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Southeast asia

november 2017

Samui in bloom Mongolia on the horizon The sweet side of Paris Take photos like a pro

Singapore S$7.90 / Hong Kong HK$43 Thailand THB175 / Indonesia IDR50,000 Malaysia MYR18 / Vietnam VND85,000 Macau MOP44 / Philippines PHP240 Burma MMK35 / Cambodia KHR22,000 Brunei BND7.90 / Laos LAK52,000


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Panoramic views from Macau Tower.


Abalone, prist inely plated Cantonese food.

Paul’s, Ruins of St. ge site. ta ri he CO ES a UN

Breathtaking views by night on the Cotai Strip.

site to U N ESCO P ilgr image oldest e th of e on ple, 1488. Ah Ma Tem in t il bu , acao temples in M

Impeccable five-star hotel service.

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Churches an d cathedrals righ in the hear t of Macao Penins t ula.

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the city skyline, where guests are pampered with inroom Nespresso machines, a selection of TWG teas, Poltrona Frau statement furnishings, lavish Jim Thompson silk finishings, and deep bath tubs. Rejuvenate at your leisure, with a dip in NASA technology-purified mineral swimming pools, complimentary evening drinks and canapes in the Private Lounge, or sip the afternoon away with High Tea at The Salon. Hotel Fort Canning is your urban oasis in a park.

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HOTEL FORT CANNING, SINGAPORE NEAR-AWAY! BY AMERICAN EXPRESS® IS OPEN TO BASIC PLATINUM RESERVE CREDIT CARD MEMBERS. • Card Member must make advance reservation with Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore at +65 6559 6769. Any use of vouchers must be stated at time of reservation. • All reservations are subject to availability and not applicable during blackout dates (i.e. Eves of Holidays and Public Holiday) or days of high occupancy. Please contact Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore for more information. A room reservation confirmation letter or email (in softcopy or hardcopy) must be presented, along with the physical voucher and your American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card upon check-in. • Offer may not be combined with other hotel programmes or special offers and is not available on pre-existing reservations. • Complimentary parking during Card Member’s period of stay at Hotel Fort Canning is subject to availability. • No show or cancellation policies apply in accordance to the hotels’ policies. Please check with hotel for details. • Accommodation is for a maximum of two (2) adults and is inclusive of all applicable tax and service charges for such accommodation. Breakfast is not included. Cost of meals and all other incidentals (including applicable tax and service charges), will be charged to the Card Member’s American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card. • Merchant’s Terms and Conditions apply – please check with respective merchants for details. American Express acts solely as a payment provider and is not responsible or liable in the event that such services, activities or benefits are not provided or fulfilled by the merchant. Merchants are solely responsible for the fulfilment of all benefits and offers. • Programme benefits, participating merchants and Terms and Conditions may be amended or withdrawn without prior notice at the sole discretion of American Express International Inc. In the event of any disputes, the decision of American Express will be final and no correspondence may be entertained. American Express International Inc., (UEN S68FC1878J) 20 (West) Pasir Panjang Road #08-00, Mapletree Business City, Singapore 117439. americanexpress.com.sg Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A.® Registered Trademark of American Express Company. © Copyright 2017 American Express Company.


November

ON THE COVER All lit up at the Coco Tam’s fire show in Koh Samui. Photographed by Thanet Kaewduangdee.

features 64

Treasure Island With new resorts and a close community, Koh Samui is enjoying a bump in popularity. By Jeninne Lee-St. John. Photographed by Thanet Kaewduangdee

72

c l o c k w i s e F R O M t o p LE F T: a p r i l w o n g ; a l e x c r e t e y s y s t e rm a n s ; m a r c e l t h e r o u x ; t h a n e t k a e w d u a n g d e e

The Empty Vessel In the Gobi Desert, even camels seem filled with devotion. By Adam Skolnick. Photographed by April Wong

80 72 90 64 80

My Photographic Education Marcel Theroux learns how to capture indelible images of wildlife on a safari in Kenya.

90

Life is Sweet Chef Yotam Ottolenghi goes in search of the best Parisian patisseries. Photographed by Alex Cretey Systermans

98

Land of Pain and Promise Writer Kiese Laymon and photographer Andrew Moore find beauty in America’s Deep South.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7

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In Every Issue 

T+L Digital 10 Contributors 12 Editor’s Note 14 The Conversation 16 Deals 59 Wish You Were Here 106

contents

26 China’s Secret Superstar

22 Gateway of the Future, Now

32 How I Got the Shot Six pros

of Bali’s neighboring islands, yet curiously overlooked, Nusa Penida and its untouched beauty are finally getting the kudos they deserve. Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 aims for efficient passenger handling through automation, while using art and local culture to add a touch of tranquility to your journey.

24 Culture Watch From an eco-

friendly music festival to the debut of what may be the world’s most Instagrammable museum, there are some great events and openings in Asia this season.

Guangzhou’s trove of historic architecture has been matched by cutting-edge design, lively urban culture and impressive international food.

people you meet while traveling can be a great cultural exchange—once you learn to connect with your subjects.

46 High Spirits Pouring from her

collection of more than 300 bottles, a Hong Kong bartender aims to demystify liquor one sip at a time.

reveal their secrets for capturing transcendent images that instantly transport the viewer.

39 47 Tips for Better Photos

Tricks and tips to improve your own photo-taking, from useful apps to guidelines for composition.

24

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42 Saving Face Taking pictures of

n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

48

48 Return of the Crillon After a

four-year closure and lavish renovation, one of Paris’s storied hotels unveils a daringly modern new look.

42

46

F R O M LE F T: c o u r t e s y o f w o n d e rfr u i t; C o u r t e s y o f H ô t e l d e Cr i l l o n ; e t i e n n e b o s s o t; L e i g h g r i ff i t h s

19 Forgotten Paradise The largest


t+l digital

+

Lookout

5 Chef-Driven Eateries in Manila Filipino chefs are making waves with their bold, innovative cuisine. Here are our picks for where to eat in the capital right now.

6 Terrific dishes in Singapore The Lion City may well be one of the best foodie towns on the planet. Start by working your way through this menu of delicious local eats.

4 Bangkok Rooftop Bars with Killer Views A crop of sky-high watering holes offers exceptional craft cocktails and a peerless panorama of the capital.

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n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

tleditor@ mediatransasia.com

A stylish seaside Thai retreat; Ubud’s new design boutique; Phnom Penh dines out on cool Khmer; the latest travel deals and more. travelandleisureasia.com

fr o m l e f t: m a g i c l i wa n a g ; l a u r y n i s h a k ; c o u r t e s y o f c e n ta r a g r a n d

this month on tr avel andleisureasia.com


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contributors

2

Adam Skolnick

Ian Lloyd Neubauer

“The Empty Vessel” Page 72 — “I’d wanted to visit the Gobi ever since I saw the desert in BBC’s Planet Earth 2,” says the American scribe who made it to Mongolia in August. He was beguiled— and even soothed—by the “transporting endless history” there. In particular, “I loved exploring Ikh Nartiin Chuluu. The wildlife, petroglyphs, camels and red rock formations made it my favorite place in the Gobi.” As for favorite people, he bonded a bit with Jalsa Urubshurow, “the Mongolian American millionaire owner of Three Camel Lodge. The man smuggles in his own booze to stock his magnificent bar.” Instagram: @adamskolnick.

“Forgotten Paradise” Page 23 — “I was drawn to Nusa Penida by reports that it looked like Bali in the 1970s,” the Sydneybased Neubauer says. “The garden and pool at Agung View barefoot resort has sunrise and sunset views. Each day at 5 p.m., I sat by the pool with a cocktail watching the sun sink into the ocean, awed by the colors.” Some favorite memories come in a dream: “At Penida Colada beach bar, I spent a day on a sun bed, sipping a smoothie, and fell asleep watching fishing boats cruising across the strait. The experience was sublime, as I imagine Kuta in Bali would have been 50 years ago.” Instagram: @adventure_before_dentures.

3

4

April Wong

Nick Rains

“The Empty Vessel” Page 72 — The L.A.–based Australian visited the country she calls “vast, desolate, unforgiving” during Naadam Festival. The Three Games of Men (archery, horse racing and wrestling) is the place to immerse in enduring nomadic traditions. She is grateful for the “stay with Mongolia’s champion eagle hunter and his family in their Kazakh-style ger.” But the country is brimming with characters worthy of a novel, like Daniel in Ulaanbaatar: “He’s a Cuban who went to university in Russia where he met his wife, a Mongolian woman with whom who he runs Millie’s Café, which has the best coffee in the city.” Instagram: @alovecreative.

Wish You Were Here Page 106 — “While the scenery in Papua New Guinea is awesome, it’s the rich culture that I love,” says the Australian, who has been twice. “The more remote villages don’t see many foreigners and are interested in us—that always makes for great photos.” For the picture on the Savoli River that he shares in this issue, “the man was curious about our boats and came over in his dugout to see what we were doing. It’s a real moment captured as it happened.” Another favorite moment: “Exploring the cartoon-perfect, tiny, white, sandy Lusancay Islands, which look like they were drawn by a child.” Instagram: @nickrains.

P h o to gr a p h er

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W r i t er a nd P h o to gr a p h er

P h o to gr a p h er

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f A d a m S k o l n i c k ; c o u r t e s y o f I a n L l o y d N e u b a u e r ; c o u r t e s y o f A p r i l W o n g ; c o u r t e s y o f N i c k R a i n s

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november 2017

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W r i t er

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ADVERTORIAL

Cartoon Network Waterpark, in Pattaya.

Flight of the Gibbon.

Smiles Ahead

Thailand fuses the exoticism of the Orient with first-world comforts to create an ever-appealing package.

Wat Arun, along the Chao Phraya River.

Iconic tom yum kung.

MOST TRAVELERS KICK OFF THEIR ADVENTURE in the “Kingdom of Smiles” in the capital, Bangkok, an exhilarating city where tradition and modernity collide. Get your bearings with a ride on the Chao Phraya River, which passes some must-see sights, including the ornate Grand Palace and Wat Pho, a majestic temple famous for its 46-metre-long reclining Buddha. A host of riverside restaurants make fine refuges for sunset over Wat Arun, or the “Temple of Dawn.” Other Bangkok highlights include its vibrant markets. Charter a tuk-tuk, the city’s iconic form of transport, to buzzing retail hubs such as Rot Fai Market, Artbox, Chatuchak and JJ Green Market. Though Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai is a world removed from Bangkok. In the northern foothills, the city has hundreds of sacred temples, including Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang. These holy relics, as well as the city’s moated old quarter with its lively night market and its location near beautiful waterfalls and Doi Inthanon National Park make Chiang Mai special. Zip line with Flight of the Gibbon, and whizz through the jungle canopy. No visit to Thailand, of course, is complete without beach action. Amazing stretches of sand abound throughout the nation, but no resort is handier than Pattaya, two hours from Bangkok’s international airport. The rambunctious coastal town has myriad sights and attractions. Enjoy watery thrills at Cartoon Network Waterpark, do a skydive, or chill at the city’s award-winning Botanical Garden. The city’s legendary nightlife comes alive on its famous Walking Street while Thailand’s amazing beauty is best observed from Khao Pattaya Viewpoint or on Koh Larn: a chunk of island paradise just a short boat ride away. With beautiful landscapes, amazing food and friendly people sprinkled liberally throughout the country, it’s no wonder Thailand continues to capture the hearts of visitors. IT’S TIME TO TAKE FLIGHT AND VISIT ASEAN’S 10 INCREDIBLE COUNTRIES:

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editor’s note

|

november 2017

said the same thing to me: Look at that light! That’s the cue to stop everything we’re doing and capture the scene, whether digitally or on film. Savvy photographers, like good writers, are the people who notice the little things. So, this month we peer through the viewfinder for some tricks of the photography trade—partly in an attempt to make our own Instagram accounts more memorable. There are too many tips to mention, but it’s best to start off with “How I Got The Shot” (page 32), in which a handful of professional photographers explain what motivated them when taking a particular image, and proceed from there. Whether you use your smart phone or a dedicated camera, you’ll want to mine “47 Tips for Better Photos” (page 39)—you’ll never look at a napkin the same way again. For her part, deputy editor Jeninne Lee-St. John signs up for a class in Vietnam to learn how to see her travels, in particular the people she meets, in a new light (“Saving Face,” page 42), while Marcel Theroux takes that idea one step further on the trip of a lifetime in Kenya (page 80) and, in the end, realizes photography changes the way he sees the world. By the end of this issue, you’ll see that it can do the same for you on your trips throughout this most photogenic corner of the globe.

@CKucway chrisk@mediatransasia.com

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n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

From My Travels

I woke up in Zurich and, before I knew it, was standing under blue autumn skies gazing at the 14th-century wooden Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. Of course, few tourists were actually looking at the bridge, instead posing for selfies with the iconic structure, all the better to show off to friends and relatives back in Beijing. Regardless, the bridge and the old town around it—oh, to be back in that bakery again—are memorable for all the right reasons.

fr o m l e f t: t h a n a k o r n c h o m n awa n g ; c h r i s t o p h e r k u c way

Every photographer I’ve ever traveled with has, at some point,


the conversation Ever overhear a convo between flight attendants and scratch your head in confusion? Cabin crews have a slew of jargon that leave us all guessing. What’s a “deadhead” if not a fan of Jerry Garcia? And who would have known that “starburst” refers to the placement of the service cart and not the sweet taffy candy? Stay in the loop with this glossary of the sky collected from flight attendants by Telegraph Travel.

“Crotch Watch”

That groin scan that flight attendants make to check if passengers’ seat belts are fastened.

#ILOVEBINTAN

“Pointy End”

A.k.a. the first and business class section of the plane.

“Starburst”

When attendants start the food carts in the middle of the aisle and serve by moving towards the front and back from there.

“Spinner”

A passenger who boarded the plane last minute and is looking for their seat in a fluster.

“Crosscheck” Prior to departure, the plane’s doors are checked to see if they are prepared in case of an evacuation.

“Landing Lips” The last makeup touch up done by stewardesses before landing.

“Hot bit”

The heated part of an in-flight meal.

“Wagon Train”

When one service trolley follows another, like a drink cart trailing the duty-free cart.

“Deadhead”

A crew member who flies as a passenger but does not work on the flight— usually because the airline needs to transport them to another base. I l l u s t r at i o n b y fr e e p i k

#TLASIA

readers show off their photography skills with some killer snaps.

Compelling portraiture in Chiang Mai. By @travellingpumpkins.

Patterns hidden in Taiwan’s main metropolis. By @jossreed.

An action shot not to miss. Taken in Chengdu. By @drinkteatravel.

A Koh Tao sunset makes for a stellar silhouette. By @aswetravl.

ESCAPE, UNWIND AND DISCOVER BINTAN LIKE NEVER BEFORE. bintan-resorts.com

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Christopher Kucway Wannapha Nawayon Jeninne Lee-St. John Eloise Basuki Chotika Sopitarchasak Autchara Panphai Veronica Inveen

Regul ar contributors / photogr aphers Cedric Arnold, Kit Yeng Chan, Philipp Engelhorn, Marco Ferrarese, Duncan Forgan, Diana Hubbell, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Melanie Lee, Grace Ma, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Stephanie Zubiri chairman president publishing director publishER digital media manager TRAFFIC MANAGER / deputy DIGITAL media manager sales director business de velopment managers chief financial officer production manager circul ation assistant

J.S. Uberoi Egasith Chotpakditrakul Rasina Uberoi-Bajaj Robert Fernhout Pichayanee Kitsanayothin Varin Kongmeng Joey Kukielka Leigha Proctor Tim Rasenberger Gaurav Kumar Kanda Thanakornwongskul Yupadee Saebea

TR AVEL+LEISURE (USA) Editor-in-Chief Senior Vice President / Publishing Director Publisher

Nathan Lump Steven DeLuca Joseph Messer

©2017 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, The Luxury Colletand their logos are the trademarks of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates. A minimum of three-night stay is applied. Terms and conditions apply. Black-out dates may apply. Subject to availability.

editor-in-chief art director Deput y editor Features editor senior DEsigner DEsigner assistant EDITOR

TIME INC. INTERNATIONAL LICENSING & DEVELOPMENT (syndication@timeinc.com) Senior Director, Business De velopment E xecutive Editor / International

Jennifer Savage Jack Livings

TIME INC. Chief E xecutive Officer Chief Content Officer

Joseph Ripp Norman Pearlstine

tr avel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 11, Issue 11 Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia is published monthly by Media Transasia Limited, 1603, 16/F, Island Place Tower, 510 King’s Road, North Point, Hong Kong. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Produced and distributed by Media Transasia Thailand Ltd., 14th Floor, Ocean Tower II, 75/8 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoeynue, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: 66-2/204-2370. Printed by Comform Co., Ltd. (66-2/368-2942–7). Color separation by Classic Scan Co., Ltd. (66-2/291-7575). While the editors do their utmost to verify information published, they do not accept responsibility for its absolute accuracy. This edition is published by permission of Time Inc. Affluent Media Group 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Tel. 1-212/522-1212 Online: www.timeinc.com Reproduction in whole or in part without consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. subscriptions Enquiries: www.travelandleisuresea.com/subscribe ADVERTISING offices General enquiries: advertising@mediatransasia.com Singapore: 65/9029 0749; joey@mediatransasia.com Japan: Shinano Co., Ltd. 81-3/3584-6420; kazujt@bunkoh.com Korea: YJP & Valued Media Co., Ltd. 82-2/3789-6888; hi@yjpvm.kr

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Near-Away! by American Express

M SOCIAL SINGAPORE 90 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238259. Call +6206 1888 or email reservations.mss@millenniumhotels.com to make your bookings now. Modern and vivacious, M Social is an inviting new hotel on the historic Singapore River. Conceptualized by renowned French designer Philippe Starck, M Social’s 293 rooms are known for their style. Book an Alcove Cosy room and bask in its high ceilings of 4.1 meters. Feast at Beast & Butterflies to relish flavours from both East and West, while sipping on artisanal cocktails and soaking up live music. Venturing out is a breeze too, because M Social overlooks the vibrant Robertson Quay enclave, decked with diverse selections of restaurants,

cafés and bars. If you want to go farther afield, grab your room’s smartphone preloaded with city guides and catch the hotel’s shuttle downtown. M Social helps you define your own reality and customise your comfort, whether it’s using the self check-in kiosk in the lobby or choosing among five distinct room designs, each with its own wow factor. At M Social, life is all about collecting experiences and embarking on your next adventure.

To enjoy a one night’s stay in an Alcove Cosy Room at an American Express subsidised rate of S$190 nett, please present the voucher located in your Platinum Reserve Credit Card Welcome Pack or annual Renewal Pack.

M SOCIAL SINGAPORE NEAR-AWAY! BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IS OPEN TO AMERICAN EXPRESS® PLATINUM RESERVE CREDIT CARD MEMBERS. • Card Member must make reservation with M Social Singapore at reservations.mss@millenniumhotels.com at least 14 days in advance. The use of this voucher must be stated at time of reservation. • All reservations are subject to availability and not applicable during blackout dates (i.e. Eves of Holidays and Public Holiday) or days of high occupancy. Please contact M Social Singapore for more information. A room reservation confirmation letter or email (in softcopy or hardcopy) must be presented, along with the physical voucher and your American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card upon check-in. • Offer may not be combined with other hotel programmes or special offers and is not available on pre-existing reservations. • Card Member is responsible for their parking charges during the whole period of stay at M Social Singapore and no complimentary parking will be provided. • No show or cancellation policies apply in accordance to the hotel’s policies. Please check with hotel for details. • Accommodation is for a maximum of two (2) adults and is inclusive of all applicable tax and service charges for such accommodation. Breakfast is not included. Cost of meals and all other incidentals (including applicable tax and service charges), will be charged to the Card Member’s American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card. • Merchant’s Terms and Conditions apply – please check with respective merchants for details. American Express acts solely as a payment provider and is not responsible or liable in the event that such services, activities or benefits are not provided or fulfilled by the merchant. Merchants are solely responsible for the fulfilment of all benefits and offers. • Programme benefits, participating merchants and Terms and Conditions may be amended or withdrawn without prior notice at the sole discretion of American Express International Inc. In the event of any disputes, the decision of American Express will be final and no correspondence may be entertained. American Express International Inc., (UEN S68FC1878J) 20 (West) Pasir Panjang Road #08-00, Mapletree Business City, Singapore 117439. americanexpress.com.sg Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A.® Registered Trademark of American Express Company. © Copyright 2016 American Express Company.


T r av el + l eisu r e

November 2017

JOURNEY

Forgotten Paradise The largest of Bali’s neighboring islands, yet curiously overlooked, Nusa Penida’s untouched beauty is finally getting the kudos it deserves. Go before it’s too late. Story and photogr aphs by Ian Lloyd Neubauer.

Dramatic sea cliffs dot naturally raw Nusa Penida.

What was Bali like in the seventies, when mass tourism had only just begun? The answer lies on Nusa Penida, a one-hour speedboat ride from Sanur in east Bali and the largest of the three “sister islands” southeast of the main attraction. The kaleidoscopic coral reefs surrounding the island have been visited by dive operators in Bali for more than 20 years, yet few, if any, ever made landfall. That began to change when a 2012 National Geographic article describing Nusa Penida as “a biological and cultural treasure, basically immune from all the trappings of Western culture,” coincided with the meteoric rise of Instagram in Indonesia. The island’s towering sea cliffs, colorful marine life and sugar-white beaches made fantastic fodder for the app, >>

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/ journey / and earned it a place on Bali’s alt-tourism map. But now that travelers are arriving in numbers, can Nusa Penida retain its raw beauty and off-the-grid charm? After alighting on an unmarked beach on Nusa Penida’s north coast, I rent a moped and ride west through Sampalan, the island’s nearcomatose capital. The road ebbs and flows past dreamy palm-fringed beaches and turquoise waters, pockmarked with the dark blue rectangles of seaweed farms. My destination is Goa Giri Putri, an underground cave frequented by Balinese

from top: Toya Pakeh at sunset; a one-woman coconut shop; dramatic Kelingking Beach.

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pilgrims seeking peace and balance from the site’s energy. The only way inside is through a small crack in the ground. Yet the tiny entrance belies the immensity of the cavern inside—as tall as a cathedral at its center— with dozens of little shrines hidden in dark nooks and crannies. I make a stop in Ped at The Gallery, a fair trade arts and crafts store run by Mike Appleton, a retired aid worker from the United Kingdom who first arrived in 2011 to set up a volunteer program. “If you read the Lonely Planet at the time, it would tell you Nusa Penida was a dry, barren place with nowhere to eat, nowhere to stay—so don’t bother going there,” he says. “But over the last two years, everything has changed. We’ve now got a dozen restaurants in this village alone.” Does Appleton fear change has come too quickly? “Tourism,” he says, “is a double-edged sword. It brings great benefits… but it comes at a cost. The culture is very strong, so it would be sad if it were lost. But I don’t see things taking off as they have in Bali,” he tells me. “The big problem here is water. There are no rivers or lakes. It will be a restrictive factor for big resorts.”

As dusk approaches, I continue west to Toya Pakeh, a Muslim village on the west coast where I’ve booked a room at Agung View, one of the first modern hotels on Nusa Penida. Built two years ago by a Czech couple who live part-time on the island, it offers touches of luxury like air-conditioning and a communal plunge pool but, oddly, no hot water. That said, who really cares with views like these: a golden sunrise over the jungle, crimson beach sunsets and Bali’s stone colossus, the Mount Agung volcano, appearing in flashes through distant clouds.


hotel: courtesy of agung view

In the morning I take a stroll through Toya Pakeh. It has the island’s only ATM (though it wasn’t working on my visit), a gleaming silver mosque and a small, messy wet market where women sell fruit, fresh seafood, pungent dried fish and nagasari—steamed rice, coconut and banana cakes wrapped in banana leaves. Paired with a strong coffee, they fuel me for today’s mission: a ride to the cliffs and small inlets of the south coast. The road cuts a path along hills covered with coconut trees, and terraces sewn with taro, mango and banana plantations. Kids in school uniforms wave hello from the side of the road, while old women carry bundles of wood on their heads. It’s the Bali of yesteryear minus the rice fields.

At the halfway mark, the asphalt is reduced to a mess of deep, dusty potholes along steep rock-strewn hills. Riding on it is torture and it’s a great relief when I finally reach Angel’s Billabong, a series of neon-blue saltwater ponds stamped inside the floor of a chasm within a sea cliff. It’s the most Instagrammed site on the island, but also a death trap, susceptible to freak waves that wash anyone inside out to sea. In March this year, a New Zealand man drowned here, and, last year, two members of an Indonesian wedding party, including the bride, suffered the same fate. A sign warns visitors not to enter, but the lure of Insta-likes is too strong for three Scandinavian girls, who I see climbing into the chasm for their risky shot. Another hour on the rough backcountry roads takes me to Kelingking Beach. Also a social media hotspot, this perfect crescent of white sand lies far below the road. It’s a sheer drop of 228 meters, the highest on the island. But the path to the beach is via a ridiculously

steep walking track. The only way down to the sea is on all fours, and even that takes nerves of steel. This is a dance with the devil; time to turn back. Nusa Penida is rugged and weather-beaten, but it’s also a place of rebirth. “Here it’s a wilderness with bumpy and broken roads,” says Agung View co-owner Katerina Cizkova. “And relatively no tourists compared to Bali.” What was once considered undesirable— mystery, timelessness, nature in the raw—are now the objectives of today’s bucket lists, an inevitable threat to this still-sleepy paradise.

Clockwise from top left: Cute

beachside bar names; a Hindu temple is a hint of the island’s roots; a literal take from Agung View.

the details getting there Caspla Bali offers speedboat transfers twice daily from Sanur in Bali to Nusa Penida for Rp500,000 round-trip. baliseaview.com. WHERE TO STAY Agung View Micro-resort with panoramic village, ocean and volcano views. agungview.com; doubles from Rp800,000.

DRINK Penida Colada A familyrun seaside lounge bar in Ped with a Balinese and Western menu. fb.com/ penidacolada. BUY The Gallery Also in Ped, this social enterprise sells local handicrafts and tasty vegetarian food. Jalan Raya Bodong; 62-819/ 9988-7205.

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/ airport /

Gateway of the Future, Now Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 aims for efficient passenger handling through automation, while using art and local culture to add a touch of tranquility to your journey. By Christopher Kucway

Clockwise from top left: The colorful Heritage

Rich interior colors

and glass walls dominate initial impressions of Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4, but take your carry-on a bit further and you’ll see that this airport’s draw is its selfservice. After thanking your taxi driver, in theory the next person you will speak with is the flight attendant directing you to your assigned seat. Check-in kiosks are simple to operate. Facial-recognition technology authenticates passengers at four of the terminal’s seven check-in rows, streamlining the security process all the way to the gate. Passengers then collect their

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own boarding passes and attach their simplified luggage tags before taking their checked bags to a machine that measures, weighs and scans each before it rolls along a floor-level belt to the aircraft. If there is a problem—a battery packed in your luggage—the computer will let you know. Passenger security is also automated in the new terminal, provided you’ve registered with Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ica.gov.sg). Facial and thumbprint recognition are in use here with your photo matched against your passport. Immediately after the immigration gates,

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advanced 3D scanning machines review your carry-on luggage—there’s no need to remove anything from your bag—along automated conveyor belts, while body scanners can zoom in on anything suspicious after you’ve emptied your pockets. There is a calming side to the terminal. Whimsical sculptures, local façades, and kinetic and multimedia installations all aim to reduce the stress of your dash through the airport. Repeated throughout the facility is a petal theme—it’s found in the carpet, the lighting, and in a 200-meter long gilded hanging sculpture, Petalclouds.

Next up at the terminal that’s set to increase Changi’s annual passenger capacity to 82 million passengers (up from 66 million), are automatic boarding gates that scan your boarding pass and take your photo to match it against the one taken earlier at the immigration checkpoint. Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines are among the carriers using the modern facility. For other airlines, the good news is that Changi intends to slowly integrate these improvements in the rest of the airport. t4.changiairport.com/en.

c h r i s t o p h e r k u c way ( 5 )

Zone; Travelling Family in the departure hall; automated check-in; wait for it, the local façades open and close for a glimpse of Singapore’s past; petal-shaped, moving sculptures near check-in.


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Fireworks.


/ culture /

Seeing Spots Yayoi Kusama’s eccentric polka dots and kaleidoscopic “infinity rooms” find a permanent home in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. By Veronica Inveen

You may not know the artist by name,

but odds are you’d recognize Yayoi Kusama’s signature dotted patterns, or perhaps even the 88-year-old’s iconic fiery red wig. The Japanese artist is one of the most prominent figures in her country’s contemporary art scene and most recently has caught the rest of the world’s attention as her uber-Instagrammable exhibit “Infinity Mirrors” makes its way around the globe on a one-year tour. All the while, Kusama had been quietly preparing to open her first museum. Her five-story eponymous structure in the heart of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district debuted last month and is dedicated to Kusama’s work from earlier years until the present. The gallery will rotate through semi-annual exhibitions, while also housing other permanent installations, including a whole floor devoted to one of her signature mirror rooms. The inaugural show, “Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art,” will run until February 25, 2018, and focuses on her latest painting series, “My Eternal Soul,” a colorful collection of eye-popping patterns. Tickets to visit the museum are sold out through November, which isn’t surprising given how popular her traveling shows have been this year (two-hour queues in Singapore; a record breaking number of visitors at Hirrshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.). With more than 60 years of artistic acclaim under her belt, and work that is all but declining in vigor, Yayoi Kusama’s soul really does seem eternal. yayoikusamamuseum.jp; admission ¥1,000.

Kusama’s Death of My Sorrowful Youth Comes Walking With Resounding Steps.

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nov ember 2017 / tr av el andleisure asia .com


Clockwise from top : Painting pretty at the Wonder Salon; Joel Stockdill’s Dancing Muntjacs; saluting the sunrise with DJ Eric Volta at Solar Stage.

Green Days A festival in Thailand makes carbon credits music to your ears. By Jeninne Lee-St. John

c o u r t e s y o f W o n d e r F r u i t ( 3 ) . o p p o s i t e : C o u r t e s y o f yay o i k u s a m a

It was only a matter of

time before cryptocurrency hit the music festival scene; devotees of both fancy themselves a little bit subversive and a lot cutting edge. Wonderfruit, Thailand’s super-eco arts and living festival, is heading into its fourth iteration this December with headliners Roots Manuva, the British hip-hop star, and techno DJ Richie Hawtin—as well as a sci-fi plan to pay some of its artists and collaborators in TREEs, a digital token that represents one mangrove tree on one square meter in Burma’s Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park, backed by carbon credits that will be shared by the surrounding villages. Part of a long-term effort to repair Burma’s extensive deforestation, this plan will build exponentially upon the 10,000 trees planted

there after the last festival using proceeds from drinks sales—which made the entire event carbon neutral. Following up on the stage made of rice husks that was afterwards donated to local communities, the sustainable sculptures this year promise to make the festival feel like a post-apocalypse new-worldfrom-the-ashes movie set: a massive serpent, honeycombshaped and made of pliable wood, that Thai artist Punyisa Silparassamee modeled on Chinese dragon paper toys, will snake across the grounds for guests to reconfigure and play with; and Filipino artist Leeroy New will use found objects and natural materials to create giant biomorphic structures that festival-goers can climb upon, and smaller ones that performers will strut around in. In-between gong baths and gourmet

meals (see: Morimoto), listen to talks by green heroes such as Bea Johnson, who will hold forth on how her family produces a mere half-liter of trash a year. Have a drink, plant a tree, tame a dragon: sounds like a wonderfully subversive way to rock out. December 14–17 in Chonburi, Thailand; wonderfruitfestival. com; adult four-day passes from Bt5,000.

State of the Arts

Get your creative fix with this sky-high gallery and the region’s best film festival. by ron gluckman Gl ass Gallery. Hong Kong’s artistic ambitions will soar to new heights with the opening of H Queen’s in the heart of Central, the first dedicated art tower in the city of skyscrapers. Designed by local firm CL3, the elegant, 24-floor glass tower sports high ceilings, spacious open floor plans, and a gondola-style lift to hoist large installations. The brainchild of architect William Lim, H Queen’s is nearing completion along Queen’s Road with galleries offering sweeping downtown views and large terraces for special events. With the annual Art Basel in March, and a crowded arts calendar, Hong Kong is on the map as a leading Asian creative center. hqueens.com.hk.

Lights, Camer a, Action. Southeast Asia’s finest film festival screens every December in the unlikely location of Luang Prabang, a World Heritage Site claiming scores of temples but not a single cinema. Directors and film buffs from around the region flock here for talks, workshops and non-stop movies, many screened open-air in the town’s main square. Entries are recommended by film experts in each country in Southeast Asia, and the program is packed with special events, like director talks, panels, and, this year, a rare showing of Santi-Vina, the recently restored 1954 classic Thai film. December 8–13 in Luang Prabang, Laos; lpfilmfest. org; all films and events are free.

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/ spotlight /

visited around the world, chances are you’ll still be amazed by the sheer scale of Guangzhou. Once China’s maritime link to the Silk Road, this tech and manufacturing hub in the Pearl River Delta has grown to become the country’s third-largest city. From my room on the 22nd floor of the new Conrad Guangzhou, the urban sprawl appeared endless. As midday sunshine ricocheted off futuristic glass towers in the near distance, a rainstorm loomed on the other side of town. The dark clouds were so far away that they appeared to hover over another city entirely.

No matter how many cities you’ve

Short ribs, banoffee pie, fried chicken and greens topped with a fried egg at Social & Co., in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang New Town.

China’s Secret Superstar The birthplace of Cantonese cuisine is a business-traveler pitstop no longer. Guangzhou’s trove of historic architecture has been matched by cutting-edge design, lively urban culture and impressive international food. Stay a while. By K ate Springer. Photogr aphs by Lit Ma

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Prodigious size is, of course, a quality shared by many Chinese cities. What sets Guangzhou, population 19 million, apart is a sense of architectural and cultural diversity. To the west of my hotel I could make out the historic Liwan district, with its temples and traditional shophouses, while below me gleamed the ultramodern Zhujiang New Town, known for its expensive high-rises and promenades. Snaking through it all was the Pearl River, while high above, the Canton Tower pierced the clouds—a symbol of the city’s upward momentum. Guangzhou began its ascent as a shipping port in the seventh century and has been a manufacturing powerhouse since the 1980s, so it makes sense that business travel is an integral part of its DNA. But the flurry of development leading up to the Asian Games in 2010 placed the capital of China’s Guangdong province on a new, global-facing trajectory. As a result, Guangzhou—an easy two-hour train ride from Hong Kong—now feels like a real, fully rounded destination, a place visitors might well choose to linger in. French expat Aurélien Lienard is a cofounder of La Medina, a stylish Moroccan restaurant on the edge of Zhujiang New Town. “When I used to travel to Guangzhou for business in the past, I didn’t like it that much,” he said. “It was a bit messy, a bit dirty. Now Guangzhou is the best city to live in in China. You have the modern >>


/ spotlight /

city and the old city, and you can cycle around the small, leafy streets.” Then there’s the urban design, which gives parts of the city a dynamism akin to Shanghai and Beijing. Zhujiang New Town’s promenade connects parks, cultural sites, hotels and landmark buildings. In just a few minutes, I walked from the Guangzhou International

What sets Guangzhou apart is a sense of architechtural and cultural diversity

From top: Cafés like Mate Mate draw a stylish crowd to Zhujiang New Town; Guangzhou Opera House, which was designed by Zaha Hadid.

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Finance Center (the second tallest building in the city, and home of the Four Seasons Hotel) to the Zaha Hadid–designed Guangzhou Opera House, the geometric Guangdong Museum and the chiseled Guangzhou Library. The western districts of Yuexiu and Liwan offer a perfect contrast. As I wandered their green, shady streets and passed flower-lined bridges and ancient temples, a profound sense of peace set in—an unusual experience in a city this size. I found centuries-old Chinese gardens, cobblestoned streets, the lush Yuexiu Park and even an imperial tomb at the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King. A short stroll led to the Baroque and Neoclassical buildings of Shamian Island, awarded to Britain and France in the 19th century by the Qing dynasty, after losses in the Second Opium War. To the west of the island, I stumbled upon the Huangsha Seafood Market, where crowds of diners had come in search of fresh crab, lobster and crocodile. Food, whether it’s cooked at a makeshift street stall or painstakingly presented in a fine-dining restaurant, is integral to Guangzhou’s culture—which is understandable given the city’s status as the birthplace of Cantonese cooking. “There’s a saying that anything that can move, they can catch, and we can eat. Cantonese cuisine is really diverse,” says Wai Zhou, founder of Eating Adventures, which offers visitors a >>


/ spotlight / range of guided dining, street-food, and market experiences. “People greet each other by asking, ‘Have you eaten yet?’ Everyone, from the poor to the very rich, can enjoy good food here.” It’s true: you can spend RMB13 (US$2) on spectacular noodles at a no-name food stall, RMB100 (US$15) on a dim sum feast at speedy Dian Dou De, RMB260 (US$40) at a beloved institution like Bingsheng Pinwei, or thousands of renminbi at a glitzy hotel restaurant like Yun Pavilion, where molecular-gastronomy techniques are used to create a one-of-a-kind Chinese dining experience complete with smoke effects, nitrogen-blasted ice cream drops, and foamy XO sauce. The restaurant scene is also showing signs of globalization. In Zhujiang New Town I came across clusters of cool, international restaurants where diners ate at sidewalk tables. Momentum for such places comes in part from enterprising expats like New Zealander Aaron Mckenzie who cater to foreign-educated Guangzhou millennials. Mckenzie’s restaurant, Social & Co., which he opened in 2014, was one of the first to introduce Western-style comfort food and craft cocktails to the city. “At the time, all the bars had atrocious wine and a TV screen playing sports,” he said. Just three years later,

The International Finance Center, home of the Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou.

there’s a group of contemporary dining spots in the greater Tianhe area, including Cocina, with its Peruvian tapas and river views, and Hay, a London-inspired coffee shop tucked in a quiet corner of  Tianhe North. A trip to Guangzhou is both a blast from China’s fascinating past and a peek into its future—at once a gentle energy and an ambitious force. You’ll find surprises everywhere in this ancient city, no matter how many times you decide to come back.

Need to know: Guangzhou getting there Guangzhou is a hub for China Southern Airlines, with Asiana, EVA Air, Korean and Qantas also flying here. The city is a two-hour train ride from Hong Kong. Hotels Conrad Guangzhou This new property provides airport transfers in a Tesla Model X with Batmobile-style doors, and has a 30-meter lap pool. conrad​hotels3.hilton.com; doubles from RMB1,200. Four Seasons Guangzhou The highest hotel in the city provides dramatic river views and easy access to nearby architectural attractions. fourseasons.com; doubles from RMB2,100. Restaurants & cafÉs Bei Yuan Cuisine The city’s oldest dim sum spot is set in a romantic garden with a koi pond. beiyuan​ cuisine.com; mains RMB80–RMB260. Bingsheng Pinwei Try the signature char siu (barbecued pork), pineapple

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buns, and house-made tofu at this popular Cantonese restaurant. bingsheng.com; mains RMB40– RMB100. Cocina Overlooking the Pearl River from a sixth-floor perch, Cocina takes inspiration from Peru for its tapas menu and colorful murals. fb.com/ cocina​c odered; tapas RMB40– RMB100. Dian Dou De Sample shrimp dumplings, flaky egg tarts and earthy pu’er tea in Art Deco–style surroundings. 470 Huifu East Rd., Yuexiu district; 86-20/3726-6163; mains RMB20–RMB40. Hay Coffee This coffee shop, which roasts its own beans, serves Aussiequality flat whites in a cute, Londoninspired setting. 43 Qiaoyi Yi St., Tianhe district. Huangsha Seafood Market Choose your meal from a fish tank (containing everything from crab to crocodile) and take it upstairs to the restaurant, where chefs will prepare it for a small fee. 15 Huangsha Ave., Liwan district.

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La Medina Round off a feast of tagine and couscous at this open-air Moroccan restaurant by smoking one of its shisha pipes. fb.com/lamedina. guangzhou; mains RMB70–RMB100. Mate Mate With its bubble-gum-pink façade and neon signage, this café draws a fashionable crowd. Come for coffee, cake, and a side of Instagram inspiration. 23 Choi Yi St., Tianhe North; 86-188/1411-4015. Social & Co. A relaxed restaurant with an outdoor deck serving Western comfort food, boutique wines and a life-altering banoffee pie. social​andco. com; mains RMB50–RMB140. Yun Pavilion Cantonese cuisine gets a modern makeover thanks to chef Tan Guo Hui’s molecular techniques. conrad​hotels3.hilton.com; mains RMB85–RMB400. activities & tours Eating Adventures Sign up for a market tour, try a traditional dim sum meal or sample the city’s best street snacks. eatingadventures.com.


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/ masterclass /

How I Got The Shot

What makes an unforgettable travel photo? And how is an unforgettable travel photo made? We asked six pros to reveal their tricks for capturing transcendent images that instantly transport the viewer.

PORTRAITS

Paro, Bhutan by Scott A. Woodward GEAR Nikon D3 with 70-200mm f/2.8 Settings ISO 200, 1/5000 second exposure

“I made this photograph of a novice monk late one afternoon at Paro’s Rinpung Dzong, an imposing centuries-old monastery perched atop a steep hill just outside town. I love this picture for many reasons: the textured walls, the high contrast light, and the breeze captured in the young man’s robe, suspending it impossibly in mid-air. To me this photograph represents freedom, which is exactly the emotion I experience whenever I find myself in the beautiful and mystical Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Join Scott on a photography workshop in Bhutan from December 10–16. The trip provides creative briefings, handson coaching while shooting in various locales, and editing and critiquing sessions, for US$2,949 allinclusive. Visit drukasia. com for more information and to register.


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/ masterclass / SILHOUETTES

Hoi An, Vietnam by etienne bossot GEAR Fujifilm XT-2 Settings 23mm, ISO 200, f/13, 1/1250 second

“A student and I woke up early to photograph fishermen on a river near Hoi An. As we spotted this man on his boat I kept exposing for the highlights so I could see the colors of the morning sky. Using a small aperture of f13, I then waited for the man to place himself in front of the sun to create the star-shape light. Placing the horizon in the middle allowed me to show the man and his reflection.”

PATTERNS

Mumbai, India by Joaquin Trujillo GEAR Toyo 4x5 field camera, 120 mm lens, Gitzo tripod, hot-shoe cube level Settings 100 ISO, f/45, 2-minute exposure

“This staircase caught my eye because it looks like a jewelry box. For a shot like this, have a little cube level for your camera so you can line it up. It’ll change the way you shoot dramatically. When you just rely on editing to level your shot, you lose part of the image—you have to crop it, and you lose data. You have the most control when you are setting up a photograph, not when you’re editing it later.”

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/ masterclass /

RESORTS

Ubud, Bali by Lauryn Ishak GEAR Canon 5D MK III Settings 50mm, 1/40 second, f/3.2, ISO 640

“I shot this picture after spending the morning running up and down jungle valleys in Ubud at the grounds of the Como Shambhala Estate. The estate is gorgeously landscaped and each corner offers its own beauty. As I was finishing my morning shoot, I looked back as I was walking up the valley and saw a lady walking down a stone staircase surrounded by lush rainforest. I loved how her white outfit was a contrast to all the green and how her figure showed the scale of the landscape of the Estate. I took maybe two shots before she reached the bottom of the stairs and this remains my favorite.�


ACTION

Karnali River, Nepal by Alex Treadway GEAR Nikon D800, Nikkor 1735mm lens and a Ewa-Marine underwater housing. Settings 1/640 second, f/8, ISO 200.

“Ordinarily, rafting images are taken from the safety of the riverbank. I wanted to get closer to the action and photograph people’s faces and reactions while going through the rapids. I used a foot-strap and positioned myself in the front of the boat, facing backwards. That way I could keep my hands free to control the camera and shoot straight into the action. I used a soft underwater housing rather than the solid diving type that would have been dangerous. Still, I couldn’t see what was coming and was pounded by freezing water and tossed a few times, but it was worth it to get the shot I wanted.”

CULTURe

Otovalo, Ecuador by Ian Allen GEAR Hasselblad 503CW with a Phase One P45+ digital back, 120 mm lens, two Profoto D1 strobes, ring flash Settings 100 ISO, f/5.6, 1/250 second exposure

“This shaman was going through her routine, but it was almost pitch-black in the area of her house where she performs the cleansings. I set up my lights and asked her to go through the routine slowly. I used strobe lighting so the setting would feel authentic. As part of her ritual, she had a lit cigarette reversed— she was blowing the smoke out through the filter. Capturing smoke with the flash is tricky—it can get washed out with too much light. You have to time it well so the cloud is as dense as possible.” t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7

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Change your point of view. If you want a postcard-worthy picture of an iconic landmark— well, that’s what gift shops are for. For personal photos, go for something unconventional: try a close-up instead of a wide shot, shooting from below rather than head-on, or zooming in on one element of a structure, like the intricate carvings of a temple.

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Use the grid for better compositions. In your camera settings, turn on the grid option to divvy your screen up into nine rectangles. Then use the lines to guide your composition. For a better photo, frame your shot so key subjects sit at the intersection points or along the gridlines. (It’s called the rule of thirds, and it’s a good guideline for stronger photos.)

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Download a light-meter app. Lock in your ISO and aperture, then use a smartphone app such as Pocket Light Meter to figure out which shutter speed will expose the shot correctly.

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Adjust the exposure. Tap your iPhone screen, then hold and slide your finger to change exposure. If you’re shooting a high-contrast scene, prioritize the lighter tones—darker areas can be lightened up when editing.

Tips for Better Photos (on a Camera or Smartphone)

From the editors of T+L. Illustr ations by Joe McKendry

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Turn off the flash. It tends to result in washed-out portraits and harsh glare, especially when you’re shooting in low light.

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...but turn it back on when the background is bright. In a shadowed area, a flash can fill in foreground details that might otherwise be lost.

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If flash photography is a must, grab a napkin. Or a coffee filter, tissue, Post-it note, even a piece of tape— anything white and translucent will do the trick. Secure it over the built-in flash to diffuse and soften the light so your portraits don’t get that bright, blown-out look.

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stop using Instagram to edit smartphone pics. Instead, upgrade your phone-editing software: try Snapseed for versatility (like fixing red-eye or blemishes) or VSCO for

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filters with more subtlety and sophistication than the ones in Instagram. Tweak the photo in another app, then upload it to social media.

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never skip the editing. A few small changes can make any photo look better. First, ensure your shot is straight, then adjust the saturation and contrast. Avoid the far ends of the slider: just a few notches above zero will make the lighting and colors pop.

Turn on burst mode. When you’re using your smartphone to shoot action or a squirmy subject like kids or animals, take multiple shots to increase your chances of snapping a clear image. Hold down the shutter release to snap a series of photos in quick succession. To view them, open the burst in your photo app, then, depending on your phone, click Select or the Burst icon to choose the best image of the bunch.

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Get on the same plane as your subject. When you’re taking photos of children or animals, shoot at or below their eye level for an image that feels more immediate and personal.

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And while you’re at it, focus on the eyes. They’re the first thing your viewer will notice, so getting the focus right can make or break the portrait.

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fill the frame. Zoom in or move closer so your subject is more prominent and the focus of your shot. Adjust the aperture so the background is artfully blurred rather than distracting.

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Look for the reflection. For familiar places, sometimes a mirror image—be it in a window, a puddle, or a rearview mirror—makes for a less predictable photograph. Reflecting pools exist for the express purpose of making your vacation pics look artsy, right?

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Scan the periphery before snapping a photo. Even if you’re following the rule of thirds to build a photo that works, an incongruous or jarring element on the edge of the frame can weaken the whole composition, so keep those cropped out. >>

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/ 47 Tips for Better Photos / 16

Style your still lifes. It’s rare to stumble upon a vignette that’s already perfectly composed. Take a moment to play with the arrangement of items: place objects on a graphic, tiled floor or a tablecloth to add texture and color, or move larger pieces partway out of the photo.

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Add a frame. Use elements of the environment to border your composition: incorporate the window into your cityscape, or take a photograph through the arch of a bridge.

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Keep your lens clean. It’s easier than editing dust specks out of every vacation photo. For your phone or a point-and-shoot, a quick wipe with a cloth or a dampened tissue will do the trick, but if you’ve invested in a pricier kit, stash a Lenspen or a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution in your camera bag.

viewfinder vertically, horizontally or even diagonally, then angle yourself so the image is balanced on both sides of the frame.

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Plan Your Shot. If there’s a picture you know you want to take—a family photo in front of a waterfall, or a stellar image of Angkor Wat— use The Photographer’s Ephemeris app to anticipate the lighting, then time your visit accordingly. The “golden hour” just after sunrise or before sunset gives the most flattering light. Steer clear of high noon: the overhead sun will create harsh shadows and, if you’re shooting a portrait, make your subject squint.

find someone who’s standing far away or isn’t facing the camera so the scenery remains the star.

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Watch for patterns. Recurring shapes, colors or objects are interesting to look at. Anything that breaks the repetition—like a yellow raincoat in a sea of black umbrellas—will become the focal point of the image.

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Shoot at a low ISO. The higher the ISO, the grainier the resulting image will be—especially in darkertoned areas. But if the ISO is too low, you may not get a crisp photo. Start with the ISO around 400, then experiment, going up or down to find the right balance.

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Think about depth. When you’re photographing a landscape, try to build an image with a foreground, a middle ground, and a background so it mimics the dimension and scale you see in person. A lone peak in the distance doesn’t grab a viewer as much as a mountain with a lake and a tree in the foreground.

Give landscapes a human element. You don’t want a shot full of tourists. But adding a person (or two) can give your viewer a point of connection to the image. Just make sure you

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so there’s plenty of space in front of the subject. If it looks like the object is about to move out of the frame, the resulting photo will feel cramped and claustrophobic.

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Use symmetry. Particularly when you’re photographing architecture, find a vantage point that gives you a symmetrical shot. Picture a line dividing your

When shooting a sunset, don’t forget to turn around. The sun itself doesn’t always make for the best image—sometimes the candycolored sky behind you is a better backdrop.

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While you’re at it, try bracketing. It simultaneously captures a scene at three different exposures, so it’s handy when the light is constantly shifting. Smartphones don’t have that option, so use the HDR mode instead to pick up detail from both bright and dark areas.

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Buy a waterproof case or plastic camera cover. Rainy weather means diffused light—prime conditions for great photographs.

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Use triangles. Find compositions that create an implied triangular shape, like the outline of a building, the relationship between key points in the image, or areas of negative space.

Go analog to sharpen your skills. Using a film camera will force you to consider each composition more carefully than you might with a digital camera. And since you can’t immediately see the shot, you’ll be more likely to experiment just to make sure you got it. Play with panning. To photograph a fast-moving object, try tracking its motion with your camera. The resulting photo will have the object in focus and the background blurred to convey speed. Keep the camera moving smoothly for the best shots. Leave objects room to move. If you’re trying to snap something in motion— boats at a regatta, say, or a zebra running at full tilt—make sure you compose the image

n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7   /  t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

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Add a silhouette to sunset pics. The sun setting over a cloudless horizon can wind up looking a little generic. For a stronger sense of place, find distinctive shapes in the foreground—a palm tree, a city skyline, a horse in the distance— and incorporate that object outlined against the sky.


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Expose for the subject. It sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re shooting in a situation with heavily contrasting light—an interior with sunlight streaming through a window, say, or a backlit portrait—choose one focal point and expose for that. You’ll never capture the detail of a dimly lit interior and the cityscape outside in the same shot, and trying to split the difference will make for a weaker photograph.

the landscape better than a pitch-black sky. That’s especially true for city scenes, where man-made lights can make it hard to nail the exposure.

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Use headphones in place of a remote shutter release. Plug them into your iPhone’s headphone jack or your camera’s remote port, then press the volume or power button on the headset to trigger the shutter. Try it when you’re using a slower shutter speed to minimize camera shake.

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Try a polarizing filter for scenics. Because of reflected light and haze, the camera can’t always capture the drama and vibrancy you can see with the naked eye. Screw a circular polarizing filter onto the lens before shooting for clearer, richer landscapes.

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Beware the digital zoom. When you’re using a smartphone, it’s tempting to use the pinch-and-zoom feature. But your phone doesn’t have the right hardware— namely, a lens that can physically move—so trying to get a close-up this way just crops the image down, resulting in pixelation and missed details. Get closer, or buy an attachable smartphone zoom lens, like those from Olloclip or Moment.

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Find leading lines to build a balanced image. A pleasing photo often has lines that draw the viewer’s eye across the frame or toward a focal point. Watch for built-in lines—like roads, rivers or fence posts—and frame your photo so they’re converging on a key focal point or leading the eye to another interesting part of the picture.

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Take your nighttime photos early. Dusk gives you a chance to experiment with different lighting, and the blue of twilight contrasts with

Invest in a tripod. It’ll help you catch low-light scenes with a slower shutter speed, or use a wider depth of field without having to crank up your ISO.

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Make a mess. Style your food shots just as you would other still lifes. If the plating isn’t camera-ready, play with your food to make it more enticing: twirl a bit of pasta on a fork, capture strings of melty cheese stretching from your pizza slice, or click the shutter just as the hot fudge drips over the edge of your sundae bowl.

to life, and if the background is unappealing, use the Tilt-Shift or Lens Blur tools to soften the surroundings. The shallower depth of field will keep the focus on the food and mimic the effect of a pricier cam.

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Ease into manual modes. If you’re used to shooting on auto, switch to Aperture or Shutter-Speed Priority mode instead of going straight to the fully manual option. It’s a good way to learn how different settings affect your photos, with minimal frustration.

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edit smartphone food photos sparingly. A blue filter won’t do your takoyaki any favors. Fiddle with the white balance just enough to ensure the colors are true

Take food photos near a window. Natural light gives colors more depth and softens the overall look of a dish, so it’s the best way to make a meal look appetizing. If the lighting is dim, have a friend turn on their phone flashlightand hold it high over the table to brighten the scene. High maintenance? Definitely. But still better than ‘gramming a dinner that’s too dark or blown out from the flash.

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...And zoom out. Macrostyle food photography is tough to execute well, and close-ups can easily veer from mouthwatering to gross. Give your plate some space; pulledback, overhead photos are a safe bet. For food with some height (think cake, burgers, and cocktails), try shooting from a 45- or 90-degree angle.

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Shoot in RAW. It’s tempting to put your camera in JPEG mode so your memory card won’t fill up too fast, but larger RAW files preserve more of the data. Even if an image doesn’t look perfect in playback, you can often salvage a lot of detail with editing software.

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Embrace the blur of moving water. At a shutter speed of 1/15 second or slower, waterfalls and waves take on a misty, almost ethereal blur effect that’s often more appealing than the hyperrealistic look you’ll get with a faster exposure. Just make sure to use a tripod so the rest of your shot is clear.

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Calculate hyperfocal distance when you want the whole photo to be sharp. Estimate how far away the closest object is, then set your focus to double that distance. For more precision, an app like DOFMaster can tell you the precise focus to use based on your aperture and focal length.

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/ discovery /

Saving Face

a job in Hoi An selling wine (“like all other young French guys,” he says), bought a camera with his first paycheck, and began spending time roaming the countryside, meeting locals. “I’d get lost in a village close to dusk,” he says, “and they’d invite me to dinner, so I’d stay, learn more Vietnamese, learn about the culture.” Eventually, he invested all his savings into founding Hoi An Photo Tours & Workshop, keeping just US$80 that he hoped to stretch for three months sleeping on friends’ couches. But the business took off swiftly as visitors realized that, first, as naturally photogenic as the 500-year-old former trading port is, it can still be revelatory to have someone help you capture the Crayola-box lantern-lit lanes in fresh ways. Second, and the reason I was here: outside the tourist

Etienne Bossot got

from top: The author

laughed with a girl in Thanh Ha, near Hoi An; photographer, Etienne Bossot.

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town, there’s an entire world of fishing and farming communities to meet, and Etienne has access. Tourism portraiture rightly makes many feel uncomfortable. We know intuitively that we shouldn’t be sticking lenses into people’s faces to emphasize how different their lives are from ours just for social media likes. Rural villages aren’t zoos. But, portraits are also incredibly powerful—the shy smile of a novice monk, the inquisitive eyes of an infant, the deep wrinkles on an old woman tell a story more profoundly than any caption. Besides a personal tale, they demonstrate an intimacy with the photographer. I wanted to learn how to get that chemistry. Which is why the first thing out of Etienne’s mouth when we reached the village in Thanh Ha, a 20-minute long-tail putter west of Hoi An,

fr o m t o p : j e n i n n e l e e - s t. j o h n ; c o u r t e s y o f e t i e n n e b o s s o t

Taking photos of people you meet while traveling can be a great cultural exchange. Jeninne Lee-St. John heads out of Hoi An with a pro and learns how to turn on the charm.


etienne bossot (2)

surprised me. “Your subject is unimportant,” he said. “Pick the person you want to photograph, then immediately forget about them. Ask yourself, where is the light coming from? Is the background interesting? How can you frame the field to take most advantage of these elements? Only then can you look back at your subject, get into position, and take the photo.” At one point he paused in front of a long, faded turquoise wall warmed by the sun. “I might just wait here for someone to cycle by,” he said. Obviously, once a beginner sorts out all these compositional elements in her head, and fiddles with her settings, she’s already missed the shot. But that’s why the entire adventure should be deliberate. Your first instinct—to point, click and scuttle off as quickly as possible so as not to intrude too much—is actually more intrusive, awkward. Take a minute, relax, smile. Even if you don’t speak the language, smiling goes a long way. (But better if you do speak even a few words.) Two women in conical hats were fanning out greenery on pavement to dry, the leaves providing interesting texture, the hats offering a cultural touchstone. “This could be a good picture. But how do you approach it? Ask dumb questions. I say, ‘Oh, what are you doing? Can you eat that? Can I taste?’ Inevitably they laugh at me and that breaks the ice,” he said. “If you want to catch a natural gaze, ask about a physical place, or point at your friend. Your subject will look.” >>

from top: A young Hmong girl in Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam; a Burmese monk.


/ discovery / Traipsing through the village like a Pied Piper, four of us photo tourists trailing behind, he stopped often to chat with kids playing soccer or old folks on a porch, to admire shadows, to remind us how lucky we were that it was Vietnamese National Day because not only were there lots of people hanging out but also every house was flying the country’s crimson flag—a nice pop of color and flutter. “‘What do you do with the pictures?’ the guys in the villages always want to know,” he said. “I tell them, people just like to have them, it helps remember the visit. This is so funny to them.” In a field we met two old men minding a couple of water buffalo. One of them had wrinkles etched in his caramel skin and disarmingly kind eyes. He was also positioned prime in the fading sun. I asked him how old he was, why he was sitting out in this field, if I could take a photo. I was determined to get the perfect shot of him. Of the best image I captured, Etienne said, “Yes. But… see that buffalo coming out of his head?” Damn. In front of one house was a huge pile of corn the orange of basketballs.

Catching a candid moment during one of Bossot’s sunset tours.

A baby sat playing with a cob, then, perhaps when he realized we had the same level of Vietnamese language skills, toddled over to me flashing his giant brown eyes. The focus in the shot wound up somewhere on the corn pile. “Kids are great. But kids move,” Etienne shrugged. “Next time, up your shutter speed.” The last house on my way out of town was bright cerulean, there was a green yard and a pretty iron gate. I started to take photos of a foursome standing at a distance in front of the porch, but a woman in a plaid shirt buttoned up to her neck popped up, waved and came running. “Chao chi,” I said. Hello, older sister. “Co,” she laughed, correcting me. Aunt.

Then she made a funny face—maybe imitating what I looked like holding up the camera—and danced around. She gave me a bear hug. For some reason, I offered her my sunglasses, and when she put them on she went from goofball to gangsta. “Wow,” Etienne said looking at the series over a beer later. “I’ve tried to talk to her and she never leaves the porch.” I may have taken eight passable photos out of 295 but this dumb tourist was feeling pretty smart—if only for a flicker. hoianphototour.com; tours from US$45; Etienne is based in Hoi An but also leads photo tours in other countries in the region through picsofasia.com.

Though tourism in Hoi An has skyrocketed, there remain a few refuges in the city limits, and La Siesta Resort and Spa is one. Overlooking rice paddies, it is hidden behind a small, subtle, vine-covered façade that belies the large, graceful space inside. You head through the lobby to a pool deck, turn the corner into a lush garden that hosts tranquil private barbecues (the signature triangular prawn-and-pork spring rolls are a must) and emerge into an entirely new section of Eden. La Siesta, part of a family-owned group of boutique hotels based in Hanoi, has recently expanded beyond their original building

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to include a handsome wing where the rooms feel more like villas and the photogenic saltwater pool transports you to Bali (monumental fountains; cabana swings). This block of luxury suites is all colonial-style floor tiles and claw-foot tubs (though the Veranda Suite Pool View bathroom boasts a stunning chestnut- and beaver-brown polished wooden tub that, with the private sauna next to it, looks like it should be in a ski chalet), and meditative balconies, porches or even backyards. It’s a study in gentility matched by the demeanor of the staff, whose mastery of English chat is as impressive as their assiduity.

Take a cooking class on the portico and sweet chef Ty will drop knowledge most never bother to explain to foreigners (example: Hoi An’s famed noodle and beef soup bun bo differs from its northern cousin bun bo Hue in that the latter uses shrimp paste). Hop the hotel’s shuttle to the shore at An Bang and you have access to a beach club they’ve partnered with. Retire to the spa, a showpiece at the center of the property, where the pan-Asian treatments contain the best techniques of the region. There’s a beautiful town out there beyond these walls, but you’ll be thankful for the oasis. lasiestaresorts. com; doubles from US$85.

fr o m t o p : e t i e n n e b o s s o t; c o u r t e s y o f LA SIESTA HOI AN R ESO R T & SPA ( 2 )

STAY


/ after dark /

High Spirits Pouring from her collection of more than 300 bottles, The Woods founder Victoria Chow’s newest endeavor aims to demystify liquor one sip at a time. By Eloise Basuki. Photogr aphed by Leigh griffiths

call me unsophisticated; when it comes to a stiff drink poured neat, it’s hard to hide my gag reflex. To my untrained palate, whiskey is a mouthful of cigarettes, gin smells like floor cleaner, vodka—a slick of burning petrol. Cocktails I can get behind, but sipping on straight spirits? I’ll pass. Despite my inhibitions, Victoria Chow, Hong Kong mixologist, savvy bar-owner and all-round spirit enthusiast, is standing before me with a flight of her finest liquors, hoping to change my mind. We’re at The Woods’ Annex, Chow’s new drinking spot and offshoot to her innovative

Call me an amateur,

FROM Left: Kwoon’s canned cocktails include a tom yum cooler and a gin-spiked chrysanthemum tea; Victoria Chow in The Woods’ Annex; Chow pours a tasting flight.

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cocktail bar, The Woods (thewoods.hk), in SoHo. Squeezed behind the storefront of Kwoon (kwoonbythewoods.com), another of Chow’s recent ventures selling artisanal, freshly canned cocktails, The Annex is not another trendy bar but a mini spirit library, flush with a 300-strong collection of Chow’s favorite bottles from around the world. “Every time I travel I love visiting distilleries. To be able to see the process while you’re there and have it explained to you by the makers—it makes a big difference,” she says. For Chow, The Annex is about passing along this knowledge, something hard to find in the spirit world in otherwise sophisticated Hong Kong. “Everyone talks about Bordeaux wines—how expensive they are and how hard they are to make,” she says. “But when it comes to spirits, you shoot tequila, or you put them in a cocktail. You don’t really think about who is behind them or where they’re from.” Groups of up to eight can book online for a masterclass with Chow or one of her bar managers—90-minute tasting sessions that


run through key flavors, tell the stories of the distillers and explain how best to drink each spirit or mix it in a cocktail. In my case, Chow has picked a lineup of gin, rum and, my most feared bottle, whiskey. “You said you had a hard time liking whiskey, so of course I had to give it a go,” she says, living up to her stated aim of pushing guests to experiment a little. We start with a couple of gins, which Chow has chosen after learning about my most memorable cocktail, a fig-andhoney martini topped with a wedge of blue cheese. With the saltiness of the cheese in mind, Chow pours me St. George Terroir from California (also Chow’s native home), and the Spanish Gin Mare, two of her most savory gins. Using botanicals foraged from around the distillery, Douglas fir pine, coastal sage and bay leaves gives the St. George gin an earthy flavor profile that isn’t overwhelmed with juniper. “This is called a ‘terroir’ gin because it really gives a sense of place,” she says. “All of California’s redwood forests have Douglas fir, so it smells just like the woods—it reminds me

of home.” Likewise, the Gin Mare is also loaded with local ingredients—the second-generation distillers using typical Mediterranean flavors like rosemary, thyme and olives as botanicals in their bottles. “I like this in a gin and tonic with a sprig of rosemary,” Chow recommends. As we move on to the whiskey, I’m still feeling skeptical, but open to a change of mind after tasting such varied gins. Chow hands me the High West Campfire whiskey, from Utah. “They blend bourbon, rye and scotch, but the Scottish peat is not overpowering, the bourbon mellows it out,” she says. I take a sip and I know what she means. The amber liquor is warming, honey-sweet and smoothly smoky. “I don’t hate this,” I say, a little in disbelief. “It really does feel like you’re by a campfire roasting marshmallows,” she nods. While I still wouldn’t drink this straight even in my darkest hours, it’s helpful to realize all whiskeys are not created equal, and that blended varieties, rather than single malt, are probably more to my taste. With knowledge comes power, and with power comes the ability to not embarrass myself at the bar. Which, itself, is pretty neat. The Woods’ Annex is open by appointment only. Book online at www.thewoods.hk/annex; GF/64 Staunton St., Central; masterclasses start from HK$300.

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/ checking in /

Return of the Crillon

After a four-year closure and lavish renovation, Paris’s storied hotel unveils a daringly modern new look By Alex andr a Marshall

hotels occupies its own niche in the city’s landscape. Fashionistas haunt the Ritz and the Park Hyatt ParisVendôme; one-percenter American families and jet-setting sheikhs go for the Four Seasons Hotel George V. The Hôtel de Crillon has been for traditionalists and heads of state, thanks to its Each of Paris’s ultr a-luxury

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overlooking the Place de la Concorde, within a stone’s throw of the Élysée Palace and several embassies. You could do worse for French national glory. Commissioned by Louis XV in 1758, the Crillon has had several lives—as government offices, a private residence for a noble family, and finally a hotel, beginning in 1909. The heritage look of crystal chandeliers and gilt-tipped chairs had its admirers, but by 2010, when Saudi royalty purchased the property, a revamp was in order. It would have been tempting to go the way of the Ritz, which faithfully maintained the arch-traditional look in its recent overhaul. But the team behind the Crillon’s makeover— Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, architect Richard Martinet and Aline Asmar


C o u r t e s y o f H ô t e l d e Cr i l l o n

Clockwise from left: In the Grands Appartements; taking in Paris from the Suite Bernstein d’Aumont; the new pool and subterranean spa at the Hôtel de Crillon. opposite, from top: The façade of the Hôtel de Crillon, designed by French architect AngeJacques Gabriel in the 18th century; Jardin d’Hiver.

d’Amman’s Beirut- and Paris-based firm, Culture in Architecture—did the exact opposite, applying an audacious, contemporary lens to 18th-century maximalism and artisanal techniques. When I stayed at the Crillon this summer, the first thing that struck me was how brilliantly d’Amman and her designers (Tristan Auer, Cyril Vergniol and Chahan Minassian) nailed what makes Paris tick. This is a city that celebrates being seen, yet the old lobby felt cavernous and devoid of energy, its public spaces impossibly stiff. Now it’s as if le tout Paris is there. Check-in takes place in a semi­private salon, where conversations can be had discreetly, but the remainder of the lobby has been transformed into multiple lounge spaces, with deep pile rugs and cushy silk sofas, to promote socializing. Les Ambassadeurs, formerly a fine-dining restaurant seen by only a fraction of visitors, is now a humming cocktail lounge with live music. The aim is to get guests— including locals—to kick back, relax and people-watch. Fine dining lives on at L’Écrin, the jewel-box formal restaurant, but the

place to be is the more casual Brasserie d’Aumont. It offers easy Parisian staples, like oysters, steak tartare, and pâté en croûte, and has equal amounts of outdoor and indoor seating. During my late Tuesday night dinner, the brasserie was wall-to-wall with advertising execs, their Hermès handbags glowing in the soft light reflected off the Calacatta-marble-backed banquettes. There’s a new approach to service, too. White gloves and hushed tones are out; casual foulards and 1970s-retro knife-pleated skirts are in. I found the staff to be approachable and friendly, down to the butlers who >> t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7

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/ checking in /

Above: The Louis Benech–designed courtyard of the hotel’s Brasserie d’Aumont.

Three great shops nearby 1 / Leclaireur The largest and best of the brand’s four boutiques in the city stocks designers like Delpozo and Oscar de la Renta in a welledited, multilevel space. leclaireur.com. 2 / Maison Francis Kurkdjian Kurkdjian’s airy shop at 5 Rue d’Alger sells every permutation of his heady signature scents. It’s also where, by appointment only, he creates custom fragrances for clients. francis​kurkdjian.com. 3 / Causse Styles have changed, but the technique hasn’t at this 125-year-old glove-maker’s shop at 12 Rue de Castiglione: everything is still done by hand. Karl Lagerfeld is a fan. causse-​gantier.fr.

C o u r t e s y o f H ô t e l d e Cr i l l o n

service all 124 rooms and suites, but the team, at times, was still unpolished. It took several tries to put in a drink order at Jardin d’Hiver, the lounge and tea salon (though when my cocktail, a blend of calamansi, bitter rhubarb, rose cordial and champagne, did arrive, it was magnificent). An order of oysters came out on a thin slate palette covered in rock salt, which made a righteous mess. The staff acknowledged every hiccup gracefully, and they will no doubt find their groove. But when room rates start in the four figures, snafus take on added weight. Ah, but those rooms. They are sublime, and no expense has been spared. In one of the two Prestige suites designed by Karl Lagerfeld, there’s a two-tonne bathtub carved from a solid block of striated marble. Designer Cyril Vergniol, who did the vast majority of the remaining rooms, added dashes of Regency (ladylike armchairs upholstered in sky-blue raw silk) and Orientalism (mirrored mini-bars with botanical etchings), evoking the boudoir of a film noir femme fatale. I loved the amply sized toiletries from cult French pharmacist Buly and the premixed cocktails by Avantgarde Spirits. Better still, I found the in-room technology easy to master—the light switches are manual and labeled, the speakers are Bluetooth-enabled, and there is nary a twitchy tablet to be found. It all works seamlessly: no need to bother the butler. Could there be a better definition of 21st-century luxury than that? crillon.com; doubles from €1,208.


Wedding special

Communal Vows The best destination weddings bond your nearest and dearest as you tie the knot. By Stephanie Zubiri

c o u r t e s y o f S h a n g r i - L a' s B o r a c ay R e s o r t & S pa

The true appeal of a destination wedding lies in offering you and your guests an unforgettable experience —with each other. Having a destination wedding is a wonderful way to concentrate all your loved ones in a contained area for a few days allowing them to bond over welcome cocktails, share tissues to wipe up tears as you exchange your vows, do a mini Macarena choreography on the dance floor and gossip about the night’s juiciest escapades over brunch the next morning. Call them hostages of the heart. >>

Set for a wedding on the beach at the Shangri-La Boracay.

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Wedding The setting is what makes a difference.

Dining on the beach at El Nido.

All in the details.

Still, planning a wedding is difficult to begin with, so why make the gargantuan task even more complicated by doing it in a far-flung location? You need to worry about accessibility, flights, transfers, activities, shuttling back and forth to coordinate with local suppliers… The most obvious reason, and the best, would be to have gorgeous memories and photos in an exotic setting. Exchanging vows against a pink sky on the white sand beaches of Koh Samui. Afternoon bubbles in Marlborough overlooking a beautiful vineyard. Kissing under a canopy of sakura blossoms in Kyoto. Or, an island-take on European royalty: a grand candlelit dinner in a beautiful villa in Bali or Galle. The locations-of-a-lifetime are innumerable in our region. My own wedding found some 100 close friends and relatives from the four corners of the globe “trapped” in an isolated resort off the coast of Albay in the Bicol region of the Philippines. We had shut down the entire place for two days and every single person you crossed paths with, was guaranteed to be one of our guests. My husband’s aunt and uncle chatting with my godparents by the beach over which season is the best for a visit to Germany… My husband’s childhood friends from Paris flirting over poolside sunset cocktails with my girlfriends… I couldn’t guarantee they would get along, but we could ensure good music and free flowing drinks to help ease the way. We consumed more than 300 bottles of wine and liquor over the course of two days. It was a blast. After we sliced our cake, our friends toasted us with shots of tequila and proceeded to storm the beach to dance until the wee hours of the morning. Sometime around 2 a.m., it started to rain but no one cared, guests shared umbrellas or continued to boogie to the rhythm of falling raindrops. My husband and I had walked out to the water, turned to face the beach, where a happy chaos of inebriated joy had taken over, and we looked at each other and smiled. By the time everyone had to say goodbye, they had all exchanged e-mails, numbers, WhatsApp details and, to this day, still keep in touch. The mark of a successful wedding is not just the beautiful union of two souls, but the bridging of two worlds. Happily, Asia overflows with wonderful options to engineer it. All you have to do is take the plunge. Regal wedding touches.

c loc kw i se fr o m top : I n stag ra m @ pat dy 1 1; J oe l S e rrato; c ou rt esy of va nia r o mo ff ; co urtesy o f e l nid o r es orts

special


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A L UX U RI O US H E RI TAG E H OT E L W I T H S T U N N I N G V I E W O F M A N I L A BAY is surely the choice for unforgettable nuptial celebrations or similarly spectacular events; from indoor opulence to al fresco vistas, the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila has your big day covered. Picture yourself in the Grand Plaza Ballroom an exquisite expression of French elegance and Filipino craftsmanship, filled with 1,500 of your loved ones dancing beneath sparkling Murano tear-drop chandeliers. Or, if you prefer not to miss out on the sunset, glide up the sweeping staircase and out to the lush, ornate seawall garden, where panoramic views await you and your guests in the Harbor Garden Tent or Grand Sunset Pavilion. Whether it’s for an intimate gettogether or a magnificent, grandiose gathering of 800 to 2,000, Manila’s only urban resort has the perfect setting, not to mention a dedicated team to ensure your milestone celebration runs seamlessly.

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Wedding special

clockwise from top left: A

wedding at the Sofitel Manila; the away from it all El Nido Resort; memorable views at Shangri-La Boracay; a stylish wedding dress from Vania Romoff. bottom: A wedding photo from Pat Dy.

Tropical Wedding Bliss The Philippines offers it all when it comes to weddings, whether you prefer a modern urban backdrop or a ceremony on the beach. By Vicki Abary and Stephanie Zubiri With its lush islands lined in white sand, crystalline waters and swaying palm trees, the Philippines is definitely a top spot for a beach wedding. However don’t overlook a Manila fête. The city and its environs have some beautiful locations with excellent F&B options that make it a desirable choice before jetting off to the islands to cure the wedding hangover. Add that to the fact that Filipinos are die-hard romantics and love a good party, you can almost be certain that people will go the extra mile to make your dream wedding come true and you will most likely be dancing all night long.

Castaway Chic

Imagine cutting through turquoise waters, weaving in and out of emerald capped limestone cliffs to an exotic welcome luau on a deserted island. Partake in a sunset ceremony in a hidden grotto followed by a chic beach supper basking in the glow of candlelight and tiki torches and finish by dancing barefoot under a starry sky. El Nido Resorts is the ultimate escape. Comprised of four island resorts Apulit, Miniloc, Lagen and Pangulasian, El Nido offers luxury at different price ranges, with each resort having its own distinct charm and eco-amenities while still featuring El Nido Resorts’ unparalleled service and warmth. elnidoresorts.com

Resort Glam

Fun-loving couples that also have a penchant for powder white sand find their way to wed on the idyllic “Party in Paradise” island of Boracay. Since they only wish for their big day to sail as smoothly as the little boats floating along Boracay’s horizon, many of them choose Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa to handle their destination wedding. Shangri-La has the best transport on the island—with an exclusive welcome lounge in Caticlan and

DESIGNERS

RAJO LAUREL

With years of experience and passion for his craft, fashion designer Rajo Laurel has already cemented his legacy as the wedding couturier of modern brides— from those who want a simple yet elegant wedding gown to those who have a specific peg in mind. His classic silhouettes and attention to detail will ensure your wedding gown is as chic and relevant as the day you wore it, even on your 25th wedding

anniversary. rajolaurel.com

BOOM SASON

Brides who want to exude that va-vavoom go to Boom— Boom Sason, that is, the fashion designer famous for her sexy silhouettes and daring cuts that cling to all your curves. Sason knows how to make any woman look and feel sexy yet modern pin-up all at once, making her the favorite of It girls all over the world. boomsason. com, Instagram @boomsason​ weddingclassics


T rends a speedboat transfers to the resort. The more family-oriented will enjoy the resort’s beachfront. shangri-la.com/boracay/boracayresort

Private Paradise

For private couples who wish to wed in their own paradise, Amanpulo is it. Built on Pamalican Island’s pristine white sands in Palawan, it is frequently called “The Island,” though you rarely see others here. Guests are flown on a private plane and stay within the nature sanctuary. Offering quiet luxury, exemplary service and a breathtaking experience unlike any other, an Amanpulo wedding is heaven on earth. aman.com/resorts/amanpulo

Old World Charm

Just 90 minutes from Manila, embedded in a verdant tropical garden with large oversized ferns and impressive banyan trees is the Filipino-Spanish colonial style structure that houses one of the country’s best chef driven restaurants—Antonio’s. With every corner romantic, it’s easy to see why this venue is so popular for weddings, while the award-winning Antonio’s also offers excellent farm-to-table cuisine. antoniosrestaurant.com

Intimate Elegance

Keeping it small but special is important for some considering a wedding venue and Chef Colin MacKay’s restaurant Blackbird is a great choice to lavish your guests. The Commonwealth Era heritage building offers a stunning black-and-white backdrop with its high ceilings, bay windows and Art Deco elegance. Guests can indulge in Mackay’s inventive pan-Asian cuisine before heading to the plush lounge for a cocktail. blackbird.com.ph

Grand Drama

c loc kw i se fr o m top le ft: JayJay Lu cas ; c o urt esy o f e l n id o r es orts ; co urtesy o f S ha n gr i - L a ' s B or acay Res ort & S pa ; c ou rt esy of va n ia ro m o ff. bot tom : I nstag r a m @ patdy 1 1

Have your veil gently flutter behind you as you make a smashing entrance down the grand staircase before heading out to sip champagne with your guests against the famed Manila Bay sunset. After dinner, head to the bayside bar for a nightcap or dance until the wee hours. sofitelmanila.com

VANIA ROMOFF

For the ethereal and romantic soul, fashion designer Vania Romoff is your girl. Known for her gentle lines and soft femininity, Vania’s classic gowns feature brocade and lace, delicate chiffon draping, full ruffles and more—all the details a beautiful bride dreams about. bridalby​ vaniaromoff.com, Instagram @ bridalvaniaromoff

JUN ESCARIO

Hailing from Cebu, fashion designer Jun Escario is a master at designing wedding gowns of exquisite drama and elaborate beadwork. His

figure-hugging, Gatsby-esque dresses that fall flawlessly include a line whose materials are perfect for beach wedding brides. junescario.com

PHOTO/VIDEO

Pat Dy

Photographer Pat Dy is able to capture every otherwise unnoticed emotion of that special day— from flower girls giggling together to that precious look of a father who’s just given his daughter away—priceless photos to be enjoyed even by the bride and groom at their wedding reception. patdyphotography. com

Mangored

With its artful lighting and framing, Mangored’s portfolio of photos will leave you breathless. For brides and grooms who have a specific look and feel in mind, shoot with Mangored for your wedding nuptials.

FLOWERS + DECOR

Robert Blancaflor Group

Those who wed in the Philippines need not stick to local tropical blooms for their wedding day. Florist Robert Blancaflor imports flowers from five different countries and his artistic magic ensures his

creations are grand. robertblancaflor. com

Mabolo

Mabolo Flowers forte lies in chic and understated floral design. Mabolo Flowers fits that wedding that believes less is more. maboloflowers.com

nd T ips

“Couples choose to share an amazing adventure with family and friends, and this dovetails a range of cultural, gastronomical and one-of-a-kind experiences to be had.” — Sh au na Poppl e-W i l l i a ms , Editor of Philippine Tatler Weddings, on destination weddings. “The secret in planning the perfect wedding lies in good management skills. Because it is a celebration of love and good memories, one needs to be able to coordinate with their team and their suppliers in the most human way.” — Jav i M a rt i n ez , event director of Yaparazzi Events. “When planning intimate destination weddings, you may do away with the wedding planner and put your faith entirely in a full service resort. With just the help of the wonderful staff of El Nido Lagen Island, our little wedding of 30 guests in paradise turned out to be more beautiful than we imagined.” — Bi a nc a Gonz a l ez-I n ta l , author and celebrity on her 2014 wedding.


Wedding special

Honeymoon Cocoons

You’ve walked the aisle, now it is time to hit the road. From an aquatic arcadia in the Philippines to high style and fresh powder in Japan, we’ve picked our top six romantic retreats that offer the perfect marriage of stunning scenery and creature comforts.

Japan

Powder Paradise Malaysia

Jungle Gems

Worship at the emerald altar of Malaysia’s tropical rainforests. In Langkawi, you’ll find the jungle-beach combo at its finest, with swaths of the kelly green stretching out into the azure of the Andaman. The forested mountains are prime terrain for hiking, while the seascape, dotted in islands and limestone crags, beckons for sailing, rafting and kayaking. Where to Stay: A new addition to Langkawi’s alabaster shores, The RitzCarlton Langkawi is a luxe spin on a traditional kampong village, each room with a private balcony or terrace looking out at the jungle or over the ocean. But beware of the cheeky monkeys, who just might sneak into your room and steal your champagne. ritzcarlton.com; beachfront villa RM8,140.

The only country on our list with distinct seasons, Japan is a dream destination for snowbunny honeymooners looking for a pure-white wonderland to cap off their winter wedding. Set your sights on Niseko, which has slopes dusted in fairy-light powder thanks to an average of 15 meters snowfall each season. In addition to epic snow sports, you can also have your fill of world-class sushi, sake and onsen experiences. Want to sleep in? No problem. The last lift runs at 8:30 p.m., so you can wake up late, cuddle in your cozy room and

warm up with ramen, then hit the slopes after nightfall to ski under the stars. Where to Stay: Ki Niseko boutique in Hirafu Village offers floor-to-ceiling windows with 180-degree views of Mount Yotei. After a day on the slopes, you can thaw out in one of the hotel’s mineral-rich spring-water onsens. kiniseko. com; doubles from ¥60,000.


Indonesia

Wealth of Wellness

There’s a strange magic that hangs over this island-rich archipelago. Verdant jungles, ancient temples, white-sand beaches, towering mountains, bubbling volcanoes; no wonder it is a land of legend. Its mystic magnetism lures yogis the world over and it is home to a top-echelon selection of meditation retreats, spas, spiritual medicine and other hubs of the healing arts. If you are looking for a honeymoon that pairs outer beauty with inner peace, you’ll find it here.

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 t h e r i t z- c a r lt o n , l a n g k aw i ; c o u r t e s y o f v i c e r o y b a l i ; c o u r t e s y o f k k b e a c h ; c o u r t e s y o f F o u r S e a s o n s T e n t e d C a m p G o l d e n T r i a n g l e ; c o u r t e s y o f h u m a i s l a n d r e s o r t; c o u r t e s y o f k i n i s e k o

Where to Stay: Set in the leafy highlands of Ubud, the villas at the Viceroy Bali are all about four-poster beds and infinite pools cascading into an endless thicket of palm fronds. viceroybali.com; pool suites from US$458.

Philippines

Water World

A diver’s delight, the Sulu Sea teems with marine life in kaleidoscopic abundance. Because of the diversity and concentration of coral here, any patch of the briny blue you visit is likely to yield rare riches—you might spot a whale shark, thresher shark, a giant sea turtle or a manta ray—and the dozen sunken Japanese World War II ships near Coron make for a truly life-long memory of an underwater treasure hunt.

Where to Stay: With its private-island appeal and flash overwater villas, Huma Island Resort is very reasonably priced. Each of the rooms is bright and modern (pops of pink, splashes of chartreuse), with a private sun deck, complete with an outdoor tub where you can soak and sip champagne while the waves roll in. humaisland.com; water villas from P30,015.

Sri Lanka

Flights of Fancy

Thailand

Bucket-list Adventures

Long a popular spot for destination weddings, Thailand has much to offer. The food, impeccable service, dazzling landscape all seem custombuilt to make your honeymoon hopes come true. Between treehouse hideaways, beachfront cabanas, mountainside chateaus, and riverfront reveries, the only challenge will be trying to find time for all the experiences. Where to Stay: Spend a few days at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, where valley vistas and animal encounters abound. Tear yourself away from the luxe tented rooms, go explore on one of the camp’s rescue elephants. fourseasons.com/ goldentriangle; packages from Bt80,000 per night.

This island serves up a potent tasting flight of après-wedding wonders. Stay in one of the charming colonial country homes; take a scenic train ride from sleepy Ella to the culture capital of Kandy; explore empty beaches; get an ayurvedic massage; stroll waterfall-laden rainforests; or surf a roiling sea with breaks and coves for every skill level. In a single day you can see wild elephants and blue whales, two of the largest animals on Earth. Where to Stay: KK Beach is just a 20-minute drive from Galle, famed for its photogenic harbor and 16th-century colonial Portuguese architecture. There are only six suites at this intimate stay, spread along a three-kilometer sprawl of private beach. kkbeach.com; penthouse from US$380.


/ upgrade /

DEALS | t+l reader specials

BEACH BALI

These deals give the perfect opportunity to hone your photography skills by capturing morning light at Angkor Wat or snapping shots of turtles in Sri Lanka.

Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort If you didn’t schedule in a visit to Bali’s buzzing Kuta but want to see what see what all the hype is about, swing by for this day-use package and allow Sheraton Bali Kuta to host you for a day of shopping, dining and relaxing. The hotel will provide airport transfers or hotel pick-up and drop-off, luggage storage and complimentary use of their facilities. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and a three-course set lunch or dinner at their restaurant, Bene Italian Kitchen. And since the resort is located near some of Bali’s best shopping, you can stock up on souvenirs before heading out. The Deal Day Use package: from Rp475,000 per person, through December 31, 2018. sheratonbalikuta.com.

CITY

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f S h e r at o n B a l i K u ta R e s o r t; c o u r t e s y o f c a n ta l o u p e l e v e l s

BANGKOK

Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort.

SUPERSAVER Cantaloupe Levels, Sri Lanka

This beach-bordering boutique hotel serves as the perfect place to get friendly with aquatic life. With this package, go on a whale watching excursion with a marine guide and visit a turtle hatchery. Enjoy a free breakfast, return airport transfers and a trip to the local market followed by a cooking lesson. The Deal Big Blue package: three nights in a Deluxe Silhouette suite, from US$1,100 for two, through December 23. cantaloupehotels.com.

Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok It doesn’t get more centrally located than the Siam Kempinski. Although hidden between a cluster of Bangkok’s top shopping malls, this stately hotel has a resort-like atmosphere, housing lush gardens, multiple swimming pools and a few top restaurants. With this special, book your stay in a suite at least three days in advance and get 20 percent off. Executive Lounge benefits are also included, which means all-day refreshments, afternoon tea and evening cocktails. You’ll get access to their five-star breakfast buffet to boot. The Deal Suitely Sensational: a night in an Executive suite, from Bt12,800 for two, through December 31, 2018. kempinski.com. SINGAPORE

Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel If a convenient location is your top priority when booking

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SHANGHAI

W Shanghai The hippest addition to Shanghai’s Bund is this towering hotel that offers top-notch facilities, stylishly entertaining rooms, and central access to one of the world’s most chic locales. Views of the city’s iconic skyline are unrivaled from the pool terrace, which conveniently houses a sleek bar for when you’re ready to go 100-percent vacation mode. This opening offer gets you special prices on accommodations, and complimentary breakfast at The Kitchen Table, where the varieties of egg dishes are seemingly endless, and dim sum choices are plentiful. The Deal Electrify the Sky offer: a night in a Wonderful room, from RMB1,688 for two, through December 28. starwoodhotels.com. MANILA

New World Makati Hotel Whether traveling for business or pleasure, you’ll find yourself blissfully satisfied with this hotel’s lofty rooms, handsome décor and unwavering hospitality. Conveniently located in the center of Makati,

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Room with a view at Amatara Wellness Resort.

you’ll be close to some of Manila’s best parks, restaurants and shopping. But if you’re only in town for a quick business trip, the hotel offers spa services, a stellar 24-hour gym, a pool (with a bar) and a business center. Get 30 percent off your stay with this sweet deal. The Deal Explore Asia offer: a night in an Superior room, from P6,970 for two, through December 31. Enter code “DIRECT” when booking. manila. newworldhotels.com.

SPA PHUKET

Amatara Wellness Resort Relaxation is inevitable at this idyllic wellness haven on the quiet coast of Phuket’s Cape Panwa. Aside from unmatched Andaman views and luxurious accommodations, Amatara offer an assortment of all-inclusive wellness packages that will suit everyone from spa buffs to yoga junkies to couples who want to deepen their relationship. With this deal, when you book at least five nights at the resort as well as a wellness package, they’ll cover your flight to Phuket for up to Bt20,000. The Deal Amatara Amazing offer: five nights in a Premier Sea View room, from Bt74,000 per person, through December 25. amataraphuket.com.

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MACAU

Sheraton Grand Macao Between shopping, dining and laying odds at the casino, an entertainment hub like Macau can be exhausting. But luckily there are hotels like Sheraton Grand Macao, that, although located smack-dab in the center of the Cotai Strip, offer comfortable rooms that double as a sumptuous escape. Book this deal and get two complimentary 90-minute signature or sports therapeutic massages. On top of that, a smart phone is yours to use during your stay. The Deal Stay and Shine package: a night in a Deluxe room, from MOP2,859 for two, through December 28. sheratongrandmacao.com.

CULTURE LOMBOK AND BALI

Hotel Tugu Lombok and Hotel Tugu Bali If you are looking for a cultural adventure that still leaves room for indulgence, book this package from Tugu Hotels that includes stays at both their Bali and Lombok properties. Start at Tugu Bali, a hotel that nearly doubles as an Indonesian cultural museum with its vast collection of traditional art antiques, and get a spa treatment, a nature tour to Jatiluwih and Batukaru temples, and a dinner. At Tugu Lombok, enjoy a cooking class,

a tour to Gangga waterfall, a picnic under the stars, a horse carriage ride, and a return airport transfer. The Deal Tugu Explore Bali Lombok package: four nights in a Dedari suite at Tugu Bali and four nights in an Aloon-Aloon Garden villa at Tugu Lombok, from Rp48,812,500 for two, through March 31, 2018. tuguhotels.com. SIEM REAP

Park Hyatt Siem Reap There’s a reason this hotel is considered one of Siem Reap’s most prestigious addresses, starting with its elegantly Zen lobby that leads out to a saltwater pool rimmed by lush gardens and swinging day beds. Rooms and suites are outfitted with décor that pays homage to traditional Khmer style, but with a modern sophistication that feels stately. Take advantage of this offer and explore Angkor Wat by private tuk-tuk with a guide to show you around the temples. Also enjoy a free room upgrade and 50 percent off food and beverage at all the hotel’s dining outlets. The Deal Angkor Getaway package: a night in a Park King room, from US$218 for two, reserve by November 30 for stays until October 31, 2018. Enter code “ANGKOR” when booking. siemreap.park.hyatt.com. —veronica inveen

c o u r t e s y o f a m ata r a w e l l n e s s r e s o r t

accommodations, then look no further than this hotel situated at the epicenter of Singapore’s shopping area Orchard Road. Here, the city-state is at the tip of your fingers. However, with a large pool area that boasts a resort-like al fresco restaurant, and a spa that ticks all the boxes, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to stay in. This deal grants you access to the grand breakfast buffet for just S$1. Go for their signature chili crab omelet, and grab some kaya toast to go with your coffee before heading out for a day of shopping. The Deal Dollar Breakfast deal: a night in a Deluxe room, from S$381 for two, through December 31. marriott.com.


Day & Night night club along in Itaewon.

Busking scenes around Hongdae area. Young people having party in the nightclub.

Friday night, at Hongdae Street.

SEOUL: WHERE MUSIC FLOWS KO R E A’S T H R I V I N G M U S I C SC E N E , famed for its catchy hooks, impressive choreography and talented songwriting, has been taking much of South East Asia and the rest of the world by storm. In fact, its appeal is so far-reaching that several notable foreign artists and songwriters have been inspired to collaborate and even film music videos at locations throughout the country’s capital. With this in mind, I begin my journey in Itaewon, which is arguably home to one fof Seoul’s more bustling music scenes, most notably for famous Korean singers. Visitors can watch live music ranging from jazz and samba to rock and roll and acousitc pop. The alleyway in behind Hamilton Hotel has long since been a favourite among locals and newcomers. It is here where MOBB, a young Korean rap duo that recently shot to fame, got their inspiration for and filmed their popular “Hit Me” video. Some scenes in the video also take place at one of the area’s hip underground clubs. Another hugely popular attraction in Seoul that has inspired dozens of Korean and foreign artists is the Han River. As I stroll along its seemingly endless river walkway, I can see why its endless bridges, parks and riverside restaurants and cafes have appeared in music videos. Yanghwa Bridge is particularly attractive and has made an

**FOR MORE INFORMATION: WWW.VISITSEOUL.NET

The view of Yanghwa Bridge from Seonyudo Park.

appearance in several popular videos. It was also along here where Erlend Oye from Norway’s excellent band Kings of Convenience filmed parts of his video for Garota. Korean artists Hoody and Retro Funkee also shot their videos for “Hangang” and “Seoul”, respectively. Seoul has also been on the radar for numerous global musical acts as well. Belgian singer Sioen filmed his video for “Hongdae” in the area’s trendy student area, while Australian electronica group Empire of the Sun shot their video at Nakwon Shop Street for their video of the same name. SE Asian fans will be happy to know that one of Indonesia’s most famous pop stars, Calvin Jeremy, recently announced that Seoul has been selected as the prime location for his latest video, “All Right”. The video will show the singer exploring through a number of the city’s hotspots, including N Seoul Tower, the neighborhoods of Hongdae, Itaewon, Insadong, Myeongdong, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and several other notable districts. Seoul’s balance of traditional and modern architecture, genuine hospitality and buzzing nightlife have all made it a very attractive destination for creative artists. All of its attractions that have been included are definitely worth exploring.


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april wong

Home on the range, in Mongolia, page 72.

/ november 2017 / Cool changes afoot in Koh Samui | Seeking

deliverance on the steppe of Mongolia | A photographic education in Kenya | How to eat all the pastries in Paris | Return to the heart of the American South

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Treasure Island

Thanks to a slew of new openings and a community that embraces its rich environment, Koh Samui is enjoying a bump in popularity. Jeninne Lee-St. John visits the top new spots and makes a few friends along the way. photogr aphed by thanet k aewduangdee


Morning on the manicured sands of Sala Choengmon.

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Pla Pakeenuya, whose first name means “fish” in Thai, is the new marine biologist at Four Seasons Koh Samui. Before you get all excited about her fulfilling her destiny, take note: “My dad loved fishing. But my mom thought he fished too much. She thought if he had his own little fish at home, he’d do it less…” she says laughing. “It didn’t work.” The ploy might not have saved any bighead carp, but the little fish is now dedicated to protecting other marine life, particularly coral. Pla along with Benji Sansittisakunlird, for the resort actually has hired two in-house marine biologists, has helped launch a coral regeneration project under the aegis of Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. It’s great to snorkel the natural reef just offshore with a scientist, especially because afterwards Pla goes through all the photos she took with you, identifying different species. (Highlights for me: kidney coral that she estimated was 20 years old, and a tube worm.) If you find any broken coral, they will remove it to the newgrowth fields next door for rehabilitation. When I visited there were already seven transplant nursery platforms blooming. In bloom is an equally apt way to describe Koh Samui these days. The second-largest island in Thailand continues to see increases in visitor arrivals, with new international flights, especially from China, landing on the island and a bump in arrivals to Surat Thani airport, on the mainland, from which you can take a boat across the channel. Also landing here are popular Bangkok restaurants such as El Gaucho Steakhouse and Peppina Neapolitan pizza, whose outposts join local sophisticates such as Italian-chic Salefino and everyone’s favorite beach club, Coco Tam’s. New hotels are going up; others are upping their game. For example, next month, contempo-tropical resort Anantara Lawana reopens after a full overhaul, with brighter rooms, bigger terraces and pools, and new sprinklings of fun like overwater swings. And down the road, Thai boutique darling Sala is opening their second Samui spot in January: a 52-room, sun-and-moonthemed grassy enclave where everyone gets their own pool. This is all the more impressive considering most rooms are within a low-rise

from top: Pla Pakeenuya,

a marine biologist at Four Seasons Koh Samui; seafood pasta at Salefino; a Sala Pool villa in the soonto-open Sala Chaweng. opposite: The magic hour at Four Seasons.

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hotel-style building, in the heart of Chaweng Beach—in Sala’s signature all-white color, it’ll be like the coolest yacht party ever. Since Sala’s not open yet, though, the first vessel I boarded on this trip to Samui was the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam’s house speedboat, from their long dock just outside my villa. There are perhaps 150 pink dolphins in the Gulf of Thailand; a 45-minute ride from the resort can get you to one of their playgrounds. Not albinos, they’re Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins that are born grey and change cotton candy–colored with age. As with any endangered species, going to spy on them presents a moral conundrum. But, when we get out there, all the tour guides we see abide by the law and, it seems, a gentlemen’s agreement not to crowd the animals, not to feed the animals, and not to crowd each other. I notice at least one motorboat approach the bay and hover, waiting for another to leave. We spend half an hour gawking at four grey guys and a pink one jumping and weaving in a wide circle; sometimes they swim close enough to our bow to touch. Then we sail back, stopping for a satisfying snorkel off an island 15 minutes from the resort. The day just gets better at Baan Thai Spa by Harnn, modeled on a classic Thai stilt house. The jewel-box reception

i wonder if edith piaf couldʼve concocted a sweeter vie en rose


Clockwise from left:

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 S a m u i B a a n Ta l i n g N g a m

Sala Choengmon; at Outrigger's Edgewater restaurant; welcome drinks at Sala Choengmon; the private garden of a Club Beachfront Pool villa, InterContinental; a wet treatment room at Spa Village, in The Ritz-Carlton; scallop ceviche at The RitzCarlton; in the ring at The Ritz-Carlton; evening festivities at Coco Tam’s beach bar.

smelling of a pleasant mélange of the homegrown brand’s all-natural products is just the first clue that this place is special. The “master bedroom” treatment suite has a private steam room out of which I have to be unwillingly removed—though I should’ve known that the massage was going to be stellar, especially after 20 minutes of muscle-loosening. When we checked in, our butler had been demonstrably indignant on our behalf that our room wasn’t ready. This is the kind of butler you want. When we got to our Club Beachfront Pool villa, I immediately understood what he was worked up about. Most of InterContinental Samui sits on a bluff, affording expansive sea views from most every guestroom and suite, many of which are smartly clustered around “neighborhood” pools. But below the main structure—a lobby that is itself worth the price of admission, perched over the southwest coast just begging for the sun to set—near the main pool, are a handful of private-pool villas that open onto the beach. They are utter romance, but being there on a girls’ trip with my sisterin-law doesn’t alter my appreciation. Over sundowners at Air Bar, the executive chef (order his whole-lobster bouillabaisse) tells us how lucky we were to have found dolphins at the first stop, and to have seen an elusive pink one, and as the dusky sky eases into magenta, we toast Aperol spritzes and I wonder if Edith Piaf could’ve concocted a sweeter vie en rose. On the other side of the island, Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort is on a practically private bay from which you can make out the lights of Chaweng Beach. It’s a 10-minute drive, but from where I’m sitting, on a circular wooden deck built around the trunk of a shady old tree that makes it optimal for any meal of the day, that party-town swathe of Samui is a world away. The transportative feel is embodied in one swoop by the bamboo tunnel leading from the lobby to the shore, like a mini Arashiyama, and when the late-morning sun t r av el a ndl eisur e a si a .c om / nov ember 2017

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shines through just so… well, you and your personal paparazzo could spend the better part of an hour taking advantage of the soft light. The property—where all suites and villas come with their own pools—feels like a clubhouse, with lots of nooks and daybeds tucked into a relatively small footprint. That vibe is enhanced by the water socks, kayaks and paddleboards at everyone’s disposal, and by Serge, wellness guru extraordinaire. The rope-toned, perma-bronzed M.D. teaches mat Pilates lessons on an ocean-view balcony above the sweet and well-done Navasana Spa, and aqua yoga classes in the main pool where even the most reserved guests are tempted to get in on the splash session. (If you want to do muay Thai, Outrigger is right around the corner from the well-respected Yodyut Gym. They can book private training for you; ask for adorable mighty mouse Khun First.) The food is stellar, truly, demonstrating that it’s possible for a hotel to do both Thai and international with simple authenticity. At Edgewater, we ordered the crab with egg curry, the gyoza, and the Caesar salad with prawns twice each—not for lack of options but because they were so good we couldn’t leave without eating them again. Another thing requiring a double-take: the approach to The Ritz-Carlton, which is a bit of an optical illusion. You’re funneled up a path to a beautiful welcome pavilion. From here you can see over to the coast of Bophut Bay… but where’s this new resort? Above in the jungle? Nope, this is just the staging area. Hop in your buggy, head down a road, around the bend and over a rise, and the view suddenly opens up to a panoramic oceanic Oz, a fiefdom that rolls resplendently down to the shore. Here, the standard accomodation is a 93-square-meter suite with big balconies from which you can survey the entire village—including a central square modeled on a Thai marketplace with street food stalls that you can commandeer for cooking class. Among the townhouse-style pool villas, you can choose a reclusive cliff-side spot, or to be amongst it all closer to the shore. The stunning main pool is the resort’s showpiece with good reason: the complex it anchors cleverly holds several restaurants including an oh-so-decadent-in-its-specificity ceviche bar, a man-made snorkeling pool in which a marine biologist teaches kids little and big about fish and coral, and a gym with a muay Thai ring where the trainer is a female former champion who helped me correct my spinning back elbow move in 90 seconds. As if meeting Khun Chi wasn’t enough to get me all pumped about girl power, then they took me to the spa. OK, hear me out. Sure, this

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Clockwise from top:

Phuket lobster stir-fried with garlic, at InterContinental; The Ritz-Carlton welcome; the shady dining deck at Outrigger; CoCoRum bar at Four Seasons; Baan Thai Spa by Harnn, at InterContinental.


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The details

is a temple to pampering, the girliest of girly activities. But it’s run by a team of strong ladies who know their stuff, who can rattle off the health benefits of your butterfly pea flower tea and spend an hour or two wrestling with you in the spa pool for a signature aquatic therapy session. In a bowl between hills, a ring of treatment rooms surrounding tiered ponds cascading into each other, the Spa Village is a real-life Themiscyra—and after a trip to Wonder Woman’s home island, you’re sure to be feeling like a goddess, too. Speaking of goddesses, it was tempting to posit that scientist/mermaid Pla has the best gig at Four Seasons Samui, but then I met Mee. The smiley bartender was sent for an intensive rum education to open the resort’s new Rum Vault, adjacent to beachfront CoCoRum bar, both designed by fantasist-architect Bill Bensley. They’ve introduced a Rum Club: bring Mee a bottle off his wish list, and you gain exclusive access to their large-and-growing stash of rums, many of which are not available elsewhere in Thailand. After he guides you expertly through a tasting, stumble on over to the new Beach House, an open-air games room that also hosts pop-up dinners on its cloistered, secret beachfront. Like so much of the best of Samui, it’s a treasure hidden in plain sight.

Hotels Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort Re-opens December 16. Bophut; lawana-chaweng.anantara. com; doubles from Bt9,280. Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort Bophut; samui.anantara. com; doubles from Bt7,250. Conrad Koh Samui Taling Ngam; conradhotels3.hilton.com; doubles from Bt18,500. Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui Angthong; fourseasons. com; doubles from Bt22,950; “Snorkeling with Experts” Bt1,000 per person. InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Taling Ngam; samui. intercontinental.com; doubles from Bt8,882; “In the Know” dolphins excursion Bt4,000 per adult. Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort Bophut; outrigger.com; doubles from Bt6,599. The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui Bophut; ritzcarlton.com; doubles from Bt13,875. Sala Samui Choengmon Beach (Sala Chaweng slated to open January 2018.) Choengmon; salahospitality.com; doubles from Bt7,266. Vana Belle Chaweng; vanabellekohsamui.com; doubles from Bt17,300. restaurants + bars Bar Baguette Specializes in early breakfast, healthy options and pretty plating. Newest location is on Chaweng Road; original is in Fisherman’s Village. barbaguettesamui.com; meal and coffee for two Bt500.

The Beach Bar Samui The cabanas at this super-chill spot are the place for lazy afternoons; also hosts raucous evening EDM fests. Chaweng; fb.com/ thebeachbarsamui; daily barbecue Bt300 per person. Café d1e Pier X Samui Artisanal cocktail bar with French-inflected international fare and Thai staples. Fisherman’s Village; fb.com/ cafedepier; meal and drinks for two Bt1,000. Café 69 Creative, kaleidescopic Thai fusion food served by an entertaining chef/owner. The green curry pie is revered. Outside Fisherman’s Village; fb.com/ cafe69kohsamui; meal for two Bt700. Clyde Café Bakers who supply popular spots around the island have opened a homebase with coffee and comfort food. Chaweng; clydecafe.com; meal for two Bt600. Coco Tam’s Fun, welcoming beach bar with bean bags in the sand, fire shows at night and Peppina pizza opening in December. Fisherman’s Village; fb.com/cocotams; snacks and drinks for two Bt600. El Gaucho Newest location of the Argentinian-style steakhouse popular in Vietnam and Bangkok. Chaweng; 66-62/ 593-9668; dinner for two Bt3,000. Salefino Oceanfront Italian with a Mediterranean vibe and a great sunset view, right near the Big Buddha. Bophut; salefinosamui. com; meal for two Bt1,500.


The Empty Vessel In the vast Gobi Desert, fermented goat’s milk is always on offer in a hospitable ger and even the camels seem filled with devotion. Over three weeks on the Mongolian steppe, Adam Skolnick hopes to draw inspiration for his own life from the limitless horizon. photogr a ph ed by april wong

Western Mongolia's Tsambagarav Mountain. Opposite: A trainer with his champion steed.

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c h e f Y o ta m : p e d e n + m u n k

Above the luxury gers of Three Camel Lodge. Opposite: Champion eagle hunter, Shaaimurat Askhabil.


ur Landcruiser bumped along two-wheel tracks toward the largest complex of sand dunes in Mongolia. Eighteen kilometers of white sand sprawled in peaks and valleys, fronting the glorious granite Southern Altai Mountains. It was a clear morning, the sky cobalt blue save a few clouds, and that depth of field, the play of light and color made the whole scene look a set piece for a dream sequence, like a painting come to life. For the first time in weeks I felt serene, as if the sheer majesty rocked me out of my body so I might float above my troubles. Soon the mountains disappeared and the dunes loomed ever larger until we landed at their doorstep. It takes three days to traverse the dunes on foot, but just an hour to hike the height of the tallest one, which rises 300 meters above the Gobi Desert—so I kicked off my shoes and began to climb. Halfway up the slope my steady line began meandering like a drunk uncle, my heart pounding, my lungs heaving. My feet were on fire thanks to a relentless sun growing stronger by the second, which heated the sand to scalding. Each time I stopped to catch my breath I looked toward the top where still more blonde sand swept into widows’ peaks sculpted by winds so strong they seemed to move through the middle of the thick dune itself. I could hear them moan and sigh, appropriate since Khongoryn Els translates as “singing dunes.” Soon I was on all fours. The wind had intensified, which cooled the surface, but there were no more stolen glances upward lest stinging sand fill my eyes, nose and mouth. There was only groping, fighting and spitting, and the thought that, if this were a dream sequence, then perhaps my personal struggles were a metaphor. It had been just 18 months since the publication of my first book—my career highlight—but a recent slew of career, financial and personal indignities had pulled the bottom out, and had me questioning my life choices. One reason I chose a writing career was that I thought it could offer excitement and adventure, and help me avoid the midlife crisis I’d watched my dad endure. He is a good man, a career attorney, and he’s learned to love his life, but his mid-40s were rough. Were these dunes, this

country—Mongolia—the perfect battleground? Maybe country, my battleground? Here in the vast desolation, could I find answers to what ailed me? Before I left the capital, Ulaanbaatar, I met Zayasaikhan Sambuu, or Zaya, one of Mongolia’s best painters. He grew up in a small Gobi town before ditching it to study art in the big city, launching an around-the-world walkabout. He splits his time between UB and Japan these days, but the desert still haunts him. “The Gobi to me is an empty vessel,” he said. “You are going to listen to yourself there.”

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mptiness is the first thing you feel when, about three hours outside of the bustling city, you veer off the rutted tarmac, hit one of thousands of two-wheel tracks that crisscross the steppe and enter the real Gobi. This is where the sky opens up with limitless horizons and red earth sprouts nutritious grasses that feed countless cattle, sheep, shaggy yaks, painted horses with long elegant manes and tails, and herds of goats so thick they run like a river with no end. Their numbers have been multiplying thanks to the popularity of cashmere around the world, one of the Gobi’s commodities that finds its way into international markets. Out here livestock outnumbers people 100 to one, and the animals are shepherded by nomadic families who in summer, and sometimes year round, live in gers or yurts: lattice structures covered in canvas, and heated with a dung oven where they also prepare meals. Getting lost is inevitable when road-tripping the Gobi (there are precious few roads, after all), and we popped in on more than a handful strangers for directions. We were always offered milky tea, with just a hint of salt. Sometimes hospitality was spiked with fermented camel’s milk, which tastes like a mixture of beer and yogurt (in a good way), and provides a slight buzz. One morning at dawn, after sleeping in a ger owned by a local family, I emerged in time to watch a rising red sun with the faint echo of a billion stars in the sky. Nearby a herd of camels kneeled, just awake. Some wore their natty winter coats in patches, others had shed them clean. Their moans overlapped like devout monks chanting for absolution. t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /   n o v e mb e r 2 0 1 7

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That same morning we visited Tsagaan Suvarga, the White Stupa, a 400-meter-long jigsaw of cliffs, mineral streaked purple, orange, red. I stood at the edge of one and watched swallows soar and dive above a rolling landscape of color, and thought, when you’re low, getting kicked across the desert like a stone is good therapy. For all its transporting emptiness, the Gobi has a rich story to tell. Dinosaurs roamed these plains back when it

government bureaucrat became a tour guide. His base of operations these days is the oft-overlooked Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in the east of the desert. “This valley has been around for 650 million years,” Chadraabal told me as we rambled through his backyard in a beat-up minivan. “It was once set beneath a prehistoric ocean stretching from Siberia to Korea.” During the communist era, cement and coal were excavated from the area, but today the soil still glows with fragmented crystals, and it’s a wildlife haven, attracting tourists who come to see the thousand or so argali (Mongolia’s native big horn sheep), gazelle, ibex and, if they’re extremely lucky, wolves. Most stay at IkhNart Wilderness Camp, where Chadraabal works and where guests sleep in traditional gers upgraded with creature comforts. The beds are thick and soft, the furniture, posts and beams hand-painted and tasteful, and the meals are delicious. But it isn’t luxury so much as the blend of big nature and deep-rooted culture that makes Mongolia so transporting. Chadraabal proved a sharp eye for wildlife. We swerved over a rise just in time to see a herd of gazelle race between glacial rock formations, their stride so long

For all its transporting emptiness, the Gobi has a rich story to tell was a humid jungle, before the ice age descended. Much later it was an important link on the Silk Road. Genghis Khan, the man who formed the Mongolian nation state, and his warriors wrested control of the trade route from the Ottomans, and ushered in a period of Mongolian dominance on the world stage that stretched from China to Europe. A lasting by-product was the infusion of Tibetan Buddhism into Mongolian culture. That religion remains a dominant force, and it migrated here in the hearts and minds of lamas who built dozens of monasteries throughout the Gobi. For three weeks, I traveled by car and rail across the desert and walked among its ruins. In Baga Gazryn Chuluu, a nature reserve in the north Gobi, I traversed shale roads and trails to the remains of Lovonchambyn Khiid, a temple complex reduced to crumbling mud walls sprouting with sagebrush. Nearly all the ancient temples I saw in Mongolia, and I saw dozens, had been destroyed, and the monks massacred in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. That’s when Mongolia leaned to the Soviet Union. Russian troops occupied the steppe for decades until the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, and only then was it safe for religion to come out of the closet. That’s also when tourism first flickered to life, and when Nergui Chadraabal a now 50-year-old former

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and swift their hooves barely touched the ground. He also pointed out petrified trees, ancient burial sites and petroglyphs depicting many of the animals that live there. Some were painted by early man, but the park is also suffused in 13th-century history, which makes it a pilgrimage site for Buddhists.

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ugust rains form ponds in the valley, which have always attracted migrating birds, and in the old days it also lured Silk Road caravans. It’s believed that more than 3,000 monks once lived in the park. We saw prayer flags looped around rock outcrops, prayer beads left as offerings beneath swallow nests, and at a natural amphitheater we saw another petroglyph, a sacred verse, written in Sanskrit, which monks chant to this day. It read, “Om Mane Padme Hum.” The Dalai Lama once described the practice as “an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can [use to] transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.” Was that the code I needed; the evolutionary algorithm that leads to happiness and some kind of lasting peace?


Clockwise from top left: Men at the annual Naadam Festival, or “three games of men:� horse racing, wrestling and archery; on horseback; a Three Camel Lodge bedroom; taking to the ring at Naadam Festival; the gallivanting spirit. opposite: A few nomads have switched to the steel horse.


Clockwise from above: A bactrian camel, the workhorse of the southern Gobi; most temples were destroyed in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s; traditional garb at Naadam Festival; Ongi monastery; artist Zaya Sambuu in his Ulaanbaatar studio. opposite: Naadam horses race to finish line.


Maybe if I only sat in the desert, chanting like a bodhisattva, my troubles would fade away? Of course, to do that properly I’d have to smash my iPhone, which alerted me that my house had been broken into. I had to laugh at the absurdity of it all because by then I’d heard that 10 nomadic families live in the park and I’d seen their winter campsites. Their corrals and three-sided mud-brick shelters were built into the rocks, alongside stacks of dung that would hopefully keep them warm all winter, when temperatures dip below minus-30 degrees. Yet despite obvious discomfort, and sometimes downright hardship, contentment was hardly elusive in rural Mongolia. One nomad I met along the way, a 53-year-old eagle hunter in West Mongolia named Shaaimurat Askhabil, shared his secret to remaining happy and balanced and avoiding the midlife crisis—a syndrome he’d never heard of—over a midnight feast prepared by his wife, Kulzira Jakhia. On a single platter was a pile of lamb, horse and cow meat he’d raised and slaughtered, and she’d dried and roasted. He sharpened two blades against one another and carved chunks that spilled over boiled homemade noodles and potatoes glistening with fat. Ravenous, we all dug in with our fingers. It was the best meal I had the entire trip.

“People who live in the city, they buy everything with money,” he said, “so for them money is a source of stress. Here all we buy with money is flour and maybe some sweets, and we have no problems.” His point was that, since he ate his own meat, drank his milk—some of it fermented—and could pick up and move if he needed better land, he felt fulfilled and safe, and I believed him. Though he didn’t live in the Gobi, his mirror was all over Mongolia’s southernmost province. Of course, their reality could never be mine, and I’m old enough to know there was no exotic, quick-fix lesson I could appropriate to counter my personal chaos. Askhabil had built his life with years of hard work. After the Cold War ended, he, like all the other nomads, was given two animals and a pat on the back. Nothing more. Meanwhile an entire nation’s economic life crumbled before their eyes. Yet Mongolians like him endured privatization, and he’d earned every bit of his midlife satisfaction. I knew I would have to do the same. I made it to the top of Khongoryn Els, by the way. On the peak I did an eagle dance, the ones I’d seen the Mongolian wrestlers perform upon victory, and enjoyed a superlative view. Blades of light streamed through clouds over the vast desert, and I felt present and alive. Ready to start again.

Despite hardship, contentment was hardly elusive in rural Mongolia The details Getting there Fly directly to Ulaanbaatar from Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and major Chinese cities. From there, the most efficient way to get to the Gobi is through a domestic flight to Dalanzadgad on the desert’s edge, though planning through a tour operator is highly recommended. Hotels IkhNart Wilderness Camp is the only option in Ikh Nartiin Chuluu, and it offers glamping at its finest. The altitude can make it chilly even in summer, so bring layers. nomadicjourneys.com; 976-11/330360; from US$290 for three-day, two-night packages per person all-inclusive. Three Camel Lodge is one of Mongolia’s finer hotels. Guests sleep in luxury gers with bespoke

furnishings, they grow their own greens, they’ve drilled wells for area herders, and the bar has the finest spirits in country. Don’t miss it. threecamellodge.com; 97611/313-396; singles US$560, doubles US$720, all-inclusive. tours Nomadic Expeditions, connected to Three Camel Lodge, was the first tour company of its kind in Mongolia. They service the Gobi and the entire country with bespoke itineraries. nomadicexpeditions. com; three-day itineraries from US$1,815 per person. Nomadic Journeys, which offers the best access to Ikh Nartiin Chuluu, and unforgettable camel treks, is another good choice. nomadicjourneys.com; five-day itineraries from US$1,300 per person with a two-person minimum.

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MY PHOTOGRAPHIC E D U C AT I O N OR , H O W I LEARNED T O S T OP W ORRYING AND S H OO T A GIRA F F E

Story and Photographs by M a r c e l T h e r o u x

Giraffes against the sunset at Mbirikani Group Ranch, in southern Kenya. SETTINGS 500 ISO, f/9.0, 1/1600 second exposure. what i learned “I can still hear my teacher’s voice telling me which f-stop to use and where to point the camera. I didn’t understand what he was getting me to do until afterward. Exposing for the sky turns the giraffes into a pair of moody silhouettes.”


d av i d m u rr ay

A portrait of the author taken by his instructor, David Murray, as he learns to use a Canon 7D Mark II in the Masai Mara National Reserve, in southern Kenya.

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he Emakoko, a luxury safari lodge, stands by the Mbagathi River on the edge of Nairobi National Park, in Kenya. It’s a place of serenity and wide-open spaces. I had come to learn to photograph wildlife, and I saw immediately that I wouldn’t have to look far to find it. When I arrived at the veranda to meet David Murray, who would be my teacher for the next seven days, I noticed a genet, a tiny feline creature covered with leopard-like markings, lurking nearby. It seemed to be eavesdropping. Murray, a quietly intense Scotsman in his early 40s, was waiting with the tools of his trade laid out before him: two cameras and an array of lenses. I shook his hand with a tinge of nervousness. I was one of the first students of Wild Studio, a new course being offered by Great Plains Conservation, a tour

A herd of zebras, with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Settings 100 ISO, f/8.0, 1/500 second exposure. what i learned “I took this one on fully automatic. It shows that Kenya is so beautiful even Mr. Magoo could take great photos there sometimes.”

operator focused on protecting and nurturing communities, wilderness, and wildlife in Kenya and Botswana. The following morning we were scheduled to leave Nairobi and spend three days at a safari lodge in the Chyulu Hills, then another three days among the spectacular animals of the Masai Mara. Murray’s mission was to transform me from a virtual incompetent to an accomplished photographer. I wasn’t sure whether either of us actually believed that this was an achievable goal. When he isn’t teaching, Murray has a successful career as a photographer, working out of a studio in the north of England. His images of wildlife have been published widely and shown in several galleries in the U.K. He told me that he used to manage a luxury safari lodge in Botswana, where he often witnessed guests’ frustration with their pictures. One inspiration for founding Wild


Studio, he said, was seeing a visitor hurl down a US$10,000 camera in a rage. As digital technology and social media have changed the way we take pictures, courses that turn bucket-list travel experiences into roving photography workshops have proliferated. Some bill themselves as boot camps and have a tough-talking, macho ethos. Murray, by contrast, tends to reference Zen and let sentences hang in the air half-finished. “My only stipulation is that you don’t throw the camera at my head,” he told me calmly. I explained to him that my feelings about photography are complicated. As a writer, I’ve worked on assignment with many professional photographers. The traits that make them good at their job—obsessiveness, tenacity, ratlike cunning, a willingness to wake before dawn— make them poor travel companions. Still, I envy them.

There’s a glamour and mystery about their work. When I travel with a photographer, people are always admiring the gear, asking about the lenses, and wanting to see the shots. No one has ever expressed an interest in my mechanical pencils or wanted a look inside my notebook. But then, no line I’ve ever written has had the impact of a great picture. The best photographs are like bottled lightning, capturing an extraordinary, unrepeatable moment. When I was in my teens, I owned a simple singlelens-reflex camera with interchangeable lenses. Today’s digital SLRs have powerful autofocus, enormous storage capacity and the ability to work in low light. The downsides—for me—are their perplexing vocabulary, stratospheric cost and an intimidating appearance. Murray spent that first afternoon familiarizing me with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and a Canon 7D Mark II

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A female leopard in the Masai Mara at dusk. Settings 6400 ISO, f/5.6, 1/500 second exposure. what i learned “At first I grumbled about the acacia branches in her face and the drab light on her fur. Now I think the blocked view gives her a kind of mystique and danger.”

Sunset over the Mbirikani Group Ranch. Settings 500 ISO, f/5.6, 1/500 second exposure. what i learned “This shot showed me the advantage of manual settings. Fully automatic would have overexposed the image and blown out the beautiful colors in the sky.”


Elephants around the watering hole at Ol Donyo Lodge. Settings 100 ISO, f/7.1, 1/400 second exposure. what i learned “I didn’t even leave my room to take this one. I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t so hard.’ How often are photographers getting credit for Mother Nature’s work?”

Three young female lions soak up the dawn rays at Mbirikani Group Ranch. Settings 125 ISO, f/5.0, 1/400 second exposure. what i learned “This shot took some effort and patience. I remember an intoxicating sense of excitement as we stalked the lions.”


he had brought with him. The camera bodies, with their countless buttons, were as complicated as I’d feared. We began with a crash course in exposure and focus. I thought I had a rudimentary understanding of these concepts and encouraged Murray to skip the preamble, but soon found myself baffled by the spinning wheels of shutter speed, aperture and ISO. As Murray segued into a discourse on spot and evaluative metering, he must have sensed my gloom. “Or you can just keep it on that green button and fire away,” he offered. In fairness to Murray, who is also happy to teach cellphone photography, I had insisted on using professional equipment. The goal that I (and my editor) had set was to take pictures good enough to print in these pages, without apologies or disclaimers, so I wanted to give myself the advantages of high resolution and great lenses. And Wild Studio promises its students that by the end of the course they will be able to take publishable wildlife photographs. Some, Murray said, would even bag the most elusive quarry of all: an in-focus image of a bird in flight. The rhinos, giraffes, lions and cheetahs of Nairobi National Park seemed too ambitious for my first-ever wildlife images, so to get used to the camera, I wandered around the grounds of the lodge snapping pictures of hyraxes, which look a bit like small woodchucks, on various settings. The equipment felt heavy and awkward,

More Great Photography Trips Around the World wildlife in the Antarctic

Join fine-art photographer David Yarrow aboard Natural World Safaris’ superyacht bound for the South Atlantic island of South Georgia. He’ll offer passengers instruction and advice on a 15-day journey to capture images of penguins, seals and seabirds. naturalworld​ safaris.com; Nov. 2018; from US$43,400. the northern lights in alask a

Learn how to photograph the elusive aurora borealis

and I kept forgetting which button did what. Everything I shot on manual exposure was too dark. Several frames were completely black. In the end, I just hit the green button and took a perfectly exposed, in-focus shot of a hyrax on a paving stone. When we reviewed the pictures, Murray did his best to sound enthusiastic. But there was no disguising the fact that my most successful work so far looked like a poorly lit rat in a suburban garden. At dawn the next day, we flew in a single-engine Cessna to the edge of the Chyulu Hills. From my seat, I looked down on puffs of clouds casting shadows on the savanna. It was May, the wet season, and rains had turned the vegetation an unexpected green and given the sky a crystal clarity. Far in the distance was a haze of gold and the snowy summit of Kibo, the highest of Mount Kilimanjaro’s three peaks. I wondered how one could possibly render all of this in a photograph. No image, it seemed, could ever convey the immersive feeling of being in a tiny plane above this infinite velvet landscape. We were met at the dirt airstrip by a Masai guide, Jackson Lemunge, who drove us to our lodge in an open safari vehicle. On the way, we stopped to watch zebras and giraffes lolloping across the plains. Behind them, Mount Kilimanjaro rose through a thin band of cloud. Murray

on Gondwana Ecotours’ six-night trip, which also includes showshoeing, dog-sledding and dips in geothermal hot springs. gondwanaecotours.com; Feb. and March 2018; from US$2,545.

hands-on tutoring to guests of Dream Photo Tours’ 13-day exploration of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and other cities when Japan is in bloom. dreamphototours. com; March 2018; from US$7,500.

the r ain forests of costa rica

Lisbon by motorcycle

On this eco-minded trip from Natural Habitat Adventures, skilled photographers assist travelers in documenting sloths, monkeys, crocodiles and hundreds of species of birds. nathab. com; Jan., Feb.,and Dec. 2018; from US$4,300. cherry-blossom season in japan

American husband-andwife photography team Elia and Naomi Locardi give

Joined by a professional photographer, guests of the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon can hop on a vintage motorcycle with a sidecar and speed through the city’s cobblestoned streets, making pit stops at iconic sites like the Alfama and Bairro Alto districts, while receiving insights on how to shoot them effectively. fourseasons. com; year-round; from US$658 for two people. — John Scarpinato


A female cheetah on an afternoon hunt in the Masai Mara. Settings 400 ISO, f/5.0, 1/1000 second exposure. whAT I LEARNED “The way it’s framed

gives you the sense that her prey is just out of the shot to the left.”

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From left: A picnic at Mara

explained that giraffes are hard to shoot well—their long necks mean they break the horizon awkwardly, causing difficulties with exposure. Further on, we stopped again to spy on two cheetahs resting in the shade of an acacia tree. I felt overwhelmed and a bit panicked by the sudden abundance of things to photograph, like a man who’s gone to a banquet wearing an ill-fitting set of dentures and finds himself unable to chew. When we reached the lodge, I had barely dropped my briefcase before giraffes, zebras and elephants began showing up at a watering hole outside my window. I spent the rest of the morning in a nearby blind, snapping away. I shot more than 500 images, which we painstakingly reviewed in the heat of the afternoon. I felt like I was going over a failed homework assignment. To my shame, my cheetahs were underexposed and out of focus. “There’s nothing you can do if the eye is blurry,” he said. My elephants were a little better. Murray nonetheless pointed out extraneous details that cluttered up the images. “There’s this messiness here,” he said, pointing to some thornbushes that appeared to be sticking out of one elephant’s head. Particularly bruising was my failure to do justice to a wonderful moment when four elephants arrived together at the watering hole. A hard thing to ruin, you’d think. But somehow the two elephants in the center were tangled up in a way that the eye struggled to decode. “When are three elephants better than four elephants?” Murray mused, as though it were a Zen koan. But he was smart enough to season his criticisms with praise. My heart swelled with pride when he described one of my shots as “well framed.” “That’s brilliant,” he said of another, “and it doesn’t matter that the tusk is cut off there.” That evening, I sat in my room playing with the buttons on the camera, resetting the exposure and focus, like a rookie gunslinger practicing his draw. The lodge staff had made up a bed on the roof, and I slept outside under a mosquito net, looking up at the smear of the Milky Way. The night was clear and windy. As I drifted off to sleep, the stars above made me think of blinking camera settings.

I was up at 4:30 the following morning. Murray doesn’t insist that his guests get up early—they’re supposed to be on vacation, after all. But the light is better and the animals more active at this hour, and I could tell that Murray approved of my keenness. Our guide, a tall Masai man named Konee Kinyaku, arrived in a red cotton shuka and beaded anklets to drive us out across the plains in the darkness. The light had just begun coming up, as though on a dimmer switch, infusing the pale predawn gray with a warm, peachy glow, when Kinyaku spotted a pride of young lions breakfasting on a wildebeest. I felt more confident handling the camera. The practice had made me more technically adept, and the photo review had given me a greater awareness of composition. Murray had spoken about the rule of thirds—how an image is more intuitively pleasing if key elements are on the intersecting points of an imaginary grid. I visualized the frame divided into horizontal and vertical bands. Kinyaku, himself a photographer, was attuned to the position of light and kept moving the vehicle to optimize it. A female lion lay in a dusty, ochre valley. A second joined her, and then a third. I snapped away, consciously trying to simplify the shot. I was so involved in what I was doing that it never occurred to me to be concerned about the lions a few meters away. Suddenly, they moved upwind of us, their meaty stink blowing into the vehicle like a draft from a hot butcher’s shop. I broke off from taking pictures with a vague sense of disquiet. “They are surrounding us,” said Kinyaku, drily. One met my gaze with an unfathomable orange stare before padding off into the bush. Reviewing that morning’s images, Murray was generous with his praise. “The progression of perfect exposures is unbelievable,” he told me. I felt exhilarated. I’d snapped more selectively, taking far fewer pictures but vastly better ones. Of course, I couldn’t take all the credit. It was Kinyaku who had found the lions and maneuvered the vehicle. Murray, like a ring cornerman, had fed me technical suggestions. But I felt proud of myself for the small decisions that had culminated in these photos.

g r e at P l a i n s C o n s e r vat i o n ( 3 )

Plains Camp, on the northern edge of the Masai Mara; a Masai guide from Ol Donyo Lodge; a singleengine Cessna flies between camps.


i l l u s t r at i o n s b y h o l ly wa l e s

We flew next to the Masai Mara, the vast grasslands in the south of Kenya, for the final portion of the course. This is the setting for the annual migration of 2 million wildebeests, which move in search of fresh pasture. Here and there, a bleached skull in the grass showed where a wildebeest had fallen to a predator. As hunters of a more benign kind, we settled into a daily routine: game drives in the morning and evening with our local guide, Edwin Senteu; picture review in the afternoon. Now, when Murray and I discussed my efforts, we were having higher-order conversations about the way images impart meaning. We’d flip through a coffee-table book and talk about the difference between generic shots of animals—images that might illustrate a zoology textbook—and pictures with poignancy and emotion, in which an animal’s pose hints at its life beyond the frame. Murray pushed me to think about the way the angle of the shot affected a viewer’s relationship with the subject: “Too high and it looks like you’re dominating the animal,” he said. “Like you have no connection to it.” I tried to remember this advice at dawn the next day, when we came across another pride of lions. Senteu counted four females, two males and 10 cubs. I crouched on the floor of the vehicle, so as to put myself on their level and enter their world: an adult male and female waking and sniffing each other amorously; the cubs lying in wait to attack their parents; a half-grown male, like a gangly teenager, goofing off with his younger siblings. Though I still hadn’t mastered the camera, I no longer fumbled to change my settings, and I felt I was gaining an intuitive sense of which aperture and shutter speeds were appropriate for each situation. As my competence grew, however, so did my ambition. I noticed myself taking on some of the restless perfectionism that is one of the defining traits of a photographer. The light could always be better, the animals closer, the cubs cuter. A pride of lions frolicking in the dawn air on the Masai Mara is something I’d ordinarily feel privileged to witness. Now I was quibbling about the placement of the acacia trees, the unwanted shadows, and the overcast sky—the light, I knew, would never have the honeyed quality that photographers covet. I told Murray about my newfound discontent. “You know what makes the best photographer?” he asked. “Insecurity.” It struck me that the cosmic ingratitude of photographers has become a common affliction among all travelers. We’re increasingly unable to appreciate what we’ve got, for fear of missing something better.

butterflies twinkling in the air around its face. Trying to be a photographer was making me a better observer. That last evening, driving back across the plains, we came across a tiny, rainbow-colored bird perched on a hillock: a lilac-breasted roller. I’d tried and failed a dozen times to capture the moment a bird took flight, framing my shots too tight, losing patience, or just blinking and missing the moment. This time I was determined. Senteu stopped the vehicle and killed the engine. “One twothousandth shutter speed, f-stop eight, one thousand ISO,” Murray whispered. I focused on the bird, gulped, and waited. I wasn’t even aware of the moment it moved. At some point, I must have pressed the shutter, because the viewfinder blacked out. When I looked again, the bird was gone. “Never mind,” Murray said. Expecting nothing, I reviewed the images. There were five shots of a bird taking wing over the Masai Mara. After passing my camera around for everyone to admire the pictures, I folded my arms behind my head and savored the sweet but fleeting sensation of photographic satisfaction.

At least I was able to redeem my bad cheetah photographs. As the sun set, Senteu found a female in the shade of an acacia tree, gazing hungrily at a few impalas. I watched the rise and fall of her breath, the way she sprawled in the dust, yawning, then set off with a relaxed, swaying walk, the unmistakable intent of a hunter. My picture-taking, I realized, was altering the way I saw the world. Looking at an elephant, I noticed symmetry and asymmetry, the saggy heft of its trunk, the way it flapped its ears and dribbled water, the blue

wildlife STUDY

The details getting there Fly to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport via a connection in a number of international hubs, including Dubai, London and Guangzhou. tour operator Great Plains Conservation The eco-tourism specialist’s Wild Studio photography course includes three days of mentoring from a professional photographer, as well as lodging— all of which is owned by the company—and meals. great plains​conservation.com; three nights from US$2,412. lodges & camps The Emakoko A 10-room safari lodge on the edge of Nairobi National Park, the property is 45 minutes from Nairobi airport— making it perfect to begin or end a

visit to Kenya. emakoko.com; doubles from US$780. Mara Expedition Camp Sitting on a bend of the Ntiakitiak River, this tented camp was designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Sit back and unwind in a hammock with a copy of Out of Africa, which was set nearby. greatplains​conservation.com; doubles from US$1,000. Mara Plains Camp A luxury tented camp done up in grand, nostalgic style—think Downton Abbey on safari. At night, head to the outdoor dining room, where the food is healthful, fresh and vegetable-forward. great​plains​ conservation.com; doubles from US$1,760. Ol Donyo Lodge This property, near Chyulu Hills National Park, was made from lava rock and has views of Kilimanjaro. great​plains​conservation.com; doubles from US$1,600.

Visit Kenya’s Masai Mara between July and October to witness the great wildebeest migration, when more than 2 million animals make their way to the national reserve from Serengeti National Park.

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Ca ll it Pa ris by pastr y. Chef Yota m Ot tol e ng h i— the accla imed London restaurateur, cookbook author a nd poster boy for modern Mediterra nea n cook ing—goes in sea rch of the French capita l’s best patisseries.


Fresh pains au chocolat at Du Pain et Des Idées. Opposite: Shoppers leaving Du Pain et Des Idées.

life is sweet photographs by A l e x

C r e t ey Sys t e r m a n s

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Two days in Paris researching the city’s patisseries:

c h e f Y o ta m : p e d e n + m u n k

Clockwise from bottom left: Chef Yotam Ottolenghi; chocolates at Jacques Génin; a baker delivers fresh baguettes in the 13th Arrondissement; baguettes at Boulangerie Bo; cheesecake framboise at Benoît Castel Ménilmontant.


I sometimes have to remind myself that this is, indeed, my job. Yet for all the “You’re doing what?!” and “That will be incredible!” comments in the days leading up to my trip, there was a small part of me that was a little bit intimidated. I had spent the past two years working on a book about desserts and baked goods. Every Wednesday I would sit down to try the recipes with my co-author, Helen Goh, and see what stage of development each one was at. After months of working this way, I was able to confirm two things. First, there is such a thing as too much cake. And second, the theory of diminishing returns is correct. The more you eat of something, the harder it has to work to get a “wow.” My concern with the way I planned to do Paris—making eight or so pit stops in two days—was how I would fairly assess all the patisseries (pastry shops), boulangeries (bread shops), and purveyors of viennoiserie (croissants and company) I planned to visit. If the enjoyment of food is so much about context, about eating the right thing in the right place at the right time, then surely nothing would be able to compete

with that first bite of freshly baked croissant as I stepped off the Eurostar from London. When I did eventually alight at the Gare du Nord, rather than saving the best until last or pacing myself for the packed two days ahead, I did what all (big) kids in a sweetshop do: head straight for the best, buy way too much, and eat as if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.

S

o it was that I found myself in Du Pain et Des Idées, Christophe Vasseur’s shabby-chic boulangerie near the Canal St.-Martin in the fashionable 10th Arrondissement. I’d heard rumors that Vasseur’s croissants were special, even by Parisian standards. So, forgetting all internal reminders to take it slowly, I jumped straight in and bought one. It was indeed first-rate: perfectly flaky, with a good chew in the center and aromas of top French butter. Next came the “escargot,” Vasseur’s signature creation, in which layers of puff pastry are rolled up, slathered with pistachio paste, and dotted with dark chocolate chips. I threw in a chausson à la pomme fraîche, or apple turnover, for greedy good measure. I loved everything, but it was for reasons other than the actual viennoiserie that I was pleased to have started my trip at Du Pain et

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Des Idées. Above the door is a sign emblazoned with the words fabrication traditionnelle, a nod to the time-honored practices that Vasseur, like so many in France, continues to make a living from. But the name of his shop, which translates as “bread and ideas,” points to something perhaps more surprising— something I noticed again and again on my stay. Alongside a respect for tradition, there was so much excitement and progressive thinking: so many idées! It’s a combination that ensures Parisian patisseries and boulangeries are able to achieve the highest standards, while at the same time remaining relevant and fresh. Crossing the bridge over the canal, but still in the 10th Arrondissement, I walked through a densely populated and ethnically diverse neighborhood that attracts the type of Parisian inclined to look forward and shake up convention. The perfect place, therefore, for Yann Couvreur to have set up shop. There are lots of things that make Couvreur’s namesake patisserie unusual in Paris. The first is that you can order what you want, then sit down in the shop and eat it, along with a cup of (very good) coffee. Such details may not seem like the stuff of revolution to an outsider, but in Paris—where it’s far more typical to buy your bread, croissant, or cake and take it home to eat—the setup isn’t as common as you might think. So great is the reverence toward the baked product in this city that some believe it will somehow be diminished by association with the likes of free Wi-Fi, a hot drink and the company of strangers. As you’d expect, Couvreur’s progressive ideas extend to the pastries he sells, each of which comes with a twist on the traditional technique. Svelte éclairs in a rectangular mold, for example—I’d always thought of pâte à choux as the pastry dough that could not be tamed!—or his signature mille-feuille: freeform sheets of wafer-thin pastry loosely stacked and layered with thick vanilla cream. Made to order, these are such a labor of love that Couvreur creates only 50 each day. There is a mille-feuille chart on the wall with numbers 1 through 50 on it, and, once number 50 has been crossed out, that’s it until the next day. Don’t worry if you do miss out, though: there is plenty more to choose from. I loved his

kouign-amann, a muffin-shaped Breton cake containing layers of butter and sugar, which is a bit like a crusty, caramelized croissant. Couvreur’s glass shop front has a single counter running along its width where customers can sit and look out at the world passing by. The morning rush was over when I visited, and there was just one man sitting in the window with his little coffee and a plate of, I couldn’t help noticing, four full-portion viennoiseries. I don’t usually make it my business to count how many pastries someone is eating, but the ease with which this guy polished his off was really quite impressive. He couldn’t have been more svelte, and it made me wonder whether there is something in the French water that allows people to consume quite so much butter and sugar and yet stay so remarkably lean. He cleaned his plate, downed his coffee, and headed on in a perfectly business-as-usual way. I decided to take him as my inspiration for the next two days, hoping the waters (or whatever the French secret is) would have the same effect on me. Another pastry chef with eyes firmly looking forward is Christophe Adam, whose L’Éclair de Génie is doing for éclairs what Ladurée did for macarons: building an empire upon one specialty. (The day after I met Adam, he was in Moscow, opening his 25th store.) The risk of placing so much emphasis on just one very light and air-filled product is, of course, that the end result can lack substance. But after trying Adam’s éclairs, I realized that, while he may not necessarily be making the best éclairs out there, he is building the strongest possible brand upon the fluffy foundations that choux pastry provides. Besides, you go to L’Éclair de Génie for the color and choice, for the fun and the visual thrill. Take your family, take a date, take a bunch of kids, and relish the process of choosing from the array of audacious designs and flavors: pistachio-orange cream and glaze, for example, topped with candied orange pieces, or rose bonbon with marshmallow, pink vanilla cream and rose petals. The range includes some 280 flavors, in constant rotation, though just 10 are offered on any one day. Number 177, the saltedbutter caramel, is always there, though: a favorite of both Adam and his clientele.

T he e a s e w i t h w h ic h t h i s g u y p ol i s he d of f fou r p a s t r ie s m ad e me wond e r w he t he r t he r e i s s ome t h i n g i n t he F r e nc h w at e r t h at a l low s p e opl e t o c on s u me q u i t e s o muc h b u t t e r a nd s u ga r, ye t s t ay s o r e m a rk a bl y l e a n

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A waiter sets up the vegan tea service at the Shangri-La HĂ´tel.

Adipi sc ings elits. Faecenas a pug port otor metus amed. Arciumqu issi tat


I

f you are visiting the city with friends or family, another fun place to go is Benoît Castel Ménilmontant. It’s in the 20th Arrondissement, but worth the detour—especially if you’re visiting the nearby Père Lachaise cemetery, with its roll call of famous inhabitants (Chopin, Piaf, Wilde and Proust, to mention just a few). The area is old working-class in rapid transformation; now, this means cheaper rent, which means more square meters for shop owners to play with. And play they do. In the case of Benoît Castel, that means providing things like big wooden tables for real live families with actual kids who do things like spill crumbs on the floor. I’d visited so many wonderfully chic places during my stay that this place felt like a breath of fresh air. I was there just as school was letting out for the day, so kids were piling in with their parents or grandparents for their afternoon snack, which they call the goûter, picking up some bread to take home, or sitting at tables with big cups of hot chocolate. Easygoing breakfasts, brunches and lunches are also on the menu. But Benoît Castel is about more than just homespun charm. I found a small tart of thinly shaved apple, delicately macerated with lemon, fennel seeds and vanilla and placed on a crisp, coconutty base, both delicious and highly sophisticated. Back in the heart of the city—and a far cry from wooden tables in the gritty 20th Arrondissement—I headed to the Shangri-La Hôtel for its afternoon tea, which is distinguished by an all-vegan menu. In a country where butter is still God, the idea of dairy-free pastry had a subversive feel I found intriguing. Walking through the unabashedly

Along the Seine River.

opulent foyer, I was pretty sure that if anyone could put the words luxury and vegan in the same sentence, it would be the Shangri-La. So I set aside any preconceptions I had about vegan food and opened myself up to the possibilities of what can be achieved when things we think of as fundamental to baking are removed. “There’s no miracle ingredient that will replace eggs in vegan pastry,” said Shangri-La head pastry chef Michael Bartocetti, who joined me as I ate my way through an entirely full three-tiered cake stand. “But you can go a long way with alternatives.” Cocoa and coconut oil feature prominently in the list of ingredients, as do things like raw almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, flaxseed and chickpea flour. I’d be lying if I said that one or two of the pastries could not have been enriched by, well, butter, but it was an experience worth having—if only to provide some reprieve from the hourly intake of butter I was otherwise averaging during my stay.

I

f all of the spots I’d visited so far share a forward-looking approach to baking, the last two shops I visited very much look to the past for many of their ideas. In the case of Claire Damon’s Des Gâteaux et du Pain, in the calm, residential 15th Arrondissement, that past is intensely personal. Damon, who grew up in the rural, mountainous Auvergne region, cites the French countryside and its abundant produce as one of her chief sources of inspiration. She told me about a cake called CD that, as the initials might suggest, was inspired by her own biography. It’s topped with wild blueberries, like the ones she used to pick growing up, as well as cream infused with herbs that evoke the aroma of hay from her hometown.


i l l u s t r at i o n : a u t c h a r a pa n p h a i

Although her shop has a chic and serious atmosphere—loaves of bread look like golden crowns lined up on the cleverly lit matte-black shelves—there are many more fun stories behind the pastries. Have a wander around and try to work out the origins of, for example, le lipstick caramel fleur de sel: un accord gourmand. (The “gourmand agreement” refers to an interaction with a regular customer, on a day she wore lipstick to work). She reminded me a little bit of the British chef Heston Blumenthal, whose food is also, often, a vehicle in which he drives down memory lane: someone who is both utterly serious and delightfully frivolous in almost equal measure. To encounter Damon’s whimsical creations in this smart shop in the middle of a busy city felt genuinely special. By the time I stepped into my last shop, my enthusiasm for all things sweet was, I have to admit, beginning to flag. And my sugar ennui was not abated by my first impressions of Boulangerie Bo, in the 12th Arrondissement. The pastries looked oversize—a bit garish, even, in the case of the croissant into which raspberry jam had been baked, creating swirls like those on a twister lollipop. The general presentation was also a bit old-fashioned: cakes sitting without fanfare on shelves lit by halogen strips. Meeting co-owner Olivier Haustraete felt like a continuation of the theme. Unlike the dapper, chiseled bakers I had so far encountered in Paris, Haustraete actually looked like he enjoyed his daily bread and butter. If all this was to trick me into keeping my expectations low, then I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. The cakes were one thing—Haustraete has spent a lot of time in Japan and is having all sorts of fun, to delicious effect, with ingredients such as black-sesame paste, black sugar from Okinawa, and various citrus juices. But the bread, oh my, the bread! The half-hour I spent

Paris: a pastry lover’s guide

Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, was released in October.

munching Haustraete’s squid-ink baguette, buckwheat bread and smoked-grain loaf has to have been one of the highlights not just of my time in Paris but of my bread-munching career so far. I developed something of an obsession with the smoked bread, which is baked over smoldering olive pits, infusing it with a taste not dissimilar to Jerusalem artichokes. I could have eaten a whole loaf. Like Claire Damon, Haustraete takes his inspiration from the past. Not so much his own (interesting though that is, with the years he spent in Japan) but more the past of the French peasants whose practices and way of life he has such reverence for. I met a lot of passionate bakers and cake makers, but Haustraete was the only guy I saw who actually listened to his bread after squeezing the crust. There’s life and soul at Boulangerie Bo, and so much heart. I felt filled to the brim with all three as I headed to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London, my luggage smelling of lightly smoked Jerusalem artichokes. There may be such a thing as too much cake, but my appreciation of making and eating it was in no way diminished by my jam-packed tour of Paris. So energized was I, in fact, that, glancing at my watch, I realized there was time to make one more stop. I’d been told, in a manner I’d assumed to be hyperbolic, that I could not leave Paris without visiting Jacques Génin’s shop in the northern part of the Marais Quarter to try his pâtes de fruits and caramels. I directed the taxi to detour, zipped inside the store, got knocked sideways by the extreme deliciousness of the fruity flavor-bomb confections within, and stocked up on some little bags to take home as gifts. Clearly, it would be physically possible to leave Paris without sampling Génin’s phenomenal mango or passion-fruit caramels, but, well, life wouldn’t be quite so sweet if you did.

Du Pain et Des Idées Innovation meets tradition at this 10th Arrondissement boulangerie. dupain​ etdesidees.com.

Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie Creative pastries served alongside excellent coffee in two locations. yanncouvreur.com.

L’Éclair de Génie A dazzling range of éclairs in 280 flavors, sold at nine branches around the city. leclairde​genie. com.

Benoî t Castel Ménilmontant Sophisticated baking in a laidback, family-friendly environment. benoitcastel.com.

Shangri-La Hôtel The vegan afternoon tea service is surprisingly decadent. shangri-la.com.

Des Gâteaux et du Pain This boulangerie’s two locations offer whimsical pastries and cakes. des​gateaux​et​ dupain.com.

Boulangerie Bo Imaginative bread and cakes, sold in an unfussy 12th Arrondissement setting. fb.com/ boulangeriebo.

Jacques Génin The best place to pick up chocolates, pâtes de fruits and caramels to take home as souvenirs. jacquesgenin.fr.

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Photog rapher A n dr ew Moor e has spent the p a s t h a l f- d e c a d e docu ment i ng the wou n d s , t r a d it ion s a nd hau nt i ng beaut y of A meric a’s Deep South.

L a n d For the author K i e s e L ay m o n , who wa s b orn a nd raised in the region a nd rec ently ret u rne d home, this is the emotional landscape that helped make h i m w h o h e i s t o d a y.

o f

P a i n


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Located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, north of Charleston, Mulberry Plantation dates back to the early 18th century. “These were once rice fields,” says photographer Andrew Moore, “but today they’re mostly flooded and frequented mainly by hunters and fishermen.”

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“Large landowners used to operate small country stores that served as commissaries for tenant farmers,” Moore says. “Though most were closed many years ago, a few, like this one in Peterman, Alabama, have been turned into museums.”


T

he day I moved back to Mississippi after living in New York for 15 years, I drove into a full-fledged Confederate funeral procession. On the corner of North Lamar Boulevard and Price Street in Oxford, I got out of my car and stood under magnolia, maple and live oak trees that shaded throngs of sweaty white men dressed up like the soldiers of Lee’s army. Some marched with guns holstered, hoisting a battle flag that took up two lanes of the road. Near the front of the procession, behind a gray hearse, was the brown face of Paula Tingle Hervey, wife of Anthony Hervey, the author of a book called Why I Wave the Confederate Flag, Written by a Black Man, who’d been killed in a car crash two weeks earlier. The whole pitiful spectacle, fueled by a longing for a time when neither the Herveys nor I would have been free, was the kind of demonstration that had prompted me to run away from the Deep South 22 years ago. And yet it was also part of why, 22 years later, I decided to run back home. After leaving Mississippi for college in Ohio, graduate school in Indiana, and ultimately a professorship in New York, I wasn’t sure how much home I’d find when I returned to the Deep South—nor how much home the Deep South might find in me. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, I spent summers and far more weekends than I wanted to with my grandmother in the small poultry town of Forest. Located 75 kilometers east of Jackson and 85 kilometers west of the Alabama state line, Forest was what demographers call a minority-majority community. Most of its citizenry was black, but most of the political, economic and social power rested with the town’s white residents. When Grandmama was young, most of our family, along with more than 3 million other black Americans from the Deep South, moved to cities in the Midwest in search of decent jobs and less terrorizing forms of oppression. Rather than join the Great Migration, Grandmama chose to remain, working first as a domestic and later as a buttonhole slicer at a chicken-processing plant, which meant it was her job to cut open the bellies and pull out the guts. Even though she was legally forbidden to drive down certain roads, to enter certain stores, to use the bathroom of her choice, or to vote freely until she was middle-aged, she insisted that the region rightfully belonged to black Americans, too. “We worked

too hard on this land to run to Milwaukee,” she told me. “Some of us believed, and still believe, this land will one day be free.” As a child growing up in the Deep South, I found nothing speculative or surreal in asserting that all who worked the land should have equal access to quality food and housing, equal access to transformative education, and equal protection under the law. We descendants of those who refused to run saw corpses hanging, but to us, they looked like angels flying. We watched the gray tears of the hanging moss trees dripping over the land. When we think of those trees, even more than the gray of the moss we think of the dark, bleeding-red brown of those trees’ creased bark. That same brown saturates the soil, birthing cotton, soybeans, collard greens and purple hull peas in Greenwood, Mississippi. It coats our hollowed manufacturing plants in Memphis, Tennessee. It peeks out of the open doorways of haunted plantations, mansions, projects, trailers, and shacks in Little Rock, Arkansas. It lines the cracks of the hastily built Confederate monuments commemorating bruising parts of yesterday we’ve yet to reckon in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Charleston, South Carolina. We see, smell and feel the residue of that dark, bleeding-red brown in our region’s music and literature, our classrooms and country stores, our churches. When I was a child, Grandmama strategically placed box fans in the open windows of her pink shotgun house, so that even when the temperatures reached more than 40 humidified degrees, the interior felt like the coolest place on earth. No matter the race or gender of those who passed her house, if you were tired enough, hungry enough, Grandmama welcomed you onto her land. She welcomed you up on her porch. She welcomed you into her house. She listened to your story. She gave you ice water. She wished you well as you left, and she let you know, in one way or another, that the land would one day be free. I ran from the land of the Deep South because I doubted my ability to fight for, and live on, land that should already be free. I ran back home when I understood that, though our land holds the most promise of any land in this world, it will never free itself. That work belongs to us, and I am ready to do my part. Kiese Laymon is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Long Division and a forthcoming memoir, Heavy. He teaches English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.

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above: “The Laney-Walker neighborhood of Augusta, Georgia, was once notable for its fine homes owned by black professionals, like Clara Hornsby, who is dressed for Sunday services in this picture,” Moore says. left: “The artist Butch Anthony stacked these shipping containers to create the DriveThru Museum in Seale, Alabama, an extension of his Museum of Wonder, containing folk art,

relics and curiosities. Anthony’s elaborately decorated white Cadillac used to belong to the musician Leon Russell.” Opposite: “Refugees from Napoleon’s inner circle who fled France after Waterloo founded Demopolis, the ‘City of the People,’ in 1819. Its architectural high point is the Greek Revival plantation house Gaineswood, the interior of which can be seen here.”


below: “From the middle of the 17th century, the Okefenokee Swamp, near Homerville, Georgia, was home to communities of fugitive slaves and Native Americans for nearly 200 years,” Moore says. right: “The sign at Buchanan’s, in Manson, North Carolina, says it all: if we ain’t got it u don’t need it. It is supposedly one of the oldest general stores in the state.”


About These Photographs. Andrew Moore shot these images between 2012 and 2017 on a large-format camera as part of a project to document the Black Belt, a crescent-shaped swath of the Deep South, originally named for its fertile soil, where many of the region’s cotton plantations were located. He says that the images are meant to offer “reflections on the color black, women of the South, lost interiors and miniatures, Southern art and storytelling, and the history of photography in the South.” andrewlmoore.com.

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wish you were here

Nick Rains / Savoli River / Papua New Guinea If Papua New Guinea is already considered off the beaten track, then we’re lost for a description of this remote corner of East New Britain. What is certain is that the Savoli River, on the lush and remote south side of the island, is home to some of the clearest blue water found anywhere in Asia, a vivid tributary that empties into Jacquinot Bay and that has to be seen to be believed. Here, going native is the only option. Access is by small boat that floats back in time above a rich riverbed of seaweed as it ventures deeper into the rainforest. A 1994 volcanic eruption is about the only thing to put this end of PNG on the world’s radar. Coca and copra have been the traditional cash crops, though now tourism is working its way into the economy. Swimming in the river’s azure waters is an unforgettable experience, and, if that isn’t reward enough, wait until you encounter the genial locals who greet you along the way.

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November 2017  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia November 2017

November 2017  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia November 2017