HOT AND COLD
WINTER 2020 Beach and jungle or snow and slopes?
AMAN PRIVATE J
BALI TO LUAN 21 September -
A 16-day journey through Indones a whirlwind of the rich traditions and
NG PRABANG 6 October 2020
sia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, d exotic landscapes of Southeast Asia.
26 for more details
ISSUE 04 | July 2019
Coron Island Hopping and Instagramming
OPIUM SUITE TO THE MERCHANT ROOM Remote Lands goes inside the two very different Six Senses in Singapore for a look at the hottest hotels in the Lion City
ASIA’S BEST HOT WINTER DESTINATIONS You can go dune bashing outside Muscat or tiger tracking in Madhya Pradesh
ASIA’S BEST COLD WINTER DESTINATIONS For the adventure traveler there’s Kyrgyzstan slopes and Seoul eateries for foodies
Miu Ne: The Desert Dunes of Tropical Vietnam
MOUNT MAYON Richard Collett takes an ATV to the most active volcano in the Philippines
2020 Aman Private Jet Expedition: Bali to Luang Prabang
Bill Bensley on Rosewood Luang Prabang
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR When it comes to Asia, you’ve got options. The frozen wastes of Siberia for some dog sledding or maybe a maitai on a beach in Indonesia? Trekking with tigers in Madhya Pradesh or snow leopards in Ladakh? Skiing in Kyrgyzstan or dune bashing in Muscat? In the winter months much of Asia comes alive; temperatures and winds calm for kinder weather in much of Southeast Asia and the colder regions of the continent turn a harsh, icy white for adventure travelers. In this issue, Remote Lands will be looking at five hot and five cold winter destinations, helping travelers to figure out where to go. Whether you’re running to the cold or from it, this issue has a solution. – Tyler Roney
Catherine Heald, Jay Tindall
Product Manager Trinity Nguyen Distribution
Jordan Hammond, Laurel Tuohy, Richard Collett, Tyler Roney, Jay Tindall, Bill Bensley
Remote Lands, Inc.
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TRAVEL NEWS Traveling through Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, the recently announced 2020 Aman Private Jet Expedition Bali to Luang Prabang is a 16-day journey through plush Aman resorts. Taking off in September of 2020 on a private AC318 jet, complete with three lounges, experiences on the journey will include ethical elephant experiences, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a helicopter ride over Angkor Wat. The journey begins on the island of Bali in Ubud before moving to the coast at the Amankila; afterward, travelers will climb aboard their private jet and alight in Java near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur for a stay at the Amanjiwo. The first change of country will see travelers to Cambodia and Siem Reap for a look at the Angkor Wat wonder of the world and rest at the Amansara. Taking the AC318 jet to Vietnam, jetsetters will be welcomed to the beach resort Amanoi near Vietnamâ€™s Cam Ranh Bay. The final stop on the 2020 Aman Private Jet Expedition is Luang Prabang and a stay at the Amantaka. The journey will take place from September 21 through October 6, 2020; see page 54 for details. Other Aman Jet Expeditions with seats still available include the Kyoto to Greece Aman Private Jet Expedition 2020 and The Grandest Tour â€“ Aman Private Jet Expedition 2020 from Kyoto to Greece. 6
16-Day Aman Private Jet Trip Through Southeast Asia to Take Off in 2020
Remote Lands Launches
Chiang Mai Culinary Tour
Synonymous with luxury in Singapore – and unmissable for fans of Crazy Rich Asians – the Raffles Singapore is a world-class hotel in the heart of the Lion City, and the Accor Group announced in June that they would be opening another Singapore property with the Raffles Sentosa Resort & Spa Singapore. The new resort will be built on a 100,000-square-meter site on Sentosa and will be able to accommodate 200 guests. Hosting 61 villas, each featuring a private pool and terrace, these opulent rooms range from 260 square meters to 450 square meters for the three-bedroom presidential villa. The roots of Raffles run deep in Singapore, and this new opening will take place 135 years after the original Raffles opened on Beach Road. “The original Raffles Hotel was conceived as a beachfront property, but as Singapore has grown up around the property it is now located in the thriving center of the city,” managing director of Royal Group Peter Wilding said regarding the opening. By 2025, Accor Group has plans to expand its Raffles brand to 20 hotels around the world.
The “Tastes of the Lanna Kingdom” itinerary was launched by Remote Lands in June, a five-day journey around Chiang Mai. This epicure’s expedition explores northern Thai cuisine, or Lanna cuisine, named after the ancient Lanna kingdom. Culinary tours should be on every Chiang Mai traveler’s menu, especially considering the announcement in April that the Michelin Guide would be coming to the northern city by 2020. With Bangkok and Auntie Fai making the guide (and international news) in 2018 and with Phuket added in 2019, the Michelin Guide is adding excitement to the already established Thai cuisine mania. This itinerary combines five-star hotels with worldclass cuisine at some of the city’s most fascinating locales. Recommended hotels on this itinerary include 137 Pillars, the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, and Anantara Chiang Mai Resort. Due to its geographic location near China and Burma, Lanna cuisine developed uniquely from that of Bangkok and the rest of the country with predominantly hot and salty flavors from mountain herbs and fermented seasoning pastes. From street food at colorful night markets and cooking over charcoal fires in the rural outskirts to foraging with hill tribes in the mountains and taking on live shrimp from a bamboo hut over water, this itinerary is a foodie deep-dive into one of the most celebrated regional cuisines in Thailand.
Raffles to Open in Sentosa in 2022
ISLAND HOPPING AND INSTAGRAMMING ByJordan Hammond
nown for its crystal-clear blue waters, white-sand beaches, dense green jungles, and waterfalls, Palawan is a true Asian paradise and has become increasingly popular in recent years with all manner of holidayers. Just a short flight away from the capital lies the idyllic islands of Coron, much like El Nido but less developed and more diverse. From Coron, private boats and yachts visit the many islands surrounding the coast, including exploring hidden lagoons, beaches, and coral reefs.
One of the most popular locations in Coron, of which pretty much every tour company is aware, is the Twin Lagoon. Itâ€™s one of the most beautiful lagoons you will ever see, with its high, jagged karst peaks surrounding the hidden blue waters inside. The key is to hire your private boat and go to Twin Lagoon, as early as possible. As is so often the case, this place of beauty comes with thousands of daily tourists and tour groups. Early is good, earliest is best. Remember to bring a waterproof bag just in case, and head over to the stairs separating the two lagoons for the best photo opportunities. If youâ€™re lucky, your boatman may bring a kayak for you to explore the lagoons.
TWIN LAGOON 10
CARABAO ISLAND Whilst in Coron we stumbled across Red Carabao, an ethical tour company aiming to preserve the traditions and empower the Tagbanua indigenous people of Coron. They are the only enterprise to have access to a number of small beaches and islands which are still inhabited by the tribe. So we hopped on a boat and visited Carabao with them. We were greeted by a group of Tagbanua families who proudly demonstrated some of their ancient traditions, such as hunting and dancing, and what they do when a member gets married. It was a truly fascinating experience to see a side to the area that most people forget on their travels, and I would highly recommend saving a day to visit Carabao Island for yourself.
PASS ISLAND 12
The following day we ventured to Pass Island. Pass Island is fairly well-known on the tourist map but is often forgotten about as locations such as the lagoons are favored due to proximity. However, if you have a spare day, I would definitely recommend the journey. Start early and get there before the crowds arrive for lunch, and you will likely have the whole island to yourself. The water is some of the clearest I have ever seen, and flying the drone above the island to show the patterns in the water and just how white the sand is was like a dream. It was without a doubt the most picturesque tropical island I have ever visited.
BLACK ISLAND We stayed on Pass Island until late morning, before journeying to Black Island. Black Island is named after the huge black limestone cliffs that loom over the beachfront below, and as we approached these cliffs seemed to grow in size. The idyllic shores of Black Island are also home a shipwreck just a few meters from the shoreline. Whilst the wreck isnâ€™t deep at all, an abundance of marine life has grown around it, making it a great place to snorkel. After snorkelling, park yourselves at one of the wooden huts beyond the palm trees and take a welldeserved lunch break, as we did. Soon after, we jumped back on the boat and started the threehour journey back to Coron.
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OPIUM SUITE TO THE
INSIDE SINGAPORE’S SIX SENSES MAXWELL AND DUXTON By Laurel Tuohy
Opium Suite at the Six Senses Duxton.
ostly known for deeply luxurious wellness-focused resorts in places like Fiji and the Maldives, late last year saw Six Senses open its first city hotel. Well, hotels. The ambitious project is comprised of two restored structures in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar conservation area, called
Maxwell and Duxton, designed by two architects in styles about as different as can be imagined. The Maxwell is more traditional while the moody Duxton pushes the limits of design – even for a boutique hotel. “One brand, one location, two designs, dual access,” explains Singapore General Manager Murray Aitken. “They share
F&B, a pool, a lending library and a gym.” Guests can choose to have their breakfast at either location and food, drink, and services ordered at either can be charged to your room. Remote Lands recently had a chance to sit down with Aitken while staying at the Maxwell property and pick his brain about all things Singapore and Six Senses.
The two new properties, each crafted of eight conjoined shophouses, sit about five minutes’ walk from each other, and as of next year, they’ll have a deserving pitstop in between if the journey proves too tiring – the Six Senses Singapore spa, which is currently being created in a townhouse between the two addresses. To further provide a sense of place, the signature spa treatments will riff on Six Senses core spa offerings while incorporating traditional Chinese touches and treatments. The big question on everyone’s lips is ‘Why would an owner do that?’ The answer is simple in Aitken’s mind: There were two beautiful historic buildings, each with its own history. Duxton has Chinese history – a famous opium den and brothel. That’s how it ended up with the dark, mysterious, and deeply Asian vibe that make it one-of-a-kind. “The common areas are kept in low lighting,” explains Aitken. “Some of the more high-end rooms feature cosy little sitting rooms and dining rooms, each
closed off from a cavern-like bedroom decked out in black and gold. It has that old opium den feeling. While this would appeal to hotel design fans because its just so different, it might be a bit off-putting to some.” Despite the closeness of locations, the two properties could not feel more different. Maxwell, the larger property with 138 rooms, houses the pool, gym, and library, and was created by joining structures built between 1920 and 1929. This location is the brainchild of Jacques Garcia, a designer with an aesthetic rooted firmly in the past, as is visible in projects such as The Costes Hotel in Paris, The Metropole in Monte Carlo, The Reserve in Geneva, and The Hotel Des Indes in The Hague. Duxton is the dark dream of British designer Anouska Hempel, who reimagined conjoined three-story, pre-war conservation shophouses dating back to 1860 into a deeply modern stay with 49 keys. Mixing elements of Chinese,
Malaysian and European design in a palette of dark shades with gold, she managed to grab the attention of the area’s conservation buffs when she painted the entire facade jetblack. The management later relented and made parts of it dark gray, but the overall effect still appears black and is at once unexpected, intriguing and even a bit off-putting. Inside, guests will find Oriental screens, dark settees and black laquer aplenty. The hallways are moodily lit by downturned lanterns creating a feel that is, by turns, spooky and romantic. This location is ideal for the artsy, experimental traveler and a haven for those that like to feel stimulated by a stay rather than simply relaxed by one. Maxwell is for those Six Senses fans that like more traditional luxury. We stayed there and found our time relaxing and the beds, featuring organic, handmade mattresses imported from UK company Naturalmat, among the best we’ve slept in.
Merchant Room at the Six Senses Maxwell.
Six Senses Duxton Bar.
Pool at Six Senses Maxwell.
Maxwellâ€™s Cook & Tras Social Library.
As expected in a brand of this caliber, the staff is lovely and attentive, starting from the moment you enter the front door. It may seem unusual, but they immediately lead guests to a oversized Tibetan singing bowl and ask them to remove their shoes before stepping in. The bowl is then struck, sending reverberations throughout the body. A traditionally-sized bowl is then struck while being moved around the body, creating a fully vibrational experience. By the time you step out a moment or two later, you’ve officially arrived. The wellness and sustainability bent that define Six Senses is carried through to this first city outpost. This is as you’d expect for a small chain that has a Sustainability Manager in each location as well as a VP of Sustainability among its executives. The wellness here manifests itself through inspiring books, mind puzzles, traditional Chinese medicine cure-all Po Chai pills, and energy chimes in the room. Sustainability is everywhere – in both ways that guests might notice it, and ways that they assuredly won’t. What guests won’t notice is plastic – it’s nearly non-existent at both properties. They also won’t notice that the buildings have been designed for crossventilation to keep cooling costs low, and windows are glazed for more efficient insulation. “For us, we live and breathe sustainability, it’s part of our DNA, it’s not just PR, that’s the last thing it is. For us, it may become PR only because we want to spread the word about it let people think, ‘Hey, I should do that too. There’s PR in everything, but for us, that’s not
the core value.” The wellness value surprised and delighted us most at turndown. We returned from dinner to find a “nightcap without alcohol” in our fridge alongside a sunrise tonic for waking up as well. The evening drink is created to promote relaxation while the sun up version is for energy. We felt like Alice in Wonderland tipping back the tiny unmarked (reuseable, of course) glass bottles. Other thoughtful details in the rooms included handmade sweets at turndown – matcha macarons, lychee marshmallows, and nougat during our stay – and real milk for morning coffee in the fridge, free of charge. Among the unique selling points of this city property are the in-room tonics, and their partnership with Professor Zhang Mao Ji of Long Zhong Tang – a well-known Traditional Chinese Medicine physician with 40 years of experience whose practice sits across the road from Duxton. Doctors from the practice offer free consultations inside the hotel and a medicinal herbal dispensary. The doctor took one look and prescribed a 5-day kidney cleanse, which had us feeling stronger, more energetic, and less bloated by day two. They’ve also teamed up with the nearby YiXing Yuan Teahouse. The family-owned business not only supplies earthy, delicious loose teas to all rooms but guests can also stop by their shop for a class on Chinese tea appreciation at their leisure. The food and drink is also wonderful, with healthy fare – we opted for an incredible Butter Poached Boston Lobster
and Hamachi Crudo with fennel pollen and elderflower vinaigrette at Maxwell’s Murray Terrace Brasserie. We finished by sharing a signature Dark Chocolate Truffle Sphere with no regrets about the dark, rich, not overly sweet treat. They also offer wonderfully modern Chinese fare at Duxton’s Yellow Pot. The included ala carte breakfast includes staples like avocado toast topped with flaky coconut “bacon,” sourdough croissants and homemade tart apricot marmalade and berry jam and the tastiest grapefruit juice we’d had in years. To sweeten the dining deal, they offer free ice cream outside Maxwell from a tricycle cart on most afternoons. Coming soon for Maxwell is an edible garden with rooftop bar. Their lap pool, with an Instagramworthy backdrop of a row of white cement curving staircases, is already open and very picturesque if not overly large. As Aitken said, “There are limits to what you can change on a heritage building.” Though Singapore’s heritage structures come with their own set of headaches for owners, repurposing one firmly ticks the Six Senses sustainability sensibility. And Aitken sees the island nation’s vintage structures as starting to create their own kind of draw. “The desire for travelers to learn about and see heritage buildings in Singapore is becoming more popular, driven by the fact that the Singapore Tourism Board has preserved so much. Everyone wants to visit Haji Lane, Little India and Joo Chiat now.” He sees the dynamics of luxury travel in Singapore changing. “There have always been high-end places for business travelers but not on the scale of luxury, sustainability and wellness that we’re doing.” 19
or some, winter should be experienced with a suntan. A cocktail, a beach, a jungle, and long sunny days are a year-round travel treat that never goes out of style. Itâ€™s not just Southeast Asia that has the goods; under-traveled areas in the Middle East and South Asia can provide a little culture and nature into your warm winter holiday.
If you’re watching the latest season of Naked and Afraid XL, you probably think Palawan is a lot tougher than it is. The truth about Palawan is that it’s one of the most indulgent beach destinations in Southeast Asia, filled to the brim with natural beauty and amenities. With cooler weather during the winter months, pretty much every adventure through Palawan begins in Puerto Princesa, which, despite being overly developed in the tourist
trade, is a handsome little city with a few natural wonders worth visiting. That said, the smart thing to do when going to Palawan is to hop on the nearest car or boat – or private plane in the case of Remote Lands – and head north for El Nido. The northern reaches of Palawan in El Nido and Coron have the private island experiences ultra-luxe guests want. The beaches are too many to number and the islands are postcard gorgeous in a way that can’t be found anywhere else in
Southeast Asia. Phuket is dead, long live Palawan. More than that, the stark limestone karsts of this region rival any other landscape in Southeast Asia. But, more importantly, this is where travelers will find excellent diving. El Nido and Coron, particularly Coron for the wreck dives, provide simple, easy dives for the discerning underwater enthusiast. For travelers who really want to get away from it all, there’s diving to be had at Tubbataha, 150 kilometers from Puerto Princesa.
“One of the most popular locations in Coron, of which pretty much every tour company is aware, is the Twin Lagoon. It’s one of the most beautiful lagoons you will ever see, with its high, jagged karst peaks surrounding the hidden blue waters inside. The key is to hire your private boat and go to Twin Lagoon first, as early as possible. As is so often the case, this place of beauty comes with thousands of daily tourists and tour groups. Early is good, earliest is best.” - Photographer Jordan Hammond
Palawan Amanpulo beach
Where to Stay There is no shortage of fivestar resorts with which one might indulge themselves on and around Palawan. The El Nido resorts – which can actually be quite far away from El Nido itself – are some of the finest in the region, including Pangulasian, Apulit, Lagen,
and Miniloc. However, for the creme de la creme of resort experiences just off Palawan, there is nothing like Amanpulo, a private island Aman property. Found on Pamalican island, Amanpulo is without equal in the Philippines, and should be on every traveler’s must-go list. 23
Wahiba Sands Dersert Night Camp
Salalah is great in the fall, but it’s Muscat that really thrives in the winter months. The weather cools down – relatively speaking, this is Oman, afterall – so travelers can avail themselves of the pleasures of Oman’s best city. More importantly, though, this is a chance to get out of Muscat and hit the beaches for a little sun, sand, and even some wildlife. Looking out on the Gulf of Oman, it’s easy to see why this city and the surrounding area is the playground for much of the
Middle East. However, before travelers pop on their diving gear or hop in a 4x4 for some dune bashing, it’s important to check out some of the culture in the urban area, including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Al Alam Palace, and the whiter than white white of the Royal Opera House Muscat The temperature of the water in the Gulf of Oman drops to a chilly 68 degrees fahrenheit in the winter, which is excellent for swimming – though a bit chilly for diving. But, there is still
Where to Stay There are three luxury accommodations worth considering in Muscat. First is the Chedi, which is a resort set in the middle of a garden oasis of 21 acres, featuring opulent Omani design facets. Beach lovers will want to turn their attention to The Ritz-Carlton, Al Bustan Palace, which might be able to boast a pool that’s better than the sea. Last and certainly not least is the ultra-luxe Shangri-la Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, into which the only way is a manmade tunnel. For the desert lover there’s the Wahiba Sands, Desert Nights Camp, a place to fulfill ever Arabian Nights fantasy in bedouin-style luxury. 24
some fun to be had with aquatic wildlife on land, namely Raz al Jinz. This protected area is ground zero for turtle hatchling sightings; here, a protected zone since 1996, travelers can experience luxury with their turtle education. For the desert experience, Oman’s backyard is filled with adventure and luxury amenities worth a look; don’t forget to try sandboarding while you’re on the dunes and taking an ATV or 4x4 to the quiet sands is a must-do.
Turtle at Raz al Jinz
“With the night sky supplying spectacular houselights, it’s easy to spot turtles laying their eggs in the soft sand. As we move along the beach, the individual players in this moonlit tableau move into sharper focus. I watch – awed – as a mother attempts to conceal her nesting site, large flippers sending sand flying as she tried to cover her tracks. A little further on, a newly-hatched baby turtle bobbles unsteadily over the churned-up beach as it makes its way towards the ocean.” – Travel writer Ducan Forgan
“For the past 25 years I have been exploring and working in luxury adventure travel, having first operated vessels in Raja Ampat in the early 1990s. [...] There is no better way to experience this region than aboard the newly-launched Kudanil Explorer. Twenty-five years of my Asia operating experience has gone into the development and operation of this vessel.” – Jason Friedman of J.M. Friedman & Co.
Frankly, there’s never a reason not to go. However, this year there are two new cruises making waves in these East Indonesia waters, and with good reason. Winter this year will see the very first every voyages of the Aqua Blu from Aqua Expeditions, a floating fivestar hotel that combines the cruise-like nature of sea travel with the comforts of a luxury hotel, including world-class dining. The Aqua Blu will feature 15 26 26
suites and a total of eight itineraries that stretch from Bali to the Spice Islands, but the ship’s winter berths will be made in Raja Ampat starting in November 2019. Similarly – though in many ways a league of its own – the Kudanil is a new cruise option for ultraluxe travelers who want to see Raja Ampat with a little more adventure. With eight cabins that can accommodate 16 guests, the Kudanil, adapted from a safety and rescue vessel, is a
five-star experience despite appearances and this ship can go places others can’t. It’s also important to remember that, no matter how fancy the ships or hotels are, the best part of Raja Ampat is under the water. A Remote Lands “5 Places to Plan your Winter Dive in Asia” pick, the reefs are known to house over 1,200 species of fish, 600 species of coral, and nearly 700 types of mollusk. October to April have very high visibility and little rain.
The Kudanil Explorer
Where to Stay If the Kudanil and Aqua Blu arenâ€™t enough, there are plenty of private schooner options for Raja Ampat lovers, particularly those in the Indonesian style, called a phinisi. However, if one wants to rest their sea legs for a bit, thereâ€™s nowhere better in Raja Ampat than Misool Eco Resort: eight overwater cottages, three seaside villas, and five beachside villas. The nearby house reef makes for easy snorkeling, and the resort itself is located at the epicenter of the eponymous 300,000-acre Misool Marine Reserve.
Raja Ampat 27
“The first thing that struck me was the quiet. Beyond the occasional loud car, the chhatris stood tall and still against the sky. If this were Rajasthan, I thought to myself, the stairs would be swarmed with tourists and touters. The Red Fort in Agra is inundated daily with thousands of selfie snapping tourists. But, in Orchha, there stood a line of delicately designed chhatris with only the company afforded by people bathing and praying in the shadow of these medieval wonders.” – Remote Lands co-founder and COO Jay Tindall
Where to Stay
In Madhya Pradesh, there’s a Taj for every occasion. For Bandhavgarh National Park there’s Taj Mahua Kothi – by far one of the most luxurious accommodations in Bandhavgarh. With a 45-acre private forest on the edge of the national park, this resort blends the wild with the luxurious in a way rarely experienced. What Kanha lacks in infrastructure and tiger population, it makes up for with Banjaar Tola, A Taj Safari: two elegant camps made up of nine tents each on the banks of a peaceful river. The views are great, the food is better. Similarly at Panna, a paradise for birdwatchers, is the Pashan Garh, A Taj Safari. Travelers extending to Satpura will find solace with the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge.
Taj Baghvan Lodge in Pench
Madhya Pradesh When the heat lets off from October to March, Madhya Pradesh is one of the best places to go in India for wildlife, culture, and peace and quiet. It’s a proper chance to experience India slowly – to grab a thick book and look out over the tracts of jungle that inspired Rudyard Kipling. First, it must be said that before flitting off to the national parks to track wild beasts, travelers should take time to check out the archeological sites, including Bhopal, Maheshwar, and Orchha, a Remote Lands favorite and a practically deserted temple complex comparable the forts of Jaipur. For the traveler in the know, there is one wildlife stop that rivals all others in Madhya Pradesh if not the whole of India: Bandhavgarh National Park. Here is where travelers are likely to spot tigers, guar, and all manner of deer. With just two or three game drives, visitors to Madhya Pradesh should, hopefully, have secured at least one good sighting of a tiger. For a less busy wildlife experience in Madhya Pradesh, there is Kanha. While this may not have the tiger numbers of Bandhavgarh, it is a more peaceful destination, and one that supposedly inspired Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. If the traveler’s tigerviewing lust is still not sated, hop over to Panna or Satpura for a chance to spot tigers, wolves, and leopards.
29 Tiger in Madhya Pradesh
“There are some fascinating tales about the early French explorers that went up the Mekong for the very first time – the French explorers that first photographed Angkor Wat, and walked barefoot basically all the way from Phnom Penh all the way up to Luang Prabang. Most of them died – because they didn’t have the Rosewood Luang Prabang. Many died of malaria and they all had to carry guns because the jungles still had tigers, still had things that would eat you. Rosewood Luang Prabang is a beautiful place because it’s visually captive in a very small valley where a river and waterfall run through it. […] There’s no disturbances.” – Architect and designer Bill Bensley
Where to Stay
Rosewood Luang Prabang 30
There are a few luxury mainstays in Luang Prabang worth considering and first among them is the Amantaka – among other things the final stop on the Remote Lands Bali to Luang Prabang Private Jet Expedition in 2020. The Belmond and Sofitel will also make excellent accommodations for any luxury traveler. However, it’s the relatively recent opening of the Rosewood Luang Prabang that has put an adventurer’s sheen on the trappings of this cultural heart of Indochina. With a waterfall running through the center of the resort, travelers can enjoy drinks at the bar before retiring to a luxury tented camp – a first both for Luang Prabang and for Rosewood.
Luang Prabang As much as visitors might complain that the tak bat isn’t what it once was, one of the better facets of the increased tourist trade in Luang Prabang is the bump in accommodations. Don’t worry, you can still find the colonial architecture, quaint cultural practices, and Laotian heritage – but with a better thread count in your sheets. For the winter traveler, Laos is much drier during the early winter months so great for touring, and when the Mekong starts to rise in
January, it opens up a great many traveling options on the river that can later be paired with the “four thousand islands” of the Mekong in Southern Laos. Besides the obvious draw of culture and chilling out on the Mekong in a charming jungle village, the wildlife experiences have become a major draw to Luang Prabang. Riding an elephant has become taboo for many western travelers – and for good reason – but the MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary is a fun, ethical
alternative for visiting with the largest land mammal in Asia. There’s also the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center, started by animal lover Mary Hutton in 2003, in collaboration with the Laos Department of Forestry. The Asian black bears here are most often rescued from poachers selling them on a Chinese medicine black market. For something a little more domesticated, there’s the Laos Buffalo Dairy, producing mozzarella sourced sustainably from the water buffalo of Laos.
sia isn’t just beaches and cocktails. For the adventurous traveler – and especially for the skier – the slopes of Central Asia and northern stretches of East Asia and Siberia provide picturesque winter getaways for every type of traveler. Pack warm and get ready for the top five cold winter holiday destinations for 2020.
TOHOKU “With the varied terrain – coastlines, mountains, volcanos, fields, lakes – there is so much to do and see in Tohoku. It is also very seasonal so there is something special to do in each of the six prefectures every season. There’s a road called Sakura Dream Road with 88-viewing spots to see cherry blossoms. There’s also a “sushi city” – a small city that has the highest density of sushi restaurants in all of Japan. There’s also a little hot spring town called Ginzan Onsen that is pedestrian-only with quaint old buildings that is simply magical when it snows. I think Tohoku is the perfect place for people who want to do, see, and eat a lot - and be far away from the crowds.” — Travel expert Trinity Nguyen 34
Tohoku is Japan’s travel secret. It’s expansive, it’s diverse, and it’s a way to experience rural Japan without a fuss. Among other things, Tohoku is sparsely populated because of the harsh seasons, winter especially – but that need not be a bad thing. These prefectures allow travelers to get a great shot at both the culture and the slopes. Starting off in Tokyo, visitors can take the high-speed rail and be in Oirase with their skis
before they know they’ve left. From there travelers have their choice of Iwate Snow Festival, the Samurai stronghold of Kakunodate, the onsens of Yamagata, and the natural beauty of Urabandai. Oh, and the snow monsters – did we not mention the snow monsters? The most Instagrammable sight in the whole of Tohoku is likely to be the “snow monsters,” a result of the fast, harsh onset of winter in
Tohoku. The trees are covered in an odd, heavy snow that turns the mountains into what looks like an abstract art exhibition. The best place to see the snow monsters and get some of the best skiing in Tohoku is at Mount Zao. In the summer, it’s the site of hiking, but when the tough winter comes along, those hills belong to the skiers. For even more mobility, hop on a snowmobile and go snow monster hunting.
WHERE TO STAY
Because the area of Tohoku is less developed than other regions of Japan, you won’t find a Ritz or an Aman nearby, but the accommodations can still be pretty plush. Zao Onsen, for example, from the eponymous Mount Zao, is an excellent stop for skiers. The rural surroundings are a great chance for visitors to get acquainted with the concept of a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Two of particular note that should be on every Tohoku traveler’s list are Kakunodate Sanso Wabizakura and Onsen Ryokan Harataki.
Snow monsters of Tohoku
“As culturally significant as it is scenically dramatic, Baikal’s shores and islands are considered hallowed places by those who call it home. [...] In the years following the Soviet collapse, the Buryat traditions practiced in secret under Soviet rule began to reemerge. The Buryats inhabit the southern tip of the region around Lake Baikal, having migrated there from Mongolia thousands of years ago.” — Remote Lands co-founder and COO Jay Tindall
For the adventure traveler, this is the first place that comes to mind when considering winter in Asia. Both beautiful and brutal, traveling to Siberia at any time of winter is no easy feat, but considering the wealth of activities available at Lake Baikal, it’s well worth the arduous journey. First off, let’s discuss the obvious: It’s cold in Siberia in winter. It’s really cold – prohibitively cold. Late December and early January are when you’ll find Baikal at its
most frigid, but it’s also when travelers can really steer into experiences like dog-sledding, driving on the ice, and tearing around on snowmobiles. You could take all the water in all the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada and dump them into Lake Baikal, and it wouldn’t even come close. This is the largest lake on planet Earth by volume, containing more than 20 percent of all the freshwater in the world. The opportunities for adventure on the lake are
endless, from doing donuts in a Russian army van and hovercraft to – and this really is adventure – diving into its frozen depths. But there’s more than adventure too. Lake Baikal’s isolated location has made it a hotbed of culture that has survived both the Soviets and the harsh winters. The Old Believers, for example, are colorful and interesting examples of Russian heritage in Siberia – and they can really hold their vodka.
WHERE TO STAY
Van on Baikal, by Jay Tindall
This isnâ€™t Singapore or Hong Kong. This land can be harsh. Still, there are a few accomodations worth a mention. After staying at the confluence of the Angara River and Lake Baikal at the Legend of Baikal hotel for a rest, travelers will no doubt be making their way to the famed Olkhon Island to set out on all manner of adventure; here visitors will find the Baikal View Hotel to be a surprisingly comfortable option. For those who want to journey on the other side of the lake for something more remote, there are the Mergen Bator Hotel and Hotel Baikal Plaza in Ulan Ude. 37
In summer and spring, Kyrgyzstan has been called the “Switzerland of Asia” – with admittedly fewer cuckoo clocks. In winter, this Central Asian highland takes on a more severe personality, but it’s no less photogenic, especially during skiing season from December to March. When it comes to offthe-beaten-track, you can’t get much less beaten than Kyrgyzstan; that said, most will land in Bishkek and make a beeline for Karakol. There are, however, a few
more ski spots worth a stop. Most importantly, visitors will want to stop off at ChonKemin Valley. At 6,500 feet to 11,000 feet above sea level, the area is filled with stunning slopes and conifer forests. On the long drive to Karakol, travelers will no doubt be keen for a look at Issyk Kul Lake. It might be a bit icy for hiking, but the right guide will get you to some of the best views in the country along the northern reaches of Issyk Kul Lake. Despite the severe cold, this
lake does not freeze over in winter and maintains a pleasant blue for that postcard-perfect Instagram. The skiing in Karakol is not oversold. It’s isolated with plenty of off-piste options and unbeatable scenery, and the powder is, put simply, perfect. Travelers come from all over the world for the isolation of Karakol, but there are a few things nearby worth seeing, including the Tian Shan mountains at Ala-kul Lake and the hot springs of AltynArashan.
In the summer, visitors here can either ride horses into the Ala-Too Terskey mountains, or else walk, using the horses as pack animals. In winter, intrepid skiers from Austria, Switzerland, and France have slowly been making their way here, enticed by the country’s first “freeride” skiing program, where horses take skiers and their gear up into the mountains, and then leave them to plunge downhill on their own. 38 38
— Travel writer Dave Stamboulis
Skiing in Karakol
WHERE TO STAY
The thing that makes Kyrgyzstan such an off-the-beaten-track destination is the same thing that contributes to its lack of travel infrastructure. And while it is improving every year, outside of Bishkek, travelers may have to rough it â€“ sort of. It may not be the Ritz, but the Green Yard in Karakol is an excellent place to relax before and after the slopes. Similar options abound throughout the country, but the more adventurous traveler to somewhere like At Bashy may opt for a private yurt despite the cold; after all, getting a little rustic with a nice warm kumis in your hand is what Kyrgyzstan is all about.
Issyk Kul Lake in winter 39
WHERE TO STAY
In Leh, travelers will be spoiled for choice, but the most luxurious option is likely the Stok Heritage Palace. In the warmer months, travelers can make their home with The Ultimate Travelling Camps of Thiskey and Duskit, but those keen to lay eyes on the shyest big cat in the animal kingdom will want the Snow Leopard Lodge; originally the personal homestay of Tchewang Norbu, this surprisingly comfortable lodge was repurposed for tourism as a conservation tool, putting money directly into the local community.
Just because Ladakh gets cold is no reason to have it on a “top picks” list for a cold winter journey. In fact, much of Ladakh is snowed-in, impassable, and unpleasant during the winter months. But there is one very special reason to head to Ladakh when everyone else leaves: the snow leopard. This location during winter is for serious travelers. What the journey lacks in amenities and comfort, it more than
makes up for with exclusivity. The snow leopard is the most elusive of the big cats: quiet, careful, and extremely rare. A Remote Lands journey to the Himalayas of Ladakh is the single best chance anyone could have of seeing a snow leopard in the wild. However, before heading off into the wild for a chance at snow leopards, travelers are encouraged to take some time to acclimate to the 11,400 feet in Leh. It’s cold, but worth it,
as travelers can take in sights like the Thiksey Monastery Ullay will be the main base for snow leopard watching, and it can be done in comfort, considering the harsh weather outside. Ullay has seven houses and the prime area for snow leopard watching. Also, travelers should be warned to keep an eye out for the other wildlife that frequents this area of ladakh, including the ibex, bharal, and the adorable pallas cat.
“Quiet is vital, especially if we think [a snow leopard] is close by. You need a lot of patience, as we might stay for two to four hours in one place. [...] Even without a [snow leopard] sighting, guests still come back happy after seeing the other animals. [The guides] have been out on that terrain since childhood, seeing it all […], they know where and how to look; sometimes we are still gazing at a distant rock and they have already spotted a leopard. It’s because they’ve lived on that land.” — Rahul Sharma of RVentures Holidays
Snow leopard in Ladakh 41
Get to Gangnam and cuddle up with some K-Pop in Korea’s capital of Seoul for an East Asia adventure in an oft-overlooked big-city destination. Seoul is a special mix of culture, class, and good taste (both literally and figuratively) with plenty of natural beauty. Seoul has a dining scene second to none. Pop over to Ryunique south of the Han River for imaginative, hybrid
cuisine or get into molecular gastronomy with Chef Jungsik Yim at Jungsik Dang. For something a little more traditional, don’t forget to try out Chef Kwon’s Kwon Sook Soo restaurant for a taste of two Michelin stars. However, what makes Seoul especially good destination in winter is the city’s proximity and easy access to some excellent skiing, namely at Yongpyong. You may have
heard of Yongpyong due to a little shindig they put on a few years ago called the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. For those of us a little further down the skill level than an olympic athlete, Yongpyong caters to a wide array of talents and has amenities to boot. For families, too, South Korea is a hotbed of fun activities during the cold East Asia winter, from K-Pop classes to art galleries.
“Seoul is unique in that it has not one, or even two palaces, but five former royal complexes, all located in the city center. It is also unique in that it has a cutting edge central business district that stops dead right where these palaces start, with the nearby Bukhansan National Park towering above both. Five palaces, five adventures.” — Writer Ronan O’Connell
Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul
SEOUL WHERE TO STAY
Skiing in Yongpyong
The list of luxury hotels in Seoul is long, but there are a few that stand out. The Conrad Seoul, boasting an impressive indoor pool with a view for those cold winter nights, is a Remote Lands favorite for its reliable class and sophistication. For something a little more scenic, Banyan Tree Club and Spa is found at the base of Mount Namsan and still manages to be convenient to most Seoul sights. The Four Seasons is a middle ground between nature and city chic, and the Le Meridien will be a treat for design fans. The (relative) new kid on the block is the Shilla Seoul, a promising hotel that recently garnered the Forbes 5-star list distinction. In Yongpyong, the choice is simple: Yongpyong Resort.
MUI NE THE DESERT DUNES OF TROPICAL VIETNAM
here’s just something quite distinct about Mui Ne – and it’s not just the sand dunes. Any regular visitor to Vietnam would walk into the red clay canyons and by the circular boats on the sea and conclude that there’s something very odd going on here. In many ways it is similar to other areas of coastal Vietnam – seaside, pastoral inland, markets; visually, however, when one digs a little deeper into this Southeastern Vietnam region, Mui Ne is truly unique.
By Jay Tindall
Most people travel to Mui Ne for the beach, and considering my vantage from the Princess D’Annam Resort, that’s no surprise. Upon my visit the beach was both large and empty. The lighthouse and fishing boats complete the coastal panoply. Mui Ne, the town, is actually quite busy, and certainly not conducive to a peaceful holiday. Just outside are the quiet beaches and, more importantly, the strange and expansive dragon fruit fields. I cycled through row upon row of bright green dragon fruit sticking up out of the tropical soil. Indeed, the whole of Binh Thuan Province is known for its dragon fruit production. Caught in the right season, the odd little fruits droop
down from their curious cactus-y fronds. More picturesque perhaps are the fishing village, boats, and markets. Hundreds of fishermen make their living off the coast here from the calm seas and rich waters. The boats in all their flamboyantly painted style sit on the calm waters outside Mui Ne when they are not fishing, and plenty of vendors sell their fish right on the beach. Quite curious to most visitors are the basket boats: round, deep boats that aren’t exactly friendly to the paddler. While they may not look that seaworthy, the basket boats are hard to sink and – in the hands of the right boatman – can be swirled and danced in a spectacular ballet.
But, in the end, the sand dunes are the most remarkable sight in all of Mui Ne. With the right perspective, the photos could be in any of the arid deserts of the east but are, in fact, near a tropical Vietnam beach town. Even in this small area, there are two types of dunes. The red dunes are easier to reach from Mui Ne proper. Like other dunes of this type, their creation stems from sea sediment swarmed over the land to build dunes, buttressed by plants rooting the sand in place. With the right shot, these dunes can look like the endless tracts of the South Gobi. However, keeping in mind that the white sand dunes are the most photogenic, a trip to the red dunes should be accompanied
by a quick stop at the Fairy Springs, a small creek running through a colorful canyon. The white dunes are the most popular attraction – their pale hue giving the impression something akin to the Sahara – though hardly as peaceful. With the tourists have come tourist attractions that plague both dune areas: ATV’s, cars, hot air balloons, and all of the dune-bashing equipment one might want. Still, from the right perspective, Vietnam goes from beach to jungle to desert. These short stops are not the only sights to see in Mui Ne; I was unable to see the famed salt farmers of the region and hope to return to do so. If Mui Ne proves one thing, it’s that, as a travel destination, Vietnam always has more.
Bill Be Tra
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MOUNT MAYON In the Shadow of the Most Active Volcano in the Philippines By Richard Collett
he perfectly conical cone of Mount Mayon rose from the ocean in a blaze of fiery reds and yellows as the sun set over this volcanic peak. Amongst the drifting clouds that clung to the mountain top, wisps of smoke were steadily belching forth from the summit. This was my first glimpse of the Philippines’ most active volcano, a tall, almost perfect cone that towers over the city of Legazpi in southern Luzon. Mount Mayon spurts out constant plumes of ash and smog that drift over the skyline, and every few years, the volcano erupts violently and with little warning. From afar, the volcano was both intimidating and beautiful. The next day, I would be getting much closer though. I would be riding an all-terrain vehicle over black soil and lava flows as I explored the slopes of Mount Mayon because, in Legazpi, volcanic adventure tourism is very much a booming business. Despite the inherent danger that such a destructive natural feature presents, tens of thousands live within just a few kilometres of the volcano. Many live on the slopes themselves “People farm on the mountainside because it’s the best place to grow crops. It’s the most fertile soil in Legazpi. But, if there’s an eruption, 25,000 families have to be evacuated from the slopes,” my guide Liezel, a Legazpi local, tells me. Eruptions happen every few years, with the last occurring as recently as January 2018. For weeks, Mayon spewed lava and ash from its crater, but as far as the mountain’s volcanic history goes, this was just a gurgle. Before we venture onto the slopes, Liezel takes me to the Cagsawa Ruins, where I can see firsthand the destructive capabilities of the volcano. 51
The Cagsawa Ruins “The ruins are the top tourist destination in the province,” Liezel informs me as I stare at the crumbling stone masonry of Cagsawa, while Mount Mayon rises in the background. “In 1814, one of the strongest eruptions ever recorded destroyed the village of Cagsawa,” Leizel continues. “Thousands were killed and all that was left was the church”. The belfry of the church still stands to this day, its decrepit walls standing in futile contrast to the smoking mountain that lies in the distance. Cagsawa was never rebuilt, and the ruins are a reminder of the fiery power of Mount Mayon and the dangers posed by living so close to the volcano. As minibuses packed with tourists pull up to the car park, I realise that the Cagsawa Ruins are also a reminder that the volcano is a blessing as well as a curse. As well as providing fertile farmland, the volcano is increasingly supplying jobs in the tourism industry. For locals like Liezele, tourism and the volcano are inseparable.
The Lava Flow At the base of the lava flow, we dismount and continue on foot. It’s midday, and by now, the summit of Mount Mayon is almost entirely hidden by cloud. Nad, our local ATV guide, jokes in an affectionate manner that, “She didn’t know you were coming! She’s still sleeping under the clouds!” The affection is warranted, because as Nad says, “The volcano is part of our lives. Some need her for farming. I need her to bring tourists!” But Nad also knows the dangers of Mount Mayon, and behind his affection, as with most Legazpi locals, there’s a real sense of respect for the danger posed by the unpredictable mountain that overshadows every aspect of their lives. The lava flow we are standing on was formed when Mount Mayon erupted in 2006 and Nad tells me that “Four tourists who had gone up the mountain, to reach the summit, were killed”. Nad has seen many eruptions during his life, and he says matter of factly, “Sometimes there is warning, but more often than not, she just erupts.” While I contemplate the awesome power of the volcano above me, Nad is preparing the zip line, and moments later I’m hurtling from the top of the lava flow and through the trees until I reach the opposite platform. I wait for the rest of the group to zipline down too before we start our ATV engines and make the return journey to Legazpi. I hope that Mount Mayon is well and truly asleep, at least for now.
Volcanic Adventure Playground Many visitors want to get much closer to the volcano than the Cagsawa Ruins, and adventure tourism is the fastest growing industry in Legazpi. Mount Mayon, despite its regular eruptions, has been turned into a volcanic adventure playground, with opportunities to hike, camp, off-road and even to zipline down the lava-strewn slopes of the active volcano. Alongside Liezel and a group of intrepid volcano tourists, I set off on an ATV ride that will take me to a black lava flow which hurtled down the mountain in 2006. The ATVs splash through mud and grass, as we ride along a rough riverbed. The trail is rocky but clearly well worn, and we slowly ascend the slope of the volcano, as the soil turns abruptly from dark brown to pitch black. After an hour of uphill riding, the forest suddenly begins to thin out, and ahead, I can see the rocky ridge-like shape of the lava flow. At the edge of the lava flow, is an ominous safety warning: “In case of Mayon abnormalities: a. Don’t Panic. b. Be calm, carefully go down the lava wall and move to a safer place.” 53
2020 AMAN PRIVATE JET EXPEDITION
BALI TO LUANG PRABANG
Day 1 – 8
Day 9 – 11
Day 12 – 13
The trip’s first stop will be in Indonesia for a stay in Amandari in Ubud – the green, rain forest heart of Indonesia’s most famous island. Activities here will include cycling through the rice terraces outside Ubud – complete with a special blessing from a local Balinese priest – and exploring the nature preserve known as the Sacred Monkey Forest. Visitors will also receive cooking classes and meet with Agung Rai, a famed art collector and promoter of Balinese culture. Travelers will trade the jungle for the beach as they make their way to Amankila on the famous beaches of Bali. Beyond the 1,700 steps to Pura Lempuyang Luhur, guests will climb aboard a private yacht for views in the shadow of active volcano Mount Agung and snorkeling. At the Amankila resort, guests can surf, dive, kayak, or snorkel on the private black-sand beach. Travelers will then board their private jet to Yogyakarta for a stay at Amanjiwo in Java. Here guests will visit the Prambanan and Selogriyo temple and see the sun rise on the most famous religious site in all of Indonesia: Borobudur, the 9th century monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On day nine visitors will take the AC318 jet north to Siem Reap in Cambodia, home to Angkor Wat, a wonder of the world and the most popular tourist attraction in the country. Here, travelers will stay at the Amansara. The journey includes private touring of Angkor Wat and a helicopter ride over the ancient city. The trip can also includes a specially arranged fashion show at haute couture designer Eric Raisina’s atelier and the famed Cambodian Phare Circus after dinner. Later experiences include Ta Prohm Temple and a private performance on the grounds of Banteay Samre by Ravynn Karet Coxen’s traditional dance troupe.
Jetsetters will make the short flight from Siem Reap to Cam Ranh Vietnam for a stay at the isolated Amanoi, one of Aman’s most photogenic hotels, found in Nui Chua National Park. This stop on the Aman Private Jet Expedition will allow guests to explore the Vietnamese province of Ninh Thuan, with options including off-road cycling, a hike to a secluded temple cove tucked away in Nui Chua National Park, and a complimentary yoga or pilates class. Afterward, travelers can visit Vinh Hy Bay and a local fishing village before journeying to Goga Peak and Hanging Lake.
Laos Day 14 – 16 The final stop on the 16-day journey is Luang Prabang and a stay at Amantaka. A rising Southeast Asia destination, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage city. Travelers here will have the chance to partake of ethical elephant experiences at MandaLao, visiting with elephants that have been rescued from the logging or tourist trades. One of the most famous activities in Luang Prabang is that of tak bat, in which devotees offer alms to a procession of monks. Afterward, visitors will explore the Pak Ou Caves – famed for housing more than 10,000 statues of the Buddha in a cavern overlooking the Mekong River – and the village of Ban Muang Khaeo. The final night of the journey includes a traditional Baci ceremony with special guest Prince Tiao Nithakong Somsanith.
BILL BENSLEY ON
Rosewood Luang Prabang R emote Lands is proud to present The Bill Bensley Trail, a journey through Southeast Asia with one of the most interesting characters in the design world. In preparation for this expedition, Remote Lands sat down with Bill Bensley to discuss what makes the Rosewood Luang Prabang so special.
“I love the Rosewood Luang Prabang because it represents a microcosm of Laotian history. Every single room is different. Every single room has a reason for being and it tells part of a story of the early history. There are some fascinating tales about the early French explorers that went up the Mekong for the very first time, the French
explorers that first photographed Angkor Wat and walked barefoot basically all the way from Phnom Penh all the way up to Luang Prabang. Most of them died – because they didn’t have the Rosewood Luang Prabang. Many died of malaria and they all had to carry guns because the jungles still had tigers, still had things that would eat you.”
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