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orries and tension check out when you check into the anumba spa.

How apt is it that one of the Andaman Sea’s most beautiful islands also plays host to one of Asia’s top ten island spa destinations*?

Relax, stretch and breathe. And find oneself. www.theracha.com

X O

P R I VAT E

Anumba spa grounds cover 25,000 square feet of bliss. The thai flower ritual treatment is particularly renowned.

At The Racha’s serene Anumba Spa, expert and caring therapists restore and rejuvenate mind and body with signature natural treatments and oils. VIP couples’ suites, steam rooms and rain showers are just part of the pampering. Within the lush spa grounds, an ocean-facing balancefitness gym and OM studio offers guided holistic movement classes.

A menber of Small Luxury Hotels of the World

85 luxurious villas • 3 ozonated pools (excluding private ones) • 3 signature dining establishments & bar

world-acclaimed anumba spa • club del mar for chilling • personalized sea and land experiences • to-die-for-views complimentary * as voted by Asia Spa Baccarat Awards tel: 66 76 355 455 fax: 66 76 355 637 email: reservation@theracha.com www.theracha.com


Volume 08 / Issue 03

Contents

March 2014

C O U R T E S Y O F M A N D A R I N O R I E N TA L P U D O N G

Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, page 80.

Features 72

Where the Wild Things Are Animal-uneducated m el a n ie lee trains as a zookeeper at Singapore’s Night Safari, and discovers the quirky charm of its nocturnal residents. pho t ogr a phed by da r r en soh

80 It List For T+L’s annual list of the best new hotels

in the world, our reviewers traveled thousands of kilometers, vetting the top contenders to deliver our definitive roster of places we want you to experience. 90 Fare Thee Well Self-diagnosed stress ball j eff ch u retreats to a Himalayan health mecca and submerses himself in a trifecta of Eastern

healing systems—and a bathtub so steamy his head spins. pho t o - illustr ation by wasin ee ch a n ta kor n

96 China Dreams In Hangzhou, time slows, tea is served and tradition lives on. st ephen druck er finds sophisticated hotels, serene restaurants and the quiet soul of the new China. pho t ogr a phed by

fr édér ic l agr a nge . m a p a n d gu ide page

102

104 St. Petersburg Here and Now There is the thrill of the new, but this city, writes r eggie na delson , remains a place where history takes center stage. pho t ogr a phed by a m broise t ézenas . m a p a n d gu ide page 111

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Contents

dest i nat ions

Trip Doctor

Point of View

26 Borneo by the Fast Lane ian lloyd neubauer mounts a motorbike and sets off to explore the island.

54 Strategies: Hotel brands 101 T+L has the scoop on the latest trends to help you find the right accommodation for you.

48 The Making of a Travel Writer gary shteyngart on how he travels and why.

30 Spring Preview Our must-see list for the season’s upcoming cultural events.

60 The Fix Do travel agents and tour operators save you money?

42 Boutique Blitz gabrielle jaffe surveys a slew of new, distinctive spots to stay throughout the region.

Plus Where to go now in Battambang; a stylish new hotel in Taipei; and more.

64 Packing T+L style director mimi lombardo with ideal gear for mixed weather. 66 Deals A Thai boutique stay; a romantic city getaway in Singapore; a Korean spa journey; and more.

On the Cover Poolside at Amanoi, in Vietnam. Photographer: Christopher Wise. Model: Somrak Sila.

112 Chicago Thanks to a red-hot food scene, innovative hotel projects, and exciting design and architecture, the Windy City is the perfect urban escape. nate storey reports. photographed by kevin j . miyazaki Last Look 118 Vietnam morgan ommer checks in to some of the country’s coolest hotels, which update traditional aesthetics for the most contemporary traveler.

The funky Hotel Kosenda stands out in Jakarta, page 42.

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COURTESY OF HOTEL KOSENDA

by holly mcdonald

63 Tech The best apps, websites and tips for a better room rate.

Decoder

Departments 12 14 … i n b o x 16

e d i t o r ’s n o t e

contr ibu tors

Radar

38 Six Dishes: Bali An abridged, meal-to-meal guide to where to eat now.

10 …


Destinations

March 2014 104

ST. PE TE RSBU RG

123

112

C H ICAGO

UT TA R A K H A N D

96

90

118

106

H A N GZHOU

HUE

38

BA LI

DESTINATION

PAGE

WHEN TO GO

WHAT US$5 BUYS

WHO TO FOLLOW

Bali

38

Temperatures drop and the skies are blue from June to August.

Lunch for two at Warung Mertha Sari, which has some of the island’s best fish satays.

@balitravellers

Chicago

112

In the Windy City temperatures plummet in the winter. Stick to spring and summer—late April through September—to enjoy the farmers’ markets, festivals and, yes, beaches.

Two trips on the city’s famed, wooden-platformed ‘El’ train.

@Chicago

Hangzhou

96

Spring, April and May, brings ideal weather for floating on West Lake.

A pot of the city’s legendary Longjian, or “Dragon Well,” tea at a local teahouse.

@ChinaTravelNet

Hue, Vietnam

118

Hue tends to be drizzly and gray in the winter. The driest time of year is June through August.

A colorful, locally made kite to fly at one of the city’s semiannual festivals.

@VietTravelGuy

St. Petersburg

104

Russian winters are notorious for a reason. April through June brings warm weather and new life to the city.

Two tickets to the Dostoevsky museum.

@VisitPetersburg

Uttarakhand, India

90

Avoid February through May, when monsoons hit the area around the Himalayas.

Two vada pavs, India’s take on the veggie burger. These spicy fried potato patties are served on a bun with tamarind chutney.

@india_tourism

Long Weekend

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Beach

Active

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Food+Drink

Shopping

Arts+Culture


If your idea of classical China is an image of willow trees, arched stone bridges and elderly residents performing their tai chi rituals all to the strains of a live flautist, then look no further than Hangzhou’s West Lake. I experienced just such a scene early one morning there last summer and this month’s in-depth look at the gem that is Hangzhou (“China Dreams,” page 96) has me counting the days until I can return. As writer Stephen Drucker concludes in his story, the city is “the rare place in China where the relentless national push toward tomorrow finally takes a break.” It’s also a place that defines “aspirational travel” and, as such, is a destination where the Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake should be at the top of your wish list. Aside from stellar service, the hotel sits in a stunning lakeside location, offers some of the best Chinese food I have ever had, and is home to a spa that you’ll never want to leave. Aesthetics, appetite and indulgence—these are the marks of the best hotels and resorts, the world’s newest of which we showcase in our 2014 It List (page 80). A trip to any of these 70 trend-setting properties will reward you with only the best. Sink your teeth into this month’s Decoder that takes in Chicago (page 112)—a fantastic, large American city home to a Midwest mindset that defines friendly. Or, for a touch of old aristocracy, venture to Russia (“St. Petersburg Here and Now,” page 104), which, for me at least, falls into the category of “I’ll get there one day.” Regardless of your travel style or the next destination stamped in your passport, this month’s Trip Doctor section (page 53) can help you find the perfect place to stay. Here, we offer an extensive guide to hotels, whether it’s unraveling their branding secrets, advising on the best ways to save money on your next booking or simply how to make the most of the places you stay. It’s an invaluable primer for all travelers and one to which I know you’ll refer to often in the coming year.—c h r i s t o p h e r k u c way

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

Our Next Stops

Hoi An Hong Kong Melbourne Los Angeles

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. 12

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N A P AT R A V E E W AT

Editor’s Note


I N S P I R E D B Y PA S S I O N Our divemasters know all t h e b e s t d i v e s i t e s.

An awesome spectacle b e n e a t h t h e w av e s.

M AU R I T I U S

S EYC H E L L E S

MALDIVES

The magical settings nurture our passion to create The Ultimate Experience The Unique Experience Begin the U-experience: call (230) 402 2772/73 or visit us at www.constancehotels.com

M A DAG A S C A R


Contributors

Stephen Drucker

Melanie Lee

Frédéric Lagrange

the magic of hangzhou lies in... The mist. the fastest way to unplug Have an early dinner at the Buddhist Vegetarian House at Amanfayun resort, followed by a massage with warm bamboo rollers at the spa. for the most scenic view of hangzhou... Avoid the tourist-packed motor yachts along West Lake. Instead, hire a rowboat and an oarsman and enjoy the views in silence. taste it now For an authentic, family-style outing, go to Zhiweiguan (Longjing shrimp; dongpo pork; lotus stuffed with sticky rice). Or, head to Jin Sha, at the Four Seasons, for a quiet evening of “overnight millionaire” luxury. any regrets? Not having a Chinese medicine consultation at Hangzhou’s venerable Hu Qing Yu Tang herbal pharmacy.

you’re not an animal person… But after the zoo attachment, I’m pretty glued to the Animal Planet cable channel, and find safari documentaries absolutely riveting. what was your favorite animal? The binturongs (bearcats). They are so friendly and curious, and were also the first animals who did not react adversely to my anxiety and inexperience. hardest part of the job? Not knowing how the animals would react to me. The zookeepers would never tell me what to expect either because it always “depends on their mood.” So every interaction was a play-it-byear thing and I guess that kept things exciting! There was this male rhino who really didn’t like Darren (the photographer) and tried to pee on him—so the keepers had to move him far, far away from us.

hangzhou reflections West Lake was stunning, as were the tiny villages outside the city, with their soft, curved hills covered by a canopy of green tea trees. After visiting China more than 15 times in the last 10 years, this trip to Hangzhou changed my entire outlook on the country. One can feel the spirituality, depth and wisdom of one of Earth’s oldest civilizations. The teachings of Confucius and Lao-tzu still remain. favorite subject on this assignment Tai chi and kung fu masters at the Wu Kong Park at dawn. most picturesque city photo op At sunrise around the lake, where you can watch locals doing their morning exercises as the soft warm light rises above the water.

SALA Samui Resort & Spa Choengmon Beach, Samui Telephone: (66) 77 245 888 info@salasamui.com - www.salasamui.com

Writer “Where the Wild Things Are” (page 72).

Photographer “China Dreams” (page 96).

‘This trip to Hangzhou changed my entire outlook on the country. One can feel the spirituality, depth and wisdom of one of Earth’s oldest civilizations.’ —FRÉDÉRIC L AGRANGE

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

Writer “China Dreams” (page 96).


Inbox

A Taste of New York I recently moved to Brooklyn, and “The Food Lover’s Essential NYC” [February] has become my official guide for navigating this culinary capital. I probably wouldn’t have noticed Nightingale 9 (nightingale9.com), a tiny noodle joint around the corner from my apartment— now, thanks to Adam Sachs, I’ve already had the breakfast bánh mì twice. f

Jessica Harriton

brooklyn , n .y.

EASTERN & ORIENTAL EXPRESS AN EXOTIC ADVENTURE AWAITS Step aboard the magnificent Eastern & Oriental Express for luxurious journeys across an enchanting landscape of vibrant cities, ancient temples and lush paddy fields.

EXCLUSIVE OFFER Book on selected dates and receive a 20% DISCOUNT per couple on our regular train fares. Please quote code EC20 at the time of booking. CONTACT OUR LUXURY TRAVEL CONSULTANTS ON +65 63950678 OR YOUR LOCAL TRAVEL AGENT. www.easternandorientalexpress.com

An adventure like no other

Winning Wines

Magic of Mumbai

“Asian Vintages” [January]? This is a surprise. But I did sample the GranMonte Syrah Rosé on a recent trip to Six Senses Yao Noi and was impressed! Considering the cost of poor-quality imported wine, I’m happy to see some local bottles worth buying. I also think it’s fantastic that young women are leading the way in this continent in what you’d normally think of as a male profession. A roadtrip to GranMonte vineyard is in order. Hallie Paul

Gary Shteyngart’s eye for the ironic (hunger strikes beneath an advertisement for L’Oréal Paris) and the unpredictable (a train station parrot astrologer) made Mumbai’s riot of sights and sounds fully palpable in “Maximum Bombay” [November]. The city’s 24/7 pulsating life and breathtaking landscape convinced me that it is a must-see. Helen Larson west chester , pa .

bangkok

CONTACT INFO *Valid on 8 and 17 March, 3 and 23 April and 2 May 2014 for Singapore to Bangkok journeys. Offer is subject to availability which may be limited, based on two persons sharing. Valid for new bookings only and cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Offer may be removed at any time.

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

Got something to say? Tell us at

Comments may be edited for clarity and space.


The Best of Both Worlds from the forest to the sea RIMBA Jimbaran Bali, the new sister hotel of AYANA Resort and Spa:

• Six stunning swimming pools including children’s pool with waterslides, swim-up Pool Bar, UNIQUE Rooftop Bar & Pool, and lagoon fronting Pool Access Rooms • Eco chic design located on 8 hectares of gardens in a forest setting with sunset views across the west coast of Bali on one side and majestic views across the Uluwatu Hills on the other • Integrated resort concept, within the 77-hectare grounds of AYANA Resort and Spa (awarded by Conde Nast Traveler readers as World’s Best Spa Hotel and Asia’s Best Hotel) with convenient access to world-class restaurants, Thermes Marins Spa, priority access to Rock Bar and secluded beach • Babysitting, RIMBA Kids Club and interconnecting rooms and suites

R I M B A Ji m b a r a n B a l i | w w w.r i m b aj i m b a r a n.c om | T. +62 361 84 6 84 68 | b o ok i ng @ r i m b aj i m b a r a n.c om


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

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

REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS / PHOTOGRAPHERS Cedric Arnold, Jeff Chu, Helen Dalley, Robyn Eckhardt, Philipp Engelhorn, David Hagerman, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Melanie Lee, Naomi Lindt, Brent T. Madison, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Aaron Joel Santos, Adam Skolnick, Darren Soh, Stephanie Zubiri

CHAIRMAN PRESIDENT PUBLISHING DIRECTOR

PUBLISHER DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER SALES DIRECTOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PRODUCTION MANAGER PRODUCTION GROUP CIRCULATION MANAGER CIRCULATION ASSISTANT

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj

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

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

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

TRAVEL+LEISURE SOUTHEAST ASIA VOL. 8, ISSUE 3 Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, Room 1205-06, 12/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2851-6963; Fax: +852 2851-1933; under license from American Express Publishing Corporation, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: +66 2 204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (+66 2 368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (+66 2 291-7575). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy.

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

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VOTE FOR YOUR 2014 FAVORITES www.tlworldsbest.com/intl

VOTE NOW!

For your favorite hotels, spas, airlines, cruise lines, travel companies and destinations you love—in the only truly global travel survey that matters! Dear Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia readers, We trust you. We trust your judgement. That’s why we want you to rate our global travel experiences for us, in the 2014 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, now through April 1, 2014. These awards are recognized as travel’s highest honor, so it’s time to give back to those hotels, resorts, spas, airlines, cruise lines, travel companies and destinations you love the most. Readers of all global editions of Travel + Leisure will participate in the awards, so this is your chance for Southeast Asia’s voice to be heard. So visit www.tlworldsbest.com/intl and tell us exactly what you think. The full global results will be published in our August issue. Christopher Kucway Editor-in-Chief


Radar On Our

A dramatic art installation greets guests at Humble House Taipei.

News. Finds. Opinions. Obsessions.

debut

Humble Virtues

C O U R T E S Y O F H U M B L E H O U S E TA I P E I

A new hotel is bringing clean design and living art to central Taipei. Cain Nunns checks into this eco-oasis.

Not long ago, Taipei was getting the cold shoulder from five-star hotel brands. Today, the city is piping hot, awash in new properties, with more on the way. But despite this dramatic uptick in supply, the surge in tourism over recent years has sent the city’s average rack rates on an upward trajectory toward some of Asia’s priciest. Enter the countertrending Humble House

Taipei (18 Songgao Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei; 886-2/ 6631-8000; humblehouse hotels.com; doubles from NT$12,000), a welcome new 235-room affair, bang in the middle of bustling business district, Xinyi. Since opening its art-laced doors in December, Humble House has positioned itself as a more affordable option for either business travelers or the party set looking to hit the bars, speakeasies

and clubs dotted around the cloud-piercing Taipei 101. Lauded designers Hirsch Bedner Associates serve up elegant, albeit minimalist, rooms and interiors that blend beautifully with outdoor gardens and an art collection of more than 600 sculptures, installations, murals, paintings and multimedia pieces. The key themes here are man’s use of space, and the confluence of the natural and urbane.

Which makes it fitting that Humble House is one of Taiwan’s most eco-friendly hotels, having been awarded the LEED Diamond by the Ministry of Interior for its energy efficient lighting, waste and water systems. Style, location, value and sustainability— this hotel is grappling with the same dilemma as Muhammad Ali: “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.” ✚

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Radar r ec o n

This month’s need-to-know openings

b e au t y

Hotels  Is Santo Domingo

WHAT’S IN YOUR BAGGIE, STEPHANIE MARCH? How does the star of Law & Order: SVU, travel blogger for fathomaway.com and co-owner of modern makeup salon Rouge New York make multitasking look so gorgeous? Here, her must-pack products. — k athryn o’she a-e va ns

StainlessSteel Sharpie Pen (sharpie.com; US$7). “If you address a postcard with a ballpoint, it can look like you’re writing from an asylum.” 

Rouge New York Owyhee Mist (rougeny.com; US$16). “I use this to freshen up my face upon landing, while waiting at immigration, in a steamy airport. The list is endless.”

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray (oribe.com; US$20). “If you’re in a place where you can’t wash your hair, this gives it life.”

Grand Modus Resort Pattaya (centarahotels

Jao Hand Sanitizer (jaoltd.com; US$10). “Makeup artists use this on themselves between clients. It’s gentle and herbaceous.” Julie Hewett Camellia Balm Stick (juliehewett.net; US$16). “My lips get dry on planes; this is the fix—and it has no scent.”

resorts.com; doubles from Bt11,299) offers sunworshippers sea-views and a private stretch of Wong Amat Beach. Restaurants Michael Wendling, the chef behind Cuivre, is trying his hand at Thai cuisine with T for Thai (2/F, 1502 Huaihai Zhong Lu, Shanghai), in Shanghai. Cruises The European river-cruise season kicks off with a flotilla of new ships. Uniworld (uniworld.com) debuts the Catherine; Poetry II and Impression come online for Avalon Waterways (avalon​waterways.com); and Viking Cruises (vikingcruises.com) christens a whopping 14 new Longships.

goods

Shop Like a Venetian

Rare, a new boutique at the Gritti Palace hotel curated by jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia, is a modern-day cabinet of curiosities. One great find: this hand-carved-wood owl necklace, ever ready for flight. houseofwarisrare.com. —mimi lombardo 24

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F R O M T O P : J O H N L A W T O N ; V A N E S S A L E N Z / C O U R T E S Y O F H O U S E O F W A R I S ; 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

Almond & Coconut Kind Bar (kindsnacks.com; US$2). “It won’t melt, no matter where you are in the world.”

vying to become the next San Juan? The eight-room Casas del XVI (casas​delxvi. com; doubles from US$225) makes a strong case for a visit to the Dominican capital’s cobblestoned old quarter, thanks to butler service, a courtyard cigar bar and locally sourced antiques. In Thailand, the new Centara


S P ON SOR E D S E RIES

From left: The perfect escape, Lamai beach; Vana Spa comforts.

GUIDE

Serene Samui

Not all coconuts are created equal. Hardly profound, but that was what popped into my mind as I sat on the soft sands of Lamai Beach on Koh Samui sipping from the fruit. Maybe it was the view—a sundrenched shore fringed by palms—but at that moment I could have sworn it was the best thing I had ever tasted. It was hard to believe that only a few hours earlier I’d been in Bangkok. Worn down by the pressures of urban life, I’d come to the island seeking sanctuary. I’d wanted to escape to a place where time slowed down, where the sky was a paler shade of blue and the water neon aquamarine. The salt air awakened my appetite for something heartier, so I set off down the road in search of lunch,

settling finally on a quiet bay just south of Lamai. I took a seat at the Krua Chao Baan, a restaurant popular with in-the-know locals for seafood specialties such as pla nueng manao, steamed fish bathed in lemon and lavished with chilies, and gaeng som, a ferociously spicy southern staple. Tempting as both were, I opted instead for a platter of fat prawns glistening with sugary tamarind glaze. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more laid back, I ventured off to Vana Spa at Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, an intimate haven near Chaweng Beach. Despite its proximity to one of the island’s main hubs, the resort is in a world of its own, and its spa, perched on an incline by the sea, is divine. Whimsical creatures from

Thai mythology decorate the grounds, a nod to the local traditions that firmly ground the treatments inside. Sticking to a local theme here, I chose a Coconut Indulgence scrub, which left a delicious tropical scent on my skin. Then, my petite therapist tackled the tightly coiled knots through my back with a Swedish Massage, working through all of my city-induced tension. She pushed and kneaded, rubbing my skin with fragrant oil flecked with real gold. Bit by bit, I unwound. Later, thoroughly soothed and pampered, I returned to the beach to watch the sun melt into the horizon. There, in the dwindling daylight, the ocean breeze in my hair, I felt completely at peace. Better still, I could wake up the next day and do it all over again.

Getting There Bangkok Airways (bangkokair.com) and Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) fly directly to Koh Samui from Bangkok daily. Stay Vana Belle, Koh Samui 9/99 Moo 3, Chaweng Noi Beach; 66-77/915-555; luxurycollection. com/vanabelle Eat Krua Chao Baan 438/18 Moo. 1 Maret; 66-77/418589. Bang Po Seafood Ao Bang Po; 66-77/420-010. See Lamai Beach A quieter alternative to the ever-popular Chaweng. Taling Ngam A remote beach with views of Ang Thong National Marine Park.


Radar

a dv e n t u r e

Borneo in the Fast Lane Saddle up for a full-throttle motorcyle tour of the wild island’s untamed terrain. Story and photos by Ian Lloyd Neubauer

Clockwise from above: The Crocker Range; some of Borneo’s trees are centuries old; laundry day; the open road.

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The very name of the place, Borneo, evokes images of sweat-soaked explorers hacking paths through the jungle, of headhunters, orangutans, and pygmy elephants and rhinos. My vision of this untouched island may have been dated, but for years I’d dreamed of exploring Borneo on two wheels—navigating through a land steeped in mystery and intrigue where I’d motorcycle through waterfalls, follow fire trails to remote mountain villages and discover sleepy river towns. Now, I’m spending a weekend making that dream a reality, riding from Kota Kinabalu to the northern tip of Borneo with Bryan Wade, a former British motocross champion who, for the past eight years, has made a mission of showing his adopted island home to motorbike enthusiasts on a fleet of Aprilia 650cc trail bikes.

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Gray Steel, as I dubbed my Aprilia, roars with approval as I drop her into third gear, lean ever-so-slightly to the left, and shoot up along a sweeping incline of the Kimanis Bypass. A former logging route crossing the Crocker Range—a mountainous spine capped by Mt. Kinabalu, one of the mightiest peaks in all of Southeast Asia—it has the look and feel of something out of the French Alps and flips my preconception of Borneo on its head. Upwards it climbs like a phoenix through thickly forested ridges, where the relentless, steaming heat of the lowland dissipates into cool highland breezes that blow clouds and mist across the road over the rooftop of the world. After coasting down the southern face of the Crocker we charge into a valley carpeted with rice fields. The


Clockwise from above: Island sunsets; catch of the day; the “Alps” of Southeast Asia; stopping for snacks at a local market.

heat returns with a vengeance; Bryan suggests we counter it with swim at a little waterfall that lies at the end of the road. There, I park by a hut and we set off on a short walk through the jungle to a freshwater swimming pool fed by a 10-meter-high cascade. I nearly hiss with delight as I jump in for a swim, gazing at the beauty of some of the 15,000 species of flowering plants and 3,000 types of trees found in what is one of the world’s oldest rain forests. “This is Slalom,” Bryan says later as we come to another intersection that snakes down an uninterrupted 38-kilometer-long series of S-bends, swerves and tangles of switchbacks. At its conclusion, it drops us onto a four-lane highway that leads all the way to Kudat, the northernmost town in Borneo, where we stop at a Chinese

restaurant for a few bowls of spicy pork noodles and walk it off with a stroll to Kudat’s dockside fish market. The atmosphere is electric, though it’s the hawkers that make the memory gold—hardworking, friendly folk who gladly pose, beaming for photos even though they’re well aware we’re not buying anything. The last leg of the day takes us down a gravel track hugging a palmfringed coast. Bryan’s rear tire kicks up a cloud of dust as he races off, creating a long gray plume in his wake. An hour later we arrive at a parking lot on the headland at the very tip of Borneo, a lonely outpost where the sun melts into a blood-red horizon. “For me the attraction of Borneo is the diversity in the terrain,” Bryan says. “If you’re really quick, there’s all the Formula 1-type slaloms you could ever

wish for. If you want to go off-road, there are equivalent gravel routes on all our tours, or we can take you into the jungle and get up to your knees in mud. When you add up all the elements, Borneo really is the ultimate biker’s paradise.” After spending a day burning rubber on asphalt and dirt, I’ve seen enough to know Bryan is right—this truly is one of the world’s great motorbike touring destinations. But with only one day left, there’s no time to wax lyrical. There’s too much road left to ride. Borneo Biking Adventures; 61-13/552-7313; borneobiking adventures.com; guided motorbike tours of Sabah including airport transfers, bike insurance and fuel RM700 a day. Accommodation options range from RM150 to RM450, including breakfast and laundry. ✚

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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Ammo’s ultra-modern interior.

t+l p i c ks

The Art of Dining hong kong The Asia Society occupies a 19th-century compound once used by the British Army to store explosives. Its Euro-Asian restaurant, aptly named Ammo, is now a glass-walled space with striking spiral staircases suspended like chandeliers. ammo.com. hk; dinner for two HK$600.

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shanghai Art Lab, on the third floor of Shanghai’s oh-so-stylish Museum of Contemporary Art, blurs the line between restaurant and exhibition. The inventive space is as heavily decorated as any of the galleries and the cuisine is equally inspired. mocashanghai.org; dinner for two RMB400.

T TR RA AV VE E LL+ AL NEDILSEUI R SE UREASIA .COM

tokyo High on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower, home to the city’s venerable Mori Art Museum, Sunset Cafe offers gorgeous views of Roppongi Hills and a light bite for visitors feeling an appetite for more than one of Yayoi Kasumi’s installations. mori.art. museum.com; lunch for two ¥5,400.

london With its undulating fabric roof, the Magazine at Serpentine Sackler Gallery is unmistakably Zaha Hadid. German chef Oliver Lange shows off his Japanese training with a menu that includes both sushi and côte de boeuf. magazine-restaurant. co.uk; dinner for two £80.

paris Tout le monde is clamoring for a table at Monsieur Bleu, the modern brasserie in the Palais de Tokyo with a stylish, Deco-inspired design by Joseph Dirand. The best seat? On the terrace, with views the Eiffel Tower. monsieurbleu.com; dinner for two €130.  —carey jones and diana hubbell

COURTESY OF AMMO

Elevating food and design to a work of art, these museum restaurants are destinations in their own right.


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art

OUR CULTURAL HIT LIST

t h e at e r

Toni’s Time

philadelphia ↑ The extraordinary aesthetic achievements of the five-century Joseon dynasty are on display in “Treasures of Korea,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with 150-plus paintings, sculpture, ceramics and textiles. March 2–May 26; philamuseum.org.

Peripatetic actress Toni Collette—doing her second turn on Broadway this month—tells T+L about some of her favorite places. “The writing is so smart and beautiful,” says Toni Collette about Will Eno’s dark comedy The Realistic Joneses, in which she shares the stage with Tracy Letts, Marisa Tomei and Michael C. Hall. “He captures life, warts and all.” Smart, beautiful and at times unflinching are also ways to describe the actress—and her travel m.o. Here, Collette’s secret address book: Off-the-radar trek “I once fled the Toronto Film Festival to meet a boyfriend in Kathmandu. Sleeping under the stars, white-water rafting, playing soccer with local kids—it was all unforgettable. The only challenge was the leeches!” Top snorkeling spot “The 260-kilometer Ningaloo Reef, off of Australia—you can walk off the beach to swim with manta rays and whale sharks. Very few people know

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about it.” Sydney after dark “Vasco [vascobar.com] has the best cocktails in Australia. Chat Thai [chatthai.com.au; A$40], a hole-in-the-wall Thai joint, is open till 2 a.m. I’ve taken advantage many a time!” N.Y.C. haunts “If you walked by Tertulia [tertulianyc.om; US$80], in the West Village, you wouldn’t think twice, but the Spanish food is brilliant. Tuesday is karaoke night at Manhattan Inn [themanhattaninn.com], in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; the pianist, Joe McGinty, can help anyone through a tune.”  Family vacation “At Blancaneaux Lodge [coppolaresorts.com; doubles from US$359], in Belize, we swam under waterfalls, checked out wildlife, and had wonderful massages—all while eating and drinking well.” —sar a bliss

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

↑ london The National Gallery showcases 50 splendid works by the 17th-century Venetian master Veronese. In a city renowned for its opulence—and artistic talent—this virtuoso of color and light managed to outshine them all. March 19– June 15; nationalgallery.org.uk. hong kong → At The Hong Kong Museum of History, the “Images Through Time: Photos of Old Hong Kong” exhibit offers a rare glimpse of the SAR’s past from the museum’s collection of more than 14,000 vintage snapshots. Until April 21; hkhistory.museum. —peter webster and diana hubbell

↓ singapore “A Changed World,” at the National Museum of Singapore, focuses on local works of art between the 50’s and 70’s, a time of change for the Lion City. Through March 16; nationalmuseum.sg.

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

Four shows dedicated to another place and time.


m ov i e s

The World According to Wes

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P R I G H T: M A R T I N S C A L I ; C O U R T E S Y O F F O X S E A R C H L I G H T P I C T U R E S ; M A R T I N S C A L I ( 2 ) ; D A N R E S T; © R O H / B I L L C O O P E R ; E R N E S T O R U S C I O / G E T T Y I M A G E S

Filmmaker Wes Anderson takes T+L on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Hotel To create the exterior (left), Anderson combed the Photochrom Print Collection at the Library of Congress for tinted Austro-Hungarian cityscapes: “It’s partly inspired by Carlsbad’s Grandhotel Pupp [pupp.cz; €153].” The set for the lobby was built in eastern Germany’s 1912 Görlitzer Warenhaus department store (kaufhaus-goerlitz.de).

For this month’s release—which stars Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes as a debonair concierge in a fictitious hotel— Anderson traveled though Eastern Europe on a hunt for set locations and characters. “I like working abroad because the whole process is an adventure, and it’s the most fun way to learn about a place,” he says. One takeaway: “Prague has been all cleaned up, but Budapest still has a little bit of a time-warp feeling.” Known for creating whimsical realms, the filmmaker borrowed references from Ernst Lubitsch musicals, Jugendstil architecture and Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain for his own version of a grand hotel. Here, a view from behind the lens. — sh an e mitchell

Les Troyens, at La Scala, Milan

Hercules, at Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company

The Staff “Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, arranged a cocktail party in Prague and invited concierges from Les Clefs d’Or [uichlesclefsdor.org],” Anderson said. “They told us about their work—which was different back when people used to stay in hotels for months on end.” In the film, the international organization becomes “The Society of the Crossed Keys”—note the pin on Ralph Fiennes’s lapel. The Spa “The Gellért Spa [gellertspa.com], in Budapest, is an amazing thermal bath. We also looked at how Czech spa towns changed architecturally during the Communist era’s utilitarian renovations.” That’s Jude Law steeping at right.

opera

Musical Drama Gounod’s Faust (May 9–11; operahongkong.org) takes to the stage in Hong Kong at the Grand Theatre in Hong Kong Cultural Centre. In Milan, La Scala unveils David McVicar’s production of Les Troyens (April 8–30; teatroallascala.org), Berlioz’s magisterial adaptation of Virgil’s Aeneid, with Anna Caterina Antonacci as the prophetess Cassandra. Meanwhile in Canada, Handel’s Hercules, directed by Peter Sellars, comes to Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company (April 5–30; coc.ca) —P.W. and D.H. 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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on the map

Bohemian Battambang

Sleek new resto-bars, cafés and creative spaces signal a culinary and cultural renaissance in arty Battambang. By Lara Dunston

Clockwise from top: A lazy evening in Battambang; swish cocktails at Jaan Bai; Jewel in the Lotus boxes; bags by Jewel in the Lotus.

1 Leading the renaissance is stylish new resto-bar Jaan Bai (St. 2; 855-78/263144; cambodianchildrens trust.org; dinner for two US$30), backed by Bangkok chef David Thompson. Expect creative cocktails, fashionable small sharing plates, pan-Asian dishes and Thai classics.

Sip Cambodia’s finest coffee at Kinyei Café (St. 1½; 855-17/860-003; kinyei.org; espresso US$1.50, toasties US$2), an espresso bar with rustic furniture, where Cambodia’s 2013 barista champion Sakana Long makes her award-winning Cambodian Cappuccino, with palm sugar, pineapple syrup and coconut milk. 2

3 Cafe Eden (85 St.1; 855-53/731-525; cafeeden cambodia.com; breakfast for

two US$10) is a brunch favorite for its bagels, crêpes and huevos rancheros. It’s also the spot for sunset beers, sidewalk seating and an upstairs balcony for prime riverside peoplewatching. Antique floor tiles and clever touches like menus printed on wine bottles give Eden a rustic bohemian charm that’s old-school Battambang. Local institution Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh (145 4

St. 2; lunch for two US$5), known simply as Chinese Noodle by expats, won’t win awards for its décor, but the unassuming hole-in-thewall serves up sublime hand-pulled noodles and dumplings made to order. 5 At re-launched Sammaki Gallery (87 St. 2½; facebook.

com/sammakibtb), home to

Photographed by Terence Carter


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Clockwise from top: Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh serves some of the best noodles in town; Kinyei Café boasts top-notch beans and baristas; Lotus Gallery & Bar’s stylish interior; Make Maek gallery; Battambang Bikes; light-filled Sammaki Gallery.

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Battambang’s first professional barista school— courtesy of the Vittoria Coffee brand—you can get your caffeine fix while browsing local art. The light-filled gallery has a library and community space where Phare Ponleu Selpak performing arts school graduates like to peruse books or edit films. 6 Check out an eclectic range of Cambodian-made gifts at the hippy-chic boutique of local artist Khchao Touch and her curator husband Darren Swallow. Jewel in the Lotus (76 St. 2½; 855-9/260158) sells retro posters and CDs from Cambodia’s Golden Age, traditional kramas (scarves), hill tribe textiles, and handmade soaps and incense. 7 Operated by Battambang artist Mao Soviet, Make Maek (66 St. 2½; 855-17/946108; makemaek.com) is a contemporary gallery with an artist-in-residence program, library and regular new exhibitions.

8 Rent a retro 1970’s-style bike or a mountain bike from Battambang Bikes (60 St. 2½; 855-97/482-4104; thebattambangbike.com; bike rentals from US$2 to US$8 per day), a hire shop and community space for cycling enthusiasts, with complimentary Wi-Fi and coffee. Owners Jam and Tha also offer art- and architecture-themed tours and country rides. 9 Swallow’s Lotus Gallery & Bar (53 St. 2½; 855-9/260-

158) is a snazzy new bar and

gallery set in a restored shop house. With regular DJs, performance artists and experimental sound events, there’s always something going on. A Culinary Institute of America-trained chef helms the kitchen, doing classic burgers, and dishes with a southern-U.S. twist. ✚ 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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Radar Beers with buddies at Beertopia.

pet peeves

ADAM TIHANY ON HOTEL DESIGN

events

The Hotel Safe It has to be at eye level and well-lit, or else you’re in the dark, on all fours, trying to plug in numbers and hurting your back. Tiny Amenities I hate little soaps. They always fall onto the floor of the shower. And the labels are hard to read, especially if you wear glasses. Do Not Disturb Signs I am convinced that people move these things in the middle of the night.  —As told to Jacqueline Gifford

Tap Dance

Hong Kong’s only craft beer festival, Beertopia, is back—and it’s bigger and better than ever. By Helen Dalley Now raising a glass to its third year, Beertopia has a new location on the West Kowloon Waterfront and will showcase around 400 different ales—almost twice as many as last year. When not sampling bottles from around the world—there’s everything from Passion Max fruit beer from Belgium to Sevens Oatmeal Stout from Hong Kong—ale aficionados can mingle in the singles tent, to test the age-old adage of college-poster fame, “Beer: Helping Ugly People Have Sex since 1862.” The less amorously inclined can still get into the spirit with other college

throwbacks, like beer pong and Twister. To learn a thing or two, mosey over to the seminars on food and beer pairings, or burn off the beer by dancing to live performances from local acts. When the munchies strike, hit the food stalls: try dry-aged beef from the Butchers Club, chili cheese dogs and poutine from New York Fries, and sashimi platters from Sugo. Beertopia will be held at the West Kowloon Waterfront on March 13-15 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.; beertopiahk.com; a VIP three-day pass, HK$930, single session tickets from HK$280.

t u to r i a l

How to Fold a Towel Origami Swan We admit it: we’ve always had a fondness for so-corny-they’re-cute towel animals. Samson Macwan, a butler at Sandals Emerald Bay (sandals.com; from US$330), in the Bahamas, shows how to create a conversation piece.

1

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Hold bath towel lengthwise, tucking center under chin. Roll sides tightly at an angle toward center to form a scroll with a pointed tip.

Keeping rolls intact, place towel on flat surface, rolled side down. Fold in half, bringing pointed tip all the way back.

Fold tip back again to form an “S” shape. Hold in place for a few seconds to create creases, then release. Shape beak and neck.

Pleat second towel lengthwise to form an accordion.

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

5 Drape second towel over swan’s body. Fan pleats to create wings. Primp tail to swanlike elegance. —peter schlesinger

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

We asked the interiors guru, whose third monograph is being published this month by Rizzoli, for his guest-room gripes.


r e s tau r a n t s

Ship Shape

COURTESY OF SHEEPSHANK PUBLIC HOUSE

An old shipyard gets new life with a trendsetting eatery. By Diana Hubbell Bangkok’s riverfront was once the domain of derelict shop houses and street-side noodle joints. These days though, cutting-edge restaurants are swinging open their doors by the shores of the Chao Phraya. Sheepshank Public House, the latest of the lot, is located in a former shipyard. Sporting an industrial look leftover from its nautical days—think raw brick and exposed bulbs suspended by antique pulleys—the place is hip without ever veering hipster. What sets it apart from its too-trendy peers is a solid menu of rustic, farm-totable friendly food like rack of lamb with caramelized persimmons, brown-butter slicked oxtail tortelloni, or glazed duck confit. Since Sheepshank is run by the same team behind Seven Spoons, one of Bangkok’s other havens of elevated comfort food, ingredients are natural and local wherever possible. With a mix of international influences, the cuisine is tough to categorize, but easy to like—it already has Bangkokians flocking across town for a taste. 47 Phra Athtit Rd., Bangkok; 66-2/629-5165; sheepshankpublichouse.com; dinner for two Bt1,500.

Sheepshank serves farm-totable dishes in an industrial setting.


Radar

High-style décor at Seven Terraces. Bottom: The men behind the design, Karl Steinberg and Christopher Ong.

expert

Mansion Men

Hoteliers Christopher Ong and Karl Steinberg made their names in Sri Lanka, renovating a 17th-century merchant’s house into the stunning Galle Fort Hotel. Ex-banker Ong and Steinberg, a former TV director, then turned to Ong’s hometown, Penang, where their acclaimed projects include Seven Terraces, a lavish re-imagining of a traditional Peranakan mansion that opened in 2013. Their as-yetunnamed next project, also in Penang, is set to debut this autumn.

colonial Asia, and it was unspoiled because of the war. Also, I’m a contrarian investor—I look for value. With the ceasefire, I thought we’d get a peace dividend. We could buy the best property, and we had time to learn.

Why did you start in Sri Lanka? Christopher Ong: One of my passions

them guesthouses. KS: It’s a bit like staying with friends who’ve got a fantastic pad.

is old Asia. It was the epitome of 36

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What ties your projects together? Karl Steinberg: Heritage is the key. It’s

about finding beautiful buildings that wouldn’t otherwise survive and giving them sustainable use.

And the vibe you want to create in your hotels? CO: I don’t call them hotels—I call

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF SEVEN TERR ACES

The visionaries behind some of Asia’s hottest new hotels and most stylish renovations, Christopher Ong and Karl Steinberg are leaving their high-design mark on the region. By Jeff Chu


How do you divide your work responsibilities? CO: Food and beverage is very much

my area—Karl can’t even boil an egg.

KS: It differs from project to project,

but I usually supervise the builders. CO: He’s very good at project management. Both of us are very creative, and we push the envelope with each other. We challenge each other’s ideas all the time.

All of your hotels have had fewer than 20 rooms. KS: We often think, could we take a

really big hotel and create something exceptional? I’m not sure. Above 20 rooms, it becomes different. What’s your favorite hotel, excepting your own? CO: Bangkok is our stopover city

whenever we fly other places and now we usually stay at the Sofitel So. KS: It’s the staff. Beautiful rooms, but exceptional staff. CO: They make people feel welcome. And I try to do that as well, especially with our return guests. We don’t take people for granted.

KS: For us, it’s as useful to see unsuccessful hotels. We recently stayed at a really big-brand hotel in Paris. They got it completely wrong— the feel, the balance of modern and old, the lack of appreciation for the amazing building they had. Wacky light fittings and Scandinavian chairs are not enough. People are paying for an amazing experience.

KS: All our hotels have been acts of passion. You have to be crazy about it—otherwise you’d never be able get through the process. ✚

What’s next? CO: It doesn’t have a name yet, but

we’re calling it “Muntri Grove” for now. It’s 10 old workers’ houses. KS: We actually managed to buy the entire street. CO: It’s much more modest than Seven Terraces. We’re trying to give people affordable luxury. It’s not Peranakan grandeur; it’s more utilitarian, with clean lines and minimal Asian chic. And then? CO: We’ve been charmed by

rural France—the space, the history, the culture. We’re absolutely smitten. But we don’t necessarily want to do anything else. This might be it.

Gilded Peranakan antiques decorate the suites in Seven Terraces.


Radar food

Six Dishes: Bali

Our abridged, meal-by-meal guide to where to eat now. By Holly McDonald.

breakfast Balinese nasi campur (Balinese mixed dishes with rice) at Made Weti’s Warung

lunch Babi guling (suckling pig) at Merah Putih

snack Sate lilit ikan (fish satay) at Warung Mertha Sari

This decades-old street-side joint serves an array of dishes with rice. Ayam panggang, shredded chicken, is a highlight, while the urap salad bursts with tender-crisp greens. End of Jln. Ayu Segara, Sanur; 8 a.m. to midday; rice with toppings for two Rp40,000.

Bali’s original nose-to-tail dish is given a high-end spin. A suckling pig is roasted for five hours in a spice paste; the belly, cheek, liver and skin are then used in impeccably presented dishes. Jln. Petitenget No.100x, Kerobokan; merahputihbali.com; suckling pig with side dishes for two Rp190,000.

It’s the spiced minced fish on sticks grilled over charcoal that draws the crowds here. This warung’s Balinese version of satay is sweet and subtly flavored, served with rice and a fiery sambal of Asian shallots and chilies. Jln. Pesinggahan, Tuban; satays and snacks for two Rp50,000.

dinner Lawar (Balinese meat salad) at Pak Kodi’s

dessert Bubur injin (Black sticky rice pudding) at Mamasan

for the flight home Pia (cake) at Pia Legong

Pak Kodi’s is famed for its version of lawar, a Balinese salad made of minced pork and offal with young jackfruit, fresh coconut, galangal, chilies and spices—and fresh blood. If you’re after a genuine culinary adventure, this is the real deal. Gang Harum No. 10, off Jln. Sekuta, Sanur; dinner only; lawar for two Rp30,000.

You can find bubur injin, or black sticky rice pudding, across Southeast Asia but the version at sophisticated Mamasan is simmered with Javanese palm sugar and lychee water. The local rice comes with mango and housemade ice cream. Jln. Raya Kerobokan No. 135, Seminyak; mamasanbali.com; dessert for two Rp100,000.

It’s essential to order these buttery cakes filled with mung-bean paste, chocolate or sweet cheese by e-mail in advance—they sell quickly when doors open. They come in boxes designed as souvenirs but you’ll want to try at least one yourself while it’s still warm. Ngurah Rai Bypass, Ruko Kuta Megah 12/L, Kuta; Rp80,000 per box of eight.

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Photographed by Putu Sayoga


Radar the moment

ARAVALLI RANGE, RAJASTHAN 8:14 P.M.

Evening in the bush at Jawai Leopard Camp, in Rajasthan, India.

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C O U R T ESY O F JAWA I L EO PA R D C A M P

It’s dinnertime, but before you lift a fork of paprikainfused lamb to your lips, you pause again to look at the stars. At Jawai Leopard Camp, a new eight-tent lodge in a remote part of India, there is little man-made light. A half-moon throws a gentle glow on the granite hills, where red-turbaned Rabari herdsmen share their land with hyenas, jackals and even the leopard your guide pointed out on safari last night. Tomorrow you may visit the unesco World Heritage site Kumbhalgarh Fort or bird-watch at Jawai Bandh reservoir, but now you have just one item on your agenda: ducking into your creature-comfort-filled canvas tent for the kind of sleep that only comes after a day in the wild. sujanluxury.com; Rs40,000 all-inclusive double.  —lisa grainger


drink

Pairing to a Tea

FROM TOP: COURTESY OF DIL M A H RE A L HIGH TE A (2); COURTESY OF DA NIEL TUDOR (2)

If you fancy a cup of tea, you may just swoon over a whole plate of it. Dilmah’s gets creative with this much-loved brew, with surprising concoctions that will leave you wanting more. By Helen Dalley Sri Lankan tea company Dilmah’s Real High Tea Challenge will arrive in Greater China, the cradle of tea culture, this month with events in Hong Kong and Macau. Launched in 2007 to underline the importance of tea as a key ingredient in gastronomy, the challenge encourages chefs to showcase the versatility of tea both as a drink and as part of a dish. One recent stand-out savory recipe is prawns cooked sous vide in a Single Estate Oolong aspic paired with Sencha Green Extra Special, with the Sencha’s natural sweetness complementing the prawn. For dessert try the warm chocolate and Dilmah Pure Peppermint Tea fondant with chili lime ice cream and honeycomb paired with Mediterranean Mandarin tea, where the chocolate-andpeppermint infused center highlights the citrus notes of the dish. Hotels across the region are clamoring to get in on the fun—in Hong Kong, W, the Ritz-Carlton and both Langham hotels are creating similarly tea-centric dishes, while Macau’s entrants include The Grand Hyatt, Galaxy and the Mandarin Oriental.

Author Daniel Tudor.

As yum cha (tea drinking) is integral to Hong Kong and Macau culture—it’s impossible to imagine dim sum without a pot of jasmine or pu-erh on the side—Dilmah is excited to see how chefs in the region will interpret the challenge. Dilhan J. Fernando, son of Dilmah founder Merrill says the judges will be looking for “creativity and excellence in the cultural, wellness and provenance aspects while emphasizing the basics in terms of flavor, texture, harmony, aroma and the rationale of tea served with food at a high tea.” The bar has been set high, so competition should be tight. Dilmah’s High Tea Challenge will also travel to Malaysia in March, Thailand in April, Singapore in May, then India and Japan in November. The winning dishes will be featured in the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge cookbook, and each country winner will compete for the ultimate tea accolade, the Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge, next January. Dilmah’s Real High Tea Challenge will be held on March 10 in Macau and March 12 in Hong Kong at Hotel Icon; realhightea.dilmahtea.com.

Sip, sup and snack at Dilmah’s Real High Tea Challenge, coming to Hong Kong and Macau.

b o o ks

SEOUL MAN Diana Hubbell speaks with Daniel Tudor about his newly released book, Korea: The Impossible Country, and the changing face of the nation’s capital. Q: How would you describe Seoul? A: It’s a little bit Blade Runner-y, very futuristic and all. Things happen so fast and there’s always something new. The hipster revolution is coming, I’m afraid. But once you get into the back streets you still find tiny restaurants run by little old ladies.

Q: What was the most interesting part of putting together this book? A: I interviewed a lot of people who were very open. You don’t always get that in Korea. I tried to get people who were directly involved in the events described. One guy was jailed in the 70’s and now he’s the mayor of Seoul.

Q: What’re you working on now? A: I opened a bar recently with a couple of friends called The Booth (theboothpub.com; drinks for two W10,000) where we’re brewing our own craft beer. I’m also in the process writing a book about the lives of ordinary people in North Korea.

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Radar trending

Boutique Blitz

Cookie-cutter hotel rooms in sky-rise towers lack that je ne sais quoi many of today’s intrepid explorers are seeking—the personal touches, the quirky décor, the local vibe. To sate that appetite, boutique options are popping up all across Asia. By Gabrielle Jaffe

Bangkok has seen an explosion in boutique residences in recent years, and one refurbished gem in the Thai capital is Hotel Cabochon (14/29 Sukhumvit Soi 45, Bangkok; cabochonhotel.com; doubles from Bt3,800), housed in a set of four-story Art Deco blocks, and crowned by a rooftop swimming pool. Its eight suites and studios charm guests with quirky styling and eccentric antiques. Formerly a royal residence, the Chakrabongse Villas (396 Maharaj, Bangkok; chakrabongsevillas.com; queens from Bt5,600) has been incarnated as four individual suites set in a luxuriant riverside garden, a great place to hide from the city’s din. With its swooping Ratanakosinera-style rooftops and dark-wood interiors, the newly opened Sireeampan Boutique Resort & Spa

(88/8 Moo 1, Tambon Changpuak, Chiang Mai; 66-53/327-777; sireeampan. com; doubles from Bt10,000) up in shady Chiang Mai has charisma to spare. The 11-suite resort is designed to resemble a lavish Thai home, albeit one with modern perks such as Apple TVs and Nescafe espresso machines. Clockwise from above: Crisp Art Deco style at Hotel Cabochon; colonial touches pepper the rooms at Jeeva Saba; the walled courtyard garden at Hotel Clover is a jungle of creepers.

Burma

As Burma opens to the world, there has been a flowering of well-appointed accommodations such as Bagan Lodge (Myat Lay Rd., New Bagan; bagan-lodge.com; doubles from US$180). On the doorstep of one of the world’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites, this hotel offers a blend of traditional Burmese, colonialera and contemporary design as well as a swimming pool and spa to help escape Bagan’s hot, dusty plains.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M TO P : C O U R T E S Y O F J E E VA S A B A ; C O U R T E S Y O F H O T E L C O V E R ; C O U R T E S Y O F H O T E L C A B O C H O N

Thailand


One of the first boutique offerings in the Burmese capital, The Loft (33 Yaw Min Gyi St., Rangoon; theloftyangon.com; doubles from US$142) is located in a converted warehouse on a quintessential Rangoon street lined with Raj-era buildings. Its industrial-chic rooms provide an ideal base from which to explore nearby sites—stop by Scott Market and Sule pagoda.

CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: COURTESY OF HOTEL KOSENDA; COURTESY OF THE EMPEROR BEIJING QIANMEN; COURTESY OF BAGAN LODGE

China

Beijing boasts thousands of hotels, but for years Emperor Beijing Forbidden City has been one of only a handful of boutiques in the city. Now the team behind the original has opened Emperor Beijing Qianmen (33 Qihelou St., Beijing; theemperor.com. cn; doubles from RMB800) in historic Qianmen, with impressive views from its rooftop bar and swimming pool, and China’s first L’Occitane spa. Housed in a 600-year-old temple complex, the eight-room Temple Hotel (23 Shatan North St., Beijing; thetemplehotel.com; doubles from RMB2,000) is another exciting opening in the Chinese capital. This colorful property has a gallery exhibiting prominent artists such as James Turrell, who more typically shows in New York’s Guggenheim.

Saba (8 Jln. Pura Anyar II, Bali;

Singapore

jeevasaba.com; six-bedroom villa from US$805) offers much more. Set on a hectare of landscaped grounds with a banyan tree welcoming guests at the entrance, this eight-bedroom private estate offers an atmospheric Asian colonial-style setting and 24-hour butler service.

India

From the reclaimed teak furnishings and fabrics sourced from vintage saris to floors inlaid with custom-designed tiles (courtesy of a local tile-maker whose methods have not changed in 100 years), the 20-room Abode Hotel (1F, Landsowne House, M.B. Marg, Mumbai; adobeboutiquehotels.com; doubles from Rs3,500) showcases the best of eclectic, slick modern Mumbai.

Nestled in Far East Square, a cultural heritage project to preserve the shoreline where Chinese immigrants first arrived in Singapore, the 37-room AMOY (76 Telok Ayer St., Singapore; stayfareast.com.sg; singles from S$218) features myriad reflections of its neighborhood’s history, such as the blue-and-white ceramic sinks. To enter, visitors stroll through a museum that was once a Taoist temple. Located in a preserved shop house in Kampong Glam quarter, the 27-room Hotel Clover (769 North Bridge Rd., Singapore; hotelclover.com; singles from S$176) mixes a minimalist aesthetic with original architectural features. The inner courtyard’s walled garden, tastefully lined with creepers, offers sanctuary from the city. ✚

Indonesia Hotel Kosenda (127 Jln. KH Wahid

Hasyim, Jakarta; kosendahotel.com; doubles from Rp688,000) stands out from the drab blocks that make up most of Jakarta thanks to the stylized design and handmade furnishings provided by local architects and artists. The rooms abound in thoughtful touches including batik sandals and artisanal coffee. Housed in a restored Art Deco building, House Sangkuriang (1 Jln. Sangkuriang, Bandung; houseindonesia.com; doubles from US$89) brings classy accommodation to Indonesia’s third largest city, Bandung. Unwind with a swim in the hotel’s infinity pool overlooking the lush green expanses of Babakan Siliwangi park. Most of Bali’s resorts are content to rest on their ocean views but Jeeva

Clockwise from top: The work of local aritists at Hotel Kosenda; L’Occitane spa at Beijing Qianman Emperor; Bagan Lodge, an escape from the dusty plains.

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Radar

t r av e l d i a r y

Destination: Namibia

Just back from the African country’s dramatic sand dunes and wildlifefilled reserves, Laura Begley Bloom shares a few of her favorite finds.

h Local Souvenir Wood-and-seed earrings from Okahirongo, where I also got the best wake-up call on the trip: an elephant purring just outside my window.

The Takeaway

Top View Watching animals gather around the watering hole, left, at Onguma The Fort (onguma. com; doubles from R2,700 per person), a hotel near Etosha National Park.

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Biggest Surprise The cosmopolitan vibe of Windhoek, the capital, home to the super-stylish Olive Exclusive hotel (theolivenamibia.com; doubles from R1,980). Wildest Meal Zebra steaks and oryx schnitzel at Joe’s Beerhouse (joesbeerhouse. com), in Windhoek. Great Escape Pelican Point Lodge (pelicanpointlodge. com; doubles from R2,718 per person), set in a working lighthouse on a finger of sand jutting into the Atlantic. Didn’t Need My bathing suit: Namibia’s cool desert nights make the pools too chilly for swimming. Expert Guide Micato Safaris (micato.com) helped plan my itinerary, including a visit with a nomadic Himba tribe —a must on my wish list.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P R I G H T: J O N AT H A N B L O O M ( 3 ) ; J O H N L A W T O N ; J O N AT H A N B L O O M ; J O H N L A W T O N ; J O N AT H A N B L O O M ; C E N T E R : J O H N L A W T O N ( 2 )

Most Memorable Sundowner g I'm having an end-of-day drink at Okahirongo Elephant Lodge (okahirongolodge.com; doubles from R4,285 per person all-inclusive), in the Kaokoveld—known for its rare desert elephants and black rhinos.

The Sands of Sossusvlei I didn’t quite make it to the top of Dune 45, right. We stayed nearby at Little Kulala (wilderness-safaris.com; doubles from R7,404 per person), where I coveted the ostrich eggshell chandeliers, above, and bought this recycled glass necklace, above right.


Point of View

The Making of a Travel Writer

A

few years back a friend of mine took me out to eat with several recent college graduates. As soon as I was introduced as a novelist, the cheerful, sangria-fueled table stopped chattering as my new friends tried to digest exactly what that meant. “So… you…write…books.” It reminded me of one of the first questions I was asked at a reading after my first book came out: “What’s the difference between, like, fiction and a novel?” Since that reading took place in Los Angeles, the next

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question was to be expected: “So who directed your book?” This time around, I knew to head off the conversation at the pass immediately. “I also write about travel,” I said, to a chorus of “Wow!” and “Awesome!” and “Where was the last place you went?” and “Isn’t Bangkok’s new airport the bomb?” The ascendancy of travel writing as a serious endeavor is not exactly new. It’s possible to think of Don Quixote as an extended travelogue, and, if you’re so inclined, the Book of Exodus. As a teacher of fiction writing at Columbia

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

University, I am no longer surprised when my students drop by during office hours with the question, “How do I break into travel writing?” To write well about travel requires an emotional attachment to the idea that life is composed of a series of shifts. Being an immigrant, or someone with roots in more than one culture, helps. But really all it takes is being an emotional immigrant. The next place you land should seem as real to you, if not more real, than the place you left behind. When I was six, my family left Leningrad for a one-week ➔

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

iPhone-reliant novelist Gary Shteyngart on how he travels, and why.


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Point of View stay in Vienna, followed by a half-year in Rome, followed by a small lifetime in Queens, New York. Our existence was an endless trail of train stations and airports, men in official hats bearing heavy passport stamps, the crunch of authority against travel documents. And because I was a child and lacked any sense of tragedy—the tragedy of leaving one’s culture and language behind—each newly cracked train timetable, each fog-choked airplane takeoff was thrilling. When we hunkered down in Queens for 10 years of relative poverty and zero plane travel, I was heartbroken. Why weren’t we moving? I spent large parts of my childhood on my grandmother’s fire escape, watching TWA 707’s nosing into LaGuardia. Today’s traveler is often confronted by hordes of newly minted tourists from Russia and China. Some bemoan their lack of manners, but I am glad to see people from repressed places let out of their holding pens. My aunt left the Soviet Union during the tail end of the Gorbachev era, and she used her tiny salary to travel as far as Switzerland and Japan, living on air and water, sometimes solely on air. Many of us exSoviets grew up with the idea that the best you can do with your life is to pack your luggage and head for the airport. There are differences in how one conducts the Grand Tour these days. Chinese and Russian travelers, whether in groups or alone, seem to pass through the traditional gauntlet of museums and temples. Whenever I return to St. Petersburg, I pay my respects to the Hermitage, cultural duty mixing with childhood memories. But I cannot remember the last time a museum visit has truly moved me, or radically changed the way I perceived the lay of the land. Maybe the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, in Seoul, did the trick, the quiet brilliance of its celadon ceramics contrasting nicely with the electronic hustle outside. The fact that the museum carries the name of Samsung made it doubly so. But many of us now want more than the chance to see our jet-lagged faces 50

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reflected in a museum vitrine. The contemporary Western traveler wants to see the lives of others—maybe actually live them (cue Airbnb). Blown away by Shanghai, saddened that I had only a few days there, I found myself transfixed by the postings outside a real estate office. My mind flashed with figures. If the average Shanghai resident earns x per year, how on earth can she afford to buy an apartment for y? Real estate prices, the hunt for the best soup dumpling in town, the thrill of nearly having your leg shorn off by some motorized post-donkey-cart—all of these come together to form our impressions of a place. Each of them can be the start or end of a travel piece.

I know I’ve hit upon something when, deep in the night, someone whispers to me, ‘Please don’t quote me, okay? But everything here is a lie’ I used to jot down my travel notes in miniature reporter’s notebooks, but now most of my notes are typed on an iPhone and make for a long string of non sequiturs when I return home. “Some of Dubai’s pale-brick mega-architecture oddly mirrors the Creedmor mental facility in Queens.” “Eat around the actual fish and u find little morsels of flava.” “Emiratis r really into decoration.” Off-the-cuff iPhone photos—an ATM dispensing gold jewelry in Abu Dhabi, for example—complement these musings. Returning to my hotel late at after shots of Turkish raki or Chinese baijiu, I can whip out the laptop and make some truly grandiose generalizations along the lines of “Damaged people from a damaged country can’t just suddenly become whole.”

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Another key to travel writing is to have friends. Like a CIA agent cultivating new operatives, I think half the reason I still attend parties is to make sure that when I fly into BKK or HKG, or even ATL, I will have someone on the ground who knows the place better than I know my own New York. Because I’m not looking as much for the sights, or the shops or even the food stalls (okay, maybe the food stalls), as I am for opinions. I want to get off a plane and start chatting right away, seeing the landscape through seasoned eyes, and typing “Emiratis r really into decoration.” I want to hear not just the exultations about the best fried chicken on the planet and the second best tripe in Lazio, but also great outpourings of disappointment and regret. To steal from Tolstoy: each happy country is alike (and dreadfully boring, I might add); each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way. I know I’ve hit upon something when, deep into the night, the lights of some garish new skyscrapers twinkling off until dusk, someone whispers to me some version of: “Please don’t quote me, okay? But everything here is a lie.” Often I’m afraid. Not for my life so much. These days, from Ramallah to Baku, the world is shockingly safe. I’m afraid I won’t get it right. That I’ll bring too many biases. That I won’t see the lies. When my plane lands in Beijing, a city of 20 million, I know I have just eight days to come up with something original and insightful about the place. Yes, I’ve already made all the right connections before boarding at Newark and tonight I will meet a Chinese American former rock star who, if his Internet musings are anything to go by, is one of the smartest and funniest people in the People’s Republic. And so, jet-lagged but full of purpose, swinging my luggage from escalator to moving walkway, cutting off that truly annoying Belgian couple whose child has been drooling on me for 20 hours, running toward the bittersweet word immigration, with the universal symbol of a man in a cap examining an open book, I begin my new life. ✚


your travel dilemmas solved ➔ f i n d t h e h o t e l b r a n d t h a t ’ s b e s t f o r y o u 54 … c a n t o u r o p e r a t o r s s av e y o u m o n e y ? 60 … h o w t o s av e o n y o u r n e x t r o o m 63 … pa c k a b l e c l o t h e s f o r u n p r e d i c t a b l e w e a t h e r 64

Trip Doctor

anantara (pictured) “Each resort reflects the country it’s in.”

dorchester collection “Love the bathtubs—very deep and very large.”

LOCATION SERVICE WINE

CLEAN

A panoramic view of Anantara Golden Triangle.

BATHROOMS

DESIGN four seasons hotels & resorts “They make you feel like the Queen.”

C O U R T E S Y O F A N A N TA R A G O L D E N T R I A N G L E

westin “The adults-only pools are perfect.”

POOLS

FREE

la quinta inns & suites “The waffle machines are the best!”

BREAKFAST

best western “It’s great that these budget hotels offer free Wi-Fi— ironic that the most expensive places make you pay for it.”

INTERNET

BEDS PETS

hilton hotels & resorts “The soft down beds feel like home.”

hotel brands special report (turn page)

WHAT MAKES A GREAT HOTEL BRAND? In our annual World’s Best Awards survey, we asked readers to tell us their thoughts about hotel companies across the globe—from luxe to low-key. Here’s a look at the buzzwords that appeared most often in their comments (size indicates frequency).

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special report

Strategies

Vote now! Tell us your favorite hotel brands, tour operators, cruise lines, airlines, and more on the World’s Best Awards 2014 survey, live through March 31, at TLWorldsBest.com/intl

Booking a hotel these days can be overwhelming: new names are appearing alongside established ones, and they’re competing for your attention, your dollars, and above all, your loyalty. T+L has the scoop on the latest trends to help you find the one that’s right for you. PLUS Our favorite amenities, how to snag perks with social media, and more. 

by andrew sessa, with additional reporting by nikki ekstein, nina fedrizzi, melanie lieberman and peter schlesinger 54

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The lobby of the Four Seasons in Shenzhen, China.

C H R I S T O P H E R K U C W AY

HOTEL BRANDS 101


special report

Strategies BRAND TRENDS

Tech-Friendly Retreats

Hyper-Local Haunts

Design Hubs

Millennial Outposts

All-Inclusive Resorts

Starwood’s Aloft is piloting Apple TV’s at its Cupertino, California, property and will soon offer remote mobile check-in at dozens of its hotels. Not to be outdone, Conrad is raising the bar with its Conrad Concierge app, which lets guests book hotel services remotely, be it airport pickup or the timing of their dinner. Mandarin Oriental will soon be rolling out DVR’s and HD Internet TV’s in its guest rooms. Peninsula, meanwhile, remains unmatched for its customized in-room tablets, introduced at the Hong Kong flagship, with everything from temperature controls to flight schedules.

The best way to create a sense of place? Draw in the locals. This approach was pioneered by Ace Hotels, a collection of five U.S. properties with a growing overseas presence, whose lobbies and restaurants have become neighborhood hangouts. Hyatt’s Andaz lures tuned-in residents with friendly settings for after-work drinks and an Andaz Salon series where cultural insiders host events. In Chicago, the first of Ian Schrager’s new Public brand, which will expand to New York City and Florida by 2017, has an event space for poetry readings and screenings.

Hotel groups are launching collections that showcase architects and designers, following the lead of such brands as Park Hyatt, which has turned to big names and firms for its properties (Tony Chi; Super Potato; Daniel Libeskind). Sofitel So hired Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Lacroix for design elements in its Bangkok and Singapore hotels; Me by Meliá brought in Norman Foster for its London hotel, and Zaha Hadid for Dubai (2016). Marriott joined with Ian Schrager for Edition, tapping design firm Yabu Pushelberg and architect John Pawson for hotels in Istanbul, London and Miami.

The trailblazers catering to this rising generation of social (and social media savvy) upstarts were smaller companies such as Kimpton and Ace (see left). Larger brands, including Le Méridien, Element and Indigo, are getting in on the act, too, placing an emphasis on common spaces, tech amenities and­(for the latter two) affordable rates. This year in Milan, Marriott will open its first low-cost, high-style Moxy hotel, with big expansion plans in Europe. Commune Hotels will launch the Tommie brand in New York next year, with crash-​pad-style public spaces and lounges. 

Long associated with Club Med, this category also includes a handful of individual resorts in this part of the world. Most recently, Club Med opened in Guilin last October with facilities that include an 1,800-square-meter natural pool. In Thailand, both Anantara’s Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort, and Four Seasons Tented Camp are also in the all-inclusive category, both centering their cultural activities around elephant camps, though with more diverse offerings, such as a spa at Anantara and a cooking school at Four Seasons.

Peninsula Hong Kong

Andaz Wall Street New York

Sofitel So Bangkok

70 Park Avenue, a Kimpton Hotel New York

Club Med Guilin, China

Coming soon... InterContinental’s well-being-focused Even Hotels launches this spring in Rockville, Maryland, and Norwalk, Connecticut, with three New York City locations to come in 2015. + The brainchild of Starwood founder Barry Sternlicht, the environmentally conscious 1 Hotels will use reclaimed building materials and serve food with organic ingredients (it debuts midyear in New York City, followed by South Beach in the fall). + Richard Branson is taking his airline’s hip lounge concept and turning it into Virgin Hotels; the first opens in Chicago this summer.

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

A closer look at the innovations that will shape your next hotel stay.


Strategies spotlight..

Update

Hotel Amenities

Why stop at Nespresso machines and turndown chocolates? When it comes to services and perks, some brands are taking things to the next level. Here, a few of our favorites.

before after

The hotel umbrella

before after

Burberry trenches in every suite

Welcome wishbones

Puppies as concierges

Seen at: Maybourne Hotel Group.

before after Minibars

Grocery delivery of ready-to-make meals

Seen at: Affinia Hotels.

We also love...

Seen at: Kimpton.

before after

Yoga mat room service

Running partners who take you sightseeing

Seen at: Westin Hotels & Resorts.

Destination-themed scavenger hunts for kids at Ritz-Carlton hotels; bedside sample-size wine bottles at turndown at JW Marriott; itineraries created by local influencers, such as Piers Morgan in London or Nina Garcia in New York, for guests at Rosewood hotels.

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Just like the big chains, hotel consortiums, made up of small, independently owned properties, are breaking out the big ideas. They’re expanding to emerging destinations, creating loyalty programs and even becoming prominent brands in their own right. In August, Preferred Hotel Group, with 650 properties around the world, launched iPrefer, a points-based loyalty program that lets guests earn discounted rooms and upgrades. This year, Design Hotels is rolling out its Design Hotels Community, a club that offers members free Wi-Fi and breakfast at many properties. Relais & Châteaux, known for its curated collection of 515 properties, continues to gain prominence: it launched 85 vacation villas in 2013 and is expanding to eight countries, including Croatia, Turkey and the Dominican Republic. Small Luxury Hotels is moving into more exotic locales, working with properties in Saudi Arabia for the first time and, this year, Lebanon and Ibiza, Spain. Leading Hotels of the World, which counts the Ritz Paris among its 430 members, is growing its presence in South America, with four new hotels in Colombia joining in 2014.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: © J O H N F O T O / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; C O U R T E S Y O F B U R B E R R Y; D A V E K I N G / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; © S E A N S T U D I O / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; © A R I W A S A B I / D R E A M S T I M E . C O M ; ©GEORGII DOLGYK H/DRE AMSTIME.COM; ©MARIOL A K R ACZOWSK A /DRE AMSTIME.COM; ©MONIK A ADAMCZ YK /DRE AMSTIME.COM

HOTEL COLLECTIONS


special report

bring it back..

Room Souvenirs These hotel-branded items are worth stashing in your suitcase.

Conrad Hotels offers guests a choice of three amenity kits (shown: Shanghai-Tang). conradhotels.com.

C L O C K W I S E F R O M L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F K I M P T O N H O T E L S ; C O U R T E S Y O F S H A N G H A I TA N G ; C O U R T E S Y O F AYA N A R ESO R T A N D S PA ; C O U R T ESY O F U M A PA R O A N D U M A P U N A K H A ; C O U R T ESY O F S H A N G RI-L A H OT EL S A N D R ESO R TS

Kimpton’s animal-print bathrobes come in zebra, giraffe, and leopard motifs. US$90; kimptonhotels.com.

Traditional Bhutanese motifs are painted on rocks for guests at Uma Paro and Uma Punakha. comohotels.com.

Each Shangri-La room has a free copy of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (the inspiration for the brand’s name). shangri-la.com.

In Bali, the Ayana Resort and Spa offers guests a stylish offering of Ginger Tea. ayanaresorts.com.

Cheat Sheet

HOTEL BRANDS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Four ways to get the most out of your digital interactions. 1. Don’t be a stranger. Staying in touch pays off: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts posts giveaway contests on its Facebook page (a recent prize: a private party at London’s Abbey Road Studios). Starwood offers bonus points for checking in via Foursquare or Facebook.

2. Introduce yourself. On Facebook and Twitter, mentioning a hotel may lead to a more customized experience. For example, a traveler who recently included Hilton in a tweet about his grueling cross-country drive was welcomed with a room upgrade.

3. Get personal. If you need a timely response on a customer service issue, sharing the story or even posting a photo can get you a quick answer. Be sure to use direct channels (an @reply tweet on a hotel’s Twitter handle, or a direct message on Facebook).

4. Ask for Advice Hilton’s @HiltonSuggests Twitter handle doubles as a concierge: send requests for local tips, and you’ll get a personalized reply from a team of worldwide contributors. Four Seasons’ Pinterest board lets guests create a custom itinerary with local experts before they arrive.

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The Fix

Q: CAN TRAVEL AGENTS/ TOUR COMPANIES SAVE YOU MONEY?

—heru prayogo, indonesia

A: Sometimes, but that’s not the primary reason to use them. With the rise of online booking and crowd-sourcing websites, do-it-yourself vacation planning has never been easier.

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Yet travel agents and tour operators, or “consultants” as many prefer to be called, are still thriving, and with good reason. A top-tier agent offers you years of insider industry experience and connections, all for a usually modest fee. The best agents have established relationships with hotels and airlines, often giving them leverage when it comes to negotiating discounts and extra perks. Think about it: a powerful agent who deals with hundreds of customers per year has a lot more clout when

it comes to requesting a room upgrade, the best seats in a coveted sushi bar, or a gratis spa treatment. Linh Le from Trails of Indochina, a bespoke tour operator that arranges trips around Southeast Asia, says, “Guests can typically expect to save approximately 20 percent when booking a whole package with [us] rather than buying individual services.” When you’re dealing with first-class everything, that 20 percent can be a pretty sizable amount. ➔

I L L U S T R AT I O N S : W A S I N E E C H A N TA K O R N

By Diana Hubbell and Amy Farley


The Fix

by the numbers.

300,000 The number of Starwood Starpoints a loyalty-program member bid to get courtside seats at the 2013 US Open.

What’s Your Problem?

Q: MY HOTEL HAS A FREE TOWN-CAR SERVICE. HOW MUCH SHOULD I TIP THE DRIVER?

minefield of conflicting advice and, in some cases, fake reviews. A trusted agent can help you sift through all of the excess data to find the genuine gems. It can save a whole lot of time—not to mention give you the opportunity to customize your trip. Want a personal shopping guide as you stroll through Singapore? A family meal in a private home in Luang Prabang? Or a guide through the highs and lows of Bangkok’s nightlife? Unless you’ve got local friends in the know, call in the professionals. “Using a well-qualified tour operator bypasses the hassle and time and safety concerns of doing all yourself. It also provides you access and relationships and opens doors

to you that otherwise would rarely be possible on your own,” says Fraser. “There are reasons rock stars have hired us to spontaneously arrange helicopters, Ducati’s, private roads, catered lunches—gluten free… and try explaining that in Thai—at the drop of a hat, rather than trying to save cash by arranging it themselves.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should always turn to an agent or an operator. For short, one-stop trips, especially with destinations you’ve been to before, stick to planning it yourself. For a more complicated trip with multiple flights and hotels, a professional can save you a headache and ensure that you get the vacation you want.

Q: WHY CAN’T FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ACCEPT TIPS? A: Sure, flight attendants will pour you a drink, but they are

safety professionals first and foremost—not service staff. To avoid any misunderstanding, airlines make it a company policy to refuse tips (unless a passenger may otherwise be offended). If your attendant went by the numbers beyond the call of duty, let the airline know. Your good review will be used to evaluate performance US$18 The average pay and could ultimately lead to a pay raise. per flight hour.

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Do...

A: Because they’re providing a complimentary amenity, drivers are instructed not to expect tips. However, it’s not uncommon for travelers to offer a gratuity. The minimum starts at around US$5 and goes up as the distance increases. Chauffeurs are generally making above-market wages, but they’ll appreciate being recognized for going the extra mile—literally. 

the final say

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MY HOTEL IS OVERBOOKED!

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

Plan ahead. Book

directly with the hotel and confirm your reservation the night before.

Ask to be comped

for your first night (at least) if you are moved to another hotel. You may also get restaurant or spa credits.

Don’t...

Expect much.

Hotels usually move guests to properties of equal or lesser value. Your hotel doesn’t want you too happy at the competition.

Be late. If you think your hotel is overbooked, arrive early. The last guest typically loses out.

I L L U S T R AT I O N S : B E N W I S E M A N (4)

Dan Fraser, one of the founders of the Bangkok-based Smiling Albino, adds that using a tour operator can definitely amount to savings when it comes to logistically complicated trips. “A frugal family saves infinitely by hiring us to manage a biking and boating experience along mountains and rivers in Northern Thailand when considering the safety and logistical preparations needed to do it correctly.” At the end of the day though, most of the benefits of using an expert have more to do with insider intel than with price. Though sites like TripAdvisor offer near endless opinions, they can also be a


Tech

By Tom Samiljan and Diana Hubbell

FIVE WAYS TO GET A BETTER ROOM RATE

Looking to score a deal on a great hotel? These digital tips and tricks will ensure you get the best price in the house.

KNOW THE MARKET TIMING IS KEY.

Flashy-sounding promotions can often amount to minimal savings. Both DealAngel and Bing’s Hotel Rate Indicator are invaluable tools for the budget-savvy traveler—each compares quoted rates with a hotel’s average cost, telling you which deals are really worthwhile and helping you sidestep marketing gimmicks.

Illustrated by Ben Wiseman

STAY NOTIFIED

BANK ON PRICE DROPS.

You don’t have to do all the work yourself. Sign up for e-mail notifications from Yapta, and the booking site will alert you if room prices go down; if you make a reservation with Tingo, they will track your rate and refund you if a cheaper one pops up.

PROCRASTINATE EARLY BIRDS DON’T ALWAYS GET THE WORM.

Same-day booking apps such as Booking.com Tonight (free; Android, iOS) yield up to 70 percent off regular rates in Southeast Asian hotels, if you’re willing to wait until the last minute. Thanks to its popularity, there’s plenty of inventory to choose from daily. Pro tip: the deepest discounts surface on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and right after holidays.

TRY YOUR LUCK

IT’S NOT AS RISKY AS YOU THINK.

We love Priceline’s Name Your Price auction tool, which lets you propose a rate to properties you’re considering. You can also win big with Roomer: like StubHub for hotels, it’s a resale marketplace for nonrefundable bookings—sold here at rock-bottom prices.

BOOK BLIND SUSPENSE CAN PAY OFF.

You can save up to 60 percent with the mystery-​booking feature on LateStays and Travelocity’s Top Secret Deals. The trade-off: they don’t tell you where you’re staying until you’ve paid. There are some phenomenal savings on five-star stays, but it’s always a bit of a gamble. If you want a better idea of where you’ll end up, Guestmob offers similar discounts if you let it choose one of four predetermined hotels for you (all in the same part of town).

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63 2


Packing

en ’s s t ny o w lo in n w g po ind c k bre et a by ker S w wi im t h s. ‘ ‘

by Mimi Lombardo

Q: WE ARE HOTEL-HOPPING THROUGH CHINA AND WE WANT TO BE PREPARED FOR MIXED WEATHER. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR LIGHTWEIGHT OUTERWEAR? A: Your best option for a fickle forecast: gear that packs into a pocket or pouch. Here, easy-to-stash coats and boots that offer protection from the elements or can be tossed into a tote or backpack during bouts of sunshine.

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Packing is rarely easy—we’re here to help. Send your question to tleditor@ mediatransasia.com.

Photographed by Levi Brown


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Deals

Li Xuan Chinese Restaurant at Ritz-Carlton Chengdu.

China

RMB2,188 per night

CHINA

Spa

What Discover with You at The Ritz-Carlton Chengdu (ritzcarlton. com). Details A stay in a Deluxe room. Highlights Two complimentary tickets to the city’s popular Chengdu Panda Base, one complimentary RMB300 credit per stay for use in hotel dining outlets, and complimentary daily breakfast for two. Cost From RMB2,188, double, through March 31. Savings 16 percent.

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INDONESIA

What Bali Bliss from voluntourism operator Hands Up Holidays (handsupholidays.com). Details Twelve nights in a Mountain View cabana, inclusive of meals. Highlights Whitewater rafting on the Ayung River, near Ubud; and four days of house-building to help a Balinese family. Cost US$4,865 (US$405 per night), per person, double, through May 30. Savings Up to 35 percent.

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

THAILAND

What Secret Sukhumvit from Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit (sofitel.com). Details Three nights in a Prestige suite. Highlight Two complimentary skin-revitalizing Immortelle Secret treatments at Le SPA with L’Occitane. Cost US$930 (US$310 per night) if you mention T+L magazine, double, through May 30. Savings 41 percent.

KOREA

What Top to Toe Indulgence at Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul (banyantree.com). Details Two nights in a Deluxe suite. Highlights A Banyan Day spa package, complimentary healthy Korean food throughout the day, a signature gift, and daily buffet breakfast. Cost From W1,598,000 (W799,000 per night) per person, double, through December 31. Savings 20 percent.

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Adventure


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Deals

breakfast. Cost Bt10,000, double, through March 31. Savings 25 percent.

City HONG KONG

What Attractive Long Stay at JW Marriott Hong Kong (marriott. com). Details Fourteen nights in a Guest room. Highlight Complimentary daily breakfast for two at Dolce 88 restaurant. Cost From HK$36,400 (HK$2,600 per night), double, through May 31. Savings Up to 40 percent.

THAILAND

What Opening Deal at Sireeampan Boutique Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai (sireeampan. com). Details A stay in a studio room. Highlight Complimentary

Romance SINGAPORE

What Time for Romance at The Fullerton Bay Hotel (fullertonbay hotel.com). Details A stay in a Deluxe room. Highlights Complimentary three-course dinner for two, complimentary candlelit rose petal bath, a welcome bottle of wine, complimentary Heritage Tours on weekends, room upgrade depending upon availability, and breakfast for two at Clifford restaurant. Cost From S$668,

Clifford Pier at The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore.

double, check-in only on weekends, through December 30. Savings 50 percent.

THAILAND

What Rekindle Romance at Okura Prestige Bangkok (okura bangkok.com). Detail A stay in a Prestige suite. Highlights One complimentary Bt2,000 dining voucher for Elements restaurant; Japanese set or international buffet breakfast for two; complimentary evening cocktails and snacks for two; all-day refreshments and Japanese tea; one complimentary drink per person with lunch and dinner; high-speed internet; and express check-in and checkout. Cost

From Bt16,000, double, through November 10. Savings 14 percent.

SINGAPORE

What Love Struck with 8 on Claymore (8onclaymore.com). Details Seven nights in the Studio Residences managed by Royal Plaza on Scotts. Highlights Bottle of champagne with fresh strawberries and an in-room dining experience for two; or a picnic excursion with gourmet prepared picnic basket, kite flying and complimentary transportation. Cost From S$290 per night, double, through December 31. Savings Up to 30 percent.

Island INDONESIA

What Red Hot Deal at Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran (starwood hotels.com). Details A stay in a Classic room. Highlights Complimentary welcome drink on arrival and free Wi-Fi throughout the resort. Cost From US$154, double, through April 30. Savings Up to 50 percent.

Culture CHINA

INDIA

What Flight to Romance from Greaves Tours (greavesindia. com). Details Two nights at the Oberoi, New Delhi. Highlight A private sightseeing tour of Agra and the Taj Mahal. Cost US$2,310 (US$1,155 per night) per person, double, book by April 30. Savings 30 percent.

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C O U R T E S Y O F F U L L E R T O N B AY H O T E L

What Springtime in China from Kensington Tours (kensingtontours.com). Details Six nights divided between Fairmonts Beijing and Shanghai. Highlight Explore the M50 art district in Shanghai with an in-the-know local guide. Cost From US$1,750 (US$295 per night) per person, double, book by April 30. Savings 36 percent.


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March 2014

In This Issue

FRÉDÉRIC L AGR ANGE

72 Singapore Night Safari 80 It List 90 Eastern Healing in India 96 Hangzhou 104 St. Petersburg

Room service at Amanfayun, Hangzhou, 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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One final check that all 2,500 Night Safari animals are safe for the evening. OPPOSITE A stealthy Sri Lankan leopard.

WHERE

THE WILD THINGS ARE

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sa a d s in , an al a tr ari rn h e u f l e Sa oct so e t n n i igh its n r e a N f ar l m e re’s m o y d d r te apo cha e d b a c g h du Sin irky a p e un r at e qu og r l e t a m eep rs th ho i n A ook ve ts. p z sco en di sid re


A , X I N E O H P USCULAR BMALALFRICA, M O R F N O PYTH

writhes around in my hands. “Being a keeper is all about mutual respect and trust between animals and humans,” says Natalie Chan, a supervisor at Singapore’s Night Safari. “The animals may not understand what you say, but they feel your energy and, as much as possible, you try to make them feel comfortable.” My response? Yelping: “Help!” The python senses my unease and attempts to slither out of my hands. Chan takes Phoenix and he immediately calms down and hangs off her arms in complete stillness. “He senses your nervousness,” she tells me. “Animals are very good in picking up on anxiety.” Translation: I have failed my initiation as a zookeeper. For the second test, we head over to the owl enclosure. Rainbow, an American great horned owl who, according to Chan, “never acts up,” squawks at my appearance, attempts to fly off when I try to carry her, and knocks over a bottle of disinfectant in the process. Chan calms Rainbow down by stroking her feathers and whispering soothing apologies. I swear Rainbow then gives me a long, stern stare. After my dismal performance with the python and the owl, Chan decides 74

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that I am not up to carrying either of these animals for the daily roving session at the Night Safari entrance. “You just help visitors take photos with these animals instead,” assistant communications manager Natt Haniff says. In the real zookeeper world, I would probably have been fired. Luckily, I’m only doing a three-day stint behind the scenes at the 20-year-old Night Safari. The world’s first nocturnal zoo and one of Singapore’s most popular tourist destinations with 1.1 million visitors annually, the Night Safari is my go-to spot to bring friends from out of town because it presents an alternative side to the glitzy shopping mall image of this country. Yet, I’d always had the impression that the animals here—like most other living things in Singapore—were a well-disciplined lot. Everything always ran like clockwork: guided trams whizzed by every few minutes; there was an impeccable system of crowd control; and the animals, as if on cue, would be posing strategically in front of their exhibit areas precisely as carriages of trigger-happy visitors passed. What I learned in my three short but enlightening days working at the Night Safari was that it’s the diligent, big-hearted zookeepers that make the place tick. Under their care, the residents thrive. More than a third of the 2,500 animals here are considered threatened species and, in 2013 alone, 54 endangered animals of 11 species—including the Malayan tapir and the fishing cat from Southeast Asia—were bred and raised in the Night Safari. But it’s not all about stats. The keepers’ passion for animals is apparent as they regale me with tales of flatulent zebras and pampered giraffes who refuse to eat wet leaves.

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


“IS THAT A LEOPARD?” I ask Chan as I catch a glimpse of a yellow creature with black spots in the distance. “It’s a spotted hyena,” she replies with a chuckle, and then mutters to her two colleagues, “Boy, are we in for a long afternoon!” Okay, it’s true. I know precious little about the animal kingdom. I’m charging ahead with this mini-internship partly to better understand Gandhi’s line, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Wildlife Reserves Singapore runs extensive conservation efforts via captive breeding, animal research and public education programs at its institutions: the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and the River Safari, as well as the Night Safari—which is composed of spacious, natural habitats open after dark to give visitors a chance to see the mostly nocturnal tropical mammals at their most active. And sometimes at their most sassy. My favorite “night owl” is actually a binturong, a dark brown, furry bearcat from Indonesia named Aslan who loves posing on top of my head. He craves attention so much, Chan says, that he tends to linger during his high-wire performance in the Creatures of the Night show. The longer he can bask in the spotlight, the better. Then there’s Jamilah, a female Asian elephant from Malaysia who nudges me playfully with her trunk every time her trainer, senior keeper Lechu Lachmana, looks away during one of the elephants’ twice-daily walks. I’m startled each time she pokes me and, I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but she seems to enjoy intimidating me. “Mei daha,” Lachmana says, as he tries to steer Jamilah away from some bushes that she is pulverizing with her trunk. It means “come this side” in Sinhalese, the language—peppered with bits of English and Tamil—in which all the zookeepers communicate with the elephants. Lachmana has been with these elephants for eight years

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Rainbow the

great horned owl “never acts up;” binturong Aslan loves posing on our author’s head; flamingos who aren’t breeding tend to feed nocturnally; Phoenix the ball python picks up on human anxiety; this way to the egress?


The zookeepers speak to their elephants in Sinhalese peppered with English and Tamil.


, N A I V O S L E R V U A T P L THE CREA N E H W P U K PERPASS BY AND , G WE N I N I P S U E GIV EFUL LOOKS HOP

AL

and, like a doting parent, gives me the lowdown on their personalities. “Jamilah is gentle, but very greedy, always snacking. Sri Nandong can be very stubborn, and Tun always wants to play with people,” the soft-spoken zookeeper says with a smile. Another elephant trainer, deputy head keeper Novendran S., has such a tight bond with his charge, Chawang, a feisty Asian male also from Malaysia, that they even pull pranks together. As we pass the male elephants in a buggy one night, I hear “Blow!” and Chawang lifts his trunk to spray us with water from a moat. Novendran laughs at us, damp and stunned. “This boy hates buggies because someone in a buggy once made fun of him,” he offers as explanation. “So I just help him, yah?” It’s easy to understand this sense of solicitude as I watch the Creatures of the Night show. My beloved binturong, Aslan, and his sister, Narnia, start off the show by scurrying across a high wire from opposite ends to the beat of techno music, and end their act impressively by hanging upside down at the center of the wire with their prehensile tails. I continue to swell with pride when, despite our bad blood, Rainbow the owl resplendently spreads her broad, striped wings, much to the audience’s appreciation. INSIDER ZOO JOKE: humans are the most difficult animals to deal with. Much of a zookeeper’s time is spent educating visitors through such activities as feeding sessions with local animals like the small-toothed civets, the sunda pangolins and the sambar deer along the walking trails. Though, in Singapore, the job doesn’t require a zoology degree, the work is very much a calling. Most of the zookeepers I meet have been here 10 to 20 years despite the repetitive chores of cleaning, feeding and training, along with checking up on the animals and logging their behavior patterns for research purposes. Not surprisingly, given the nine-hour, cardio-intensive shifts, all the keepers look incredibly fit and youthful. Bathing an elephant, for example, is exhausting. After just 15 minutes of 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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scrubbing Jamilah’s mud-crusted belly, I am panting. But Lachmana tells me it takes at least an hour to clean a whole elephant, and that’s only if she is in a good mood and agrees to lie on her side. Who would have thought that scooping zebra poop could be so strenuous? While the Grant’s zebras Anand and Zimbabwe (yes, the farters) graciously make way for me to clear the excrement they have considerately tucked under a layer of hay, I take five minutes to collect a few pieces into my giant dustpan. There’s a technique to retrieving these sticky ping-pong ball-sized pellets—think of scraping old paint. Even mealtime can be a frenzied affair. One night, I’m put on the feeding buggy, the Night Safari’s version of a food truck, with Anand

+

T L Guide

Indian rhino Gomati is quite the foodie. ABOVE RIGHT Three South African giraffes have been born at the Night Safari.

Kumar, another deputy head keeper, who has to go six rounds throughout the night giving animals “snacks” along the tram route so that visitors will catch the animals “in a good mood.” It is an entirely different experience going around the Night Safari on this feeding buggy. Pavlovian, all the creatures perk up when we pass by and give us pining, hopeful looks. I can’t help but giggle as the usually sorrowful-looking striped hyenas bound towards us in unbridled joy as Kumar flings them meat chunks. He hurls the food like an Olympic field star—far enough to pass over the moats between the exhibit area and the road, and also precisely enough to land at key lighting spots, to tactically draw the animals out for visitors to view them in all their glory. Another mealtime that takes some getting used to is that of Gomati, the female Indian rhinoceros, whom Haniff describes as a “crotchety old lady.” I am tasked with feeding Gomati pellets and chopped carrots while she is getting a medicated foot soak (for a cracked hind hoof) and antiseptic cream applied on her sores (which seems to make her even more cranky). Gomati grunts every time there is even a second-long break between mouthfuls. This impatience and her cavernous mouth filled with huge brown teeth combine to make me jittery, and I spill bits of food on the floor while she slobbers up my entire hand. The fifth time this happens, she lets out a long, Chewbacca-like bellow, and her keepers laugh. She is annoyed with me for wasting food, they say. Aww, she’s a foodie like me! Crotchety old lady and I: finally bonded. ✚ 78

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Getting there The Night Safari is in the northern part of Singapore. The quickest way to get there is by cab, but Singapore Attractions Express (65/6753-0506; saex.com.sg) offers an affordable bus shuttle service to and from selected hotels around the city for just S$5 a trip.

The Night Safari. 80 Mandai Lake Rd.; 65/6269-3411; nightsafari.com.sg; tickets S$39 per adult and S$25 per child (including one tram ride, admission to walking trails and Creatures of the Night show); open 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily. Recommended itinerary: Reach the Night Safari an hour before opening at 6:30 p.m. There is an animal roving session at the entrance where you can get up close and personal with a few exotic animals, and also the Thumbuakar fire-eating performance. Grab dinner at the rustic Ulu Ulu Safari Restaurant (dinner for two S$40; open 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.) with its decent offerings of popular local dishes such as chili crab and chicken rice. Be sure to head over to the Creatures of the Night Show stage by 7:15 p.m. in order to secure a seat for the 7:30 p.m. start. After the show, instead of joining the queues for a tram, try one of the four walking trails (we recommend the Leopard Trail) to view a selection of nocturnal creatures at your own pace before resting it out on the 40-minute guided tram route to see the rest of the animals. T+L TIP The intimate Safari Adventurer Tour (S$132 per adult, S$90 per child) is worth it for inquisitive animal-lovers, with a private buggy and personal guide to answer all your questions about nocturnal wildlife.


D L U O WHO W OUGHT H

HAVE T ING P D L O U O O C SECBRA POOPUS? Z UO EN R T S O BE S

Otters, civets and African servals, among others, star in Creatures of the Night.


IT LIST Declaring the best new hotels in the world isn’t a task we take lightly. For Travel + Leisure’s annual It List, our reviewers traveled thousands of kilometers (everywhere from Cambodia to Zambia!) vetting the top contenders to deliver our definitive roster of places we want you to experience. Read on to find the 70 properties that are changing the travel landscape. For full reviews, go to travelandleisure.com. 80

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

Bedarra Island Resort, on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


COU R T ESY OF B E DA R R A ; PY R A M I D LOGO BY A N DY G I L MO R E

THE COOLEST NEW HOTELS OF THE YEAR

THE BEACH RESORT 2.0

Forget your grandmother’s

seaside getaways. This year, a clutch of sophisticated properties are making classic destinations feel fresh again. The ANDAZ MAUI AT WAILEA takes on a modern vibe, from the hosts greeting you in the open-air lobby, iPads in hand, to the farm-​totable restaurant Kaana Kitchen (order the

kalua-pork Benedict). As a brand, Ritz-Carlton is redefining oceanfront luxury: the RITZCARLTON, NAPLES just had a major overhaul (brightened rooms; a mod new bar), while the RITZ-CARLTON, ARUBA , a quiet haven on bustling Palm Beach, is upping the ante on the island—you’ll find Aruba’s biggest spa, and a helpful staff that caters to kids. In the Bahamas, the COVE ELEUTHERA made a splash when it debuted 60 redone,

whitewashed rooms. Our favorite activity at the Dominican Republic’s 34-suite EDEN ROC AT CAP CANA : zipping to the sand in a golf cart (every guest gets one). An about-face from your typical Cancún megaplex, NIZUC embraces a minimalist look—and yes, it has a killer swim-up bar. On Mexico’s Pacific coast, there’s the low-key HOTEL ESCONDIDO , a collection of 16 thatched-roof palapas. All the way across the globe in the

Maldives, CHEVAL BLANC RANDHELI wowed us with its 45 over-thetop (and overwater) villas. Tucked along the coastline of Vietnam’s Nui Chua National Park, AMANOI offers 31 ultra-private pavilions. Seven-suite BEDARRA ISLAND RESORT (shown), a Great

Barrier Reef mainstay reinvented, has that chill Aussie sensibility. Spend your days standup paddleboarding and sipping sundowners before dinner.


4 201 I ST IT L

THE HIGH-DESIGN HAVENS

The one thing all

great designers know? It’s the details that really matter. At Hong Kong’s MIR A M OO N H OT EL , Marcel Wanders considered every inch of space—in each corridor, backlit cutouts of rabbits channel the Chinese Moon Festival fairy tale. You’ll find bathtubs fashioned out of horse troughs at the S PA R ROWS H OT EL , in Palm Springs (a nod to the property’s rancho-rustic sensibility), while at Tel Aviv’s boho-glam A L M A H OT EL , the deer-head wall sculptures are made out of local seashells—a new twist on a tired motif. That massive wall of metal flowers at the DUSIT D E VA R A N A (shown), in New Delhi? Designer John

Bowman crafted each petal individually. The Dolce Vita vibe at J. K . P L AC E RO M A

comes thanks to designer Michele Bönan, who customcommissioned nearly everything, down to the gilded mirror frames. In Istanbul, the S H A N G RI-L A BOS P H O RUS

sparkles with handmade Czech chandeliers and Turkish marble floors—in keeping with the property’s East-meets-West style. And in Cambodia, Bill Bensley repolished one of his original works—the Hôtel de la Paix, now the PA R K H YAT T SIEM R E A P —with

two new rooftop garden suites and Khmer-inspired contemporary art.

Dusit Devarana, New Delhi.


THE URBAN TRENDSETTERS

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F R E F I N E R Y H O T E L ; M I C H A E L J A M E S O ' B R I E N ; C O U R T E S Y O F R O S E W O O D L O N D O N ; C O U R T E S Y O F M E L O N D O N ; S I M O N W AT S O N ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E S T. R E G I S N E W Y O R K ; C O U R T E S Y O F V I C E R O Y H O T E L S & R E S O R T S ; C O U R T E S Y O F T H E Q U I N . O P P O S I T E : C O U R T E S Y O F D U S I T D E V A R A N A

New York City

London

There’s never been

REFIN ERY HOT EL / The next happy-hour hot spot; the Project Runway cast has stayed here.

ACE HOTEL LONDON SHOREDITCH / The first overseas property for the American brand.

T H E QUIN / Partnered with top firm Luxury Attaché for its concierge services.

ROSE WOOD LONDON / Elegant but not stuffy; London-based design whiz Martin Brudnizki did the bar.

a better time to visit New York City and London, which had a whopping seven It List–worthy openings—and a major renovation— between them. In Manhattan, the darkly gothic R EFIN ERY H OT EL , set in a former hat factory, is breathing new life into the Fashion District. Another midtown debut, T H E Q UIN , won us over with a push of a button: Bergdorf Goodman is on speed dial from all 208 guest rooms, and a personal shopper will deliver your purchases gratis. Across the pond, Ian Schrager and Marriott International’s LO N DO N EDITIO N is luring a high-gloss crowd (George Clooney; Kate Moss) to Fitzrovia. Don’t miss chef Jason Atherton’s restaurant, Berners Tavern. Over in the edgy East End, the ACE HOTEL LONDON SHOREDITCH

VIC EROY N E W YORK / Sleek digs on West 57th Street; it’s pet-friendly—we tested.

M E LON DON / Close to Covent Garden; commands sweeping views from the rooftop.

ST. REGIS N E W YORK / Sparkles after a massive redo—word on the street is it cost US$90 million.

LON DON EDITION / 173 wood-paneled rooms with custom Le Labo bath amenities.

draws the hipsters; we couldn’t get enough of the enthusiastic young staff and their casualcool uniforms (Dr. Martens are back). At left, the highlights.

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THE SAFARI LODGE REIMAGINED

Chinzombo, on the banks of Zambia’s Luangwa River. These three camps

are bringing a refined aesthetic to some of Africa’s remote corners. One of the reasons we love Great Plains Conservation’s M A R A TOTO ? Access to Kenya’s

game-rich Masai Mara National Reserve, as well as Mara North, where visitor numbers are capped. Another? The five tents, on a riverine bend, offer all the trappings of a high-end safari

stay—Persian rugs; brass chandeliers; en suite bathrooms— even in this far-flung setting. Strung along a ridgeline in Masai Mara, M A H A L I MZU RI , the latest property from business magnate

Richard Branson, is a futuristic riff on the East African lodge (the 12 tents look like spaceships). Stay in No. 7 or 8: they have the best views of the valley. In an area of Zambia famously dense with

hippos, CHINZOMBO (shown) stands out not only for its location along the Luangwa, but also for its stylish austerity: sawhorse tables and white campaign chairs lend an upscale military

feel to the main lodge, where you’ll see vintage photos of safari legend Norman Carr. The true gem, though, is Abraham Banda, the head guide, who led us to unforgettable wildlife encounters.


THE NEIGHBORHOOD GAME CHANGERS lima, peru

marseilles, france

C L O C K W I S E F R O M T O P L E F T: C O U R T E S Y O F A R T S B O U T I Q U E H O T E L B ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F I N T E R C O N T I N E N TA L M A R S E I L L E - H O T E L D I E U ( 2 ) ; C O U R T E S Y O F 2 1C M U S E U M H O T E L S ; C O U R T E S Y O F M A N D A R I N O R I E N TA L P U D O N G ; F R A N C I S A M I A N D/ C O U R T E S Y O F M A M A S H E LT E R I S TA N B U L ( 2 ) ; D A V I D A L E X A N D E R A R N O L D . O P P O S I T E : M I C K Y H O Y L E

N EIG H BO R H OO D: BA R R A N C O

N EIG H BO R H OO D: L E PA N I ER

An art scene led by photographer Mario Testino and his MATE gallery is booming in this former summer colony by the sea. And now you can stay here in style, thanks to 17-room ARTS BOUTIQUE HOTEL B , which features contemporary Latin American works.

istanbul

Marseille’s emerging art hub, Le Panier, can also lay claim to the city’s first grande dame, in the INTERCONTINENTAL MARSEILLE-HOTEL DIEU . Everyone in town gathers for craft cocktails on the terrace, with somewhere to be seen at last.

cincinnati

N EIG H BO R H OO D: B E YOĞLU

N EIG H BO R H OO D: DOW N TOW N

Craving an alternative to the touristy zones around Hagia Sophia? M A M A S H ELT ER ISTA N BU L has set up shop along Istiklal Caddesi, in chic Beyoğlu. Expect the same formula of high style and low prices from the hip French brand.

A decade of combined efforts have glammed up the city’s historic urban core. 21C M US EU M H OT EL C I N C I N N AT I pitched in by transforming a neglected 100-year-old building into a 156-room hotel and art museum with rotating exhibitions.

Executive-focused

THE NEXT-GEN BUSINESS H0TEL

Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai

hotels today are just as much about play as they are about work. From the two-story Espa to the of-the-​ moment French bistro in the lobby, the FA I R M O N T BA K U , part of the monumental Flame Towers complex, exudes luxury—no doubt for the oil tycoons visiting the Azerbaijani capital. Perks at the O B EROI DU BA I include deep

soaking tubs, butler-delivered chocolate truffles, and daily yoga. Weary travelers at the V IVA N TA BY TA J-G U RGAO N , in New Delhi, can recharge with quick reflexology sessions at the Jiva Spa, or free workouts with a personal trainer. The distinctive honeycomb-like exterior of the CONRAD B EIJI N G  —designed

by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects—is a perfect precursor to the streamlined interiors (note the leather Eames chairs at the desks). In China’s financial capital, M A N DA RIN O RI EN TA L P U DO N G, S H A N G H A I (shown)

attracts bankers not only with its convenient location but also for its coveted Yong Yi Ting restaurant, headed by local celebrity chef Tony Lu.

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4 201 I ST IT L

THE LANDMARKS REBORN The only thing

better than checking out historic spots? Checking in to them. This year, we saw classic hotels get major face-lifts— and legendary spaces reenvisioned as modern-​day retreats. Our favorites: T H E L ANGHAM, CHICAGO.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Modernist IBM building now houses a sumptuous hotel, with floor-​toceiling views of the Chicago River or downtown from each of the spacious, high-​tech rooms (and even some of the bathtubs).

Aman Canal Grande, Venice.

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PRINCE DE GALLES, A LU X U RY C O L L EC TIO N H OT EL , PA RIS.

The iconic Art Deco hotel built in 1928 for the eponymous Prince of Wales, who stayed annually, has turned into Paris’s new see-​andbe-seen spot, with a restaurant by French Top Chef winner Stéphanie Le Quellec. D’A N G L E T ER R E , C O P EN H AG EN .

Once a meeting place for Enlightenment-​age

D.O. M , RO M E .

It used to be a medieval convent on cobblestoned Via Giulia. Today it’s the street’s first fabulous hotel, with a boudoir noir feel in the lobby and cocktail bar. AMAN CANAL G R A N D E , V EN IC E .

Palazzo Papadopoli, the longtime residence of a noble family from Bergamo, now doubles as an exclusive, 24-suite retreat (shown) with original frescoes, intuitive service and a waterfront

entrance off the Grand Canal. FO U R S E A S O N S H OT E L L I O N PA L AC E , S T. P E T E R S B U R G.

Russian socialites gathered at this palace in the 1800’s. Three centuries later, it’s the pinnacle of modern comfort (heated terraces off the suites, sweeps of marble in each bathroom), all behind a yellow Neoclassical facade. J W MARRIOT T H OT EL , C USC O, P E R U.

A 16th-century convent in the historic center of Cuzco—and the ideal resting spot for travelers on their way to Machu Picchu. Expect pampering touches such as restorative coca tea by the lobby fireplace.

S I M O N W AT S O N

T H E C A L EDO N I A N , A WA L DO R F ASTO RI A H OT EL , EDIN BU RG H .

This Victorian railway terminal overlooking Edinburgh Castle is now an inviting escape with a well-vetted Scotch collection (ask for a guided tasting).

statesmen—and a crash pad for European royalty on business—it’s become the city’s most palatial property, newly renovated, with Dux beds in the rooms and a Warhol portrait of Denmark’s queen.

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


Palihouse Santa Monica.

THE REMOTE OUTPOSTS

C R E S TO R A N C H , C O L O R A D O Kilometers from Denver: 631. Eight plush tents (spacious wood decks; toasty gas stoves).

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

OU T LOO K LO DG E , C O LO R A DO Kilometers from Denver: 129. A stylish taste of mountain living in tiny Green Mountain Falls (pop. 760).

THE SCENE MAKERS

Admit it: as much

as sleep is key to any stay, you hardly want your hotel to be sleepy. Getting it right is TOPPING ROSE HOUSE in the Hamptons, where the first-floor restaurant by Tom Colicchio is packed with a who’s who of Manhattanites. The lobby fireplace at THOMPSON CHICAGO

has become the preferred spot for sipping whiskey under an oh-so-Mad Men backdrop. In

GA N GT E Y GO EN PA . LO DG E , B H U TA N . Kilometers from Paro: 204. Designed with a respectful nod to the region with Bhutanese motifs and local bluepine timber beams.

Miami Beach, the glitterati are sure to descend upon the

FOGO IS L A N D I N N , N E W FOU N D L A N D, C A N A DA Kilometers from Toronto: 2,816. Quilted bedspreads and furniture were locally made; all profits are reinvested into the community.

AWASI PATAGO N I A , C H I L E Kilometers from Santiago: 1,947. Designed by noted Chilean architect Felipe Assadi, 12 well-appointed villas make the ends of the earth feel closer to home.

REDBURY HOTEL SOUTH BEACH for

Art Basel, thanks to its sexy, Rat-​Pack-​ does-SoBe vibe. The new epitome of California cool can be found at PALIHOUSE SANTA MONICA

(shown), where Hollywood types are championing what’s poised to be Chateau Marmont by the sea. And just north of Tel Aviv, the RITZ-

N AYA R A S P RI N GS, C OSTA RIC A Kilometers from San José: 150. Sixteen jungle villas with views of the Arenal Volcano.

IO N LU X U RY A DV EN T U R E H OT EL , IC EL A N D Kilometers from Reykjavík: 56. A concrete-and-glass structure at the lava-rock-strewn base of the Hengill Volcano, with front-row seats to the northern lights.

CARLTON HERZLIYA

has given the country’s Silcon Valley its first rave-worthy stomping ground (go for spice-infused cocktails at the rooftop bar).

A N A N TA R A SI R BA N I YAS IS L A N D A L SA H EL V IL L A R ESO R T, U N IT ED A R A B EMI R AT ES Kilometers from Abu Dhabi: 249. Offers wildlife encounters (cheetah and gazelle) plus treks into the desert.

A N A N TA R A X IS H UA N G BA N N A R ESO R T & S PA , C H IN A Kilometers from Shanghai: 2,897. Yunnan province’s first upscale resort takes its design cues from the regions ai tribe, with teak ceilings and bright native fabrics.

SA L A LO DG ES, C A M BO DI A Kilometers from Siem Reap: 1.6. This group of traditional Khmer wooden houses feels secluded, despite its proximity to the city.


4 201 I ST IT L

THE COZY EUROPEAN HIDEAWAYS A new wave of

charming inns is taking over the Continent, each with a strong sense of place. In the U.K., the Cotswolds’ rusticchic W I L D R A B BIT (shown) hums with well-heeled locals, who come in for the refined pub food downstairs. French designer Jocelyne Sibuet sets the stage for a fantasy Provencal getaway— sans cliché—at . DO M A I N E D E L A BAU M E , with 15

antique-filled rooms and 40 lush hectares to explore. Moving over to Italy, momand-son restaurateurs

Lidia and Joe Bastianich have opened ORSONE on the family wine estate in Friuli. You can tuck in to white-truffle-​topped agnolotti before retreating upstairs to one of the six wood-​beamed rooms. Three hundred twenty-two kilometers south in the culinary mecca of Modena, the two-​ room Q UA R TO PI A N O is the first great place in town to recover from that Parmigiano Reggiano-​induced food coma. Farther south in Umbria,

ER EMITO looks to an ascetic tradition (14 monk-​cell-​size single rooms; no Wi-Fi or TV’s) but also feels decadent, with extra-​soft linens and postcard-perfect views. In Spain’s Tramuntana range, the limestone C AST EL L SO N C L A R E T , with its

manicured grounds, is delightfully discreet in a destination chock-​full of high-​ profile resorts. It’s easy to see why Istanbul’s beautiful people are heading to to A L AV YA , in Turkey's summer playground of Alacati: 25 rooms (13 with terraces) are housed in six stone mansions surrounding a shaded pool.

THE NEW STYLISH SKI RESORTS

Some visit the

W Verbier, Switzerland.

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Swiss Alps for the high-level slopes, while others come

for the high-octane après-ski scene. In Verbier, there wasn’t much of the latter until the arrival of W VERBIER (shown), the hip brand’s first winter resort. A similar story is unfolding farther east in Switzerland, where the CHEDI ANDERMATT is adding a dose of

glamour. Meanwhile, across the border in France, L’APOGEE COURCHEVEL , a rare understated entry in this glitzy, oligarch-filled Alpine retreat, has 55 residential-style guest rooms by India Mahdavi and Joseph Dirand, as well as a spa with Sisley treatments.

F R O M T O P : C O U R T E S Y O F T H E W I L D R A B B I T; COURTESY OF W VERBIER

The Wild Rabbit, in the Cotswolds, England.


THIS YEAR'S WINNERS ASIA AZERBAIJAN FAIRMONT BAKU, FLAME TOWERS fairmont.com. $$ BHUTAN GANGTEY GOENPA LODGE easternsafaris.com. $$$$ CAMBODIA PARK HYATT Siem Reap; park.hyatt.com. $$ SALA LODGES Siem Reap; salalodges.com. $$ CHINA ANANTARA XISHUANGBANNA RESORT & SPA anantara.com. $$$

OUTLOOK LODGE

Green Mountain Falls; outlookgmf.com. $

FLORIDA REDBURY HOTEL SOUTH BEACH

Miami Beach; theredbury.com. $$$

PERU

RITZ-CARLTON

ARTS BOUTIQUE HOTEL B Lima; hotelb.pe. $$$

Naples; ritzcarlton.com. $$$$

HAWAII ANDAZ MAUI AT WAILEA andaz.hyatt.com. $$$$

JW MARRIOTT HOTEL CUSCO marriott.com. $$

LONDON EDITION edition-hotels.marriott.com. $$$

ILLINOIS

EUROPE

ROSEWOOD LONDON rosewoodhotels.com. $$$$

THE LANGHAM

Chicago; langhamhotels.com. $$$

DENMARK

THOMPSON CHICAGO thompsonchicago.com. $

Copenhagen; dangleterre.com. $$$

D’ANGLETERRE

NEWFOUNDLAND

FRANCE

CONRAD BEIJING conradhotels.com. $$

FOGO ISLAND INN fogoislandinn.ca; meals included. $$$$

Tourtour; domaine-delabaume.com.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL PUDONG, SHANGHAI mandarinoriental.com. $$$

NEW YORK

DOMAINE DE LA BAUME

$$$$

THE QUIN

INTERCONTINENTAL MARSEILLE-HOTEL DIEU intercontinental.com. $$

INDIA

REFINERY HOTEL New York City; refineryhotel​ newyork.com. $$$

L’APOGEE COURCHEVEL lapogeecourchevel.com. $$$$

DUSIT DEVARANA New Delhi; devarana.in. $$

ST. REGIS NEW YORK stregis.com. $$$$$

VIVANTA BY TAJ-GURGAON, NCR New Delhi; vivantabytaj.com. $

TOPPING ROSE HOUSE Bridgehampton; toppingrosehouse.com. $$$$

MIRA MOON HOTEL Hong Kong; miramoonhotel.com. $$

MALDIVES CHEVAL BLANC RANDHELI chevalblanc.com. $$$$$ VIETNAM AMANOI

Vinh Hy; amanresorts.com. $$$$

AUSTRALIA BEDARRA ISLAND RESORT bedarra.com.au; all-inclusive. $$$$

UNITED STATES + CANADA CALIFORNIA PALIHOUSE SANTA MONICA palihousesantamonica.com. $$

New York City; thequinhotel.com. $$$$

PRINCE DE GALLES, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL Paris; luxurycollection.com. $$$$

VICEROY

ICELAND ION LUXURY ADVENTURE HOTEL Selfoss; ioniceland.is. $$ ITALY

New York City; viceroyhotels

AMAN CANAL GRANDE

andresorts.com. $$$ 21C MUSEUM HOTEL

Cincinnati; 21cmuseumhotels.com. $$

CARIBBEAN ARUBA RITZ-CARLTON Aruba; ritzcarlton.com. $$$$

NAYARA SPRINGS MEXICO

HOTEL ESCONDIDO Puerto Escondido;

hotelescondido.com. $$$ NIZUC RESORT & SPA

Cancún; nizuc.com. $$$

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LION PALACE St. Petersburg; fourseasons.com. $$

SWITZERLAND CHEDI ANDERMATT thechedi-andermatt.com. $$$$ W VERBIER wverbier.com. $$$$ TURKEY

La Fortuna; nayarasprings.com. $$$$

MAHALI MZURI

Masai Mara; mahalimzuri.virgin.com;

all-inclusive. $$$$$ MARA TOTO Masai Mara National Reserve;

greatplainsconservation.com; all-inclusive. $$$$$ UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

THE OBEROI

South Luangwa National Park;

CASTELL SON CLARET

COSTA RICA

KENYA

ORSONE RISTORANTE E B&B Friuli; orsone.com. $$

Es Capdellà; castellsonclaret.com. $$$$

AWASI PATAGONIA awasi.cl; all-inclusive. $$$$$

RITZ-CARLTON

Herzliya; ritzcarlton.com. $$$

ZAMBIA

SPAIN

CHILE

ALMA HOTEL

Tel Aviv; almahotel.co.il. $$$

J.K. PLACE ROMA jkroma.com. $$$$

RUSSIA

MEXICO + CENTRAL + SOUTH AMERICA

ISRAEL

Dubai; oberoihotels.com. $$

COVE ELEUTHERA RESORT & SPA thecoveeleuthera.com. $$

COLORADO

AFRICA + THE MIDDLE EAST

D.O.M Rome; domhotelroma.com. $$$$

BAHAMAS

EDEN ROC AT CAP CANA edenroccapcana.com. $$$$

WILD RABBIT

Kingham; thewildrabbit.co.uk. $

EREMITO, HOTELITO DEL ALMA Terni; eremito.com; all-inclusive. $$$$

QUARTOPIANO B&B DE CHARME Modena; bbquartopiano.it. $

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ME LONDON melia.com. $$$

ANANTARA SIR BANI YAS ISLAND AL SAHEL VILLA RESORT anantara.com. $$$$

Venice; amanresorts.com. $$$$$

OHIO

SPARROWS HOTEL Palm Springs; sparrowshotel.com. $ CRESTO RANCH Dolores; crestoranch.com; all-inclusive. $$$$

THE CALEDONIAN, A WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL Edinburgh; waldorfastoria.com. $$

ALAVYA Alac,ati; alavya.com.tr. $$$ MAMA SHELTER

Istanbul; mamashelter.com. $

SHANGRI-LA BOSPHORUS

Istanbul; shangri-la.com. $$$

UNITED KINGDOM ACE HOTEL LONDON SHOREDITCH acehotel.com. $$

CHINZOMBO normancarrsafaris.com; all-inclusive. $$$$$

Get full reviews and images for all 70 It List hotels at travelandleisure.com. Edited by Jennifer Flowers, Jacqueline Gifford, and Nikki Ekstein. Reported by Christine Ajudua, Tom Austin, Aimee Lee Ball, Vinita Bharadwaj, Amy Brownlee, Aric Chen, Jay Cheshes, Fiona Donnelly, Stephen Drucker, Amy Farley, Ozgur Gezer, Sarah Gilbert, Adrien Glover, Adam Graham, Darrell Hartman, Jimmy Im, David A. Keeps, Stirling Kelso, Rebecca Kleinman, Peter Jon Lindberg, Naomi Lindt, J.J. Martin, Mario R. Mercado, Sarah Miller, Shane Mitchell, Reggie Nadelson, Sheila Pierce, Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, Caroline Phillips, Brooke Porter, Kathy Roberson, Sophy Roberts, Bruce Schoenfeld, Clara O. Sedlak, Andrew Sessa, Patrick Sheehan, Gail Simmons, Samai Singh, Emma Sloley, Aatish Taseer, Laura Teusink and Penny Watson.

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hotels $ Less than $200 $$ $200 to $350 $$$ $350 to $500 $$$$ $500 to $1,000 $$$$$ More than $1,000 Starting price in U.S. dollars for a standard double in March; for resorts, rates indicate the starting price in high season.


fare thee well

SELF-DIAGNOSED STRESS BALL J E F F C H U RETREATS TO A HIMALAYAN HEALTH MECCA AND SUBMERSES HIMSELF IN A TRIFECTA OF EASTERN HEALING SYSTEMS— AS WELL AS A SEALED BATHTUB SO STEAMY HIS HEAD SPINS. P H O T O - I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y W A S I N E E C H A N TA KO R N

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RONG. WRONG. WRONG.

As I arrive at the Vana, Malsi Estate, a new wellness retreat in the Himalayan foothills of India’s Uttarakhand state, I realize I’d done everything wrong. In the previous 24 hours, I had slept for perhaps two, instead watching too many old episodes of Glee. I ate an omelette on the plane, then a Maharaja Mac and fries at the McDonald’s in Delhi’s airport. To drink: champagne, followed by more champagne, then a gin-and-tonic, and finally a large Coke to wash it all down. These are not the habits of a healthy person. The real problems, of course, began at home. I’m a stress ball, overwhelmed by family drama and work pressures. Lunch is often a handful of microwaved chicken nuggets. I’m not fat, but this has less to do with healthy habits than the blessings of genetics. I don’t go to the gym. I’ve never done yoga. I don’t run, for exercise or for transportation (it has always seemed undignified to sprint for the subway). I don’t even like standing, especially in bars. The only time my skin glows is when it’s reflecting the light from whatever screen I am sitting in front of. I’m predisposed to believe there’s some truth in Eastern healing—it worked for my grandmother, a doctor of Chinese medicine, who, according to family lore, selfdelivered several of her 14 children. But how I think, eat and move or don’t move has become almost hard-wired through repetition (or calcification). I was doubtful that a few days away would make much difference. Could any wellness retreat—even one that practically requires two massages a day—soften my skepticism and transform me into something resembling “well”? “WHAT DOES WELLNESS MEAN?” Vana’s owner, Veer Singh, asked one night over dinner. “It can mean to physically feel better—rested, less stiff, lighter. It can mean your mind, your spirit, feels a little happier, a little more joyful… It can mean you feel a little more inspired. It can mean you feel a little bit provoked to think differently— about food, or about the environment, or even about design.” Singh imagined a place of escape. At a cost of more than US$60 million, he has built an 8-hectare compound that opened in January in Dehradun, the capital of this north Indian state, set among sal forest and mango and lychee orchards. The minimalist, light-filled buildings—designed by architects from Majorca, where Singh once studied organic farming—face inward, arrayed around a pavilion where yoga is practiced and a flautist occasionally appears, playing for nobody in particular. The orientation suggests that, though there’s much to see nearby—the famed hill


station of Mussoorie is an hour’s drive away—the focus is meant to be here. The tiniest details have been designed to encourage relaxation and inspire delight. Each guest wears a kurta, a long, loose shirt of soft organic cotton, and pajama-like bottoms throughout the stay. My suite, all earth tones and warm woods, had its own yoga-and-meditation room boasting an image of a bodhisattva painted by monks from a local abbey. At dusk, a hot-water bottle was placed in my bed to warm it. Beside the tea kettle sat a jar of biscuits—on alternating days, linseed shortbread (which tastes better than it sounds) or peanut-butter. After I mentioned to one staff member how much I liked the linseed biscuits, that’s all they stocked for me; a plate of them even appeared suddenly one afternoon while I lounged in Vana’s library, sipping lemongrass tea and ignoring books by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh in favor of the impressive collection of Tintin and Asterix. One takeaway? Getting me to relax requires someone—truthfully, many someones—to be very anal. Another: Those someones cannot include me. It matters that Singh insists Vana isn’t a hotel or a spa. He calls it a retreat. It’s an interesting, often-pejorative word; it can, after all, mean withdrawal or surrender. That’s precisely what I had to learn to do at Vana. Day by day, minute by minute, I had to submit to Vana’s healing program. I had to abandon what I thought I knew about taking care of myself, putting myself in the hands of its doctors, therapists and chefs. Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Tibetan healing—some of the methods were familiar, others entirely mysterious. At Vana, I came to see them all anew.

T THE START OF A VANA STAY,

every guest meets with a wellness specialist. On my first morning, Avichan Singh, a soft-spoken, turbaned, fifth-generation ayurvedic doctor, ushered me into his office. The room, home to little more than two chairs, a desk with an open laptop, and a few sunbeams, was scarily austere. I thought of those bare, psychward chambers of moviedom, stripped of everything a patient could use to hurt himself: When would the white coats come for me? We chatted. Dr. Singh took my pulse ayurvedic-style (three fingers on the wrist, to gauge my doshas) and then measured my blood pressure with the standard cuff. He said I was tired. He also told me that my ayurvedic DNA

was primarily the pitta dosha (the humor dominated by fire) and secondarily vata (air and space). I nodded dumbly. He prescribed an ayurvedic dinner designed to help balance my humors, and then sent me off for my first massage of the day. Reliable sources confirm that my two masseurs had, between them, four hands, but I swear Ganesha, who in some depictions has as many as 16 arms, was at work. Divine. After lunch, all fed and rested (I thought), I met Dr. Jitendra Uniyal, who heads the traditional-Chinese medicine program. He asked me to describe my daily routine. He took notes, but after five minutes confessed the interrogation was a pretext for his visual examination of me. He was studying my eyes, my face, my posture. He then made several diagnoses, couched as questions, about conditions I hadn’t discussed with him or Dr. Singh. Did I ever experience numbness in my right hand? (I do.) Pain in my toes? (Occasionally.) My lungs were a little weak, my spine prone to misalignment. Every few minutes, he chirped, “I hope I have not bored you!” He began offering all manner of advice, even suggesting I change how I drink water. “Sip by sip, not chugging. Help your bladder!” he said. “Drink it like Scotch!” He burst out laughing before turning serious again. “I hope I have not bored you!” If not for the eerily accurate diagnoses, I might have wondered what agency had cast Dr. Uniyal and which scriptwriter had penned his winning, comic one-liners. Before our chat, he said, he had planned to start me off on a course of acupuncture and try cupping—to eliminate toxins—later. But my toxin levels so worried him that he wanted to evacuate them immediately. He placed three heated cups on my back, and one each behind my knees, each suctioned against my skin. They hurt, like small creatures biting my flesh. Next, he dotted my scalp and ankles with acupuncture needles. “To relax you,” he said. “Try to go to sleep.” Within a few minutes, the pain had yielded to unexpectedly pleasant tingling. And then I was out. Dr. Uniyal woke me an hour later and removed the cups and needles. Then, seemingly apropos of nothing, he began a mini-homily on the tension between love and fear. Fear, he said, was the greatest source of human anxiety: “Where there is love, there is no fear.” Why the hell was he talking about fear? I’ve got even more fears than I do hidden aches, and as he spoke, I did a quick inventory: fear of failure; fear of my unchiseled torso being displayed at the beach; fear of disappointing my parents; fear of being heard singing; fear of that evil, flashing cursor on a blank screen. Fears are my constant, unfailing companions. As Dr. Uniyal continued, I thought: How does he know all this? Then I felt a pang inside: Were my old companions leaving me? Was that my hardened heart softening? He paused, beamed and said, “I hope I have not bored you!” Then he gazed at me silently for a moment. As he turned back toward his desk, he said, almost as an afterthought: “You are exhausted!” Surprised and unexpectedly touched, too. But certainly not bored. 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 wondered how it was I could feel seasick in a bathtub. My heart began to race and my mind went berserk. What if I died by herb? How mortifying would it be to lose my life to rhododendron and juniper??

t was the third doctor I met whose prescriptions really tested my resolve to surrender. Born and reared in Dharamsala, Dr. Sonam Oshoe specializes in Tibetan medicine. “The physical body is not different from the mental part,” she said, by way of explaining how three forms of ignorance— greed, anger, laziness—manifest physiologically. I don’t know how she diagnosed (accurately) my greed and anger—“laziness is not your problem”— but she counseled me about the importance of preventive care. “It’s about balancing yourself with your own nature,” she said. “Do more things that you like doing. Don’t socialize with people that you feel uncomfortable with. These are simple things.” If only. She walked me to a treatment room for ku nye, a 75-minute oil massage said to expel toxins and calm the body, giving the therapists, Tenzin Tsega and Sam S., instructions in Tibetan. They began by reciting, three times, a mantra that asked Buddha to compensate for any therapeutic errors that they might make—a gesture at once charming and frightening. The massage was followed by chu lum, a bath in herbinfused hot water the color of long-steeped tea. They draped Mylar over the tub to keep it warm, and told me to soak for 15 minutes. I was given two pungent loofah-sized pillows filled with plant extracts—including rhododendron, to help circulation and digestion, and Himalayan juniper, which is believed to have antiinflammatory properties—and instructed to rub them wherever I’d felt aches. At first, it felt great. But soon, sweat poured down my forehead and neck. I wondered how it was that I could feel seasick in a bathtub. I began to count off the seconds. One-one thousand. Two-one thousand. Three-one thousand. How long had I been in? Could I last 15 minutes? Shy of fifty-one thousand, I lost count. My heart began to race and my mind went berserk. What if I died by herb? How mortifying would it be to lose my life to rhododendron and juniper? I called for Tenzin Tsega, who assured me it was okay to get out. “How long was that?” I gasped. “Hmm,” he said. “Maybe 11 minutes?” He told me to shower in lukewarm water and dress. Then he guided me to a chaise longue and tucked a quilt around me. I fell asleep. He woke me after about half an hour, asking how I felt. “Better.” Later that day, I saw Dr. Oshoe, who asked how the treatment was. I confessed I’d lasted just 11 minutes before succumbing to sweat and dizziness. She smiled brightly. “Yes! The treatment was working.” UNDER A SPECTACULAR, INDOOR BODHI TREE—cast in metal, it’s a rare and lovely departure from Vana’s minimalist design, its branches arcing out through the full-length windows—sat Niranjan Das, my personal yoga


instructor. “Inhale,” he murmured. “And exhale. Inhale. And exhale. Notice how the air moves in. And out.” I struggled to still my wandering mind. But I also noticed how unusual my breathing felt, and thought about how rarely I breathed deeply. As he led me through a litany of exercises, urging attention to my lungs and nostrils, I realized that I’d had no idea what breathing involves. That may sound stupid, but breathing just happens. When Das told me to observe, I began to approach this mundane thing with a new sense of wonder. That moment, like much of my time at Vana, was revelatory. Perhaps it was because many distractions were gone—my mobile phone exiled to a desk drawer, my laptop asleep save for one daily e-mail check. Or because I was focused for what seemed like the first time. Perhaps it was because I’d shed expectations. For instance, I’d always thought ayurvedic cuisine was dull, even disgusting. But like every other meal at Vana, my customized thali redefined health food. A couple of morsels of lightly curried chicken shamed me for my microwaved nuggets. The paneer korma was so ethereal and beans poriyal—stir-fried gently with shallots and spices—so delicious that I asked for seconds. Post-yoga, I strolled Vana’s grounds. After a midnight rain, the air smelled freshly laundered, the vegetation was speckled with dew, and the

sky’s brilliant blue was broken only by the dark streaks of birds out for their morning constitutionals. After a few days at Vana, I felt unquestionably better. I’d slept well. Some of my nagging aches had faded. My skin was clearer. So was my mind. I thought about all the times at home when I felt I lost control—too much to do, not enough time, not enough balance, not enough me. How odd that here, the site of my surrender—to these doctors, to their treatments, to the foreign ways of this place, to these instructions about what I could and could not and should and should not do—I felt I had regained a measure of it. My yoga teacher and doctors collaborated on a list of suggestions for me to take home and integrate what I learned at Vana. It stretched to five pages and included: Warm milk and eight threads of saffron added to it are advised once or twice a day, especially at bedtime. Lukewarm sesame-seed-oil massage—rub for 15-45 minutes, followed by warm-water shower. Frequency: Once, twice, or thrice weekly. Walk slowly for 50-100 steps after every meal. That last one struck a chord. Retreats are worthless unless they spur subsequent progress. As I said, I don’t run. But small steps forward? That feels right. ✚ Vana, Malsi Estate retreats include one to two treatments per day, full-board wellness cuisine, arrival and departure consultations, all activities and airport transfers. Mussoorie Road, Dehradun, India; 91-135/391-1114; vanaretreats.com; doubles from Rs47,000 per night, three-night minimum with one night complimentary through August 31. 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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A pagoda on West Lake, in Hangzhou. Opposite: A monk at Amanfayun, a restored village and hotel outside of town.

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In Hangzhou, time slows down, tea is served and traditions live on: st ephen druck er finds sophisticated hotels, serene restaurants, and the quiet soul of the new China. pho t ogr a ph ed by fr ĂŠdĂŠr ic l agr a nge

CHINA DREAMS


R

elax is not a word you hear often in China. The Chinese are in an awfully big hurry to get to the future, and they’re not wasting any time. When the subject turns to Hangzhou, however, the Chinese discover words you’d begun to think might not exist in Mandarin: Calm. Peaceful. Relaxing. “The most relaxing city in China,” my guide called it several times a day. This prosperous city of 7 million, famous across the country for its magnificent lake, is the rare place in China where the relentless national push toward tomorrow finally takes a break. You can still feel the heartbeat of old China here, in the mists and reflections on the water, in the old teahouses and exclusive new clubs keeping alive the spirit of the literati who gathered during Hangzhou’s golden moment, a thousand years ago, as capital of the Southern Song dynasty. To get to the most relaxing city in China, hold on tight. China’s genericwhite trains cover the 200 kilometers from Shanghai in 45 minutes, at a manic 350 kilometers an hour. It’s exciting and punctual and everything other countries dream of, though it never quite feels like a train. The wild ride quickly over, you’re in a taxi to your hotel, circling the lake, when you feel something change. Your shoulders drop. Your mood shifts. Everybody succumbs. Under the spell of the lake, even the most driven person learns to be a little aimless here, to take a long walk with no destination, drift on a boat alone with an oarsman, pay a call at a Buddhist monastery,

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spend hours dining on local specialties, and drink cup after tiny cup—seven, eight, you lose count— of the region’s revered green tea. Perhaps the most interesting visitors these days are the new rich, or “overnight millionaires,” who come not only to slow down but also to absorb the finer points of their ancient culture, which they didn’t have time for on their short trip up the ladder. Hangzhou revolves around West Lake, cradled by mountains on three sides, surprisingly shallow, crisscrossed by undulating stone causeways, and bustling day and night. With its vistas of humpbacked bridges and distant pagodas, it is the classic dreamlike Chinese landscape. You can come at it from any angle. I sailed it with a boatman barking at his mobile phone. I tasted the life of the rich among the moon gates and rock gardens of historic houses such as Guo’s Villa. There were scenic points to photograph, with names like Breeze-Ruffled Lotus in Winding Garden. Countless restaurants and teahouses front the lake, as does a Prada boutique. The pagodas heat-shimmering in the mountains were tempting, too, especially the five-story Leifeng Pagoda, though my guide refused to take me there. “It was rebuilt 12 years ago. It has escalators,” she said, rolling her eyes and ending the discussion. Walking out across the lake on the Su Causeway is the local equivalent of a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. For a country with fashion fever, this strip of park makes a perfect runway. At any time of day you can see young office workers in 12-centimeter platforms meant for stumbling around St.-Tropez at 3 a.m.; and sometimes you feel you’re browsing louisvuitton.com. But you also see everyday family life, and endless sideshows. I watched an army unit jog back and forth, back and forth, over all those killer bridges on a hot spring day. My sympathy was with the poor boy bringing up the rear, out of breath and near collapse, and with the mate falling behind to keep him from giving up completely. My guide saw it differently: “The unit is only as good as the weakest man. He’ll be punished. And so will his friend, for helping him.” This is not the land of “a prize for every child.” When the sun sets, the lake goes Vegas, with a show directed by Zhang Yimou, who created the unforgettable opening night of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I never could grasp the plot of the show on the lake, a legend every Chinese knows. So I just made up my own. The plot is the

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Clockwise from left: The spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake; a monk holding prayer beads at Lingyin Temple; Longjing tea with red dates at Guo’s Villa; a private dining room at the Four Seasons’s Jin Sha restaurant; morning tai chi in Wu Kong park; a view of Hefang Street.


Amanfayun Tea House.

EVEN THE MOST DRIVEN PERSON LEARNS TO BE A LITTLE AIMLESS HERE, TO TAKE A LONG WALK WITH NO DESTINATION, AND DRINK CUP AFTER CUP OF THE REGION’S REVERED GREEN TEA


least of it. A platform just below the surface of the water serves as the stage. The sight of 50 people walking across West Lake carrying huge, glowing, red-​paper lanterns under a full moon, with underwater lighting effects and (Grammy Award–nominated) New Age music swelling, did unimaginable things for my dreams that night.

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ll day every day I seemed to have a cup of tea in my hand. Hangzhou is famous for its Longjing, or Dragon Well, green tea. Each year’s vintage is as discussed as any Pinot Noir. An American student finishing a master’s degree in tea here, Danielle Hochstetter, showed me around the China National Tea Museum and shared her show-and-tell plastic box filled with all the colors of tea leaves, from yellow to black. The key thing to know is that the spring harvest is better than fall’s—and the earlier the buds, the better. The official first day of harvest is always March 25. The Chinese love to talk about what things cost (it’s not considered rude—​ actually quite the opposite), and I quickly learned that my guide had a weakness for US$300-a-kilo early-spring Longjing. Tea is life here, with social, medicinal and cultural roles to play. It’s in every thermos pulled out on trains and park benches. Families and friends pour cups compulsively in the packed booths at modern teahouses such as the rambling Qing Teng—the local version of the Seinfeld coffee shop—on the second floor of a mall, above Rolls-Royce Hangzhou. In smaller, more traditional teahouses like Taiji Tea House, in the old town, where some of the city’s finest tea is sold, the experience is slower and ritualistic. The tea ceremony that most of us think of as Japanese actually originated in China. The Chinese find the Japanese version a rather one-sided performance: when taking tea with a Chinese master, as I did at Taiji with Zheng Chun Hui, you’re very much in the action. Zheng was as glassy-eyed as a mystic, his pale face framed by swirling black hair and a black cowl-neck sweater. His hands were soft, small and feminine. I couldn’t take my eyes off them as he worked his brushes, poured the tea, swirled the small

handleless cup, inhaled the steam, and slurped for effect, judging the quality of the brew with each cup. With utter effortlessness, he kept the tea coming, passed the tomatoes, lychees and other accompaniments, and guided the conversation as he drew us all into the cloistered world of his table. The new rich are in awe of men like him. Business is never far from their minds, and the intimacy a master creates at a traditional tea table is the perfect foundation for the next big deal. But they’re not entirely mercenary. Everything in China is a game of balance, yin and yang, and even the coarsest money man believes a measure of culture is an important counter to his material fortune. Tea, calligraphy, painting, flower-arranging, music: all the classic Chinese arts, associated with Hangzhou for centuries, are flourishing again. Hangzhou’s National Academy of Art has become China’s center for cultivating artists working in new media—the home of Zhang Peili, the “godfather of the video art scene”—and feeds a roaring contemporary art scene. Chic new private clubs, where lutes are played and the finest tea is poured, are drawing successful businessmen from all over China, who polish themselves with the masters while making useful contacts. It always comes back to business in the new China. Dining is evolving, too. There is a distinct Hangzhou cuisine that the Chinese recognize: not oily, not spicy and relatively light. The typical restaurant, like the popular Zhiweiguan, is big, brightly lit and raucous. As my guide taught me, “Chinese don’t pass. You take.” I learned to avoid elbows the hard way. In 2008 the English food writer Fuchsia Dunlop secured the reputation of a new kind of Hangzhou restaurant, the Longjing Manor, with a profile in The New Yorker. It compared the owner, Dai Jianjun, to Alice Waters in his zeal for organic ingredients from small, reliable, local sources. Processed foods are only part of the problem in China; the food chain can sometimes be corrupt, and being suspicious of what’s on your plate is not mere paranoia. Dunlop, an expert on Chinese cuisine, told the story of Longjing Manor seductively, with no adjectives spared: “Steam rose from a milky broth, in which a carp rested in the silky folds of bamboo-pith fungus.” Today Longjing Manor is arguably Hangzhou’s most distinguished and prestigious restaurant. I was discouraged from going. Westerners don’t like the food, I was told. The meal begins with a long meandering walk through a series of exquisite gardens. There are only eight tables, each in a private room. The teenage servers do not speak unless spoken to; food just appears. There’s no menu; you select the rate you’d like to pay, and the meal reflects the best ingredients available at that price that day. I asked my guide to join me. Eating alone doesn’t quite work in China. “Do you like it?” she asked as I tasted the first course, a sweet milky broth not unlike the one Dunlop described, garnished from bowls of, among other things, tiny dried shrimps, with tinier eyes. I had no idea if I liked it. I’d never thought about how much of the pleasure in food comes from the brain, from anticipation and memory. It was all so new, my mind had nothing to fill the gaps between spoonfuls. I was completely blank. “Do you like it?” was all I could think to say, knowing I would get the unsentimental truth, which I did: “The portion is very small. In a regular restaurant the owner would be killed by the eater.” 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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And so it continued for 12 more courses, from the vaguely familiar, like the most refined version of the local favorite, Longjing shrimp (delicate wild freshwater shrimp, poached in green tea); and the vaguely unfamiliar, such as cubes of pork braised for three days to the texture of hunks of butter; to the unnervingly unfamiliar, like bowls of baby frog’s legs and fish cheeks. (Fish cheeks look like Bayer aspirin.) My guide, and the businessmen and government officials smoking cigars in the gardens during their fourth hour on expense accounts, clearly did not have the same experience at Longjing as I did. The strangeness of everything kept distracting me, while they were seeing food and symbolism through holistic Chinese eyes: frog’s legs and gorgon fruit cool the body. Tea lowers cholesterol. Beef is good for the chi. A whole layer of that meal went over my head. I can’t say I liked it, but I’m still thinking about it. Much more easily appreciated is the food at Jin Sha, the extravagant Asian restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, with its abalone menu and Lanvin crowd. At Amanfayun, an Amanresort about 20 minutes into the countryside, is a thousand-yearold village restored to perfection, its guest rooms are former houses and an active footpath still runs through the hotel. Overnight millionaires have been known to check in and leave immediately. “Where’s the marble?” they want to know. But for the right person, Amanfayun is an unforgettable experience of extreme luxury and haunting, tranquil atmosphere. It sits at a spiritual crossroads, adjacent to a cluster of Buddhist monasteries and one of Hangzhou’s most astonishing sights: Fei Lei Feng, a massive cliff carved with images of Buddha making every imaginable face at you. Seven temples afford good destinations for contemplative walks. It’s hard not to be swept

Hangzhou

THE STRANGENESS OF EVERYTHING KEPT DISTRACTING ME, WHILE MY HOSTS WERE SEEING FOOD AND SYMBOLISM THROUGH HOLISTIC CHINESE EYES away by their gongs, incense burners and chanting monks, though I now know monks are less reliable than I imagined. They clock in for chanting with fingerprint technology. It was arranged that I’d have tea with Master Mingxing, a monk at Yongfu Temple. The climb up to meet him was tiring, with signs admonishing me every time I stopped to rest: “If you think you have everything, you have nothing.” We met in a tearoom in front of a psychedelic Buddhist video installation, with clouds and stars and 10,000 arms whirling in the heavens. I was expecting the wisdom of age, but he was barely 30 years old. “There are no old monks in China,” my guide said, her way of reminding me that Buddhism was crushed during the Cultural Revolution and did not begin to revive until the 1990’s. His robes were saffron, he wore a surprisingly good watch, and we spoke through an interpreter. I’d always wondered exactly what a monk was. “Someone free from the cycles of life,” he told me, describing a typical day: up at 4 a.m., chant, work, chant, free time with self, dinner at 4 p.m., in bed at 10. I wondered if there had been a resurgence of Buddhism in the new China. Older Chinese who are retired and have “space in their minds,” he said, are rediscovering Buddhism. Entrepreneurs in their twenties and thirties, the ones with steering around in big black BMW’s, are the temple’s other frequent visitors these days. “They’re more curious than devout,” he said. “Buddhism is another fashion to them.” He never once looked me in the eye. At some point he and my interpreter had a side conversation in a too-cozy tone. I insisted she fill me in: “He said you’re very energetic and optimistic for your age. He said that isn’t easy.” I glared at him. As the tea ran low and our interview came to a close, I asked what one thing he wanted me to learn from my short stay in Hangzhou. He thought a bit and said, “If you want to be happy, you have to know what is enough.” I flew home the next day. ✚

Getting There Shanghai is the closest major city. Take a 45-minute train ride from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to Hangzhoudong Railway Station.

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STAY Amanfayun 22 Fayun Ln.; amanresorts.com; doubles from RMB4,450. Banyan Tree A tranquil retreat in the Xixi National Wetland Park. Zijingang Rd.; banyantree.com,

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doubles from RMB3,000. Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake 5 Lingyin Rd.; fourseasons.com; doubles from RMB3,150. EAT AND DRINK Jin Sha 5 Lingyin Rd.; fourseasons.com; dinner for two RMB1,000. Longjing Manor 399 Longjing Rd.; 86-571/8788-8777; dinner for two RMB1,000. Qing Teng 278 Nanshan Rd.; 86-571/8702-2777. Taiji Tea House 184 Hefang St.; 86-571/8780-1791. Zhiweiguan 83 Renhe Rd.;

86-571/8701-0544; dinner for two RMB500. DO China National Tea Museum 88 Longjing Rd.; teamuseum.cn. Guo’s Villa 28 Yanggong Di Rd.; no phone. BOOK WITH A T+L TRAVEL EXPERT The author arranged his itinerary through T+L A-List Super-Agent Guy Rubin, who creates customized guided itineraries. imperialtours.net.


Clockwise from top left: A calligraphy demonstration at Fayun Place, at Amanfayun; a courtyard inside Fayun Place; monks walk Amanfayun’s grounds; breakfast at Steam House restaurant, at Amanfayun.


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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, on the Griboyedov canal, in St. Petersburg.

YES, THERE IS THE THRILL OF THE NEW—THE MARIINSKY II THEATER, THE GRAND FOUR SEASONS HOTEL—BUT THIS CITY, AS REGGIE NADELSON DISCOVERS, REMAINS A PLACE WHERE LITERATURE AND HISTORY TAKE CENTER STAGE. PHOTOGR APHED BY AMBROISE TÉ ZENAS


An exhibit at the Russian Museum.


T The maestro is late. The audience at St. Petersburg’s new Mariinsky II theater waits, anticipation palpable. The 2,000-seat space is all curved pale wood, austere, a little chilly. I’m restless. These seats are hard. My neighbor shoots me a look that says, Well, everyone knows tardiness is part of the glamorous persona of the peripatetic Valery Gergiev, artistic and general director of the Mariinsky, who has made St. Petersburg a world-class music city. And then: he arrives. The audience goes nuts. Under those bushy eyebrows Gergiev’s eyes glitter in the spotlight, he turns, raises a hand, the orchestra begins Puccini’s Tosca. Even the most cynical critics believe Valery Gergiev is a great talent, this in a city that has always adored culture. St. Petersburg was, in a sense, born out of the very ideal of classical European culture. When Peter the Great laid down the first stones, in 1703, he was like a movie director with an epic back lot, or Walt Disney creating a theme park. “He gave Russia a European window on the world, and Europe a Russia they could understand,” says Svetlana Kunitsyna, an old friend of mine who is an art historian and cultural reporter for Russian TV. During the intermission, le tout St. Petersburg sips Prosecco, nibbles smoked-salmon sandwiches, and poses against the burnished, gold-colored walls.

The new theater is not universally admired, but philistine that I am, I like the lobby; I like the way the glass walls reflect the original theater across a tiny canal; the Neoclassical pale jade and white confection where Russian ballet was born and Balanchine and Baryshnikov danced under gilded ceilings. Vladimir Putin, a hometown boy and former deputy mayor, has put plenty of money into the city, and has had a long relationship with Gergiev. Art and politics have always gone together in St. Petersburg; without skill in cultural gamesmanship, nobody survives. After the opera, we think about food. Supper of hot squid salad and cold wine at Vincent, two minutes’ walk from the Mariinsky? Spicy stew and cheese-stuffed Georgian bread at Hochu Harcho, where chefs in red jackets wield their sabers to slice up lamb shashlik? We pass the just-opened Jamie Oliver restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, and see men with stubble making deals on their phones while women in 15-centimeter Louboutin heels haul their Birkins into the street for a smoke. As we continue toward the new Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace, where I’m staying, puffs of gilded clouds holding the late sun drift across an amethyst sky. During these White Nights, the weeks around the summer solstice, it’s still light at 11 p.m.; there are parties all night, in bars on Rubinstein Street, noisy, joyful, young; or on boats that cruise the waterways past New Holland Island, currently being redeveloped by oligarch Roman Abramovich as a cultural center. The island was originally the site of a naval base established by Peter the Great in the 1700’s. Peter built the city quickly, at the Gulf of Finland at the far northwestern corner of Russia, a chaotic country mired in byzantine politics and medieval religion. He built the Peter and Paul Fort on what is now the north side of the city. He taxed everyone. He imported Italian architects, French sculptors, Dutch shipbuilders; he raised the status of women. Peter dreamed of an 18th-century Enlightenment City with avenues that ran straight to the horizon, lined with perfectly Neoclassical buildings. In the still water of the Neva are reflected gilded churches, pale pink mansions, the aquamarine Winter Palace. It is almost impossible to tell sky from water, buildings from their reflections, this hallucinogenic reality from illusion, in what Joseph Brodsky, one of St. Petersburg’s great writers, called “the most narcissistic of cities.” In the cozy, wood-paneled Four Seasons bar, Svetlana and I sample vodka and caviar, then the best fish-and-chips I’ve ever had. I hate hyperbole about hotels, but this one, open since last summer, is elegant, luxurious and comfortable, with a staff that makes you feel royal, even when it rains and you walk in looking like a wet dog, as I often did. The rooms are enormous, the bathrooms big enough for Peter the Great (he was 207 centimeters tall). Indeed, this is a painstakingly restored St. Petersburg palace. In the early 18th century, Peter thought St. Isaac’s Square a bit lacking in style, so his pal Prince LobanovRostansky built the pale yellow palace with its white colonnade and marble lions out front; a St. Petersburg landmark, it is described in Pushkin’s poem “The Bronze Horseman.” (The actual horseman is a short walk from the hotel.) Over dinner, Svetlana and I reminisce. When I met her in 1988, she was a rock chick, 189 centimeters in a miniskirt, attending a concert by Boris Gribenshikov, a local rock star who sang in Russian. 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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DURING INTERMISSION, L E T O U T S T. P E T E R S B U R G S I P S PROSECCO, NIBBLES SMOKED SALMON, AND POSES AGAINST THE B U R N I S H E D , G O L D - C O LO R E D WA L L S

It was my first trip. Leningrad, as it was called then, was grim and dirty. Wind howled along the Neva River, which overtopped its embankments. Half the Hermitage was shut, though you could buy black-market caviar from a waiter at some restaurant who kept a tin of it in the leg of his pants. The pleasure of St. Petersburg is still the shock of the old, the scale of the city’s center. In the morning, I put on my sightseeing shoes and traipse through the immensity of Palace Square, watching a phalanx of young soldiers—the changing of the guard. The Hermitage is a museum on an impossible scale, much of it housed in the Winter Palace (there are four more buildings along Palace Embankment). This was the formal home of Russian czars, the absolute center of power, its physical expression in gold, marble, malachite. In 1753, Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s daughter, commissioned Bartolomeo Rastrelli, a Frenchborn Russian-Italian architect, to build the Winter Palace. Rastrelli and the other European architects must have felt a little like restaurant guys in 1990’s Las Vegas: suddenly there’s endless empty space, patrons who want the biggest and most opulent, and have money to burn. Catherine the Great came to the throne in 1762; she was an obsessive collector: Rembrandts, Rubenses, Titians, Raphaels, Van Dycks; sculpture, artifacts, furniture. She consulted Voltaire on philosophy, and imported French intellectual Denis Diderot’s library. In the decades that followed, more and more art was added, including French Impressionist works plundered from Germany at the end of World War II. I head off across the Golden Triangle, the iconic center of St. Petersburg—most of the great buildings are here. A pierogi stuffed with chicken costs US$10 at Stolle, on Nevsky Prospekt, the main boulevard. It’s bordered by Nevsky, and the Neva and Fontanka rivers. I pass by the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, late-19th-century, striped pineapple shapes and gilded onion domes. 108

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There are no crowds at the Russian Museum, housed in the pale lemon Mikhailkovsky Palace near the lush Summer Gardens. I walk up the curving staircase past icons and portraits of great Russians, to the modern art. I love Leon Bakst’s turn-of-the-20th-century portraits, and his designs for the Ballets Russes. And there are Chagalls and Kandinskys and several of Kazimir Malevich’s ground-breaking “Black Square” paintings. The spirit of the Russian avant-garde can still be found. “There are many people here who see themselves as actors in this theatrical city,” says Marina Albee, proprietor of the Café Botanika. Inside, a short walk from the Russian Museum, you can smell curries and freshly baked carrot cake. Against all odds, Marina, an American, opened a vegetarian café in this land devoted to meat and cigarettes. Dilraj Singh, her Indian chef, simply walked in one day and never left.
Marina first came to Petersburg in the 1980’s. “It seemed to have fallen out of time because all the clocks were broken,” she says. “There was a feeling of Radio Silence, but with great cultural masterpieces at every turn.” She tells me she detests the “barbarous” inclination to tear down old buildings, and the homophobia that is on the rise. But, she says, “you can still look at Petersburg through the eyes of Dostoyevsky or Pushkin. I prefer Pushkin.”

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Moika Canal. February 10, 2:45 p.m. At the precise time the writer’s heart stopped, following a duel, a moment of silence is observed annually in the courtyard of the Pushkin Memorial Museum. Considered Russia’s great poet, a cultural figure of almost official standing, he was a son of St. Petersburg, where he lived in this pretty nobleman’s flat on the water—light, airy and filled with books. I think of Pushkin as a summer writer, out on the town during the White Nights. “Pushkin saw himself as St. Petersburg’s host,” says Anna Brodsky, professor of Russian literature at Washington and Lee University, in Virginia. “He invited readers to follow him to balls and champagne suppers. Rebel, patriot, intellectual, ironist, historian, lyric poet—all at once,” she says. “Everyone,” Svetlana says, “wants to be like Pushkin.” If Pushkin is lovely summer Petersburg, Dostoyevsky is autumn here, dark, wet, with a certain decadent beauty. Dostoyevsky called St. Petersburg “the most abstract and intentional of cities.” In the grand avenues, the imperial vistas that stretched to the horizon, the chilly squares, there was no place for the poor and huddled—here humanity was dwarfed. By the middle of the 19th century, the city had become a boomtown of big money and the terrible slums that Dostoyevsky chronicled in his novel Crime and Punishment.


Clockwise from top left: A view of the Mariinsky theater; caviar at the Tea Room at the Four Seasons Hotel; reading at Idiot Café; a Paul Gauguin painting at the State Hermitage Museum; a carrot-nut salad with farmer cheese and kasha at Café Botanika; two of Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Squares” at the Russian Museum; inside Dostoevsky’s former apartment, now a memorial museum; a guest room at the Four Seasons. Center: A hallway at the Hermitage.


A marble staircase in the lobby at the Four Seasons, St. Petersburg.


I F P U S H K I N I S L O V E LY SUMMER PETERSBURG, DOSTOYEVSKY IS AUTUMN H E R E , D A R K , W E T, W I T H A C E R TA I N D E C A D E N T B E A U T Y In his cramped apartment, now a museum, a few teacups are on the dining room table, an umbrella in the hall, pages from The Brothers Karamazov on the desk. Outside a large tractor is digging up the street in the once-seedy area; pricey new condos are being built. You can take a Crime and Punishment tour of the neighborhood, but I opt for the “Raskolnikoff salad” at the nearby Idiot Café, where there are vintage typewriters on the bookshelves. Locals drink, smoke, laugh. In full Russian mode, I down a vodka. Rain is falling hard as I cross the river. In November 1917, signaled by a shot fired from the cruiser Aurora, Lenin took over the Winter Palace. You can’t go into Palace Square without replaying Sergei Eisenstein’s iconic 1928 film, October: Ten Days That Shook the World, in your mind. In this city, fiction, cinema and history often merge and blur.

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siege ending in 1944, when close to 2 million died—Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery is a terrible place worth seeing—the city stood. Anna Akhmatova, the poet, survived the siege, and much else: the secret police, the purges, Stalin. I make my way to Fountain House, and the memorial and museum in her honor. Her first husband was murdered by Bolshevists, her son sent to the gulags, her friends exiled or killed. Here you can feel an indomitable force, and inexpressible sadness. She wrote this line: “Terror fingers all things in the dark.” The new St. Petersburg, gilded, gorgeous, has also seen some of the worst racism and homophobia in the country. What to make of local legislator Vitaly Milonov, who said gay athletes could be subject to arrest at the Sochi Olympics, and pushed through a law banning “propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia to minors” as if they were the same thing, and both evil. Here, the homophobia is very real. Still, many locals in this city of 5 million do not consider it as their problem, enjoying what they see as a better life. “Laws are beginning to work, the economy is improving,” says Dimitri, my chatty driver, one day. He notes that when Gazprom, the gas and oil company, tried to build a skyscraper, citizens protested, and the building was moved outside the city. “Putin didn’t want to be the man who destroyed the St. Petersburg skyline,” says Sergei Sholokhov, who runs the local Polar Shining Film Festival. “I don’t care about politics or any of it,” he adds. “I care about the view from my window.” “Let’s eat,” Svetlana says. At Koryushka, we drink Georgian red wine on the broad terrace overlooking the city. A newlywed couple poses for photos, giggling, toasting each other with champagne. The city is spread out before us, summer sky spiked by the Admiralty tower, the dome of St. Isaac’s plated with real gold. St. Petersburg in all its glory. ✚

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STAY Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace 1 Voznesensky Prospekt; fourseasons.com; doubles from RUB10,400. Hotel Astoria Rocco Forte’s Art Deco–inspired property,

near the Hermitage. 39 Bolshaya Morskaya; thehotelastoria.com; doubles from RUB9,000. EAT Café Botanika 7 Pestelya Ul.; cafebotanika.ru; dinner for two RUB1,000. Hochu Harcho 39/41 Sadovaya Ul.; 7-812/3103236; dinner for two RUB2,000. Idiot Café Nab. R. Moyki; 7-812/315-1675; dinner for two RUB2,000. Koryushka 3 Peter & Paul Fortress; 7-812/917-9010; dinner for two RUB2,000.

Stolle 11 Nevsky Prospekt; stolle.ru. Vincent 16 Teatralnaya Ul.; vin-cent.ru; dinner for two RUB1,800. DO Dostoyevsky Memorial Museum 5/2 Kuznechny Pereulok; md.​spb.ru. Mariinsky II 34 Dekabristov Ul.; mariinsky.ru. Russian Museum 4 Inzhenernaya Ul.; rusmuseum.ru. State Hermitage Museum 2 Dvortsovaya Ploschad; hermitagemuseum.org.

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Our Definitive Guide to


Thanks to a red-hot food scene, innovative hotel projects, and exciting design and architecture, the Windy City is the perfect urban escape. Nate Storey reports. Photographed by Kevin J. Miyazaki

The lobby at the Lincoln Hotel, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

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Lay of the Land Gold Coast High-end boutiques border Magnificent Mile, the main artery of this upscale downtown neighborhood. Lincoln Park In the heart of the North Side, you’ll find a mix of professionals and university students; the area is known for its eponymous park. Logan Square Welcome to Chicago’s Brooklyn, where streets are lined with record stores and cafés run by young baristas. River North A decade-long renaissance has transformed this onceseedy enclave into a center for restaurants and nightlife. West Loop The fast-changing West Loop has great art galleries and culinary hot spots. Wicker Park/Bucktown Come here for the city’s cool creative scene: unique bookstores, thrift shops and coffee roasters. Getting Around Taxis are easy to hail; otherwise, the El train (transitchicago.com) is efficient and expansive.

Stay Our picks of Chi-town’s new properties. Plus, two classics. The Newcomers ACME HOTEL COMPANY This hipster hotel in River North is filled with quirky design touches (red lips on the bathroom mirror; mannequin trapeze artists suspended in the courtyard). acmehotel​ company.com; $159. THE GODFREY The tall glass-andsteel structure cuts a commanding figure against the Chicago skyline. High-tech rooms come with iHome docking stations and RFID key cards. godfrey​ hotelchicago.com; $169. HOTEL LINCOLN A Mad Men–meets–The Brady Bunch–style lobby,

with tweed upholstered furniture and bow-tied bellhops, welcomes you to this refurbished 1928 property on the park. jdvhotels.com; $127. THE LANGHAM In a landmark Mies van der Rohe building, the Langham is awash in mid-20th-century grandeur, from the Dirk Lohan–designed lobby to the Bauhaus art by Judy Ledgerwood and Anish Kapoor. langham hotels.com; $340. PUBLIC HOTEL Ian Schrager’s Chicago hotel remains a local favorite: the revamped Pump Room restaurant is one of the hottest tables in town. public​ hotels.com; $165.

THOMPSON CHICAGO The latest entry in the Thompson Hotels roster is the work of British designer Tara Bernerd. Industrial-chic interiors are done up in concrete, brick and wood; guest rooms have turquoise velvet sofas and black marble tables. thompson​ hotels.com; $199.

The Classics PARK HYATT Occupying 18 floors in a 67-story high-rise overlooking Chicago Avenue, Park Hyatt has a covetable central location. The renovated rooms incorporate reproduction Eames furniture and oversize soaking tubs. parkhyatt. com; $295.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & TOWER Everything here is over the top: the 7,000square-meter spa, 24chair salon owned by celebrity stylist Anthony Cristiano, and personal attaché service (which includes access to a Cadillac). trumphotel​ collection.com; $395.

PENINSULA HOTEL At this stately property, the concierge greets you by name; classical music plays when you enter one of the 339 rooms; and your bedside table has a control panel to deactivate the doorbell for privacy and alert housekeeping when you want service. peninsula.com; $399.

ON THE HORIZON Richard Branson's first Virgin hotel and the London-based Soho House both debut this year.

Hotel prices are in U.S. dollars, and represent starting rates for double occupancy.


Shop

Four treasure troves across the city.

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Ikram With clients like Michelle Obama and friends like Thakoon Panichgul, it’s no wonder Israeli retailer Ikram Goldman has become an icon among the city’s style set. Her 1,500-square-meter fashion emporium in the Gold Coast carries daring statement pieces (Viktor & Rolf ruffled black leather jackets; flirty Lanvin dresses). ikram.com.

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Modern Cooperative A new home in the historic Thalia Hall has doubled the size of this Midcentury Modern furniture and housewares store. Best bets: cutting boards by locally based Solo Home Design, created from reclaimed wood and recycled bike parts. moderncooperative.com. Clockwise from top: Modern Cooperative; outside Ikram; Moschino floral jacquard top and skirt, Junya Watanabe leather jacket, and Prova silk scarf, at Ikram.

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Scout For Chicago’s finest selection of antiques, head to this beautifully edited shop in Andersonville. Owner Larry Vodlak turns over half his inventory each weekend—on any given day you might find a bespoke Edward Fields rug or a lamp made from vintage dumbbells by designer Ted Harris. scoutchicago.com.

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Sofia Among this young entrepreneur’s rapidly expanding fan club: Rachel Zoe, LeAnn Rimes, and other Hollywood fashionistas. The racks at her Gold Coast boutique are filled with lesser-known American designers such as Nicholas K and Timo Weiland. Look out for her signature candle collection. sofialivelovely.com.

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See Do ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO The Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing at the renowned museum showcases contemporary art and design. The original 1893 Beaux-Arts building has a great collection of European, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings (including Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte), as well as photography and Asian ceramics. artic.edu.

A view of the Chicago River.

ASPECT RATIO Avid collector Jefferson Godard curates forwardthinking installations by emerging and established talents at his new West Loop gallery, which has the

Chicago’s top cultural pursuits (beyond Cloud Gate).

city’s only video art space. Highlights include Spanish artist Casilda Sánchez and Tel Aviv–born Einat Amir. aspectratioprojects.com. CHICAGO’S FIRST LADY The best way to learn about the city’s historic buildings (the Tribune Tower; Merchandise Mart) is on a boat tour run by Chicago Architecture Foundation guides. It’s the most popular game in town for good reason: a knowledgeable staff, the longest running time (90 minutes), and a comfortable boat. architecture.org. SECOND CITY The 54-year-old sketch

comedy club has been turning out A-list stars— Tina Fey; Steve Carell; Stephen Colbert—for more than 50 years. While outposts have sprouted up in Toronto and Hollywood, the original is still the place to catch fledgling writers and actors. secondcity.com. STEPPENWOLF THEATRE Many of the silver screen’s preeminent names (John Malkovich; Joan Allen) have performed at this legendary theater, with three venues for plays, musicals and other events; the Garage Theatre next door stages smaller shows. steppenwolf.org.

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Clockwise from left: Piri-piri chicken with bacon, snow peas, mushrooms and leeks, at Fat Rice; chef Iliana Regan at her restaurant, Elizabeth; the dining room at Next.

Eat Chicago’s food scene rivals that of New York, with no shortage of standout restaurants. Here, seven not to miss. ELIZABETH An all-white dining room in Lincoln Square with only 24 seats sets the stage for chef-owner Iliana Regan’s locally foraged dishes. The 20-course menu is divided into three sections (farm; woodlands; ponds, lakes and seas), with crowd-pleasers like lamb loin wrapped in dandelion greens with acorn-squash gnocchi. elizabeth-restaurant. com; prix fixe for one from $65. FAT RICE Pioneer chef Abraham Conlon and co-owner Adrienne Lo have gained a cult following for their innovative Macanese dishes at Fat Rice. Those who brave the hours-long wait are rewarded with shareable plates that take cues from India, Southeast Asia and Portugal: piri-piri chicken in

spicy tomato sauce; arroz gordo topped with linguiça sausage, salted duck and char siu pork. eatfatrice.com; $80. GIRL & THE GOAT AND LITTLE GOAT DINER Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard turns out nose-to-tail specialties, including fried pig face and kidneys stuffed with goat confit. Nearby at Little Goat Diner, Izard puts a creative spin on classic breakfast dishes; try the sourdough pancakes. girlandthegoat.com; $60. littlegoatchicago.com; $40. LONGMAN & EAGLE Chicago’s beard-and-flannel tribe pack this locavore temple in Logan Square for Saturday brunch. Here’s the drill: start with Stiegl-Radler grapefruit

brews and cheesewurst at the pop-up sausage stand on the patio, then head inside for diet-busting fried chicken and waffles with pork belly. longmanandeagle.com; $100. NEXT The aphorism “Food is theater” comes to life at chef Grant Achatz’s follow-up to hot spot Alinea. To get a table, you need to buy a ticket on the website—and they go quickly. But if you snag one, you’re in for a treat: the seriously ambitious menu rotates three times a year and has included pheasant smoked in hay with grilled baby leek, caramelized onion and blanquette sauce. "Chicago Steak" featuring 30-day dry aged rib eye runs through April. nextrestaurant.com; prix fixe for one approximately $160.

PARSON’S CHICKEN & FISH A 1977 El Camino marks the entrance to this no-frills spot in Logan Square, opened by the same team behind Longman & Eagle. Here, young chef Hunter Moore serves cobia ceviche, and a whole fried chicken with Texas toast and coleslaw, accompanied by craft beers and negroni slushes. parsonschicken​​ and​fish.com; $30. THE PUBLICAN AND PUBLICAN QUALITY MEATS For the city’s best oysters and aged charcuterie, head to Paul Kahan’s buzzy restaurant, the Publican. Across the street, his just-opened butcher shop serves a killer barbecued veal brisket sandwich. thepublican​restaurant. com; $100. publicanquality meats.com; lunch for two $40.

Restaurant prices are approximate rates in U.S. dollars for dinner for two, unless otherwise noted.


From left: Home décor at Space 519; espresso and a pastry at La Colombe; Midnite on Pearl Beach performs at the Hideout.

Local Take Four natives share their favorite spots in the city. ZOE RYAN

Curator of Architecture and Design, Art Institute of Chicago

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“For a night out, I love the Hideout (hideoutchicago.com), in Bucktown; it’s a music venue where anything goes—from Baudelaire-inspired shows to performances by indie rock bands. Around the corner, Ada Street (adastreetchicago.com; $50) serves delicious small plates (try the crisp lamb ‘scrumpets’) and craft cocktails. In West Loop, Randolph Street Market (randolphstreetmarket. com) is one of my favorite boutiques, with great vintage finds. No one should leave Chicago without a ride on the El train around the Loop—it’s the best way to see the city.”

Where to Head After Dark

LISA RIGNEY AND GRANT ACHATZ

LIZ PATELSKI

Chef-owner, Alinea and Next

Owner-designers, Remi Canarie

“The trek to the Far North Side is worth it for Katsu (2651 W. Peterson Ave.; 773/ 784-3383; $80), hands down the city’s most authentic sushi restaurant. Many people think Midwestern cuisine is all about meat and potatoes, but GT Fish & Oyster (gtoyster.com; $50) proves them wrong. The seafood dishes are excellent (don’t miss the bacon clam chowder). For the best coffee in town, I personally enjoy La Colombe (lacolombe.com) for its personal touch and unbeatable brews. Exploring the shoreline of Lake Michigan is a must—it’s what makes Chicago unique.”

“On Michigan Avenue, Space 519 (space519.com) has a selection of coffee-table books, clothing from emerging designers, and cool housewares. The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (siskelfilmcenter.

org) is a state-of-the-art theater that screens independent, international and classic films. When we need to hammer out ideas, we go to Bow Truss (bowtruss.com), in East Lakeview, a funky new coffee shop complete with sleds, canoes, and an incredible speaker installation built out of vintage suitcases.”

With a storied history of bootleggers and speakeasies, Chicago has always been a tippler’s town; but it’s come a long way since bathtub hooch. In Logan Square, Dan Shapiro’s Scofflaw (scofflawchicago.com) draws crowds for its gin-focused cocktails. • Devotees of Trader Vic’s have a chic new tiki temple: Three Dots & a Dash (threedotschicago.com), in River North. • Behind a nondescript door in Wicker Park, Violet Hour (theviolethour.com) serves handcrafted drinks (try the Hush & Wonder, made of Matusalem rum, lime and crème de violette). • Ward Eight (wardeight.com), in Evanston, is a saloonstyle bar with well-worn church pews; get the Hemingway.

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Last Look

Photographed by Morgan Ommer

Vietnam Hyatt Regency Danang Welcome to the Vietnamese Resort 2.0, where locally inspired modern design hits you from check-in. At this Hyatt, immediately order the Le Vy cocktail, the perfect partner for your first survey of China Beach.

Hotel de l’Opera, Hanoi Want to sleep in the bed of Kristin Scott Thomas? Ask reception for room 606. The elevated cloud-soft bed just paces from the Opera House is fit for Hollywood royalty; Thomas has a copy in her Paris flat.

Ana Mandara Hue Taking its cues from the nearby royal Palace and Citadel, the Ana Mandara greets you with regal-gold ao dai-sporting hosts and a welcome wall-hanging resembling the scroll of an imperial edict.

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InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula InterContinental as conceived by Bill Bensley is part Vegas-in-Vietnam (see: the front desk echoing casino tellers), part Alice in Wonderland on speed (oversized conical hat-shaped dining pods; monkeys everywhere).



March 2014