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soUtheAst AsiA

Style + Design Issue Filipino Fashion

DesiGninG locAl, GoinG GlobAl


A symphony on the skyline


FloAtinG DoWn the mekonG

CoUnTinG shEEp

A thAi ResoRt to impRoVe yoUR snooZe

TippinG in asia

WheRe, When AnD Why 64 9 771906 082018 Tr a ve l a n d L e i s u re A s i a . c o m

Singapore S$7.90 ● Hong Kong HK$43 THailand THB175 ● indoneSia idr50,000 MalaySia Myr17 ● VieTnaM Vnd85,000 Macau Mop44 ● pHilippineS pHp240 BurMa MMK35 ● caMBodia KHr22,000 Brunei Bnd7.90 ● laoS laK52,000

mARch 2013

Volume 07 / Issue 03


March 2013 Features 70

made in the philippines Fashion-forward Filipino designers are introducing innovative ideas, traditional techniques and local materials on the runways. stephanie zubiri browses the racks in Manila for what you’ll want in your closets and jewelry boxes. (Yes, they take plastic.) photographed by francisco guerrero . guide 77


Rolling Down the River A mighty source of sustenance and life for Asia, the Mekong River is going cruise crazy. michelle baran boards a ship to climb temples, meet fishermen and sing a little karaoke. guide 85


t+l Design Awards 2013 Good design makes travel better. Here, this year’s winners: hotels, a restaurant, a museum, tech, fashion and more. plus Our Design Champion.


Destination Danang Boomtown Vietnam is found along its central coast, in a sweet spot between pretty Hoi An and proud Hue. jeninne lee - st . john explains why you’ll soon be heading to the beaches of Danang. photographed by morgan ommer. guide


106 chasing sleep In search of a truly restful getaway, insomniac henry alford checks in to a wellness retreat on the Thai island of Koh Samui. photographed by

francIsco guerrero

christopher wise

in manila, bags by Rocio olbes, page 70. 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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taipei’s trendsetters Fashion in Taiwan is picking up speed, with style strutting from the catwalks to the sidewalks. nana chen meets three local designers driving the latest looks. pink elephants on parade Cambodian artist Lim Muy Theam has opened a studio dedicated to teaching the secrets of Khmer craftsmanship. by naomi lindt

Farm-Fresh chiang mai A string of new farm-totable dining destinations in northern Thailand.


stor y and photos by


marisa marchitelli


spa by Design The most successful spa designs blend form and function. by catharine nicol

plus Upcoming cultural attractions; insider tips for Hong Kong; and more. trip Doctor 57

strategies How to rent your dream villa.


packing Clothes that do double duty and other travel solutions.


smart traveler Tips on tipping: Our guide to gratuity.

tech GPS apps to help you go from A to B with nothing but your smart phone. by tom samiljan

Deals Champagne romance in Hong Kong; a villa in the Philippines; a spa getaway in Vietnam; and more. Decoder

112 Rome In the Eternal City, culture is thriving, neighborhoods are evolving and the cuisine keeps getting better. by maria shollenbarger.

Departments 14 16 … i n b o x 18

e d i t o r ’s n o t e

contr ibu tors


seoul’s new skyline When it comes to architecture, Seoul is on the precipice of a creative revolution. nell mcshane wulfhar t explores the city’s most dynamic urban designs.

12 …

on the Cover Poolside at the Fairmont Makati. Photographer: Francisco Guerrero; assistant, Jake Espedido; make up, Apple Fara-on for Mac Cosmetics; hair, Ivan Deney Dollosa; model, Joey Mead King W agency. Top by Tan Gan, skirt by Rajo Laurel, clutch by Rocio and jewelry by Joyce Makitalo.

photographed by danilo scar pati

last look 118 sapa, Vietnam A fashion shoot in the northern highlands draws a local crowd. photographed by morgan ommer

Foraging for lunch in chiang mai, page 44.


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marIsa marchItellI

Radar 23

dest i nat ions


march 2013 123

RomE 112

23 28 dananG




96 70 manil a

Koh samUi 106



When to Go

WhAt Us$5 bUys

Who to FolloW



fall and spring—particularly early april in time for cherry blossoms—are best.

a necklace at Dong-lim Knot Workshop, which specializes in traditional knotted accessories for hanbok, the Korean national dress.




late october to January, when the weather is comfortably cool and clear.

a kilogram of the least expensive tea at lin hua tai tea, the city’s oldest tea shop.




December through march is a festive time to visit and the climate is generally dry.

two or three handmade soaps in clever local designs from sabon ni Juan.




february (after the lunar new Year) through July. fall brings monsoons.

eat through hoi an: coffee and a croissant at cargo club, a bowl of cao lâu. on the street and a bánh mì at tiê.m Bánh mì Phuong.


Koh samui


february through June are hot and dry. July through september have occasional rain but fewer crowds.

a tropical-print sundress in any market.




april to June and september to october: days are mild, nights are cool and tourists are less numerous.

a slab of wood-fired-oven pizza from takeaway spots like roscioli forno or forno campo de’ fiori.


long Weekend


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Editor’s Note

where to find me @CKucway on Twitter

asia’s new look


nearthing the perfect balance between traditional and contemporary design is always a tricky maneuver, particularly in the fast-evolving creative corners around Southeast Asia. Take the Philippines where, this month, we offer some must-visit spots in Manila’s emerging fashion scene (“Made in the Philippines,” page 70). Young designers there are bursting with fun, original ideas, creating looks that go well beyond the constraints of the traditional motifs of their predecessors—a common thread throughout much of this region and a perfect fit for this, our annual Style+Design Issue. The fashion revolution continues with a youthful look at street style in Taiwan (“Taipei Trendsetters,” page 28). In Phnom Penh, a local artist has opened a funky new gallery and atelier to teach young Cambodians how to put a modern spin on ancient Khmer craftsmanship (“Pink Elephants on Parade,” page 34). Thankfully leaving all things Gangnam far behind, we also tour the innovative architecture found in the Korean capital these days (“Seoul’s New Skyline,” page 23), a city that is finally coming into its own. The elevation of design in all things is the common denominator in this year’s T+L Design Awards (page 86), where the kudos go out to a global spectrum of items, everything from an inexpensive watch to a revamped hybrid London double-decker to the new luxury-in-aniconic-setting Palace Hotel Tokyo. Pay particular attention to what our expert panel of decision makers has to say and you’ll likely see parallels in your own life, with the items and places you consider stylish. As many readers will attest, not everything about travel revolves around the latest styles. That explains this month’s story on sleep therapy in Koh Samui (“Chasing Sleep,” page 106), an intriguing take on getting a decent night’s rest, hopefully a perk on your next trip in Southeast Asia.— christopher k ucway

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

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outside bangkok’s mandarin oriental, near its new restaurant, ciao.

our next stops


shanghai Dubai Dining luang prabang

Michelle Baran

Morgan Ommer

Nell McShane Stephanie Wulfhart Zubiri Writer “seoul’s new skyline” (page 23).

Writer “made in the Philippines” (page 70).

Photographer “chasing sleep” (page 106).

how many cruises have you taken? At least a dozen, on almost all major rivers, including the Amazon, Mississippi, Danube, Rhine, Mekong, Volga and Irrawaddy. Up next, the Yangtze! most memorable Cruising the Nile in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution in 2011 was so humbling. The the ancient sites were deserted. The economic suffering caused by the dearth of tourists was hard to bear, in spite of the beauty of the river and the age-old temples. mekong zen Walking on deck at dusk, when the sky is a collage of colors, is the most meditative way to end the day. how was the cruise karaoke? The Cambodian and Vietnamese crew took the reigns with local favorites.

are you a beach bum? Beaches are not usually my favorite spot, but My Khe is an exception. It is huge and has the most beautiful sunrises in Asia. changing times The first time I visited the region was 20 years ago. There were a lot more bicycles, a lot fewer motorbikes and almost no cars. But the essence hasn’t changed: Vietnamese people are still lovely and friendly, and Hoi An is still stunning. where’s lunch? Wan Lu, 27 Tran Phu in Hoi An, for bánh bao bánh va.c (the “whiterose” shrimp dumplings) and a bowl of cao lâu. It’s a noodle soup dish made with, the legend says, special water from a secret well in Hoi An. In any case it’s delicious.

let’s go out I love Hongdae, the lively student area. You can get a takeaway cocktail in a bag, hit a karaoke bar, have all-you-can-eat barbecue and stock up on cheap, trendy clothes all in the space of an hour. seoul’s skyline… Still leaves a lot to be desired. The best new buildings are smaller projects that have more freedom to innovate. favorite new build? Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemun Design Park & Plaza. Not only are the buildings stunning, there’s also an outdoor area that’s a pleasure to walk around. view from the top From above, you can see the extent of Seoul’s sprawl and the importance of the Han River—it really dominates the city.

what are the cool filipino kids wearing? The hipster look has really hit Manila hard... the whole quirky, cute, I-care-but-I-don’tcare look. designers on your radar Rosanna Ocampo and Charina Sarte for cocktail dresses. Boom Sason has über-sexy gowns. Aziza Collection for chunky jewelry. Men’s? Francis Libiran’s outlandish suits. where do you like to shop? Powerplant Mall, in Rockwell. They have a nice mix of upscale local brands like Aranaz and Two Chic, little stalls, local jewelers, home stores and international retail. your weakness? Shoes! And lately jewelry: piling on the necklaces, bracelets and rings.

finding the true koh samui The road that rings the island is more developed, so the most interesting spots are away from the airport, on the small southern roads that lead to local villages and beaches. the island is best explored... By car—it’s a great way to get around and avoid the high taxi fares. the best sleep of your life was... At a Railay Beach house without air-conditioning in southwestern Thailand. It was after shooting and the evening breeze was coming off the sea. where you head for peace of mind I have a few secret spots in Thailand that are still quite untouched, but I’m not revealing where.

Writer “rolling Down the river” (page 78).

Photographer “Destination Danang” (page 96).

Christopher Wise

‘Twenty years ago, there were more bicycles, fewer motorbikes and almost no cars. But vietnamese people are still lovely and friendly, and hoi an is still stunning.’—morgan ommer 16

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f r o m l e f t: c o u r t e s Y o f m I c h e l l e B a r a n ; c o u r t e s Y o f m o r g a n o m m e r ; c o u r t e s Y o f n e l l m c s h a n e W u l f h a r t; c o u r t e s Y o f s t e P h a n I e z u B I r I ; c o u r t e s Y o f c h r I s t o P h e r W I s e



singapore steps up I always thought that Singapore was kind of dull. But your story on the city getting back to its roots [“Soul-Searching in Singapore,” January 2013] really made me rethink my impressions. You wrote it just in time, too, as I’m moving there for work soon! Sure, it’s expensive, but I won’t mind spending on good food and cool ambience. Ridley Adams, jakar ta

Q: I’m going to Seoul this year. What are the non-touristy places that I should visit and see? #TLAsia. @firstimetravel philippines

It’s so sad to see ancient landmarks falling apart [“Saving Europe’s Icons,” January 2013]. I view buildings like the Acropolis as windows into civilization’s soul. Here in Asia, we also have cultural treasures at risk. Like in Europe, there are people trying to save them—from seeking the return to Cambodia from Western museums of 1,000-year-old Khmer statues, to various programs that organize volunteers restore old temples. But we need to do more! I’d love to read a story in Travel+Leisure that would bring awareness to this important topic. Meanwhile, as someone who gets a kick out of climbing crumbling rocks, I’ve been to Greece, but I think I’m going to Italy this year or next. I don’t want to wait until all the monuments fall down. Cage Michaels, chiang mai

ConTaCT inFo

A: So glad you asked! Our Seoul expat, Nell McShane Wulfhart, has some ideas: 1) Head to a jimjilbang, a Korean sauna, for a truly local experience. The skin scrub, so hard that your skin comes off in rolls, defines ‘exfoliating.’ 2) Check out a cat or dog café. Korean apartments are often too small for pets, so people come to these scrupulously clean coffee shops to pet and photograph the dozen or so animals that live there. 3) Cosmetics shopping is a national hobby. Even the cheap-and-cheerful chain shops offer beauty products that surpass many Western cosmetics. 4) Rent a karaoke bang (room) for an hour or two; it’s an essential part of any Korean night out. They serve drinks and snacks and are a good way to impress the locals with your enthusiasm. Stumped for where to go next? Send us your questions or tweet them with the hashtag #TLAsia. We’ll answer the best.

Got something to say? Tell us at,, f, or @travleisureAsia. Comments may be edited for clarity and space.

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Radar on our

news. Finds. opinions. obsessions.

An angular take on the new seoul city hall.


Seoul’s New Skyline

When it comes to architecture, seoul is on the precipice of a creative revolution. nell mcshane Wulfhart explores the city’s most dynamic urban designs. Photographed by Seong Joon Cho

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Viva and Vista, seoul’s distinctive Floating islands.

Fifty years of breakneck economic growth and hyper-industrialization in Seoul led to an urban landscape that was more practical than pretty. Structures were built to serve a purpose—house citizens, accommodate factories—not to please the eye or stimulate the imagination. After more than half a century of hard graft, Seoul was finally a wealthy city, but faceless gray concrete dominated the skyline. In, at last, a time of prosperity, creativity in Seoul is blossoming. The past few years have seen the South Korean capital transform. Amid the towering megaliths, new structures are emerging that reflect inventive concepts, angles, shapes, textures and materials, chosen for their visual impact. Aesthetic value is managing to elbow its way into the equation as the design scene comes into its own. “Architecture in Seoul is getting interesting in small- and medium-sized projects, while it’s simultaneously getting riskier in urbanism,” says architect Steven Holl. “There is a great group of


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young Korean architects who have been educated abroad, and are combining a global approach with the rich local culture.” Holl’s award-winning design for the Daeyang Gallery and house (Kangbuk Hills) is one of these smaller projects, a private gallery and residential space playing with unconventional shapes. The basic geometry of the structure was inspired by a 1967 sketch for a musical score by Istvan Anhalt, “Symphony of Modules.” Copper-clad pavilions emerge from a pool of water, mimicking the patterns of Anhalt’s sheet music. Beneath the pools you’ll find a private gallery, kitchen, dining room, library and bedrooms, with 55 skylights drawing in natural light. The entire structure is heated and cooled by geothermal wells. Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, perhaps the biggest name to design a building in Seoul, is behind the new Dongdaemun Design park & plaza (2-1 Eulji-ro 7-ga, Jung-gu). This largescale urban development project, located in the center of the city, is still a work in

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progress, but most parts of the construction are already open to the public. The multi-purpose park was designed to promote human interaction, and the museum, exhibition hall and library showcase Hadid’s trademark fluidity, while the eye-catching green roofs provide lush respite from the surrounding high-rises. Fun fact: When construction began, artifacts from the Chosun dynasty were uncovered and incorporated into the design. Seoul’s city hall (110 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu) is one of the easiest new buildings for visitors to find. Designed by iArc Architects and completed in 2012, the futuristic structure looks, from some angles, like a giant Martian laser gun from a 1950’s film. The edifice dominates the surrounding space, rising like a wave over the façade of the old Japanesedesigned City Hall, a building now dwarfed by its new, modern replacement—a direct thumbing of the nose to the country’s former occupiers. The latticework allows a tremendous amount of light into the 13-story

clockwise from above: old and new contrast at seoul city hall; the curved ultra-modern glass exterior of Gt tower east; a view from behind the chainmail covering the boundary-pushing kukje Gallery.

structure, which was built with a geothermal system designed to reduce energy consumption. Visitors crossing the Han River by car, bus or subway can catch a glimpse of the seoul Floating islands, which hover close to the riverbanks. The three buildings, the result of collaboration between local firm Haeahn Architecture and New York studio H Architecture, were completed in 2011 and are part of an on-going government project to revitalize the Han River. Best seen at night when illuminated by LED lights, the glass islands represent a flower in three stages: a seed, a bud and in full bloom. They will eventually house spaces for cultural events as well as restaurants, shops, an art gallery and water sports facilities. It is worth the 30-minute drive from Seoul’s city center to check out the Ananti club (Bangil-ri 90-2, Sorak-myun, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do), a country club set in the Yumyeongsan Forest. This astonishing structure, designed by Ken Sungjin Min, follows the incline of the hill, with a curved canopy covering the

entrance. At the bottom you’ll find an open space with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the club’s three golf courses. Approached from the winding driveway, the ultra-modern building pulls off the seemingly impossible trick of blending into the landscape. Gt tower east (1317-23 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu) could be the emblem of the new Seoul. Standing 31-stories tall,with an undulating glass façade meant to recall the shapes of traditional Korean pottery, the Tower is a fresh look at the office block. “We were assigned to make something outstanding,” says architect Peter Couwenbergh, of ConsortArchitects , who designed the building. “The result is an elegantly shaped tower. We’ve chosen a uniform, glass finish for the façade, which has resulted in an organically pure form.” The curvature of the wave, Couwenbergh continues, “provides an optically changing primary form when passing the building. Combined with the reflection of the light in the glass, this gives the building a special, iconic appearance.”

Equally iconic is the kukje Gallery (54 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu) in the Samcheong-ro neighborhood of central Seoul. New York-based studio SO-IL took an innovative approach to the gallery’s rigid exterior, draping it in a coat of gray chainmail. “The chainmail mesh was the only structurally sound material that could loosely wrap around the otherwise very rational concrete gallery boxes,” says Jing Liu, principal at SO-IL. “It softens the edges, and provides an ambiguous reading of the building that we thought appropriate for the finer grains of the historical neighborhood.” The result is a study in contrasts befitting one of the city’s most radical art galleries. While what Couwenbergh calls the “straightforward, vertical, cubical” buildings of the last few decades still outnumber the stylish new additions, Liu says creative design is now well positioned to blossom in Seoul. “The craftsmanship is relatively high, the clients are open-minded and risk takers,” Liu says. “It’s a fertile environment for new architecture.” ✚

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Radar c u lt u r e

Spring Awakening


coming attractions on the arts calendar: reinvigorated classics and celebrated traditions. here, some of the highlights.

neW yoRk city The two-month-long season of cambodia festival is a collaboration between the Phnom Penh–based nonprofit Cambodian Living Arts (a T+L Global Vision Award winner) and dozens of cultural institutions citywide. Dancers, sculptors, puppeteers and others will showcase Khmer heritage, both traditional (Royal Ballet of Cambodia) and


contemporary (rock band Dengue Fever). April 9–May 25; seasonof AmsteRDAm It’s an artistic double Dutch: both the Van Gogh museum ( and the Rijksmuseum ( reopen this spring after major makeovers. At the former, Van Gogh’s sunflowers and self-portraits come home again to Gerrit Rietveld’s Modernist building. Meanwhile, the Rijksmuseum, closed for 10 years, has added an Asian pavilion; Rembrandt’s Night Watch now takes pride of place among Vermeer’s pensive maidens and Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress.

Queen—in Peter Morgan’s new play, The Audience, at the Gielgud theatre. The plot reimagines 60 years of private conversations between Her Majesty and prime ministers from Churchill to Cameron. February 15–June 15; tokyo After an absence of almost three years, the silk-arrayed samurai, courtesans and thunder gods of the kabuki-za company return to Ginza to perform classical Japanese dance drama in a newly resplendent facility. Opens April 2; —leslie camhi , amy farley, jennifer flowers , diana hubbell and bill rosenfield

lonDon Dame Helen Mirren portrays Queen Elizabeth II—the role that won her an Oscar in 2006 for The

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piCKinG Up spEEd In 1965, audrey hepburn called louis Vuitton with a small request: could they make a mini version of their Keepall duffel just for her? the answer: Mais oui, Madame. now a globetrotter’s handbag of choice, the lV speedy has been upgraded with embossed leather and a shoulder strap—making any holiday chic, roman or otherwise. —mimi lombardo

Play-over (n) A layover that you extend to a two-day visit, to make the most out of the fact that you couldn’t find a non-stop flight.

clocK WIse from toP: courtesY of louIs VuIt ton; anDers JIr as; courtesY of the rIJKsmuseum; gIles K e Y te.

honG konG Long a hot spot for cinephiles, the city plays host to an annual 16-day extravaganza, the hong kong international Film Festival. With 280 titles screened across 11 of the city’s venues, along with exhibitions and seminars by top filmmakers from around the globe, the 37th festival promises to be worth the trip. March 17–April 2;

Radar fa s h i o n

Taipei’s Trendsetters

fashion in taiwan is picking up speed, with style strutting from the catwalks to the sidewalks. meet three local designers driving the latest looks in the hip Da'an district. story and photos by nana chen

Trend: Urban outdoor designer: hans Chyi Hans Chyi knew from a young age that he wanted to be a fashion designer—he just lacked the confidence to start his own line. A turning point came during his final year of fashion school when he took first place in a design competition. The win gave him the boost he needed to start his own collection. “I wanted to create something different, something we couldn’t find in shops, so I made everything entirely in black and white.” He launched the clothing brand Wisdom with a few friends in 2009. His current collection forgoes black and white in favor of earth tones and natural fibers.

hans chyi, ready for the mountains or the city streets.



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1. Alister chen, brand manager: herring-bone ls shirt (US$86), double-pleated trousers (US$92), savage boots (US$270). 2. Rachel tsai, shopkeeper: Floral scarf (US$51). 3. Andy chang, shop supervisor: Duck work cap (US$44), open-handed t-shirt (US$52), knitted hoodie (US$117), double-pleated trousers (US$92).


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inspiration: Chyi has always loved the outdoors and often hikes the many trails in the mountains that surround Taipei. He started Wisdom with the goal of bringing style to the sport by creating a sleeker, more contemporary take on athletic apparel. The result is hard to categorize: “Urban outdoors meets comfort and function with vintage details,” Chyi ventures. The designs are made in cotton and G1000 (similar to Gortex), and locally sourced whenever possible. “We emphasize ‘MIT’ (Made in Taiwan), even with our accessories. We are a Taiwanese brand after all.” Wisdom; 2F, No. 21, Ln. 60, Tianxiang Rd.; 886-2/2568-2086.


1 ‘my core concept is to create a sense of beauty in conflict. for example, pairing luxurious fur with ripped jeans.’ —isabelle wen


isabelle Wen in her signature feminine furs.

Trend: Contrast designer: isabelle Wen This style icon is a master of detailing. Whether it’s embellishing a 1920’s-inspired tunic or the adding the perfect fur trim on a waistcoat, Isabelle Wen’s discerning eye is evident inside and out. The pioneer of bohemian chic got her start as a window dresser at Sunrise, the since-closed luxury department store, often working and sleeping in the window display until her vision was meticulously realized. It was only natural for her to apply the same dedication to her own namesake label. Forming her atelier in 1987 with barely more than 5 meters of fabric, a table and three staff, none of whom had any experience in fashion, Wen has built her label into a wellrespected brand with two standalone boutiques in the heart of the trendy Da’an district.

inspiration: “My core concept is to create a sense of beauty in conflict. For example, pairing luxurious fur with ripped jeans or a taking a casual T-shirt and adding crystal embellishment.” Isabelle’s current collection, Meet Jane Campion, explores the award-winning New Zealand film director’s vivid use of colors in the elaborate costumes and settings of her films. In this collection you’ll find an abundance of fur, beads, silk, lace—all things soft and feminine. And a hint on what to expect from her upcoming collection? Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—a theme rife with fodder for a designer who specializes in creating visual tension. Isabelle Wen; 1F, No. 15, Sec. 4, Ren-Ai Rd.; 886-2/2779-1150; 118 Da-An Rd .Sec. 1; 886-2/2771-9021; 1F, No. 97, Sec. 1 An-Ho Rd.; 886-2/2705-6740;


1. emma Wen, website editor: Fur zip jacket (US$1,935), chain and metallic embellished necklace (US$233), turquoise sequin clutch (US$146), sling-back open-toe mules (US$300). 2. Wan ling lien, secretary: silk button-down (US$380), fur vest (US$800), embellished clutch (US$366), belt (US$166). 3. chi ling lee, fashion coordinator: Wool coat with lace (US$715), cowhide and crocodile leather clutch (US$515), turquoise and chain necklace (US$133). 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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‘I like giving my customers the chance to wear each piece of my clothing 100 ways. What we wear should match our surroundings so by making the pattern versatile, they've got the feedom to choose.’—zac hong



Trend: asymmetry designer: Zac hong A physicist by training, Zac Hong’s road to fashion is marked by zigs and zags. In fact, he didn’t pick up a pair of shears until his wife, Emily, opened a second-hand luxury boutique 10 years ago. To help build the business, Hong found himself altering everything from imported vintage coats to evening gowns, and what started off as a favor quickly developed into a passion. Soon his skill level couldn’t match his ambition, so he enrolled in night classes to learn patternmaking. As his abilities advanced, he began designing eye-catching outfits for his wife, which stirred up interest at the boutique. Before long customers were commissioning his signature asymmetrical tops, the first pieces to form the label Zac Hong in 2005. Today his by-commission-only pieces are worn by many of Taipei’s leading style-setters.

inspiration: Though his clothes have always been praised for their adaptability, this is especially true of his latest collection. These recent creations emphasize asymmetry and geometry. Square-cut tunics and tops that appear hard-edged or severe on the hanger show a softer side when worn. The fabrics drape beautifully when slipped on, for an all-purpose silhouette. “I like giving my customers the chance to think and wear each piece of my clothing 100 ways. What we wear should match our surroundings so by making the pattern versatile, they’ve got the freedom to choose.” For this season, he selected a mid-tone palette of subtle, muted shades of gray, violet and taupe for his collection. Zac Hong; Jasmine and Pitcher Plant Second-Hand Luxury Boutique; No. 2-55, Yong Kang St.; 886-2/2393-8415. ✚

1. olivia cheng, model: Asymmetrical cotton top: (US$82), red web leather cuff (US$62). 2. emily huang, shop owner: symmetrical zig-zag vest (US$155). 3. lu-ping chao, housewife: cowhide turn-out long vest (US$155).


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Zac hong in his design studio.


From left: chi lin nunnery and nan lian Garden; towers of delectable dim sum.

Chatty Expattery

Jennifer o’Brien, creator of cult ribald-rich tumblr site hong Kong expattery, offers mark lean an insider’s take on the city. how long have you lived in hong kong? I moved here in 2007 with my husband. We expected to stay the typical two years, but it quickly turned into five when we couldn’t think of any good reason to move back to the United States. (Sorry, Mom!) how did your site and blog come about? There’s not a lot of English-language humor here, and advice for newcomers tends to be rather straightforward. Guides don’t warn you about how adept residents are at using umbrellas as weapons, and no one prepares you for that amazing feeling as you breeze through immigration with your HKID card for the first time. Both Hong Kong Expattery [cantomemes.] and my blog [missokistic.blogspot. com] are light-hearted ways to poke fun at the trouble expatriates have in adjusting. Any interesting experiences stand out? At a dim sum restaurant in Wan Chai, a waiter asked where we were from, and I answered in Cantonese that we were from the United States but lived in Hong Kong. His response: to


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channel James Brown and start singing “Living in America” while performing some impressive dance moves. Any insider tips? Look up. Hong Kong is a vertical city, and if you only focus on the ground floor, you’ll miss out on a bunch of small shops and restaurants. Also, don’t miss chi lin nunnery and nan lian Garden. What are your favorite places to shop? Check out Rabbit, a local women’s shoe brand with branches around the city. Fa yuen street in Mong Kok has lots gloriously tacky clothes while sham shui po’s yu chau and ki lung streets are great for buying materials to make your own clothes and jewelry. If you have more obscure taste in music, White noise Records [] in Causeway Bay is the place to go. Upcoming projects? I’m hoping to start a line of Hong Kong-themed T-shirts soon. ✚

“hong Kong is starting to develop a beer culture, and the Globe [Garley Building, 45-53, Graham St., Central; 852/2543-1941; theglobe.; drinks for two HK$150] has one of the better selections of imported craft beers to knock back with a beef, beer and mushroom pie.” “Dimpal [283 Temple St., Jordan; 852/2314-2022;; dinner for two HK$400] cooks up a strange mix of Italian, american, mexican, chinese and Indian food. It’s the perfect post-alcohol menu, with the risotto mexicana being one of the more interesting items.” “thai hut [Shop 3, GF, Wanchai Central Building, 87-91 Luard Rd., Wanchai; 852/2866-8528; dinner for two HK$150] serves good, cheap thai food in a convenient location.” “When I’m in Kowloon city, I usually stop at islam Food [1 Lung Kong Rd., Kowloon City; 852/2382-2822;; dinner for two HK$300] for the fried beef buns.”

© J e tJ o c K / D r e a m s t I m e . c o m ; © fat * fa* t I n / D r e a m s t I m e . c o m

Q& a

Eating the world in hong Kong


hand-painted elephants. below: Artist lim muy theam at work in his studio.


Pink Elephants on Parade Hidden behind a red gate manned by a red elephant statue down a dusty road just outside of central Siem Reap, theam’s house is an ode to the Cambodian aesthetic. The home of 44-year-old artist and interior designer Lim Muy Theam is a traditional wooden Khmer structure with a lush, tree-shaded garden. The spacious two-story house not only exemplifies local country living at its best, but is also where some of Cambodia’s finest— and most visually arresting—handmade crafts are being designed, produced and sold. Theam, a Khmer Rouge refugee who was raised in France and went on to graduate from both the prestigious École Boule and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, returned to Cambodia in 1994 and has been committed to reviving the country’s lost arts ever since, some of which, like lacquer painting, have been practiced since Angkorean times. After more than a decade as ➔


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courtesY of th e a m’s house (2)

cambodian artist lim muy theam has opened a studio dedicated to teaching a new generation of artisans the secrets of ancient Khmer craftsmanship. By naomi lindt


clockwise from top: local artists learn new techniques; decorative geckos; outside theam’s house.


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cou rt esY of t h e a m’s house (3)

artistic director for acclaimed traditional handicraft producer Artisans d’Angkor, Theam recently launched Theam’s House, a workshop and studio where he guides a staff of nearly 100 in creating contemporary takes on handcrafted lacquerware, weaving and carving. In the gallery, located on the ground floor of his home, figurines of hot-pink elephants, azure fish and emerald-green geckos, painstakingly sanded down and polished to a gleam, share the shelves with colorful, delicately woven rattan placemats and silk scarves. Vibrant lacquer paintings with spiritual and natural themes hang on the walls, while glimmering, porcelain-white, minimalist statues of Buddha look on serenely. All the pieces are handmade by young artists-in-training from local villages, who you can see in action at the open workshops scattered throughout the house. Theam or his sister, Lim Maddy, who are a trove of knowledge about Khmer artisanship, lead guests on tours of the home, which is a sight in and of itself: beamed ceilings, intricately patterned floor tiles, keyhole doorways. You’ll also encounter the coveted lacquer paintings by Theam, many of which explore elements of Cambodia’s dark past and have been exhibited in prestigious galleries across the country. Though Theam’s House has only been operating for two years, its exquisite items are popping up all over Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. A boutique opened last October in the space that formerly housed the capital’s Reyum Institute, while Pavilion ( and Plantation ( hotels stock Theam’s pieces at their onsite Cambomania shops. You’ll also see Theam’s bright, energetic aesthetic at newly opened Siem Reap boutique hotel Mémoire d’Angkor (, where the artist was commissioned to direct interior design. theam’s house No. 25 Phum Veal, Khum Kokchak, Siem Reap; 855-12/712-039;✚


yoga with a view at banyan tree marina bay sands.

t+l p i c ks

Sweating in Style





shangri-la bangkok ’s health club (89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, New Rd., Bangrak; 66-2/236-7777; underwent a Bt45 million overhaul in early 2013. The 2,590-square-meter, 24-hour gym boasts a 25-meter lap pool and offers a range of fitness classes, from Zumba to muay Thai.

The 24-hour gym at the Andaman langkawi (Jln. Teluk Datai; 60-4/959-1088; has regular classes like Body Sculpting, Bosu and Foam Roller. There are also healthy outings in the surrounding rainforest, via nature walks, and jogging or mountain-biking trails.

Shanghai’s 24/7 kerry hotel pudong sports center (1388 Hua Mu Rd., Pudong; 86-21/6169-8858; has a 25-meter pool, along with a rooftop jogging track, basketball and tennis courts, and four exercise studios for aerobics, spinning, hot yoga and Pilates (with reformer equipment).

If it’s a view you’re after while you exercise, the 55th-floor banyan tree marina bay sands fitness club (10 Bayfront Ave.; 65/66885533; is unbeatable. Beyond the towering windows, the facility also has a complete line up of yoga classes and a Kinesis Technogym pulley wall.

b o o ks

savinG in sinGapoRE A trip to Singapore can take a bite out of your wallet. In the age of Groupon and LivingSocial, eAt shop plAy turns back the pages of time with its set of savings books. These two tomes include coupons and deals from 380 different brands— restaurants, spas, stores and recreational activities—that, all told, add up to S$35,000 in savings.; S$69.95. Where to buy Times Bookstore Kinokuniya MPH Bookstores


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f r o m t o P : c o u r t e s Y o f B a n Ya n t r e e m a r I n a B aY s a n D s ; c o u r t e s Y o f e at s h o P P l aY

asia’s hotels are improving their fitness offerings, going beyond the basics to keep travelers fit. Karryn miller takes in some of the best.

Radar “It’s our roots, our starting point. Sicily is in our DNA.” —d . d .

taormina bay ↑ “I took this Instagram shot at san Domenico Palace hotel, a former monastery. the view from the terrace is priceless,” gabbana says.

st yle

Sicilian Rhapsody

Domenico Dolce and stefano gabbana share design inspirations from the mediterranean isle that gave a kick to their spring collection. By mimi lombardo straw bag ↑ this leather and raffia tote from Dolce & gabbana is modeled on sicily’s omnipresent carryalls.

← modica gabbana took this Instagram photo while wandering the streets of the unesco World heritage site.

marzipan arzipan → Per Dolce: “You can’t leave the island without one (or five!) almond confections.”


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Folk dress ↑ the duo’s spring collection—like this silk frock—references traditional sicilian costumes.

marionettes ↑ “things that remind me of childhood summers: striped chairs, the colors of granite and gelato, and...puppets,” Dolce says.

c loc K WIse from toP l ef t: a n Dre W h e t h erIngton/reDux ; cou rt esY of Dolc e & ga BBa n a (3); ge t t Y Im ages/fstoP; ge t t Y Im ages/ga l lo Im ages; cou rt esY of Dolc e & ga BBa n a

“Sicily is a magical and spectacular place.” —s .g.



the daily menu at Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant is chalk full of local veggies.


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Farm-Fresh Chiang Mai

northern thailand takes advantage of its wealth of produce with a string of new farm-to-table dining locales. story and photographs by marisa marchitelli

Radar southern Thai childhood. “I learned to cook in my grandmother’s kitchen,” he says, “and now my mom helps me with the restaurant.” In fact, she grinds all the fresh curry pastes by hand. Don’t miss the yum hua plee, Na Talang’s take on a Thai classic—deep-fried banana blossoms tossed with cilantro, onions, chilies, tomatoes and radicchio. He grows several of these ingredients in his garden, along with organic bananas, tropical fruits and his restaurant’s eponymous anchan, the striking blue butterfly pea flower. Look for this blossom, known for its ayurvedic healing properties, sprinkled throughout the menu. Nimmanhaemin Rd. Soi 4; 66-83/581-1689; dinner for two Bt300.

pun pun Vegetarian Restaurant

inside café mini. below: Yen ta fo, the classic thai noodle soup, at pun pun. Above: A banana blossom at Anchan.

Sprouting in Thailand’s verdant north: a new crop of farm-to-table restaurants in Chiang Mai, long the agricultural hub of the country. The locavore movement, though still in its infancy, is on the brink of a boom. “We need to support these kinds of businesses so green farms have a future,” says sustainable development consultant Jeff Rutherford of Fair Earth Farm, an independently run natural farm in Chiang Mai. With more restaurants plucking produce from their own gardens, and a growing interest from green-eating gastronomes, Chiang Mai’s culinary future is looking fruitful.

Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant The newest addition to Chiang Mai’s vibrant vegetarian scene, Anchan showcases local produce in classic Thai recipes. The daily offerings chef Naphat Na Talang chalks onto the walls at Anchan reflect the cuisine of his


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A nearly overwhelming variety of vegetables greets you at the newly opened third branch of the popular farm-to-table pioneer Pun Pun Center for Self Reliance. An organic farm and sustainable-living and -learning center supplies produce to this modest open-air eatery in the heart of town. The center also promotes seed saving, propagating local seeds to help indigenous vegetables thrive. The menu is mostly Thai with salads and pastas tossed in the mix. The yen ta fo is an absolute must-try for all soup noodle aficionados—thick rice noodles in a dark mushroom broth, topped with two-tone homemade tofu, morchella and enoki mushrooms, and purple seaweed, and finished with a fiery burst of beet sauce. Their signature dok mai salad is a veritable bouquet: chopped seasonal greens tossed with pomelo chunks, kidney beans, white pomegranate seeds and a deep-fried assortment of colorful flower petals. 6/1 Suthep Rd., Amphur Muang; 66-81/470-1461; punpunthailand. org; dinner for two Bt150.

palette Restaurant History and healthy eating meet at Palette, the exquisitely restored teakwood home from the 1800’s that originally belonged to the son of Anna (Anna and

the King) Leonowens, who managed the local office of the East Borneo Company. Chef Tammasak Chootong’s offerings are likewise an educated blending of East and West, incorporating fresh herbs from his organic garden, which sits in a charming courtyard next door. Many of the proteins are imported—the farm-to-table trend in Chiang Mai will not satisfy those hungry for steak or lobster—but when it comes to fruits and vegetables, Chootong keeps it all local. Nawatgate Rd. 2 soi 1; 66-53/247-788;; dinner for two Bt3,000.

café mini Expect (almost) all things diminutive at Café Mini, a cozy new bistro in the trendy Nimmahaemin area. Think tapas-style appetizers, salads and soups with an emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine with a splash of Mexican. “Our entrees also used to be mini,” says Chef Moss Veerawat—but he increased the portion size to sate the patrons who just can’t get enough. Chef Veerawat created the menu based on his favorite dishes from the impressive list of kitchens, including those at three Four Seasons, where he previously worked. Using high-quality local produce is paramount, Veerawat says, and as evidence points to his grilled vegetable salad with zucchini, Japanese eggplants, bell peppers and carrots, all sourced from The Royal Project, a

foundation set up by the Royal Family that supports the development of small farms. Management of Café Mini has plans to create their own hydroponic salad garden this year, and there’s talk of adding a cooking school. For now, try the honey toast: a toasted mini-brioche bun, stuffed with caramelized native corn, a dollop of vanilla-bean ice cream and drizzled with red cherry-honey sauce. 12/2 Nimmanhaemin Rd. Soi 9; 66-53/212-468; dinner for two Bt800.

Foraging for fresh vegetables at Dhara Dhevi. below: picking chilies at the palette farm.

Dhara Dhevi Sitting atop the farming-fever food chain? The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, which in mid-2011 began cultivating 3,000 square meters of vacant land on the hotel grounds with the goal of supplying produce to the hotel’s five outlets as well as the staff cafeteria and a local orphanage. René Bennett, the property’s assistant food and beverage manager, says the hotel’s earthworm composting project is now fully functional and the medicinal section of the garden cultivates local herbs for use in the hotel’s spa and wellness center. Students from the hotel’s culinary academy, also onsite, are encouraged to explore the garden and pick ingredients to use in their cooking classes. 51/4 Sankampaeng Rd., Moo 1, Tasala, Amphoe Muang; 66-53/888-888; mandarinoriental. com/chiangmai; dinner for two Bt1,500. ✚

Get Fresh

these are three more farm-to-table restaurants worth trying. krapood expect five-star service at mom tri’s latest farm-friendly dining establishment. 234 Moo 3, Huay Sai, Mae Rim; 66-53/044707; krapood-restaurant. com; dinner for two Bt700. pun pun santhitham unlike Pun Pun’s other eateries, which showcase traditional thai cuisine, the newly opened santitham location has a menu focused on fusion. Santitham Rd.;; dinner for two Bt300. my secret café amid a tranquil longan farm, pastry chef and proprietor raluque ruangsook conjures up a delectable assortment of breads and rich cakes baked daily, as well as some authentic thai noodles. 10/2 Moo 3, San Phee Suea; 66-81/499-9911; lunch for two Bt350.

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

ThElma GoldEn

on view at the studio museum (studiomuseum. org) through march 10: harlem postcards, images from the storied neighborhood. “this coat is from my husband’s collaboration with Jc penney.”

the large metro tote from mZ Wallace is “even bigger than it looks, and has a fabulous shape.”


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“My clothes reflect my passion for beautiful things,” says Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem and one of the most powerful women in the art world. Golden racks up frequent-flier miles visiting her London-based husband, designer Duro Olowu, and attending exhibitions in such far-flung destinations as Morocco and Senegal. She always packs camisoles and tights from Uniqlo’s Heattech line; black Minnie pants from J. Crew; and a careful curation of shoes. How many? “That’s complicated. Let’s just say as many as possible.” —james patrick herman ✚

flats, like these from Roger Vivier, are a must. “We’ve all had 5-kilometer hikes in airports.”

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Photographed by Jake Chessum

haIr anD maK euP: WIllIam marshall. scarf BY Duro oloWu

for the style-setting director of the studio museum in harlem, packing is high art.


s pa s

Spa by Design

Woven “nest” treatment rooms at coqoon spa.

c o u r t e s Y o f c o Q o o n s Pa

from brilliant architecture to soothing acupressure, the most successful spa designs elegantly blend form and function. —catharine nicol


spa: Banyan Tree, singapore designer: architrave style: Earthy

spa: Coqoon spa, phuket designer: Bill Bensley style: Bird’s nest

spa: limE spa, maldives designer: Richard hywell Evans style: Underwater

In the early 90’s, Banyan Tree spas pioneered the garden spa design that is now common in many of Asia’s luxury sanctuaries. More than 20 years later, Banyan Tree’s latest spa at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, still focuses on bringing nature into an urban space with stylized tree sculptures nearly 200 meters above the Garden City. In-house design team Architrave used the Tree of Life to symbolize the anti-aging treatments offered at the spa. Carved leaf, vine and bamboo elements reflect the brand’s high-touch, low-tech spa philosophy. “Journeying through the spa walkway in itself is an adventure,” says Ravi Chandran, senior vice president of spa operations. “The guests wander through stretches of vines and acrylic bamboo.” t+l pick: Royal Banyan package, including a body scrub, herbal-pouch massage, face massage and herbal bath; 150 minutes from S$480. banyan tree spa marina bay sands 55F Tower 1, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 10 Bayfront Ave., Singapore; 65/6688-8825;

Landscape architect and designer Bill Bensley’s breathtaking Coqoon Spa at Indigo Pearl in Phuket includes two “nests” hanging from an ancient banyan tree that are accessed by a suspended bridge. The woven spherical walls feel organic and cozy, almost as if they are cradling you during the treatment, using a design borrowed from some of nature’s most protective structures. “It is a steel frame wrapped and wrapped with synthetic fibers much like a silk cocoon,” says Bensley. “The nest of the weaver bird of Thailand has an identical shape, as does the cocoon of a silk worm. My initial ideas always come from Mother Nature.” t+l pick: Nest Rebirth package, including a body scrub, oil massage and spa cuisine; 120 minutes from Bt5,700. the nest, coqoon spa Indigo Pearl Phuket, Nai Yang Beach and National Park, Phuket 83110, Thailand; 66-76/32006;

If Coqoon Spa had you dreaming of treetops, this one will have you longing for the ocean floor. Plunge into the sea at the world’s first and only underwater spa, at LIME, Huvafen Fushi, Maldives, where guests are led to an inside-out aquarium underwater treatment room. “It is a really relaxing feeling as you are surrounded by the blue hues of the Indian Ocean,” says Jason Sloan, Per Aquum group’s director of Spa. The constantly moving wallpaper of sting rays, parrot fish, red snapper and dolphins is almost as soothing as a massage. And many of the treatments incorporate ingredients harvested from the sea, like seaweed and exfoliating minerals, so you are literally enveloped in the oceanic experience. t+l pick: LIME Light package, including a foot rub, a body massage with local virgin coconut oil using steamed poultice, and the Anne Sémonin Radiance Ice Cube facial; 150 minutes from US$460. lime spa Huvafen Fushi, North Male Atoll, Maldives; 960/664-222; huvafenfushi.


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t o P : c o u r t e s Y o f l I m e s Pa ; l e f t: c o u r t e s Y o f c o Q o o n s Pa

Above: the lime spa has overwater and underwater massage rooms. left: inside a “nest” at coqoon spa.

Walking on water at the edge, below. Right: take a dip at oazi spa Villa.

What’s next?

l e f t: c o u r t e s Y o f t h e e D g e ; r I g h t: c o u r t e s Y o f o a z I s Pa V I l l a

With nests, underwater spas and liquid floors in the present, it’s staggering to imagine what the future may hold.

spa: oazi spa villa, Bali designer: veronika Blomgren style: indonesian Romance

spa: The edge, Bali designer: adria W. lake style: holistic

Time stops at Oazia Spa Villas, Bali’s youthfully romantic spa. Owner, architect and interior designer Veronika Blomgren made it her goal to create a place that her guests wouldn’t want to leave. “The proportions and geometry of a room can be healing or disturbing,” she says, “the tactile experience of a space can change your mood in seconds.” At Oazia, she says the candlelit, egg-shaped watsu (aquatic body therapy) pool pavilion provides the spa’s “most beautiful and powerful spa treatment.” Throughout the spa she has used local palimanan stone, recycled teak, linen and silk to create the airy space, and its riverbank location provides the soundtrack—a medley of water, bird songs and rustling bamboo. She calls it “unpretentiously simple” and strongly believes the design is integral to the healing process. t+l pick: Aqua Flow Therapy by Elisa Senese; 75 minutes from US$208. oazia spa Villas Jln. Sahadewa Br. Anyar, Canggu, Denpasar, Bali; 62-36/ 844-6105;

Adria W. Lake’s creation at The edge, a private villa near Uluwatu in Bali, takes luxurious spa design to new heights. “Instead of treatment rooms, we created wall-less pods, and as the spa is located at the edge of a cliff, we created a liquid floor that blends seamlessly with the great blue sea to give guests the sensation that they are floating on the water during their treatments,” says Lake. Wading ankle-deep to your massage bed is an unusual feeling, and every single treatment starts with a full body Vichy Shower, with shower heads positioned over the massage table, designed to give an authentic Balinese experience. t+l pick: Oceanic Ritual spa package, including a seawater bath, a seaweed body scrub, a body wrap and steam, and a massage where hot and cold glass stones are gently glided across your skin to stimulate your nervous system; 120 minutes from US$150. the edge Jln. Pura Goa Lempeh Banjar Dinas Kangin, Pecatu – Uluwatu, Bali; 62-361/84-70700; mesahotelsandresorts. com/theedge. ✚

“It takes an adventurous owner to see the potential in some of my crazy ideas,” says Bensley, who is currently working on a project in st Kitts and nevis, where “we are making the world’s first edible landscape.” Before you start picturing gumdrop trees, he means planting an array of fruit-bearing flora along a golf course and in resort gardens, with the goal of growing enough produce to stock the onsite restaurants and even help feed the surrounding community. “as spas are very tactile and sensuous environments, designers will continue to experiment with new materials and incorporate innovative technologies in sound, lighting, even virtual reality to enhance the overall guest experience,” suggests lake. “other designers may go ‘retro’ and use materials, images, cues from the past. the possibilities are limited only by their own imagination.” “I think future spa design will be a lot less about actual interior design, but more about creating a setting for ‘alfa space’ travel,” says Blomgren, “taking our soul to a different place from the second we open the door.”

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your travel dilemmas solved ➔

60 …

62 …

trip Doctor t pa c k i n g

s m a r t t r av e l e r


64 …

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courtesY of K aDJu house

t+l’s Guide to Villas

entrance of kadju house, sri lanka.

Whether you’re looking for a beachfront oasis in Bali, a seaside cottage in sri lanka or a private island in the Philippines, you’ll find your dream escape on the following pages. plUs What you need to know before you book, how to decipher a listing, and more. by bree sposato with additional reporting by Diana hubbell 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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six essential tips before you Rent 1 | know what you want The first step is to identify what kind of renter you are. Each booking method, whether a for-rent-by-owner website, a club or a brick-and-mortar agency, has its advantages (see “Villa Rentals: Three Ways” below). Working with an agency can cost more than dealing directly with an owner, but the search tends to be less laborintensive and you can feel secure knowing the property has been vetted. Plus, you will often get hotel-style services (concierge, butler) and on-the-ground support. 2 | do your homework Whenever possible, read guest reviews—not only on the agency’s website but also (if available) on rental sites such as FlipKey, TripAdvisor and VRBO. You can also do your own sleuthing on Google Earth and Street View, which let you check out exterior images of the property, as well as nearby supermarkets, metro stations, restaurants and more. 3 | pick up the phone Web research is useful, but it’s essential to speak directly to an agent to get the best match. Good agents have personal knowledge of their properties and can answer less obvious questions, such as, Does the villa have many steps? Are all bedrooms equal in size? Is there

construction nearby? Be sure to discuss whether services are included or if they require an additional fee. 4 | take advantage of perks Southeast Asia is awash in new villas and increased supply can mean better value. Rental agencies will often throw in extras to stay competitive. Ask whether the owner is willing to sweeten the deal with free housekeeping, a private chef or use of a car. You might also be able to get discounts for extended stays or lower rates during shoulder season. 5 | make it official Always sign a contract when renting a villa—it will protect you, the owner and the agent. A good contract outlines policies on cancellation, the security deposit, property damage and what would constitute an unsatisfactory stay. It should also spell out what is and isn’t included in the price, such as air-conditioning, international phone calls, electricity and heating the pool. 6 | consider buying travel insurance Renting a villa can offer good value, but it’s still a big investment. Insurance policies vary: look for one that covers cancellation because of an emergency (in case you need to get your nonrefundable deposit back). Compare plans at

villa REnTals: ThREE WaYs rent-by-owner sites Websites such as flipKey, VrBo, homeaway and airbnb, all of which have tens of thousands of listings, can save you money, but you probably won’t get the services and insider information that you would receive from a traditional travel agency.


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clubs a new crop of companies including Inspirato, Portico and getaway 2 give collection (g2g) use a club-style model: clients pay annual dues (us$2,500 to us$5,000) on top of a hefty initiation fee (up to us$15,000) in exchange for discounted rentals and perks such as concierges and housekeeping.

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agencies agents act as middlemen between villa owners and renters, and they often list exclusive properties. the agent uses your criteria— number of rooms, amenities, level of service, local activities and more—to come up with the best match in your price range.

ClosER looK: lisTinGs before sealing the deal, make sure you know how to read between the lines of property descriptions. below, a few pointers. beachfront or oceanfront “oceanfront” could mean there is no beach, and “beachfront” doesn’t always mean the water’s swimmable nor does it always guarantee access. If the listing mentions water views, find out how far the property is from the ocean— and if there are any roads in between. sleeps six ask for the total number of bedrooms (and make sure foldout couches aren’t part of the count). pool access this is not the same as a private pool. You may be sharing it with other guests, or it could be off-property. guest house make sure yours contains bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen, and that it is not simply a pool house or storage area. personal chef find out whether it’s the housekeeper, who may prepare simple meals, or a professionally trained chef who will pull out all the stops.

9 All-star Villas indonEsia

Ketapang Estate

A 300-meter stretch of black-sand beach frames the seven individually designed villas of Ketapang Estate. The entire property is rented out as a unit and serviced by 25 dedicated staff. Activities at the resort range from horseback riding to touring the island by hot air balloon—though many guests may be content just to sit back and relax at the floating spa.; US$2,800 per night for 14 people.

the cinema at ketapang estate.

One Eleven

c l o c K W I s e f r o m r I g h t: c o u r t e s Y o f a r I a r a ; c o u r t e s Y o f m u l I a B a l I ; c o u r t e s Y o f o n e e l e V e n ; c o u r t e s Y o f K e ta Pa n g e s tat e ; c o u r t e s Y o f t h e o l D l a DY at t h e s e a ; c o u r t e s Y o f V I l l a r o m o n e a ; c o u r t e s Y o f B a a n l I n g n o I

Japanese minimalist design distinguishes the nine 350-squaremeter villas at this resort. Vertical gardens shield the property from busy nearby Seminyak, giving guests the chance to relax at the spa, sushi restaurant and private pools in peace.; US$450 double per night.

Mulia Bali

These spacious villas on the scenic coastline of Nusa Dua range from a one-bedroom ideal for a couple to larger options.; US$225 double per night.

Villa Sapi

Hidden away on the dreamy white sands of Siri Beach, Lombok, the fivebedroom Villa Sapi is large enough to host an event, but small enough to still feel intimate. A golf course and several other resorts are easily reachable by car or boat, but with a massage pavilion, butler service and a highly accommodating restaurant— the chef personally discusses dining preferences with each guest—you may not want to leave.; from US$950 per night for 10 people.

Vertical gardens shield one eleven. the Green Villa pavilion, mulia bali.

lounging is encouraged at the old lady at the sea. sRi lanKa

Kadju House

On a stretch of nearly untouched coast surrounded by cashew trees and frangipani, this four-suite, pool villa sleeps nine. The compound takes full advantage of Sri Lanka’s abundance of spices—the indulgent on-site spa has walls made of fragrant local cinnamon sticks.; from US$750 for nine people per night.

The Old Lady at the Sea

This seaside charmer caters to families with children. The nine-room villa features a friendly staff who will arrange guided tours and activities on request. Meals are a hands-on affair; guests can help pick out local produce and seafood, then pass it along to the chefs.; from €300 for six people per night.



For those looking for the ultimate in privacy, this luxe resort lets you rent out the entire 50-hectare island for up to 18 guests, who can dine on bespoke menus, enjoy an array of watersports and even venture into the open ocean on a fully crewed yacht.; from US$23,940 for six people per week. Thailand

Baan Ling Noi


Despite Koh Samui’s ever-increasing popularity, it is still possible to get away from the tourist crowds. The adorably named “Little Monkey House” features contemporary Thai furnishings in tranquil surroundings by the sea.; US$400, double per night.

Villa Romonea

Situated on a carefully groomed 2-hectare estate, this elegantly restored gem was built in the 1960’s as a luxury private getaway. Now, the opulent six guestrooms, saltwater pool and six-hole golf course are open to the public.; from US$125 double per night.

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by Mimi Lombardo

Q: We leave this month for a week in bali. From there we cruise to china, where we’ll spend nearly a month traveling. What packing suggestions do you have? —deborah stevenson, via e-mail

Q: i’m going to Russia for a month. how do i keep my luggage light, as in under 22 kilos? A: Limit your palette to three colors and stick to it. Accessories take up little space, so bring scarves, belts and jewelry to spice things up. A sharp-looking knit blazer from Vince is a “go-to” item for the road; it has a touch of Lycra for stretch. Finally, choose your shoes wisely, since they add a lot of heft. Limit yourself to sneakers, ballet flats and heels. Don’t forget to leave room for souvenirs.


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Q: i need some packable gym shoes and cocktail-party attire. tips? A: merrell’s barefoot shoes 2 trump all: they fold up. For party wear, we love this David meister knit dress 3 . It’s gathered in all the right places and rolls up smoothly, making it a cinch to pack. Also consider a pair of cole haan chelsea pumps with Nike Air Technology; the shoes come in three heel heights and a wide array of colors even Crayola would envy.

Q: my carry-on is beat, and it’s time for a new one. What do you recommend? A: In the new world order of carry-ons, lightness is key. Victorinox’s 56centimeter model 4 is hard-sided yet weighs only 2.7 kilograms. It also has maximum maneuverability thanks to its eight wheels. (If you are used to two, scooting around the airport with this many is truly life-changing.)

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1 look no.2 Add a scarf for dinner.

look no.1 Wear only the tunic on the hot days. Fold-up sneakers


3 Wrinkle-free dress


2.7-kilogram suitcase

5 An oversize poncho keeps you dry but is light and compact in your suitcase.

look no.3 Add a shirt and slim pants on cooler days.

J o h n l aW t o n (6). s u I t c a s e : c o u r t e s Y o f V I c t o r I n o x . s t Y l I s t: e l I z a B e t h o s B o u r n e / h a l l e Y r e s o u r c e s .

A: You’ll be encountering several different climates: rainy-season Bali will be humid, with temperatures as high as 30; most of China will be chilly but more springlike in the south. Bring clothes that do double (or triple!) duty, such as the Rebecca taylor tunic and slim tibi pants 1 . Add a long scarf and call it the incredible transforming ensemble. Another item to tote along: this nylon rain poncho by ilse Jacobsen hornæk 5 , ideal for the surprise downpour.


by Tom Samiljan

the Best gPs apps looking to get from a to B with nothing but your smart phone? map apps are steadily increasing in functionality and accuracy—giving even google a run for its money.

BEsT FoR dRivinG aBRoad BEsT FoR CiTY dRivinG

GooGlE maps

The all-around app to beat, Google is particularly good in urban environments. It allows you to toggle between maps, street views and 3-D cityscapes, and provides an extraordinarily complete picture of your surroundings. It takes you from car to foot to public transportation seamlessly, and (for Android users) it even has indoor maps of stores, hotels and other buildings. Points of interest and area businesses are well marked and up-to-date. Free; Android and iOS.


Covering more than 80 countries, Navigon’s maps are preloaded, to avoid roaming charges, and available individually, to save memory. Extra perks include detailed lane guidance, multiple-stop itinerary planning and a service that locates your parked car (data-required). From US$29.99; Android, iOS and Windows.

BEsT FoR avoidinG TRaFFiC jams


BEsT FoR maps


TomTom’s global apps are accurate, detailed and current— with (free!) updates every few months. The proprietary, preloaded maps sometimes span entire continents. That means they come at a premium and hog memory (Europe takes up 3GB), but they give roaming-free peace of mind to travelers in exchange. From US$49.99; Android and iOS.

A crowdsourcing pioneer, Waze warns users of traffic ahead based on real-time GPS data and alerts from other drivers. Hands-free voice controls let you safely share tips on avoiding slowdowns, speed traps and construction delays. Since maps are generated by users, urban hubs prove most reliable. Free; Android and iOs.

onE To WaTCh

applE maps

Apple’s iOS 6 software launched last September with a proprietary GPS app whose maps have thus far proved disappointing, but features like Flyover, which offers 3-D city views, are innovative. As Apple improves and adds better location-specific data, this will likely become an app to be reckoned with.


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Illustrated by Brown Bird Design

Deals Ullate provit, aut ut of the china dolor eheni ditiam ut pra cum nimus daerum susant. lorem ipsum quunt que.

RmB5,300 per night

the tranquil grounds of the banyan tree lijiang.


What family getaway at the sukosol Bangkok (sukosolhotels. com). Details three nights in a family room. highlights complimentary goodie bags for children, welcome surprise, one family buffet dinner, daily breakfast, free Wi-fi, four signature cocktails at sapphire Bar and late check-out until 3 p.m. cost Bt13,000 (Bt4,333 per night), two adults and two children, through april 30. savings 50 percent.


What green city Welcome at shanghai marriott hotel Pudong east ( Details two nights in a Deluxe room. highlight complimentary daily breakfast buffet for two. cost rmB2,960 (rmB1,480 per night), double, through august 31. savings 21 percent.


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honG KonG

What romance Package at hyatt regency hong Kong, tsim sha tsui ( Details a stay in a King room. highlights one set dinner for two, bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, complimentary room service or buffet breakfast and late check-out until 3 p.m. cost from hK$4,450, double, through December 31. savings 20 percent.


What fusion Passion at fusion maia resort (fusionmaiadanang. com). Details two nights in a Pool villa. highlights all spa treatments, a destination dinner, a bottle of sparkling wine, a flower bath, massage oil and a love language workshop. cost us$925 (us$463 per night), double, through october 30. savings 15 to 20 percent.

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Gourmet China

island indonEsia

What Winter sonata Yunnan at Banyan tree lijiang (banyantree. com). Details two nights in a garden suite. highlights one six-course set dinner, as well as rmB200 in hotel credits. cost from rmB10,600 (rmB5,300 per night), double, through march 31. savings 16 percent.

What Discover offer at le mĂŠridien Bali Jimbaran ( Details two nights in a classic room. highlights Daily us$25 resort credit. cost from us$438 double (us$219 per night), through June 30. savings 20 percent.



What legends of the oriental at mandarin oriental, Bangkok ( Details seven nights in a superior room. highlights the seventh night is complimentary. Plus: butler service, one thai dinner and one french lunch for two, one 60-minute spa treatment for two, one tea talk or historical tour, early check-in and late check-out. cost from Bt89,094 (Bt12,728 per night), double, through march 31. savings 36 percent.

What ultimate Villa experience at crimson resort and spa mactan ( Details two nights in a Private Pool villa. highlights Includes complimentary massage for two, daily buffet breakfast, evening cocktails, airport transfers, a 20 percent discount on food items and 20 percent discount on all aqua sports activities. cost from P43,000 (P21,500 per night), double, through December 31. savings up to 30 percent.

c o u r t e s Y o f B a n Ya n t r e e l I J I a n g



City Thailand

What Insider offer at W Bangkok ( Details a stay in a Wonderful room. highlight starwood Preferred guest members receive double sPg starpoints. cost from Bt5,200, double, for bookings march 31 on stays through June 30. savings 15 percent.


What time to getaway at ritz-carlton, millenia singapore ( Details a stay in a Premier room. highlights guests checking-in after 3 p.m. receive a discount of up to s$80, plus s$50 in hotel credit. cost from s$400, double, through march 31. savings 55 percent.


Us$574 per night

inle lake, burma.

TRip oF ThE monTh


© Va n I l l a e c h o e s / D r e a m s t I m e . c o m

the operator classic Journeys (, a travel company specializing in distinctive cultural experiences. highlights ➔ Wander the streets of rangoon and see the famed shwedagon Pagoda. ➔ experience local culture up close at the vibrant Bogyoke aung san market. ➔ tour a wine vineyard by the placid waters of Inle lake. ➔ explore a traditional village of silk weavers, meet a farmer whose crops float on Inle lake and take a class on cigar making. ➔ see the mahagandayon monastery, home to a thousand Buddhist monks. ➔ Witness the sunset from the top of an ancient pagoda in Bagan or mandalay. ➔ View the country from high above in a hot air balloon. cost the eight-day itinerary starts at us$4,595 (us$574 per night) and includes accommodation in four- or five-star boutique hotels, all meals, full-time guides, support vehicles, all admission fees, gratuities where appropriate, informational literature and all land transportation.

March 2013


in This issue 70 Filipino Fashion 78 mekong Cruises 86 design awards 2013 96 danang 106 Koh samui sleep Retreat

steps from the sea, a private pool villa at intercontinental Danang sun, page 96. 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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fashIon-forWarD fIlIPIno DesIgners are IntroDucIng InnoVatIVe IDeas, traDItIonal technIQues anD local materIals on the runWaYs. stephAnie ZUbiRi BroWses the racKs In manIla for What You’ll Want to stocK Your closets anD JeWelrY Boxes. (Yes, theY taKe PlastIc.) photographed by francisco guerrero

Made in the


Rajo laurel works with fabrics blended with pi単a. opposite: A necklace by nicole Whisenhunt.

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clockwise lockwise from left: on n the desk of Joyce makitalo; akitalo; embroidery from Rajo laurel; aurel; nicole icole Whisenhunt; a baroque accessory by Whisenhunt.

ver-the-top and under-the-radar: between these extreme ends of the spectrum has always hidden a cache of creativity in the Philippines. But, in all my years expatriated, it seemed the day would never come that “Filipino fashion” would mean anything for the rest of the world beyond Imelda Marcos and her 2,700 pairs of shoes—or, perhaps, the made in the philippines tag on their designed-in-the-West, massproduced T-shirts. Now, after years in a lull, the re-energized Filipino fashion industry is strutting its stuff. Homegrown designers are going global, often by finding ways to elevate local products and traditional themes beyond what their compatriots would consider kitsch. Overseas-based brands like Monique Lhuillier, Josie Natori and Michael Cinco are sharing the sartorial spotlight with the likes of Rocio Ltd. and Rajo Laurel, draped on international celebrities and stocked in international stores. In years past, Filipino fashion was more of a geographical indicator, with designers here emulating international trends for a rather limited market, while many of the high society fashionistas preferred flashy big-name labels to their homegrown couturiers. In the industry’s recent renaissance in


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the Philippines—supported by national glossies and established designers, propagated by social media and riding on a wave of consumer spending—fashion has become a true lifestyle and reflective of our national identity. The new wave of elevated local fashion is why the shops in Manila should become as much a “must-visit” on any Philippines itinerary as the beaches of Boracay.


uch of my childhood was spent scurrying between rolls of fabric, collecting fallen sequins like prized possessions and prancing to the noise of several sewing machines working in unison. My mother started her own label in the 80’s, specializing in Dynasty-esque embroidered and beaded jackets with shoulder pads that could block a doorway. These jackets were often made of indigenous tribal material, the beadwork following the intricate native patterns. They were quite the hit back then, especially in Europe, where the international crowd raved about the pieces. But this success belied the fact that Filipino design has always been a tricky trade. It’s a balancing act between creative aesthetic and making use of local resources without falling into the trap of what’s known here as “Filipiniana”—distinctly

clockwise from left: hanging a tan-Gan window display; Joyce makitalo in her studio; part of the tan-Gan Indigenous Couture line; woven carryalls by tan-Gan.

traditional motifs that are not very popular within the country. “It’s a marriage between what’s available here and creating something with a contemporary and cosmopolitan appeal,” explains Rocio Olbes, creative director and co-founder of her namesake label of hand-carved acacia wood bags. Crafted from sustainably sourced local wood, shells and exotic skins like stingray and python, the pieces are an homage to the resources the Philippines has to offer—and are highly prized in stores like Henri Bendels in New York, L’Eclaireur in Paris and Isetan in Tokyo. One local resource basking in new cosmopolitan appeal is piña, a pineapple leaf-derived fiber that has an elegant natural stiffness despite its light and sheer appearance. Stalwarts of the design industry here are embracing it. Take knitwear brand Tan-Gan, beloved since 1985 by jet-setting women seeking an effortlessly chic look. In recent years, it has turned to promoting piña and other local fabrics along with modern Filipiniana design in its Indigenous Couture line. These are no clichéd turn-of-the-20th-century costumes à la Maria Clara— the classic heroine of national hero Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere whose gowns were covered by a stiff pañuelo (or shawl) for extra-demureness. No, Tan-Gan has successfully assimilated the traditional into contemporary vests, scarves

and appliqués. And the latest collections from design icon Rajo Laurel have been showcasing new fabrics made by blending piña with lycra, cotton jersey, silk and lurex. Fundamentally changing the way the fabric is built has allowed him to incorporate piña into modern clothing. The use of piña is just the latest evolution in Laurel’s 20 years in the industry; his success is due not only to his creativity and adaptability but also his capacity to reach beyond the realm of couture and into ready-to-wear and lifestyle. Laurel designs street-wear collections for local apparel brand Bench; shoes for the omnipresent SM department store; and even has branched out to jewelry, bedding and fragrances. He will proudly tell you that the backbone of his business is making corporate uniforms. The Filipino upper crust used to be rather snooty about anything with mass appeal but Laurel has been a real game changer. While his more democratic brands and lines keep expanding, he continues to be one of the most prestigious choices for bridal couture. And despite all his success, he personally attends to each of his couture clients, pinning and hemming when need be. Laurel has managed to bridge the gap between high fashion and high street, and has been a real force in promoting talented young Filipino designers and mentoring in the local industry. 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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‘Being a Filipino... defines my point of view. I am always a Filipino first and a designer second.’ —Rajo Laurel

At House of Laurel. Opposite: Rows of colorful confections by Rocio Olbes.

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Sharing knowledge is key to maintaining the viability and crossover appeal of more traditional ideas and fabrics that the fashion industry had long ago written off. “It’s honestly something I love to do,” Laurel says, but “working with traditional materials is always a challenge. Traditional fabrics can only work inside certain parameters. The nature of the drape and the stiffness dictate the limits of its use.... Certain shapes can really shine with traditional materials.” Lulu TanGan agrees with regards to her own eponymous label: “The end product has not only proven wrong the impossibility of bringing back the piña, it has also reawakened the indigenous and traditional community-based industries that for so long have been striving for their own share of modern appreciation.” These designers, by incorporating traditional methods and resources, sustain dying artisanal industries. For example, the most in-demand accessories designer in town, Joyce Makitalo, produces stunning jewelry that feel like tributes to oldfashioned metallurgy. These works of art manage to remain unpretentious; they’re almost like museum pieces rather than fashion accessories and the soulfulness is remarkable. I personally waited about a year before finding the one I truly wanted, and now that I have it I can’t help but feel it was made for me. Bold brass- or gold-dipped silver, dotted with semiprecious stones, the jewelry transports you to antiquity, and bears the telltale disproportionate marks of actual handcraftsmanship. “It wasn’t easy to find good people. We wanted someone to be a true maestro to the other workers,” says her husband and partner, Petteri Makitalo, introducing their master craftsman. “That’s why Mario [Fernando] here is so special. He comes from a long line of artisanal jewelry makers in Bulacan. His father and his grandfather before him were doing the same thing.” Working within the local supply chain in the Philippines isn’t always easy. Consistency is the biggest problem, even for designers who specialize in one-off products that aim for a handcrafted look. “It can be overwhelming at times because of the lack of consistency or falling behind in production,” says Tessa Nepomuceno, co-founder of Global Productions of Rocio. Small-scale or grassroots suppliers cannot always guarantee the quality or quantity of each delivery of raw materials. As for production, labor is readily available and inexpensive but not always skilled. And it can be difficult to retain the most talented employees, who tend to change jobs or even move overseas. Still, when it all comes together, the result is really a point of pride. “The craftsmanship here is the best in the world.” Olbes says. “They are the unsung heroes.” Although they may finally get the serenade they deserve. Just a few months back, local celebrity-profiler Tim Yap posted a photo on Instagram of the actress Liv Tyler wearing a Joyce Makitalo ring that he brought her as a present, shortly after singer Katy Perry tweeted a picture of herself sporting a Makitalo of her own. (Despite Makitalo’s celebrity following, her pieces are rather affordable, starting at about US$150.) In fact, social media is a major factor in the increasing success of Filipino fashion across the globe. Flamboyant blogger Bryan Boy and über-chic Ingrid Chua a.k.a. The Bag Hag have made it into the inner-sanctum of international high fashion, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld and


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often championing designers back home. But the Philippine diaspora is even broader and more vocal than that. “More platforms for young aspiring designers have been established,” Tan-Gan says—and local big names are going global. In the same way Jessica Sanchez, the Filipina-Mexican singer, rode a wave of online support to the finals of American Idol last year, Rajo Laurel, through a massive spontaneous Twitter movement, garnered enough attention to be asked to submit pieces as options for Sanchez to wear on the show. “A strong point of view is all you need to be able to ‘say something’ in the world of fashion—a trait that I feel a lot of Filipinos possess,” Laurel says. “Coupled with the Filipino penchant for finish, craftsmanship and quality—we’re really keyed up to increase our presence in the international stage.”


t’s a common trait in the Philippines to feel extremely proud of anyone successful abroad who has even just a smidgen of Filipino heritage. The marriage of ingenious design, local resources and strong support from the homeland are creating global success stories like Nicole Whisenhunt— whose jewelry has been featured in international fashion magazines like Elle and is in extremely high-demand in the Middle East, for one. Her baroque accessories are eye-catching and surprisingly versatile. They can be worn equally well with an evening gown or a white T-shirt, on which the piece becomes a focal point rather than just a simple adornment. And they are quintessentially Filipino. “There are many materials that are sourced abroad but ultimately the embroidery is a very Filipiniana technique,” Whisenhunt says, referring to the turn-of-the-century Spanish Colonial styles of burdado—silk embroidery—and calado, the piercing of fabric to create an almost lace-like texture. “There is also nowhere else in the world but here that you can produce such intricate and time-consuming pieces while still remaining cost-effective.” Hanging out in Whisenhunt’s studio recently, I flashed back to my girlhood spent in my mother’s work room— and the pride that came with witnessing that homegrown creativity and production. “Even if I am half-American, I actively market myself as a Filipino brand,” Whisenhunt says, “It’s become a selling point. Asian designers are the in thing now. Asia is the place to be.” Laurel puts it even more specifically: “Being a Filipino is core to my identity. As a designer, it defines my point of view. I am always a Filipino first and a designer second.” ✚


T l Guide house of laurel off the rack lines: Rajo!, Nine by Rajo (plus-size and maternity), Rajo Man and Rajito (kids). couture by appointment. 6013 Villena St., Poblacion, Makati City, Manila; 632/895-5688; maison makitalo Unit 1401 BSA Tower, 108 Legaspi St., Legaspi Village, Makati City, Manila; 632/ 889-2425; nicole Whisenhunt Cura V, 2nd fl., Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Ctr.,

Poblacion, Makati City, Manila; 639-17/571-9050; nicolewhisen; from US$250. Rocio olbes Rustan’s, Makati Ave., Ayala Ctr., Makati City, Manila; 632/810-0990;; from US$300. tan-Gan L-Manila, Filipino Zone, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City, Manila; 632/729-9042;; knitwear from US$25, Indigenous couture line from US$150.

‘it’s a marriage between what’s available here and...cosmopolitan appeal.’—Rocio Olbes Rocio olbes sketches a new bag. top: Joyce makitalo’s museumquality pieces. inset: tan-Gan gowns are no clichéd costumes.


A mighty source of sustenance and life for Asia, the Mekong River is going cruise crazy. Michelle Baran boards a ship to climb temples, meet fishermen and sing a little karaoke.

morga n omm er /s3 st u DIos

R olling down River

Cruising the Mekong in southern Vietnam.

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ost Mekong River cruises begin in the middle of a lake—the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s Great Lake and fisherman’s basket, the largest body of freshwater in Southeast Asia. At the start of my weeklong river journey, colorful tourist-transfer boats shuttled us from the outskirts of Siem Reap to the commanding AmaLotus, dramatically docked in the center of the lake. The sky was mercurial, battling between the clouds that had yielded too much rain of late and the sun that was eagerly trying to push through. The water, seemingly reflecting the mood, was silver and restless. We pulled up alongside and climbed onto what would be our home for the next week: a 124-passenger river cruise ship. The vessel feels more like a charming upscale boutique hotel than a boat, marrying Indochina-inspired design with modern amenities. The spacious and airy


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cou rt esY of VIK Ing c ruIses; oPP osIt e Page: cou rt esY of a m a Wat erWaYs

At Angkor thom, one of the bayon’s famous faces. opposite: Rowing through a mekong tributary.

staterooms are outfitted with swank ensuite bathrooms and balconies with—of course—river views, as well as delicately designed wooden furnishings and surprisingly comfortable beds. There is a small but welcoming pool on the sundeck, a popular spot for reading and relaxing. The restaurant, where our meals—including a festive kick-off dinner— were served, dishes up Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine alongside Western standards. Free-flowing local wine, beer and spirits are poured all day and until the last passenger goes to bed at night in the indoor bar and lounge area. And spa and salon facilities are available for those passengers who would like to indulge in massage and beauty treatments. Like the other ships now plying the Mekong thanks to a surge of interest in the storied river, the AmaLotus bookends the cruise with visits to Hanoi, Siem Reap and Saigon. By the time passengers board the ship, many have already visited the Vietnamese capital and taken an overnight junk through Halong Bay. They have explored the backpackers’ (and increasingly boutique aficionados’) paradise of Siem Reap and they have roamed the fabled ruins of Angkor Wat. And while those headline destinations bolster the itinerary, it is the hidden gems in the more remote reaches of the river that truly separate this trip from a standard tour of Southeast Asia.

day one: We awoke to the sun rising over the mekong, the mouth of which the AmaLotus had sailed through during the night. Days start early along the

river, long before the sluggishness of the afternoon’s heat and humidity sets in. It was peaceful as the river slowly began to wake up. Our first stop was the market at Kampong Chhnang. Yes, floating villages are a dime a dozen in this part of the world, but this was our first encounter. We were wideeyed and camera-happy as we sailed past homes and businesses bobbing atop the water. As we drifted along their liquid highways and byways, we passed women and men casting their fishing nets, canoes and boats weighed down with all matter of materials. But Kampong Chhnang isn’t entirely on the water and we docked our motorboats to explore the bustling market ashore, where local vendors were selling and cooking everything under the Cambodian sun. It was breakfast time, and the food stalls were swarmed with local patrons getting their fill of soups, noodles and rice dishes. The smell was intoxicating, a sizzling mix of grilled garlic, spices and meat filling the air in large aromatic plumes. This was the first of many times we would hear about the balut egg, a duck embryo cooked and eaten in the shell. I’ll admit to sheepish sensibilities about such things. I made a pact with myself to never to get up close and

The water, reflecting the sky’s mood, was silver and restless

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personal with one; a resolve challenged when other passengers made a counter-pact to get me to have a taste. It was in moments of teasing like this that the group, a hodgepodge of one-time strangers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Brazil, began to coalesce and share what brought us to the Mekong. There was the large, all-adult American family, the patriarch having invited his kids and their spouses on a bonding trip. There was the hilarious couple from Brazil, and the equally funny French Canadians. As first impressions faded, friendships began to take form in their place—along with some distinct cliques and a lively group dynamic. That’s partly why I would later remember those hours in the Kampong Chhnang market as poignant. It was also one of the most authentic forays into river life of the trip, matched only by an afternoon we spent in the market in Sa Dec, Vietnam—a symphony of beautiful seafood, fried snacks and sweet treats—and our stop on an isle not far from Tan Chau, Vietnam. This last trip was unscheduled (we weren’t sure we could to pull it off due to heavy rains),

side trips can yield comedy. just pack the right attitude

so there was a heightened sense of excitement as we motored up alongside the tiny island village in the middle of the Mekong. A downpour had reduced the island to a patchwork of muddy puddles. But the pools of water didn’t seem to bother the river kids, who went splashing their way right through, grabbing our hands and guiding us to their modest hamlet. They laughed and waved and we were on our way. The ability to visit a village as secluded as this, a place unreachable other than by water, is one of the most rewarding experiences of cruising along the Mekong River.

in the Cambodian silk-making village of Chong Koh, we learned about the weaving process, as well as other aspects of village life, such as health and education. We stopped at the Buddhist temple, not far from the river. Inside, the villagers were making food offerings and sitting in small groups on the floor, quietly praying amid a smattering of monks clad in their traditional orange robes. Perhaps the spiritual calm of the site was a way of soothing and preparing us for the highstakes hawker battles that waited for us on our return to the ship. I had made the rookie mistake of telling one little girl my name as I was getting off the boat, and suddenly it seemed the entire village was shouting, “Michelle! Michelle!” They had sniffed out my desire to buy some

scarves but, in the end, I went with the vendors who had harassed me the least, the family sitting quietly. They may have been patient, but they were no pushovers. Half a dozen scarves later, I was ready to let the pressures of hard bargaining melt away poolside. It’s no surprise that the towns along the riverbanks are already seeking to capitalize on the influx in visitors. Ten years ago, one lone overnight passenger vessel was sailing the Mekong. By the end of this year, there will be at least eight ships on the river, bringing travelers to pockets of society that had previously been isolated from the potentially lucrative tourism economy. Consequently, for those who still want to get a taste of the real, untouched Mekong, the time is now. In Kampong Tralach, cruise passengers are invited to take an oxcart ride through the village. Sixty oxcarts bumping along the quiet Cambodian countryside has more than a tinge of uncomfortable inauthenticity. But, there are many villages forging on and lives being led along the river—and a good cruise itinerary allows for unscheduled pop-ins and the element of surprise. Besides, touristy side trips can yield some great comic relief. Just pack the right attitude. In Cai Be, Vietnam, for example, a dexterous young woman gave us a lesson in rice-paper making. She made it look so easy. But the art of the spring-roll wrapper proved too delicate for most of us, and we tore up paper after paper, trying to spread and flip the discs that were thinner than crepes. Our attempts yielded way more laughs than sheets of rice paper. Then there was the bright afternoon in Tan Chau, Vietnam, when a cyclo-rickshaw ride turned us all into wedding crashers. We accidentally ended up weaving right through the middle of a roadside wedding reception, and I braced myself for the admonitions from the revelers. Instead, they surged toward us, offering up shots of the local spirits, in which they had obviously already indulged, and we briefly joined in the festivities. It was unclear, however, whether the bride was equally amused.

from toP: cou rt esY of a m aWat erWaYs; ge t t Y Im ages, Pau l h a rrIs. oP P osIt e: J.t. t hom as

The mekong threads strands of culture and commerce, politics and religion, all of which come clashing together in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s lively capital city, where most ships dock for two nights—ours midway through the cruise. After the solitude of the darkened river, exploring the city’s restaurants and bustling markets by motorbike or on foot was a welcome change of pace. While in town, we took a French-colonial architecture tour, and visited the Royal Palace and the National Museum. All that historical and cultural learning, of course, validated a late night of eating and drinking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, a well-known hotspot a couple of stories above the river that serves up classic Cambodian fare like fish amok (curry) alongside Western standards like thin-crust pizzas and sirloin steak, with spectacular views of Phnom Penh’s buzzing main drag, Sisowath Quay.

From top: the AmaLotus; cambodian silk-weaving is passed down from mothers to daughters. opposite: the mekong is at its most meditative at dusk. T R av E l a n d l E i s U R E a s i a . C o m

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from toP: ge t t Y Im ages. Pau l h a rrIs; ge t t Y Im ages, Je a n louIs Ba l lu rge t. oP P osIt e: c h rIstoP h er K ucWaY

From top: outside a cai be rice paper factory; brisk trade on the river in Vietnam. opposite: A Vietnamese morning market.

Phnom Penh can also be a more sobering stop for those who choose to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21), and the Killing Fields, to reflect on the atrocities and mass killings carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime. It isn’t for everyone, but for me, it was worthwhile. Learning firsthand about the extent of brutality Cambodians overcame during Pol Pot’s regime was at times difficult to bear. But ultimately I was humbled by how the country has tried to move past those dark days and how the people of Cambodia exude such graciousness in the aftermath of the horrors they survived. From Phnom Penh, we cruised on to Vietnam. Gliding along the Mekong is naturally soothing: I must have watched the passing river scenery, the small fishing canoes, the lush riverbanks, the waving villagers for hours on end. At least a small portion of each day was reserved for sailing, usually in the heat of the afternoon, which suited us just fine—for reading and napping on the shaded sun deck, and for taking dips in the pool. I could definitely get used to this, I often heard myself thinking, usually when I was outstretched on a chaise lounge, enjoying another gorgeous Mekong sunset to the soundtrack of silence. Onboard activities and entertainment were designed to give us a taste of local culture. A pho cooking demonstration proved both a fun and tasty exploit. Some evenings, the crew performed traditional Cambodian and Vietnamese folk dances. And who could forget our impromptu karaoke sessions and disco nights in the lounge? River fever, anyone? The silly and serious were often curious bedfellows along the Mekong, where there is no shortage of historical baggage. One of the stops in Vietnam was Xeo Quyt, a former military base used during the wars against the French and Americans. While the open-air museum had a sort of theme park Apocalypse Now feel to it, the boarded walkways and signs pointing out the bomb craters winding through the jungle were eerie. On a more upbeat note, a stop in Sa Dec included a visit to the home of Huynh Thuy Lê, with whom the French writer Marguerite Duras had a passionate affair. Ever heard of The Lover? That’s him. Both of these sites brought to life events and people that can seem, especially to someone who grew up in the U.S., like far-away fiction until you see them in person. As the river cruise came to an end and the ship approached Saigon on a moody evening much like our first night aboard, I began to realize how intertwined the stories had all become. From the tour guide who had told us his personal tales of growing up in war-torn Cambodia and detonating explosives for fun as if they were toys, to the American passenger who had served in Vietnam who recounted memories of a very different kind of experience in the country, there was a more complicated cultural exchange taking place on the Mekong, one that we would all still be digesting long after the ship had docked and we had disembarked. ✚


T l Guide Getting there If you want to add the pre-cruise stop in northern Vietnam offered by many river-cruise operators, you will fly into hanoi. otherwise, embark on any of these cruises from saigon, Phnom Penh, siem reap or luang Prabang.

mEKonG RivER CRUisEs Ama Waterways; 92-passenger la marguerite (2009), 16-day cruises from US$3,798 per person; 124-passenger amalotus (2011), 16-day cruises from US$3,698 per person. Viking River cruises; 56-passenger Viking mekong (2012), 15-

day cruises from US$3,499 per person. Avalon Waterways; 32-passenger avalon angkor (2012), 14day cruises from US$3,269 per person. Optional embarkation from Luang Prabang for additional cost. Uniworld boutique River cruise collection uniworld. com; 60-passenger river saigon (2012)

and 60-passenger river orchid (2013), 15-day cruises from US$4,499 per person. pandaw River cruises; 32-passenger rV angkor Pandaw (2012), 10-night cruises from US$2,425 per person; 64-passenger rV mekong Pandaw (2003), three- and four-night cruises from US$704 per person.

T+l dEsiGn aWaRds 2013 an exquisite hotel; a new twist on an iconic city bus; a beautiful museum, restaurant, suitcase, raincoat and more—good design makes travel better, and for t+l’s annual competition, our distinguished jury chose the best of the year. plus t+l’s salute to our Design champion.


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best museum Städel Museum Frankfurt Till Schneider, Michael Schumacher and Kai Otto for Schneider & Schumacher This spectacular extension of the Städel in Frankfurt inserts huge new galleries for contemporary art beneath the 19th-century museum’s courtyard garden, lit by 195 large round windows embedded in the lawn. The windows are designed to be walked on, and also double as LED lights, laid out in a grid and glowing at night. But it is the subtle, swelling hill at the center of the lawn (and the corresponding dome in the gallery below) that is the project’s otherworldly masterstroke, imparting a dash of Spielbergian drama in the heart of the city. 63 Schaumainkai;

norBert mIguletz

honorable mentions Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; Metropolitan Museum of Art Islamic galleries, New York City

dEsiGn aWaRds 2013

this year’s jury 1


1 alexandra champalimaud founder of the interiordesign firm champalimaud; her award-winning work includes renovations of such iconic hotels as the Bel-air, in los angeles; the Dorchester, in london; and the Pierre, in new York. 2 amy fine collins an author who writes about art, fashion


and design; she is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, where she helps compile the annual International Best-Dressed list.

3 deborah Berke architect and founder of Deborah Berke Partners; the firm’s work includes the Yale school of art, in new haven, and the three 21c hotels,



including the newest, in Bentonville, arkansas.

4 John robshaw a textile designer whose Indian-inspired fabrics and home furnishings are available on and at design and department stores nationwide. 5 Stephen doyle creative director of Doyle


Partners, a graphic design, advertising and branding company; his clients include Barnes & noble, rockefeller center and comedian stephen colbert.

6 rebecca Minkoff an award-winning fashion and accessories designer whose signature handbags have launched a global lifestyle brand;


she opened her first stand-alone boutique in tokyo in 2012.

7 Marcus Samuelsson acclaimed chef and owner of new York city’s red rooster harlem and the chef of the american table restaurants in new York and stockholm; he is the author of Yes, Chef, published last year.

In 1981, a fire destroyed most of the production facilities at the venerable furniture manufacturer Vitra. This was in Weil am Rhein, Germany, just outside Basel, Switzerland, where the company had been making chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson since the 1950’s. The fire was a turning point: Rolf Fehlbaum had only recently taken the reins at the company founded by his parents; he had traveled widely and worked in film and architecture, and wanted to bring new international designers and ideas to the business. He hired the English architect

Nicholas Grimshaw to design a new factory building, and soon after asked Frank Gehry to design both a factory and a museum—his first buildings outside the United States. More seminal commissions followed over the years, including singular, innovative buildings from Zaha Hadid (her first ever), Tadao Ando (his first outside Japan) and Herzog & de Meuron. Today the Vitra Campus is a significant travel destination, and Rolf Fehlbaum is T+L’s 2013 Design Champion, representing the boundary-breaking, transformative power of both design and travel.

t+l Design awards jury moderated by chee pearlman + text by luke Barr + reported by Katie James, with nina fedrizzi, Stirling Kelso, courtney Kenefick, gabrielle lipton, Mimi lombardo, Mario r. Mercado, phil patton, Joshua pramis, Tom Samiljan and peter Schlesinger.


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g e o r D I e W o o D ( 7 ). I l l u s t r at I o n B Y B r e t t a f f r u n t I . o P P o s I t e : c o u r t e s Y o f t I e r r a Pata g o n I a

design champion rolf fehlbaum, chairman of vitra

best resort Tierra Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile Cazu Zegers, Roberto Benavente and Rodrigo Ferrer for Cazu Zegers

Set in a vast, awe-inspiring Patagonian landscape on the banks of Lake Sarmiento and with views of the mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, the low-slung, aerodynamic Tierra Patagonia is a deceptively modest building. The 40-room resort was built using locally sourced stone and wood, most of it left as raw and unadorned as possible; from the outside, the structure is meant to evoke the timeless shapes of sand dunes and driftwood, at one with its rugged setting; inside, fine wood paneling and traditional Chilean fabrics bring warmth to the simple yet luxurious rooms.; all-inclusive; three-night minimum.

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Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from poverty and freedom from fear—Franklin D. Roosevelt’s noble aspirations for all of mankind, articulated in a 1941 speech, are given forceful gravity in architect Louis Kahn’s memorial. Designed in the early 1970’s but shelved after Kahn’s death in 1974 and the city’s fiscal crises of that decade, the project is all the more powerful for having survived. Granite promenades and allées of linden trees lead visitors to the very southern tip of Roosevelt Island, to a bust of the president and views of the East River and the New York City skyline. honorable mention national tourist route trollstigen, norway best spa les Bains de léa nuxe spa, Bordeaux, france Jacques garcia

Overlooking the city of Bordeaux from the top three floors of the Grand Hôtel, Les Bains de Léa is an opulent retreat that includes a pool, a Turkish bath, a sauna and treatment rooms, all in rich reds and slate grays, mosaics and marble, velvet and silk. There are stylized reproductions of Botticelli and Titian on the walls and gold-leaf details everywhere. The rooftop terrace bar, with its lush gardens, sprawling sofas and tented Jacuzzi, is a further highlight of the spa’s sybaritic escapism. Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux & Spa; 2-5 Place de la Comédie; honorable mention spring footspa, Queenstown, new zealand


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f r o m t o P : Pa u l Wa r c h o l /c o u r t e s Y o f f r a n K l I n D. r o o s e V e lt f o u r f r e e D o m s Pa r K ; c o u r t e s Y o f l e s B a I n s D e l é a at g r a n D h ô t e l D e B o r D e a u x & s Pa

best public space franklin D. roosevelt four freedoms Park, new York city louis I. Kahn

best transportation london Bus, london thomas heatherwick for heatherwick studio

The red double-decker bus is a symbol of London and a national icon, but with the original 1950’s and 60’s Routemaster long out of production, an icon in need of reinvention. This new diesel-hybrid bus, commissioned by the mayor, represents just that—it’s a contemporary classic. The bus has two staircases, three sets of doors and an open platform. Inside, the lighting, colors and materials are serene, and show off a meticulous attention to detail. honorable mentions cs gas station, matúškovo, slovakia; highway rest stops, gori and lochini, georgia

f r o m t o P : I Wa n B a a n /c o u r t e s Y o f h e at h e r W I c K s t u D I o s ; c o u r t e s Y o f Pa u lY- s a a l

best restaurant Pauly-saal, Berlin stephan landwehr and Boris radczun

The glamour of Weimar Republic–era Berlin is reinterpreted in the most modern of ways at Pauly-Saal. Many of the traditional German restaurant’s design details, including ceramic tiles and Murano chandeliers, were custom-made; darkgreen upholstered chairs add a solemnity to the bright room. But it is the restaurant’s location, too, that tells a story: it is set in what was once the gymnasium of the Jewish Girls’ School, closed by the Nazis in 1942. The building is now a center for the revival of Jewish culture in Berlin, and also houses a number of art galleries and a delicatessen. 11-13 Auguststrasse; paulysaal. com. honorable mentions atera, new York city; Del Popolo mobile Pizzeria, san francisco.

dEsiGn aWaRds 2013 best travel shoes casbia for edmundo castillo woven pull-on sneakers

best travel accessory götti switzerland fold-flat sunglasses

best watch timex Weekender slip thru with changeable strap

best travel bag Dror for tumi convertible nylon backpack best tablet microsoft surface

best travel beauty product tara Walker’s Dream skin-care travel tubes

best men ’s travel clothing luigi Bianchi mantova lightweight field jacket

best speakers x-mini KaI capsule speakers


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best camera Pentax-Q10

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best luggage Porsche Design leather trolley

best adventure gear Biolite campstove and charger

best women ’s travel clothing terra new York polyurethane trench

Photographed by Yasu + Junko

dEsiGn aWaRds 2013 best hotel , fewer than 100 rooms Wythe hotel, Brooklyn, n.Y. andrew tarlow, Peter lawrence and Jed Walentas; morris adjmi architects; Workstead

Transforming a 1901 building into an industrialchic hotel, the Wythe is emblematic of the new Brooklyn—increasingly a New York destination in its own right—and the homegrown, craft-centered aesthetic it represents. The hotel’s carefully preserved brick masonry, cast-iron columns, loft-style windows and pine beams lend it a kind of historical glow; the modern furnishings, custom woodwork, and eye-catching art and graphics combine to create something entirely new. 80 Wythe Ave.; honorable mention hotel topazz, Vienna

A confectionery and pastry shop in Athens, Sweet Alchemy creates an atmosphere of mystery around its many delicacies, presenting them in glasstopped cases in a space that feels a bit like a sorcerer’s workshop. Jars, bottles, bins and trays of candy, jam, chocolate and pastry fill the rooms, which are lit dramatically from above; abundant sunlight is refracted through a dense grid of tall metal shelves, highlighting the shop’s many unfinishedwood and concrete surfaces and the very refined sweets on display. 24 Irodotu Str., Kolonaki; honorable mentions the gourmet tea; livraria da Vila—both in são Paulo, Brazil


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f r o m t o P : a D r I a n g a u t/c o u r t e s Y o f W Y t h e ; c o u r t e s Y o f K o I s a s s o c I at e D a r c h I t e c t s

best retail space sweet alchemy by stelios Parliaros, athens stelios Kois for Kois associated architects

best performance space music school of louviers, louviers, france opus 5 architectes

A beautiful ruin, built as a monastery in the 1600’s and later turned into a prison, has been reborn as a state-of-the-art music school and performance space at the center of Louviers, in Normandy. Set above the Epervier River, the remnants of the site’s historical buildings have been preserved, unified around a simple glass box with chrome stripes. The new construction houses the main orchestral hall and is the stunning focal point of the school, reflecting the surroundings and sky during the day, glowing warmly at night. 1 Rue des Pénitents; honorable mention cineteca cinema center, madrid

f r o m t o P : c o u r t e s Y o f o P u s 5 a r c h I t e c t s ; t e t s u Ya m I u r a

best hotel, 100 or more rooms Palace hotel tokyo terry mcginnity for ga Design International

The understated luxury of the new Palace Hotel Tokyo, built on the site of the iconic 1961 Palace Hotel and adjacent to the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace in the center of the city, is perfectly suited to its history. There is quiet, traditional grandeur in the marble and ebony finishes and deep green carpets, and a sense of sophisticated restraint that permeates the hotel’s dazzling lobby, restaurants and bars. All of the rooms overlook the vast green Imperial Gardens; views of nature—trees, stones, moss and water—are at the center of the design. 1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; honorable mentions conservatorium hotel, amsterdam; hilton frankfurt airport


Boomtown Vietnam is found along its central coast, in a sweet spot between pretty Hoi An and proud Hue. Jeninne Lee-St. John explains why you’ll soon be headed to the beaches of Danang. Photographed by Morgan Ommer

My Khe Beach. Opposite page clockwise from top left: Banyan Tree's Thu Quan bar; lunch in Danang; local tailors; Hoi An wet market; Mr. Van, guide; Heaven Villa, InterContinental; selling fruit in Hoi An; a pool at the Hyatt Regency. Middle: A welcome to the spa, Banyan Tree.

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hey’re building luxury resorts and housing developments. We’ll be coming to China Beach all the time...” The spiel went on, but he lost me at “China Beach.” The guy I was about to marry had phoned me five years ago from central Vietnam with one of his then-regular pitches to get me excited about my impending move from New York to Saigon. But to my American ears, the notion of vacationing in China Beach seemed anything but regular. We had grown up envisioning the China Beach of the acclaimed TV show and of our parents’ recollections of Walter Cronkite news reports: a field hospital and R&R spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The big military airfield at Danang was the last place to which you’d want a plane ticket. But three decades after the American withdrawal, China Beach was now My Khe and Danang was making news for happier reasons. The Nam Hai opened in 2006 to global laud,


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jump-starting the interest in the region of developers and the highest-end international hotels. “When I arrived in early 2005, the 30-kilometer stretch of road—the Danang corridor—was primarily used as a transfer road to get people from the airport to Hoi An ancient town and its close hotels,” says Phil Jordan, cofounder of Golf Life Tours, which runs golf and cultural charter holidays in Indochina. “Danang, like most other cities in Vietnam, developed swiftly. Unlike some others, they did a very good job of providing infrastructure for tourism.” Seven years and a global market meltdown later, Danang is fulfilling its promise. Last year the region saw 2.7 million visitor arrivals, a 130 percent increase since 2007. The integrated resort complex Laguna Lang Co and the bigger-than-life InterContinental Danang Sun have their grand openings this month, the hotels taking their places among seven other fiveand four-stars and the Laguna Golf Course upping the number of championship courses in the area to three. Dragonair (“after years of pleading and groveling” by hoteliers, says Peter Ryder, CEO of Indochina Capital, which developed the Nam Hai and the newer Hyatt Regency Danang) this month launches direct

flights from Hong Kong, joining regular connections from Seoul, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Danang—and at its new international terminal, which opened at the end of 2011. My husband was beyond right. Over the three and a half years I lived in Saigon, I visited Danang nearly 20 times. I’ve mostly stayed on the beach, but also in Hoi An town and over the mountains just outside of Danang, in boutique properties, the big names and one rental villa. And I recently returned to see the new blockbuster hotels. As the buildings have risen, so too have the hopes. “We’re very confident that the destination is going to become the next Phuket,” Ryder says, “the next Bali, the next East Asian It spot.”


ietnam is one long, skinny coastline. Why the boom in Danang? First, because of the city’s port and proximity to the DMZ during the U.S.-Vietnam War, the American military located a major base at the airfield there, building two long runways that today can handle large international flights. The quick drive from the airport to many resorts makes transfer-time negligible.

A second factor has been the impressive level of publicprivate cooperation. Vietnam is not exactly known for the ease of doing business, but developers, travel agents and hoteliers repeatedly credit the party leaders in and around Danang and Hoi An with fast-tracking projects, making sure the new airport terminal was built and promising the swift processing of foreign visas. “They’ve been encouraging transparent, decisive leadership,” Ryder says. Not something you hear in a communist country every day. Of course, none of this matters if the destination is a dud. The third and most important reason is the wealth of cultural and leisure options available in central Vietnam. There are activities for the laid-back (cooking schools, sea-kayaking) and the more athletic (scuba diving off the Cham Islands, motorbike tours through rural villages). And there’s a historical site for nearly every era of Vietnam’s evolution. The most obvious place to start is Hoi An, one of the country’s prettiest towns. Eons ago the largest harbor in Southeast Asia, it was a major trade post until the end of the 1700’s. Abandoned in favor of the deep-water port at Danang,

the Japanese bridge, in hoi An. clockwise from opposite: lang co beach at banyan tree; cyclo drivers; villas at the intercontinental.

Hoi An is the town of lanterns and moon festivals, of bougainvillea and secret alleyways and 24-hour tailors and cobblers (hotel delivery included)

A private cabana pod at the Hyatt Regency. Opposite: Morning mangoes in Danang.

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Hoi An was completely ignored even through the country’s wars with the French and Americans so that today it contains immaculately preserved centuries-old Japanese and Chinese architecture left by traders. This is the town of lanterns and moon festivals, of bougainvillea and secret alleyways and 24hour tailors and cobblers (hotel delivery included). This unesco World Heritage site is no secret, so expect tourist hoards, especially in the morning and at dinner. The best time to hang in Hoi An is in the sleepy afternoon. Cars are banned in the central part of the old city, and motorbikes are only allowed during rush hours and late at night. Get a bánh mì at Tiê.m Bánh Mì Phuong (OK, yes, Anthony Bourdain went there, but my Vietnamese friends swear they found it first), browse the shops and galleries, then reward yourself with a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc at White Marble Wine Bar, through whose open windows and doors you can watch the day wind down and the evening gear up. Dinner at MangoRooms (book a river-view table there or at its sister restaurant Mango Mango on the opposite bank) is a kaleidoscopic delight of Vietnamese-globalfusion-food meets Mexican restaurant. Order the Exotic Dance


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and wash it down with a Passion Rumba (trust me). For a nightcap, head to the sleek Q Bar or the rowdy Before and Now. Surrounding Hoi An town are rice farms and fishing villages, any number of which you can visit by hiring a boat at the dock in the center of town. One weekend at the Victoria, a stately hotel on the beach side of Hoi An, the guys arranged an hour-long sunset sail for 10 of us from the hotel into old town via the mouth of the river. The price? One live chicken. Farther afield are Vietnam’s forbidden city of Hue—the royal palace, citadel and capital of the last Nguyen dynasty— and the ruins at My Son, old Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th centuries when the Champa ruled the region. We visited this Angkor Wat-lite a year ago with my in-laws and local guide Mr. Van Pham, a warm, fluent-English-speaking sixtysomething whose own harrowing tales of intrigue and loss during the war sounded like a weeper of a movie script and provided powerful context for My Son’s own battle scars: the Viet Cong hid at the site, forcing the Americans to bomb the ancient structures. The crater holes are still there, undermining the scaffolding erected to restore the ruins.

toP rIgh t: © r a fa ł cIc h aWa / Dre a mstIm

Old Viet Cong hidey holes can also be found in the cave- and Buddhist sanctuary-filled Marble Mountains, which, as it happens, loom over the intimidating 10th hole of Danang Golf Club’s Dunes course, designed by Greg Norman. The Dunes and nearby Montgomerie (as in Colin Montgomerie) Links have both received high praise from the likes of Golf Magazine and Forbes Travel. Tee-off next at Laguna Lang Co’s brand-new Nick Faldo course bounded by the ocean and tucked into the shadow of a lush mountain. “Each of the three courses have been personally designed by some of the greatest players in the modern era,” says golf pro Patrick Kelly, co-founder of Golf Life Tours. “You won’t find that anywhere else in the world.”


he first time I went to the Nam Hai in 2009, five girlfriends from Saigon and I paid US$1,000 total for a long weekend in a three-bedroom pool villa. Visitors to the area have doubled since that year (and accommodation prices have stabilized with them). There are now 278 hotels on Vietnam’s central coast—robust development since Danang’s first upscale hotel, the Furama, opened in 1997.

People are now staying for longer and coming from farther away, says Michelle Ford, general manager of Fusion Maia Danang, an all-pool villa boutique five-star. International arrivals last year were double the number in 2007. As if to underscore central Vietnam’s contention for Phuket’s spotlight, Laguna—one of the godmothers of “Destination Phuket”—has staked a claim and built their second integrated resort here, starting with a gorgeous Banyan Tree, a Miami Beach-ified Angsana and its aforementioned golf course. Not technically in Danang, the Laguna Lang Co is in the same province as Vietnam’s former imperial city, but much closer—a 45-minute drive through the Hai Van Tunnel—to Danang’s airport than Hue’s. The Banyan Tree is the understated star of this property, with 49 smartly designed stand-alone villas, 17 of which are on the beach, and into any of which you might just want to call it a day, give up your place back home and move. If you tire of alternating dips between your private pool and whirlpool, and of lazing about your landscaped garden, stroll on over to the main building where the public spaces, including the central

lunch break, hoi An. clockwise from left: key rings; my khe; river boats docked in hoi An; citron restaurant, intercontinental; hoi An’s signature silk lanterns; doors to the past, hoi An; cham ruins at my son.

main pool and beach, banyan tree lang co.

‘We’re very confident that [central Vietnam] is going to become the next Phuket, the next Bali, the next east Asian It spot.’—Peter Ryder pool, are low-key enough to have a private feel about them as well. They built this place for romance, from the 10 private villas that make up the spa, to the custom wedding chapel on a wee perch just above the property. A lot of places say they train their staff to anticipate your needs, but here they really do get creative in order to accommodate (one morning the breakfast chef whipped me up some delicious “Belgian pancakes” because he had the waffle batter but couldn’t find the waffle iron)—and the talented spa therapists are the insightful sore-muscle whisperers that put Banyan Tree on the massage map. From Saffron, an elegant Thai restaurant on high, you get commanding views of the fishing village across the strait and the entire resort including Angsana, Banyan Tree’s flashier younger sister next door. The more compact and seemingly standard hotel is actually its own cruise-ship of a party. Five of Angsana’s six room types come with private pools, all angled toward the serpentine lazy river on the beach. The other resort that has essentially created its own destination is the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula, which cascades down a cliffside on Son Tra, a mountainous protrusion jutting out into Danang Bay. The see/hear/speak-no evil monkey statues lining the approach to the resort are the first clues that the place has mischief in mind. (They also pay playful tribute to the hill’s 600-odd douc langur monkeys.) The InterContinental is Vegas-in-Vietnam, oversized and over-thetop. It has the country’s first restaurant run by a Michelin-star chef—La Maison 1888 from three-star Michel Roux—and on the docket a couple of years down will be a casino and a cabaret. The steep tiers of the property mean that every room has an ocean view, that booths in the main restaurant (Citron) and


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daybeds scattered throughout the property are built suspended in mid-air, that you feel like you’re in the center ring of the world’s most upscale circus, whether you’re lunching on a boatshaped booth on the beach or swinging from a giant basketchair at the Long Bar. Bill Bensley left no element off-theme: the funiculars that ferry you up and down the resort are shaped like a traditional fishing boats. As the development in the region has grown more sophisticated, so too has the staff. It wasn’t too long ago that five-star hospitality in Vietnam meant following—and never deviating from—a pre-approved list of instructions and a prewritten script of interactions. With the pleasantries mastered, a new generation of staff is getting creative, and sometimes downright chummy. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Hyatt Regency Danang. Resembling a traditional hotel more than the area’s other newcomers, its main buildings form a wide, low-rise U-shape around a series of pools and restaurants. As a result, from 90 percent of the 220 rooms, suites and villas, you can spy the ocean—and the rest of the resort as well, so guests can keep an eye on their friends or kids from their balconies. Perhaps it’s this sociable atmosphere that has rubbed off on the Hyatt staff. Returning from the Italian buffet with a plate overflowing with all manner of pastas, flatbreads and cheeses, I was met at my table by a waitress. “Miss,” she deadpanned, “maybe you should take some more.” I started to wonder if the folks at Hyatt were giving stand-up lessons when the buggy driver who shuttled us from lunch one drizzly afternoon told us to brace ourselves for the upcoming hairpin turn in the path, which he had dubbed “the Hai Van Pass” in homage to the famous winding mountain road nearby. Then, an

uncooperative rainflap unleashed a casade of water as he tried to unfasten it to let us out. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s made in China.”


ne thing not made in China: the ocean. The South China Sea is known here as the East Sea, and its usually clear water crashes on a long, pretty parabola of sand still dotted by traditional (and nouveau-traditional) Vietnamese architecture and still supporting distinctly Vietnamese livelihoods. No, Danang hasn’t been Disneyfied. Hoteliers may covet Phuket’s fame but managed growth, with an eye toward fairness, is the plan, they say. With all spa treatments included in its room rate, Fusion Maia, for example, needs a veritable army of employees. “In 2010, it was almost impossible to find the number of therapists we required. There are no spa schools with experienced graduates,” says Michelle Ford. “Massage in Vietnam still sometimes has a stigma attached to it.” But after years of recruiting in the region, the resort has more than 50 skilled therapists and they’re continually hiring more staff. For the most part, it seems locals haven’t been left behind in this


T l Guide Getting there International routes direct into Danang will, as of march 28, include three flights a week from hong Kong on Dragonair. from singapore, there are six flights a week on silk air; from Kuala lumpur, two flights daily (three on weekends) on airasia; from seoul, six flights a week on Korean air and two flights a week on asiana. Vietnam airlines runs charter flights from various cities in china. there are numerous domestic flights every day to and from saigon and hanoi on Vietnam airlines, Jetstar and VietJet.

sTaY banyan tree lang co Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune; Phu Loc Dist., Thua Thien Hue; 8454/369-5888;; doubles from US$849. Angsana lang co Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune; Phu Loc Dist., Thua Thien Hue; 8454/369-5800;; doubles from US$323. intercontinental Danang sun peninsula Bai Bac, Son Tra Peninsula, Danang; 84511/393-8888; danang.; doubles from US$270.

hyatt Regency Danang Trưong Sa, Hoa Hai Ward, Ngu Hanh Son Dist., Danang; 84-511/3981234;; doubles from US$157. the nam hai Đien Dương, Đien Bàn, Quang Nam; 84-510/9400000;; doubles from US$550. Fusion maia Danang Trưong Sa, Khuê My, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Danang; 84-511/396-7999;; doubles from US$390. Victoria hoi An Cua Đai Beach, Hoi An, Quang Nam; 84510/392-7040; doubles from VND3,816,000. life heritage Resort In the heart of hoi an old town. 1 Pham Hong Thai St., Hoi An; 84510/391-4555;; doubles from VND4,300,000. the ocean Villas rental homes, some beachfront. Son Tra, Dien Ngoc Coastal St., Danang; 84-511/396-7094;; pool villas from VND4,730,000 for one bedroom. EaT & dRinK mango Rooms 111 Nguyen Thái Hoc, Hoi An; 84-510/3910839;; dinner for two from VND400,000. tiêm bánh mÌ phuong Hoàng Dieu, near the corner of Tran Hưng Đao, Hoi An; bánh mì from VND15,000. White marble Wine bar 98 Le Loi St., Hoi An;

boom. The economy is chugging, and GDP growth in Danang has been double the national rate for the past two years. Lest you fear masses of sun-seekers, just take a boat a couple of kilometers out and look back: the beaches of Danang are hardly overrun. “Now, everyone’s waiting for the people to come,” says Mr. Van, whose clientele has grown since 2008 from mostly returning American war veterans to include Australian, Japanese and Chinese travelers. “I think they need four or five more years.” In fact, there’s loads of virgin oceanfront property. Indochina Land, for one, owns the rights to a single 40-hectare plot as well as a few others that remain undeveloped. That’s good news if you’re looking for a gem of a destination that’s on-the-map but undercrowded, offering unfettered R&R and glimpses of My Khe that evoke the era when it was China Beach and Saigon was the Pearl of the Far East. “Danang,” as Ryder cryptically told me, “is the diamond stud in the navel of the East Asian universe.” He might be referring to the shoreline—ahem—pierced by ever-more hotels (next up, a Hilton and a Novotel). But I think the best translation has more sting: Watch your back, Phuket. ✚ whitemarble; whitemarble@; set menu for two from VND370,000. cargo club Bustling french café. 107-109 Nguyen Thai Hoc St., Hoi An; 84-510/391-1227;; dinner for two from VND630,000. Q bar 94 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An; 84-510/391-964; drinks for two from VND250,000. before And now 51 Le Loi St., Hoi An; drinks for two from VND100,000. citron taittinger sunday brunch; book an outdoor booth in the clouds. InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort; 84-511/393-8888; danang.; freeflow brunch VND1,198,000. la maison 1888 InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort; 84-511/3938888; danang.intercontinental. com/la-maison-1888; set dinner for two from VND4,116,000. seafood shacks sandy, casual restaurant-row. Cua Đai Beach near Lac Long Quan, Hoi An; dinner for two from VND400,000. do mr. Van pham Private guide can organize tours to anywhere in the region. 84-9/8428-7706; halfday tours from US$20. Reaching out arts, crafts and jewelry handmade by disabled artisans for fair wages. 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc St., Hoi An; 84-510/391-0168;; tours of the workshop are free. Red bridge cooking school 98 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An; 84-510/386-3210;; classic half-day food tour and cooking class US$29 per person. motorbike tours Danang easy riders: Mr. Tham; 84-9/13473820; Danang motorbike tour: Mr. Tien; 84-9/0359-5989; Reunification express train ocean views from the mountain route between hue and Danang. 84-9/0461-9926;; seats from US$11. laguna lang co Golf club Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune; Phu Loc Dist., Thua Thien Hue; 84-54/369-5880; lagunalangco. com/golf; visitor 18 holes from US$92 per person, weekdays, including caddy. the Dunes Danang Golf Club, My Khe Beach, Danang; 84511/395-8111; dananggolfclub. com; guest 18 holes from VND1,760,000 including caddy. montgomerie links Dien Ngoc Commune, Dien Ban Dist., Quang Nam; 84-510/394-1942;; guest 18 holes from VND2,000,000 including caddy. Golf life tours travel and golf with a private pro. 61/422-578162;; threenight, three-course Coastal Golf package from A$500 per person.

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ingredients for an herbal compress, one of the many sleep aids at kamalaya Wellness sanctuary. opposite: the path leading from the beach to the resort’s pool villas.

photographed by christopher wise 106

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Chasing Sleep

Why go on a dream vacation when you can go on a vacation to dream? in search of a truly restful getaway, insomniac henry alford checks in to a wellness retreat on the thai island of koh samui.

m ‘At 3 a.m. I’ll sauté Krispy Kreme doughnuts in butter,’ I told my Australian naturopath, Emma, about my insomnia

tropical gardens surround the resort’s two pools.


My insomnia—I’m up for an hour or so a couple of nights a week—is mild but destructive. It makes my afternoons mountainous. I become the dead-eyed cyborg whose chilling dispassion is revealed in the final reel; my laser setting is Chocolate Pudding. My troubles started about 15 years ago and—as is the case for millions of people around the world—they’ve made me on various occasions a less curious, patient or extroverted person. My inability to sleep well has robbed me of hours of my life. I want these hours back. So when I learned that Kamalaya, Koh Samui, the posh “wellness sanctuary” on the Thai island, offers a sleep-enhancement program, I heard a proverbial bell ring. I loved that Annie Lennox had stayed at Kamalaya; in my mind’s eye, I saw Annie and me standing at a sink, laughing gaily as we rinsed out our Danskin unitards. I will admit to a certain amount of unease regarding the phrase “wellness sanctuary”—as was corroborated by my first hour or two at Kamalaya. I encountered a plethora of scented candles, pensive-looking guests, spirit houses, marigold garlands and allusions to non-socket-related “energy.” The resort’s ambient music, heavy on the tinkly murmuring, is what you would use to score a PBS documentary about basket-weaving in Hunan province. After my greeter handed me an appointment card and told me to show up at the Wellness Center the next morning, I toured both my room and Kamalaya’s common areas and devised the following definition: Wellness sanctuary (n): A place where they hide all the clocks and coffee, then give you an appointment for 9:35 a.m. Lulled by Kamalaya’s lush, gorgeous surroundings, I gradually became more charitable. Centered around a cave temple formerly used by Buddhist monks, the 59-room resort is located in a jungle ravine that spills precipitously down to a private beach. The setting is at the same time sybaritic and rugged; more than once I daydreamed about showing up for breakfast wearing only a Speedo and crampons. The five-night Sleep Enhancement program includes four massages, two rounds of acupuncture, two sessions with a naturopath and two sessions with a life coach, all of which take

place in the Wellness Center. Though having 90-minute foot massages two days in a row is probably as close to heaven as I’ll ever get, it was the latter two components of the regimen that were the most helpful to me. In a cozy office overlooking the sun-dappled Gulf of Thailand, I told my tall, thirtysomething Australian naturopath, Emma, about my insomnia. I said, “Sometimes at midnight I’ll stand at my kitchen sink in my underpants eating breakfast cereal in heavy cream. Or sometimes at 3 a.m. I’ll sauté Krispy Kreme doughnuts in butter.” Emma’s eyes widened and she exclaimed, “How are you not as big as a house?” I explained that I swim three times a week and walk about an hour a day. I also said that my insomnia often occurs on nights when I’ve been drinking. A good part of Emma’s counsel was suggestions I’ve heard many times before: no TV or computer before bedtime; slow down on caffeine and alcohol and spicy or sugary foods, especially at night; establish a regular bedtime, etc. Discussing my diet and sleeping patterns, we made two big discoveries. First, I don’t eat enough protein during the day, which may be why I need afternoon naps, which later interfere with my night sleep. Second, I drink too much grapefruit juice late in the day, which may be taxing my liver late (the liver typically regenerates around 3 a.m.; if, because you’re stressed, it can’t get the glycogen it needs to do this, your adrenal glands will release adrenaline.) The vodka can’t be helping matters either. My two sessions with Emma’s colleague Smitha, a thoughtful, calm life coach from southern India with warm, chocolaty eyes, were equally helpful. Smitha taught me a calming breathing exercise called pranayama (after taking a full breath, you inhale slightly more, first into your rib cage and then into your chest). After this, I became so relaxed that I was able, with Smitha’s guidance, to meditate effectively for the first time in my life. Then Smitha had me close my eyes and narrate to her my thoughts as I imagined walking at night from my bed to my refrigerator. By asking me a lot of questions, she helped me pinpoint my motivation for night eating. I realized that I’m a self-generating vortex of low self-esteem and approval-seeking and that, to my sleep-deprived brain, heavy cream and butter are a kind of gastronomic applause. Thunderclap! Fairly heavy, no? I was somewhat awed by the heavyosity of it. Admittedly, I don’t go to a shrink, so I’m a somewhat wide target. Fortunately, though, not all of my Kamalaya experience was like looking at myself naked in a mirror. I interlarded the soul-searching with physical activity. I swam in the resort’s infinity pool and the ocean; I walked 20 minutes one day to a nearby zoo. Once, I rang a huge gong in the lobby: not a terribly strenuous form of exercise, but it made a big impression. I also took advantage of the many free wellness-related classes that Kamalaya offers. The bodily challenges posed by yoga and tai chi sessions in the hilltop open-air yoga pavilion were greatly aided by the sun’s magisterially lifting up over a scattering of nearby islands off in the gulf: I realized that Nature was doing her damnedest, so I’d better, too. Meanwhile, I tried to keep on top of the 19 pills a day that Emma had given me, including magnesium for daytime and Somnium for night. But by day three I’d tapered off significantly: too much to swallow. 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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An 18th-century burmese image of buddha greets guests in the lobby.

i interlarded the soul-searching with physical activity. i swam in the ocean; i walked to a nearby zoo. once, i rang a huge gong Because I was traveling alone, I liked to sit at the Community Table at dinner. I met no other guests who were doing the sleep program; everyone I spoke to was there for either detox or weight loss. The fact that I could eat and drink whatever I wanted to—except for hard liquor, which the resort doesn’t serve—seemed to hang in the air between me and each of my new friends; I became very familiar with the sight of middle-aged Swiss women, young couples from Singapore and Hong Kong, and yoga-loving Australians staring at me ominously over their wheatgrass shots and mung-bean stew as I tucked into delicious New Zealand lamb chops or a crab-andguacamole salad or a big bowl of shrimp gaeng keow wahn. Although the food at Kamalaya is fresh and well prepared, I will make one assertion about the prevalence of spa cuisine thereat: to witness a groaning breakfast buffet whose only representative from the world of cheese is feta is to accept on some deep level that there is no Santa Claus. The Kamalaya staff are mostly Thai; they wear what look like pastel-colored judo outfits, and they steeple their fingers in a wai whenever you come across them. One night at dinner, one of them handed out small paper tags to the eight of us at the Community Table. We were told to write down a wish. I asked Teresa, an elegant Swiss guest in her fifties, about hers. “Are you going big picture, or are you going specific?” I queried. “World peace or new vacuum cleaner?” Teresa smiled and said, “Somewhere in between.” My brain flashed on the phrase Roomba Without Borders. Half an hour later, down at the beach, Teresa and I and about 15 other guests took part in the Thai custom known as floating lanterns. We tied each of our wish-bearing tags to a 10-centimeter-tall rectangular paper balloon with a ball of flammable wax at its base. When the wax was ignited, the balloons—some 20 in all—lifted up, up, up into the sky until, about 30 minutes later, all these twinkly, ectoplasmic airships had slipped away into the void. While watching this majestic sight, I fell into conversation with Mohammed, a young guest from Bahrain, who asked how I’d slept so far at Kamalaya. “Beautifully,” I reported. “But the test is when I get back to New York.” Mohammed said, “So maybe the answer is, ‘Never leave Kamalaya.’ ” Earlier that day I’d had warm oil poured onto my forehead for an hour—an ayurvedic treatment called shirodhara—and it had cast a spell over me. Now the wonder of seeing 20 ghost ships sent into space had reduced me to semi-sentient blubber. I answered Mohammed, “I’d be willing.” Kamalaya’s most vocal celeb fan is probably Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, whose memoir Finding Sarah portrays the resort as a kind of tinder-womb. At my trip’s end, it was another royal’s writing—that of Princess Anna von Auersperg—that I encountered while waiting in the reception area for my ride to


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the airport. The princess had emblazoned the resort’s guest log with a rapturous rant that included the promise, “I will become a lotus flower.” When I pointed this out to the resort’s cheery young Hungarian assistant manager, Tibor, he reported, “She was here one month.” I marveled, “From human to plant!” Tibor said, “Kamalaya is not a holiday. It’s a transformation.” When I returned home to New York, I did not feel as if I had transformed into an aquatic perennial in the nelumbonaceae family. However, I did feel wonderfully rested. I was tan. I had lost three kilos—a fact I chalked up to alcohol deprivation, Thailand’s heat and all the times I’d walked up and down Kamalaya’s steep hill. (Guests are allowed to call for a ride from one of the resort’s buggies, but I recently turned 50, and thus my ego is tender.) Since my return two months ago, I’m eating more protein during the day, I’ve whacked all the nighttime grapefruit juice and I’m still laboring to get my glug-glug-glug down to glug-glug or perhaps just glug. I’m still waking up as often as I was before, but now, thanks to deep breathing, I’m able to shorten how long I stay awake about 50 percent of the time. Because I’d already tried variants of them over the years, I’m not using any of the sleep aids Emma gave me on departure (a fragrant oil called Sweet Dreams, a sleep mask, a journal to write down my troubles, a CD of rain sounds and more herbal pills). Breaking a pattern of sleeplessness will, I’m sure, take years and years, so the fact that I’ve already experienced a reduction is deeply heartening. I will soldier on. Interestingly, one of the times I woke up recently was during a dream about floating lanterns. Some 15 Kamalaya guests and I were standing on the resort’s beach, each about to launch our papery spaceships. Just as I went to push mine up into the sky, I decided to reread the wish I’d written down. Instead of, “I sleep effortlessly,” the wish I’d launched at the resort, I’d scribbled, for reasons entirely unclear to me, “I instantly wake up.” On reading this in the dream, I woke up in real life. ✚ Kamalaya, 102/9 Moo 3, Laem Set Rd., Na-Muang, Koh Samui, Thailand;; five-night sleep enhancement retreats from Bt86,800.

our definitive Guide to

in the eternal city, culture is thriving, neighborhoods are evolving, and kitchens are turning out the finest saltimbocca, salumi, pizza and more. by maria shollenbarger. photographed by Danilo scarpati


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piazza del popolo, in central Rome.


n pRaTi Campo maRZio vaTiCan CiTY

T iB E R







0.8 Km

lay of the land campo marzio commonly referred to as centro, this aristocratic neighborhood offers the best of Italian luxury-goods shops (fendi, Bulgari, Valentino). prati edging the western bank of the tiber river, this lesser-known suburb is filled with affordable boutiques and excellent gelaterie. testaccio this formerly working-class district is not terrifically picturesque, but authentic pleasures abound in it, including artisanal butchers, shops and trattorias. trastevere the chic quartiere trades in medieval rome’s most reliable postcard perfection, from its cobblestoned lanes to the Basilica of santa maria. Vatican city come here to explore treasured sites such as the Vatican museums and st. Peter’s Basilica. Getting Around expect to walk a lot. for long hauls, try the metro ( or a taxi.


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the couture suite at the st. Regis Rome.

the city’s hottest hotel openings and longtime favorites. new & noteworthy maRGUTTa 54 owned by nobleman alberto moncada di Paternò, margutta 54 is utterly private and awash in history (Picasso painted here). But the sleek suites are the draw, with their ample sitting areas and cleverly configured bathrooms. romeluxury; from €204.

hoTEl sT. GEoRGE rooms at this 16thcentury palazzo, restored in 2008, range from the most welcoming single room (french double bed; large bath with a raincan showerhead; a lovely

window seat) to “family” accommodations measuring upwards of 46 square meters. Bonus: the subterranean spa.; from €290.

FiRsT hoTEl this stylish newcomer won’t be to all tastes; the bright white lobby with its preponderance of questionable art lacks coziness. the 29 rooms and suites are infinitely more appealing, and spacious for rome. thefirsthotel. com; from €234.

The Classics sT. REGis the former grand hotel

was renovated in 2000; its 161 rooms are suitably vast, with regency, louis xVI and neoclassical elements.; from €337.

hoTEl hasslER Roma french silks, gilded furniture and frescoes make up the interiors of this favorite of celebs, from grace Kelly to gwyneth Paltrow.; from €369.

hoTEl dE RUssiE With its sprawling tiered gardens and mix of earthy pastels and dark

woods, the russie feels like a urban oasis. hotel; from €460.

hoTEl EdEn guests are greeted by a top-hatted doorman at the opulent lobby, which has a staircase with ornamental wrought-iron railings.; from €318.

poRTRaiT sUiTEs Designer michele Bönan has outfitted the ferragamo family–owned hotel with stained oak and marble bathrooms.; from €450.

hotel prices are for double occupancy.

EYEs on j.K. place Roma the team behind the seminally stylish J.K. Place hotels in florence and capri are bringing their deft blend of high style and genuine warmth to the heart of the centro storico. expect a late-spring 2013 opening.

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shop here’s where to get your style fix. dElFina dElETTREZ though she hails from a first family of roman design (her mother is silvia Venturini fendi), jeweler Delfina Delettrez’s creations are anything but traditional: golden bees float in resin bubbles on a stunning choker; brown diamonds and pearls are piled into cube-shaped casings atop a square ring.

WondERFool Proving yet again that Italians still have the lock on consummately cool men’s style, this hybrid of boutique, barbershop and spa offers rigorous treatments and gorgeous guys’ stuff, from exclusive swim trunks by orlebar Brown to unisex jewelry designs by natsuko toyofuku.

saddlERs Union this top-flight leathergoods maker—decades ago a stalwart of the Via condotti—was resuscitated by a young Pr exec with a

nostalgia for finely crafted bags and totes. the shop displays them as well as the briefcases and signature drawstring bucket bags that made the brand in the 1950’s.

laURa TonaTTo pRoFUmi iTaliani rare and adventurous fragrances are the turinese perfumer’s stock-in-trade. at the late-19th-century apothecary counter in the showroom, specialists sell bespoke concoctions; in the back room, interactive displays educate visitors, who experience scent in the context of music, cinema and fine art.

paTRiZia piERoni one of the first presences on Via del governo Vecchio, where her shop, arsenale, became a cult favorite, Pieroni now presides over a slick atelier specializing in knits and unstructured dresses in poplin, lace and linen.


clockwise from top: the Delfina Delettrez boutique; local designs at patrizia pieroni; a prince Frog bracelet and manta ring from Delfina Delettrez.

see do

J e W e l r Y: c o u r t e s Y o f D e l f I n a D e l e t t r e z

palaZZo dEllE EsposiZioni this 1883 palazzo is once again the jewel in the city’s cultural crown. after a five-year renovation, the more than 9,290-square-meter gallery hosts accessible shows that put challenging works face to face with expository exhibits that span centuries.

maXXi outside Zaha hadid’s maxxi museum.

If the Palazzo delle esposizioni is lots of things to a wide audience, the zaha hadid– designed national museum of xxI century arts proposes a

Rome’s contemporary art scene is booming: four venues not to miss.

more resolutely modern agenda: solo shows from first-rate artists such as south african William Kentridge share space with architecture retrospectives celebrating talents such as carlo scarpa.

GaGosian GallERY RomE housed in a 1921 former bank, gagosian’s first european outpost outside of london has become a fixture since it opened in 2007. from cy twombly to rachel feinstein, whose fantastical, multimedia installation marked her rome

debut, the consistent flow of marquee names is hardly a surprise.

GallERia loRCan o’nEill In trastevere sits one of rome’s most esteemed galleries, run by lorcan o’neill, an Irish dealer formerly based in london who brought with him Kiki smith, rachel Whiteread and others of a similarly blue-chip stature. the shows are all top-tier, but the multilingual staff is welcoming to browsers of all knowledge levels.

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clockwise from left: the deli counter at Ginger; bar del Fico; rigatoni with Roman broccoli and anchovies at bar del Fico.

Rome’s best Gelato

Eat craving fresh mozzarella? Pizza napoletana? or ravioli? Dig in.


from the team that brought rome Primo comes Rosti, an über-cool pizzeriaosteria in the edgy Pigneto quarter. there’s an omaggio a Katz’s pastrami panino, six variations on the burger and prodigious grill options for carnivores, as well as a dozen choices each of the brittle, cracker-thin pizze rosse and pizze bianche.; from €40.


a hybrid of l.a.-style organic eatery and caffè-trattoria, Ginger is all bright white tile and high marble-topped tables. Indulge in a signature garden salad—think mozzarella


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DoP from campania and mixed organic seeds.; from €90.


settembrini café is a local favorite for aperitivi, thanks to barman Pino mondello’s creative drinks and wine supervisor luca Boccoli’s wide-ranging offerings by the glass. the interior, with its oak-plank floors and cozy tables, invites you to linger during the cold months, and the sidewalk setups are simply perfect for summer. viasettembrini. it; from €90.


nestled in the Parione quarter, bar del Fico is a model of success for that elusive balance of tourist-local

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commingling. the studied casualness of yore has succumbed to a mildly controversial glamming-up. (Why the bar tabac sign? this is rome, not Paris.) still, the sophisticated cocktails and affordable salumi spreads attract both the converse and cravatta sets. ristorante; from €80.


at testaccio’s most recent hit, Flavio al Velavevodetto, bells and whistles are kept to a minimum. Guanciale, cacio and chicory make lots of appearances, and the chefs get bold with meat (oxtail takes many forms, and there’s

a sublime suckling pig).; from €60.


this alliance between the buzziest names in rome’s food scene — brothers Pierluigi and alessandro roscoli and cristina Bowerman— recently opened in Prati. the design of Romeo is a bit of a bizarre marriage (a traditional alimentari counter sits under the spaceship-like ceiling tiles), but the food is unparalleled. the pillowy ravioli with castelmagno cheese and pumpkin velouté is a true standout. romeo.; from €120.

restaurant prices are for dinner for two.

at Gelateria dei Gracchi (, it’s all about seasonal fruits (from persimmon and quince to mandarin orange) and nuts (pistachio, pignoli, roasted chestnut). Fatamorgana ( takes the prize for most out-there ingredients and combos—chocolate-tobacco; basil-walnut-honey. But the farthest from town is the holy grail: at otherwise ho-hum-looking Al settimo Gelo (, the door plastered with plaudits from top food guides is the tip-off to the selection inside, from vine-inspired Barolo and plum to Persian-inflected rose water and saffron.

t h I s s P r e a D : I l l u s t r at I o n B Y l a u r e n n a s s e f

Gone are the days when the centro storico sequestered the city’s finest ice cream. now a trip to the (near) suburb of prati is de rigueur for the most adventurous flavors.

From left: the garden outside Villa Doria pamphilj; the dining room in il caminetto; a statue on display at the palazzo massimo museum.

Local Take

f r o m l e f t: s I m o n e m at t e o g u I s e P P e m a n z a n I , D r e a m s t I m e ; s u s a n W r I g h t; B +Y P h o t o g r a P h Y, g e t t Y I m a g e s .

Four romani share their go-to spots in the city. piER paolo piCCioli

Filippo la manTia

and maRia GRaZia

chef of his namesake restaurant in the hotel majestic


creative directors at Valentino

“Rome has beautiful gardens—we adore the Villa sciarra and Villa Doria pamphilj. The best way to explore them is by bike [for rentals, see]; the path from Ponte del Risorgimento to Villa Ada passes by the Villa borghese gardens. For the perfect torta di ricotta, head to pasticceria la Deliziosa [39-06/6880-3155]. Two must-visit shops: Iosselliani’s R-01-ios [], in Pigneto, for cutting-edge jewelry, and Altroquando [], an excellent cinema bookstore.”

tired of Walking? three creative ways to see Rome.

ChRisTophER s. CElEnZa

Director, American Academy in Rome

“I was born in Sicily, but Rome has been my home for 11 years. I opened Trattoria, my first restaurant, here in 2005. A place I often go, especially for lunch, is cesaretto [23 Via Pietro Cavalli; no phone; lunch for two €40]; it has fantastic Roman cuisine. If I’m craving sushi, there’s no place like shinto [; dinner for two €70], a sleek white and gray restaurant in the centro storico. I’m also a big fan of il caminetto [89 Viale Parioli;; dinner for two €100]. It opened in 1959 and still draws crowds, thanks to its regional dishes.”

explore the city’s sights and sounds on a bicycle tour with bici & baci (bicibaci. com), which includes a cruise of the Via dei coronari and Piazza navona, with stops at gelaterie.

consider a bespoke chauffeured excursion to rome’s shopping, gastronomic or cultural highlights with italy hotline (

“One of my favorite sites in the city is the ancient Roman frescoed dining room in the palazzo massimo museum [archeoroma.beniculturali. it], near Termini station. The frescoes are stunning and evocative and transport you back in time to that culture. Another, of a very different era, is the Coppedé district, around Piazza Mincio, which has amazing early-1900’s houses, all built by Gino Coppedé. For excellent pizza, cooked in an open oven, don’t miss Ai marmi, in Trastevere [39-06/580-0919; pizza for two €30].”

With scooteroma (, you can take in the major landmarks from the back of a scooter; choose the “roamin’ holiday” trip for a ride on a vintage Vespa. 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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Last Look

Photographed by Morgan Ommer

sapa, Vietnam

crossing paths

Green fields and fashion a fashion shoot in northern Vietnam brings together the highlands-chic styles of several designers from the region. here, a piece from the Go Green collection by chula, a spanish limited-edition label based in hanoi.

on the muong hoa Valley road, Phnom Penh designer romyda Keth’s ensembles echo the vibrant attire of a hmong woman returning from the market.

sharing the spotlight

A rapt audience from the nearby villages Ban ho and lao chai, children of the tay, Dao and hmong minority groups had first arrived at the set to hawk their goods, but soon find themselves distracted by the activity.


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the smaller model was cast impromptu from among the kids who gathered to watch the shoot. her escort wears an outfit from hanoi designer Vũ Viêt hà, who works only with local materials and techniques.

March 2013  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia March 2013