest room is something to behold too. luxurycollection.com/ suiran; ¥68,000. HYATT REGENCY KYOTO While older than the first two, the Hyatt Regency still holds its own when it comes to comfort. Walls in the guest rooms here are decorated in kimono fabrics, but be sure to ask for a room overlooking the hotel’s small but peaceful garden. The Hyatt also has impressive dining options, particularly its Japanese and Italian outlets. kyoto.regency. hyatt.com; ¥27,000. HOTEL MUME Just to the north of Gion, keep an eye peeled for the red door that opens into Hotel Mume. The

intimate nature of this sevenroom property centers on décor that incorporates karakami paper produced in Kyoto, and a wildly random assortment of antiques. hotelmume.com; ¥23,760. HOSHINOYA Overlooking the Oi River, this ryokan in Arashiyama combines Western comforts and traditional touches. So expect beds in stylized guest rooms, each with tranquil views of the greenery for which this area is noted. But reserve considerably ahead; the inn is very popular. hoshinoyakyoto.jp; ¥74,400. Hotel prices represent starting rates for double occupancy.

Drink

Bungalow.

Ten craft beers on tap, two pour sizes and a concrete-shell interior: Bungalow (15 Kashiwaya-cho; 81-75/256-8205; fb.com/bungalowkyoto; ¥1,200) is the place for a taste of Kyoto in a bottle. Try Morning Coffee Stout, a great kick of a beer, if it’s on the menu when you’re there. An alternative, just behind Daimaru, is Wachi (571 Obiya-cho, Takakura-dori north of Shijo; 81-75/212-6342; wachi.info; ¥2,000). Look for its small sign, then climb four floors to this space whose size belies its large stock of global microbrews. If your local palate veers more toward rice wine, head to Ozu Kyoto (25 Konoe-cho; 81-75/411-4102; ozushop.jp/en; sake, tea and wakashi sets ¥1,400). Ozu offers a solid grounding on sake through seminars and tastings—and there’s no test at the end. Prices represent the cost of drinks for two.

S TAY A N D E AT: C H R I S T O P H E R K U C W AY

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SANJODORI

TERAMACHIDORI

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Shop Using centuries-old ideas, five shops well-versed in the design-centric present.

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If you can only make one shopping stop, Kyoto Design House is it. Located in the smart Tadao Ando-designed Niwaka Building and specializing, as its name suggests, in fusing traditional and modern crafts, the clean lines of this store are outdone only by the latest homecraft designs in pottery, silks, paper, wood and leather. kyoto-dh. com/en. Still stylish Ippodo is the place for tea in Kyoto. If you don’t know your sencha from your matcha, there’s a small kitchen off to one side of the shop where you can fill in the blanks or a tearoom on the opposite side for trial tastings. Teramachi-dori north of Nijo; 81-75/211-3421; ippodo-tea. co.jp/en. On the edge of Gion sits a treasure of a small shop, Creative Evolution on Traditional Values of Kyoto, Kodaiji Nakatani. The local pottery here comes in any and all styles and price ranges. Often with one-off designs, the bowls, plates

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and teacups are great keepsakes from any visit to Kyoto. 362-13 Masuya-cho, Kodai-ji; 81-75/6060826; kd-nakatani.co.jp. The tradition of using tenugui, or printed cotton cloths, has survived centuries and flourishes today both with one of its original purposes—wrapping gifts—and a number of creative new ones, from headgear to makeshift handbags. To find the ubiquitous fabrics with prints of everything from shogun warriors to Hello Kitty, look no further than Eirakuya, a well-hidden shop that dates back to 1615. 368 Muromachi-dori north of Sanjo; 81-75/256-7881; eirakuya.jp. The 150-year-old Ryokujuan Shimizu offers tiny fruitflavored sugar candies called konpeito that take two weeks to make. Go in the morning before the queues start; the shop opens at 10 a.m. and these sweets sell out quickly despite a five-bag limit per customer. 38-2 Yoshidaizumiden-cho; 81-75/7710755; konpeito.co.jp.

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Clockwise from top: Kyoto Design House; Ryokujuan Shimizu has a five-bag limit on konpeito; local pottery at Kodaiji Nakatani; tasting matcha at Ippodo.

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Eat

Casual or contemporary, East or West, Kyoto’s menus offer it all.

MIZUKI You’d be hard-pressed to find a more stylish kaiseki lunch or dinner than at the Japanese restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton. Chef Masahiko Miura has a keen sense for seasonal ingredients and flavors, and isn’t afraid to experiment—think Camembert tempura as well as more traditional local asparagus. 543 Hokoden-cho; 81-75/7465555; kaiseki dinner from ¥11,000 per person. SYOURAIAN Kyoto is known for its tofu dishes, and a lunch at Syouraian is a must for anyone who loves the subtleties of soy milk. Book well in advance for either the 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. seating. Sagakamenoo-cho; 81-75/ 861-0123; lunch sets from ¥3,800. Tempura at Mizuki.

YAKITORI HITOMI Modest in every respect except for the flavorful chicken dishes, the 20-odd-seat institution requires reservations even when completely empty. Order the tsukune tare (chicken meatballs with mustard) and momo (chicken thigh seasoned with salt). 96 Okiku-cho; 81-75/771-7818; ¥4,000. RENRAKUSEN The owner of this steak house with an interior that looks like a cruise ship takes deep pride in preparing his high-quality Omi beef. That means nigiri with a slice of seared beef, deep-fried beef, beef carpaccio and, of course, steaks—all served up by his friendly wife. 105 Nakajima-cho, Kawaramachi-dori; 81-75/241-4358; Omi beef dinner sets ¥12,000.

Restaurant prices represent approximate cost of dinner for two.

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Arashiyama’s bamboo forest, one of the official “soundscapes of Japan.”

Four ways to undercover what makes Kyoto unforgettable. ARASHIYAMA There’s nothing like an early morning stroll through Arashiyama’s bamboo forest. Close your eyes to the music of chirping birds and bamboo twisting and scraping in the wind high above you. At one end you’ll find the garden-filled Tenryu-ji, built in the 14th century and now headquarters of the Rinzai school of Buddhism.

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TERAMACHI-DORI The street and neighborhood exhude a local feel, lined as they are with shops like Unsodo (81-75/231-3613), which specializes in woodblock prints; small tea shop, Ryuoen (81-75/231-3693); and the Kyoto Antiques Center (81-75/2220793). A mix of old with trendy, it’s perfect for a stroll southeast of the Imperial Palace to small

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bakeries and organic grocers as well as older shrines and temples.

lack of explanation. ryoanji.jp; admission ¥500.

RYOAN-JI TEMPLE For some man-made tranquility, visit this temple’s rock garden, which is not much bigger than a tennis court. Sit still and absorb the scene. The garden consists of 15 rocks and white gravel and, in this age of information overload, comes with a pleasing

GOLDEN PAVILION Within walking distance of the Zen garden but a world away in terms of calmness, the Golden Pavilion is best visited early in the morning when the crowds are, hopefully, smaller and the light is at its most magical. shokoku-ji.or.jp; admission ¥400.


From left: Kimono at the eccentric Modoribashi; a mouth-watering beefcutlet sandwich at Hafuu; the peaceful grounds of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji.

Local Take Three tastemakers share their go-to places in the city.

EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN

I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y W A S I N E E C H A N TA K O R N . O P P O S I T E : C H R I S T O P H E R K U C W AY

Artistic Advisor, International Center for Japanese Culture

For something different from the norm, I book a table at Il Ghiottone (388-1 Yasakakami-cho, Shimogawara-dori south of Tonomae; 81-75/532-2550; ilghiottone.com; dinner sets ¥10,000), where chef Yasuhiro Sasashima infuses elements of Kyoto’s culinary tradition with Italian cuisine. For antique kimono and old accessories, an eccentric place to shop is Modoribashi (237 Yakunin-cho, Nakadachiuri-dori east of Kuromon; 81-90/5977-6061), located in an area where Kyoto’s famed history of magic and ghosts is still alive.

Getaway

YUJI TANAKA

General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

AYUKO YAMAGUCHI

Deepest Kyoto Tour

Gion Rohan (232 Nijuikken-cho, Yamatooji-dori north of Shijo; 81-75/5337665; facebook.com/gionrohan) is a casual Japanese restaurant that seats 10. Don’t miss the beef-cutlet sandwich at Hafuu (471-1 Sasaya-cho, Fuyachodori north of Ebisugawa; 81-75/257-1581; hafuu.com; dinner sets from ¥5,000) . A great kappo-style stop is Kawakami (570-122 Gionmachi Minamigawa; 81-75/561-2420; gion-kawakami.co.jp/en; kaiseki dinner from ¥14,000 per person). Try the deep-fried butterfish and Shinshu kuroge Wagyu steak.

Go on a ride on a Jukkokubune mini-cruise (81-75/623-1030; ¥1,000 per person) during spring or autumn. It’s a one-hour tour through canals in Fushimi Ward that is a great intro to Kyoto. Also, visit Otagi Nenbutsu-ji (otagiji.com; admission ¥300), a chanting temple north of Arashiyama. A café, gallery and shop called Efish (798-1 Nishihashizume-cho, Kiyamachidori south of Gojo; 81-75/361-3069; shinproducts.com; coffee for two ¥1,200), owned by designer Shin Nishibori, is a great place near the Kamo River.

An hour outside of Kyoto transports you to another era at Miyamasou, a ryokan like no other. A former lodging for priests, any stay here is an all-encompassing journey: waking in the peaceful environs of a pine forest, indulging in sophisticated Kyoto cuisine—tsumikusa meals made from foraged ingredients and chopsticks created by kitchen staff each morning—these are experiences that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The stillness and serenity of the ryokan are difficult to leave. miyamasou.jp; ¥45,000 per person per night, including tsumikusa dinner and breakfast; lunch or dinner ¥15,750 per person.

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Last Look

Photographed by Christian Hogue

North Island, New Zealand

Auckland Art Deco boutique Hotel DeBrett is a cornerstone of its indie fashion ’hood, infusing a heritage dating to its 1841 build with modern notes, like these natural-dyed Kiwi-wool carpet stairs.

Hokianga Harbour From the Arai Te Uru Recreation Reserve, the huge sand dunes that form the southern head of Hokianga are seen melting into waters that shimmer in the autumnal light.

Paihia, Bay of Islands With a storied history that includes the country’s first church, printing press and cricket match, Paihia is the launch point for adventures such as swimming with wild dolphins.

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Oneroa, Waiheke Island In locavore-obsessed New Zealand, it’s no surprise that The Oyster Inn’s bivalves include Te Matuku, native to Waiheke. Hop a 40-minute ferry from Auckland to suck in its quaint charms.


June 2015  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia June 2015

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