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Exhilaration, Exhilaration, amplified. amplified. 570S 570S Spider Spider Sports Sports SeriesSeries

Official fuel consumption Official fuel figures consumption in UK mpg (l/100km) figures in UK formpg the McLaren (l/100km) 570S for the Spider McLaren (3,799 570S (cc) Spider petrol,(3,799 7-speed (cc) Seamless petrol, 7-speed Shift dual Seamless clutch Gearbox Shift dual (SSG): clutch urban Gearbox 17.2 (16.5), (SSG): urban extra urban 17.2 (16.5), 38.4 (7.4), extracombined urban 38.4 26.6 (7.4), (10.7). combined 26.6 (10.7). Official combined Offi CO2cial emissions: combined 249g/km. CO2 emissions: The effi249g/km. ciency figures The effi quoted ciency arefigures derived quoted from offi arecial derived NEDCfrom test offi results, cial NEDC are provided test results, for comparability are provided for purposes comparability only, and purposes might not only, refland ect actual might not driving reflect experience. actual driving experience.




Saddle up at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in Australia.







Catharine Nicol leaves the hustle and bustle of

Twelve women trek across the Iranian desert in an

When your spa suite is just as exotic as

Hong Kong behind to take a trip to Luang Prabang. .

attempt to break a world record.

your treatment.







Richard Friend visits the sports charity that is

James Henderson heads to the wilds of New South

about the trip to Cambodia that changed his

helping children fight for a better future.

Wales to enjoy an adrenalin-packed adventure.

family’s life forever.


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Australian entrepreneur Rory Hunter tells us

HURAWALHI - CAPTURING THE SOUL OF THE MALDIVES A 5-Star, adults only island boasting a breath-taking undersea restaurant, a beautiful beach and some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Maldives. This island paradise is the best choice for an unforgettable holiday, a romantic honeymoon or even the best setting for your wedding.

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CONTENTS 10  Meet The Guest Editor Yoga star Tara Stiles tells us what attracted her to a life of yoga and travel.

12  Contributors Our writers and photographers tell us about their healthiest getaway.

14 Take Me Here Wild rides and pop-up saunas.

21 Destination: Happiness We discover the mindfulness boat trip that will help you sail into tranquil waters.

22 Clean Sleeping Clean eating is so 2016. If you want to know how to be ahead of the fitness curve, you need to try clean sleeping.

24 Boom Town It’s all eyes on the Ethiopian capital for 2017.

26 Grandes Dames Three vintage hotels get a modern makeover.

28 Embracing The Slow Life In Laos Catharine Nicol visits possibly the most Zen country in Asia.

34 Queens Of The Desert The Women On A Mission team tell us about their record-breaking trek across the Lut Desert.

40 World’s Most Unusual Spas Tired of listening to piped whale music? Then take a look at these unique pampering stations.

44 Travelling Light Yoga guru Tara Stiles explains how she manages to stay in shape while she’s on the road.

46 Detoxing In Napa Valley Want to detox before you retox? Then follow Charlene Peters to California for some sparkling treatments.

52 Fighting For A Future Photographer Richard Friend meets the sports charity that is helping to give children in Thailand a fighting chance.


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60 Canyoning In The Blue Mountains James Henderson takes the plunge and goes underground in New South Wales.

67 Kids On The Move Trips that’ll have your tots burning through calories instead of data.

70 Treasure Island We meet the family who saved a Cambodian island.

74  Best Places To Detox Revealed! The delicious hotel dishes that won’t have you piling on the pounds.

80  Chef’s Guide To Tokyo Chef David Myers takes us on a tour of his favourite city.

82 If You Do One Thing… Go for a swim in a golden energy pool.


The relaxing COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali.






E D I T O R I A L GUEST EDITOR Tara Stiles EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Claire Turrell ART DIRECTOR Claire Lambert CONTRIBUTORS Richard Friend, James Henderson, Jo Hendry-Prior, David Myers, Catharine Nicol, Charlene Peters, Jo Upcraft








LIGHTFOOT TRAVEL OFFICES: DUBAI (+971 4 455 8788), HONG KONG (+852 2815 0068), SINGAPORE (+65Â 6690 3252) Visit Printed by Naili Print Media Pte Ltd, Singapore. For advertising enquiries contact Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is strictly prohibited. Cover image: Enjoy a moment of Zen at COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali.


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Yoga at the Hawa Mahal.



Get away from it all at the hilltop retreat of Ananda in the Himalayas

oothe your mind, body and soul with a trip to the award-winning spa, Ananda in the Himalayas. The decadent retreat that is set on a 100-acre former maharaja’s palace estate near the Ganges, is the perfect place to escape from it all. Choose from an array of bespoke holistic programmes that combine traditional Ayurvedic techniques, yoga, meditation and healthy gourmet cuisine to help create a new you. Whether you are looking for help with weight management, stress management or even just in need of an energy boost, the resort’s healing experts will create a package to target your personal requirements. You can while away the hours practising your asanas in the twice daily yoga classes, refreshing your mien with a Himalayan Honey

and Rose Facial or soothing your tired limbs in the state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool. And if you want to learn more about how to live a healthy life, you can enjoy lectures and classes by visiting experts. As the spa is set in an ex-royal palace it’s only fair you dine like a maharaja. The spa's chefs have put together a mouthwatering menu that features lean proteins, wholegrains and fresh fruits and vegetables. You can dine by the pool, on the terrace of the Viceregal Suite or to the sounds of a tabla player in the Music Pavilion. If you are not one to sit still for long, you could also take part in cooking classes, enjoy mountain hikes or join a guide to spy wild Asiatic elephants in Rajaji National Park. Everyone deserves a little pampering now and again. So what’s stopping you?

Clockwise from left: Forest bathing — the Villa's private pool surrounded by Sal trees. A relaxing Villa bedroom. The view from a Garden Suite.

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grew up seeing advertisements for vacation packages designed to escape your life. It’s a puzzling, but all too realistic message if you are feeling trapped by the job, house, and responsibilities. Now, we rarely hear the word vacation anymore. The divide between holiday and the rest of life has narrowed and blended, and it is a must for sustainability, health and well-being. Life is for enjoying and to live fully, we must prioritise self-care. Adventure begins with a shift of mindset. When we change from no pain no gain, and no victory without mega stress, to getting to know ourselves and moving through our lives with grace, appreciation and ease, the world opens and expands to match our expansive nature. Life flows when we are in the flow of it. So jump in, enjoy the passion in this issue of being radically well, and always go after what gives you goose bumps. I hope this issue inspires you to leap towards your next adventure and your wildest dreams.Â

TARA STILES Celebrity yoga guru Tara Stiles is the founder of Strala Yoga, which is now practised in more than 100 countries. The success of Strala was studied by Harvard Business School.


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“Life is for enjoying and to live fully” PHOTOGRAPHY: MARGARET ZHANG



Tara Stiles blends fitness with travel.

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From meditating in a monastery to jogging through Tokyo, our contributors reveal their healthiest holidays


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Catharine Nicol is a health journalist based in Hong Kong. The former editor of AsiaSpa now contributes to CNN and Forbes magazine. My healthiest holiday: "It was a silent retreat at a Buddhist meditation centre in Sri Lanka. There was no phone signal or wifi and no talking. It just involved hours of sitting, mindful eating, yoga and meditation. It took me on a fascinating inner journey through my life, my priorities and my psyche."



Richard Friend is a Bangkok based photographer, researcher and writer. He uses documentary, reportage and street style photography to highlight social change in Asia. My healthiest holiday: "After spending most of my life living in large cities, I like nothing better than heading out to the countryside to enjoy long walks, and go swimming and cycling. I also try and eat as much of the locally grown food as possible. So for me, my healthiest holiday is a tie between a trip to the mountains and beaches of Thailand."


UK-based writer James Henderson contributes to The Telegraph and the Financial Times. My healthiest holiday: "It was walking in the Dolomites. More dramatic than beautiful, this mountain range is utterly captivating, particularly at the end of the day when the sunlight turns the grey scarps rose pink. We took the chairlift up in the mornings and then walked over rocky expanses and down through the high grasslands and alpine meadows."

Chef David Myers owns restaurants scattered across the world. He was named Best New Chef in 2003 and within four years he received his first Michelin star. My healthiest holiday: “[Tokyo] In the morning I go for a run as early as possible through the city trying to pass by a temple, stop and reflect for a bit. I also love to just walk through the city any time of day. It has its rhythms that ebb and flow, but there is always an energy."


Travel writer Charlene Peters in based in Napa Valley, California. She contributes to the Forbes Travel Guide. My healthiest holiday: "It was when I booked in for a “Digital Detox” at a spa. I had been living and studying in Paris for a year and I was desperate for a break from technology, cigarette smoke and smog. As soon as I checked in, I ceremoniously handed over my laptop and smartphone, but by the time I checked out, I could not have cared less about checking my emails."


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ULTIMATE RETREAT The world’s best hotel has launched the world’s most scenic yoga holiday. Nihi Sumba in Indonesia has created the Wild & Free retreat that will take place from 7 to 12 October 2017. Guests can join Australian wellness gurus Sjana Earp and Rod Cooper at pop-up yoga pavilions around the property. You could be practising your downward dog in the tropical jungle, on a pristine beach or in a yoga pavilion that overlooks the sea. Get away from it all at Nihi Sumba.

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WILD RIDE Take your next bike ride from ordinary to extraordinary — sign up for the Great Plains Foundation Ride For Lions in Tanzania that runs from 22 to 30 May. The trip, which takes four days to complete, has now been thrown open to pairs rather than groups. So grab your partner and get ready to ride across breathtaking savannahs through wetlands and into the lava world of Chyulu Hills. The foundation use the entry fee to help protect the land for future generations. Cycle through the African plains.


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HOT PROPERTY Sweden has just taken saunas to the next level with the launch of the Solar Egg in Kiruna. Artistic duo Mats Bigert and Lars Bergstrom created the gold-plated sauna to symbolise the rebirth of the city following its iron ore mining days. The egg, which uses solar panels to power its lights, will move around the country. It seats up to eight spa lovers around its heart-shaped wood burning fire. To book any of these trips email


Relax with friends in the Solar Egg.


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Read our online magazine







Destination: Happiness PHOTOGRAPHY: BELMOND

Get ready to set sail on the ultimate journey of self-discovery If you really want to embrace the slow life, book the new Mindfulness Cruise with the Belmond Road to Mandalay in Myanmar. Led by mindfulness gurus Shannon van Staden and Brian Hillard, each trip is designed to help you park all your worries and live in the moment. When you’re not learning Tibetan yoga, sipping on fresh juices or practising meditation in the peaceful Observation Lounge, you can relax in your cabin and watch the world go by as you cruise along the Ayeyarwady River. Guests can choose from a seven-night round trip, departing Bagan on 7 October 2017 or a three-night taster cruise departing Mandalay on 11 October. Leave all your worries behind on the Mindfulness Cruise.

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Clean Sleeping The hottest health trend for 2017 is one you can try without leaving your bed programme’s tailored massages or yoga classes, your suite will be given a makeover, which includes feather pillows, an organic wool mattress and the Withings Aura sleep system that combines an app, sleep register pad and lamp to train your sleep patterns. This package is designed to help you achieve the magic number, which says Dr Aneesh Kadappuram Vadakkeveedu of Six Senses Yao Noi is just two hours deep sleep each night — enough to help your body repair for the next day. Now this is one holiday where you will come back feeling refreshed. Available at select Six Senses properties.

Top: Discover how to catch those magical zzzs. Left to right: Room with a view: Ocean Pool Villa. Six Senses Yao Noi, Phuket.


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Forget clean eating, experts say the focus is now on clean sleeping. Research has shown that if we don’t achieve those perfect zzzs, sleep deprivation can lead to depression, obesity and heart disease. Six Senses has joined with renowned Sleep Doctor Michael Breus to launch Sleep With Six Senses, an innovative package that helps you improve how you sleep. Breus says: “Whether you stay one day or 30, you will know how to sleep better for the rest of your life”. The programme mixes state-of-the-art technology with yogic techniques. While you’re enjoying one of the


Boom Town It’s all eyes on Ethiopia in 2017. The capital is set to entice visitors with eco-chic fashion, hip cafés and art galleries


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WANT TO SEE MORE? Don’t know where to start? Lightfoot Travel has launched two bespoke itineraries that feature the best of Ethiopia. Highlights include the subterranean churches of Lalibela, the Sanetti Plateau, home of the Ethiopian Wolf, and the Blue Nile Falls in Bahir.

With such creativity, it’s no surprise there is also a burgeoning art scene. Zoma Contemporary Art Centre not only houses art, but is a work of art itself as it was created by artist Elias Sime who sculptured it from mud. While LeLa Gallery showcases local artists in a heritage house on the edge of Bole. And then there’s Addis Fine Art, which recently opened a new gallery in the city, and took the works of local artists to the latest Armory Show in New York. No wonder all eyes are on Addis Ababa.

The breathtaking Blue Nile Falls.

The churches of Lalibela.


Historic, atmospheric and rich in culture — it’s no surprise that stars such as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Oliver Stone have hot-footed it to its shores. But now, as Ethiopia has been named one of the hottest places to visit in 2017, yet more are set to follow in their wake. Foreign investment has seen the launch of a rapid transport system and a new international airport terminal, which will now welcome daily flights by Ethiopian Airlines from Singapore. What people will find when they touch down is a city filled with thriving jazz bars, hip coffee shops and innovative brands. ZAAF leather goods and SoleRebels are just two local start-ups ready to take the world by storm. ZAAF’s artisans, who take inspiration from the colours of Addis, have already hit the catwalks of New York. While eco-chic brand SoleRebels who put their own spin on Africa’s famed tyre shoe, have created a collection made from weather-beaten tyres that are now sold all over the world. The love of old and new also stretches to the restaurants — from Chane’s Restaurant, where the family of the late royal chef serve up traditional Ethiopian dishes, to the newly opened Vanquish, where locals go for hot beats and hookah when the sun goes down. If you’ve had a late night, you can find a great cup of coffee in Addis. Stop by the famed TO.MO.CA café and lean against the bar as the barista serves up a cup of rich liquid into a stubby glass. And while the new art-filled Harar Coffee Shop is also a favourite, you still can’t beat a hole-in-the-wall shop, where you’ll find a hawker with her bubbling clay coffee pot.

Clockwise from top left: The LeLa Gallery. New York favourite ZAAF. Addis hotspot Vanquish. The Sheraton Addis. A traditional Ethiopian dish.

HÔTEL DE CRILLON “Paris is always a good idea,” said the actress Audrey Hepburn. And who can disagree? Particularly now that Hôtel de Crillon has opened its doors after a four year makeover. The $260 million dollar revamp of the 18th-century palace hotel includes suites designed by Karl Lagerfeld, a glass-roofed swimming pool (which has been sunk two levels below the ground) and a cigar room complete with private smoking suites.

ON THE MAP RITZ PARIS The Ritz Paris kickstarted the trend with a $450 million makeover last summer. It contains the world’s first Chanel spa, a retractable glass roof over the restaurant and suites named after former occupants such as Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel. It looks like the Ritz that you know and love, but like any star who’s had an expensive facelift, it looks a little fresher.

Grandes Dames We take a look at the iconic hotels that have undergone magical makeovers

HOTEL LUNGARNO The classic Florentine hotel received a makeover this year courtesy of its owners, the Ferragamo family. The much loved hotel, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, will leave any connoisseur weak at the knees. From the new private dining room and wine cellar that features more than 1,000 bottles of the best Italian wine, to the walls that are decorated with one of the largest collections of privately-owned art. Guests are invited to go on art tours around the hotel, and there are five inspiring trails to discover.

ONE TO WATCH Raffles Hotel Singapore closed its doors this summer and will reopen in the middle of 2018. Plans are very hush-hush, however, they say that its carefully implemented restoration programme is poised to unveil a hotel with “contemporary charm and elegance”.


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Hidden in the myth-filled hills of ‘Monkey Mountain’ in the heart of the Son Tra Peninsula nature reserve, the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is a work of art by renowned resort architect Bill Bensley. Gourmet travellers will appreciate La Maison 1888 by 3 star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire and its outstanding wine cellar. Those looking for a genuine wellness retreat will love the HARNN Heritage Spa with spa lagoon villas set in a private lagoon. Tired feet can be treated to the ultimate pedicure at PEDI:MANI:CURE Studio by ‘podiatrist to the

Your Club InterContinental experience revolves around the exclusive

stars’ Bastien Gonzalez.

Sun Peninsula Lounge, a stylishly designed guest lounge with all-day

Discover Club InterContinental, the realm of luxury, “A Resort Within A Resort”. From the

refreshments, all the while offering some of the resort’s best views overlooking lush gardens and private bay.

moment you step off the plane, you’ll be taken on a

Revel in the sublime beauty of Son Tra Peninsula, create memories to

journey of unprecedented indulgence.

cherish, and be pampered every step of the way.

For more information or to make a reservation, please call +84 236 393 8888 or visit


EMBRACING THE SLOW LIFE IN LAOS Catharine Nicol asks if Luang Prabang in Laos could be crowned the most Zen town in Asia

Life on the Mekong River.



Luang Prabang

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nce you’ve discovered Luang Prabang, it will become your secret, soulful bolthole. Set on the Mekong, it is a sleepy town of temples and their resident monks, crisscrossed with quiet roads flanked by cafés, boutiques and bougainvillea… and more temples. If you’re looking for somewhere to tune out, this is the place. Luang Prabang runs on temple time, slow and yawningly early. Which is why it’s 5.45am and I’m walking through the gloaming, away from my comfy bed. My hotel, the glamorous Amantaka, has invited me to take part in alms giving to the monks and novices from the nearby temples. Set up by the side of the road, just outside their gates I find cushions on the pavement and bamboo pots warm with just-cooked sticky rice. Far from a tourist gimmick, there are rules to this daily Buddhist ritual. When the monks walk past, I must keep my gaze lowered in respect, and drop a small ball of sticky rice, carefully, into their bowl. We don’t have to wait long before we spot a single file line of monks walking towards us through the earlymorning light. I lower my eyes and watch a procession of bare feet pause in front of me as I drop my rice into each bowl, giving thanks for the opportunity and feeling a sense of compassion for each monk. Around a dozen monks from each of the four or five different temples collect our alms before we give our remaining rice to the animal spirits by placing a small amount on the pair of pillars at the entrance to the hotel. And finally, we take water and pour it on the trunks of one of the hotel’s trees to remember our ancestors. It’s heartfelt and powerful, and as I walk back into the hotel I feel as if I’ve been meditating. My spirit feels light, and my heart full. It’s a great way to start a day. With such a slow pace of life, I feel I have time to play with in Luang Prabang and trying a traditional Laos massage features high on my agenda. There are a number


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“It’s heartfelt and powerful. As I walk back into the hotel I feel as if I’ve been meditating” of spas in town, from luxury hotel sanctuaries to little day spas. Up the hill is the Belmond La Residence Phou Vao hotel, with its dark wood, whirring ceiling fans and lofty views. Its Mekong Spa is beautifully arranged around a lotus pool, and I am keen to book a traditional Lao massage, which is somewhat similar to Thai, but the pace and pressure is gentle and there’s less stretching. My calm therapist performs an emotionally as well as physically soothing treatment, from the initial foot scrub to the very last touch. I leave incredibly grateful and content. I thought that nothing would beat the foot massage that I'd had at the new Azerai resort earlier in the week. How amazing can a foot massage be? Very, it turns out. I was invited to step into a screened off space and relax in a supremely comfortable massage chair that was tipped so far back I was almost horizontal. Following the foot soak and cleanse, a hot pad was placed over my shoulders before the hour-long massage started. The gentle yet therapeutic healing pressure danced over my foot and lower leg. I closed my eyes to better appreciate the pressure. And then I nodded off… Now, as the sun rises in the sky, I decide to dive into the cool of Luang Prabang’s tempting coffee shop scene. On the main street there’s Joma’s high ceilings, old paintwork and tempting cakes, as well as Dexter’s modern black and white tiles and décor, and the best café mocha in town, but today I choose Le Banneton, a local institution revered for its delicious, flaky, buttery croissants, which I enjoy along with a Khaafeh Lao coffee.

Clockwise from top left: Young monks heading to the temple. Bronze Buddhas. The picturesque Kuang Si Waterfall. Colourful parasols in the market. A slow boat on the Mekong River. A natural detox tea. Wat Ho Siang temple.

The revered daily Buddhist ritual of giving alms.


In the evening I visit Sakkaline Road, which is home to textiles, parasols, bags, t-shirts and antiques. As the sun sets, shop after shop unearths a journey of creative indigo and batik, antiques and handicrafts. I stop by the Blue House, which is a wardrobe of stunning silk clothes and jewellery, then I view the famous weaving techniques at Le Pavilion de Jade and Ock Pop Tok, where local women use traditional techniques to create modern designs, before finishing my exploration by dipping into the Buddhist Archives at Wat Souvannakhili. It’s filled with the black and white works of German photographer Hans Georg Berger, who has made Luang Prabang and its surrounds his home and his muse.

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If I thought the town was relaxing, I was practically comatosed when I took a boat trip along the Mekong River the next day. I climbed aboard one of the signature longboats that putt-putt upstream to tour the recently launched Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens. A labour of love, this beautiful nursery of trees, flora and herbs is 15 minutes’ boat ride and a world away from reality. I wandered from one herb or bloom to another, learning about medicinal properties, marvelling at the dragonshaped orchids and loving the tunnel of bamboo. My only respite was when my journey can to an end at the café overlooking a lotus pond where I quenched my thirst with a local tea and tasted some Laotian snacks.

R E S T Y O U R H E A D Three Laos hideaways that you will love



Famed hotelier Adrian Zecha chose Laos as the destination for his first Azerai hotel. He has turned the former French officers’ quarters into a boutique hotel, complete with a Massage Retreat. Relax on the terrace that overlooks the city, or choose a poolside lounger that’s shaded by a Banyan tree.



When it comes to idyllic settings, the new Rosewood Luang Prabang is hard to beat. A river meanders through the property, a natural waterfall can be found among the grounds and a thick forest forms its backdrop. The 22 villa and tent resort that launches this year will help anyone escape from it all.

My time in Laos had almost come to an end, but I was told that I couldn’t leave without witnessing one of the city’s most charming experiences, some soul-stirring Buddhist chanting. In the morning the monks come to you, but in the evening you go to them. I arranged to sit in at Phon Heuang arriving at 5.30pm. Without preamble, novices started taking their seats on the floor of the wat, fidgeting like school kids until the more senior monks arrived. As the chanting started its deep, resonant sound, comfortingly repetitive, my eyes closed, my mind followed the ebb and flow and my spirit relaxed. It was balm to my soul, and I couldn’t have wished for a more fitting goodbye to this extraordinary place.

EDITOR'S NOTE — “I wanted to read this as it’s a fresh take on meditation and Zen is so appealing.” TARA STILES



This colonial hideaway comes with all the little luxuries that a traveller can expect of Aman. And it also comes with its own prince — Prince Nithakhong Somsanith. The Lao royal is the cultural ambassador and helps guests learn more about the country’s heritage.


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QUEENS OF THE DESERT The Women On A Mission team set off to become the first all-female team to cross the Lut Desert on foot



Lut Desert

Clockwise from left: The undulating dunes. Making great strides. Sights to inspire. Still smiling. Making plans.


confused mass of impassable tangled dunes” was how explorer Alfons Gabriel described the Lut Desert in 1938. This strip of land that runs across Iran is a place that’s so forbidding, it’s been said to be one of the few places on Earth that resembles the planet Mars. ‘Lut’ means emptiness in Persian. It was here in 2004 that the world’s hottest temperature of 70°C was ever recorded. Yet, this combination still didn’t dissuade 12 women from deciding to become the first all-female team to walk across what is one of the most barren places in the world. The team that included city-dwelling lawyers, bankers and marketeers from Singapore, London, Paris, Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong, would now be following in the footsteps of explorers such as Wilfred Thesiger and Marco Polo and trek 200 kilometres across the Dasht-e Lut of Iran. Their aim was to raise more than SGD$100,000 for Women for Women International, an independent humanitarian organisation to help female survivors of war.


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The Women On A Mission (WOAM) team, who are based all over the world, worked on their own training schedule. But when they arrived in Iran during November 2016 they were ready to take on the adventure together. They knew the obstacles they would face would be immense, but when they left the capital Tehran behind and arrived in the Lut Desert they were blown away by what they saw. “Many of us felt excited, but also apprehensive,” says Christine Amour-Levar, co-founder of WOAM. “We knew it was going to be a tough challenge to cover that kind of distance in those extreme conditions.” And as they began their trek across the desert they soon realised what they had taken on. The task would comprise walking 200 kilometres in seven days with wildly contrasting temperatures and climates. The team would start hiking at 6am and average around 30 kilometres a day. “The Lut is truly exceptional and full of contradictions. From the sweltering heat of the mega-dunes to the icy cold nights in the valley of the Kaluts, the desert kept us captivated by its raw beauty,” says Amour-Levar.

“ The strong winds would engulf us in a cloud of razor-sharp, golden particles”

So they didn’t burn themselves out too early on the expedition, the team maintained a steady pace and took a 10-minute break every hour. When the sun was at its highest, the team would stop for lunch, then charge ahead again throughout the afternoon, lured by the serpentine curves of the Lut’s hypnotic landscape. However, the desert threw up constant surprises. “The sheer force of the howling sandstorms, which rendered walking along the narrow ridges almost impossible, caught us off guard,” says Amour-Levar. “When we trekked along the top of the 600-metre high dunes, the strong winds would engulf us in a cloud of razor-sharp, golden sand particles and made it almost impossible for us to maintain our balance. It was quite a daunting experience.” During their seven-day trek the women and their guides didn’t see anyone else. The only signs of life along the trails were a few wolf, fox, snake and camel tracks. But this was a plus point as they were told that over the past few years, drug smugglers from the nearby Afghan and Pakistani borders had used the southern part of the Lut as a travel route. One of the longest and most challenging days of the

journey was the day they crossed the Eye of the Lut. The Eye is a huge crater believed to have been formed when a large meteorite struck the earth. It was this landscape that really pushed them to their limits. They covered close to 35 kilometres and arrived into camp in total darkness. “I was so exhausted I didn’t even have the strength to unzip my bag and set up my tent that day,” says Amour-Levar. “However, the Eye of the Lut was truly spectacular to behold. At the end of the day, as the last rays of sunlight glimmered and the sky turned a rich shade of amber, it literally took our breath away.” After finding the strength to put up the tents, the team would then follow a strict routine of trying their best to “de-sand” without water, treat blisters and other sores. Then their guides would serve them a hearty dinner, which usually consisted of a bean and vegetable stew served with white rice. Some of the team would chat around the campfire and stare up at the stars, but by 8:30pm most were sound asleep or tossing and turning in their sleeping bags, trying to ignore the aches and pains in their muscles. While their support team would take their tents, each

“I felt slightly melancholic leaving a world that was like no other I had ever experienced"” team member would carry a 10kg backpack, including water, food, medical supplies, sand goggles and sun block. They faced scorching temperatures, unyielding aridity and the sheer force of the winds, which converged from all four directions at once, causing the formation of massive star-shaped sand dunes. “Despite the long and tiring days of trekking, the team stayed positive, motivated and fiercely determined,” says Amour-Levar. After seven days, the team finally crossed the line and finished their challenge. Yet, Amour-Levar admits that this vast desert that had gotten in their hair and eyes, was now also well and truly under their skin. “The team was overjoyed and I shared in the genuine pleasure of our achievement; yet, a part of me didn’t want it to end,” she says. “My emotions were conflicted. I felt slightly melancholic to be ending a routine and leaving a world that was like no other I had ever experienced.”


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EDITOR'S NOTE — “This story is about female power.” TARA STILES

TA K E M E H E R E Have your own Iranian adventure

TREK THROUGH THE DESERT Mega Dunes Tour the hottest spot on Earth by foot or 4WD. You can now join a two-week trip that will whisk you out of Tehran, into the land of the explorers. Spend your days hiking, paragliding, or even skiing over the 400-metre high dunes, and the night telling stories around the campfire as you tuck into an Iranian feast.

VISIT A SIXTH-CENTURY PALACE Ancient Civilisation Southwest Iran plays host to one of the most famous archaeological sites on Earth — Persepolis. The ruins of the sixth-century BC palace has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site — as has the ruins of the city Pasargadae, which can be found nearby.


Clockwise from top left: Taking in the view. Leaving their mark. Sleeping among the dunes.

Architectural Masterclass The former capital Isfahan is famed for its architectural wonders. In the 17th century, Isfahan was larger than London and more cosmopolitan than Paris. Spy the Bridge of 33 Arches that stretches over 1,000 feet, the intricate tile work of the Sheikh Loftollah Mosque and the grand Imam Square, where the former Shah would host polo matches.


Blue Lagoon, Iceland

There’s a good reason why the Blue Lagoon was named by National Geographic magazine as one of its 25 wonders of the world. This idyllic retreat that’s found among the lava fields of Grindavik in Iceland, comes with blue geothermal water that’s believed to have healing powers. Book an In-Water Massage for the ultimate treat. EXTRA BOOST: Earn that pampering fix by trekking to Iceland’s famed waterfalls, joining a white water rafting trip or going whale watching. You can base yourself at the new Sand Hotel in Reykjavik, which is only a short drive from the lagoon.



When is a spa not a spa? When it’s a boat, a lagoon or on a train. Take a look at some of the world’s most unique places to get pampered


Aroma Boma Spa, South Africa

Ulusaba is Richard Branson’s private resort located in the heart of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. When you’re not out and about on safari, treat yourself to a massage at Aroma Boma Spa that’s located 800 feet above the vast savannah. You can forget about listening to piped music of birds tweeting — here you'll be surrounded by the real thing. EXTRA BOOST: With an adrenalin addict loving owner, you won’t be short of things to do. You can join a safari drive, take a helicopter flight — which swoops through the gorges — or join a tracker for a unique bush adventure.


Bamford Haybarn Spa, Scotland

What could be better than being whisked through the glens of Scotland? Possibly while you’re enjoying a hot stone massage. Belmond has launched two spa cabins on the Royal Scotsman that give you the chance to get pampered while you travel. If only all trains would do this. No-one would complain about them not running to time. EXTRA BOOST: The train offers an array of circular journeys that start in Edinburgh, then whisk you through the Cairngorms National Park, past the castles, lochs and hills of the Kyle of Lochalsh and the island of Bute, among other places. Travel By Lightfoot |



Lime Spa, Maldives

The world’s first underwater spa, the Lime Spa at Huvafen Fushi has large panoramic windows that look out into the ocean. Watch turtles, manta rays and colourful parrot fish swim past as you enjoy a treatment under the sea. EXTRA BOOST: Huvafen Fushi offers the ultimate aquatic adventure. Grab your snorkel and explore the house reef, or charter one of the resort’s boats and cruise around the turquoise water.


Tschuggen Bergoase, Switzerland

Okay, so it hasn’t actually been in a James Bond film, but the Tschuggen Bergoase at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel Spa is worthy of the big screen. The colourful glass shards that shoot out from the Swiss piste hide a rock grotto, four swimming pools, two private spa suites (which come complete with a whirlpool, steam bath and sauna) as well as a state-of-the-art fitness centre. EXTRA BOOST: If you can tear yourself away from the spa, you can spend the summer months playing a round of golf on Europe’s highest 18-hole golf course; or if you visit during the winter months, you can put on your skis and hit the famed Arosa ski slopes.


Jiva Spa Boat, India

The hotel floats, so it’s only natural that its spa does too. Board the Jiva Spa Boat at the Taj Lake Palace in India for a relaxing treatment on the serene waters of Lake Pichola. Choose from an array of different treatments including aromatherapy massage, herbal scrubs and a warming wrap, before you take a dip in the rose petal covered plunge pool. The hotel was built in 1743 as a summer retreat for the royal dynasty of Mewar, and it’s clear that its royal standards haven’t slipped today. EXTRA BOOST: Even when you’re not at the spa, the pampering doesn’t stop at the Taj Lake Palace. From vintage car rides around the city to yoga sessions on the terrace, there is a reason why the Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman called it: “Magical”. Travel By Lightfoot |




Celebrity yoga guru Tara Stiles reveals how she stays in shape when she travels



My favourite might have been during one of my first few trips to Asia. I usually go to a few cities on each trip and the energy of the people and the nature are so invigorating. WHICH COUNTRY WOULD YOU STILL LIKE TO VISIT?

There is so much of the world I still haven’t seen. I’d love to see Iceland and the Northern Lights and to explore South America more.


Tanya’s Cafe in London is great. And not crazy healthy, but pretty healthy and super fun, is Vegan Burg in Singapore. I love getting to know where the local health and yoga people eat. They know all the best spots so I try to hang around them when I’m in town [laughs].


For me yoga is about living a healthy lifestyle. The poses aren’t the goal and shouldn’t even really be emphasised so much. Feeling good in your body and mind is the goal. CAN YOU SUGGEST A YOGA MOVE THAT STRESSED-OUT TRAVELLERS CAN TRY?

I find myself in Singapore quite a lot, and also London. My schedule gets set around events and things, but these two cities keep pulling me back pretty regularly. No complaints here!

Pigeon is great to release tension in the hips and back and mind, which can pile up from travel. Come to sit easy on your hips. Lean into one hip and slide your other leg around behind you. Take a big inhale and sit up tall. Exhale and crawl yourself forward finding a comfortable place you can settle for several long deep breaths. When you’re ready, gently come up and go for the other side.



Hang out at the Strala studio [at Boat Quay]. The new location on the water is so pretty and fun. Also, Mike [her husband] and I love walking through the Cloud Forest in Gardens By The Bay. It’s a great place to cool off and I always learn something new about our planet.

I keep my meals simple. I always carry water and have healthy snacks handy. Sleep is also hugely important for me and I try to get as much as possible. Tara Stiles’ new book “Guiding Strala” (USD$24,99, is out now.



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With yoga studios in 15 countries and a collaboration with W Hotels that takes her all over the world, yoga guru Tara Stiles spends a large chunk of her life on the road. The woman who trains Deepak Chopra, Brooklyn Decker and Jane Fonda talks to us about some of her favourite trips.

Yoga star Tara Stiles.

A HIGHER LEVEL OF LUXURY IN PHUKET With striking, contemporary design, innovative seaside dining and an unwavering dedication to faultless service, The Nai Harn is taking luxury to new heights. Reinvigorate your senses and revel in this romantic sanctuary by the sea.

The Nai Harn Phuket 23/3 Moo 1, Vises Road, Rawai Muang District, Phuket, 83130 Thailand T +66 7638 0200

Practise your tree pose in a Californian meadow.


DETOXING IN NAPA VALLEY If you want to detox before you retox, head to Napa Valley, says Charlene Peters


California LOCATION

Napa Valley

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"It became impossible to tell where my body ended and the water began"

Clockwise from above: Calistoga Ranch. A suite at the Calistoga Ranch. A local vintage paired with fresh salad. Take a dip in the pool at Calistoga Ranch after your workout. Nature's bounty.



ong…. The melodic note drifts across the poolside. “Be in the moment” counsels Robert Lane, our Deepak Chopra-trained Aqua Vibrations teacher. It is 8am and our trio of intrepid floatees are about to enter hot springs mineral pools for a unique 90-minute wellness experience, now being offered at Napa Valley Spa Solage in California. We gradually progress from sitting in the pool to standing and chanting “gong fu” (in the moment… in the moment… in the moment) before swimming across the pool to climb atop one of three comfy, body-length floats. We are then covered with white cotton towels, so that we are now fully prepared to surrender our minds and bodies. With the hot springs water below us, and the comfort of the warm, wet towels on top of us, the sensation is meant to replicate the feeling of being inside a womb. At one with the universe, it became impossible to tell where the water ended and where my body began. The meditative state that resulted was genuine, snug and soothing as light rain tapped overhead, reminding us that we are but just a small spec in the universe. As the breeze swayed us ever-so-slightly on our floats, Robert serenaded us into an even deeper state of relaxation with a symphony of sounds made by swirling and submerging quartz “singing bowls” into the water. The colour of each bowl and its melody corresponded with various chakra colours, and we were totally mesmerised. This treatment had to be one of the world's most luxurious spa experiences. We exited the pool in a state of distinctly heightened awareness, like coming out of hypnosis; unable to decide if we’d been asleep or simply in a dream state. With our robes over our swimsuits, we headed over to the spa’s wellness bar to refresh ourselves with a pure and delicious mixed berry smoothie, ever more so in our state of elevated sensory awareness. That night, I slept better than I had in months. Calistoga, at the northernmost point of Napa Valley, is well-known for some of the world’s best wineries, but originally, it was all about mud. Ten thousand years ago, the Wappo tribe migrated west and south from what is now Russia. They sought a place to live near water, with fertile ground and mountains to Travel By Lightfoot |


Clockwise from above: The bathhouse at the Napa Valley Spa Solange. California's lush vineyards. A salad of baby beets at Napa Valley Spa Solange.

provide protection from harsh weather. Arriving in the territory that came to be named Calistoga, the Wappo found a land full of wild brush, with hot steam emerging from the ground due to geothermal springs. The Wappo soon discovered that the natural mineral springs and mud was therapeutic. The mud itself evolved from a volcanic eruption three million years earlier, when lava exploded and a burst of red-hot ash created what is known today as the Petrified Forest. When mixed with geothermal mineral water, this ash, found throughout Calistoga, creates a delightfully detoxifying mud. There are now seven hot spring resorts and 10 spas that offer traditional mud baths, hot springs or mineral pools. The concept of detoxifying the body through the external use of volcanic ash mixed with geothermal-heated water is offered all over Calistoga, including Solage. It seemed rude not to apply some of this miracle mud, so I then signed up for the Spa Solage Mudslide. The treatment starts with a meditation class, which was held at the fitness barn, at the end of a path lined with fragrant bushes of rosemary and lavender. I rolled out my yoga mat, and joined the in some deep breathing exercises while the therapist guided us through a meditative relaxation session. The stage is set for the next phase of detoxification: the Spa Solage Mudslide. We were invited to the outdoor spa bar to select the aromatherapy oil that “speaks to you”. I chose ylang-ylang oil, which was mixed with volcanic ash and geothermal water that poured from a small spout on the wall. I then stepped into a private room where the therapist slathered the misty grey mud concoction on to me. I was then asked to lie still until the mud had dried and worked its detoxifying magic on my body.


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Before I knew it there was a gentle tap on the door to tell me that it was time to rinse off the mud in an outdoor Balinese shower and then I stepped into the next bungalow where I found a luxurious tub filled with hot springs mineral water. If this wasn’t enough to lull me into a dream state, one more bungalow later, I am invited to take a seat in a leather-wrapped zero-gravity chair where I zone out listening to soothing music. This has to be the ultimate in relaxing spa treatments. Although maybe not if the Calistoga Ranch spa has its way. This secluded retreat — that was created by lodges literally being helicoptered into the forest — aims to provide an unparalleled getaway far from prying eyes. So it seemed that my Californian detox wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the spa loved by all the celebrities. On arrival at the ranch, I found out that amenities are either in your lodging space or brought in on-request. I could enjoy a little forest bathing by making use of the outdoor hot tub while taking deep inhales of the surrounding evergreens and crisp night air. And if I didn’t fancy the hot tub, I could lounge by the outdoor fireplace in my cosy spa robe and slippers, before I caught up with some much needed zzzs in my zen-like bedroom. The next day I went for a short hike to the cliff-top yoga class, where a view of the property’s private vineyards and Calistoga terrain of palm, walnut and oak trees lay before me. The expert energy healer talked us through our poses as we alternate downward dogs with more poses to simultaneously lift spirituality and our spines. If this wasn’t exhilarating enough, the finishing touch was back in the lodge, where I cooled off under a rainfall shower. Napa Valley may be the home of 50 world class wineries, but there’s no doubt that a week within the home of these lush vineyards is guaranteed to promote the ultimate feeling of wellbeing.

"I could enjoy forest bathing in the outdoor hot tub while inhaling the crisp night air" WHILE YOU'RE THERE... Five more ways to shape up in the Golden State 1. PADDLEBOARD IN THE SURF Take a sightseeing tour with a difference — go paddleboarding in Marina Del Rey. If you have any energy left you can hop on a bike and join a guide for a tour of the famous Venice Beach canals.




Pull on your hiking boots and hit the trails in Kings Canyon National Park. Discover waterfalls, alpine meadows and landscapes worthy of the big screen. Look out for yellow-bellied marmots, big horned sheep and maybe the odd bear.

Get your adrenalin fix by riding the rapids in the foothills of Sierra Nevada. Paddle along the South Fork of the American River and come face-to-face with the ‘Troublemaker’ and ‘Satan’s Cesspool’.

As a reaction to endless late nights in the office Californians are now turning to the Japanese therapy of shinrin-yoku to destress — namely, the art of forest bathing. Join a pop-up event and go for a meditative walk through the forest.

5. DIVE WITH LEOPARD SHARKS Want to spend more time in the water than on the dive boat? Visit the dive site near the harbour in Monterey. You can join a trip that will take you through the swaying kelp fronds to look for leopard sharks and octopus.


FIGHTING FOR A FUTURE Photographer Richard Friend discovers an innovative scheme in Bangkok that is helping children fight for a better future

The trainers work hard to inspire the children.




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ung Khae was waiting for me and he couldn’t wait to show me around. The elderly Muay Thai instructor was proud of his one-ring gym that was tucked away underneath one of Bangkok’s busy flyovers. And there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be. For within this outdoor workout space, the gentlemanly Muay Thai instructor is helping to change lives. I came across this small gym the day before and it immediately caught my attention. As a resident of this fast-paced, cramped city I’m always intrigued by how people turn the smallest of spaces into somewhere to socialise or play sport. This small boxing gym set under an expressway near the rundown Khlong Toey district seemed to shine out. When I had stepped up to the gym to take a close look, an elderly lady explained to me that it was used as a training camp for a foundation and it was only open in the evening after school and on Saturday afternoons. I had told her that I thought it would be an interesting story to photograph and she suggested I come back the next day. And that’s why Lung Khae was waiting for me. The elderly woman had told him that I might return, and he was looking forward to telling me more about all their hard work. As he walked me around the workout space he explained that the gym was part of the Thai Boxing Project to Prevent Drug Abuse and it is one of a wider network. Lung Khae explained that the kids who participate in this project tend to come from very difficult backgrounds. Many of the kids who visited the gym came from homes where the parents and older siblings are involved in drug abuse. Some of the children had family members

Clockwise from left: The children warm up with a session of skipping. A trainer teaches her pupil age-old techniques. While they are enthusiastic, the large gloves ensure that the children don't injure each other sparring. Thai boxing is known as the Art of Eight Limbs, as it uses punches, kicks, elbow and knee strikes.


“Many of the kids come from homes where their parents and older siblings are involved in drug abuse�

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Clockwise from top: The student receives the traditional Mongkol headpiece before a fight that shows respect to their elders and has been blessed by a Thai monk for good luck. Older students are encouraged to act as mentors by acting as referees for matches or holding the practise pads for younger students. Hands are tightly woven with wraps to protect knuckles.

in prison, while others were living in an area that suffers from crime and gang related violence. The result of this, explained Lung Khae, is that the mortality rate among these families is staggeringly high. As we talked the children started to turn up for their training session. Some turned up barefoot and wearing tatty clothes, while others were boisterous and overexcited. It led one of the volunteer instructors to joke that trying to teach them is like ‘catching monkeys’. But as the instructors coaxed their young students to start their warm-up exercises and practice skipping, it’s obvious that there’s warmth on both sides. While the boxing ring takes centre stage in the gym, it’s clear that the focus isn’t so much about fighting, but more about training. The children — both boys and girls — learn the boxing moves, but they also learn about the traditions that come with the sport. They are taught the Wai Kru, a dance performed to traditional Thai music that shows respect to their trainers, elders and ancestors. And the older children are encouraged to play a mentoring and coaching role to the younger ones, which teaches them about leadership and responsibility. It’s also clear that it's more than just a boxing camp. Just before the start of the new school term, Lung Khae's team handed out lunch boxes and uniforms to the children that had been donated by local businesses. But as generous as the local companies are it still appears that the camp is short of funds. The instructors will often pay out of their own pockets to buy treats for the children at the end of training sessions.


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“Boxing was a metaphor for the struggles that these kids face” Travel By Lightfoot |


H O L I D A Y S T H A T H E L P More people working to make the world a better place

HELP SCHOOLS IN SUMBA Nihi Sumba in Indonesia has not only helped launch five medical clinics and build 48 water wells, but it has also created 15 primary schools. Interested guests can join the team when they volunteer in the village. One project includes visiting local primary schools and helping to serve the children their school lunches.

SUPPORT YOUNG ECO WARRIORS Sixteen years ago, Wilderness Safari Lodges launched a safari camp for kids to teach them about protecting the environment. The Children in the Wilderness scheme has now grown to provide scholarships to the Southern African Wildlife College in Kruger Park and the Wilderness team has also employed ex-students as rangers.

DONATE YOUR MILES European travel scheme Miles & More (miles-and-more. com) will donate your air miles to charities in India or Africa who can use the miles to pay for school fees or school meals. Just 5,000 air miles can provide 50 children in Africa with a school meal or cover a teacher’s wages for a month.


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Left: Receiving last minute tips. Right: The club focuses more on training rather than fighting.

The pride that I saw in the students and teachers on my first trip, I wanted to capture on film. So over the next year I returned several times to interview the students and their teachers and to take more shots. They then invited me to an exhibition match at a local temple where the older children practice what they had been taught. It looked as if the whole community — family, friends, teachers — had turned out to support them. These young fighters had clearly paid close attention to what their teachers had been telling them. As their instructors massaged their limbs, and wrapped their hands, the children seemed to know that what they were doing was part of their heritage — they had respect for the ritual and they had respect for their teachers. As they stepped into the ring, performed their Wai Kru and paid homage to their ancestors, they gave it their all. I was struck by their incredible determination. What I was seeing was the result of the teachers and kids’ incredible dedication and perseverance. Boxing as a way out of hardship is perhaps a bit clichéd, but it still holds powerful resonance, as a metaphor for the struggle that these kids face. I hope that when people see this series it gives some insight into what life as a child in Bangkok can be like — and that they can convey the sense of dignity, camaraderie and courage. I hope that the children see themselves in a similar way, and that they will be proud of these images. Travel By Lightfoot |


The Blue Mountains.


CANYONING IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS Early explorers would slog their way up the Blue Mountain’s streams in search of adventure. Today’s travellers are getting the same thrill, but in wetsuits, says James Henderson


Australia LOCATION

New South Wales

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“I could see the floor of the canyon was covered in water and so I braced myself for a cold entry�



aced with steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests and waterfalls, 18th-century explorers fell back onto their African experience and decided that the only way they could navigate the Blue Mountains wilderness was by river. Dutifully they thrashed their way through the undergrowth and slogged their way up stream, only to find that it was easier to follow the paths of the Aborigines though the bush, who had been crossing the mountains for millennia. However, modern adventurers are still undeterred and are attracted to these rivers like a magnet. Today I was one of these foolhardy characters. Sporting a wetsuit, life jacket and helmet, I was about to launch myself into one icy pool after another. The Blue Mountains are a massive layer-cake of sedimentary, red and rich yellow rock, interlaced with coal and capped in places with granite. After their creation 100 million years ago, water quickly started eroding them. The water froze and cracked the rock… then it dripped, trickled, gurgled and raced, leaving gullies and clefts in its wake. The result was a picturesque playground for adrenalin addicts. Our canyon of choice is in Wollemi National Park (named so because of the 1994 discovery of the ancient Wollemi pine, which had been thought extinct). Access involves a walk to the riverhead or the entry-point into the canyon, but a short hike through the undergrowth only builds on the anticipation. We made our way down the dark and steep-sided clefts, while our rubbery river shoes helped us grip on the inevitably slippery rocks. The principle of canyoning I discovered is simple; you follow the course of the water, mostly down a gully. You walk, wade, scramble over riverrocks and swim across pools. And you find yourself in all sorts of odd positions, moving like a crab, sliding down rivers and jumping like a duck. “Nobody is too grand to use their backside in this sport,” said our guide. When it was too high to jump the guides would get out the abseiling gear and help us descend by rope, often in a whirling spray or spattered by the waterfall. We entered the slot canyon down a 40-foot long rope. The canyon’s walls were just six or seven feet apart, so as I lent back over the lip of the canyon, my head almost reached the other side. Descending into the gloom between the sheer rock walls, I could see that the floor of the canyon was covered with water and so I braced myself for a cold entry … I hit the water, but I only went in as far as my calves.

Canyoners make their way along the rock face.

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Adventurers scramble across rocks and swim across pools. Left: Ready to take the plunge.

“The rock walls had been washed smooth by eons of water and the cavern was almost luminous”" We set off at a walk, the vertical walls closing above us, leaving just the shape of ferns visible against the narrow sky. We splashed through the stream. As I looked around I could see that the erosion is still going on, with whorls of water action carved into the walls as though by a massive ice-cream scoop. Elsewhere there were ghostly, humanoid shapes in the rockfaces. We reached a lip, where the walls open out into a sort of sinkhole, a roofless cavern 30 feet across with water pooled 10 feet below us. It was a jump and so we launched ourselves, slapping at the water to break our fall. In the next slot the water became too deep to walk so we swam along the chasm, pulling ourselves over rocks, touching the canyon walls either side. Moss covered the walls and everywhere there was subterranean green gloom. But around a corner, entering another cavern, suddenly there was sunlight. It penetrated in angled beams, highlighting mist hanging in the canyon air. The rock walls had been washed smooth by eons of water action and the cavern was almost luminous. The water glowed, showing every stone and rock under the surface. The sedimentary layers stood out like huge wafer biscuits. Soon the slot enclosed us again, and we were back to swimming. Farther down the cleft came a drop too large to jump. We took out the climbing harnesses again and put them on as the guide fixed the rope. The belay point was just next to the water spout and so as we descended we found ourselves falling in the cascade, the water spattering onto our helmets. It was whipped up by wind from below, which grabbed it and turned the droplets into a mist. It was like dangling in a maelstrom. I slid into the water, unhitched, and then swam to the side to watch the others slide down into the pool.


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Our exit was via an exploratory fissure that the water had eroded for a while before gravity took it on a different path. Then we found ourselves back in the eucalyptus that give the Blue Mountains their name (their sap rises on the air and gives it a blue tinge). Around us the air was full of excited chat. Everyone was exhilarated. Oddly though, my favourite moment came when we reached a second, gentler canyon. We descended and descended into the gully twisting and turning. There was a small stream, which pooled in a few places and involved a jump and a swim, but mostly it was dry. We scrambled over rock and crept among boulders as the cliff-walls climbed around us. As the sunlight was blocked out, it seemed we were swallowed up by the centre of the earth. Suddenly we emerged into bright sunlight and an abrupt end. At our feet, the water splayed lazily across a slab of sandstone and skittered off the lip into a waterfall. We had reached one of the huge scarps that had foxed the early explorers before us. And that's where we stayed. Taking in a view that carried for miles across a whole valley of eucalyptus trees 300 feet below.

EDITOR'S NOTE — “Canyoning through the Blue Mountains sounds exhilarating and so unique.” TARA STILES

M O R E T O T H E M O U N T A I N S You might be in the bush but you don't have to rough it. The Blue Mountains are home to fine food, luxury lodges and bespoke buys


SLEEP Set within its own private wildlife and conservation reserve you will find Emirates One&Only Wolgan Emirates One&Only Valley. It comes with Wolgan Valley. private villas that have in-room swimming pools, an indulgent spa and offers fine-dining under the stars. Kick back in the historic homestead that is now Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa. Design lovers are sure to fall head over heels for the handcut wallpaper, rich silks and organza that decorates the suites. And gourmands will fall for the food.


Leura Garage.

Gordon Ramsey alumni Regan Porteous has shown how stylish mountain morsels can be with the launch of Leura Garage. Enjoy pizza and sharing plates in the hip industrial surroundings. If you’re looking for gluten-free food in the mountains, don’t panic. Head to Rubyfruit Vegan Café and Bakery in Leura. Since 2012, the team have been whipping up wraps, salads and vegan desserts for those who want to cure a grumbling tummy, not create a sore one.


The subterranean playground.

Looking for a souvenir? Then stop at Josophan’s, the chocolatier in Leura. They have won numerous awards for their Fairtrade taste sensations. They also run Chocolate Appreciation Workshops. Organic buys Treat yourself to some from iKOU. organic beauty buys at iKOU. The team create natural botanical skin-care, and bath and beauty products using handpicked florals and botanicals.


Enjoy a taste of life like a modern-day Maharaja at a 230-year-old for tress, in the Aravali hills of Rajasthan. Guests will enjoy noble privileges throughout their stay ensuring a regal experience from star t to finish. INCLUSIONS Historical Tour of the For tress and Grounds • Unlimited Food & Beverage Services • Unlimited Spa Alila Treatment • Unlimited Laundry Services • Play Alila • Complimentary Transfers.

TERMS & CONDITIONS Live Like a Royal is an all-inclusive package which star ts from USD 345++ per night for a minimum two-night stay, based on two adults sharing, excluding taxes. Up to two children under the age of 12 stay free when sharing with two adults. Valid for year-round travel, subject to availability. For booking and information Singapore: +65 6690 3250 Hong Kong: +852 3018 8500 Dubai: +971 4455 8788



Want to tear your tots away from that computer screen? Then take them on one of these fun activity holidays for families



If you are going to learn how to do stand-up paddleboarding, why not learn in a tropical paradise? COMO Point Yamu in Phuket has launched a beach club that’s on an island of its own. You’ll be whisked over to it in a traditional longboat, where your kids can sign up for a private lesson on an SUP. SLEEPOVER: It might be hard to persuade them to leave the hotel as this is where you'll find Play by COMO. A purpose-built kids’ club that offers an endless array of activities, including Muay Thai and cooking classes in a treehouse! If you don’t believe how much fun this place is, kids can skip the stairs and ride the slide down into the sandpit.



Families who can’t sit still will love to stay at

Amanpulo in the Philippines. They have numerous

water craft for sailors large and small to play with, from Hobie Cats to cruise boats for day trips. Take advantage of the hotel's complimentary bikes and cycle down to the watersport centre for a lesson in one of the world’s most beautiful archipelagos. SLEEPOVER: This private island that has played host to Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Beyoncé is obviously a favourite with stylish mamas. Choose from tree top, hillside or beach casitas — all come with a pictureperfect view. When the kids are not sailing around the island, they can join a guide on a snorkelling tour, visit the kids' club or top up the calories they’ve burnt with a slice of pizza, whipped up in the restaurant’s ovens on the beach.



What could be more exciting than an Arabian adventure? Take your kids to the Feynan Eco Lodge


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where you can join one of their guides for a hike through the Jordanian desert. Get ready to feel like mini explorers as the team take you on a walk from the desert-like Dana Biosphere Reserve into the green Wadi Feynan. Tots will have the chance to walk past Bedouin villages and spy goats, discover natural springs and catch a glimpse of the birds that have made the reserve their home. SLEEPOVER: Leave your luggage in one of the spacious family rooms that look out over the desert. Then head to the terrace where you can dine under the stars. You might even want to head up to the Panoramic Rooftop Terrace where the Feynan team will tell you more about the secrets of the skies.



Expect to see smiles a mile wide when you sign your tots up for the Own A Pony Experience at the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire’s Equestrian Centre. Pony lovers aged from seven to 16 can take part in a half-day session that includes lessons on grooming and stable management, as well as a 30-minute hack through the Dogmersfield

Clockwise from left: Four Seasons Hampshire. Learn to fish in Africa. Practise your swing in Mexico. Visit Bedouin tribes in Jordan. Sail around Pamalican island. Relax at Morukuru.

Estate. Younger children can also try their hand at riding in separate lessons. SLEEPOVER: Your tots will feel like tiny VIPs as soon as they reach the 18th-century manor house turned hotel. Not only do they have their own special menu at the restaurant, but upon arrival they will receive their membership to the Kids For All Season’s programme, which includes treasure hunts, movie nights and craftmaking sessions.



The next Michelle Wie or Rory McIlroy can practise their strokes at the Palmilla Golf Club in Mexico. During your holiday you can sign them up for a golf lesson with a pro. Let's face it, a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course that has views of Los Cabos isn’t a bad place to sink your first hole in one. SLEEPOVER: This chic hacienda-style One&Only Pamilla is only a short drive from the club. If your tots are not exhausted from zooming around in golf buggies or practising their laps in your villa’s pool, they can pop along to the hip and happening Kids Club, where they can take part in painting sessions and even learn how to make a piñata. Another great family day out is

going whale watching off the coast. Come December you could see a leviathan family enjoying their break in warmer water.



For a lesson in patience, a fishing trip is hard to beat. Morukuru Fishing Safaris will teach visitors both large and small how to perfect their first catch. Mini fisherfolk will be taken to the Marico River that runs through the Madikwe Game Reserve. Here they will have the chance to catch yellow fish, catfish, bream and tilapia. SLEEPOVER: Make Morukuru your home from home. This chic resort set in the middle of the Madikwe Game Reserve is run by a family for families. Comprising three villas, the resort lives by its Morukuru Freedom Concept – namely, you can do what you want, when you want. How you plan your holiday is up to you. On top of the fishing safari, kids are invited to pop on their Morukuru Kidz’ backpack and head out for tracking lessons with their own wildlife guide or take part in cooking lessons. However, you can't leave the resort without signing up for a safari. This malaria-free area is home to elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards.

Rory and Melita Hunter with their son Naryth.


TREASURE ISLAND When Rory and Melita Hunter sailed around Cambodia, little did they know they would soon buy two of its islands


hen Rory and Melita Hunter decided to hire a fishing boat and sail around the coast of Cambodia, little would they know that this trip would change their lives forever. The advertising director and designer from Sydney were taking a break before moving to New York, but then they chanced upon the Koh Rong archipelago and were enchanted. From their boat they could see two islets covered in lush palm trees. The cerulean blue sea was lapping against the rocks and there was swathes of golden sand — it was paradise. They went ashore to buy lunch and got chatting to the family who lived there. It turned out that the family wanted to return to the mainland and were selling the islets for USD$15,000. The Hunters never reached New York. They

An Overwater Villa at Song Saa in Cambodia.

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Clockwise from left: Coffee at the Driftwood Bar. Children taking their buffalos for a walk on Koh Rong beach. The islets that stole the Hunters' hearts. The Overwater Villa at Song Saa blends luxe and eco chic. The Driftwood Bar made from items the team found on the beach.

returned a week later to Koh Rong with the money in a paper bag, and with the local navy to officiate the deal, they took out a 99-year lease in 2006 on the islets of Koh Bong and Koh Oun. “We wanted to share the island with other people. We wanted them to see how special [it] is,” said Melita Hunter. It wasn’t the first time that the Hunters had run their own business. While they were based in Phnom Penh, they had run a successful company in the city buying and renovating heritage buildings that they would sell to foreigners. The Hunters knew immediately that they wanted to build a resort on the island, but they wanted to show the island some love first. They started to work on cleaning up the sea by creating Cambodia’s first marine protected reserve, placing 100 artificial reefs around the island to encourage the fish stocks to return, and then they introduced a waste management system onshore to remove unwanted rubbish. They were determined that their eco retreat would tread lightly on the island so they also worked with an architect to see how they could move rather than chop down the trees to build the retreat. However, two years later when they just finished the clean-up operation and were getting ready to start construction, the family were hit with bad news — Melita was diagnosed with cancer. She needed to return to Australia for surgery and 12 months of treatment. Lehman Brothers also crashed, which meant that their major investor pulled out. It seemed as if everything was against them, but the Hunters never gave up on their dream. In her hospital bed Melita made sketches of what she wanted the resort to look like, and Rory worked on business plans. When Melita’s treatment was over and she was given the all clear, the Hunters, against their concerned family’s wishes, returned to Cambodia to kickstart their plans.

Clockwise from left: A deluxe picnic for guests on neighbouring Koh Rong island. Visitors can stroll between the two islands. Now that will inspire a workout — the walkway to the gym.


“It's been a tearful, challenging and incredible ride. We wouldn’t change it for the world”” Everyone came to realise that this power couple was unstoppable. Building a business on the three Ps — people, planet and profit, they created an eco retreat that they could be proud of. The sister islets became Song Saa (“the sweethearts”) and home to 27 villas, two restaurants and a spa. Sticking firm to their need to stay eco friendly, they took every opportunity to use recycled produce to build the resort, including using driftwood and old boats to help erect and decorate the resort. However, while Song Saa is an undoubted success, it’s probably the foundation that they launched in 2013 that the Hunters are most proud of. After bringing over a nutritionist and naturopath from Australia, they discovered that 75 per cent of the islanders of the archipelago were suffering from malnutrition, as opposed to the UNICEF figures for the mainland, which is 45 per cent.

The duo launched numerous initiatives including medical missions where each year they fly out 40 doctors to run clinics for the villagers; they also operate educational programmes and offer organic farming support. The team also launched the Boat of Hope that provides much-needed medical care to the other islands. Guests have chosen to contribute to the scheme, donating among other things solar panels for the school. And the work of the foundation also attracted the attention of Prince Albert of Monaco who made a donation for a research centre. While they may now have created the island of their dreams, Rory admits it hasn’t always been easy. “It’s been a tearful, challenging and incredible ride. But our love for the people, the environment and the vision we have for the future of this community made every single challenge worthwhile. We wouldn’t change it for the world.”

EDITOR'S NOTE — “The Hunters’ story is so inspiring” TARA STILES

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The SHA Wellness Clinic shows that a healthy dish can be really tasty.


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Who says you need to pile on the kilos when you're on holiday? Just book into one of these luxury spas that come with delicious and nutritious menus

SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain Lowdown: A spa that should be in Architectural Digest

A-listers in need of a boost are known to head to this stylish Mediterranean retreat. Looking more like a Balearic beach club than a spa, this centre for all things macrobiotic is said to have attracted Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and even Vladimir Putin through its doors. Alongside the infinity pool, lush gardens and waterfalls, you’ll find a medical clinic that offers an array of solutions to help you tackle among other things, low energy, weightloss and stress. On the SHA detox programme you can expect anything from ginger compresses and detoxifying seaweed wraps, to trips to the oxygen bar, workouts with a personal trainer and a healthy cooking class. While the food is sugar and dairy free, it still has a huge legion of fans who are said to adore dishes such as fennel tempura, red mullet and apple and ginger flan. The uber chic SHA Wellness Clinic.

Kamalaya's sweet potato rosti.

Kamalaya, Thailand Lowdown: Tranquil Thai retreat that’s filled with health experts

Pack your bags and travel to the tropical island of Koh Samui to give your body some TLC. While it has plenty experts on hand, this barefoot chic retreat is known for having a relaxed vibe. The resort itself was created by an artist rather than an architect, and the croissants and organic wine alone have been enough to encourage guests to make multiple repeat visits. If you haven’t detoxed before, book the Intro To Detox Programme. This package helps beginners put their toes in the detox water. Whether you choose to stay three or five nights, they can create a programme of holistic therapies that are designed to make you feel more energetic. Expect detox food, spa treatments, a wellness consultation and a huge choice of calorieburning fitness activities.

Kamalaya: Your island retreat.

Scallops and asparagus: What's not to like?

Lowdown: Famed for its miracle cleansing salt

The picturesque location of VIVAMAYR is also the source of its success. For tucked deep within the Austrian landscape is the Altaussee salt source, which its founder Dr FX Mayr believed could cleanse the body. Now 100 years later, the award-winning spa is still embracing Dr Mayr’s philosophy of combining medical and natural remedies to give the body a boost — and you still get a mini mineral elixir too. The theories may be old, but the diagnostics are state-ofthe-art. Expect allergy tests, bone-density measurements and cardiovascular assessments. When you’re not in the middle of giving your body an MOT with the doctors, you can go for a stroll around the lake, enjoy a hike through the Alps, or join in with one of the yoga sessions.

Instant inspiration: The VIVAMAYR Altausse pool.


VIVAMAYR Altausse, Austria

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Ananda In The Himalayas, India Lowdown: Palatial yoga retreat in Himalayas

The tranquil Music Pavilion at Ananda in the Himalayas.

Revive your mind, body and soul in the Himalayas. This highaltitude retreat that’s set in a 100-acre former palace estate could be one of the most glamorous spas on earth. It offers two detox packages designed to get you back on your feet. First timers might want to choose the Ananda Detox that blends East and West techniques to give you an energy boost. While hardened detox fans might want to take a look at the Yogic Detox that uses yoga and salt water to help purge your body of all those 21st-century toxins. And relax... Your programme will be designed to fit your own Ayurvedic dosha (mind and body type). The Ayurvedic chefs will create a fivestar menu for you, while the yoga gurus will match you to your ultimate yogic workout.

Enjoy a picnic by the riverside at COMO Shambhala Estate.

COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali Lowdown: A jungle hideaway that offers an MOT

Who says that a detox needs to be dull? At the COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud, Bali, you could be rock climbing, trekking through rice padi fields, meditating by the river or taking the plunge in the Spring Pools. The flagship resort of the COMO brand doesn’t disappoint. From the jungle setting to the thatched villas filled with Indonesian artefacts, you’re sure to fall in love with this tropical hideaway. You can choose a five or seven-day programme that includes a wellness consultation, massages, cleansing treatments and a body treatment at the Freshen up in the great spa. Alternatively, relax outdoors. in the steam room, sauna or pool. After a trip to COMO Shambhala Estate you’re guaranteed to leave feeling as good as new.


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+971 4 455 8788

+65 6690 3252




+852 2815 0068 HONG KONG



“There’s something about hot soba early in the morning that helps the jetlag”

Where I stay… It depends on the season but I love the Park Hyatt for the views, the Grand Hyatt for convenience and the Aman for experience.

The ingredient I stock up on... I always buy green tea, soba cha (soba tea) and fresh sudachi. I can't find great sudachi in the US.

David Myers.

Breathtaking views at Aman Tokyo.

INSPIRATION Japan's famed green tea.

One thing to do before you leave… [Eat] sushi. You have never really experienced sushi until you experience it at a great restaurant in Tokyo. Try Sushi Shin.


I start the day with… …a bowl of hot soba at the market. There is something about hot soba in the early morning that helps the jetlag. But sometimes I stop by a little French cafe in Roppongi or Namakeguro and get a croissant and take a walk. That also helps to clear the head.

M Y E R S ’

CHEF’S GUIDE TO TOKYO Star chef David Myers who owns restaurants in LA, Dubai, Singapore and Tokyo, takes us on a tour of one his favourite cities

Get a sushi fix.

While away the hours at Tsutaya Bookstore.

Warming soba noodles.

With restaurants all over the world, Chef David Myers spends most of his life in the air. But if there's one city he can't wait to visit, it's Tokyo. "It's the place where everything is hidden. It's the city of finds," said Myers. So we asked him to tell us about his favourite discoveries.


Knives from Aritsugu. One of Gen Yamamoto's exclusive cocktails.

When I’m not the kitchen… In the morning I go for a run through the city. I will stop by a temple and reflect for a bit. In the afternoon I love to stroll through Daikonyama, hit some cool boutiques and finally stop at Tsutaya Bookstore where I seem to lose track of time and leave early evening.

If I’m meeting friends for a drink… I love going with friends to Gen Yamamoto. He is chef-like in creating his cocktails and my friends are always blown away by his tastings. His place is only six seats so book early.

Where I get my tools Tsukiji is the best [for Japanese knives]. You can either buy from Aritsugu or Masamoto. Both knife shops are in the market and you have a great selection. A lot of chefs buy their knives there. I have bought quite the collection from them.

Eating at one of Myers' restaurants in Tokyo? He recommends the following: "At Salt Water you have to try our uni and squid ink pasta. We use uni from Hokkaido and squid from Aoyomori. From David Myers Cafe in Ginza, you have to try our signature pancake with caramel and strawberries." Travel By Lightfoot |



Take A Dip In A Gold Energy Pool If you're looking for a glamorous spa experience, a swim in the St Regis Lhasa Resort’s Gold Energy Pool in Tibet is hard to beat. This 200-square metre pool that’s covered in glittering gold tiles, is the perfect place to ease your muscles after spending the day hiking through the picturesque Tibetan countryside. The mineral-rich salt water can help


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boost your circulation and as it’s warmed to a soothing 28 degrees there’s no fear of shivering when you step in. If this isn’t relaxing enough, once you’ve taken a dip, you can kick back on one of the sumptuous cabana-style sofas that line the pool and enjoy a reviving foot massage while taking in views of the Potala Palace.


The luxurious Gold Energy Pool.

W W W . L I G H T F O O T T R A V E L . C O M

Travel By Lightfoot: Edition 3 - The Wellness Issue  

Issue 3 is all about wellness; where to escape to find it, experiences that help you to improve it, and destinations that teach you how to m...

Travel By Lightfoot: Edition 3 - The Wellness Issue  

Issue 3 is all about wellness; where to escape to find it, experiences that help you to improve it, and destinations that teach you how to m...