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Southeast asia

september 2016

Tropical Cool Singapore’s new design sense

Plus: Luang Prabang Barcelona Rangoon

Penang: so hip it hurts Hong Kong blend in, stand out and eat

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



Sofitel Hotels and Resorts is renowned worldwide for artfully blending local culture with French soul and providing guests gourmet experiences that have been cultivated over centuries in the hearts of quaint village maisons, storied vineyards and famed boulangeries. Its interpretation of French gastronomy centres around four key elements: fine French wine; cheese and charcuterie; pastries; and the boulangerie. As an ambassador of French culture and joie de vivre, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts uses these elements to




experiences across the world.




Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra

Sofitel Wine DayS pay tribute to the central role of wine in French culture and savoir-faire. Every autumn Sofitel properties host Sofitel Wine Days. These events attract the best local and international sommeliers who help guests discover new wines through special wine pairing dinners crafted by top chefs, wine tastings, parties and other activities. In addition to its highly regarded Wine Days, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi also hosts Les Aromes twice a year, featuring a series of culinary workshops, special menus and wine dinners. Les Aromes and Wine Days at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi take place from September to November and demonstrate the very best of French culinary arts. As part of its Wine Days festivities, Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra celebrates the French grape harvest with five fine wines from a different region of France each week. It also welcomes new guests with a glass of wine as an arrival drink after 5pm, serves special pairing menus, and has created a wine-based cocktail exclusively for the occassion the Rosé Brise de Saint Tropez. Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit is organising a wine fair on Saturday, October 8, with major wine experts offering a wide range of French labels, including Delamotte Blanc de Blancs, Mouton Cadet Reserve and many more.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

The trendy So Sofitel BanGKoK Pool Party attracts a see-and-be-seen crowd who come to enjoy an afternoon of sizzling fun. It is the ultimate scene for sipping a glass of French champagne or French wine. A celebration of glamour and sophistication, the party usually starts mid-afternoon, under the bright, shining sun, and continues until long after dark. At SO Sofitel Hua Hin, partygoers arrive at the seaside resort’s vibrant Beach Society, where they dance to Thailand’s hottest DJs, and later move to HI-SO rooftop bar for the after-party. Another new treat for Sofitel guests throughout the region, le Gouter is a classic afternoon snack named after the typical after-school treat enjoyed by French schoolchildren. As the chic French alternative to high tea, Le Gouter at Sofitel allows guests to indulge in French pastries, sweets and hot beverages, including coffee, tea and traditional hot chocolate. Available daily from 3pm to 5pm. Embracing the French soul through its deep passion for French gastronomy, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts offers a delightful sense of joie de vivre in its approach to culinary excellence in each of its hotels around the world.

SO Sofitel Bangkok



ON THE COVER At The South Beach in Singapore. Photographer: Pornsak Na Nakorn. Assistant: Eakapol Paroon; Stylist: Saranya Ariyakul; Hair and makeup: Bandit Boonmee. Model: Virahya Pattarachokchai.


Special The A List Our annual showcase of travel’s top specialists.


Spirited Away What lies beyond China’s hypermodern culture? Horatio Clare journeys to Yunnan, where beliefs and traditions offer a glimpse of the country’s soul. Photographed by Peter Bohler


92 78 c l o c k w i s e F R O M t o p LE F T: p o r n s a k n a n a k o r n ; p e t e r b o h l e r ; m o r g a n o mm e r ; s i m o n wat s o n

106 100

Technicolor Dreams The South Beach is a rollicking pleasure dome of modern tastes, tech, design and verve. Photographed by Pornsak Na Nakorn


Connecting in the Capital Ever so slowly, Phnom Penh is emerging from its tattered history, writes Connla Stokes, and it’s an evolution best seen through the eyes of young entrepreneurs. Photographed by Morgan Ommer


Making the New Barcelona Andrew Sean Greer goes in search of artists, musicians and chefs who are keeping the Catalonian creativity alive. Photographed by Simon Watson

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In Every Issue  T+L Digital 12 Contributors 14 Editor’s Note 16 The Conversation 18 Deals 61 Wish You Were Here 118


homegrown Philippine brand

23 The Skinny on Fini A

hawks high-end surfer style.

International talent is giving the

28 Hong Kong’s Melting Pot

city’s culinary scene an exciting new flavor.

30 Chef’s Table Three of the chefs at this year’s World Gourmet Festival share their influences.

educated Burmese designer

36 Raising Rangoon A New Yorkreturned home to create clothes that elevate more than just style.

The Laotian city’s most creative

40 Luang Prabang by the Plate and mouth-watering bites.



Plus The region’s freshly christened unesco World Heritage sites; pseudo-pop-up dinners from a traveling kitchen crew; four mind-blowing hotel openings; Singapore gets its first Michelin guide; and more.

56 Japan, #nofilter Instagram star Patrick Janelle shares highlights of a trip he took to Tokyo and Kyoto.

The Place

since Penang’s

114 Penang Less than a decade

unesco awakening, heritage-savvy boutique hotels, refurbished hole-in-the-wall bistros and artsy venues are redefining the island as Malaysia’s heavyweight of urban-cool. Here, we’ve boiled it down to the newest and best. By Marco Ferrarese. Photographed by Kit Yeng Chan

Beyond 47 Matters of Taste Three Hong

Kong-based interior-design studios reveal tactics that propel restaurants to greater heights.

hotel in Bali translates age-old

52 Brick House A new boutique Indonesian traditions into a contemporary classic.


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F R O M LE F T: c o u r t e s y o f f i n i ; c o u r t e s y o f m a n d a r i n o r i e n ta l ; pat r i c k j a n e l l e ; c o u r t e s y o f f o x g l o v e

Here & Now

t+l digital



4 Must-Have Balinese Adventures for the Whole Family From checking out monkeys to snorkeling, don’t leave the island before you and your kids try these activities.

4 Family-Friendly Singaporean Farms Singapore is known for its skyscrapers, but the peaceful area of Kranji has places for kids to play with animals and get their hands dirty.

Margarita Forés’s Road to Stardom We trace the Filipina chef’s influences, from her time in Florence and New York to her current reign over Manila’s culinary scene.

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fr o m l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f b a l i s a fa r i ; d a rr e n s o h ; m a r k n i c d a o

this month on tr

A groundbreaking art gallery near the North Korean-South Korean border; Rangoon’s coolest new eatery; the reborn Peninsula Beijing; and more.



Horatio Clare

Peter Bohler

Spirited Away Page 78 — “Yunnan’s allure lies in its distance and difference from what I knew of China, and its proximity to Laos and Burma,” says Clare, a writer for the Financial Times and the Spectator whose memoir Running for the Hills tells of his upbringing on a Welsh sheep farm far from civilization. Yunnan revealed a pace of life much slower than that of Chinese cities. Clare’s most distinctive memories are of receiving an ancient blessing from a shaman of the Yi people and waking up in Tibet to the sound of cowbells breaking the silence and the sight of frost on the riverbanks. Twitter: @horatioclare.

Spirited Away Page 78 — “There’s a mental space in Yunnan that is very different from Beijing,” says Bohler. “I wanted to capture that quietness and simplicity, and show the vast range of cultures we encountered.” While there, he was most moved by his visit with a Tibetan couple in Shangri-La. “Though we couldn’t understand one another, I’ve rarely felt like a more welcome guest,” recalls Bohler, who contributes to Outside and The New Yorker. “They shared homemade dributter tea, cheese and tsampa. I was filled with a sense of having all I needed and nothing more.” Instagram: @ peterbohler.



Morgan Ommer

Kit Yeng Chan

Connecting in the Capital Page 100 — “Phnom Penh is a lot of fun right now,” observes the Saigon resident. “All these funky boutique hotels, interesting eateries and socially responsible people... Unlike Saigon, Phnom Penh makes small things, from rum to coffee to healthy food, fashion brands and hotels tend to have character because they are boutique or bespoke.” Ommer scoped out the perfect date night: “Head to Malis for the best modern Khmer food, then go for some great cocktails at Le Boutier. Check into Sun & Moon, Urban Hotel—it has a great pool with a view for when you wake up on Sunday morning.” Instagram: @morganommer.

The Place: Penang Page 114 — The Penang native says her city is awash in arts and community events like never before. “Occupy Beach Street, Sundays, has a fun Zumba session and car-free market.” Take in sunset at the Clan Jetties, then have seafood at the Esplanade’s food court. “The clams in spicy sauce and fried octopus are delicious. I love to have a toddy mojito and talk photography among artists at Narrow Marrow.” But to really get to know the city, dive in: “Eating at hawker food centers and asking locals to help you choose the best food is a great way to break ice and make meaningful connections. We Malaysians are very social.”

P h o to gr a p h er




september 2016


w r i t er



p h o to gr a p h er

P h o to gr a p h er

fr o m t o p : j a m e s b e d f o r d ; a s h l e y p o o l e ; c o u r t e s y o f m o r g a n o mm e r ; c o u r t e s y o f k i t y e n g c h a n


© Eric Cuvillier, © Fabrice Rambert, © Cyril Eberle, © Jimmy Baikovicius

ges fique Voya My Magni

Travel through the Sofitel Collection Paris, Agadir, Cartagena, Sanya… Discover all our magnifique addresses around the world at SOFITEL.COM

editor’s note


september 2016

centric restaurants commanding the spotlight in Hong Kong. For generations, Cantonese have subscribed to the school of thought that, if a restaurant splashes out too much on décor, then the quality of the food suffers; the place is worth a miss. As part of this month’s focus on style and design, writer Kissa Castañeda-McDermott explores an evolving side to dining in Hong Kong (“Matters of Taste,” page 47), breaking down the tactics of trendy but lasting restaurants there. But don’t fret about the city’s menus, for “Hong Kong’s Melting Pot” (page 28) offers a quick tour of expat-driven wining and dining options, all squeezed into a single day in the hyperkinetic city. Casting your eyes forward is one reason we travel, but keeping tabs on the past is another rationale. Due north and at the opposing end of the frenzied scale from Hong Kong, we venture across Yunnan in “Spirited Away” (page 78). As writer Horatio Clare points out at the start of his journey, “I would meet shamans, priests and wise women, who would show me that ancient currents of belief that still pulse at the edges of the world’s most rapidly modernizing country.” If your travel dreams fall somewhere between these two extremes, then Penang (page 114) is just the ticket. The diverse Malaysian getaway strikes the right balance, which makes it a magnet for every kind of visitor.



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From My Travels

My own journey in Yunnan took me on foot through the northern reaches of this remote corner of China. While the living and landscape are rough, the chance encounters with local styles and beautiful settings are never far off. The monastery above Gyalthang, for one, is home to more than four centuries of stories, tales often retold within the warm and comfortable confines of private homes.

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 ( 2 )

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the conversation A German passport opens the most doors globally, one from Afghanistan, the fewest, according to Henley & Partners’ Visa Restrictions Index 2016. While Americans and western Europeans can travel to the most countries visa-free, Singapore and Japan take fifth place. Here, the best and worst passports in Asia-Pacific:


The number of countries passport-holders can enter without a visa.


10 best 1. Japan 173 1. Singapore 173 3. South Korea 172 4. New Zealand 171 5. Australia 169 6. Malaysia 164 7. Hong Kong 154 8. Brunei 151 9. Taiwan 137 10. Macau 120

Among nations in our region, Nepalese face the most visa restrictions when traveling.

5 worst 1. Nepal 37 2. Bangladesh 39 2. Sri Lanka 39 5. Burma 42 5. North Korea 42


This month, our readers visit some of Asia’s many unesco-protected sites.


Yuntaishan unesco Global Geopark, China. By @amazinghenan.

The 19th century Chew Jetty, Penang. By @leehorbachewski.

Prambanan Temple Compounds, Central Java. By @milica_grujic_.

Halong Bay, Vietnam. By @rhumraisintravels.



Share an Instagram photo by using the #TLAsia hashtag, and it may be featured in an upcoming issue. Follow @travelandleisureasia


editor-in-chief art director Deput y editor senior editor AS SISTANT EDITOR senior DEsigner DEsigner

Christopher Kucway Wannapha Nawayon Jeninne Lee-St. John Merritt Gurley Monsicha Hoonsuwan Chotika Sopitarchasak Autchara Panphai

Regul ar contributors / photogr aphers Cedric Arnold, Jeff Chu, Helen Dalley, Philipp Engelhorn, Duncan Forgan, Diana Hubbell, Lauryn Ishak, Mark Lean, Melanie Lee, Brent T. Madison, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, Morgan Ommer, Aaron Joel Santos, Darren Soh, Stephanie Zubiri chairman president publishing director publishER digital media manager TRAFFIC MANAGER /deput y DIGITAL media manager sales director business de velopment managers chief financial officer production manager production group circul ation MANAGER circul ation assistant

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

Nathan Lump Steven DeLuca Joseph Messer

TIME INC. INTERNATIONAL LICENSING & DEVELOPMENT ( Vice President E xecutive Editor / International Senior Director, Business De velopment Senior Director, Ad Sales & Marketing

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TIME INC. Chief E xecutive Officer Chief Content Officer

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tr avel+leisure southeast asia Vol. 10, Issue 9 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: Reproduction in whole or in part without consent of the copyright owner is prohibited. subscriptions Enquiries: ADVERTISING offices General enquiries: Singapore: 65/9029 0749; Japan: Shinano Co., Ltd. 81-3/3584-6420; Korea: YJP & Valued Media Co., Ltd. 82-2/3789-6888;

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Near-Away! by American Express

ADONIS HOTEL 13 Purvis Street, Singapore 188592 Call 65 6336 0013 or email to make your bookings now. Walk down Purvis Street and you might miss us. Our all-white 6-storey heritage shophouse sits quietly in a place packed with eateries and high-end stores. But, we invite you to take a closer look to discover unmistakable personalised hospitality in this 19-room boutique hotel. Proud awardees of TripAdvisor’s 2015 Certificate of Excellence, we bring relaxation and rejuvenation to all who enter our doors. It is in our genes—homegrown spa label Adonis Beauty. From our signature scent and mocktail, to our massage showers and complimentary mini-bars, you will be pampered to the nines.

We do it in style, of course, with Western elegance and spirited local charm, Peranakan tiles, works by local artists and kooky chandeliers. Quaint Queen, pictured here, is our smallest space, but it sure packs a punch. Spend the day lounging in bed or read a few chapters before you call it a night. Our plush mattress and high headboards are great for that. The white brick wall and soft furnishing complete this cosy, calming retreat.

To enjoy a one night’s stay in the Quaint Queen Room at American Express subsidised rate of S$150 nett, please present the voucher located in your annual Platinum Reserve Credit Card welcome or renewal pack.

THE ADONIS HOTEL NEAR-AWAY! BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IS OPEN TO BASIC PLATINUM RESERVE CREDIT CARD MEMBERS. • Card Member must make advance reservation with The Adonis Hotel, Singapore at +65 63360013. 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 The Adonis Hotel, 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 The Adonis Hotel, Singapore and no complimentary parking will be provided. • 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 dispute, 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. Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A.® Registered Trademark of American Express Company. © Copyright 2016 American Express Company.

News + trends + discoveries


The Skinny on Fini This homegrown Philippine fashion brand is hawking high-end surfer style.

Ph C o oto u r t eCsrye d oift fTienei k ay

By Stephanie Zubiri

Batik pants for the bohemian jet set, by Fini.

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


/ here&now / out of one pair of souvenir batik pants purchased during Sofi Aboitiz’s extended family vacation through Indonesia. Upon her return home to the Philippines, where she splits time between Cebu and Manila, the former New York-based fashion merchandiser managed to upcycle the billowy cotton into the realm of global-chic rather than backpacker-tacky, pairing the pants with a T-shirt for a trip to the supermarket, or with a bikini for a day at the beach, or with a crisp white blouse for a nice dinner out. She used this experience of updating sloppy silhouettes into sleek styles to start Fini, a young brand that represents the borderless mindset of the bohemian jet set. “She had this vision of how to transform them from something traditional into a standout piece of clothing” says cofounder and Aboitiz’s childhood friend Nina Paradies. Cris Soriano, who handles marketing and

from Top: Fini’s wildly versatile beach blanket; the brand’s

cofounders (from left) Nina Paradies, Sofi Aboitiz and Cris Soriano; a Tetra tote handmade from recycled waste.


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e-commerce and rounds out the on-trend triumvirate, says, “We all have experience in the fashion industry so we sort of assigned ourselves roles but we are always bouncing ideas off each other.” Despite their gypset lifestyle (the latest term for nomadic artists and designers), hopping to and from New York to Manila with exotic stops that include Bogota and the south of France, the three ladies have their roots and their hearts in the Philippines and have made it their base for manufacturing after sourcing materials from their travels. They strive to stay socially conscious and support local industry with a fixed portion of all their proceeds going to different Philippine charities. “We try to make a unique product and do so responsibly,” Aboitiz says. “We work to make sure that on every level of production, people are being treated well, are earning what they deserve, and that they take pride in the product.” Their first collection, made up of batik pants and a few beach blankets and handmade bags constructed from recycled waste, was launched this June through an online magazine that allowed viewers to easily click the editorial photos and shop the looks. The images were a montage of the laid-back, professional beach bum, surfer paradise of Siargao with its raw, tropical landscape, thatched shacks serving coconuts and cold beer and that laid-back, melt-into-the-balmy-island-life atmosphere. It must be a vibe with broad appeal because the collection sold out within 48 hours. Luckily, there’s a pop-up sale slated for November, which will give shoppers the chance to snap up their own pair of the brightly colored batik pants, adorned with all the favorite boho accoutrements: pom-poms, tassels and a bit of beadwork. The entire unisex collection is wildly versatile, but pairs best with a golden tan.; next online pop-up sale slated for November will feature new collection of batik pants and accessories.

Courtesy of fini (3)

A lot of looks were wrung

/ here&now /

Singapore’s Stars

The Lion City is a-twinkle as the first Michelin Guide lights up the town. By Alessandr a Gesuelli

clockwise from above: Chef

Malcolm Lee; Candlenut, his Peranakan restaurant; Lee’s standout dish, satay ayam.

Michelin has finally landed in

Singapore, following titles in Japan, Hong Kong and Macau. This foodies’ bible features 200 eateries in the Lion City and 34 different cuisine categories, with 29 spots earning stars—and two street vendors in the mix. This means Singapore is now home to the cheapest Michelinstarred places in the world: just S$2 for a chicken rice from Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, a popular hawker that, along with Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, has been recognized with a single star. Topping the list is Joël Robuchon’s French restaurant on Sentosa Island, the only Singapore entry with three Michelin stars. But six menus were awarded a two-star rating, among them Restaurant André, headed by chef-owner André Chiang. Inspired by southern French nouvelle cuisine, the restaurant is in a century-old shophouse in Chinatown. Also ranked two stars are L’Atelier de Joël

Robuchon; Les Amis; the new Odette, which was opened last November and is overseen by French chef Julien Royer; and two spots that celebrate Japan’s influence in Singapore: five-month-old Shoukouwa in One Fullerton, and Shisen Hanten by chef Chen Kentaro, whose dad is Iron Chef Chen Kenichi. Michelin’s entrance to Southeast Asia swivels the limelight to lesserknown kitchens and cuisines. Malcom Lee’s Peranakan restaurant Candlenut ( received its first Michelin star, giving Lee the platform he’s always wanted for promoting his passion. “I hope people, especially the younger generation, will no longer perceive Peranakan fare as old-fashioned,” Lee says. “I started Candlenut with the purpose of modernizing the heart and soul of Peranakan heritage fare, and I am happy that this cuisine can now stand alongside other more established and fine cuisines of the world.” This Michelin Guide opens a new chapter for Singapore.

Flight Singapore-based low-cost carrier Scoot ( will launch twice-weekly flights between the Lion City and the Chinese port town of Dalian in October. The service will be routed through Qingdao and is part of the airline’s push to offer wider access to lesser-known parts of mainland China. Dalian, all coastal charm and blossoming cherry trees, is a prime pick for Scoot’s expanding network.


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courtesy of candelnut (3)


/ here&now / Noticed

On the Culture Map

c h r i sto p h e r ku cway ( 2 )

These destinations may be fresh additions to the UNESCO World Heritage list, but they’ve got a lot of history behind them. If you’re one to combine travel with cultural excursions, then unesco’s 2016 World Heritage list has some new stops around the region for you. For starters, the Persian Qanat, a system of transporting water underground using gravity in arid central Iran, is new to the list. Shazdeh Garden (at right), six kilometers outside Mahan, is one of its 11 sites included in the system that ingeniously taps an alluvial aquifer. This rectangular oasis is home to pine, cedar, buttonwood and fruit trees, as well as an eight-level rivulet, and it

doubles as a spot where local herdsmen gather to water their animals. Also on this year’s list are the 38 sites found in the Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape in southwest China. The colorful red art etched in steep cliffs dates back to 5 B.C. and presents the life of the Luoyue people. In northeastern India, the Nalanda Mahavihara archaeological site also makes the grade, including stupas, shrines, and artwork in stucco, stone and metal. Over a period of eight centuries, this was an ancient university tied into the development of Buddhism.

/ here&now / .










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in s










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ut s


restaur ant

Hong Kong’s Melting Pot








Buoyed by the success

of expat restaurateurs like Alvin Leung of Michelinstarred Bo Innovation and Yardbird’s Matt Abergel, Hong Kong’s newly arrived chefs are infusing their restaurants with an international outlook that feels right at home in this multicultural city. Here’s how to sample the best of their cooking in a single day.

8 a.m. Whether you prefer to beat jet lag with caffeine or cocktails, Winstons Coffee, a new corner spot on Queens Road West from a group of British expats, has your fix.
























After dark, a post-work crowd spills onto the sidewalk to sip espresso martinis. The next morning, they’re back outside the takeaway window for flawless flat whites and bacon baps.

1 p.m. Englishman Robin Zavou is now heading the Michelin-starred Mandarin Grill + Bar at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. With him at the helm, the power lunchers dine on such marvels as chicken soup disguised as tea—a rice-paper sachet filled with aromatic herbs slowly dissolves as consommé is poured from a kettle.

s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m; prix fixe from HK$1,188.

7 p.m. You’ll find Okra Kitchen, the casual izakaya spin-off of Beijing’s Okra 1949, in Sai Ying Pun. Inside a 19th-century building, Japan-obsessed Louisiana native Max Levy crafts small plates that combine Deep South U.S.A. and Far East Asia, like chicken-fried cobia with Crystal hot sauce. okra. kitchen; mains HK$108-$258.

9:30 p.m. After dinner, head

to Janice Wong’s Cobo House by 2am:dessertbar, her first joint outside Singapore. Wong




serves signature sweets like “Chocolate H2O” (a mousse cake made with Evian instead of milk) and “Gai Daan Zai,” egg waffles filled with candy and ice cream; salted egg adds a hint of savoriness. cobohousehk.

12 a.m. The Pontiac, former Oregonian Beckaly Franks’s year-old spot, pays homage to the classic American dive bar. The party picks up at night when the staff pours Franks’s frozen Heisenberg cocktail, with gin and blue curaçao, as well as bourbons and mezcals rarely found in Hong Kong.

CLOCKWISE F R O M TOP LE F T: W h at T h e F o x S t u d i o ; COU R TESY O F M ANDA R IN O R IENTAL ; COU R TESY O F COBO HOUSE ; c o u r t e s y o f o k r a k i t c h e n




s e.

From a top British toque to a Louisiana sushi guru, international talent is giving the city’s culinary scene a whole new flavor. BY ADAM ROBB

Inspire your soul with our beauty

Peninsula,Bali • Indonesia


At some point in your life, you will feel that it is time to unwind. With your usual daily vast occurrences, remember to push the reset button. Stop for a second, let go of your worries. Reconnect with the earth and experience our way of relaxing. Be one with our nature, take your pick: endless mountains, infinite beaches, sparkling cities, or historical wonders. Don’t think twice. Because when everyone else is busy living, we celebrate life instead.

/ here&now / Insider Scoop

Chef’s Table The annual World Gourmet Festival attracts some of the globe’s brightest culinary lights to Bangkok this month. Monsicha Hoonsuwan chats with three of the chefs who will be fueling this gathering. The Master of Precision

DHARSHAN MUNIDASA Being of Sri Lankan and Japanese heritage gives chef Munidasa an edge. “Bringing out the subtlest elements of local and seasonal ingredients is the basis of Japanese cuisine,” he says. “My style, even if it is Sri Lankan cuisine, is deeply rooted in this.” He founded one of the island’s top Japanese restaurants, Nihonbashi (; prix fixe dinner from Rs3,250), and the Sri Lankan seafood joint Ministry of Crab (; mains from Rs960). Cooking inspiration

Restaurant pick

“Walking the alleyways of Tsukiji fish market [] and spending time with everyone I know there— from those who sell chopsticks to tuna to tea—as well as cooking with my cousin by the riverside in Japan both play a big role in inspiring me.”

“Jubako [; prix fixe from ¥13,000] in Tokyo, a 230-year-old restaurant specializing in unagi, is my favorite. They preserve the ageold cooking techniques and skills beyond the cutting board, knives and fire—like how and when an eel is killed.”

CLOCKWISE FROM top: Gyuu no tataki at

Nihonbashi, in Colombo; Sri Lankan seafood spot Ministry of Crab; ryokan Bettei Senjuan, in Gunma, Japan.


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Life-changing lesson

“The 100-plus-kilogram bigeye tuna is the freshest we can buy in Sri Lanka. High fat content in the warmwater tuna is very rare and far superior in taste compared to its coldwater counterpart.”

“The most valuable experience I have ever received is how to grade crab in Pettah Fish Market, in Colombo, by people who export crabs for a living. This lesson, in the late 90s, eventually helped me create Ministry of Crab.”

Secret escape

Lucky mistake

“I always find myself heading to my friend’s ryokan Bettei Senjuan [; doubles from ¥36,100 per person including two meals], in Japan’s Gunma Prefecture. I go there once a year, for a day or two, to switch off.”

“My daughter and I were making burgers at home one afternoon and the meat was so bad we ended up adding Wagyu fat. From there stemmed the Nihonbashi Wagyu burger [US$100 for two; 24-hour advance order] as it is today.” >>

Favorite ingredient

c l o c kw i s e f r o m t o p r i g ht: c o u r t e s y o f Dh a r sh a n M u n i d a s a ; c o u r t e s y o f M i n i st r y o f C r a b ; c o u r t e s y o f b e tt e i s e n j u a n ; c o u r t e s y o f N i h o n b a sh i


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The Pilgrim


Globe-trotting Bobby Chinn (bobbychinn. com) is a master of cross-cultural cuisine. At his award-winning eponymous eateries in Vietnam, Chinn enhanced Southeast Asian flavors with French techniques, Middle Eastern spices and Californian sensibility. “I am in constant evolution,” Chinn says. “I adapt my creativity towards what I feel I can execute well and what the market might appreciate.”

“Getting my first paycheck as a cook from chef Hubert Keller at the bygone Fleur de Lys, in San Francisco. I was passionate, but to be paid to cook in one of the most respected restaurants made me feel like a professional. I never looked back.” Cooking philosophy

“KISS: keep it simple, stupid—within reason. If it’s to be complicated, then remember the KISS formula.” Signature dish

“I’ll be cooking Scotch egg at the Anantara Siam Bangkok. It’s really quite simple, but time-consuming. I boil an egg for five minutes, blanch it to stop it from cooking, peel it, cook it for an hour at 65

degrees for perfectly tender white and thick creamy yolk, then bread it and deep fry until it’s golden brown.” Favorite ingredient

“Lemongrass adds fresh citrus nuance without the acidity. So I use it to marinate my duck confit.” Best of bangkok

“Eat Me [eatme; dinner for two Bt3,000] opened my eyes to the wealth of ingredients available in Thailand. We chefs in the region are proud of Gaggan’s [; prix fixe Bt4,000] success. I am also impressed with the refinement of the royal Thai cuisine at Benjarong [; prix fixe dinner from Bt1,500].”

Red matcha at Gaggan.

Cooking philosophy

Pasta with aonori and uni at Ta Vie.

The Francophile


Restaurant André, in Singapore.


Bangkok fixture Eat Me serves international cuisine.

The talented Japanese chef got his start in a French kitchen before going back to his roots at acclaimed chef Seiji Yamamoto’s threeMichelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin (nihonryori-ryugin. com; prix fixe ¥27,000) in Tokyo. His Hong Kong hot spot Ta Vie (; prix fixe dinner HK$1,880), which churns out Japanese-influenced French dishes that feature Asian produce, earned its first Michelin star in 2015.

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“Pure, simple and seasonal, like my favorite Asian cuisine, Japanese.” One to watch…

“Chef Ryohei Hieda of Shoun Ryugin [ tw; prix fixe NT$6,500] is making dishes using Taiwanese ingredients. What he’s doing will be the new standard of Japanese food in Asia.” Culinary iDOL

“Seiji Yamamoto, of Nihonryori Ryugin, is a genius. He’s the first to make bubbles with an aquarium pump. Now many chefs follow the trick he introduced to the world.” Restaurant picks

“I really love André Chiang’s creations at two-Michelin-starred Restaurant André

[; prix fixe dinner S$350], in Singapore; down-toearth dishes at Neighborhood [fb. com/neighborhoodhk; dinner for two HK$600], in Hong Kong; and highquality food at Sühring [; prix fixe from Bt1,800], in Bangkok.” Next stop “Asia inspires me. Now I really want to visit Borobudur. I feel like it could inspire my imagination and relieve me of daily pressure.”

The World Gourmet Festival runs September 19-25 at the Anantara Siam Bangkok; visit worldgourmet for chefs’ schedules and meal prices.

c l o c kw i s e f r o m t o p l e ft: c o u r t e s y o f B o bb y Ch i n ; c o u r t e s y o f E at M e R e sta u r a n t; c o u r t e s y o f G a g g a n ; c o u r t e s y o f R e sta u r a n t A n d r é ; c o u r t e s y o f tA v i e ; c o u r t e s y o f H i d e a k i S at o

Proudest moment



©2012–2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, W and their logos are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates.

/ here&now / Recon

Sweet Suites

Banyan Tree Jiuzhaigou, China

The Johnson, Brisbane

W Goa

North Hill City Resort, Chiang Mai

The mountain-top location of this retreat in Sichuan’s emerald highlands is peppered with waterfalls and limestone terraces, for views that are beyond sublime. Bordering nine Tibetan villages, Jiuzhaigou is also known as “fairyland on earth,” and the Jiuzhaigou National Park, a unesco World Heritage site, is pure magic. The 209 guest rooms will start at a comfortable 65 square meters and are adorned in the colorful handicraft embroidery of the Qiang, a local ethnic group with roots in Jiuzhaigou that date back some 3,000 years.; doubles from RMB2,300.

Opening in October, the W Goa promises a piece of paradise on the Arabian Sea. The 160 guest rooms, suites, chalets and villas bring the bold turquoise and deep blue hues of tropical living to life, with giant windows ushering in natural light. On Goa’s northern shores, the resort is sandwiched between palm trees, dramatic red cliffs and the sea.; opening deal doubles from Rs20,394.

The latest property by Australia’s design-centric Art Series Hotel Group, The Johnson, Brisbane is named after abstract artist Michael Johnson, whose work brightens the space and inspires the colorful horizontal and vertical bars that line its 87 suites. The building itself was designed by Karl Langer back in 1967 and was once the Queensland Main Roads Department offices. The blend of modern art and architecture, set in Spring Hill by Brisbane’s CBD, is a vivid visual treat for design buffs. johnson; opening deal Studio suite with balcony from A$180.

It is slow going at this new five-star in the countryside of Thailand’s laid-back north. From the organic vegetable patch and the farm-to-table cooking class to the outdoor deck, pool and barbecue looking out at Doi Suthep mountain, the 42-room resort is all about losing track of time and getting lost in the warm embrace of the great outdoors.; opening deal mountain-view rooms from Bt3,850. – Merritt Gurle y

c l o c k w i s e fr o m t o p l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f b a n ya n t r e e j i u z h a i g o u ; c o u r t e s y o f t h e j o h n s o n ; courtesy of north hill cit y resort chiangmai; courtesy of w goa

From the peak of a mountain to the tip of a brush, these four openings are pure eye candy.

/ here&now /

Team T+L

Beyond our Pages

s c ot t a . wo o dwa r d

We check in with two contributors who have been busy with travel-driven passion projects sure to inspire your next trip. In a world that is constantly smaller but too often seems riven apart, travel is one thing that connects us all. Building on that idea, Far Afield, a travel book by former T+L editor Shane Mitchell and photographer James Fisher, shows how the food we eat on our trips binds our experiences together. Covering 10 destinations in nine countries,

including Rajasthan and Kyoto, the duo take readers on a tour that, Mitchell writes, involves “happily poking into kitchens not our own.” Still, the riveting read is much more than just a pantry-raid and delves deep into age-old traditions in each locale. Contributor Scott A. Woodward shows his North Korea photography at the 5th Singapore

International Photography Festival 2016 ( this month and next. Some of these photos (above) were featured in our May 2016 issue but the festival is an opportunity

to take a deeper look at the Hermit Kingdom, along with the work of 40 photographers from 18 different countries. Exhibits will be scattered around the city.

/ here&now /

Mo Hom Loikhamleng at her new boutique in Rangoon.


Raising Rangoon

A New York-educated Burmese designer returned home to create clothes that elevate more than just style. story and photo By Monsicha Hoonsuwan


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“Today’s my birthday, so let me treat you to lunch.”

Mo Hom Loikhamleng tells me when we meet in Rangoon. Who am I to argue? It’s her big day—and week. The 39-year-old designer has just opened a women’s-wear boutique, Mon Précieux New York, in Sedona Hotel Yangon’s new Inya Wing. The location overlooks the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose passion for Burma’s progress speaks to Mo Hom personally. >>




Hot on the tracks of their successful Tokyo space, Lexus unveils the coolest new concept in Dubai: a seductive emporium meant to fuel creativity, curiosity—and a passion for performance cars.


Tuck into Chef Tomas Reger’s ‘feel good cuisine’ at his elevated chef’s table, the prime place to chat about how his handpicked ingredients pair with the small-batch organic wines selected by sommelier Sarah Belangerto. Cap your meal with an exclusive coffee by fair-trade RAW Coffee Company—perhaps the rare Ethiopian Harrar? It was the first coffee bean ever traded.


Find food for thought in the curated library, a hub for ideas on architecture, art, design, film and travel. Browse the fetching selection of books and ensconce yourself comfortably amid a wealth of perspective-expanding musings in English, Arabic and Japanese.


Discover loads to covet in our boutique of bespoke contemporary lifestyle items—many, the unique fruits of collaborations between young designers and traditional Japanese artisans. The handmade collection includes Brooklyn Museum wallets, Roberu travel bags, Kaneko Opticals sunglasses, and Tamaki Niime shawls, to name a few.

Brought to you by Lexus Asia Pacific. INTERSECT BY LEXUS Unit SR-01, Level POD, Gate Village Building 7, DIFC, P.O.Box 11052, Dubai, UAE TELEPHONE NUMBER: +9714 355 9524 OPERATING HOURS: 08:00 - 00:00


Follow the tire tracks down to the brilliant garage. It’s like walking into a time capsule of Lexus’s past, present and future. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store here, surrounded by more than 150 hand-painted Lexus car parts, nearly 1,500 miniature cars and, taking center stage, dynamic new concept cars. Go on, picture yourself in the driver’s seat.

World-renowned interior designer Masamichi Katayama, founder of the firm Wonderwall, has worked his magic again in Dubai. With a beautiful white ceiling inspired by sand dunes and a bamboo facade shaped like the spindle grilles adorning new Lexus cars, you’ll find yourself at the crossroads of Lexus and the UAE.

/ here&now / When Mo Hom left for New York in 2004, the Shan designer never intended to stay. “I was in the states to study and gain work experience so I could give back to my community,” she says. After graduating from New York School of Design, Mo Hom’s hard-working ethics and comfort-focused, classily sexy aesthetic landed her the opportunity to create garments for brands like Macy’s and Target and later allowed Mo Hom to set up her own shop, Lotus Hom, in SoHo. “It was quite well known in NoLita,” she says, but the whole time she missed Burma. “I had been waiting and getting ready to come home.” That wait ended after the 2010 election when the political situation in Burma began to improve. “My heart is in my homeland,” Mo Hom tells me. She shut down one-yearold Lotus Hom and flew home hoping she could help accelerate the country’s developments from the ground up. “Burma is short on human resources. Skills and technology are way behind,” she explains. “So I decided to focus on social business.” In 2012, she started Rose Gold Mountain, a mother company that would manage all her social enterprises, which now includes Mon Précieux and the affordable women’s-wear MPNY, as well as a tea-estate resort and a job-training center launching later this year. Not only does she teach her workers necessary skills to compete in the labor market, she offers better salaries with benefits like health care and transportation to help raise the quality of life of her staff and their families. Mo Hom began by using heritage, artisanal textiles to create the elegant Western silhouettes that made Lotus Hom a hit in Manhattan. However, handwoven materials pose a distinct challenge: only a meter of any fabric can be ordered at a time to avoid damages from loom-restringing, which means she has to create a sleek outfit with multiple pieces of

one-meter fabrics—a limitation she wholeheartedly embraces. “It forces you to come up with a design that’s even more unique,” she says. The result: ready-to-wear collections featuring dreamy pieces like a lunch-date-perfect, loose-fitting striped maxi dress and a midi A-line skirt in eye-catching heritage patterns that can take you from day to night. Her latest collection, Bella, which launched this July, showcases intricate ethnic Chin’s Sone-Tu weavings, with showstoppers like a limited-edition asymmetrical dress—but sadly there are only two in existence and she already sold one to a long-time customer. Her creative vision has caught the attention of Ivan Pun, the impresario behind Pun + Projects who owns Rangoon’s famed Port Autonomy, the new Rau Ram and the now-defunct TS1 art hub. Mo Hom has collaborated with Pun on a private label for his Myanmar Made brand. She’s also been busy designing uniforms for a few companies, including the national airline, while putting together her own collections that have been seen on international runways in Vietnam and Japan. She plans to return to the latter this October for her show in Tokyo Fashion Week. As her empire expands, so do the skillsets of her 50 employees, 99 percent of whom women. “An 18-year-old who had never worked before in her life started training two years ago,” Mo Hom says. “Now she is in charge of my cutting room.” The upcoming resort and training center will create even more jobs and teach more Burmese people what she calls “skills for life” like sewing, hand craftsmanship and English. “I enjoy working here more than in New York,” she confesses. “There’s meaning here. Every day, I wake up and think about what to train the girls.” That’s the spirit, I think, as I polish off the lunch she buys me for her birthday.; women’s wear from K10,000.


SECRET SANCTUARY "Experience traditional Thai elegance in a contemporary living space …with only nature at your doorstep"

Pimalai is one of those rare resorts whose architecture has been designed entirely around the natural contours and lush vegetation of over one hundred acres of grounds leading to 900 meters of pristine sandy beach. Indulge in luxury in one of our elegantly designed pool villas, set high in the lush hillside allowing you to be as close as possible to nature. From your villa, all you will see is what has been there for thousands of years; virgin forest enveloping steep hills climbing into a blue sky. The tranquility of the place, the abundance of flora, the exquisite views, the fiery sunsets, all combine to maximize the sensation of being in a heavenly place. Indeed the name of the resort “Pimalai” translates as heavenly. Enjoy a private romantic dinner on your terrace, sip champagne while dipping in your pool, or perhaps a soothing massage* in your villa’s sala… Live, laugh, love and indulge in moments that will be remembered long after the holiday is over. *Complimentary in villa massage for guests who stay in March & April 2016, and from May to December 20th, 2016





/ here&now /

Cooked sous vide and lightly braised, succulent strips of pork rib slide off the bone and swim in a peppery slaw of kaffir lime, scallions and roasted rice. Though Manda de Laos has been opened for less than a year, they’ve already mastered this dish; the snappy tomato coulis spiked with galangal, lemongrass and a drop of honey rounds this bold rendition of a Lao classic.; dish LAK88,000.


Luang Prabang by the Plate The city’s best dishes keep getting better as new restaurants whip up rocking renditions of the classics. From buffalo larb to dried-bael duck, R achna Sachasinh savors the most creative and mouth-watering bites. Lao cuisine is often lumped in with Thai or Vietnamese, but this landlocked country boasts its own distinct culinary creds. At its core, Lao food is foraged in the forest—it’s rustic, earthy, bitter, astringent, racy. Game and fowl give it heft; oddities like insects and bats keep it exotic. Luang Prabang’s royal chefs elevated Lao cuisine, refining techniques and ingredients, while French colonials sparked intriguing fusion. New restaurants and revived menus are pushing the boundaries further, but in spite of the finesse and tinkering, Lao food remains homespun, best enjoyed with good friends and an icy Beerlao.


CLOCKWISE FROM top LEFT: Lao ceviche, at Tangor; the buffalo tasting platter, Governor’s Grill; magret de canard rôti au mak toum, L’Elefant Restaurant.

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The dish: Black Ant eggs in coconut Soup The restaurant: Blue Lagoon

Wrangling a bug or two is a must for gastronomes looking for authentic Lao bites. Chef Somsack Sengta’s daring insect fusion charms intrepid and meek epicureans alike, and his bisque is a perfect gateway dish for the critter-curious. Toasted for texture and crunch, buttery black ant eggs skim the superbly aromatic soup. The tamarind’s sweet tanginess lingers pleasantly, while the deep-fried ant egg bouquets are surprisingly toothsome.; dish LAK70,000. The dish: magret de canard rÔti au Mak Toum The restaurant: L’Elefant Restaurant

Dried bael fruit, a type of quince called mak tum in Lao, is the >>

c l o c k w i s e fr o m l e f t: c o u r t e s y o f Ta n g o r ; c o u r t e s y o f G o v e r n o r ’ s Gr i l l ; c o u r t e s y o f L’ E l e fa n t R e s ta u r a n t

The dish: Ping Dook Moo The restaurant: Manda de Laos

/ here&now /

The dish: Lao Ceviche The restaurant: Tangor

showstopper in this local twist on canard à l’orange. Staring with ping pet, the traditional barbecue duck, the dish substitutes citrus with bael’s balsamic tartness. Simmered in chicken broth and a dash of LaoLao, a homespun whiskey, bael’s lively tang and floral aromatics punctuate the zesty jus. Served with sautéed baby greens and gratin of potatoes, all culled from the

Shredded galangal, sawtooth coriander and lime push the Lao ceviche into tropical territory. Asian basil’s anise-and-licorice profile supplies a racy kick, making it nearly impossible to put down your fork. A nod to koi pa, a raw seafood salad cooked in lime juice, this ceviche upstages the original.; dish LAK80,000. The dish: Buffalo Tasting Platter The restaurant: Governor’s Grill

Buffalo brings its robust, gamey gusto to this multicultural tasting platter, a top pick at the newly opened eatery. The hearty buffalo bourguignonne, medium-rare steak and skewered kebabs are superbly

prepared, although the buffalo larb steals the show. In this delicious dish, seared buffalo meat is pounded and folded into a piquant blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, scallions, coriander and a dash of pepper. Khao khua, or coarsely ground roasted sticky rice, adds a nutty flavor. prabang; platter US$35. The dish: Luang Prabang Set The restaurant: Tamarind

Don’t skip town without sampling these regional specialties. Nibble khai paen—deep-fried riverweed— with jeow bong, a jammy, spicy relish that takes days to prepare (secret ingredient: buffalo skin). Sai oua (pork sausages) are left to sour for a few days before grilling and serving with sticky rice. Luang Prabang dishes its own take on larb with sa mak pi, a medley of finely chopped banana flowers and forest herbs that disarms with an umami, salty, earthy profile. Originating in local Hmong villages, or lam gai is a thick chicken stew made with chunks of the bitter root sa kan, gourds, eggplant, black mushroom, lemongrass and coriander. Sa kan’s astringent, peppery menthol flavor falls squarely in the realm of “acquired taste,” but one that the folks at Tamarind may just cajole you into acquiring. tamarindlaos. com; set LAK70,000.

FROM top: The Luang Prabang set, Tamarind; ping dook moo, Manda de Laos; black ant eggs in coconut soup, Blue Lagoon.


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fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f Ta m a r i n d ; c o u r t e s y o f M a n d a d e L a o s ; c o u r t e s y o f B l u e L a g o o n

restaurant’s organic gardens.; dish LAK160,000.

/ here&now / 1

beaut y

Scents of Place 2 5


The owners of the iconic Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano, Italy, are behind perfumery altaia. By Any Other Name (1) is its homage to the English rose garden where cofounder Marina Sersale’s mother once strolled (beauty​; US$210). Parco Palladiano II (2) evokes the cypress trees in the Palladian gardens of Bottega Veneta’s home base of Vicenza, Italy (bergdorf​; US$295). The notes of green fig and balsam fir in Ralph Lauren’s Sage candle (3) were inspired by the designer’s ranch in the Rocky Mountains (ralph​; US$70). Jo Malone London’s Darjeeling Tea Cologne (4) captures Himalayan scents of tea, jasmine, and freesia (; US$340). And Armani Privé’s Pivoine Suzhou candle (5) conjures up peony, one of China’s most symbolic flowers (armani​; US$90). — Adeline duff


Chanel’s Le Lift Flash Eye Revitalizer is the most luxurious new way to refresh your skin at 9,000 meters. The two-step process starts with a vitamin-infused roll-on serum (you can use that one all over your face), followed by two hydrogel patches (emblazoned with the brand’s classic logo). Keep them on for 10 minutes—the cooling formula reduces dark circles and erases signs of travel-related fatigue.; US$130 for serum and 10 sets of two patches.  — A.D.


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James Wojcik

Ditch Those Bags

After Dark

Pop-Up Party

Chefs travel the world to bring the finest cuisine and cocktails to Hong Kong. The world on a pl atter —that’s what One Star House Party is looking to serve up. Brainchild of chef James Sharman, who used to be the chef de partie at Noma, and a crackerjack team of five other restaurant professionals, this concept began with using Airbnb to throw pop-up dinner parties everywhere from New York to Taipei, all in the name of research. Now the nomadic chef squad has set up shop in the SoHo Printing Press in Sheung Wan and will bring exploratory menus to diners one week out of every month. The remaining three weeks will see the group trotting around the globe, building menus that they will then ferry back to Hong Kong, along with cherry-picked local ingredients scooped up along the way. The dining experience varies so greatly each month that it feels like eating at an entirely different restaurant as they import smoky flavors from Texas and local rice from Taiwan. “Our unconventional model allows us to be inspired by ingredients, food cultures and people from all walks of life,” says Sharman. “It’s a privilege to be able to share the experiences we have with Hong Kong.”; tasting menu HK$1,000.

c o u r t e s y o f o n e s ta r h o u s e pa r t y ( 2 )

Action at the One Star House Party. Charred mango and smoked Tainan pork.

Discover the secret soul of Bali STAY 3 PAY 2 PACKAGE

Included in this package: • Stay 3 nights in our Deluxe Room and pay for only 2 nights at IDR 4,999,999 nett per room. • Free breakfast and daily cocktail for 2 persons. • Free access to the fitness centre, sauna and swimming pools. • Complimentary wi-fi. Terms & Conditions: • All prices are inclusive of 21% service charge and government tax. • Package valid for stays starting from 1st September 2016 to 30th November 2016. • Package cannot be combined with any other promotion. • Package offer is based on room availability. • Package is subject to hotel cancellation policy.


For your reservation call us at +62 366 543 7988 or email to

Wyndham Tamansari Jivva Resort Bali Jl. Subak Lepang No. 16, Pantai Lepang, Klungkung - Bali, Indonesia 80752 t: +62 366 543 7988 f: +62 366 543 7977 e: |





hong kong | japan | bali

Joyce Wang’s award-winning interiors at Mott 32.

Matters of Taste design

courtesy of mot t 32

In Hong Kong’s ultra-competitive restaurant scene, groundbreaking design is the magic touch lighting up the city’s dining landscape. By Kissa Castañeda-McDermott

t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


/ beyond /d e s i g n It takes a lot of mox y to open a bar or restaurant in Hong Kong. For every success story like fine-dining Amber or hipper-than-thou Yardbird, there are dozens that vanish in months, barely making a dent in the city’s crowded culinary market. In an era when we eat with our eyes (and invariably phones) first, it’s not surprising that good design has become what sets a place apart. Here we profile three Hong Kong-based studios whose works propel restaurants to even greater heights, and ask the designers to reveal a few of their tactics and tricks of the trade.

Design Firm: NC Design & Architecture Specialty: Speakeasy Style Sometimes to stand out you need to blend in. This strategy proved fruitful for two speakeasy-style establishments in Hong Kong, Mrs. Pound (mrspound. com; drinks for two HK$220) and last year’s debut hit Foxglove (; drinks for two HK$280), both of which caused a social media stir when they opened thanks to their hidden-in-plain-sight novelty.

Tactic 1: Build a Mystery

In 2014, Mrs. Pound drew crowds through a playful take on their surroundings of Sheung Wan’s Hollywood Road area, which is lined with galleries and boutiques retailing Chinese antiques. Concealed behind the façade of a traditional stamp shop is a bar and restaurant with a whimsical interior reflecting the fictional story of a certain Mrs. Pound. Part of the fun was figuring out how to gain entry via pressing a particular stamp. “Our design philosophy centers around developing new ways for people to interact with their world,” explains Nelson Chow, founder of NC Design & Architecture. By playing this teasing game, he was able to toy with the public’s curiosity and desire for discovery, creating the feeling of an in-the-know elite clientele.

Mrs. Pound’s hidden entrance. Foxglove, behind an umbrella-store façade.

Design Firm: Joyce Wang Specialty: Visual Stories

In the unveiling of a new restaurant, the chef’s culinary pedigree usually takes center stage, but not when it’s designed by Joyce Wang. The acclaimed architect and designer often gets equal billing with the chef, a welldeserved accolade if you consider how much she brings to the table. From the cinematic Ammo (; dinner for two HK$750) to the mesmerizing Mott 32 (; dinner for two HK$800), which was named World Interior of the Year in 2014 at the Inside Festival in Singapore, Wang creates polished spaces that transport and enthrall.


s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6 / t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f mr s . p o u n d ; c o u r t e s y o f f o x g l o v e

Tactic 2: Master Misdirection

From the outside of Foxglove, all you can see is a beautiful umbrella store with a window display not too different from the Berluti boutique down the road. “The idea of hiddenness and attraction helped create this tension between wanting to be seen as well as remaining invisible,” Chow stresses. “The duality of purposes enabled us to create an intriguing misdirection.” The vintage-themed façade sets the tone for the dramatic interior inspired by the golden ages of transportation (think: plush private planes, opulent train carriages, and elegant automobiles from eras bygone). “Design is about reinventing space to help create meaningful connections,” Chow says.

Foxglove’s sleek and well-stocked bar.

c l o c k w i s e fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f f o x g l o v e ; c o u r t e s y o f m o t t 3 2 ; c o u r t e s y o f f i s h & m e at; c o u r t e s y o f l i m e w o o d

Tactic 1: Focus on Details

A meticulously crafted narrative influences each and every element in Wang’s interiors. At Mott 32, she turned an unfavorable basement location into a desirable den that merges Chinese touches and British colonial references, imparting Hong Kong’s richly layered history into the 700-square-meter space. The bar takes after a traditional Chinese apothecary, there’s a private room devoted to mah-jongg, and the rope-and-chain motif celebrates the city’s origin as a fishing village. For Ammo, one of her first projects in Hong Kong, inspiration was two-fold: the design was influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville as well as informed by its location at Asia Society, a heritage site that was formerly a ballistics compound. Wang employed glass and concrete, and a modernist approach in her design, as a reference to the film noir’s futuristic plot. The architectural setting of Asia Society played a large role; the floor-to-ceiling windows helped create a cocoon within the larger structure and Wang’s use of copper throughout channels the building’s military past.

Beachy charm at Limewood.

Portrait at Mott 32.

Tactic 2: Do it Yourself

“Everything we do is custom-made, from the tables and bar chairs down to the lighting,” Wang says. Bespoke lighting, in particular, is one of Wang’s calling cards and the use of gleaming metals and stunning lighting has become the studio’s signature. At Isono (; prices vary by tasting menu), which hosts new guest chefs

Charlie & Rose keep it simple at Fish & Meat.

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/ beyond /d e s i g n Tactic 1: Keep it Playful

From the laid-back beachside shack feel at Limewood to the vintage, Sherlock Holmes-inspired interior at Mr & Mrs Fox (; dinner for two HK$800), each of his restaurants has a tongue-in-cheek edge, with interiors chock-full of witty touches that encourage interaction. “Our design for Mr & Mrs Fox includes a lot of fun details,” McCarthy says, “enough, in fact, that there is plenty for visitors to discover upon return visits.” From the taxidermy squirrel lighting to the secret room hidden behind a bookshelf, there’s no shortage of clever details to populate your Instagram feed. What to try next at this popular bar and restaurant? “We are looking forward to sampling the beer at Little Creatures,” McCarthy says, “crafted in-house at their brewery, which sits proudly front-and-center to the main bar.”

Tactic 2: Respect the Foundation

Polished chrome at Ammo.

each month, she built a lighting installation above the circular bar area that is a curious rendition of fluorescent tubes. At her latest project Rhoda ( hongkong; dinner for two HK$500) in the up-and-coming district of Sai Wan, she transformed washing machine drums into a dazzling upcycled chandelier. Of course, knowing exactly where to shine the spotlight is at the heart of the work and here she decided, “Rhoda is all about Nate,” Wang says, referring to Rhoda’s chef Nathan Green. She took inspiration from Green’s style of cooking, which is about creating modern comfort food using everyday ingredients. Her dedication to customization is seen in an area nicknamed “Nate’s Den,” an intimate corner filled with details that speak of the chef’s passions, from beard grooming to tattoo flash art.

Subway tiles, exposed ceilings and metal furniture: a fail-safe formula that has been adapted by so many restaurateurs that it’s almost a design default. Some may pigeonhole McCarthy as an industrial-chic designer given that he was able to execute several spaces in this manner—Fish & Meat (; dinner for two HK$800) is a good example—but he stresses that the unfinished aesthetic has more to do with the space’s provenance. “The raw look you see in some of our work is a result of aiming not to overdo things. We like to acknowledge in some way the space that was there before us or celebrate the inherent character of a building,” McCarthy says. At Fish & Meat, the simplicity of the interiors relates to the restaurant’s mandate of uncomplicated, ingredient-focused cooking.

A hallmark of a good restaurant is one that you’d easily return to. Often, these are places that help us relax— where you can turn up after work or on the weekends wearing shorts, ready to knock back a beer. Behind most of Hong Kong’s venues that enjoy a large repeat clientele is Australian designer Ben McCarthy, founder of Charlie & Rose. “Growing up in Queensland really helped me develop a relaxed approach to design and an affinity with the outdoors,” McCarthy says. Case in point: Limewood (; dinner for two HK$700), a beachside restaurant in Repulse Bay that wouldn’t be out of place in Byron Bay. Local yet global, modern but familiar, this is an example of how the best balancing acts look effortless.


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Joyce Wang’s bespoke touches light up Rhoda.

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f a mm o ; c o u r t e s y o f r h o d a

Design Firm: Charlie & Rose Specialty: Hip but Homey


/ beyond /b a ck s t o r y

Brick House

Katamama, a new boutique hotel in Bali, translates age-old Indonesian traditions into a contemporary classic. By Jeninne Lee-St. John. Photogr aphed by Mark L ane

clockwise from top:

Shaking up sunset atop the Katamama suite; follow the red-brick road; the Katamama suite overlooks Potato Head; a rooftop whirlpool.


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One-and-a-half million bricks. That’s the first thing you notice about the new Katamama hotel in Bali, which doesn’t look at all like a hotel in Bali— you know, those varying versions of tree house- or temple-chic. No, this new, first hotel from Indonesia-based PTT Family looks like a big, hard brick wall, at least from the approach, and that feels jarringly incongruous to anyone who was familiar with sister Seminyak property Potato Head Beach Club’s iconic soft silhouette of colorful, vintage wooden shutters, salvaged from abandonment across the archipelago. But then you find out that all those bricks were handmade by local craftsmen using age-old techniques, and you realize how much these walls have in common with that one across the driveway, that they are yin and yang. “I love the idea of a balance. I like it when monochrome meets the multicolors,” says Indonesian architect Andra Matin, who designed the two buildings. “The Katamama hotel was to represent Bali. It should feel Balinese, but modern at the same time.” Both structures were conceived in homage to Indonesian tradition, to blending old and new in a way that feels fresh but timeless, artistic but warm. The primary experience of Katamama, though, is sustainability as a community measure, lifting up local culture to elevate five-star comfort. So while it stands out in its environment, it also blends. “You are surrounded by fine work from some of Indonesia’s best artisans and craftsmen,” says Ronald Akili, CEO of PTT Family. “We strive to make it authentic, not ethnic.” This ethos courses through “the ‘modern’ architecture of 60s and 70s,” as Matin describes the geometrical design of the hotel, which is also reflected in the angles of the hand-thrown tableware made by Gaya Ceramic in Sayan. The Midcentury Modern furniture was modeled on a throwback Indonesian style called jenki and is carved of native teak. Fabrics such as robes and table runners come via Threads of Life, a fair-trade collective based in Ubud that helps thousands of women in remote villages across Indonesia support their families while keeping up their all-natural weaving and dyeing traditions.

Near-Away! by American Express

THE SCARLET SINGAPORE 33 Erskine Road, Singapore 069333 Call 65 6511 3333 or email to make your bookings now. Step into a world of luxury, romance and indulgence. Bold, provocative and sensuous, The Scarlet Singapore offers an unparalleled design experience for the discerning traveller. Vivacious and uninhibited, the interiors of this 80-room boutique hotel pulsate with an eclectic tension, offering an adventure for the senses. Incited by the enigmatic gracious hostess “Scarlet,” a bright jewellery-inspired makeover personifies the lifestyle of the discerning muse. In the lobby, pictured here, get comfortable in plush seating upholstered with

Sonia Rykiel, Christian Lacroix, JAB and Pierre Frey velvets and fabrics. On the walls are tanned panels, which reveal stitches artfully inspired by lace hosiery. Rooms evoke passion, splendour, and high-fashion swank, rich in arresting hues of amethyst, sapphire, gold, ruby and emerald. If you seek an unprecedented definition of luxurious respite, one of the five individually themed new-world chic suites is your discerning choice.

To enjoy a one night’s stay in the Executive Room at American Express subsidised rate of S$150 nett, please present the voucher located in your annual Platinum Reserve Credit Card welcome or renewal pack.

THE SCARLET SINGAPORE NEAR-AWAY! BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IS OPEN TO BASIC PLATINUM RESERVE CREDIT CARD MEMBERS. • Card Member must make reservation with The Scarlet Singapore at 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 The Scarlet 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 The Scarlet 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 dispute, 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. Incorporated with Limited Liability in the State of Delaware, U.S.A.® Registered Trademark of American Express Company. © Copyright 2016 American Express Company.

/ beyond /b a ck s t o r y And then there are those bricks: “Natural bricks, man-made and involving specialized craftsmanship,” says Pak Ketut Sukra, owner of Sumber Rata Bricks in Darmasaba. Founded by his grandfather in the 1960s, the family company starting in 2012 made nearly 1 million of the bricks used in Katamama. Mixed from scratch with paras, a fine stone powder sourced locally, the bricks were hand-pressed into custom molds and glazed with palm oil, before a 10-day drying and firing process. “The terra-cotta bricks are softer texture and stronger material for buildings, and last longer compared to other materials,” Sukra says. “For this reason, a lot of temples in Bali used these bricks.” They change color with age, and with light—and if you’re looking for an Instagram-winning selfie spot, just position yourself in the northwest-facing openair corridors in late afternoon. The sun shining through long lattices of terra-cotta casts gorgeous golden patterns. The second thing you notice about Katamama is there’s no check-in desk. No, what’s usually that last barrier between you and total relaxation has been considerately discarded in favor of a direct path to it—namely, a bar. A broad set of stairs funnels you up into the mouth of this modernist cave, and once you’ve ascended into the hotel’s embrace, you’re greeted by Akademi, an open-plan bar-slash-library anchored by shelves adorned with Gaya drinkware and award-winning resident mixologist Dre Masso’s

house-infused liquors, some in clay pots (“clay pots are the new barrel-aged,” Masso laughs). It’s a challenge to resist the temptation to dally here, but carry on. Access to the hotels rooms is via MoVida, the Melbourne Spanish spot beloved for its tapas (get the imported Espinaler sardines with tomato toast), charcuterie and swinging bar that is a perfect fit for this vibe. Call it rattan-chic. With its greenery and comfy nooks and open air, it’s a highend lanai—and that feel flows directly into the 58 guest suites, all of which have original work by contemporary Indonesian artists, outdoor space (a handful with private pools) and an open bar. Yes, these guys are big drinkers, and bless them for it. Masso has stocked each room with four big bottles of his special-recipe booze, plus mixers and a manual. But if you don’t want to get to work just yet, during your in-room check-in a cheerful butler shall be summoned to smash up a welcome mojito. Walking into a rooftop suite feels like stepping into a house by Frank Lloyd Wright, the tropical years—it’s all geometric lines, Eames-style furnishings, toasted solid colors, and burnished wood centered around the showstopper: a glassedin garden, a terrarium that brings the outside in, and contains the spiral staircase leading up to your private flora-filled roof deck complete with hot tub. The flow of the entire building basically carries you into your most stylish friend’s beach house. “We wanted it to be like welcoming you home,” hotel managing director Andrew Steele tells me, “and

from far left: Lanai-life in

MoVida; designer Andra Matin’s iconic Potato Head amphitheater, made of old wooden shutters; Akademi bar, the Katamama welcome.


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make everything as easy as possible.” He points out all the convenient power and USB plugs hidden in every section of my suite, and discloses other less obvious touches. “Don’t you hate getting wake-up calls? How can we make it pleasant? I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if my wake-up call was coffee and a chocolate croissant?’ So that’s what we do.” It’s true, a skim latte and a fresh pastry make getting up to go to the hotel gym a lot easier, though I could’ve also used that wake-up call after the early morning Tibetan bowl ceremony, a hypnotic sensory session that was part of the hotel’s everchanging calendar of cultural offerings, curated by concierges who, “while they don’t necessarily come from hotel backgrounds,” Akili says, “know the island inside out and can help create a one-of-akind experience, not typical tourist itineraries.” Katamama forms partnerships with likeminded folks intent on raising the bar ethically and aesthetically, including Alchemy, the first 100-percent raw-vegan restaurant in Indonesia, and Room4Dessert, Will Goldfarb’s temple to seasonalsweets in Ubud that is all about nurturing local staff. These types of values are projected at the hotel’s front door, at Akademi, the embodiment of Masso’s vision for a place for bartenders to train, collaborate and invent. At Akademi, they apply the nose-to-tail philosophy to fruit and produce, using, for example, chocolate pod husks as cups; they’re bringing back Batavia arrak, a moonshiney rice wine that Masso has found mention of in centuryold cocktail books; and their best-selling drink, the local arrak- and tamarillo-laced Tama-Tama was dreamed up not by Masso but by native son mixologist Jakob Oetama. “Katamama showcases what is Indonesia now, not some old island cliché,” Akili says. “We always aim to show the best of Indonesian culture through our signature contemporary context.” I’ll raise a Tama-Tama to that. But could you bring it to my roof deck? With a chocolate croissant?

the details HOTEL Katamama 51B Jln. Petitenget, Seminyak; 62361/302-9999; doubles from Rp7,092,536. RESTAURANTS+Bars Akademi; drinks for two Rp350,000. Alchemy; meal for two Rp300,000. MoVida; meal for two Rp1,500,000. Potato Head Beach Club

62-361/473-7979; ptthead. com; meal for two Rp600,000. Room4Dessert Jalan Sanggingan, Ubud; 62812/3666-2806; room4; dessert tasting menus from Rp430,000; drink flights from Rp450,000. Shop Threads of Life 24 Jln. Kajeng, Ubud; 62-361/972-187;


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

Jalan Andong Banjar Nagi Ubud, Bali 80571 Indonesia T +62 361 975 825

/ beyond /t r a v e l d i a r y

Japan, #nofilter


Instagram sensation Patrick Janelle (@aguynamedpatrick) is most at home on the road. Here, he shares highlights of a trip he took to Tokyo and Kyoto, where he uncovered both icons and surprises.

1 Self-Portrait At Bar Koba, a great spot in western Shibuya, I was inspired by both the minimalist, geometric pink façade and the cocktail menu at the cozy bar. During my trip, I became totally enchanted by Tokyo’s side streets and quiet residential neighborhoods. If I were to go back, I’d explore them more.

2 patrick Janelle always thought of Japan as a place of the future: flashing lights, massive intersections, in-your-face technology. Now, having been there, he sees it more as a destination of contrasts. “There’s a quietness there that I appreciated, and a deep respect for heritage,” says Janelle, who spent nine days in Japan, splitting his time among Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. Among his favorite experiences: a stay at the luxe Aman Tokyo, a sushi-making class near Tsukiji Market and visits to Kyoto’s historic temples. “The temples are a total feast for the eyes. I went to Ryoan-ji just before closing and wandered around the gardens by myself, which was incredible.”



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2 Café Culture Path was one of my best finds in Tokyo. Located in western Shibuya, the café is filled with cool young locals on their lunch breaks. The small menu includes salads and traditional Dutch pancakes, a nice break from my sushi-heavy diet. 3 Capital Spirits The entrances to many Shinto shrines, including Meiji, one of Tokyo’s most iconic sites, are lined with empty sake barrels. Brewers donate their sake to be used in various rituals and ceremonies, and the barrels are then displayed as a sign of respect. >>

/ beyond /t r a v e l d i a r y 4 Fish for Breakfast On a guided morning tour of Tsukiji Market, I saw every type of fish imaginable, to be consumed at restaurants all around the city later that day. At this stall, I watched a man skillfully cut and wrap fresh eel around skewers (kushi). 5 Team Sport My guide explained that sumo wrestlers carry out all of their daily activities together—eating, sleeping, practicing—in one of nearly 50 “stables” scattered around Tokyo. We visited Musashigawa stable, which isn’t typically open to the public, during a morning practice.



6 Design Star Tokyo’s Harajuku district is known as the area where young people display outrageous street style. The Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku complex, which was designed by Hiroshi Nakamura, stood out because of these dizzying mirrors leading into the shopping center. 7 Quiet Reflections The district of Arashiyama (which translates to “Storm Mountain”), on the outskirts of Kyoto, is known for its bamboo forests. Walking along the Katsura River just as it started to rain, I caught the last moments of the evening light. The only other people on the trail were this couple. 8 At the Gates Seeing the vermilion gates, or torii, of the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto was on my bucket list. Inari is the Shinto deity of business, among other things, and the thousands of torii that mark the alwayspopular shrine’s entrance were donated by worshippers as a gift of thanks.




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subscribe now! Every month, more than 5 million people worldwide read Travel + Leisure, the world’s leading travel magazine. southeast asia

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september 2016

Penang: so hip it hurts Hong Kong blend in, stand out and eat

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t r av e l s m a rt e r


c o u r t e s y o f S pa V i l l a g e R e s o r t T e m b o k B a l i

A rejuvenating escape at Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali.

T+L Reader Specials

A 110-year-old mansion stay in the heart of Penang’s UNESCO World Heritage core, or a sketchbook-inspired journey through Bali— Instagram-worthy shots come aplenty with this month’s offers. by monsicha hoonsuwan >>

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/ upgrade / FAMILY HONG KONG


COMO Hotels & Resorts At the Metropolitan by COMO, in Bangkok, you and your babe are promised a signature 60-minute COMO Shambhala treatment for two, daily complimentary yoga sessions and nourishing breakfast cooked from organic and locally sourced ingredients. In Phuket, the Paola Navonedesigned Point Yamu by COMO offers a similar treatment at the spa, in addition to a southern-Thai dinner at Nahmyaa for two and a complimentary manicure or pedicure. The Deal Romance package: two nights in a Metropolitan room in Bangkok or three nights in a Bay suite in Phuket, from Bt12,000 for two, through October 31. Save up to 40%.

Icon 36 room, at Hotel Icon.


Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali When life gets rough, this 31-room resort has the perfect remedy. Your escape begins with a welcome footbath and a complimentary copy of Journey to Tembok with Chang Fee Ming, bursting with sketches depicting life on the Hindu island. You’ll be inspired to later embark on a resortorganized day trip to selected destinations featured in the travel journal. Then soothe your bones with a 50-minute spa treatment for every night of stay. Healthy meals and daily activities like canang making, lontar palm-leaf manuscript drawing and hatha yoga will send you home renewed and recharged. The Deal Journey to Tembok: three nights in a Kamar room, from US$864 for two, ongoing. Save 20%.


East Hong Kong Lifestyle business hotel brand East has just launched its Miami property. To celebrate, it teams up with award-winning bartender Kervin Unido to create Miami-inspired cocktails for East Hong Kong guests. You’ll get two of these cocktails as well as an upgrade to the next room category and 10-percent discount on food and beverage at the rooftop bar Sugar. The Deal Made in Miami: a night in an Executive room, from RMB1,600 for two; book by October 31. Save 25%. KUALA LUMPUR

St. Regis Debuted with much fanfare this June, the new swish Sentral property offers the largest standard rooms in town as well as one of the

SUPER SAVER Away Koh Samui Elements Away’s first Samui resort opened last month, offering pool villas, suites, a spa and a private beach. You can join their morning yoga classes or the Body & Soul program, which includes healthy diet and detox plans. The Deal Opening rate: a night in a Deluxe suite, from Bt3,823 for two, through December 23. Save 60%.


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largest suites in the world: a 370-square-meter mini-hotel complete with its own elevator access, massage room and gym. It also has the first restaurant outside Tokyo by three-Michelin-starred chef Takashi Saito—Taka by Sushi Saito—on-site, along with Edo-style tempura joint Ginza Tenkuni. The Deal Opening offer: a night in a Deluxe room, from RM1,008 for two, through December 20. Save 20%.


The Edison George Town welcomed one of its most luxurious boutique properties this July when The Edison opened in a 110-yearold mansion in the heart of the town’s unesco World Heritage core. Peranakan influence abounds across 35 of its wood-floored rooms, with the use of Sino-Portuguese tiles, jade-green accents and local crafts. Your room also comes with breakfast, concierge service, local excursions of George Town and all-day snacks to fuel you through Ernest Zacharevic-mural hunting. The Deal Opening promotion: a night in a Deluxe room, from RM440 for two, through December 31. Save 20%.

fr o m t o p : c o u r t e s y o f h o t e l i c o n ; c o u r t e s y o f away k o h s a m u i e l e m e n t s

Hotel Icon Get cozy with your clan of four at the Tsim Sha Tsui hotel, using a special discount for adjoining rooms with views of the city and Victoria Harbour. Rooms come with museum passes, daily-replenished complimentary minibar and snacks, and breakfast for four at The Market. Stay connected with complimentary highspeed Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and unlimited 3G mobile data on the go. The Deal Family Fun: a night in two Icon 36 Family Connecting rooms, from HK$3,600 for four, through September 11. Save 25%.

In celebration of HM Queen Sirikit’s 7th cycle Birthday a cleverly-designed, wittily-directed opera production that highlights Giuseppe Verdi’s sophisticated music.

Un Ballo in Maschera The Helikon Opera, Moscow Composer: Giuseppe Verdi Conductor: Valery Kiryanov

Supported by Embassy of Russia

sunday 18 september (7.30 pm) Baht 4,500 / 3,500 / 3,000 / 2,000 / 1,500

explore the great myths on the music of richard Wagner. a sublimation of romanticism expressed by the language of the bodies.

TrisTan& isolde Winner 2016 Grand Prix Award in Dance by the Association Professionnelle de la Critique de Théâtre de Musique et de Danse

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland Supported by the Embassy of Switzerland

Hotline 02 262 3191 (24 hrs)

saturday 24 september (7.30pm) Baht 3,000 / 2,500 / 2,000 / 1,500 / 800

Venue: Thailand Cultural Centre. Free shuttle from MRT station Thailand Cultural Centre, exit 1, during 5.30-7.00pm







137 of the world’s best travel agents A helicopter hike on a New Zealand glacier. Witnessing priest-led rituals in an Indian Hindu temple. Attending a calligraphy lesson in Japan. Some of the most extraordinary experiences can be had only with the help of a well-connected travel agent. In Travel + Leisure’s annual A-List, we showcase the best specialists in the business—destination authorities, honeymoon planners, family-reunion whizzes, cruise experts—to help take your trip to the next level. Edited by lindsey olander • Reported by stirling kelso illustration by christopher delorenzo

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THE A - LIST 2 0 1 6


Travel advisory Board

The Travel + Leisure TAB is a select group of owners and operators of the country’s most important agencies. They share with T+L their expert opinions on the latest developments in the travel industry and their read on ever-evolving consumer trends. They are ultimate travel planners (typically for high rollers only), and can refer you to one of the many top-notch specialists they’ve trained. Marcus Barlow

The vice president of sales for American Express Travel & Lifestyle Services oversees a team of some 1,500 counselors across North America who provide bespoke travelconcierge services and help card members get the most out of their rewards points. 1-602/537-4245; marcus.c.barlow@

Betsy Donley

This 22-year industry veteran’s agency, Camelback Odyssey Travel, is a specialist for clients seeking exotic adventure experiences such as fly-fishing in the Seychelles or the Andes, and even space travel with Virgin Galactic. 1-602/889-5909; betsyd@camelback

Julia P. Douglas

Douglas, who founded Jet Set World Travel in 2005, has road tested countless hotels, resorts and villas with her two children in tow. Her agency excels at planning honeymoons and experiential family travel. 1-312/574-1181; julia@ jet​

Jack S. Ezon

Ezon, who is an advisor for brands like Fairmont and Sofitel, has an eye for new talent, which has helped his company, Ovation Vacations, meet the demands of


younger luxury travelers when organizing destination celebrations and group travel. 1-212/329-7237; jezon@

Gail Grimmett

Grimmett leads a team of 1,500 agents in 70 branches across the U.S. and U.K. as head of the Travel Leaders Group Elite Travel Division: the Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group brands— both known for their deep relationships with top hotels, airlines and cruise lines. 1-212/651-2103; gail. grimmett@travel​

Marc Kazlauskas

As president of Frosch’s leisure division and U.S. branches, Kazlauskas, formerly of Tauck, fosters relationships with airlines, cruise lines, and rail services in order to craft seamless itineraries for business and pleasure trips. 1-212/784-0383; marc. kazlauskas@frosch. com

David Lowy

Those with sky-high budgets trust Lowy and his Vancouverbased team at Renshaw Travel to deliver extraordinary experiences like private jets and hardto-get tee times at the world’s finest golf courses. 1-604/733-1010; dlowy@ renshaw

Tom Marchant

Marchant is the cofounder of the Black Tomato Group, a London-based collection of travel and lifestyle brands known for bringing bespoke adventure trips up a notch through immersive activities. 1-646/558-3644; tom@

Jani Miller

On T+L’s A-List since 2004, this golf-loving CEO has firsthand knowledge of courses, resorts, and fitness experiences around the world. She regularly circles the globe herself on adventure trips to places like Antarctica. jani@centraltravel. com

Steve Orens

Because Orens has more than 25 years of industry experience and serves on boards for some of the biggest luxury hotel brands, he and his agency, Plaza Travel, can get their predominantly business-travel clients special treatment anytime.

Shawna Huffman Owen Owen, who manages offices in Dayton and Chicago in partnership with her father, Tony Huffman, shines at planning educational family vacations, romantic getaways for couples and celebration trips for groups. 1-312/257-2988; shawna@​huffman​

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Mary Ann Ramsey

Cruising is among the many specialties of this former ASTA Agent of the Year and president of Betty Maclean Travel, which treats clients like lifelong partners by addressing long-range travel goals. mary​ann@betty​ maclean​t

Sandy Schadler

Schadler is the marketing strategist for Travelink, an agency whose partnership with American Express Travel allows its network of advisors to provide the best rates and packages for clients. 1-615/367-4900; sandy.​ schadler@

Wido Schaefer

The employee-owned TravelStore, begun by Schaefer in 1975, is now California’s largest independent travel agency. He also sits on the advisory boards of hotel companies like Four Seasons. wido.s@travelstore. com

Anne Morgan Scully

President of McCabe World Travel and chairman of the Virtuoso Trust as well as an expert in hotels and cruise lines, Scully leads her team in creating one-of-a-kind itineraries packed with thoughtful gestures. 1-703/762-5055; anne@

Jim Strong

Accessibility, attention to detail—especially in hotel selection—and an unabashed penchant for luxury are what drives Strong, who, together with his mother, Nancy Strong, customizes trips that focus on cruising and five-star stays. 1-214/361-0027; jim@

Kathryn Sudeikis

Voted among the “100 Most Powerful Women in Travel” by Travel Agent magazine, Sudeikis and her team at Acendas are pros at organizing large family reunions. 1-913/671-7700; ksudeikis@​a cendas. com

Liz Sadie Sutton

President of Alabama World Travel and an advisor to companies including Royal Caribbean International, this cruising expert knows about everything from the comfort of the beds to the best excursions in various ports of call. 1-334/260-2482; liz@​

Kimberly Wilson Wetty

The copresident of Valerie Wilson Travel, one of the largest privately owned full-service travel consulting firms in the U.S., Wetty puts a heavy focus on families and top-shelf hotels. 1-212/592-1218;

Africa & the middle east experts africa

Sandy Cunningham

Cunningham, who ran safari camps in Kenya before settling in the U.S., is most passionate about conservation, designing eco-minded safaris that highlight how tourist dollars save wildlife. She’ll even suggest conservationrelated events clients can attend before departure. best for responsible travel, honeymooners 1-505/795-7710;

Michael Lorentz

The Passage to Africa CEO and cofounder of is known for his off-thegrid experiences and on-the-ground relationships that allow him access to little-known areas of Madagascar, entry into rarely seen tribal ceremonies and the ability to set up mobile camps on private reserves. best for off-thebeaten-path itineraries, thrill seekers 27-21/447-0053; ml@ botswana, z ambia, and zimbabwe

Craig Beal

A former nuclear engineer who went on his first safari at age four, Beal brings impressive knowledge and attention to detail to his trips. He is familiar with scores of camps, studies animal migratory patterns

and is a whiz at navigating complicated travel logistics. best for first-time safari-goers 1-952/540-4101; craigb@travelbeyond. com east and southern africa

Dan Achber

Achber loves working with safari novices, as well as seasoned travelers willing to go outside their comfort zones. He’ll send clients to a lightweight mobile camp in Botswana and the hard-to-reach Zakouma National Park, in Chad, where conservationists have brought elephant herds back from the brink of extermination. best for first-time safari-goers, thrill seekers 1-416/628-1272, ext. 104; dan@trufflepig. com

gulf states

Amalia Lazarov

incredible insight into the practical concerns of safaris: when deltas are flooding, where animals are migrating, and the pros and cons of lodges (like which have plunge pools in the shade). best for family and honeymoon safaris 1-970/871-0065; cherri@exploreafrica. net

Elizabeth Gordon

Kenya-born Gordon excels at creating specialized safari experiences. She’s arranged a reptilefocused trip for a herpetologist and a run with Masai warriors for a marathoner. In her mid 30s, she’s also in tune with the particular demands of younger travelers. best for specialized safaris, millennials 1-212/226-7331;

Mark William Nolting

Altvater exclusively books smaller-scale tented camps that take a holistic approach to game management, habitat conservation, and cultural preservation—the antithesis of a mass safari circuit. best for responsible travel, seasoned safari-goers volker@big

Nolting has spent more than 30 years in the safari industry, traveling with his own kids, which allows him to home in on family needs—like camps with larger units, flexible itineraries and food options for those with dietary restrictions. best for multigenerational families safari@african

Cherri Briggs

Sunit Sanghrajka

Volker Altvater

Briggs’s feet-on-theground approach (she spends at least six months a year in Africa) gives her

A founding member of Safari Professionals of America, this fourthgeneration Kenyan prioritizes

conservation with both families (village soccer games, group barbecues) and repeat travelers (trips to lessvisited private land reserves). best for

multigenerational families, seasoned safari-goers 1-321/622-9371; sunit@

Dana Welch

Welch, a former lodge manager in Zambia and trekking guide in Nepal, excels at pairing adventure with animal encounters (like observing chimps in Mahale Mountain National Park, in Tanzania). She partners with select operators that take travelers on bush walks and horseback game excursions. best for wildlife safaris, off-the-beatenpath itineraries 1-303/563-6225; dana@ egy pt

Malaka Hilton

When it comes to premium experiences, little is off-limits for Hilton. She can arrange access to exclusive golf courses, meals in private homes, group dinners at the foot of the Great Pyramids with a celebrity chef, even a rare glimpse at the remains of an unknown pharaoh. best for luxury seekers, culture buffs 1-941/951-1801; ­m alaka@admiral​ ­t

Interest in the U.A.E. is growing, and Lazarov works with clients on trips within the emirates (such as seven-star hotel stays paired with private shopping) as well as journeys that venture onward to the rest of the Middle East and Africa (like combining Abu Dhabi with Oman). best for culture buffs, business travel, luxury seekers 1-646/747-9356; amalia@protravelinc. com israel

Rachel L. Epstein

Epstein visits Israel about five times a year to keep up on current events, the country’s political temperature, and hotel and restaurant news. She’s an invaluable resource for anyone taking a bucket-list, family, or faith-based journey. best for culture buffs, history lovers, educational trips, groups 1-713/590-8102; rachel. morocco

Michael Diamond

Diamond has access to the country’s best hotels and riads as well as its signature experiences, like touring artisan stalls in the Marrakesh medina with a local designer or having tea with the owner of a historic Tangier bookshop. best for culture buffs, history lovers, foodies michael@htprivate​ namibia

Chris Liebenberg

This former nationalparks contractor has

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lived in every major destination in Namibia, so he’s intimately familiar with the country’s landscapes, wildlife, lodges, villages and roadways (selfdriving safaris are a specialty). best for thrill seekers, road trippers, adventure 1-858/598-5559; chris@ south africa

Tamsyn Fricker

Fricker, who lived in South Africa for years, designs trips based on particular interests. She’s sent hikers to the lesser-known Wild Coast and arranged for politically engaged clients to meet with members of parliament. best for adventure, culture buffs, foodies 1-832/301-0896; ­tamsyn@travelartistry​

Asia experts cambodia

Andy Booth

The Angkor Guidebook co-author knows Cambodia inside and out—which roads are drivable, how to avoid crowds at temples, who the best Englishspeaking guides are— and can arrange trips with archaeologists and cartographers as well as lake cruises on traditional wooden boats. best for adventure, culture buffs, multigenerational families, sustainable travel 855-12/338-872; a.booth@aboutasia​

southern africa

Julian Harrison

This South African former game ranger likes to plan safaris that take the adventure quotient up a notch (canoeing the Zambezi River, gorilla trekking in the Republic of Congo) without sacrificing any comforts of a plush lodge or camp. best for adventure julianh@premiertours. com

last-minute trips, value-conscious travelers, culture buffs 1-916/830-5511; stan.g@travelstore. com

families, adventure, off-the-beaten-path itineraries mei.zhang@wildchina. com

Guy Rubin

family travel

best for

China’s top luxury tour operator has a little black book full of friends who can connect clients to art curators or tabletennis stars and arrange private dinners in popular restaurants—all while keeping a finger on the pulse of the best new hotels. best for luxury seekers 86-10/8440-7162, ext. 218; guyimperialtours. net


china and tibet

Stan Godwyn

Mei Zhang

Godwyn, who speaks Mandarin and has a master’s in anthropology with a focus on Chinese archaeology, can set up history-focused itineraries along the Silk Road or through Beijing while nimbly managing common hiccups (unannounced flight changes, gridlock in Shanghai).

Zhang, who is based in Beijing, excels at introducing travelers to less-visited destinations, whether urban (an under-theradar gallery-hopping tour through Beijing, say) or far-flung (trekking between remote villages in Yunnan). best for


How Travel-Agent Fees Work For the most part, agents make their money on commissions paid to them by the travel companies they book with. Some also charge clients a fee (separate from the trip expenses) as a security deposit that’s either returned to you at the end of the planning process or, more commonly, applied to the cost of the trip itself. In other cases, agents charge for services like booking airline tickets, making hard-to-get restaurant reservations, or securing rooms in smaller independent hotels that, unlike large international chains, don’t pay commissions to agents. When in doubt, though, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification.


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Pat O’Connell

O’Connell has a go-to list of well-priced villas—hard to find in Asia—and hotels with adjoining rooms and pools. He also knows which activities will engage kids and teens (anime-studio tours, elephant treks) and can arrange volunteering at local schools in Laos or orphanages in Burma. best for

multigenerational families, voluntourism 1-720/881-5563; hong kong

Laura Woo

Raised in Hong Kong, Woo has enough onthe-ground contacts to arrange experiences that are off-limits to other operators—like securing after-hours visits to museums or setting up day trips to the peaceful outlying islands. best for culture buffs, business trips india

Jonny Bealby

In addition to Agra and Jaipur, this former travel journalist can take you far off India’s usual tourist track. He’s planned Zanskar Valley treks, days on a

houseboat on the lakes of Kashmir, and visits to Shimla and rural Rajasthan, where guests stay with Rajput royalty. best for culture buffs, history lovers, adventure 44-20/7736-3968; jonny@wildfrontiers.

Pallavi Shah

Shah’s encyclopedic knowledge of new hotels, up-and-coming chefs, spa trends, and the history of each region helps her clients get to know India’s many layers. One of her trip highlights is witnessing priest-led rituals inside Tamil Nadu’s temples. best for culture buffs, multigenerational families, honeymooners 1-646/226-1334; opgny@ourpersonal india and sri lanka

Carole A. Cambata

Cambata’s carefully crafted itineraries encourage travelers on any budget to get a deeper look at her native country, whether they’re having lunch at a membersonly club in Mumbai or visiting tea plantations and elephant parks in Sri Lanka. best for

honeymooners, wellness, foodies, adventure, valueconscious travelers ccambata@greaves​tvl. com

Ashish Sanghrajka

Sanghrajka, who grew up visiting family in India each year, deliberately steers away from overcrowded tourist sites to show her clients parts of the country they might not otherwise see, like remote Jain pilgrimage sites or New Delhi’s flowers stalls in early morning. best for offthe-beaten-path itineraries, families with teens indonesia

Jarrod Hobson

Called “the Indonesia guy” by his colleagues, Hobson is the go-to for planning trips both classic and current in Bali, Java and beyond: private-yacht charters, daylong mountain drives and honeymoons that string together Bali’s best resorts. best for families, adventure, honeymooners, luxury seekers 1-720/881-5575; jarrod@asiatrans japan

Mark Lakin

Lakin’s itineraries focus on the preservation of Japan’s culture and tradition. A few highlights include making baskets with one of the country’s foremost bamboo weavers or attending lantern-lighting ceremonies at temples typically closed to the public. best for cultural immersion, philanthropic travel 1-646/580-3026; ml@

Noriko Townsend

This Aomori native excels at working with different age groups. She’s arranged origami lessons for kids, entertained teens with J-pop concerts, set up flowerarranging classes for moms, and sent car-loving dads to the speedway at the foothills of Mount Fuji for a spin with professional drivers. best for culture buffs, multigenerational families 1-970/631-8621; noriko.


Rebecca Mazzaro

With Mazzaro, you’ll go beyond the usual sights and attractions of Bagan and Rangoon with activities like a hot-air-balloon ride over Inle Lake or a guided trek through scenic jungles and secluded villages between Inle and the interior town of Kalaw. best for adventure, culture buffs, off-thebeaten-path itineraries 1-720/881-5568; rebecca@

Duff Trimble

Trimble invests considerable time and resources in order to show travelers the “lost Japan.” A trip might include strolling the sandy streets of faraway islands, visiting monkeys on the unesco World Heritage–designated island of Yakushima, and uncovering stillhidden restaurants and shops in Tokyo and Kyoto. best for luxury seekers, off-thebeaten-path itineraries 1-647/477-1711; duff@​

southeast asia

Andrea Ross

Ross’s company, Journeys Within, runs about 200 trips per year to Southeast Asia, and she excels at itineraries that pair the region’s top guides, hotels and behind-thescenes experiences with philanthropic endeavors like volunteering at a local community center. best for

voluntourism, ecotravel, adventure

maldi ves


Justin Parkinson

Holly Monahan

Which of the 100-plus Maldivian resorts is right for you? Parkinson has stayed in scores of them, evaluating each property against a checklist of attributes (the quality of the spa therapists, privacy of accommodations) so he can perfectly match clients with their dream stay. best for

honeymooners, multigenerational families, luxury seekers 1-818/292-8738; justin@linaratravel. com

Annual trips keep Monahan up-to-date on Bangkok’s best emerging neighborhoods and which islands remain under the radar. A vegan herself, she’s also an expert at helping those with food allergies navigate Thailand’s diverse culinary scene. best for unusual experiences, honeymooners 1-212/627-1950; h­m onahan@absolute​

u.S. & canada experts hawaii

new york cit y

Marilyn Clark

Lia Batkin

Let Clark, one of only 11 individuals with Master Specialist certifications for Hawaii’s six major islands, be your source for trips that combine culture, history, romance, and local intel (Maui’s best gluten-free sweetshop, an exotic-animal sanctuary on the Big Island). best for foodies, culture buffs, history lovers, wellness, honeymooners, destination weddings marilyn@​lighthouse​

Batkin and her partner, Seth Kaplan, are known for granting unprecedented access to her hometown’s greatest hits—they can line a Manhattan street with food trucks for a birthday, arrange an Eloise-themed tea party at the Plaza, and schedule a dance lesson with the Rockettes. best for millennials, foodies, fashion lovers, luxury seekers 1-212/776-1784; lia@ pacific northwest

napa valle y and

and canada


Sheri Doyle

Michelle Murré

Tap Murré if you want to visit wineries that aren’t open to the public, take part in harvest parties at top vineyards, or venture beyond Napa to little-known hiking trails and cliff-side beaches. best for foodies, couples, multigenerational families 1-415/796-3869; michelle@azurine​

Doyle excels at planning itineraries that pair cuisine with adventure, such as gourmet kayaking trips through the San Juan Islands or scenic drives punctuated by farm-fueled restaurants with overnights at independently owned inns. best for foodies, adventure, road trippers info@pnwjourneys. com

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Mexico & Central & South America Experts argentina and chile

Jordan Harvey

Harvey’s boutique agency, dreamed up on a dairy farm in Patagonia, now works with more than 500 travelers a year. His secret: in-touch experiences delivered via a deep network of local artists, chefs, architects and photographers, many of them personal friends who help deliver unique experiences. best for adventure, foodies jordan@knowmad argentina, chile, and uruguay

Maita Barrenechea

Over three decades, Barrenechea has planned trips for top execs and celebrities while also helping build the travel infrastructure throughout her region of expertise, coaxing ranchers to convert estancias into guesthouses and assisting locals in preparing their tours for higher-end clientele. best for adventure, culture buffs 54-11/4314-3390; bra zil

Martin Frankenberg

Frankenberg has a reputation for opening


doors otherwise unavailable to travelers, whether that’s securing VIP tickets to events or access to yachts on the Amazon, sailboats in Paraty, and deep-inthe-jungle villas that work only with him. best for luxury seekers 55-11/3071-4515;

Paul Irvine

Rather than relying on the usual international hotel brands, Irvine prefers to put clients up in private homes and apartments (which he ruthlessly vets) and smaller properties like the new Essenza Hotel, in Jericoacoara. best for foodies, culture buffs paul.​irvine@dehouche. com central and south america

Emmanuel Burgio

A finance background lends Burgio an understanding of the needs and demands of wealthy, time-strapped travelers, who come to him for bespoke trips that offer indulgent thrills like hydroplane flights to eco-lodges and private-estate stays in Peru’s Sacred Valley. best for adventure, luxury seekers 1-301/263-6670; emmanuel@blue​

Barkley Hickox

Hickox tailors hotels specifically to clients while keeping an eye out for off-the-radar pursuits, like flyfishing in Chile’s Puerto Varas region or hiking through Aisén, Patagonia, which she notes is more remote than Torres del Paine. best for luxury and thrill seekers 1-646/461-3161; barkley.hickox@local​

Beth Jenkins

Only 29, Jenkins is a tireless advocate for younger travelers, seeking out great rates at hotels and visiting destinations with specific clients in mind. Lately, she’s excited about Colombia and the renewed interest in Guatemala’s Mayan ruins. best for millennials, families, couples, honeymooners 1-703/762-5048; beth@ chile

Brian Pearson

Pearson, who splits his time between Santiago and the U.S., is well versed in outdoor adventure in Chile— horseback rides with gauchos, boat charters across Lake Tagua Tagua, multisport tours in the Lake District—which makes him the go-to for those who want adrenalinefilled experiences.

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sports, adventure 1-860/719-2382; brian@upscapetravel. com

best for


Marc Beale

Five years spent exploring every inch of his adopted country helped Beale uncover travel secrets few other outfitters have tapped, like family-owned inns in the lesser-known Tatacoa Desert and guided treks to San Agustín Archaeological Park. best for adventure, foodies, families 1-646/736-7582; marc@ gal ápagos islands

Brian Morgan

With a diverse portfolio of offerings, Morgan can arrange an island-hopping or science-​focused cruise as well as land-based itineraries involving kayaking and volcano hikes or sashimi making and coffee sampling on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands. Morgan is also adept at creating addons to Galápagos trips, like exploring Chile’s wine country. best for cruises, adventure galapagos@adventure-​

me x ico

Zachary Rabinor

Having worked his way up the tour-operator ladder before founding Journey Mexico, Rabinor has countrywide connections that allow him to plan everything from low-key honeymoons to helicopter hiking expeditions—all of it seamless from start to finish. best for adventure, luxury and thrill seekers 52-322/225-9821; zach@journey​m exico. com south american food and w ine

Liz Caskey

Consult this Santiagobased cookbook author and trained sommelier for hacienda stays in Chile’s Colchagua Valley wine region, visits to artisan cheese makers outside Buenos Aires, or oyster harvests alongside fishermen in the Chiloé Archipelago. Caskey also has insider knowledge on the best new under-the-radar hotels and restaurants. best for foodies, adventure, honeymooners, families 1-904/687-0340; liz@​

Australia, New Zealand & ThE South Pacific Experts australia

Cassandra Bookholder

Bookholder is always on the lookout for new ways to explore old favorites. Her latest finds include Brae, a farm-to-table restaurant in Birregurra, and her standbys include coastal treks outside Sydney—ideal escapes for those who don’t have time to venture farther into the interior. best for foodies, multi­generational families, adventure 1-602/889-5902; cassandra​b@camel​ back​t

Suzy Mercien-Ferol

Mercien-Ferol attracts a big-budget clientele with made-fromscratch itineraries that

can tap in to Australia’s cosmopolitan attractions as well as its bush luxury—like scoring the best suite at Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge or seeing Tasmania’s islands from the air. best for luxury seekers, adventure, off-the-beaten-path itineraries suzy.mercien@touring​ french poly nesia

Susanne Hamer

In a region that offers many packaged vacations, Hamer creates South Pacific trips with a personal touch, taking scouting trips to find the best overwater bungalows for views and privacy

as well as new shops, restaurants, and local experiences. best for celebration trips, honeymooners, families 1-310/689-5411; susanne.h@travel​

Christina Turrini

Robin L. Turner

Turner has made it her mission to find hidden value at the islands’ top properties. She also loves setting the scene for romantic moments—like helicopter rides to the heart-shaped Tupai atoll and candlelit dinners on the beach. best for

honeymooners, adventure, active travel robin.l.turner@aexp. com

Ruth Turpin

Cruising Experts large and small ships

Scott Kertes

Those who have attempted to make sense of a cruise’s fine print—which restaurants you can access at an allinclusive rate, how much Wi-Fi costs, what

is considered a premium drink—will understand Kertes’s value. He’s sailed on all the most popular lines and hunts for the best prices and packages. best for couples, baby boomers, groups

With more than 200 cruises under her belt, Turpin has a knack for pairing clients with the right itinerary and planning special onboard surprises— decorated staterooms, private dinners—that are typically difficult to secure. best for luxury seekers ruth@cruisesetctravel. com

Valerie Ann Wilson

In her 30-plus years on the job, Wilson has built 16 offices around the U.S., is chairman emeritus of  Virtuoso’s advisory board, and provides counsel for half a dozen travel brands. Her clients lean

This Tahiti insider knows all the right people to make almost any dream a reality— proposal photographers, an around-the-clock fitness trainer, a top Tahitian tattoo artist— and loves to throw in surprises like a canoe breakfast, a romantic beach dinner, or private shopping at a blackpearl jeweler. best for romance, adventure christina.turrini@ new zealand

Jean-Michel Jefferson No request is off-limits for Jefferson, who has set up 4 x 4 trips across the Southern Alps and

on her to score top hotels and match cruises according to group interests. best for

multigenerational families, adventure, foodies, luxury seekers, honeymooners 1-212/532-3400; small ships and ri ver cruises

Betsy Patton

Patton knows her ships inside and out—quiet reading corners, which staterooms maximize sunrise or sunset views—including river cruises, which she notes are gaining popularity in Europe and mimicking their

planned Maori blessings on a sacred mountain. best for adventure, luxury seekers, off-thebeaten-path itineraries 64-3/447-3558;

Donna Thomas

Thomas has explored many corners of North and South Islands in search of hidden gems. She can help birdwatchers see the endangered yelloweyed penguin or send avid trekkers on guided hikes to secret waterfalls in Paparoa National Park. best for celebration trips, adventure, families

ocean counterparts with French balconies and better bathrooms. best for

multigenerational families, couples 1-239/260-4011;

Marcella Rappoport

Trust Rappoport to be on top of cruising trends (South American and Asian boat routes), questions (ship security procedures and health risks), and the newest ships, like the 31-cabin Crystal Esprit, which sails through the Seychelles and the Adriatic. best for culture buffs, luxury seekers 1-212/329-7260; mrappoport@ovation​

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Europe Experts central europe

Gwen Kozlowski

Kozlowski is as comfortable designing a monthlong trip through Poland as she is a simple city stopover in Prague. She tests everything out first-hand, whether that means exploring every room in a hotel or vetting a self-drive trip before her clients hit the road. best for

multigenerational families, long-term travel gwen@exeter

Nathalie Nagy

This part-time Budapest resident keeps close tabs on developments in popular places like Prague and Berlin (where she once arranged a trip to an abandoned NSA outpost led by a former spy), as well as in emerging destinations like Romania, Poland and Slovenia. best for culture buffs, luxury seekers 1-212/409-9562; nathalie.nagy@

Ellison Poe

Poe, whose parents founded Poe Travel 55 years ago, considers Austria a second home and can call on childhood friends and business contacts across central Europe to pull strings for things like an overnight in a private castle in Prague or a visit to a Lipizzaner farm in Vienna. best for history


lovers, special experiences france

as tipping, and on upcoming events. best for culture buffs, first-timers to Paris 1-646/280-0707; yaron.

Murielle Blanchard

Blanchard considers herself a bridge between French and American cultures. She personally examines everything she recommends; recent finds include Carrières de Lumières, a multimedia show in a former quarry in Provence, and La Grande Maison, in Bordeaux. best for adventure, culture buffs murielle@blackpearl​

Bob Preston

Having lived in the French Alps, in Paris, and on the Côte d’Azur, Preston can deliver hands-on experiences (making croissants with a Parisian baker, private shopping at Hermès) that are otherwise off-limits to travelers, thanks to his little black book of influencers. best for foodies, multigenerational families, celebrations 1-347/696-1050; bob@​ paris

Yaron Yarimi

Yarimi goes beyond the expected hotels and museums to explore flea markets, afterhours clubs, and fledgling restaurants. He also briefs clients before their departure on local customs, such

german y

Virginia Giordano

Berlin-based Giordano designs made-fromscratch itineraries with help from a network of architects, art scholars, historians and specialist guides, and draws upon her own finger-on-thepulse knowledge of hotel and restaurant openings. best for culture buffs, history lovers, foodies 49-30/305-3890; greece

Mina Agnos

It’s hard to ask a question about Greece that Agnos can’t answer, be it about perennially popular destinations such as the Cyclades or lesserknown corners—her passion—like the island of Melos and private collections at select museums, to which she can arrange exclusive visits. best for culture buffs, off-the-beaten-path experiences 1-561/300-7436; mina@ greece and turke y

Christos Stergiou

Based in Athens, Stergiou champions local activities; he’s arranged food tours to off-the-radar

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restaurants in Istanbul, for example. These days he’s excited about the new resorts on the Halkidiki peninsula, known for its golden beaches. best for history lovers, off-the-beatenpath experiences christos@truegreece. com

Petros Zissimos

Whether he’s planning once-in-a-lifetime trips or working with big groups, Zissimos is known for putting his clients in sense-ofplace hotels and surprising them with extras like a romantic dinner on the isle of Naxos or a yacht trip along the Bosporus. best for

honeymooners, multigenerational families, value-conscious travelers 1-212/944-8288; pzissimos@hellenic​ ireland

Jonathan Epstein

With Epstein, you’ll get the best that Ireland has to offer—private culinary tours, pub crawls in Dublin, meet and greets with distillers—along with access to the country’s most exclusive golf courses. best for road trippers, golf, luxury seekers, solo travelers 1-404/812-9298; jonathan@celebrated​

Siobhan Byrne Learat

Learat makes guests feel like royalty by setting them up in extravagant country homes (including Lismore Castle, owned by the Duke of Devonshire) and getting them access to the local elite (like shopping in Dublin with the fashion editor of the Irish Times).

castle stays, history lovers, honeymooners 353-86/232-9932; ​ siobhan@adamsand​

best for


Joyce Falcone

For Falcone, who has traveled the Boot from Bergamo to Bari, no request is too out of the ordinary (she built a themed trip around a small religious sect in Piedmont when other agents failed) or budget too small (she offers consultation to clients who wish to make reservations on their own). best for unusual itineraries, value-conscious travelers info@italianconcierge. com

Emily FitzRoy

FitzRoy’s clients see a side of the country otherwise unavailable, thanks to her unparalleled access. She once secured seats in the Royal Box at La Fenice opera house in Venice with only seven days’ notice, and booked a private palazzo near the Spanish Steps that had never before been rented. best for luxury seekers, celebrations 44-20/7602-7602; emily@bellinitravel. com

Andrea Grisdale

Grisdale’s trips bring travelers as close to living like an Italian as possible. Besides having an exclusive portfolio of villas, she also invests in nonprofits that work to restore historic buildings and keep artisan traditions alive throughout the country. best for heritage travel, architectural conservation


Uri Harash

Rome-based Harash loves showing travelers an alternative side of his adopted home: family scavenger hunts through Pompeii, fittings with luxuryclothing designers, tours through emerging regions like Matera, and Tuscany beyond the food and wine. best for culture buffs, off-the-beaten-path itineraries, multigenerational families 39-345/040-6396; info@perfettotraveler. com russia

Greg Tepper

Tepper is your man for seeing Russia. In Moscow, he can secure one of the few Four Seasons rooms with balconies that overlook the Kremlin and knows exactly which restaurants serve the best locally sourced meals. At Pushkin’s Catherine Palace, his clients are invited into workshops where craftsmen rebuilt the famous amber panels looted during World War II. best for families, culture buffs 1-813/251-5355; greg@ exeterinternational. com scandinav ia and iceland

Diane B. Eide

Eide makes a point of getting to know her regions in both high and low seasons (she took a dog-sledding trip in Norway to witness the northern lights before she let a client do it). In Iceland, she gets the best guides and hotel rooms, despite the tourism

boom’s strain on local infrastructure. best for adventure 1-480/759-8490; diane@travelxperts. com scotland

Claire Schoeder

This British-history scholar showcases the best of Scotland, whether her clients want to drive between historic villages and sleep in castles or do something more novel, like falcon hunts and rides on the train used in the Harry Potter films. best for culture buffs, history lovers 1-770/977-9475; claire@

families, offthe-beaten-path itineraries, luxury seekers 34-91/448-7275; virginia@madefor​ spain.​com

Joel A. Zack

Trained as an architect and historic preservationist, Zack seeks out uniquely Iberian experiences like private bungalows at the Seville Fair, a tile workshop for kids inspired by Gaudí’s mosaics, or horseback rides through remote parts of Portugal’s Alentejo. best for cultural immersion, history lovers joel@​htprivatetravel. com

English tastemakers like a florist to the stars in Chelsea or a makeup artist at West End theater. best for couples, families 44-77/6680-6727; nicola@noteworthy.

Ellen LeCompte

LeCompte can arrange white-glove experiences that impress even the most demanding Anglophiles (high tea with aristocracy, a director’s tour of the subterranean archives of the Churchill War Rooms). She can also secure rooms at the Lanesborough with views of Buckingham Palace’s garden.

luxury seekers, history lovers ellen@lecomptetravel. com

best for

Linda M. Raymer

First-time U.K. travelers will appreciate Raymer’s creative approach to must-see destinations and tried-and-true itineraries, like touring London in a Mini Cooper or taking a personalized walking tour through the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods. best for culture buffs, adventure, foodies 1-615/400-4635; linda.

David Tobin

Tobin, who is based in Edinburgh, is known for combining cultural experiences—walking tours inspired by novels, tea in castles with dukes and countesses, distillery tours where you can cask your own whisky—with access to the country’s best golf courses. best for culture buffs, history lovers, adventure, golf 44-84/52-601-085; ​ david@dreamescape. spain and portugal 

Virginia Irurita

Madrid-based Irurita travels throughout the Iberian Peninsula during the year to stay on top of developments in Spain and Portugal. Her nontraditional guides—artists and designers, historians and architects—offer a fresh look at the region, be it sampling pintxos in San Sebastián or painting azulejos in a small factory outside Lisbon. best for foodies, multigenerational

swit zerland

Ilene Koenig

Koenig, a passionate skier, keeps visits to Switzerland fresh by scouting out new hotels and researching insider diversions, like a rickshaw ride through Bern and Thun that takes blanket-cloaked travelers to fondue restaurants. She also ensures that ski adventures are seamless by arranging helicopter transfers between towns like Verbier and Zermatt. best for culture buffs, history lovers, winter sports, adventure, foodies 1-310/451-5805; ilene@ united kingdom

Nicola Butler

Butler secures unparalleled access to the U.K., such as behind-the-scenes entry to Buckingham Palace, Sandringham Estate, and Windsor Castle during the changing of the guard and appointments with

Caribbean Experts Margie Hand

When it comes to vetting resorts, for Hand, it’s all about the details: diaper-delivery service and kid’s clubs for families, wheelchair-ready showers for seniors, and unannounced extras like private catamaran rides or a favorite bottle of wine upon arrival. best for

multigenerational families, destination weddings, honeymooners margie.hand@andavo​

Janet McLaughlin

McLaughlin can get rooms in sold-out hotels, but she can also show you the Caribbean beyond its resorts, from buzzy restaurants with ofthe-moment chefs to shops and galleries that favor local products over dime-adozen souvenirs. best for

multigenerational families, out-of-thebox experiences, honeymooners 1-513/533-7867; jmclaughlin@provident​

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Special-Interest Experts adventure

Betty Jo Currie

Currie’s mission is to connect people to farflung destinations, whether that means flying in an open-door helicopter over Norway’s Lofoten Islands, fishing in remote rivers in New Zealand, or dining in the bush in Botswana. best for adventure, thrill seekers, multigenerational families 1-404/254-5677; bettyjo@currieco

Brooke Garnett

Garnett, a former dive master in the Andaman Sea, creates trips that combine light adventure with comfort—stay in a tent in the Aussie outback followed by a stint at the Park Hyatt Sydney. best for adventure, millennials 1-212/627-1950; bgarnett@absolute​

Susan Sparks

About 70 percent of Sparks’s trips include biking and hiking, so she makes sure to map out paths in advance, noting distance and altitude to prepare her clients for journeys to Vietnam and Nepal. best for active travel, honeymooners 1-970/925-1482; susan@poitraveler. com air travel

Michael Holtz

Holtz has access to airline inventory that


doesn’t show up on Kayak or Expedia (at discounts as deep as 40 percent on first- and business-class fares), and knows how to get the most luxurious options, like Etihad’s Airbus 380 residence. best for luxury seekers 1-212/268-9088; michael@smartflyer. com business travel

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg

Have a last-minute meeting or less than 12 hours between an executive retreat and family vacation? Wilson-Buttigieg knows the pressures of time-stretched travelers and manages behind-the-scenes details like visa procurement and group expense management. best for C-level clients, last-minute trips, multigenerational families 1-212/592-1210; jennifer ​ culture and education

Lisa Lindblad

Lindblad approaches destinations through the context of their people and traditions while building in time for spontaneity. Her local connections— writers, architects, chefs—are unmatched. best for history lovers, curious travelers, foodies

1-212/876-2554; lisa@

Andrea Malis

Malis often presents trip ideas as a visual storyboard for those who travel to learn, connect, and dive in to a destination. She also has a sixth sense for under-the-radar finds, like hidden restaurants in Tokyo or wilderness guides in Vancouver. best for educational trips, luxury seekers 1-520/360-7843; amalis@odysseyluxe. com destination celebrations

Jody Bear

Bear treats planning a milestone vacation as an opportunity to create an over-the-top itinerary—previous trips have involved everything from a birthday lunch on an Icelandic glacier to a family Christmas in South Africa. best for

honeymooners, destination weddings, families 1-212/340-0301; jodyb@

John Clifford

Three decades’ worth of contacts all over the world allow Clifford to organize extravagant group trips, from a weeklong wedding celebration in Lecce, Italy, to a private-​ island takeover in the Bahamas for an active reunion. best for fashion and art lovers, luxury

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seekers, multigenerational families, LGBT travelers 1-619/299-2359; john@ internationaltravel​ di v ing

Robert Becker

Becker’s connections in marine-research circles produce one-ofa-kind trip opportunities (recently, a biodiversity-research expedition in Kiribati). He also goes out of his way to work with outfitters that support local economies and protect the oceans. best for adventure, thrill seekers 1-212/409-9527; robert. becker@pro​t ravel​inc. com fishing

Mollie Fitzgerald

Annual visits to emerging and bucketlist angler destinations like Russia, Iceland and Norway make Fitzgerald an expert on when and where to cast a line. She also knows all the tricks, like a bait shop in Iceland that offers guided trips that include transportation from Reykjavík. best for

multigenerational families 1-724/935-1577; mollie@frontiers food and w ine

Lynda Turley Garrett Garrett believes restaurants are the

cornerstone of every trip and plans entire vacations around food and drink (Tasmanian vineyard tours, cooking classes in India), making a point to scope out littleknown spots. best for

multigenerational families, honeymooners, LGBT travelers 1-831/708-4030; lyndat@alpine-travel. com

Keith Waldon

Waldon is the owner of Departure Lounge, a high-tech coffee and wine bar in Austin, Texas, that doubles as a travel agency, and is best known for his innovative methods of helping clients find extraordinary food experiences, like special access to wineries in the Dijon region of France. best for curious travelers, families, honeymooners 1-512/322-9399; kwaldon@​d eparture​ golf

Chad Clark

Clark has played at hundreds of courses in more than 30 countries and can get clients on exclusive greens—not to mention securing après-golf activities (like oysters at Berckmans Place during the Masters). best for adventure, sports 1-602/228-2928; cclark@chadclark

lgbt travel

David M. Rubin

Rubin ensures that his clients are warmly received wherever they travel, even in countries with less-tolerant governments, and doesn’t shy away from advising guides and hotel staff on cultural sensitivities and communication practices. best for luxury seekers, culture buffs 1-949/427-0199; david@davidtravel. com

1-212/329-7396; jstein@ovationtravel. com

1-602/889-5862; karenb@​camelback​

Stacy Small

Sylvia Betesh Lebovitch

Adept at working with the time constraints of busy couples, Small travels more than half the year to ensure that she experiences every hotel, hard-to-find shop, and non-touristy neighborhood before planning a romantic trip for her clients. best for

honeymooners, luxury seekers 1-310/826-2939; stacy@elitetravel


Judy Stein

Stein is a door opener with a team skilled in honeymoon planning: not only do they have a detailed database of the best rooms for a romantic getaway but they have incredible pull, including once convincing a chef to open his Michelinstarred restaurant on a day it’s typically closed. best for

honeymooners, luxury seekers

spas and wellness

Karen Benson

Benson, who plans around 70 spa-themed trips a year, is your resource for a girls’ weekend at a spa, an intensive monthlong retreat, or blessing and healing ceremonies in places like Cambodia and Bhutan, where she can arrange private meetings with a monk. best for adventure, couples

This registered dietitian plans trips that combine her passions for health and nutrition—spa vacations, fitness camps, yoga retreats and makes cards listing allergies in the local language to take the stress out of dining abroad. best for foodies, sybarites, families 1-212/329-7294; slebovitch@ovation​ weddings and

in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. best for multi-country trips 1-212/651-2110; josh. alexander@protravel​

Jim Augerinos

Augerinos has taken his family business to a new level thanks to onthe-ball communication and a tech-savvy approach— required when working with millennials. He also constantly visits new hotels instead of relying on standbys. best for millennials 1-703/748-3000; jim@​ perfect​h oneymoons. com

Harlan deBell & Kara Bebell

hone y moons

Josh Alexander

He’s only been in the business six years, but Alexander is already making a name for himself by planning honeymoons with highly detailed and complicated logistics, whether that’s a multi-country African safari or island-hopping escapes

This brotherand-sister team specializes in destination-wedding planning. They have a long list of industry contacts (caterers, florists, bands) in the Caribbean, Europe, and beyond, and tons of practical tips, like how to bring your pet along.

destination weddings, international pet travel harlan​d @​ and kara​

best for

Peter Lloyd

Working with Lloyd is like consulting a travel-savvy friend: his honeymoon itineraries are filled with personal suggestions, from his favorite romantic restaurants on a Caribbean island to the best neighborhood strolls in a big city. best for adventure, foodies 1-404/324-4019; peter@

Kristen Pike

Pike’s bespoke itineraries—like a multi-stop journey through the Middle East, Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania she recently planned— are constantly reevaluated and perfected. best for mini-moons, trips of a lifetime 1-404/458-6800; kristen@​

Family-Travel Experts Julie Danziger

Danziger goes the extra mile when designing family getaways (especially for foodfocused trips): she’s flown kosher meat by private plane to safari locations and combed through menus for a gluten-free trip through Italy. And that’s not to mention

little extras like monogrammed aprons for a cooking class. best for foodies, adventure 1-212/329-7289; julied@ovationtravel. com

Jessica Griscavage

Itineraries by Griscavage—who has taken her son on

vacations to Hawaii, and Disney theme parks—tap in to niche interests that provide fun for all, like stargazing sails for budding astronomers or biologist-led volcano tours for nature lovers. best for first-time family travelers, multigenerational families

1-703/762-5056; jessica@mccabeworld. com

Sam McClure

McClure’s forte is planning extended trips that typically run six months to a year, during which she not only helps with logistics but also designs students’

continued curricula and educational itineraries. Recently, McClure planned a sixmonth around-theworld trip for a family of four that included stops in 23 countries. best for around-theworld trips, long-term travel 1-512/495-9495; sam@

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In celebration of HM Queen Sirikit’s 7th cycle Birthday Acclaimed as number one classical ballet companies in Russia with 90 artists consisting of high-class professionals, winners of national and international contests.


The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet Supported by Embassy of Russia

sunday 11 september (2.30 pm) Baht 4,000 / 3,000 / 2,500 / 1,800 / 1,200

A electrifying staging of georges Bizet’s masterpiece by Russia’s number one opera company. This production won "The golden Mask" in "Best Director" and "Best Actress".


The Helikon Opera, Moscow Composer: Georges Bizet Conductor: Valery Kiryanov

Supported by Embassy of Russia

Hotline 02 262 3191 (24 hrs)

Tuesday 20 september (7.30 pm)

Baht 4,500 / 3,500 / 3,000 / 2,000 / 1,500

Venue: Thailand Cultural Centre. Free shuttle from MRT station Thailand Cultural Centre, exit 1, during 5.30-7.00pm

pornsak na nakorn

At Laugh in The South Beach, Singapore: dress, Chai Gold Label; heels, Jimmy Choo; bracelet, Erickson Beamon from Could 9.

/ september 2016 / A breath of fresh air in Yunnan | Sauntering

through The South Beach, Singapore’s new style showcase | Phnom Penh vies to be the capital of hip | Remaking Barcelona in a Catalonian creative wave


Spir ited A wa y What lies beyond the China of fast-paced cities and hypermodern culture? horatio clare journeys to the rural province of Yunnan, where age-old beliefs and traditions offer a glimpse of the country’s soul. photographed by Peter Bohler


september 2016 / tr av el andleisure asia .com

Three intricate ninth-century pagodas, known as the San Ta Si, stand near the shore of Erhai Lake, outside the historic town of Dali.

Yunnan m e an s

‘ s outh of the clouds .’ And as I arrived in this southwesternmost pocket of China, so it appeared to be. The Han Dynasty invaders who named this province could never have imagined that, one day, much of the rest of the country would be covered in a gray veil of pollution—that you could travel from Chengdu in the center to Beijing in the north and never see blue sky. But I flew in the other direction, south, and as we came down toward Dali, one of Yunnan’s prettier towns, lagoons appeared through the vapor below us. To the west, great peaks thrust up, outliers of the Himalayas. We circled lower and there, suddenly, was the deep blue of Erhai Lake and the shining green forests of the Cang Shan range, known as the Azure Mountains. To be met off the plane by sunshine, birdsong and butterflies seemed almost unbelievable, because I had traveled in China before, the China of mighty cities and poisoned air. In the past 35 years, 500 million people have moved from rural areas to vast urban centers— migration on a scale without precedent. In those cities I had seen China’s power, appetite and prowess, but no clear sky, no wild creatures, nothing of nature’s bright wonder. Aside from couples dancing by the light of digital billboards in Shanghai, I had caught little of the nation’s soul. So this was to be a search for the spiritual, the beautiful and true: a journey from Yunnan’s flat farmlands down near the border with Burma, up to the high plateaus of the eastern Himalayas. The route would take me due north along rising roads, traveling from Dali into the hills and then higher, all the way to Tibet and Shangri-La. I would meet shamans, priests and wise women, who would show me the ancient currents of belief that still pulse at the edges of the world’s most rapidly modernizing country.


hese encounters began with my first guide, Li Jie, a former nurse with the Chinese army, much traveled. Jie met my flight, took one look at me, diagnosed jet lag, and offered what appeared to be stale toast. It turned out to be honeyed pastry. As we drove up the lovely western shore of Erhai Lake I felt as though I had woken into a dream. “Ear-shaped sea,” Jie


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translated, before conceding, “A very long ear.” Out on the water men fished from boats, and a bird of prey turned slowly on the thermals. Between the mountains and the lake stood three figures, tall and slender, like pale ghosts. “The San Ta Si!” Jie said, “Look! A thousand years old.” The San Ta Si are pagodas, each more that 40 meters high and intricate as carved ivory. Constructed in the ninth century, they are expressions of the art and faith of the Bai people, whose Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms endured from the seventh century until 1253, when Kublai Khan’s Mongol warriors came down from the high plateaus. The Mongol empire fell long ago, but more than a million Bai people remain—one of several minority ethnicities that thrive here, far from China’s main cities. The villages of Xizhou and Zhoucheng, at the northern end of Erhai Lake, are today home to Yunnan’s greatest concentration of Bai architecture and custom. My base from which to explore them was the Linden Centre hotel in Xizhou, a 1948 courtyard house built by a merchant named Yang Pin Xiang that today feels like a living work of art. Its wooden balconies, doors and lintels are networks of exquisite carving, a Bai specialty. “It’s a national relic,” said Jeanee Linden, the center’s Chinese-American co-owner. “During the Cultural Revolution the building was occupied by the army, so the Red Guards never got in,” she said, explaining why the wooden birds, fish, dragons, and flowers had escaped vandalism.

Performers in the nightly variety show about Naxi


near t r a v e culture l a n d l ethat i s u takes r e a s iplace a . c o m  /   a the u g utown st 2 of 0 1 Lijiang. 6

Songzanlin Monastery, on the outskirts of Shangri-La.

Dongba shaman Shi Chun’s home in the Wenhai valley. Below: Tibetanstyle dri-butter tea and cheese, with balep bread and toasted barley flour, or tsampa.

Spices for sale in Xizhou’s morning market.

Traditional Bai tie-dyeing techniques in the village of Zhoucheng.

Na x i

wo m e n sit in t h e t ow n s qua r e , r e d ou ta b l e i n b lu e m ao ca p s a n d bu l ky c oat s

The Cultural Revolution left very few other examples of Bai art and culture standing, and a postrevolutionary desire for progress meant such historic structures were, until recently, not much valued. “Too many things in China have been taken down in the name of modernity,” Jeanee said. At the Linden Centre, careful preservation and delicate restoration have saved a marvel for the world. Jeanee and her husband, Brian, count Western diplomats and Chinese officials among their guests—all attracted by the Lindens’ determination to form a bridge between Occident and Orient. “But in the last two years the market has shifted,” she said. “Chinese people are also seeking this kind of experience now. A lot of them feel out of touch with rural life.” That rural life comes right up to the windows of the Linden Centre’s charmingly creaky rooms. Beyond mine, men and women cleared paddies of the remnants of a rice crop, replacing it with garlic bulbs. As a farmer’s son, I do not romanticize working the land, but the easy solidarity of the sowers was beguiling. In nearby Zhoucheng village I passed a gentle hour learning tie-dyeing, a Bai specialty. Ladies in traditional dress chattered and laughed as they stitched patterns into cloth before plunging it into vats of dye. Their elaborate costumes are not worn just for the benefit of visitors: the streets throng with women in magnificent Bai bonnets. Jie explained that the tassels on these hats represent the wind, and are worn long by

unmarried women, short by those who are married. The hats’ crescent shape symbolizes the moon reflected in Erhai Lake; white ruffs denote the snows of the Cang Shan peaks. Thus clothes are symbolic reflections of place, culture and individual status. Similarly, Bai villages are mosaics of local gods and symbols. “There are gods for kitchens, wealth, study, chickens—gods for everything!” Jie said. “And all the local gods have birthdays.” She pointed out zhi ma, the woodcut images of these gods that speckle many Bai doorways and houses. In temples, effigies of Buddhist, Taoist, and local, or Benzhuist, deities sit side by side: the Bai see no contradiction in revering figures from different traditions. In the evenings, men hurry through the streets with bundles of thick red incense sticks like cartoon dynamite and baskets of vegetables, the corporeal and the spiritual interwined. That night, our supper was spiced pork, noodles, rice and winter greens at the house of the Lindens’ neighbor Shi Jiazhen. The food of rural Yunnan is a hearty treat for Chinese visitors as much as it is for Westerners, and along with Jie and the Lindens, I gorged. Outside the hotel the night air smelled of earth, straw, and the cold of starlight. The following morning I visited Xizhou’s market, where I found myself among men selling the ingredients of every Chinese meal you have ever eaten, from live chickens to fresh fungus. All my fellow visitors were Chinese, many of them young—of the generation whose parents were among the 800 million people lifted out of rural poverty in the decades following 1978, when the government of Deng Xiaoping began relaxing its economic policies. Many of these urbanites now visit the countryside for pleasure, either returning to their ancestral villages or exploring picturesque areas easily accessible from their home cities. In the center of Xizhou I watched one such young, cosmopolitan couple taking multiple selfies, performing the now-global rite of digitally confirming their vacation.


fter lunch I took the road north with a new guide, Zhao Ming, who told me to call him Jack. The highway climbed through the mountains to Lijiang, a town on a plateau below Yu Long Xue Shan, or Jade Dragon Snow Mountain— its name derived from the fact that it can look like a green dragon lying on its stomach, covered in snow. A ferocious peak of spined rock and ice, Yu Long is sacred to the indigenous Naxi people. They insist it has never been climbed. The Naxi are animists, worshippers of nature. They have no temples. Their religion, Dongba, meaning “wise man,” is led by shamans, and passed down in pictographs that resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs—the last such script still living. Jack is a Buddhist, but was raised in the Benzhuist tradition of the Bai people. He was an electrician before he took up tourism, and he is married to a Naxi woman, named Quixian. Naxi women are renowned for their work ethic (“We say, ‘You marry a Naxi, you marry ten mules!’” Jack crowed). Though Quixian works as a university lecturer, the couple still incorporates her Dongba faith into their lives. “Our baby cried and cried every night,” Jack offered as an example. “A shaman said he was troubled by a ghost and did a ritual in our apartment—it filled with smoke! The baby never cried like that again.” Lijiang’s big attraction is its old town, Dayan. A winding maze of canals, passages, boutiques, cafés and houses crested with flippedup cornices like the wings of pagodas, it is an entrancing place to t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


wander in the light of a bright morning. Where the 800-year-old streets meet the new town we found the falcon market, a cluster of men with birds of prey on their fists. There was a hypnotic beauty and power in the birds’ barred chests, clutching talons, and furious eyes. I was tempted to buy a captive and release it, but falconry here dates back to the time of the Mongols, who introduced hunting with golden eagles. It would have been quixotic to go against such an old tradition, and anyway the goshawk seller would surely have set out immediately to trap another one. Another kind of hunt takes place in Dayan come evening, when the streets are a tumult of young tourists from elsewhere in China, thunderous with the music of bars, afizz with drink and flirtation. “One-night-stand street!” laughed Guo Jian Zhong, a Lijiang resident I met in a trendy tea shop who told me his life had been changed by a Christian missionary. He said he avoids Dayan at night, preserving his chastity for the wife he hopes to meet. Chris DeLacy, a young American working in China who is familiar with Lijiang’s bar scene, echoed this sentiment. “Don’t mess with the Naxi girls. Two of my friends had relationships with them. When they tried to break it off, they both got stabbed!” Neither wound was serious, but both are indicative of the strength of Naxi pride. From the early 18th century, when direct imperial rule was imposed on the Naxi, the Han ethnic majority’s system of arranged marriages caused them great distress. The Naxi, who allowed boys and girls to mix freely and to choose their own romantic partners, fought the new laws in a terrible way. Lijiang became a suicide capital, with many hundreds of couples eloping to Yu Long Xue Shan to meet their ends there, believing they would ascend together to a heaven of everlasting youth and love. Suicide became a romantic cult, with participants treating it as an eternal-marriage vow. The American botanist and anthropologist Joseph Rock, who lived at the foot of the mountain in the early 20th century, recorded six couples taking this fateful course together in a single day. Today, Naxi women sit in the old town’s square, redoubtable in blue Mao caps and bulky traditional coats that are said to make them resemble frogs. Frogs, being great breeders, are held sacred by the Naxi, who were historically outnumbered by the southern Bai and the Tibetans to the north. Modern China, dominated by the cities, the Han, and the Communist party, has in many ways preserved Naxi culture from its traditional foes. Minorities were persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, but in the post-Mao era, the government promoted ethnic diversity and local traditions as a means of boosting national harmony. The Dongba religion had been so weakened by the revolution that it was no longer seen as a threat


night air s m e l l e d o f e a rt h , s t r aw a n d t h e c o l d o f s ta r l i g h t 84 

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by the authorities. As time passed, the Naxi way of life, like that of many other minority groups, grew to be seen as a relic, or a ready-made tourist attraction. These traditions are one reason why international tourism is booming in Yunnan. From Lijiang to Shangri-La are high-end chains like Aman, Banyan Tree and, of course, Shangri-La allowing this dramatic trail to be traveled in easy luxury. A variety show about Naxi culture called Impression Lijiang takes place daily in a theater below Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, an extravaganza created by the film director Zhang Yimou, who made House of Flying Daggers. Five hundred actors perform sketches involving horses and drums against the backdrop of the sacred peak. Kitsch and bombast—the very image of what the historian Eric Hobsbawm termed “the invention of tradition”—do not detract from the sweetly moving relationship between the cast and the audience, who waved at each other throughout, and joined at the end in a mass wish for peace and harmony. After the show I had lunch with a Naxi family known to my guide, whose members offer traditional cooking in a small courtyard house. At a table beside a pomegranate tree over sumptuous pork and eggplant, peppers and potatoes, the father of the family, Li Bo Wei, a farmer’s son who sold his land for development, decried the school system that occupies his 15-year-old son from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. each day, leaving him no time to memorize Dongba pictographs. “He says he wants to put us into an old people’s home!” laughed Wei. “I hate Chinese education.”


n hour or so away in the Wenhai valley, on the south side of the mountain, we sat with a shaman, Hong Zheng Yong, in the courtyard of his house—a place of deep tranquillity perched like an aerie in the heights. Yong has a book that allows him to interpret the cries of crows. He has a tiger fetish dedicated to the Yi god Wu Tu, inside which are divination sticks for fortune telling. There was nothing of the charlatan about him—Yong brimmed with goodness, sincerity and fun. I asked him for a blessing. He leafed through a sheaf of papers bound to a stick. Then he began a chant, undulating from deep in his throat, an entrancing incantation summoned from an ancient time. He said, “This blessing is for a traveler. That you will return safely, your family will have harmony, and your work will prosper.” It was a comforting benediction for someone taking the road to Shangri-La. Over the dull

Golden prayer flags at the Ganden Songzanlin Monastery.

Dongba shaman Shi Chun in his garden in the Wenhai valley.

Traditional Bai wood paneling at the Linden Centre hotel, in the village of Xizhou. Preparing horses for a race in Ringha, Tibet.

A hand-painted panel at the Linden Centre.

The ingredients of a traditional Tibetan hot pot, served in a yurt at the Banyan Tree Ringha resort near Shangri-La. opposite: A monk at the Songzanlin Monastery.


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gleam of the Yangtze, between the white peaks of Yu Long and Haba mountains, we drove, up and up, the road a precipitous zigzag rumbling with trucks, which Chinese custom demands be overtaken with reckless panache. This used to be a part of the Tea Horse Road, a mule path through the Himalayas from China to India. My new guide, Dakpa Kelden, told me his father was one of the last to trade Chinese Pu-er tea along this route. Pu-er is a winking rosy amber when brewed, smelling like sweet young leather and, according to Dakpa, promising potent longevity. “You know Tibetans cannot live without tea, right?” Dakpa said, completely seriously. The traders risked all to bring it to them. The route crosses 78 peaks, each more than 2,700 meters high. “My father ran away from his family to be a muleteer,” Dakpa said. “So dangerous! Every pass was a victory.” With the crossing of the Yangtze we were closing in on the Tibet Autonomous Region. To this traveler’s eye, the region already looked like another country altogether. When finally we topped the Tibetan Plateau, almost 3,000 meters up, we found a new world, a place of

faith, to judge by the Buddhist stupas and their streaming prayer flags, and of mysteries, by the feeling in the frigid wind. We passed black yaks, which seem to wear fur coats draped over their shoulders; and black dris, which are female yaks; and black dzos, which are half yak, half ox; and hairy black pigs; and black choughs and ravens. The mountains marched in phalanxes through the searing light, under a Himalayan sky so blue it seemed to roar. This was Gyalthang, the muleteer’s gateway to Tibet. Gyalthang was originally a vast meadow where traders fed and refreshed their horses; the town of the same name was a market and a key point on the Tea Horse Road. In a stroke of marketing genius the Chinese government in 2001 rebranded Gyalthang as Shangri-La, after the fictional mountain paradise of James Hilton’s 1933 book Lost Horizon. Today, the place has the hectic activity of a town on the up. Everywhere men were working wood in a meticulous mass reconstruction effort. “For the Chinese, Tibet is a real dream,” Dakpa said, smiling gently, as we watched that dream being built up around us. Shangri-La presents an extraordinary double vision: an old town being rebuilt in Tibetan style with the aim of luring tourists, primarily domestic Chinese; a new town adjacent to the old being built with the aim of populating Tibet (no Tibetan would dare say “colonizing”) with arrivals from the rest of China. A railway line linking the plateau to Lijiang is under construction, and everywhere there are cameras and police, ensuring this progress is frictionless—or at least unopposed. Talking politics is a hushed t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


A view of the Yangtze River with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain behind it, as seen from the road to Shangri-La.

business in China. In Tibet, which was invaded by China in 1950, several people I spoke to begged me not to write anything that might be construed as political criticism.


udging by their laughter, it seemed no Tibetan expected me to be uncritical of their national drink: Tibetan dri-butter tea, widely and incorrectly known as yak-butter tea (yaks, being male, don’t produce milk). At the Ganden Sumtseling monastery on the outskirts of Shangri-La, a senior monk named Nyawang Jhampa made what looked like a classic English brew but was sour and very salty, with gaseous overtones. I have a strong stomach, but two sips were too many. Nyawang, 40, has a lovely lopsided face, smile-lined. His name means “power of compassion,” and his life has been devoted to prayer. But when he and Dakpa began to discuss the future of the monastery, his expression became melancholy. In the past, Nyawang said, “to have a monk in the family was like building a golden stupa. Very auspicious.” But citizenship of modern China has affected monastic values, even here in the Himalayas. “All my life is for the community. For us, this goes to the next life. Many young monks find this very hard.” In one prayer hall we found two of these novices playing a battle game on mobile phones, which they stuffed guiltily into their robes when they saw us. Each monk’s dwelling now has a TV, a compulsory gift from the government. The older monks can control the urge to have it on constantly, Nyawang said, but not the young.


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“Living in the world is improving, but I feel people have lost morality.” It seemed my search for ancient soul in modern China had taken a sad turn until we went out into the Kochi, or “hidden” valley, to visit a Tibetan farm. Tashi Lhamu’s traditional house is a huge, decorated wooden marvel. It overlooks a farmyard where Tashi was feeding her pigs. Tashi is a small, energetic woman in a red baseball cap. Her husband was working in the fields, she said, leaving her to a relentless round of feeding their children and animals, offering incense and prayers, milking dris, collecting firewood, shepherding livestock, cleaning, talking, and, finally, briefly sleeping. I have rarely met anyone so obviously in love with life, despite such a grueling routine. “I never get tired,” she laughed. “I love my animals—I never want to sell them. Winter is hard. With the snow the animals can’t go out, and in summer I worry about the pigs raiding the barley. But the more work I do, the more food we have—and then I can offer some to the monastery, and to other people!” She made this last point with arresting pride and relish. Tashi lives on a harsh frontier. At >>

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Visitors on the streets of Dayan, Lijiang’s old town—an 800-yearold maze of canals, passageways, boutiques and cafés.

2,700 meters the sun is a blazing flail. In winter the winds are lethal. There is an ethereal beauty to the plateau, where the tink-tonk of cowbells, choughs’ whistles and roosters’ crows make up the soundscape, but what Westerners would recognize as Tashi’s rewards are few. During the celebration of the new year she visits hot springs for a week, and in June there is horse racing, which she loves. Her huge pleasure at producing a tiny surplus to give away absolutely seized me. As long as there remain people who live and think like this, there is hope for humanity— there must be, I decided. On the flight back to my own world I thought of Tashi, and of Yong the shaman, and Nyawang the monk, people who to us seem materially impoverished, but who feel their lives are rich. I gazed out my window down at the plateaus and mountains they call home. There was no sign of any habitation, only the indifferent wilderness. In these distant places you feel the proximity of spirits; indeed, you may meet people who live with them, and who know wonder as we might know a neighbor, and you may sit and talk with them, still.


The details getting there Fly to Dali from Shanghai or Beijing via Kunming or Chengdu. hotels Amandayan Perched on a hill overlooking Lijiang’s old town, this property offers 35 rooms, all with the Aman brand’s typical luxuries, clustered around inner courtyards.; doubles from RMB3,381. Arro Khampa A discreet refuge with comfortable rooms, Tibetan food and classes in language and painting at the adjacent Thangka Center. Shangri-La;​ khampa​boutique hotel; doubles from RMB1,330. Banyan Tree Ringha The rooms here were once traditional Tibetan

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houses. Each has two floors (bath and shower downstairs) with private terraces and views across the valley. Shangri-La; banyan​tree. com; doubles from RMB2,900. Hylandia by ShangriLa The modern mix of Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and Chinese designs here offer a comfortable base for exploring the northern end of Yunnan. Menus here rely on organic produce, making them stand outs. Shangri-La; shangri-la. com; doubles from RMB900. Linden Centre The comfortable, creaky rooms at this traditional Chinese inn place an

emphasis on simplicity and beauty. Xizhou;; doubles from RMB996. Tour Oper ators Imperial Tours This operator provides an extensive network of contacts, first-class service, and thorough knowledge of Yunnan and Tibet. Packages include hotels, guides and transportation. Wild China Based in Beijing, founder Mei Zhang is a Yunnan native and specializes in taking travelers off the beaten path. wildchina. com; mei.zhang@



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opposite: Suit and

heels, Bally; sunglasses, Persol from Niche Nation; clutch, Jimmy Choo.

Technicolor Dreams

the south beach is a rollicking pleasure dome of modern tastes, tech, design and verve. oh, and it’s also one of singapore’s best new hotels.

Photographer: Pornsak Na Nakorn | Assistant Photographer: Eakapol Paroon Stylist: Saranya Ariyakul | Makeup & Hair: Bandit Boonmee | Model: Virahya Pattarachokchai t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


Laser-cut dress, Disaya. opposite: Top and trousers, Chai Gold Label; heels, Valentino; earrings, Porshz.

so, you want to take a selfie in the lift? Make sure you sit in each of the wildly different perches in the lobby too. Oh, don’t forget to have your hair blown back at the outdoor pool squeezed into the playful 18th floor with no walls, tropical breezes and 360-degree views of ever-changing Singapore. Yes, The South Beach is no run-of-the-mill hotel. Designed by Philippe Starck, the 654-room mesh of all things contemporary and unconventional doesn’t even have a lobby; instead, those in the know call it a social space. Chairs carved out of tree roots, hewn into driftwood, upholstered in fur: it’s all crafted to


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foster community fun. Outside, a wavelike aluminum canopy soars above heritage buildings and modern towers, embracing all. This louvered skin allows natural tropical light in, and shades against direct sun and seasonal rain. That lift? It has its own mood swings, changing colors and vibes as you ascend to your room. Those white and earth-tone rooms and suites are bright and airy, making the most of both the views of the Lion City and the vivid art pieces on the walls. The pulsating South Beach experience is multisensory and mod, so kick back and absorb it all—just don’t forget your shades. the

Shirt and bikini, Vilebrequin. opposite: Dress, Chai Gold Label; heels, Jimmy Choo; necklace, Cloud 9.

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Dress, Halston Heritage; crystal rings, Porshz.

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Phnom Penh slowly swims upstream. right: Green and modern pockets now dot the capital.


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Connecting. .in the Capital.

Ever so slowly, Phnom Penh is emerging from its tattered history, writes Connla Stokes, and it’s an evolution best seen through the eyes of young entrepreneurs who put livability, sustainability and community first. Photographed by Morgan Ommer

“I hope, one day, my city will look like this.” That’s what Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew told his host, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, in 1967 as he drank in the pleasant prosperity that enveloped postcolonial Phnom Penh’s wide boulevards, stately villas and crisply manicured lawns. Today, of course, that urban interest would be steered in the other direction, with high-rises and global franchises mushrooming in the aspirant Cambodian capital, after a generation spent staggering to its feet. Yet the city’s tallest building, a US$170 million luxury office and retail development called the Vattanac Capital, is struggling for tenants and still feels like a flag of hope, rather than a statement of arrival. “From ghost town to boomtown” goes the refrain, but to see how this city is coming to life right now, look not to the clouds. Long a magnet for development workers and dogooders—there are nearly 5,000 NGOs registered in Cambodia—the country, still lacking in basic infrastructure and social services but with an abundance of laissez-faire attitude, is ripe for creative capitalism. Now, Phnom Penh is finally getting the from-the-ground-

up microeconomic love that has helped propel forward neighboring Vietnam, for example. It’s a gentle gentrification, generated by a wave of sustainably and locally minded entrepreneurs whose ventures, from books to breweries, make the city more livable for residents and more alluring to visitors. “The goal is creating connections,” says Brittany Sims, founder of Farm to Table café, “to community, to food, to the environment and to Cambodia.” Originally from Oregon, Sims is a perfect prototype of this cohort of trendsetters. Working for an NGO here, she struggled to bring locally grown produce to the market before realizing the constraints of her development project presented an opportunity. “I decided to set up a business and work backwards trying to connect with farm projects while creating a local marketplace,” she says while sitting in her leafy café, a laid-back, bucolic sanctuary where kids can frolic in the “edible garden” while the rest of us tuck into hearty salads, rice bowls and breakfast staples. “Farm To Table offers access to more ethically produced products, supports local farmers, and creates sustainable and healthy dishes.” “People want to be able to come here and make more conscious choices,” Sims says of her restaurant, but it easily applies to the city as a whole. Just look at Coco

Good Coffee’s chief roaster, Soporn. from far left: Samai Distillery cofounder Antonio Lopez de Haro; late-day light.

Khmer, a Phnom Penh-based social enterprise creating high-quality coconut oil and coconut-based products founded by Canadian Robert Esposito and his girlfriend Meaghan Tierney, who arrived with backpacks, not business plans. Esposito started the business in 2013 by teaching six women to press coconut oil after they had lost their homes and livelihoods in a sketchy property development. “We sold the first batch of virgin coconut oil in old peanut butter jars with no labels,” he says. They now whip up 1,500 to 1,600 liters a month, produce nine different products, and are starting to export. Coco Khmer’s all-natural, high-quality, still entirely handmade goods—including, travelers take note, Dopp kit necessities such as lip balm, aftershave balm and deodorant—are now beautifully packaged and are available in more than 30 stores around Cambodia. Esposito does his best to ensure his 21 staff members have good housing and health care, their children go to school, and they have financial support for their own studies. “I really wanted to show that you don’t need a million dollars to do something here. In Cambodia, the danger is that during wartime, or in the aftermath, people did what they had to do to survive. That attitude is brought forward to business—there is still a lot of distrust,” Esposito says.

“But business doesn’t have to be war; the winner doesn’t have to take all. There is another way, whereby in a pursuit of betterment, Phnom Penh as a city, and its people, come before profits.”

It helps, though, as anyone who’s been to Cambodia

knows, that a permissive Wild West aura still pervades the country. Former Reuters correspondent Rupert Winchester and some partners now publish Mekong Review, a new literary journal printed in Phnom Penh and distributed regionally. The magazine, he admits, is “flying slightly under the radar” as the proper bureaucratic channels proved to be too tedious—and, it seems, unnecessary. “This is a great city for starting a small business,” Winchester says. “No one really cares what you do here, and it’s cheap to live.” Erich Phillips and Bob Oudemans, who have kept their own passion project afloat for three years without taking any salaries, would raise a glass to that. They both came to Phnom Penh as trailing spouses; now they own a brewery, Cerevisia, and a bar, Botanico Wine & Beer Garden, pouring a full range of their craft ales, stouts and IPAs—all of which have been warmly welcomed in a city that’s otherwise awash with light, commercial beers. “A friend of ours runs a restaurant and when he complained about his supply of craft beers, we saw that as a call to serve our community,” Phillips laughs. “In Phnom Penh, you can really see how each small business t r a v e l a n d l e i s u r e a s i a . c o m  /  s e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 6


ripples out a spear of influence within a neighborhood. We employ eight people at the brewery and it’s been a joy teaching them the art of brewing. We are still basically passionate beer geeks who have never taken a paycheck.” These guys see Botanico as a “third space,” where expats and Khmer alike can escape the dusty streets and kick back in the chilled, verdant setting, sipping on, say, an Irish Red Ale—a full-bodied brew with a velvety smooth finish—or a fruity Mandarin Pale Ale. Cambodia is also a huge market for whiskey, but for the Venezuelan owners of Samai Distillery, Antonio Lopez de Haro and Daniel Pacheco, if life gives you sugarcane (one of Cambodia’s biggest crops), you best make rum. The former, also a restaurateur and barowner, and the latter, CEO of a solar energy company, started distilling rum for fun, but soon realized there was an opportunity worth exploring. They opened the country’s first rum distillery in late 2014 and trained their seven Khmer staff from scratch. Demand has always outstripped supply. “It’s amazing to think we introduced a whole new industry to Cambodia,” Lopez de Haro says. “By the end of 2016, we will be able to triple the amount of bars we sell to in Cambodia, and we will start exporting to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.”

On Thursday evenings, Lopez de Haro and Pacheco turn their beautiful, oak-barrel-filled distillery into a funky tasting room, inviting guest mixologists to make handcrafted cocktails (think a Khmer Colada, Mango Mojito or Samai Latte) that showcase the versatility of their sweet, 40-percent proof, dark rum, made with all Cambodian ingredients for an eclectic crowd of revelers and industry insiders. If you’re in town on an off-night, no worries, just head to Le Boutier, the city’s newest craft cocktail bar, and order a 1,000 Tears of a Tarantula, which is made with Samai rum, kaffir, curry, coconut, Bénédictine, pineapple and, for a dash of local umami… fish sauce. It’s just one of many signature concoctions that’s been dreamed up by Annemarie Sagoi, a relative newcomer, who first came to Phnom Penh from Chicago in 2015 on a consultancy gig for a hotel bar but was soon enthralled. When her business partner got wind that a shop on Street 308—the epicenter of the city’s hippest, and still burgeoning, drinking quarter—was up for sale, they didn’t hesitate. Their three-floor cocktail emporium has been an instant success, attracting expats, young Khmer and tourists, all of whom appreciate how the bar pays tribute to Cambodia’s swinging golden era in the 1960s. “Ultimately our aim is to help Phnom Penh’s cocktail industry take a similar trajectory as Singapore or Shanghai,” Sagoi says. “Phnom Penh has not had a fair

chance to recover from war but the city is growing in confidence, and I want to contribute to the city’s revival. I get a lot of ‘What the hell are you doing in Cambodia?’ but I’m sure that Michael Callahan [of Singapore hot spots 28 Hong Kong St. and Proof & Company] got that when he moved to this part of the world.”

Perhaps. I wouldn’t rush to equate Phnom Penh with those major global cities just yet. But there’s certainly more reason to visit the Cambodian capital than ever since the days Lee Kuan Yew colored himself so impressed. “In years past, as a destination, Phnom Penh was better known for 50-cent beers and sleazy bars,” says Mark Bowyer, founder of Rusty Compass, an online guide with local insight on Indochina. “Now, thanks to a host of small businesses, it’s organically getting a rep for being cool, sophisticated and health conscious.” It’s an equation that, many hope, ultimately will make for a more robust economy than one reliant directly on tourism. At the two locations of Feel Good Coffee are stellar fair-trade, bean-to-cup brews. The original café is

an urbane affair found in the hectic heart of downtown Phnom Penh, the second, more of a hideaway, where you can sit in an enclosed and shady garden and inhale the thick aroma of roasting beans—all sourced from Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. “We don’t just train staff for jobs they are doing now,” says Jen Green, a selfdescribed “recovering lawyer” from New York who is one of Feel Good’s owners, “but for the jobs they want in the future.” The company offers in-house workshops and training, and financial support for education. “We look forward to the time when they follow their own dreams even if that is with another business,” she says. Not that they’re trying to get rid of them; in fact, the Feel Good staff, well-known for being infectiously goodhumored, are incentivized to keep up the good work by being made part of the business—they receive shares in the company after 12 months. “Eventually,” Green says, “we will leave this business in their very capable hands.” From crafting a cuppa for the community, to planting seeds for the next generation to flourish, that sounds like the very definition of sustainability.

The details Hotels Sun & Moon, Urban Hotel So sleek and modern for Phnom Penh, it feels otherworldly, but it is fun, too, with funky, Pop Artinspired rooms, and a fab rooftop pool area for sundowners and lounging. 68 corner of Street 136 and 15 Phar Kandal 1; 855-23/961888;; doubles from US$59. La Maison d’Ambre A chic and cosmopolitan accommodation with 10 spacious, individually designed rooms, each named after one of the owner/designer’s favorite films (for classic Cambodia, request Rose de Bokor; for 1960’s Hong Kong, In the Mood for Love). 123 St. 110; 855-23/222780;; doubles from US$100.

Samai Distillery doubles as a tasting room on Thursdays. from far left: A Farm to Table salad; Annemarie Sagoi mixes it up at Le Boutier.

Restaur ants + Bars Artillery Café The elder sister of Farm to Table, Artillery offers scrumptious, super-healthy dishes including vegan and gluten-free options, all made using organic and locally sourced ingredients, in a laid-back setting with a comfy lounge area and outside seating. 82E0 St. 244½; 855-78/985-530; Barsito Wander down the lane dubbed “240 and a half” and head through a large wooden door to find an artfully designed, smoky speakeasy—and a perfect Negroni. Street 240½; 855-17/873-101; daily 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Botanico Wine & Beer Garden 9B St. 29; 855-77/943-135;; Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., check the website for where else you can find Cerevisia’s craft brews. Farm to Table Café 16 St. 360; 855-78/899-722; tablepp; daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feel Good Coffee 1 79 St. 136; 855-95/380-163; feelgoodcoffee.; daily 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feel Good Coffee 2 11B St. 29; 855-77/694-702; feelgoodcoffee.; daily 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Himawari Microbrewery Grab a pew on the Garden Terrace, over the Mekong, and work through a menu of five high-quality, house brews, including a sweet stout, an American-style IPA, and an award-winning Australasian-Style Pale Ale. Himawari Hotel, 313 Sisowath Quay; 855-23/214-555; daily 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Le Boutier 32 St. 308; 85597/675-3004;; Monday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to “as late as possible!” Samai Distillery 9 St. 830 (corner of Sothearos Blvd.); 85589/257-449;; Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. around town Coco Khmer Mekong Review mekong-review. com.

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The once scruffy and freewheeling city by the sea may have polished up its act, but it hasn’t lost its edge. Andrew Sean Greer goes in search of artists, musicians and chefs who are keeping the Catalonian spirit of creativity alive. Photographed by Simon Watson

Artist J. Loca at Med Street Art’s gallery. Opposite: A view of the city from the Gaudídesigned Park Güell, on Carmel Hill.


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Making the New



hat madness is this? It is the feast day of Sant Jordi, and Barcelona is nothing but books. Only the day before, you could stroll down La Rambla with a paramour, watching the welldressed crowd, listening to an old man playing flamenco guitar. Now it is an infestation of bookseller stalls and masses thronging to get in. “Sant Jordi is in the air!” one digital banner proclaims, and you can believe it: everywhere authors are shaded in tents, signing and signing until they have to switch pens. In the courtyard of the avant-garde Antic Teatre, one of the many hidden throughout Barcelona, there is no room to move beneath the canopy of its fig tree. It is everywhere poets, a merry celebration of love. In Japan, on “White Day,” men give women chocolates. In the U.S., on Valentine’s Day, lovers give everything from plush animals to edible underwear. In Barcelona: books. Couples sit on the marble steps of banks and churches, kissing and exchanging books and roses. A fitting sight, considering this city’s historic romance with literature and art. Don Quixote even visits a Barcelona printing press in Part II of Cervantes’s magnum opus. In the 19th century the city was home to the Modernism movement that, as part of a rebirth of Catalan culture, gave us such great artists as Miguel Utrillo, Joan Miró, and Antoni Gaudí, and cultivated the geniuses of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí—a love affair across centuries. Barcelona is the third-largest city on the Mediterranean and, with 1.6 million people, the 17th most populous in Europe. The coast of the Mediterranean, the river Besòs, the Collserola mountain range, and the river Llobregat—these form the natural borders of Barcelona. The diamond is roughly cut in two by Avinguda Diagonal, and the southern portion holds the densely populated neighborhoods known best by visitors: wild, bar-crawling El Raval,


high-street shopping L’Eixample, and the medieval Barri Gòtic. Districts toward the city edge, however, are sparsely populated, the hills to the north are covered in forest, and the northeastern border is a desert of empty lots and industrial plants. The citizens still cluster near the center, where the density of living makes for a walkable city; a determined Barcelonan can get from the Monumental metro stop to the Barceloneta beach in 30 minutes. I’ve been coming here for decades, and every time I can still find my old beloved city. I can wander through the labyrinth of the Barri Gòtic, lost beyond all measure, until suddenly I turn the corner and there it is, the place I was looking for. I can still belly up to the bar at Barceloneta’s El Vaso de Oro, a tapas joint decorated with beer steins and yellow lampshades, grabbing the solitary free seat amid the crowds of laughing workers, futbol teams, and first dates; the bartender will still call me “capitán” even though I have never been to sea. I can still stroll Passeig de Gràcia and watch the smartly dressed couples sipping cava or heading to the opera. The Barceloneta beach still pulls the city’s citizens out to the Mediterranean. Dinner will always be at midnight, and the dancing will never start until two. The cranes will toil forever finishing the sandcastle fever dream of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família. The rivers that flank the city will never change their courses; the mountains will never head north; the sea is unlikely to go dry. But the city’s timeless pleasures aren’t what I’m in search of on this trip. Rather, I’m here to find out how one of Europe’s greatest cultures is meant to evolve, even as it grapples with gentrification, unemployment and financial setbacks.


t dawn, I awaken to the sound of women talking as they hang their laundry out to dry. I am staying in Casa Bonay, an 1869 sun-washed building converted into a hotel whose eccentricities include rooms divided by old-fashioned

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Clockwise from top right:

The artist Blanca Haddad in Nau Bostik, a shared studio space; a suite at the Monument Hotel; a sculpture depicting Lenin’s head, used as a box office at Nau Bostik; the 38-story skyscraper Torre Agbar, which opened in 2005.

sliding doors and patios that open onto a courtyard shared with real Barcelonans. I am lucky enough to have an old friend in the city, Javier, who with his pal Andreu is waiting downstairs in a car to take me on an arts tour. We drive to an old factory where we are greeted by a 41-yearold street artist named J. Loca. J. Loca translates as “Crazy J.” His works feature screaming men with double uvulas in their throats, and when J. Loca opens his mouth—he has one, too. Why would I be surprised? We are on what Javier calls the “righthand side” of Barcelona, far from the hotels and chic neighborhoods of the “left,” in a space that J. Loca and others at Med Street Art have transformed into a light-filled, white-walled gallery. J. Loca (real

name Jordi, like the saint) is a short, energetic man. He takes me from canvas to canvas of the new exhibit. From behind us there comes a cry: “Jordi!” This is Jan, his English friend from the Barcelona art scene in the nineties, when graffiti artists worked on buildings while neighbors encircled them protectively. Now they are artists doing respectable gallery shows. And opening galleries of their own, such as this one. The excitement in Jordi’s voice as he describes his project to Jan—to make a new neighborhood in Barcelona, an artists’ neighborhood—is something I will come to recognize, as well as

the loss at the bottom of it. Barcelona has irreversibly changed. Ever since the city remade itself for the 1992 Olympics, it has been a tourist electromagnet. The free-spirited neighborhood of El Born, for example, which houses the Picasso Museum and some of the artist’s old haunts, has turned, like the Marais in Paris, into a popular address for the wealthy. Most of the famous Barri Gòtic galleries have been kicked out to make room for luxury shops; and even the grungy old fisherman’s district Barceloneta now has a W hotel. So it goes. Cities like San Francisco and Berlin and Barcelona, known for their creativity and freedom, attract the world with their charms, and change is unavoidable. But can they keep that spark alive? Or does it inevitably vanish? “I want to show,” Andreu tells me, “that the Catalan culture lives.” He very much believes that an imaginative, iconoclastic Catalan spirit still thrives. The next day, I am introduced to “the George Clooney of chickens,” or at least this is how Andreu refers to it. This is not a person; it is a chicken and, to Catalonians, a work of art. In Barcelona, when you’re talking about art, the conversation naturally turns to food.

A view of the Sagrada FamĂ­lia, the masterpiece of renowned architect Antoni GaudĂ­.

Dinner will always be at midnight, and the dancing will never start until two

Jan and I are at an artichoke-andchicken festival outside Barcelona in the town of El Prat de Llobregat, which also houses the airport. Our breakfast had, in fact, been on a farm, where the farmer grilled fresh artichokes on a corncob fire along with that truly Catalan vegetable, the calçot, a kind of long onion. We are at a festival lined with booths offering a wild variety of tapas featuring Prat artichokes—fried, in burgers and empanadas, even carxofa beer—but the guest star, according to our guide, is the pota blava. The famed “bluelegged” chicken: revered enough to have earned the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication, and considered such a delicacy that locals say it was featured on the table of Philip II. A pota blava sculpture beside us, made from artichokes and wire, does nothing to help our imagination. As we are being led to the chicken farm, Jan whispers to me, “I’m expecting an ostrich.” Lola Malet, the woman who keeps the birds, is a cheerful lady with a dandelion fluff of light-brown hair, and she leads us through her lush foxglove garden to a large, clean, fenced-in coop. And here he is: George Clooney. Rather tall for poultry, with sleek amber feathers and a bright comb, striding like a soldier among the hens on his legs of pale blue. Jan and I exchange glances. Handsome, sure. But rather a disappointment, considering. It is only later, at Ona Nuit, a Prat restaurant devoted to seasonal Catalan food, that we come to truly appreciate the pota blava. The real George Clooney, cooked slowly for 10 hours in oil, wouldn’t taste nearly as delicious. When I meet with the chef of Ona Nuit, a young woman named Susana Aragón, she shows me a photograph of a gold bar on a plate. “This is my new creation,” she explains proudly in Spanish. “This is an ingot made from pota blava. Powdered in gold.” She looks at me carefully to be sure I understand. “Because it is a treasure.” The earnest nature of this moment— the pride in tradition held by a people historically separate from Spain, the beauty and absurdity of it all—feels, to me, distinctly Catalan.

The gold ingot connects the Catalan culinary arts from its most basic form to its most exalted: the famous haute cuisine of Barcelona. Food, after all, has arguably become Spain’s most expressive medium, taking the reins from art itself. El Bullí, the restaurant that pioneered molecular gastronomy and was named the Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant magazine from 2006 to 2009, was a two-hour drive north of the city. It closed a few years ago at the peak of its popularity—its chef, Ferran Adrià, wanted to focus on education—but in its wake two superstars have emerged: Lasarte, a new restaurant from famed chef Martín Berasategui attached to the Monument Hotel, and the more established ABaC. At Lasarte everything has been rarefied and transformed—“gin and tonic” for dessert, in bubbles—the perfectly timed service is like eating in a clockwork world. ABaC, farther afield in the northern neighborhood of Sant Gervasi–La Bonanova, feels even more fantastical, with the rough calçots and artichokes of Prat turned into shiny toys, and just when you think it has tipped into the absurd— dried lamb being made into tea tableside, for instance—the waiter grins and you understand they are joshing you as well as feeding you.


gnacio Orovio, the cultural editor of La Vanguardia, joins me at Daps bar (a journalist stronghold) to remind me these are difficult economic times, even in Catalonia; though one of the richest regions of Europe, with an enormous tourism economy, it is still trying to recover from the 2008 recession. The arts have suffered: funding has dropped, new cultural taxes burden galleries and venues, and bookshops have had to put in tables for food service to stay afloat. And yet, Orovio tells me, Spanish people turn to art. He claims that Spain is the second-greatest music-piracy country in the world (a dubious honor)—and why? Because though almost 50 percent of young Spanish people do not have jobs, they are still culturally engaged. And so— following the Spanish tradition of “el

pícaro,” the one who gets away without paying—they steal. Orovio smiles and says it is “truly Spanish.” Two music producers, famously known as the DJs Pin&Pon, serve me and Andreu San Miguel beers on the terrace of their flat, patrolled by their enormously fat black cat. “I am optimistic,” says skinny, darkbearded Pin about the future of music in Barcelona. Pon, broader and more silver, muses on the idea: “I am not optimistic.” They run the label El Genio Equivado and represent about 20 recording artists. They say there is an emerging music scene, and they curate a monthly night at one of the major clubs to promote new music. But with so many sound ordinances in Barcelona and new taxes in Spain, it’s hard for a young artist to come up in a world that feels fully booked. And it is—the already-large clubs like Razzmatazz and Apolo are flourishing in the current mania for electronic dance music, or EDM. A late-​n ight tour of El Raval, a formerly dangerous area west of the Barri Gòtic, reveals a hipster subgenre of nightlife, where every bar has a DJ and every bartender a signature cocktail. Having sampled margaritas in bars along the narrow alleys, we find a perfect one at Betty Ford’s, a junk shop of a bar with, yes, a DJ, where the bartender happily takes her time preparing our next round. On my final day, the documentary photographer Mariona Giner invites me to Bar Treze, a dark and beautiful café in the Sarrià neighborhood with high ceilings and an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. She spends her days with the Barcelonans tourists never get to meet: children in Roma gypsy encampments, sex workers in Catalan brothels, and, more recently, nuns. Giner tells me that in the early 20th century, Barcelona was a cutting-edge city; there was even nudism on the beaches. “Imagine that!” she says. “And many want to pretend that Barcelona is still that, still part of that community.” Sipping her coffee, she adds ruefully: “That time is gone.” She thinks for a moment, then adds, “I think I know what you are looking for. Come with me.” She means Nau Bostik, a place

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The artist Mariano Pascual at Studiostore. clockwise from right: Libertine, the restaurant at boutique hotel Casa Bonay; the exterior of the Monument Hotel, home to Lasarte restaurant, which is helmed by famed chef Martín Berasategui; a plate of roast turbot at ABaC.

where art is very much alive. Not the tourist galleries or the governmentsponsored studios, as well-meaning as they may be, but a spot on the northeastern border of the city. Soon, I find myself abandoned beside a set of railroad tracks. Giner has waved goodbye. A few blocks west is the working-class ’hood of La Sagrera. I am at the very edge of the city—there is nothing but mounds of dirt and crumbling concrete walls. I hear the highway humming along nearby. This is Nowhere, Barcelona. Giner has told me to walk until I find a chain-link fence and a rolling gate with weeds growing all around. I haul it aside and step into a concrete yard beside a row of dilapidated factory buildings. Most of the doors are closed, but through one I glimpse a gargantuan sculpted head of Lenin. It is through this last door that I find the artists of Nau Bostik. In the giant room, by a makeshift bar, sit four or five gray-haired men, smoking. One raises his hand and greets me in Spanish. After so many days in Barcelona, talking in Spanish about art and music and blue-legged chickens, the fog of language is beginning to clear and I gather this is Pablo Pérez Losada, the curator and photographer I have come to meet. “We received the key one year ago,” Losada says, meaning himself and Xavier Basiana, or Xavi, the real

mastermind of Bostik. This is the third space they’ve transformed into artists’ studios. “We have a contract for five years, until the train station is completed.” Losada gestures north, where construction on a new Frank Gehry–designed rail terminal is under way. (The government says it will be completed in 2019; Giner thinks there is no more funding.) Bostik has performance and exhibit spaces, media rooms, and dozens of studios. In the future, attic bedrooms will house artists in residence. “Who has a cigarette?” asks a woman entering the room. This is Blanca Haddad, one of the artists. A strong, forthright woman with a wild mass of hair who once hired a punk band for her art opening, she

joins in eagerly: “We have two legs. An artistic leg, and a practical leg. Who wants to wait for galleries? We get freedom here.” She stands and raises a fist: “Libertad!” Later, we stand on the roof looking at the uncompleted rail station. What happens, I ask Losada, if Bostik does transform the neighborhood, and the station opens, and their lease is up, and, because of the popularity of the area, they are asked to leave the place they made? It is, after all, what has happened to almost every collective before them. Artists come, make something from nothing, popularize the place, and are forced out. The weeds in the abandoned lots below us blow in the wind. Losada takes a drag on his cigarette and shrugs. “Andrew,” he tells me, “this battle is not the war.”


ut all I can think about is the day I first arrived in a city gone mad: lovers everywhere; roses everywhere; playwrights everywhere. It is the memory of books that amazes me. Nothing could be less social, less loud than a book—reading is a private experience—and yet in Barcelona, the art is in full celebration. On the feast day of Sant Jordi, poets are knights and novelists are kings. I recall Giner’s statement: “That time is gone.”

Is it gone? I recall a crowd applauding a bespectacled author arriving at a book signing. This is the city that has just been named a unesco City of Literature. It may seem, to artists who remember another time, as if it has all faded away. The “vandal art” that Jordi and Jan recall was painted over long ago, or else the buildings were torn down. The “painters district” is now home to elegant residences; the seedy graffiti-art district of El Raval now has bars and dance clubs for the likes of me. And yet I recall the young artist Mariano Pascual, stroking his beard in a shy manner, talking about artists like himself coming from all over the world to Barcelona, about new galleries opening and closing, about the struggle to make a living that any older artist would recognize. To him, it is not gone. Nor to Blanca Haddad, painting away in her factory studio to the strains of punk rock. Nor to the crowds that surrounded me. The battle is not the war, after all. There is the taste of gin and tonic on my lips; roses decorate the medieval pathways of my mind; the blue legs of the George Clooney of chickens appear in my imagination. Perhaps, as with any romance, Barcelona may struggle to keep it fresh, but it is a city still very much in love.

The details hotels Casa Bonay A new designcentric hotel in L’Eixample where the restaurant staff’s uniforms are in the same tropical print as the wallpaper. casa​; doubles from €110. Hotel Majestic Every detail, from the lobby chairs to the éclairs, has been polished to perfection at this classic address. hotel​; doubles from €245. Monument This luxurious, urbane property is set on the fashionable Passeig de Gràcia, steps from several Gaudí buildings. monument‑; doubles from €325. RESTAUR ANTS ABaC A Michelin two-starred

kitchen in Sarrià–Sant Gervasi serving innovative dishes like smoked steak tartare with pepper-bread brittle. abac​; prix fixe menus from €140. Cal Pep Try Spanish classics like arroz con bogavante and tortilla españ­ola at this famed tapas bar deep in the Barri Gòtic. cal​pep. com; small plates €5–€25. Elephant, Crocodile, Monkey Chef Estanislao Carenzo serves international dishes like Jerusalem artichokes with sweetbreads. dining-drinks; mains €13–€25. El Vaso de Oro Famous for its Padrón peppers and steak with foie gras. vaso​de​; mains €11–€24. Lasarte The dishes at the

Monument hotel’s Michelin two-starred restaurant offer inventive takes on seasonal specialties like Wagyu carpaccio with extract of tarragon. restaurant​; prix fixe menus from €150. Ona Nuit The 10-hour Catalan chicken is the thing to order at this Slow Food restaurant near the airport.; mains €10–€18. festivals Carxofada The town of Sant Boi de Llobregat honors the beloved artichoke with inventive dishes, tours and performances. March. Fira Avícola The region’s popular chicken is celebrated during late fall in El Prat de Llobregat. December.

After 133 years, the Sagrada Família is now in its final stage of construction and is scheduled for completion in 2026. Sant Jordi Each year locals celebrate Saint George’s feast day by exchanging roses and books. April 23.

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place penang

It’s hard to believe that it has been less than a decade since Penang’s unesco awakening. George Town’s British-colonial charm and century-old workshops have helped a generation of heritage-savvy boutique hotels, refurbished hole-in-the-wall bistros and artsy venues redefine the island as Malaysia’s heavyweight of urban-cool. Still, the narrow streets burbling with multiple personalities can leave many scratching their heads, so we’ve boiled it down to the newest and best. By Marco Ferrarese. Photographed by Kit Yeng Chan

A Chinese dragon soars atop Goddess of Mercy Temple.

clockwise from left: Gudang Café, new

on Armenian Street; Kim Haus has a delightful terrace; and fun open mics.

Ask an Insider Laura François ( Sustainable fashionista

Navigating George Town

Catchily named, they are not, but the neighborhoods of Penang’s urban core each have their own addictive personalities. Core Heritage Zone

Stretching from the seafront promenade Weld Quay west to Love Lane and south to Lebuh Melayu, and cut in half by kaleidoscopic Chulia Street, the walkable core comprises quintessential Penang. Taking in sea views of Padang Kota Lama, bustling Little India and part of Chinatown, the area overflows with heritage buildings. Gudang Café (; meal for two RM40) is the latest to resuscitate a 1950’s warehouse next to Armenian Street’s murals. It creates a simple yet convincing concept of Thai brews and Japaneseinspired mains.

Heritage Buffer Zone

Campbell Street, a 19thcentury red-light district and 20th-century shopping hub, has morphed into the city’s new standard-bearer for hip. The bar on the second floor of hotel and restaurant Kim Haus (9 & 11 Campbell St.; drinks for two RM24) boasts a delightful terrace facing charming Art Deco buildings, and has launched daily live music open mics performed by Penang artists. Next door, Café Lagenda (43 Campbell St.; dinner for two RM70) is another new spot that surprises with its MalayIndonesian fare, an unusual find in a Jazz-themed bar.

I n s e t: c o u r t e s y o f l a u r a fr a n Ç o i s

Arts and Culture

Hin Bus Depot.

Run Amok gallery.

Main player art space and gallery Hin Bus Depot (fb. com/hinbusdepot) revamped at the beginning of the year with the opening of Run Amok gallery (, a new home for alternative illustrators and artists, and steakhouse Tavern in the Park (; dinner for two RM60), a relaxing glass, brick and wood chalet serving hearty burgers and Australian rib eye steaks. Multiethnic Penang hosts many interesting festivals and some of Asia’s quirkiest religious gatherings. Here are just a few of our favorites: + End of January to February: On the first full moon of the

Nagore Road

In this snappy entertainment neighborhood a 10-minute walk west from the Buffer Zone, the bohemian Coffee Addict (209 Hutton Ln.; coffee for two RM24) is the latest addition to the café culture. Linked to Australian Murobond Paints’ shop, with original art by Ernest Zacharevic on the walls, it’s the place to take your coffee and Western breakfasts with color-stained fingers. Looking for the area’s anchor? It is Nagore Square (nagore, two rows of brightly rehabilitated townhouses full of shops, eateries, spas and life.

Tamil month of Thai, a street parade of penitent Indians carry kavadis—physical burdens as heavy as skewers pierced through the cheeks— to thank Lord Murugan. + August: The month-long George Town Festival makes the island a global stage with 100 international and local world-class performances. + Mid-August to September: The gates of Chinese Hell unleash their dead, who ‘come back’ in paper form during the colorful, though admittedly dark, Hungry Ghost Festival. + End of November: George Town Literary Festival brings pan-Asian and international novelists, spoken-word artists and poets to quibble on the status of the written word.

“The island has good spots for both preloved and ethical fashion,” says the Montreal native behind, an online platform promoting clothing brands that care about the planet. “Grab a coffee and head upstairs to The Study and Bon Ton Shop at ChinaHouse (60-4/263-7299; 153 Lbh. Pantai, George Town), a beautiful collection of Malaysian clothing, accessories and household items. Hipsters should plan a visit to Doubt? Japanese Used Clothing (fb. com/doubtbundle) for preloved clothing and fun Japanese styles. Ottokedai ( otto.kedai) is a gem selling one of a kind accessories and fashion from all over the country.”

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/ place /


Ask an Insider Syerleena Rashid Hungry politician

Top Tables and Tipples

Penang’s newest dining and drinking hot spots inject a touch of modernity in timeless shells.

▲ 59 Sixty Sunsets are magical here atop KOMTAR, Penang’s highest tower. The 360-degree bird’s-eye view of George Town’s sawtooth tiled roofs set against the Penang Strait match perfectly with the menu of seafood-based mains à la glazed crab with smoked paprika or kong pho crab with basil and kumara dauphne dumplings.; buffet from RM88 per peson.

Curry mee.

▲ Narrow Marrow has anything you’d expect from an oh-so-cool Brooklyn hipster bar, packed into a tight, tunnel-like refurbished Chinese shophouse. The signature toddy mojito with traditional palm wine is a great twist on a crowd pleaser, and attracts a mixed expat and local artsy crowd who loves their tunes crackling from vintage vinyl. 252A Lbh. Carnarvon; beer for two RM20.

Hawker Capital

“Time is a luxury for councilors, and negotiations are often made over food,” says Penang’s city council member. “Lunch at Magic Kitchen (4F, 1st Avenue Mall, 182 Jln. Magazine, George Town) is great for international fare and rubbing elbows with Penang’s political movers and shakers. For great atmosphere and delicious fusion cuisine, mainstay No Eyed Deer (noeyeddeer. com) is my favorite; I adore the Laotian laksa, hearty chicken parmigiana and Vietnamese spring rolls. For hawker food, at bustling Restoran Nasi Padang (92 Transfer Rd.) one might end up sharing a table with total strangers, but the Sumatran food here is just zesty, flavored and splendid.”

With woks sizzling on every corner and some of Asia’s best food-courts, Penang is fully understood only at street level. In the evening, Lorong Baru closes to traffic and transforms in New Lane Hawker Center, where Penang’s famous char kway teow (flat noodles with prawns, bean sprouts, chili and cockles), laksa and chee cheong fun (rice noodles) are served steaming fresh. Meal for two RM20. + George Town’s main thoroughfare, Chulia Street, may be noisy and busy, but has some of the juiciest wonton and curry mee on the island. Expect a no frills, stool-by-theroadside, authentic experience. Meal for two RM15. + Red Garden has uplifted the roadside hawker experience for close to a decade with Malay, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and Western fare in a covered lot in the heart of George Town.; meal for two RM25.


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i n s e t: c o u r t e s y o f S y e r l e e n a r a s h i d

▲ Farquhar Mansion revitalized 1878 Farquhar Street Mission House & Chapel to preach a gospel of fine dining along a charming heritage bend of coastal George Town. The dim-lit, elegant interiors with chandeliers and mahogany pianos pair irresistibly with walls covered in glitzy embossed frames and international Pop Art. The menu—from the oyster chowder with scallops, to the signature lamb rack with prawn-andscallop ravioli—is perfectly choreographed for a special night out.; tasting menus from RM148.

▲ Ruins of Victoria brings a lot of charm into the storage house of Chinese clan Khoo Kongsi: two floors of dining salons focusing on Italian fare— chicken saltimbocca, say—and an open-roofed live music bar. Bar manager Bob Ras Prakash mixes a great Bernadetta Segala, a zesty Campari, gin and fruit drink named after the artist who painted the bar’s walls. ruinsofvictoria; meal for two RM70; drinks for two RM50.

Boutique Bedding

prime Aussie rib eyes.; doubles from RM158; dinner for two RM70.

George Town remains the best choice to immerse yourself in Penang’s eclectic, street-smart character. + Black interiors, marble floors and soft lights give Le Dream a classy, timeless neo-noir style. The ample alfresco rooftop café soars over a vista of terra-cotta gable roofs and crowns 43 sleek, crayon-tinted rooms equipped with Japanese Izumi style showers. Next to the reception hall, La Vie offers French-inspired, steak-focused fine dining— think perfectly cooked sirloin served with chives and homemade wasabi—and international wines in a confidential glass-and-marble ambience loved by Penang’s well-heeled crowd.; doubles from RM258; dinner for two RM200. + New kid Kimberley Hotel renovated Jalan Sungai Ujong’s neglected block by transforming a four-story prewar heritage building into an elegant boutique hotel. The 118 modern rooms are tinted in hushed colors, around verandas overlooking China Town. The annexed bistro Auction Rooms infuses heritage chic in a spacious loft-like setting, dishing up Western-inspired mains like grilled tilapia and

+ A 1940 Art Deco building salvaged from a birdnesting-induced slow death, Spices by the Park makes for a quiet urban stay. The six wood-floored rooms have high ceilings and nostalgic black-andwhite-tiled bathrooms. The secluded rooftop overlooks the heritage enclave’s mosque and clan house. Downstairs, the dreamy gaze of the Indian water bearer, one of Penang’s latest street-art pieces by Russian Julia Volchkova, connects to Urban Spices Café. The Javanese beans, Western breakfasts and Asian-fusion mains here (such as seafood sambal tumis pasta) are great company to while away the day’s hottest hours. 89 Acheen St.; doubles from RM250; dinner for two RM50. + The Edison is the latest makeover to George Town’s string of neglected properties. This new incarnation of the old Anglo-Indian Cathay Hotel reinvented itself with a boost of Midcenturyinspired furniture, Chinese art and sapient mixing of heritage and modern panache. The 35 deluxe suites are a haven of comfort amidst the ebb and flow of George Town’s bustling arteries Chulia Street, Penang Road and Jalan Muntri.; doubles from RM550.

Green Island

Ask an Insider

i n s e t: c o u r t e s y o f H o wa r d Ta n . I l l u s t r at i o n s b y a u t c h a r a pa n p h a i

The western side of the island hides lush rainforest and less-visited beaches a world away from George Town’s heritage hustle. Rent a car to explore at your own pace, or ride on the far reaching Rapid Penang bus network (

1. Penang Botanic Gardens, established in 1884, has a wide collection of plants and cheeky resident macaques. Loop around the main paved road, or strike off along trails that branch as far as Penang Hill.

2-3. Bypass Batu Ferringhi’s crowds and continue to ecotheme-park Entopia (entopia. com; admission RM49) for a glimpse in the world of tropical butterflies. A quick drive south, the impressive Teluk Bahang Dam is a worthy pit stop.

Neo-noir Le Dream. Below: Auction Rooms, next to Kimberley Hotel.

5. Drive to Balik Pulau— literally “the back of the island”—via windy Road 6, stopping to gaze at Titi Kerawang waterfall en route. The town, recently uplifted by new street murals by Russian artist Julia Volchkova, still oozes a relaxed old time charm.

4. Backtrack to the National Park for an invigorating jungle hike. A canopy walkway is a quick intro to a monkey’s point of view. A one-hour hike leads to Monkey Beach, one of Penang’s last crescents of uncluttered sand. Boats (one way from RM20 per person) can whiz you back to headquarters.

6. Cut through durian and banana farms to Pulau Betong, a Chinese fishermen’s settlement of atmospheric wooden houses. The beach nearby faces atoll Betong, and it’s a great place to enjoy the most natural side of Penang, and truly electric sunsets.

Howard Tan ( Local shutterbug

“Art & Garden ( artandgardenby fuanwong; admission RM30) is filled with artist Fuan Wong’s collection of plants, glass installations, and arts and sculptures. Cozy in the Rocket (264 Lbh. Pantai, George Town) is a small café decorated with old memorabilia. Dickensian Kang’s Antique ( sweetmemory lanepenang) is packed with antique furniture and vintage items.”

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wish you were here

Tan Min Yaw /  Bagan /  Burma As Burma leaps towards the modern world, making up for decades of isolation, there are still plenty of opportunities to slow to a 19th-century pace and appreciate the country’s rich history. One of the best places to do this is on the 42-square kilometer plain that makes up Bagan. Dating back to the 11th century, upwards of 13,000 Buddhist temples and stupas once dotted the landscape. Today, that number has dwindled to fewer than 2,000, but this is still a magical stop on the map. No less than Marco Polo described the site as a “gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks’ robes.” Those with patience can still feel the spirit of that sentiment today, particularly at dawn when local monks enacting age-old traditions render the scene timeless. For now, at least, any trip to Burma remains punctuated with moments like these, when the best course of action is to simply sit back and drink it in.


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September 2016  

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia September 2016